You know you're in the midst of another concocted Clinton scandal
when Republicans, Village media
, and other perpetual critics of the most investigated couple in the history of American politics breathlessly assert that something no good, awful, and very terrible has been perpetrated, despite their inability to identify exactly what that something is.
In the midst of their caterwauling about Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account and a private server while serving as Secretary of State, Republicans, Village media, and other perpetual critics of the most investigated couple in the history of American politics have been thrashing about, desperately trying to figure out if it was the inapplicable 2014 regulation, the vague and poorly written 2009 regulation, or some earlier vague and poorly written regulation, not to mention where responsibility and culpability were defined, and within what time frame. The arguments are fiercely defended, then casually tossed aside and forgotten as new arguments are floated, and the only thing that remains consistent is that desperate thrashing yearning to prove that Hillary Clinton did something no good, awful, and very terrible. As she so often does, digby got to the core of the problem:
I am going to issue the standard disclaimer that if Clinton did something real bring it on. But this is a patented pseudo-scandal planted by the Benghazi bullshit squad and I'm not jumping on the bandwagon.
If somebody wants to do an expose of Clinton's cozy relationship with Wall Street, her hawkish foreign policy or her penchant for nonsensical bipartisan cant, that's perfectly fair. In fact, it's necessary. I think a hardcore investigation into the Clinton Foundation and all its opaque financial dealings is absolutely in bounds. But when they start recycling rightwing Benghazi crapola, referencing Whitewater,talking about her "calculating Machiavellian character" and don't even have a clue about what it is she's supposed to have done wrong, just that it doesn't "pass the smell test", I'm going to be ornery. This is the Village in all its glory and I'm sad to say that a new generation of Villagers is just as willing to chase the shiny object for the Dark Ops wingnuts as their forebears.
And as he so often will be, Jeb Bush was quick in criticizing
Clinton, attempting to draw a contrast with his own ostensible transparency from his time as Florida's governor. Oops
Bush, a leading Republican contender for president, quickly jumped on the news against an expected rival, whom critics have long cast as secretive. "Transparency matters," Bush wrote Monday night on Twitter. "Unclassified @HillaryClinton emails should be released. You can see mine, here. jebbushemails.com"
Earlier this year Bush released several hundred thousand emails covering his eight years as governor, a massive archive that gave insight into his handling of sensitive issues such as the Terri Schiavo saga and into his assertive leadership style. The records were already available but Bush, putting them in an easy-to-read format, touted his commitment to transparency. But the public cannot see everything.
Bush, who used a private Jeb@jeb.org account, removed from the record those emails related to politics, fundraising and family matters.
"He's being a bit disingenuous because he decided what we saw and didn't see," said Barbara A. Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a group that is supported by news organizations, including the Tampa Bay Times.
But the hypocrisy isn't limited to Bush. The New York Times
is playing the same game. One might even say it is complicit.
More over the fold.
As Media Matters quickly noted:
The New York Times is holding Jeb Bush to a lower standard over his selective release of emails from his time as governor of Florida, taking Bush's word for it that enough emails have been "made public" despite reports that Bush hand-picked the emails he would release. At the same time, the Times is insisting that Hillary Clinton lay out the process she used to release emails from her tenure as secretary of state.
"Under Florida's records laws, emails from Mr. Bush's personal account have been made public," the Times reported. "'His emails were available via public records requests throughout his time in office and have remained available,' Ms. Campbell [a Bush spokesperson] said."
That's it. That's all the Times had to say about Jeb Bush's use of a non-government email account during his tenure as governor.
But in the same article, the Times demanded to know what process Clinton used when turning over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department, complaining that "her aides have declined to describe the process by which they selected which emails to hand over and which to hold back."
An ostensible Clinton scandal that turns out to be media smoke and mirrors rather than substantive smoke and fire, with the New York Times in the lead
of the concocting and hyping. Where have we seen this
before? Michael Tomasky
But this seems like a good time to remember another pattern of behavior: namely, that of the Times. I remember clear as a bell reading that initial Jeff Gerth story on Whitewater back in March 1992. It seemed devastating. It took many millions of dollars and many years and many phony allegations. Eventually, important parts of Gerth’s reporting were never independently confirmed. In courts both literal and of public opinion, the Clintons were found to have done nothing wrong on Whitewater -- except to be naïve enough to let themselves by chiseled by Jim McDougal.
