Open secrets

  • Tuesday, March 10, 2015 10:35pm
  • Opinion

“The cover-up often is worse than the crime.” How many times have we heard variations of that quote? Usually, it’s trotted out in the context of a political scandal, one that wouldn’t really be a scandal if the principal had just gotten past an obsession with secrecy so severe that he or she acted suspiciously. In this case, it’s a “she” we’re talking about, Hillary Clinton, who repeatedly gets entangled in her fetish for privacy. It’s impossible when living such a high-profile life, with all the attendant perks, financed by the taxpayers.

She is about to embark on that most public endeavor, running for president, trying to get elected to enter the White House bubble. Of course, she’s been in the fishbowl before, as “wife of,” and never could get used to the idea that her life, to a large degree, belonged to everyone.

That’s what makes the matter of her conducting business as secretary of state on a camouflaged, private email account such a big story. It’s true, as her enforcers have fanned out to argue, that others have done the same thing — Secretary of State Colin Powell, for example. And there is no real evidence that her behind-the-cloak communications were hiding anything improper or illegal. But we don’t really know. We can only suspect. She makes it so easy. One of her enablers assures us that Hillary was abiding by “the letter and the spirit” of regulations designed to make the conduct of public officials as, uh, public as possible. Perhaps the letter was accommodated, but the Clintons have a history of often thinly slicing the laws that govern their conduct. Certainly their adherence to the spirit of the rules that encourage transparency is just another story.

Her problem is that this clandestine approach is nothing new. As someone who covered all the Clinton scandals, and even nonscandals like Whitewater, I got used to the daily parsing of words to try to avoid simply coming out and dealing with whatever was the embarrassment of the moment. The nearly covert way that Hillary conducted the effort to reform health care ultimately had a lot to do with the final plan going down in flames. But she and her people never indicated that they had learned that the none-of-your-business approach was, in fact, everybody’s business.

So now we have a situation where she has told the world that she’s willing to not stand in the way as the State Department publicly releases emails she turned over to the government. What we don’t know is just what she turned over, or more importantly, what she didn’t turn over, from her super-duper secret private accounts.

In fairness, let’s stipulate that Hillary Clinton is not the only government official who believes that the public doesn’t really have a right to know. Edward Snowden is sitting in Russian exile because he spilled the beans on massive programs in which the National Security Agency and our other spooks spy on us, their fellow Americans. Boy does United States law enforcement want him back, so he can be punished for having the audacity to expose conduct that violates the entire tradition of our alleged right to privacy.

What is it about open government these people don’t understand? How do they determine that they can’t be bound by the rules of a democracy that relies on an informed electorate? In the case of Hillary Clinton, the question is, Where does she get off routinely hiding our business from us? She says she’s learned some lessons from the failures of her last stab at the presidency, but has she? This time around — assuming there is another “this time around” — she will need to demonstrate that she can avoid the cover-ups and let us in on her secrets. At least the ones that shouldn’t be secrets.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

This image available under the Creative Commons license shows the outline of the state of Alaska filled with the pattern of the state flag.
Opinion: Bringing broadband to all Alaskans

Too many Alaskans face barriers accessing the internet.

This photo shows a stack of pocket constitutions at the Alaska State Capitol. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Join us in voting against a constitutional convention

Voting no on a constitutional convention is vital to the well-being and stability of our state.

Michael O’Meara.
Point of View: Tell BOEM how you feel

It seems like BOEM should prioritize input from people most likely to be affected if leases are sold

The State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Office of Information Technology webpage. (Screenshot/oit.alaska.gov)
Cloud migration now underway will strengthen, enhance State IT systems

At the most basic level, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services remotely

Jessica Cook, left, and Les Gara stand in The Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: Better schools for a better economy

We need leaders who care about our children’s futures

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: This is our borough and city

By Therese Lewandowski Another election already? Yes! This is our local elections… Continue reading

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation building is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in March 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: APFC keeps steady keel during turbulent year

FY2022 was a challenging year for all investors

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Nonprofits provide essential services not provided by cities

By our count, nonprofits provide more than 100 jobs to our communities

t
Opinion: Don’t get scammed like I nearly did

I should have just turned off the computer.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce campaigns for governor as he walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. Pierce resigned as borough mayor effective Sept. 30, 2022, to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: ‘It has been an honor to serve’

Borough mayor gives send-off ahead of departure

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces Friday, July 15, 2022, that 2022 most PFD payments will be distributed on Sept. 20, 2022. (Screenshot)
Opinion: A historic PFD still leaves work to be done

It is important to remember the dividend is not, and has never been, a welfare payment