Hillary Clinton’s political setbacks and scandals come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: they highlight a personality with questionable judgment.
The question before the media, and American voters, is whether a person with such bad judgment should be trusted with nuclear launch codes at 3 AM.
The former Secretary of State during Obama’s first term acquitted herself fairly well during yesterday’s news conference (though I wonder why none of her advisers told her to lose that pinched I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-put-up-with-this-crap look on her face), though she did commit two rookie errors (I’ll get to those below).
To Hillary’s credit, she admitted she made a bad call in 2009, when she decided to exclusively use a private email account – whose server is kept at her private home in Chappaqua, New York – rather than an official .gov one issued by the State Department. “Looking back, it would have been better for me to use two separate phones and two e-mail accounts,” she conceded. “I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way.”
Yes, it would have been, and no, it hasn’t.
The thing is: Hillary had all the information she needed to make the right decision back in 2009.
At the time, there was a clear-cut, well-publicized federal regulation that required government employees to keep all their emails. At the time, there was a recent history of politicians getting into trouble for falling afoul of this best practice. At the time, email was – as it is now – the default communication medium between government officials.
Given all that, she nevertheless decided to err on the side of secrecy rather than transparency. Her bad.
Again to her credit, she belatedly admitted that she shouldn’t have voted for Bush’s Iraq War. Her sort-of-apology was buried in her 2014 memoir: “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had…And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong.”
But lots of others, including 23 Senators, got it right.
At the time.
As with Emailgate, however, then-Senator Clinton had exactly what she needed to make the right decision – but then chose not to do so. As The Atlantic reported last year, she was one of six senators who read a secret 96-page National Intelligence Estimate on Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs. Because the classified document made clear that the case for war was based solely on conjecture and speculation, at least two of the other five senators who saw it decided to vote against the invasion. (Unfortunately, neither of them is running for president.)
Most pundits, me included, assumed that Clinton’s 2002 vote was motivated by rank cynicism – Bush, militarism, war were running high in the polls in the year after 9/11. Now she says that’s not true. Either way, it was a stupid decision.
At the time, it was clear to millions of Americans, me included, that Bush and Cheney didn’t have solid evidence that Iraq possessed WMDs. If they had, they would have shown us, the same way that JFK revealed spy photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba on TV. You don’t go to war based on maybes.
At the time, her vote for war was also politically idiotic. Hillary represented New York, a solidly Democratic state where opposition to invading Iraq would have been rewarded at reelection time, not punished. Also, many people who didn’t even have access to classified intelligence could tell that the United States was likely to lose the war. If she were smart, she would have seen that too. You don’t vote on wars that are likely to become unpopular by the time you’re running for election or reelection.
That’s why I voted against her in the 2008 Democratic primary. I might be able to vote for a cynical bastard.
But not a fool.
Unfortunately for Hillary, the Democratic Party, and – if she wins – the American people, she repeatedly makes the wrong call when it really matters. It was the same during the 1990s Whitewater controversy that embroiled her husband.
In an open letter to Clinton, Paul Waldman of the liberal American Prospect reminds us: “On Whitewater, where yours was the strongest voice urging your husband to fight the release of information. We all saw what happened: A story about a failed investment turned into the subject of an independent counsel investigation, which ultimately led to impeachment. All the inquiries eventually concluded that you did nothing wrong in the Whitewater investment.”
What could be stupider than masterminding a cover-up when you have nothing to hide?
Hillary messes up little decisions too.
Yesterday’s press conference featured two boners you wouldn’t expect out of a freshman state representative:
First she rather hilariously set herself up for accusations of hypocrisy. “No one wants their personal emails made public, and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy,” she said. Perfectly reasonable coming from you and me, but not from a senator who voted for the USA Patriot Act, which authorized the NSA to intercept everyone’s phone calls, emails and everything else. (Talk about lousy judgment.) Or from someone who called Edward Snowden a traitor. (A year later, she’s walking that one back too.)
Second, the multi-multi-multi-millionaire crankily channeled Tricky Dicky with a cheesy attempt to distract from the email controversy with some ridiculous I’m-a-real-person-too pleas for sympathy: “At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal emails — emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.”
“Yoga routines“? Via email?
(For the under-90 set, here’s Nixon’s “Checkers” speech: “It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate that he had sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it.”)
This woman. Wants to be. President.
“It all seems so preventable, so easily avoided,” marveled Newsweek about Emailgate and Hillary’s other screw-ups.
Yes it does and yes it does.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” You can support his work by subscribing to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
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