Clinton Owns It All

Clinton Owns It All
Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald via AP
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James Comey now tops Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange as the Hillary-harmer-in-chief, but the truth is Hillary Clinton’s once strong lead in the presidential race started shrinking before the Friday afternoon massacre, as the former secretary of state’s jaw-dropping misdeeds had caught up with her via Assange’s stinging WikiLeaks email dumps. No matter how unorthodox the conduct of FBI Director Comey, should Clinton lose to Donald Trump on Nov. 8, it’s her own fault.

News that the FBI is re-opening the investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information on an unsecured private server is a potentially fatal blow to her hopes of winning the White House. Comey’s decision to inform Congress of the new chapter in the probe 11 days before the election has made him the target of Democrats furious that the FBI broke protocol by first speaking publicly about an ongoing investigation, and secondly by influencing an election in its final stretch. It’s likely that Democrats will spend the remaining days of the campaign running against Comey instead of Trump, but it’s hard to see backlash against the FBI director buoying her.

Clinton fatigue -- a 1990s syndrome  -- is back and voters aren’t inclined to give Clinton much benefit of the doubt. Pollster Peter Hart conducted a focus group of undecided voters in North Carolina last week for the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Participants there summed it up: Not only did many describe her as a liar but almost universally, when asked her reason for running, said it was for “power” or to satisfy personal ambition.

It couldn’t have been easy for Michelle Obama to warn a cheering crowd in the same state last week that if Clinton loses “it’s on us.” Nope. The first lady knows that the fresh-faced millennials -- who likely lined up to see her rather than Clinton at their joint appearance -- can’t be blamed if they don't turn out for Clinton and her decades of odorous baggage. No -- #itsonher.

While Clinton was once “likable enough,” as then-Sen. Barack Obama so stupidly put it during their contentious primary race in 2008, she isn’t anymore. Since then she has stowed government records belonging to taxpayers on an unsecured server, likely exposing them to our enemies and adversaries, in an apparent attempt to subvert the Freedom of Information Act, or deflect subpoenas from the U.S. Congress in what could amount to obstruction of justice. Since then she has lied to the public many, many times. Congress has asked the FBI to investigate whether she perjured herself before a select committee in her 11 hours of testimony on the Benghazi attacks.

In her years as secretary of state she engaged in actions that defied the ethical agreement President Obama required when she joined his administration to clearly separate her government work from that of the Clinton Foundation. Instead no walls or boundaries were ever erected as Clinton and her top State Department staff had a hand in foundation business, as well as the for-profit work that made former President Bill Clinton rich. Clinton herself saw no problem, upon leaving the State Department and preparing to run for president again, with speaking to Wall Street interests for $250,000 an hour, since -- as she said in 2014 -- when she and her husband left the White House they were “dead broke.”

The WikiLeaks trove illustrates the single universe the Clinton family and staff operated in, one without ethical guard rails to divide government service from personal enrichment. But there’s plenty more to turn voters’ stomach as well.

One of Clinton’s worst lies (among her many documented ones) was to a grieving Pat Smith, who lost her son Sean in the Benghazi attack. In what Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said should forever disqualify Clinton from the job of commander-in-chief, we all now know Clinton told her daughter in an email on September 11, 2012 that an “al Qaeda-like group” had killed four men there including the U.S. ambassador, yet days later she told Pat Smith it was the fault of an anti-Islamic video.

Emails show the campaign believed there was an opportunity to confuse voters by attempting to merge the issues of the Benghazi attack with Clinton’s use of a private server. “If the objective is to connect emails-Benghazi and conflate the two in voters’ minds (which consultants feel is an imperative here), I’m not sure we know whether we can credibly do that - we’ll get a read from [focus] groups.”

This tactic, which assumes voters’ ignorance, was employed more than once -- Clinton repeated countless times that she regretted using “personal email,” which she often insisted was allowed, instead of expressing regret for the glaring transgression of placing government records on a rogue server.

The decision to use her own server startled even Clinton’s most trusted aides, and the WikiLeaks revelations expose a potential leader whose own top staffers and confidantes don't trust her decisions or judgment.

In July of 2015, months after the email server story exploded, Clinton ally Neera Tanden asked Campaign Chairman John Podesta in an email: “Do we actually know who told Hillary she could use a private email? And has that person been drawn and quartered?” Two months later Podesta acknowledged the damage the scandal had wrought, writing, “We’ve taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat. Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts.”

Clinton is counting on all of this being pre-baked into the election cake. Strong opposition to Trump will drive many voters to support her, their noses held. Maybe no new emails in the reopened investigation will be released or leaked by the FBI before the polls close on Election Day, and maybe voters are just shrugging off another email probe. But even then Clinton still better hope that WikiLeaks isn’t saving the best for last.

A.B. Stoddard is associate editor of RealClearPolitics and a columnist.

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