In the field of aerodynamics, a plane becomes airborne in a “pitching moment.” That is the moment when a moving body or airfoil wing pitches up, essentially lifting on the axis of a moving body, and the plane is soon airborne. We all know this moment, having taken off in a commercial aircraft. Today, Donald Trump’s long fraught and lumbering campaign, appears to have hit its pitching moment. His fortunes are discernibly pitching upward, and you can feel it. Sit back in your seat and watch what comes next.
If the FBI is genuinely reopening their closed investigation into her emails, presumably on suspicion of criminal behavior, something very new is afoot. James Comey, having put his reputation behind demurring on further investigation, indictment and prosecution, would not lightly reopen such an inquiry. This close to a presidential election, no head of the FBI – even one who was determined to seek an indictment – would lightly reopen such an inquiry, not without weighty evidence for some predicate act. What that act is, remains a mystery.
What the “other case” that has spilled back into the Clinton lane, and campaign is, remains an incomplete story. Apparently, this has something to do with the misdeeds of Anthony Weiner, of which too little and too much is already known. What may now materialize as a result of this inquiry, and how fast, is likely to be part of every news cycle until the election. How these facts will affect public thinking, in a very close election, is material to all of us. Potentially rule of law hangs in the balance, not because a Clinton under investigation could appoint Supreme Court justices and other federal judges under a shadow, but because she would also have the Attorney General within her grasp.
If Clinton wins this election, and becomes the President-elect, with de facto power to shut off political foes, and to replace an Attorney General investigating her, something almost unfathomable will be occurring. Far beyond discovery of misdeeds after an election, as with the presidencies of Richard Nixon and John Kennedy, this will amount to the knowing empowerment of a president by a polity that should know better, and should have rejected the candidacy far earlier, and certainly by election day. If they do not, something else is afoot. It is a disintegration of respect for rule of law itself, and that would cast a shadow that would far outstretch one or two elections.
For this reason if no other, the American voter should be stopped cold in their tracks – and now think hard. If they are uncomfortable voting for Donald Trump, which many are, they should at least recognize their own complicity in ending respect for rule of law, if they vote for Hillary Clinton. Nothing could be clearer. Trump or the non-vote, but she has effectively disqualified herself, or at least the FBI Director has sent a signal suggesting this is in the process of happening. Like finding a scorpion in your shoe, snake in the house, betrayal in a friend, this is not comfortable or happy. This is not a state of affairs anyone should take comfort in. But like those other situations, it is one that calls for serious focus, and personal action. No one can realistically now vote for Hillary Clinton and think that they are upholding the rule of law. That alone is a serious indictment.
Where this new twist will lead the American People, as they watch their institutions struggle, bend, and seemingly edge toward dissolving – from the vaunted State and Justice Departments to our broader foreign policy, national security and rule of law, as they watch these institutions become increasingly politicized, is unknown. But this much is clear. Today represents a significant moment in American history, and it may become more significant as the days ahead play out. Today represents – can you feel it? –a pitching point in both campaigns. Donald Trump’s campaign has suddenly pitched up, as he and the “regency of experts” that would inevitably surround him, from national security to Supreme Court Justices, economists to a thoughtful Vice President, becomes the only credible alternative. And hers has noticeably hit a patch of more than rough air; it has hit a downward pitching point, the moment of sudden deceleration as past acts finally catch up with her. Where this all goes from here is unclear, but that it is significant – as significant as that pitching point in physics, is indisputable. In flying, the moment of lift – where things go – has a lot to do with the speed of events. In physics, lift changes in direct proportion to the square of airspeed. Whatever else is happening in politics, I think we can all agree that the airspeed of this election has been nothing if not fast. Buckle up, as it appears to be getting faster.