Re: Hillary 2016
The worst kind of gaffe reinforces a negative stereotype about a candidate. Perhaps that explains the sting of the Hillary Clinton email scandal. Dogged by accusations of routinely making crass political calculations, revelations that Clinton kept a private email server while Secretary of State raised the collective eyebrows of her critics, including Republicans still in search of answers on the 9-11 Benghazi terror attacks. Clinton’s protracted silence on the matter further raised questions as to what she wanted kept from public view. After 2 weeks, she offered a rationale: “She told reporters that she hadn’t wanted to be weighed down by a second electronic device. It wasn’t secrecy that motivated her. It was purse space and pinkie strain,” Frank Bruni writes. Incredulity rises, and the scandal doubles as a gaffe.
Until that moment, I found myself at a loss for why this story refused to give way to anything else in the news. Congressional Republicans circumvent the President with a letter to Iran, but Hillary has two email addresses. What difference, at this point, does it make? The difference made is huge (politically).
More than substantiating suspicions that Clinton operates in a petty world of secret political calculations, the scandal raises questions about Clinton’s worthiness as a president altogether. Clinton owes her positive achievements to her husband’s clout–hardly a feminist success story. Left to her own abilities, though, she routinely fails to make sound judgments. One could say of Barack Obama, for example, that he lacked substance, but complemented that dearth by excelling on the campaign trail. Clinton’s inability to address what should have been a 2-day blip in the media demonstrates her fecklessness as a politician. Her public record similarly fails to inspire confidence.
Sean Trende writes my favorite piece on the scandal that encapsulates the gravity of the situation. Trende concludes that the Clinton email blunder reeks of hubris and political ineptitude–the same toxic combination of attributes that doomed her campaign more than 6 years ago. Absent a clear alternative to Clinton, Democrats have their 2016 presidential eggs in a fraying basket.
Ready for Hillary
Clinton’s appeal rests squarely on her sex, and she knows this. However, her credentials as a feminist icon pale in comparison to many lesser-known Democrat women– e.g. Elizabeth Warren. Clinton did not earn her political career, it was bestowed upon her by her more popular and charismatic husband, Bill. With that clout, she became the Senator from New York.
Her tenure in the Senate ranked as largely irrelevant. Considering her most defining vote as senator, though, that to authorize military action in Iraq, liberals would claim that she voted incorrectly. That performance notwithstanding, Clinton used the Senate seat (perhaps as she had always intended) to launch a bid for the Presidency.
In the primaries, Clinton struggled against a weak field. Her tribulations, including an embarrassing fabrication about a harrowing corkscrew landing in Bosnia, and a trope about being named for Sir Edmund Hillary, brought her to tears. In the end, she lost the nomination to a political unknown–who begrudgingly named her Secretary of State.
In this new role, Clinton oversaw the failed Russia “Reset,” the collapse of Egypt and Libya, the Benghazi terrorist attacks, Russian aggression, the rise of ISIS and countless failed policy initiatives in Europe and Asia. In short, her tenure at State was a failure.
Substantively and politically, Clinton represents a risky gambit for Democrats. Now, she’s the only viable Democrat choice for president, and gracelessly botching simple “crises” steals Joe Biden’s thunder (he may run for president again, too). Liberals, from Chris Matthews to Frank Bruni to Robert Gibbs, expressed their frustration with Clinton’s delayed and weak rationale for keeping a private email address. Beneath their groans lies a palpable fear. Even if this email scandal disappears (not likely after Clinton admitted to deleting more than 30,000 emails from the private server), she will have to dodge greater challenges if she wishes to win the nomination. That she can do either appears decreasingly likely.