Clinton critics blast emails as GOP national security Trump critics shrug

Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida, in March. Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida, in March. Carlo Allegri | Reuters

After FBI Director James Comey announced it didn’t make sense to indict Hillary Clinton over anything to do with her State Department emails, her critics got very angry.

Some, including Donald Trump, got very angry and floated conspiracy theories about why she wasn’t being charged.

A group of Republicans with deep involvement in national security matters has rejected Trump and supported Clinton.

Clinton’s had some rather high profile endorsements from this group (although some NeverTrump Republicans are not voting for her).

As CNN reported in June:

Brent Scowcroft, who served as National Security Adviser to Presidents George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford, and who worked in the White House of Presidents Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, said Clinton “brings truly unique experience and perspective to the White House.” . . “She brings deep expertise in international affairs and a sophisticated understanding of the world, which I believe are essential for the commander-in-chief,” Scowcroft said.

His backing follows that of another prominent Republican in national security circles. Richard Armitage, who served in the State and Defense Departments under George W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan, announced last week that he will vote for Clinton over Trump.

A number of NeverTrump national security Republicans were interviewed by Politico after Comey’s decision.

Here are some responses.

“Nothing has changed my view that if the choice comes down to Clinton or Trump, I would still prefer Clinton,” said Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College who writes for the Federalist, a conservative-leaning publication. . . “It’s infuriating, but it’s not the same menace to American national security as the one presented by a man too ignorant to know the first thing about the American nuclear deterrent, who has promised to spark a civil-military crisis by ordering war crimes, and whose foreign policy boils down to “bombing the shit” out of bad guys.”

“Gabriel Schoenfeld, a former senior adviser to Mitt Romney and now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who has written extensively about national security” said:

 “I still would prefer [Clinton’s] terribly serious flaws to [Trump’s] completely disqualifying ones.” “His preposterous pronouncements on issue after issue not only make him a menace to global stability–economic and military–but also an enemy of our own Constitution. We could do far better than Hillary Clinton. We couldn’t do worse than Donald J. Trump.”

These kinds of criticisms are not going away.

At the rally after Comey’s announcement, Trump praised Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for purportedly being tough on terrorists, although Saddam tried to assassinate President George H.W. Bush and his regime paid the families of terrorist suicide bombers. This earned Trump what one paper called “bipartisan disdain.”

 Elections are always choices.

Thus far these conservative national security figures have found no reason to back Trump. They are not fans of Clinton, but see her as superior to Trump, who they view as extremely dangerous to America’s security.

And regarding the politics of the emails, Fergus Cullen, the former head of the New Hampshire Republican Party compared the reactions to Benghazi to responses to the the emails, which, he said:

“resonated with conspiracy-minded people, her opponents, but it doesn’t win over any other voters. The email stuff is the same, except it’s contributing to the sense that she’s untrustworthy, and that’s a problem for her. But Trump is completely incapable of delivering that message, both because the campaign has been incompetent, and he’s completely untrustworthy.”

Thus the emails likely will have limited political impact.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.