Hillary Clinton is the stormy petrel of American political life. Arguments about her and her ideas and position in the current scene are virtually endless. They also are argued generally at a high intensity in the greatest heat of conflict. But in the breach, a relatively common sense approach to her and her reputation has been lost.
The question of Hillary Clinton’s role in American society even exceeds her attempt as the presumptive Democratic Party candidate for America’s highest elected office in November. As the first female with the possibility of reaching the highest office in the land is a landmark in the long fight for equal rights for women in the U.S. and throughout the world. That attention will be again enhanced by a newly announced investigation of her use of e-mail correspondence by the Department of State, and the threat of Congressional Republicans to continue similar hearings.
Many, perhaps most, Americans might well be tired and bored with the discussion of how Clinton used her e-mail service during her years as secretary of state, and ready “to move on” as her supporters have asked. But, in fact, the tedious arguments over the e-mails are at the heart of the examination of Clinton’s personality and her role in American life.
The technicalities of the discussion, however, sometimes ignore common sense considerations of the whole environment in which it is held. For example, the importance of an e-mail addressed to the secretary or one emanating from her office or her assistants to others, may well exceed their nominal importance. In the complicated world of international relations and America’s relationship to its allies and its adversaries, it can well be argued that any subject is important which reaches the eyes of the fourth in line for succession to the U.S. presidency in time of emergency. Whether, for example, the secretary is aware of an incident or a subject in a foreign country could be of utmost importance to that or another country.
Whether Clinton’s disregard for the sanctity of secrets in classified documents was studied or “reckless neglect” is in the legal context irrelevant. The law which attempts to protect state secrets or portions of them warns that penalties for violation of it are similar, whether executed consciously by the violator, or whether something done without specific regard. That argument is an important part of the reasoning by FBI Director John Comey in closing the agency’s investigation of Clinton’s e-mail issue. He emphasized that there would be no call on the Justice Department prosecutors to initiate an indictment or a to presen it to a grand jury whether to return an indictment.
One of the most controversial issues in any official investigation – such as that conducted by Comey and the FBI – of Clinton is to what extend her public statements are to be included in any final analysis. Comey was adamant that Clinton had not lied in her testimony to the FBI contradicted earlier statements, although it is something of a puzzle why the Director himself was not involved in the several hours of questioning. But he was equally clear that the FBI had not considered the hours of testimony and reams of printed coverage of her statements.
Politicians, in the American political arena, are given a certain amount of leeway in defining what is truth and exaggeration. This is less than a formal cynicism as a part of what most Americans have always regarded as the “show business” aspects ot their political process. It is perhaps what has helped Americans – with the notable exception of the Civil War and with its huge loss of life — avoid the bitter extended political conflicts which have characterized European politics and brought on centuries of continual warfare.
Ultimately, if as now seems probable, Clinton is her party’s candidate for president in November, it will be the voters who will decide on her character not excluding the many contradictions in her statements which Comey and others have laid out in detail.