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Can there be smoke without any fire?


The prize quote of this incendiary political year may go to Hillary Clinton.

In response to Donald Trump’s charge that the Clintons set up a pay-for-play arrangement that granted big contributors access to Clinton while she was secretary of state, Clinton said, “My work as secretary of state was not influenced by any outside forces. I made policy decisions based on what I thought was right to keep Americans safe and protect our interests abroad.” She added, “I know there’s a lot of smoke, and there’s no fire.”

Can there be smoke without fire?

I asked an expert. My son, Jay, has spent most of his professional life as a firefighter. He tells me: “Very simply put, where there is smoke there is, or was, fire. Smoke is a byproduct of combustion. There are three stages of fire: smoldering, incipient and free burning. Each one (emits) smoke.”

For more, I turn to the website Programmerinterview.com: “The phrase ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’ means that if something looks wrong then it probably is wrong – just like if you see smoke there probably is a fire somewhere.”

Clear enough?

The Clintons have been lighting and trying to put out “fires” started by the combustible material of their shifting ethics and morals at least since Bill was governor of Arkansas. Earliest memory recalls Hillary making a killing in the cattle futures market. In about 10 months of trading, she turned a $1,000 investment into nearly $100,000.

Discrepancies in Clinton’s investment records were blamed on human error at the investment firm. There are always “discrepancies,” or mistakes made by others, or vast right-wing conspiracies. It always seems the Clintons manage to escape accountability for anything that would lead to the arrest, indictment, conviction and jailing of just about anyone else.

The Associated Press, hardly a right-wing entity, first reported the story about Clinton’s foreign visitors to the State Department, who “happened” to have given large amounts of cash to the Clinton Foundation. The wire service received a partial schedule and has requested the rest of her calendar by Oct. 15. The State Department has said it won’t provide the calendar until after the election, possibly by Dec. 30.

How convenient for her. It’s been seven months since a federal judge ordered monthly releases of her daily schedule.

Clinton’s ethical challenges might stand out more were it not for Donald Trump’s own record when it comes to telling the truth.

In the end, will it matter? If we care too little about ethics and morals in our leaders, it shows we do not hold these virtues in high regard. That says at least as much about us as it does about them.

Cal Thomas, a columnist with Tribune Content Agency, appears in Opinion on Wednesdays.