Like so many political scandals, the Hillary Clinton e-mail mess has multiple benefits even as it reveals the scabrous underside of the American political culture. Prime among the benefits is that it provides a useful test of who is trustworthy and perceptive, and who is untrustworthy due to an excess of bias, partisan fervor, warped values or just mush-for-brains.
The stunningly cynical and dishonest statement by Clinton communications chief Jennifer Palmieri, dissected in Part One, revealed that the Clinton machine really does have zero respect for the intellect of the American public, that the Clintons still believe that you can lie your way out of anything (even if the lies make no sense), and that a lack of ethics really does eat away at gray matter.
Look: every week, sometimes three times a week, I harangue lawyers about how they are ethically obligated to take careful measures to protect proprietary client information that is stored or communicated through electronic means. They immediately comprehend how it is essential, especially government lawyers. Why? Because the government is the most vulnerable of clients, among those who can be most hurt by careless information technology, and is ahead of much of industry and the private sector in developing policies and methods of keeping information as secure as possible. Hillary Clinton’s casual lies about how her “home-brewed” server was no big deal is literally stunning to these lawyers, because they know that no high ranking government official is as cavalier about official e-mails as Clinton’s repeated statements would suggest she was. As is a pattern among Democrats during the Obama administration, Clinton’s dissembling is designed to fool the ignorant, because the ignorant are many and useful. It is based on the assumption that nobody, certainly not the news media, will enlighten them sufficiently to understand the magnitude of what Clinton did, and the breathtaking audacity of her lies.
The major news organizations are publicizing this story as little as possible. Only Fox thinks it is important, apparently. This is one more example of why objective, truth-seeking liberals should be grateful for Fox.
The Obama administration, contrary to what Clinton’s “this is nonsense” lie would suggest, has prosecuted individuals under the Espionage Act of 1917 for improperly handling classified information more than all previous administrations combined. This is to be expected and and is appropriate, because technology makes it easier to steal secrets than ever before. Some prosecutions may have been over-zealous: NSA whistleblower Tom Drake had his career destroyed when the Department of Justice determined that he mishandled classified information exactly like the documents Clinton’s deceitful excuses argue were safely sent and received on a private server: information that was not formally classified at the time but later determined to be. Less than two weeks ago, Glenn Greenwald notes, “a Naval reservist was convicted and sentenced for mishandling classified military materials despite no evidence he intended to distribute them. Last year, a Naval officer was convicted of mishandling classified information also in the absence of any intent to distribute it.” What Clinton did was deliberate and, as Secretary of State, far more reckless and indefensible than these and other examples during her tenure of which she was well aware.
How do we know that? We know that because she made statements like this:
“I think that in an age where so much information is flying through cyberspace, we all have to be aware of the fact that some information which is sensitive, which does affect the security of individuals and relationships, deserves to be protected and we will continue to take necessary steps to do so.”
She said this knowing as she spoke that she had secretly installed a non-government server and was using it to receive classified and even top-secret information.
It is not just the hypocrisy that is staggering, but the incompetence, recklessness and stupidity. The AP reported, “There is no evidence she used encryption to shield the emails or her personal server from foreign intelligence services or other potentially prying eyes.” By Clinton’s own stated standards, as well as those of the Justice Department, the State Department, the Defense Department and Clinton’s own profession, which is demanding that lawyer take every precaution to protect the secrets of their clients, this is not just a big deal, but an existential deal….and Hillary Clinton knows it.
Yet she has corrupted, intimidated or lobotomized her allies and supporters to the extent that they continue to mouth her lies that what she did just isn’t important, even though, as Greenwald angrily notes, when “low-level government employees with no power” do it, they are punished severely. (Greenwald, recall, has championed the treasonous exposure of secrets by Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, and doesn’t think they should be punished. He is wrong.)
I just heard Geraldo Rivera on Fox call this “the most overblown” news story he can remember. To do this, he is adopting the irresponsible ‘it’s just digital mismanagement, hey, who doesn’t get confused with this stuff?’ rationalization endorsed by Slate writer Jamelle Bouie. It is ignorant and misleading, designed to let Clinton escape accountability and to confuse the public.
