I’m old enough to remember when the concept of a “czar” indicated a special position vested with extraordinary powers to deal with a unique crisis, as in the “Drug Czar.” In the Age of Obama, we’ve got czars running around all over the place.
They grow like barnacles on the listing, rust-pitted ship of state, products of a hopelessly corrupt bureaucracy that can no longer handle its daily business without violating its own rules. Czars are often dropped as distractions, like a fighter jet ejecting flares to avoid heat-seeking missiles. The appointment of a powerful new position with great fanfare is the ultimate Washington way of pretending to Do Something and mollify an angry public.
And so, there comes unto the State Department a new “transparency czar,” officially to be known as the Transparency Coordinator. The position will be initially filled by Ambassador Janice Jacobs – who, you will not be surprised to learn, donated $2700 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign less than three months ago.
Her appointment was accompanied by the usual ostentatious puffery, as transcribed by Politico:
“Secretary Kerry takes very seriously our responsibility to the American people to be as transparent as possible and to preserve the record, as we must, of how we conduct diplomacy around the world,” State spokesman John Kirby said at a regular briefing for reporters. “The secretary is committed and focused to leading on these issues. … He knows that we can do better.”
Kirby acknowledged that the impetus for creation of the new position was, in part, due to intense public attention in Clinton’s emails. “The demand that making public more than 55,000 pages of former Secretary Clinton’s emails — the demands the resources that that’s consuming certainly is a factor in the secretary’s decision to stand up this new position, but it is not the only factor,” the spokesman said. He pointed to a three-fold increase in Freedom of Information Act requests to the agency since 2008 as another factor, as well as increasing Congressional requests for information.
As the Clinton email saga has unfolded, State has been blasted by federal judges for the sluggishness of its responses to FOIA requests. Delays of several years for complex requests are not uncommon. State initially proposed that it release redacted versions of Clinton’s emails en masse next January. A judge dismissed that suggestion and ordered that batches of the messages be produced monthly through January.
In addition to distracting the public by making it seem like State Department is Doing Something about transparency – as if its previous failures were ever anything but standard procedure for a furtive Administration that doesn’t like answering questions from the public or Congress – this move is designed to throw Hillary Clinton a little cover by bolstering her political narrative about the “complexity” of her email scandal. We will now hear a lot of mumbo-jumbo about how the State Department’s systems are “archaic” and inscrutable, so it’s too bad that so many Freedom of Information Act requests over the past seven years were stonewalled until they became lawsuits – and then stonewalled some more, in defiance of subpoenas and judicial orders – but in the final months of the Obama presidency they’ll do better, pinky swear.
This is, again, standard “czar” protocol.
It’s a variation on how Big Government politicians always want credit for “fighting” waste, fraud, and abuse, even as those much-ballyhooed “battles” never result in any actual victories. You’re supposed to swoon over the new commitment to transparency from a State Department that allowed Hillary Clinton to jeopardize national security by running an email server from her basement, ignored her failure to hand over official correspondence for years, and is currently trying to obfuscate the fact that she violated her own department’s protocols. This would be the same State Department that invests much of its time in covering up various other scandals from its officials, and the same Secretary of State, John Kerry, who “punished” the scapegoats in the Benghazi disaster by temporarily reassigning them to different positions.
None of the problems John Kirby alluded to will be solved by creating a new ceremonial management position.
No Transparency Czar was needed to tell Hillary Clinton that she doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally declassify intelligence and run it through a server that ended up stuffed in the bathroom closet of an apartment in Denver. If such a Czar had existed in 2009, Clinton would have ignored her anyway. Her urge for obfuscation far transcended any concern for national security or the smooth operation of the State Department.
Woe unto the jumped-up functionary who dared to confront Her Majesty and tell her the Secretary of State’s email shouldn’t be flowing through an unsecured homebrew server. Plenty of people in the Obama Administration with enough juice to get Clinton’s attention were aware of her unprecedented and reckless email arrangement, but they didn’t stop her.
To cite another chapter from the saga of Clinton’s email, one of her excuses was that she thought everything she sent to a proper State Department email address was being archived automatically. Under pressure, the State Department sheepishly admitted that didn’t start happening until after Clinton left office. You don’t need a “transparency czar” to handle the proper implementation of such a simple practice, or make sure everyone knows how it works.
There is nothing complicated about what Hillary Clinton did, why she did it, or what the law says should happen next. There is nothing questionable about the classification level of the documents Hillary both sent and received, contrary to her earlier claims to be merely a “witless recipient” of classified documents. The State Department is still trying to pretend the Top Secret classification of several of those documents is still a matter of dispute, after multiple intelligence reviews established it beyond question.
Clinton was supposedly backed into a more contrite “apology” yesterday, but the new apology is just a slightly reworded variation on the campaign spin she was pumping out late last week: she’s sorry that everything has become so “complicated.”
It’s not complicated at all. It only seems that way because Clinton, her henchmen, and her helpers have worked so hard to make the situation seem confusing. The act of changing a light bulb can seem pretty complicated if you hire the Three Stooges to do it.
Appointing a new czar, and declaring all this transparency stuff is just too darn complicated for a $3.6 trillion government to handle, is a smokescreen. It’s painfully obvious what Hillary Clinton should have done at every step of the way, from not using an unsecured private email system in the first place, to promptly handing over her correspondence at the conclusion of her tenure. She put her political hunger to evade oversight above her duty to the nation, without a second thought. The key to more responsible and transparent government is to avoid putting people like Clinton in high office, not appointing a new functionary to help political appointees “understand” rules nobody is truly confused about… least of all those who seek to deliberately circumvent them.
Update: Confidence in the State Department’s new Transparency Czar probably will not be bolstered by the comical spectacle of State claiming they didn’t know Jacobs was a Clinton donor… followed by the even funnier assertion that “the fact that she made a donation to Hillary Clinton bears no relevance on her ability to do this job and to do it objectively and fairly.”
Of course, this is the same State Department that thinks Iran can be trusted to examine its own nuclear facilities for signs of illicit weapons development…