I Don’t Believe Hillary Clinton

Rare news conference doesn’t address credibility gap.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks at the University of Miamis BankUnited Center on February 26, 2014 in Coral Gables, Florida.
National Journal
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Ron Fournier
May 19, 2015, 9:33 a.m.

I don’t be­lieve her.

I don’t be­lieve Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton when she says—as she did at a brief news con­fer­ence on Tues­day—that she has no con­trol over the re­lease of her State De­part­ment email. “They’re not mine. They be­long to the State De­part­ment.”  

I don’t be­lieve her be­cause a per­son’s ac­tions are more re­veal­ing than words: She kept her gov­ern­ment email on a secret serv­er and, only un­der pres­sure from Con­gress, re­turned less than half of them to the State De­part­ment. She de­leted the rest. She con­sidered them hers.

I don’t be­lieve her when she says, “I want those emails out. Nobody has a big­ger in­terest in those be­ing re­leased than I do.”

(RE­LATED: Hil­lary Clin­ton Fi­nally Takes Re­port­ers’ Ques­tions in Iowa

I don’t be­lieve her be­cause I’ve covered the Clin­tons since the 1980s and know how ded­ic­ated they are to what former Clin­ton spokes­man Mike Mc­Curry called “telling the truth slowly.” The fact is that she would rather delay the doc­u­ment dump un­til early 2016—and then have the email re­leased on a single day to over­whelm the me­dia and al­low her to de­clare her­self ex­on­er­ated. That was her stra­tegic choice, Clin­ton ad­visers con­firmed for me, un­til a fed­er­al judge ordered the State De­part­ment on Tues­day to re­lease the email in stages.

I don’t be­lieve her an­swer to this ques­tion: Is there a con­flict of in­terest in ac­cept­ing huge speak­ing fees from spe­cial in­terests seek­ing gov­ern­ment ac­tion? “No,” she replied.

I don’t be­lieve her be­cause I saw how hard Clin­ton and her hus­band, then-Arkan­sas Gov. Bill Clin­ton, worked to pass the state’s first sweep­ing eth­ics ini­ti­at­ive. I don’t be­lieve her be­cause I’ve heard Clin­ton and her hus­band rail against GOP politi­cians who were guilty of less-ob­vi­ous con­flicts of in­terest. I don’t be­lieve her be­cause there have been far too many cred­ible news re­ports about the blur­ring of lines between fam­ily fin­ances, the fam­ily found­a­tion, and her polit­ic­al and gov­ern­ment in­terests.

(RE­LATED: A Tough Ques­tion for 2016 Can­did­ates

I be­lieve the pub­lic has a right to know wheth­er any of the de­leted email in­volved cor­res­pond­ence about the Bill, Hil­lary & Chelsea Found­a­tion or its donors. I be­lieve she’s get­ting bad ad­vice: The hide-and-at­tack tac­tics of the 1990s won’t work as well—if at all—in a post-In­ter­net era that hon­ors trans­par­ency, au­then­ti­city, and ac­count­ab­il­ity.  

I be­lieve she wants us to take her at her word, but we can’t—not even those people like me who’ve known the Clin­tons long enough to re­spect their ser­vice and ap­pre­ci­ate their many vir­tues. It hurts to wit­ness the self-in­flic­ted wounds and hem­or­rhaging of her cred­ib­il­ity. But this is no time for sen­ti­ment­al­ity.

Blind faith doesn’t get you elec­ted pres­id­ent.

I do be­lieve she’s right about one thing. “I made a mis­take,” Clin­ton said about her Sen­ate vote to au­thor­ize war against Ir­aq. “Plain and simple.”


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