Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Just what was Hillary Clinton thinking when she avoided using the government email account system and instead adopted a private one during her tenure as secretary of state? We’re now being told by a slew of pundits in the media, and of course Republican “enemies”, that she had broken the law. Addressing a press conference on the matter on Tuesday at the United Nations, the former first lady regretted her decision but said she had not violated any known law.

With her personal email address, Hillary conducted both the official business of government and the transactions of The Clinton Foundation, a non-profit private organization run by her family and into which donations from foreign governments flowed. Now this is a big deal, a very serious issue: her political enemies — and they’re legion —- have sensed blood in the water and are rushing in for the kill.

As I write, the hue and cry continues to gain stridency by the minute with no sign of abating soon, even after she addressed the press. For the Republicans who are particularly eager to win back the White House after two past attempts came a nasty cropper, this latest Hillary problem is a huge gift with the built-in prospect of a permanent shelf life, one which could later imperil, if not sooner abort, Hillary’s attempt to become the next president of the United States, her second such attempt in as many years. One therefore wonders if Hillary is indeed tormented by a political self-destruct complex. Did someone not tell her she couldn’t do that? Even if she wasn’t advised against the decision, shouldn’t Hillary, as politically savvy as she was reputed to have been during her days as first lady, and later as a senator, have had the good sense to know that such a thing was politically unconscionable?

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, most predictably, pounced on the Clintons last week in her column. Nothing gives Dowd greater joy than another opportunity to bash the Clintons. It is her religion, her raison d’etre. And I’m almost certain that while blasting away at the duo at white heat each time, Dowd must be having something close to orgasmic merriment. On Facebook and in the online section of the New York Times, I have in the past joined issues with her on what I have come to term her pathetic, pathological hatred of the Clintons. A great deal of the spirit undergirding that defence arose from a natural desire to remonstrate with a critic with the rather infuriating habit of devoting too much of her time and column space to one issue nearly all of the time.

But you could excuse Dowd on this on account of Hillary’s ill-considered judgment. For there are other serious questions to ask about Hillary’s decision. As Ikhide Ikheola rightly noted in a Facebook conversation on Monday, this is also an issue of national security. Reputed for his commanding knowledge of all matters African literature and easily the funniest person I know today that is operating regularly on Facebook, Ikheola asked: “How encrypted is her account? Who has access to it?” You wonder!

Now if Hillary eventually decides to run for the Oval Office, she could be the only candidate with the promise of a surefire success at the polls against such a potentially dangerous Republican opponent as Jeb Bush. The younger brother of former Republican president George W. Bush, Jeb was the governor of Florida. He did a good job here. I can say that as someone who has lived in Florida over a decade now. In case you didn’t like his brother that much for whatever reason, you might find Bush the Younger more likable: he’s more polished and has nothing of the intellectual unsureness of his elder brother. Last week, Bush fired his first salvo at Hillary in a tweeter message, challenging her to disclose the contents of all the emails. She said she had asked the state department to release all of her 55,000-plus emails to the public. What would they contain? Nothing unlawful, she said at her United Nations press conference on Tuesday.

Vice-President Joe Biden, heir-apparent to President Barack Obama’s “throne”, lacks the kind of promise which Hillary boasts. An endless gaffe machine, Biden could flame out even before he has launched a campaign. So, if you saw Obama in the past quietly putting his stocks on Hillary, it was for a valid reason. Assured of a possible victory, Hillary could carry Obama’s torch further aloft and ensure that his enemies (and they’re the worst political enemies I have seen in a long time) do not extinguish it the moment they step into the Oval Office.

Obama must be battling a migraine. Even months in advance of a possible run for the Oval Office, Hillary’s as-yet-unrevealed campaign team has been subjected to a relentless negative scrutiny by the media over its cumbrous composition and its propensity to leak information to the press, a distressingly familiar throwback to the last time around. A good deal of that obsession is of course driven by an unfair treatment, make that resentment, of Hillary. We already know about how the Republican-controlled Congress was persecuting her over what she did (or failed to do) that led to the murder of Chris Stephens, former American ambassador to Libya. Panned by vociferous critics as a political witch-hunt, that congressional investigation was beginning to twist slowly and slowly in the wind to its own death for lack of credible evidence against her. Now in a single act of suicidal death-wish, Hillary has infused it with an invigorating breath of life.

And then there was the unseemly obsession with the state of her health, with Karl Rove, that diabolical Republican operative who helped elect George W. Bush twice, alleging that Hillary had a brain injury and therefore unfit to contest as president. But pushing back with the ferocity of a hurricane, the Clinton political machine caused Rove and his minions to dial back their charge.

But this very one is surely a wound that’s self-inflicted. Hillary should have known better and acted wisely, as she’s certainly not the other Clinton. For Bill is the political Houdini of our time. With pseudo-suicidal political instincts, he could spring traps for himself and deliberately enmesh himself in all manner of political troubles, the sort that made his enemies salivate and whoop with glee at the sight of him in self-immolation. But each time they took that one final step forward to finish him off, bingo, Bill unknotted himself lightning-fast and bounced back to life again, leaving his enemies wringing their fingers pitifully at another lost opportunity to dance on his political grave. Lacking such a cat-like resilience, Hillary is already bleeding months before announcing a run. An opinion poll of possible presidential candidates released by NBC earlier in the week showed that she has slipped several notches on the issue of favorability against possible Republican opponents.

In the short term, the one person who stands the most to gain from Hillary’s troubles is Biden. He may now go to his boss and say to him, “Barack, I told you so.” He may now turn to the Democratic Party and say to it, “Please, invest your hopes in me. I may sometimes be unguarded in my remarks. But they’re not as harmful as the Clintons who are unguarded in their conducts all the time.” Biden is a fine gentleman with a keen intellect and a sharp analytical mind, his gaffes notwithstanding. Democrats and President Obama jointly owe him one for putting Paul Ryan through the meat grinder during their only vice-presidential debate in the last presidential election season. Indeed, he wiped away the Democrats’ tears and reinvigorated their hopes after Obama lost his first debate to Mitt Romney.

But that debt of gratitude shouldn’t be settled by nominating Biden, nor is it politically expedient to decide to give him the nod simply because he’s naturally next in line. They would rue the day they did so, as either decision could conduce to an electoral rout for the Democratic Party next November. Biden, regrettably, does not have that discipline needed for the effective management of a protracted presidential campaign. All Rove has to do is mine Biden’s unremitting gaffes and turn him into a worse cartoon character than John Kerry, the Democratic candidate they defeated in 2004, even though he was a far better choice than Bush. With Hillary’s painful and costly mistake, it’s high time the Democratic Party moved beyond this whole idea of “coronation”, “prohibitive favorite”, etc., etc., and cast its eyes further afield for other candidates. They have been waiting on the sidelines for far too long. The only thing the party has to do is throw the field wide open, and then you’ll see them coming out enthusiastically like so many charging soldiers on the field of battle.