Even Clinton’s supposed rivals for the Presidential nomination are abetting this strategy. Bernie Sanders, an alleged champion of the common man whom one would think would find flaw with a potential President who intentionally breaks the same rules she saw less connected government employees prosecuted for, but no. Bernie doesn’t think fairness, honesty, competence, security, equity and transparency matter, at least not sufficiently to point out that his adversary lacks all of them, by the evidence of this affair. Clinton has seemingly corrupted the field so it has adopted the successful diversion used by her husband during Monica Madness, the repeated mantra that all these character and honesty controversies are distractions, and that only policy matters or should matter to the country and the public. This is Bouie’s argument. It is also Democratic nomination-seeker Martin O’Malley’s, who told MSNBC:
“I think it underscores why we need to have conversations and need to start having our debate within the Democratic Party about the ideas that will actually create jobs, get incomes to go up, make our country safer. All this stuff about the email server and the top secret emails, all of this — these are not the ideas that excite the electorate. These are not the ideas that spark the imagination of the American people or allow them to see their own family’s future in the solutions and the ideas and the broader story that we have to offer as a party.”
This is completely ethically bankrupt, and alarmingly so. This principle-free analysis begins from the gutter philosophy of Clinton operative Paul Begala, who memorably said, “Voters do not give a shit. They do not even give a fart… Find me one persuadable voter who agrees with HRC on the issues but will vote against her because she has a non-archival-compliant email system and I’ll kiss your ass in Macy’s window and say it smells like roses.” This was the Watergate strategy of the Nixon gang too. Voters don’t care, and what voters don’t care about can’t be wrong even if they should care. So make sure they don’t care, and we can do what we want. It didn’t work then, but sometimes it does.
But what does it tell us when an aspiring leader and a political party think such a cynical strategy should be attempted?
Every day, new jaw-dropping information comes out indicating that Clinton treated sensitive communications—like, say, communications to and from the Secretary of State, who was…oh! HER!—at risk by using a private system and and apparently trying to hide the fact. Among today’s revelations, for example:
“Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton entrusted her email server to an IT firm that was not cleared to handle classified materials, according to the chief spokesman for the Defense Security Service.The DSS is an arm of the Defense Department and is the only federal agency authorized to approve private sector company access to sensitive or confidential material. The agency reviews and approves private contractors to assure they have secure facilities and approves security clearances for employees to clear them for access to sensitive or classified materials.”
Now why would she do this? Isn’t it at best reckless and irresponsible, and at worst suspicious? Clinton paid liar Lanny Davis, who is to Clinton Corruption what a sneeze is to spreading a plague, has said, “They’re ignoring what the inspector general said, which is that there was not one single accusation of wrongdoing alleged against Hillary Clinton and her use of email.” This, of course, is a lie unless one’s definition of “wrongdoing” is “Clearly and intentionally violating the law.” Is there any question at all that using a non-compliant IT company was wrong?
Is lying wrong? One of the main ways the Clintons and their Democratic Party and journalism enablers know they must corrupt the nation is to make the public accept lying…serial lying, in Hillary’s case…by leaders as inconsequential except as politically dangerous or inept. Here is the the LA Times editorializing, for example. In many ways it concedes real wrongdoing—not what Lanny Davis would call wrongdoing, but he doesn’t think lying to the public for pay is wrongdoing—but its only concern is evidently that her conduct made Clinton vulnerable to partisan criticism! The framing of the issue is designed to make a gullible reader think, “Oh, so this is just politics. Nothing to be concerned about.” In other words, to corrupt and confuse:
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s decision to use a private email server to transact official business as secretary of State was a serious mistake — even if it didn’t violate the law and even if the vast majority of her official communications were preserved on the government accounts of the people she was communicating with. Using a private account was bad policy and, with the server back in the headlines this week, it is proving to be bad politics as well.
We get a rationalization first: The Compliance Dodge. No law was broken….except the unstated fact that the FBI, which only gets into matters where laws might have been broken, thinks otherwise.
Then we get a minimizing of the vital importance of handling sensitive information carefully and responsibly, which Clinton had acknowledged in the past.
