The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.
‘Sorry About That’
The Web headlines seemed to back up the idea that Hillary Clinton is worried about Joe Biden getting into the presidential race. New York Times: “Hillary Clinton, Citing Her ‘Mistake,’ Apologizes for Private Email.” Fox News: “Hillary Clinton Offers First Apology for Private Email Server.” ABC News, which conducted the interview: “Hillary Clinton on Private Email: ‘That Was a Mistake. I’m Sorry.’ ” But the network was more cautious in characterizing her remark:
Hillary Clinton on Tuesday told ABC News’ David Muir that using a personal email account while Secretary of State was a “mistake” and that she is “sorry” for it.
“I do think I could have and should have done a better job answering questions earlier. I really didn’t perhaps appreciate the need to do that,” the democratic [sic] presidential candidate told Muir in an exclusive interview in New York City. “What I had done was allowed, it was above board. But in retrospect, as I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. One for personal, one for work-related emails. That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.”
This is the farthest [Mrs.] Clinton has gone yet in offering an apology for her use of a private email server while Secretary of State.
Clinton told the Associated Press on Monday that she would not apologize for it because “what I did was allowed.”
When asked by Muir to clarify if she did feel she made a mistake by using her private account, Clinton conceded she did.
“I did, I did,” Clinton said. “As I said, it was allowed and there was no hiding it. It was totally above board. Everybody in the government I communicated [with], and that was a lot of people, knew I was using a personal email. But I’m sorry that it has, you know, raised all of these questions. I do take responsibility for having made what is clearly not the best decision.”
Seems to us ABC got it right. Mrs. Clinton might have come closer to apologizing in this interview than in any other, but that’s like saying George McGovern, who lost by 503 electoral votes, came closer to the presidency than Walter Mondale, who lost by 512.
By saying “I’m sorry about that,” which sounds, out of context, like a categorical apology, Mrs. Clinton deviated from her script, but only slightly. Here is her written statement, posted on Facebook and also sent last night to her campaign email list:
I wanted you to hear this directly from me:
Yes, I should have used two email addresses, one for personal matters and one for my work at the State Department. Not doing so was a mistake. I’m sorry about it, and I take full responsibility.
It’s important for you to know a few key facts. My use of a personal email account was aboveboard and allowed under the State Department’s rules. Everyone I communicated with in government was aware of it. And nothing I ever sent or received was marked classified at the time.
As this process proceeds, I want to be as transparent as possible. That’s why I’ve provided all of my work emails to the government to be released to the public, and why I’ll be testifying in public in front of the Benghazi Committee later next month.
I know this is a complex story. I could have—and should have—done a better job answering questions earlier. I’m grateful for your support, and I’m not taking anything for granted.
I understand that you may have more questions, and I am going to work to keep answering them. If you want to read more, including my emails themselves, please go here:
She also appeared yesterday on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” where she said, as quoted on Twitter by CNN’s Dan Merica:
What. Well, I want people to understand this so I am glad you asked. I used a personal email account, I was allowed by the State Department. But I should have used two different accounts. I made a mistake and I am sorry for all the confusion that has ensued. I take responsibility for that. But I am now trying to be as transparent as I can.
As National Review’s Jonah Goldberg notes: “What the [heck] is she talking about when she says the State Department ‘allowed’ her private, off-site, server? First off, Hillary Clinton was running the State Department. Does she mean that she allowed herself to do it?” No doubt she now disagrees with the choice she made to allow herself to make the choice with which she now disagrees.
National Journal’s Ron Fournier, meanwhile, allows that Mrs. Clinton’s “sorry about that” constituted an apology, but observes that “an apology… doesn’t answer the scandal’s most important questions,” of which he lists 19, some of them very good, and appends more questions tweeted by readers.
More telling than the slight deviations is the script itself. In all of her interviews and statements, Mrs. Clinton keeps saying the same things: Her private email “account” or “address” (tellingly, not “server”) was “allowed.” She made a “mistake” and regrets having caused “confusion.” She takes “responsibility” and is “trying” to “be transparent.”
Didn’t we read just yesterday that, in the words of the New York Times’s Amy Chozick, Mrs. Clinton was “trying to shed her scriptedness” and making “new efforts to bring spontaneity” to her candidacy?
Yes, we did, but we also read this on the Times website yesterday:
In an Aug. 26 news conference, Mrs. Clinton said she understood why people had questions about the email arrangement, which she said came about as a matter of convenience so she could carry a single mobile device. She said she took responsibility for the decision to use the private server and said it would have been better to have used a private email only for personal matters and an official one for work.
Last week, Mrs. Clinton’s aides showed a video of that news conference to a New Hampshire focus group of independents and Democrats, according to a Democrat briefed on the focus group whose account was confirmed by a person in her campaign. Participants said they wanted to hear more from Mrs. Clinton about the issue. . . .
Privately, some of Mrs. Clinton’s allies have drawn comparisons between her resistance to using the word “mistake” over the email server and her similar reluctance to say she had erred in voting as a senator to support the invasion of Iraq. That vote dogged her in the 2008 presidential primary, but Mrs. Clinton resisted calling it a mistake, despite entreaties from many liberals and some of her own aides.
Only in her 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices,” did Mrs. Clinton say she had “got it wrong” on the Iraq invasion.
So her staff focus-grouped her news conference and decided to add the words “mistake” and “sorry” to her script. The only hint of spontaneity in the whole process comes from the nugatory improvisation that produced the sentence “I’m sorry about that,” which was ambiguous enough to be heard as an apology—and one imagines she’s sorry about that confusion.
Anyway, there’s something a bit incongruous about the whole “humanize Hillary” effort. Last month’s famous Quinnipiac poll asked respondents: “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Hillary Clinton?” The top three answers—“liar,” “dishonest” and “untrustworthy”—all came down to the same problem, which, stated from the campaign’s point of view, is this: Voters perceive her as not being honest.
How to change that perception? The campaign appears to have asked the nearest hippie, who understands “honesty” to mean “emotional openness.” Hence the plan to have her show more “humor” and “heart.” But that’s not the kind of honesty voters have in mind when they call a politician a liar. Yes, Mrs. Clinton is seen as aloof, but the bigger difficulty is that she is seen as corrupt.
One could take it further and say the ones who seem authentic are actually less authentic because they are better at distracting the audience from the reality that it’s an act. NR’s Goldberg: “The simple fact is that the Hillary Clinton you see—controlled, defensive, out of touch—is the only Hillary Clinton there is or ever will be.”
To which we would add that Mrs. Clinton’s emotional aloofness may be her greatest strength. Think of the severe humiliations she has undergone in her decades of public life: the revelations of her husband’s infidelities, the frustration of her political inevitability by an arrogant upstart in 2008, and now the email scandal. She hasn’t always handled these with perfect dignity—think Tammy Wynette, the vast right-wing conspiracy, “Like with a cloth or something?”—but does anyone think it regrettable that she has not put her full range of feelings on public display?
Regarding the current scandal, she told DeGeneres: “I am now trying to be as transparent as I can.” In a way, she is succeeding. She is delivering scripted evasions, and it is obvious to everybody that is what they are.
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