Radical Debate Advice for Hillary Clinton: Tell the Truth

You should bide your time, Joe Biden.

Hillary Clinton.
Bloomberg AFP/Getty
Ron Fournier
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Ron Fournier
Oct. 12, 2015, 3:41 p.m.

The last time I gave a pres­id­en­tial field pre-de­bate ad­vice, they ig­nored me (“Don­ald Trump: Act pres­id­en­tial”). But I’m no quit­ter. Maybe the Demo­crats will at least give this a read:

Bernie Sanders: Watch your tem­per. You’re giv­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton a run for her money be­cause you are, in the words of Demo­crat­ic con­sult­ant Dav­id Axel­rod, “ut­terly au­then­t­ic. And right now, that is Clin­ton’s chal­lenge.” Your an­ger over stag­nant wages and grow­ing in­equal­ity isn’t part of some fad; it’s your sig­na­ture fan­at­icism, and it fits the times. But be care­ful: There’s a fine line between angry and mean. Clin­ton and former Mary­land Gov. Mar­tin O’Mal­ley are go­ing to try to push you over it. They know you can be a bit of a grouch, which plays bet­ter on the cam­paign trail than it does on the de­bate stage. Stick with what got you this far—rising pop­u­lism across the polit­ic­al spec­trum—and re­mem­ber that most Demo­crat­ic voters are meet­ing you for the first time.

Mar­tin O’Mal­ley: Show some life. I re­mem­ber telling people in Janu­ary that Clin­ton would ap­pear vul­ner­able at some point and that you were the most likely can­did­ate to ex­ploit her too-high ex­pect­a­tions. I blew that one. But so did you. When top Iowa Demo­crats urged you (in this story) to con­front Clin­ton on her co­zi­ness with Wall Street, you de­murred. When Con­gress dis­covered Clin­ton’s private email serv­er, you hes­it­ated to cri­ti­cize her blatant wrong­do­ing. Time and again, you passed up chances to use the news cycle to raise your pro­file. I thought per­haps you were aim­ing for the vice-pres­id­ency or a Cab­in­et post, but your ad­visers said you simply wanted to define your­self to voters be­fore go­ing neg­at­ive—that you were bid­ing your time. Well, gov­ernor, it’s your time.

Jim Webb and Lin­coln Chafee: Get a clue. For­give me for lump­ing the two of you to­geth­er, but I’m not sure why you’re in the race. Sen­at­or Webb, at least you’ve got na­tion­al se­cur­ity chops and a repu­ta­tion for can-do prag­mat­ism in the Sen­ate. But you, Sen­at­or Chaf­fee, are a cipher—a Re­pub­lic­an-turned-in­de­pend­ent-turned-Demo­crat who seems to be cam­paign­ing as hard for the pres­id­ency as I am. And I’m not run­ning. This is your fleet­ing chance to break out, gen­tle­men. Prove me wrong again.       

Hil­lary Clin­ton: Tell the truth. Your apo­logy for caus­ing con­fu­sion about your use of private email on the job rang hol­low be­cause your wrong­do­ing is clear: You stashed of­fi­cial email on a cov­ert serv­er, an act that sub­ver­ted the Free­dom of In­form­a­tion Act, thwarted le­gis­lat­ive over­sight, and jeop­ard­ized U.S. secrets. It vi­ol­ated fed­er­al rules in place while you headed the State De­part­ment. So, please, don’t say it was “above board.” Don’t claim you turned over all your work-re­lated email. Don’t pre­tend you didn’t traffic U.S. secrets over a home-brewed serv­er. We know those are lies. Don’t cite phony pre­ced­ents. Don’t blame the GOP or the me­dia. Cred­ib­il­ity and ac­count­ab­il­ity are gate­ways to lead­er­ship. So, please, just tell us: What were you hid­ing?

If your an­swer is noth­ing, tell the FBI to make pub­lic your de­leted email—everything that isn’t ab­so­lutely per­son­al. We need to see your email be­cause you’ve made it im­possible to take your word.

Joe Biden: Don’t run, at least not yet. If Clin­ton has noth­ing more to hide, you’ve got everything to lose by chal­len­ging her. If time un­cov­ers deep­er lay­ers of wrong­do­ing, you’ve got plenty to gain by wait­ing.

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