Hillary Clinton’s presser failed to satisfactorily answer the questions about her ethics as secretary of state, and those questions will probably dog her candidacy until the day it closes shop.
Within an hour of Clinton’s theatrical removal from the podium at Turtle Bay, both her claim that she preferred a single mobile device for convenience and that the emails she destroyed contained private messages from her husband became suspect. Within an hour, Clinton’s office clarified that she had only submitted 48 percent of her electronic communications to the State Department. The majority of the emails she sent as the nation’s chief diplomat were either retained or destroyed.
“Clinton gamely attempted to explain her actions, but her answers to reporters’ questions were as damaging as anything her political foes could have contrived,” The Des Moines Register editorial board scolded. If the Democratic Party had a bench of talent from which to draw a presidential contender, Clinton would have reason to be worried.
But the Democrats are probably stuck with Clinton. Any prospective 2016 candidate who dared stick their head above the parapet endured a withering assault on their character from Clinton surrogates and allies until their stature was thoroughly diminished; just ask former Virginia Senator and romantic novelist Jim Webb.
So Democrats have taken to hoping that Republicans “overplay their hand.” In fact, the press has been publicly entertaining this scenario since the revelations regarding Clinton’s emails were disclosed. But the GOP’s unusual message discipline and reserved silence with regard to Clinton’s email controversy has frustrated those in the commentary class for whom Republican tactical errors are as predictable as the tides. Distraught, some in the press are now placing their hopes on the one Republican who has consistently failed to overreach, despite the fact that Democrats and the press have provided him with miles of rope with which he was expected to hang himself.
“The stakes have suddenly gotten very, very high for Rep. Trey Gowdy,” the latest Politico report on Clinton’s email scandal began.
Politico noted that Gowdy, who will compel Clinton to testify twice before his committee investigating the attacks in Benghazi in 2012, is expected to serve as a foil for Clinton. She plans to drag out her response to his committee’s subpoenas until she announces a presidential candidacy. Then, the circumstances will shift and Clinton will be able to claim that Republicans are consumed with animus not merely toward her personally but toward the Democrats generally.
The script is easy to write: Gowdy, the Southern right-wing hack out for any scrap of information he can use or misuse to damage the Democratic standard-bearer for 2016. Clinton, the aggrieved victim subjected to yet another Republican fishing expedition piloted by aggressive, uncharitable men.
Gowdy is pushing on two tracks: He is going after the full Clinton email trove, while his staff and other committee members continue interviewing witnesses involved in the actual Benghazi attacks. The dual-track approach will allow Gowdy to rebut Democratic charges that the select committee has lost focus, while allowing him to exploit a potential gold mine for Republicans — and transform his own political future.
If Gowdy has been tapped to be the Democratic Party’s savior, the president’s party is going to find their salvation deferred. The South Carolina congressman joined Fox News host Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday to discuss Clinton’s email controversy, and the last impression anyone would get from their exchange is that this is a politician inclined toward excess and overreach.
He was circumspect, deferential, lawyerly, and focused. He refused to answer questions which required expertise he did not possess. He prodded at the issue of the former secretary’s email conduct exclusively, and he asked pointed questions to which even Democrats might expect Clinton has no strong answers.
Politico’s “script” might be easy to write, but their antagonist isn’t the stilted, one-dimensional character they’d imagined him to be. Maybe Politico should leave the screenplays to the professionals.