February 3, 2008

Rules Changed on Clintons

It's happening already, and they're not even President yet. I'm talking about scandal overload. The sleaze factor with the Clintons in 2008 is reminiscent of the 90's, but the rules of the game have changed this time, in at least two important ways.

I have speculated before that if the mature blogosphere that exists today had been around a decade ago, the Clinton presidency would not have survived. Today, influential blogs (as opposed to this one) can prompt Old Media into covering stories they used to downplay or ignore. Second, from 1992 to 2000, Old Media was 95% in the Clintons' corner (I'm excepting people like Michael Kelly and William Safire.) This time there's another horse in the race, and Obama is today's media darling.

Hence the treatment by the New York Times of how Bill Clinton helped Canadian mining mogul Frank Giustra land a lucrative uranium contract, by accompanying him to a meeting with Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Afterwards, the extremely grateful businessman was moved to donate $31 million to Clinton's private foundation. The deal is doubly unseemly, for as the Times says:

Mr. Nazarbayev walked away from the table with a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton’s public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton’s wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Then there's the matter of the $31 million donation (with up to $100 million more to come) and the unavoidable perception of influence-buying with potentially the most powerful couple in the world. It's no surprise that a statement from the Clinton camp has been released about this remarkable coincidence, in Clintonese of course:

A spokesman for Mr. Clinton said the former president knew that Mr. Giustra had mining interests in Kazakhstan but was unaware of “any particular efforts” and did nothing to help. Mr. Giustra said he was there as an “observer only” and there was “no discussion” of the deal with Mr. Nazarbayev or Mr. Clinton.

Right. Mr. Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan wanted the prestige of Bill Clinton's support for his bid to head an organization to monitor elections and support democracy, (with Putin and Kahmeini as co-chairs perhaps?) and was not supposed to make anything of the fact that Mr. Giustra just happened to be in the former President's traveling party. Got it.

Investors Business Daily's editorial calls the $31 million donation to Clinton "filthy lucre", and it's not hard to see the potential for abuse of this and other foundation funds as an end run around campaign finance laws. In 1996 it was Asian bagmen walking into the White House with cash. Now that Bill's a rock star, the world is lining up to throw money his way.

It's the tip of a larger problem with Clinton and his global foundation that was launched in 1997 to "make a difference."

Besides ending global warming and doling out AIDS medicine, it appears to have another purpose — as a vehicle for extending Clinton's global power reach. The foundation's potential to draw "thank you" donations for helpful acts like showing up in Almaty is just one part of it. It could go even further than that.

Another Clinton pal, Denise Rich, donated $450,000 to Clinton's library around the time that Clinton pardoned her ex-husband, Marc Rich, the fugitive financier on the lam for tax evasion and trading with the enemy. Any connection? Of course not.

It gets downright dangerous when one considers that Clinton's wife is now a front-runner for the Oval Office in 2009. With Hillary in high office, Clinton will be free to do as he pleases with his foundation but his proximity to real power will be far greater.

In a Dec. 20 report, the Times asked whether Clinton's foundation donations could be misused to "circumvent campaign finance laws intended to limit political influence."

That's worth paying attention to, because Clinton Foundation records show that one of the few projects it has funded is a group called Acorn, which had employees convicted of voter fraud.

Another item included in the IBD article is that foreign governments are also among the recent contributors to the Clinton Foundation. Saudi Arabia donated $10 million. I wonder what they'll expect for in return for their generosity? (Maybe a steady stream of apologetics for Palestinian terror and distorted anti-Israeli rhetoric like they get from Jimmy Carter for the millions they pay into the Carter Center is all they want.)

Many who will vote for the first time in 2008 weren't in kindergarten yet when we went through this before. That is no doubt one reason the Clintons are stalling and obfuscating their very best (which is to say, very well) to keep the records of the first Clinton administration, especially the role of HRC, out of the public eye until they'e back!. They are counting on either short memories or no memories of the 90's.

But the Clintons will not be able to forever equate any discussion of their conduct during their first eight years in the White House with "swiftboating", placing it off limits in the campaign. It's fair for Americans to demand an accounting of the former First Lady's role in her husband's presidency as a way to judge her (their) suitability for a re-run? From the WSJ today:

Mrs. Clinton is running for the highest office in the land, and voters have a right to expect that both she and her husband release everything possible about her record, subject to national security and the privacy concerns of third parties. The Clinton White House records may well contain information that would give voters insight into both her political philosophy and character.

They could relate to her role (if any) in such scandals as Travelgate and the Marc Rich pardon, plus policy disputes over health care, welfare reform, and Social Security. The gadfly litigation outfit, Judicial Watch, has been filing FOIA requests and recently pried out a few documents related to Mrs. Clinton's 1993 health-care task force.

One memo, from a participant with the initials "P.S.," reads: "I can think of parallels in wartime, but I have trouble coming up with a precedent in our peacetime history for such broad and centralized control over a sector of the economy . . . Is the public really ready for this? . . . none of us knows whether we can make it work well or at all . . ." This is all relevant today given that health care is again her signature domestic policy.

Yes the ground rules have changed a bit for the Clintons in 2008. There's a new golden boy in view for the Left, and so their media shield is gone. Hillary might manage to overcome the Obama wave. But in order to benefit from the blessing of having Bill Clinton on her side, she also has to deal with his curse. And we could be only a couple days away from knowing how that plays out.

Related:

November, 2004 -Wizblog - Musing on Hillary '08

Posted by dan at February 3, 2008 2:49 PM