What We've Learned From Hillary Clinton's Email Controversy So Far

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Image: Hillary Rodham Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her mobile phone after her address to the Security Council at United Nations headquarters, Monday, March 12, 2012. The bloody conflict in Syria is likely to dominate public and private talks Monday as key ministers meet at the United Nations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and challenges from the Arab Spring. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)Richard Drew / ASSOCIATED PRESS

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About 48 hours after it first began, Hillary Clinton last night personally tried to contain the firestorm over her use of personal emails while serving as secretary of state.” I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible,” she tweeted. The State Department then followed up, saying it’s reviewing her emails for public release. “We will undertake this review as quickly as possible; given the sheer volume of the document set, this review will take some time to complete." Although last night’s statements don’t end the controversy (that won’t happen until we finally see the emails), here’s what we’ve learned from this episode so far: The Clintons and their supporters haven’t changed their ways. In fact, they’ve played into every negative stereotype:

  • They will follow the letter of the law but not always its spirit: How do they explain that Clinton was a member of a presidential cabinet where almost everyone else was using government emails to conduct official business?
  • They will drag their heels when it comes to transparency: We never would have learned of Clinton’s use of personal emails if not for the Benghazi committee.
  • When it doubt, Clinton allies go on the attack: When this email controversy first surfaced, Clinton defenders’ first instinct was to go on the attack -- against the personal emails that Scott Walker and Rick Perry have used, or the private email server that Jeb Bush had. But remember this: Jeb has at least RELEASED his emails, while Clinton hadn’t released ANY of hers.
  • Clinton’s close aides aren’t doing her any favors: The emails that one of Clinton’s closest aides sent to reporters during this story wasn’t helpful at all. One of the reasons why the Clintons don’t get the benefit of the doubt from reporters is because it takes yelling and screaming to get anything.

Does this encourage Clinton to start her campaign sooner rather than later? Or it is more reason to delay?

What we don’t know is whether these things change when Clinton’s campaign -- with its infusion of Obama World -- begins to take shape. And this raises the question: Should Clinton start her campaign sooner rather than later to better combat these kinds of stories? Or does it continue to delay -- knowing that a delay keeps her from having to answer reporter questions at every campaign stop or event? Remember the benefits to delaying: You freeze the rest of the Democrats who might be thinking about a run, and you still aren’t treated like a 100% candidate.

This is only going to empower congressional Republicans

Another consequence of this story is that it’s only going to empower congressional Republicans investigating Clinton over Benghazi. Yes, there’s the GOP danger of overreaching here -- especially since Benghazi has become so politically charged -- but they’ve given themselves some new legitimacy to dig into Clinton’s activities as secretary of state.

The Clintons have escaped from MUCH bigger stories

While some in the press wonder if this story is hurting Hillary’s presidential chances or encouraging Democrats to think of a Plan B for 2016, keep this in mind: The Clintons have escaped from MUCH bigger stories than this. Yes, it looks like the Clintons haven’t changed their ways. But maybe one of the reasons why they haven’t is that they know they USUALLY win -- with 2008 being a BIG exception, of course.

Both Roberts and Kennedy are in play for the Obama administration in King vs. Burwell

As for yesterday’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court over the federal health-care law, here is the take from NBC’s Pete Williams: “After hearing arguments for about 90 minutes, the U.S. Supreme Court gave little indication Wednesday about how it plans to rule in the latest challenge to Obamacare. Chief Justice John Roberts, who cast the crucial vote in 2012 to save the health care reform law, didn't pepper government lawyers with questions this time. A possible swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, appeared to find constitutional problems with the case against Obamacare, but didn't fully tip his hand one way or the other.” Yet here is where the Obama administration stands compared with three years ago: BOTH Roberts and Kennedy are in play for them, which wasn’t the case after the oral arguments in the 2012 constitutional challenge over the law.

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