Liberals are having a tough time dealing with Hillary Clinton’s secret-email scandal. First up, there was a visibly discombobulated Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC, whose concession there was “no conceivable, rational explanation” for Clinton’s actions, mixed with CNN’s Chris Cuomo saying the story “smells terrible,” and a variety of other incredulous reactions.
Notice that several of the snippets above include questions about how Clinton’s disregard for federal law and State Department email protocols might have jeopardized national security. That is a very disturbing possibility. Maybe someone in the media will even dare to ask Hillary about it, assuming she doesn’t pull her usual post-scandal, gaffe-aftermath disappearing act.
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinsky seemed punch-drunk with the sheer absurdity of Clinton’s email scheme. Brzezinsky kept asking how it was possible for Clinton to get away with this for four years without anyone noticing, which is a good question, although I suspect part of the answer is that a great deal of media email contact with someone like Hillary Clinton is actually routed through her entourage.
It’s also possible that people who had only intermittent contact with Clinton didn’t notice the strange email address she was using, depending on how prominently their email software displays proper names instead of email addresses. Certainly numerous people in the State Department, White House, and other elements of the Obama Administration had to be in on the scheme, but it’s not entirely shocking that those outside the Clinton inner circle didn’t pick up on it.
Scarborough called the email story “staggering” and, like some other commentators, found it typical of Clinton’s arrogant disdain for the rules.
“Every day in Washington D.C. when the Clintons were there was another example of how they just didn’t play by the same rules as everyone else,” he grumbled. “They know no boundaries. This is shocking.”
That’s not a narrative Hillary wants to settle into the media, although of course they’re unlikely to harp on it after she’s facing off against a Republican.
The email scandal might be unleashing some bottled-up anxiety from media liberals about whether Hillary is the ideal standard-bearer for 2016. The more bitterly partisan Democrats-with-a-byline are going to be pissed that she’s vindicated Rep. Trey Gowdy’s House Benghazi Committee, which broke this story. Less partisan reporters will be sincerely discomfited by such a blatant effort to circumvent transparency. (They can handle subtle efforts from their favorite politicians, mind you, but there’s a difference between running a “back-channel” comms network and not having a “front channel” at all.)
Matt Lauer of NBC News and former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs, who slipped through that wonderful revolving door that allows Democratic mouthpieces to become mainstream-media commentators, commiserated about Hillary’s unpardonable sin of giving Republicans easy points to score against her — a “lay-up,” as Lauer put it.
“I think it’s much easier for critics to explain why they don’t exist than it might be for her to explain why she used her private email,” Gibbs agreed, although he still held out some thin hope that Team Clinton would be able to spin their way out of it.
Ron Fournier of National Journal also hit Clinton for arrogance and the security risk she created by using personal email, and he didn’t hesitate to say where he thought all this was going, right in the headline of his piece: “Maybe Hillary Clinton Should Retire Her White House Dreams.” Having already denounced the Clinton Foundation fundraising scandal as “sleazy and stupid,” Fournier was in no mood for a double whammy of Clinton hubris: “The rest of us are required to play by the rules. Why does Clinton think she’s above them?”
Fournier efficiently dispatched the first feeble spin attempt from Clinton’s camp, which involved dredging up old stories of personal email use by Republicans from decades gone by: “This is another Clinton trope: Deflect attention from their wrongdoing by pointing fingers at others—as if two wrongs make a right and they had never promised to set a higher standard.”
Whether he personally agrees with the things Clinton critics have been saying for the past two decades — he pauses to praise Bill and Hillary for their “intelligence and passion and empathy,” and says he thought Hillary would make an even better president than Bill — Fournier was furious against Hillary for working so hard to validate all of them, including the Clintons’ habit of insisting they weren’t doing whatever they’ve been caught doing.
“We can’t have a coronation when she’s handing Republicans an inquisition,” he quotes an unnamed Cabinet-level official from Bill Clinton’s term.
Discussing the story on CNN, Fournier said of the State Department’s excuses, “There is no explanation here. That is all spin. There are explicit rules for this. There weren’t for past Secretaries of State.” He spoke of receiving several phone calls from panicked Democrats who wondered if Hillary might have been sabotaging her own presidential campaign in advance (in 2009?) because she didn’t really want to run.
“There are Democrats out there who are really freaked out,” he concluded.
It’s highly amusing to hear liberal commentators wail that Hillary’s email scheme broke the Obama promise to run “the most transparent Administration in history,” as if Obama’s own stonewalling and deceptions hadn’t already done that a hundred times over. Note to liberal media commentators: no one uses the phrase “Most Transparent Administration In History” as anything but a sarcastic joke.
The scandal even came up on “The View.”
There are many words for what Hillary Clinton did, but “inexplicable” is not one of them. And she did indeed “hide the banana,” because she communicated with numerous individuals outside the Obama Administration with her personal account, leaving us with only her word of honor that she’s handed over all of the material that should be in government archives.
If the reaction from liberal “thought leaders” is meant to convey signals to the base, the sum total of what they’re saying is: Don’t try to minimize this or laugh it off, don’t try to wave it away by bringing up other officials’ use of personal email, be ready for the complaint that she might have jeopardized national security, and understand this is going to fit unpleasantly well into the public perception of Clinton arrogance. What’s left to work with after that, except to doggedly insist that Clinton is working super-hard to hand over everything that should be in the archives, and hope the subject can be changed quickly?