The fact that “vast majority” is pro-Clinton spinning. Why don’t we accept a Secret Service defense that the “vast majority” of threats to the President don’t breach security? Clinton was changed with protecting all communications, not “the vast majority.”
“Clinton has compounded her original error with an overly controlling response to inquiries about what was contained in those messages. Her presidential campaign is paying a predictable price in public confidence for that strategy.”
The “strategy” is called lying one’s fool head off, for months. All the editors care about is that this is “overly controlling,” a euphemism. Should potential Presidents lie all the time? Apparently as long as it doesn’t hurt in the polls.
…investigators concluded some messages should have been marked and handled as classified. The server should have been turned over long ago. That said, it’s not clear that additional emails might be retrieved. When Clinton turned over more than 30,000 emails to the department in December, she said that she had deleted an equal number that were personal, including messages about the planning of her daughter’s wedding and her mother’s funeral. The problem was that it was Clinton who decided which emails would be preserved and handed over, an arrangement that Republicans (and others) were bound to see as suspicious.
Bound to see as suspicious? Why doesn’t the LA Times see it as suspicious? Why don’t they explain to their readers why it is suspicious? No, it’s only those mean Republicans who are saying it is suspicious.
“Equally unsurprising, Republicans are rushing to judgment about the latest developments in the controversy. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) asserted that “Secretary Clinton’s previous statements that she possessed no classified information were patently untrue,” and he demanded an investigation of her “mishandling of classified information.”
What Boehner said, dozens of less corrupt sources than the LA Times have concluded, is accurate. Clinton undeniably mishandled classified information, indeed top secret information. Again, all the editorial’s focus is on the partisan dispute and the scandal’s political impact. The intent is to signal that one only has to take sides by partisan preference, not that the conduct being described and the character of the individual responsible are not a partisan issues, but factual and ethical.
“In fact, it hasn’t been established that Clinton sent or received emails containing information that was marked classified or top secret. As the Clinton campaign pointed out Wednesday, when previously unclassified information is reviewed for public release, it is sometimes classified retroactively. Unfortunately, such nuances are likely to be lost in the heat of a presidential campaign.”
As I explained in Part I, the Times is endorsing deceit along with the circular argument Clinton has been using. If Clinton had not wrongfully, incompetently, and recklessly handled her communications through the private server, the information would have been classified. She is using the wrongdoing itself to excuse the results of the wrongdoing, and the Times (and others), are reporting this absurdity as if it makes sense. But this—“…such nuances are likely to be lost in the heat of a presidential campaign”-–made my head explode. These “nuances” are Clintonisms, like “I did not have sex with that woman.” There the “nuance” was that Bill Clinton was using a narrow definition of sex that excluded oral sex in order to mislead. The circular argument that the classified information wasn’t classified yet (because Clinton’s mishandling of it prevented timely classification) isn’t a nuance. It’s deception. Clinton-style.
This is simple, really. Do we accept blatant lying from our leaders? Does lying matter? Can a democracy function properly if the public cannot trust its leader to tell the truth?
Reason’s Peter Suderman obviously answers these questions “No, we shouldn’t;” “Yes, a lot;” and “No.” Hillary and Hillary enabling Democrats, progressives, feminists and journalists are working hard to convince you the answers should be..
…Sure, if their ideas are exciting.
…No, not if its a Democrat, progressive, or feminists who is doing the lying, and…
…Sure. A democracy is functioning well if the things we want to be done are done..
To do that, they have to corrupt you.
UPDATE (8/15)–Ethics Alarms wants to sincerely than Hillary Clinton, who was kind enough to validate every word of this post by really and truly uttering this garbage in Iowa yesterday:
“It’s not about Benghazi. And you know what, it’s not about e-mails or servers either. It’s about politics. I won’t get down in the mud with them. I won’t play politics with national security or dishonor the memory of those we lost. I won’t pretend this is anything other than what it is: the same old partisan games we’ve seen so many times before. I don’t care how many super PACs and Republicans pile on. I’ve been fighting for families and underdogs my entire life and I’m not going to stop now.”
Wow. If I had wanted to write a hypothetical Hillary statement to illustrate the analysis in this post, I could not have done better.