The big campaign news this week is that the FBI recommended Hillary Clinton not be criminally charged for storing classified information on an insecure server. Plenty of stories in the mainstream media will spin this as a vindication for Clinton.
Most people understand, at some level, that “not charged” or even “not guilty” are not the same as “innocent,” but with no charges pending, it will be easy for the Clinton campaign and their allies in the press to say it’s all a big misunderstanding. A partisan witch hunt. A vast right-wing conspiracy. Old news. Nothing to see here, folks. Move on.
Before we move on, let’s consider that even if everything they say is true, even putting the best possible spin on things, the unsecured server drama illustrates very plainly why Hillary Clinton is unfit to hold public office.
Proving Hillary Can’t Be Trusted with Power
As secretary of State, Clinton was privy to some of the most secret information the government possesses. She was in a position of trust concerning intelligence-gathering methods and the identities of our field agents, among other sensitive information that hostile foreign governments would love to possess. She was required, as a matter of law and integrity, to safeguard that information and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Systems were created and made available to her to make that task easier. The government expended vast sums of money to make sure they had a communications system that would resist attempts to breach it. Lives were at stake, and the government tried to protect those lives.
All Clinton had to do to ensure that security was to use the systems set up for her, just like every other government employee. The safest choice was also the easiest: just use the State Department’s secure communications system that already exists. Instead, she went out of her way to work outside that system, and in doing so likely compromised the information she was trusted with keeping secure.
We all know why she did it. Afraid of her political enemies having access to her e-mail and thereby connecting the dots between her, foreign governments, and the shady Clinton Foundation, she avoided the recordkeeping requirements in the Federal Records Act and the possibility of Freedom of Information Act requests by journalists, and shifted all of that classified information onto a random, unsecure server. She had something to hide, and she hid it. Not from the Russians, to be sure, but from the press and the American people.
But let’s imagine that the reason Clinton gave for this electronic legerdemain—that it was all about convenience—was true. She wasn’t trying to hide anything, let’s say; she just was too lazy to manage different log-ins and different devices, and just too dumb to understand that removing secure information to an unsecure server might expose it to hacking from just about anyone who cared to try. Imagine that she is really not malicious, just lazy and stupid. That level of laziness and stupidity still tells us we should never trust her with anything important again.
Even if that excuse is true (and it isn’t—no one thinks Hillary Clinton is an idiot), it shows us she chose personal convenience over national security. When it came time to pick between the interests of the United States of America and the convenience of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hillary chose Hillary. If elected, she will do it again.
More Scared of Americans Than of the KGB
But now let’s consider Clinton’s real reason for the homebrew server: protecting her own privacy. We do not know exactly what she broke the law to conceal. The FBI admits many of the deleted documents can never be recovered. But it stands to reason that those e-mails, like her Goldman Sachs speeches, contain something she did not want the American public (or a congressional committee) to see. How many foreign governments had business before the State Department and made donations to the Clinton Foundation? We may never know. Ironically, by destroying the evidence, she ensured that everyone believes the worst possible scenario. The cover-up, as always, looks worse than the crime.
Again, we see the choice Clinton was faced with: protect the national security interests of the United States, or protect the political career of Hillary Clinton. Again, Clinton chose Clinton. This is the real tragedy.
We expect politicians to be self-interested. Indeed, we expect almost all people to be self-interested at some level. But we also expect some basic integrity from the people we entrust with great power. When faced with a situation that threatens reputational harm on the one hand and serious real-world harm to the nation on the other, we expect an official ought to at least hesitate before choosing to save her own hide.
No one thinks we are governed by angels. All people are flawed, including politicians. But they are supposed to try to have some integrity in the way they do their jobs. They are supposed to attempt, to the best of their ability, to do the right thing for the country. They are, in short, supposed to care.
Clinton’s e-mail scandal shows that the only thing she cares about is her own protection, her own interests, her own power. President Grover Cleveland once took as his campaign slogan “a public office is a public trust.” Today, we learned once more why Clinton does not merit that trust.