When the Clinton Scandals Boil Away

Trust is a bitter residue for the Democratic front-runner, even as voters turn away from Benghazi and emails.

Hillary Clinton.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Ron Fournier
Add to Briefcase
Ron Fournier
Nov. 3, 2015, 11:19 a.m.

She bur­ied Benghazi. She de­leted the email scan­dal. Such are the hopes of Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s team after an NBC News/Wall Street Journ­al poll sug­gests that Amer­ic­ans are less in­clined to con­sider either is­sue crit­ic­al to their 2016 vote.

So is Clin­ton out the woods? No—not if voters still want to trust their pres­id­ent.

First, the good news: In the poll re­leased Tues­day, Clin­ton’s lead over in­sur­gent so­cial­ist Bernie Sanders has widened to a two-to-one mar­gin among Demo­crats. More than 80 per­cent of Demo­crat­ic voters be­lieve the former sec­ret­ary of State is the most likely to win their party’s nom­in­a­tion.

The res­ults con­firm an­ec­dot­al evid­ence that Demo­crats are eager to for­give Clin­ton’s lapses in judg­ment and hon­esty con­cern­ing both the 2012 Libya raid and the un­au­thor­ized use of a secret email sys­tem while serving as sec­ret­ary of State.

Her 11-hour testi­mony be­fore a hy­per-par­tis­an con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee in­vest­ig­at­ing the Benghazi raid seems to have swung sen­ti­ments in Clin­ton’s fa­vor. Be­fore the hear­ing, 58 per­cent of Demo­crat­ic primary voters said they were sat­is­fied with Clin­ton’s re­sponse to the at­tacks. That num­ber is up 14 points, to 72 per­cent.

Among swing voters, the per­cent­age of those who say they aren’t sat­is­fied with Clin­ton’s re­sponse to the Benghazi con­tro­versy has been cut by more than half, from 84 per­cent to 40 per­cent.

After a first Demo­crat­ic de­bate, where Clin­ton per­formed well and Sanders gave her a pass on the email scan­dal, 48 per­cent of voters say the email is­sue isn’t im­port­ant to their vote, while 42 per­cent say it does shape their de­cision-mak­ing. Those num­bers are al­most flipped since mid-Oc­to­ber.

Clin­ton has taken re­spons­ib­il­ity for se­cur­ity lapses at the U.S. com­pound in Libya, but she hasn’t ex­plained her role in an ad­min­is­tra­tion-wide at­tempt to mis­lead Amer­ic­ans about the reas­on for the at­tacks. In the heat of Pres­id­ent Obama’s reelec­tion cam­paign, the White House ini­tially blamed the raid on an anti-Muslim video rather than a ter­ror­ist strike.

Con­gres­sion­al in­vest­ig­at­ors un­covered evid­ence that Clin­ton knew with­in hours that ter­ror­ists were be­hind the raid. Ac­cord­ing to the fath­er of a former Navy SEAL who died in the raid, Clin­ton stood be­fore his son’s coffin and privately told him the United States would ar­rest the film­maker re­spons­ible for the at­tack.

Clin­ton has apo­lo­gized for put­ting all her of­fi­cial email on a private serv­er but con­tin­ues to claim in­cor­rectly that the ac­tions had pre­ced­ent and were au­thor­ized. She vowed in March that no clas­si­fied ma­ter­i­al was ever on the serv­er, a claim proven false. She now tells voters none of the emails were marked clas­si­fied, which she must know is ir­rel­ev­ant; people are pro­sec­uted for mis­hand­ling un­marked U.S. secrets.

Fur­ther­more, Clin­ton in­sists that she vol­un­tar­ily turned over the email to the State De­part­ment, though in fact, she had kept the gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments secret un­til Con­gress dis­covered her stash. She in­sists she vol­un­tar­ily turned over the serv­er, fail­ing to men­tion the FBI’s strong de­sire to scour the stor­age unit as part of its on­go­ing in­vest­ig­a­tion of her ac­tions.

Be­cause of all this, and more, the Benghazi and email stor­ies could boil away, and there will re­main the bit­ter residue of a char­ac­ter is­sue likely to stick to Clin­ton throughout the cam­paign—and throughout her pres­id­ency, should she win.

People don’t trust her.

The NBC/WSJ poll re­veals that 53 per­cent of re­gistered voters give her poor marks for “be­ing hon­est and straight­for­ward,” while just 27 per­cent give her high marks.

Clin­ton and her team can take solace in the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial race, which GOP con­sult­ant Alex Cas­tel­lanos re­cently called a “dump­ster fire.” The NBC/WSJ poll shows polit­ic­al novices Don­ald Trump and Ben Car­son lap­ping the GOP field, with a ma­jor­ity of Re­pub­lic­an voters call­ing Car­son their first or second choice.

“And while there’s still plenty of time for an es­tab­lish­ment GOP can­did­ate to beat Car­son or Trump,” reads the NBC ana­lys­is, “Demo­crat­ic poll­ster Peter Hart won­ders if the 2016 Re­pub­lic­an race is shap­ing up to re­semble 1964, when Barry Gold­wa­ter won the GOP nom­in­a­tion.”

“What if the cake is baked?” Hart asks. “This is not a status-quo elec­tion.”

The cake is baked on Clin­ton’s in­teg­rity. She must now pray for a flaky GOP nom­in­ee.

What We're Following See More »
TRUMP’S ATTORNEY WAS SET TO TESTIFY ON WEDNESDAY
Senate Intel Postpones Testimony by Cohen
1 days ago
THE LATEST
AMENDMENT WOULD HAVE PREVENTED CONSIDERATION
Senate Rejects Effort to Nix SALT Tax Changes
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."

Source:
INTERVIEWED BY COMMITTEE STAFF
Lewandowski Meets with Senate Intelligence Committee
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appeared on Capitol Hill for a closed-door interview with the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the matter. Lewandowski is the latest senior official in Trump's orbit who has met with the committee as part of its investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign."

Source:
FISHING EXPEDITION
Some Members Seek to Wrap Up Russia Investigations by Year’s End
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"A growing number of key Republicans are sending this message to the leaders of the congressional committees investigating potential Trump campaign collusion with the Russians: Wrap it up soon. In the House and Senate, several Republicans who sit on key committees are starting to grumble that the investigations have spanned the better part of the past nine months, contending that the Democratic push to extend the investigation well into next year could amount to a fishing expedition."

Source:
WROTE LAW THAT WEAKENED OPIOID OVERSIGHT
Trump: Marino Withdrawing Nomination for Drug Czar
4 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login