Let’s start with the transcript of the event itself, just because that is the best starting point. At this juncture so much has been written about it, that it is important to have the stuff itself at hand.
Now that that is done, there are four levels on which this event can be analyzed – Testimonial (Was it truthful and factual?), Regulatory (Is there evidence of violation of laws, regulations, or ethics?), Psychological (WHAT! was she thinking?), and Political (Did this help or hurt her impending candidacy?). Let’s dive in.
Was it truthful and factual?
Not even close. There was the claim that she emailed hubby Bill, when Bill doesn’t do email. She claimed her server was not accessed, and it was. There are inconsistencies in the “convenience” claim. She bragged recently to a group in tech savvy Silicon Valley about “hoarding” devices. And so it goes. For some reason, through the entire episode, the sentence “I did not have sex with that woman,” kept running through my mind. Even bad lawyers would nail Hillary on cross examination (Which tells you something about the press present and how they were managed.)
The event was a fail when it comes to facts and truth-telling. But then that is not new to politics. Regarding the fundamental question of whether she will be a candidate and whether she will succeed as a candidate, there is much yet to know.
Is there evidence of violations of laws, regulations, or ethics?
Well, that all depends on how you define the word “is.” OH, I’m sorry, political flashback. The Obama administration has stated a policy against private emails and an ambassador was fired for using private email. There are questions about differences between suggestions, policy, regulation and law, but come on, even by Hillary’s own admission this was a bad idea.
What is appalling is her claim that she exercised good email practice. In other words she claims to have complied with the spirit of suggestions/policy/regulation/law, even if she did not do so in a way that most people think she should have. PUH-Leeze! As an Environmental, Health and Safety Consultant, I cannot tell you how many people have come to me and said they thought what they were doing was what the regulations required, but that they had been told by the government they were doing it wrong – and were suffering severe consequences for it. Many times they were complying to a large degree with the spirit of the regulation. But in the end it does not matter if they actually polluted or not, what matters is what the government says matters.
Hillary Clinton does not get to be the arbiter of her own practices here. But then, like the facts and the truth, political perception is what counts, and the jury is still out.
What was she thinking?
Virtually everybody analyzes the event as right out of the Bill Clinton 90’s playbook. (Jake Tapper, for example) All of us old enough remember Bill’s Big Lie and delay strategy. But when Bill told those big lies it was with a wink and a nod. The instant he said “I did not have sex with that woman,” everybody knew that he did, but that twinkle in his eye and that smile on his face made a significant portion of the American public proud of him for getting a little on the side.
Hillary on the other hand seems to believe the nonsense she is putting forward. Howard Kurtz says Hillary is “out of the bunker,” but the event reads like she is still deeply inside it; she is just commenting from it. This is more from the Obama imperial playbook than it is from Bill’s wink, wink, nudge, nudge Big Lie scandal management playbook.
Hillary, like Obama, seems to think she is above all this and that is disturbing on a psychological level.
Did this help or hurt her impending candidacy?
The fact of the matter is this is not about sex, which many people think is inconsequential, this is about matters of national policy and security. This scandal, unlike Bill’s scandal, is consequential to the nation not just personal. Not to mention it comes with Benghazi in the background, and with issues surrounding the Clinton Foundation very much active at the moment. This has to matter.
At the moment, media on both sides of the aisle seem to be piling on. That is a measure of how consequential this, in fact, is. But this will also be ancient history by the time the campaign actually gets rolling.
Sean Trende notes that the biggest political problem for Hillary here is that it has revealed that her game has not improved since 2008. If anything, I think it has worsened. Said Trende, “There were signals that she was putting together the sort of larger-than-life, untouchable campaign that Obama put together in 2008 (and to a lesser extent, 2012).” Now, rather than a bad imitation of Bill, she is a bad imitation of Obama, and the public is just confused.
Put simply, managing scandal requires a candidate, or president, that is larger than life in some fashion. Bill Clinton’s sexual conquests are a part of his mystique, at least for enough voters to win. Obama’s imperial nature is likewise part of an aura of inevitability about the man that many people buy into. But that kind of stuff does not rub off. Hillary is a larger-than-life media/political presence, but it is derived. None of us would have a clue who she is if Bill had not been elected POTUS. Unless she can find her own larger-than-life political magic, which she did not find in this presser, something is going to eventually catch up with her.
This did not help her candidacy.