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Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, And Ignoring The Past

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Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, And Ignoring The Past


At least we’d know what to expect from them. That’s the cheeriest way to cast the latest in presidential dynasty news.

Hillary Clinton lived up (or should we say down?) to past patterns and current expectations by proposing an ambitious college affordability plan one day, then — after stalling for months — agreeing the next day to give the FBI the private server she used for all her emails while she was Secretary of State.

Jeb Bush, meanwhile, gave a foreign policy address in which he downplayed his brother’s epic mistake of invading Iraq and blamed Clinton and President Obama for the chaos and tragedy now plaguing the region. We should have stayed longer and done more, he says. Sound familiar?

History inevitably repeats itself with this pair.

Clinton’s email misadventures remind me of Winston Churchill’s remark that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried.” In her case, it’s transparency that is the worst alternative — except when there’s no other alternative.

The late Howard Baker, the senior Republican on the Senate committee investigating the Watergate scandal that felled Richard Nixon, said it best: “It is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.” In other words, secrets rarely keep, so get ahead of the damage with fast, full disclosure.

Clinton was not exactly unfamiliar with Watergate. In fact, as a young attorney in 1974, she was a Watergate investigator and impeachment advisor on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee. The lesson on cover-ups obviously didn’t take then. But you’d think she would have learned it during her time as First Lady.

Those eight years were defined by the Clinton administration’s early refusal to give The Washington Post records it requested about a failed land deal called Whitewater. “Hillary had persuaded the president to stonewall the Post,” former Clinton administration aide George Stephanopoulos wrote in his memoir, All Too Human. She and two other advisors, all three of them “tough trial lawyers,” he said, “were determined to follow a close-hold strategy more appropriate to corporate litigation than presidential politics.”

Whitewater, in the end, was little more than a failed real estate investment. As Stephanopoulos wrote, the country probably wouldn’t have cared about “the ins and outs of an old land deal as long as it didn’t look as if the Clintons had something to hide.” But the stonewalling led to a sprawling, bizarre investigation that in turn led to exposure of Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky, House impeachment charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, and Senate votes on the charges that fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to remove him from office.

Granted, many aspects of Hillary Clinton’s current email situation are astonishing — starting with the fact that she never had an official government email address and mixed yoga plans with state affairs on her private account. But especially, given her past, the months of refusing to turn over the server ranks right up there on the raised-eyebrow scale.

As for Bush, he gave his speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and was explicit about the symbolism. He called Reagan a leader of “clarity and resolve … who took command of events” and “conceded nothing to America’s enemies.”

The real Reagan was more nuanced. After terrorists killed 241 sleeping U.S. Marines and service personnel in a 1983 attack in Beirut, he withdrew all U.S. troops — a signal of weakness in the eyes of some advisors. Later, in a forerunner to Obama’s Iran negotiations, Reagan opened nuclear arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union, which he had called the “evil empire.”

Bush did not get into any of that. He mainly railed at Obama’s “premature withdrawal” from Iraq, “minimalist approach of incremental escalation” against the Islamic State, and an Iran nuclear deal he called “unwise in the extreme.” Like almost every Republican running for president, he puts a premium on fighting, or helping others fight, until the bad guys in the region are defeated or dead. He appeared to rule out a large combat force even as he called for expanded U.S. military operations in the region and said more U.S. troops “may well be needed.”

But how can we ever do enough, stay long enough, to end centuries of strife and make it stick? Haven’t we learned by now that nothing is ever enough, that our presence can make things worse, and that this is not our problem to solve?

Apparently, Bush still believes we can determine the fate of the Middle East at the point of an American gun or training program or no-fly zone. And Clinton still believes she can play by her own rules. Both are unnerving in their own ways.

Follow Jill Lawrence on Twitter @JillDLawrence. To find out more about Jill Lawrence and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Photos: Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate former Florida governor Jeb Bush answers a question at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk). U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States, July 17, 2015. (REUTERS/Jim Young)

Jill Lawrence

Award-winning journalist Jill Lawrence is a nationally syndicated columnist and a contributing editor to U.S. News & World Report. She also contributed to The Surge: 2014's Big GOP Win and What It Means for the Next Presidential Race (2015). Lawrence has discussed political and policy developments on television, radio, and many other media outlets. She was an adjunct professorial lecturer at American University in 2014, teaching on the relationship between politics and the media.

