Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ready for Hillary?

As a piece of political theater, Hillary Clinton's press conference at the UN today would not exactly garner a standing ovation.  From its scheduling issues to Secretary Clinton's statement and responses to reporters, this conference will likely provoke the media, give more ammunition to Republicans, and cause more doubts among Democratic powerbrokers.

This presser did not exorcise the ghosts of the 90s.  If anything, it conjured them anew by reinforcing preconceptions of the Clintons as secretive, bunkered, and too enamored of legal/ethical gray areas.

Exhibit A for the backlash this presser could generate is the following tweet by the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza:
Perhaps most strikingly, Secretary Clinton said that she did not keep the approximately 30,000 "personal" emails she kept on her private server.  In addition to the questions about the criteria Clinton used to distinguish "personal" from "professional" email, it remains unclear why someone would normally want to delete so many personal emails.

An interesting loophole in Clinton's remarks is her insistence that she never sent any classified email.  But that statement says nothing about whether she sent any sensitive email or whether she received any classified/sensitive email on her account.  Email that she received could still be vulnerable to being hacked by a foreign power.

Clinton laid down a marker: the private email server remains private.  She could be at risk of boxing herself in here.  If she continues to keep it private, she will be perceived as stonewalling.  But if she later hands it over to the public, she will be seen as on the run.

She also insisted that her private email server had suffered no security breaches---though we don't know how she can verify that (or how we can verify her statement).

Already, Clinton has begun to run into trouble regarding potential conflicts between her statements during this presser and some of her earlier remarks.  For instance, Clinton said that she used a single email account because she didn't want to carry multiple devices, but a few weeks ago she seemed to imply that she carried multiple devices.

After a week of refusing to address the homebrew email situation, Clinton has now provoked more questions than there were before.  A key threat facing Secretary Clinton is the fact that this imbroglio could further shake the faith of the Democratic establishment in her.  Despite the media narrative of Clinton as Ms. Establishment vs. Obama the Outsider during the 2008 Democratic primary, many key institutional Democrats were covert opponents of Hillary Clinton (as Game Change documents).  Obama's victory in the primary in part depended upon the Democratic institutional lack of faith in Clinton.

While 2016 had seemed initially like a coronation on the Democratic side, the homebrew email situation, if it continues to grow, could imperil Clinton's standing among many Democrats.  Based on the immediate reaction to this presser, Hillary Clinton has yet to show decisively that she can put this situation behind her and escape the shadows of the past.  And that could politically hurt her.

No comments:

Post a Comment