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The recently released report of the State Department Inspector-General didn’t accuse Hillary Clinton of violating any laws, and didn’t deal at all with the issue of classified material (that’s what the FBI is working on), but it was bluntly critical of her disregard for established policies of the State Department. It does make clear that she didn’t do anything that her predecessors (like Colin Powell) hadn’t done, but it still puts her in an unfavorable light and opens her up to charges that feed into the existing, widespread sense that she is untrustworthy.

Clinton Campaign Faltering

Hillary’s Wounds: GOP, Bernie, and Herself—John Peeler

Hillary Clinton has an unparalleled record of public service in many capacities, over her whole adult life. She is clearly the best qualified, by that experience, to be President. For that very reason, the Republicans have consistently sought to question her integrity and trustworthiness. And because of that unremitting campaign, since the early 90s, she needed to be holier than the Pope. And she wasn’t.

What should be a blowout in November could be a nail-biter, as frustrated voters have to decide between two candidates they don’t like and don’t trust.

That she carries this burden is a testament to a quarter century of Republican character assassination. Their multifaceted charges of multifarious perfidy have been truly despicable, but they have worked. At this point it is a fact that a majority of Americans don’t trust her. She is fortunate that Donald Trump is also not trusted by most people. What should be a blowout in November could be a nail-biter, as frustrated voters have to decide between two candidates they don’t like and don’t trust.

David Brooks, in a recent column in the New York Times, suggests that Hillary is disliked because she is such a wonk, such a workaholic, that we have no idea what her private joys may be. She is seen as always calculating the way forward toward achieving her ambition.

If she is so calculating, so Machiavellian, if she has known for decades that she would run for President, why in God’s name would she have insisted on (at best) bending the State Department rules about private emails? Why would she accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from Wall Street banks? These are unforced errors that just gave her enemies the means to keep her on the defensive. Why, would she have taken these actions that just open her to further attack? A full answer would require psychoanalysis, but it certainly suggests that her actions are not entirely governed by cold calculation in the service of ambition.

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It is true that Bernie Sanders has inflicted considerable damage on her by raising the issue of the speaking fees. The Republicans have done the same with the emails. But no one made her take the actions that opened her up to these new attacks.

Her errors will make it impossible for her to effectively attack Trump; she will be constantly on the defensive. She won’t be able to keep the focus on Trump’s refusal to release his income tax forms. She won’t be able to hammer him for his many inconsistencies and offensive comments. She could well lose in November. And if she wins, it won’t be by a big enough margin to carry the Senate (much less the House). It would be another four years of the partisan ugliness and gridlock that we have come to know in the Obama years.

She will probably limp into the convention with enough delegates to win the nomination. Only a big (and unlikely) Sanders victory in California might create enough doubts among the superdelegates to snatch the nomination away from her. And Sanders (should he unexpectedly win) would then have the colossal task of drawing in the majority of Democrats who have supported her.

That we have come to this pass reflects a breakdown in the party and political systems as severe as anything we have seen since the run-up to the Civil War. As I predicted three months ago (“Putting Your Worst Foot Forward”) each major party is about to choose the candidate expected to fare the worst in November.

john peeler

The world’s greatest democracy? In your dreams.

John Peeler