Democratic political leaders across the nation, unperturbed by the possible illegality of Hillary Clinton’s email practices, seem to be primarily concerned that Clinton’s response to the resultant furor might affect their own personal political fortunes or those of the Democratic Party.
Although their suggestions for the former secretary of state vary, the central complaint among roughly 75 governors, lawmakers, candidates, and party members interviewed by The New York Times revolves around Clinton’s flippant attitude toward the burgeoning scandal.
Some critics argue that she should have turned over all available evidence as soon as trouble seemed to be brewing, as Edward G. Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania, stated: “The campaign has been incredibly tone-deaf, not seeing this as a more serious issue. She should have turned over the email server at the start, because they should have known they’d be forced to give it up. But at this point, there’s nothing they can do to kill the issue — they’re left just playing defense.”
Some of Clinton’s advisers apparently assert that she should simply acknowledge she made a mistake and hope the parade moves on, which may have prompted Clinton’s Wednesday declaration that she takes “responsibility” for utilizing her private email as secretary of state, adding, “It clearly wasn’t the best choice.”
Other Democrats claim that Clinton should simply buck up and answer reporters’ questions until the issue becomes a dead issue, as Rosalind Wyman, a Democratic national committeewoman from California, argued:
The only thing Hillary can do, I think, is get out there in front of reporters and take five hours of questions — if that’s what it takes — until people understand her, at least, and hopefully believe her. And we have to have people who are talented, independent experts on classified secrets defending her on television, rather than who we have now.
Candidates running in 2016 are deeply worried as to how powerfully Clinton’s troubles may affect their own electoral chances: Jason Kander, the secretary of state in Missouri, challenging GOP Roy Blunt for his seat, said worriedly, “I obviously think the sooner Secretary Clinton can get this behind her, the better.”
Other leaders used the technique of deflecting questions about Clinton’s actions, to the usual cry of GOP aggression: Kentucky Democratic Governor Steven L. Beshear, whined, “While Hillary Clinton has been straight up from the very beginning, the Republicans will not let the issue die, and they will conduct as many witch hunts as possible. She will really have to start addressing those attacks as the campaign becomes more active.”
As far back as March, there were reports of Senate Democrats abandoning Clinton: when asked to comment on the growing scandal, senators, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Jon Tester of Montana, refused to comment.
Meanwhile, hardcore Clinton supporters insist that she has plenty of time to recover her faltering momentum and the public will tire of the issue, as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut intoned: “Democrats need to take a deep breath. The attacks on her email are just that, attacks, and are coming because Republicans understand she is the toughest candidate to beat. People have fatigue over the summer in thinking about political attacks but I don’t think it’s fatigue with Hillary herself.”
Brian Fallon, a Clinton spokesman, added, “We are confident that as the public sees more of the emails, it will clear the air. In the meantime, we are showing that we are on the case by addressing the legitimate questions that have been asked, while not losing focus on the issues that matter most.”
Other supporters think Clinton should aggressively confront her critics. Clinton donor John Morgan barked, “They need to be much more forthright. I don’t think it has been handled well. … This is not a time to parse words. This is a time to be very direct.” Morgan admitted that Clinton’s position as the presumptive nominee has changed as a result of the email scandal, adding, “I think it’s made things tougher on her because it has given people like Joe Biden this sense of ‘Maybe me.’”
Many Democrats lambasted Clinton for her flippancy regarding the issue, such as her joke that Snapchat account messages “disappear all by themselves,” and her response to accusations of wiping her email server, in which she patronizingly replied, “What, like with a cloth or something?”