After enduring 72 hours of negative press over her exclusive use of a private e-mail account during her time as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton has finally responded! Let's get right to it!
I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 5, 2015
So, um, okay.
Remember that the State Department doesn't HAVE all of Clinton's e-mails. They are held on her own private e-mail server. That's the problem. The 55,000 pages of e-mails she has turned over to State were selected by either Clinton or someone on her team.
Given that, a better tweet might have been: "I am going to turn over all of my e-mails -- as soon as I can." Putting the burden on State is sort of a red herring; this isn't really the State Department's fault. Clinton chose to exclusively use a private e-mail account against guidance from the Obama administration. Why she did so remains to be seen -- she hasn't said -- but because of that choice, it's incumbent upon her to make more e-mails available.
The way Clinton's tweet is phrased -- and, yes, I am parsing words here but the totality of what she has said on the matter amounts to 26 words -- suggests that she has asked State to release the contents of the 55,000 pages of e-mails she has turned over. Which is fine -- and better than nothing. But, again, those are the e-mails that Clintonworld decided should be turned over. That's not exactly the classic definition of transparency.
As Clinton tweets and her former top communications aide at State feuds with reporters, the political problems surrounding her e-mail practices continue to mount. A special House committee dedicated to investigating the attacks of Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, issued subpoenas Wednesday in search of more information about the e-mail address. The Associated Press is weighing legal action over the long delays in response to Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the Clinton records at State.
And it's likely to get worse for Clinton before it gets better. Already, the way she handled her e-mail is being regarded as symbolic of a broader problem with her approach to public service. Here's the Washington Post editorial board Thursday in a piece titled "Hillary Clinton’s use of private e-mail reflects poor judgment":
Ms. Clinton essentially privatized her e-mail, reserving to herself the decision of what should be in the record. Ms. Clinton’s spokesman said she followed the “ letter and spirit of the rules.” The letter, perhaps, was followed, but certainly not the spirit. If people aspire to public service, they should behave as stewards of a public trust, and that includes the records — all of them. Ms. Clinton’s use of private e-mail shows poor regard for that public trust.
Clinton's attempt to tweet her way out of this problem -- she did this so people can't accuse her of ignoring it entirely -- suggests that she (or her team or both) don't grasp the extent of the damage this could do to her. Months of subpoenas and hearings could await, which, even if they come to nothing, will be a decidedly unwelcome distraction in the early stages of her expected 2016 presidential bid. Then there is how this all looks, which is just as problematic. As I wrote on Monday, this story highlights almost every one of the traits that people already dislike in the Clintons. Because of that fact, the longer the story lingers, the more difficult it will be for her to sell herself -- and her candidacy -- as something fresh, different and future-looking.