Hillary Clinton campaigns in New Hampshire (AP/Jim Cole)

The sound & the fury of "Hillarygate": Here's the biggest problem with the ongoing Clinton email saga

Political operatives are scouring the State Department's latest cache of emails looking for... what exactly?

Jack Mirkinson
September 1, 2015 10:28PM (UTC)

In what is now a monthly ritual, the nation's political reporters spent hours on Monday night trawling through the latest batch of Hillary Clinton emails released by the State Department. By Tuesday morning, the world had learned a great many things.

We learned that Clinton is extremely interested in politics. We learned that she has a coterie of slimy hangers-on looking to cash in on their relationship with her. We learned that her secret, private email was, well, pretty secret and private. We learned that her staff is very sycophantic. We learned that she's a "Parks and Recreation" fan. And, yes, we learned that she once sent an email about gefilte fish.


Yeah, so when I said that we "learned" things, I was being technically accurate, but not much more than that. Virtually nothing in the emails is especially noteworthy. (Hillary Clinton is insular, highly political and keeps dubious company? You don't say!) Once again, all of the emails where Clinton personally planned the Benghazi attacks and contemplated taking a hit out on Princess Diana just for fun are missing.

But wait, people will reply. There's nothing juicy in here because Clinton wiped all the good stuff off the face of the earth. We don't really know if this is the case, but who would be shocked if it were? Politicians do not, as a rule, prefer to leave all of their most sensitive material lying out on the table for us.

The question, then, is not whether we will find any smoking guns buried in the back corners of Hillary Clinton's office chit-chat, but whether this will matter that much to voters. And there is no reasonable way to know that right now.


It can sometimes feel like it's happening tomorrow, but we are over a year away from the 2016 election. Let me repeat that: we are over a year out from the 2016 election. Nobody—not one person—knows what the biggest issues of the campaign will be by the time the polls open. Anyone who tells you with even the slightest certainty that they can predict what will be on the minds of voters aside from the state of the economy is lying to you.

Republicans will obviously never let the email issue go, so it's definitely going to matter somewhat during the next year, but it will only make an impact if voters decide that it is such an appalling breach that they can't get past it. Who knows if that will be the case?

Did Clinton use a private email server and address so that she could skirt freedom of information laws? Probably. Is that a problem? Yeah. Is it the world's biggest problem? Well, no. Does it tell us anything especially new about the way Clinton operates? No. We're talking about possibly the most famous and controversial woman in the history of the United States. Is there some major swath of the electorate out there that didn't decide what they thought of her long ago? Clinton will hope that there isn't—that her negatives have already been priced into the cost of admission.


Clinton's email quandary is a problem entirely of her own making, and she's no doubt kicking herself every day that she both created and walked into a huge trap. But it would be a shame if her campaign was consumed by her emails. She deserves to be scrutinized on so many other, much bigger things, from her ties to Wall Street to her ultra-hawkish foreign policy to her enthusiastic embrace of the disastrous and racist criminal justice policies passed during her husband's administration.

Maybe that's the most frustrating thing about the seemingly endless squabble over this scandal: It's masking a whole host of other scandals that are hiding in plain sight.


Hillary Clinton Email Scandal Latest


Jack Mirkinson

Jack Mirkinson is a writer living in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @jackmirkinson.

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