Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee for the 2016 election, appears to be growing weary of answering, or not answering fully, questions about her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
During a news conference on Tuesday in Las Vegas, journalist Ed Henry repeatedly asked Clinton about the server and her email. When asked if she had wiped her server clean, Clinton responded by waving her hand in a wiping motion and saying, "What, like with a cloth or something?"
It wasn't just the language and the gesture; it was the smirking expression that went along with the answer.
The implication from Clinton: Are you seriously asking me this question? Don't you know that I'm above these pedestrian matters?
Tuesday's comments marked Clinton's second recent attempt to dismiss the email server issue by way of humor. Last Friday, while campaigning in Iowa, Clinton noted, "By the way, you may have seen that I have recently launched a Snapchat account. I love it -- those messages disappear all by themselves."
Clinton may have been told by her staff or consultants that she needs to humanize herself to voters, and that humor is a good way to connect with others, to appear authentic and real. Unfortunately for her campaign, these particular attempts fell flat. She appeared to be trying to sidestep the real issues. It's just not funny when the issue at hand potentially involves national security.
As Clinton rolls out the jokes, her standing among Americans is falling. A CNN/ORC poll released June 2 provides insight on Clinton's trust issues. When asked about the qualities Clinton possesses, only 42 percent said she is honest and trustworthy. Her handling of Benghazi was deemed unsatisfactory by 58 percent of those polled.
Among men, her numbers were dismal. Only 38 percent said they had a favorable impression of Clinton. She inspired confidence in 41 percent, and only 36 percent believed that she "cares about people like (them)." When asked if Clinton is honest and trustworthy, only a third of men said yes.
The candidate's apparent disdain for answering questions on the topic of her email appears to be deflating the enthusiasm among Democratic voters for both her candidacy and for the election in general.
Registered voters were asked in a CNN poll (897 registered voters, +/- 3.5 points) released this week, "How enthusiastic would you say you are about voting for president in next year's election -- extremely enthusiastic, very enthusiastic, somewhat enthusiastic, not too enthusiastic, or not at all enthusiastic?" There was a 10-point gap between Democrats who declared themselves to be extremely, very or somewhat enthusiastic (74 percent) versus Republicans who said they felt the same way (84 percent).
In this same poll, among registered voters who are Democrats and those leaning toward the Democrats, Clinton leads at 47 percent, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 29 percent, and Vice President Joe Biden, who has not announced he is running, at 14 percent. Among the Democrats surveyed, 49 percent said they think Joe Biden should get into the race for the Democratic nomination for president.
Me, too. Possibly, as Biden watches Clinton's attempts to laugh away questions that are deadly serious, he realizes that there might be a glimmer of hope for him.
The issue does not appear to be going away anytime soon. In a Morning Consult poll released this past week, 82 percent of the respondents said they had heard or read about Clinton's use of a private server and email address to carry out government business. Of those, more than half (52 percent) said they were unsatisfied with her explanation.
Hillary's real underlying problem is one of trust, and the email issues underscore how little confidence the voters have in her. If she hopes to rebuild that trust, she needs to take seriously any future questions on the matter -- take them head-on and stop trying to laugh off them off. Voters don't like to be the butt of the joke, and her attempts at humor can come off as condescending, flippant and haughty -- adjectives her campaign surely does not want used in descriptions of the heir-apparent to the Democratic nomination.