Bethany C. left a question in reply to my comment on Maureen Dowd’s op-ed:
Can I ask a question? I have heard people speak of this before, but I really want to know. What does Jeb! have to do with Hillary having a personal email account used for government email. Jeb! was a governor & had no state secrets to put at risk. At least Florida has no secrets that are of national secrecy that I can think of. On the other hand, Secretary of State…eh…
I do agree with you about John McCain. He, HIllary, Lindsay Graham & others love making war. And, believe me, for whatever reason, Hillary, Susan Rice, & Samantha Powers want to go to war. They may call it humanitarian but war is not humanitarian. And, that is something the left dearly needs to consider about her. I do & would consider it about the warmongers on the right.
The reason why Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton’s emails are related, and the GOP’s blunder far bigger than just victimizing Clinton (though that too matters a great deal) is one of ethics. The core principle at play here is treating government property as one’s own. Whether the purpose is to control the historical narrative or hide one’s activities, the problem is fundamentally one of ethics. You just don’t destroy property that isn’t your own, and you do not run parallel operations to the government post you occupy simply because you have the facility to do so or you want to circumvent it. Both Clinton and Bush did that when they used email accounts that were not issued by the offices they oversaw. Steve Jobs used an Apple email address to run his business from. CEO’s of big and small corporations use the email accounts their companies provide. All workers, from the lowly mail-room clerk to department managers and VPs, who are issued an email account at work use it in order to do their job. No one co-mingles their personal and business email for a simple reason: there is no such thing as personal email in the work environment. Email from a work address is the property of the employer.
With a public employer, state or federal government, email is the property of the public and it is a matter of government record. The transgressions, while the same at the core, are mild to severe as a matter of varying degrees, according to the post held by the transgressor. Present and future generations of Americans learn about current events and history through the official records that are preserved. Some of those records are kept secret for a variety of reasons for a number of years, but they are eventually released to the public. Some records are released sooner when news organizations and individuals petition the government or the courts for it.
The fact that there is no general agreement on the nature of the inherent problem with Secretary Clinton’s decision making process goes to two things:
- The great degree of polarization in our politics.
- The fundamental flaws in our national education system
While the first reason stated here is straightforward, the second needs a bit of explanation. When one looks at developed nations’ public education and the benefit it provides to the population it serves, one can measure a level of common knowledge among its citizens.
“Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.” ~Plato
In the US, the common font of knowledge is uneven. Its quality varies not only by class, but geographical location and race, starting with a mediocre overall level, at best. Philosophy, and all of its branches, isn’t taught, as a matter of core curricular design, in U.S. public schools. Not even the most basic concepts in philosophy, the Great Philosophers and their theories, philosophical debates, and a modicum of ethics studies are offered in the nation’s public schools as part of the K-12 curriculum. In France, for example, high school students take what we know as Philosophy 101 in most colleges, as a part of their required courses to graduate. Why is this important? First of all, philosophy aids in the development of critical thought from early childhood and throughout the life-cycle. We should all have a similar foundation when it comes to the things we know and share in common. It shouldn’t take becoming a lawyer to know that transparency in government, or not destroying what should have remained in the public domain, is a breach of ethics. This is something that shouldn’t be a question whether you are an attorney, a plumber, MBA or a historian. But it is!
Jeb Bush is no stranger to criticism over email as he maintained a private account as governor. Most of all, however, it doesn’t help that Hillary is on record as saying this:
President Obama was asked about the email issue a week ago and had this to say on CBS’ 60 Minutes:
Steve Kroft: Did you know about Hillary Clinton’s use of private email server–
President Barack Obama: No.
Steve Kroft: –while she was Secretary of State?
President Barack Obama: No.
Steve Kroft: Do you think it posed a national security problem?
President Barack Obama: I don’t think it posed a national security problem. I think that it was a mistake that she has acknowledged and– you know, as a general proposition, when we’re in these offices, we have to be more sensitive and stay as far away from the line as possible when it comes to how we handle information, how we handle our own personal data. And, you know, she made a mistake. She has acknowledged it. I do think that the way it’s been ginned-up is in part because of– in part– because of politics. And I think she’d be the first to acknowledge that maybe she could have handled the original decision better and the disclosures more quickly. But–
Steve Kroft: What was your reaction when you found out about it?
President Barack Obama: This is one of those issues that I think is legitimate, but the fact that for the last three months this is all that’s been spoken about is an indication that we’re in presidential political season.
Steve Kroft: Do you agree with what President Clinton has said and Secretary Clinton has said, that this is not– not that big a deal. Do you agree with that?
President Barack Obama: Well, I’m not going to comment on–
Steve Kroft: You think it’s not that big a deal–
President Barack Obama: What I think is that it is important for her to answer these questions to the satisfaction of the American public. And they can make their own judgment. I can tell you that this is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.
Steve Kroft: This administration has prosecuted people for having classified material on their private computers.
President Barack Obama: Well, I– there’s no doubt that there had been breaches, and these are all a matter of degree. We don’t get an impression that here there was purposely efforts– on– in– to hide something or to squirrel away information. But again, I’m gonna leave it to–
Steve Kroft: If she had come to you.
President Barack Obama: I’m going to leave it to Hillary when she has an interview with you to address all these questions.
A week earlier, after the Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders was asked by CNN’s Chris Cuomo about the email question:
The matter is still under investigation and could, potentially, still have repercussions. While the FBI is supposed to be apolitical, in the end, it is up to the American people to take stock of its politicians and how well the public is served, then vote accordingly.
So, Bethany, the fact that you are hardly alone in not seeing that Jeb and Hillary are connected when it comes to email or that the actual issue is with Hillary’s initial decision to run it from home is a problem. That is the part we should all know and agree on.
Postscript: A friend had this comment:
“Why bother writing a law requiring that communications be stored when any official can disregard the law without consequence? The GW Bush Administration totally mishandled their email, possibly losing millions of messages”
My answer is that without an understanding of ethics and its place in the general font of knowledge of a society, laws become irrelevant.