Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday night that he has no recollection of a dinner conversation in which he allegedly advised Hillary Clinton to use private email for transmitting non-sensitive information. According to a forthcoming book by liberal journalist Joe Conason obtained by the New York Times, Clinton told the FBI she had received the advice from Powell during a small dinner of former secretaries of state.

Instead, a statement from Powell's office reads, he provided Clinton "an email memo describing his use of his personal AOL email account for unclassified messages and how it vastly improved communications within the State Department."

The Times story notes the following: "Mrs. Clinton and her campaign have repeatedly pointed to the use of personal email by Mr. Powell and other government officials to try and explain the email controversy to voters." But Powell did not "have a server at his house or rely on outside contractors, as Mrs. Clinton did at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y." Nor was Powell ever investigated by federal law enforcement for incautiously communicating sensitive government material over an unsecured channel.

Powell's precedent, such as it is, is no justification for Clinton's actions with regard to her own private server. Again, the Times reminds us: "A State Department inspector general report released in May said that Mr. Powell and other senior officials had used personal email accounts for official business, but that by the time Mrs. Clinton took office the rules were clear that using a private server in such a manner was neither allowed nor encouraged because of 'significant security risks.'"

There is no person or precedent that can rationalize Clinton's irresponsibility. The issue is not—and never has been—that she took cues or inspiration from an outside source. It is that she erred in her conduct, regardless of what impelled her to act; that she adopted what could be corporately termed "worst practices" and committed mistakes as a result.