Much of the time I have thought that Peggy Noonan is a notch above Fox News, but integrity was tossed to the winds in her Saturday column in the Wall Street Journal. There in discussing Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account instead of a government account, she suggested that this was yet another instance of Hillary Clinton acting as if she were above the law. One wonders if Noonan read the Wall Street Journal’s report on the issue on March 5 which concluded that Clinton’s email arrangement was legal, a conclusion that was reiterated by the Journal the same day as Noonan’s column.
On the other hand, Clinton was obligated to retain and hand over documents to the State Department. She did not do this until 2014, a year after she left office. Much has been made by some of this, but Clinton was not alone. When she was asked to hand over the documents she was one of several prior Secretaries of State who were also asked to do so at that time, and she handed over 55,000 emails. But she decided what to hand over and what not to hand over. What about that? Well if that’s a scandal, John Kerry and Barack Obama are in on it because they have government accounts and private accounts. They decide on a daily basis what should be in government hands and what in private hands.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t endorse the arrangements that were in place for Clinton and other Secretaries. As Noonan observes, if the emails are in a private account, they are not subject to a freedom of information act request. In addition, Clinton’s request that the 55,000 emails be made available to the public struck me as a craven political move. The State Department says that it will apply Freedom of Information Guidelines in determining what will and will not be released. My view is that they should be made available if, but only if, a valid Freedom of Information Act request is made. If the State Department is planning on a wholesale release of documents without specific requests, why stop at Clinton’s email, why not every Cabinet Officer and the President? Some won’t see this as a reductio because they lack the imagination to see that disclosure can harm the national interest and because they misapprehend the balance between privacy and sunlight.
Meanwhile, as her column proceeds, Peggy Noonan loses her grip entirely. She criticizes the press for going easy on Clinton. And after that bit of lunacy, she forgets she wrote it and claims that Scandal Land with respect to Clinton will not go away. She’s right about that. Clinton will provide fodder on her own. But so long as there as those who mislead, misrepresent, and prevaricate, Scandal Land will be with us late and soon long after Hilary Clinton has left the political scene.
Editorial addition: Noonan states that an ambassador was fired during Clinton's tenure in part because he used a private e-mail account. In fact that was far from the primary reason. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/world/africa/scott-gration-resigns-as-us-ambassador-to-kenya.html?_r=0. Moreover, as the facts develop, I am willing to bet that the Clinton's have far more advanced anti-hacking technology than that which comes out of the gmail box. For discussion of the security issue, see http://www.dorfonlaw.org/2015/03/the-real-clinton-email-question.html