I was chatting with a Republican-leaning friend, when she sighed, slumped in her chair, and blurted, “Well, I guess Hillary is a shoo-in for the presidency!”
“You mean, you’re sure she’ll run?” I said.
“No, I’m sure she will win,” my friend replied, looking as glum as Kanye West in a room with no mirrors. “She’s deflected most of the Benghazi stuff, she’s got the ‘first woman in the Oval Office’ thing going, and now she has a grandchild for the photo ops. Stick a fork in it. The race is done.”
“Hmm,” I said, “I would not be so certain.”
I didn’t have some secret insight into Clinton’s campaign plans. Nor had I consulted a Magic 8-Ball. I expressed doubt because politicians who have been in power a while have a remarkable tendency to screw things up.
And now just days later, and the former first lady/senator/cabinet member is tangled in a web of messy headlines. You’ve probably already heard the revelations that she used a private account for all of her emails while secretary of state. You’ve also likely heard the swift defense from her allies about how she really did nothing wrong, no laws were violated, thousands of emails were handed to government archivists anyway, and yadda yadda yadda.
This may not prove to be a serious legal matter. But it is a significant political issue that can be summed up in a phrase: It makes her look sneaky.
The story super charges long-standing accusations that Hillary Clinton doesn’t like the idea of the public watching too closely as she conducts the public’s business. It also underscores claims from many in the media that despite promises of unprecedented transparency, the Obama team is perceived to have operated the most secretive White House in recent memory.
Oh sure, her true fans will howl “It’s not true!” But she needs independents to win the White House. And they will have a harder time casting those votes, if they suspect ugly secrets are hidden behind the Clinton curtain.
Tom Foreman is a correspondent for CNN