When it comes to her ever-unfolding email scandal, seems that Hillary Clinton’s priorities have shifted.
In the early autumn of 2015, when it seemed as though the former secretary of state would walk away with her party’s presidential nomination, Clinton’s focus was on 2016 and winning the White House. Her primary obstacles along the path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue were of her own making. A gaping trust deficit hindered her ability to appeal to a broader electorate, and that gap had been exposed primarily by the revelations about her scandalous email server and how her behavior as secretary of state might have resulted in the mishandling of classified information.
“As I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. That was a mistake,” Clinton told ABC News in September of 2015. “I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.”
That seemed a pretty straightforward admission of fault, even if it was only for a harmless lapse in judgment in pursuit of “convenience.” It certainly wasn’t an apology for any wrongdoing. But even this modest gesture in acknowledgment of public sentiment was quickly revised.
Within days of Clinton’s mea culpa, she seemed to take it back. In an interview with the Associated Press, Clinton insisted that her email system was “allowed,” and she declined to apologize for her conduct. In an interview with NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell, Clinton again refused to accept any blame for her behavior. The former secretary insisted that “it wasn’t the best choice” to maintain a secret private email account, but added that everyone in government who should have been aware of her server was. What’s more, she “dealt with classified material on a totally different system.” Following the discovery of over 1,200 sensitive email communications that had been mishandled by Clinton or her staff while she served as Barack Obama’s ranking Cabinet secretary, that claim looks especially dubious today.
In the intervening months, the revelations regarding Clinton’s emails have kept coming, and the FBI’s investigation into her “homebrew” email server have led many to speculate that the next shoe to drop may be dangling from a precariously thin thread. It is curious then that Clinton’s tone has shifted from one of solemn apologetics to defiance.
“I’m not willing to say it was an error in judgment because what – nothing that I did was wrong. It was not – it was not in any way prohibited,” Clinton vowed during a Democratic forum in Iowa on Monday night. The apparent shift in attitude, if not substance, was not an extemporaneous flourish designed to satisfy the audience of partisans to whom she was appealing. In an interview with the Quad City Times editorial board this week, Clinton was asked why she thought she had made “a mistake” if, as she put it, she wasn’t sorry for it.
“So it was a mistake because of the reaction,” an editorial board member asked.
“Yes,” Clinton replied.
“Not because it would have made sense to use a work email for work purposes?” her interlocutor queried.
“It was a mistake not to have used two because it has caused, you know, all of this uproar and commotion,” Clinton replied.
Clinton contended that she believed the scandal surrounding her email practices amounted to “a wash,” because she had sent all her communications only to government addresses. But “even if Clinton had sent every email to individuals with state.gov or other federal agency addresses, that procedure would hamper State Department compliance with Freedom of Information Act requests for Clinton’s emails,” Politifact reported.
Whether or not Clinton violated State Department and White House guidelines has been a hotly debated point of contention since the secret email server’s existence was revealed last March. Whether or not Clinton violated the laws regarding the handling of classified information will be determined by the FBI and the Justice Department. As to her level of remorse for her actions, however, Clinton’s sympathies are betrayed by her actions.
“(T)he measure of regret can easily be seen in actions, not words,” wrote HotAir’s Ed Morrissey, who flagged the Quad City Times editorial board interview. “Hillary kept that server well past her time at State, but when the system got exposed, she refused to turn it over or give State the electronic records from it.”
What do we make of Clinton’s subtle tone shift? It comes amid the news that the FBI probe of Clinton’s conduct at the State Department has widened to include any links between the Clinton Foundation and the secretary in her official capacity as America’s chief diplomat. Fox News learned earlier this month that there were “several dozen” additional classified emails housed on her unsecured server, including those marked with the highest possible sensitivity rating – “special access programs.” Furthermore, while the release of Clinton’s vetted emails will soon conclude, the State Department will be forced to comply with a court order requiring the release of hundreds more nongovernmental emails from Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Clinton’s shift from sorrowful appeals to America’s capacity for forgiveness to forceful and unrelenting denials of any wrongdoing is jarring. Given the politicized nature of the current Justice Department, it still strains the imagination to believe that the likely Democratic standard-bearer could face something as devastating as an indictment, even for a minor offense. It is, however, no longer unthinkable.