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No smoking gun in the Clinton e-mails

McManus
McManus

Take a deep dive into the more than 10,000 Clinton campaign e-mails published by WikiLeaks, and here’s what you'll learn: Hillary Clinton is a careful, methodical, tightly controlled politician. Her jokes, her tweets and even her purported ad libs are often scripted by aides. She hates to apologize, even when she admits she’s done something wrong, like keeping e-mails on a home server. She’s a progressive, but not an ideologue; she yearns for “rational, moderate voices” on both sides. Above all, she’s a pragmatist who’s willing to compromise.

Fainted yet?

“Politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way,” she told a housing group in 2014. “But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the backroom discussions and the deals … then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So you need both a public and a private position.”

In other words, she’s a Clinton – a Democrat who believes in progressive goals, but who’s willing to trim them, postpone them, even throw them under a bus (temporarily, anyway) when practical politics requires.

This is a finding that will surprise no one who has watched the Clintons since, say, 1982, when Hillary Rodham abandoned her maiden name to help her husband win a tough race for governor of Arkansas. Or since 1996, when she supported the welfare reform law her husband passed with the help of Newt Gingrich, even though her progressive friends hated the plan.

What’s most remarkable about this megaleak is that it’s yielded no real smoking gun. Even the most newsworthy quotes from her closed-door speeches to Wall Street firms often aren’t as damning in context as they may seem at first.

Yes, she sounded distinctly chummy in her sessions with investment bankers. She didn’t excoriate the firms that were paying her hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But she still gave them a warning. “Even if it may not be 100 percent true, if the perception is that somehow the game is rigged, that should be a problem for all of us,” she said in a closed-door speech in 2014. “If there’s wrongdoing, people have to be held accountable, and we have to try to deter future bad behavior.”

Yes, she suggested the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill wasn’t perfect, and said Congress passed it “for political purposes,” because members couldn’t ignore the public’s anger. But she also told the bankers more reforms were needed, and in her campaign she has called for tougher regulations, not easier ones.

And yes, as Donald Trump has charged, she once used the phrase “open borders” – but it was in a speech about free trade in the Western Hemisphere, not immigration policy. Clinton has an immigration proposal, and “open borders” aren’t in it – not even close.

Doyle McManus is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

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