Monday, May 30, 2016

The stupid! It scathes!

Happy Memorial Day! This is another long one (mainly because of quotes)—would have made it shorter but I didn't want to take the extra time—

I vote for Gene too. Mara's honest-and-trustworthy numbers are going through the floor. Image tweeted sometime in late March by Stacy Smallwood.

Mara Liasson on NPR yesterday morning:

This was a bad week for Hillary Clinton. The State Department inspector general released a report that was very scathing. And it contradicted a couple of assertions she's made in the past about her using a private server for her emails. She'd said in the past that the arrangement was allowed. Now, she never said she asked for permission and got it. But she did say it was allowed. And the inspector general said no, it wasn't allowed. And if she had asked us, we wouldn't have let her do it, or we would've told her not to do it.

The report was "very scathing"? What was the thing about it that "scathed", "scorched", "seared", or "assailed with withering denunciation"? The next sentence begins with "And", indicating that it's about something in addition to the scathe factor, which remains unexplained. The report's conclusion, in full, states:
Longstanding, systemic weaknesses related to electronic records and communications have existed within the Office of the Secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State. OIG recognizes that technology and Department policy have evolved considerably since Secretary Albright’s tenure began in 1997. Nevertheless, the Department generally and the Office of the Secretary in particular have been slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications, particularly as those risks pertain to its most senior leadership. OIG expects that its recommendations will move the Department steps closer to meaningfully addressing these risks.
They certainly did criticize her, particularly for taking a rather long time to turn all the emails over:
At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department's policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act...
But they also noted repeatedly that this issue had been "mitigated" by her cooperation since then, and the department has no outstanding problems. I really don't see the scathe here.

The something in addition hardly scathes either. Liasson alleges that Clinton contradicted herself on "a couple of" claims she's made, which generally means about two, but only mentions one: that she said having a private email server was allowed when it wasn't allowed. Which leaves out an important half of the story, which is that it wasn't disallowed either. Had Clinton asked the appropriate parties it apparently would have been disallowed, but she didn't. As the anonymous State Department officials explained at their press briefing on the release of the Inspector General's report,
To your two questions about why Secretary Clinton didn’t use email and why she didn’t seek approval for her personal system, unfortunately I don’t think we can speak to that and we’d have to refer you to Secretary Clinton and her team. The OIG report does not get into that and doesn’t make findings with respect to that.
You did ask about or recite several of the (inaudible) provisions that were in place during Secretary Clinton’s tenure. And one thing that is clear is that the policies on email evolves over time and our guidance to officials on how to comply with them evolved and improved over time. Some of the most relevant NARA guidelines on the use of personal email were not issued until 2013. And to this day, the Federal Records Act still permits the use of personal email to some extent provided that you follow the key principle, which is to capture them.
So while we would never – while we wouldn’t encourage the use of a personal email, there was no absolute prohibition on it during this or any other tenure, administration. And while it may have been difficult to approve such a system in light of the policies, we think it’s very important to note that both the OIG and NARA have said by going out and getting records back from Secretary Clinton that we have mitigated the past problems associated with this use.
There's more of a case that the IG "contradicted several of Clinton's long-standing points" in an analysis at, which notes that she "had an obligation" to discuss the email system with cybersecurity administrators (even though her private server was more secure than the State Department's!), but offers no evidence that she or her staff knew about the obligation; that she wasn't in compliance with department policy in taking 21 months to turn over all the emails, as mentioned above; and that although all her official emails were preserved in the government servers on the accounts of the officials she corresponded with, that was not "an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a Federal record", contrary to her beliefs.

That last bit is an important detail. She is not accused at any point of lying about the policy, only of not knowing clearly what the policy was, which is at least partly the Department's fault—
I don’t think it’s a finding in the OIG report, and I don’t believe it’s a finding by the Department that anyone was above or not subject to the rules. It’s just that we didn’t do a great job ensuring that they were followed.
She did make one arguable misstatement, when she said that "all her predecessors" did the same thing, when in fact only Colin Powell did, and it wasn't exactly the same thing, though it too was in violation of the policy. Then again, since Powell was the only previous secretary to use email, it's absolutely the case that 100% of her predecessors did it if they were in a position to.

