Nearly everyone across the news media spectrum has jumped to the unverified conclusion that Hillary Clinton ran a so-called "homebrew" email server inside her house. As we've noted before, this could very well be the case, but the reporting so far has fallen short of proving it and has, in fact, noted that it's "not clear" where the server was located.
Likewise, there seemed to have been a rush to judgment on the illegality of Clinton's use of a private email address during her term as Secretary of State. That conclusion was quickly shot down when we discovered that personal email usage wasn't banned until two years after she stepped down from her post. At most, Clinton may have violated internal policy guidance that recommended routine back-ups from a private email account to a State Department server.
None of that matters, of course, because the news media and certainly Clinton's GOP opposition doesn't seem to care whether something is illegal. As long as a news story like this one can be characterized as untoward, that's all they need to blow it up into a four-alarm scandal.
Take the following clip from Sunday's episode of CBS's Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer.
SCHIEFFER: But doesn't this sort of, uh, I mean, does it -- it may not be illegal but does it really pass the smell test?
Wow. So, now there's a "smell test." She didn't break the law, sure, but now there's this other standard for guilt called "the smell test." In other words, we can't prove that Clinton broke the law at all, and it looks like she entirely complied with the Federal Records Act, but so what? Does it pass "the smell test?" Does it have the scent of illegality? That's all that matters to assign guilt now.
Yes, for the next 20 months, then potentially into one or two presidential terms, this is what we'll be dealing with. Actual law-breaking is one thing, but constant hand-wringing over "smell tests" is going to be a thing. A big thing.