Hillary’s Real Problem

The State Department Inspector General’s report on Hillary Clinton’s establishment of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State poses a big problem for her bid to win the presidency.  That’s because the report not only contradicts some of the Clinton talking points about the whole ill-advised email escapade, but also reveals new information that accentuates why many people are leery of Clinton in the first place.

The report is, I think, a devastating rebuke for Clinton.  It can’t be reasonably depicted as a partisan hatchet job, because it was ordered by Secretary of State John Kerry and performed by the inspector general’s office during the Obama Administration.  And it recounts, in brutal detail, Clinton’s violation of State Department policies.  The report states that, according to officials, Clinton’s server was not, and would never have been, approved.  It concludes that Clinton failed to preserve federal records in conformity with the Department of State policies under the Federal Records Act.  It reveals that there was an apparent hacking attempt on the server, and that people who asked questions about the server were told not to discuss it.  In short, it confirms the worst-case scenario that Clinton and her minions have been downplaying ever since this story first broke.

David Brooks of the New York Times recently wrote an interesting piece on why he thinks Hillary Clinton is so unpopular.  He postulates that it’s because she’s presented as a kind of workaholic and never displays the human qualities that make her tick — what her hobbies are, what her interests are, and the other pieces of intimate knowledge that our nation supposedly craves in this internet age.  I think Brooks got it precisely wrong.  It’s silly to think that public perception about Clinton would change dramatically if we learned, for example, that she makes crafts in her spare time or enjoys skiing.  I think the root problem for Hillary Clinton is a combination of general “Clinton fatigue,” because she and her husband have been in the public eye, demanding our attention seemingly forever, and the fact that, in the eyes of many people, she projects a strong sense of entitlement and being above it all.

When those people watch Hillary Clinton, they get the sense that she’s annoyed at having to go through the motions, give the speeches, and pretend she’s enjoying it, when deep down she resents the fact that people just don’t bow to her paper resume and acknowledge that she is the most qualified person to serve as President and give the job to her, already.  It’s not that she’s not displaying human qualities, it’s that the human qualities she displays are the kind that many people find totally off-putting.  She’s like the kid who rolls his eyes and smirks when other kids give wrong answers during a spelling bee or a flash card contest and just wants to be reaffirmed as the smartest kid in the class.  Those kids tended not to be the most popular kids in the grade.

And that’s where, in my view, the IG report is especially troublesome for Clinton.  It reveals that Kerry and former Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Madeleine Albright all cooperated and answered questions as part of the Inspector General’s investigation — but Clinton didn’t.  In fact, she not only didn’t cooperate and sit for an interview, but her chief of staff and top aides didn’t either.  Really?  They got paid salaries by the taxpayers, but they won’t participate in an investigation that deals with issues of compliance with federal records laws and potential exposure of highly confidential government documents?  Who the heck do these people think they are?

As for Hillary Clinton, she’s apparently got plenty of time to give speeches to Wall Street firms and trade groups for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and pose for grip and grin photos with high rollers, but she can’t be bothered to answer questions as part of an investigation by an official in the department she once headed?  It’s the kind of high-handed behavior that we’ve come to expect from the Clinton camp, expressing irritation and exasperation at doing the things that everyone else accepts and endures.

That’s why so many people don’t care for Hillary Clinton.  If she took up knitting or skeet-shooting, their views aren’t going to change.

About Hillary’s E-Mail

Should we care about Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email address when she served as Secretary of State?

On Monday the New York Times broke the story that, during her four years as Secretary of State, Clinton never had an official State Department email address and instead exclusively used a personal address to conduct official business.  As a result, her emails were not maintained on governmental servers, which may have violated the Federal Records Act.  The Times reported that her aides later went through her emails and decided which ones to give to the State Department.

Following up on the story, yesterday the Associated Press reported that Clinton’s private email address traced back to a personal computer server at her home in New York.  The House Committee investigating the attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya has now subpoenaed her emails, and Clinton said last night that she has asked the State Department to review the emails that her aides provided to the department and release them to the public.  Clinton’s defenders say there is no evidence that she acted with ill intent, and note that other politicians have used personal email accounts.

So, should we care about this incident?  I think we should, for three reasons.  First, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to expect high-ranking public officials like the U.S. Secretary of State to comply with federal law.  I don’t buy the “other people did it too” defense, and saying Clinton wasn’t a conscious lawbreaker is about as lame a justification as you can concoct.  Is the fact that the senior member of the President’s Cabinet apparently was unaware of basic rules of federal record-keeping really helpful to her?  Was she ignorant of and non-compliant with other rules set by federal law, too?

Second, where were Clinton’s aides and other State Department officials and federal officials in all of this?  When they started to get email from her personal email address, didn’t they raise the issue of her non-compliance with federal law — or all they all blissfully ignorant of the Federal Records Act, too?  Are federal employees simply not trained in straightforward administrative requirements of federal law, or were they afraid to raise the issue of Clinton’s non-compliance because they worried about the reaction?

Third, the rules set by the Federal Records Act are important, and aren’t just another set of inexplicable red-tape requirements in the byzantine mass of federal regulations.  Storage of all communications by federal employees in federal departments means that records of those communications will be archived and readily available in the event the activities of the employee are investigated.  The employee won’t get to pick and choose which records will be accessible and thereby tailor the story to make themselves look good.

More importantly, in this world of constant data breaches, storage of official email on personal servers is asking for trouble.  Perhaps the Clintons have the most well-staffed, advanced IT section in the world constantly safeguarding their personal server from attack, but I’d rather trust the federal government to keep the Secretary of State’s confidential communications with the President and foreign leaders secure from the hackers.  Are we really confident that malignant foreign governments didn’t plant malware in the Clinton server and obtain real-time access to her communications?  Clinton’s decision to conduct official business on a personal email account strikes me as both naive and extremely reckless — which aren’t exactly qualities I’m looking for in a presidential candidate.