Democratic fault lines: Hillary knocks Snowden for fleeing to Russia

She never calls him a traitor, notes National Journal, but she goes right up to the line:

I think turning over a lot of that material—intentionally or unintentionally—drained, gave all kinds of information, not only to big countries, but to networks and terrorist groups and the like.

Why should you care? For two reasons. One: Like it or not (i.e. not), this may be a policy preview of the next presidential administration. She doesn’t say explicitly that she’d preserve NSA surveillance as is (she pays lip service at the beginning to privacy, as all politicians do when addressing this subject) but her concern here obviously has much less to do with domestic data-mining and much more to do with Snowden absconding with state secrets. In fact, she wonders aloud why he didn’t stay put and seek legal protection for his disclosures under whistleblower laws — a sore point for Snowden and his supporters since day one. Meaningful whistleblower protections don’t exist, Snowdenites insist (and not without reason); he would have suffered nasty retaliation in the U.S. and maybe even prison. It’s not even clear that his disclosures would qualify as “whistleblowing” since, after all, the NSA’s programs are legal unless and until the Supreme Court decides the Fourth Amendment says otherwise. Hillary surely understands all that. The fact that she’d resort to that argument anyway shows you just how unsympathetic to him she is.

Two: It’s going to be fascinating watching Democrats wrestle with Snowden’s legacy during the 2016 campaign, especially if they nominate a would-be hawk like Hillary. The principled lefties among them are irritated that the party’s veered from criticizing Bush for threatening civil liberties with mass surveillance to defending Obama for doing the same. The rest of the party trusts Obama to be a responsible actor and thus tolerates surveillance — so long as it’s overseen by a Democrat. Nevertheless, as of January, Democrats as a group were turning sour on NSA spying just as the rest of the country was. Back in June 2013, when Snowden first emerged, they supported the NSA 58/38. As of January 2014, it was … 46/48. That’s why Hillary’s so keen to change the subject here from the NSA itself to Snowden running away to Mother Russia with the keys to the security castle. When you ask people about that, things get … complicated:


Here’s what happens in the same poll when you ask people whether Snowden’s leaks were the right or wrong thing to do. Top line is “right,” second line is “wrong,” third line is “not sure”:


Good news for Hillary the Hawk: A plurality of Dems (identical to Republicans, in fact) think it was the wrong thing to do. Bad news for her: Young adults, on whose turnout Democrats increasingly depend, are conspicuously pro-Snowden. The trick in the Democratic primaries for Team Clinton is finding a sweet spot where she’s critical of Snowden, to prove that she’d be “tough” as commander-in-chief, but not so critical of his revelations that she’d alienate the lefties who are already suspicious of her and the young voters whom the party needs. Here’s her first stab at it.