The State Department’s Office of Inspector General has released its report about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Though the report uncovers no smoking guns what it does lay out is deeply troubling.
It lays to rest the longtime Clinton defense that this use of a private server was somehow normal and allowed by government rules: It was not normal, and was not allowed by the government rules in place at the time.
This is the most profoundly amazing part of the whole story: Clinton’s server administrator was hired by State as a political appointee, from which position he continued to provide support to Clinton’s private email server during working hours, without telling anyone this was happening.
Clinton apparently paid him for the work, but it is impossible to believe that she didn’t know this was happening or that she thought it was OK to hire your private server administrator as a political appointee (a diplomatic political appointee in the IT department?) and then have him keep an eye on your private server from his government office. This has an unpleasant whiff of Tammany Hall about it.
It’s really hard to come away from reading this report thinking “Yup, just an honest mistake.” Or indeed, “just a mistake, no big deal.” I worked in bank IT for several years before I went to business school, and when this story first broke, I enjoyed an amusing hour or so envisioning what regulators would have said if we’d tried any of these sorts of excuses on them. Why is Clinton being held to a lower standard?
Well, because she’s a Clinton, and the Clintons have always acted as if the rules applied only to others. And given that Democrats boxed themselves into her name on the ticket so early on, Team Blue had little choice but to rally around and pretend that this is just a minor peccadillo, like forgetting to date the signature on your FEC filings.
Lord knows, this election cycle, there’s good reason to view this sort of behavior as the lesser of two evils.
But it isn’t minor. Setting up an email server in a home several states away from the security and IT folks, in disregard of the rules designed to protect state secrets and ensure good government records, and then hiring your server administrator to a political slot while he keeps managing your system on government time is unacceptable behavior in a government official.
If Clinton weren’t the nominee, or if she had an R after her name rather than a D, her defenders would have no difficulty recognizing just how troubling it is.
Politics is not simply a team sport, and good government is possible only if we’re willing to call out misbehavior no matter who does it.
Even if we still hold our nose and pull the lever for the misbehaver come November.