Bad News For Hillary And Trump: Is She A Criminal, A Victim, or What?

No indictment. This is bad news for both Hillary and the Donald. He doesn't get the lightning bolt he needed to win. She takes another body blow to her personal credibility.

It's hard to make sense out of the political fallout. There are parallel realities being peddled out there, depending on who you are talking at.

Hillary the criminal in the mold of the killer of Vince Foster and the Benghazi Four, Whitewater thief, and rape co-conspirator, much less the lies and distortions. There is a population that buys that, full bore, not just as reasons to vote against her, but as reasons to imprison her. Trump leads that parade. It's fair to say that there's no evidence to any of this, that responsible investigations have repeatedly shown as much.

There's Hillary the victim, an innocent bystander as Ken Starr, Republican politicians, irresponsible journalists take the normal failures of any public career, and turn them into character assassination and political talking points. It's fair to say that there is a pattern of insensitivity to appearance and self-inflicted wounds that make it hard to feel sorry for her.

Neither story line persuades. Trump, who simply can't help himself, is unable to make the kind of measured attack that might do her long-term political damage with folks still nursing concerns about her candidacy. The over-the-top accusations stir up the base, but don't go much beyond. Hillary's strength, intelligence and firm grasp of detail make the victimization meme unhelpful at best.

Which mimics the dynamics of the 2016 campaign so far. It has been enough for both Hillary and Trump to energize the base. It seems like the campaigns don't believe that there's anyone left in the middle to persuade.

Big mistake. As the underbrush gets cleared away, as vice presidents are chosen, as conventions come and go, there will soon be the moment when both candidates will face the electorate, alone and unvarnished. Which is why Hillary remains the prohibitive favorite to win the election.

She will make an economic case, emphasizing income inequality and economic opportunity for the middle class, and nail Trump with the "nuclear codes." She will be focused and disciplined, and tough enough at the debates to help herself. She will focus on the undecided and wavering.

Trump could bring a responsible character attack on Hillary, and use of the email issue is a fair tactic. Instead, he will wave his arms and flail around, making unsubstantiated accusations and contradicting himself. That's not enough to go much beyond the voters already with him. Whether a different Republican could make a better case will never be known.

In the end, it's about the economy and national security. Not about trustworthiness. Not about judgment. Which is a kind of missed opportunity for the country. It's deeply unsatisfying to have two candidates who no one trusts.