Hillary’s email

First, she was never going to be indicted.  And Comey was good enough to lay out in detail why that was so.  Liberal responses I’ve seen have generally been along the, “okay, move along now” spectrum that I think may undersell potential political implications.  Drum:

Bottom line: Hillary Clinton screwed up. She’s admitted this repeatedly. Other investigators have come to the same conclusion. If you want to criticize her for this, that’s fine. She deserves it. But there was no criminal intent and essentially no chance that a jury would have convicted her. We’ve known this for months now. Now we know it officially.

Josh Marshall:

As for Comey calling Clinton and her associates “extremely careless,” I think that’s justified. The nonsense about this being an epic crime has mainly overwhelmed the simple facts of what happened which show Clinton in a very poor light. Not a disqualifying light. But just really bad judgment on a few fronts.

All this said, this was 99.9% predictable and 100% obvious. It’s a mammoth press failure that for various reasons this reality was concealed from the public.

I really liked how Dana Milbank put Comey’s statement in context.

Meanwhile, Washington Post on-line was absolutely full of breathless coverage of the matter as if it were the scandal of the century.  That’s not good for Clinton.  Despite no indictment, journalists are not about to let go of the “scandal” angle.  Chris Ciliza decided Comey’s statement was “devastating.”

The NYT has a lead story today with the following headline, “F.B.I.’s Critique of Hillary Clinton Is a Ready-Made Attack Ad.”  The article then goes to great lengths about how vulnerable she is on all this now, e.g.,

To her charge that he is “reckless,” Mr. Trump may now respond by citing Mr. Comey’s rebuke: that Mrs. Clinton and her team “were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

To her promises to defend the United States, Mr. Trump may now retort with Mr. Comey’s warning that “it is possible that hostile actors gained access” to Mrs. Clinton’s email account and the top secret information it contained.

And to her reproofs about his temperament and responsibility, Mr. Trump may now point to Mr. Comey’s finding that “there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes” on handling classified information — though Mr. Comey said that other factors, like Mrs. Clinton’s intent, argued against criminal charges.

The Times article points out that Trump might not be smart enough to properly benefit from this:

A typical nominee would have allies memorizing Mr. Comey’s best lines and repeating them on cable news and at local political events — assailing Mrs. Clinton’s judgment and experience to exploit and deepen the mistrust that many Americans feel toward her, and to drive up her unfavorability ratings in public opinion polls.

But Mr. Trump is not typical.

And they are right.  Trump is already popping off about “bribes” and going all conspiracy theory.  Exactly how not to benefit.  I think TNR’s Alex Shephard pretty well nails it, “Donald Trump Has No Clue How to Attack Hillary Clinton.”


For any Republican presidential candidate not named Donald Trump, this would have been enough. From now until November 7, the campaign would air clips of Comey’s remarks accompanied by ominous minor-key music. Even Clinton-leaning voters would have a hard time not seeing something disturbing about the director of the FBI labeling a presidential candidate irresponsible. Indeed, Senator Marco Rubio essentially hit upon this strategy in this statement, which ignored the fact that the FBI decided not to recommend criminal charges against Clinton…

And yet there’s every reason to think that Trump is about to let Clinton off the hook. He’ll continue to call her corrupt, of course, and Comey’s remarks will lead him to double down on his preferred nickname, “Crooked Hillary.” (Like The B Sharps, Trump likes nicknames that sound witty at first, but become less funny every time you hear them.) But the strategy that Rubio grasped intuitively will elude the Republican nominee. Not because he isn’t clever enough, but because Trump is incapable of delivering a sharp, precise jab when there’s a chance to go conspiratorial—thereby falling into the same trap that Clinton’s right-wing critics have been falling into for years. [emphasis mine]

I think that’s right.  Though, I imagine various superPacs will not be so stupid.  And the pundits are not going to be prepared to let this go at all.

That said, I honestly don’t think this is going to have that big an impact.  Those who are convinced Clinton is dishonest and corrupt are only more so (and, let’s be honest, actually have some real evidence this time around).  Those who have overlooked Clinton’s flaws will continue to overlook Clinton’s flaws.  And, of course, her biggest advantage– she’s running against Donald Trump, not exactly a pillar of upright behavior.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

5 Responses to Hillary’s email

  1. rgbact says:

    You’ve been saying this has no impact for a year now. Meanwhile, Hillary’s approval and honesty ratings go ever lower. Evidently, beating Bernie Sanders and the idiot Trump.are proof that nothing is actually hurting Hillary..Issues can only hurt other people….never Hillary. .

    Any analysis of whether an issue is actually hurting Hillary should be prefaced with “If Trump wasn’t running”.

    • Steve Greene says:

      It’s just that if you don’t like Hillary because she’s untrustworthy and dishonest you already don’t like her. What does the email change? Seriously, do you really see many people moving from support to not support over this? Oh, and Trump is running.

      • rgbact says:

        But the number of people that find her untrustworthy has grown greatly since last year. Your taking the cynical approach that everyone’s views are utterly static and hopelessly partisan…….well at least if you’re a Democrat. This despite the fact that Hillary had a pretty brutal primary. Its staggering how Clinton supporters just hand wave away all opposition

        Like I said, if you can honestly say that if Kasich or Rubio or Romney were her opponent. this issue still wouldn’t matter….then fine. I totally disagree. It would likely be fatal for her. But Trump.

      • Steve Greene says:

        Yes it would matter. And has mattered. But I just don’t think all that much. Yes, it would matter more against Kasich or Rubio than Trump.

  2. Mika says:

    Do you really think that it is the email thingy that has been driving her trustworthy numbers down?

    Was the primary really brutal compared to other primaries? I think there was more mudslinging in the republican primary?

    The approach is not “cynical”, it’s realistic. Not “everyone’s” views but the probability to static views grows with political sophistication. Only at the very highest levels of polsofi the weight of reality might weigh more than partisanship or whatever factor that happens to drive the thinking. The views are not “utterly static and hopelessly partisan”, there is a tipping point.

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