They know they can outlast the media’s attention, even with the email scandal.
By JACK SHAFER
March 06, 2015
The second-guessing of Hillary Clinton’s email hygiene while secretary of state has produced hundreds of news stories and a slew of compelling questions.
Why, for instance, did Clinton insist on using a private email account for official business when State Department policy and the law dictate an official email account? Why did she persist in using private email, which she should have known was not secure? Why, when the State Department discovered last summer that she had been using a private address, did she not go public with her transgression? Why did she decide that her staff—and not the State Department—be put in charge of determining which “private” mails would be surrendered to the State Department? Why, instead of coming completely clean on the topic, did she tweet that she wants State to release her emails—a disingenuous move on her part because State doesn’t have access to the whole trove?
Indeed, why her whole lackadaisical attitude so far about her emails?
The answer is that while reporters operate in insect time, buzzing over facts and queries that may have a life of hours, days, or weeks before expiring in a natural death, the Clintons operate in geological time. She and her campaign staff have a 20-month-long runway in front of them, and like a glacier they will patiently grind their opponents into gravel by applying time and pressure. In the Clinton team’s Machiavellian view, directly responding to the press corps’ questions on the press corps’ timetable will only give greater longevity to the story. The longer Hillary Clinton sits tight and allows the email collection and vetting “process” to work in the background, issuing assurances that she’s now in complete compliance, the better off she will be. The press insects will lose interest and move on to other, more juicy sources of meat. A reporter can’t write something about nothing very many times before editors and readers rebel.
Clinton’s political foes and the press tend to view her glacial strategy as stonewalling—without acknowledging that good stonewalls make good politics and sometimes even better press coverage. Everybody knows the press has a short attention-span. Even when binging on Adderall, reporters will allow today’s news stories to rot to dust if they think they can squeeze more nutrition out of tomorrow’s news. As an inordinately lucky politician, Clinton knows from her husband’s experience that some foreign disaster or domestic crisis can be relied upon to ride to her rescue and dislodge the email story from the dailies’ front pages. The only time you need to “get ahead of bad news” is when you can’t avoid doing so.
The stonewalling strategy can backfire, as Bill Clinton learned, if a Javert-like investigator is appointed to investigate you. In 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno assigned an independent prosecutor to probe the Clintons’ investments known colloquially as Whitewater. Over the next half-decade, reams of evidence were generated, and this surplus of documents (and strategic leaks) made him the most scrutinized president in history. But even this didn’t bring Bill Clinton down. If not for the 22nd Amendment, he could have won a third term.
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