hillary clinton privacy

The Origins of Hillary Clinton’s Privacy

Experience has taught her to be private

I’ve read enough and talked to enough Clinton antagonists to understand why people distrust her (which isn’t to say I agree).  The problem itself stems from Clinton’s private nature (others would say secretive, and that’s not necessarily incorrect — she’s not inclined to extraordinary transparency), which has been a perceived issue since 1994.
In response to a question from a reporter about letting scandals “fester” by not immediate jumping to full transparency, she replied: “My sense of privacy — because I do feel like I’ve always been a fairly private person leading a public life — led me to perhaps be less understanding than I needed to of both the press and the public’s interest as well as right to know things about my husband and me,” she said.  And apparently she hasn’t really learned that privacy doesn’t go over too well when you’re a prominent political figure.

The Clinton Administration

It’s worth looking at why Clinton is so private because doing so adds depth to the character.  Long ago, during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and the couple years of her presidency, Hillary often shared “her deepest thoughts and feelings,” including a speech she gave on “the politics of meaning” as her “father laying dying.”  The media, left and right, “ridiculed” that speech for its preacher-esque tone and theme.  She gave open interviews in which, unlike today, she did not sound overly scripted and disciplined.  But negative press coverage as well as the ceaseless attacks that naturally come during a presidential campaign (the Gennifer Flowers controversy, answering for Bill’s infidelities knowing that any response would be attacked by different groups, Whitewater, Bill’s Vietnam draft record, etc) left her distrustful and increasingly secretive.  She didn’t want her words to incite controversy or be used against her, a product of natural being and being a lawyer.

Those experiences shaped the private Hillary we know today.  Really, to understand why she falls short in transparency, we have to understand her thinking.  Clinton truly believe(s/d) that immediate and complete transparency invites dramatic backlash through public inquiries, media attacks, and political weaponry.  So to avoid that, or minimize its negative effects, she opts for privacy.

A Logical Decision Regardless of Whether You Agree

Now, I, and probably most other Americans, would come to the opposite conclusion and, even if sympathetic towards Clinton, wish she would simply embrace transparency as controversies arise.  Withholding information or otherwise dragging out alleged scandals only worsens them as people equate secrecy with wrongdoing and the media can focus day in and day out on the scandals, extrapolating or otherwise guessing as information remains woefully incomplete.  It’s more than reasonable to believe Clinton came to the wrong conclusion about privacy and to criticize her for the pervasive secrecy, but I do think it’s important to at least understand her position so we can view her actions as those of a rational human being with a valid — but likely not sound — argument about the (political) virtues of secrecy (in this search for understanding, I should also mention the truly outlandish conspiracies that further Clinton’s privacy: Vince Foster and Seth Rich’s deaths, which many in the “fever swamps” believe to be part of a Clinton crime conspiracy, and Pizzagate, another delusion which actually led someone to shoot up a DC pizza parlor).

So Clinton made the ill-fated decision to ignore transparency and instead act in an incredibly private manner.  This has rightfully come with political costs.  The president has the most prominently public office in the world.  We expect openness and transparency from the president and rightfully so — the head of state and government, the leader of the free world, should not be hiding from his or her constituents.

3 thoughts on “The Origins of Hillary Clinton’s Privacy

  1. I disagree with your basic premise here. I think that you are not fully understanding what it is to be Hillary Clinton and are reasoning from false assumptions about why she does things.

    Every day people invent dozens of new slanders against her and throw them against the wall to see what will stick. There aren’t enough minutes in the day to respond to each of them and ignoring 99.999999% of them ***results in them going away***. Known only in the fevered dreams of the deranged who will insist to you that Bill and Hillary “trashed” the white house when they left and possibly that Hillary adopted an alien baby from area 51.

