Stop the Presses! What’s a Server?

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at Uncle Nancy's Coffee House in Newton, Iowa. After spending the first few mon... FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at Uncle Nancy's Coffee House in Newton, Iowa. After spending the first few months of her campaign bemoaning "secret, unaccountable money" in politics, Clinton is coming out Tuesday, Sept. 8, with proposals to roll back the effects of the landmark Supreme Court case governing campaign finance won by conservative activist group Citizens United. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) MORE LESS
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As I’ve said before, I’m something of a Hillary Agnostic. There’s no question that the email story has done her a great deal of harm, regardless of the merits of the story itself. But it’s worth stopping now and then and taking a look at just how nonsensical most of the coverage of the story is at this point. Beside the point that the relevant Inspector General has said that none of the stuff the DC press corps has been hyperventilating about can, by definition, have violated any law, you also have stories like this new one today from Bloomberg.

The Bloomberg story, like so many others in the genre, presents an incremental so-called development as deeply portentous, with grave warnings that others may decide this represents more bad news for Hillary.

But look what it actually says. FBI sources have told Bloomberg that the FBI is making some progress recovering emails from the servers her campaign or personal staff turned over to the Bureau. They include personal emails and work emails. Wow, that’s sucks for Hillary!

Except wait. Unless you do a deep sweep of a server, of course you’ll find what everyone knew was there in the first place: both personal and government emails. There are various ways to delete things from storage drives. The way most of us do it, the ‘deleted’ stuff is still all there. You’ve just deleted the index entry that says where the data is on the drive. The computer shop down the street can retrieve the data pretty easily. There are progressively more granular forms of erasing that make it much harder, verging on impossible to recover data. But there’s never been any evidence or suggestion that Hillary’s staff did this. And of course the FBI has vastly more high end data retrieval capacity.

In other words, this new ominous development is about as surprising as the book hitting the floor after you let go of it from your hand. As usual, since there’s no actual news in the story or anything incriminating, the news value is chummed up with the usual ‘others may find it controversial’ formulation.

The extra nugget in this case is that it may also be bad for Clinton because the press may demand to see her unambiguously personal emails, which may be true. But of course no one should be allowed to see her personal emails in the first place. Admittedly, it’s not as bad as McClatchy has been on this story – a great news organization with great reporters who just has a peevish and delicate DC bureau chief. But it’s still par for the course. A story in which the DC press fixation on Clinton process stories manages to take completely innocuous developments and whip them into portentous new steps in the drama of wrongdoing.

Is this coverage damaging for Clinton? Undoubtedly. When reporters produce numerous stories all of which suggest wrongdoing or dishonesty, people’s impression of you will suffer. And there’s no question it has. But every once in a while, it’s worth returning to planet Earth and dissecting what these stories actually contain. In this case, good lord. Not much.

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