Oops. A lot of people in the Democratic party (and probably some in the Republican party too) had expected that come January 20, 2016, Hillary Clinton would be on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., while Chief Justice John Roberts swore her in through gritted teeth. I know I did.
But this e-mail thing – eeehhh (not sure how to type a cross “ick” and “yeah”). The fact that she used personal e-mail for government business. We were riding on a fantasy balloon, thinking that maybe she’s different than he is, maybe she’s really not one of those people who thinks the rules don’t apply to her. We wanted to think that Clinton II would be different than Clinton I because she really is smarter than he is.
Now, Clinton herself has managed to put more than a hint of doubt into people’s minds about what kind of politician she is. Here’s why.
No one understands Benghazi – what happened, what went wrong, and why. The Republicans’ attempts to discredit her on this have failed because there’s so much murk surrounding it. It’s too easy for the Republicans to say black and the Democrats to say, well, no, if you look at it this way, gray.
But everyone understands e-mail. Don’t forget, my real job is writing about technology. A big component of that is security and audit. What should be in e-mail, what shouldn’t be in e-mail, how long should they be archived, how do you search them in an e-discovery effort to uncover what happened and when.
Everyone in corporate America understands there are rules about e-mail. They have IT staff banging on them constantly about passwords and paper trails and how they have to clean out their in-box because their e-mail is hogging too many megabytes. So when Clinton suddenly, completely, extravagantly – especially as a member of an administration yammering about “transparency” – ignores rules that everyone can relate to, it really makes people stop and wonder if she’s just as secretive and corrupt and opaque as other candidates contemplating the presidency (Chris Christie, please call your office – your E-ZPass bill is overdue).
Clinton has never been my favorite candidate. Even as a Californian, I contributed to the New York Senate campaign of Rick Lazio, her opponent when she initially ran. But I admired her poise when Barack Obama beat her. I admired her commitment to the country when she accepted the Secretary of State nomination. I was completely won over when I saw her speak to a software vendor’s user conference last year.
One of my editors asked me to go to see what, if anything, Clinton actually knew about the topic of “software-defined networking.” She immediately admitted that she knew absolutely nothing. She stopped short of saying that the only reason she was there was for the $150,000 speaking fee. But … she spoke for 30 minutes on a variety of topics of interest to the tech audience: immigration, intellectual property, net neutrality, Internet security. She was eloquent. She was articulate.
Thinking back to times I’d seen Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden get tangled up in the simplest sentence structures and eventually dying from exhaustion, watching Clinton was a breath of fresh air. I was impressed.
Then the CEO of the company that invited her segued to the Q&A. Again, more eloquence. They wrapped up with what he called “the lightning round” (a term I found humorous since Password has been off the air since 1989). Among the rapid-fire questions were her favorite book, her favorite movie, her favorite food. This was the best part – even as Bill has slimmed down, Hillary had clearly gained weight. She was wearing a dress that looked like she was wearing a coat. But with a great deal of self-deprecation, she said, “Well, as you can see, I have a lot of favorite foods.”
That’s what we like to see in politicians – a sense of humanity, humility. I was won over.
But now, what has she done? In a world where it’s almost impossible for a Democrat to lose a Presidential election, because of the solid Democratic majorities in urban areas, she’s managed to plant a seed of doubt about that humanity and humility in everybody’s mind. It was already in the Republicans’ mind, but now, with this, I suspect it’s seeping into independents’ minds as well. How does someone so smart chip a chink in her own armor of inevitability?
Granted, the Republicans may still nominate a right-wing fruitcake, or worse, a moderate masquerading through the primaries as a right-wing fruitcake. But the sad part is that Hillary Clinton has, in a horribly self-inflicted, bungling way, managed to do to herself what the Republicans have been trying to do for years – make people wonder about what kind of a politician she really is.