Pundits assess Clinton email tempest

Pundits assess Clinton email tempest
March 10, 2015 Robert Dillon
Hillary Clinton confronts e-mail security concerns.

Hillary Clinton confronts e-mail security concerns.

News of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account during her time as Secretary of State dominated the news this past week.

On March 2, The New York Times broke the story about the private email account – a possible violation of rules that ensure government activities are part of the public record – raising concerns among Democrats that Clinton, the party’s leading candidate for the presidency in 2016, was a lightening rod for criticism.

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act. – The New York Times.

Clinton has since asked that her emails be made public, but that hasn’t stopped pundits and the party faithful from asking themselves whether the party has a viable alternative in 2016.

Jack Shafer, who writes Politico’s Fourth Estate column, is convinced, though, that Clinton will emerge on top by playing the long game. She can afford to wait the story out – with 20 months to go before November 2016, Schafer wrote in Politico Magazine.

“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.” – Shafer, Politico.

The Huffington Post and others reported that the White House was aware of Clinton’s use of a private email account as early as August.

Sources familiar with the discussions say key people in the Obama administration and on Clinton’s staff were aware that the revelation could be explosive for the all-but-announced candidate for president. But those involved deferred to Clinton’s aides, and they decided not to respond.Politico.

David Brock took issue with the Times’ coverage of the email controversy over at his Media Matters blog. Brock argued in a letter to The Times that reporter Michael Schmidt’s article was sloppy journalism and riddled with innuendo.

The Schmidt article failed to meet the highest journalistic standards that readers expect of The New York Times. Since it was published, the Times has been leaning on other reporters to vet the story after the fact. Our hope is that after reviewing the situation, the Times will do the right thing and correct this sloppy, innuendo-laden report in a prominent place. – David Brock, Media Matters.

The Daily Beast piled on – arguing that there was no controversy because the rules that Ms. Clinton reportedly broke weren’t in place when she broke them.

So if these new regulations went into effect after she left State, then what rule did she violate, exactly? And, if this is true, why did the Times not share this rather crucial piece of information with its readers? No one could possibly argue that this fact isn’t germane to the story. It’s absolutely central to it. Why would the Times leave it out? The Daily Beast.

The Times public editor Margaret Sullivan defended the Gray Lady’s coverage. Sullivan said the story was not without fault but still raised a valid point worth public discussion.

The Times was right to defend the story, which was valid. And I disagree that it was a smear. However, it was not without fault. As Ms. Bemis notes, the story should have been much clearer about precisely what regulations might have been violated, and when they took effect. The references are too vague, and left the story open to Mr. Brock’s over-the-top complaint. His criticism scored political points, not because it highlighted a factual error — the story was accurate — but because it kicked up enough dust to obscure the facts.

… Here’s the understatement of the decade: Mrs. Clinton — very likely the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, though as yet undeclared — is an extremely polarizing figure. Even as Mr. Brock was making his complaint about the story being unfair to Mrs. Clinton, others who wrote to me were complaining that the story and its headline were too soft on her.The New York Times.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 7.44.50 AMProbably more important that the bitter back and forth between Old and New Media was the fact that NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” used the Clinton controversy as the opening skit on its March 8 show. The “SNL” skit could stick in voters’ minds, but it could just as easily help Clinton laugh off the whole affair. http://bit.ly/1xahg3W

Probably more important that the bitter back and forth between Old and New Media was the fact that NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” used the Clinton controversy as the opening skit on its March 8th show. The “SNL” skit could stick in voters’ minds, but it could just as easily help Clinton laugh off the whole affair. http://bit.ly/1xahg3W

Robert Dillon
Robert Dillon is former communications director of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He’s worked as a photographer and reporter for newspapers, magazines, and radio in Alaska, Washington, D.C., Russia, China, and across Europe.

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