Hillary and her Blackberry
Hillary with her Blackberry

Here we go again

| The New York Times broke the story last week that Hillary Clinton, for her entire time as Secretary of State, used a personal email account for all her email, including government business.

In the way that anything to do with Hillary sets off a tempest of discussion and argument, this revelation had the predictable effect: Republicans were outraged, simply outraged, and Democrats offered a typical schoolyard defense: All the other secretaries did the same thing. And Jeb Bush did too!

But then the plot thickened. Not only was she using a private account but the account was hosted on an email server in her house in Chappaqua, New York. (A "server" is just a computer used to accept requests from other computers, technically "clients," and respond with the appropriate files or information. An email server simply has the capacity to receive and store email messages sent to it and in turn send them back out when someone [authorized] requests them.)

Why would someone do such a thing? Keeping an email server running 24X7X365 is not a trivial task and making it secure from hackers and foreign governments would be daunting. Bigger and better email servers have been hacked: think Sony; think CentCom; think Yahoo; etc. The easy way out would have been to let the techies at the State Department take care of all that and just use hillaryclinton@state.gov (or whatever). But Hillary didn't do that. She had a domain registered on the very day she began her confirmation hearings as Secretary so she could have her own email server in her very own house in New York.

Obviously Hillary didn't want anybody to have access to those emails. Period.

A Canadian friend asked the other day, "What’s this fuss about? So she used her personal email, big deal!"

Hillary
Hillary at a recent conference. Note the tightly pursed lips. This is not an open person.

From a political standpoint, this really is not a big deal. There are no undecideds about Hillary Clinton, and the email flap is not likely to change many votes. But it can have a big impact on her presidential campaign (assuming she runs, which everyone does assume). This incident simply reinforces all the bad things think about the Clintons and Hillary in particular: That she thinks rules are for other people, not her; That she must be hiding something because as we all know she is always hiding something; That it's all politics all the time with her. That she wants everything on her terms when she is good and ready. Her silence on this matter over the past 8 days has simply allowed it to fester.

Today the United Nations had a big conflab about women's issues, Hillary was a keynote speaker, and afterwards she answered questions at a press conference. As to why she set up her own email account and server, her answer was "I wanted to use just one device for my email ... I didn't want to carry around two phones." The word "convenience" featured prominently and often in her explanation, which she assured us ordinary Americans would understand.

It took 8 days to think of that? That answer is not going to satisfyanybody except the Clintonistas. Besides, it is a specious answer. A single device can retrieve email from multiple accounts. You do not need a separate device (phone, PC, tablet, whatever) for each email account. For example, I personally have 8 different email accounts (name@account1.com, name@account2.com, etc) and I can get mail for all of them from my PC, from my phone, my Kindles, or my Linux computers. It's not rocket science!

The press conference was classic Hillary: she stood before a wall-covering plastered with United Nations (leverage that legitimacy); made a few remarks about women's rights (she had been a keynoter); took a swipe at Republican senators for their letter to the Iranian Mullahs (natural for a former Secretary of State); and then turned to "other matters" (namely her emails). As questions went on, rather pointed ones indeed, her smile became more and more fixed, her lips pursed, and she alternated between a lawyerly defense assuring us she had satisfied everything required of her and appeals for empathy from ordinary Americans.

There were two revelations in the press conference that are guaranteed to keep the pot boiling. First, she is the one who decided which emails from the server should be turned over to the State Department; it was her judgment. Second, she deleted all the other ones that were supposedly personal. This makes it impossible for any outside body to verify the split; we are just supposed to trust her.

The public life of Hillary and Bill has been dogged by scandals, real or imagined. There was Whitewater, travelgate, cattle futures, the 'vast right-wing conspiracy', Vince Foster, and, of course, Monica Lewinsky. Most recently it was all about Benghazi. Whatever the substance of these incidents, the Clinton reaction makes them worse. "Emailgate" fits right in the pattern. She knew the emails were going to be an issue several months ago, but she hedged and said nothing. And after the NYTimes story broke she waited a week before giving a non-explanation explanation: "I did it for convenience." If that's the reason, she could have said that a week ago. Presumably she was triangulating all the possible things she could say and the ramifications of each one.

The fact that she acts as if she has something to hide when, even when she doesn't, is a real problem. Democrats are "all-in" on Hillary Clinton as their candidate. But she will clearly be a flawed candidate — she comes with a lot of baggage.

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Last updated on May 11, 2016

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