"Good times and bum times, I've seen them all and, my dear, I'm still here." – Stephen Sondheim

Mr. Sondheim wrote the above lyrics for a character in his landmark 1971 musical, "Follies." She was a faded Hollywood glamour girl (played by Yvonne DeCarlo in the original production), who refused to be flattened by some pretty tough buffets from the winds of time.

The words could just as easily be applied to Hillary Clinton. Congress rejected Mrs. Clinton's admirable efforts to establish an affordable national heath care plan during her tenure as First Lady. She was publicly humiliated by her husband's philandering before he left office. Heavily favored to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, she lost to an Illinois congressman nobody ever heard of.

She has been investigated no fewer than eight times during a witch-hunt cynically designed to make political hay out of the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. The investigation only succeeded in bolstering Mrs. Clinton's reputation as a woman who can take care of herself and reinforced the country's suspicion that the Republicans were justifiably terrified of her.

She has been heavily criticized for accepting big money from morally dubious entities like Goldman Sachs, a point that might have some validity if it was hurled from a pulpit. Levied by the hierarchy of the Republican Party, the indignant objection to her high speaking fees is downright laughable. Their last presidential candidate was stashing his millions in offshore bank accounts to avoid paying taxes in his own country.


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Her latest fiery crucible was an unexpected offshoot from the Benghazi investigation, a crumb of hope at the GOP's embarrassingly empty banquet table. Mrs. Clinton used an unsecured server to relay sensitive information while she was secretary of state. Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, and Condoleezza Rice all did the same thing, but, of course, they weren't in line to be the next president.

FBI Director James Comey, a Republican, found that Mrs. Clinton had committed no indictable offenses, but he publicly berated her for carelessness. He also said (rightfully) that Mrs. Clinton had not been completely honest in her responses about the nature of the information she was sending over the insecure e-mail server. In effect, Comey told Trey Goudy and his salivating cohorts on the committee that, although they couldn't have the entire cake, he was more than happy to offer up a slice.

The notion that a woman who has devoted her entire life to public service would knowingly jeopardize all that she has accomplished for the sake of using her own e-mail account is ludicrous. It was a terribly careless misjudgment.

No matter what Mrs. Clinton's flaws might be, we must never lose sight of the alternative offered by the same party that parlayed George W. Bush's lies about Iraq into a war that has claimed the lives of thousands of American servicemen, cost trillions of dollars to wage, and has only succeeded in destabilizing an entire area of the world.

If President Obama has called her "the most qualified presidential candidate in history," she is competing against the most dismally unqualified person. Donald Trump is so lacking in any qualities of leadership that his recent meeting with Republican skeptics in Washington degenerated into the usual name-calling and bullying threats.

Mr. Trump is, however, going to remain a staunch advocate of Article XII of the Constitution, even if that is five more than are actually in the document and Corinthians Two is presumably still his favorite passage in the Bible. And this is the guy into whose hands millions of people want to entrust the nation's future.

The wind that is buffeting Hillary Clinton right now might more accurately be called over-activated hot air and it, like all the other hyped-up partisan smears, will pass.

Alden Graves is a regular Banner columnist. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.