Hillary Clinton and pretend sexism

Hillary Clinton’s supporters released to the media a list of words that they don’t want used in relation to the former Secretary of State. These words, they claimed, are “coded sexism”, and sexism, of course, means that someone is being targeted exclusively because of their gender. The words on the list were surprising. None of them were terms that could remotely be considered sexist, such as “polarizing, calculating, disingenuous, insincere, ambitious, inevitable, entitled, over confident, secretive, will do anything to win, represents the past, and out of touch”. Most of these words could be used to apply to any politician, left or right, man or woman, and to claim they’re somehow sexist when applied to Mrs Clinton reeks of desperation and the faux-offence that many on the left drum up in support of their pet causes.

Former Secretary of State, Senator from New York, and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The secretive, entitled, overly confident, polarising, calculating, insincere, ambitious, and out of touch former Secretary of State.

The dictionary definition of sexism is as follows: “prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially :  discrimination against women”. How does “ambitious”, which isn’t even insulting, possibly be sexist? Or “out of touch”, which applies to the kind of wealthy DC insider who, oh, I don’t know, hasn’t driven her own car since the mid-90’s? If anything, terms like “out of touch” are “wealth-ist”, but not sexist. “Polarising”? Find me a partisan politician who isn’t. That term could apply to practically anyone running for President. “Disingenuous” and “insincere”? Those terms could apply to someone of either gender who erases 30,000 of their own e-mails on their own private e-mail server to prevent Congress being able to read them. “Inevitable”? Another one that’s not an insult, merely a reflection of the political reality that Mrs Clinton is streets ahead in the polls. It’s not a loaded term, it’s an observation based on fact. “Entitled” could apply to anyone who believes that their “time has come”, regardless of accomplishment. Like someone who says it’s time for a woman President regardless of qualification, perhaps? “Over confident” seems the inevitable way someone riding high in the polls might be feeling. “Secretive”? Those e-mails again. “Will do anything to win” depends on the context, and while it could come across that way, in most cases it won’t. “Represents the past”? Like someone who first hit the headlines in the early 1990s, and has, as we’ve pointed out on Pitipaci previously, been around on the political stage for a quarter of a century.

Quite simply, none of these terms are, in and of themselves, sexist. Sexism is the active discrimination or prejudice against someone specifically because of their gender. A legitimate difference of opinion with Mrs Clinton does not make someone a sexist, any more than a legitimate difference of opinion with President Obama makes someone a racist. Though try telling that to the liberal Democratic Party base.

If anyone is being sexist here, it’s Mrs Clinton’s defenders. To say that these terms are discriminatory is a blatant attempt to shield the former Secretary not merely from criticism, but from the kind of language which crops up frequently in political journalism. The question is why. Why do they feel a need to keep her safe? Do they see Mrs Clinton as a damsel in distress? Do they fear she cannot handle criticism because she’s a woman? That smacks of sexism to me far more than any of those prohibited words.

And here’s the real issue – fake sexism like this detracts from genuine sexism and crimes against women when they do occur. If Mrs Clinton’s supporters will play the “sexism” card on a word like “ambitious”, they come across as incredibly petty, and ultimately they end up hurting their own cause both in the way they behave and in that when a genuinely sexist comment or criticism arises, people will dismiss it as “just more faux-sexism from the Hillary Clinton campaign”.

The uncomfortable truth is that the 2016 election, like the 2008 election before it, will be less about the issues and more about electing the “first” of something. In 2008, it was the first black President. Mrs Clinton and her campaign will try to make 2016 about electing the first woman President. And just like in 2008, if they can make that message stick, qualifications and personality will matter far less than the historical significance of electing a woman. It isn’t right, but it’s the political reality.

