Clinton should spell out what specific steps shed take as president to ensure that something like this doesnt happen.”>
That is manifestly true. Hes infinitely worse, as he insisted on showing us again Wednesday night with that bilious tirade defending his anti-Semitic tweet. The only circumstance under which he belongs anywhere near the White House is when hes being chauffeured down Pennsylvania Avenue, and even then they should fumigate the place after he goes by.
And its not solely that hes worse. She is, in many waysways the media dont like to recognizean admirable woman. Critics carry on about how shes never accomplished anything big and is an archetypal sail-trimmer, and theres some truth in these critiques. But you dont get to the cusp of the presidency, especially as a woman, by being a mediocrity. There may be no Marshall Plan she can point to as secretary of state or Dodd-Frank-ish piece of legislation she notched as senator, but shes accomplished a lot, and had a very consequential career. And while she may end up being a disappointing president, assuming she wins, I think that she also has it in her to be a great one.
But she has this blind spot, and it just has to change before she gets to the White House. I write as one who is on her side, as Im sure most of you know. Although you may not know my full history on that. Briefly: I wasnt a Clinton fan in 1992, just on ideological grounds; wasnt crazy about the New Democrat stuff. It was only in 1998, after the Lewinsky scandal broke, that I saw that all the things my friends Joe Conason and Gene Lyons had been writing about the plot to nail the Clintons was true and then some. And thats when I became, in the unflattering parlance of our trade, a Clinton defender.
So now the email scandal is behind her, officially. FBI Director James Comey found no grounds for indictment, and Republicans are incredulous, but in real life, theres often space between bad judgment, even spectacularly bad judgment, and illegality. You only have to watch Law & Order to know that being offended by someones behavior is one thing and proving a case is quite another.
Heres a hypothetical question I havent seen anyone ask: What if Comey had sought an indictment, and then Clinton were acquitted two years from now? All Comey would have accomplished would have been to rake an innocent person over the legal coals and in the process hand the country to President Trump.
And speaking of bad judgment, Comey showed some of his own Monday. In his Washington Post column, Matthew Miller laid out a blistering case that Comeys very decision to call this press conference constituted an abuse of power. I wouldnt go that fargiven that this matter involves a presidential election, the most consequential event on our national political calendar, I think an explanation to the public about Comeys findings and reasoning was warranted. And it was inevitable that hed take some shots at her. He is a Republican whos been on her tail since the Whitewater days, and this is politics.
But it now seems apparent that he exaggerated or twisted some things. And he had no business whatsoever trotting out speculation that her server might have been hacked into without a shred of evidence to support the claim. That was pure innuendo, and he should in fact be reprimanded, if theres anyone out there who can reprimand him, for saying that.
But back to Hillary: The saga is now officially over, but it wont be unofficially over for a while yet. Is there anything she can do to make it fade away a little faster? Yes, but I have zero confidence that shell do it.
In Clintonland, when theyre in besieged mode as they so often are, they tend to think, from Bill and Hillary on down, about how their reactions will look to their enemies, and whether their responses hand their attackers and the media any fodder. But they ought to think once in a while about how their responses to look to their supporters. You wont be surprised to hear that I know many of them. A few are with her 100 percent down the line and give no quarter and admit no error. But most think she showed terrible judgment here. In refusing to use a state.gov email address for official business, she let her distrust of her political attackers (Judicial Watch and so on) take precedence over her basic commitment to the public she was serving. And she owes themus, since this group includes mean explanation.
Im sorry, I made a mistake, it wont happen again isnt enough. Think about when someone in your life lets you down. Those few perfunctory words dont fix things. For real reassurance, you need to know why it wont happen againwhat they learned. As I wrote the other day, she should speak with specificity about all this. Joan Walsh of The Nation, another defender, thinks so, too.
And Clinton should spell outagain, with real specificitywhat steps shed take as president to ensure that something like this doesnt happen and to show she would run a clean administration more generally. As Ive written before, this needs to include a specific explanation about what the Clintons plan to do about the Foundation if they return to the White House. He cant be running that thing out of the White House, can he? At least not in the way he has been.
Speaking like this would help her. It would reach two groupsthose who support her but were disappointed by this episode, who want to see that shes learned something; and those who have mixed feelings about her but rate her low on trust, most of whom will award her a point or two for facing up to things.
But she wont. She just doesnt seem capable of acknowledging error at a length greater than one grudging sentence. Since intent is one of the words of the week, I dont think her intent in not doing this is to take her supporters support for granted. But thats the effect, and its going to catch up with her. As president, she must do better.