A conservative friend of mine recently accused me of being intellectually dishonest. We were talking politics like we normally do and he said that during a discussion about Hillary Clinton. He couldn’t possibly understand how anybody could vote for Hillary Clinton for President. That accusation has stuck with me and it’s something I’ve been turning over in my head for a for a few weeks now. I wanted to take some time to get these thoughts out of head and on paper.
The context of the discussion: I like a lot of what Bernie Sanders has to say but I worry about his leadership abilities. I don’t think he’d be very good at politics. I’ll probably vote for him during the primary but if Sanders isn’t the Democratic candidate then I’ll vote for Hillary. My friend expressed dismay, bordering on disgust when I said that during our discussion. I asked him what his problem with Hillary was. He thinks Clinton is dishonest and a liar and is of low moral character. I pressed him for details and the first two things he brought up were Benghazi and the email/classified messages thing. I want to examine each issue from my perspective.
I honestly don’t quite understand the conservative fixation on the Benghazi attacks. From my recollection at the time my impression is that conservatives were upset because Obama and Clinton didn’t use the correct label for the attacks. Example from Wikipedia:
On CBS’sFace the Nation on October 28, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) stated that “this is either a massive cover-up or incompetence” and suggested that it was a scandal worse than Watergate. McCain stated, “we know that there were tapes, recordings inside the consulate during this fight … So the president went on various shows, despite what he said in the Rose Garden, about terrorist acts, he went on several programs, including The View, including Letterman, including before the UN where he continued to refer, days later, many days later, to this as a spontaneous demonstration because of a hateful video. We know that is patently false. What did the president know? When did he know it? And what did he do about it?”
Emphasis mine. Clearly, Senator McCain is upset that it’s President’s Obama’s position — and thus his cabinet’s — that they’re saying the video was in response to a hateful video instead of saying it was a terrorist attack. The label that’s put on the attack seems kind of irrelevant to me. Well, I’ll let Mrs. Clinton respond.
With all due respect, the fact is, we had four dead Americans! Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they’d go kill some Americans?! What difference, at this point, does it make?! It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The [Intelligence Community] has a process, I understand, going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out. But you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.
The kicker with this issue though is that Benghazi commission is little more than a witch hunt to bring down Mrs. Clinton’s poll numbers. House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said:
Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee,” McCarthy said, speaking to Hannity. “What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen.
So to reiterate, the Benghazi issue is a non-issue. It’s an issue because Fox News and the Republicans are trying to make it an issue. That makes it real easy for me to dismiss.
Clinton Email Controversy
This one is more worrisome. If you don’t follow politics, you can read the Wikipedia entry here.
First, the use of a private email server or a private account wasn’t against the rules when she was in office. From Politifact:
Because these rules weren’t in effect when Clinton was in office, “she was in compliance with the laws and regulations at the time,” said Gary Bass, founder and former director of OMB Watch, a government accountability organization.
“Unless she violated a rule dealing with the handling of classified or sensitive but unclassified information, I don’t see how she violated any law or regulation,” said Bass, who is now executive director of the Bauman Foundation. “There may be a stronger argument about violating the spirit of the law, but that is a very vague area.”
So did Mrs. Clinton use her private email system to send classified emails? I’ve not been able to find any evidence that she sent emails that there were classified at the time they were sent. Everything that the Fox News crowd is crowing about was classified retroactively but wasn’t classified at the time she sent them.
From a recent NPR article:
The newly public 3,007 pages of emails include 66 documents with upgrades to “Confidential” status, according to a State Department official.
They were not classified at the time they were sent. The Democratic presidential candidate and her campaign have repeatedly stressed she never knowingly sent any classified information over her private server.
Am I being intellectually dishonest? I’m trying pretty hard to steal man my friend’s argument but I also recognize it’s hard to recognize our own bias.
One thing that kind of bugs me is that my friend called me intellectually dishonest without recognizing his own bias. If you read Fox News and The Blaze as your main news sources, of course it’s easy to believe the worst about Mrs. Clinton.