Rules Are For Thee, But Not For Me

If you’d like a quick rundown of the Inspector General’s report about Hillary Clinton’s emails, Paul Waldman summarized it well.

This report doesn’t reveal anything new. Clinton already said that using a private email server instead of the State Department’s system was a mistake, and she apologized for it. But there’s no evidence that national security was actually compromised, none of her emails contained information that was classified at the time she sent or received it, and even if she violated departmental policy, she certainly didn’t do anything criminal. And don’t forget that the report was highly critical of Colin Powell, who also used his personal email for official business.

You won’t hear much about that last sentence from conservatives. They want you to forget about it. But even more significantly, they sure don’t want you to remember this:

In 2007, when Congress asked the Bush administration for emails surrounding the firing of eights U.S. attorneys, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales revealed that many of the emails requested could not be produced because they were sent on a non-government email server. The officials had used the private domain gwb43.com, a server run by the Republican National Committee. Two years later, it was revealed that potentially 22 million emails were deleted, which was considered by some to be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

This is an age-old trick that Republicans have been using for a long time. They ignore what they’ve been doing for years and pretend that it is an evil plot invented by Democrats. To point out the actual history makes you look like a four year-old saying “s/he did it first.”

We’ve seen countless examples of this – with a whole host of ridiculous ones thrown at President Obama. To give you a few examples, conservatives have been known to light their hair on fire over the President’s use of teleprompters, not wearing a coat and tie in the Oval office, putting his feet on the desk and golfing-while-president (click on the links for a quick reality check).

This whole attitude of the “rules are for thee, but not for me” reminds me of something Newt Gingrich once said to his wife, Marianne. Newt had just told her that he was having an affair (with his current wife). Here is the story she tells:

He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.

He’d just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’d given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.

The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?”

“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he answered. “People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”

Clinicians would want to assess someone who said that as a possible sociopath. But perhaps it explains why a serial adulterer assumes that it is not a problem to go after his rival for her husband’s infidelities. One of the signs of a sociopath is an assumption that the rules don’t apply to them.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.