Thursday, August 30, 2007


This (From The Times of London) sounds plausible, doesn't it? It's not:

Analysis: the first jolt to the Clinton campaign

The revelation that one of Hillary Clinton's major donors is wanted for fraud is the first time her hitherto relentlessly disciplined campaign has been thrown on the defensive.

... anything remotely smelling of scandal -- this episode included -- revives in people's minds the sleaze that beset her husband's presidency.

...Any financial problems will also be used by her enemies to remind voters of a huge fundraising scandal that beset Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1996, when it emerged that Asian businessmen with links to China were funnelling money to Democrats to try and influence elections.

...After months of Republican scandals, both sexual and financial ... the Hsu episode at least gives Republicans something to crow about....

No it doesn't. Voters are so cynical about campaign finance that all politicians are presumed to be sleazy -- and thus, paradoxically, all of them get a free pass on all but the most egregious revelations. Savvy Republicans know that; they know better than to expect much out of this. Wingnuts will obsess over this. The rest of the public won't care.

In fact, no one much cared at the time about the "huge fundraising scandal that beset Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1996," as a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed in March 1997:

Fund-Raising Flap

Only one in five Americans believes that Clinton's fund-raising activities were illegal, and two-thirds do not feel that the fund-raising controversy is so serious that it makes them doubt Clinton's ability to run the country. By contrast, only bare majorities felt that way about Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair.

...And only 44 percent say Clinton is honest and trustworthy, although 55 percent say he is honest and trustworthy enough to be president. Neither of those figures has changed since 1996, further evidence that the fund-raising controversy has not affected public views of Clinton.

That pretty much sums it up: Lots of people don't think you have to be honest and trustworthy per se to be "honest and trustworthy enough to be president." In this area, we simply don't expect much of our politicians.

(Clinton's overall approval rating at the time of that poll was an impressive 59%, by the way; so was Gore's.)

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