Clinton e-mail pseudo-scandal

The Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy has been in the media spotlight for the past three weeks.  The attention is dying down right now, and I don’t mean to fan the flames.  This controversy should never have started in the first place.  There are just a couple of points that I would like to bring out about the issue.

I think it’s widely accepted at this point that Secretary Clinton broke no laws.  Nor did she break from any established precedent.  Previous Secretaries of State did not use e-mail.  Defense Secretary Hagel used a private e-mail service.

So the controversy boils down to whether she is doing something that is somehow morally questionable.  The theory might be that she was trying to hide something.  That theory has no foundation.  She was already a prominent public figure before she became Secretary of State. She already had an e-mail server.  It was an easy and natural course of action to simply continue using the service she was already using.  There was neither a requirement nor a practical reason to change.

Some Congressmen are demanding that Secretary Clinton turn over all of her e-mail correspondence.  They have no right to ask this, and no reason other than the desire to gin up a political scandal out of nothing.  There is nothing special about e-mail, compared to paper correspondence, that should make this into a scandal.  Secretary Clinton turned over all of her e-mails related to State Department business.  She did not turn over e-mails related to “wedding planning and yoga” or other personal matters.  Members of Congress are outraged that she should take it upon herself to “grade her own homework”.  To see the cant, just remove the letter “e-“ from “e-mail”, and put yourself in Secretary Clinton’s shoes.  Imagine that someone on the Board of Directors of the company you worked for demanded that you turn over every letter, invoice, magazine, package, and other item of mail, whether related to your work or not, that has passed through your home since you stepped down yourself from the Board of Directors.

This controversy has deepened my disappointment with mainstream media.  For example, I most frequently watch MSNBC.  I recognize they have a strong pro-Democratic Party bias.  But what has become apparent is that they have an even stronger bias toward keeping meaningless controversies going, so that they have something to fill air time.

I’m also disappointed by the inability of citizens to look beyond the media’s attempts to define what’s important.  For example, CBS has a pro-Hillary Clinton focus group in New Hampshire.  The group was asked what they think is the most troubling thing about a possible Clinton candidacy, and were virtually unanimous in pointing to the e-mail “scandal”.  The interviewer presented the results as if the members of the focus group were themselves given to doubt about Secretary Clinton because of the e-mail story.  Either he presented it correctly, in which case the focus group members were disturbingly susceptible to being swayed by media coverage, or he misunderstood their concern about her practical electoral prospects for a concern over her suitability for office.  The latter would fit with poll results that show Clinton supporters not being swayed by this story.  The former, I think, because of focus group dynamics, is more likely in this case.

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