What Would We Do Without Experts?

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on March 10, 2015

What Would We Do Without Experts?

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.

What Would We Do Without Experts?
“Weather Experts Say Warmer Weather Is Really Coming”—headline, Daily Local News (West Chester, Pa.), March 6

Bottom Stories of the Day
“Tourists to Scotland ‘Let Down by Quality of Food’ ”—headline, Scotsman, March 8

Paper Tigress
If you were following the revelations about Hillary Clinton’s private State Department IT operation last week, you probably heard that, as the initial New York Times story put it, “55,000 pages of emails were given to the department” in December after being selected by a private aide to the former secretary. You might have wondered: What does that mean, 55,000 “pages”? …

It turns out the reference is to literal physical pages. From Friday’s Times: “Finally, in December, dozens of boxes filled with 50,000 pages of printed emails from Mrs. Clinton’s personal account were delivered to the State Department.”

Why did Mrs. Clinton have her staff go through the trouble of printing out, boxing and shipping 50,000 or 55,000 pages instead of just sending a copy of the electronic record? One can only speculate, but there is an obvious advantage: Printed files are less informative and far harder to search than the electronic originals.

Because State has only printouts of emails, department personnel responding to a Freedom of Information Act request have to go through the whole haystack rather than type “needle” into a search engine. At best, that would mean long delays in FOIA compliance.

Likewise, printouts are not subject to electronic discovery in the event of investigation or lawsuit. The Times reports that department lawyers responding to a request from the House Select Committee on Benghazi took two months to find “roughly 900 pages pertaining to the Benghazi attacks.” And printouts do not include electronic “metadata,” which can provide crucial forensic evidence.

Just what was Mrs. Clinton trying to hide? She set up the private domain even before her confirmation as secretary of state and never even had an official email address, so the answer at the outset would have been “Whatever.” In the event, possible specific answers include information about Benghazi and about the Clinton Foundation.

The New York Post reports that Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, chairman of the Benghazi committee, yesterday “said there are ‘huge gaps’ in the Hillary Clinton emails turned over to his panel”:

“We don’t have all of them,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Included in the gaps are emails from Oct. 18, 2011, the date of the well-known photo of then-Secretary of State Clinton wearing sunglasses and gripping her BlackBerry while on a plane to Libya.

In fact, there were no emails released to the committee from that entire trip, Gowdy said.

Even though Clinton was famously seen checking her BlackBerry on Oct. 18, 2011, no emails from that day were turned over to the House Benghazi committee.

“It strains credibility to believe that if you’re on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy, that there’s not a single document that’s been turned over to Congress,” said Gowdy, who issued subpoenas last week for Clinton’s Libya emails.

There is no way of knowing if the missing emails were withheld by Mrs. Clinton from the State Department, withheld by the department from the committee, or overlooked by the department’s lawyers as they went through box after box. (To be sure, it is also possible that no such emails exist. Although it strains credulity, it does not defy logic to observe that perhaps the secretary was merely playing Brick Breaker.)

National Journal’s Ron Fournier, meanwhile, wonders “what the emails might reveal about any nexus between Clinton’s work at State and donations to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation from U.S. corporations and foreign nations”:

One of [Bill Clinton’s] longest-serving advisers, a person who had worked directly for the foundation, told me the “longtime whispers of pay-to-play are going to become shouts.”

This person, a Clinton loyalist and credible source, has no evidence of wrongdoing but said the media’s suspicions are warranted. “The emails are a related but secondary scandal,” the source said. “Follow the foundation money.” . . .

Without those emails, we may never be able to follow the money. Could that be why she hasn’t coughed up the server?

The Atlantic’s Hanna Rosin—in a piece titled “Among the Hillary Haters” and published before the email scandal became public—suggests that the foundation’s sleaze could undermine one of Mrs. Clinton’s biggest political assets:

One criticism of [Mrs.] Clinton that Burning Glass [a Republican consultancy] has found to resonate with women is an attack [Barack] Obama used successfully against her in 2008: that she is “more politically motivated” than the average politician. In general, people tend to view women as political outsiders. They assume that their motives are more pure than those of their male counterparts, and that they are in it not just for themselves but for some greater good.

In its focus groups, however, Burning Glass has found strategies that, over time, can take this asset away from Clinton, and convince women that she is more political than the average candidate. One is to suggest inappropriate overlap between her work at the State Department and at the Clinton Foundation. The firm points out that one of Secretary Clinton’s aides was also consulting at the foundation, which might have created a conflict of interest. The aim is not to uncover a scandal, but rather to show that Clinton operates just like the boys: she works the system and stacks it with cronies, making them all rich in the process. It’s an approach that Burning Glass has found can make respondents “significantly less likely to support” Clinton in 2016.

Amy Chozick, who covers Mrs. Clinton for the New York Times, offers another angle:

The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation has accepted tens of millions of dollars in donations from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Algeria and Brunei—all of which the State Department has faulted over their records on sex discrimination and other human-rights issues.

The department’s 2011 human rights report on Saudi Arabia, the last such yearly review prepared during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure, tersely faulted the kingdom for “a lack of equal rights for women and children,” and said violence against women, human trafficking and gender discrimination, among other abuses, were all “common” there.

Saudi Arabia has been a particularly generous benefactor to the Clinton Foundation, giving at least $10 million since 2001, according to foundation disclosures. At least $1 million more was donated by Friends of Saudi Arabia, co-founded by a Saudi prince.

At a Clinton Foundation event in Miami Saturday, Bill Clinton “defended the charity’s acceptance of foreign donations, pointing to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in particular. . . . ‘You’ve got to decide when you do this work whether it will do more good than harm if someone helps you from another country.’ ”

Politico quotes one of Mr. Clinton’s examples, to hilarious effect: “For example, the UAE gave us money. Do we agree with everything [they] do? No. But they help us fight ISIS.” We don’t doubt that it is sometimes necessary or useful for the U.S. government to form alliances with unsavory regimes. But look how Mr. Clinton describes the trade: The UAE helps “us” (meaning the U.S.) fight ISIS. In return, they give “us” (meaning the Clintons) money.

You could call that a win-win, but what exactly is in it for the Emiratis? The problem for the Clintons is that that’s not a rhetorical question.

For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”