Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hillary's E-mail Dilemma

Let's get one thing straight: people are not out to get Hillary Clinton because of her private e-mail server. Hillary Clinton used a private e-mail server because people are out to get her. Yes, she apparently bent and broke the rules, and everyone,  including Clinton, has said how stupid this was. I don't think it's stupid. I think it was the best of several bad choices.

You see, Hillary Clinton doesn't have the option of doing the right thing and not getting attacked. She has not been allowed that option in twenty years.

If Clinton had used a government e-mail address, she would be getting hammered, right now, for using her government e-mail address for political purposes. Count on it. Because try as she might, some personal and political e-mail would have been sent to her address, and this would be treated as a huge scandal.

Really? Would people really make an objection to that? Sure. Let's not forget the big, terrible Al Gore scandal where he was raked over the coals for "illegally fund-raising on federal property" because he made some phone calls from his office. This is the Vice-President of the United States, who not only worked but lived on federal property, and was only occasionally off federal property. The press went right along with that scandal, and it became a major Bush talking point in the 2000 election. This is all on record. If you've forgotten, well, you're lucky. Hillary Clinton does not have the luxury of forgetting. In fact, the luxury of forgetting is part of her problem, in that it frees the rest of us -- the press, the Republicans, the voters -- from any obligation to even basic consistency in how we treat her.

But come on, you say. How hard is it to keep two e-mail accounts separate? Can't everyone do that? as someone who uses multiple e-mail accounts, let me say: no. You can't. It's impossible. Or rather, YOU can keep your work and personal accounts strictly separate, and only send the appropriate messages from each one. What you can't do is make everyone else keep your e-mails separate. You will, I promise you, get some e-mail sent to the wrong address every week, That is inevitable. So Secretary Clinton would have been exposed every time one of her political connections forgot to type "" and typed "" instead. Every piece of misrouted polling data, unsolicited political advice, or personal gossip would have exposed Clinton to trumped-up charges of using federal resources for political ends.

(That would have been the play: she misused government property, the State Department's web server and routers, for campaign purposes. And everyone would have nodded very solemnly about how terrible that was.)

And of course, anything sent to her government account would have been ripe for leaking, including embarrassing personal tidbits and actual political strategy (which no longer works if the opposition knows it, yes?). If you feel any doubt that people would actually leak that stuff, you're allowing yourself the luxury of amnesia again. Because things like that just got leaked in this investigation. It was in all of the papers: this e-mail with Sidney Blumenthal, that e-mail with Huma Abedin, all of the things that Clinton had an interest in keeping private and the public had no legitimate security interest in knowing. And all of that was illegally leaked by sworn government agents who were allegedly investigating e-mail security.

You may have forgotten, but Clinton can't, that she and Bill have been pummeled for years by leaks of material that is illegal to disclose to the press. The impeachment days sailed on a daily tide of sealed grand jury testimony leaked by the investigators. The people investigating Bill in search of a crime actually committed the crime of violating grand jury secrecy on a weekly basis. Why would Clinton think this time would be different? Looking back over the last year, it is clearly not different.

Chew on this: our politics have gotten to a place where the Secretary of State could not trust her e-mail to a government server because she could not trust other government officials, including law enforcement officials, to keep it secure. She had to take as granted that federal law enforcement officials would illegally leak confidential material to cause her harm. Confidential material was held on a private server because the Secretary of State believed -- quite rightly -- that her fellow government officials would not keep it safe. Think about that one for a while.

cross-posted from, and all comments welcome at, Dagblog

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