I’m pretty sure I have nothing brilliant or original to add on the Hillary Clinton private server/e-mail matter, but if anyone wants my take, here goes:
She shouldn’t have done it. It was a bad, wrong decision to use her personal account for official email traffic, some of it involving sensitive material. The various reasons/excuses she gave over time — that it was for personal convenience, that she didn’t want to have to carry an extra device — seem lame. We are left to wonder and worry about whether she had other reasons and what insights this provides into her character, judgment and fitness to be president. Politically, it was an unforced error.
It doesn’t strike me as the worst thing in the world. Luckily there is no clear evidence that any sensitive government information fell into dangerous anti-American hands as a result of her decision, although FBI chief James Comey went to lengths to specify that he could not rule out that this may have occurred. I fear the current level of polarization makes it hard for most Americans to seriously filter this matter and the latest information about it into a reasoned decision-making context.
Comey, in case you didn’t pick up on this, is a registered Republican. All of his previous high government appointments were under George W. Bush. He donated to both of President Obama’s opponents, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. All of these are good things in a case like this and are helpful in deciding whether the investigation was, as Mr. Trump adorably put it in several tweets, rigged.
Trump believes that anything that doesn’t help him is rigged or biased. Comey has an excellent reputation for probity and it’s a credit to Obama to have appointed him, notwithstanding his Republican credentials. Whatever else you think of Comey’s report, it’s a good thing that they came from someone with his background and reputation.
Trump owes Comey an apology for the “rigged” tweets, an apology that will not be forthcoming. Trump has made never apologizing into some kind of test of strength. To me, it is the opposite.
Clinton has said it was a mistake, which strikes me as at least better than refusing to say so. At a certain point, she decided to stand on the statement that nothing that came into or out of her email account was marked classified at the time that it was received or sent. I had assumed that this statement would hold up. Why would you make it, and repeat it over and again, unless you knew it to be true? And if it was true, it struck me as, while not perfect – since it leaves open the possibility that secret information was flowing across an unsecured server because it was improperly marked – a pretty good start toward limiting the negative characterological aspects of the case.
Now Comey says it was not true. Some of the emails were classified as secret, a few of them at high levels of classifications. This is especially troubling because Clinton had built the opposite into her defense. I wonder if we will ever hear from her how she came to make the false assurance about classification.
As far as the political impact of this latest event on the race for president goes, my hunch is that it will be small. We are so polarized that few of us can even consider a development like this outside of pre-existing partisan lenses. Trump’s supporters will continue to believe that Clinton did something terribly wrong and that, if the system exonerates Clinton, the system is rigged. It’s a closed loop.
By the same token, although Comey was harshly critical of Clinton, it’s hard to picture the Clinton supporter who is going to vote for Trump over this matter. I fear that we are beyond the point (if there ever was a point) where facts are very relevant to the outcome.
Perhaps, ’twas ever thus. But in the age of Trump, ’tis even more so.