In one of her better TV outings, Hillary Clinton on Fox News was asked about National Security Agency surveillance. She did a better job (faint praise) than President Obama in defending the program for data mining:
The left won’t like this one bit. It agrees with far-right characters such as Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who want to junk the program entirely. In the anti-NSA crowd’s eyes, the U.S. government is scarier than al-Qaeda, even an al-Qaeda with a massive swath of territory from which to launch attacks.
The right shouldn’t be too elated with Clinton’s performance, however. Unfortunately, she didn’t get the NSA issue completely right. First, the Fourth Amendment (as we have discussed many times) according to Supreme Court precedent does NOT cover data mining, as opposed to the contents of communications. Clinton the lawyer should know that. Second, she approves of changes to the law in the absence of any evidence (verified by Obama’s commission) that there was any abuse. She seems all too willing to indulge the public’s irrational fears rather than explain what the program does and doesn’t do. Instead she feeds into the notion that the war(s) are over and we can return to “regular order.” Will she change her mind if there is another attack on the United States from a new jihadist state?
She might be the Hillary Clinton who opposed the surge, rejected the use of U.S. force in Iraq without thought to emboldening the jihadists, and couldn’t manage to get a Status of Forces agreement negotiated for Iraq. Her defenders will claim that she gets it from both sides and therefore is moderate. It’s more like the proverbial figure who has one leg in a bucket of scalding water and the other in freezing water. It doesn’t all balance out. To the contrary, the result is often incoherent and unsettling to allies.
Moreover, it conveys to voters that she really is trying to have it all ways. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll suggests she’s already in trouble in that regard with not a single ad airing against her nor any declared opposing candidates: “Today, 38% of voters say she is “honest and straightforward,” compared with 40% who say she isn’t. That figure is better for Mrs. Clinton than in March 2008, during the Democratic primaries, when 33% said she was honest and 43% said she wasn’t. But she may have trouble making up more of that ground as she moves out of her self-imposed break from politics and is increasingly seen as a 2016 presidential candidate.” As the Journal notes, her book tour hasn’t helped. (“A week into her book tour, Mrs. Clinton has faced criticism that she hasn’t given straight answers. She had to quickly walk back her comment that she and Bill Clinton were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001 and struggled when asked when she began favoring gay marriage, during an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross.”)
She is, of course, a politician, but not a very subtle one. In her CNN town hall, she sounded like a longtime inhabitant of Washington. (“Between the answers and dodges, though, Clinton sounded, acted and presented herself very much like a candidate, not solely as a former secretary of state. She was careful, at times, about not going too far on an issue and when asked about forward looking policy questions, she regularly used the word ‘we.'”) After asserting for years that there was nothing left uncovered on Benghazi, Clinton bizarrely asserted, “There are answers, not all of them, not enough, frankly. I’m still looking for answers, because it was a confusing and difficult time.” So the House select committee is a good idea after all? And if she didn’t find answers, why didn’t she work cooperatively with Congress to make sure every lead was followed and every document turned over? At times, you wonder whether she thinks voters are dopes.
Unfortunately for Clinton, this sort of behavior is occurring at just the time the public is revolting against inauthentic, manipulative politicians. They know when a pol is trying to have it both ways and when she changes her story to fit a set of talking points.
It is unclear whether any of this will affect Clinton’s standing with Democrats. So far it hasn’t. They tend to conclude that any hawkish comments are “what you need to do to get elected” (i.e., con voters), and they are so personally invested in Clinton that they will in the absence of a viable alternative overlook warning signs of her campaign inadequacies. But should the stumbles continue, the cry will go out in some quarters for an alternative from the left. And that is where Clinton’s race for the White House will get really interesting.