"That's not going to happen," Hillary Clinton said in Wednesday night's debate, brushing off a question about what she'll do if she is charged with federal crimes. "Goodness!" she exclaimed, treating the subject as unworthy of discussion, "I'm not even answering that question."
This was the Democratic presidential front-runner's effort to evade a very pointed and relevant question from debate moderator Jorge Ramos: "Would you drop out of the race if you get indicted?"
He had to ask it twice even to get the courtesy of an evasion.
Clinton's choice of tactic on this issue, to slough it off rather than treat it seriously, is perhaps to be expected, but it plays voters for suckers. Even if an indictment is not imminent or doesn't seem probable, the fact that she disobeyed the laws and regulations that applied to her during her time in the Obama administration is not even up for debate.
The fact that the Justice Department has granted immunity to an aide who set up her personal email server is a sign that the continuing FBI investigation is very serious. Democratic voters would do well to take these facts into consideration.
Perhaps Clinton feels so safe that she can say anything. Why shouldn't she, when Bernie Sanders, her opponent in the Democratic primaries, threw in the towel in the first debate by expressing disgust for the whole subject of her "damn emails"? His failure to grill her about her casual treatment of national secrets and disregard of the Freedom of Information Act, speaks volumes about him, too.
As a former federal agency head who knowingly concealed her work product from the taxpayers, from Congress, and from lawful FOIA requests as long as five years in some cases, Clinton has an awful lot to answer for.
More importantly, as a government employee who casually distributed classified secrets through nonsecure channels, then lied about it repeatedly on national television, she has fully earned the misgivings of the 60 to 70 percent of voters who tell pollsters she is dishonest and untrustworthy.
It's safe to say that any other government employee who did what Clinton did would be facing severe consequences. The use of private email for government work was among the reasons cited for Clinton's sacking of a U.S. ambassador to Kenya during her time in the Obama administration.
Clinton has managed to deal with this issue so far through a combination of playing dumb (Wipe my server? You mean with a cloth?) and acting like it isn't an issue at all. Sanders has aided her effort, acting like he's not the only person in America who thinks systematic lawbreaking is not a disqualification from the nation's highest office.
But Clinton may not have the luxury of playing dumb forever. Democratic partisans booed Ramos' debate question, but they are fooling themselves or trying to fool others if they treat it as unimportant.
According to news reports, one of the email chains found on Clinton's secure server discussed an Afghan national's collaboration with the CIA. That's the sort of information which, if it fell into the wrong hands, would get a friend of America's killed. And all because of Clinton's selfish decision to put herself above the law and keep her records hidden from the congressional committees that oversaw her, as well as the public that paid her salary.
It is also important to note that Clinton signed a nondisclosure agreement with the State Department that covers all classified information, whether or not it is marked "classified." No one should be satisfied with her repeated excuse that the information she compromised was not marked.
Democratic voters should be more concerned about this than anyone, the same way Republican voters should be more concerned than anyone else about the Trump University fraud trial.
There's more than one candidate in the 2016 race trying to pull the wool over voters' eyes.