    So lets take email-ghazi. If you are Hillary Clinton you know that the State Department didn’t even have internet in 2004 (thats why Powell had to bring in a personal laptop with a modem to check his email – his desktop wasn’t connected). You know that as you stepped up in 2009 they were just getting their email set up – and that every one of the 44,000 state employees who used email had been using private email up until that point. You know that the state.gov servers are not certified for classified information and that its A-OK to send anything that can be sent to them to a private account. You also know that thousands of state employees are still using private email because the state.gov servers keep getting hacked and denial of service attacked and had a weird problem printing that was most commonly resolved by people forwarding to their gmail accounts and printing from there. You know that you like the blackberry you’ve been using on Bill’s private server since 2007 (cause you couldn’t use your senate email for campaigning due to ethics rules) and you know that it was set up in 2001 for Bill’s staff and was not created on the eve of your ascension for nefarious purposes (although an additional domain name was registered for it that year). And you know that when you asked for your mail to be synched to your blackberry the brand new state IT staff (the same guys who can’t get the printers working) basically wanted to know what a blackberry was. You also know that all the confidential stuff goes on SIPR Net and how to use SIPR Net which is not hooked up to the internet so it can’t be hacked and you have to give your wireless devices to security in order to get into a room with a SIPR Net terminal. Which you do. And with far less complaining that Powell did about it. You also know that its way easier to manage your incredibly busy life if all your appointments – work and personal – are in one calendar app in your pocket on your trusty blackberry where you can refer to them at any time.

    Citations for the above claims of fact:



    So when some jackass starts writing stories about using a private server it looks about as stupid as the alien baby articles to her. I mean, Yes? And? So did tens of thousands of other state employees. It was all non-classified traffic and basic office administrivia. The top secret stuff was on SIPRNet. No laws, rules, or customs were violated. And seriously, who makes a secret server for plotting evil their main email address? This conspiracy theory doesn’t even make sense! Logically if you were hiding something you’d use the state.gov for day-to-day and nobody except the inner circle would even know the personal account existed. You certainly wouldn’t put the email address for the secret server for plotting evil on your business cards. If you know what she knows, this entire thing is patently absurd. And even the most moderate amount of serious journalism (see the links above) quickly shows this.

    She had no way of knowing that this bullshit slander was going to be one of the .000001% of slanders that sticks around outside of the Clinton Derangement Bubble **until after it had done so**. To pay attention to it prior to ascertaining that is foolish because if its one of the 99.999999% (and it probably is) the best thing to do is ignore it until it goes away. It’s like mosquito bites – scratching them makes them worse.

    The people attacking her are, effectively, one giant Gish Gallop. This is a strategy that will get you kicked out of a high school debate because it is fundamentally dishonest. Its when you use your two minutes not to make one substantive argument but rather to throw out as many low quality one liners attacks as possible knowing that your opponent can’t possibly answer all of them in their allotted time. Hillary has stuff to do. She has a life to live, charities to run, people to help, and a grandbaby to cuddle. She does not have time to answer every crackpot negative claim made about her. That isn’t “secrecy”, its an intelligent allocation of ones time.

    1. I agree with you. I initially wrote this piece to respond to a very conservative colleague’s arguments about Hillary’s alleged secrecy and the malevolence that must necessarily follow. To try convince him, I tried to first lay out the origins in a way that he could understand. I don’t fully exonerate because I believe acknowledging some of his side would make him more inclined to come around or at least look on her more favorably.

      1. Any chance you can get your friend to read my rebuttal? And can he put forth any specific examples of “secrecy” that are something other politicians do not do?

        For example – lots of politicians have private mail servers but Hillary stands out for turning hers over when asked – unlike Rove, Romney, Bush, Rice, and Powell who all either refused or whose servers had a mysterious accident before they could be turned over. Hillary merely (and reasonably) said – ok, sure, but this server doesn’t just have my mail, we’ve got about a dozen people on it who aren’t government employees or covered by this request and my personal mail isn’t covered so lets have a team of lawyers sit down and delete the stuff that isn’t covered. Which they did. But being lawyers they thought putting it in the trash and emptying it deleted it. So the FBI undeleted most of “the 30 thousand emails” and read them and now we know her favorite TV shows, that she doesn’t know how to program a DVR, and that she exchanges recipes with Podesta and has a tasty risotto.

        She is the most transparent politician in the world after that. If it were anyone less nice than Hillary there would have been some dirt in there. But she isn’t even snarky.

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