Hillary Clinton’s inevitable announcement of her inevitable candidacy has brought inevitable controversy. But history shows that her victory may be anything but inevitable.
Clinton “represents the worst of the Washington machine,” said a recent cable TV advertisement. To be sure, she has engaged in a pattern of questionable practices followed by brazen excuses.
In a now-familiar example, Clinton engaged in the unusual practice of using a private email server to conduct government business and has permanently deleted emails that could have shed light on issues now surrounding her campaign, including foreign contributions to her foundation and her role in the Benghazi controversy. Most Americans believe that Clinton purposely deleted or withheld emails relevant to her State Department work, according to a recent Bloomberg poll.
Most telling in the email controversy is the legal argument Clinton deploys in her defense. The reasoning is remarkably similar to an argument that her husband famously used at the time of his impeachment.
Clinton argues that her correspondence would have been captured by government servers because other State Department employees were using government accounts. According to a Gawker report, however, at least two other high-level Clinton aides also used personal email accounts, which would mean that communications between Clinton’s private email and the aides’ private emails would not have been recorded by the State Department.
Let’s review Mrs. Clinton’s argument. She says that all of her emails touched a government server:
[F]ormer State Department employees, including Clinton’s current spokesman Nick Merrill, told Business Insider’s Hunter Walker that everything about the private account was above board. Two of those employees, Walker writes, argued that “Clinton took care to correspond with other State officials exclusively on their governmental addresses. The officials claimed this meant all of her emails and those sent to her were immediately preserved on government servers.”
This argument may seem vaguely familiar to those who remember the Monica Lewinsky scandal and President Bill Clinton’s subsequent impeachment for lying under oath and obstructing justice. At that time, Bill Clinton used similar reasoning to claim that he had not lied under oath.
TIME magazine explained Clinton’s argument based on the definition of “sexual relations” used in the deposition in which Clinton committed perjury:
Clinton may have been given the room to offer a technically “true” denial to the question of whether he had sex with Lewinsky — even if she happened to perform fellatio on him. The truncated definition characterizes sex in terms of a checklist of body parts, including the genitals, breast and thigh. Oral sex would not necessarily require the [p]resident to touch anything on Lewinsky that appears on that list. Strange as it may sound, under one reading of the definition, Lewinsky could have been having sex with him (because she was “touching” the [p]resident’s genitals) while at the same moment, he was not having sex with her.
In Hillary Clinton’s case, the law says that official emails must be preserved on government servers, and Clinton argues that she complied with this requirement because all of her personal emails involving official business touched a government server.
In Bill Clinton’s case, the lawsuit’s definition of “sexual relations” referred to any touching of breasts or genitalia, and he argued that his conduct did not implicate the definition because Lewinsky was touching his genitals, but not vice versa.
Hillary Clinton claims her private email server complied with the law because all of her business ended on a government server. Bill Clinton argued that his workplace distractions did not constitute sexual relations because he never touched Lewinsky’s business end.
In both cases, the arguments are logically strained, legally specious — and factually fraudulent. Hillary Clinton’s email interactions are known to have extended to nongovernmental third parties on official business — such as former Clinton White House adviser Sid Blumenthal on Benghazi-related matters — and Bill Clinton’s extracurricular interactions with Lewinsky are known to have extended beyond passively receiving fellatio. And, as a result, Bill Clinton eventually acknowledged perjury and surrendered his law license.
Just as Bill Clinton’s political life brought seemingly unending “bimbo eruptions,” Hillary Clinton now generates ongoing ethics eruptions. In each case, she and her supporters are quick to offer finely tuned, exotic arguments that hang on strained legal technicalities.
These ethics eruptions which are frequently tied together in facts and circumstances promise to challenge the inevitability of a 2016 presidential victory for Hillary Clinton.
She seeks to be the leader of the free world and the commander in chief. All she continues to demonstrate is that she is the chief prevaricator. And that’s not a role the American people want reprised.
First published in The Hill in April 2015