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Someone brought to my attention — via the usual questionable memes on Facebook — an accusation that Clinton’s email scandal was invalid or overplayed because other secretaries of state, Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice, also used private email. A quick check brought me to an article that confirmed what I thought — headline aside, every paragraph made it clear it was apples to rotten oranges.

An argument followed that getting emails on a PC is the same as having an email server.

Ahhh, NO. This can’t be written off as technical semantics. At all.

Email Versus Server

And email account is just a box you might get an email and send one back. We all have one. A private email server is an entire system for handling and archiving multiple email accounts, and things like security are controlled internally. Someone may have separate business and personal email accounts, and sometimes a few may stray between them by mistake or for convenience. A server (in this case) is for intentionally handling all your email “off-site” instead of at your job’s location, in this case the United States Government and all the rights of transparency and accountability and security that it should come with.

It’s akin to the difference between a businessman using a personal credit card on occasion for a couple small items versus not bothering to keep official books. Clinton systematically routed ALL her email THROUGH an email server so that only some of it might touch official places of record and countless thousands of ones handled entirely off-channel. Likely agendas aside, this isn’t partisan hyperbole. With Rice, it wasn’t even her personally but a assistant, and similarly to Powell, there was no record of anything that was classified at the time. This is reasonable considering it was an exception and not the rule. It is not reasonable to assume any state secrets communicated to, from, and through Clinton were NOT on her own server.

Even if it had been wrong at all to use a personal email and there was some damage done, let’s distinguish between having someone run a red light once or twice and letting everyone do so all the time in a town you run because you just turn the traffic lights off.

But does one sin lead to and therefore should be treated the same? If you get an email on the wrong address, you don’t have to respond or keep using it, do you? There is no magic door that opens up when you receive an email that says you will continue receiving them unless you keep using them purposely. There is always the chance for discretion and correction — unless it’s just the way you do business. If a neighbor makes their way into your backyard a few times to hold a private conversation, how is that the same from you setting up and holding an open house of gossip 24-hours a day? Can anyone honestly say one “opens the door” to the other and therefore should be handled the same?

The difference is very clear on all grounds: the nature, scale, and even who participated in the activity is all vastly different. Only if you obfuscate all the details and melt it all down into an amorphous act under a broad misunderstanding of what is being talked about can you just say they all did the same thing, like it’s no big deal or they’re just always picking on poor little Miss Clinton.

The Higher Road

Powell sees the distinction so clearly that he BEGS the emails in question to be released for all to see that there was no harm. It may be forever before such a simple thing as cloning a server takes place in the Clinton camp. How can you even trust there’s not extensive digital shredding and sanitization when investigators only get a few crumbs scattered over months of demands?

And Powell’s response about a certain someone else’s situation was only that there is no comparison and that he doesn’t claim to know or want to know if Clinton did wrongdoing. That’s why I will always like Powell. I always got the impression he felt (and probably was) betrayed by party politics, asked to do things he felt dirty about later, like talking people into the Iraq invasion. He probably thinks Clinton is dirty as sin, but seems to want no part in dirtying himself in the Rep versus Dem squabble. If you can’t say anything nice …

But is this issue overplayed? It’s the job of the Republicans to amplify any perception of wrongdoing, party politics as they can only be. But to me, it’s just another brick in the huge Teflon wall of corruption that will continue to outrage some and be written off as Right-Wing persecution by others. I just wish more people could just see it in its own context for what it is.