Here are a couple of things you may not know about recent topics in the news.
First, no Secretary of State prior to Hillary Clinton had ever used a government email address or preserved their messages for posterity. And why should they? The law requiring cabinet members to do so didn’t go into effect until after Clinton left office.
(Presumably to make one-stop shopping easier for Chinese and Russian hackers. But I digress.)
Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell deleted his emails. Every single one. Condoleezza Rice has said that she simply never used email, which may even be true.
Second, as of 2011 former president George W. Bush had earned at least $15 million giving speeches mainly to corporate and Republican groups. Politico has found more recent information hard to find. It’s private and confidential.
In 2011, Bush pocketed $100,000 to speak at a fundraiser for a homeless shelter in McKinney, Texas. The shelter’s director called the event a success, adding that the former president was his usual charming self. Bush’s standard practice is that reporters aren’t invited and recording devices are not allowed.
“Relative to the Clintons, though,” Politico notes “he’s attracted considerably less attention.” Maybe that’s because George W. Bush has no close relatives running for president. So that when he accepts $250,000 for speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, it’s not an issue. This event is widely known as the “Sheldon Adelson Primary,” after the billionaire casino magnate who openly auditions GOP hopefuls who oppose online gambling and support Israel.
Anyway, aren’t they all up for sale, the candidates? Clintons, Bushes, Walkers, Cruzes, Perrys, the lot.
Open for business, every single one.
Somehow, however, what would appear the least objectionable buck raking by a presidential candidate during the 2016 campaign cycle has become the most controversial. I refer, of course, to the Clinton Foundation, Hillary and Bill Clinton’s $2 billion charitable enterprise.
The Clinton Foundation is credited, among other things, with providing cut-rate HIV drugs to patients throughout the Third World, hearing aids for deaf children in Botswana, and earthquake relief in Haiti; the foundation even fights elephant poaching in Africa — reportedly a passion of Chelsea and Hillary Clinton’s. (And of every other decent human being on Earth.)
Interestingly, the Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold recently produced a remarkably fair, snark-free account of the Clinton Foundation and its proprietor, a veritable force of nature. Despite being a longtime acquaintance of his, like thousands of Arkansans I almost can’t comprehend the life Bill Clinton has chosen. His life of endless banquets, celebrity galas, and international jetting around would make me crazy.
But then what have I done for the destitute and afflicted? Watched a lot of Red Sox games and read a thousand novels — that’s what.
Meanwhile, the thing to understand about the swirl of innuendo and accusation concerning this remarkable enterprise is that it’s yet another “Swift Boat”-style operation. Written by a career political operative named Peter Schweizer, the book Clinton Cash amounts to little more than a conspiracy theory touted by the same newspapers that promoted the Whitewater hoax and cheered on Kenneth Starr and his leak-o-matic prosecutors.
Aptly described by Michael Tomasky in the New York Review of Books as an “imitation of journalism,” Clinton Cash basically assembles circumstantial evidence about various potentates and high flyers in the Clintons’ orbit. Assuming venal motives, it then leaps to conclusions unsupported by fact. In most instances, the author hasn’t even interviewed his targets.
After making a promotional deal with Schweizer, The New York Times devoted 4,400 words to a jumbled narrative involving a Canadian mining executive who’d pledged half his income to the Clinton Foundation and the subsequent sale of a Wyoming uranium mine to Russian interests.
Way down at the bottom, however, the determined reader learned that Secretary of State Clinton played no role in the deal whatsoever. At least none that the Times could find. It’s pure supposition.
The newspaper then remained silent as Schweizer appeared on conservative talk shows depicting the foundation as a giant slush fund devoting only 10 percent of its budget to charity. In fact, according to the American Institute of Philanthropy, the real number is 89 percent — an A rating.
Look, any cynic can play at this. Check out your hometown society page. That doctor’s wife at the Heart Fund gala: Is it about charity, or about people back home in Turkey Scratch seeing her socializing with a Walmart heiress? How about the architect? Does he care about sick kids, or is he about getting the contract for the new hospital wing named for the heiress?
Does Bill Clinton do all this for humanity, or does he just need more attention and admiration than us “normal” people? Does Hillary want to be president for America’s sake, or for her own?
The correct answer is all of the above.
But when journalists cry corruption, make them prove it.
Photo: Kate Wellington via Flickr