This is a tale about "the most transparent administration in history." We thank President Obama for that description, for we were momentarily at a loss about how to describe the executive branch during his tenure.
On Friday, the most transparent administration in history's State Department released a batch of emails from Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state. More interesting than what they contained — it was the usual batch of previously denied classified material — was that they landed on sleepy reporters' desks at 1 o'clock in the morning.
It's common for officials to put out bad news when few people will be paying attention — think Democratic presidential debates held late on Saturday nights — but, really, there are document dumps and then there are doozy document dumps. Friday's, by the most transparent administration in history, was a doozy in terms of its timing.
Last spring it was discovered that Clinton used a private, unsecure email account and server while conducting her state department business. In June, a court ordered the agency to release all 55,000 pages in batches at the end of each month.
By New Year's Eve, State was supposed to have posted 82 percent of the records online, but State has continually missed deadlines, and that day's release fell thousands of pages short.
According to a spokesman for the most transparent administration in history, the delay was due to the "large number of documents involved and the holiday schedule." The holidays are a busy time for everyone, but it's laughable to blame them for delaying the release of court-ordered documents.
The day before Friday's release, an inspector general's report accused the department of obstructing requests for public information and for producing "inaccurate and incomplete" responses to public records requests during Clinton's time at State.
According to the report, 177 of the 240 Freedom of Information Act requests lodged about Clinton are still pending three years after she quit, even though federal law requires agencies to respond to information requests within 20 days.
This week's email dump was a rushed attempt to avoid being more than a week later than an extended New Year's Eve deadline. Before the release, State said reporters could expect 45 classified emails among 2,900 pages Thursday evening. By the time the emails were released Friday, the batch contained more than 3,000 pages and 66 emails marked "classified." As they say on Wall Street, bad numbers take longer to add up than good ones.
The emails omitted subject lines and other data fields, so they were harder to search. But the most transparent ... well, you get the picture.
Most of the released emails deal with trivial matters such as meeting schedules. But a few have been revealing and potentially damaging for both Obama's administration and for Clinton. In one, Clinton asked a top adviser to send talking points "nonsecure" after he had trouble sending them on a secure fax machine.
All of this underscores why Hillary Clinton is viewed by the public as the most dishonest and untrustworthy candidate in the presidential race. The public should recognize that she is thus suited to this administration. It also once again highlights the culture of secrecy that surrounds the Clintons, whose trademark for decades has been to conduct their affairs with a complete disregard for transparency.
The last of Clinton's State Department emails are set to be released on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. It will be a final reminder to voters that the Clintons' willingness to flout the law and withhold information seemingly knows no bounds.