At Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton was taken to task for her private email account—a scandal whose protracted aftermath she says has cost taxpayers $4.5 million.
And, as Slate’s Josh Voorhees predicted, much as he tried, moderator Anderson Cooper couldn’t get Clinton off her script. She pooh-poohed the Republican investigation as a partisan tactic to torpedo her presidential bid and gain points with conservatives and suggested that America move on to more important issues.
Sen. Bernie Sanders agreed. “I think the secretary is right. And that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” he said, shaking Clinton’s hand in the debate’s most convivial moment. The crowd ate it up.
But Cooper wouldn’t let Clinton get off so easy.
“Hold on,” he said over applause. “I know that plays well in this room. But I got to be honest—Gov. [Lincoln] Chafee, for the record, on the campaign trail, you said this is a huge issue. Standing here in front of Secretary Clinton, are you willing to say that to her face?”
Chafee tried to link Clinton’s email misdoings to decaying American authority in the rest of the world. “We have to repair American credibility after we said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he didn’t,” he said. “ … Out there with the world. I think we need somebody with the best and ethical standards as our next president. That’s how I feel.”
Cooper asked Clinton if she wanted to respond.
Clinton, who conducted herself like a debate coach among quibbling students throughout the event, wouldn’t take the bait. Her only response was the only word a politician enmeshed in scandal needs to know: “No.”
Watch the wonderful exchange below: