The State Department released on Friday some emails that Hillary Clinton had given them from her time as Secretary of State. The only emails the State Department had to release were the ones provided by Hillary Clinton from the secret server she used during her time as secretary, so no one should have had any expectation that these emails would provide much interesting information.
Still, there are multiple sketchy things already on display in these scrubbed emails. Here are just a few of them.
The dog that didn’t bark
In fact, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the emails is what they don’t show. Byron York astutely notes that the newly released emails contain no information relating to security in Libya the month prior to the Benghazi attacks even though Ambassador Christopher Stevens warned Clinton and other State Department officials of a growing danger there. He and three other Americans were killed on the September 11, 2012 attack. Stevens had told State officials that if an attack occurred, the U.S. wouldn’t be able to repel it.
Go back to August 2012. On the 15th of that month, U.S. security officers in Libya held an “emergency” meeting to address the very real possibility that growing violence in the area could soon target Americans. The next day, Aug. 16, Stevens sent a cable to Clinton concluding that the Americans in Libya could not defend U.S. facilities “in the event of a coordinated attack, due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound.”
Clinton testified that she never saw the email on account of being too busy. York notes:
But wasn’t that Aug. 16, 2012 cable — warning of dire consequences should the existing violence in Libya target Americans — a pretty important communication?… both former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey — two busy men with pretty big jobs — testified they knew about it.
I’m not sure which is worse — Clinton truly being out to lunch regarding Benghazi security or forgetting to share the emails showing she was on top of the situation there before she destroyed them. Perhaps she simply didn’t handle this issue via email.
Our Secretary of State was Instapapering super sketchy folks
Much of the media coverage of these emails is focused on the surprisingly strong links Hillary Clinton retained to longtime family consigliere Sidney Blumenthal. The White House told Clinton that she couldn’t have Blumenthal on staff, so the amount of intelligence he was providing her has raised eyebrows, particularly considering his financial interest in the areas about which he consulted. She kept him on the Clinton Foundation staff during 2011 and 2012, at the time she circulated memos he wrote to her staff. They are super close. The New York Times has three fascinating stories looking at this angle of the emails. And again, these are just the emails Clinton decided we could look at.
But in addition to the tremendous conflicts of interest are a few other surprising tidbits. Such as that Hillary Clinton is a Max Blumenthal fan who shares his work.
I’d love to know why “from” and “to” information is redacted there, but the link is to a site that is currently not available. Using the Wayback Machine, I found it here. We should perhaps pause to note that Max Blumenthal is Sidney Blumenthal’s son. And no man should necessarily be blamed for another’s errors, even if that other man is his son. But Sidney Blumenthal is a proud papa to Max, having held a book party for Max’s book that landed him on the Simon Weisenthal Center’s 2013 list of anti-Semitic slurs. Eric Alterman wrote in The Nation that the book “could have been a selection of a hypothetical Hamas Book of the Month Club.” A quick perusal of his Twitter feed will probably get you up to speed. You can read more about Max here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Anyway, back to the September 12 article that Clinton shared and requested to be printed. It’s full of completely over-the-top invective, as per Blumenthal’s usual, but begins with this claim:
The US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three US diplomats were killed in attacks and rioting provoked by an obscure, low-budget anti-Muslim film called “The Innocence of Muslims.”
And guess who was quoted in the Los Angeles Times (no longer at this url) that same day in a story that said the movie was “blamed the world over for inciting mobs in Egypt and Libya.” One Max Blumenthal.
According to families of the Benghazi deceased, Hillary Clinton vowed to them that she would hold the video maker accountable for inciting the riot in Benghazi. President Obama claimed that in the U.S., “we reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” Hillary Clinton said of the U.S. government, “we absolutely reject its content and message.”
It’s true a crude video against Islam was used as pretext by Islamists in various countries for riots and violence. It’s also true that the same video had nothing to do with the coordinated attack on U.S. outposts in Benghazi, resulting in the assassination of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others. And it’s true that U.S. intelligence knew that there was no spontaneous riot that led to the killings. However, the administration — perhaps in a pre-election panic — claimed it did. The administration even rewrote talking points to blame an imaginary protest against the video as leading to those deaths.
But even if it were true that other people killed in the name of being offended by a video, the ruthless targeting of freedom of speech and freedom of religion (which includes the right to speak against other religions, obviously) by the administration remains one of the darkest moments of the last two terms.
These emails give us a clue as to how the false meme was spread through the administration and media.
Clinton was also sharing information from Juan Cole, a vehement critic of Israeli military and foreign policy, whose style of writing is to call Americans with differing views “Israel Firsters.” A sample of his totally calm rhetoric here. Blumenthal passed along this Juan Cole story, which is one of the less objectionable ones you’ll find. Cole is not a reliable source of information relative to the influence he holds among certain administration officials.
Surrounded by sycophants
Here is an email thread dated Sunday, September 16, 2012:
From: Forman, James
Date: Sat, Sep 15, 2012 at 3:25 PM
Subject: andrew sullivan with the hillary love
To: David Domenici
On Sat, Sep 15, 2012 at 11:10 PM, Judy Trabulsi wrote:
I like “her trademark combination of resolve, empathy, and hyper competence”.
From: Jim Kennedy
Sent: Sunday, September 16, 2012 12:37 PM
To: Judy Trabulsi Cc: Cheryl Mills; Roy Spence; Maggie Williams
Subject: Re: andrew sullivan with the hillary love
This op-ed in the Boston Herald is amazing – all the more so because it comes from a former critic of hers:
An apology to Hillary
Drying tears again, resilient Clinton proves true leader
By Margery Eagan ISunday, September 16, 2012 I http://www.bostonherald.com I Columnists
From: Roy Spence
Date: Sun, Sep 16, 2012 at 1:54 PM
Subject: RE: Andrew Sullivan with the Hillary love
To: Jim Kennedy Judy Trabulsi Cc: Cheryl Mills Maggie Williams
This is simply painfully honest on her part and a moment in time where Higher Purpose shines a bright light on Higher Ground…Higher Ground is where all great solutions and triumphs are found and scaled…HRC-once again is taking people there-whether they ever thought they ever want to go there or not…
From: Cheryl Mills
Sent: Sunday, September 16, 2012 02:28 PM
Subject: Fwd: Andrew Sullivan with the Hillary love
see op ed
Sent: Wednesday. September 19 2012 4:26 PM
Subject: Fw: Fwd: Andrew Sullivan with the Hillary love
If a friend, much less an employee, ever said of me anything even approaching this sycophancy — “This is simply painfully honest on her part and a moment in time where Higher Purpose shines a bright light on Higher Ground…” — I would assume that I was some kind of tyrant they feared. It was like this scene in last week’s Silicon Valley when Hooli CEO Gavin Belson suspects his employees are too afraid to tell him the truth about failure. He asks his spiritual guru if he’s surrounded by Yes Men. The guru nervously pauses and reassures him that he’s not.
Saving face after First Amendment debacle
One of the emails Clinton allowed to be released was sent September 24, 2012, by Amira Valliani, sharing a column by Bill Keller of the New York Times. It discussed calls to limit free speech and included this portion:
I would cut the diplomats a little more slack when they are trying to defuse an explosive situation. But I agree that the administration pushed up against the line that separates prudence from weakness. And the White House request that Google consider taking down the anti-Muslim video, however gentle the nudge, was a mistake.
In New York Times-speak, this is a brutal condemnation of Obama. Jacob Sullivan forwarded it to Hillary with the note:
An interesting piece. The argument that worked on my conservative Obama-hating (Hillary-respecting) friends, which Keller hints at in the “slack” he’ll cut us, is that our denunciations of the video aren’t an effort to debate the mob; they are an effort to give ammo to the right side to win the battle that Keller himself identifies (between extremists seeking to put “pressure” on weak transitional governments and the more mainstream majority that supports those governments). And you could say it worked. Governments stepped up. Extremist groups in Tunisia are backpedalling.
So we need to make this argument forcefully.
She forwarded it to Oscar Flores with the note “Pls print.”
We can glean from this exchange that Hillary Clinton’s trashing of the principle of free expression was going over poorly with voters and that she was looking for a good Clintonian way to justify herself. Sullivan is known for his debating prowess so his suggestion on how to navigate her way out of this mess is not a bad one. It also shows why he’s such a valuable member of Team Hillary.