Lawrence has covered every presidential campaign since 1988, as well as historic events such as the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, the Clinton impeachment, the Florida recount, and the 1993 and 2009 battles over health reform.

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  1. Dominick Vila August 13, 2015

    The problems that Hillary and Jeb are facing have nothing to do with dynasties or the past. Both have failed to articulate proposals to solve problems or concerns shared by most Americans, and when they try to do it they usually put their foot in their mouth, and spent days clarifying the clarifications, or look like the tail wagging the dog, as was the case for Hillary’s free college tuition proposal. Their problems are further exacerbated by the fact that they are not charismatic, and often seem out of touch with the realities of our daily lives.
    Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have been the main beneficiaries of Hillary’s and Jeb’s political shortcomings, and it seems unlikely that either of these candidates will be able to overcome the attraction and support their opponents currently enjoy. Their problems are also caused by the fact that most Americans associate Hillary and Jeb with the establishment, not because of dynastic attributes, but because of their record and the circumstances that surround their lives.
    The most likely outcome is a desperate attempt by our political establishment to champion the emergence of a “white knight” savior. I expect Joe Biden to announce his candidacy before long; and the GOP is likely to spend millions promoting the candidacies of Kasich and Walker to derail Trump’s candidacy. Both parties are in trouble, insofar as the promotion of traditional liberal and conservative values is concerned. The DNC has been blind sided by an Independent, and the GOP by a man whose priorities start and end with what is best for himself.

    1. charleo1 August 13, 2015

      While I agree both Hillary, and Jeb suffer from what is a tremendous lack of enthusiasm from their respective core constituencies. And their own lack of charisma, and fire. I see Democrats as far more likely to show up on election day for Hillary, than core Republicans holding their nose, and showing up for yet another establishment picked guy. Much less another Bush. I just don’t believe they are going to do it this time. It’s true that Sanders and Trump are benefiting from the dissatisfaction of Americans with the two party system in general. But for very dissimilar reasons. The Republican base, convinced they are in the majority. Seem to be extremely frustrated, that in their estimation, the Party, “big wigs,” the Establishment RINOs, refuse to put up more radical candidates, taking ever more radical positions. So, the way they see it, the Country gets a real choice between a really, really radical candidate. Which they see as, “the true Conservative, ” and or, at least something approaching that. To run against what they perceive as a hapless weak kneed, tax and spend Liberal. That is a contest they have no doubt they’ll win. So you’re right in that, if Bush looks like he’s not going to be able to pull this off, and get Trump out of the running. They’ll offer them Walker, or Kasich, or even Rubio, or Cruz. Like a Mother offers her little one peas. Mu-mm.. These are so good!! Here, eat this! You like peas, they’re good for you! Now, I could be very wrong. But I think the GOP base has had it with settling for candidates like Bush. They really do want Trump. And, no matter what he says or does, as long as he doesn’t hug Obama, he’s going to be their guy.

      The way I see the success Burnie Sanders is having, is he articulating is very strong terms the message core Democrats want to send loud and clear to the DNC, and establishment Dems at all levels, across the board. Namely so it seems to me. Is that we’ve got a radical, out of control GOP on our hands. That, if elected, would in all likelihood would cripple the Middle Class, starve the poor, treat immigrants like fascists, and have the Country up to it’s collective eyeballs in another multi-trillion dollar war in the Mid East, within a year of any one of them becoming President. So we want you to quit going along with them. Especially on the big issues, because you’re afraid of their powerful lobbies, or love the campaign cash from the big donors. In other words, I see Burnie Sanders at least so far, as being more a shot across the bow of the DNC, from the Left, than a serious threat to Hillary’s campaign. Barring any catastrophe from the e-mail server investigation, the Left Wing will show up, and support her, if she’s the nominee. And I just cannot see Biden entering, unless there’s an emergency.

