The biggest liability Hillary Clinton faces in getting the Democratic nomination may be that too many of her fellow Democrats don’t believe she is a good liar.
A new Fox News poll this week found that by 58 to 32 percent, Americans don’t think Hillary is telling the truth about her e-mail scandal. Surprisingly, 31 percent of Democrats and almost two-thirds of independents share that view. Perhaps most ominous for her is that 47 percent of Democrats (and 62 percent of all voters) “are worried that scandals would be a problem for a Clinton administration were she elected.”
Clinton loyalists are convinced that polls showing that majorities of voters find Hillary dishonest and untrustworthy will be irrelevant when it actually comes time to vote. One top Clintion adviser told Ron Fournier of the National Journal last spring: “Trust doesn’t matter.” Other aides point out that the day Bill Clinton won reelection in 1996 with 49 percent of the vote, a majority of Americans didn’t think he was honest or trustworthy — and that was before the Lewinsky scandal.
Democrats are starting to admit that the new scandals involving e-mails and the Clinton Foundation’s conflicts of interest are taking a worrying toll. Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware admitted to the PBS affiliate in his state this week that there has been “a real loss of support by of some of the folks who I had expected would be just diehard, enthusiastic Clinton fans, in part because it’s a reminder of the Clinton era, when there seemed to always be some scandal going on about something.” Coons also criticized Hillary’s attempts at explaining the scandals: “Her answers to it have been less open and artful than I’d expected they would be.”
She certainly can’t keep her initial story on the e-mail scandal straight, not to mention her subsequent stories. This week, the Washington Post blew up her story that she turned over all the relevant e-mails she had in response to a routine request from the State Department that included other former secretaries of state. In reality, according to State Department officials, State “first contacted her in the summer of 2014, at least three months before the agency asked Clinton and three of her predecessors to provide their e-mails.” The request was “prompted entirely by the discovery that Clinton had exclusively used a private e-mail system” for all her government business.When the Des Moines Register asked her this week about the obvious discrepancy, Hillary’s reply was: “I can’t answer that.” She also apparently has no answer to a Politico report this week that “previously undisclosed State Department e-mails related to Benghazi have surfaced in a federal court filing.” The e-mails were apparently withheld from the House Select Committee on Benghazi — in front of which Hillary Clinton will be testifying on October 22.
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We already know that other Clinton statements — such as that no classified information passed through her insecure server — also aren’t true. Now it appears that the FBI has been able to recover at least some of the e-mails from her private server that were thought to have been destroyed — and that information is likely to eventually become public. The State Department has also admitted that e-mails from top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Jake Sherman that were reluctantly turned over may “also contain classified information.”
No one knows exactly what could be at the bottom of the Clinton scandal — reckless endangerment of classified information, a web of intrigue linking Hillary Clinton with the vacuum-like fundraising of the Clinton Foundation, or Benghazi leadership failures — or if in the end nothing much will be pieced together. What is clear is that she was hiding something. As Tom Fitton of the watchdog group Judicial Watch, whose Freedom of Information Act lawsuits have pried many documents loose, told me: “Whatever was involved, the State Department and Hillary Clinton are going to extraordinary lengths to avoid them coming to light during a presidential campaign.”
Democrats should be worried about the last presidential candidate who desperately tried to conceal evidence before an election: Richard Nixon in 1972.
Democrats should be worried about the last presidential candidate who desperately tried to conceal evidence before an election: Richard Nixon in 1972. Ray Locker, the Washington enterprise editor for USA Today, has written a new book called Nixon’s Gamble. He reports that Nixon routinely engaged in extra-constitutional actions to prevent leaks, in part to protect “himself from the exposure of his role in sabotaging the Paris Peace Talks” during the 1968 campaign. His obsessions “sowed the seeds of his own destruction by creating a climate of secrecy, paranoia, and reprisal.”
Republicans paid a stiff political price for swallowing doubts about Nixon and elevating him to the presidency. There was enough evidence for them to be deeply concerned about how he would perform in office. There is ample evidence for Democrats to worry about both Hillary’s electability in a general election and — should she win despite everything — what her return to the White House could mean for their party and the country.
— John Fund is national-affairs columnist for National Review Online.