On March 10, Hillary Clinton publicly came forward and justified her use of private email during her time as Secretary of State. She explained that when she entered office, she thought it would simpler to have one email on one device, and chose to use only her personal email. She defended her choice, stating that it was allowed by the state department. As she stated in her address to the public: “I thought using one device would be simpler. And obviously it hasn’t worked out that way.”
These remarks were made in response to the March controversy over Clinton’s adherence to federal record keeping laws. At the request of the State department, Clinton handed over 55,000 pages of emails designated as work-related. Emails not included were personal correspondences, such as emails about her daughter’s wedding, or her mother’s funeral.
When the news first broke out about her use of personal emails, red flags were raised for a lot of people. Even people who were generally in favor of Clinton began to ask questions about the legality of her actions, and whether this revealed a deeper tendency towards opacity. It is these two questions that need to be addressed. The evidence at the present suggests that Clinton abided by the law, but we must take this scandal as a warning and remain skeptical of her actions.
On Wellesley’s campus, the use of Hillary Clinton’s last name is superfluous. Everyone knows who she is and many hold her in high esteem, regardless of political loyalties. In the last week, as her name popped up in the media in an unflattering light, I admit to feeling defensive due to our shared alma mater. I nearly rashly took to the New York Times comments section to passionately defend her. One must, however, remove themselves their bias and look at the bigger issue.
From a practical stance, I cannot see that she did anything legally wrong, or that she did any harm. The law that directly relates to this issue requires individuals who have private emails to forward copies of all communication within 20 days. However, it was not signed into practice until after Clinton left office. Other than that, there seems to be little documentation on how and when emails should be handed over. In addition, her sole use of private email seems as though it was legal during her time in office. We can imagine that if there had really been a problem with the use of her email, surely one of the many government officials she sent emails to would have called her out on it during her tenure. While it’s true that there are some absent-minded enough not to notice the absence of a .gov in her email, it’s pretty hard to believe that if there was really something wrong, the 55,000 pages worth of email recipients wouldn’t have thought, “Huh. That’s weird”. What’s more, it’s pretty likely that most of Clinton’s emails were caught in the system on the recipients end of the many government officials she contacted. Truthfully, I’m somewhat inclined to ask the public and politicians alike to find something more interesting to talk about.
However, following the letter of the law is not all that must be discuss, and the potential of a deeper tendency towards opacity needs to be addressed. Regardless of whether or not Clinton’s actions were perfectly legal, I think we all know that is only part of the story. I’m of the opinion that exploitation of loopholes is fairly universal, and it seems possible that this is what Clinton was doing. It is this loophole abuse that worries me about her actions. On the one hand, I could choose to take her at her word, that she chose one email for convenience sake only. On the other, I can see an underlying sense of entitlement, and privacy that doesn’t seem necessary. For now, I am choosing to trust Clinton, and not let this overshadow her legitimacy, or her ability to be a good leader if she runs in 2016. But I am also choosing to keep an eye on her.
These considerations having been duly made, I’m inclined to think that if it was not this scandal, it would’ve been another. It could be said that If Hillary had chosen to use two emails, there would be no questions about her validity. There would be no elaborate stories questioning her choices while she was secretary of state, and she would not have had to stand up in front of the media, attempting to justify unnecessarily scrutinized actions. However I am extremely skeptical that she could avoided this kind of scrutiny.
The recent attacks on Clinton’s character are attempts of the media and the republicans to find a reason not to elect her. It is the media digging for dirt on her before her campaign even starts. And it worked; it raised some serious concerns. Yet, it failed to drastically change my view of Clinton’s leadership abilities, and of her politics. My message to the people still trying to slander Hillary Clinton is that you are going to need to try quite a bit harder.
Sabrina Leung ‘18 is the Digital Editor majoring in International Relations-Political Science with a minor in History. She is best reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @sabrinatzleung on Twitter.