On Monday, the State Department said it might take until January 2016 for the agency to release to the public Hillary Clinton’s official secretary of state emails. Yesterday, a federal judge slapped down that plan and gave State a week to provide a plan for the ongoing “rolling” release of those emails — which Hillary’s staff gave to the government on paper, not in electronic form, in a dozen large boxes, creating a long, boring job for a handful of workers at Foggy Bottom.
Later on Tuesday, amidst the latest news of the simmering email scandal, Fox News reporter Ed Henry shouted his frustration at Mrs. Clinton not having taken a question from a reporter for nearly a month. Mr. Henry later explained that “We had been through one of these campaign events after another, getting monotonous, one city after another. Roundtables. All candidates, Democrats and Republicans, are able to do their talking points, but we’ve gone 27, 28 days without a question. That’s why I just jumped in.”
It worked; Hillary deigned to answer a few questions from justifiably eager reporters.
She took questions about the Clinton Foundation, the Iraq War, her own personal wealth, and two separate questions about two separate email-related issues. For each she was ready with a scripted response.
The first question was about the foundation: “Do you regret the way the Clinton Foundation handled foreign donations when you were U.S. Secretary of State? Your opponents say the donations and your private email account are examples of the Clintons having one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everyone else.”
Her response, straight from the script, and utterly unresponsive to the actual question: “I am so proud of the foundation. I’m proud of the work that it has done and is doing. It attracted donations, from people, organizations, from around the world, and I think that just goes to show that people are very supportive of the life-saving and life-changing work that it’s done here, at home and elsewhere. I’ll let the American people make their own judgments.”
One wonders what judgments voters will in fact reach when they learn that the foundation appears to spend no more than 15 percent of its revenue on charity. Note to Ed Henry: Perhaps that could be a question for Hillary the next time she decides to answer a few.
Regarding Iraq, she said, “I made a mistake, plain and simple” regarding her support for the war. She is, after all, the only announced candidate who voted to invade Iraq in 2002. Sadly, that’s probably a better answer than Jeb Bush’s first — or second or third or fourth — attempts at roughly the same question.
A reporter asked, “You’re in the tip-top echelon of earners in this country. How do you expect everyday Americans to relate to you?” Mrs. Clinton responded that “Bill and I have been blessed, and we’re very grateful for the opportunities that we’ve had but we’ve never forgotten where we came from and we’ve never forgotten the kind of country that we want to see for our granddaughter.” She went on with her usual “reshuffling the stacked deck” class warfare metaphor that she thinks will sell with the American people — who mostly don’t share her jealous nature and who can’t miss the stench of her hypocrisy.
One question she might not have had quite enough rehearsal time for due to the newness of the underlying revelation involved her previously-denied email address through which she had communications with long-time Clinton confidante — and Clinton Foundation employee — Sidney “just a scummy guy” Blumenthal: “On your relationship as secretary of state with Sidney Blumenthal. There’s a report out this morning that you exchanged several e-mails. Should Americans expect that if elected president, you would have that same type of relationship with these old friends that you’ve had for so long?”
Even the New York Times described the Clinton-Blumenthal association as “embodying the blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years.”
After the patented condescending Clinton cackle, Hillary said, “I have many, many old friends.” She elaborated slightly but not substantively on the Blumenthal emails, adding that talking to her old friends helped her hear things from outside a political bubble. Right.
Then came the question about the release of the State Department emails.
Looking more like a plastic bobble-head doll than anything else, she said, “I want those emails out. Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do.” She said she “heartily supports” anything State can do to “expedite the process,” claiming that the emails will show her to have been a strong and successful secretary of state.
ABC News reports that “The unenviable task (of sorting through the Clinton emails) falls to the State Department’s Office of Information Programs and Services and its lawyers…. They’ve established a full-time staff, with one project manager, two case analysts, nine FOIA reviewers and a slew of additional information analysts who have been working since April.” Even when not in office, Hillary can find a way to cost taxpayers lots of extra money.
Of course she wants the emails released as soon as possible; she made sure — although we may learn that something slipped through — that nothing harmful to her reputation was contained in the 55,000 pages delivered to the State Department. I use the word “reputation” loosely, given Hillary’s having the lowest ratio of accomplishments achieved to miles flown of any government official in memory.
While 55,000 pages initially sounds like a lot, wouldn’t you think that a four-year tenure as the nation’s top diplomat would produce more? Unfortunately, we’ll never know just how many emails Mrs. Clinton electronically shredded, telling the public that they were about wedding planning and yoga.
Earlier in the day, Mrs. Clinton firmly took no position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying, “I have been for trade agreements. I have been against trade agreements” and suggested that there is a provision in the TPP that “gives corporations more power to overturn health and environmental and labor rules than consumers have, and I think that is a problem.”
Later Tuesday afternoon, Senator Elizabeth Warren quoted Mrs. Clinton (from Clinton’s book, not her brief interaction with reporters) in a speech on the Senate floor opposing that and similar aspects of trade bills. As far as American companies using trade agreements and supranational bureaucracies to force foreign countries (or foreign companies forcing us) to change duly-passed national laws or pay a penalty (and it pains me greatly to say this), Clinton and Warren may have a valid point.
Even if they didn’t have a point, however, President Obama, who strongly supports the TPP — because he is desperate for any political victories, not because he loves or even understands free trade — must be fuming as the two most prominent women in the Democratic Party undermine him and leave him needing Republican support (and therefore also a modest Republican victory) to get what he wants.
Hillary Clinton’s brief moments of faux responsiveness to questions that dozens of reporters and millions of Americans want answers to show two things: First, her team is smart to engage in a strategy of simply not answering questions because her answers demonstrate a remarkable ability to be unconvincing while coughing up a hairball of rehearsed talking points. She sure isn’t the actor her husband is.
And second, Hillary is going to be dogged by question after question unrelated to forward-looking policy, dragging her down into the mire of risk mitigation rather than true campaigning. As a former congressman once told me, when it comes to a political campaign, “if you’re explaining, you’re losing.”
Despite the pain of watching Hillary Clinton’s head bob up and down while she projected a phony half-smile at reporters, Ed Henry did the country a big favor by shaming her into answering — if that’s what you’d call it — a handful of real questions.
The next question is whether she’ll do it again in fewer than another 28 days.
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