      1. Harbinger08 August 13, 2015

        I would also agree with your assessment. Sanders is pulling together enthusiastic crowds from the party’s activist left and a lot of OWS, and he is helping to move the conversation left. The party will shift when and if large numbers of people show up to vote every election and demand it. And by large numbers I mean at least enough to win primaries for house seats at the bare minimum. Sander’s crowds are nice, but tens of thousands don’t stack so high when compared to all those who never go to rallies, don’t hang out on line, mostly keep their politics to themselves , and then show up and vote for their party every single election. They number in the tens of millions. I don’t see Clinton as being in trouble so far. But it’s still early.

        1. RED August 13, 2015

          I see your point but let’s also remember that only about 1/3 of eligible voters actually vote. How many of those that show up for Sanders speeches vote? I guarantee you it’s way more than just a third.

          1. Harbinger08 August 13, 2015

            Very true. That is why I made the point that having an effect on primaries is so important, when a smaller overall coalition can have a much bigger effect than they do in the general. This entails getting more progressive candidates nominated over more conservative Democrat incumbents. Look how much clout the Tea Party types suddenly got once they started showing they were capable of knocking out incumbents. House and Senate can in many ways be far more important than the Oval Office. Sander’s Movement and OWS folks would do best to try to accomplish something on that front if they are going to the polls anyway. Of course it can be a double-edged sword if you eliminate an incumbent to put in a weak alternative, only to lose what would have been a sure thing. Think Christine O’Donnell, or Todd Aiken. No one is the party is going to respect that, saddling the party with a loser, it is just failure. Did you see the story how Claire McCaskill suckered the far right Republican primary voters into picking Aiken, who she was able to beat, instead of a more moderate choice? It was nicely done. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/todd-akin-missouri-claire-mccaskill-2012-121262.html#.VczpMqyFO70 She won in a state (MO) where Romney got 55%. I welcome the enthusiasm of the Sanders folks, and I like him a lot, but they really need to up their political sophistication as to how you get it done and what works. I have one constant measure to go by among all the variables of policies and candidates: I am sick of Republicans winning.

      2. Karen Bille-Golden August 13, 2015

        If Biden entered how do you think he would fare? He has a different image problem to overcome

        1. Louis Allen August 13, 2015

          He would come in second ……

          To Bongo, the Barnum & Bailey Clown…..

        2. Dominick Vila August 13, 2015

          I don’t think Biden has a chance to win, regardless of who the GOP nominee is. At this point, we either support Hillary and hope for the best, or support Bernie who seems to be attracting a lot more attention than all other candidates, other than Trump.

        3. charleo1 August 14, 2015

          Look, I think Joe Biden is an honest, and honorable man, who cares very deeply about all the most important things in life. His family, his Creator, and the Country that I believe in his heart he credits with giving him so much opportunity to have the life he’s been privileged to live. That’s why it was so very sad to see this dedicated public servant, and just a good man, lose his young Son like that. A Son with so much promise. Such an unlimited future. I got the impression Bo most likely carried many of Joe’s ambitions for the future with him when he died. That’s why I don’t get the impression Joe Biden will seek the Presidency, unless some very unlikely circumstances emerge. Much has been speculated about Bo asking his Father to run. A very touching story, and speculation is always fun, and fills a newspaper column on a slow day. But is hardly a compelling reason for voters to support a Biden campaign. But he may fool me, and run. Somebody once remarked, that every politician in Washington has a special suit, and tie in their closet they are saving to wear when they accept the oath of office for POTUS. So we’ll see.

          1. Karen Bille-Golden August 14, 2015

            That’s a nice tribute to a good man. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Hillary is the candidate with the most experience and likelihood of winning but a lot can change. At least we are looking at 3 people who would champion for the middle class.

          2. charleo1 August 14, 2015

            Thanks. Like a lot of people, I like, and respect Joe Biden. And wish him and his family well. And, it appears we’re on the same page with regards to both the declared, and potential candidates. Proving for me anyway, the Dems are a lot more united on the issues than the so called Conservatives.

