Sorting Through the Actual Facts Surrounding Hillary Clinton’s Email “Scandal”

A phrase I’m sure many of the folks reading this have heard of is something called “dog-whistle politics.” The phrase itself can be used in different ways, but it generally means the practice of using one broad subject, a phrase, or group of words that seem to imply one thing, while hiding a thinly-veiled “coded” message that actually means something else.

A great example of this is when Republicans call President Obama, “Barack Hussein Obama.” Sure, we say George W. Bush, but that’s because his father, George H.W. Bush, was also president. So, to more easily distinguish between the two men, we use their middle initials. But when Republicans use Obama’s middle name, it’s dog-whistle politics. They’re trying to make him sound as “not American/Muslim” as possible to appeal to the racist and bigoted elements of their party.

Well, another example of this (though much more complex) is the whole “scandal” surrounding Hillary Clinton’s emails.

By now I’m sure everyone’s heard about the report released by the State Department’s inspector general that found fault with Clinton’s handling of her emails while she was Secretary of State.

Terrible news for Clinton, right?

This confirms everything her critics have been saying about her! She broke the law! She’s a criminal! Fit her for an orange jumpsuit! 

Yeah – no.

First, the report wasn’t just about Clinton. This was an investigation that looked into the entire State Department and found that the agency suffers from “longstanding, systemic weaknesses” concerning record keeping that “go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State.” So there are a lot of issues within the State Department that need to be addressed.

Now, was Clinton’s use of a private email sever more egregious of an error than some others? Yes – absolutely.

But the “Clinton exclusively used a private email server while Secretary of State” story has been around for over a year, so I’m not quite certain why that’s “news” to some folks.

While the report didn’t find any evidence where Clinton went through the proper channels to get approval to use a private email server, if that’s the angle you’re going to take with this story, then you’re wading into the subjective waters of whether or not you believe she used a private email server for some crooked, malicious intent or she just used poor judgment and didn’t fully understand the rules.

Clearly, the “dog-whistle” folks want to use this story to push the idea that her using a private email server means she’s a “crooked murderer who can’t be trusted and should be in prison.”

The truth of the matter is, this report doesn’t really tell us anything we haven’t already known for over a year and it doesn’t have anything to do with the FBI looking into whether or not any actual laws were violated. That’s a completely separate issue that has nothing to do with the inspector general’s report.

But if you want to get even more into this whole “scandal,” let’s not forget that it’s been nearly three months since the Department of Justice released the final batch of Clinton’s emails that ultimately proved that this whole “story” has been a whole lot of hype. We also learned that Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice also had classified emails passed through personal email accounts.

Was it wise for Clinton to have exclusively used a private email server? No, but she’s repeatedly admitted that it was a mistake. She can apologize another 200 times but it’s not going to change the fact that it happened, we all know it happened, she’s admitted that it was a poor choice and that she shouldn’t have done it.

But up until this point, nothing nefarious, unethical or criminal has been linked to any of this – nothing.

Sure, there are people out there hoping the FBI’s investigation finds criminal wrongdoing by Clinton, followed by a grand jury indictment, which would almost all but end any hope she has to become our next president. But all the rhetoric coming from the people hoping for that to happen is nothing more than their own opinion, propaganda or personal agenda against her. It’s not based on any sort of factual knowledge or information of actual criminal or unethical behavior linked to her use of a private email server.

It’s just dog-whistle politics.

Even if the FBI were to come out tomorrow and say that they found absolutely no reason to pursue any sort of criminal charges against Clinton, the damage has already been done. When people keep pushing this story, what they’re really trying to do is appeal to the people who simply want to believe that she’s an untrustworthy criminal who should be behind bars – facts be damned.

Now I know what some will say: Well, her running for president makes this an issue! 

I’m sorry, but that’s not how criminal activity works. If Hillary Clinton did, in fact, violate federal laws, whether she’s running for president or not, that should be looked into and addressed. But if she weren’t running for president, the vast majority of those who’ve been pretending to care about this wouldn’t be giving it the time of day.

Again, this inspector general’s report didn’t tell us anything we didn’t either already know or assume:

  • All of our government agencies probably need a complete overhaul in how they handle communication and record keeping.
  • Hillary Clinton used poor judgement when she exclusively used a private email server while she was Secretary of State.
  • The private server, while not illegal, did violate State Department protocols.
  • Some emails that passed through her private email account were retroactively classified – though none were marked classified when they were sent.

Of course, people are going to spin this report into a much bigger deal than it actually is because it involves Hillary Clinton. However, when you get right down to it, it didn’t really tell us much of anything we didn’t know concerning a “scandal” that, a year later, has yet to produce any actual evidence of scandalous activity.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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