FBI, Obama bring cheers and dangers for Hillary

obama_2922413fTHE PRESIDENT CAMPAIGNS: President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday.

Direct campaign by the President is likely to boost Hillary’s popularity among blacks, minorities and youngsters

“Hillary, Hillary,” shouted President Barack Obama when he took the stage to support the Democratic presidential candidate on Tuesday. In his first public speech in support of Hillary Clinton — his opponent in 2008 primaries and later his Secretary of State — Mr. Obama added the much-needed energy and enthusiasm to her campaign with his trademark enthusiasm. It was also history in the making — the first black President of the U.S. pitching for someone who could be the first woman President of the country.

Mr. Obama dismissed her Republican opponent Donald Trump without even once mentioning his name. He and First Lady Michelle Obama will make a series of such appearances between now and November in support of Ms. Clinton.

Mr. Obama’s soaring speech came just hours after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced its decision not to indict her for using a private server for e-mail communications when she was Secretary of State. The possibility of indictment had been hanging over her head, and has been a staple in the speeches of Mr. Trump. With that cloud removed, and Mr. Obama, whose popularity remains high, making it clear that he will leave no stone unturned to have Ms. Clinton succeed him, Tuesday looked like the inflexion point in the 2016 campaign.

FBI decision

But that was until the Republican responses began to pour in. Speaker Paul Ryan questioned FBI Director James Comey’s decision and even insinuated that there was a political motive. Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan said the FBI decision was proof that the Clintons enjoyed impunity. Mr. Trump also trumped up his pet peeve —“the system is rigged”. The fact that Mr. Comey, a registered Republican, was brought into the Justice Department by President George W. Bush did not matter to them. Mr. Ryan even demanded that the Director of National Intelligence bar Ms. Clinton from seeing any confidential papers in the future.

But Ms. Clinton has more immediate challenges. Mr. Comey’s assessment of the case leaves her in a difficult spot. The FBI chief has questioned her judgment, and her contention that no classified material was transmitted on the private server. Moreover, Mr. Comey also did not rule out the possibility of a breach of the server by a hostile country. All this will rankle in the coming weeks.

The Obama ‘coalition’ of the black, minorities and youth that was somewhat lukewarm towards Ms. Clinton will now feel more encouraged by the President’s direct campaign. But the flipside is that despite his popularity, he is a polarising figure.

Key endorsement

It may not be a coincidence that the Republican partisanship coincides with the first black presidency. One of the polarising images that Mr. Trump constantly evokes is of Mr. Obama, with the allegation that he is ineffective in dealing with Islamist terrorism.

The flipsides apart, Ms. Clinton could not have hoped for anything better in the given context. With unrestrained support from the Obamas and a near clean chit from the FBI, Ms. Clinton appeared to be in her elements, speaking before Mr. Obama on Tuesday.

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