Sunday gave us the presidential assertion. Tuesday gave us the official walk-back. When President Obama stated that Hillary Clinton's improper, unsecure private email server didn't pose a national security problem, some observers wondered how he could comment so confidently on the unresolved subject of an ongoing federal investigation. As the head of the federal government's executive branch, which entails the (supposedly) apolitical Justice Department, a premature 'not guilty' verdict from the President of the United States might be seen as coloring or influencing what should be an impartial probe. It smacks of a sitting Democrat nudging his law enforcement bureaucracy to clear the legal decks for a woman who will likely claim his party's mantle in the next election. But that's not what's happening here, the White House assures us:
CNN’S Michelle Kosinki asked Earnest if the president was precluding the results of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s server. “Absolutely not. The president has a healthy respect for the kinds of independent investigations that are conducted by inspectors general and, where necessary, by the FBI,” Earnest said. Kosinki asked Earnest why would he make a blanket statement on the issue if the president did respect the current investigation. Earnest stumbled around his answer by saying he did not have the exact transcript of the interview in front of him but said the president was answering the question based off the information that was currently available...“Based on what has been made public and based on the public pronouncements of Secretary Clinton herself, that’s how the president arrived at the conclusion that this has not and does not pose a threat to national security. But obviously the FBI will take their own independent look at this. And for questions about the status of that investigation, I’d refer you to them...”Even if you take this spin at face value, it doesn't pass the laugh test. What "has been made public," among other things, is that Hillary Clinton used her unsecure private email server to send and receive reams of classified information -- some of it extremely sensitive -- over a period of years. These messages involved such topics as North Korean nuclear weapons, the identity of a CIA informant in Libya, and details of the administration's nuclear negotiations with Iran. We also know that her server was woefully under-protected, and was in fact uniquely vulnerable to hacking. Now consider those established facts alongside the revelations that (a) numerous hacking attempts have now been confirmed, (b) an unknown number of people without proper security clearances had access to the server, (c) Sidney Blumenthal's emails were hacked and leaked, (d) Hillary's server had zero encryption for a period of three months, and (e) foreign hackers have managed to penetrate better-protected government servers in recent years. One gets the sense that Obama was making a politically-motivated statement, entirely divorced from publicly-available information. Incidentally, in the very brief portion of last night's debate that focused on the email scandal, capped off by Bernie Sanders' massive assist to her nominal opponent, Hillary repeatedly claimed that she was the victim of the "partisan" Benghazi committee. When moderator Anderson Cooper pushed back, noting that the FBI was investigating the matter (after referrals from two separate nonpartisan Inspectors General), she ignored the point and returned to the 'partisan witch hunt' trope. This dishonest, base-rallying evasion highlighted one of her most glaring contradictions: She wants to "heal" our acrimonious political system, she claimed earlier in the debate, condemning Republicans' alleged knee-jerk partisanship on her emails. But at the end of the forum, she gave this answer:
Asked last night to name “enemies” of which she was “proud,” Hillary Clinton rattled off a list that included “Republicans.” I haven’t seen a great deal of discussion about this in the aftermath of the debate, and I must say that I’m slightly surprised about that. It’s one thing to say you’re proud that, say, the NRA is your enemy; you can always explain that you respect gun owners and the Second Amendment but oppose the “crazies.” But the other majority political party in the country? The party for which almost half of voters pull the lever? That’s not smart...Sure, the line may have endeared Hillary to the crowd last night. But if she’s going to run as an out and out partisan who regards the other side as a nuisance that needs destroying, she’s opening herself up to profitable attack.
Partisanship is bad. Except for hers. Hillary Clinton is an exceptionally ambitious career politician whose views are deeply polarizing, and whose personality and character are unpalatable to most voters. Obama has used the unseemly "enemies" formulation, too, but he has long been viewed as more likable than Hillary, and is much more skilled at posing (however fraudulently) as post-partisan pragmatist.