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Only one person to blame

The Charlotte Observer

The vast right-wing conspiracy is at it again, Hillary Clinton says. The whole kerfuffle over her emails is driven not by her actions, she declares, but by opponents trying to bring her down.

“It’s not about emails or servers,” Clinton said last weekend. “It’s about politics.”

How Clintonian. Now, there’s no question there is a right wing that wakes up each morning delighting in the idea of taking down the Clintons. But that wouldn’t explain independent inspectors general and the FBI in a Democratic administration examining Clinton’s highly unusual — unique in history, actually — arrangement.

This wound is entirely self-inflicted. It was Clinton, not the right wing, who sent and received more than 60,000 emails while secretary of state on a personal account run through a private server in her Chappaqua, N.Y., home. That was a deliberate attempt to block the pesky public from ever nosing around in public records.

Clinton deleted more than 31,000 of those emails, sitting as judge and jury over what’s a personal email and what’s not. Then she tried to wipe the server clean.

Clinton belatedly said last week she would hand the server over to the Justice Department after refusing to do so for months. Of the emails she has given up, hundreds or thousands might have been classified. In a sample of 40 emails examined by the intelligence community inspector general, four included classified information and two were labeled top secret, the highest level of classified material.

On Monday, the State Department said 305 emails from an initial batch of 6,100 will be further examined because they might contain classified material. Time will tell how many of the remaining 24,000 might be classified.

Clinton, of course, has said she did not send or receive any emails that were marked as classified at the time. Which reminds us of questions about what the definition of “is” is. She knew, or should have, some of those emails could be deemed classified at some point.

Clinton has persistently revealed her disdain for the public in this episode. Last week, she told a reporter: “Because if I had not asked for my emails all to be made public, none of this would have been in the public arena.”

That’s preposterous. The emails are not hers to begin with. They belong to the public by law. There might be exceptions for national security, but she is not the one to judge that.

Nothing criminal has been alleged by the FBI, and it will take further probes to figure out how much of a risk Clinton’s approach might have posed to national security. It’s also easy to imagine that she might, in the end, survive all this politically.

But gaffes and scandals stick the most when they speak to a concern that the public already had about a politician. Many Americans regard Clinton as arrogant, dishonest and untrustworthy. Her decision to conduct State Department business outside the normal channels, and her reaction since that came to light, cements for many the hesitations they already had about her.

This chapter might not cost Clinton the presidency. But it surely leaves her with even fewer passionate fans.

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