Republicans supposedly hit two birds with the same stone last week with the release of the first batch of Clinton emails, supposedly of the secretary of state sending now-classified info about Benghazi through her private email address.
Unfortunately for the GOP, the supposed breach of state security never happened. At the time Clinton sent the emails via her private email address, the information (concerning arrests made in Libya of suspects in the attack) was categorized as sensitive but unclassified, meaning that there was actually absolutely no wrongdoing whatsoever – a point alluded to by Clinton this weekend.
Right wingers are of course too invested in this Benghazi thing to drop it, even though years of investigations and hearings have failed to come up with any evidence that Obama administration staffers were involved in any wrongdoing during the incident. Nor will the imaginary email controversy likely turn up anything other than a stream of confirmation that Clinton was using her accounts properly.
Part of the reason that Republicans are scrambling to come up with anything resembling a controversy is that they can really never let anything go – they’re still too scrambled up from the party’s ongoing lurch to the right to separate the wheat from the chaff. Plus, Republicans have deeply resented the Clintons for decades and view their involvement in politics as inherently illegitimate, not to mention possibly criminal, so maybe they really are convinced these scandals that have gone nowhere for so long really are just the tip of the iceberg.
But mostly, it’s laziness. If Republicans can just implicate Clinton in something vaguely resembling a crime, then they can try to tarnish her reputation in the same manner as they did her husband or even outright eliminate her from the presidential race. That would save them the trouble of running against an extremely popular Democratic candidate at the same time their demographics are looking increasingly unfavorable, as well as the nasty business of finding a way to appeal to minorities, youth and women. This tactic backfired big time in the 90s against another popular Clinton vying for the presidency.
Clinton certainly has weak points. For example, her family’s massive wealth and the web of foreign donations around the Clinton Foundation are unseemly. An aggressive campaign from socialist Bernie Sanders could rapidly harsh her vibe if she doesn’t make concessions to the left. Finally, she is way too close to Wall Street.
The GOP can’t attack her on many of these fronts, because their party is much more beholden to special interests and the financial industry than most Democrats ever could be. They can’t come up with new ideas, lest they spook the herd. So they really don’t have good options right now. But if Republicans don’t wake up and realize relying on smears and conspiracy theories won’t win them the White House, they could be reliving 1998 all over again.