Some Thoughts on the Hillary Clinton Email Controversy
As part of my decision to write more frequent posts on this blog, I am going to write more shorter (between 400-800 words) posts on contemporary events- as opposed to only writing less frequent and almost always delayed longer posts on more systemic issues. I used to do that a lot until early- 2014, when I tried to focus on longer posts. In retrospective, that was not a good idea as frequent shorter posts are necessary for longer posts and series. It did not help that I had a series of unexpected and unnecessary distractions in my life during the last year or two. Anyway, now that things look good enough I have decided to fix this issue. Also, I am going to be less of a perfectionist and change my style of writing- a bit.
So, let us talk about the Hillary Clinton email controversy. As many (or all) of you know by now- Hillary Clinton exclusively used her family’s private email server, rather than her official government email accounts maintained on government servers for official email communications when she served as United States Secretary of State. While this problem first came to public attention in March 2015, it was known to insiders as early as sometime in 2009. While she has consistently maintained that her choice to use a private email server was driven by a desire for convenience, it is no secret that almost nobody else is buying that explanation. Also, that issue refuses to die out.
Why would Hillary Clinton do something that was so blatantly stupid and which was almost guaranteed to haunt her later- especially if she was going to run for public office down the road?
The conventional popular explanation for her decision is a combination of hubris and a general unfamiliarity with technology. However I think that the real explanation is a bit more complex. To understand her decision, you have to first understand the time-line and circumstances surrounding her decision to use a private email server. Hillary accepted the job for Secretary of State in January 2009 under Obama, just a few months after he had defeated her in the race for the democratic presidential nomination. It was clear Hillary understood that she had no chance to pull of a repeat for 4.. maybe 8 more years. But have you ever wondered why she accepted that job in the first place? Was it for the salary? Was it for the experience and public visibility? Or.. was it something else?
It is clear that neither she nor her husband had any immediate need for money as they were already making tens of millions a year from “public speaking engagements” for large corporations. While her decision to work as the Secretary of State did give her more visibility and experience than sitting on the board of directors of multiple NGOs, it is at best part of the story. In my opinion, the main reason behind her decision to work as Secretary of State and host her official server on a private server are inextricably linked. It is also the main reason why she ran, and was elected as senator from New York before that.
It was mostly about repaying all those individuals and corporations who had previously “donated” money to her and her husbands “campaigns” with governmental favors.
While most people in the USA might believe that their country is nowhere as corrupt as those “other” countries where everyone and their dog takes bribes, the reality is rather different. See.. all those countries where everyone takes bribes are just more open about the reality of living in dysfunctional oligarchies. In any case, small-time bribery is about making enough money to live well rather than make tons more money- which brings us to the issue of large-scale governmental corruption. The biggest difference between large-scale corruption and its more ubiquitous small-scale version is the former is universal in its extent. Large-scale corruption occurs at almost identical levels in countries as diverse as Germany, Japan, India, China and the USA. Some of them just “legalize” it to make themselves look more honest (at least to themselves) than others.
In the USA large-scale corruption often involves compensating politicians by channeling money through “legal” schemes such as public speaking fees, consultation fees, campaign donations, positions on corporate boards etc. One consequence of this particular system of bribery is that politicians are required to indirectly repay these donations once they get in office by passing laws and regulations that favor their donors. Consequently, a politician cannot expect to keep on getting corporate money through “legal” schemes unless they are likely to win a future election or else somehow get into the government.
It is no secret that the Clintons made many tens of millions in such “legal” schemes after Bill left office in early-2001. So why would rich individuals and corporations keep on paying the Clintons after that? While it is possible that they may have done so to benefit from Bill’s familiarity with people who were still inside the government and/or Hillary’s position as a national senator from New York- it is far more likely that her donors were banking on Hillary wining the 2008 democratic presidential nomination and general election, which was especially likely after the two disastrous terms of Bush43. But things did not go as planned and Obama won both the nomination and election. At this stage, Hillary had no option but to take the highest governmental position she could get her hands on. Failing to do so would have resulted in a sharp curtailment of future lucrative “corporate speaking engagements” and other legalized bribery schemes which made her somewhat rich. After getting that job Hillary had to keep in touch with her corporate owners and return their favors BUT she also had to do it in a way that left few (if any) definitive records of such exchanges.
And that is why Hillary Clinton decided to use a private email server for handling all official email communications when she served as United States Secretary of State from 2009-2013.
What do you think? Comments?