I won’t shy away from using the proscribed terms in reference to Mrs Clinton where appropriate, and nobody else should either. If we’re really in a situation where the media can be cowed into not using generic descriptive terms for a candidate because of fears of being called out on false charges of discrimination, then political correctness has really gotten well out of hand. There will be some people who will dislike Mrs Clinton because of her gender. There will be some people uncomfortable with the idea of a woman being President. But there will be an awful lot more, especially low-information voters, who will vote for her simply because they feel that “it’s time” for a woman to be President. Is that sexist? Yes. But I’m not going to call them out on it – it’s just the way politics works in a democracy. If people like me, who are naturally not inclined to support Mrs Clinton, want to see her defeated at the polls, we know we will have to work harder to overcome that notion. No point in whining about it, or else we’d end up sounding like liberals.

First Anniversary

On March 29 2014, I wrote my first full-length article here on Pitipaci. Since then, a lot has been happening, both in the political world and in my personal life. It’s been fun, and though I know I’m not the most regular political blogger out there, I hope you’ve enjoyed what I have had to say.

That first post, Clintons and Bushes – Political Dynasties in America, might just as well have been written yesterday, because it’s still relevant. Perhaps it’s even more relevant today, one year on, than it was when I wrote it. For all her faults and mistakes, Hillary Clinton remains the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, and Jeb Bush has been courting the GOP establishment and looks set to bring in over $100 million in campaign contributions for the first quarter of this year. We are closer than ever to a Bush/Clinton redux, so I’m glad that I made that my first ever article. It makes looking back over the last year even more fun for me.

On a personal note, after spending several years living and working in Europe – first Germany, then Italy, my wife and I have decided that it’s time to go home. I will be moving back to the UK within the month, so around the end of April you can expect a bit of a break. I will try to keep contributing regularly until moving day, and I’ll resume as quickly as possible afterwards.

This is poor timing, because it means that I may be out of commission for several days during the run-up to the UK election – but I should be back on-line in time to cover its aftermath!

Thanks for sticking with me this year, I truly appreciate each and every one of you reading what I’ve written.

Best wishes from Pitipaci

First and Third

Two big political stories emerged yesterday from opposite sides of the Atlantic. One was expected, the other not so much. Both are to do with numbers, in a way, and since both were worthy of an article and I couldn’t choose between them, I decided to combine them into one.

First up, Ted Cruz.

So Cruz announced his Presidential campaign at Liberty University yesterday, making him the first Republican to be running for President. Except we all know he’s not; a dozen or more rivals for the nomination have been on the unofficial campaign trail for months, and at least two, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson, have formed exploratory committees – the first step to a run (so has Donald Trump, but let’s be honest, he’s done that so many times before that there’s a “boy who cried wolf” thing going on whenever he mentions the Presidency). But nevertheless, Ted Cruz’s announcement achieved its intended effect for the Texas senator, who’s been lagging in the polls behind the likes of Bush and Scott Walker – everyone’s talking about him.

I was surprised to note in a recent poll that over 20% of Republicans surveyed didn’t know enough about Ted Cruz to have an opinion either way on his Presidential ambitions. That’s a lot of leeway to work with, and Cruz must be hoping that the attention he’ll get from being the first “official” candidate – and perhaps the only official candidate for either party until after Easter – will improve his name recognition within the party and with the wider electorate too. For a candidate with a great deal of room for improvement, an early announcement can be effective.

But this business of him being an “official” candidate is just pedantic, isn’t it? We all knew Ted Cruz was planning to run for President before yesterday’s speech, so, to quote Hillary Clinton, “what difference, at this point, does it make?” Just because Cruz made a fancy speech and filed some paperwork doesn’t change the political situation on the ground. In fact, it would’ve been a bigger story if he’d announced that he wasn’t running for President. At the moment, in these early stages of the campaign, we’re in a funny kind of political limbo. Everyone knows more or less who’s going to run for President, and many of the soon-to-be candidates are already campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and other key early states, as well as courting big donations. Cruz has been on the Presidential radar for months, if not longer, and when I first compiled my list of runners and riders for the Republican nomination last summer, his name was already on it.

The difference, of course, is in media perception and attention. While a candidate is undeclared, there’s always the possibility that they might choose not to run, as Mitt Romney did, or simply see their unofficial campaign fade to nothingness like Peter King, the first Republican to announce his Presidential intentions in mid-2013. Any announcement from a major player attracts media attention which the candidate can then ride for a while, providing a boost to their campaign. Cruz, thanks to his timing, may be helped by this over the next few weeks if he remains the only officially-announced candidate in the race, and has also cut the danger of being overshadowed by others getting in ahead of him. The trade-off is that when others do make their campaigns official, Cruz will see that momentum evaporate, so he’s got to make the next couple of weeks count. In many ways, the time between now and the next major Republican announcement is the most critical for Cruz and his campaign. We will see how he’s fared by the time Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or Rick Perry make their campaigns official, and then judge whether being the first official candidate was a smart move.

Next, let’s head across the pond and discuss David Cameron.

The British Prime Minister caught many off-guard yesterday when he, in an unscripted and un-prompted interview, said that he would not seek a third term as Prime Minister if he’s elected to a second term in a few weeks’ time. He even tipped three possible successors, and though there were no real surprises as to who they were (all leading figures in the Conservative Party who have been the subject of leadership speculation previously) the announcement itself, and the seemingly casual, off-hand manner in which he made it is somewhat unexpected.

Like Ted Cruz, David Cameron is taking a risk. He knows how unpopular Tony Blair became, and he remembers how long-serving PM Margaret Thatcher was unceremoniously dumped by her party mid-way through her third term in 1991. British Prime Ministers are not term-limited in the same way as US Presidents, but the public and even members of their own party don’t like the idea of a PM just going “on and on”.

Cameron’s announcement, coming as it does a week before the party leaders’ debate and only a few short weeks before the election is clearly designed to boost his reputation going in to those events. People don’t like career politicians – even less so in Britain since the expenses scandal a few years ago – and by saying that he feels he would only serve one more five-year term, Cameron is painting himself as the public servant rather than the scheming career politician. If it works and that reputation sticks, he will look very good next to the back-stabbing, almost Machiavellian career politician Ed Milliband, his only serious rival in the race for Number 10 Downing Street.

Milliband scraped a victory in 2010’s Labour Party leadership contest, buying his spot as the party’s leader with the backing of trade unions over ordinary Labour members and MPs, and screwing over his older brother in the process. Compared to such a vile, self-serving little man, Cameron’s intention to retire at the end of a second term as PM could play very well indeed, especially as many voters recall Blair’s desire to drag out his premiership for as long as he could get away with. Perhaps, in a way, Cameron is daring Milliband to make a similar commitment, knowing full-well that Labour’s leader won’t.

There’s a danger, though, that by making this announcement now that Cameron has effectively made himself a “lame-duck”, or at the very least weakened his own power unnecessarily. If he remains PM once the general election has passed, speculation will begin to mount about who will succeed him and when. If his government’s popularity starts to sag part-way through the next parliament, there could easily be an opportunistic wannabe who challenges the Prime Minister in a leadership election. Just like what happens to Presidents in the US after the mid-terms during their second term, Cameron could emerge from May’s general election with little more than a pyrrhic victory, with the vultures already beginning to circle, plotting an earlier end for him than he intends. There’s certainly no shortage of ambition within the Conservative Party – George Osborne (the chancellor) and Boris Johnson (the mayor of London) have both repeatedly had to deny speculation that they were plotting to challenge Cameron for the leadership, and Osborne’s desire to be PM is very well-known, and has even been joked about by Cameron himself.

Because a British Prime Minister has no limits (in theory) about how long he may serve, Cameron may have just shot himself in the foot. On the one hand, he comes across as statesmanlike, especially compared to Ed Milliband, and it’s possible that that perception may help him over the finish line and back into Number 10. On the other hand, if he does win the election, he won’t enjoy the level of control over his party or his government that he might’ve done, and it won’t be long before people start asking questions like “when will he step down?” After all, it’s a no-brainer that he couldn’t remain PM for the entirety of his second term; the Conservatives will need to select a new leader before the election to lead them. So when would that happen? It couldn’t really be later than January of 2020 (assuming a five-year parliamentary term with an election in May 2020) because the new leader would need time to introduce himself or herself to the public, as well as get accustomed to the role. So would Cameron be in the bizarre position of remaining as PM while someone else takes over the leadership of his party? That doesn’t make any sense. But neither does the Conservatives electing a new leader who would serve as PM for only four months before the election. After all, who’d want to have the embarrassment of being Prime Minister for four months and then possibly losing an election? Especially if it looks like support for the party is declining, a challenger could emerge as early as eighteen months or two years into Cameron’s second term, and if they promise to Conservative MPs and party member to stop the decline, they could well win a leadership election. If Cameron’s retiring anyway, what does it matter if he serves five years or not? That would be the rationale.

So while Cameron’s decision not to seek a third term may have short-term political benefits for him, in the long run he may regret making this announcement now instead of at this point five years from now. And there will be some on the left who will undoubtedly accuse him of arrogantly assuming he will win a second term by talking about a third term already. If that accusation sticks, it may be damaging. Just like people don’t like career politicians, they don’t like politicians who seem to treat elections as a mere side-show. There’s a risk for Cameron – albeit a small one – that he inadvertently implies that the outcome of the election is already known to him, and that the campaign itself is a little diversion from his ten-year plan to govern the country. However, as with everything politicians say these days, there is a calculation involved. People around him have clearly weighed the options and decided that the danger of seeming out-of-touch is lower than the reward of appearing statesmanlike.

Both Cruz and Cameron took gambles yesterday regarding their political futures. It won’t be too long before we find out if the risks were worth it.

Why is David Cameron such a mass debater?

After weeks of arguments, including a back-and-forth at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, British PM David Cameron has finally agreed to take part in a televised pre-election debate. For my American friends, such debates aren’t new, the first one taking place between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy in 1960, but in the UK, the first time televised debates were held was at the last general election in 2010. Some decried this “Americanisation” of British politics, but the debates were fascinating to watch, and were viewed by millions of Britons. Of particular note was the insurgency of Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg, whose party shot up by as much as ten percent in polls taken in the days after the debate. Clegg and his party have seen their popularity plummet in the years since, but the “Clegg effect” is precisely why Cameron has been so reluctant to take part, finding all manner of excuses not to join in. It was only the threat of being “empty-chaired” that finally coerced the Prime Minister to take part.

Behind the cheap pun is a serious story. In 2010, Clegg’s strong debate performance, and his third-party appeal caused a major upheaval in British politics for a time. While he was never in serious danger of being Prime Minister, his Lib Dems undoubtedly took votes from both major parties, and in some seats may even have acted as a “spoiler”. This unevenly impacted Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, as Clegg was challenging him from the left while Cameron came from the centre-right. This time around, though, things are very different. The Lib Dems have been all but annihilated in the polls, and are predicted to lose anywhere from 30-50 of their 60-odd seats in Parliament. The two “main” parties, Cameron’s Conservatives and Ed Milliand’s Labour, are virtually neck-and-neck, a situation which at this point favours Cameron based on historical trends. But what has caught many people by surprise is the rise of a fourth major political party, UKIP, who won last year’s European elections. UKIP’s charismatic leader Nigel Farage has consistently called for an end to Britain’s costly EU membership and for the government to get a better grip on what has become an immigration crisis. These messages have resonated with the British public, and Cameron fears taking on the UKIP leader in a debate setting because he fears the “Clegg effect” – a challenge from the right-wing which should be solid Conservative territory. Milliband is no real threat – a contemptible, petty little man who screwed over his own brother to win the Labour leadership, and who only won that election with the backing of trade unions. He’s a poor speaker, a worse campaigner, and many in Britain appreciate that he is simply not “Prime Minister material”.

However, a strong right-wing challenge from UKIP coupled with the growing support in Scotland for the nationalists could see enough of a swing away from the Conservatives that Milliband could end up heading a government backed up by the SNP. That is why David Cameron doesn’t want to have this debate. It’s not because he’s afraid of Ed Milliband (and really, he has no reason to be) but because he’s worried about the threat of UKIP.

Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system is the single best way of giving the people of the country, not the politicians, control over who governs them. Why? Because it almost always leads to strong governments which do not require coalition partners, and therefore it avoids all of the backroom deals and political “horse-trading” which comes from negotiating a coalition. But as happened in 2010, the first-past-the-post system may fail the people on the 7th of May, and if it does, it will mean either a minority government or a coalition of parties. If there were enough MPs, Cameron could head up a coalition supported by UKIP, but because of the way the constituencies work, it’s likely that in some cases, UKIP may act as a “spoiler”, taking votes away from the Conservatives and letting Labour win by default.

But there are many “Old Labour” supporters – socialists and unionists – who are increasingly drawn to UKIP and their promises of British jobs for British workers, and an end to mass immigration to Britain. Indeed, if there were a referendum held on Britain’s continued membership of the EU, the Labour Party would be split on the issue, as many on the far left are just as opposed to the supranational monstrosity as are those on the right. So in some previously safe Labour seats, Milliband can expect to see UKIP taking his votes, too.

But back to the debates. Aside from the UKIP factor, there’s another thing David Cameron must be aware of, and that’s the simple fact that debates of this nature don’t favour incumbents. He may have a reasonable record to run on in many areas (though not immigration), but perceptions, body language, posture, and charisma are what matter in debates, and as the man in charge for the past five years, Cameron is, to some voters at least, old news. The “casuals”, who only tune in to political news when there’s an election, may opt for a “new face” simply because they feel it’s time for a change. These debates can be unkind to incumbent leaders, so Cameron wants to minimise the amount of time he has to be on screen.

Both the incumbent factor and UKIP worries mean that the smart move for David Cameron is to have a debate with as many other candidates as possible, rather than what had been proposed: two four-way debates including UKIP and one debate between him and Milliband. He’s proposed instead a single seven-party debate, which includes the leaders of a range of minor and provincial parties, including the SNP and the Greens. The Greens, he hopes, will attack Labour from the left, lessening any impact the Conservatives would feel from UKIP’s attacks from the right. But will it work?

Cameron comes out of this looking rather petty. Having said Milliband is weak, having performed so well against him at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, and Milliband himself only a few months ago having to deal with rumours of an internal plot to remove him before the election, Cameron shouldn’t have much difficulty taking him on in a one-on-one debate. Labour are trying to make an issue of this, with Milliband promising to debate the PM “anytime, anywhere”. In the end, though, it shouldn’t have a huge impact on Cameron. Obviously his advisers have told him that the fallout from this drawn-out debate about the debate is going to be less serious than the potential fallout of going up against Nigel Farage in a smaller setting on two occasions. They’ve cleverly worked to include as many other parties as they could get away with, partly to hurt Labour and partly to minimise the time Cameron has to be on screen and dealing with attacks from UKIP. The debate about the debate will be all but forgotten in the aftermath of the event itself, or at least, that’s what the Conservatives are counting on.

The Israel Effect

It’s no secret that the US-Israel alliance has become highly political and partisan in recent years. The Democratic Party, guided by the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, frequently act as though they are ashamed of America’s only real ally in the region, and seem to do what they can to undermine Israel’s expansion, particularly where the security wall and settlements are concerned. This is a natural manifestation of the left-wing’s pro-Palestine agenda which can be seen on any college campus, or anywhere else where large numbers of left-wingers gather. Supporting Palestine is in vogue at the moment, regardless of the Palestinian Authority’s ties to Islamic extremism.

On the other hand, the Republican Party is deeply wedded to the idea of an expansionist Israel, regardless of the issues that it has caused for the peace process in the region. Major figures within the party, including possible 2016 Presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee, have totally bought into the notion that the Jewish State has a kind of divine right to control the area, and are quick to shoot down any idea of a Palestinian state.

