"For any government employee, it is that government employee's responsibility to determine what's personal and what's work-related," Hillary Clinton said in her March 10 press conference called to address mounting concerns over her use of a private email system for official use during her four years as Secretary of State.
The phrase "any government employee" made it sound as if Clinton's actions were perfectly normal — no different than anybody else.
In reality, Clinton's actions reflect her sense of privilege, a broader problem for her presidential ambitions than the email scandal itself.
Even before the most recent scandal, Clinton faced a number of problems in her presidential campaign.
In an age when many liberals are entranced by the populist message of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Clinton's cozy ties to Wall Street and six-figure speaking fees to corporations seem woefully out of touch.
Clinton's political career was launched based on the record and relationships of her husband. She has no accomplishments to speak of from either her time in the Senate or as Secretary of State. But her personal network has put her in the position as the overwhelming frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination.
Her sense of privilege and entitlement has been evident during the email scandal.
The State Department has systems in place to make sure that information is kept secure and that emails related to official business are archived and available for the public record. Clinton disregarded this guidance.
Clinton said that as "a matter of convenience" she chose to use a single private email system in a server in her house rather than carry around two devices — one for personal email, one for official email.
Clinton explained that the reason she thought her arrangement was okay and that she was confident everything was secure was that "the system we used was set up for President Clinton's office. And it had numerous safeguards. It was on property guarded by the Secret Service. And there were no security breaches."
There are a few issues created with this defense. One is that she'd have no way of knowing whether there were any security breaches and another is that Secret Service agents physically protecting her house in no way would prevent hackers from remotely infiltrating the system.
Even if everything she said were true, though, there is still this matter of privilege. "Any government employee" wouldn't happen to have access to a private server that was set up for a former U.S. president and guarded by the Secret Service.
Clinton also tried to downplay the controversy by claiming that, "the vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department."
At another point, she said, "it was my practice to communicate with State Department and other government officials on their .gov accounts so those e-mails would be automatically saved in the State Department system to meet record-keeping requirements, and that, indeed, is what happened."
This raises another point. Even if it were the case that most of the emails were sent to other government employees — and we can only go on Clinton's word — her entire defense is premised on the assumption that everybody else in government dutifully followed rules that she disregarded because she found them inconvenient. If all government employees followed her lead and used their own private emails, then those emails she sent would not, in fact, have been preserved.
To some extent, it's always the case that somebody in high office is going to have certain advantages over any ordinary employee. But there are differences between perks that come with the job, and violating rules that are in place to ensure that secret information doesn't fall into the wrong hands and that citizens know what's happening within their own government.