“It’s a good thing we don’t get all the government we pay for.”
Will Rogers (1879-1935)
Have you been following the Hillary Clinton email (pick one) debacle, scandal, disgrace, tempest-in-a-tea-pot, much-ado-about-nothing?
How you choose to describe it has much to do with your political leanings and how you feel about the Clintons personally, but there is another aspect to the whole affair that makes it a paradigm of government in general, or perhaps makes the Clintons a sort of synecdoche for all elected officials.
In case you’ve been watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island, or just not following the news at all in any form, the issue has to do with the legality of conducting government business on personal electronic devices (that phrase is intended to include cell phones, smart phones, any and all kinds of computers, servers, anything and everything that might be used to convey information from—in this case—the Secretary of State and her office to any other entity, public or private, domestic or foreign) and also with the legality of turning over—or not turning over—all such communications to the federal government as required by law.
The story was originally broken by the New York Times, and since then far better and better trained minds than mine have debated this daily. Was it legal or illegal? Did she or did she not turn over the emails? Did she or did she not sign the document she was required to sign that certifies under penalty of perjury that she had turned over the documents? Is it more illegal if she did turn over the emails but did not sign the document, or is it worse not to have turned the emails over and to have signed the document? Is it more illegal to have conducted the people’s business on a private computer than to have conducted personal business on the people’s server (well, it may have been her server, but who paid for it)? What if she did neither? Or both? Or something else entirely? Knit one, purl two. The permutations are endless and—knowing the Clintons’ history—will probably never be fully disclosed.
It is distressing to think we will never learn the full truth about the Benghazi debacle and various other issues that occurred under Hillary Clinton’s watch at the Department of State (notably, as reported by Sharyl Attkisson, the six billion dollars that were unaccountably “lost” at the Department of State during her tenure, a loss that begs the question of how well we might expect a President Clinton to take care of the American people’s money), but none of it is as distressing as Hillary Clinton’s attitude about all this.
Let’s be very clear: in this case I am indeed using Hillary Clinton as a sort of synecdoche to represent every single one of our elected officials, so when I say her name, think of any congressman or senator you wish. Or all of them.
I watched the news conference where Mrs. Clinton answered questions about the missing emails, the private server, the documents signed or unsigned, as the case may be, and what struck me most—as a former actor used to picking up on the unspoken message behind the words, the facial expressions, the body language, the tone of voice, the whole package by which the body conveys what the mind is really thinking, regardless of what the mouth is saying—was her clear annoyance at being questioned.
Let’s make sure we understand this: here is a lady who is running (yes, she is running) for the highest office in the land, for the most powerful position in the world, for the responsibility of guiding America and the rest of the world through a period of unprecedented dangers, and she’s annoyed because the press sees fit to question her actions?
The truth is that all elected officials, by definition, have enormous egos: you don’t run for public office unless you are convinced your ideas and opinions are better than anyone else’s, that you can do a better job than anyone else, that you are better suited for the task at hand, more intelligent, more competent, than anyone else. And if you get elected (or appointed, as in the case of Secretary of State) that success confirms you in your own high opinion of yourself.
Once you are elected you are surrounded either by people who also believe in you and hence reinforce your positions and actions at every turn, or by people who are simply unscrupulously venal and will turn themselves into yes-men for their own enrichment, but in either case, you are not likely to encounter a lot of people who disagree with you or even question you. Except (when it suits their own purposes and political leanings) the fourth estate, the press, the putative conscience of our society. Some politicians are smart enough to be able to deal with uncomfortable questions without losing their temper or their cool, but Hillary does not appear to be one of those, and that is a direct result of her own sense of entitlement. She believes she deserves to be the leader of the free world, that she is better than, smarter than, more competent than, more—damn it all—deserving than you or I or any of the insignificant little people out there on whose lives she will have such an impact.
Do you doubt it? Here is a true story:
Back when my bride and I first moved up into the southern Sierras, I was filming a hunting show and had to travel constantly. Bad weather had delayed my various flights, and I made it back into Los Angeles airport for my final plane change at the last possible moment to catch the last flight of the night, a flight that would take me to Bakersfield, about an hour and a half drive from my home.
When I boarded the plane, I was the sole passenger, but instead of taking off, there was a delay, followed by the stewardess coming back and telling me they were holding the flight for The Honorable—————, then US Representative for California’s twenty-third district, the district that back in those days, before redistricting, encompassed a weird strip of this part of the state, but that included Bakersfield.
Okay. I sat and waited and in due course twelve men, clearly much stimulated by artificial means of the liquid variety, boarded the little plane with a lot of loud and boisterous jocundity.
That’s fine; I’ve been known to over train for the main event myself. But what shocked me into full alertness was the nature of their comments. The mercy of oblivion has set in over the years, and I have deleted most of it from the memory bank, but the general tone was one of contempt and disdain for the constituents they were on their way to visit, for the stupidity and ignorance of the people who had elected this man to office. The one comment I have not been able to delete was spoken by the Great Man himself, and it brought howls of laughter from his staff. He said: “I had to spend three weeks in Bakersfield one night.”
Don’t ever forget, America, that’s a pretty accurate reflection of what your elected officials think of you.
“Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.”
Will Rogers (1879-1935)