Was This The Phone Call With IT When Hillary Clinton Refused an Official Email Account?

Interesting times the past couple of day, with revelations that Hillary Clinton exclusively used a personal email account and also a private email server in her home to conduct business while she was Secretary of State. Illegal? Election politics? Bad practice? Why was it necessary? All valid questions.

There must have been a conversation between executives and the IT department at the Secretary of State’s office about this, and it’s fascinating to imagine how that conversation went. What reasons were offered? Did anybody push back? Was there a discussion of why this was a bad idea for everyone except Hillary (or maybe her as well – time will tell).

Federal Records Act or not, it is nearly impossible for me to imagine the same conversation happening in the private sector –  a high-powered executive who comes into a company and demands to use their own email server and their Gmail account to conduct all company business. It just wouldn’t happen, at least not any any company that has read a newspaper in the past 20 years.

I’ve been listening to vintage Bob Newhart lately, specifically “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” which amazingly was his first big standup performance, recording, and the one that made him a star. In the spirit of Bob, here’s how that phone call might go.

Hey Steve, Barry here. How are things in IT? Good? Good.
I need to talk to you about getting the new VP of Sales set up. Yeah, she’s starting Monday.
Yeah, that Hilary. Yeah from the New York office. Right, big promotion.
Anyway, let’s see if we can get her all set up for Monday . . .
What’s that?
A call from her? What she she say?
She doesn’t want an email account? Well why not?
She didn’t say? How are we going to communicate with her?
She wants to only use a personal Gmail account?!?  And she has her own email server at her house . . . you said no, of course . . .
You didn’t?  What the hell, Steve . . . . yeah . . . yeah . . . authority from who?
She didn’t say?
She was scary? Like scary how?
Hmm. Right. And there’s no way we can talk her out of it?
She wouldn’t take the job?!
She sounded serious did she?
OK, fine, fine.
Don’t we have policies on this kind of thing, Steve?
Nobody takes them seriously?
I know the email system is terrible, Steve . . . yeah I know you need more budget . . .  right, right . . . but listen, I use the damn thing.
What the hell are we going to do if we get sued?  How do we get her email from Gmail? How do we make sure she isn’t spreading our stuff all over the place?
We can’t?
What did the lawyers say?
Haven’t returned your calls?
Just as well, you remember what happened last time those bastards stuck their fingers . . .
Yes, I know I’m a lawyer, Steve. That’s why I can make those jokes.


  1. Steve Weissman

    Yep, pretty much. And kudos for the Newhart shout-out — I’ve always thought he’s a genious, in his own quiet way!

  2. ESIDence

    Nice job channelling Bob Newhart… I assume the stuttering was only audible while you were typing.

    By all accounts (at least the public ones), there was a policy at the time that didn’t preclude the arrangement. Collin Powell’s comments showed a precedent in the top job, as well. And if the fed IT guys aren’t better at security than the Fortune 1000 (and there’s evidence both ways), it seems pretty overblown. Maybe political, or just an easier path for unmotivated, value-clueless Washington types.


    • Barclay T. Blair

      I was stuttering while typing, of course. I was inspired to listen to some vintage Bob after hearing him interviewed by Marc Maron. A toothless Federal Records Act is certainly part of the problem, as well as the government in general lagging behind the private sector in being able to quickly adopt better technology. No doubt the only reason this has made the front pages of the papers is politics, but it does point to several problems we face that need to be addressed including the preservation of history, practical compliance with laws and regs written for a different era, etc.

      • ESIDence

        Agreed. Would be interesting to see if HC’s home server was identified as a repository in any litigation or proceedings involving the State Department, the Clinton’s, etc. Or, if any State Department systems were used to produce any of the messages – in whole or part – for any purpose. Gotta be some litigation, somewhere, like for Benghazi?

        Maybe an IG case study?

        (BTW, thanks for the YouTube link – Bob Newhart is a friggin’ genious).

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