My first thought after listening to FBI Director Jim Comey’s explanation of the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email probe?
We’re right back to where we were when all of this email investigating started. We’ve got a presidential candidate who isn’t all that well trusted, whose belief in a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her makes her more than a little paranoid, and whose belief in her own right-ness sometimes invites her to cut some of the corners we regular folks wouldn’t think of cutting.
No criminal charges stuck to her. But man, the political mud sure will.
“Extremely careless” – that’s how Comey described the way Clinton and her aides handled classified information sent and received through her home-brewed email server. Even though the FBI found no proof that she’d been hacked by foreign enemies, it was hardly comforting to hear him say that she could well have been, given that she even handled sensitive emails while in the territory of countries that likely were hostile enough to attempt a hack. That’s not what you want to hear coming from your commander in chief.
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It certainly makes this afternoon’s rally in Charlotte with President Barack Obama an interesting one. What will she say in response to Comey’s announcement? She sure shouldn’t focus primarily on the fact that the FBI isn’t recommending charges. That’s legally the key point, and that’s important. She did not, in the FBI’s careful consideration, commit a prosecutable violation of the law.
But politically, her problem is everything else Comey had to say about her bad judgment in handling those emails. It’s not a pretty picture.
She didn’t commit a crime, but she – albeit, like many others in the state department – failed to follow the rules. That’s hardly the same as a felony charge, or even a misdemeanor one, but it remains fair game for Republicans to attack her judgment with in the campaign.
The U.S. Department of Justice will soon follow the widely respected FBI director’s lead and wrap this up (because prosecutors never bring charges that police evidence won’t support).
How she handles the political fallout going forward will, I think, give us deep insight into what her true presidential mettle is, or isn’t.
This is a deep political wound, but it is hardly a fatal one. She can recover from this, but it will require her looking the American people squarely in the eye and connecting with us not as a triangulating presidential aspirant, but as a human being trying to connect. One who made mistakes, like we all do, but one we feel we can trust to do better next time. She has grudgingly acknowledged that she made mistakes with the email server situation, but after this public rebuke from the FBI, she’s going to need to convince us that she really means it.
If there’s such a thing as a political trust offensive, Hillary Clinton needs to launch it now.