Donald Trump has appointed Rex Tillerson, the sitting CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State. Which is really weird. Why are Democrats focused on something relatively minor: his relationship with Russia?
More than half of the people who managed to score a personal one on one meeting with Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State donated money to the Clinton Foundation, either as an individual or through a company where they worked. “Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million,” the Associated Press reported.
Does that make Hillary corrupt?
At this writing, there is no evidence that anyone received any special favors as a result of their special access to Clinton. Not that treats were not requested. They were. (The most amusing was Bono’s request to stream his band’s music into the international space station, which was mercifully rejected.)
That’s irrelevant. She’s still corrupt.
Clinton’s defenders like to point out that neither she nor her husband draw a salary from their foundation. But that’s a technicality.
The Clintons extract millions of dollars in travel expenditures, including luxurious airplane accommodations and hotel suites, from their purported do-gooder outfit. They exploit the foundation as a patronage mill, arranging for it to hire their loyalists at extravagant six-figure salaries. Only a low portion of money ($9 million out of $140 million in 2013) makes its way to someone who needs it.
“It seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons,” says Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group.
As a measure of how institutionally bankrupt American politics is, all this crap is technically legal. But that doesn’t mean it’s not corrupt.
Public relations experts caution politicians like the Clintons that the appearance of impropriety is almost as bad as its actuality. If it looks bad, it will hurt you with the polls. True, but that’s not really the point.
The point is: access is corruption.
It doesn’t matter that the lead singer of U2 didn’t get to live out his rocker astronaut fantasy. It’s disgusting that he was ever in a position to have it considered. To put a finer point on it, ethics require that someone in Hillary Clinton’s position never, ever take a meeting or correspond by email or offer a job to someone who donated money to her and her husband’s foundation. Failure to build an unscalable wall between government and money necessarily creates a corrupt quid pro quo:
“Just got a call from the Clinton Foundation. They’re shaking us down for a donation. Should we cough up a few bucks?”
“Hillary could be president someday. Chelsea could end up in the Senate. It couldn’t hurt to be remembered as someone who threw them some money when they asked.”
This, I 100% guarantee you, was the calculus when Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hillary for a one- or two-hour speech. She doesn’t have anything new to say that everyone hasn’t already heard a million times before. It’s not like she shared any valuable stock tips during those talks. Wealthy individuals and corporations pay politicians for one thing: access.
“It’s not pay to play, unless somebody actually gave someone 50 cents to say I need a meeting,” counters DNC interim chair Donna Brazile. “No. In this great country, when you meet with constituents, when you meet with heads of states, when you meet like Bono, who I love, you meet with them because they want to bring a matter to your attention. That’s not pay to play.”
It ain’t 50 cents.
But it is pay to play. Absolutely.
Access is a zero-sum game. If I get a meeting with a senator, that’s a meeting someone else doesn’t get. I shouldn’t get a leg up over you because I donated to a politically connected, nominally charitable foundation. For that matter, I shouldn’t get a meeting you can’t get because I know someone, or because I’m famous, or whatever. Access should be, has to be in a democracy, determined solely by meritocratic criteria. Political leaders like Hillary Clinton need to be meeting with people who can offer them the best advice and who need the most help — not those who bought their way in.
Anyone who doesn’t understand that access always equals corruption, even when access doesn’t result in favors, doesn’t deserve to hold political office.
(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee.)
REVISED 9/13/16: In last week’s column,”At the Clinton Foundation, Access Equals Corruption,” I wrote that the charity rating agency Charity Navigator did not rate the Clinton Foundation due to its poor performance. While that was true in the past, and I relied on that previous information while researching my piece, at present the Clinton Foundation actually receives a fairly respectable rating from Charity Navigator. This essay has been revised to reflect this changed information.
The media went crazy over false reports that Bernie Sanders supporters threw some chairs at a Democratic convention in Nevada. They deplored the burning of Make America Great Again hats at a Trump rally. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton personally destroyed several Middle East nations…yet the media doesn’t have anything to say about that.
Zero Accomplishments. Bad for Women. And She’s Dumb.
“Hillary Clinton remains the most formidable presidential nomination frontrunner for a non-incumbent in the modern era,” Harry J. Enten writes in The Guardian. It’s not just Brits. “Since leaving Foggy Bottom,” Linda Killian waxed in The Atlantic, “she has positioned herself as an icon of women’s empowerment. That makes another White House run even more important and likely.”
Please stop the Hillary puffery. The last thing the country needs is a Hillary candidacy — much less another President Clinton.
PrezHill would be bad for America, awful for Democrats and downright deadly to progressives — especially feminists. (She may know that herself; it may explain her reluctance to prepare for a 2016 run.)
Here, in an easy clip-and-take-to-the-primaries nutshell, is the non-vast-rightie-conspiracy case against Hillary:
1. Zero record of accomplishment.
Since 2009 we’ve seen what happens when we elect a president with charisma but minus a resume: weakness, waffling, national decline. Obama’s signature/single accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, embodies design-by-committee conception and autopilot execution.
Hillary’s admirers have conflated her impressive list of jobs with actually having gotten things done. When you scratch the surface, however, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the woman has done little more than warm a series of comfy leather desk chairs. How has this career politician changed Americans’ lives? Not in the least.
No doubt, Hillary knows her way around the corridors of power: First Lady, Senator from New York, presidential candidate, Secretary of State. Nice resume, but what did she do with all her jobs? Not much.
