Warmer, spontaneous Hillary Clinton still can't dodge private email scandal

Just as she hoped to reboot her campaign to reveal her more humorous and frolicsome self, Hillary Clinton is poleaxed by the startling development that her server may not, after all, have been wiped clean. Platte River Networks, the firm that has managed the computer system used by Mrs. Clinton and some family members since 2013, has affirmed that no electronic erasing of Mrs. Clinton’s personal emails was carried out. Those emails, then, are presumably available for public scrutiny. Thus begins a new chapter in Hillary’s battle to keep private those communications that might damage her reputation and campaign.

At issue are some thirty thousand emails that Mrs. Clinton unilaterally deemed “personal” and then deleted. She has claimed that they touched on topics like her yoga classes and her daughter’s wedding, and that they did not involve work-related issues.

That claim was debunked when the House committee investigating Benghazi discovered communications that had been sent to Mrs. Clinton by long-time aide Sydney Blumenthal, which touched on events in Libya. That those emails were not included in the work-related records sent to the State Department by Mrs. Clinton has cast doubts on her truthfulness, and on what else she might have chosen not to include for the public record.

One reason voters see Mrs. Clinton as inauthentic, is that she is inauthentic.

In a legal showdown between Judicial Watch and the government, the Justice Department asserted just recently that Mrs. Clinton had the right to erase personal emails.  Judicial Watch has asked for a court order that would guarantee preservation of Clinton's emails. Though the government has (not surprisingly) stood up for Mrs. Clinton, the claim misses the point. The question is not whether Hillary was within her rights to delete personal emails; the issue is whether she also deleted communications having to do with her role as secretary of state that might have become, shall we say, inconvenient.

Now, in addition to the steady drip-drip of emails being issued monthly from the State Department, helping to keep the issue on the front page, Hillary’s campaign will also have to mount a legal battle to keep those 30,000 deleted “personal” emails out of view. That will be ugly, reinforcing the secretiveness   and underhandedness so many associate with the former first lady.

It will also undermine the recent reboot of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Responding to sinking polls and hoping to shift the focus away from the ongoing email controversy, campaign strategists last week trotted out a warmer fuzzier Hillary Clinton.

Unhappily, she is still dishonest.

Appearing recently on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Hillary offered up her best campaign line so far. When asked what her granddaughter called her, Mrs. Clinton noted that one-year-old Charlotte didn’t have many words as yet, but said,  "Well, you know I'm fine with 'Grandma,' I'm fine with 'Madame President' — I mean, whatever." Clever, right? Except that the quip was almost surely staged. By their first birthday, most babies babble and have set names for important figures in their lives, like “mama” and “dada”, and also “gramma.” Most likely Charlotte does, too. But, the line was a good one, even if phony. Which it probably was.

One reason voters see Mrs. Clinton as inauthentic, is that she is inauthentic.  She has much to be inauthentic about – her efforts to expunge possibly troublesome emails, the unseemly and possibly criminal activities of the Clinton Foundation, her purposeful deception about the causes of the Benghazi disaster, her middling performance as secretary of state (note: Russia “reset”), the numerous past scandals that have dogged her for decades.

It is hard for Hillary to shake off these challenges and reboot. Especially when her campaign staff for reasons unknown broadcasts the campaign makeover aka “reset” plan to the New York Times. The tip undermined the relaunch as pundits across the country mocked her carefully crafted attempts to become more spontaneous and likeable. That’s like John Harbaugh announcing a new offense strategy against the New England Patriots, the day before the Ravens take to the field. In a word, self-defeating.

Not for the first time do we wonder if there is a mole in the Clinton camp. When your strategists worry publicly that your game plan isn’t working, that your backers are alarmed, that “previous attempts to introduce Mrs. Clinton’s softer side to voters have backfired amid criticism that the efforts seemed overly poll tested,” they are not helping your cause. Nor is it helpful to publicize that it was a focus group in New Hampshire that finally drove Mrs. Clinton to apologize for her email problems, rather than her own instincts.

The harsh truth is that Hillary has no political instincts. The Times reports that “the coming months will also be a period of trying to shed her scriptedness” – a word surely coined for Mrs. Clinton. A natural politician (like her husband) would have known better than to stalk off from a news conference, complaining that it was only the media that cared about her emails. A natural campaigner would never have allowed reporters to be roped off, or alienated early on by snide remarks and derision. Those were not just stupid mistakes, they were costly.

No wonder that Bill will soon be hitting the campaign trail. Someone needs to come in and clean up the mess.