Hill's Email Problem

Today: Politics plays rough; Can Clinton's presidential ambitions survive the latest scandal?

BOB: Hillary Clinton is in political trouble and perhaps even legal trouble over her use of private e-mail accounts and bypassing government-issued accounts containing substantial amounts of information that belongs to the federal government. But ultimately, I don't think this latest controversy will hurt her presidential ambitions.

CAL: Bob, that remains to be seen. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that support for Hillary Clinton's candidacy among Democrats has fallen due to the e-mail scandal.

BOB: The poll also found, Cal, that 66% of Democrats said their opinion of Clinton has not changed.

CAL: True, but this is one of those scandals (and the Clintons have a lot of experience in this area) where new revelations surface every day. If author Ed Klein is to be believed, it was President Obama's top adviser, Valerie Jarrett, who ordered the State Department to investigate Hillary Clinton's e-mail trail.

BOB: The key words in that sentence are "if you believe Ed Klein," a notorious right-winger and Clinton-hater.

CAL: You may not like his work, but I am not aware of many, if any, refutations of facts in his books. The State Department won't comment, referring all inquiries to the White House, which refuses to comment.

BOB: Since her early days as first lady of Arkansas, Hillary Clinton has been the favorite target of the right wing. Beginning with the Whitewater affair, she has been dogged by her political enemies who often take her words and report them out of context to make her appear as someone who ignores the law and covers up information.

CAL:Even James Carville, a staunch Clinton defender, said on ABC's This Week that she probably used a private server to avoid congressional oversight. That's quite an admission.

BOB: Carville is just speculating. The Obama administration policies were confusing about what e-mails were private and which were part of the government record. This is all about a Republican campaign to tarnish the Democratic front-runner.

CAL: She doesn't need help in the tarnishing department. The Washington Post andThe New York Times, which are supportive of most Democrats, have carried stories recently quoting high-level party members questioning Clinton's tactics, if not her veracity. Some regard her behavior as part of a pattern involving both she and her husband going back many years. Democrats appear nervous about being forced to accept all the baggage both Clintons would bring to a 2016 presidential campaign.

BOB: I've been involved in five presidential campaigns, once as national campaign manager for Walter Mondale. When issues emerge that might harm a campaign, like the Clinton e-mails, you have to get all the facts out right away, but not before you have all the facts.

CAL: One major question that has dogged Clinton is whether she filled out form OF-109 before leaving office. That form requires all State Department employees to certifythey have "surrendered to responsible officials all unclassified documents and papers relating to the official business of the government." On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Clinton did not sign the form. She claimed previous Republican secretaries didn't either, but regulations say Clinton should have.

BOB: Psaki also said it was "not a violation of any rule." In presidential campaigns, experience as a candidate is an invaluable asset. Clinton has this, as her press conference at the United Nations demonstrated she knows how to deal with tough questions.

CAL: If this were her only issue, she might survive, but again, it's part of a pattern for both Clintons of coverup and obfuscation.

BOB: Republicans will use their new congressional majority to bring back Benghazi as an issue despite having had dozens of hearings on the subject, which produced no blemish on Hillary Clinton's performance as secretary of State. I am convinced that the public will recognize this is all about presidential politics by Republicans.

CAL: It is about presidential politics, but it is also more. A presidential candidate ought to be both credible and likeable. Hillary Clinton is neither. And the story line keeps changing. The latest is that her small staff reviewed all 55,000 e-mails on the server in her New York home and deemed half of them "private." We have only their word, and that's not enough.

BOB:Before any future congressional hearing, Clinton should be prepared to say: "I have been asked about this issue at five hearings but if you insist, I will answer it again. After that, I respectfully suggest that Congress return to real problems facing the country."

CAL: I agree there are more compelling issues, but when even Democrats are expressing concern how this might play in 2016, and with your party having a weak bench, Republicans are not going to go easy on her any more. That's politics, but politics sometimes uncovers the truth.