First Lady Ladybird Johnson led a highway beautification campaign that literally changed America’s landscape for the better. Betty Ford courageously exposed herself as an alcoholic, serving as a role model by publicly seeking treatment. In terms of achievement, Hillary Clinton’s political life peaked in 1993 with “HillaryCare,” a botched attempt at healthcare reform that failed because no one, including liberals, agreed with the core mission of what liberal Democratic Senator Robert Byrd called “a very complex, very expensive, very little understood piece of legislation”: federal subsidies for wildly profitable private insurance corporations (sound familiar?).
After sleazing her way into the Capitol as an out-of-state carpetbagger — New Yorkers still remember — Senator Clinton wiled away the early 2000s as a slacker Senator. This, remember, was while Bush was pushing through his radical right agenda: the Patriot Act, wars, coups, drones, torture, renditions and so on.
While Bush was running roughshod, Hillary was meek and acquiescent.
Clinton’s legislative proposals were trivial and few. Her bargaining skills were so lousy that she couldn’t find cosponsors for her tiny-bore bills — even fellow Democrats snubbed the former First Lady on stuff like increasing bennies for members of the Coast Guard. “Senator Clinton is right when she claims to be the experienced candidate,” Adam Hamft wrote for HuffPo during the 2008 primaries, “although it’s not the experience she would like us to believe. It’s a track record of legislative failure and futility.”
Hillary cheerleaders brag that she logged nearly a million miles of air travel as Secretary of State. “She reminded the world that Woody Allen was right even when it comes to diplomacy: 80 percent of success really is simply showing up,” Megan Garber cheered in The Atlantic (what is it about that rag and Hillary?).
The best case I could find for Hillary as kickass StateSec comes courtesy of PolicyMic, which I hope is on her payroll given how much they suck up to her. An article titled “5 Top Highlights in Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State Tenure” cites “People-to-People Diplomacy” (all that travel), “The Importance of Economics” (“helping U.S. companies win business overseas”), “Restoring American Credibility” (“outreach to [the military junta in] Burma,” “brokering a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel,” and “coordination with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will likely give the U.S. greater leverage to pursue a robust peace process in 2013″ — but “likely” didn’t pan out…why doesn’t Mo return my calls anymore?).
“Rock star diplomat,” as The New York Times Magazine called her? Hardly.
As Stephen M. Walt notes in Foreign Policy, “she’s hardly racked up any major achievements…She played little role in extricating us from Iraq, and it is hard to see her fingerprints on the U.S. approach to Afghanistan. She has done her best to smooth the troubled relationship with Pakistan, but anti-Americanism remains endemic in that country and it hardly looks like a success story at this point…She certainly helped get tougher sanctions on Iran, but the danger of war still looms and there’s been no breakthrough there either…Needless to say, she has done nothing to advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace or even to halt Israel’s increasingly naked land grab there.” (Talks with Iran began after Clinton quit.)
Yeah, she’s been busy. But she has little to show for her time in office — she works dumb, not smart. At least with Obama, 2008 voters saw potential. Hillary has had 20 years to shine. If she hasn’t gotten anything accomplished in all that time, with all that power, why should we think she’ll make a great president?
2. She’s a terrible role model for women.
A woman president is two centuries overdue. It’s embarrassing that we’re behind such forward-looking nations as Pakistan in this respect. But our first female leader should not be Hillary Clinton.
I’m not rehashing the oft-stated argument that she should have divorced Bill post-Monica: I’m 99% sure they have an open marriage and anyway, the monogamist demand that jilted spouses DTMFA because, just because, is stupid.
The real issue is that Hillary married her way into power. Sorry, Hillarites: there is nothing new here, no cracked glass ceilings. Owing everything you have to your husband is at least as old as Muriel Humphrey, who succeeded Senator Hubert after he died in 1978. In a nation with more than 150 million women, it ought to be possible to find a president who got there on her own merits.
Remember, it’s not like Hillary did much with the remarkable opportunities she was given.
3. She’s kind of dumb.
In 2003, Senator Clinton cast the most important vote of her life, in favor of invading Iraq. Not only was it morally unconscionable — Bush ginned up the war from thin air, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and there was neither evidence nor proof that Saddam had WMDs — her war authorization vote was politically idiotic.
Hillary lost the 2008 Democratic nomination to Obama (who, though voting six times for war funding, and not in the Senate in 2003, had criticized that “dumb war”) due to that vote.
Though Clinton has never apologized for pandering to post-9/11 yellow-ribbons-all-over-the-car militarism (which is also stupid), her lame excuses in 2008 (she claimed she “thought it was a vote to put inspectors back in” even though it was called the “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002”) indicate that she knew she’d blown it.
Also, the fact that she thought anyone would buy such ridiculous lies further indicates less than awesome intelligence.
Let’s give Hillary the benefit of the doubt: we’ll assume she wasn’t so breathtakingly stupid as to think invading Iraq was moral or legal. Even so, her pandering betrays poor political calculus.
It should have been obvious — it was to me — that the U.S. would lose in Iraq. Given Clinton’s options at the time (run for president a year later in 2004, reelection in 2006, or 2008), she was an idiot to think that her vote to authorize what would soon turn into an unpopular war wouldn’t decimate her support among the Democratic party’s liberal antiwar base.
Having a cynical political operator as president is bad. But I’ll take a smart cynic over a dumb panderer.
(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)
COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL