Obama must be watching the unfolding 2016 election with a growing sense of horror. The Democrats got the greatest gift imaginable when Donald Trump got the Republican nomination, but Hillary Clinton has already all but frittered away the greatest natural advantage any politician could possibly have – being a woman running against Donald Trump. Clinton’s inept, bungling campaign has alienated huge portions of the blue collar Democrat voting base and has made a race that should be a cakewalk into one that is actually competitive.
One thing that Barack Obama has shown during his seven and a half years in office is that he really is an ideologue. Unlike Clinton, he cares deeply about actually advancing progressive causes, and he is nearly obsessed with his legacy – much of which will be built on unilateral action that could easily be undone by a hostile successor (if we suppose that Trump would actually care to undo any of it). On the other hand, if a Democrat succeeds him, he knows that many of these programs will become much more difficult to undo.
His alliance with Clinton has always been one of political convenience rather than one of genuine friendship, if the Democrat insiders who constantly gab to the media are to be believed. I don’t believe for a moment that Obama has any personal investment in Hillary Clinton becoming President – he’d personally be just as happy with Bernie if not more so.
Moreover, his own Justice Department is allegedly threatening open mutiny if action is not taken against Clinton after the probe into her private email server is completed. If Clinton were in a strong position for the general election, no doubt Obama would order Lynch to softpedal any action that lands on Clinton herself, no matter what the facts say. However, Obama can read the polls as well as anyone, and he knows that Sanders would walk all over Donald Trump, whereas Clinton might well find herself in a dogfight.
At this point, an indictment of Clinton might well seem like an escape hatch for President Obama. He won’t order it himself of course, but he might well tell Lynch that if the FBI asks for one against Clinton, she should go ahead and issue the indictment. Then he can go out and sorrowfully tell Clinton that he’s so sorry, the whole thing is out of his hands, she should really consider stepping aside for Bernie before things get out of hand.
Maybe it seems farfetched right now, but Obama still has some time to make this decision. If Clinton continues to run essentially even with Trump in national polls as the convention approaches, or if she falls behind Trump in more than just the occasional problematic poll, this option is going to start looking more and more attractive to him. He knows good and well that Hillary’s delegate lead cannot be overcome without the nearly unanimous reversal of Democrat superdelegates at this point, and maybe not then.
But an indictment from a Democrat administration, at this point of the election, just might send the signal the superdelegates need to abandon Hillary en masse, or for the convention to change the rules regarding a candidate under indictment. Staring down the possibility of a Trump administration, that’s a panic button the Democrats might well push.