That’s the Clinton family motto, as we were reminded once more Tuesday when Hillary Clinton finally found a few minutes to address publicly, albeit with no small measure of obvious annoyance, a story that remains stubbornly in the headlines. The story, reported eight days earlier by the New York Times, is that Clinton exclusively used a personal email account during her tenure as secretary of state — an account hosted on her own personal server, in apparent violation of federal record-keeping regulations.
Clinton revealed Tuesday that about half the emails on her personal account from those years had been deleted. Why? She deemed them of a personal nature. Truly personal emails deserve privacy, but the point of having government officials use government email addresses and store their missive on government servers is so someone else can help make that determination with a greater degree of independence. At this point, that may not be possible, although Clinton was unclear about whether the data were truly destroyed. She was quite clear, though, that she doesn’t intend to let anyone else check to see. That, she said, is because the server holds private correspondence between her and Bill Clinton, although the former president famously does not use email.
That last contradiction was one of several to emerge as this story has grown. On Tuesday, Clinton said she declined to use a government email address alongside her personal address out of the “convenience” of using one device instead of two. Now, convenience is not generally accepted as a justification for ignoring government regulations, but that’s not the contradiction here. Less than a week before the Times’ first story about her emails, Clinton said at a conference in California:
“There are reasons when you start out in Washington on a Blackberry you stay on it in many instances. But it’s also — I don’t know, I don’t throw anything away. I’m like two steps short of a hoarder. So I have an iPad, a mini iPad, an iPhone and a Blackberry.”
How … inconvenient.
Clinton’s “humble brag” about the number of devices she carries these days would seem to be part of a careful effort to portray herself as in-touch and up-to-speed; see also the nearby picture which, as of Tuesday night, remained the avatar on Clinton’s Twitter account. Can’t you see? She’s a jet-setting, shades-wearing, smartphone-wielding power broker … not a grandmother who’d join Reagan as the only presidents to be inaugurated at age 69. (And if you don’t think that picture was staged for maximum coolness effect, ask yourself: Who wears sunglasses while reading a phone screen, especially indoors?)
On top of all this, we had a perfectly Clintonian effort not just to excuse her behavior, but to portray it as worthy of admiration. See, what’s “unprecedented” here isn’t Clinton’s refusal to use a government email address at all, to have her emails stored on government servers, to leave the State Department unable to fulfill Freedom of Information Act requests, to decide for herself which documents she’d turn over for public review and which ones she wouldn’t, and, when she did finally turn over some of the data, to hand it over in the form of 55,000 pages of printed (i.e., not-so-search-friendly) material. No, what’s “unprecedented” here is how downright dutiful Clinton has been in giving us what she did!
“I went above and beyond what I was requested to do,” she said Tuesday. Hey, someone give her a medal!
If you are a card-carrying Democrat, you have to be asking yourself at this point if it’s really worth it. If the possibility of keeping the Obama coalition together and electing the first woman president is really worth returning to the era of hiding, finding, dodging, parsing, wagons-circling, counter-attacking; finding more, dodging more, parsing more …
It never ends with these Clintons. They carry themselves as if they’re above the law. They denounce others for pointing it out and then rationalize their actions. And the beat goes on.