Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a secret email account stored on a dark server was a calculated gamble. There was simply no way that it wouldn’t make it into the press. And yet she made a bet that being able to control the flow of information was much more important than a few news cycles worth of criticism.
In short, she made a bet that voters won’t care. After all, the election is 20 months away and there will be an ample amount of polls, plotlines and punditry between now and then, plenty of time for this tempest in a teapot to cool. And the benefit was just too juicy to pass up. As Maureen Dowd writes in the New York Times:
She used a private server linked to her Chappaqua home, only turning over cherry-picked messages in December at the State Department’s request.
Given the paranoid/legalese perspective that permeates Clintonland, this made sense: It’s hard to request emails from an account you don’t know exists. And your own server can shield you from subpoenas and other requests. If you want records from the Clinton server, you have to fight for them. Clinton Inc. can tough it out and even make stuff disappear. Instead of warning the secretary that she could be violating regulations, her aides fetishized her clintonemail.com account as a status symbol. Chelsea took on the pseudonym Diane Reynolds.
This bet wasn’t made by an inexperienced gambler. The national spotlight has shone brightly on the Clinton family for many years, revealing secrets and shady dealing that they would have preferred remain hidden.
The Hillary Clinton saga began as far back as Watergate when the then-chief counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Zeifman, says she “engaged in a variety of self-serving unethical practices in violation of House rules.”
“She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer,” Zeifman said in a recent interview. “She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.”
Twenty years later, then serving as the nation’s First Lady, she ran headlong into three more scandals: Her participation in a commodity futures trading scheme, Whitewater and Travelgate.
The first scandal involved Hillary Clinton’s incredibly profitable foray into commodity futures trading, a highly risky endeavor with many more losers than winners. Despite being a novice she was able to parlay a $1,000 investment into a return of nearly $100,000. When asked how she was able to pull it off a White House spokesman simply responded that she “talked to other people” and read the Wall Street Journal.
In fact, her account was run by a lawyer for state poultry interests, who had a relationship with Bill Clinton, who was then serving as Arkansas’ attorney general. That lawyer was later suspended for trading without permission from is clients and then “at the end of the day the winning and losing trades would be allocated to accounts [he] selected.” Could it be that profitable trades were steered to her account in order to curry favor?
Before that question could get answered Whitewater splashed across the news. The scandal involved a shady property deal in which the Clinton’s may have used their high-ranking positions in the state of Arkansas to pressure others into making illegal loans. Amazingly, documents (116 pages worth) sought during the initial investigation suddenly turned up (with the First Lady’s fingerprints on them) in the third floor reading room of the White House residence.
The increasingly unbelievable coincidences coupled with the First Lady’s ever-changing narrative of events led the Washington Post’s David Marannis and Susan Schmidt to write:
From the beginning of the Whitewater controversy, Hillary Clinton has maintained a public posture seemingly at odds with her actions. She was reluctant to release records during the 1992 campaign. She fought David Gergen’s recommendation to turn over all the records in 1993. She led White House opposition to the appointment of a special counsel in early 1994.
There appears to be a four-year pattern of Hillary Clinton avoiding full disclosure, occasionally forgetting places and events that might embarrass her, and revising her story as documents emerge and the knowledge of her questioners deepens.
That same year, just one day before the Whitewater documents magically emerged, a two-year old memo appeared showing that Hillary Clinton, according to the New York Times, played a “far greater role in the dismissal of employees of the White House travel office than the Administration has acknowledged.” The scandal involved the firing of long-time staffers from the White House Travel Office, which handles the travel arrangements for the White House and press corps. The new staff, hired by the Clintons, replaced the existing contractor and replaced them with Arkansas-based World Wide Travel, a company with financial ties to the Clinton family.
During the investigation the First Lady said she played no role in the firing and yet the memo—which wasn’t released during the investigations—shows that staff felt “there would be hell to pay” if “we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady’s wishes.”
And these are just the lowlights, but they are enough to establish a trend. As the New York Times’ William Safire famously wrote in an essay titled “Blizzard of Lies,” “She had good reasons to lie; she is in the longtime habit of lying; and she has never been called to account for lying herself or in suborning lying in her aides and friends.”
On the one hand it shows a determinedness honed into ruthlessness. But on the other it reveals a crucial weakness, one that candidate Barack Obama learned to exploit. Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush reported for POLITICO:
In Plouffe’s view, articulated in the intervening years, Clinton had been too defensive, too reactive, too aware of her own weaknesses, too undisciplined in 2008. His team would goad her into making mistakes, knowing that run-of-the-mill campaign attacks (like Obama’s claim she merely had “tea,” not serious conversation, with world leaders as first lady) would get under her skin and spur a self-destructive overreaction (Clinton responded to the tea quip by falsely portraying a 1990s goodwill trip to Bosnia with the comedian Sinbad as a dangerous wartime mission). She was too easily flustered.
Will Hillary’s reactive posture hurt her bid to become president? That’s a question that can’t yet be answered. But her most recent email gamble could cause the Clinton’s fortunes to finally turn up snake eyes.