Peter Van Buren on Those Damn Emails

In the end, the emails mattered. How much they mattered – how many votes went to Trump, how many would be-Clinton supporters stayed home, how many voted third party – we’ll never know.

Clinton supporters were surprised the emails mattered at all, because they had been fed a regular and often fully-factually wrong diet by the majority of the media. There was some good reporting on what the emails meant, and how classification works, but it was almost all on right-of-center websites Clinton people did not read, and blithely dismissed as biased when the sites were brought to their attention. And yeah, sometimes things got a bit too partisan in tone, but the facts were also there.

After holding a security clearance for some 23 years, I tried, for some 18 months, to write as intelligently as I could about the damn emails. I tried to explain, in detail, what the whole thing meant, and that it was a significant problem for Clinton. Not bragging, just telling. If you’d like to read back through what I’ve had to say and judge yourself, here it is. There’s a lot there, so if you just want a taste, here.

But I do want to make this as clear as possible, so…

  • All (not insignificant) questions of legality aside, the emails were about judgement, epically poor judgement. Clinton skirting/violating all rational thought and rules to set up a fully independent email server unprecedented in scope and scale, bypass federal records laws and the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, and establish no oversight on the flow of classified information, is not the level of judgment a president must display. Yeah, I know, Trump, but this is about why Hillary Clinton emails mattered and whether anyone likes it or not Trump is the president-elect in part because of the emails.
  • The most basic tenant of the classified world is that you simply do not expose classified material on an unclassified system. That’s why classified systems exist. This is at the “duh” level. Opinions differ on what should be classified, over-classification is a big problem, yada yada, but those issues are not resolved by circumventing the classified world. To more than a few voters, that seemed obvious. It also again speaks to judgement. There were many experts who explained this, but it seems most Clinton supporters listened to John Oliver instead.
  • Nobody (the Republicans, the FBI, etc.) created any of the core mess except Hillary Clinton. She then seemingly took every chance to dig the hole deeper, shifting her explanations, allowing information to drip drip drip out over the length of the campaign, and all the rest until everything collapsed around the pathetic human wreckage of Anthony Weiner.
  • As an added problem, “the emails” in many voters’ minds became shorthand for a range of issues related to trust, ethics, and propriety, including the Clinton Foundation, pay-for-play, and the Goldman-Sachs speeches.
  • Clinton’s opponents inside and outside the government took advantage of the emails – kinda what opponents do – but none of that would have been possible if Clinton had not created all of this herself. Take this campaign, put up Sanders or Biden instead of Clinton, subtract out all of the negatives associated with the emails, and run a little thought experiment on how many votes that may have been worth.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

9 thoughts on “Peter Van Buren on Those Damn Emails”

  1. Democrat’s love to play the blame game. They blame everyone but themselves for their short-comings- Putin, Nader, Comey, Wikileaks, Bernie, Alf, Global Warming, Millennials, Stein, C.H.U.D.’s, Alex Jones, Johnson, Scrooge McDuck- All part of a vast right wing conspiracy to deny one of the most morally bankrupt human beings on the planet the key to the nuclear codes….

    Tough love time, people. Donald Trump didn’t win the 2016 election. Killary lost it. People couldn’t stomach giving her yet another undeserved license to continue to walk between the raindrops and neither could I. I voted for Stein and when some johnny-come-liberal reminds me that my vote kept the queen of chaos out of the White House, I crack a wry little smile and tell em “You’re goddamn right I did.”

    1. Not that I’m disputing that Hillary (which is her name, not Killary, btw) wouldn’t have been a disaster in the foreign policy arena, but I’d bottle the smugness if I were you, because you need a reality check if you seriously think Trump is going to remotely achieve any of the things that antiwar folks have deluded themselves into thinking he’ll do. He will reassure NATO that we value their presence, he’ll lick Bibi’s boots, he’ll keep up the random drone assassinations overseas. Just wait and see! Also look forward to increased spending on “defense.” At least we’ll be more entertained (he is a reality TV star, remember,) by the sideshow that is Trump’s spoiled-bully mentality, dishing out ill-conceived tweets while simultaneously retiring to his fainting couch anytime someone calls him out on his B.S.

      1. I don’t for a second deny that the Donald is pure weapons grade scum. KILLARY, however, has proven herself over the decades to be far worse- fabricating genocides, pushing drugs, overthrowing democratically elected governments, arming Nazis, backing Al-Qaeda, covering up her husbands sex crimes, embezzling money, hiding emails, shredding the constitution, supporting DOMA, locking up children- You name it, she’s done it and THAT is why she lost. Any other human being could have crushed Trump like a bug but the Democrats insisted upon backing the only human on earth that’s more loathsome than the Orange Duce. They have no one to blame but themselves. They could have thrown their weight behind Bernie and won in a landslide but anointing their blessed queen of violence was more important than listening to middle America.

  2. I disagree that the “email” saga had much to do with Hillary’s loss. As you point out, the only people paying rapt attention to the daily news of her ineptitude were people who were already unlikely to vote for her. (on another note, can anyone here defend an electoral system that has twice awarded the popular vote loser as the winner and allows the votes of citizens of certain states to carry several times the weight of votes of residents of other states?) On the flipside, there were stories condemning Trump’s character coming out on a daily basis on left-wing websites, from bizarre and offensive quotes to stiffed contractors, read by people unlikely to vote for Trump, which showed his character to be one unsuited for the office which he will now hold, but which apparently did not impact his chances quite as much. In my opinion, Hillary lost because in a year where people were clamoring for change – Rubio, Cruz, and Bush all lost out to a guy who has never held an elected office, and the relatively unknown, ex-Socialist Sanders made considerable inroads against a person with 100% name recognition while the media completely ignored him and then suddenly turned on him – the DNC and a complicit media made her nomination a sure thing. Suddenly, independent thinking Dems realized, hey, she really doesn’t reflect many of our values at all! She only started embracing the minimum wage and other working class reforms when Bernie started catching up to her, and other than that, simply went about the motions, not repudiating at all either her extremely close ties with investment banks or her love of intervention at a time when we’ve been fighting two “wars” against countries which couldn’t harm us if they tried and which are obviously only stirring up hatred for the US overseas. It was her hubris and the company she keeps that did her in, not whether or not she had classified emails on a server at her house. That issue only stirred up rage in people who were looking for a good reason to be angry with her.

    1. For those in the resistance, who have been steadily working for real change in the very persistent back and forth up and down of the seesaw Two Headed Beast, nothing much has changed. Been that way all my life. And I was born two weeks after Kennedy was elected.

      Eisenhower made a few great speeches about the MIC, the Cross of Iron speech is exceptionally beautifully, but he gave it no chance in reality. Just another Corporate Suck in the long run, the Draft went on in perpetuity, Still is going on, ever if we’re not being herded into the Induction Centers (yet), VietNam got its first contingents of Advisors while Korea was still a very hot war, my dad was sent to Algeria in 1957 but you know what? It wasn’t in the history books in the Texas schools by 1977. Nor any of the violations of the OAS treaties that have been continued, sometimes tandem and sometimes parallel. And went on (I copped this at the VFW when I was a kid) since 11NOV 1918 there hasn’t been a single day when a U.S. soldier hasn’t discharged his weapon. My life spans Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, etc…

      I’ve actually seen some improvements. But always it takes struggle.
      And the struggle needn’t be violent, Most of the time our (s)elected Leaders seem to forget that and must be reminded daily.

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