Trusting Hillary (On Emails, Apologies and Strategy)

By Peter Daou and Tom Watson

Hillary chose to apologize for her decision to use a private email account at the State Department. We have blasted her detractors for demanding an apology from her while letting Donald Trump skate free despite his egregious comments about the military, minorities and women. Our position on the over-hyped email issue remains the same. At the same time, we respect Hillary’s decision. We will not second guess her or her campaign, for reasons we've explained:

For Hillary’s supporters, this past summer has been the equivalent of a sudden hundred foot drop during turbulence, where passengers catch their breath, grab their seats with sweaty palms and pray that the pilots can guide them to smoother skies.

It is typically at this point in many a long slog to the presidency that candidates and campaigns come under intense scrutiny and criticism from their own parties and their own supporters. At this nose-bleed altitude, American politics is rocky and unpredictable. Guiding a massive craft through a line of towering storms is no easy task. Everyone worries, and everyone has advice to give. This is especially true of Democrats.

But at the end of the day, going wobbly never helps. Second guessing the campaign exacerbates negative narratives. In Hillary’s case, her detractors are salivating at the thought of Democratic infighting. The masters of framing want desperately to tell the story of a campaign with its wheels coming off, a candidate flailing, a party lost at sea, a Clinton finally crashing and burning.

Feeding that narrative is anathema to us.

Trusting a leader means trusting their decisions. Hillary has been dominant on the national stage for decades and knows how, when and where to pick her battles. We are not about to question her judgment or political instincts. Few politicians understand the long war better than Hillary. She is fighting on multiple fronts; the forces arrayed against her are formidable and she has to choose how best to take them on.

Voters who hear Hillary's apology will likely appreciate her candor. Her detractors will gloat for a moment then get right back to attacking her. She knows that. 

The business of political prognostication is a dubious one, but here’s one prediction we are confident of: Nothing Hillary does will stop the media and elite commentariat from savaging her. 

This is personal for her opponents. They will bash and mock and ridicule her. They will offer condescending and patronizing advice. They will chuckle and sneer at her. They will make grave pronouncements of her imminent demise. They will extract pounds of flesh.

When the email story fades, they will come back at her with something new. Facts don’t matter to them. Stopping Hillary is the singular objective.

At every step and every turn, #HillaryMen will be striking back forcefully, calling out her opponents for every unfair critique, every falsehood and conservative-funded frame, every sexist trope, every double standard and every misleading attack.

Anyone who thinks a woman will cross the White House finish line without an epic struggle is dreaming. Hillary knows that the road ahead is fraught with risk. She's fighting with eyes wide open. 

UPDATE: Text of an email to Hillary's list:

I wanted you to hear this directly from me:

Yes, I should have used two email addresses, one for personal matters and one for my work at the State Department. Not doing so was a mistake. I'm sorry about it, and I take full responsibility.

It's important for you to know a few key facts. My use of a personal email account was aboveboard and allowed under the State Department's rules. Everyone I communicated with in government was aware of it. And nothing I ever sent or received was marked classified at the time. 

As this process proceeds, I want to be as transparent as possible. That's why I've provided all of my work emails to the government to be released to the public, and why I'll be testifying in public in front of the Benghazi Committee later next month.

I know this is a complex story. I could have -- and should have -- done a better job answering questions earlier. I'm grateful for your support, and I'm not taking anything for granted.

I understand that you may have more questions, and I am going to work to keep answering them. If you want to read more, including my emails themselves, please go here:

Thank you,



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.