Hillary Clinton used a personal email address housed on her own server to conduct her business while Secretary of State, a practice that may have been illegal, was definitely shady, and probably an enormous national security risk. We don’t know if the State Department signed off or if the White House was ever aware of what she was up to.
One imagines these things would concern those who claim to care about transparent government. But, though intrepid reporters in the mainstream media deserve much of the credit for bringing the story to our attention, many other journalists seem to have far more urgent questions on their mind.
Will the GOP Go Too Far?
If there is a scandal involving a Democrat brewing, we must immediately contemplate how the GOP will fare. Will those zealots overplay their hand once again? Will they make a mountain out of a BENGHAZI? Because, really, what’s more important (or easy) than finding some accommodating Republican to say something idiotic? We’re now on “overreach” watch. Remember the, “Will Democrats overplay their hand as the GOP is plunged into scandal?” story? I don’t either.
Hillary has no war room or WJC publicly defending; her best bet for relief is that old Clinton standby: a GOPer going too far in attack
— Mark Halperin (@MarkHalperin) March 6, 2015
What is going “too far”? Asking too many questions? Asking Hillary personally — what some reporters might call stalking?
As Politico reported, there’s an “awkward” silence among GOP politicians regarding Hillary’s troubles, which probably means GOP politicians are guilty of unseemly business themselves. So if Republicans attack Hillary, they risk going too far and engaging in partisan rancor. If they don’t say enough, it’s because they must be hiding misconduct. Evidentially, the only thing Republicans can do is pack it in and quit—a move that would only solve half of America’s problems.
Among the Hillary email-gate stories out there, and there are many, we are going to find many headlines informing us that the “GOP is giddy” about the scandal or, that “Hillary Clinton’s stumbles fuel Democratic critics” as CNN recently explained. Who among us doesn’t stumble occasionally in life, right? Soon enough, coverage will begin to nurture the perception that it’s all just another partisan skirmish and half the public will forget that we’re talking about a high-ranking government official who created a shadow communication department within the State Department immune from any transparency. A story that had nothing, at its heart, to do with Republicans—other than the fact that Trey Gowdy’s ferreting it out.
Oh, Look, Squirrel!
If we’re talking about it at all.
Did you hear what Ben Carson said about the gays? What a nut!
And NBC News helpfully reports: Did you know Jeb Bush also had his own server? Yes, Bush’s private emails were all released (probably), and his address was known to the public and the press, and he routinely used it, and it wasn’t illegal, and he wasn’t using it for national security purposes … but here is your talking point, regardless.
Maybe Hillary just needs to wait it out until a reporter asks Scott Walker his thoughts on genetic drift? Figuring out where the governor of Wisconsin sits on macroevolution or working everyone up over Rudy Giuliani’s attacks on the president’s devotion to country is front-page material at the New York Times. But a Secretary of State and prospective presidential candidate who has her staffers sift through tens of thousands of pages of emails to determine which ones were suitable for public consumption just doesn’t capture the imagination.
When Todd Akin’s drivel can become the intense focus of our attention for weeks but Hillary’s neglect of law begins morphing into a Washington process story after a few days, I think it’s probably fair to question whether the media is corrupt. It’s certainly fair to wonder whether the conservative establishment will ever be able to fight back effectively.
Who’s Really Responsible for This Terrible Misunderstanding?
Assuming the innocence of a politician isn’t something journalists mete out equally in this country. Yet, for some people—people who have a 20-year record of questionable ethical behavior—major journalistic institutions are eager to offer this undeserved benefit of the doubt.
Wonder 1) which Clinton staffer suggested she use the private email and 2) which lawyer said, um, it’s sort of defensible…
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) March 3, 2015
Don’t want to spend more time on HRC emails but still believe a mix of incompetence and laziness is more likely than intentional criminality
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) March 5, 2015
“This is a bad story for her and her presidential campaign because it reinforces many things people already don’t like about the Clintons,” Chris Cillizza explained. Not a bad story because she’s unethical politician who for two decades has hopped from one unscrupulous incident to another, but bad because people have been paying attention and “believe” these things may be true. The Clintons, are always, somehow, “finding themselves” in the middle of these controversies. The Clinton email controversy is just a “debacle.” This is how we cover Hillary.
What Difference Does It Make?
“Voters do not give a sh-t about what email Hillary used. They don’t even give a fart,” said the always charming and un-sleazy Paul Begala. “Do you think maybe wrong-email-address-ghazi will be a big boost to her Democratic primary rival, TBD?” John Stewart asked. “Or perhaps this will affect Hillary Clinton’s standing with Republicans in the general election, who pretty much already believe her and her husband to be treasonous, murdering grift-asauruses?”
Halperin is right, of course. The Clintons will doubtlessly wait it out because, 1 – the Clintons are always being hassled. Mostly for no good reason. Mostly by crazy people. 2 – because it’s easier to make fun of Republicans who come off clumsy and angry. 3 – because there is no legitimate or obvious Democratic challenger to take Hillary’s place. (You can already read stories about how the timing of this might actually work for Hillary.)
Moreover, when a Democrat is implicated, journalists are compelled to spend a lot of their time examining how the damning evidence was uncovered and how those who uncovered it act after the scandal breaks. When all these stories are exhausted, journalists will start asking why America cares anymore. And when conservatives continue to press, we’re going to hear about how bitter and partisan Washington has become. The scandal will be throw in into a crockpot with all the scandals that went nowhere. The media will start wondering why Republicans insist on tearing this country apart, rather than why so many of them don’t do their jobs.