The fake laugh, the overly deliberated and failed attempt to “relate,” and the voracious quest for power. Sadly for Clinton, you got pretty much the same analysis from pundits. And the critics were all over the Sunday talk shows. Chris Wallace stripped the bark off Lanny Davis. Establishment pundits extraordinaire Mark Halperin and John Heilemann slammed Clinton:
HALPERIN: What she is doing here in terms of lack of response, lack of a sense of what people think of her and combined with what I thought was an extraordinary weak performance at her Emily’s List speech the other day, her husband can get through these things because he’s a politician of a lifetime. She cannot. If this is the way she’s going to run her operation, if this is the mindset she’s going to have, I don’t think she’s going to be president. . . .STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, John Heilemann, Hillary Clinton has been hurt with Mark Halperin, how about Democrats? You’re not seeing a big uprising among democrats, maybe some anxiety behind the scenes.JOHN HEILEMANN, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, look, we’re at the point of the campaign right now where on both sides this is about really the establishment, right? This is not — voters are hardly engaged on either side, but at this moment it not just this e-mail thing and I’m not quite as pessimistic as Mark is maybe or I’ve changed my views about her quite as much but this story comes on the back of the stories about foreign donors at the foundation, it comes on the story about other questions about the foundation and business groups that were giving to it.She’s had an extraordinarily bad run. This is a punctuation of some number of weeks of stories that are damaging to her because they go to the whole massive questions that are now going to get asked and looked into.This story is going to go on for a long time because of the fact that the subpoenas are being issued, because of the fact there’s still e-mails she kept on her private server that aren’t even the ones she turned over to the State Department.There are huge questions about all this. And for establishment Democrats I think the answer, George, to answer your question is, I think for establishment Democrats it increases what has been a persistent unease about her from 2008 that still lingers from 2016. That unease to open the door to Barack Obama eight years ago, I don’t know if there’s anybody waiting in the wings right now, but I know a lot of establishment Democrats who are getting that kind of queasy feeling in their stomach again that they had back in 2007 and 2008.
On “Meet the Press,” taking Clinton to task were both Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) (“the silence is going to hurt her”) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) (” Did she communicate on behalf of The Clinton Foundation as Secretary of State? Did she call the terrorist attack in Benghazi a terrorist attack in real time? I want to know. And the one thing I’ll never agree to is let the State Department tell us what e-mails we should receive, or let her and her team tell us. Some independent group should do that.”) And finally, on “Face the Nation” the panel was surprisingly and unanimously negative, sounding like Clinton’s worst critics. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who is heading the Benghazi select committee, railed (“It strains credibility to believe that if you’re on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy, that there’s not a single document that’s been turned over to Congress. So there are huge gaps”) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised security concerns (The e-mails “would have been prime targets for cyberattacks. But I don’t know what the law is. I think the administration is taking a look at that. And hopefully, we’ll find out in the coming weeks just what the legal situation is with regard to that.”).
So in a sense, Clinton made all the Sunday shows, albeit in a way no candidate wants to. The furor has some immediate consequences. First, Clinton continues to do Republicans’ work for them, painting a portrait of deception and dishonesty. Second, it makes the “inevitability” theme sound more like a complaint; in effect, Democrats are stuck with her. Enthusiasm in the liberal base, never tremendously high, may suffer further. Third, the focus is so intense on scandals because Clinton is saying virtually nothing of interest; she is defined now by her scandals. Unlike Bill Clinton, she lacks personal charm and now with her record marred by scandal and the consequences of failed policies, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make the case that she is formidable, let alone the odds-on favorite to make it to the White House. (“Instead of a fresh chapter in which she came into her own, Clinton’s time as the country’s top diplomat now threatens to remind voters of what some people dislike about her — a tendency toward secrecy and defensiveness, along with the whiff of scandal that blotted the record of her husband, former president Bill Clinton.”) It remains a source of amazement and gratitude for Republicans that there is not (yet) a serious opponent willing to save the Democratic Party from its preordained nominee.