- - Sunday, October 25, 2015


Despite assertions to the contrary and her well-received Benghazi panel testimony, the controversy over Hillary Rodham Clinton’s email practices is not just an issue of interest to the reporters she wishes would stop peppering her with questions about the topic. It is an issue that gets right to the heart of a vital question: Shouldn’t the American people trust the person they elect to sit in the Oval Office?

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The people when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust.” If only the inverse were true. However, the track record of obfuscations and lack of forthrightness by Mrs. Clinton makes it increasingly hard for her to be trusted.

That certainly seems to be the opinion of the people. But don’t just take my word for it; look at some recent public surveys.

A Quinnipiac University poll this summer indicated that “trustworthy” and “honest” were not words that a majority of Americans would use to describe her. In fact, nearly six in 10 of those who participated in the study said she did not possess those traits. The respondents included people from across the political spectrum.

At the same time, that poll found that one in three voters considers being “honest and trustworthy” as the single most important trait in a candidate.

Mrs. Clinton’s trustworthiness problem with voters no doubt has been colored by her statements and actions while serving as a senator from New York and as President Obama’s secretary of state.

Scandal after scandal has dogged her, with the FBI email investigation just the latest in a long string of controversies.

Part of what is most perplexing about Mrs. Clinton is the obvious lack of judgment that undergirded her decision to become the first secretary of state ever to use only a private email address and server while serving as America’s top diplomat.

Since the revelations that her home-based email setup was unencrypted for long stretches, potentially exposing sensitive U.S. government information to hackers and foreign intelligence services, Mrs. Clinton has been forced to acknowledge that the decision to use her own email system was hardly a wise one. Americans are correct to expect and demand good judgment from their government officials, and this is especially true when the official in question is running for president.

Another vital question raised by this whole unfortunate mess, which is entirely of her own creation, relates to accountability. What has upset so many Americans is the arrogance inherent in actions suggesting that Mrs. Clinton feels she is entitled to play by a different set of rules from everyone else.

Handling classified information is something all of our government employees and officials are expected to treat with the utmost seriousness, and rightly so. We live in a dangerous world replete with threats to our national security, and we expect public servants to follow the same rules that we demand of members of our military and intelligence services when it comes to safeguarding our nation’s secrets.

Just within the past year, top generals have had their careers ended by the mishandling of classified information, and have been forced to pay steep fines and even face the prospect of prison time. Men and women who fail to adhere to the law when it comes to classified information are fired from jobs, stripped of pensions and sometimes even thrown behind bars for flouting the rules of secrecy designed to protect our country. So should anything be different just because someone happens to be running for president? The bar for adherence to the rule of law should be even higher for those who aspire to lead this country.

Months ago, when the facts had not yet come to light, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly asserted that she never sent or received any classified information on her insecure homemade email system. But now there is ample evidence to suggest that is simply not true. In fact, more than 300 of her emails have been marked as possibly containing secret information, according to the State Department, and only a fraction of her emails have even been examined at this point.

Despite Mrs. Clinton’s Benghazi panel testimony, months of defensive reactions to continued media focus on this critically important topic — plus her embrace of Sen. Bernard Sanders’ “damn emails” debate comment — suggest an eagerness to brush it all off.

But the charges involved in this case are serious. Her ill-received jokes about how she should have used Snapchat so that her messages would have disappeared make light of a sober situation with potentially grave security implications for America.

Surely, Mrs. Clinton must understand that the mishandling of classified information is no laughing matter.

Armstrong Williams is sole owner/manager of Howard Stirk Holdings and executive editor of American CurrentSee online magazine.

• Armstrong Williams can be reached at 125939@example.com.

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