On Monday night, Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s plane was waiting on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport. Bill Clinton’s airplane was also down, a short distance away. So Bill Clinton strolled over to her plane, uninvited, to say hi. They chatted for a few minutes, about family, especially Clinton’s grandchildren, and travels; the kind of innocuous chitchat old friends engage in. Then he went back to his plane, and they both went their separate ways. That’s it. That’s the sum and substance of the current Loretta Lynch scandal.
Except, of course, it’s not. There’s pressure on Lynch to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate this ‘secret meeting.’ There may well be a Senate investigation. Did they talk about Hillary’s emails? Did Bill Clinton pressure the Attorney General of the United States to instruct the FBI to drop their investigation? Did Lynch and Clinton cook up some kind of plot to make the email problem go away? What did they really talk about?
Here’s the take from Vox.com, which I pretty much can’t improve on:
The overall structure of the scandal mirrors that of many Clinton imbroglios of years past: Travelgate, Troopergate, Whitewater, and so on. The media and conservative critics seized on these as evidence that the Clintons are willing to do anything to help themselves and their friends, and will interfere with investigations if necessary.
But to the Clintons and their defenders, they’re tempests in teapots, proof that the media will try to construe even the most meaningless incidents as evidence of the Clintons’ perfidy. That belief, in turn, seems to inspire a cavalier attitude about actions that lead to such tempests, fueling the cycle all over again.
Put more strongly: there are people who care more about Hillary Clinton’s emails than they care about almost anything on earth. Some are Republicans and some are Democrats, but what unites them is not just a belief but an absolute conviction that Hillary is guilty of serious criminal acts in regards to her emails, plus a whole bunch of other crimes in addition to the emails, that she is being shielded by Old Family Friend Loretta Lynch, that any day now the FBI will announce her indictment, ending her presidential bid. Obviously, some die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters believe this. Just as obviously, some Trump supporters do too, fueled by Trump’s tweets about it. And full-time Clinton haters (and their numbers are legion) are certain of it. Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch. It was kind of secretive, off anyone’s schedules, sneaking from plane to plane. OF COURSE it was about the emails. What on earth could it have been about otherwise?
But to Hillary Clinton (and undoubtedly Bill as well), the email thing isn’t important at all. It’s just the latest silly nonsense she has to deal with. Clinton’s enemies are always inventing these ridiculous pseudo-scandals. She had a private email account. So did previous Secretaries of State. It wasn’t against the law, and nobody told her she couldn’t. She never sent classified material over her private server. She never broke any laws. It’s nothing. Loretta Lynch really is an old friend. Bill popped over to say hi, and to show off the latest pictures of his grandchildren. Period.
I never cared about the email scandal. It really has always seemed trivial to me. But I have, in recent weeks, had occasion to talk to several people who work for companies where internet security is a very big deal, including a friend who works for a company with Department of Defense contracts. These friends (who are otherwise inclined to vote for Hillary), are appalled at the thought of someone using a private email server to handle company business, or, heaven forfend, State Department business. In their experience, this is a fireable offense. And the fact that she was the boss makes her offense even more egregious. She was Secretary of State. She should have set a good example for cyber-security. So, yeah, the email scandal has some resonance. There’s no evidence that anyone actually hacked into her private email account. But ill-intentioned cyber-persons could have, and if they had, State secrets could have been compromised. Getting lucky is not much of a defense.
So there’s that. I think Hillary Clinton was unnecessarily cavalier about internet security, and perhaps a bit arrogant about not taking it seriously. I think there are also all kinds of mitigating factors involved that tend to absolve her. For one thing, she was a prolific emailer. One estimate is that the disputed emails number about 30,000. I like email, but I don’t send 10 a week. She loved her Blackberry, and she loves email as a communications tool. I can see that having to switch back and forth between devices would become a pain. While she was Secretary of State, her daughter was getting married, and her mother died. Both of those events took a lot of planning, with many emails back and forth. Nobody seems to have told her she had to use two devices. So she didn’t.
There is, of course, a conspiracy theory vibe to the whole Loretta Lynch scandal. And, like most conspiracy theories, it falls apart on closer examination. The FBI investigation into the Hillary server wound up in May. She’s not going to be indicted, unless really damning new evidence turns up at the last second, which isn’t remotely likely. Why on earth would Bill Clinton do something as egregiously stupid as pressure Loretta Lynch to halt an investigation that was already pretty much over? Isn’t it more likely that he merely stopped by her plane to say hi?
So why risk it? Knowing the scrutiny the Clintons always face anyway, why would he do something risky like drop in on the sitting Attorney-General? Shouldn’t he go out of his way to avoid even the appearance of evil?
Because he’s Bill Clinton. Because he’s learned, by sad experience, that ‘avoiding the appearance of evil’ is simply impossible. Why? What’s the point? Remember some of the ‘scandals’ from the past. A close friend, Vince Foster, killed himself–the Clintons were accused of murdering him. Bill shut down the White House travel office because of accounting irregularities–they were attacked in the press for it, with weepy stories about those poor poor travel office folks. They lost money in a real estate deal, and spent the next six years being investigated for all sorts of alleged misdeeds under the broad umbrella ‘Whitewater,’ an investigation that found no wrong-doing. Hillary and Bill Clinton have been in the public eye since, at least, 1991, and have been accused of all manner of malfeasance every single day of that time.
All of these accusations have been false, except one. Bill really did have a consensual affair with Monica Lewinski. Most of the others have been preposterous. And so, sensibly enough, Bill and Hillary have apparently decided not to care anymore. Bill thought he’d stop by Loretta Lynch’s plane to say hi. That’s what happened, and I’m pretty sure that’s all that happened.