      3. Dominick Vila August 13, 2015

        Today’s Hillary is not the same Hillary I voted for the last time she ran for President. Whomever is advising her has turned her into a candidate that can only be described as the best remedy to insomnia. Her heart does not seem to be in the fight. She is way too subdued, too determined to look presidential, n too afraid to tackle controversial issues.
        Having said that, she may elicit more enthusiasm…and votes than Joe Biden.

        1. Karen Bille-Golden August 13, 2015

          I agree about Hillary. What do you think are Joe Biden’s shortcomings?

          1. Louis Allen August 13, 2015

            Instead, let’s list his strong points, as follows:


            Oh well …..

          2. Dominick Vila August 13, 2015

            Biden is a nice, honest, guy but he doesn’t have any charisma, his proposals are too simplistic, and he comes across as the ideal Nr. 2 man, loyal and always willing to backup his boss. In a nutshell, after many years in politics, he has never shown leadership qualities and has trouble articulating basic policies, let alone a political platform. At this point. Bernie Sanders may be the best hope for Democrats to keep the White House in 2016.

        2. charleo1 August 14, 2015

          I agree. First we wondered if she would run. And now that she’s declared, some of us are wondering when she’s going to start. I like her makeover, she looks 10 years younger than she did in some of those pics of her as SOS. Personally, if it were me, and I’d spent the last 50 years doing this kind of work. Had a new Grandchild, a big nice home, had had this hugely successful career, a 100 million or so in the bank. I might think, tell me again why I need this crap at this stage in my life? Because we all know, no run for the Presidency, no issue with the e-mails, no FBI investigation, no Congressional hearings, etc. With her Party having a better than 75/80% chance of retaining the WH. with or without her. But that’s probably why Hillary is Hillary, and I’m not. Me? I wouldn’t accept the job of President if they offered it to me on a silver platter, and made me 20 years younger to boot.

    2. FireBaron August 13, 2015

      Hi Guys. Well, unfortunately when both Hillary and Jeb believe themselves to be the inevitable candidates for their parties, it gets hard to nail either one of them down to specific proposals or recommendations. All their campaigns consist of are why the voters (primary or general election) should NOT choose the other candidates. So Hillary’s folks denigrate the proposals by Webb, Chaffee, Sanders, et al, without saying why their proposals wouldn’t work. Jeb’s folks do the same for the 457,000 other declared Republican candidates while telling people to ignore THE DONALD as he is NOT a REAL POLITICIAN!

      1. Dominick Vila August 13, 2015

        I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not ignoring any of the proposals that Sen. Sanders is making. The problem is that implementing them requires the evil “T”, and that will be enough to torpedo the candidacy of any politician in an environment where so many people believe the government is the problem, and paying for what we need and benefit from is the epitome of evil.
        The fact that we are falling behind on almost every front does not seem to bother those whose only concern is being able to buy the latest gadget Made in China, testing, and taking pictures of themselves. No wonder The Donald, the ultimate narcissist is so popular.

  2. Lucy Grace August 13, 2015

    I just want to thank everyone here for making comments that are polite and rational. I read articles from a number of places and the disgusting, crude remarks and name calling make me fear for our society. This explains Trump’s appeal; many people actually believe his rude, childish behavior is not just acceptable but actually to be praised as “honest.” The internet fosters bad manners by allowing people to sit at computers and say horrible things without having to face those they are insulting of fear any real consequences. Soon, everyone is trying to outdo everyone else in coming up with crude insults. So, when I see so many people making mature, intelligent responses, I just hope that others will read them and follow that better example.

    1. Harbinger08 August 13, 2015

      Don’t take it too seriously. Rude, foolish belligerent people are highly over represented on the internet. They have nowhere else to go so they live there. I guess you could call them the virtual homeless. It seems like it might be the same hundred people with lots of different names, or might as well be for all the difference. The general population usually doesn’t fool with that kind of nonsense much.

  3. Mike Fakelast August 13, 2015

    This article seems pretty biased, considering we haven’t yet seen whether Hillary actually broke any laws or even caused any problems. I don’t blame her one bit for not turning over her mail server until she was asked for it. Do you know how much personal information would be on her mail server?! She’s complied to this witch hunt in every way possible thus far so maybe we (and the author) should cool it until we’re told she actually did something wrong.

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