Following nearly two years of Republican criticism over Hillary Clinton's email server, Vice President Mike Pence responded to his own email controversy by claiming the two situations aren't analogous. "There's no comparison whatsoever," Pence told CNN in a brief interview Friday. Though it may be impossible to tell in the end if there is enough information to judge the full similarity between the situations, the reaction to the controversy seems pointedly hypocritical in light of the firestorm created by Clinton's emails.
There is some support to Pence's claim that his email use has to be viewed separately from Clinton's. As a higher government official, Clinton was held to stricter standards than Pence, and his actions in Indiana weren't illegal. In fact, it would have been illegal for Pence to use his public account for political activities, like campaigning, so he had to use it for some work-related communication. Pence also claims that he's preserving the emails in full compliance with the law, which Clinton did not do (there are still about 31,000 emails that have never been shown to the government or made publicly available).
However, Pence did discuss sensitive information on his private email, such as the Syrian refugee resettlement program. And though Pence claims he didn't discuss classified information in the private emails, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb declined to release some of the messages because “the state considers them confidential and too sensitive to release to the public.” Pence also left his account relatively unsecured, making him vulnerable to the hackers who eventually secured his private information through a phishing scam.
While serving as Indiana governor, VP Mike Pence used a personal AOL account to communicate with advisers https://t.co/eUXlljMVxf— NPR (@NPR) March 3, 2017
After months of Republicans, including Pence himself, making fodder out of Clinton's emails, acting as though this is totally no big deal is a little disingenuous. In both cases, insufficient digital security left government information vulnerable to hacking, which is the primary consequence that people should be concerned about. Plus, in neither case was any evidence of actual illegal collaboration or cavorting discovered, so in the end it should have been no harm no foul. As with Clinton's emails, the punishment should be a quick slap on the wrist and a lesson learned, but the GOP kind of eliminated that option when they went nuclear on Clinton. Pence should be judged to a similar standard, if it was ever really about the emails.
It's OK that politicians don't have everything figured out yet when it comes to cybersecurity — in the grand scheme of things, email has only been around for about half their careers, and they can't be expected to be IT experts as well as legal scholars. What's not OK is slamming your colleagues in campaigns and the press to score political points when you know you're doing something very similar. Pence should have a rough time eating crow, because everyone deserves a little patience and compassion while the world is still figuring out digital communication.