Hillary’s Secret E-Mails: An Invaluable Ethics Litmus Test


All civic minded citizens should encourage as many individuals—public, private, elected, celebrities, media figures, reporters and pundits—to discuss the issues and significance of the Clinton e-mail scandal. It is a marvelous litmus test to unerringly reveal whether the individual understands basic ethical principles like integrity, honesty, responsibility and trust, as well as his or her reliance on intellectually and ethically bankrupt rationalizations like “Everybody does it,” “It’s not the worst thing,” “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” and others, or, just as disturbing, whether the individual is willing to reject basic ethical principles in a misguided effort to defend a public figure unworthy of the sacrifice, like Hillary Clinton. Keep this public debate going. Before it has run its course, we may have outed thousands, hundreds of thousands, who we will know cannot themselves be trusted.

It takes all my will and civility reserves not to say that this is an IQ test as well. I keep reading comments on blogs and Facebook by people who really seem to be unable to fathom why it should matter when the individual who leads our official dealings with foreign governments mysteriously chooses to take dominion over all her official communications, allowing her to destroy them at will, when such conduct violates the policies and directives of the administration of which she is a member, her own department, and common sense, despite incurring security risks, despite questions over her foundation soliciting contributions from foreign governments while she was in a position to have such contributions warp national policy, when the individual involved, was well as her husband, has a history of skirting laws, obfuscation and mendacity. “This is just more manufactured Hillary-bashing!” Seriously? I know the Clintons pay people to say this, but really believing it requires total corruption or life-threatening brain lesions.

As an example of how this issue exposes a lack of honesty and integrity the way those blue light things show traces of blood on “CSI,” let’s examine the CNN transcript of yesterday’s segment on “New Day,” which featured a “point-counterpoint” style debate on the Clinton e-mails featuring former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer and former Hillary press secretary (and current Media Matters partisan warrior) Karen Finney.

This pairing is manipulation by CNN, by the way. Nobody but hacks, liars and fools honestly defends Clinton’s conduct here, and many non-partisan commentators can articulate clearly exactly what’s wrong with it. Placing a presumed partisan like Fleischer opposite Finney cleverly and unethically suggests that this is one more political dust-up without substance, where there’s no real dispute, just a red/blue divide. That may be what CNN wishes were true, but this issue is not partisan, and shouldn’t be presented as such. The Washington Post, which has, like most of the print media, been pretty straight on this issue, played to the partisan spin by saying,

“Instead of a fresh chapter in which Clinton came into her own, her time as the country’s top diplomat now threatens to remind voters of what some people dislike about her — a tendency toward secrecy and defensiveness, along with the whiff of scandal that clouded the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton.”

Wait, there are people who like secrecy and scandal? Are they called Democrats, perhaps? Clinton supporters? What an idiotic way to frame Hillary’s problem.

It’s not complicated: the issues involve trust and the character of a potential President.

Now here is the CNN transcript, with my comments in bold:

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: To discuss, former White House press secretary and Republican consultant, Mr. Ari Fleischer, and former director of communications at the DNC and senior fellow at “Media Matters,” Miss Karen Finney. Thanks to both of you for being here.

Let’s begin at the beginning. The rule says it’s the department’s general policy that normal day to day operations be conducted on an authorized AIS, which has the proper level of security to provide all these big words. Keep it safe.

Ari, do you believe that then secretary of state was operating outside this rule because she did not have an authorized AIS?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I don’t know about rule. I know it was wrong.

CUOMO: Why? The rule decides if it’s wrong.

What??? STOP. A brief but intemperate rant follows. When a journalist says something this jaw-droppingly stupid on the air, he should be suspended without pay and sent back to school. The rule decides if it’s wrong, Chris? So, for example, slavery was right, as long as there was no law against it? If we suspended the laws against child rape, it would then be right to have sex with a six year old?

You know, a comment like this is almost signature significance for me. How can I trust the judgment of someone who says something this idiotic and irresponsible on the air? No, Chris, you pompous fool, the fact that something is wrong dictates that a rule needs to be made to prohibit it. The rule doesn’t “decide if it’s wrong.”

FLEISCHER: If you’re in the government, you’re supposed to conduct all your public business on a public site government site. That’s for security reasons. Ask any security official who knows the internet, Hillary’s e-mails have been read by Russia, China and Iran. This is a serious national security issue for somebody running for commander-in- chief.

CAMEROTA: Karen, did she put the country in a national security predicament?

STOP. Nothing like throwing a straw man to the paid spinner, Allison. Fleischer didn’t say that Hillary put the country in a national security predicament. He said that conducting business on a personal e-mail account is a serious national security issue, and someone running for President should be expected to understand that.

