It took Hillary Clinton way too long to make the politically wise decision to apologize for her use of a personal email server during her tenure at the State Department, and the time is coming when she will have spent too long apologizing for it. With the California primary upcoming, and as she fights Trump on another front, Hillary has taken to doing the odd call-in interview, usually to respond to something Donald Trump has done, but each time taking a spoonful of Emailgate medicine in the process.
On Tuesday, for example, Hillary called in to CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, and later to MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. The point of both interviews seems to have been to whack Trump over his current veterans’ charity fiasco, but in both interviews, she was also asked about the recent Inspector General’s report on emails.
In both interviews, Hillary gave the same canned apology, almost verbatim, while missing opportunities to push back on the media spin. You can see the Tapper interview here, and here’s the All In clip:
Hayes: I need to ask you if you have been contacted by the FBI about an interview regarding the e-mail situation.
Clinton: No, we do not have an interview scheduled. And I just want to say a word about the recent report. You know — actually, the report makes clear that personal e-mail use was a practice under other secretaries of state. And the rules were not clarified until after I had left. As I have said many times, it was still a mistake. If I could go back I would do it differently. I understand people who have concerns about it. But I hope voters look at the full picture of everything I’ve done in my career, and actually the full threat posed by a Donald Trump presidency. Because if they do, I have faith in the American people that they will make the right choice here.
This atonement strategy is wise, if late in arriving, but there are a couple of problems with it, not the least of which is that repeating it the same way over and over, while also pointing out that you’ve repeated it over and over, drains much of the desired effect. But mostly, the latest autoplay statement leans too heavily in the direction of her own sword, giving it too prominent a place in “the whole picture” she wants people to look at, and ignoring new information that’s available to the public.
In the process, Hillary is missing opportunities to push back on spin from the media and her opponents. For example, Tapper shopped her a quote from the USA Today editorial board, the first time anyone has cited them outside the confines of a Holiday Inn Express breakfast buffet, in order to get her to respond to the false premise that she “put personal convenience ahead of national security.”
The fact is that neither the IG report nor any reliable reporting on the FBI review has found any evidence of that, while the State Department email system she eschewed actually has been hacked by foreigners. This is a tough point for Hillary to make, but at this point, a worthwhile one. You can feel like something was a mistake without it being a disqualifying endangerment to liberty and baseball as we know it.
Chris Hayes also identified something that hasn’t been focused on much, noting that “The IG found that subordinates of yours had told people to stop asking about your use of private e-mail, and that was a striking phrase.”
He’s absolutely right it was a striking phrase, which, to be exact, was that the State Department staff was told to “never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”
I’m quoting the report, but the report isn’t quoting anyone. That’s either a paraphrase or a characterization, and an extremely loaded one. Was this a case of a frustrated supervisor who felt the concerns had been asked and answered, or the heavy-handed threat that the IG made it sound like, and which the media zeroed in on?
At some point, Hillary is going to have to go on offense with this issue, because that “whole picture” business isn’t going to hold up against a Trump onslaught.
Having said that, this might be a case of Hillary holding fire until the time is right. There’s an excellent case to be made that when the FBI wraps up its inquiry would be the right time to pivot on the emails. No need to rip off the Band-Aid twice.
If that’s the case, though, then she shouldn’t wait too much longer. People like someone who fights back, and when Hillary just sits there and takes it for too long, they start to get the idea she deserves it.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.