As crisis managers know, changing the subject can backfire when it moves the discussion to a fresh hot zone. Already, the press has changed its focus from the deleted—I mean, not saved—emails to the security of her private email server. This question, which the press can probably keep aloft for weeks, can’t be finessed away in a future Hillary Clinton press conference because it is largely speculative. Given the Internet’s capacity to remember everything, perhaps server logs detailing who corresponded with Clinton on her private account exist somewhere even if the emails themselves have been destroyed, as Clinton implies. At some point, Clinton will have to volunteer the techs who set up the server to address the security question because if they don’t, the House Select Committee on Benghazi will steal a march and subpoena them. The quest for clues also has the Benghazi committee promising to bring Clinton in for more testimony and demanding the emails of her inner circle at the State Department.
If Clinton did succeed in destroying the emails, she will have denied her opponents the pleasure of using them against her. But that act of crisis management has a cost, too. If they don’t exist, Clinton can’t use them to exonerate herself from the charges—real and fanciful—that her foes issue. Some may think that it’s a rotten deal that Clinton has to prove herself innocent rather than her foes having to prove that she’s guilty. But the analogy isn’t perfect. Clinton isn’t a citizen who stands accused of wrongdoing; she’s a former public servant (who expects to be president this time in 2017) who acted as judge and jury in the disposition of her emails. We wouldn’t look the other way if a Richard Nixon acted like this, so we can’t look the other way for Clinton.