Meanwhile, Finney is already smirking. Do conservatives do this too?  This is the Soledad O’Brien/ Carol Costello, Rachel Maddow smirk, where a progressive mouthpiece shows her audience that “this is all so silly, intelligent people know there’s no real issue here, this is just those dumb, unfair, lying Republicans making stuff up again. We all know that, right?”

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, DNC: No. And I’m sure he’s equally concerned about the millions of e-mails missing from the Bush administration if we’re going to play that game. Look, a couple of things to remember, as Colin Powell, himself, pointed out yesterday, he too had a personal e-mail.

I wonder if the Clintons have a special training seminar for those they send out to muddy the waters when they are caught doing something suspicious and sleazy. “Now first,” the instructor says,”find another public figure, ideally in the same job, who did the same thing or at least something that can be made to look like the same thing. Republicans are best. Bill’s having sex with an intern? Remind them of Ike’s jeep driver during the wat. Okay, it’s just a rumor, and he wasn’t President then, and it’s an “everybody does it” excuse, and yes, he didn’t lie about it under oath in a court of law, but that’s OK, the point is to deflect and confuse!”

1. “He did it too!” is not a defense. 2. Powell had an official e-mail account, which he also used. 3) It was ten years ago, and the use and regulation of e-mail was very different. 4) Powell did not build his own server in his home for the purpose of controlling all of his communications via e-mail, and most important of all, 5. Colin Powell’s honesty and integrity is beyond reproach. Nobody suspects that he would use personal e-mail to hide what he communicated. Hillary, on the other hand, has a record of duplicity. This is like a registered sex offender hanging around an elementary school who argues, “Colin Powell was here a few years ago, and nobody complained about him!”

He did not keep copies as he said because anything sent to someone in the government a record was kept in that system. That’s exactly the same thing that Secretary Clinton’s folks said last week.

Yes, and it was deceitful, just like Finney. How do we know what non-government accounts Clinton communicated with regarding matters of state. such as, for example, her own staff, such as Huma Abedin, who also used private accounts? What about foreign accounts?

In addition to that, they have turned over 55,000 pages of documentation. So they actually have two copies of her records.

Lie. They have 55,000 pages of what Clinton has let them see. Chris Cillizza of the Post:

Clinton World has shipped 55,000 pages of e-mails to the State Department. That much we know. What we don’t know is how many more pages of e-mails exist. Here’s what we do know, from a Post report Thursday: “Of the e-mails that were turned over to State, the Clinton aide said, 90 percent were correspondence between Clinton and agency employees using their regular government e-mail accounts, which end in state.gov.

“The remaining 10 percent were communications between Clinton and other government officials, including some at the White House, along with an unknown number of people ‘not on a government server,’ the aide said.” That doesn’t, of course, answer the more basic question: Is 55,000 the entirety of the e-mails Clinton sent? Half? A third? Obviously, if it’s 95 percent, that’s something very different from if it’s 35 percent.”

Finney is really shameless.

CAMEROTA: Karen, you know, you say 55,000 e-mails have been released and it shows transparency, yet, there are some who say the very e- mails they’re interested in, particularly for the Benghazi investigation are not strangely not part of that treasure-trove. Listen to Troy Gowdy for a second.

GOWDY: There are gaps of months and months and months. If you think to that iconic picture of her on a C-17 flying to Libya, she has sunglasses on and she has her handheld device in her hand, we have no e-mails from that day. We have no e-mails from that trip.


FINNEY: Here’s what I love about that comment. That trip was in 2011. Benghazi happened in 2012. He’s requested documents related to 2012. He has 900 pages from the State Department of e-mails around the 2012 incident. So he’s talking about a picture that was a year before the incident that he’s saying he’s missing e-mails from.

Here’s what I love about that Finney’s comment: it’s so flagrantly smoke and mirrors.  Gowdy, who is a smart, former prosecutor, is pointing out that the photo strongly suggests that Hillary sent e-mails that she has not released, and thus some of the e-mails relating to Benghazi may have not been released as well.

CUOMO: So the sunglasses, well, that was an attempting thing…


…but here’s the question for you, Ari, if this was such a big deal, such a flagrant abuse of what she’s supposedly doing, how come nobody said anything?

FLEISCHER: Well, that’s a great question for the people who are on the receiving end of her e-mails.

CUOMO: They had to be people from both parties.

FLEISCHER: You don’t know if they also have a government account. She deliberately set up a system so she could go around the spirit of the law. Keep in mind, you have to look at Mrs. Clinton’s history. After the travel office firings that she was responsible for, a prosecutor count substantial evidence that she lied under oath.

