Presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finds herself under growing scrutiny over the classified contents of dozens of emails (perhaps hundreds once the State Department finishes releasing them all) she sent and received as head of the State Department. As it turns out, Mrs. Clinton could have avoided this pitfall by following her own guidance while she was still in office.
In January 2012, then-Secretary Clinton was questioned at a town hall meeting about workplace flexibility options for women thinking of applying for senior positions at the State Department [emphasis added]:
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I’m on the board of Executive Women at State. Fewer women are applying for senior positions in the Department and women at every level are having difficulty with maternity, childcare, and eldercare issues, and some are resigning. Workplace flexibility options are inconsistent from office to office. How can Executive Women at State and other concerned affinity groups work with you to help address these problems before you leave? Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is matter of great concern to me, because obviously balancing family and work responsibilities is challenging, and the challenge falls disproportionately on women in the workplace. And it’s no longer just a question of one’s children. It’s also one’s aging relatives who are often part of the care giving responsibilities that are assumed. And I really want to do more on this this year.
I think we’ve got a variety of policies in place that are trying to make the Department a more family-friendly work environment. I know some of you have raised on the Sounding Board and through your chains, here, the question about more telework. Pat and I have talked about this. We have to determine which positions are eligible and which aren’t. A lot of the classified and confidential work can’t be outsourced, so to speak, to telework. So we are looking at that, we will continue to look at it, and we will try to support as much expansion of it as is possible. But I don't want to overpromise, because there are inherent challenges.
Although Mrs. Clinton said in 2012 that she and the State Department needed "to determine which positions are eligible and which aren’t," the secretary had apparently unilaterally determined her own position was eligible for such an arrangement despite the "classified and confidential work" which she herself had been engaged in since assuming office in 2009. Due to her travel schedule, Mrs. Clinton spent many days in various locations around the world, but at times worked from home, as well. Despite her assertion that she used a separate secure system for classified communications, it is increasingly clear that often classified materials found a way into her personal email, passing through and being stored on her private email server in her home in Chappaqua, New York.
The State Department actually featured Mrs. Clinton's remarks on workplace flexibility and telework in the April 2012 issue of State Magazine, an official publication of the department. The article was titled, "Secretary Clinton Addresses Work-Life Issues, Promotions" and quoted Mrs. Clinton's January town hall comment that "classified and confidential work can’t be outsourced, so to speak, to telework."
Coincidentally, the Huffington Post published an article Tuesday titled, "Hillary Clinton’s Emails Illustrate The Difficulties Of Achieving Work-Life Balance," echoing the "work-life" emphasis of the April 2012 State Magazine article. The Huffington Post article seems to indicate Mrs. Clinton's attitude towards work-life balance was somewhat mixed, at times making allowances and expressing concern, while at other times seeming to have little sympathy for "the kind of paralysis that some people fall into because they're not happy with the choices they've made... Some women are not comfortable working at the pace and intensity you have to work at in these jobs. ... Other women don't break a sweat."
From almost the very moment Mrs. Clinton first appeared on the national stage, she brought the work-life issue to the fore with her 1992 comment, "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession." However, if Mrs. Clinton is now someone who is "not happy with the choices" she has made, it may have more to do with her email choices than her work-life balance. And given the possible ramifications of the email scandal on her presidential aspirations, she herself may be the one who is beginning to sweat.