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Ho-hum rivals give Clinton an edge in race

WASHINGTON – Barring health issues, the nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic presidential nominee next year looms as inevitable for one reason: The lackluster field of alternatives.

Her decision to delay the formal announcement of her candidacy was a masterstroke, whether or not the former secretary of state knew she was being investigated by the New York Times for hiding her official emails from the State Department.

It kept all of her potential Democratic challengers on their heels. It is a fresh example of her insularity and steely toughness. New York voters saw a hint of that in 2000 when the late Tim Russert, then the moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” asked her whether she believed her husband, President Bill Clinton, was “the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy.” She blew off the question and then set her minions on a mission to try to discredit Russert as being “unprofessional” for even asking it.

To Clinton, the media – TV and newspapers and magazines – were not there to have their questions answered, but to be used, exploited.

There’s no universally reliable account of what her media posture was as first lady of Arkansas and a principal in the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock. But the governor’s problems with women and the media there put her on her guard.

Arriving at the White House in 1993, she ordered the hallway and offices of the West Wing closed to the press, according to author John F. Harris.

The late White House correspondent, Helen Thomas, told me Clinton wanted the entire cavernous West Wing taken from the media and turned over to her for her offices. The hallway remained closed, but she didn’t get the West Wing.

Her diffidence to the media immediately spilled over to the public. As head of a task force dedicated to expanding health care to the uninsured, she promised the hearings would be carried on C-Span. Suddenly, she ordered the hearings indoors and secret. Doing so, she squandered her chance to educate Americans about a highly complex subject.

Irrespective of the great service the Times performed by investigating her unauthorized, some say, unlawful use of private email accounts, and a home-built server to conceal her transactions as secretary of state, the news comes as no real surprise.

She violated clear-cut guidances put out in 2005, later hardened into law. But who would prosecute? President Obama’s Justice Department? Clinton has said all the right things; that she wants her emails made public. Short of a grand jury, no one will ever know what she was doing besides the business of the government. Was she unlawfully asking foreign governments to donate to her foundation?

Inoculating her from consequences in the primary season is the mediocrity of the rest of the Democratic field: Vice President Biden; former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who never saw a tax increase he didn’t like; former U.S. Sen. James Webb of Virginia; and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who showed her immaturity by boycotting the recent speech here by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

By contrast, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., showed character to not only appear at Netanyahu’s speech, but by being a member of the prime minister’s reception committee at the Joint Session of Congress.

The Justice Department completed its probe into the shooting of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo., by officer Darren Wilson. Wilson is cleared of violating Brown’s civil rights. But the transcript shows Wilson had ample opportunity to disengage from a tussle with Brown and call for backup, instead of killing him.