CHRIS WALLACE: In 2011, when an aide was having trouble sending her material by a secure fax, she sent these instructions: "If they can't, turn into nonpaper with no identifying heading, and send nonsecure." Bob Woodward, why is this important?Woodward focuses on what we learn about Hillary's character and methods. Wallace brings in George Will:
BOB WOODWARD, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, because here you have the secretary of state in 2011 saying let's subvert the rules, which say you've got to send -- presumably -- I mean, it's very clear from the earlier e-mails that this was a security issue, and I’ve written about nonpapers or no papers, and this is the way people in the government take the heading off and create something that exists.
WALLACE: Explain that, explain that to the rest of the world here. What's a nonpaper and what is taking the heading off?
WOODWARD: By taking it off, it's just a piece of paper that has a bunch of paragraphs. And there's no classification, there's no subject, so it's not in the system, so no one can discover it through Freedom of Information Act or some sort of subpoena. I mean, look, here is Hillary Clinton, somebody who worked on the staff of the Nixon impeachment committee, and what was the lesson, one of the lessons from that? Never write anything down. She did years of Whitewater investigations where she was the target, and here, many years later, she's saying oh, let's subvert the rules and writing it out herself? You know, whether that's some sort of crime I think is not the issue. The issue is, it shows she kind of feels immune, that she lives in a bubble, and no one is ever going to find this out. Well, now we have.
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the question really at the end of the day is a question of legality. The problem with this as a political issue, the force of an issue is upon a function of its simplicity. And when the average voter hears about a server in a closet in Colorado, they say, I know what a closet is, I know what Colorado is, what’s a server? And I think people are kind of unclear about that. But what does this is reinforce a preexisting perception about the Clintons, that whenever they come, they come in a cloud of seaminess of some sort.Will seems to want to talk about it as a "question of legality," because it doesn't work as "as a political issue." Political issues need "simplicity," but this is too complex, other than in the way it reinforces the idea that the Clintons are "seamy." ("Seamy" literally refers to the inside of a garment, where the seams show. Shakespeare created the figurative use, referring to the rough side of life: "Some such squire he was/That turned your wit, the seamy side without/And made you to suspect me with the Moor.")
Will prefers the legal side of it. He reminds us that Petraeus "got in trouble for the mishandling of classified information," but for him the legal question "comes down to the Justice Department." That is, he doesn't try to present the legal case himself. He looks to the authorities and wonders what they will do. He says "the Holder Justice Department was eager to be complicit in covering up certain scandals," but maybe — "if the FBI makes a recommendation to the Justice Department" — "we'll see if [Loretta Lynch is] a different kind of attorney general."
Bob Woodward breaks in, driving his idea the issue is character:
WOODWARD: But going back many years, I have followed the Hillary Clinton -- you know, what she does and biography is character and behavior is character here, and when I read that, I was really surprised that she would type that out and say, "Let's send it nonsecure," and, you know, maybe we'll get answers. In fairness to her, it's not clear what this is about, what the talking points were and so forth...Note how fuzzy it's become at this point. Woodward is intent on getting the facts right, perhaps because Will tried to make it legal. If it's a legal question, we need to get into the details. Here's where Laura Ingraham sees her opening. (Ingraham has a prestigious law background, including a Supreme Court clerkship (with Clarence Thomas)). Unlike the somber, venerable presentation we got from Woodward and Will, Ingraham is fierce. Unlike Will, who relies on the authorities to move forward in the courts, Ingraham puts legal arguments out in the political arena where she expects them to have an effect whether the authorities do anything or not:
WALLACE: Does it matter in that sense? I mean, if it was supposed to be send secure and she, as you say, subverting the law by saying send it -- or at least the regulations by sending it nonsecure, isn’t that --
WOODWARD: The question is, what is it? I’m tried to look into the record and figure out what was going on that day and she was going to give a press briefing. Maybe it was talking points for a press briefing, and there may be not classified information in there. At the same time, she was meeting with the Russians and maybe there was. So, we'll see.
INGRAHAM: Remember, she hasn't released all of her e-mails. She was supposed to reach a threshold by December 31st, she did not. Her staff said, we were working really hard. We are trying -- Lord knows what’s on the other ones. You are not allowed under federal law to act as your own declassifier of information. A GS-15 employee at the NSA tries to do this. Do you think -- why are you scowling? Do you think there would be a legality issue?Those last 2 questions are directed at Juan Williams, and gives an answer — "The secretary of state is in fact the person who decides if it's classified or not" — that Ingraham rejects — "No, no, no." Williams says "I agree with what Bob said. I don’t think it’s a legal issue." And Ingraham says it is:
INGRAHAM: [The FBI is] on the verge of a major revolt in right now with the way this issue is being handled... This is a matter of legality. This goes to the heart of whether we can trust our government to be fully transparent when they're supposed to be, and properly handle this kind of information, and the professionals will have the final say.Williams, echoing Woodword, says: "I think you're lost in the weeds on this when I think the voters." That gets the obvious retort "That's what you hope." Williams says "the voters really don't care," which tags Woodward to bring us in for a soft landing, the character, not the legal, question: "The voters care about whether we're going to find out who she really is and what she did."
Reencountering this discussion in transcript form, I get the feeling Woodward and Will have talked at some length about how hard it is to involve the public in something this complicated. What use can it be? Woodward seems to think people can ponder character even when they don't really understand much of what happened, but he's uneasy with it, and so is Will. It's just a cloud of seaminess that vaguely reinforces preexisting perceptions. Will would like the Justice Department to work in some idealized fashion and get things right, because the people aren't fit to handle it.
Juan Williams is rooting for the issue to die of its own complicated boringness.
Ingraham is the one with the fire. She believes people care, commentators can explain it simply enough, and people will understand. I admired Ingraham in this. I'd like her to be right, for the sake of democracy.