I cannot help but think as I watch the latest Hillary Clinton private email-server-related scandal unfold, that this whole confounding scenario sounds like an episode of the HBO show “Veep.” Week after week, we watch as fictional President Selina Meyer (played hilariously by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), surrounded by buffoonish and imbecilic advisers, struggles to accomplish even the simplest policy or legislation-related tasks, given that she is constantly handling one ineptitude-caused crisis after another, mostly the fault of her and her staff’s own actions.
I do not, necessarily, mean to suggest that Clinton is a Selina Meyer-type, or that her advisors are idiots or inept buffoons, but in this particular case, they made a series of very poor choices that have shown them to be, at the very least, foolishly dismissive of the rules and protocols that govern the behavior of most government officials.
By her own account, Mrs. Clinton operated a private email server out of her home while she was the serving secretary of state. That would have been fine, if not a tad conspiracy-minded, had she not also used that private email server to send official emails concerning State Department business, to all manner of advisors and other officials. Yikes.
That was a poor choice, and someone around her should have told her so. Some smart, astute, and savvy advisor should have said, “Madame Secretary, you are opening yourself up to a host of problems by conducting your State Department business over your own email account, not the least of which, it is against State Department policy.”
So, what was the problem? Why does it matter? Both Clintons probably feel besieged, constantly, having been the target of political attacks for decades. They have no doubt developed a keen sense of their own personal privacy and security. That mindset clearly pervades at least Mrs. Clinton’s thinking, as she felt it necessary to hide behind a private server to handle her correspondence. I get that, to a point. Constant attacks will inevitably lead to a hardy defensive posture on the part of the attackers’ intended target.
However, the problem lies in the fact that Mrs. Clinton accepted the position of secretary of state, and thus should have accepted the protocols, regulations, and rules that came with such a position. Included in these is a duty to protect classified information, as well as to maintain official communications within government email channels, such that a public record can be created for the sake of policy continuity, archival records, and the like.
Secretary Clinton appears to have failed in both these duties through her decision to use her private server to handle official correspondence. She not only failed to keep her work in official channels—whether through benign neglect or willful deception—but she also allegedly mishandled, according to reports, possibly classified information in those same private channels.
Now, whether or not Secretary Clinton knew that she was dealing with classified information in her private emails, and thus willingly broke the law and risked the compromise of valuable intelligence information, is hard to know. Let us stipulate, for charity’s sake, that she did not do so knowingly, and really did believe that what she was doing was aboveboard.
That is a problem.
It is, again, something I can imagine happening in an episode of “Veep.” I can imagine a dumbfounded Selina Meyer, dropping a well-placed and deliciously phrased F-bomb as she berates her coterie of idiot advisors, asking them why they allowed her to send classified documents through her private email. It would be laughable, here in real life, if it were not so incompetent.
It is incompetent because, again, it opened Mrs. Clinton up to a host of problems. Even the lowliest GS-9 at the CIA or State Department knows—knows—that you never, ever take classified information home, or God forbid, transmit it though a private email account. That would not only get you fired, but possibly charged with a crime. Ask David Petraeus.
Hell, I was paranoid as a CIA officer when I had to shift focus from a “top-secret”-level computer terminal to a “secret”-level terminal. I would remind myself that I had to sanitize what I wrote, and only include information cleared for the lower level of security. Granted, it was not hard, and I did just fine at it as a GS-9, but still, I had to concentrate on what I was doing, and do it correctly.
Who the hell was concentrating on what they were doing when Secretary Clinton was firing off official documents, and receiving allegedly classified information, on her private email account? Where was the trusted advisor, with a head on their shoulders, saying, “This does not feel right,” as alarm bells went off in their head? I sure as hell would have been saying something about it.
That is what worries me about this whole episode, and ultimately, what makes me seriously doubt Mrs. Clinton’s fitness for the office of the presidency. Forget her policies for a minute, and focus on suitability. Is Mrs. Clinton a suitable candidate to handle the complex, multitudinous, and wide-ranging issues that face every president? Will her advisors offer her sage and sober advice, and ensure she makes decisions armed with the best possible advice beforehand?
This whole sad story makes me doubt that seriously.
Mrs. Clinton’s advisors could not even keep her from making a dumb communication mistake, and possibly even committing a crime, if unwittingly. Her advisors appear to be incompetent, and fit for an episode of “Veep,” rather than for the real White House.