There must have been a fundamental difference between the Clinton and Bush administrations’ approaches to dealing with matters of ethics in conducting the public’s business.
I make this conclusion based on two things.
First is the apparent culture of secrecy practiced by the Clintons themselves, as profoundly demonstrated by Hillary’s arrogance in deciding how she would conduct email communications.
Second is my own experience.
When President George W. Bush appointed me to a position representing his office, one of the first assignments I had was to attend a meeting where I would receive instructions of how I was to comport myself as senior federal official.
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card led the briefing. He introduced the occasion by explaining that a number of officials were going to explain rules, guidelines and laws governing ethical behavior.
He described how the president had instructed him to say that regardless of all the intricacies and sometimes complicated regulations that had to be obeyed; there was an overriding principle that should first be applied.
“Find your moral compass and follow it,” he declared. “Whenever faced with a question of what to do, listen to that small voice inside yourself that discerns right from wrong and you won’t get into trouble.”
This was a standard, he explained, that President Bush applied to everyone who was to serve in his administration.
With that, he turned the meeting over to lawyers and ethics advisers, who covered all manner of requirements dealing with transparency in open government, conflicts of interest and much more.
An area of emphasis was the use of email in communicating government business. It was explained that every email was a public record that, with very few exceptions, had to be available to anyone who wanted to see it.
To ensure emails were always ready to release upon citizen or media request, the method of capturing and preserving them inside the federal system, and only on devices approved to protect national security, was clearly prescribed.
By her own admission, Hillary’s breathtaking decision to ignore the established methods of email communication was very calculated and deliberate.
The correspondence of the country’s secretary of state would include vital government records that were concealed precisely because they were on her proprietary system under her sole control.
She has deleted emails so they could never be seen and has declined to provide access to her personal server to verify her claims of full disclosure.
Some legal opinions say if that behavior was knowingly and willfully done, it could constitute a felony and, if proven, disqualify her from public office.
Beyond her incredulous declaration that she used email outside the government system only for convenience, her motives are the real question that must be pursued.
There can be only one believable answer: She didn’t want us to see her emails. Never mind that such a stunning decision was blatantly wrong, she tried to hide them nonetheless.
Considering their reputation for lying when expedient for their political ambitions, one may wonder if that small voice that discerns right from wrong is audible inside the Clintons.
What the result of this latest scandal will be is guesswork. Some say it could end her quest to return to the White House as its principal occupant.
Others say the pair has survived worse things and this, too, will fade away.
If it does, a legacy of skilled maneuvering past trouble may ultimately define Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.