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Don’t Confuse Clinton’s ‘I’m Sorry’ With An Apology

Hillary Clinton, at a podium, in front of an American flag
photo courtesy WisPolitics.com

The media asked last week whether Hillary Clinton’s apology will change anything.

There’s a problem with that: As far as I can see, she has not apologized, at least not for what actually matters. And, as far as I can tell, her misdirected apology won’t substantially change anything regardless.

Clinton twice said “I’m sorry” in her interview with David Muir on ABC last week. First, she apologized for not having two separate email accounts - in other words, for not having the simple common sense to separate personal and professional communications, as most American adults who care about such separation do. She called not having separate accounts a mistake, “even though it was allowed” to use the same account for both.

Second, she said she was sorry that the way she handled her email “raised all of these questions.” But that is simply evasive. And it is of a piece with her responses to other news outlets prior to this particular interview; she told NBC she was “sorry that this has been confusing to people and has raised a lot of questions,” just a few days before.

At no point in the ABC interview, or elsewhere, has Clinton said she is sorry for maintaining a separate email server that was her own property, in her own custody, and for putting the work-related emails that were the government’s property on that server. Nor, incidentally, has she apologized for enlisting the aid of a government employee whose services she diverted to herself by paying him out of her own pocket.

Only Clinton and those close to her think that anyone in America is confused about what happened. Everybody understands what she was doing. For one thing, every American adult who has sent or received an email knows that there is a difference between having a personal email account, which is common, and having a personal email server, which is exceedingly rare. As Mike Murphy pointed out at The Atlantic, “There’s absolutely nothing convenient about setting up a private email server.”

To be clear, not every single American adult has sent or received an email - but most of them have. According to the Pew Research Center, as of April 2012 about 9 percent of American adults reported they had never used email. Even assuming none of them have signed up for Gmail since then, that leaves 91 percent, or about 221 million people, who are not confused at all about the fact that a personal email account and a personal email server are different things.

Of those 221 million adults, a large slice of them have separate email accounts for work and personal use. But almost none of them have ever set up an email server in their home. Such an undertaking requires money and substantial know-how, and while it may have its advantages, it is “not for the faint of heart,” according to Robert Siciliano, an Internet security expert. Of those few who have set up a local server, or paid for someone else to set one up, most would have expected to be fired if they had put their employers’ information in their personal custody but not that of the business, especially absent their employer’s explicit permission to host emails privately in the first place.

In various interviews and responses, Clinton has maintained that the way she handled her email as secretary of state was not a secret. In an interview with the Associated Press, she said, “Everybody in the government with whom I emailed knew that I was using a personal email.” But this claim is, if not outright false, certainly a very broad interpretation of the truth, considering that knowing someone used a private email for a given communication and knowing that she exclusively hosted all her email on a personal server are very different things.

Clinton’s ratings for trustworthiness are plummeting for the simple reason that she continues to behave as a person not worthy of trust. Instead, she is a person who basically took the government’s property, put it in her own pocket, and then explained that she gave it back promptly - sort of - when they asked for it. Try doing the same thing with a hunk of cheese or an avocado at the supermarket and see if that explanation gets you out of trouble.

I can’t see how anything Clinton has said in the past week will change anyone’s perception of everything she has said on the topic since the dawn of her campaign. As in all things, Clinton simply wants to be the sole source of information on Clinton. Her defense, when challenged on the point, amounts to nothing more than: “It was allowed.” Allowed by whom? By State Department policy.

And who, at that time, ran the State Department that allowed it? Nobody is confused about that, either.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s recently updated book, The High Achiever’s Guide To Wealth. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Anyone Can Achieve Wealth,” and Chapter 19, “Assisting Aging Parents.” Larry was also among the authors of the firm’s previous book Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55.

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