Saturday, March 07, 2015

Race for the White House 2016 Volume 10

The focus of my entry this week will be on one topic, because I think what happened this week may prove to be a very big deal in Campaign 2016. In the limited time I have to write today, I hope I can coherently give some thoughts on the situation, because while it is still very early in the cycle, I think this may be a week where students of political history look back one day.

The New York Times, hardly a bastion of right-wing politics, ran a story this past week in which it was revealed that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democrat nominee for the White House, did not make use of an official government email account, but instead communicated exclusively on a private email system, which we now also know was set up and run out of her home in New York. It is somewhat debatable as to whether or not Clinton formally broke any laws or formal government regulations by doing this, but we do know that the State Department now has rules against this, and as Secretary, Clinton demanded State Department employees not to to do what she did. An overall directive by the Obama Administration also appears to have been violated by these actions. Furthermore, many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, took strong issue publicly when Republican members of the Bush Administration were said to have communicated via private email.

So, at play here, beyond potential violations of laws and/or regulations is the issue of political hypocrisy. There are of course many question as to why Mrs. Clinton would have done what she did, after railing against others for doing so, and prohibiting it from her own inferiors, but of course, she is not talking. Her invisible campaign seems to be hoping that this scandal, to whatever extent it exists, will soon fade away, and she can move on to discussing other matters, when she eventually does debut as a candidate. Her staffers have been said this week to be less than forthcoming with media inquiries and the only communication was a Tweet by Clinton, in which she said she wants the public to see her email and that she is asking the State Department to review what can be released. Well, that might take a while. Congressional committees, especially the one looking into Benghazi, clearly want to see a whole lot of information. It has been said that 55, 000 emails have now been turned over, but that begs the question, just how many were not turned over. There is really no way of knowing, especially since this entire server had the capacity by Clinton's political people to simply be destroyed.

This is a story with many, many layers and I think is likely to remain in the news for some time. Was Clinton and her team warned against this by State Department cybersecurity personnel? If so, she may very well have put the national security of the United States at risk by communicating, potentially on sensitive, maybe even classified manners, in a way that was more vulnerable to hackers. Some of Clinton's emails have indeed been hacked and have appeared online. That is a big part of how we now even know about this story.

Eventually, if she wishes to be a Presidential candidate, Clinton will have no choice but to extensively address these questions and why the email system was set up, the day she was approved by a Senate committee to be Secretary of State. Why the overwhelming need for secrecy? What happened to the concept of transparency? There are already many theories about how she might have been over her head as Secretary of State and needed to communicate with others, perhaps even her own husband, in a back channel way. Of course, that would hardly be rationale for conducting all correspondence on the multiple email handles she was said to have. Others think that secrecy was a must for how she wanted to talk to people, considering what has previously been reported about how the Clinton Global Foundation group has solicited money from foreign nationals and foreign governments. If access by a government official, especially a Secretary of State, was granted for donations, that would be a serious violation of the law. As students of recent history know, both Clintons have long been subject to questions about their ethics, as it relates to money, and campaign finance in particular. When they were in the White House, the Lincoln Bedroom was practically turned into a Bed and Breakfast in exchange for campaign donations after all.

Also, Republicans, certainly want to know about what happened in Benghazi. That has been under investigation for a couple of years now, and the fact that the Secretary's emails have been missing might be a big part to unraveling what happened there in September of 2012.

Literally, I could go on and on about this. I have talked about this online a good deal this week, and I expect to continue talking about it, both because it is an interesting story, and because I do think this could have major impact on the Presidential campaign of a major candidate who has been trying her best to remain under the radar.

Those who remember the 1990s, look back upon the plethora of "Clinton Scandals" and how nothing seemed to ever come of them (besides an impeachment of a President I suppose), but that Republicans were often seen as being on a "witch-hunt", and sympathy was generated for the Clintons. The sympathy factor due to a scandal of her husband is of course a big reason Hillary Clinton was ever elected to public office and why she has remained a serious Presidential possibility for over a decade now.

Yes, Hillary Clinton may prove able to survive this, but I think this is different than Whitewater or the zipper issues of her husband. As it has been written by many this week, this feeds into everything that the public seems to dislike about Hillary Clinton and has for many years. Her husband has seemingly managed to float above all rumors of his political demise, but even going back to her time as First Lady, Hillary Clinton has tended to have a much rougher ride with the media and with the public as a whole. It is certainly worth remembering that she has failed before as a Presidential candidate, losing a nomination battle to a another candidate she really should have been in position to defeat.

Some on the left are trying to rally around Hillary, trying to draw inaccurate or incomplete comparisons to GOP politicians or officials who used private email (Jeb Bush for example, publicly released his as Governor of Florida several weeks ago online) by saying "they all do it", or that this should not be considered a big deal. If this should not be considered a big deal, then Mrs. Clinton should have no qualms of holding a lengthy press conference and answering every question asked about the situation. That seems unlikely to happen though, and thus this distraction is likely to continue. In fact, traditional allies of Democrats in the media, have sort of taken on a disappointed tone in writing or talking about these events and how it could very well be a problem for the Clinton campaign. Even they have admitted that if this was a story about Dick Cheney, as Vice President, communicating exclusively via private email, instead of being subjected to transparency regulations, they would be flipping out.

Valerie Jarrett, perhaps Barack Obama's most influential staffer seemed to throw Hillary a bit under the bus in a tv interview this week. Some in the media are now openly speculating about her political standing in the wake of these revelations, especially considering the belief that more is likely to come to the surface. At one point, it was practically taken as a given that Clinton would face only token opposition, if even that, in primaries and caucuses next year. Now, that certainly does not seem to be the case. Besides for former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and current Vermont socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley seems to be preparing to enter the race.

Hillary Clinton is still the favorite to win her party's nomination, if she eventually does run, but the week that she has had has been a very bad one and has given hope to others in her party who would like to see her stopped. Some may talk about second (or third or fourth) chances for Joe Biden or maybe even Al Gore now, but as I have said for several weeks, Elizabeth Warren would present the biggest challenge of all for Hillary Clinton.

The Massachusetts Senator has said publicly that she is not going to run against Hillary Clinton (while not offering an endorsement of her either), but not everyone takes her at her word. Many in the media and certainly many on the grassroots activist level on the left would easily push Clinton aside for the populist Warren and thus this email scandal is a big deal, both in terms of Hillary's potential race for the nomination, and then, if she survives that, in regards to the campaign themes and narratives that would certainly be used against her by Republicans in a general election.

There is a very long way to go before the 2016 primaries even begin, but what happened this week may prove to be the most major development of the cycle and could provide some serious political or maybe even legal perils for the woman known on her own super secret email server as Hillary Diane Rodham.


At 7:46 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Which still means the GOP wins the White House in 2016!


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