The Hillary Problem

On the cusp of securing the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has a problem: a lot of Democrats are unhappy with her campaign.

They have three reasons to be unhappy. First, Clinton's approval ratings continue to be abysmal. Second, Clinton's handling of the State Department email flap has left even her most loyal advocates scratching their heads in dismay. And third, most sensible Americans are scared to death of Donald Trump and, therefore, appalled that many recent polls show Clinton and Trump in a statistical dead heat.

Clinton detractors typically cite her low approval ratings, but they haven't always been low. Hillary was a popular Secretary of State. However, since leaving office her approval ratings have lost sixteen points -- from 56 percent to 40 percent. (It's small consolation to Democrats that, at the moment, Trump is viewed even more unfavorably than Clinton.)

The bulk of Hillary's unfavorable rating hinges on the issue of trust. A recent Washington Post poll found that only 37 percent of respondents found Clinton honest and trustworthy. The fact that a lot of voters don't trust Hillary is partially the fault of Republicans and partially her fault.

Once Clinton ceased being Secretary of State (where she had high approval ratings), Republicans attacked her on two fronts. First, Republicans accused Clinton of malfeasance in the Benghazi affair. Their three-year witch-hunt culminated in an 11-hour hearing before a House Select Committee. Clinton got positive reviews for her deportment and refuted all charges. Unfortunately, the protracted Benghazi investigation dragged down her approval ratings and opened up an email controversy.

During the summer of 2014, the Benghazi investigation revealed that while Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton handled email via her private server. While this was not illegal, per se, it was a violation of State Department rules. Many Republicans believe that Clinton will inevitably be indicted; as do some Bernie Sanders supporters, who hope this indictment will lead to his winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

The indictment won't happen. Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, and others, have concluded that it is unlikely Hillary Clinton will be indicted over her use of a private email server. Law professor Richard Lempert observed: "Based on what has been revealed so far, there is no reason to think that Clinton committed any crimes with respect to the use of her email server, including her handling of classified information."

Nonetheless, the State Department Inspector General's report indicated that Hillary, like some of her predecessors, "flouted department regulations on the use of private email." As summarized by New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza:

the real trouble, at least so far, is not anything Hillary Clinton actually did while in office, but how Clinton responded to the initial accusations. Clinton repeatedly maintained that the use of her private e-mail system was normal and approved by the relevant officials at the State Department. The inspector general says that's not the case... [In addition] Clinton did not fully cooperate with the I.G. investigation.

At a time when many voters do not regard Hillary as trustworthy, her handling of the email controversy is unforgiveable.

Finally, many Democrats are unhappy with Hillary's presidential campaign. Some of their concern is situational: Trump secured the Republican nomination on May 26th and, at this writing, Hillary is still battling Bernie. Of course, Trump got a "polls bounce" from his victory and probably looks stronger now than he actually is. (The latest Huffington Post Poll of Polls finds Clinton ahead of Trump by 2 percentage points.)

Nonetheless, Hillary is not as exciting a candidate as either Trump or Bernie Sanders. During a February interview Hillary admitted, "I am not a natural politician, like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama." It's likely the case that Hillary is an introvert who would much rather be reading a book or in the company of a few friends than addressing an arena full of yelling fans. Add to this a dislike of the press and it's no wonder that Clinton appears to many to be furtive.

Hillary is intelligent and experienced - the most qualified presidential nominee in decades. But she's not charismatic.

To win the presidency Hillary has to do two things: First, she must do nothing else to make voters not trust her. And she needs testimonials. Recently, the Mother Jones' political correspondent, Kevin Drum wrote an important article about Hillary. He quoted another correspondent, Jill Abramson, who has covered Clinton for 20 years, who observed. "There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor." Drum concluded: "The truth is that regardless of how [Clinton] sometimes sounds, her record is pretty clear: Hillary Clinton really is fundamentally honest and trustworthy."

Second, Hillary has to emphasize her experience and temperament. There are five months before the presidential election and Clinton has more than enough time to remedy her deficits and play to her strengths.