Most people would agree that Hillary Clinton was wrong to create her own private email server to handle official business as Secretary of State. The only plausible motive is that she wanted the ability to hide things from the public.
Given the reservoir of distrust for her, that was foolhardy. She also deleted half of her emails, claiming they were personal, and at least some of them were not; they were related to official business. Whether this was an innocent mistake or an attempt to withhold something, Clinton screwed that up, too.
She should have turned over the server of her own accord, immediately, rather than allowing her critics to exploit the issue. And she should be doing more to explain her role and put it in context.
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Yet based on what we know right now, this so-called scandal is being blown out of proportion. There is no evidence of criminal activity here, despite what her rivals claim. And others have used personal email accounts to conduct official business, too — including secretaries of state and 2016 presidential contenders.
The question of whether Clinton was sloppy in handling classified material is still open, and under investigation. But what we have so far is a possible violation of a 2009 records-keeping regulation, which wasn’t in place when Colin Powell was Secretary of State, and also relied on his personal email to conduct official business.
Clinton deserves to be held accountable for that. Yet we need to keep this in perspective. She was far from the first Secretary of State to use private email to conduct public business. In fact, John Kerry, who succeeded her, was the first to rely primarily on his government email account. When Powell held the position, not only did he use personal email, he got rid of all his emails, and got away with it.
What did they say about the weapons of mass destruction that lead us to war in Iraq? We’ll never know.
Then there’s the fact that Jeb Bush appears to have done something extraordinarily similar as governor. He just hasn’t gotten the same media scrutiny.
Both Bush and Clinton conducted public and private business with their personal emails. Both housed their own servers on their own private property.
Both discussed national security issues on private email (we know Bush did for sure, and can safely assume that Clinton did, since she was Secretary of State — though we haven’t seen her emails yet).
Both had full control over which emails they handed over to the public. Both turned over only about half of them, and took their time doing it. And many of the other GOP contenders, including Chris Christie, also used private accounts for public business. Even though they didn’t have their own email servers, that’s still shady. What are they trying to hide?
Clinton says she deleted all her personal emails, and it’s not clear whether Bush did. That’s one possible difference. Otherwise, it seems like the primary factors that distinguish them are that Bush held a lesser position than Clinton at the time, and isn’t being investigated by House Republicans. That could explain why this has only blown up as a scandal for Clinton.
At the end of the day, though, there is no evidence of actual bad behavior described in Clinton’s emails. The entire discussion has been about the structure of Clinton keeping secrets. It comes nowhere near the type of issue that should define a presidential campaign, one with monumental issues and differences.
So yes, investigate Clinton. But don’t turn this into an election about emails.