Americans are known for being quick to cast blame, but we’re also incredibly quick to forgive. Take, for instance, Mike Tyson, who was convicted of rape and bit an opponent’s ear off, but is now making a living making people laugh in movies like The Hangover and, most recently, in a one-man Broadway play. Or, Michael Vick, who went from a despicable dog murderer to an endearing redemption story who volunteers with the Humane Society. The list could go on forever. Tim Allen smuggled drugs, Sean Penn hit Madonna with a baseball bat, Robert Downey Jr. was a prolific drug abuser, Tiger Woods was a philanderer, Ray Lewis was involved in the murder of two men, and Bill Clinton had multiple affairs while president.
For better or worse we’ve largely forgiven and forgotten all of them for one simple reason – they eventually told the truth, asked for forgiveness, and got back to work. Americans it seems don’t ask for much in return for absolution. They simply want the truth.
That’s why Hillary Clinton’s scandal is so perplexing. The email story would likely have burned itself out by now (and certainly by Election Day) if only she would have stopped providing oxygen for the flame. But at every single turn she’s opted for secrecy over openness, obfuscation over the truth, jokes over sincerity, and finger pointing over contrition.
The strategy doesn’t make much sense regardless of whether or not Hillary Clinton is trying to hide something from her personal server, but it makes absolutely no sense if she’s innocent. Why have a private email server rather than use a State Department address? Why go through the emails and decide which to pass on and which to keep to yourself? Why destroy the emails you personally deemed private? Why refuse to hand over the wiped server to the intelligence agencies when asked? Why lie about whether there was a subpoena for your emails? Why state so unequivocally that none of your emails were classified when some were actually Top Secret? And why claim that there was no law or regulation governing your conduct when there was?
That’s a lot of questions with no good answers, a situation that reminds former Watergate reporter, Bob Woodward, of his time investigating Richard Nixon.
“So, you’ve got a massive amount of data. It, in a way, reminds me of the Nixon tapes,” Woodward said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “Thousands of hours of secretly recorded conversations that Nixon thought were exclusively his. Hillary Clinton initially took that position, ‘I’m not turning this over, they’ll be no cooperation. . .”
“This has to go on a long, long time, and the answers are probably not going to be pretty.”
Pro tip: If you’re political strategy is being compared to the Nixon Watergate scandal then it’s probably time to rethink your strategy. But how? After all, Clinton’s web of obstruction has put her in a serious bind. Her latest trouble, as Ed Rogers writes for the Washington Post, is that her attempts to hide the problem means that she doesn’t even know how best to navigate the road ahead.
“[C]omplicating things, Clinton might not actually know for certain whether her server was “wiped clean.” Let’s face it: Clinton was probably told that the server was “taken care of,” but can she be sure? No doubt, in her mind, someone has already failed to do his job and has failed her in the process. Who knows what the FBI will be able to uncover? The uncertainty of what is in the e-mails that have been disclosed and what e-mails might be discovered later prohibits Team Clinton from getting its story straight. It’s hard to lie when you don’t know what you’re lying about. It is safe to assume a prayer for a clean server has become part of Clinton’s daily routine.
All Clinton is left with is the usual tricks any guilty politician uses to weasel out of a serious situation. She’ll blame it all on political gamesmanship. She’ll blame it on a muckraking media. And she’ll blame the bureaucratic process. In short, she’ll do everything she can to become a victim of forces conspiring against her.
But to successfully turn the tide of political opinion first requires Americans to trust that you’re shooting straight. And the latest polling suggests the exact opposite. Currently, just 32 percent of Floridians, 32 percent of Pennsylvanians, and 34 percent of Ohioans say they believe Clinton to be “honest and trustworthy” according to a new Quinnipiac poll.
No doubt she thought this story would be a flash in the pan, she’d throw a little water on it and it would quickly snuff out. Instead, it’s a grease fire, and the more water she throws, the further the flames spread. If Ms. Clinton is ever going to put out the fire it begins with telling the truth. If she does, she may be surprised at how quickly Americans can forgive.
Photo credit: Marc Nozell, see more of his work HERE.