The Fundamental Transformation of the Fourth of July
The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is probably the most venerated secular holiday in American culture. None of our other holidays – Veterans' Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day – comes close, with the possible exception of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, however, is a quasi-religious holiday, as its name implies. We are giving thanks to God, in the holiday's foundational ideal, for all of His blessings on that day – for home and hearth, family, good health.
July 4 evokes, one would hope, feelings of patriotism, gratitude to the men and women who have served our country in uniform, a keen appreciation for the genius of the men who established the United States of America, and a love of the principles upon which it was based. Those principles are best summed up in the phrase uttered by that most American of presidents, Abraham Lincoln, in the Gettysburg Address: America represents "government of the people, by the people, for the people." Commemorating as it does the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, July 4 celebrates a revolutionary contract in which the government is made subservient to the people it governs.
When we look back on the date, July 4, we see events occurring on it or in the days immediately adjacent to it in the history of our country that seem to somehow touch our "mystic chords of memory," to channel Lincoln once again. It was on July 4, 1826, for example, that two giant figures among the Founding Fathers – John Adams and his perpetual rival-cum-friend, Thomas Jefferson – passed away, within hours of each other. It was 50 years before that to the day that the Declaration had been signed.
The Battle of Gettysburg, the "high water mark" for the Confederacy during the Civil War, was concluded on July 3, 1863, with Union victory, and Union forces left the field on July 4. The carnage was unimaginable on both sides of that battle. The combined casualty count in the three-day contest at Gettysburg for the two belligerents exceeded fifty thousand; it was the single bloodiest campaign of the entire war.
Likewise on July 4, 1863, Union forces were victorious in the seminal Siege of Vicksburg, ending a two-month long campaign by the Union's Major General Ulysses S. Grant to break the Southern forces in two. Combined with the victory at Gettysburg, Vicksburg marked the turning point in the Civil War and signaled the ultimate defeat of the Confederacy and the preservation of our Union.
It is helpful to reflect on these events that have marked July 4 in years gone by when one considers what transpired in Washington, D.C. in the days surrounding the July 4 just passed. We saw Lincoln's aphorism – government of the people, by the people, for the people – turned on its head. On July 2, in an unprecedented event, Hillary Clinton, the putative nominee for president for the Democratic Party in the upcoming election, was interviewed for three and a half hours by a phalanx of FBI agents and attorneys. She was being interrogated over her equally unprecedented use of a private email network to conduct her official business as secretary of state.
Then, on July 5, the American people watched in awe as James Comey, the director of the FBI, spelled out a breathtaking bill of particulars against Mrs. Clinton, reciting violation after violation after violation of government policies, if not laws, regarding the handling of national security information and the proper storage and transmission of government records. As we listened transfixed to his 15-minute statement, those of us who have watched for years, and in some cases exposed, the machinations of the venal Clinton duo and their criminal political enterprise were dumbstruck at Mr. Comey's baffling, and seemingly contradictory, conclusion. After listing a litany of what appeared to be criminal violations of the Federal Records Act and possibly the Espionage Act, Mr. Comey inexplicably announced that no criminal charges would be brought against Mrs. Clinton.
There is now endless speculation as to the motivation – or intent – behind Mr. Comey's decision. He was, after all, a man of erstwhile impeccable reputation and sterling character. There is ample reason for the speculation, not least of which was the foundation he laid in the first 13 minutes or so of his highly unusual speech, in which he appeared to make the case for a criminal referral of Mrs. Clinton to the Justice Department. Moreover, Mr. Comey went out of his way to let those thinking of committing the same infractions as Mrs. Clinton know that they would not be treated nearly so kindly. Did the brazen meeting between former President Bill Clinton and Mr. Comey's boss, Loretta Lynch, on the tarmac of Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix on June 28 influence Mr. Comey's decision? Did the prejudging of the case by Mrs. Lynch's boss, President Obama, in his interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News on April 9 effectively undermine any hope that Mr. Comey would make a criminal referral of Mrs. Clinton?
The questions are many, and no doubt there are people of goodwill who would argue sincerely that the evidence simply wasn't there to get a conviction of Mrs. Clinton.
However, the decision by Mr. Comey seems to be of a piece with a pattern that we have witnessed throughout the Obama administration. We have seen during his tenure the nationalization of the U.S. health care system. We have seen the federal government use legal and budgetary threats against school districts and states in order to allow men to use bathrooms where little girls are present. We have seen the U.S. military change its policies to allow "transgendered" people to serve in its ranks, and even offer to pay for surgeries to "change" the sex of service members seeking that change.
What we are seeing, in short, is a fundamental transformation of America. Candidate Barack Obama promised shortly before his election in 2008 to fundamentally transform America, but no journalist ever bothered to ask him what he wanted to transform it from, or transform it to. Has James Comey, walking point for the Obama administration, just transformed the rule of law in America, with one set of rules applying to the political elite and another set applying to the rest of us?
Finally, given the timing of the FBI's interrogation of Mrs. Clinton on July 2 and Mr. Comey's announcement not to seek her prosecution on July 5, one can't help but wonder if he made his momentous decision on July 4. The perverse irony in that possibility suggests that not only was the rule of law fundamentally transformed with this decision, but the symbolism of July 4 as the date signifying government of the people, by the people, for the people, was itself fundamentally transformed.
William F. Marshall has been an intelligence analyst and investigator in the government and private sector for 30 years. Presently he is a senior investigator for Judicial Watch, Inc. (The views expressed are his alone and not necessarily those of Judicial Watch.)