Hillary Clinton’s email

Nobody trusts Hillary Clinton. I mean, why would anyone trust her? She’s been a one-woman crime wave, apparently, for most of her career. Benghazi, for example. Or Whitewater; she was involved with that. And now, I mean, she’s this close to being indicted, for the email thing. I mean, she can’t be President from prison, right?

As I write this, it’s April, 2016. Hillary Clinton is running for President, against Bernie Sanders. And let’s get real; Sanders has run a terrific campaign for President, he’s inspired lots of people, especially young people, who were previously uninterested in politics, to become engaged politically. In every possible sense, the Sanders’ campaign has been a healthy, positive thing for our country. If he’s the Democratic nominee, I will work for him and I will support him. But he’s not my preferred candidate, and it’s very unlikely that he will win.

And the Republican dumpster fire/train wreck/sewage spill will almost certainly end in the nomination of either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Donald Trump. Or Ted Cruz. Yikes.

So, for the good of the country, let’s deal with the Clinton negatives. She’s probably going to be the Presidential nominee of one of our nation’s two major political parties. The other party is likely to nominate either an egomaniacal fool or a religious fanatic. I don’t mean to be unkind–I have friends who support both Trump and Cruz–but personally, I don’t know of any moment in American history when two worse potential nominees were running. For the good of the country, if she’s the nominee, Hillary Clinton has to win this.

Emails, then. Let’s start here. You may distrust this news source, but I went ahead and fact-checked its assertions. Can’t find any discrepancies. Here’s another source. And another. And Did Secretary Clinton use a private email server? Yes. So did Condoleeza Rice. So did Colin Powell. Using a private server was not illegal, nor was it unusual. Did she email classified documents using her private server? She asserts that she did not, but that that some documents that were emailed have subsequently become classified. So far, no evidence has emerged to the contrary.

I want to be very clear. I am not an IT expert, and I am not a national security expert. I’m a playwright with wifi. I try to be independent in my thinking, but I am a liberal and a Democrat, and I support Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. It’s not surprising how incredibly politicized this all is. Google anything like ‘Hillary Clinton emails’ and you’ll find hundreds of news stories, going back a year or so, insisting that she’s going to jail any day now, and also that she has nothing, legally, to worry about. What we believe about Hillary’s emails is predicated on where our politics lie. On nothing more edifying than confirmation bias.

What’s going on? What went down? How should I know? I don’t know anything about internet security, or government regulations pertaining to them. Here’s what I can say; this follows the pattern of all the previous Clinton scandals.

Here’s what happens. The Clintons (Bill or Hillary, it doesn’t matter), make a decision that they think is innocuous; often, it’s something good that they’re trying to accomplish. But the situation turns out to be more complex than they’d originally imagined. At first, their response is to say ‘this isn’t any big deal, there’s no way this could blow up on us. Our intentions are pure.’ But the conservative press gets hold of it, and a narrative, involving charges of corruption and malfeasance and criminality emerges. The Clintons have to respond, and eventually do, though rarely satisfactorily.

Take the very first big scandal; Travelgate. Shortly after President Clinton took office, in 1993, he learned that an audit had revealed irregularities in the accounts of the White House Travel Office. That’s an office that’s been around since the Presidency of Andrew Jackson, nowadays tasked with making travel arrangements for members of the White House press. The office had a cozy relationship with journalists, at times even providing inaccurate paperwork so that reporters could file with their papers for travel expenses they weren’t entitled to. Clinton decided that he’d ferreted out a web of corruption, and fired the seven employees of the office, hiring instead a travel agency called World-wide Travel, a reputable company, but one with ties to Clinton’s third cousin. The press was outraged (the fired employees were friendly with reporters, and had had their jobs for years), and the new narrative was all about nepotism. So the whole thing blew up, and became a major embarrassment for the Clintons. Eventually it became a focus of Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr as part of the Whitewater investigation. Two things came out. First, the Travel Office’s records were a goshawful mess; they should have been fired. And second, the Clintons did nothing wrong. But that determination wasn’t made until 2000. Of course, the Clintons were exonerated. But nobody remembers that. This Wikipedia article does a good job of explaining the case in detail, in case you’re interested.

Compare it to the email scandal. Mrs. Clinton had a Blackberry she liked. She was also a very active emailer. The government’s IT security folks wanted her to have two accounts; one for personal emails, and the other for government business. She didn’t want to, and knew as well that previous Secretaries of State had used the same device for both work-related and personal business. So she insisted that she intended to go on using her Blackberry. Frankly, I get that. We older folks hate learning how to use new devices. And we have a tendency to think that IT security folks are too persnickety.

