With just over four months to go before the national elections, both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are limping into their party's conventions, which will be held later this month. While it is unlikely that either of their nominations will be derailed, both candidates have been plagued by large unfavorable ratings in opinion polls and many unforced errors.
Perhaps Clinton's biggest liability is that a majority of likely voters view her as not trustworthy, even more so than Trump. Her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state has hung like a dark cloud over her campaign. The FBI is investigating the matter, and there are reports that they will interview Clinton this weekend at her home in Washington. This could signal that the FBI is close to wrapping up their probe, one that could lead to the indictment of Clinton or some of her former department staffers.
Clinton has mishandled the email matter right from the get go. To make matters worse, former President Bill Clinton decided to meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on her government aircraft at the Phoenix airport. He delayed his flight out of the city when he learned that the attorney general would soon be arriving. What was the former president thinking? Lynch already had been asked by Republicans to recuse herself from the FBI investigation into his wife's emails, the findings of which the department would bring to the attorney general for the final decision on whether to bring charges.
When asked Friday at the Aspen Ideas Festival what she wished former Attorney General Eric Holder had told her, she replied, "Where the lock on the plane door was." Because Lynch is a political appointee she has previously indicated she would accept the FBI findings. She stated that clearly on Friday, noting, "I understand that my meeting on the plane with former President Clinton could give another reason to have questions and concerns." She described the Clinton meeting, which lasted a half-hour, as social, adding, "I certainly wouldn't do that again."
President Clinton's blunder casts another shadow over his wife's campaign at a time when she was trying to open up a lead over Trump. Recent national polls show that Clinton has a small lead over Trump. This after Trump's campaign had been damaged by organizational problems and the candidate has made racist statements about a federal judge and had called for a ban against Muslims entering this country.
Clinton has appeared to gain momentum following her enthusiastic joint appearance with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a darling of the progressives. And, while popular Senator Bernie Sanders is still seeking the Democratic nomination, he has indicated he would vote for Clinton. Last week the House Select Committee on Benghazi released a report that found no evidence of wrongdoing by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following its exhaustive investigation into the deaths of four Americans in 2012. Additionally, the sister of the ambassador killed in Benghazi, Chris Stevens, said she did not blame Clinton for her brother's death. Instead, Dr. Anne Stevens blamed Congress for underfunding the State Department.
Nonetheless, Trump will continue to assail "Crooked Hillary" in an effort to leverage her perceived lack of trustworthiness. While Trump is viewed as only slightly more trustworthy than Clinton according to polls, he speaks with swagger. "I'm honest, I'm trustworthy, I tell it like it is," he said on Fox News. His supporters seem to overlook his miscues, his misdeeds, his lack or temperament, perhaps because they are frustrated with Washington and just want change.
Hillary Clinton has many challenges ahead in her pursuit of the presidency. Uniting the party, picking a strong vice presidential candidate, motivating voters to support her, clearly articulating a compelling vision for her presidency that appeals to all Americans are among her hurdles. But the biggest hurdle may be dealing with the outcome of the FBI probe into her use of a private server.
Former President Bill Clinton has just made that task a lot harder.