Hillary Clinton has a rare gift for dodging blame even when she "take[s] responsibility." Dogged by accusations that she both sent and received classified intelligence via her private e-mail server, the former secretary of state has run the gamut from denial to flippant sarcasm to a slippery non-admission that is so vague it would make Bill proud.
Speaking during a campaign stop in Iowa Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton — while claiming to "take responsibility" — maintained her characteristic distance from any real admission of guilt. "I know people have raised questions about my e-mail use as secretary of state, and I understand why," Mrs. Clinton said, adding, "I get it. So here's what I want the American people to know: My use of personal e-mail was allowed by the State Department. It clearly wasn't the best choice. I should've used two e-mails: one personal, one for work. I take responsibility for that decision."
Had she stopped there, she might have seemed to "take responsibility." Instead, though, Mrs. Clinton broke the first rule of contrition: Never ruin a perfectly good apology by following it with an excuse or a denial. "I want to be as transparent as possible, which is why I turned over 55,000 pages, why I've turned over my server, why I've agreed to — in fact, been asking to — and have finally gotten a date to testify before a congressional committee in October," she said. Then, just to clarify that she has done nothing really "wrong," she added, "I'm confident that this process will prove that I never sent, nor received, any e-mail that was marked classified."
Her statements were undoubtedly a reaction to the frustration expressed by the leaders in her own party over the way she has treated the fact that she mishandled classified intelligence. The New York Times reported Thursday:
Interviews with more than 75 Democratic governors, lawmakers, candidates and party members have laid bare a widespread bewilderment that Mrs. Clinton has allowed a lingering cloud to settle over her candidacy — by using a private email server in the first place, since it was likely to raise questions about her judgment, and by not defusing those questions once and for all when the issue first emerged in March.
If this was her best attempt at "defusing those questions once and for all," those Democrat leaders are probably not any less frustrated and bewildered today than they were before. The Times article goes on to say that Hillary has dropped in the polls because Americans mistrust her, and that she is possibly paving the way for Vice President Biden:
With Americans registering their mistrust of Mrs. Clinton in opinion polls, anxious supporters are starting to speak bluntly of fears that she has inadvertently opened the door to a possible challenge for the party's nomination from Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and handed Republicans new ammunition for attacks on her character should she become the nominee.
She is already beginning to be viewed as a possible political liability as she could "complicate the political fortunes of other Democratic candidates over the next 15 months, should they find themselves having to defend her." As she continues to implode and lose support, Joe Biden may well be waiting in the wings to step into the race at just the right moment to pick up the support she is losing.
The Atlantic reported on Wednesday that Hillary's e-mail scandal may be her Achilles' heel and Biden's best hope. Because of his connections and access to insider information, he may have a much better idea than most as to what is in all the e-mails that have yet to be released. As the VP builds up to the race and the e-mail scandal continues to grow, he may be "banking on voters learning things that he already knows."
As for Hillary, it appears that she thinks that if she ignores this long enough, it will go away. So she is going about business as normal. She told the crowd in Iowa that she is "going to keep talking about what the American people talk to me about, what's on their minds, and to lay out my plans for what I would do as president to make the economy work for everybody, to make college affordable, to get the cost of drugs down, to get equal pay for equal work for women, and the whole suite of issues that I think are really at the core of this presidential campaign."
In her denial she seems not to know the sad truth. Her e-mail server is "at the core of this presidential campaign." She continues to repeat the mantra, "I'm confident that this process will prove that I never sent, nor received, any e-mail that was marked classified," even after evidence shows that to be untrue. As The New American reported Wednesday, at least one e-mail has already been uncovered that was clearly classified at the time it was sent. In fact it has never been declassified. From that article:
Fox News is reporting that e-mails to and from the private e-mail server that Mrs. Clinton turned over to the Justice Department did indeed contain "e-mail that was deemed classified, that was marked classified." In fact, at least one such e-mail is still classified. This "smoking e-mail" was from her close aide, Huma Abedin. It was sent in April 2011. As Fox News reported, "Fox News is told that in late spring, all three agencies confirmed to the intelligence community inspector general that the intelligence was classified when it was sent four years ago by Abedin to Clinton's private account, and remains classified to this day."
Hillary is not out of the woods, but she may soon be out of the race. As her support evaporates, the evidence against her is growing. She may shortly find herself facing criminal charges and having to give answers to a judge and jury instead of eager reporters.
Photo of Hillary Clinton: AP Images