Tuesday, March 03, 2015


In response to the revelation that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account for official business throughout her tenure of secretary of state, in apparent violation of federal regulations, Steve Benen writes:
Politically, ... Republicans find themselves in an awkward position. The RNC issued a statement asking, “[I]t all begs the question: what was Hillary Clinton trying to hide?”

Putting aside the misuse of “begs the question,” the Republican track record makes this a difficult question to ask.

Eight years ago, for example, the Bush/Cheney White House ran into trouble when its officials were found to have routinely ignored the Federal Records Act. Among others, Karl Rove, who was accused of widespread abuses, used private email accounts instead of official accounts to conduct administrative business. At the time, Republicans en masse said the controversy wasn’t important.

Three years ago we learned that Mitt Romney oversaw the purchase of 17 state-issued hard drives, and wiped clean computers and servers that contained electronic copies of emails from his gubernatorial office. Romney later admitted the move was intended to hide official correspondence from the public and keep potentially-embarrassing information under wraps in advance of his presidential campaign. During the 2012 race, Republicans said this didn’t matter, either.
It wasn't just that Republicans said those scandals didn't matter -- for better or worse, the public agreed. With regard to the Bush administration emails, New York magazine's Margaret Hartmann recalls that "From 2007 through the first year of the Obama administration, top Bush officials were embroiled in a scandal" -- but "embroiled" is a strong word, because it wasn't a scandal that crossed most ordinary Americans' radar. And the Romney story never broke through at all.

I think members of the public assume that every politician is at least somewhat sneaky and corrupt, so citizens do triage on negative political stories. They cared about Bush-era mismanagement of wars and the flawed response to Katrina (and, ultimately, the collapse of the economy on Bush's watch). With Romney, they cared about his plutocratic bent, and they paid attention when he was reluctant to release several years of tax returns because that was relatable -- Americans have to report their taxes to the government every year, and fear having to endure extra scrutiny if they're audited, so a little disclosure of tax information seems the least a candidate can do in return. But email disclosure isn't something that's of much interest to most people, in the absence of a specific scandal that's being concealed -- most Americans don't face demands to archive their own emails, and most Americans don't have any interest in poring over archives of anyone else's emails.

Which is not to say that what Hillary did was justified -- it put her above the law and it suggests that she's hiding something, or at least that she has a neurotic tendency toward concealment even when there's nothing to conceal. But I agree with this:

That's unless we see evidence that there was a cover-up of something that matters to people. (No, Benghazi doesn't count, because the vast majority of Americans don't care whether someone from the State Department offered one explanation of Benghazi in the immediate aftermath and that explanation was corrected mere weeks later, when the attack happened two and a half years ago). This reveals bad judgment, but it's not going to be an enduring scandal unless there's much more to it.


Chris Andersen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Andersen said...

All true. But the Republicans will certainly try their best to make this sound like the worst thing since Watergate.

retiredeng said...

Republicans will scream and throw poop like they always do. Two year olds have better dispositions.

Anonymous said...

Even so, the lady was your Sec of State and she owes the history of your country the record of her correspondence. 'Over here' we have a 30-year rule which bans publication of state documents for that period. Some genuinely secret classified documents are banned for longer.

In any event, like the other examples you list, it simply raises the question of what she was afraid she might say.

mlbxxxxxx said...

I'm not sure there will be any "persuadable" voters in October 2016. I imagine the 2016 campaign is going have historically low levels of undecided voters. I do think that this will be part of the portrait they paint of HRC. Just like Gore was branded a hopeless fabulist, HRC will be branded as having always had a secret, nefarious agenda for America. And, frankly, she may for all I know. I certainly have no idea what her actual agenda is for her presidency other than being the first woman to hold the office. I think she needs to start campaigning soon (I've read she will) or she risks being completely defined by her enemies. She needs to lay out a policy agenda that addresses the problems that continue to face our country/economy. The bullshit I've heard from her (I guess the latest was the Daily Show interview) was less than appealing. It's obvious she's thrilled to be Hillary and the heir apparent but beyond that, I got bupkis.

The fact that she's been no more, or less, secretive than her conservative predecessors will be of no benefit to her -- nor should it. It should, probably, give us all pause, though there really isn't a viable alternative. It is a sad commentary that we don't. After Hillary loses, and I think she will -- not because of this but because of voter suppression and turnout issues -- I hope the Democratic Party takes a more aggressive stance toward developing the next generation of leadership.

Victor said...


For Hillary - another unforced error.

She should have followed normal protocol for government officials.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, so, I'll wait for awhile.

Anonymous said...

Victor, I'm hopeless at crosswords and puzzles and I don't speak 'hip', so please - IOKIYAR?

David Empey said...

IOKIYAR = It's OK If You're A Republican

Anonymous said...

Thank you, David, it would have taken me the rest of my life to work that one out!

Never Ben Better said...

Whoa whoa whoa, folks -- it turns out Sec. Clinton -- like many other government officials before her who used private email accounts for public matters, such as Colin Powell -- was not subject to any regulation requiring her to preserve emails as government records because the relevant statute wasn't signed into law until November 2014, two years after Hillary left State:


Read the whole article, with update after update, to see how this "scandal" is unravelling in the fact-based world -- though the outrage from the usual suspects will, of course, never die down.