The good news for Democrats in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll is that they have a universally known candidate in Hillary Clinton who, based on her strong showing among women and Hispanics, so far beats any of her potential Republican foes in a general election.
The bad news for Democrats is that the chinks in Clinton’s armor are growing wider. A year ago, only 29 percent of voters gave her a “very poor” grade in being honest and straightforward. Now that has risen to 43 percent in the wake of her e-mail and Clinton Foundation scandals. Only 42 percent of voters overall view her positively, and that number falls to 34 percent among independents.
But among Democrats, Hillary boasts a 76 percent positive rating, with only 14 percent doubting her honesty. Here she is clearly benefiting from both nostalgic feelings about her husband’s presidency as well as the lowered expectations of many voters when it comes to candidates. “I think she would be a good leader,” said Sandra Burnett, a retiree in upstate New York who participated in the WSJ/NBC poll. Asked about the controversies over emails and fundraising, Ms. Burnett said, “It doesn’t change my view of her. I think she is as honest and straightforward as any politician can be.”
The Clinton campaign finally decided to respond to some of the Clinton Foundation fundraising charges yesterday and put its best spokesman forward for an exclusive NBC News interview. But Bill Clinton didn’t exactly shine.
He justified giving a total of eleven speeches at over $500,000 a pop while his wife was secretary of state by saying he’s “gotta pay the bills” and that each speech involved “a couple of hours” of research.
It then got worse. “There is no doubt in my mind that we have never done anything knowingly inappropriate, in terms of taking money to influence any kind of American government policy,” Clinton told NBC correspondent Cynthia McFadden in Nairobi. “Knowingly inappropriate?” I guess it all might depend on what the meaning of the word “knowingly” is.
When it came to his foundation accepting multimillion dollar contributions from Saudi Arabia and other sketchy governments, Bill Clinton was blasé: “I don’t think that I did anything that was against the interest of the United States.” Glad he thinks that, would be nice to know exactly why.
An exasperated McFadden then asked Clinton: “Do you understand though that the perception itself is a problem?” “No,” Clinton replied. “I’m not responsible for anybody else’s perception.” Time to move along now, those aren’t the scandals you should be looking for.
What is remarkable about Team Clinton’s efforts to contain the e-mail and fundraising controversies is that they have until recently relied on a string of old-time loyalists such as James Carville and Lanny Davis to defend their position on television. When that didn’t work, they wheeled out Bill Clinton, the master communicator. But he apparently isn’t easily coached and was much less convincing than Team Clinton hoped.
Yesterday brought the news that Hillary Clinton had agreed to testify in public before the House committee set up to investigate the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack during the week of May 18. I have no doubt the effort to brief her well enough so that her testimony doesn’t make news will be intense. The last time Hillary appeared before Congress she was asked why she made no effort to personally speak with participants who were on the ground during the course of the attack. She infamously responded in part, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”