Hillary Clinton
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

An imaginary conversation between a Clever Person and a Confused Person who has not been following the email controversy:

Clever Person: They’re saying these latest revelations are as bad as Watergate.

Confused Person: Wow. I haven’t been following the whole email thing. Could you explain what Hillary Clinton did wrong?

She put her email correspondence on a private server in her house instead of using the State Department’s server.

That’s strange. Is that illegal?

No. But it’s horribly unwise because spies and foreigners could get hold of highly sensitive classified information that way.

Yikes. Foreigners hacked into her server?

Well there’s no evidence yet that that happened. But it could have.

Obviously it would have been safer if she’d have it on the government servers. 

Definitely. Well, probably. Maybe. A lot of government emails have been hacked too, because government is incompetent.

But not the State Department, I bet.   They’re buttoned up because they deal with top secret stuff.

Actually the State Department was hacked, too

So the State Department’s email was hacked and Hillary’s wasn’t? Maybe the rest of the State Department should have used her server in Chappaqua?

Har har. Very funny. You’re totally missing the point. She put highly sensitive information potentially at risk. She sent 30,000 emails. And the FBI found classified emails in her personal servers!

That’s horrible! I didn’t mean to joke. That really is very serious. She sent tens of thousands of classified emails on her personal email. Wow.

Um, no, she sent 30,000 emails in total, but obviously not all of them were classified.

Still, she sent thousands of classified emails. That’s really reckless. I get it now.

Actually it looks like she knowingly sent three classified emails.


Yes, three.

Oh. Still, even a few top secret emails could lead to our enemies getting weapons of mass destruction or discovering who our spies are.   Was anyone hurt as a result? What did the emails disclose?

One email mentioned that Kofi Annan was stepping down as a special envoy.

Don’t they issue, like, press releases about that kind of thing?

Yes, but don’t you see – it hadn’t happened yet.   So it was secret. So our enemies could have found out before the press release. If they had hacked it. Anyway, you’re not listening. The most important discovery is that she deleted 30,000 emails!

Whoaaaa. You buried the lead. That sounds horrible. She deleted 30,000 state department emails?

Well no. She deleted 30,000 personal emails.

She’s not allowed to delete her personal emails?

She is but the problem is that she got to decide which personal emails to delete.   She should have instead had a work phone and a personal phone. And she could have kept them separate that way.

I’m confused. In that scenario, wouldn’t she also have been the one deciding what emails to send on her personal phone and what to write on her work phone?

That’s not the point. The point is that by deleting these emails she could be covering up all sorts of crimes.

Ohhh. So these emails related to other crimes she’d committed. Wow. That does sound like a cover up. Not very transparent, I must say. Don’t they always say it’s the cover up that’ll get you in the end, or something like that?   What were the crimes she was covering up?

We don’t know of any — yet. But there might be some related to Benghazi, though no one is saying she committed any crime there. But she showed very bad judgment.

So the personal emails she deleted might have been related to a crime she didn’t commit.

Exactly.  Anyway, everything we thought we knew about this is now kerplooey because it turns out new batches of emails have been discovered! And get this: they were found on the computer of that creepy sex addict ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner! That’s why people are saying this is a huge scandal. Emails….servers…sex scandals…Crooked Hillary.

Holy cow. Hillary was helping Anthony Weiner to solicit underage girls?

No of course not.   I’m not some kind of crazy conspiracy theorist.

Right, sorry.   So these are new emails that she didn’t turn over before.

Actually, we don’t know that. They may be duplicates of the emails they already looked at.

Oh, I thought you said they were new.  

They’re on a new computer – on a computer that also contained pictures of Anthony Weiner’s penis.

So these are emails that may or may not be from Hillary that may or may not have been duplicates, may or may not have been classified and may or may not have been related to any other wrongdoing. But they’re on the same computer as Anthony Weiner’s dick picks.

Exactly. Can’t you now see why this is as big as Watergate?

Steven Waldman

Follow Steven on Twitter @stevenwaldman. Steven Waldman is the president and co-founder of Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. He is the author of Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom. As senior adviser to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, he was the prime author of the landmark report Information Needs of Communities.