This column by ACRU Senior Fellow and Policy Board member J. Kenneth Blackwell was published August 27, 2016 by The Stream.
The world has seen a number of women as top political leaders. Theresa May is the second female prime minister in Great Britain, after Maggie Thatcher. Angela Merkel is the long-serving chancellor of Germany. Years ago there was Indira Gandhi of India.
Now Hillary Clinton is on the cusp of being elected U.S. president, the biggest political prize in the world. Despite America’s disquiet with family dynasties in a republic, there is much to celebrate in America’s willingness to elect anyone, irrespective of background, as president.
Unfortunately, Clinton is a poor choice to be a path-breaker. The image that best fits her time in politics is not breaking the glass ceiling but engaging in crass dealing. From the emergence of the Clintons in Arkansas politics to now everything has been about them in the worst way.
It is easy to forget that Bill Clinton’s path to the White House a quarter century ago was hindered by corrupt debris left by his and Hillary’s time in Arkansas. Even the New York Times could not ignore the obvious if well-concealed bribe of the “cattle trades” orchestrated by a businessman with interests in the state.
The Whitewater development showcased another aspect of the Clintons’ venality. The disappearance of Hillary Clinton’s billing records at the infamous Rose law firm foreshadowed the convenient loss of email from her time at the State Department. No American could be unaware of the couple’s moral failings while voting to place them in the White House.
From Whitewater to the White House
During Bill’s presidency Hillary’s hand was ever evident, including handing the White House travel office over to friends. Even then there were dubious overseas connections and political contributions, though who was to blame for what was never clear. The Monica Lewinsky scandal came to dominate everything, likely diverting attention from more serious, and substantive, abuses.
Now Hillary’s scandals are fully hers. Her reliance on personal email while serving in one of the nation’s highest positions was an obvious attempt to sanitize the public record before another presidential run (or election of a different president who might authorize an official investigation).
The tactic almost worked. Selective email releases, thousands of emails mysteriously missing, who would be the wiser? But the group Judicial Watch sued and the FBI was called in. There is little doubt that Clinton violated security laws (the only other explanation was a monumental lapse of judgment, hardly a credential for her presidential run) despite the Obama administration’s attempt to limit the damage.
The AP’s Devastating Review of the Clinton Foundation
Even now, we likely have only seen a few of the incriminating documents. But we’ve seen enough to know that Clinton was more the crass wheeler-dealer than the glass ceiling breaker. The Associated Press published a devastating analysis last week. More than half of the people outside of government with whom Clinton talked officially had given money individually or through a firm or other organization to the Clinton Foundation.
Of 154 people, 85 were donors. All told, they contributed as much as $156 million. Forty of them gave at least $100,000; 20 gave at least $1 million each. Worse, at least 16 foreign governments whose representatives met with Clinton donated as much as $170 million to the foundation.
Of course, the Clinton campaign was shocked that anyone doubted the purity of her intentions. Yet, noted AP: “the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton. Her calendars and emails released as recently as this week described scores of contacts she and her top aides had with foundation donors.”
Some of the private people meeting Clinton had run-of-the-mill special pleading, such as help with a visa. Others hoped for U.S. assistance, such as support from Washington against their own government which was seeking their resignation from a financial institution. We don’t know what the government donors might have been asking.
The Favor Factory
Bill Clinton has announced cosmetic changes in the foundation’s operations if Hillary wins. But as president she would be in a far better position to deliver favors to the more than 6,000 past donors (who’ve contributed more than $2 billion) as well as any future givers. The smartest operators will donate now in order to be grandfathered under any rules changes should she end up in the Oval Office.
Smart and determined, the Clintons were capable of genuine “public service.” However, they turned their time in public life into just another opportunity for personal enrichment.
So it was while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. And so it will be if she ends up as president. She talks about breaking the glass ceiling. The rest of us should focus on her crass dealing.