The Clinton E-mail Story is Bullshit… But Take It Easy and Maybe Not Really

November 5, 2016

Matt Yglesias made a recent attempt to put the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal of the 2016 election to bed. I have to say that I generally agree that this shouldn’t be as huge a story as it is, but he goes too far IMO for the reasons outlined below.
1) I’m concerned that the message people will take from this is “don’t admit you did anything wrong.”
2) “If she wanted ready access to both her email accounts, she would need to carry two smartphones. As any reporter in Washington knows, this indignity was in fact visited upon a huge number of DC denizens for many years. … Clinton decided to do something about it.” Ehh, come on. This is the kind of thing many people hate – not about Clinton, but about her surrogates (which then becomes hatred of Clinton). Their daily lives require a level of effort and hoop-jumping that is hard to state clearly in a blog post, but when the excuse for not following the rules that they routinely go to jail or get fired for not following is “I had to have two cell phones and it was too hard so I just didn’t” it comes off as particularly out of touch.
3) “Hillary Clinton — who is, again, his wife — also set herself up with an account on the same server. This is a bit unusual, but a lot about being married to a former president is unusual. What it’s not is suspicious.”
Okay, but again, it’s not like out of this world that people who already have trouble with trusting her – mostly because they have trouble with trusting her husband, which is a whole other post but still a reality – would find it to be suspicious, and telling them there’s no reason to be suspicious in whatever “shut ’em down” method the author seems to prefer would come off as pedantic and I’m glad she didn’t do it.
4) “I’d be left juggling phones and looking like an idiot, exactly how federal employees tended to look in the heyday of the double-fisting phones era. I would not want to do that. Colin Powell did not want to do that. Hillary Clinton did not want to do that. Because that would be terrible.”
The idea that rules were bent to avoid looking stupid is a troubling one, and it’s a kind of blindness that a lot of Democrats have that they don’t even notice when they attack Trump supporters for being blindly faithful to him. [Disclaimer to all: I am not a Trump supporter and I am voting for Hillary.] Sometimes being a government employee is a bad gig, sometimes it isn’t the West Wing; deal with it. Your lives are easier than nearly 100% of the world’s population. Even the use of “terrible” to describe a workplace annoyance is another example of the above-mentioned inability to understand what most people go through every day. Ask a guy negotiating a belt full of electronic monitoring tools while balancing on the rung of a telephone pole how “awkward” it must be to have a whopping two cell phones that you maybe need to get through your day.
5) “There are two possible interpretations here. One is that Clinton hatched the private email account plan as an elaborate dodge of federal record-keeping laws, but then months before the public became aware of the server’s existence complied with requests to turn them over. The other is that the federal records rule on the book was antiquated and a bit absurd, requiring officials to turn over paper copies of emails for no good reason, and simply got ignored out of sloppiness.”
Sloppiness. It’s at this point that the people who keep talking about this story have some weight on their side. Yes, vis-a-vis Donald Trump the idea of Hillary Clinton being “sloppy” is far more appealing, but it’s hard to say that not wanting your public officials to ignore rules due to “sloppiness” is not a legitimate concern when voting for president. For many it’s not just hard; it’s a dereliction of duty. People shouldn’t demean that impulse too easily, because it again displays the reason why so many Trump supporters so virulently hate Clinton supporters: You treat them like they’re idiots, when in fact they have real, sincere concerns.

Yglesias has a good point in that this story has received too much coverage. However, I don’t think the response should be to call bullshit on all of it. The appropriate response accurately points to the things Secretary Clinton did wrong, admits them as such, and then puts them in context. Yglesisas’s response may seem like an effort at that but it ignores so much that it comes off as a “yeah but whatever” response to anyone who doesn’t already agree with him. And in many of the ways I pointed to above, I feel like it displays an arrogance and a disconnect with working people that could be the death of the Democratic Party.

All that said, go eat your peas and vote against Donald Trump this Tuesday.

 
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