By George E. Curry
In the larger scheme of things, the long-awaited 83-page report on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server by the State Department’s inspector general was no where as damming as the media circus surrounding its release would lead you to believe.
Clearly, she made some poor decisions – which she took far too long to acknowledge – and she ignored repeated suggestions that she dump the private server, with one staffer being sternly told not to bring up the subject again.
A column in Forbes by Charles Tierfer places the controversy in its proper context.
He wrote, “[The report] does not add any new serious charges or adverse facts. And, it shows she was less out of line with her predecessors, notably Colin Powell, than has been charged.”
Tierfer continued, “…To the extent that she is criticized because ‘she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,’ the report is making a legal judgment that is not particularly strong. Note how she is not labeled as violating any statute, but rather, a real mouthful of mush – ‘the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.’ So we are talking about obscure, dull, bureaucratic policies. Not a criminal statute. Not even a civil statute – just the bureaucratic policies.”
“A report that says so little new against Clinton, amounts to a vindication.”
But you wouldn’t know it by all the “breaking news” stories on cable TV. Or, the newspaper coverage, for that matter.
The Washington Post published a blistering editorial under the headline, “Clinton’s inexcusable, willful disregard for the rules.”
The editorial began, “Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 has been justifiably criticized as an error of judgment. What the new report from the State Department inspector general makes clear is that it also was not a casual oversight. Ms. Clinton had plenty of warnings to use official government communications methods, so as to make sure that her records were properly preserved and to minimize cyber security risks. She ignored them.”
Keep in mind, as CNN observed, “Experts have said it doesn’t appear Clinton violated federal laws.”
Let’s contrast that to far more serious misconduct during the George W. Bush administration. In 2007, it was disclosed that the Bush administration had created a private Internet domain called gwb43.com (for George W. Bush, the 43rd U.S. president) on which they were conducting official government business.
Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, reportedly used the private account to conduct 95 percent of his communications, ostensibly political matters forbidden by federal law. The account was controlled by the Republican National Committee. Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain all records pertaining to presidential decision-making.
The existence of the server became public when it was discovered that J. Scott Jennings, the White House deputy director of political affairs, had used the account to discuss the firing of one of eight U.S. attorneys dismissed for political reasons.
When Democrats took control of Congress and started looking into whether the U.S. attorneys had been fired for purely political reasons, it was announced that as many as 22 million emails may have been “lost” from the private gwb43.com server, including nearly all relating to the fired federal attorneys.
The media reaction was in sharp contrast to how it has treated the disclosures about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Media Matters observed, “The White House email story broke on a Wednesday. Yet on that Sunday’s Meet The Press, Face The Nation, and Fox News Sunday, the topic of millions of missing White House emails did not come up. At all. (The story did get covered on ABC’s This Week.)
“By comparison, not only did every network Sunday news show this week cover the story about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emails, but they were drowning in commentary. Between Meet the Press, Face The Nation, This Week, and Fox News Sunday, Clinton’s ‘email’ or ‘emails’ were referenced more than 100 times on the programs, according to Nexis transcripts.”
It continued, “How did the Washington Post and New York Times commentators deal with the Bush email scandal in the week following the confirmation of the missing messages? In his April 17, 2007 column, Post columnist Eugene Robinson hit the White House hard. But he was the only Post columnist to do so. On the editorial page, the Post cautioned that the story of millions of missing White House emails might not really be a ‘scandal.’ Instead, it was possible, the Post suggested, that Rove and others simply received ‘sloppy guidance’ regarding email protocol.”
The watchdog group said, “Just to repeat: In 2007, the story was about millions of missing White House emails that were sought in connection to a Congressional investigation. Yet somehow the archiving of Clinton’s emails today requires exponentially more coverage, and exceedingly more critical coverage.”
“Of course, back in 2007 Fox News seemed utterly uninterested in the Bush email story days after the news broke. A search of Fox archives locates only one panel discussion about the story and it featured two guests accusing Democrats of engineering a ‘fishing expedition.’
“From then-Fox co-host, Fred Barnes: “I mean, deleted e-mails, who cares?”
No one – unless it involves Hillary Clinton.