Out of Touch Punditry Should Get A Grip – Hillary’s Email is Non-Story
A message to the out-of-touch Washington pundit class: get a grip. What was or was not on Hillary Clinton’s email server when she was Secretary of State is not a game-changing news story.
In fact, no one outside the chattering class – and right wing true believers – could give a rat’s rear about this story – and there is a good reason: there is no “there” there. If someone really thinks the great “email” story – or the Benghazi investigation – are going to sink her candidacy, I’ve got a bridge to sell them.
Of course, this is not the first time that the media – with an assist from right wing political operatives – have laid into Hillary Clinton in an attempt to create a “scandal” where there was none.
Over the weekend, syndicated columnist Gene Lyons quoted a New York Times editorial as saying:
“These clumsy efforts at suppression are feckless and self-defeating.” It argued that these actions are “swiftly draining away public trust in (her) integrity.”
That editorial actually appeared in January 1994. The Times was expressing outrage at Hillary Clinton’s turning over Whitewater documents to federal instigators rather than the press, which, as Lyons pointed out, “ had conjured a make-believe scandal out of bogus reporting of a kind that’s since become all too familiar in American journalism.”
Speaking on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, the Atlantic’s Molly Ball sounded the same notes 21 years later. The email issue “continued to contribute to the perception that she has something to hide.”
The Times’ Sheryl Gay Solberg added that the email issue “creates and feeds into this narrative about the Clintons and Mrs. Clinton that the rules are different for them, and she’s not one of us.” Really?
What might really feed a negative narrative would be the New York Times’ own story several weeks ago that falsely accused Ms. Clinton of being under criminal investigation. Which she is not and never was. The Times public editor acknowledged that the story was false and that it feed another narrative: that the New York Times had an ax to grind against the Clintons.
Of course the bottom lines of this story are simple:
At the time Ms. Clinton was Secretary of State there was no prohibition against the Secretary of State having a private email server. In fact, no Secretary of State before Ms. Clinton had a government email account.
None of the emails on the Secretary’s personal account were classified at the time they were sent or received. That is not in dispute. There is an on-going controversy between various agencies of what ought to be classified in retrospect as the material is released to the public by the State Department, but that does not change the fact that none of it was classified at the time. In fact, one of the several emails at issue actually says the word “unclassified” in the upper left hand corner and can still be accessed by the general public on the State Department web site.
Finally, no one has ever pointed to an instance where the fact that something was on her server instead of a government server had any negative consequences whatsoever.
There is no issue here, period.
And as for the Benghazi “affair,” none of the many investigations that have already been completed concerning the events surrounding the death of the American Ambassador to Libya in the Benghazi attack has found a shred of evidence that that Hillary Clinton did anything wrong whatsoever leading up to or in response to that attack.
And frankly if you ask most people about the Benghazi affair they think you’re talking about something you rub on your muscles to reduce pain.
So now Congressman Trey Gowdy, who is the Chair of the Select Committee that was set up by the Republicans in the House to once again investigate this non-scandal, has decided to investigate the non-existent issue of the Clinton email server as well– even thought he acknowledges that it has nothing to do with Benghazi.
Not withstanding the lack of substance to any of these issues, people like Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post proclaim that they could be a terrible weight on her candidacy.
Who exactly are these pundits talking to? Rarely have they been so out of touch with the real American electorate. The perceptions and narratives they are discussing are the perceptions and narratives of the insider pundit and political class – not normal voters.
And the same goes for often-unnamed Clinton backers that are wringing their hands that Clinton has not yet put the email issue behind her.
No one is handed the American Presidency -- and that is especially true of a candidates that are not incumbent Presidents.
Every candidate faces many challenges and hurdles to getting elected – and Hillary Clinton is no different. But the email-server issue is not one of them.
Clinton’s campaign completely recognizes that it must fight for every delegate in the primaries and every vote in the general election.
In the general election, she must motivate Democratic base voters to turn out in massive numbers. She must excite new voters – especially young people and women. And she must persuade undecided voters that she will fight effectively to actually change the rules of the political and economic game so that we have economic growth that benefits every American, not just Corporate CEO’s and Wall Street Banks.
These are her real challenges -- and her campaign is focused like a laser on meeting those challenges.
It’s time for her supporters to focus on those challenges as well – and for the media to resist continuing to play its role as enabler of baseless right wing attacks like the great email and Benghazi “scandals” of 2015.
Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.
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