If they had done something wrong, with all the prosecutorial firepower thrown at them by a prosecutor (Ken Starr) who clearly hated them, don’t you think they’d have been indicted? Of course they would have been. But Starr couldn’t turn anything up on Whitewater and was about to close down his investigation empty-handed until he got wind of a gal named Monica.
So that’s a pattern too. The Times, for those with short memories, has never loved the Clintons. Remember Howell Raines and his ceaseless, thundering editorials against them. And today, it smells like the Times may have been rolled by the Republican staff of the Benghazi panel. And hey, great work by them and Chairman Trey Gowdy to use the nation’s leading liberal newspaper in this way.
The public editor of the Times revealed herself
with her initial response to the dubious "reporting," when she actually felt a need to make clear that her paper wasn't being too soft
on Clinton! But dubious "reporting"
has pretty much defined
the latest attempt by the Village media to concoct a Clinton scandal
. Joe Conason, who literally co-wrote the book
on the media's earlier, failed 10-year war on the Clintons, finds the latest concocted scandal just more of the same
So far, the former secretary of state doesn't appear to have breached security or violated any federal record-keeping statutes, although those laws were tightened both before and after she left office. She didn't use her personal email for classified materials, according to the State Department. Certainly Clinton wasn't the first federal official or Cabinet officer to use a personal email account for both personal and official business, as most news outlets have acknowledged by now -- indeed, every secretary of state who sent emails had used a personal account until John Kerry succeeded Clinton in 2013.
As for the issue of archiving Clinton's emails, which is required by federal regulations and law, the Washington Post headlined that she violated an Obama administration edict by using her own account. But that was still "permissible," according to the Post, "if all emails relating to government business were turned over and archived by the State Department."
So did Clinton -- or more to the point, someone with line responsibility for such bureaucratic housekeeping -- observe that rule? Last year, the State Department requested that all of the living former secretaries of state turn over relevant emails for its archives. To date, only one of them has complied: Hillary Clinton. Her aides provided more than 50,000 emails to the government -- and sent about 300 to the House Select Committee that is forever investigating Benghazi.
Angry Republicans on that committee, plainly frustrated by years of failure to find any evidence that incriminates Clinton or President Obama in the loony conspiracy theories cherished by tea party Republicans, are behind the email stories first published by The New York Times. In fact, Clinton's use of a private account has been publicly known for more than two years -- but that fact didn't seem to trouble the Republicans until now, as she prepares to run for president.
But it should trouble anyone who cares about the facts. And the fact is that the nation's self-appointed official media hate the Clintons
. They've always hated
. They've also always
hated Al Gore
. They hate anyone of substance because by being of substance they reveal by contrast that Village media insiders aren't. They hate anyone who is smart, because they aren't. They loved
the Lesser Bush, because they were flattered that he gave them insipid nicknames, and they weren't smart enough to realize that the only reason he gave them insipid nicknames was because he wasn't smart enough to remember their real names.
The Rude One calls it The Hillary Industrial Complex:
Oh, listen, dear, sweet, young, innocent readers, there was a time in a century past when an entire machine was constructed for the sole purpose of degrading and destroying President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton. It was a monstrous creation, all squeaky pistons and black smoke-belching ducts, leaving toxic waste wherever it was put to use. The machine was magical in that, all of a sudden, media stars were created by merely giving up their human bodies and becoming cogs in it.
Limbaugh. O'Reilly. And more.
Did you know that the only reason that Ann Coulter exists is because of the machine? That Fox "news" came to prominence because it was the machine's vilest output? And the people, oh, the people, dear children, how they gobbled up the trash left for them by the machine, not enough to bring down President Clinton, but enough to tarnish them in the eyes of a huge number of your parents and uncles and aunts so that the mere mention of a Clinton, now mostly Hillary, would remind them of the taste of the machine's effluvia and debris and cause them to reflexively roll their eyes in hateful pleasure.
This Hillary Clinton email story is not a story. Like every other supposed scandal involving the Clintons, it exists solely in the fevered minds of those who cannot stand them who desperately try to get us to think it's more than it is. Yet here we are, like it's the late 1990s all over again, except with better graphics.
