While perhaps too early for Democratic elites to panic and begin bailing out on Hillary Clinton's campaign as a doomed vessel, they would be well advised not to miss any of the lifeboat drills. For Hillary's campaign is taking on water at a rate that will sink her, if the leakage does not stop, and soon.
Initially, the issue of Hillary and the e-mails she sent and received as secretary of state seemed too wonkish, too complex, too trivial a matter to sink a candidacy as strong as hers.
Her nomination was considered as assured as any since Vice President Richard Nixon ran unopposed in 1960.
But since it was revealed that as secretary of state she used a private server for her e-mails, located in her home in Chappaqua, the bleeding of public trust has been unabated.
Her tortured explanation as to why she installed her own server only raised suspicions. Her erasure of 30,000 "personal e-mails," her initial refusal to turn her server over to State, her denials she ever received confidential information, her wiping of the server clean, her stonewalling, have all ravaged her reputation for truthfulness. And truthfulness was never Bill or Hillary's long suit.
And the issue of Clintonian entitlement and privilege has arisen again.
For Hillary showed a casualness in handling the nation's secrets that would have cost a civil servant at State, Defense or CIA his or her security clearance and job. And they would be facing charges and potentially jail time.
Indeed, now that Justice and the FBI have been called in to look at Hillary's handling of state secrets, it is not impossible that at the end of this road lies a federal indictment. Should that happen, her campaign and career would be over. And should that indictment come later rather than sooner, the Democratic Party could be headed into the election of 2016 led by a Brooklyn-born septuagenarian socialist.
Every day that new revelations come about Hillary and her e-mails, and every week that passes between now and when the filing deadlines for the primaries begin to fall, this becomes a real possibility.
Again, the problem here for Hillary and the Democratic Party is that the investigators at Justice, the FBI, and in a hostile Congress and the media, are far from wrapping this up. They all have their teeth in it, and they are not going away. And there is nothing Hillary can do to halt the investigations, or plug the leaks, or, it seems, to change the subject.
What, really, is the relevance of her $350 billion plan to get the super-rich to pay off student loans, if Hillary is being lawyered up?
The Democratic Party is approaching the fail-safe point. If it appears that Hillary is headed for the knacker's yard, then to whom do the Democratic elites turn, and, equally important, when do they move? For they cannot wait too long.
Hence, a "Draft Biden" movement has begun, and veterans of President Obama's campaigns are signing on.
Yet the vice president should think long and hard about whether and when he plunges into the Democratic race. For his announcement of availability would be a signal that Joe Biden thinks Hillary is politically dead, or close to it, and he is coming in to drop the hammer.
This would be seen as act of crass political opportunism, seizing upon Hillary's travails, shouldering her aside, and seizing a nomination millions of Democrats have long believed was hers by right. How would the millions of Democratic women who have looked forward to the first woman president respond to Biden's barreling in and finishing her off? How enthusiastic would those women and feminists be for a Candidate Biden who had delivered the deathblow to Hillary and blocked for another decade any chance of a woman as president?
Joe would certainly be up for Chauvinist of the Year 2015.
And other problems would arise for a Biden candidacy. Would Bill and Hillary Clinton be out there stumping to help Joe win the presidency, when both had dreamed of her having it?
Joe would have to beat Bernie Sanders and rout the Elizabeth Warren liberals. He would have to woo back the big contributors in the Jewish community who believe Barack Obama and John Kerry threw Israel and Bibi under the bus to cut a deal that empowers the world's leading "state sponsor of terrorism".
If Joe is having second thoughts about getting in, who can blame him? As the old saw goes, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."
But for Democrats, such counsel comes too late. Hillary is carrying their basket of eggs, and slipping all over the sidewalk. If they procrastinate in designating someone else to catch the basket if it falls, they get Bernie. But if they move too soon, they will be charged with sabotaging the last best chance for America to elect a woman president.
A nice problem for those ubiquitous cable TV talking heads who identify themselves as "Democratic strategists".
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
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