Fleischer is dead right, but again, because he is a former GOP staffer, his points are going to be taken as partisan. Here’s inveterate Obama defnder, knee-jerk progressive, African American, Democrat Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson on this topic:

How could anyone serve four years as secretary of state with no official e-mail account, instead conducting business from a private address with its own domain and server? The answer is: Deliberately. The only reason for Clinton to go through the trouble of setting up this system — rather than just call the State Department’s version of the IT help desk — would be to ensure that nobody got to rummage freely through her communications, personal or official. She must have wanted to be able to decide which e-mails would become part of the historical record and which wouldn’t.

Bingo. Why didn’t CNN get fellow Democrat Robinson to put Finney’s spin in its proper place—the trash can?

The only reason they were able to make that claim was because of memos that later came out showing she had a role when she said she did it. So here’s the question. Will Mrs. Clinton release everything or picking and choosing what she wants to release. When you look on the how many pages, 55,000 over four years, that’s only 38 e-mails a day that she received or sent….[omitted is s silly back and forth about Fleischer’s math]

FINNEY:  What I would put forward is, are we going to hold everybody else to the same standard? OK. Well, Jeb Bush has only released about 10 percent of the documents from his time as governor. Most reporters in Florida said a lot of it was already out there. He’s feigning transparency. What about Chris Christie? What about Scott Walker? If that is the test, are we going to hold everybody to the test?

CUOMO: They weren’t secretary of state at the time. They weren’t conducting diplomatic matters.

Good for you, Chris! Maybe I’ll shorten your suspension. They also weren’t raising big bucks from foreign countries for the Clinton Foundation while working as diplomats.

FINNEY: But they were conducting matters of state and if our concern is about e-mails and public and private records, my question is, does everybody get held to that standard or are we just Hillary Clinton to that standard?

Anything to avoid focusing on Hillary, right, Karen? I’m sure this is also in the Clinton’s training seminar. Let’s stipulate that whatever Christie, Walker, Bush et al. did with their records was wrong. That doesn’t, and can’t, make what Clinton did less wrong.

FLEISCHER: The rules are for the federal government. If you’re a federal government officer, everything you do has to be a public document, government document. Here’s why I’m worried about whether she’s turned them over or not —

FINNEY: But you know, the State Department has multiple systems.

What? You know, I once heard an unethical lawyer explain how he disrupted an opponent in a trial, who was on a roll in cross examination and had the unethical lawyer’s client on the ropes, by leaping to his feet and screaming, “Objection, your Honor! The word “aspersions” is not a verb!” The judge and other lawyer stopped cold, puzzled. Then the unethical lawyer said, “I withdraw my objection,” and sat down. The moment was broken, the momentum of the cross destroyed. Finney’s statement is like that.

FLEISCHER: Think about what’s in an e-mail. Let’s say there is an email where she said, maybe we should do more to work with Assad, maybe he’s more of a reformer than we think. Do you honestly —

FINNEY: Do you really think —

FLEISCHER: Karen, I didn’t interrupt you. Think about whether or not she would allow that to be released from her server that she deliberately set up so she could pick and choose what she wants to send. She is going to run for president. Why would she release that? I can’t imagine that he’s going to release everything she has —

CUOMO: We have to leave it there. We’re going to keep this debate going. There are obviously concerns because it’s not all out there. People are going to speculate, but that was a good back and forth.

Yeah, it was. Now we know we should never trust anything that comes out of Karen Finney’s mouth.



27 thoughts on “Hillary’s Secret E-Mails: An Invaluable Ethics Litmus Test

  1. Jack, as you know, you and I are often on opposite sides on many issues, but I must say I think you’ve nailed this one down tight as a drum.
    I agree completely, and don’t even accuse you of being hyperbolic on this one.

    • I agree with Charles. It’s apparent that HRC has had her eye on the White House for a long time and sensed that her tenure as Secretary of State was the final step to the ultimate prize. However, that tenure did not go well. Realizing that possibility from the onset (and having learned from her husband’s and her own previous mistakes) she took the step of installing private lines of communication that could not be easily made public. Now, that very policy has turned out to be fuel on the fire. Therefore, we see the pundits coming out in droves to defend her with every trick in the book. It’s not just her die-hard personal supporters, either. Without her heading up the 2016 presidential ticket, the Democrats’ chances for the White House will be significantly impaired. Every leftist spinmeister in the country will be blowing the same horn in her defense for this reason alone.

      • The is pure conjecture…. But I watch some fairly liberal media, and there has been a lot of spin about Elizabeth Warren. When Hillary finally realizes she’s fumbled too much to recover (which will take a long time if the primary against Obama was a prelude) I fully expect Warren to scoop the ball and run. I don’t expect her to win, but I would be money the ticket in ’16 has her name on it.

