Hillary Clinton Won (But It Won’t Always Be This Way) – National Journal


The Democratic front-runner’s performance was as good as it was dishonest.

Hil­lary Clin­ton won. She won be­cause she’s a strong de­bater. She won be­cause Bernie Sanders is not. She won be­cause the first Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial de­bate fo­cused on lib­er­al policies—and not her email scan­dal or char­ac­ter.

The em­battled front-run­ner won her­self a news cycle or two, be­cause she stretched the truth and played to a friendly audi­ence. It won’t al­ways be so.

It took more than an hour be­fore CNN’s An­der­son Cooper asked Clin­ton about the cov­ert email sys­tem she es­tab­lished as sec­ret­ary of State in de­fi­ance of fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions, sub­vert­ing the Free­dom of In­form­a­tion Act, thwart­ing con­gres­sion­al over­sight, and jeop­ard­iz­ing U.S. secrets. And, even then, her chief rival offered Clin­ton cov­er.

“What I did was al­lowed by the State De­part­ment,” said the wo­man who headed the State De­part­ment, “but it wasn’t the best choice.” Clin­ton noted that the GOP-led Benghazi com­mit­tee—the pan­el that dis­covered her rogue email sys­tem—is on re­cord try­ing to un­der­mine her cred­ib­il­ity. GOP par­tis­ans were par­tis­an, and yet, she dra­mat­ic­ally de­clared, “I’m still stand­ing.”

The Demo­crat­ic crowd roared. “I think the sec­ret­ary is right,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont, a pop­u­list threat­en­ing Clin­ton from the left. “The Amer­ic­an people are sick and tired of hear­ing about emails.”

Pro­fes­sion­al Demo­crats and the party’s strongest voters are cer­tainly tired of hear­ing about the email scan­dal, but it’s not go­ing to go away—not with the FBI in­vest­ig­at­ing wheth­er con­fid­en­tial in­form­a­tion was mis­handled un­der Clin­ton’s sys­tem, and not with in­de­pend­ent voters los­ing faith in Clin­ton’s word.

Char­ac­ter and judg­ment are gate­way polit­ic­al is­sues. An un­trust­worthy can­did­ate might check all your policy boxes, might tickle your ideo­lo­gic­al but­tons, and might even grind away long enough to get your vote—but you’re not go­ing to like it.

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