I've never personally met Lenny DeFranco, The Daily Banter's most recent addition to the roster, but from what I can tell, Lenny is a solid writer who, like the rest of us, has been gloriously endowed with the gift of gab. However, I'd like take a little time today to clarify some of the accusations he published about Hillary and Bill Clinton in his latest article, which, by the way, has precipitated angry responses from many regular readers here.
Briefly put, Lenny wrote that Hillary's apparent scandals are made worse by the fact that President Obama roster of scandals has been refreshingly thin. He enumerates those scandals as he sees them, but hardly anything he wrote holds up to scrutiny.
Let's dive in.
1) Lenny insisted that the Clintons are their own worst enemy and that the Republicans really aren't to blame for the disasters they've endured. Clearly, Lenny is either too young to remember the 1990s or he hasn't plowed too deeply into official records of what actually happened during Bill Clinton's two terms. The "vast right-wing conspiracy" was, indeed, quite real. Fox News Channel and The Drudge Report were both late-term conspirators in a broader effort to bring down the Clinton presidency. The GOP spent around $80 million investigating the Clintons, and that's just the Ken Starr investigation alone. Comparatively, the select committee investigating Benghazi has only spent around $8 million. I'd also recommend that Lenny screen a copy of the documentary The Hunting of the President. In a very real sense, the GOP engaged in a bloodless assassination-by-media and won an impeachment in the end. An impeachment. If Lenny doesn't see this as GOP overreach on an epic scale, I hope he's never elected to Congress.
2) "Defenders of Billary Clinton." I'd like to underscore here that it's Hillary Clinton who's running for president and not her husband. Lenny groups them together into a single chimera known as "Billary" (perhaps he does remember the 1990s). This implies without justification that Hillary isn't her own person/candidate and that they're, collectively, the real life Underwoods from House of Cards, an amazingly good yet fictitious series that bears as much resemblance to the Clinton White House as The West Wing did, which is to say neither show is a carbon copy. Nevertheless, a reasonable analysis should rightfully stick to "scandals" that'd appear to indict Hillary alone. Bill isn't running for president this time, so it's terribly unfair to tag Hillary with Bill's negatives or his infidelities.
3) The first scandal on Lenny's list is a debunked story about how Hillary turned a thousand-dollar investment in cattle futures into a $100,000 windfall, and that Hillary engaged in insider trading with her pals at Tyson Foods. This one's easy. Investigators uncovered exactly nothing and the Clintons lawfully reported the earnings on their tax return. Furthermore, The New York Times corrected its own reporting, noting that Tyson never received any quid pro quo cash via the Arkansas treasury. And the former chair of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange found no wrongdoing. Just for emphasis, this was a 1994 story -- the year in which Newt Gingrich rose to power following the midterms -- 22 years ago.
Lenny calls the cattle trading non-scandal "super fucking fishy." Maybe so, but reality and the law dictates that "super fucking fishy" isn't an indictable offense. Short of evidence, we're talking about exactly nothing.
4) "The Clinton Foundation slush fund." I have no idea where "slush fund" comes from but I'm not sure Lenny's aware of what that means. The Clinton Foundation is solely responsible for charitable giving, and there's no evidence proving that the Clintons personally benefited from its resources. Instead, as Paul Krugman pointed out today, the Foundation has been engaged in unimpeachable acts of charity from the beginning, earning an A-rating from Charity Watch. By comparison, it rates the Red Cross with an A-minus. Meanwhile, the Foundation is responsible for providing millions of HIV/AIDS victims with life-saving meds, while 88 percent of the Foundation's donations go directly to such programs, leaving a minuscule 12 percent overhead. Hardly "slush fund" material. Oh, and by the way, Hillary didn't become a board member until 2013, after leaving the State Department.
5) Lenny wrote: "Throw Colin Powell under the bus for advising her privately about how to avoid having correspondence on the public record." This sounds a lot like the Republicans who suggest we're not allowed to reference President Bush when talking about issues that were objectively sparked by his administration. Objectively speaking, both Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell used private email servers. Why is this fact off-the-table if it's objectively true? Additionally, Hillary's remarks about Colin Powell were in response to a direct question under oath.
6) Lenny jokes that the Lewinsky story wasn't part of a "vast right-wing conspiracy." While, yes, Bill Clinton made some horrendous decisions along the way in terms of his personal life, then lied under oath about the Lewinsky affair, the apparatus that uncovered the affair was originally tasked with investigating Whitewater (unsuccessfully, by the way). How does a special prosecutor get from a land deal to the president's blow-job partners without being pressured by the Republican establishment to dig deeper than the investigation's original mandate? Also, again, this is Bill's problem and not Hillary's.
7) Lenny: "Every Clinton scandal has a defense. Every one has plausible deniability." Sometimes bullshit accusations are just that: bullshit. It's precious that Lenny believes that every conspiracy theory with the Clinton name attached is worthy of zombie-scandal status, forever wheeled out whenever Hillary's name is mentioned in public. (Here's a funny one: a Whitewater conspiracy theory in the late 1990s included the accusation that my Dad was the "highest ranking Mafia official in the U.S. government" and that he helped cover up the Clintons' improprieties while serving as deputy inspector general of the Treasury. It's worth noting that my Dad is no fan of the Clintons.)
8) This: "If Hillary’s suspiciously-timed concussion hasn’t rattled her too much, her brain might still work." Perhaps this was satirical, but it doesn't appear to be. Lenny's in full Alex Jones conspiracy theory territory here, and the fact-free assumption that she's mentally incompetent is completely ludicrous by every possible metric. After reading this line, it's difficult to take seriously anything else Lenny wrote, before or after it.
9) Lenny concludes by brushing off the various Obama administration non-scandals.
"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."
While I agree that the conspiracies and investigations orbiting President Obama have been total fiction, what makes the mitigating circumstances around those stories any less valid than the mitigating facts and conclusions from the Clinton stories, which Lenny is so quick to disregard? Again, he snarkily wrote that "every Clinton scandal has a defense." Couldn't the same be said about Obama? Exculpatory facts are exculpatory facts. Rational observers, along with the FBI, could plainly see there wasn't any scandal involving Obama and the IRS. (Republican congressional investigators disagreed.) Likewise, the Clinton Foundation story appears to be a big nothing, too. When drawing a comparison between Obama and the Clintons, we also have to bear in mind that Obama appointed Hillary to a key role in his cabinet. She also withstood countless hours of questioning by hostile GOP demagogues, and one successful confirmation vote of 94-to-2, which included 39 Republicans voting to confirm.
I honestly wish Lenny great success with The Daily Banter, but I also hope that future contributions will be a little more tethered to the facts -- ditching the conspiratorial and the hyperbolic theorizing for other sites to wallow in.