I am envious of Hillary Clinton. She had a team of assistants available to her to dump 30,000 old email messages into the trash. I must have at least 30,000 messages languishing in four email accounts, including an old one on AOL that I can’t even remember how to access. I would love to get rid of them, but who has that kind of time?
Hillary obviously didn’t. That’s why she hired people to do it for her. Apparently, though, cleaning out your email is not a good idea if you are a former secretary of State who is expected to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.
Hillary made the mistake of using her private email account for both work and home, and no matter how much she may protest that she only got rid of the personal stuff and sent the rest to be filed away by the State Department, Republicans will not take her word for it. They seem to think that, among the quick notes to the caterer for her daughter Chelsea’s wedding and honey-do requests to Bill, there simply has to be a smoking gun message in which she gives terrorists the address of the American Consulate in Benghazi.
Benghazi, after all, is what this is all about for the GOP. For two years, Republicans in Congress have been sifting through the ruins of that tragedy, trying to find something to pin on either President Obama or his ex-secretary of State. So far, they have come up with nothing but ashes, yet their fruitless probes into the incident never end. It is not just that in their partisan, paranoid version of reality nothing bad can happen in the world without it being the fault of Obama or one of the Clintons, it is that, if they can somehow pin responsibility for the death of an American ambassador in Libya on Hillary, they can sink the Democrats’ chances of holding on to the White House in 2016.
She has played coy for years now, but there is almost no doubt that Hillary intends to run for president and even less doubt that she will capture her party’s nomination with little or no opposition. She is wildly popular among Democrats, and so far leaves any potential Republican nominee in the dust, according to all the polls. Democrats are betting everything they have on her and it is not a bad bet. Still, it feels a bit risky because the Dems have no Plan B if something should go awry with the Clinton campaign machine.
The GOP primaries could be contested by 10 or more candidates, and at least a few of them are not daffy, right-wing cartoon characters. When it comes to the general election, whatever the poll numbers are now, the race will surely tighten. This is, after all, a nation that is sharply divided politically, and Republicans can count on a base of about 45% of the electorate. That means a reasonably sane conservative like Jeb Bush, Rand Paul or Marco Rubio could be competitive under any circumstances. Even a bland, county-level political talent like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker could make it a race, given how much some people detest the idea of another Clinton as president.
If Hillary can be taken down a notch by a few embarrassing emails, the GOP nominee’s chances improve. If the emails prove to be truly scandalous, they might even drive her out of the race. Game, set, match for the GOP.
The much more likely scenario, however, is that Hillary is telling the truth. Combining personal and professional email was a simple matter of convenience, she claims, and most of us who are forced to channel a flood of messages every day can relate.
Now, it’s true that being secretary of State is a whole lot different than being a manager of a Subway franchise or a Hollywood talent agent or a political cartoonist, so there are various quibbles about Hillary’s decision to use her private account for public business. If she had kept things separate — or not used email at all, like her predecessor as secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice — she wouldn’t be having to explain her messaging methods now.
Nevertheless, this is mostly an inside-the-Beltway media storm. The likelihood of any voter even remembering how Hillary opted to manage her email, let alone making it a driving factor when ballots are cast, seems remote. This is only the first of many hardballs the media and the Republicans will be throwing at Hillary Clinton. She might whiff this one, but it will be her season-long batting average that will determine if she wins in the end.