Arnold Ahlert: Clinton’s Evasive Press Conference

A short press conference held at the United Nations in an effort to tamp down a growing email scandal was vintage Hillary Clinton: long on self-righteous, self-aggrandizing assertions, and woefully short on anything resembling genuine information.

Clinton made a brief opening statement, first addressing a subject that will undoubtedly be repeated ad nauseam once she makes her candidacy for the presidency official: she reminded Americans that while women have come very far, genuine equality has yet to be achieved. She then attacked Republicans for sending a letter to the Iranians warning them that any deal negotiated solely by Obama might be a temporary one. And while she insisted the letter “is out of step with the best traditions of American leadership,” Clinton was careful not to reveal where she herself stood on the subject. After that she took questions regarding her emails. Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill chose the reporters who got to ask them. Those who tried to bypass that arrangement were completely ignored.

For the most part those questions were irrelevant, as Clinton stuck to a script from which she never deviated. It consisted of four main ideas. One, the sole use of a personal email account to conduct State Department business was a decision based on “convenience,” even as Clinton admitted it might have been better if she had set up two separate accounts. Two, she has taken an “unprecedented step” and released all of her government-related emails to the State Department, and is looking forward to the American public being able to see them at a later date. Three, the “vast majority” of emails she sent went to other government employees, meaning they were captured by federal servers. And four, everything she did was in complete compliance with the law.

There were only two relatively tough questions, and Clinton ignored both of them. One reporter asked her to comment on the Clinton Foundation and the fact that it took money from countries that treat women as second class citizens or worse. Clinton responded that she was proud of the work done by the Clinton Foundation — and conspicuously ignored the second part of the question. A couple of other reporters inquired about Clinton’s private server, including questions about whether it could be examined by an independent investigator, and whether it was secure. Clinton made it clear that the server, which she claimed was one used by Bill Clinton during his presidency, would remain off limits to investigators, along with the remaining content that she insisted was private. With regard to security, Clinton assured the nation that Secret Service personnel guarding her house in Chappaqua, NY was sufficient in terms of security. She also assured Americans that she never used her private email account to transmit classified information.

Clinton grew visibly testy when a reporter asked her about former Kenyan Ambassador Scott Gration, who was forced out his job in 2012 after an inspector general report (IG) cited managerial incompetence that included using a private email system to evade agency rules. She told the reporter he should read the IG’s report, implying he had missed some critical distinction between what she did and what Gration did.

Then, approximately 20 minutes after the presser began, Clinton ended it.

Whether Clinton’s explanation of her behavior will satisfy Democrats who would have her as their presidential standard-bearer, an uncharacteristic (and most likely temporary) mainstream media curiosity, and an American public that must be convinced electing the first woman to the Oval Office transcends every other issue, remains to be seen. The State Department has already indicated they are willing to embrace the same stonewalling tactic long employed by the Obama administration in response to its own scandals: despite a pledge issued Mar. 5 by Secretary of State John Kerry that his agency would work “as rapidly as possible” to go through Clinton’s emails and redact sensitive information before a public release, State is now declaring the process could take several months. At that point the emails will be released “in one batch,” according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Undoubtedly during those months Clinton’s professional attack dogs will continue to portray her as a victim. Media Matters founder David Brock is already hard at work, not only insisting no scandal exists, but that the Clintons “are held to a double standard when it comes to media scrutiny,” one in which their “perfectly usual, above board behavior is spun as secretive and unaccountable–while Republicans are left relatively unscathed.” James Carville is busy promoting the “right wing talking points” angle, apparently convinced the public may not have noticed it was the transparently leftistNew York Times that broke the story. Lanny Davis took to the airwaves at Fox, defending Clinton with a litany of mischaracterizations and lies so egregious, an exasperated Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Davis if he ever got tired of “cleaning up after the Clintons.”

And much like previous media coverage of the Clintons, a bombshell allegation made by former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, who alleges Clinton aides were engaged in an after-hours operation to separate damaging documents from those turned over to investigators at the Accountability Review Board (ARB), remains largely under the radar. Those would be the same aides involved in determining which Clinton emails were turned over to the State Department in an effort aptly characterized by the Times: “How many emails were in Mrs. Clinton’s account is not clear, and neither is the process her advisers used to determine which ones related to her work at the State Department before turning them over.”

