Who Is Lanny Davis? His Email To Hillary Clinton Was Incredibly Awkward

On Monday, the State Department released a glut of emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private account. You know, the ones everyone's been clamoring for, and which the Republican Party clearly hopes will torpedo her campaign. There's no signs of the latter happening — not yet, at least. But some of the emails do hearken back to some days long gone by, and include references to longtime associates from the days of Bill Clinton's administration. So it might be time for a little refresher. For example: Who is Lanny Davis, who emailed Clinton asking for a favor back in 2010?

If you're a longtime watcher of cable news outlets, there's a decent chance you've seen Davis on the airwaves once or twice. He's worked as a pundit, as special counsel defending then-President Bill Clinton against impeachment, and as a public relations / resolution aide for some highly controversial, broadly condemned international leaders (like strongman dictator Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast in 2010).

He even signed on for the near-impossible job of defending the name of the NFL's Washington Redskins, going so far as to rebuke President Obama for his criticism of the team back in 2013. Suffice to say that the phrase "gun for hire" does come to mind.

Amid the trove of emails released on Monday, the ones in which Clinton engages with longtime aides, confidants, and associates have drawn a predictable amount of scrutiny. Both Bill and Hillary have weathered criticism over their enduring loyalty to a tight circle of advisers, especially those which were with them in the darkest hours of the impeachment effort. This includes people like Davis and former White House adviser Sidney Blumenthal, both of whom turn up in the emails. Davis not only served as Bill's legal representation throughout the ordeal, but he was also managing public relations at the same time.

One message from Davis to Clinton, asking her for a favor relating to a news article being written about him, has gotten a lot of attention so far. He apparently wanted her to speak to the reporter on the story, to say some complimentary things about him. But perhaps more striking than the simple request itself is Davis' incredibly supplicating tone while speaking to his longtime "dear friend."

The general consensus seems to be that Davis' email to Clinton is rather cringe-inducing, and I admit that's the reaction I had myself. One assumes that this kind of request could be made without quite so much hemming and hawing.

It's one thing, after all, to ask a favor of an esteemed friend, and to make it plainly clear that you don't mind if they say no. It's another to repeat this sentiment over and over again, eventually culminating with: "Please please please. note there are three pleases: Do not be bashful or concerned about saying no to my request."

Davis also repeatedly refers to Clinton in the third person, as though he weren't actually writing to her. Case in point:

And believe it or not, even Senator McCain called the reporter personally on his cell phone to tell him how much he appreciated my bipartisan *Purple Nation* approach to politics (inspired, of course, by my friend the great former Junior Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, whom my friend Lindsey Graham once told me was the nicest and most effective person in the U.S. Senate!).
Leigh Vogel/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

To say that he's laying it on a little thick would be a drastic understatement. It's not as though you wouldn't expect some fondness on Davis' part, considering his track record of public, extremely vocal support for Clinton. He came out swinging for her on the email issue months ago, both on Fox News and MSNBC, when the controversy was still in its nascent stages. In other words, he's clearly still invested in the Clintons to some extent. As such, you'd really think he could be a little more straightforward with his personal requests.

Maybe this is just a cost of the job, however. When you're engaged with dictators like Laurent Gbagbo and Equitorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, maybe you learn to walk on eggshells a little more. For the record, Davis has publicly defended his work with dictators. In 2010, he told The New York Times:

... when I see that I can help get out the facts, and improve people’s lives, and peacefully resolve conflicts, then I feel an obligation to do so.

He also obliquely defended this point in the message above, when he referred to people's criticisms of him "trying to make bad countries better."

If this were only a matter of Davis' email coming off as embarrassing, it might not matter much. But there's also the risk that people think this is the kind of treatment desired by Clinton, fueling those "out of touch" and "elitist" narratives. But when you compare Davis' candor to the people who work with Clinton on a regular basis, as is splashed out in thousands of emails now, one thing becomes very clear — this seems less like a Hillary Clinton problem than a Lanny Davis one.