Column: The year in blame shifting

Hillary Clinton blames FBI Director James Comey for her humiliating loss in last month’s presidential election. If only Comey had not reminded voters about her sloppy email practices as secretary of state a week before the election, Clinton thinks, she would be taking the oath of office on January 20 instead of Donald Trump.

That argument overlooks Clinton’s role in triggering an FBI investigation by flouting State Department rules and lying about it, not to mention her remarkable weakness as a candidate. Clinton’s self-exonerating explanation for her defeat was one of the year’s most striking attempts to dodge responsibility. Here are some of the others:

Billy Bush made him do it. When a 2005 recording in which Donald Trump brags about kissing and groping beautiful women without their consent surfaced in October, the Republican nominee described his vulgar boasts as “locker-room banter,” and his wife blamed the other party to the conversation, Access Hollywood anchor Billy Bush, for encouraging her husband “to say dirty and bad stuff.”

But a review of the video shows that Trump, who broached the subject of uninvited snogging and grabbing, did not need any encouragement.

Plummet on, punks. When rock star Ted Nugent posted a dozen photos showing “who is really behind gun control” on Facebook in February, describing the people in the pictures as “punks” who “hate freedom” and “would deny us the basic human right to self defense,” even fans of the Motor City Madman and the Second Amendment were startled by the array’s blatant anti-Semitism: All of the gun control supporters were Jews, as indicated by little Israeli flags, and the pictures included captions such as “ISRAEL FIRSTER” (Alan Dershowitz) and “911 Israeli agent” (Michael Bloomberg).

Nugent was outraged by the outrage, blaming “dishonest...superFreaks” for misconstruing his message. “Freaks have plummeted to whole new low,” he complained. “Plummet on, punks.”

Volunteer vilification. Last March the Justice Department blamed the slow pace of President Obama’s commutations on Clemency Project 2014, the network of volunteer lawyers who were doing the DOJ’s work by sorting through thousands of cases, looking for petitioners who met the department’s criteria.

The criteria were so strict that only 7 percent of the 36,000 or so prisoners who contacted the project qualified for DOJ consideration.

Tough on crime, easy on himself. When the 1994 crime bill championed by Bill Clinton became an issue in his wife’s presidential campaign, the former president blamed the excessively punitive aspects of the law on Republican legislators. Clinton said Joe Biden, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told him, “You can’t pass this bill, and the Republicans will kill it, if you don’t put more sentencing in.”

Yet as first lady Hillary Clinton cited tougher penalties as one of the bill’s main advantages, and her husband bragged about them.

Marijuana misdirection. In recent interviews, Obama has called continued enforcement of the federal ban on marijuana “untenable” while blaming the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Congress for keeping the drug in the most restrictive category of the Controlled Substances Act.

Yet Obama has never urged Congress to change marijuana’s legal status, and he appointed a hardline holdover from the Bush administration to run the DEA. When she resigned, he did not appoint a replacement more receptive to reclassification of cannabis.

Blame the victim. Michael Slager, the former North Charleston police officer who was caught on video shooting a fleeing, unarmed motorist in the back last year, testified at his trial last month that he acted out of “total fear” after the man, Walter Scott, grabbed his Taser during an altercation. “Mr. Scott was shot because of what he did,” Slager’s lawyer told the jury. But the video, shot by a witness who said Scott never had control of the stun gun, shows Slager picking up the Taser after killing Scott and dropping it next to his body. At least one juror nevertheless seemed to buy Slager’s story, forcing a mistrial.