Narrative all the way down: We've just returned from a chic weekly luncheon. We were struck by a discussion which took place at that chic event.
The discussion involved the email Colin Powell sent to Hillary Clinton. Yesterday, we discussed that email. It's described on page 11 of the newly-released FBI report.
Below, you see the passage in question. Unless we're misunderstanding something, it seems that Powell was telling Clinton about the way he avoided Freedom of Information requests when he was secretary of state. It further seems that he was telling her that she should do the same thing.
This is the way the FBI reported Powell's email:
FBI MEMO (page 11): The FBI investigation indicated Clinton was aware her use of a personal device, e-mail account, and personal server did not negate her obligation to preserve federal records. On January 23, 2009, Clinton contacted former Secretary of State Colin Powell via e-mail to inquire about his use of a Blackberry while he was Secretary of State (2005 to 2009). In his e-mail reply, Powell warned Clinton that if it became "public" that Clinton used a Blackberry, and she used it to "do business," her e-mails could become "official record[s] and subject to the law." Powell further advised Clinton, "Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data." Clinton indicated to the FBI that she understood Powell's comments to mean any work-related communications would be government records, and she stated Powell's comments did not factor into her decision to use a personal e-mail account.Unless there's something we're missing here, it seems that Powell was telling Clinton that she should seek ways to avoid exposing her e-mails to public record requests. It seems that Powell was telling Clinton that he had found ways to "get around" such requests.
From the start of our floundering nation's endless e-mail discussion, critics have suggested that Clinton set up her email in such a way as to frustrate Freedom of Information requests. Clinton has denied that motive, but now it seems fairly clear that Powell stated, in his e-mail to Clinton, that he too that very approach.
Unless there's something we're missing here, you'd almost think that Powell's email would be a point of discussion. Unless there's something we're missing, there was the famous press corps "good guy" advising the famous press corps demon that she should engage in the type of conduct for which she's been widely attacked!
Is that what Powell was advising when he wrote, "Be very careful?" Unless there's something we're missing here, that seems to be what he advised.
That said, you'd have to be as naive as Michael Corleone's wife if you thought that Powell's e-mail would produce a discussion in the press. As noted, Powell is a long-standing press corps "good guy," while Clinton's a long-standing press corps demon. Given that casting, there's no way the mainstream press corps would ever report or discuss what Powell seems to have said.
Instead, we've repeatedly seen that email from Powell spun in a quite different way. Repeatedly, pundits have conveyed the impression that Powell was telling Clinton to be "very careful" about the security aspects of her email account when he gave that advice.
That doesn't seem to be what Powell was saying. But Powell is an official "good guy." Therefore, according to rules of the guild, that simply has to be what the great man said!
Yesterday, we focused on Chuck Todd's presentation of that email. Unless there's something we're missing here, Todd's Meet the Press viewers were almost surely badly misled about what Powell wrote. In that, they were hardly alone.
In eighteen years at this post, we've often been surprised by the press corps' blatant dishonesty. But alas! For the corporate-sponsored children who agree to play journalists on TV, it's pretty much narrative all the way down. Unless there's something we're missing here, the children have done it again!
Colin Powell is a made man, one of the press corps' official good guys. On that basis, the eternal laws of the guild are quite clear. Unless there's something we're missing here, Colin Powell couldn't have said what he seems to have said!
By law, it was the demon's fault. And that's how the pundits have told it.