The Clintons are like the “Peanuts” character Pigpen — wherever they go, it seems, their own private dust storm follows. Now Hillary Clinton is enveloped in the cloud of scandal again — and based on her performance so far, it appears she has the same penchant for scandal as her husband, but without the political talent to overcome it.
Clinton can’t blame her current troubles on the so-called “vast right-wing conspiracy.” It was the New York Times that broke the story that Clinton used a private server in her Chappaqua, N.Y., home to conduct official State Department business. And it was The Post that revealed the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments during her tenure as secretary of state.
The two scandals could soon intersect. Clinton admits that she destroyed 31,000 e-mails from her server that she deemed to be “personal.” If she destroyed records relating to the foundation and its foreign donations, the two scandals could merge and metastasize.
Already, the scandals are putting a dent in Clinton’s armor. A new Reuters-Ipsos poll shows that Clinton’s support has dropped about 15 percentage points since mid-February among Democrats, and 74 percent say Clinton was dishonest in her news conference about the e-mails.
Democrats should be terrified by all this. If she announces, Clinton would be running essentially unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Her main competition would be Martin O’Malley, a man whose legacy is the loss of deep-blue Maryland’s governorship to a Republican for only the second time since Spiro Agnew. If the scandal grows, as appears increasingly likely, there is no credible candidate to pick up the Democratic mantle.
But there could be. This is Elizabeth Warren’s opening, if she chooses to take it.
The corruption surrounding the Clinton Foundation should appall Warren, who has made her name arguing that the “game is rigged” in favor of powerful special interests. Foreign governments and foreign corporations with ties to those governments funneling millions to the Clinton Foundation while Clinton was leading the State Department is just the kind of cronyism Warren ran to fight against.
If Warren entered the race, she has a real shot at the nomination. Recall that Democrats embraced the Clintons in 1992 out of desperation. With the exception of four disastrous years under Jimmy Carter, they had been locked out of the Oval Office since 1969. Liberals were so hungry for the reins of power, they were willing to put up with eight years of New Democrat centrism — even if it meant welfare reform, free-trade agreements and a promised end to the “era of Big Government.”
In 2008, with Republicans weakened by George W. Bush’s unpopularity, the Democratic base was given a choice: Return to Clinton-style triangulation, or go for the real (liberal) thing in Barack Obama. It went for the real thing and won. The expectation was for a transformational presidency — a liberal version of the Reagan Revolution.
To the Democratic left, however, Obama has been a disappointment — a president who personally draws up terrorist kill lists, drones Americans abroad and eavesdrops on our calls and e-mails. Which raises an intriguing question: What would the Democratic base do if given the same choice again in 2016? Would it vote for a return to Clinton-style triangulation, or would it cast ballots for the real, real thing in Warren?
Until now, Democrats have rallied around Clinton because have believed that she is the more electable candidate. With last year’s GOP Senate takeover, Democrats are terrified at the prospect of Americans electing both a Republican president and Congress in 2016. Everything from Obamacare to the Supreme Court is at stake.
But in the face of the twin scandals, Clinton is now looking like a far riskier proposition. Moreover, her fumbling of the e-mail and foundation revelations, together with her ham-handed book launch and other unforced errors (she and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House), is exposing her political tin ear.
The more Hillary Clinton stumbles, the more electable Elizabeth Warren looks.