Ahlin: Hillary held to higher standard

FARGO -- Whether talking about Hillary Clinton's "likability" or her use of a private email account while she was secretary of state, why is it that she is held to a standard that others are not?...

FARGO -- Whether talking about Hillary Clinton’s “likability” or her use of a private email account while she was secretary of state, why is it that she is held to a standard that others are not?

Start with the email brouhaha. We know that every secretary of state since the 1990s, including Madelyn Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and John Kerry, made use of private email accounts. Pointing out that the report released this past week by the State Department Inspector General concerning “email records management” has little, if any, new information in it, Charles Tiefer, law professor and Forbes magazine contributor on issues of government, says bluntly that if the latest report does anything at all, it “vindicates” Clinton.

Tiefer identifies the new information in the report as primarily concerning Colin Powell, who served in President George W. Bush’s administration from 2001-2005. Tiefer says, “Powell did all his email business on a private account.” That is an important point. If anybody should have been savvy about security, it was Powell who had served both as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Advisor before his stint with the State Department.

As Tiefer puts it, “Since Powell, with unimpeachable security credentials, felt fine using private email for official business, why are we climbing all over Clinton? It is to be blunt, a double standard.”

Tiefer strongly takes issue with the report’s criticism of Clinton for not “comply[ing] with the Department policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”


He says the policies in question are categorized as “bureaucratic policies” that have nothing to do with any actual statutes - “(n)ot even a civil statute,” much less a criminal one.

Interestingly, the term Tiefer uses to describe the release of the report is “a sideshow” that has nothing to do with the question of “classified email,” which is in the hands of the FBI.

Until Clinton is interviewed by the FBI and that report released, he views the current report as having no significance. In fact, the “big criticism” to surface is that Clinton did not “print and file email in a retrievable way.” But he identifies that as a “general” department problem, not as something that began with or was specific to Clinton. He asks, “Why pin it on Clinton?”

The “likability” issue is an odd one and raises other questions. In a recent NY Times column, David Brooks suggests Hillary Clinton’s likability problem is that we don’t know what she does to relax. She’s too focused - too much the multitasker. Wouldn’t she be more likable if we could see her enjoying hobbies? (Pause as millions of women across the country let out a great sigh.) It’s true we don’t see her getting away from it all on the golf course - and certainly not playing basketball like Obama. Chances are she wouldn’t put a bowling alley in the White House as Richard Nixon did. (Sorry for another aside, but try for a moment to imagine the way Hillary’s body, her outfits, and her hair would be described by the press if she donned sports duds.)

Hillary Clinton is a private person who has been successful in a life of public service. Her resume includes wife, mother, grandmother, first lady, senator, secretary of state, and presidential candidate. In addition, her decades of advocacy for improving the lives of children and women, both at home and around the world, is legendary. With friends, she evidently has a wicked sense of humor. She openly delights in her grandchild. As Brooks even noted, “People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring.”

Yet, there is a something else expected of her. Something else. Frankly, nothing points up the need for a female president and the need for more women in office to reset our collective thinking about politics and leadership than that nebulous something else.

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