In this season of political madness and one-upmanship on the part of the fringe of the Republican Part that has lately become its core, it is sadly proper to observe that not all of the distracting noise comes from that side of the aisle. Democrats, too, have a problem. Hilary Clinton is not necessarily crumbling before our eyes as a potential president, but she may be slowly dissolving with the steady drip of revelations concerning her private server for e-mail communication while she served as Secretary of State.
Disclaimer: I was an employee of the Department during Secretary Clinton’s entire tenure at State. Certain things about State I know firsthand, others at some remove, and still others only from the old “heard from a friend who heard from a friend” channel. I do not know the former Secretary personally. Everything I knew about her from the other two channels, though, suggests that she was a solid Cabinet member, involved and knowledgeable, concerned with those who reported to her as well as those to whom she reported. I liked her direct style, for instance, under hectoring in a Congressional hearing on Benghazi, when she simply said she was ultimately “responsible.” Like a military commanding officer, she recognized that she ultimately would always carry this: the acts of political theater repeatedly orchestrated today add nothing to that burden.
It is utterly a mystery to me, then, why the “government e-mail on a private server” matter was ever permitted to take root, grow, and flourish to the point where, just today, after we heard that Secretary Clinton stated for the consumption of all that she had started the use of that infamous private server in March, 2009, but later today, accounts surfaced to the effect that there is an e-mail from that account to General David Petraeus dated in January of that year. Her poll numbers in categories in such qualities as “trustworthy” continue to drop.
I am not going to say that the matter can now be effectively explained away or otherwise made a non-factor. In fact, it seems the media will continue to offer up nuggets on this same theme until Election Day, 2016, and gleeful Republicans will continue to tut-tut and speculate at nefarious reasons for the existence and use of the server. Neither am I going to offer a spirited defense for, or even an attempt to account for, its use over a four-year tenure.
In January, 2009, when HRC took over at State, the scene when Secretary Colin Powell took over and was aghast at the lack of a computer in his office at State was a matter of legend, having taken place eight years before. Secretary Powell also went to great pains to ensure that State employees, both domestically and posted abroad, had access to both internal State communications (intranet) and the common variety (internet) that high school students all over the country had. E-mail through both the classified and unclassified systems was a well-established fact of life. There had to be a concrete decision on the part of the Secretary herself that she would use an alternative system; whether that was instead of, or in addition to the official channel, I just don’t know.
The new Secretary was no novice in the ways of Washington. As First Lady from 1993 to 2001 and a U. S. Senator from New York after that, she had been a lightning rod for every criticism, every niggling negative comment, every sling, every arrow and broadside that every Republican operative and every media personality of the right-wing echo chamber could fire in her direction. One would suppose that she would have been reflexively so careful to walk the straight and narrow so as not to give these sources anything to complain about. Obviously, this is not what came to pass.
I don’t know why this all happened. Indeed, it may be nothing but an administrative misstep, the kind that gets government employees mild rebukes from time to time, and comes off more careless than evil, but I wish Secretary Clinton would come out and say two things. WHY would you do this (an “It was allowed, ” is beyond weak), and WHY, once it was plainly not going to be dismissed by the general public (that is, voters, rather than haters or apologists) did you not realize that the longer it took to have a “tell-all” with Anderson Cooper or just about any prominent media figure, the more it would look as if there was something hidden? Harry Truman once spoke of heat and getting out of the kitchen if you couldn’t take that heat. Madame Secretary, don’t try to wait for the heat to go down. We can’t afford an overdone presidential candidate.