Clinton campaign faces some real challenges as voters keep finding new ways to dislike her
Published 22/08/2015 | 02:30
Hillary Clinton is in trouble and she's trying to deflect the attacks by pretending to be Betty White. Seriously. At a press conference this week, she was asked if she had wiped her email server. Channelling some schtick from 'The Golden Girls', Hillary replied: "What, like with a cloth or something?" She also wore what looked like an orange prison suit, which may or may not be a prophecy of things to come.
Outside America people assume that the next president will be Clinton or Bush. But things might not be so straightforward. Jeb Bush currently trails Donald Trump in the Republican primaries, yet will probably bounce back later this year. Clinton, by contrast, is way ahead of her rivals in the Democratic primaries - but is on a steady trajectory downwards. It is possible that Clinton will sink so far in the polls that Vice President Joe Biden will jump in and give her a run for her money. The Democratic race could be in for a shake-up.
Hillary has two problems. The first is an absence of trust. In one recent poll, only 37pc of Americans said that they found her trustworthy (compared to 52pc for Jeb Bush). Decades of stories of Clinton shenanigans created the context for the latest hoo-ha surrounding Hillary's emails. When Clinton became Secretary of State, she decided to use one single email account for both private and official correspondence.
After the Benghazi affair, a congressional investigation was launched into what went wrong in Libya and Clinton was asked what emails she had on private servers. As 'Slate' magazine details, Clinton's staff handed over 30,490 messages to the State Department that they regarded as work-related. They junked 31,830 messages that they decided were personal.
Then the email server was wiped clean. To be clear: Clinton's use of a private email address for government messaging was not illegal at the time. Why she did it is a matter of interpretation.
The Clinton team has tried to imply that she's a sweet little old lady confused by modern technology - an image undermined by a public complaint she once made about having too many messaging devices. But by storing everything on a private account in this manner, Hillary was certainly able to control access to political, official and private information - perhaps allowing her to bypass future Freedom Of Information requests. A comparison jumps to mind with Richard Nixon's insistence that the Watergate tapes were private property and not something he had to surrender to Congress. Again, this is not to imply that Clinton is genuinely guilty of subterfuge and obfuscation. What matters more is that it seems like she is. And that the Republicans are even saying she might have engaged in criminal activity.
It's not just Clinton's backstage operation that feels like a throwback to the past. Her second big problem is that her liberalism is also out of touch. In fact, I'd say this is rather more important in the long run than emailgate. For instance, the two biggest issues on the American Left are wealth inequality and racism. Hillary's 1990s brand of liberalism is ill-suited to deal with either. On economics, she is firmly of the Wall Street crowd - she cannot come close to matching the fiery populism of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.
On race, Clinton is damned by her association with the tough anti-crime policies of the 1990s that saw rates of black incarceration sky-rocket.
Clinton insists that no one cares about the email fracas and, hey, her numbers are still very impressive. But even if the events of this summer don't bring her down, they've highlighted the lady's vulnerabilities.
After over 40 years in public life, Americans are still discovering new reasons to dislike her.
That's not good.