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Clinton Time Capsule #1: Lessons Learned?

This is an item I wrote last night but was too busy to look over and check this morning, so I didn’t post it. Then I was in meetings all day. I’m posting it now with a new opening paragraph in the wake of today’s announcement from FBI director James Comey about “re-opening” the email investigation into Hillary Clinton. Otherwise I think the main point still stands.

New intro: Are these extra emails that James Comey has found, however many they are, likely to contain a criminal or national-security bombshell that was not present in the thousands of other emails the FBI has already reviewed? Anything is possible, but my guess is no. Is this announcement, which is so certain to roil the news through this weekend, likely to change the fundamentals in the election and give Trump the edge? Again, anything could happen, but again my guess is no.

But the episode does illustrate something about candidates in general, and Clintons in particular, and about the process of learning in politics. Follow along with me if you will (back to pre-Comey version):

Recommended: Can the FBI Sway an Election?


Bill Clinton was overall a successful and very popular president. If he had been eligible to run for a third term, he would have won. If his relations with Al Gore had been such that Gore would have welcomed his campaign support (as Hillary Clinton now welcomes that of both Obamas), it would probably have made enough difference—in New Hampshire, in Tennessee, above all in Florida—to have spared the country the recount nightmare leading to Bush v. Gore and put Gore in office.

I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and would have voted for him again in 2000.

And yet, I will never understand or excuse the recklessness and indiscipline with which he put so much at risk through sexual misbehavior. He risked his presidency (which survived), his successor’s chances (which did not), his historic legacy, and of course his marriage.

When it comes to Bill Clinton, it is possible simultaneously to think, He was very good at what he did. And to ask, Why oh why was he so reckless?


Let’s apply this logic to Hillary Clinton:

Read more from The Atlantic:

  • Clinton's Believability Problem
  • From Whitewater to Benghazi: A Clinton-Scandal Primer
  • How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul

This article was originally published on The Atlantic.

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