It doesn’t have to be like this.
This string of constant scandal that the Clintons find themselves deflecting does not have to be a part of American government. It is not a function of Republican hatred. The Clintons’ ever-present mess is their fault, time and time again, and it is getting extremely tiresome to witness.
Defenders of Billary Clinton are quick to argue that the true source of the family’s many scandals isn’t any wrongdoing, but a dogged Republican attempt to nail them for something. Anything. As if they were just another hardworking, apple-pie-and-baseball political dynasty who have been accosted by imaginative Republicans for twenty-five years.
It’s a joke. And anyone who seriously believes it is either looking for a job in the White House or has their head further up their ass than the Republicans. A moral indictment of the Clintons doesn’t rest on any one scandal, although some have been more obvious than others. It rests on repeated patterns of behavior — kind of like how Bill couldn’t give up his woman habit even when he came under presidential scrutiny.
For example, take Hillary Clinton’s trading scandal. In the late seventies, the then-First Lady of Arkansas turned a $1,000 investment in cattle futures into $100,000 — a trading success with odds around 1 in 31 trillion — at the advice of a family friend. Oh: uh, who was also the top lawyer at Tyson Foods, a company that enjoyed favorable rulings, executive placement on state boards, and $9 million in state loans from Governor Clinton. Now, it’s possible that Hillary Clinton simply had the greatest 10-month trading run in finance history and then abruptly decided to call it quits, or it was some kind of sweetheart deal. You tell me.
The point is, she deflected all inquiry into the matter onto the lawyer friend. At first she downplayed his role, then later said that he actually made all the trades for her. So he had nothing to do with it, then it was all his idea. Meanwhile, the investigators came away with that famous phrase that you’ll be hearing probably a few more times over the next four years: “Mrs. Clinton violated no rules.”
In other words, it wasn’t that something super fucking fishy didn’t go down. It was that the Clintons were simply smart enough to cover their tracks. The problem was that fishy stuff kept happening. From Whitewater all the way through usage of the Clinton Foundation slush fund that continues today. Spare me the risible idea that it’s just OK that one multinational businessman donated millions of dollars to the Clintons when she was the Secretary of State and Bill was actively involved in proceedings that netted the donor a big contract. Spare me the instruction to look away when even Hillary acknowledges that her foundation took foreign money in violation of an agreement with President Obama. (So that it could bungle the shit out of the Haiti response, by the way, congrats.)
And when fishy stuff did happen, Hillary repeated her pattern of behavior: blame someone else. Blame Monica for making up a story that led Bill to lie under oath. Throw Colin Powell under the bus for advising her privately about how to avoid having correspondence on the public record. It’s always someone else’s fault. Even her famous “vast right-wing conspiracy” line came on the eve of the Lewinsky scandal, which was very much not an impropriety made up by a conspiracy of any kind, except maybe between the three components of Bill’s genitalia.
As we look forward to another Clinton administration, we can expect more of this. It’s already gotten off to a rollicking start. Sure, Benghazi was a made-up bullshit non-scandal. But the email server saga, and the Clinton Foundation’s inherent, structural improprieties — and most of all, the family’s total insouciance about all of it — indicate to us that they haven’t learned a goddamn thing. This family is going to push the envelope of decency just this side of prosecutable for as long as they’re around.
Again: it doesn’t have to be like this.
For those of you tempted to argue that conflicts of interest are easy to concoct when you’re at the level of a U.S. president, I’d like to point you to one of the squeakiest presidents this country has ever seen. He’s visible every night on your TV, if you want to see him. He’ll be the black one.
Every Clinton scandal has a defense. Every one has plausible deniability. Now ask yourself: when was the last time you had to play this stupid gymnastics game with anything President Obama has done?
Did Obama ever take you through a Wittgensteinian exploration of what “is” is? Did he ever make you protest, “but they lost money on that real estate deal!” Did he ever make you question the potency of Michelle Obama as a wife?
No, because Barack Obama isn’t a cynical piece of shit like Bill Clinton is. This is a president who’s probably been more inherently, violently loathed by the right than any president since Andrew Johnson, and still, even they can’t invent scandal for the guy.
The most illicit scandal on Obama’s record, in my opinion, is the AP subpoenas of 2013, when the DoJ seized reporters’ phone records from Verizon to see what they were up to. That was unseemly because it was consistent with rumors about a general attitude of obfuscation towards the press at the Obama White House.
So that’s it. A publicly-available subpoena.
The IRS scandal was a zero, Benghazi was nothing, and what more do we have. Fast and Furious? Please. Jeremiah Wright? The guy had a fucking point. The man simply does not do subterfuge.
This fact was driven home by the sight, a few months ago, of Obama’s Justice Department having to tap-dance around the question of whether or not to charge Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information. After a story full of hideous, hideous optics, including Bill Clinton trying to glad-hand his way into Loretta Lynch’s favor like an idiot, the whole story wrapped up with the worst scene of all. On the day that Obama’s FBI director announced that he would not be prosecuting the individual who Obama openly wanted to win the election, the president himself appeared with Hillary at a campaign rally. It looked terrible; insider baseball of the most cynical variety.
Obama, in essence, had to play Clinton. She dragged him down to their level.
America, it doesn’t have to be like this. Obama has proved that you can be a good president (and a far more liberal president than Clinton) and not lie your way into and out of every situation. Just stay within the lines and use your brain. If Hillary’s suspiciously-timed concussion hasn’t rattled her too much, her brain might still work.
One of my favorite Obama anecdotes is instructive here. In 2011, when the Syrian question was insisting itself, Obama told his aides privately that his operating principle was “Don’t do stupid shit.” As in, let’s not be George W. Bush here and rush into something we can’t get out of. Three years later, Hillary Clinton disparaged that idea, telling The Atlantic, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” Then this happened, according to Jeffrey Goldberg:
Obama became “rip-shit angry,” according to one of his senior advisers. The president did not understand how “Don’t do stupid shit” could be considered a controversial slogan. Ben Rhodes recalls that “the questions we were asking in the White House were ‘Who exactly is in the stupid-shit caucus? Who is pro–stupid shit?’ ” The Iraq invasion, Obama believed, should have taught Democratic interventionists like Clinton, who had voted for its authorization, the dangers of doing stupid shit. (Clinton quickly apologized to Obama for her comments.)
Sensible words from someone who has a lot to teach the Clintons about how not to force Democrats into pretzel-logic defensive mode.