Clinton comes under friendly fire

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Hillary Clinton has come under friendly fire from Democratic rivals and liberal-leaning commentators over her use of a private email server — and her campaign’s handling of the controversy.
Martin O’Malley, the former Democratic governor of Maryland who remains mired in the low single digits in most polls, said during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Clinton faced “a legitimate question” over her use of the server.
O’Malley also pointedly asserted that such a question could be answered by “Secretary Clinton and her lawyers,” a clear reference to the choppy legal waters into which Clinton appears to be sailing.
{mosads}On Monday, Eugene Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning liberal columnist for The Washington Post, published a column excoriating the Democratic front-runner, under the headline, “Hillary Clinton is her own worst enemy.”
Referring to the long lapse before Clinton finally turned the now-infamous server over to the FBI, Robinson wrote, “She stonewalled for so long — there’s no other word for her stance — that recent pledges of openness and cooperation ring hollow.” He also asserted that, were Clinton to win the nomination, “she has needlessly handed her Republican opponent a weapon.”
A visibly aggravated Clinton showed frustration on Tuesday when she took questions at an event in Las Vegas about the server.
“We have turned over the server, they can do whatever they want to with the server to figure out what’s there or what’s not there,” she said. “We turned over everything that was work related, every single thing.”
She said that in “retrospect” it had not turned out to be convenient to have the private server during her years as secretary of State. 
Asked if the server, which has been turned over to the Department of Justice, had been wiped clean, Clinton joked: “Like with a cloth or something?”
“I don’t know how it works digitally at all,” she added. 
The performance seems unlikely to end the questions — or criticism from opponents and erstwhile supporters alike. Republicans were quick to go on the attack, while Clinton’s comments were ridiculed on social media.
Before her latest comments, Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama, offered a backhanded compliment in an interview with The Washington Post while seeking to defend Clinton.
“She isn’t as natural a politician as Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, but that’s like saying Scottie Pippen isn’t as talented as Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson,” Pfeiffer said. 
Given the comparison, and Clinton’s new stumbles on Tuesday, Pfeiffer’s comments only seemed to underline Hillary Clinton’s perceived political deficiencies to both her husband and Obama. (Pfeiffer did, however, note, “I think her problems are greatly overstated.”)
Clinton still holds a large polling lead over her most serious rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). But the increasingly public skepticism does point to broader angst among Democrats and liberals.
“What I pick up from other people — activists, contributors, even Hillary supporters — is this sense of, ‘Okay, this whole business with the email thing is just not going to go away,’ ” said one Democratic strategist granted anonymity in order to speak candidly. “There is a frustration that it just keeps going and moves to a different level every week or two.”
Poll after poll has shown large swathes of the public believe Clinton is not honest or trustworthy. The server controversy only amplifies that sense, in the minds of some observers.
“Part of this is a bit of fear about where her vulnerabilities lie,” said Goldie Taylor, a former election strategist. “At least for the chattering class, for the pundits — and for the political operatives as well — this email scandal is about those vulnerabilities.”
Julie Roginsky, a former aide to the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), told Fox News’s “Media Buzz” over the weekend that the criticism Clinton had received was “deserved and it is entirely self-inflicted by Hillary Clinton … When you do something you should not have done in the first place, which is put your public emails on a private server, you’ve got really nobody to blame but yourself when the firestorm erupts.”
Taylor noted that Clinton remains a prohibitive favorite for the nomination. But polls indicate some erosion of her position. A Fox News poll released Sunday, for example, found Clinton leading Sanders by 19 points, 49 percent to 30 percent, among Democrats. But that was much tighter than a poll from the same organization less than two weeks before, which showed Clinton up by 29 points.
Furthermore, the growing perception of weakness around Clinton might encourage other candidates, perhaps including Vice President Biden, to throw their hats into the ring.
The growth in support for Sanders, according to the Democratic strategist “is a catalyst for people saying, ‘Okay, maybe we need to find somebody else to run.’ A self-described socialist from a small state with no particular national experience and with a very progressive platform is not the ideal candidate, if you were drawing someone up as a hypothetical challenger. But he could act as a catalyst for Biden to consider his options.”
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