Does Hillary Clinton Need to Reinvent Herself to Run in 2016?

hillary clinton Brad Barket/Getty Images

Brad Barket/Getty Images

The two most recent scandals in America — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email history and the letter to Iran initiated by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — have garnered two very different reactions. Yes, the Republican letter may have disturbed important nuclear talks with Iran, but there are still headlines asking if Tom Cotton might be a new leader for the GOP. Politico went as far as to call his efforts a “Truth Bomb,” and an article in the Washington Post saying that “With Iran Letter, Tom Cotton emerges as leading GOP national security hawk.”

Others are, conversely, labeling his actions as treason, but there’s still been support for his decision regardless of fall out, with GOP supporters suggesting it reveals leadership potential. It’s amazing to see the difference between that reaction, and on the other hand, the way that the email fiasco Clinton is currently dealing with has led to numerous questions on whether she should still consider running for president in 2016.

Clinton’s email issue has to do with her decision to use a personal email address instead of a government email address during her time as secretary of state. This is something that opponents argue allowed her either intentionally or through happy accident to conceal some of the correspondences that should be government record. Clinton says that she turned over all work-related emails, and that while it was more common to have a work specific email, she did nothing to break the rules of the Department at that time.

Does Clinton think it should change her plans?

In a press conference held on Tuesday, numerous reporters asked whether her future in politics would be affected. Clinton levelly answered that she believes the American public is capable of separating what is important and what is not from events.

“With respect to any future issues — look — I trust the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters, and I feel that I’ve taken unprecedented steps to provide these work related emails,” said Clinton. She also reminded reporters that the emails she sent to the Department, done without third party involvement as some would point out, will be public. “They’re going to be in the public domain and I think that Americans will find that interesting and I look forward to having a discussion about that,” she said.

What about the scandal with overseas donations to the Clinton Foundation?

Clinton also fielded questions on contributions to the Clinton Foundation from countries overseas with less than perfect standards and laws on women’s rights and the treatment of women. Countries like Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman have donated, as have Australia, Norway, and the Dominican Republican. Some question whether these financial donations undercut her message on working to help women. “I am very proud of the work the foundation does… and the results that have been achieved for people here at home and around the world,” said Clinton.

She argued that, as her intentions are clear and obvious to anyone donating, it isn’t really a legitimate problem to question. “There can’t be any mistake regarding my passion for women’s rights,” said Clinton. “People who want to support the foundation know full well what it is we stand for.”

Others, like former-Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) argue that the foundation presents a problem. “The Clinton Foundation exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation,” said Lugar, according to the Washington Post. “It also sets up potential perception problems with any action taken by the Secretary of State in relation to foreign givers or their countries.” Whether you believe “temptation” is too strong a word, or is something Clinton herself can be blamed for is one thing. Is that not simply the nature of politics? But there may be a point there about opening herself to political vulnerability. On the other hand, the New York Times reports that Saudi Arabia has donated $10 million since 2001 to the Foundation, but the 2011 Foundation report on human rights in Saudi Arabia was quite harsh, particularly on the rights of women and children.

So have recent scandals caused significant problems for Clinton?

Some argue that, had Clinton been more aggressive in handling email questions and putting the matter to rest, it may not have grown to be the prolonged news item it has become. This is impossible to know, given how matters have played out. But FiveThirtyEight reports Clinton has an “almost unprecedented lead over her potential opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination” and that instead of reducing doubt in Democratic voters, the media onslaught may simply result in more polarized and defensive support.

It is possible, though, that even opening the conversation up to the possibility of other leading candidates could have an impact. After all, there’s still time for these numbers to change dramatically, and there are other options that have received support, including the definitely-not-running Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and current Vice President Joe Biden.

Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS

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