The Hillary Clinton email scandal: Should it affect her presidential candidacy?

Opinion by Matthew Cohen
April 6, 2015, 9:06 p.m.

Republicans are desperate, and they’re doing everything in their power to take down Hillary Clinton. With Clinton leading most of the polls for the 2016 presidential election, Republicans are terrified of another Democrat taking the White House and will do almost anything to make the Democrat’s strongest nominee, Clinton, seem unfit for the presidency. Their most recent political stunt involves Clinton’s two separate email accounts as Secretary of State.

A month ago, The New York Times revealed that Clinton used two separate emails and her private email was backed up on a home server. Within hours of the revelation, Republicans began accusing Clinton of corruption. The Chairman of the Republican National Committee alleged, “She played a part in the White House’s cover-up …”

Like the prior allegations, this email controversy should have no effect on Clinton’s presumed presidential campaign. First and most importantly, Clinton never broke any law by having two email accounts. Second, she used two email accounts out of convenience — not to “cover up” any mistakes she made during her tenure as Secretary of State. Clinton’s claim that she used a second email for convenience is believable because she has already turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department. Moreover, she gave all the emails related to the Benghazi attacks to the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

Moreover, these Republican attacks are hypocritical. If Republicans are going to attack Clinton for her two email accounts, they should also ask the same questions to Governor Jeb Bush and should have asked these questions in 2012 to Mitt Romney. As governor of Florida, Jeb Bush used his private email to discuss troop deployments in the Middle East and nuclear power plant security. Days before Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts ended, he had his staff delete all the emails that were sent during his administration from government servers. These examples indicate that using personal email and deleting government-related emails while in elected office is something that transcends both parties and is not unique to Hillary Clinton.

If Republicans are going to hold Clinton to a higher standard, then they should hold their own candidates to that standard. Sure, Clinton’s two emails may be ethically questionable, but like many people who seek to become president, ethically ambiguous behavior is something that is not new to presidential politics; every candidate — like almost every person in this country — will have some sort of ethical shortcoming. The problem with Clinton’s email situation is that she is held to a higher moral standard than her opponents are.

Finally, this latest charge is part of a pattern of weak attacks against Clinton.

After the Benghazi terrorist attacks, Republicans held dozens of congressional hearings to smear Clinton. By doing so, they shamelessly politicized the death of four Americans. In fact, the National Republican Congressional Committee began fundraising off the hearings. Despite the overwhelming amount of people who trust Clinton’s testimony regarding the Benghazi attacks, Republicans still continue to use taxpayer dollars to “investigate” the tragedy.

After that witch hunt began, Republicans argued that Hillary Clinton’s blood clot was something more serious than she had described. For example, top Republican strategist Karl Rove — who is no doctor — said that Clinton was “wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury.” This argument was another attempt to make Clinton appear frail and medically unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.

These arguments indicate an underlying problem that the GOP faces. If Republicans focus on these so-called “scandals” and fail to address real issues like income inequality and immigration in the next election, then they will lose the White House again. People care about issues that will improve their standard of living; they do not care about political theater. Already painted as “out of touch,” Republicans should reevaluate their strategy for fighting Hillary Clinton.

This column does defend Clinton actions entirely. Like any other candidate running for president, Clinton is imperfect. Should she have used her government email while she was Secretary of State? Yes. Should her use of a personal email impact her presidential aspirations? No.

Contact Matthew Cohen at [email protected]

Hillary Clinton is no stranger to controversy and cover-ups. Just look at the defining moment of her career as Secretary of State, the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Her department seemed not only unprepared to defend against the attack, but overwilling to sweep under the rug. The latest in that long line of scandals has erupted over the issue of Clinton’s email use during her tenure as Secretary, when she used (exclusively) a private email address as well as a private server for all of her official correspondence. Now that it has come to light, she deleted the emails left on the server.

This recent email scandal, just like the Benghazi scandal, shows us a great deal about Clinton’s character as a politician. And what we see isn’t good.

One of the issues at the heart of the scandal comes from the emails themselves, or at least from what they could have contained. Many of Clinton’s most senior aides also used their private email accounts in the course of State Department business, meaning that no government server ever processed or recorded the emails between them. As such, we may never know what information ended up in those emails, and that worries those who rightfully mistrust Clinton and her intentions in using a private account.

Such emails likely contained classified information, simply given what the Secretary of State deals with on a daily basis, which would make the act of sending such emails a violation of federal law (specifically, Section 1924 of Title 18). Some such emails also appear to have contained information from a man called Sidney Blumenthal, who quietly worked and lobbied for the Vladimir Putin ally who would become the Prime Minister of Georgia. Any politician who disregarded the rule of law as flagrantly as Clinton seems to have done sent the emails, but given that Hillary Clinton is a Clinton, that disregard makes as much sense historically as it does logically.

Of course, some of Clinton’s supporters note that other Secretaries of State have used private email accounts for State Department business before, including current Stanford professor Condoleezza Rice. But unlike those previous Secretaries, who defaulted to using their official State Department email accounts and used others only as needed, Clinton relied exclusively on her private email account for business. Further unlike her predecessors, her emails did not make into the official State Department systems as they should have done under the laws of her day. Instead, they remained on a server controlled by Clinton herself.

Therein lies the most insidious part of the entire Emailgate scandal, which has little to do with the emails themselves. Rather than use an account with Google’s Gmail, Apple’s iCloud, or even MSN’s antiquated Hotmail — which would have made sense if she truly was aiming for “convenience,” as she claims — she went out of her way to establish a new server for her [email protected] email address.

Looking at her use of that server in a generous light would imply that Clinton valued her own convenience over the national security benefits of having her email directed through a federally managed (and protected) server. Looking at that fact more critically, however, implies that Clinton’s dependence on her private server helped her hide from the public eye and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The FOIA is a law “that keeps citizens in the know about their government” by allowing private citizens (whether journalists, historians or the average voter) to access most any documented information that the government holds, including the emails of by cabinet officials. Clinton seems to have had this law in mind when she chose to separate her email correspondence from an official government server — doing so put them out of reach of FOIA requests to the State Department. Now, nothing short of a legal subpoena could actually force her to reveal the emails she hasn’t yet wiped. Whether consciously or (less likely) not, Clinton has made her stint as Secretary of State almost entirely FOIA-proof.

And now, she is running to become the president of the United States.

Perhaps she didn’t violate the letter of any laws in keeping her emails sequestered, but she certainly violated their spirit. The mentality that enables her to do that is not the kind that a person suited for the presidency should have. Clinton seems to think of herself as above laws and regulations, even her own, almost like the infamous absolutist monarchs of the past. This email scandal has only started bringing the extent of her dishonest governance to light.

That should set off warning bells for any person thinking of voting for her in 2016. On a fundamental level, Hillary Clinton has proven herself as a politician after Frank Underwood’s heart — a politician who loathes the ideas of a transparent and honest government. Even outside of “House of Cards,” we’ve seen her kind of thinking before — with everyone from the genocidal Andrew Jackson to the crooked Richard Nixon. Clinton already combined power and disregard for the law in her role as Secretary of State. Can we afford to watch her do so as President?

Contact Johnathan Bowes at jbowes ‘at’

Matthew Cohen is an opinions fellow for The Stanford Daily. Originally from Orange County, Matthew is interested in politics and plans to declare a major in political science. In his leisure time, he enjoys playing piano, running, and watching Netflix. Contact him at mcohen18 'at'

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