Imagine that the darkest possible interpretation of Hillary Clinton’s latest email “scandal” is true: The former secretary of State offered privileged access to her agency in exchange for donations to her favorite charity. Would that change any rational voter’s preference in this year’s election?
No doubt, this would be a genuine scandal. Even if you support all of the Clinton Foundation’s charitable efforts, the organization still pays out salaries to the family’s friends. We don’t want public officials exploiting the power of their positions to elbow out competitors in the “selling indulgences to plutocrats” game.
But who, precisely, would look at such a scandal and think, “I was going to vote for Clinton, but now I will cast my ballot for the transparently corrupt, imbecilic racist instead?” Which is to say, even if a voter’s No. 1 issue is reducing government corruption, proof positive that Clinton sold access to the State Department wouldn’t give him or her a good reason to vote for Donald Trump.
Unlike Clinton, the Republican nominee refuses to make his finances transparent. And while Bill and Chelsea have (reluctantly) announced detailed plans for how they will dissolve most of their family foundation should Hillary win, Trump has declined to provide any blueprint for how he plans to eliminate the conflicts of interest his complex web of businesses would produce. Heck, the GOP standard-bearer once (reportedly) pitched NBC on a special presidential season of The Apprentice that he’d shoot from inside the White House. The man has connections to the mafia and Russian oligarchs. He owes hundreds of millions of dollars to the state bank of China. And, at various points in his campaign, Trump has actually promised to abuse his public power for personal gain.
When one considers the myriad other reasons he is unqualified for the presidency — his conspicuous racism, total disinterest in public policy, contempt for civil liberties, fondness for authoritarianism, and constant lying — it would be reasonable for the average voter to prefer Hillary Clinton, even if she really did order the murder of Vince Foster.
It shouldn’t be too surprising then, that the Clinton campaign has zero interest in engaging with the latest round of Foundationgate. On Wednesday, Politico reported that the Democratic nominee will not be “sitting for another televised armchair confessional” or setting up “a war room” to rebut the latest allegations of impropriety, as she had during earlier iterations of the emails controversy. Instead, she plans to sit back and let Donald Trump finish losing this election:
In the campaign’s view, the emails that surfaced this week do not advance the Foundation storyline; while emails obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch shed light on the open line of communication between Clinton’s top aides and Foundation officials, there is no proof positive that donors received special access or treatment from the government.
Plus, the campaign thinks Clinton’s commanding lead over Donald Trump in both national and battleground state polls gives her freedom to not comment – indeed, largely ignore – the disclosure this week that the FBI found nearly 15,000 new emails Clinton did not voluntarily hand over to the State Department last year.
According to Politico, Clinton believes that she did nothing wrong, and that the email issue is “nothing more than a partisan attack.”
One can reasonably contest that characterization. But it’s harder to argue that there’s any pressing, tactical need for Clinton to reiterate her case in a sit-down interview. If some voters suspect that the Democratic nominee is too dishonest to elect over Donald Trump, what could she possibly say to change their minds? Or, as Clinton would put it: