Perhaps the 30,000 e-mails Hillary Clinton unilaterally consigned to electronic oblivion contained nothing more pertinent to the national interest than the then-secretary of state's yoga routine. And no one is going to the mat over whether the presidential hopeful and her swami typed sideways smiley faces while discussing the downward dog pose. The trouble is that Clinton's use of a private e-mail account ensured that the sole arbiter of her communications' public relevance was Clinton herself.
One doesn't have to look long or far for official e-mails that revealed malfeasance and altered events. Racist messages uncovered by the Justice Department helped drive the recent resignations of top police officials in Ferguson, Mo. Last year, several Pennsylvania officials resigned over pornographic e-mails discovered by the Attorney General's Office. And the infamous phrase "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" was discovered in a trove of messages from which another presidential contender, Gov. Christie, has yet to fully recover.
If the Christie administration or the Ferguson police had decided which of their e-mails to release, we never would have heard of their most unfortunate and revealing communications. And yet it's Clinton who decided that half of her e-mails should not be turned over to the State Department she once headed, having assured us that they concern such personal matters as yoga, family vacations, and her daughter's wedding. All we have to do is trust her.
After the New York Times revealed that Clinton's e-mail was handled exclusively by a server at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., it took the former first lady a week to come forward and assert that she avoided government e-mail for the sake of "convenience." A much more probable motive was to avoid scrutiny.
Many officials, including some of those implicated in the recent scandals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, used private accounts for some government-related e-mail. Clinton's innovation was to use a private account for all of her e-mail. That at least violated Obama administration guidelines - and the State Department's warnings to Clinton's own employees - that government business should be done with government e-mail.
Besides shielding her e-mail from public view, Clinton may have exposed it to foreign hackers. Her server was not subject to the extraordinary precautions the U.S. government takes against electronic intrusion.