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The Clinton emails – Why it matters

March 16, 2015

This early in the election cycle, Mrs. Clinton and her supporters are undoubtedly hoping this whole email mess will just fade away.

As a topic for the daily news cycle, by the time 2016 actually gets here, it might do that. Certainly the Obama administration provides a daily stream of other juicy talking points for the media, sometimes even intentionally.

Still, like rotting fish left too long in the sun, the entire email episode will leave a lingering aroma.

Make no mistake, this will not affect the people who are solidly in favor of Mrs. Clinton. The people who always seem to have an effect on the elections aren’t the hardliners on either side…it’s that amorphous group known as “the undecided”

Even people who don’t do much more than catch a few headlines on the nightly news or an errant tweet find it more than a little odd that a highly placed government official (A) conducts all her official business on her own private server in her home, using her own private email and phone, and (B) that decisions on what to delete are left to her judgment, using her own private attorneys and staff.

Many people have had to sign employer-required confidentiality and separation statements. The notion that the masses are unable to understand the complexities of company or government security may be wishful thinking on the part of Mrs. Clinton’s defenders.

Aside from the effect on Mrs. Clinton’s presidential run, there is also a guilt by association factor for other politicians and political appointees. Like it or not, others are being dragged into the controversy.

Who told Mrs. Clinton that it was OK to keep all of the State Department business essentially in the public domain?  Do any other officials or Cabinet members have private servers? Why? Is there something government-related on Mrs. Clinton’s server that she doesn’t want the public to know? What if her phone had been hacked, stolen or lost?

One of the roles of any key employee, especially at Mrs. Clinton’s level, is generally to provide the boss with some level of plausible deniability if things get contentious. Mrs. Clinton certainly doesn’t seem to have provided that for President Obama.

How many times can the administration push the line that they first heard about it on the news and expect anyone to believe it?

This  whole laissez-faire attitude about the right of the people to know what their government is doing and how it conducts itself has long been a Washington hallmark.

The current administration has ramped that attitude up to a seemingly imperial level, or perhaps it is simply less concerned now about concealing its disdain for the public’s right to know.

The person at the top usually sets the tone for his or her subordinates, so the whole idea that most of what goes on in Washington is none of the public’s business is problematic.

Is it even remotely possible that employees of the State Department could generate ONE BILLION emails in a single year, and then find that only about 61,000 of them have any association with official business?

If that’s true then they should probably all be fired for taking their salary under the false pretense that they are actually working.

For those of us old enough to actually remember the Nixon “I am not a crook” response to Watergate, or Bill Clinton’s vociferous denials of questionable conduct, this all sounds only too familiar. So does the tactic of reacting to the media by “addressing” whatever is the topic of the moment, in this case the process by which she and her minions chose emails to delete.

Much has been made of Mrs. Clinton’s animosity toward the press and her aversion to public scrutiny, dating back to the days of Whitewater and the Lewinsky mess to name just two of the many instances in the past.

Much of the scrutiny the Clinton’s have received in the past is a result of their own poor judgment and inability to play by the same rules as the rest of us. A desire for or even a right to privacy isn’t quite the same thing as wanting to conceal questionable official behavior.

If Mrs. Clinton’s reaction to scrutiny by the press is to hide everything now, how much will that be magnified if she becomes President, where everything she does will be minutely scrutinized, analyzed and reported on by the media?

The office of President of the United States shouldn’t be something awarded by a political party as a sort of gold-watch reward for outstanding support of past fundraising campaigns, nor should it go to the person most adroit at hiding from the truth.

UPDATE:  USA Today is reporting that today, on National Freedom of Information Day, the administration is removing a regulation making the Office of Administration subject to FOIA requests. The Office of Administration, among other things is responsible for the archiving of emails. Archive this under “You can’t make this stuff up.”

From → op-ed

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