Both sides are getting involved with Israel’s general election, which takes place today, and both sides are accusing the other of unfair involvement with a foreign nation’s election. To be blunt, on this issue, Republicans and Democrats are both wrong, and they’re both being hypocritical. President Obama’s relationship with Israeli PM Netanyahu is bad, to say the least. They come from opposite political schools – Obama wants to see a Palestinian state, Netanyahu, as he made explicitly clear last night, does not. So when John Boehner invited the Israeli PM to address a joint session of Congress, President Obama used the excuse of the upcoming election to refuse to meet with him, and suggested that the Republicans were unfairly influencing the election in Mr Netanyahu’s favour.

But if the GOP intended to help out Mr Netanyahu, they weren’t the only ones interested in influencing the outcome of today’s vote. Several top advisers to President Obama’s 2012 re-election bid have been campaigning in Israel against Mr Netanyahu, using a variation of the Democrats’ micro-targeting of specific voting groups. In this case, they’ve been going after voters who traditionally would not support a right-wing PM like Mr Netanyahu – Arab-Israelis in particular.

But the Republicans can hardly call the President out on this shameless bid to try and unseat a political enemy, because they are far too biased in Mr Netanyahu’s favour to be objective. The invitation to address Congress may not have been all about the political situation in Israel, but it would take a fool (or someone wilfully blind) to say that it didn’t have some impact on the election. And it would take that same fool to say that some of Obama’s top staffers just happen to be in Israel working against the Prime Minister’s re-election bid without any direction from or contact with the White House.

So if Israel has already become a partisan issue in the United States, then both parties must take the blame for that. Both Republicans and Democrats must learn to accept that Israel’s democracy is for the people of Israel, and they must accept the result of the vote. If there is ever to be a successful peace process in the region, it will have to have the support of the Israeli people, and the Palestinians too. For the United States to be seen to be influencing Israel’s election is deeply troubling to those of us who hope for a peaceful and democratic solution to a conflict which has rumbled on for almost seven decades. Both sides in the United States need to step back and let the Israelis decide who they want to govern them, and then resolve to do their utmost to work with whichever leaders and government emerge from the aftermath of the vote. Invitations, snubs, and underground campaigning all damage the relationship between Israel and the United States, and that in turn threatens to have a destabilising effect on the region.

President Obama and the Democrats need to learn how to work with someone like Benjamin Netanyahu, and they need to understand that their opinions about what the Israeli government should be doing with regard to settlements and counter-terrorism are irrelevant. Those issues are issues for Israel. The Republicans too need to understand that Israeli politics are not an extension of US politics, and that no matter how much they may like Mr Netanyahu, his re-election is a matter for the Israeli voters. If the United States wants to have a role to play in the future of the region, both sides need to take a step back and remember that Israel is a sovereign democracy in its own right.

The Core of the E-mail Scandal

Hillary Clinton has called upon the State Department to release all of her e-mails, in the hope that it will damp down the blazing scandal into her breach of the rules – both in letter and spirit – if not the law. But how can it possibly work? Only a wilfully blind Clinton devotee could be tricked by such duplicity, but unfortunately, it seems as though the former Secretary of State surrounds herself with exactly that kind of sycophant.

The State Department doesn’t have all of Mrs Clinton’s e-mails. Why? She didn’t provide the State Department with all of her e-mails! She, and she alone, had the final say over which messages were provided to the State Department after she left office – in violation of a certification every State Department employee would have been obliged to sign. So it makes sense for her to be fine with State releasing the e-mails she provided: they’ve already been censored and filtered! So when this issue is put to Democrats and supporters and they trot out what Mrs Clinton said at her press conference, they are not merely side-stepping the issue, they are completely avoiding it. And sadly, I have yet to see anyone in the media – including the right-wing media – fully go after the Clinton camp on that.

The idea that Mrs Clinton would wilfully release to the State Department, and by extension the public, messages which could be politically damaging to her aspirations is simply ridiculous. It would take an absolute paragon of virtue to be so honest, and the natural human impulse would be to quietly delete those messages which might lead to negative headlines. I’ll hold my hand up right now and say that’s what I’d do if the opportunity were there. And for Mrs Clinton, the opportunity was there. She and her team had full and total control over which messages they released to the State Department, keeping back those they claimed were “personal”. But the aforementioned form which Mrs Clinton would be obliged to sign on leaving the State Department specifies that an official record keeper from State has to go through messages to determine what counts as personal. In the case of a dispute, the default option is that the State Department, not Mrs Clinton, retains those messages. That did not happen in Mrs Clinton’s case, and that is a clear breach of the rules.