The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson offers up the other part of the leftist equation in regard to scandals, namely the passage of time that ostensibly turns legitimate inquiries into “old news” requiring no further explanation. “If this whole thing becomes just another flare-up in the GOP’s Benghazi obsession, Clinton should be relieved,” he writes. “The name Benghazi may be great for fundraising and rallying the Republican faithful, but the tragedy itself has been investigated with a magnifying glass and a fine-toothed comb. There is no there there.” Robinson fails to mention that the aforementioned ARB that led the initial investigation never interviewed Clinton, allowed her to choose four of the five members of the “independent” board, never put anyone under oath, and showed the former Secretary of State a draft of their report before releasing it to Congress.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chairman of the House select committee investigating Benghazi, reveals the level of contempt Clinton and her staff have for that investigation, contending the 55,000 pages of emails turned over the State Department are hardly the whole package. “There are gaps of months, and months and months,” Gowdy told CBS’s “Face the Nation” last Sunday. The committee has issued a subpoena to fill in the gaps, but Gowdy won’t release what he already has “because we don’t have all of them.” “There’s a reason that serious investigations don’t leak and they don’t make selective releases,” he explained.

Selective was the operative word behind today’s press conference, and one would have to be naive to believe that holding it immediately following Clinton’s speech at the United Nations was merely convenient. As Politico’s Dylan Byers explains, the U.N has a “tightly controlled accreditation process, including a requirement that journalists submit applications for credentials at least 24 hours in advance. News of Clinton’s news conference didn’t leak until Tuesday morning, just hours before the event was scheduled to take place.”

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill insisted his team was working hard to get reporters access to the event, but MSNBC political correspondent Alex Seitz-Wald wasn’t buying it. The U.N.’s “notoriously difficult credentialing process” would impose “a restriction on the number of reporters who can come in,” he revealed. Another reporter agreed. “Total mayhem,” he told Business Insider over the phone. “I think they processed seven people in the last hour and a half.”

Despite Clinton’s efforts, obvious questions remain unanswered. The fact that the “vast majority” of emails Clinton claims were captured as a result of sending them to other government employees, we must assume emails sent to those outside the government system such as foreign leaders, private entities, or other government officials have been included in the “complete” batch of emails handed over to the State Department–even those that could show her in a bad light. We must assume that everything on a private server that will remain off limits to any independent scrutiny is private information–as determined by Clinton herself, and the aforementioned aides allegedly willing to scrub any paper trail related to Benghazi. And we have to assume the emails Clinton deleted, “my private, personal emails, emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements’ or other mundane activities like Yoga appointments” were exactly that.

In short, the American public must take a woman with a well-documented track record of lies and obfuscation solely at her word.

Unfortunately that trust was challenged less than an hour after the press conference ended. The Washington Examiner reported the personal server Clinton claimed was set up for her husband and included deleted emails between her and Bill, directly contradicts an assertion by Bill Clinton’s spokesman Matt McKenna. “The former president, who does regularly use Twitter, has sent a grand total of two emails during his entire life, McKenna said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “After leaving office, Mr. Clinton established his own domain that staff use —@presidentclinton.com. But Mr. Clinton still doesn’t use email himself.”

The WSJ notes that one of those emails was sent to former astronaut John Glenn, commenting on his return to space in 1998. The other was sent to U.S. troops serving in the Adriatic.

Back in the 1990s Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. And while that effort failed because Democrats and their media allies successfully convinced Americans that breaking the law was excusable when it was “just about sex,” Clinton was ultimately fined $90,000, agreed to a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license and another $25,000 fine to avoid disbarment and end the Independent Council investigation against him, and also resigned his Supreme Court license, again to avoid disbarment. Last September, National Review’s Stanley Kurtz reminded us that Bill Clinton believed he and Hillary “shared” executive power with Bill boasting, “Buy one, get one free,” during the 1992 presidential campaign. And when Bill Clinton remained determined to lie his way through the Monica Lewinsky scandal, it was Hillary running interference, claiming a “vast right wing conspiracy” was trying to bring down her husband.

If the American electorate wishes to re-live the ’90s in 2016 they can offer up a plethora of excuses for doing so. Being unaware Hillary Clinton’s reflexively duplicitous nature isn’t one of them.