What was she thinking? Why would Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, create and then exclusively use a private email account, knowing that requirements were for her to use an official government account?
It wasn’t ignorance. She had criticized secret email accounts within the administration of George W. Bush. That only leaves paranoia, secrecy or both.
Something like paranoia might even be understandable, if not at all exculpatory. After all, in her early years as first lady, she had been accused by the loony right of killing White House Deputy Counsel Vince Foster, who had committed suicide. That kind of reaction could make anyone paranoid.
But that’s not a valid excuse. She wanted to be secretary of state. It’s a powerful and important position and, in accepting it, Clinton by default accepted the terms of the job. One of them is that, for purposes of the historical record, she needed to use an official email account.
That leaves secrecy, which has long been a penchant of the Clintons. But, presuming she plans to run for president again and presuming she had that in mind in 2009, when she was sworn in as secretary of state – both likely presumptions – why would she do something so unnecessary, so provocative and so certain to nourish her opponents?
Maybe she will be able, somehow, to demonstrate that the account was used professionally – as professionally as noncompliance allows, anyway – and that all emails were preserved. That may make the revelation seem minor, but it won’t stop the critics who will say that she doesn’t care about following the rules and how can anyone vote to put someone like that in the White House?
It’s a criticism that could well resonate with independent voters whose ballots can decide an election. And why shouldn’t it resonate with them? She made a foolish decision.
She may well survive it, of course. She hasn’t even announced her intentions for 2016 and 20 months remain until the presidential election. She remains popular and Republicans continue to get in their own way. Before too long, it may be yesterday’s news.
But the fact remains: It was a bad move and purposeful one. And anyone who can spell Benghazi knows that her opponents will do everything reasonable, and more, to undermine her stature and credibility with American voters.
Benghazi was a tragic event, but Clinton didn’t create the assault that took the lives of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. This time, she handed her opponents real ammunition.
Republicans, including likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush – who has released only some of his own government emails – want Clinton to release all of hers. She should do so, and quickly.