Hillary Clinton: Shades of Watergate

English: Richard Nixon boarding Army One upon ...
English: Richard Nixon boarding Army One upon his departure from the White House after resigning the office of President of the United States following the Watergate Scandal in 1974. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s become far too fashionable, over the decades since disgraced president Richard Nixon’s resignation, to tack the suffix “-gate” onto political scandals. The usage no longer conveys much useful information. In most cases, it’s mere cliche.

Not so when it comes to the revelation that, as US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton essentially privatized her work email. This is definitely Watergate-level stuff.

Clinton’s actions went far beyond those of Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin, who as governors got caught conducting some official business over personal web mail accounts. Clinton ran all of her office email through her own private server, registered under a fake name and physically located in her New York home.

It wasn’t the Watergate break-in per se that cost Nixon his presidency. It was his attempt to cover up his own role afterward, by erasing taped conversations, that got articles of impeachment moving through Congress.

Those articles were drawn up by the House Judiciary Committee, with advice from a legal team including among its members young Yale Law School graduate Hillary Rodham. Two years later, Ms. Rodham married Yale classmate Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton knew better.

She knew the Federal Records Act required preservation of her official emails on State Department Servers. Neither she nor her staff took steps to comply with that law during her time in office.

She knew that absent such preservation, her official emails would fly under the radar of Freedom of Information Act requests. That was probably one of two reasons why she did what she did.

The other likely reason was that she knew her conduct as Secretary of State could, at some point, come under legal scrutiny and wanted to maintain control of her emails to frustrate such scrutiny. Just like Richard Nixon with his tapes.

After she left office, the State Department requested copies of her official emails. It received only those her aides, as directed by her, decided to turn over.

On March 4, the US House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is investigating the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Libya, subpoenaed Clinton’s emails relating to that attack.

Will the investigators get those emails without a fight? Will they get all the relevant emails, or just those convenient to Hillary Clinton’s version of events? And most importantly, how will they know whether or not they got everything?

As a libertarian, I oppose letting political officials keep secrets at all. It’s just too dangerous. It threatens our freedom. Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden are heroes of mine for exposing the illegal and immoral activities of politicians and bureaucrats.

But one need not share my radical opposition to government secrecy to understand that Clinton’s actions go beyond the pale. She didn’t just keep government secrets. She took drastic measures to keep those secrets under her personal control, immune to discovery even by the very government she served.

This kind of behavior cost Nixon his presidency. It should cost Clinton her shot at the White House.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

Total Recall: Bad for the Working Poor

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It seems like a common sense, life-saving proposal:  US Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) want state motor vehicle agencies to require completion of automakers’ safety recall repairs before issuing license plates (“Senators unveil bill to require recall fixes,” Detroit News, March 2).

Their justification, of course, is safety. But on a closer look,  the bill is just a sop to the auto industry. Its biggest effect will be to hurt working people.

Pop quiz: Of the top three causes of auto accidents, where does “failure to get recall items fixed” rank?

Answer: It doesn’t.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (no, auto accidents aren’t a disease; neither is “gun violence;” take it up with CDC), the top three causes of car wreck injuries are distracted driving, speeding, and drunk driving. The vast majority of accidents are caused by driver error (often due to driver stupidity). Mechanical failure of any kind, let alone due to unrepaired recall items, doesn’t make the list.

The auto industry’s lobbyists indicate cautious support for the Markey/Blumenthal proposal (they’re awaiting details). Why? Because it covers their bottom lines. If they’ve sent recall notices out, they can deny liability in accidents occurring after the covered cars next get licensed. Good for them, I guess.

But bad for those of us who drive “beaters” — older, cheaper cars like my wife’s 1989 Volvo.

Many drivers can’t afford to buy cars new off the lot or make mid-three-digit monthly payments on fairly recent models. They take their chances on older, cheaper vehicles because they live paycheck to paycheck.

Yes, the costs of recall repairs are theoretically covered. If you live with reasonable distance of a dealership. If you can afford to do without your car for awhile. If you can get off work for multiple trips to the DMV.

Those may not be problems for upper-middle-class drivers with late-model cars, bought from dealerships that make “loaner cars” available to valued customers.

For the working poor, the policy may mean missing work hours required to make rent. It might even mean losing a job. Not for lack of safe transportation, but for inability to satisfy politicians’ desire to “get something done” (and be seen doing so).

If Markey and Blumenthal really want to use federal power to enhance highway safety, here are two suggestions:

First, forbid the states to require license plates for driving on federally funded highways (they’d likely follow suit to state roads on their own). Let insurance companies handle safety requirements and inspections. They don’t like paying off accident claims. Their safety and inspection requirements might be even more stringent than government’s.

Secondly, stop forcing automakers to install features that aren’t ready for prime time (the most well-known recall at the moment concerns airbags, which should be optional but which federal law requires). Automakers, insurers, and drivers are more competent to decide than politicians and bureaucrats.

Absent those steps, let’s at least put the brakes on Markey’s and Blumenthal’s very bad idea.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Does Gaia Hear the Prayer of a Climate Alarmist?

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Global warming has a pause button? Who knew? It “seems to have paused since the turn of the millennium,” reports James Maynard at Tech Times“but climatologists believe this slowdown is not a reason for celebration.”

The pause, they say, may be due to cooling of the Pacific Ocean since the last El Nino cycle, and warming will probably re-start with the next such cycle. Climatologist Michael Mann of Penn state calls it a “false pause” and notes that none of the explanations offered for it “involve climate models being fundamentally wrong.”

Perhaps that’s the problem. Maybe the global climate just does what it does instead of what Michael Mann’s models  decree it must do.

Bailey Smith, then head of the Southern Baptist Convention, raised hackles in 1980 with his announcement that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” While Smith found a few defenders, most Christians condemned the claim. The most trenchant criticism came down not to any denomination talking point, but to a simple notion,  one even agnostics could buy into : God, not Bailey Smith, decides who God listens to.

A disclaimer: I tend to agree that what’s often falsely characterized as the “scientific consensus” is plausible. That is, it seems very possible that human activity exerts non-trivial effects on global climate.

That said, the alarmists — you know, the people who warned us in the 1970s that Earth was slipping into a new Ice Age, who by the ’90s had changed their wolf cry to global warming, and who lately stick to the safer, less specific term “climate change” — might do well to heed the Bailey Smith lesson. Certitude concerning powerful forces goeth before a fall.

When the testable elements of the “scientific consensus” — predicted temperature changes, predicted frequency of large-scale weather events like hurricanes, etc. — routinely fail to transpire, that failure calls for some degree of re-examination. And perhaps a bit more humility before the forces of nature.

But no. Climate alarmists characterize the “scientific consensus” as so unquestionable, and the stakes as so high, that the two taken together constitute a strong argument for putting the alarmists in charge of public policy.

I disagree. Power is a dangerous thing. Perhaps even more dangerous than global warming. At the very least, we should require more proof of the latter before granting the former. Let’s not surrender our freedoms lightly.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.