How good are you at cryptography? Can you describe how a brute force attack works? Without googling it or going to Wikipedia. How up to date are you on the government’s system of classifying information? A little shaky when it comes to these sorts of matters? Like the overwhelming majority of us?

On the other hand, how good are you at sitting in front of your TV, or tablet, or laptop, or smartphone; and gawking at a compromising video on Trump? Or a video of a possible victim of an unwanted sexual advance, telling her story to the voracious press? A little easier, right? A lot more moral clarity for most of us, right?

The thing is, the Clinton campaign has not even had to make the false argument that there is no moral equivalence between possibly compromising America’s most sensitive classified information – which a Secretary of State tends to have access to and tends to be a witness of – and boorish behavior with a member of the opposite sex. The unwanted advance story tells itself, echoing around the media over and over again.

While Hillary’s email server scandal seems to have entered the area of diminishing returns, as far as the voting public is concerned. Yes, there are still those who – rightfully, if you believe in the equality before the law of all government officials and employees – firmly believe that Hillary’s server scandal is one more example of her corrupt behavior. Behavior that, in the case of the server, would land almost any other government employee in jail. Or at the very least have them facing charges.

So when the FBI claims that attempts to hack Hillary’s server by what seems to have been Russian actors were unsuccessful, you have to know more than a little cryptography to agree with their assessment. And you have to do so, without the necessary evidence that would enable you to conclude that those Russian actors were unsuccessful. In Trump’s case, you just have to stare at someone in a video talking for a minute or two, and decide if she – or Donald Trump – is telling the truth. You could be right or wrong in either case. But forced to choose between puzzling over cryptography, or catching up on some scandalous gossip, most people would go for the gossip. Even if both events are potentially scandalous and both are quite likely illegal. But only one of them, potentially fatal for American interests. An ugly choice, any way you look at it.

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