Much to my dismay, much of the political discourse over the past week or so has concerned Hillary Clinton's email practices. Friends, pundits, and countrymen have advanced a series of reasons why this should or will matter to voters. I've found none of them particularly convincing.
One set of reasons revolves around the claim that her use of a personal server threatened national security, broke the law, violated regulations, or was simply a bad idea. It's pretty clear at this point that she violated no law or regulation with her email. In fact, by using a private account, she followed the practice of every SecState since the advent of email. John Kerry is the first to use a State account. Nor does it seem as if she threatened security in any way. So far as we know (and I'm guessing we would, to say the least) no one has hacked her account. Hackers apparently live in the State Department server. Finally, there's just the notion this is a bad idea. She agrees. If asked again, I suspect she'll repeat these words: "I followed precedent. I wish I hadn't and I know more now. I sure wouldn't do it again but, y'know, this stuff was new to me."
In addition, there is nowhere for this to go. She's turned over 55,000 pages. She's left out personal stuff and given examples of that stuff. The proportion of work to personal seems plausible. No one is pursuing any particular set of emails that might relate to any particular controversy that matters to anyone. For instance, when W. allowed former presidents to hide what they wanted basically forever, he was covering for Dad. We know from other sources that H.W. met with all the key players in the illegal Iran/Contra scheme and historians would very much like to know what he knew and when he knew it. There's a specific claim on our attention there. There is nothing like that with Clinton, unless you're a Benghazi conspiracy theorist (more on that later). No one can possibly get legal access to anything; there's no legal cause; there will be no next development; there's nowhere to go.
On a substantive level, there's no smoking gun, no evidence of bad faith, nothing, nada, zero.
On a process level, there are several issues.
First, some claim she's been slow or weak in her response, my friend Andy Heaton in particular. Maybe. But she didn't say, "I'll have to punt on that one." And it's early. If I made Andy give an Extemp speech today, he'd suck. If I gave him a couple of months, told him his career depended on it, then he'd do as well as ever, I suspect. She needs to get back in the flow and planning to run, thinking about running, etc. is not being in the flow. Responding to this is being in the flow. It'll come. I'm confident of that because....
Second, HRC has been the spouse or the candidate in elections in 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2006, and 2008. She's 9-2. In 08, she ran a very tough, strong campaign in which she (barely) lost to a once in a generation phenom. As an Obama supporter, I vividly remember the way she kept coming back, coming back, coming back. She's used the web as well as anyone but Obama and she has a much--much--better sense than he does of the ways one can use negative media attention to one's benefit--note the 2008 NH primary, for instance. I suspect she'll soon be turning this incident to her advantage. She can run a major campaign. And she's got the Obama web folks onboard.
Third, this sort of thing is already baked into the Clinton cake, as his philandering was. If you believe she somehow conspired something about Benghazi in some way to get something, that she murdered Vince Foster, that she's Lady MacBeth, etc., then you'll think the worst of this. So what. She's not going to reach you anyway. The polls haven't moved on her, so far as I've seen. They'll probably drop a bit after this, and then bound back up when she announces.
That leaves those who might support her and wonder whether this signals something bad or those who do support her and want to feel good about it. The former is a vanishingly small species. The country is so polarized politically that the true undecideds # is very small. But she does need to hold the Democratic presidential majority.
Again, it's early. I suspect over the next year, she'll nicely meld the Clinton/Obama agenda. She'll set forth a series of opportunity policies, from expansive child care to early education to strengthened Social Security to infrastructure to tax reform, etc. all designed to convince the massive middle that the Rs take away opportunity and she'll make opportunity. She'll argue that H.W. made a mess, and Bill cleaned it up. W made a mess and Obama cleaned it up. Now, you want to give Jeb a chance to make a mess? Srsly? This is our chance, the progressive chance, the American chance, to build a better nation, to build on accomplishments, to build on what is likely to be (God willing and the creek don't rise) 5-5.5% unemployment, cheap energy, no big wars, a low budget deficit, etc. and make something rather than waiting again to clean up a Bush mess. She'll claim we can make a future, we can make history with the first woman president and, as her 2008 electorate shows, she's got a better chance than Obama of cutting into R majorities among married white women and lower class white men.
Finally, of course, it's not a referendum on her, it's a contest between her and a Republican. By the start of 2016, we'll have a much better sense of that person's identity and then it'll be time to worry about HRC if events warrant that. So far, they haven't. This is simply catnip for the tiny minority who follow this stuff all of the time, not for people who will decide the election.