To call Hillary Clinton’s press conference yesterday a disaster is to engage in understatement. In a brief two-minute exchange with Fox News’ Ed Henry, Hillary tried changing history by claiming totally voluntary transparency, and then put on a dumb-grandma act when asked about an act to which her attorney admitted months ago. Hillary then abruptly ended the presser when the questions about her e-mail server kept coming. It’s practically a primer on how not to handle crisis communications:
Hillary claims credit here for turning over the e-mails, but they should have been included in the National Archives all along, under the Federal Records Act. She also brags about turning over the server as a measure of transparency, even though for the last six months Hillary had adamantly refused to do so. Finally, when asked whether she had wiped the server, Hillary insults everyone’s intelligence by feigning ignorance in replying, “Like with a cloth or something?” Her attorney, David Kendall, had admitted back in March that the server had been wiped while in Hillary’s possession, but the FBI may have discovered that the wiping had been handled just as well as the security on the e-mail system all along.
It’s a two-minute exercise in falsehoods, false posturing, and stonewalling.
The Hill reported that Hillary “pulled the plug” and retreated:
Asked if the server, which has been turned over to the Department of Justice, had been wiped clean, Clinton initially shrugged and later joked: “Like with a cloth or something?”
“I don’t know how it works digitally at all,” she added. …
Aides could be heard in the background telling reporters that Clinton had to go, but she remained to answer questions for a few more minutes before leaving. As she walked away, she turned back and shrugged at reporters, who continued to ask questions.
This morning, Politico gives voice to two prominent Clinton apologists in an attempt to spin this back in her direction. David Brock tells Annie Karni that this whole mess is nothing but a right-wing attempt to hijack government, which is the premise of a book he’s publishing next month, and the entire scandal is a failure of Hillary’s surrogates. No, really:
“There is definitely concern out there,” said Brock, who also serves on the board of the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA. “In speaking with people, I’ve learned that the qualms go away once they know the facts and the evidence, which most people are not taking the time to sift through.”
But that message isn’t always getting out there, he said. “The class of general Democratic pundits and strategists are often unwilling to buck the conventional wisdom in Washington: they go on the air, they hedge their defenses and they don’t argue the case effectively,” Brock said, without naming any specific individuals. “That’s because they’re more interested in looking reasonable to their colleagues in the media than winning the fight.” …
“It needs its time to work its way through,” said Brock of the facts the campaign is trying to put out. “It seems to me [the Republicans’] strategy is if they shoot enough blanks it could have a marginal effect.”
Unfortunately for Brock and the Clintons, Democratic pundits and strategists aren’t “hedging … defenses,” but are without one for Hillary’s decision to route all of her official communications through an unsecured private server in her house. That exclusive use circumvented the Federal Records Act, numerous FOIA actions, and normal State Department security, even apart from the issues surrounding classified material on the system. Most people would be prosecuted for unauthorized retention and transmission of such material, even prominent officials like David Petraeus. Brock wants to push the idea that classifications are “elastic,” but that’s not for Secretaries of State or their aides to determine — nor is it true of signals intelligence especially.
Paul Begala, meanwhile, thinks that people haven’t seen the real Hillary, and that the upcoming hearings in the House will make her genius clear:
“I hope Hillary testifies,” agreed Paul Begala, a longtime Clinton adviser who serves on the board of Priorities USA. “The Republicans have created this straw-woman, so when the real Hillary shows up, strong and knowledgeable and reasonable and responsible and fact-based, she’ll kick their butts.”
Presumably, Begala said this before Hillary’s presser yesterday. If not, this takes denial to world-record levels. Hillary couldn’t even answer two minutes’ worth of questions from Ed Henry without looking entitled, haughty, and professing her own ignorance as a defense before beating a hasty retreat. Imagine what will happen when Trey Gowdy has a few hours with her, and Hillary can’t just walk away when the questions get too tough.
Jill Lawrence finds herself reluctantly on Gowdy’s side in this:
And so a classic Clinton Beltway drama unfolds in inevitable fashion: stalling, surprises, investigations, retreat to the bunker, charges of partisan mud-slinging, a drip-drip of damaging information, and the nerve-wracking prospect of Clinton testifying on Oct. 22 before a GOP panel investigating the 2012 killings of four Americans at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the former federal prosecutor who heads that committee, calls Clinton’s email arrangement unusual, unique, unprecedented, and worse. “It was one of the most reckless decisions that have been made in public service in a long time,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “And the notion that she did this for convenience … convenience for whom? ‘Cause it sure hasn’t been convenient for the American people or for our intelligence apparatus. It may have been convenient for her, but it hasn’t been convenient for anyone else.” The decision, he said, has delayed his panel’s work to compile a complete public record and “it remains to be seen whether or not she’s placed national security information at risk.”
Would anyone like to argue with Gowdy? I doubt he and I would agree on much, but on this, alas, there is no daylight between us.
No one living in reality would want to see their presidential candidate having to walk into this buzzsaw, let alone see it as an opportunity for her to “kick their butts.”