The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol joined me to start the third hour of my show today:
HH: I begin this hour with Bill Kristol, founder and editor of Weekly Standard. You can follow him on Twitter @BillKristol. Bill, what did you make of, first of all, welcome, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you.
BK: Thanks, Hugh, good to be with you.
HH: What did you make of the former Secretary of State’s abbreviated press availability today?
BK: I was surprised to see that she tried to pacify the left by joining in the unbelievable attack on Tom Cotton and the 46 Republican Senators who signed a perfectly reasonable letter to the leaders of Iran. I think that shows a little sensitivity to maybe her standing on the left wing of the Democratic Party and with the Obama administration. And otherwise, she’s got a kind of incredible story, right? She decided to set up her own server. She decided to delete the emails she chose to delete, and we’re just supposed to take her word for it, because nothing we can do about it, huh?
HH: That, do you believe her?
BK: Well, I believe that she deleted, I mean, I don’t know. I believe she deleted emails, and I guess no, I don’t trust that every email she deleted had nothing to do with official business, or would not have been judged in the normal course of things if she had had a State Department account to be things that at least someone else should look at to see whether they were official business or not for the purposes of lawsuits, FOIA inquiries, and other such things. So…
HH: You know, Bill, I’m not a litigator, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn, but I have a lot of law partners who are litigators. And I know if someone had put a hold on your email, which is a common device in litigation…
HH: …and you went through and you deleted everything you said was not applicable because the hold…you would have sanctions coming down on your head like an anvil on the coyote in Wile E. Coyote land. It’s absurd for her to make this assertion.
BK: Yeah, well, I guess it’s a truthful statement. I mean, what’s truthful is that she’s now saying she deleted emails, which is a little startling, and I agree with you. If it were a serious legal situation, I mean, she would be in a lot of trouble. Now the question is will anyone pursue this? And I was talking with one colleague earlier who said well, the media will get tired, and she’ll just kind of tough it out and get away with it. But I’m not sure. I’m not sure in this case. This is pretty astounding. Most of her and her husband’s other sins, foibles, etc., and they’ve been bad, but they’ve been things you could tell yourself, if you were a voter, if you were a Democrat, look, these are things that are sort of extraneous to his or her job performance. She wanted to make money, so she did the cattle futures thing on the side. He had his own desires, so he did his things on the side. She gave speeches for an unseemly amount of money. The foundation thing is sleazy. This is at the heart of her performance. Now think of this. You’re nominated as Secretary of State of the United States. And you go to a considerable, you know, it’s exciting, it’s a new moment, you’re going to save the country from the dreaded Bush/Cheney era, and you go to a lot of trouble to, before you become Secretary of State, to set up an email account, not even an account, what do you call it, like an email domain, I guess, on your own server with malice of forethought, so to speak, that you’re going to control that and be able to eliminate that and clean up your record after you go? It’s really jaw dropping. It’s one thing to be sloppy, do things on Gmail you shouldn’t to, kind of realize you sent something and tried to even go back and you know, hide a couple of things. This is really a different level, I think.
HH: Yes, it’s not human error. It’s human planning.
HH: It’s the opposite of human error.
BK: That is well said.
HH: Let me play for you her most astonishing response, I think. It’s cut number 15. She is being asked by why did you have your own server, and what impact will it have on your running for president, and this is what she says.
HRC: The system we used was set up for President Clinton’s office. And it had numerous safeguards. It was on property guarded by the Secret Service, and there were no security breaches. So I think that the use of that server, which started with my husband certainly proved to be effective and secure. Now with respect to any sort of future issues, look, I trust the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters. And I feel that I’ve taken unprecedented steps to provide these work-related emails. They’re going to be in the public domain. And I think that Americans will find that interesting, and I look forward to having a discussion about that.
HH: Now two things, Bill Kristol. First of all, we do know there was a security breach. It involved Sidney Blumenthal’s emails that were published by Gawker. So we know that that’s not true. But I also bring up to all my guests Stuxnet, the computer worm that somebody, whether it was this country or Israel or a combination of us, placed into Iran’s computer system. It’s a worm. You don’t tell people when you’ve hacked them in every case. Sometimes you do. She has no way of knowing that. She can’t prove that.
