Democrats who expect Bill and Hillary to change are delusional.
We’re not the first to make the comparison, but Bill and Hillary Clinton’s
adventures in the uranium trade recall nothing as much as Tammany
Hall’s concept of “honest graft.” Except maybe their never-ending use of
power and status for personal and political gain requires a new special
terminology. Dishonest graft?
The New York Times reported Thursday on the foreign cash that flowed into the Clinton
Foundation between 2009 and 2013 as subsidiaries of the Russian state
nuclear energy agency Rosatom acquired control of a Canada-based mining
company called Uranium One. The story features the familiar Clinton
touches: lucrative Kazakh mining concessions for the tycoon Frank Giustra,
with Bill along as a character reference; a half-million-dollar-a-pop
speech by the former President in Moscow for a Kremlin-linked bank;
$2.35 million in secret donations from one family foundation to another.
Our Kim Strassel has more nearby.
All the while, Mrs. Clinton
was serving in her capacity as Secretary of State on the U.S. Cabinet
committee that screens foreign investment for national-security risks.
The group approved the deal, despite critics who warned it would give
the Russian government control over the world’s nuclear fuel—the same
material Vladimir Putin is now selling to Iran. Oh, and don’t forget this was also amid the famous “reset” of relations with Mr. Putin.
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign press secretary, Brian Fallon, distributed talking points claiming this was all merely a coincidence and pointed to a right-wing plot led by author Peter Schweizer.
Mr. Fallon added that the allegations lack “a shred of evidence,” which
is convenient given that Mrs. Clinton might have destroyed some
evidence by wiping her private email server.
The media have
exposed a wealth of new facts, but the stories are as notable for how
familiar this all seems. Can anyone honestly claim to be surprised?
This is how the Clintons
conduct their politics and family business, to the extent these are
separate enterprises. The Clinton Foundation is a nominal philanthropy
that was really created as a vast fund-raising operation to promote
Bill’s post-Presidential career and Hillary’s pre-Presidential one.
on Earth would they cash the checks? They had to know these donations
would create at least the appearance of corruption or a conflict of
interest for the nation’s chief diplomat. The Justice Department
recently indicted New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez
merely for lobbying to change a Medicare rule that Medicare refused to
change. The Clintons cashed the checks because they think they can write
their own rules and get away with it.
In this case the Obama
White House understood the potential trouble, which is why it worked out
an agreement with the Clinton Foundation for restrictions on donations
and transparency. The foundation agreed to strictly limit and disclose
foreign donations while Mrs. Clinton ran Foggy Bottom. We have since
learned that the foundation—Super PAC is a more accurate
description—disobeyed these commitments.
In March we learned it
has resumed and ramped up accepting foreign contributions from the likes
of United Arab Emirates even though Mrs. Clinton was already running a
de facto campaign. And now we learn that the foundation didn’t report
the $2.35 million—from former Uranium One chairman Ian Telfer’s family
charity to support one of Mr. Giustra’s Clinton Foundation projects—on
its website as promised. The foundation also says it will now have to
restate its tax returns to account for the foreign donations it didn’t
All of this echoes of the 1990s, as does the Clinton
method of defense, which is to deny, stonewall, assail and change the
subject. Hillary has already tried to deflect the fund-raising fury by
coming out in favor of rewriting the First Amendment to limit campaign
contributions. So because the Clintons break the rules, she wants to
impose new limits on political speech on the rest of America.
The 1990s Clinton entourage—Ickes,Blumenthal, Carville, Brock,Begala, Kendall—is already back together and kicking in unison. John Podesta,
her campaign chief, has rolled out the line that it’s all a
“conspiracy,” as if Republicans told Bill and Hill to get in bed with a
uranium magnate. And Mr. Fallon is attacking Mr. Schweizer as a tool of
the Koch brothers.
This is the trick the Clintons have always
used to evade responsibility for their quid pro quo mores. In Arkansas
Governor Bill’s friends helped Hillary make an instant killing in cattle
futures. The couple then refused to disclose their income tax returns
for the years in which they reported this windfall.
In the White
House in the 1990s, their re-election campaign took cash from the
Riadys of Indonesia and various Chinese political operatives. They
rented out the White House for fund-raising “coffees” and sleep-overs,
and don’t forget the Marc Rich pardon as they were leaving the White House. This was all right-wing propaganda too.
Clinton has been cruising to the Democratic Presidential nomination
without serious competition, largely on the belief that Democratic
voters have no other choice. Accept Hillary or get a Republican. The
operating Clinton assumption is that the “progressives” who are normally
outraged by pay-to-play politics, and who pretended that Halliburton
ran the Pentagon because Dick Cheney was once CEO, will fall meekly into line as they always have.
they will, though the 2016 election risks of doing so are rising with
each disclosure of Clinton sleaze. Maybe America’s oldest political
party will decide that it isn’t helpless to defeat a couple of
Arkansas-turned-New York panhandlers who want a free ride to another
extended lease on the White House. If nothing else, the past few weeks
make clear that voters who expect the Clinton method to change are
The Clinton Scandal Manual
Will the stock Clinton scandal response be enough to weather this storm?
