This isn’t how it is supposed to be. The public’s interest in the scandal involving revelations that Hillary Clinton eschewed the use of a secure email address while serving as secretary of state, preferring instead a “homebrew” email server of her design against Obama administration and State Department guidelines, should be dissipating by now. None of the old tricks are working.
Clinton’s surrogates are failing to distract the press or explain her behavior away by noting that Republicans in high office had often done the same thing. Those Clinton allies who used to effectively scare reporters away from stories by growling at them and threatening their future access have failed to properly intimidate the media. Instead of dying down, this controversy has only grown more damaging as new revelations slowly leak out. Clinton has been forced into an unfamiliar position: Contrition.
She released some 55,000 emails to State after tweeting about her commitment to transparency, and Foggy Bottom has begun the process of internal review to determine whether or not Clinton jeopardized American national security. But that will take months, and the former secretary has not released the entire cache of emails in her possession. Indeed, the heart of this scandal is that we may never know if Clinton has been perfectly transparent – there is no way to independently verify that every email has been disclosed to State for review.
And so the Clintons slink back into the bunker. She hopes the story will disappear, or at least the white hot intensity of the reporting around it will fade. Clinton will continue to attend carefully choreographed speaking events where she is lavished with praise and takes no serious questions from serious people. Only in the spring, when she announces a bid for the presidency, will she deign to respond to press inquiries about this episode.
This is a smart strategy on Clinton’s part. It just might make this story disappear, not because there is a dearth of new scandalous revelation to uncover or damning questions to ask and ponder, but because the press would like nothing more than to shift their critical gaze away from Clinton and onto her accusers.
Hillary has no war room or WJC publicly defending; her best bet for relief is that old Clinton standby: a GOPer going too far in attack
— Mark Halperin (@MarkHalperin) March 6, 2015
Indeed. They’re hungry for it. And while this is a subjectively defined threshold that is, as a result, particularly easy to cross, it is a safe bet that some Republican soon will “pounce” and provide the press with ample opportunity to engage in a circular, wishful, pearl-clutching session over the fraught course ahead for the GOP should they “overreach” by daring to notice Clinton’s ethical lapses.
Florida political analyst Rick Wilson has some advice for Republicans to avoid giving the political press what they would so desperately like: “Stop talking.”
“Seriously,” he wrote in a post for Ricochet. “Only the GOP and conservatives can save her.”
In the next two weeks, try something new; maintain discipline, hold focus, and keep an eye to a bigger objective than your daily press release. Try to play the long game, and help Hillary Clinton self-destruct.
Proceed against Clinton with a measured pace and tone. Don’t make it all about Benghazi or the records-keeping laws. Focus instead on the grave national security risks that her amateur-hour email server shenanigan posed. Do it with the sickly-sweet, sincere tone of “I just want to work in a bipartisan way for good, transparent government… and to protect national security secrets from the Chinese, Russians, and other threats” that the Acela media claims to worship.
Press the sore spots, subtly, but constantly. Use it as way to leverage discussion of the Clinton family’s infamous contempt for the law and remind the public of their their obsessive secrecy, paranoia, habitual lawbreaking. Wonder, in serious tones, how much of the email traffic has to do with the other scandal that reporters have been desperately trying to cover up; the Clinton Foundation’s scuzzy foreign-money vacuum. Welcome the chance for Mrs. Clinton to give her side of the story in press conferences, and hearings.
The commentary class can do the heavy lifting. Republican columnists can note that it was only as a result of the investigation into the Benghazi attacks that we learned of Clinton’s latest brazen disregard for American security and her jealous protection of her own privilege. If a GOP officeholder were to note the same point, the journalistic class’s eyes would roll right out of their sockets. What’s more, they would relish the opportunity to re-litigate the efficacy of prior Benghazi investigations. Conservative bloggers can point out the eerie similarities between this email scandal and the disappearance of the Rose Law Firm’s records. A Republican elected official making the same point would quickly learn that they do not have a receptive audience in the political press.
Every Republican elected official, communications staffer, or consultant would do well to read Wilson’s admonition. As he wrote, only Republicans can rescue Clinton from herself at this stage. Of course, history suggests that you should never underestimate the Republicans’ ability to shoot themselves in the foot.