“I’m sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails!” So once said Bernie Sanders during one of the primary debates with Hillary Clinton, delighting Democrats everywhere. We shall see if he is able to maintain that same posture after F.B.I. Director James Comey’s announcement that no criminal charges would be recommended by his agency against Clinton for her handling of classified material on non-personal email servers while, at the same time, questioning her judgement. Personally, I hope Sanders will continue to take the high ground.
However, I do have to agree with a Republican strategist who said yesterday, “Any day a campaign has to say, ‘Well, at least she didn’t get indicted’ is a bad day for that campaign.” No kidding! Having said that, I doubt that this announcement will have much influence on the outcome of November’s elections (except taking up valuable air time which could be spent on discussion of substantive issues about which Clinton and Donald Trump disagree). Hillary’s opponents will see a “vast left wing conspiracy” at work. Her supporters will minimize the seriousness of the F.B.I.’s findings and point out that Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice did substantially the same thing. Actually, no, they didn’t.
As is so often the case, today’s New York Times editorial says it best: “As Mrs. Clinton said in the past, and her campaign reiterated on Tuesday, her decision to use private email was a mistake. She remains, far and away, the most experienced and knowledgeable candidate for the presidency, particularly compared with Donald Trump. But she has done damage to her reputation by failing to conform to the established security policies of the department she ran and by giving evasive or misleading answers about her actions and motivations. If there was ever a time that Mrs. Clinton needed to demonstrate that she understands the forthrightness demanded to those who hold the nation’s highest office, this is the moment.”
I could not agree more. And, if I was Secretary Clinton’s campaign manager, I would suggest immediately scheduling an hour long, one-on-one television interview with some respected journalist (if there are any left — maybe Lester Holt or Brian Williams; Andrea Mitchell has become a Hillary hater for some reason, and Rachel Madow would be seen to be too partisan).
In this interview Clinton should answer forthrightly any and all questions, avoid her usual hyper-defensiveness, and show some genuine contrition and vulnerability which can be so winsome when she lets herself reveal it. That would go a long way toward restoring the confidence of her base without the temptation for them to minimize her “careless” (not”reckless,” as Rudy Gulianni falsely quoted Comey) decisions about emails and private servers.
Having gotten herself into this mess, Hillary could at least use it to demonstrate that she does not believe herself to be above the law or someone to whom the rules do not apply.