Hillary Clinton finally met with reporters at the UN Tuesday to explain why she used a personal email account for the vast majority of her communications as secretary of state.
The problem for any public figure attempting to testify to their innocence is that one's believability is directly tied to the public's perception of one's character. Like a bad case of the winter flu, character is something you either have or you don't. You can't be partially infected; neither can you be partially trustworthy.
After so many years with Bill Clinton, who has trouble finding the word "truth" in the dictionary, Hillary Clinton's forced media appearance following weeks of hounding, some of it by fellow Democrats, was something less than a tour de force. In an "open letter to Hillary Clinton," Paul Waldman of the left-leaning publication "American Prospect" wrote: "You have to be better because of everything that's happened before."
For a generation born since Bill Clinton's presidency and for those whose memories might have faded, the magazine lists some of the baggage: Whitewater, cattle futures (in which Mrs. Clinton made a guaranteed return on her investment), Travelgate, White House sleepovers (that included the "selling" of the Lincoln bedroom for campaign donations) and Monica Lewinsky, whose sexual encounter with her husband, which he at first denied, was part of a pattern of womanizing. After Bill Clinton was forced to admit the truth, his defenders, including Hillary, continued to disparage the many women. How's that for "gender equality," the subject of Mrs. Clinton's speech to the UN?
The headline from the brief news conference was that Hillary Clinton has no intention of turning over the server in her home to any investigators. She said she erased personal, non-work-related emails that were about private matters, like planning daughter Chelsea's wedding, her mother's funeral and communications with her husband. Not too many of the latter, I would expect, since Matt McKenna, a Bill Clinton spokesman, says the former president has sent just two emails in his entire life, both as president.
Mrs. Clinton said in retrospect that she should have had two cellphones, one for her government work and another for private emails. (According to John Favreau, Obama's former speechwriter, in 2009, BlackBerries couldn't securely accommodate more than one email account.) Clinton reportedly chose the one account as "a matter of convenience."
The one question that was not asked, but should have been, was this one: Did she communicate directly, or indirectly, with any foreign government official about contributing to the Clinton Foundation and if so was there any suggestion or hint of a quid pro quo should she become president? Would foundation donors possibly find a little more foreign aid flowing their way?
After the news conference, a Clinton spokesperson said she used her email only once to communicate with a foreign official.
Another question: Why would countries not known for "gender equality, namely those in the Middle East, want to give millions of dollars to The Clinton Foundation when one of its initiatives is to empower women? Bill Clinton thinks the contributions are "a good thing." Do you? Again, what would they expect in return?
The only way to put this to rest is for Mrs. Clinton to allow the FBI access to her server. Let them determine if classified information was compromised, if any of her work email went beyond government business or if her personal emails, if any remain, had anything to do with her job as secretary of state.
We have the recent history of Lois Lerner, late of the IRS, whose boss claimed her emails about denying conservative organizations tax exempt status were lost and unrecoverable, only to find out later they were neither.
Democrats will be monitoring the polls to see if the public is buying Mrs. Clinton's explanation. Even the Clinton-friendly New York Times and Washington Post have recently carried stories in which fellow Democrats have criticized her.
Without Hillary Clinton as their presidential nominee, Democrats have a weak bench. With her, they may be more likely to lose next year's election if lingering questions are not adequately answered. So far, we have only her word and that's not nearly enough.
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Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.