And although it lacks the playful historical reference, it might more accurately be defined as the Clinton Conspiracy Complex, which can be interpreted as defining both the political and media nexus that finds in even the fact that the Clintons breathe cause for suspicion, and the psychological condition that fuels it. And there is nothing the Clintons can do to prevent this complex from repeatedly revealing itself
in all its fetid glory. As TrueBlueMajority
astutely observed, had Hillary Clinton used separate email accounts for her official and personal correspondence, even that would have raised the alarms for those who exist to raise alarms about the Clintons. Which may even be part of the reason the most investigated woman in the history of American public life decided to keep her own email server in the first place. She knew she would be investigated for something, she knew it would happen again and again for as long as she was a public figure, and she knew such investigations would not be about any specific somethings but about her, specifically. So why not at least attempt to preserve at least some small part of her private life, for once?
And as her critics thrash about in that increasingly frantic search for some legitimate reason to justify their thrashing about, some have resigned themselves to the lack of legal cause, and instead are trying to make it a question of judgment or character, presumably theirs rather than hers. How could she endanger national security by keeping state secrets on a private server? At Balkinization, Mark Tushnet turns the question upside down:
The assumption behind that question is that the Department of State's e-mail system is less vulnerable to hacking than something like Gmail. I for one certainly wouldn't make that assumption. The folks who run Gmail have a lot more technical expertise than the folks who run the Department of State's e-mail system, and there are a lot more of them.
And he further points out that State Department servers are much more obvious targets for hackers seeking state secrets than are those belonging to Gmail. But the entire question of preservation of emails on State Department servers rather than a private server became moot when it finally was revealed
that the State Department has no way of routinely preserving top officials' emails, anyway, and even now still has not established a cohesive system for preserving documents.
The truth is that this isn't actually about security, or possible violations of laws and regulations that were so poorly written that they needed continual updating, or a system of record-keeping that even two years after Clinton left office still isn't systematically keeping records. This is really about people who don't like and don't trust the Clintons, and who are desperately seeking absolutely anything to undermine them. And as always, the burden of proof is on a Clinton to live up to whatever standards their totally fair and balanced critics make up on the fly, because the actual laws and regulations, and the official policies and systems for complying with them, have had and still have no standards at all. The great digby reminds us of Cokie's Law:
As we rush headlong into the first of what are sure to be many "Clinton Records Scandals" (it's a perennial) I just thought I'd remind everyone of one thing: Cokie's Law, in which she proved that truth and facts are rarely the issue when it comes to arcane Clinton scandals:
"At this point,it doesn't much matter whether she said it or not because it's become part of the culture. I was at the beauty parlor yesterday and this was all anyone was talking about."
Once people are talking about it, it's a legitimate news story. So they publish stories that imply something or other "doesn't pass the smell test", the news media get weirdly excited about it, convey that to the people and then we're off to the races.
They spent the entire 1990s trying to destroy the Clintons, and the Clintons left the decade more popular than ever. The media didn't. And the media are doing it again: sewage against the wall, and hope against hope that something sticks.
Speaking personally, I didn't even vote for Bill Clinton in 1996. I was disgusted with his terrible plan for Pacific Northwest forests, which of all the considered options was the most friendly to timber industry interests and the least responsible for protecting old growth. I took advantage of living in California to wait until enough results were in to ensure that Clinton's Republican opponent couldn't win, then voted for pre-2000 Ralph Nader. But when the Republicans and the Village media then proceeded to wet themselves repeatedly in that era's feverish attempt to destroy the Clintons, I was as passionate a Clinton defender as there was anywhere. It's happening again.
I disagree with Hillary Clinton on many substantive issues, although those disagreements are paradigmatically trivial compared to my disagreements with the Republicans. But with the Republicans and their media enablers once again fitfully writhing in yet another fevered really, finally, this time it'll succeed, victory is ours, we hate those people fantasy of proving that if they can destroy the Clintons once and for all, their sad lives will actually have proven purpose and meaning, I can't help but root for the Clintons. Because certain people and certain political dynamics continue to need public exposure, and while the Clintons are far from being the ideal political team, spotlighting the reflexive convulsions of unhinged hatred that are triggered by their mere existence on the national stage is itself a national service.