Since the story broke about an investigation of her emails, though, Mrs. Clinton hasn’t handled the situation very well, in part, it appears, because it took her awhile to realize that something like this could be a big deal. Again, typical Clinton scandal. She knew she hadn’t done anything wrong, so why is everyone freaking out? And, as is often the case with the Clintons, she hasn’t managed the subsequent hooraw very effectively. And so it’s still a story.

But it’s a story I’ve seen before. And when all these furious accusations of gross malfeasance start pouring in, I tend to take them with a grain of sale. There’s never anything to it, and there’s nothing to this one either. And years from now, when the whole story of the entire scandal is revealed, we’ll realize that this really isn’t actually important.

Remember this: For Bill and Hillary Clinton, the world is defined by sound and fury. For the most part, signifying nothing. Prediction: she’s not going to be arrested. She will eventually be exonerated. Which means, it’s okay to vote for her.




One thought on “Hillary Clinton’s email

  1. Alma T. Wilson

    Hello Eric,

    I watched the old right-wing attacks on the Clintons, and I remember. And yes, the Benghazi investigation was a re-run, and so eggregiously awful that Matt Taibbi thinks they just handed H. Clinton the election: (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/trey-gowdy-just-elected-hillary-clinton-president-20151023)

    My biggest problem with H. Clinton in all of the Libya stuff was her willingness to support airstrikes, and on that, she and the congressional Republicans were probably eye-to-eye. The Australian-born journalist John Pilger wrote a very angry article about that: (http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/03/29/trump-and-clinton-censoring-the-unpalatable/)

    Given her use-of-force record, it is not all that surprising that the neo-con Robert Kagan has endorsed her.

    But there is nevertheless some sort of case to be made, both legal and moral, against H. Clinton even in the minor matter of how she used her email server.

    Wikipedia has a reasonably detailed account of the events.

    Perhaps the most lengthy and careful analysis of potential legal difficulties is given by Chetan Hebbale at (https://informedvote2016.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/do-i-really-need-to-worry-about-hillarys-emails-yes-she-will-be-indicted-full-form/).

    I think that there is a real case to answer that she set up her server so that she would get to decide, ex post facto if necessary, which parts of her correspondence she would count as personal, so that they would be shielded from FOIA requests, and which would count as official. Most discussions avoid mention of the standard non-disclosure agreement that she would have been required to sign. Hebbale goes into that, and many other details.

    For many years, life for her and her husband must have been like living in a goldfish bowl surrounded by piranhas. For her to try to avoid FOIA is somewhat understandable. Maybe that’s also why she appears to feel more sympathy with such unpopular institutions as Wall St. than many of us do. Nevertheless, I think she has crossed some lines.

    I do not share Chetan Hebbale’s confidence that H. Clinton will, in fact, be indicted. The fact that she and her staff have been permitted to share the same lawyer (http://www.politico.com/story/2016/04/hillary-clinton-fbi-strategy-emails-221435) rather suggests otherwise.

    To me, win or lose, H. Clinton is something of a tragic figure. She endured one of the most publicly humiliating scandals ever to have happened in national politics. She won on the popular vote count in 2008 in her earlier attempt to be the first female president, but lost on super-delegates to Obama’s successful attempt to be the first black president.

    B. Sanders, if he can only win the nomination, currently stands a much better chance of beating any Republican nominee. He has considerably better numbers among independents, who are now about a third of the voting public.

    Clinton, who has in a certain sense played by the political rules as they have stood for decades, hardly stands a chance at the presidency against anyone except Trump or maybe Cruz. Young voters have largely abandoned her for an old self-proclaimed socialist. (Although in other first-world countries, he would be considered a moderate social democrat.)

    Clinton’s political debts, like Obama’s, constrain her close to the status quo. I find that tragic.

    If she wins the nomination but not the presidency, she and the DNC become Saruman with the broken staff.

    Even if she wins the presidency, it will not be enough. The Sanders’ supporters are hardly likely throw their efforts into supporting machine democrats beholden to Clinton PACs, the DNC, and the rest of the status quo.

    Like Sanders, to accomplish anything substantial in the presidency, Clinton would need to very substantially change the composition of congress in the mid-term elections. Sanders, with a mandate to turn the US into some sort of Scandinavian utopia, has some chance of doing that. Clinton, I think, will have little chance to change much of anything, especially without the impending scary prospect of a Trump or Cruz presidency. That is true however firmly she now has the democratic old order in line (http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/01/how-hillary-clinton-bought-the-loyalty-of-33-state-democratic-parties/).

    Somehow, what is going to happen is not what should have happened.

    Best wishes,



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