One of the under-appreciated angles to the story about Hillary Clinton’s email problem is that Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one with an email problem. In fact, in an ironic twist, some of the former Secretary of State’s leading Republican critics have also relied on personal email accounts and shielded selected messages from public scrutiny.
Aliyah Frumin explained this week, for example, that “several potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates are facing email and transparency issues of their own” and they “also leaned heavily on private emails during their time in office – and have been criticized in the past for not releasing other documents – just as they skewer Clinton for not being forthright with her personal emails.”
The Wall Street Journal today, for example, takes a look at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) record.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a likely Republican presidential candidate, primarily used a personal email account on his own computer server when he was in office from 1999 to 2007. In December, he posted online hundreds of thousands of emails from both the private and government accounts. Mr. Bush’s spokeswoman said that emails from the private account unrelated to government business weren’t turned over to the state or preserved. […]But much like with Mrs. Clinton, the decision over which emails should be considered official and which remain private was made by Mr. Bush. It is unclear how many emails Mr. Bush withheld because he deemed them unrelated to state business.
Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, told the WSJ that Jeb Bush “did exactly what Hillary did.” The former governor and his aides “went through those emails and decided what were public-record emails and what wasn’t.”
By some accounts, the messages Team Bush chose not to share related to “politics” and “campaign donors asking for favors” – topics that may be relevant in a presidential campaign.
Bush is hardly the only one among the likely GOP presidential candidates with this email problem. Indeed, most of the Republican field should probably hope this issue goes away quickly:
* Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R): Though he called Clinton’s use of a private email address an “outrage,” Walker is at the center of a Wisconsin controversy surrounding his use of a private email address.
* Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R): The Republican lawmaker deleted emails from his private account during his tenure in state government, despite using his personal account to conduct business related to his official duties.
* New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R): The Bergen Record reported this week, “Nearly a year before revelations that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used her personal email account for official business, the Christie administration was chastised because members of its own staff communicated through private emails. And that criticism came not from Governor Christie’s political foes, but from lawyers hired by his team to investigate the burgeoning George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.”
* Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R): Both Republican governors conducted official business from their private email accounts and have not released the emails for public scrutiny.
Just to be clear about this, I’m not suggesting the Clinton story is irrelevant. On the contrary, legitimate questions have been raised that deserve answers. What’s more, there are some differences between the Clinton story and the circumstances surrounding her Republican critics, most notably the fact that they seemed to operate two email accounts – one governmental, one private – while the former Secretary of State used one.
But the hypocrisy matters, too. Some of the same Clinton critics reaching for the fainting couch because the public won’t see messages she deemed private also conducted official business from their private accounts in emails that will receive no public scrutiny at all.
For that matter, the Clinton “scandal” seems oddly detached from the fact that (a) the Bush/Cheney White House lost millions of important emails, and the Beltway media largely ignored the story; (b) Mitt Romney went to hilarious lengths to hide his public emails from scrutiny in the last presidential campaign, and the Beltway media largely ignored the story; and (c) previous Secretaries of State sent and received emails that the public has never seen, and will never see, and no one seems to find that particularly controversial.