Ben, I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Are you listening?
Yes, I am.
Exactly how do you mean?
At Ricochet, GOP strategist Rick Wilson proffers some very simple advice to Republican politicians: “Stop talking:”
In the next two weeks, try something new; maintain discipline, hold focus, and keep an eye to a bigger objective than your daily press release. Try to play the long game, and help Hillary Clinton self-destruct.
Proceed against Clinton with a measured pace and tone. Don’t make it all about Benghazi or the record-keeping laws. Focus instead on the grave national security risks that her amateur-hour email server shenanigan posed. Do it with the sickly-sweet, sincere tone of “I just want to work in a bipartisan way for good, transparent government… and to protect national security secrets from the Chinese, Russians, and other threats” that the Acela media claims to worship.
Press the sore spots, subtly, but constantly. Use it as way to leverage discussion of the Clinton family’s infamous contempt for the law and remind the public of their their obsessive secrecy, paranoia, and habitual lawbreaking. Wonder, in serious tones, how much of the email traffic has to do with the other scandal that reporters have been desperately trying to cover up: the Clinton Foundation’s scuzzy foreign-money vacuum. Welcome the chance for Mrs. Clinton to give her side of the story in press conferences and hearings.
When you talk to the press, do it in measured tones, and avoid making wild claims about either the substance or political outcomes. Reduce expectations, rather than raise them. Be persistent. Be serious. Be smart.
This is the sort of media discipline shown by Democrat talking heads on cable TV shows that allowed the Clintons to wriggle out of so many self-made debacles in the 1990s. Republicans don’t seem anywhere near as good at playing that game. Which is too bad. “Where’s the Brutalizing Media Narrative Demanding Hillary Clinton Answer Questions?,” John Nolte asks at Big Journalism. A GOP with JournoList-level focus could force some Democrat operatives with bylines into asking those questions if only through sheer message discipline and focus. But since such a beast is impossible to imagine, as Jonah Goldberg writes in his column today, “The E-mail Scandal Won’t Doom Hillary:”
The real significance of this moment — and a partial explanation of the media firestorm over it — is that time is running out to stop the Clinton freight train.
Nothing in this story is surprising: not the desire for secrecy, nor the flouting of legal norms, nor the cynical attempts to shoot the messengers — and certainly not the staggering hypocrisy. (In 2007, then-senator Clinton denounced the Bush White House’s far more defensible use of “secret” Republican National Committee e-mail addresses for campaign business as proof that “our Constitution is being shredded.”) It’s all vintage Clinton.
At some point down the tracks, when yet another fetid cloud of Clintonism erupts into plain view, many smart liberals will look back at this moment as the time when they should have pulled the emergency brake and gotten off the Hillary train.
The unease they feel now will be nothing compared to the buyer’s remorse to come.
Because, as Charles Cooke writes elsewhere at NRO, “There is no Plan B for 2016.”