In an interview with ABC's David Muir set to air on "World News Tonight" on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton finally apologizes for her decision to rely on a private e-mail server during her time as secretary of state.
— David Muir (@DavidMuir) September 8, 2015
That's a different response than Clinton gave Monday to the Associated Press on the same question. In that interview, she said:
Well, I understand why people have questions, and I'm trying to answer as many of those in as many different settings as I can. What I did was allowed by the State Department. It was fully above-board. Everybody in the government with whom I e-mailed knew that I was using a personal e-mail, and I have said it would have been a better choice to have had two separate e-mail accounts. And I've also tried to not only take responsibility, because it was my decision, but to be as transparent as possible.
And it was a different answer than she gave to NBC's Andrea Mitchell on Friday. Here's what she said on MSNBC's "Mitchell Reports":
At the end of the day, I am sorry that this has been confusing to people and has raised a lot of questions, but there are answers to all these questions. And I take responsibility and it wasn't the best choice.
Clinton's response to Muir is, of course, the one she should have been giving for months. Yes, it was a mistake to do it. Yes, I am sorry. No, there is nothing in any of my e-mails that suggests any criminal wrongdoing. (ABC hasn't released the entirety of the Clinton interview transcript, but I am sure she reiterated the fact that she broke no laws and that she is going above and beyond to be transparent.)
The fact that it took Clinton so long to realize that a full apology -- without the caveats of "that this has been confusing to people," etc. -- was an absolutely necessary first step toward putting the story behind her suggests one of two things is going on: 1) Clinton is getting bad advice from her campaign team, or 2) Clinton is resistant to good advice from her campaign team.
I strongly suspect it's Option No. 2 at work here. Politicians HATE to apologize for anything or admit that they might not have fully grasped the gravity of a situation in the moment. (Heck, all people -- myself included -- hate to apologize.) And it was clear from the very start of this story that Clinton had nothing but contempt for it. She insisted that there was no need for a third party to examine the server. She insisted it was standard operating procedure to use a private e-mail address even though she was the first secretary of state to exclusively do so. She called it a partisan attempt to take her down.
In short, Clinton visibly struggled to realize that this was and is a major problem. Her full apology to Muir suggests she might have finally been won over concerning the need to say sorry -- even if she doesn't believe in her heart of hearts she has anything to apologize for.
The question now is whether Clinton's apology can staunch the bleeding created by the e-mail issue. While she maintains a lead in national primary polling, data out of New Hampshire suggests that democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading and that he is closing the gap with Clinton in Iowa as well. Vice President Biden is lurking, too.
The reality is that the planned monthly release of e-mails Clinton sent as secretary of state -- as well as ongoing leaks regarding classified information that passed through her e-mail server -- will continue to present major political problems that simply apologizing can't solve. Then there's Clinton's planned testimony before a Benghazi committee on Capitol Hill on Oct. 22, an event that will surely draw wall-to-wall media coverage for days in advance -- and after -- her appearance.
The e-mail story isn't going away. Clinton seems to have (finally) realized that and begun to change her approach to dealing with questions about it. Let's see if she keeps up this new, more apologetic tone -- and if it helps alleviate some of the negatives this story has put on her over the past few months.