The scandal du jour is that, it has been revealed, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conducted official government business using a personal email account and not the government one, and on top of that did not archive her emails in the Department of State archive as required.
It’s entirely possible — and I would like to think true — that she never revealed sensitive information in emails and used email only for more informal communication. But we have no way to know that, and it looks bad.
It’s also absolutely true that Republicans Did It First.
But this story looks even worse if you transport yourself back to early 2009, when Clinton first became of Secretary of State and, according to this story, initially refused to use a governmental account.Â The Bush administration had just left office weeks earlier under the shadow of, among other things, a major ongoing scandal concerning officials who used personal email addresses to conduct business, and thus avoid scrutiny.
The scandal began in June 2007, as part of a Congressional oversight committee investigation into allegations that the White House had fired US Attorneys for political reasons. The oversight committee asked for Bush administration officials to turn over relevant emails, but it turned out the administration had conducted millions of emails’ worth of business on private email addresses, the archives of which had been deleted.
The effect was that investigators couldn’t access millions of internal messages that might have incriminated the White House. The practice, used by White House officials as senior as Karl Rove, certainly seemed designed to avoid federal oversight requirements and make investigation into any shady dealings more difficult. Oversight committee chairman Henry Waxman accused the Bush administration of “using nongovernmental accounts specifically to avoid creating a record of the communications.”
Three years agoÂ we learnedÂ that Mitt Romney oversaw the purchase of 17 state-issued hard drives, andÂ wiped cleanÂ computers and servers that contained electronic copies of emails from his gubernatorial office. Romney laterÂ admittedÂ the move was intended to hide official correspondence from the public and keep potentially-embarrassing information under wraps in advance of his presidential campaign. During the 2012 race, Republicans said this didnâ€™t matter, either.
But, y’know what? I don’t happen to think “Spanky (or whomever) did it first” is a valid excuse.
If she had had a publicly spelled-out policy that only the most routine and non-sensitive communication would be conducted by email I might be inclined to not care, or to write off the criticism as nit-picking, but I haven’t heard that she did.
I’m seeing a lot of people write this off as another faux scandal, but I agree with John Cole — this was a stupid unforced error. Could it be that she gets off on being investigated?
In other news: I realize this is Bibi Netanyahu Day in Congress. I’m waiting for the reviews.