To the trained eye something is up on the Clinton front. Of course, there are the stories, often one a day, that make her more newsworthy here in the United States than Ebola. There are the usual Clinton tales about her staffing problems, problems between competing fundraisers, her public appearances for hundreds of thousands of dollars, often at state universities where the money is tight. There are sightings of her having lunch, a latte, buying a book at a local bookstore. But now there are these other stories.
In the last several weeks there have been stories about the Clinton Foundation, rechristened the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, accepting millions of dollars in foreign donations from faraway governments during her tenure as Secretary of State. At least one donation was clearly athwart the Obama administration’s ethics standards. There are the stories about Bill Clinton hanging around with the billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein on his secluded isle and Bill and Hillary accepting at least one donation from Epstein after his arrest.
Hillary was even ensnared a few weeks back in NBC anchorman Brian Williams’s bogus war stories about flying in a helicopter under enemy fire in Iraq. Hillary, we were reminded, had war stories of her own involving a landing under enemy fire in Bosnia and skedaddling across the tarmac ‘with our heads down’. The major networks ran tapes of her utterly peaceful landing back in 1996, looking as serene as the Queen might look at the Ottawa airport.
Now come the reports that she conducted her State Department work between 2009 and 2013 on a private email account. It was completely controlled by her. She apparently had no State Department account.
What is going on? Well, Hillary is about to declare her candidacy. If we have learned anything about the Clintons over the past 25 years of their public life, it is that scandal follows them. They may blame it on ‘the vast right-wing conspiracy’ or they may blame it on sunspots, but the scandals keep accumulating.
On Tuesday, Clinton admitted that it ‘might have been smarter’ to have used a separate mobile phone for her work, but said that her email system had not been breached. It is odd, however, that Hillary would use an external email account rather than the more secure State Department accounts, that she deleted almost half of the emails she sent as Secretary of State, and that she should now insist her private server ‘will remain private’. Was she more confident in her own server than her government’s? Was she being her usual secretive self? Has she not learned from experience? Enough comes out that her behaviour only invites greater suspicion.
The Clintons have a long history of botched intrigues. On the utterly silly side, I recall reporting, in The Clinton Crack-Up, Bill having telephone sex with Monica Lewinsky on an unsecured White House line at all hours of the night. Naturally French, Israeli and Russian agents listened in and had a rollicking good time — but their tapes are presumably out there. Then on a more serious matter, there were the subpoenaed Whitewater papers, from the inquiry into Bill and Hillary’s real-estate dealings. They disappeared for years from the White House despite repeated calls by Congress and the Independent Counsel. Then, all of a sudden, they appeared inexplicably on a table in the First Lady’s residence, bringing back to life all the questions about a deputy White House counsel’s death, his relationship with Hillary, and the Whitewater inquiry itself.
As to why Hillary would want to conduct her State Department business on a personal account and whether any laws were broken, not much is clear. Hillary and Bill have long been given to secrecy. And if recent history is anything to go by, they could have more to hide. Hillary dealt with people on her personal account that the White House did not approve of, for instance Sidney Blumenthal. She may have been inveigling foreign governments to support the Good Causes of the Clinton Foundation. She may have been telling off-colour jokes. I incline toward the last.
As to the matter of the law, the State Department and, for that matter, the entire federal government are in constant flux as to how to handle emails and archived documents in general. One federal law allows government employees to act as Hillary did but to transfer materials back to the government within 20 days to preserve records. Hillary took years, and it is not clear how her private account was discovered. It appears that late last year a Congressional inquiry, looking into the terrorist attack in Benghazi that left ambassador Christopher Stevens dead, discovered Hillary’s personal email and demanded an explanation from the State Department. Which brings up another cause for suspicion. The American Spectator reported last year that Hillary had rejected ambassador Stevens’s repeated requests for heightened security. You can see why she’d want to keep this sort of correspondence hidden.
With this scandal over Hillary’s personal email account, Democrats and their apologists in the media who have stood by her for decades are again wondering if she has gone too far. Such voices have been heard before. Remember, after the Clintons’ riotous departure from the White House back in 2001, such figures as Joe Biden judged Bill as ‘totally indefensible’, and the New York Observer said of Hillary that she ‘is unfit for elective office. Had she any shame she would resign [from the Senate].’
I am not saying she is finished. Yet I am saying she has a race on her hands. One former governor, Martin O’Malley, headed to New Hampshire last weekend to stake his claim as a presidential candidate. There will be more following him.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator.