When hiding a misdemeanour is not possible, the next best option is to deny all culpability. And if that tactic fails as well, a near-apology seems to be the only recourse left.
This seems to be the sequence of events for Hillary Clinton, who's currently embroiled in a controversy for using a private email server during her tenure as United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.
From defence to humility
Till 4 September, Clinton stuck to her stance that it's not necessary to apologise for her emails. "It wasn't the best choice," she told MSNBC, but added, ".it was allowed. And it was fully above board."
But by 8 September, however, the former Secretary's position had shifted from something like denial to an apology. In an interview with ABC, Clinton remarked, "That was a mistake. I'm sorry about that. I take responsibility and I'm trying to be as transparent as I possibly can."
Not a crime, was Clinton's earlier stance
News of the scandal first broke in March, amid the build-up to Clinton's bid for the 2016 presidential election.
For months, her response was defensive. It was not, she claimed, a crime to direct official correspondence through a separate (and un-monitored) email account, [email protected]
Despite her statement, in August, she handed over 55,000 pages of emails to the US State Department. Of course, she also deleted another 33,000 as they were deemed (solely by her) to be entirely personal.
So far, investigators have found a handful of Clinton's emails to contain classified materials. Those without possible state secrets are being released to the public in batches. They reveal more about who she is as a person than they do on foreign policy.
We now know, for instance, what Clinton's favourite TV serials are: The Good Wife and Parks and Recreation.
Anyone else would have lost their job: Edward Snowden
Wikileaks whistleblower Edward Snowden related to Al-Jazeera last Thursday: "An ordinary worker at the State Department or the CIA would not only lose their jobs and lose their clearance, they would very likely face prosecution for it."
As Obama's top diplomat, Clinton both harshly condemned Snowden (once, in 2014, she accused him of aiding terrorists) and endorsed the National Security Administration's (NSA) extensive surveillance program.
How transparent can Clinton really be?
Though it's fairly certain that Clinton's status as a high-profile leader in Washington will shield her from legal consequence, it does not mean her way of doing business was ethical or even consistent.
Clinton's private server placed her communiques above scrutiny. She did not want them to be surveyed. At the same time, while Secretary, she had no qualms about everyone else being subject to the NSA's spy program.
How, then, can we expect a future President Clinton to reach a higher level of transparency when she's fallen so far below it before?