My wife of forty seven years is a retired early childhood teacher. After working in the Prince Georges County Maryland School System for twenty five years with children from every class, racial and ethnic background she gradually came to one important conclusion. Every decision a person makes in life can trace its origins in one form or another back to early childhood.
She’s heard it all. “It’s Tommy’s fault that I stole his pencil. Because I broke mine and needed one.” Annie looked at me funny so I pulled her hair out by the roots. She’s the one to blame.” “I spilled her bag of M&Ms all over the classroom floor because she wouldn’t talk to me. You should punish her.” Today, as we look back over our lives or read the newspaper or watch a news piece on television reporting someone blaming anyone and everyone else for their own blindly stupid behavior we simply look at each other, laugh and say in unison “it all goes back to early childhood.”
All of which leads me to Hillary Clinton’s latest post-election rant against FBI director, Jim Comey. But before we address that lets look back over the years. Remember her complaint about leaving the White House “dead broke” following the end her husband’s presidency. It was all those damn legal fees that Bill faced fighting an unscrupulous special prosecutor. Not his fault. Blame Monica and the other women who came forward with lurid stories about “Big Bubba’s” peccadillos.
Rolling the camera forward we come to the 2015 revelations of then Secretary of State Clinton’s unprecedented use of a private email server at her New York home for both her official and private communications. Yes, I was the head of the Department of State. And yes, as such, I warned all of my employees to follow the proper email rules, regulations and guidelines laid down by the Department’s Office of Security.
“Well, maybe I did make a mistake. But don’t blame me. After all Condi Rice and Colin Powell did it too. And then there were those weak-kneed government officials fearing career derailment; they protected me from the security rules – blame them. And while we’re at it – blame Congress for requesting an FBI investigation into the security and counterintelligence consequences of my unusual email arrangement.”
Next came the embarrassing details contained in hacked Democratic National Committee emails suggesting ways to undermine the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders. Discussions that put the lie to DNC claims of strict neutrality. The release quickly forced the ouster of DNC chair, Congresswoman Debbie-Wasserman Schultz on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. A humiliation which only further besmirched Hillary Clinton’s already damaged reputation at the moment of her historic triumph.
Then there was the “October Surprise”; a collection of more than fifteen thousand hacked emails from long time Clinton campaign manager, John Podesta. For a presidential candidate who railed against the financial industry the world read embarrassing summaries of her remarks to Goldman Sachs moguls suggesting a cozy relationship with Wall Street at odds with her public pronouncements. Not to mention her own demands ($225,000 per speech).coupled with a refusal to make transcripts of her remarks public. Nor was it just Hillary. Podesta’s aides also voiced concerns about the bad “optics” for the campaign of her husband’s acceptance of another huge speaker fee just days before the convention. And then there was the hypocrisy of her “spontaneous” responses to so-called Town Hall questions which candidate Clinton had received in advance.
The emails exposed the views of Clinton’s campaign workers about her personality traits. After the former secretary of state appeared on Face the Nation in September 2015 an ally wrote to Podesta praising and criticizing her performance at the same time. “Thought she was really good,” the person wrote, before adding that “She sometimes laughs at jokes that aren’t too funny.” Podesta in another revealing insight responded that “laughing too hard is (Mrs. Clinton’s) authentic weirdness.”
They show a stunned staff struggling to get past the public controversy expressing exasperation at Clinton’s use of a personal server and the botched way she handled questions about it. Several exchanges illustrate fears among her top lieutenants that Clinton and other aides were demonstrating the very traits that polls suggested made her vulnerable: a penchant for secrecy and a refusal to admit fault or error.
And then there was the flurry of extraordinary emails between Podesta and his longtime friend and Clinton supporter, Neera Tanden. On the day the news broke, according to the Washington Post, that Mrs. Clinton had used a private email account as secretary of state a furious Podesta emailed Tanden. “Speaking of transparency,” he wrote, “our friends Kendall (David Kendall) Cheryl, (Cheryl Mills) and Philippe (Philippe Reines) sure weren’t forthcoming on the facts here.” Tanden replied “So crazy” and then as if answering her own question she voiced what millions of Americans already suspected. They kept it from the American people because “They wanted to get away with it.”
But don’t blame for any of this on Hillary. Don’t fault her for trying to pull a fast-one while voters and supporters were looking the other way. You know it was the Russians with Julian Assange fronting for them. If they hadn’t been so successful in their hacking efforts the American public would still be in the dark.
Finally we turn to Comey. On Saturday the demoralized former presidential candidate spun her new theory that the FBI director was at fault for her political collapse. She claimed that his October 28 letter to Congress reporting the FBI discovery of 650,000 Clinton related emails on the laptop of disgraced congressman Anthony Wiener, the estranged husband of Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin stalled her growing nationwide momentum. “There are a lot of reasons why an election like this is not successful. But our analysis is that Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, and proven to be, stopped our momentum”, Clinton said. (The Washington Post, November 13, 2016, A-4)
Who really knows if her claim is true or not. Keep in mind that the analysis came from the Clinton camp and we know how wrong pollsters were last Tuesday. Yet there is one important early childhood lesson from this election for politicians and citizens alike. We are always responsible for our own decisions right or wrong. And while blaming others offers a false comfort and deflects the truth in the end it merely diminishes the accuser and changes nothing.