That might as well be the headline of almost every article written since the New York Times broke the “story” that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used a private e-mail account rather than an official State Department e-mail address, claiming that she “possibly” broke the law and maybe was “thwarting” requests to turn over her e-mails when requested. My first worry when I the media exploded over this was about how secure any official State Department communications could be via a private account. But that’s not what has virtually every journalist and politician on Capitol Hill in full put a “-gate” on it mode.
She’s hiding something! She broke the law! Well, maybe not the law, exactly, but it feels like she broke the law! Don’t pay attention to the fact that Republican Colin Powell did the same when he was at State. Let’s not talk about the fact that the regulation about no private accounts didn’t go into effect until after Hillary was no longer Secretary of State. Oh no! She’s sucked the air out of the Democrats’ presidential field and now she could never possibly run for president and, OMG, don’t let us relive the days of Edmund Muskie and Gary Hart!!!!
Whew! That’s a lot of Sturm und Drang (as Tim Gunn might say) to process in one news cycle! If this keeps up, no one is going to last until November of 2016.
So how about if we all take one step back from the click bait headlines, take a deep breath and focus on what the facts say? I know … I’m so old fashioned like that.
Yes, there is a transparency issue when it comes to maintaining a separate, private e-mail account as a public official. And lots of people are claiming her private email account was just the same sort of Bill and Hill M.O. to keep as many things private and out of the media’s hands, as well as those of her opponents, as possible. And I have no doubt that that was one of her considerations and I think she should have made a different decision.
But Hillary Clinton isn’t the first — Jeb Bush did the same thing as governor of Florida. Hm, where is the same level of outrage for Jeb’s version of E-mail-gate? It makes sense that the feds put a regulation into effect in 2014 that prevents this kind of thing from happening again (what took them so long?), but it didn’t take effect until after Hillary had stepped down as Secretary of State. And as we’re analyzing this, if there was truly a legal problem with that Hillary account, where were the lawyers? The State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser surely knew and weighed in on whether there was going to be a legal problem. You know Hillary would not have gone ahead with that private account if she knew there was even a sliver of a chance that it would keep her from a presidential run.
But the media aren’t stopping there. Now, some are wondering whether the Democrats have shot themselves in the foot by not having a deeper bench of candidates, comparing Hillary as the likely 2016 nominee to Edmund Muskie in 1972 ,when he was the Democrats’ main guy and then supposedly teared up a little when defending his wife at a press conference over allegations that she drank and used “off color” language on the campaign trail. Before someone could hand him a Kleenex his campaign was over. And she’s also being dubbed as the next Gary Hart — the Dem who was the new favorite for the 1988 presidential race, who had his chance disappear after it turned out he was having an affair. In those years, the Democratic runner-ups failed to come through — George McGovern lost to Richard Nixon, and Michael Dukakis lost to George H.W. Bush
OH NO! THAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN AGAIN TO THE DEMOCRATS AND THE RACE HASN’T EVEN STARTED!! HOW DID THEY LET HILLARY DO THIS?!
Except here’s the thing. The 2015 political world is a lot different than it was a couple of decades ago. And if a politician has any serious dream of ever running for president, they’ve got game plans and donors and supporters ready to step up. I’m not saying Hillary is out, because this is just one of many “controversies” that are going to get tossed at her between now and 2016. But the Democrats do have a bench — Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Jeanne Shaheen, Martin O’Malley. And while I’m no insider, I can guarantee you that regardless of what these electeds, and others, have said about their White House ambitions, if they really want to sit in the Oval Office as president at any point in their lives, they’ve got a game plan that they can put into action when they need it.
So let’s not worry about Hillary. Let’s not worry about the future of the Democratic party. Let’s stop comparing Hillary’s e-mail “scandal” to Watergate and look at the facts.
Her account wasn’t illegal. There is a transparency issue, but I’m guessing that at the end of the day, the e-mails will show nothing that can hurt her. She could have spared herself all this by just getting a “.gov” account. Even if she decides not to run for president (whether because of this or some other thing you know will get thrown at her), there is a bench of other Dems that’s plenty deep.
Now, can we all take another deep breath and move on to the next “-gate?”