BK: Right. Presumably the Stat Department has the ability to have our own counterintelligence services go in and see whether there’ve been breaches. I don’t know if they had access. I presume they did not have access to Secretary Clinton’s server. No, the whole thing is astounding. I think Elizabeth Warren is crazy if she does not run. I’ve been saying this for three months, and everyone thinks I’m just trolling the left and causing trouble. I really, deeply believe this. And now she has something she can say. She was in the Obama administration for, what was it, Hugh, about a year and a half, I think, when she had that kind of appointment. The Senate never confirmed her, but she had that appointment in running that Consumer Protection Agency as part of the Dodd-Frank. She can, I imagine, she used a regular government email account, probably emailed at the Treasury Department, you know, Treasury.gov or whatever it would have been. And she didn’t, it didn’t occur to her, and she’s been saying this, I think, to the American public, look, you know, I did follow the rules. And I kind of think that’s what our political leaders should do. And if she makes this of a piece with Hillary Clinton thinking that she is above the rules, that she, and this becomes sort of part of a pattern, I think you could run such an effective populist campaign in a Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton, I think Elizabeth Warren could beat her. I honestly do.
HH : She could, and I also have been pointing out Deval Patrick was the original David Axelrod client, and there is a good case to be made that a two-term governor and a former United States Attorney is in a better position to avoid the Clinton fatigue which is so palpable today. I raise with you, Bill, as well, you started the conversation by saying that some in the media say it will go away and they’ll get tired of it. There’s actually now a third force in media. And John Cook over at Gawker is one example of that. I’ve known John for many, many years. And you know, he’s a man of the left, but he’s an independent of the Democratic Party man of the left. And there are some. They’re not all David Brock. I don’t know that they’ll let this go, because this goes right to the heart of one of that agenda top items, which is transparency.
BK: No, I think that’s right, and there is a certain sense, I think you can be left, right, you can be a 28 year old troublemaker or a 66 year old, you know, distinguished, old journalist. This is something, and maybe I’m just crazy, but I think there is something about this that is unseemly. It gets to the core of her understanding of what it means to be a public servant in a way that you know, being greedy when you’re a private citizen, or philandering around even when you’re in public office, and allegedly, that’s kind of a private matter. That stuff all is a little more tangential. Again, I come back to, you’re about to be sworn in as Secretary of State of the United States. You have this high honor, this high responsibility, and you’re going to the trouble to set up your own private email domain on your own private server because you’re seeking to head to the fact that you don’t want other people in your own administration, other people who might be investigating things at some point or another, there always are questions that come up over four years, Congressional inquiries, you know, people who, you know, just a million different legal things come up, right? You’re going to the trouble to shield yourself from that ahead of time? It’s so premeditated.
HH: It is, it’s absolutely premeditated. It is putting your secrecy ahead of the nation’s security. She got that question. I’ll play you her response. Cut number 21:
Reporter: Were you ever specifically briefed on the security implications of using your own email server and using your personal address to email with the President?
HRC: I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material, so I’m certainly well aware of the classification requirements, and did not send classified material.
HH: Do you find the timber in her voice persuasive, Bill Kristol?
BK: Well, I mean, she may not have technically sent, or sent material that was technically classified. I hope she’s telling the truth about that. But of course, anything a secretary of State thinks about current events, anything that she’s communicating to her subordinates or others in the administration about anything that’s happening would be of great interest to foreign intelligence services. It doesn’t have to be classified. So I think it’s kind of slightly irrelevant, almost, the question of…I assume she’s not so reckless, though who knows, that to send stuff that she knew was classified. Now whether she would have known in every case, who knows? But in any case, it doesn’t really answer the question whether this was appropriate. And again, even if no one ever hacked it, I just come back to the basic fact that there were, how many, 15 cabinet secretaries at any one time in the Obama administration? And so far as we know, some of them had select, one or two of them did actually try to conceal a few things, some things when they knew they were doing something shady. This is a whole different level of thinking you’re above the law. She the only one to whom it even occurred, presumably, not to go to the regular IT people and legal counsel, and operations people at her cabinet agency and say okay, what are the rules? How do we set up my account?
BK: I mean, that’s, I guess, what I keep coming back to, how astoundingly above the law, above the rules, how astoundingly privileged she sounded.
HH: Yes, it is a Mt. Everest of privilege. It is the absolute standalone, tallest example of self-aggrandizement we’ve had. Bill Kristol, always a pleasure.
End of interview.