Hillary Clinton is obsessed with the biggest two-letter word in the English language: if.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on her. Anyone who came so close to the most powerful office in the land would no doubt be in similar torment. But the thrust of her comments to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour suggest that if the former Secretary of State is engaging in any self-flagellation over her mistakes on the campaign trail, it is happening in private. Publicly, she is casting blame elsewhere.
Despite some lip service about “absolute personal responsibility” for the outcome, Secretary Clinton seems rather to believe that if the election had been on October 27, she would now be President Clinton.
October 27 was, of course, the day before FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congressional investigators indicating that there were still a few loose ends to tie up in the Bureau’s investigation into the private email server Secretary Clinton used while she was the nation’s chief diplomat. She told Amanpour that the timing of the letter and “Russian WikiLeaks”—with a dash of general misogyny thrown in for good measure—led to her failing grade in the Electoral College.
Does she have a case? That depends on what your definition of the word “if” is. Political scientists will be debating the impact of the Comey letter for a long time.
But if Secretary Clinton insists on rehashing the “what ifs” of the 2016 campaign, here are a few that she really ought to consider:
- What if Secretary Clinton hadn’t participated in misleading the country about the cause of American deaths in Benghazi, Libya? The decisions she and the rest of the Obama administration made on the night of September 11 and 12, 2012 may or may not have been justified by what they knew at the time. But in the aftermath, she was reflexively dishonest. Then her irritated “What difference, at this point, does it make?” line during the investigation (the same investigation that ultimately uncovered her…unorthodox…email setup) did not reflect well on her. Speaking of which…
- What if Secretary Clinton hadn’t taken so much effort to set up a private email server instead of using a secure government account? It’s hard to discern any motive for doing such a thing other than wanting to avoid oversight of her email communications. Oops. Most charitably, this was a gray area. But it was an unforced error—nobody made her do it. No server means no investigation, and no investigation means no Comey letter. If she wants someone to blame, she should look in the mirror.
- What if Secretary Clinton hadn’t shown utter contempt for religiously conservative voters? The Democratic Party platform may not be friendly to most religious conservatives, but at least President Obama made some effort to reach out to people with traditional Christian beliefs in his campaigns. Secretary Clinton, though, thought “religious beliefs…have to be changed.” And even though it was only last week that DNC chairman Tom Perez essentially kicked anyone with pro-life sentiment out of the party, the signs were there in the Clinton campaign. This came through loud and clear in its slavish devotion to Planned Parenthood—which, incidentally, was Secretary Clinton’s next speaking engagement after the interview with Amanpour. She was never going to win a majority of white evangelical voters, but in a year when a substantial number of conservative Christians said “Never!” to the Republican nominee, a few could have made a difference. It was a missed opportunity.