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Mar 11, 2015

Hillary's Emails: A Prediction


Rick Shenkman is the editor of HNN. 

I am writing this before reading anything about Hillary's news conference.  I don't know if she fell on her face or did a boffo job.  But nonetheless I am confident I know what she tried to do.  I am so confident I am willing to write this blog post and not delete it no matter what it turns out she actually said.

How can I be so sure I know what she said?  It's not because I have special insight into the way her mind works or because I have a secret pipeline into Hillaryland.  (Do they still call it that?)  But I am familiar with the psychology of partisanship.  And this dictates the way politicians respond to news adversely affecting their fortunes. 

Without further ado, here's my prediction.  I predict that Hillary will provide enough information in defense of her practice that her supporters will be able to feel good about what she did.  She won't have to offer convincing proof that what she did was right.  All she has to do is show that there's not a solid case against her.  She has to provide proof, in other words, of ambiguity.

Psychology tells us that in a situation where information is ambiguous partisans of each side can find a place of comfort.  Pro-Hillary partisans can find enough evidence to justify their faith in her and anti-Hillary partisans can find enough evidence to damn her.

Here's the general rule:  We accept evidence favorable to our side uncritically and scrutinize closely unfavorable claims by an opposing side.

In a jam, all a politician needs to do is therefore create space for themselves whereby ambiguity exists.  Inevitably, partisans play their assigned roles.  Fans cheer and opponents jeer.

We should be able to rise above partisanship, but in these ambiguous situations it's rare when we can.

So:  Was I right or wrong?  What did Hillary say?

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