Dems troubled by Clinton campaign’s slow responses

Democrats are troubled by the slow responses Team Clinton has given to major and minor controversies that have dogged Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Clinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race Saagar Enjeti: Clinton remarks on Gabbard 'shows just how deep the rot in our system goes' MORE’s presidential campaign. 

Hillary and former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHouse Democrat pledges 'there will be open hearings' in impeachment inquiry Democrats dig in ahead of Supreme Court ruling on 'Dreamers' Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency MORE have repeatedly been sluggish to respond to problems, which have tended to fester for weeks and build up negative headlines. 

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The headaches have been especially acute in Clinton’s handling of questions about her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State, which has become a long-running controversy that appears to be eating away at her approval ratings. 

Last week, Democratic strategists, lawmakers and their aides breathed a sigh of relief when Clinton apologized for using the personal server to handle work-related matters. 

But some Clinton allies say it may have been too little, too late. They argue that while Clinton waited to confront the problem head-on, her allies were left fumbling to try to explain away the problem. 

“It was just sitting there, like the elephant in the room, for all of us to answer,” one senior aide on Capitol Hill said. “And this wasn’t just happening for days. It took all summer.”

Team Clinton tried to explain to Democratic aides in closed-door meetings on Capitol Hill and in phone calls why the former secretary of State used the private account. The idea was to help campaign surrogates and allies deal with the inevitable questions from the press. 

Still, without the public apology from Clinton, those trying to explain away the situation had to do so “with one hand tied behind our backs,” the aide said. 

Meanwhile, the story ballooned, as did the narrative that Clinton can’t be trusted.

The email controversy was hardly the first case of a slow response by Team Clinton, said Democrats. 

Both Clintons wrestled with how to respond last year after Hillary Clinton commented that the former first couple were “dead broke” when they left the White House. 

After several failed attempts by Hillary Clinton, her husband tried to take a swing at the issue by saying, “It is factually true that we were several million dollars in debt.” He also vouched for his wife, saying she was “not out of touch.”

The comments didn’t defuse the story. They inflamed it, while Clinton allies privately grumbled in frustration on the sidelines.

“With the Clintons, the media is always wrong and they can never get anything right, so when there’s a story about them, they’re not going to believe it even when it’s true,” said one longtime Clinton ally. “The whole world could be jumping up, saying, ‘You’re wrong,’ but they’re reaction is always, ‘What? Nothing’s wrong.’ ”

The longtime Clinton ally chocked it up to arrogance and insularity coupled with campaign aides unwilling to speak up to their boss.

Since the “dead broke” comments, “it’s only gotten worse,” the ally added. “They’re disconnected. People were saying that this was a problem and the campaign was brushing it off.”

In the age of rapid response, 24-hour news cycles and the constant murmur of social media, politicians have to be ready to make swift, succinct reactions to news developments — and to their own missteps. 

Recently, for example, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson immediately defused a feud with Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE by calling a cease-fire after he’d questioned Trump’s faith. 

Earlier this year, another Republican presidential candidate, Kentucky Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul confronted over 'Republican bullshit' in restaurant This week: Tensions flare over Schiff, impeachment inquiry Turkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate MORE, posted a photo of himself on Twitter receiving a booster shot after he had sympathized with people who refuse to vaccinate their children.

Clinton allies look with despair at the Democratic front-runner’s response to controversies so far. 

“A swifter, fuller explanation would never be enough for the most virulent of Clinton-haters, but Democrats looking for leadership and authenticity needed that explanation six months ago,” Christy Setzer, a Democratic strategist who heads up communication firm New Heights Communications, said of Clinton’s comments last week. “Voters are hungry for a positive alternative to the hateful spew of Donald Trump and others on the Republican side, but the Clinton conversation is still dominated by the email server issue and even the base is losing patience.”

Clinton loyalists say it speaks to the former secretary of State’s nature. She isn’t one to give a knee-jerk reaction, even to stories about her.

“Hillary Clinton is by nature a very thoughtful, deliberative person who wants to gather and analyze facts before deciding on a course of action,” said one former longtime aide. “Those are great qualities in a leader, though it does have its drawbacks in a campaign environment. 

“Still, better to end up in the right place than to start off on the wrong foot,” the former aide added.

The New York Times reported that Clinton was reluctant to apologize about the private email server for fear it would legitimize arguments against it. Clinton loyalists back up that account, saying the former first couple felt the story was media-driven.

Setzer agrees that part of the problem is with aides unwilling or unable to correct the former first couple, as well as high-powered aides who have been with the Clintons for decades. 

“You have to think there’s some internal tension between some of the newer hands in the press shop who fully understand the need to get ahead of the story and some of the older hands who may be of the ‘never apologize, never explain’ school. But whatever the reason, it’s killing them,” she said.