Clinton Email Revelations May Test a Fledgling Campaign

NYT FDMaggie Haberman March 3, 2015

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Good Tuesday morning from Washington, where all eyes are on the big speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel; former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida may soon be asking for votes, but it’s not clear how good he is about casting them; and lawmakers in Virginia are getting increasingly creative with their legislative ideas. But for the moment, we take a look at how Hillary Rodham Clinton’s personal email use during her time as secretary of state is playing in the political arena.

A report in Tuesday’s Times that Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used her personal email account for government business while she was secretary of state prompted a swift reaction from Republicans – and near-silence from Democrats.

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida and a likely Republican presidential candidate, quickly sought to draw a contrast with Mrs. Clinton, highlighting the fact that he had released hundred of thousands of emails from his time in office, and called on her to make her own emails public.

“Transparency matters,” Mr. Bush wrote on Twitter, with a link to the website where he published his emails. “Unclassified @HillaryClinton emails should be released.”

Though Democrats were muted in their responses – a number of senior Democrats privately expressed surprise at the revelation about the emails, but declined to speak publicly – they pushed back against the comparison. Some argued that Mr. Bush’s emails were available under his state’s public records law before he released them, and others noted that he, too, used his private email for state business purposes.

The story, coming on the heels of recent news accounts criticizing the Clinton Foundation’s handling of foreign donations, could present a challenge for Mrs. Clinton’s fledgling campaign, feeding the perception that she is secretive – an accusation that has dogged her since her time as first lady.

It remains to be seen how Mrs. Clinton and her aides will explain her reasoning for not having used a government email account, or whether White House officials were aware of the setup. It also wasn’t immediately clear whether other cabinet-level appointees followed a similar practice.

Given that Mrs. Clinton is the front-runner for her party’s nomination – and few people in the party see a strong alternative who could win in a general election – it will be a test of her strength as to whether Democrats who have concerns voice them.

Mrs. Clinton is the featured speaker Tuesday evening at a gala hosted by Emily’s List, and many will be watching to see if she addresses either the emails or the spate of stories about her family’s foundation.