        • Hillary recently commented on her emails, calling it (naturally) “a mistake”. You have to wonder how many actions by a wide range of celebrities over the past quarter century- including acts that are both criminal and, often enough, heinous to boot- have been so characterized! At present, Elizabeth Warren seems to be the likely alternative to Mrs. Clinton if she fails to run. Senator Warren, however, has limited appeal outside the hard-left precincts of the Northeast and the Left Coast. I’d expect that a massive search will be undertaken for an alternate candidate that stands to have a broader appeal or can, at least, be spun along to appear so. AND someone whom the hard left can manipulate. Again, I offer the Jimmy Carter analogy, here. A governor from traditionally red state regions would be best. Governor Nixon? Governor Hickenlooper? We’ll see. I agree, though, that if it’s Warren, the Democrats won;t have a chance in Hell.

          • She said she complied with all the rules she had to and the server will remain private. Move along, people, nothing to see here.

            • The usual idea is to shut it down with a barrage of excuses, obfuscations and ridicule, relying on it being a non-issue by the time the nominations campaign starts in earnest.

        • I have now read in several left wing blogs that the GOP is “scared” of Hillary. Scared? The GOP should be desperate to run against her! The woman is aging faster than the guy in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” every time she speaks she makes a major gaffe, she will galvanize the GOP base but not the Dem’s (All those minority voters and kids are going to rally for her like 2008? Never.), she has no charm, and she’s corrupt without even hiding it well. What are the odds she won’t completely melt down over a full campaign, with a major, back-breaking scandal? I’d say NONE,and I think Democrats know it. The MEDIA is scared of a Hillary candidacy, and they are determined to finish her off.


          • The media is scared of Hillary because they’ve spent so much time, energy, and obfuscation supporting her. I think they see her self-destructing over the next year, and like all unethical organizations that either go with the flow or stick to their idiotic ideology, are trying now to get ahead of the game. This will not, in my opinion, negate their long term support of her and Obama and other unethical liberals — the history is there. Jack, at some point you should compare previous reporting and op-eds at the Post, Times, and others to the current ones. The sea change is amazing, but not surprising, because suddenly Hillary has just too much baggage for them to explain away.

    • 1) Thanks
      2) Send the cards and flowers to Inova Alexandria Hospital,4320 Seminary Rd, Alexandria, VA 22304, where I am headed for shock and chest pains.
      3) But seriously…shooting fish in a barrel, don’t you think?

  2. Another thing that bothers me, and this isn’t to excuse Hillary in the slightest… But her email was HDR22@ClintonEmail.com. How on earth does this not get the lid blown off it years ago? Why didn’t anyone she sent Email to, or sent her Email notice that the domain did not end in state.gov?

  3. Jack: Thanks for your detailed explication of how the media (and the Clintons and the Administration) have chosen to deal with this issue. It is enlightening, but most Americans won’t see it or understand it.

    If they “get” anything, it’s this: they’re all whores, and unfortunately, they run the country. Also unfortunately, they just don’t seem to care. (Bring on the entitlements, bring on the bluster and lies, bring on something that, [moron that I am] can believe in.) The media, the Administration, and the Clinton machine are doing an admirable job. We’re doomed.

  4. She also produced printed copies of the emails, not the originals with metadata intact. In any court (or in any government investigation), this would be unacceptable and likely would result in sanctions if not rectified with a really good explanation. In addition, a third party should be the one doing the collections, and then her attorneys should be the ones making the production.

  5. Though the media appears to be keeping this in the forefront, it’s all just part of the playbook. They aren’t really grilling Hillary. They’ll let her excuses fly in end and pretend that there’s nothing really amiss.

    This will be long forgotten in 2 weeks and the media can pretend like they were unbiased in their scrutiny of all upcoming candidates.

  6. So far dailykos is failing this litmus test pretty hard. Not exactly surprised though, since they are still denying the IRS scandal.

  7. Los Clintons. If they didn’t exist, ethics guys would have had to invent them. And just think, Chelsea’s only, what, thirty-something? Married to the head of the Clinton trading desk at Goldman Sachs and the son of a disgraced politician who’s a convicted felon? And they’ve just had a baby! Ethics guys yet unborn don’t have a thing to worry about. Who needs ethics hypotheticals when there are generations of Clintons?

  8. On the bruising thread over at the Planet Fitness post, I predicted that the progressive website ThinkProgress would flunk the Hillary e-mail litmus test for integrity. I was WRONG. It passes with flying colors, and I apologize for my expressed cynicism.

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