The Clinton boat takes on water

Hillary Clinton answers questions from reporters following a town hall meeting with voters in North Las Vegas on Tuesday. Melina Mara | The Washington Post

Hillary Clinton answers questions from reporters following a town hall meeting with voters in North Las Vegas on Tuesday. Melina Mara | The Washington Post

I didn’t think it was possible for Hillary Clinton to run a more inept campaign than her 2008 effort, but she is quickly proving me wrong.

It is one thing for the “once in a lifetime, prohibitive, unchallenged frontrunner” to lose the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. Obama is a supreme political talent with rhetorical gifts and a mind meant to organize political movements who ran at a time that gave him a unique opportunity.

It is another thing altogether to potentially lose to Bernie Sanders.

In early April, the Real Clear Politics polling average showed that Clinton was leading Sanders 55.8 percent to 9.4 percent in New Hampshire. Today, Clinton is leading Sanders 40.7 percent to 39.7 percent.

That precipitous fall is no accident. Anyone who has been following her campaign has been stunned by its ineptitude.

To start, her time as Secretary of State, once her greatest strength, is increasingly becoming a liability, and the email scandal simply refuses to go away despite Clinton apologists’ constant assurances that there is “nothing there.”

But there’s something there, as we all learned when she rejected a government server for her emails, choosing instead to set up her own server outside the reach of those outside Clinton-world.

Was that action illegal? No, it appears not, but that doesn’t make it ethical, and it certainly isn’t keeping with a spirit of transparency that the left claims to so desperately cherish.

Think about it for a moment. If you, as a citizen, journalist, or government investigator, wanted to access her communications as Secretary of State on a specific issue (which you are entitled to do via the Freedom of Information Act), the responsibility for compliance is with Clinton herself.

If she felt like she didn’t want a certain communication — of business conducted on behalf of the people of the United States — to be seen, either because she felt it was unflattering, or it would expose criminal activity, she could simply delete it or not turn it over. With such a system, there is really no point in having transparency laws at all.

Worse, she had no real interest in security. We now know that Clinton left her email unencrypted, a reckless and foolish mistake that once again highlights why this is such a bad idea.

Obviously, she did this because she is a paranoid politician who wanted control over her own communications to keep them private and did not believe that transparency or security were all that important. The key question is why? Why, when conducting the people’s business as a high-ranking official of the United States government, would your work communications need to be private and under your control? And if that wasn’t your goal, why go through the time and cost to go around the government system and create your own email server?

But let’s bring it back to legality. Clinton’s actions drove suspicions, and she was ultimately forced to start turning over her emails (what was left of them). In March, she turned over 55,000 pages to the State Department. Unfortunately, we learned that 32,000 emails had been deleted, and Clinton’s attitude essentially boiled down to “trust me, you didn’t need to see anything in there.”

Then we find out that contrary to her absolute declaration that no classified material was on her private email account, that there was, in fact, classified material on it. A lot of it.

In July, The New York Times reported that government investigators had discovered classified information on her account, and that those investigators were “stating unequivocally that those secrets never should have been stored outside of secure government computer systems.”

Finally, Hillary Clinton was forced to turn over her server. But now we are learning that the server may have been wiped clean prior to being handed over to the FBI. When pressed on Tuesday about whether she had wiped the server, Clinton quipped, “What, like with a cloth or something?”

If this sounds Nixonian, and you are reminded of eight-and-a-half minutes of erased tape, congratulations, you see why this is a problem. Even Bob Woodward, one of the reporters responsible for exposing the Watergate scandal, commented Monday that what Clinton did “reminds me of the Nixon tapes.”

To top it off, her appearances on the trail are not going well. She refuses to engage with the media, and when she finally does, it becomes a campaign disaster, and Democrats are once again being reminded of why they didn’t like her all that much seven years ago.

Is it any wonder why she is struggling to stay afloat, against a disheveled, barely lucid avowed socialist from Vermont? Imagine if she had some real competition.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.