Kimberley A. Strassel
Say this about Bill and Hillary Clinton:
They are predictable. Some politicians dare to change, even to evolve,
but not the former first couple. In these uncertain political times,
Team Clinton’s lack of ethics—and its stock response when caught—is our
The details change, of course. In 1978 it was
lucrative cattle futures; in 2014 it was lucrative speeches. In the
1990s it was missing Whitewater and Rose Law firm records; today it is
missing emails. In 2000 it was cash for pardons; now it’s cash for
Russian uranium mines. In Little Rock, it was Bill’s presidential
campaign vehicle; in New York, it’s Hillary’s—and now known as the
Clinton Foundation. Details.
The standard operating procedure
never changes, however. It is as if the Clintons have—filed within easy
reach on a shelf—a book titled “Clinton Scandals for Dummies.”
One: “Pick Your Spots.” The Clintons flourish in that hazy interface
between legal and lawless. Their dealings always stink, but are rarely
blatantly or provably (or traceably) corrupt. Consider this week’s news.
Yes, tons of donor cash flowed to the Clinton Foundation at the same
time Mrs. Clinton’s State Department was greenlighting deals helping
those donors. But prove there was a quid pro quo! The Clintons dare you.
They know you likely can’t, since Chapter Two is “Limit Those
Paper Trails.” Remember those “misplaced” 1990s documents, but also
reread the 2000 report from the House Committee on Government Reform
titled “The Failure to Produce [Clinton] White House E-Mails: Threats,
Obstruction and Unanswered Questions.” The Clintons learned it took
effort to keep documents secret. These days, they make sure there are no
documents at all. (Mrs. Clinton, which emails would you like us to
delete? Just search for key words “yoga,” “wedding” and “uranium.”)
Three: “Remember, the Press Has ADD.” Pixar’s “Up” features Dug, a cute
dog with a serious attention problem (“squirrel!!!”). This is how the
Clintons view the media. Pettable. Unfocused. When caught, the Clinton
communications team will issue lofty dismissals—calling charges baseless
or old news—and wait for the press to believe it. If it doesn’t, Team
Clinton will hold one press conference—a la Mrs. Clinton’s email
event—and wait for the media to call the case closed. If it doesn’t,
they will change the subject (Hillary is running for president!
Squirrel!!!) and wait for the press to lose interest. It often does.
if all else fails, there is Chapter Four: “Vast Right-Wing
Conspiracy”—or VRWC. Mrs. Clinton’s conspiracy shtick is today a bit of a
joke, but it doesn’t make it any less effective. It works to cast any
serious investigation of Clinton behavior as a partisan witch hunt, and
therefore illegitimate. And it does work. Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell
is going to jail on dubious claims of trading favors for money. Could
an enterprising prosecutor cobble together a similar case against
Hillary? Undoubtedly. But no one will for fear of being accused of doing
a Republican hit job on the Clintons.
The rest of the book
falls under the heading “Stockholm Syndrome,” and consists of tactics
for convincing fellow Democrats that the Clinton machine is inevitable.
The Democratic Party has for so long been held psychologically hostage
to the Clinton scandal factory, a part of it—albeit an aging part—has
forgotten there is happy, normal life. So (for now at least) it sticks
with its captors.
The question is whether this model, perfected
in an earlier age, can hold—especially under the cascade of scandals.
Times have changed. There’s more competition in the media these days
(blogs, cable, podcasts) and that’s kept pressure on traditional outlets
to keep digging into the Clinton Foundation money story. So much so
that this week Mrs. Clinton had to escalate to VRWC.
Democratic Party has changed. It’s now more Obama than Clinton, its left
dominated by progressives who didn’t grow up under Hillary, and don’t
much like her. They want Elizabeth Warren,
and what surely terrifies the Clintons is the potential party explosion
were the Massachusetts senator to jump in at this moment of
vulnerability. Would it take much to send the party bolting to a fresher
female firebrand—without the baggage?
Maybe not, because Mrs.
Clinton isn’t putting on the best show. She never had Bill’s political
charm, and her years out of elected politics are showing. She looks
grim. She looks cautious—hedging her bets, refusing to take positions.
She looks out of touch, in the Scooby-Doo van. Mrs. Warren doesn’t have
any of these problems.
The most likely scenario is still that
the Clintons prevail—the media lets go the stories, the party sticks
with the $2.5 billion woman. But as the Clintons replay the scandal
script, and keep adding liabilities to Hillary’s campaign, you have to
imagine a growing number of Democrats are wondering: what if? The
Clintons might, at the very least, want to consider updating that
President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton in September 1998.
Ron Sachs/Zuma Press