If anyone was expecting a mea culpa from Hillary Clinton for the ill-advised use of a private email server during her four years as Secretary of State that is now dogging her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, they didn’t get it during Clinton’s half-hour interview on Friday with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
If she is sorry about anything, it’s not that she may have inadvertently mishandled classified information on any number of occasions -- as the FBI and congressional investigators are attempting to ascertain -- but that her poor judgement has generated so much confusing controversy.
“At the end of the day, I am sorry that this has been confusing to people and has raised a lot of questions, but there are answers to all these questions," Clinton said of her private email server after Mitchell repeatedly pressed her on whether she should apologize. “And I take responsibility and it wasn't the best choice."
The hyper-cautious Clinton generally keeps her distance from the press, which has been hounding her daily about her handling of her email, her dreadful approval and trust ratings in the polls and the possibility that Vice President Joseph Biden might hop into the race and challenge her.
So it’s more than noteworthy when the former first lady and U.S. senator from New York sits down for a one-on-one interview with a formidable national journalist like Mitchell. "Certainly, it doesn't make me feel good," Clinton said when asked about polls showing that most voters don’t trust her or think she’s a liar. "But I am very confident that by the time this campaign has run its course, people will know that what I have been saying is accurate."
For the most part, Clinton appeared well-scripted and lawyerly in discussing topics ranging from the email controversy to her role in shaping President Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East to the U.S. - Iran nuclear nonproliferation agreement awaiting action in Congress.
Clinton, who is scheduled to deliver a major speech on the Iran agreement next week at the same time Donald Trump will be rallying against it, said that “It is by no means perfect, but it’s an important step.”
She waved off speculative questions about Biden, who is still grieving the death of his 46-year-old son, Beau, saying that her long-time friend is “struggling” with the decision and that everybody should give him time and space.
If Clinton showed any real passion, it came when Mitchell asked her about Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, and his nasty comments about Clinton’s senior aide, Huma Abedin, and Abedin’s husband, the former New York Democratic congressman Anthony Wiener who resigned in a bizarre sex scandal.
During a recent campaign event in Massachusetts, Trump opined that it was likely that Abedin – who worked at the State Department with Clinton -- had shared classified information with Weiner, who is currently an adviser to a New Jersey public relations firm. "Do you think there's even a five percent chance that she's not telling Anthony Weiner — now of a public relations firm — what the hell is coming across?" Trump said, while at the same time mocking Weiner as a "perv" and a "sleazebag."
When asked about the attack on Abedin and Weiner, Clinton described it as “a bad development for our American political system.” She added that Trump’s shoot-from-the hip style could have dangerous repercussions if the billionaire businessman and former TV showman somehow manages to make it all the way to the White House.
“I think it’s an unfortunate development in American politics that his campaign is all about who he is against – whether it’s immigrants or women broadcasters or aides of other candidates,” she said. “He’s the candidate of being against. The vision that I have for America is how we come together. How we work together. How we set big goals again, whether it’s combating climate change and getting moving on clean energy or making college affordable.”
Clinton’s comments about Trump are remarkably similar to those of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who is badly trailing Trump in the GOP presidential polls but who insists that the real estate mogul may take his party down with his highly pessimistic view of this country.
“We’re on the verge of the greatest time to be alive, and there is one candidate in the Republican Party who is preying on people’s angst and fears,” Bush told a group in New Hampshire on Thursday.
It has become an article of faith that Trump has tapped into a deep reservoir of angry and disaffected voters with his relentless assertion that “our country is going to hell” because of the incompetence of its leaders in Washington – especially President Obama. And he is presenting himself as the only candidate in the field who can restore America’s greatness through his powers of persuasion and extraordinary talent as a negotiator.
During her interview with Mitchell, Clinton seemed almost eager to challenge Trump on these points in what might turn out to be a dress rehearsal for a one-on-one fight in the general election campaign.
“I think we are a great country, and I think we are great because of our values, our history, because of the way we have overcome adversity – how we keep moving towards a more perfect union,” Clinton said, sounding much like a civics teacher. “That’s what I’m running on, and he can run his own campaign.”
Returning to the subject of Trump’s venomous attacks on her aide, Clinton said: “You know, he’s great at innuendo and conspiracy theories and really defaming people. That’s not what I want to do in my campaign and that’s not how I’m going to conduct myself. And I also believe the president of the United States has to be careful about what he or she says.
"Loose talk, threats, insults -- they have consequences," she said. "So I’m going to conduct myself as I believe is appropriate for someone seeking the highest office in our country.”