Last week the story broke that the Clinton foundation accepted rather large donations from foreign governments while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. At least one of those donations appears to have violated the ethics agreement that was put forth by the Obama administration. All of the donations present ethical questions, though. Is it really possible for a Secretary of State (or other cabinet level official) to receive a large amount of money from a foreign government and somehow keep strict neutrality when dealing with that nation? It seems unlikely, if not impossible. That's why the ethics guidelines are in place. Even if Hillary Clinton somehow kept her actions pure, why did she not think that these rules applied to her?
This week's story is of a similar, though more disturbing vein. While she was Secretary of State, Clinton exclusively used a personal email address. From appearances (and the story is still developing), the Clintons set up their own domain and servers. There are reports that her personal aides also used the private email set up. This was a set of deliberate actions. When Clinton accepted the post, she decided that she would bypass the government email set up.
The most obvious reason to do so would be to avoid Freedom of Information requests. Emails from State officials are subject to request (with limitations based on things like sensitivity). Private email servers would be beyond the reach of government IT officials. The Clintons have released some of those emails but only ones that they have decided are germane. Again, she decided that the regular rules didn't apply to her.
Even more disturbing is the security risk that this presents. Government emails are given top level encryption to protect against hackers. A personal domain and server obviously isn't. There is reason to fear that governments all over the world were able to read all of our Secretary of State's emails. General Patreaus was just given a (rather light) legal sentence for being too loose with confidential materials with his girlfriend. Clinton took a larger risk.
Goodness knows that the last six years have put a strain on the 'Hope and Change' theme that Democrats embraced so heartily in 2008. How they deal with these twin scandals from the Clintons will tell us a lot about their general approach to clean government. If ethical actions count more than raw power, they'll demand some answers. Otherwise, they'll try to slip past this with faint condemnation and some attempt to pin this on Republicans.
If they're serious, they won't allow Hillary Clinton to make one more step towards running until she gives some lengthy and serious answers to what happened. This will mean revealing some technical details of what happened. It will mean taking questions from potentially hostile questioners. It will mean an honest accounting of what happened, regardless of what that means to her election chances.
Will Democrats actually do such a thing?