Liasson goes on:

But I think the bottom line of all this is that the emails are the root of her biggest problem, which is that she is seen as dishonest and untrustworthy and her numbers on that are getting worse and worse. And it's depressing her overall numbers with voters.

The real phenomenon, the "bottom line", for the horserace journalists like Liasson that cover the campaign, isn't the story of what she did, it's the story of what poll respondents think about it. Liasson doesn't feel any obligation to report the email issue accurately, because that's not important; what's important is her numbers, and the effect of the story, regardless of whether it's true.

[RACHEL] MARTIN: Meanwhile, the apparent GOP nominee Donald Trump keeps saying he believes Hillary Clinton should be indicted for this. Is that even a possibility?

LIASSON: We don't know if she'll be indicted or not. We know that the FBI says it wants to bring this investigation to a close relatively soon. There are many people who cover the Justice Department who think she won't be indicted because she didn't commit a crime. But we simply don't know.

I am not a lawyer, Mara, but when your friends on the DOJ beat say Clinton won't be indicted because she didn't commit a crime I think they're on pretty solid ground. When somebody hasn't committed a crime, that's a classic reason for not indicting them.

(Though it doesn't apply in a case like the ongoing Brazilian crisis where the people doing the indictment are known criminals themselves.)

Compare how, in the same segment, Liasson treats the case of Trump University, which is currently the subject of three civil actions including the class action being heard in federal court in San Diego for fraud, false advertising, unfair business practices, and "financial elder abuse" and the suit prosecuted by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman accusing Trump of fraudulently bilking the students of $40 million, both likely to come to trial this fall. Nothing about whether he's seen as "honest and trustworthy" or the cases themselves at all; it's all about whether he's polite to Mexican American voters:

Just when you think he's going to be magnanimous in victory or make that much promised presidential pivot, he doesn't. There he was in San Diego railing against the Mexican judge who is hearing the case against Trump University. In Albuquerque, he gratuitously insulted Susana Martinez who's the governor of New Mexico, the only female Hispanic governor in United States history.

The nameless "Mexican judge" is Gonzalo Curiel, whose parents were Mexican, but the judge is from Indiana. In dehumanizing him by omitting his name and misstating his nationality, Liasson is following Trump's playbook to the letter. Also in suggesting there's just one case when there are three. She needs to be scathed.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


Victor said...

It's only the end of May, which means 5 more months of anti-Hillary media shit-storms!

FSM, I should have moved to Canada or Yurp decades ago!!!!!

Unknown said...

Trump trying to intimidate a judge. This is a bad omen if this spoilt child is elected.

Feud Turgidson said...

In common with Bbbeeennnggghhhaaazzziii!!!, when the right wing hype turned out unsupported by the facts, the GOP reacted by declaring victory.

And it works! If there's no prospect of a definitive showdown, they can claim victory for eternity, with no fear of being finally refuted,ever!

Hell, the South doesn't even acknowledge losing the Civil War - or even what it was about. And they've got arguments! Sure: crappy arguments, crazy arguments, anti-democratic and inhuman arguments, ranging from overty racist thru laughably stupid to ultimately both irrational and self-destructive. But they cling to them nonetheless, regardless of quality, and trot all of them out on the slightest excuse or provocation.

If they're not going to concede after getting crushed, with hundreds of thousands of their dead, wounded and personally devastated, an entire culture ripped up and burned to the ground, they'll sure as hell declare a nothing burger a feast.

jsrtheta said...

@Feud Turgidson: To paraphrase Chris Rock, facts are like kryptonite to Republicans. That the Republican senate campaign is raising "scandals" in which Hillary was cleared, as if they prove she was guilty, is simply business as usual.

They have no shame and no morals. I just reread David Brock's Blinded by the Right, and it seems nothing has changed.

sdhays said...

I like NPR reporting on other issues, but any reporting they do with regard to American politics is just garbage.

Tengrain said...

And once again I have to say it: Mara Liasson