Pop quiz: Who of the following is the biggest dunce of the week?
a) The Indiana state legislator who pursued a sexting relationship with the infamous Sydney Leathers, the same semi-pro porn actress pictured here who ratted out Anthony Weiner to the media, and who predictably ratted out the randy Hoosier to the New York Post.
b) The Ohio man who called 911 to report that his wife had stolen his cocaine and was quickly arrested by police for possession of coke.
c) Mark Halperin, the clueless but reliably self-important cable bloviator, who retracted his two-week old prediction that Hillary Clinton was “easily the next president” to now assert, “I don’t think she’ll be president.”
Dogs, snakes and cars: Halperin, of course, is just one of countless Beltway bubble brains frantically contriving a new “narrative” about the presidential race based on the self-delusional assumption that up-for-grabs voters will reject Clinton based on perfectly legal use of a personal e-mail account while serving as Secretary of State.
At one point on Wednesday, Politico, the Capitol’s greatest fount of Halperin-style dog-chasing-tail punditry (Dog chasing cars? Snake eating its tail? Snakes chasing cars? –ed.) had no less than 12 stories – twelve, count ‘em, twelve — on its home page about the email flapdoodle, almost all devoid of original reporting. Politico Editorial Supreme Leader John Harris presumably ordered up all those yarns but, perhaps unwittingly, found a way to undercut his own leadership and judgment in his own piece.
Unspoken publicly in this latest controversy, but clearly understood among veterans of Hillary Clinton’s circle, is her belief that the pious clamor for more disclosure and more revelation is fundamentally insincere. The media-political complex is not seeking a window into matters of public interest; it is looking for a weapon, one that will be brandished to produce still more stories or start still more investigations.
A soft-spoken analysis: To be sure, Hillary’s inept response to the story, first reported in a faulty New York Times story that suggested she broke the law, fueled the frenzy. But the notion that it could somehow represent a candidacy killer – a storyline pushed by Republicans, bed-wetting Democrats and a press corps disingenuously portraying themselves as high-minded guardians of transparency in government — while actually just trying to conjure a better 2016 race to cover – is simply silly.
As professional Democratic spinner Paul Begala put it in a mild and measured quote:
Voters do not give a shit. They do not even give a fart…Find me one persuadable voter who agrees with HRC on the issues but will vote against her because she has a non-archival-compliant email system and I’ll kiss your ass in Macy’s window and say it smells like roses.
Not to put too fine a point on it.
Sure, Begala has been a media spear-carrier for the Clinton family for decades; that doesn’t mean he’s wrong, and his argument was embraced by some widely-respected, and cooler headed, professionals less invested than the Halperins and the Politicos of the world in inventing faux journalism to justify their seven-figure salaries.
Six takeaways on the story:
It’s not going to matter. Charlie Cook, perhaps the Beltway’s most consistently correct media analyst, who has managed to maintain his perspective on the real world despite working in Washington since the Millard Fillmore era, put it best:
This is the classic kind of inside the Beltway, process story that politicos and reporters get in a lather over but that resonates very little with average voters. Most Americans don’t know or care what happens to the old emails of public officials. But chasing shiny objects is an occupational hazard for political journalists during odd-numbered years, because of the infrequent developments of real significance.
No, Hillary Clinton’s challenge will be determined by how she performs, what image she projects, how she is perceived—whether she comes across as likable and relevant to the future, someone who can plausibly address the challenges facing the country.
Hillary screwed up her response. Clinton’s attempt to delay her formal announcement of candidacy has been insufferably coy and too clever by way more than half. She was days late in publicly responding to the original Times story, apparently because she didn’t want to step on coverage of a couple of staged media events trumpeting the 20th anniversary of her speech in China on behalf of women of the world. Instead that story was not just stepped on, but totally stomped, leading even some of her biggest cheerleaders in the MSM, including Gail Collins, to fret:
There won’t be a new Hillary. What voters can hope for is the best possible version of her flawed self. That while there will be messes, she will force herself to be open during the cleanup. That while she might not be a transformative speaker, she will be able to explain how she can take the issues she’s been pursuing for decades and turn them into a plan for serious change.
Also, she should keep building on her talent for holding firm during crises. But it’d be nice to have a little peace in between.
It’s all about Dianne: In fact, it wasn’t until the Senior Senator from California publicly declared that Clinton needed to “step up” and explain why she’d chosen to use her personal email instead of a government account, that Hillary seemed to realize how much the story was spinning out of her control. After Difi delivered a needed slap in the face and a bucket of ice water on her head, Clinton quickly came to her senses and consented to joust with reporters over the issue at the U.N.
Look for Republicans to overplay their hand. By week’s end, three GOP House committee chairmen had launched their own, separate investigations of Hillary’s email. That all but guarantees that undecided people in the rest of the country will quickly see the story for exactly what it is – a Republican effort to attack and embarrass Clinton – not some serious-minded effort to give the public more access to records about the workings of government, upon which the GOP’s phony cluck-clucking purports to focus.
No fewer than three House committees have launched or are considering probes into Clinton’s email practices, a feeding frenzy that could allow the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to cast the investigations as yet another partisan witch-hunt.
It could also become a problem for Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team, which has made a point of trying to prevent multiple committees from tripping over themselves investigating the same topic.
Great days for IT: At least Bill Clinton’s cringe worthy big cigar trysting with Monica Lewinsky was something people could actually understand, if not relate to. The big fuss over Hillary’s spam files has generated reams of in-the-weeds reporting about servers, IP addresses and the ways and means of murdering a hard drive that read about interestingly as Pilgrim’s Progress:
It’s not clear from the report whether officials with whom Clinton traded emails were covered by the SMART system, which required message-by-message selection for archiving, or by other email systems, which may have taken a more automated approach. The IG review says in a footnote that the SMART system was not used by State’s “high-level principals, the Secretary, the Deputy Secretaries, the Under Secretaries, and their immediate staffs, which maintain separate systems.
The meaning of the word “is.” As clumsy as her reaction to the story was, Hillary still displayed some of that good ole’ Clinton obfuscatory and dodgy language that all fans of cynicism have missed since the Big Dog exited the White House. Media critic Jack Shafer offered a fine take on the topic:
The press scrutinizes every utterance from the House of Clinton, parsing the couple’s words for new or hidden meanings—and for good reason. The two have a devious way with words. Bill Clinton, whose verbal cunning dwarfs that of almost anyone on the public stage, cemented his trickster reputation in 1998 when he claimed he did “not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” and offered, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” In some universe, Bill was on the level in his remarks. Unfortunately for him, it was not this one.
So when Hillary Clinton, a veteran crisis manager in her own right, spoke twice about “not saving” her personal emails at her press conference Tuesday instead of picking the more direct and active “deleted,” newsroom ears pricked up, scanning for the lie or the omission or the message manipulation.
“Not saving” sounds like the sensible and casual abandonment of something that has lost its value, like the gray water that gushes from your washer during a rinse cycle. “Deleted,” on the other hand, sounds purposeful, almost sinister, if you have reason to suspect that the speaker is not being candid with you—and who among us, even her fans, thinks that Hillary Clinton is ever candid?
So there’s that.
Why we love the tabloids In addition to the priceless NY Post “Deleter” cover, we offer, with no further comment necessary, the NY Daily News’s succinct observation on the 47 senators who signed the letter to Iran, seeking to scuttle President Obama’s negotiations to end their nuclear development program: