Steve Nelson: Hillary Clinton's moral responsibility


WASHINGTON, MA. >> One person has the power to make Donald Trump the next president of the United States. Or not. Her name is Hillary Clinton.

This election is more than the usual quadrennial contest about which party will win the White House. Trump is a danger to the Republic. Now that she is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, Clinton bears a moral responsibility to make sure that he is not elected.

This is, to say the least, an unusual election year. A reality TV star and real estate developer, with a string of business bankruptcies and failed marriages but no background in government, emerged from a field of 17 candidates, including senators and governors, to capture the Republican nomination through a campaign based on divisiveness, innuendo and hostility.

At the same time, a 74-year old socialist virtually unknown a year ago led a youth crusade financed by small donors and forced an opponent with impressive credentials, powerful connections and unequalled name recognition to fight through a long primary season before she could secure the Democratic nomination which once seemed like hers for the taking.

No playing it safe

Trump and Clinton have unprecedented unfavorability ratings for major party candidates, and are neck-and-neck in recent polls. With five months until Election Day, the outcome is unpredictable. Clinton cannot be assured of victory by following the game plan which got her this far. Playing it safe is too big a risk.

Instead of being controlling and closed, she needs to open up in ways she has not been comfortable with until now. That means taking full and unconditional responsibility for her use of private e-mail while secretary of state, not making half-hearted apologies only after public pressure forced her to.

The report by the inspector general of the State Department said she did not ask for nor would she have received permission to use a private e-mail server. It also noted that she had declined to be interviewed during the investigation, and likewise had instructed her staff not to either.

While she still faces possible indictment by the Justice Department for mishandling of secret information, it's more likely she'll just get a slap on the wrist. But she can't treat a decision not to prosecute her as exoneration, and dismiss it without accepting responsibility.

She also needs to come clean on what she said in those infamous three speeches to Goldman Sachs for $675,000 each. The executives who were there never go anywhere without their phones. Someone may well have a recording and leak it when it can do maximum damage to her campaign — an October surprise. She needs to put this behind her now.

These two issues may seem like they were more relevant during the primary, but Trump will go after her any way he can. The significant danger she faces is that her tendency to stonewall will turn off voters who won't vote for Trump, but might vote for a third-party candidate from the Libertarian or Green Party, or just stay home. In a tight race, even a small defection of left-leaning younger voters Clinton should be able to count on could throw the election to Trump. She needs the young supporters of Bernie Sanders now, and the Democratic Party needs them for its future.

Hillary Clinton stands on the threshold of becoming the first woman president of the United States. But at the same time, we face the risk of Trump putting his name on the prime real estate at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Talk to us personally

This extraordinary fork in the road of our national destiny calls for an extraordinary response from Clinton, not just politics as usual. It is her moral responsibility. She should go on national television to give the speech of her life, and possibly ours. To address our lingering concerns about her trustworthiness and her commitment to progressive issues. To reveal more intimately the person who would become our president.

Yes, she'll be giving her acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, amid the usual hoopla. That's a political performance. But what she must do before then is to talk to us personally, to reassure us, to satisfy our doubts. Then we'll be cheering along with the crowds on the convention floor.

Steve Nelson is an occasional Eagle contributor.


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