On a hot summer day in the nation’s capital FBI Director James Comey closed the investigation Tuesday into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s management of her work related email on a personal server.
Interestingly enough, and ignored in all the coverage of this issue to date, it was during a hot summer in Washington, D.C. 43 years ago that Hillary Clinton began her long career in government.
As a young staffer on the House Judiciary Committee overseeing the drafting of Articles of Impeachment of the president of the United States, Clinton observed first hand the collapse of the highest office in the land because of Nixon’s obsession with his privacy.
President Nixon had set up a complex taping system, with thousands of hours of tapes stuck away in closets and drawers – such that he wouldn’t have government bureaucrats and the “liberal, east coast elites” as Nixon referred to them, crawling through his private conversations.
As the political noose tightened around Nixon’s neck it was learned 18 minutes of tape were missing. Nixon left office in disgrace.
Hillary Clinton had a front row seat to it all.
The latest headlines on the 2016 elections from the biggest name in politics. See Latest Coverage →
Remarkably enough, however, while Clinton played the role of prosecutor 43 summers ago, as she and her staff no doubt held their breath Tuesday with the FBI Director speaking from the podium, she was the defendant over nearly identical behavior — and arguably equipped with a similar psyche. The roles were reversed as she, in fact, had not learned the lesson of her formative years.
The former secretary of state had set up a separate system to capture her daily communication — just as Richard Nixon had. She had the same distrust of government bureaucrats (State Dept IT staff) and like Nixon’s “East coast liberals,” she had created in her mind “the vast right wing conspiracy” that was out to get her.
Before he landed in the White House he told the media “you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” Before she became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee she told the media “Well, I could have stayed home and baked cookies.” He had missing tape that may have been incriminating. The FBI Director said Tuesday that she had thousands of missing emails that will never be recovered.
Nixon lost his job. She will seek the office he vacated.
So much has changed in the ensuring four decades. Much of that change has been the level of trust Americans have for government itself.
People used to believe the president. Hillary Clinton’s prosecution of Richard Nixon saw to a decline in that confidence.
The most remarkable element of the entire Clinton email saga is that she watched it play out more than four decades earlier before anyone had ever even heard the word email — the tool then was audiotape — but the thinking behind it was the same. The big difference is the result — Nixon left office. Clinton is now cleared to seek it.
Over 43 years the bar has been changed as to what American’s expect from their president or their future one. There’s a reason that for each of the past two years Americans have said that the largest threat facing our nation is government itself.
The Hillary Clinton of today would have been well-served to seek the counsel of the Hillary Clinton of 43 summers ago.
If she had, perhaps her behavior wouldn’t have been so … Nixonian.
Mark Aesch is CEO of TransPro, a performance management consultancy focused on helping transportation organizations to perform at higher levels of efficiency with strategic planning, customer satisfaction survey and reporting services, and executive leadership coaching. Mr. Aesch is a former District Director for U.S. Representative Bill Paxon, former CEO of the Rochester, NY Transportation Authority, and former Senior Advisor for the City of Detroit. He is also the author of two best-selling business books Driving Excellence (2011) and Saving America (June 2016). Follow him on Twitter, @MarkAesch.