So we the public are being asked to believe that Mrs Clinton is not simply trustworthy, but that her personal honesty and integrity go above and beyond that of a normal person. It is a natural temptation to conceal negative information about oneself, and a majority of people have said in poll after poll after poll that, when presented with doing something bad with no consequences in order to receive a reward, they would do it.

Mrs Clinton had the time, ability, and motivation to conceal information from the State Department and the American public. Do you really believe that she is such a trustworthy person that she would knowingly release information that could damage her fledgling campaign, even if she didn’t have to and could get away with not doing so?

And that’s the kicker- she might just get away with it. When a file, such as an e-mail, is securely deleted, it can be impossible to recover. The only way we might find her lost messages would be if the people she e-mailed had kept copies and were willing to disclose them.

This is but a taste of the lack of accountability and transparency that a new Clinton administration will surely operate under. It is a preview of the contemptuous way she will treat the public, and a timely reminder of the way the Clintons have always believed themselves to be above the law.

A Question of Trust

On the face of it, the brewing scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton’s e-mails during her tenure as Secretary of State seems silly, especially to those of us not gifted with detailed knowledge of computers and the inner workings of the Internet. So what if she preferred to use her own e-mail address instead of using a “@state.gov” one, right?

The problem is that it’s not simply a case of Hillary using”hillaryforprez@obamasucks.com” (that’s not her e-mail address, I’m sure) instead of a more official-sounding e-mail. There are serious issues surrounding national security, as private e-mail accounts are supposedly easier to hack into than government ones. But Mrs Clinton’s most pressing problem comes from how her e-mails are saved and archived by the State Department. The law, which was changed in 2009 before she became Secretary of State, requires all State Dept. employees to use only their official e-mail address to conduct official business. It also requires that all e-mails sent and received be stored and archived. When you work for anyone nowadays, chances are they give you an e-mail address to use for work. This stops your personal and business correspondence getting mixed up, and it allows your employer to monitor your messages to make sure you’re conducting yourself in a professional manner. No business in the private sector would tolerate an employee using their private account to conduct company business – indeed many companies would make that a firing offence.

Hillary Clinton and her aides chose to deny the State Department access to her messages. Even a Congressional subpoena of her e-mails (as Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi committee has now sent) is dependent entirely on Mrs Clinton and her staff turning over all of the messages, not cherry-picking which ones to release and which to hide. She set it up this way. It was a deliberate act, there can be no denying that. If someone asks to see any of Mrs Clinton’s correspondence during her tenure as Secretary of State, the Clinton camp has total control over which messages are released and which are concealed.

The damning question is this: do you trust Mrs Clinton to be honest and release all e-mail messages, even those which may contain information damaging to her and her campaign? I don’t. Most Americans don’t either. By now, aides will have permanently deleted anything which could paint the former Secretary in a bad light, and as for getting to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi, well, that just got a heck of a lot more difficult.

Transparency is important for public figures, especially those who seek the highest office in the land. How can Americans trust Mrs Clinton to be open and honest as President when she encouraged a culture of secrecy at the State Department? How can Americans trust Mrs Clinton to fully disclose to Congress and the nation what she knew about the attack which killed four Americans in Benghazi when she has gone out of her way to hide her e-mails from that day and every other day while she was in office? And how can anyone trust Mrs Clinton when she says that payments from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation were all legitimate, above-board, and not done to try to influence her or US policy when she has ultimate control over which messages she chooses to make public?

That Mrs Clinton used the wrong kind of e-mail address isn’t the point. She simply cannot be trusted, and once trust is broken between a politician and the people, it’s practically impossible to win it back. This may be more damaging to her campaign than anyone yet realises.