Thursday, August 20, 2015

by Reed Galen

Days Until Iowa Caucus: 173

 Quote by a Smart Person: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." Frederick Douglass

Welcome to the American Singularity.

Why the Singularity?

·      The presidential nominating process is one in which everything, large and small, is sucked into its gravitational maw, allowing nothing to escape its grasp as events pass through the campaign cycle’s event horizon.

·      There is no more singular political experience on the planet than electing the President of the United States.

·      The United States is still the most free, most prosperous and brightest beacon of hope to billions around the world.

Every action and reaction feeds into this black hole of press coverage, donor reactions, voter sentiment and activist opinions. Nothing goes unnoticed and nothing is forgotten. Legions of reporters, bloggers, opposition researchers, trackers, social media monitoring services, vacuum up every last syllable.

Every week we’ll take a look at the campaign as it unfolds, and how events reflect the campaigns, the issues of the day and the country at large. Have a tip, piece of advice or something to add? Email me –

Week 22 – What Difference Does It Make?

Once again this week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saw the news around her non-official email system reemerge as the defining issue of her campaign to date. It’s a familiar syndrome within the family: 1) do something you’re not supposed to 2) don’t take responsibility for it 3) drag the saga out for an interminably long time 4) blame the system 5) somewhere down the road, after the fire has burned the house to the ground, apologize. Clinton has so far completed steps 1-4. But, in her (in)famous words: “What difference does it make?”

It’s My Turn

What Difference Does it Make?

Like 2008, the 2016 campaign was supposed to be the second Clinton coronation. And like eight years ago, she now finds herself battling for position with Democratic activists with little known, and much more liberal opponents. While Sen. Bernie Sanders is no Barack Obama, he is channeling the same non-establishment, populist anger that the current president was able to harness.

Hillary Clinton 2016 actually resembles the candidacy of Mitt Romney in 2012. Both had prior presidential runs. Both were able to harness their existing infrastructures to start well ahead of the pack. Both showed an inability to clearly answer sticky questions that should have been resolved well before their second runs. And like Romney, Clinton now finds herself in the position of trying to separate herself from a pack of also-rans and never-will-be’s in her quest for the Democratic nomination. Should she find herself in another prolonged, damaging primary, it may diffuse whatever structural advantages she should have going into a General Election. Joe Biden and Al Gore (!) who have a half-dozen presidential runs between them, probably never thought that they might actually have a path to save the party from Hillary.

The House of Clinton

What Difference Does It Make?

Sometime during 1992, the men and women of the United States Secret Service began protecting Hillary Clinton. They still stand post around her today. After eight years in the White House, another eight in the United States Senate and then four as Secretary of State, Clinton has not been part of any sort of reality in more than 20 years. And her behavior exhibits that fact. At some point during those two decades, Clinton accepted the big airplanes, the automatic deference from peasants and royalty alike, and the motorcades as life as it should be for her.

Hillary Clinton Steps out of a US Secret Service Limousine. Courtesy AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton Steps out of a US Secret Service Limousine. Courtesy AFP/Getty Images

The issue is the psychological toll this can take – not that it’s a difficult life – but that it becomes normal. And that anything that interrupts this reality now becomes a threat to be immediately pounced upon and dispatched. Her reactions to the email revelations have been dismissive and impatient because she is no longer able to understand (let alone believe) that anything she’s done is improper. If she wanted her email system outside the State Department, than by definition, it was a proper action for her to take. Taking $250,000 for paid speeches from colleges, or ignoring the ugliness around the Clinton Foundation’s finances – these are all the actions, or inaction, of a person who has, in their own mind anyway, transcended accountability to the masses.

Three Little Letters – F.B.I.

What Difference Does It Make?

The Obama White House may never let the Justice Department and the FBI do a full workup on the Clinton emails. But the fact that federal agents are now confiscating hardware from far flung IT companies and asking questions should be at least troubling. The thing about Federal investigations is that once they get going, one never knows what else they’re going to find under their broad remit.

More troubling for Clinton and her staff, is that at some point, and maybe it’s already occurred, someone is going to have to answer an FBI agent’s questions. Lying to a federal officer is known as a 1001 violation. As we’ve seen with the good folks over at Platte River Networks, they seem to be singing like canaries. Protecting your boss from outrageous political attacks comes with the territory. Doing 24 months in a Federal work camp to cover up bad behavior is not likely what many of them signed up for.

And while Clinton and her allies may be able to make light of the whole thing, telling silly jokes at fundraisers, the FBI isn’t known for its sense of humor. Attacking them for doing their jobs, even obliquely, is not likely to bode well for her efforts to make all of this go away.

With Friends Like These…

What Difference Does It Make?

The Democrats want to retake the US Senate next year after a disastrous 2014. And by all accounts, the map should be in their favor. House Democrats want to take back a few of the seats the GOP gobbled up on its way to an historic majority. But if they were counting on a Democratic steamroller led by the Clinton campaign, they need to start looking elsewhere for help. Although Hillary still remains the odds-on favorite to be the Democratic standard-bearer next fall, her self-inflicted wounds might very well have an electoral impact in close Senate and House races.

Map of 2016 US Senate Races.

Map of 2016 US Senate Races.

While Clinton will try and recreate the Obama coalition, she’s not the president. The passion he was able to engender in younger and minority voters doesn’t naturally translate to her candidacy. While Obama was able to carry many down-ballot campaigns across the line with in 2008, it appears a lot less likely that Hillary will have any coattails – if she has a coat at all.

Just Plain Weird

What Difference Does It Make?

Speaking of Millenial voters – those voters that turning 18 next year were born in 1998 – near the end of Bill Clinton’s second term. They have no recollection of the Pax Americana post-Cold War boom years. To them, Hillary is more celebrity than leader. While those of us who can remember Whitewater, Monica, etc…see the email snafu as par for the Clinton course, younger voters may well find it just plain weird.

My imaginary Millenial take: Okay, so you had your own email. I can get over that. Then you gave that weird press conference at the UN about it ‘being easier.” I don’t get why, but okay. Then it turns out you used some company based in an apartment in Denver (where they kept your top secret server in the bathroom) to run your “home-brew” email. Huh? Why would you do that? Aren’t you, like, Hillary Clinton? Couldn’t you just use a Gmail account?

Ya Can’t Make It Up

What Difference Does It Make?

And for all her foibles as a candidate, Hillary Clinton still finds herself in an electorally strong position. The one year where Republicans might have had the firepower to take on a Clinton, and take back the White House and we get…Donald Trump. The two of them together suck an inordinate amount of political oxygen – leaving Republicans shaking their heads and Democrats thanking their lucky stars that early state voters are lapping up Trump as fast as they can get him. For Hillary, the old trope “it’s better to be lucky than good” may actually be true this election cycle.

The Trumps and the Clintons during a happier time, the Trumps' wedding.

The Trumps and the Clintons during a happier time, the Trumps' wedding.

If 2016 is really the year that Republican voters express their anger with the GOP Establishment and nominate Trump, it will be the best possible outcome Hillary Clinton could hope for. Her email indiscretion will be forgotten as the country endures its first truly Kardashian-esque presidential contest. At this point, she’s going to need all the outside help she can get. Based on her performance during the first few months of her 2016 run, Clinton has proven that on her own, she can’t carry a message or run a campaign.

AuthorReed Galen