WASHINGTON – Amid all the verbiage about Hillary Clinton’s email, one irrefutable fact emerges: Polls will drive us crazy before the Clintons do.
The latest CNN/ORC poll shows that a majority of Americans (51 percent) think the email controversy is “serious,” yet 57 percent would be “proud” to have her as president. So what are we to conclude?
As former Texas Gov. Rick Perry commented recently: “I was a front-runner. … Three of the most glorious hours of my life.”
So there’s that.
Otherwise, we are left to our own gleanings and the question that is nectar to reporters: What is Hillary hiding and why did she create this mess?
Another apt quote springs to mind: “Follow me around. I don’t care,” said the 1988 Democratic presidential front-runner Gary Hart to then-New York Times reporter E.J. Dionne. “I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead.”
And then there he was soon thereafter on front pages smiling and resplendent with an attractive Donna Rice sitting sidesaddle on his lap aboard a boat deliciously named “Monkey Business.”
This was the beginning of the end of privacy for candidates and the laissez-faire attitude that the media historically had toward public figures’ personal lives. For the record, Hart’s taunt wasn’t really what led to his exposure. The Miami Herald had already been stalking Hart before publication of Dionne’s story, but the legendary quotes justified the Herald’s foray into sensation and, perhaps, assuaged editors’ guilt over going tabloid.
Hart’s challenge and immediate political collapse forever changed journalism, an observation appreciated by none more than Bill and Hillary Clinton, who captured the White House just four years later.
The media and politicos suddenly became symbiotic characters in a drama that often centers not on public works but on scandal. Sex adds spice, but secrecy is the plot around which all revolves. The media aren’t out to get anyone necessarily, but the best reporters will keep digging until they find gold. The pursuit of truth has never been so scintillating nor so richly rewarded in the currency of green rooms.
Hillary, by using her personal email account for business and then failing to turn over her records to the State Department long after she left office – and shortly after the House select committee on Benghazi asked for more emails than had been provided previously – may as well have said, “Catch me if you can.”
Is Hillary hiding gold on her private server? Is there scandal lurking in those deleted emails? Why didn’t she simply follow the protocol?
We are forced by her reticence, her avoidance, her skimpy responses – her unforced error – to assume that there must be something she doesn’t want the world to know. But what?
The immediate assumption has been that some emails deleted as personal must pertain to the attacks on Benghazi. But a more plausible theory advanced by National Journal’s Ron Fournier, with the sort of caffeinated certitude that suggests an excellent source, is that she doesn’t want people to see favors exchanged for donations to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
Even though the foundation largely stopped taking money from foreign governments while Hillary was secretary of state, donations were still accepted from individuals and companies. One was a $2 million pledge from Chinese billionaire-philanthropist Wang Wenliang, a delegate to China’s parliament and owner of Rilin Enterprises, a construction conglomerate that has lobbied Congress and the State Department.
We may not see a viral video of Wang using Lincoln’s bed as a trampoline should the Clintons reclaim the White House. But there can be little doubt that when individuals and institutions give money to the foundation, their motives aren’t strictly altruistic. They’re of course currying favor with an influential former president and quite possibly a future one.
The rub for anyone who had hoped for more from Hillary-the-Inevitable is that none of this would have happened had she simply used the government-issued phone (or server) for state business and used her personal account for everything else. No scandal, no media scramble, no congressional probes. The foundation and her personal life would have been off-limits. Case closed.
Instead, the media and Hillary are locked once again into a folie a deux (shared madness). It’s a familiar template, which, though we pretend to loathe the reiteration, lends its own strange comfort. You almost wonder whether Hillary, ever the victim, couldn’t resist placing herself in troubled waters yet again.
Hating the media – perhaps Hillary’s fatal flaw – is the love affair she just can’t quit.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.