I don’t really want to blog about Hillary’s e-mails, but the topic really is unavoidable, isn’t it? I don’t see that the FBI report adds much new information to what was known after the State Department Inspector General’s report was released. I don’t have any reason to change anything I wrote at that time: there is no getting around the fact that Clinton screwed up badly, and her screw-up—let’s be honest—is not entirely irrelevant to our assessment of her candidacy for the presidency. But in the grand scheme of things, there is less here than meets the eye—less, in any case, than the Republicans would shove in front of our eyes. Looking at the long history of gross mistakes and misbehavior by US presidents, Clinton’s e-mail transgressions wouldn’t come close to making the A-list.
The big question is whether Clinton’s e-mail usage compromised national security. The simple and correct answer is that they did not. First of all, I will point out once again that “national security” is one of the most abused terms in our political lexicon. Typically, practically any and every act of American foreign policy is justified in terms of national security. It’s a way of forestalling serious, critical discussion: after all, who will deny that our nation must, indeed, be secure? Can there be any more national objective more sacrosanct? Could there be any more heinous act by a responsible US government official than compromising national security? But most of the work of the Secretary of State advances a variety of US foreign policy interests that are unrelated in any real, direct way to the safety and security of our people and territory.
But even if we accept the conventional, expansive definition of national security, there is no reason to believe that Hillary did any damage. The fact is that the various “classified’ designations routinely get slapped onto documents with what might generously be called an excess of zeal; a lot of classified information is actually pretty innocuous. Slate’s Fred Kaplan boils the issue down to its core better than I could. Read his whole post, but I think the bottom line is here:
….even if Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or Syrian spies had hacked into Clinton’s email servers, and if they’d pored through 60,000 emails and come across these eight chains that held top secret material, they would not have learned anything the slightest bit new or worthy of their efforts. The FBI’s discoveries should be viewed in that context.”