The Brilliant Jujutsu of Hillary Clinton’s Emails

By Peter Daou

Jujutsu: "Jū" can be translated to mean "gentle, soft, supple, flexible, pliable, or yielding." "Jutsu" can be translated to mean "art" or "technique" and represents manipulating the opponent's force against himself rather than confronting it with one's own force.

When the initial faux-scandal over Hillary Clinton’s emails erupted this past spring, I smiled to myself, knowing exactly what the outcome of the process would be. My emails and conversations with Hillary, as those of so many other aides, advisors and friends, revealed a thoughtful, compassionate, disciplined, funny and highly intelligent person.

I knew that the media frenzy, the frantic calls to release her private communications, the glee of her political opponents salivating over anticipated revelations, all of this was leading to one place. Once the emails became public, Hillary would reap a huge reward: her empathy, her intelligence, her sense of humor and her leadership would be revealed, trumpeted by the very people who had previously called her robotic, inhuman, abnormal, calculating, cold, regal, petulant, and so on.

Sure enough, with the recent release of 3000 pages of emails sent and received during her tenure as secretary of state, a flood of media coverage has ensued exposing not a scheming liar or manipulator, but a dignified, funny, strong, regular person, one whose accomplishments never outshine her humanity.

This passage from the New York Times says so much:

The banality of some of the emails is striking given her stature as one of the world’s most prominent figures. She asked an aide to get her an iced tea. She engaged in a protracted struggle to get her fax machine to work. She evidently did not have a printer because she forwarded numerous messages to aides with the note, “Pls print.”

Hints of personality emerge. In a message with the subject line “Don’t laugh!!” she asked an aide to find out about the carpets in the room where she met with China’s leadership. In another, when an aide reported that a Florida senator had stopped blocking a State Department nomination, she jokingly asked what price had to be paid: “Does this mean you have to go to Cuba and arrest Castro or just shovel more $ into Little Havana?”

Note the snide, “hints of personality emerge,” the grudging admission that Hillary is indeed like every one of us, all too human, with the same concerns, weaknesses and complexities.

The road to the White House for the first woman president is fraught with obstacles. The institutional gender bias that has resulted in a 44-0 shutout won’t easily give way. But if Hillary’s detractors think the release of more emails will derail her campaign, they will surely realize the reverse is true, tripped up, Jujutsu style, by the force of their own hate.


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.