Monday, April 20, 2015


If pollsters ask, Americans say they don't like money in politics. But name me some recent politicians who've been turned out of office by voters because they engaged in quid pro quos in exchange for cash. No, I don't mean Scott Brown, who lost to a candidate angry about corruption in general but who wasn't defeated specifically because of his dirty deeds. And no, I don't mean pols who've been brought up on charges. Who gets in trouble with voters for this sort of thing?

There ought to be a point at which doing the bidding of your donors raises such a stink of corruption that it's counterproductive at the polls -- but I don't see that, for members of either party. Which is why I think this New York Times story could just be breathless hype:
... “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer -- a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities -- is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes.

His examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department....
And in the general election Hillary's opponent will be ... who? Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? No. Her opponent will be a Republican who's very much bought and paid for. (Here, for instance, is a new Politico story about Norman Braman, a self-made billionaire who's prepared to give Marco Rubio $10 million to $25 million -- surely out of pure altruism, right?)

Oh, but this is foreign. Well, that will inspire voter outrage if it goes beyond the usual bounds, with foreigners we consider truly hostile, not merely unsavory. Remember, we had a president not long ago who literally held hands with a Saudi prince. And the guy behind Iran-contra a few decades ago is spoken of with religious reverence by every Republican in America. So we have a high tolerance for deals with foreigners as well. (Remember, it was Reagan's vice president who succeeded in winning a third presidential term for their party, so we obviously didn't hold an Iran-contra grudge for very long.)

Of course, the press can treat the Clinton revelations as so unspeakably awful that they're shocking even by our usual standards, even if they're not particularly remarkable, and the public may buy that narrative. Ask Brian Williams and Bill O'Reilly about how press double standards can tailor public perceptions. We can see from the Times story that the plan is to make this seem worse than the usual run of mutual back-scratching:
But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.
We need to clean house politically -- but we haven't done it up to now, and we routinely reelect pols who take a lot of money from a lot of sources for a lot of favors, so this should just be more of the same.

Here's the thing: We will elect a corrupt president in 2016. That's simply a fact. The question is whether we'll elect a corrupt president who'll take a wrecking ball to what's left of the social safety apparatus, to voting rights, to reproductive rights, to progressive taxation, and so on.

I say: Vote for the left-centrist crook, as opposed to one of the other crooks. It's important.


Danp said...

I think the bigger question is how do contributions to the Clinton Foundation make Hillary rich? Speaking fees? C'mon. How much should we expect a politician to compromise positions for these payments? I'd be more concerned about political donations and insider trading tips.

Victor said...

Tammany Hall was as corrupt as hell!
Yet, they built a lot of what NYers use to this day.

Corruption is bad, in and of itself - but it's far worse, when the public doesn't benefit from it!

RonB said...

The fix is in. But good. The Democratic establishment will give the peons just enough to stop from rising up in anger. They've been doing it for over a hundred years or more. But I'll take that over the free market, Christian hell that a Republican will bring.

petrilli said...

Regarding scandals, my Boardwalk Empire era aunt used to say that all politicians steal, but the Democrats will leave little on the table for us. The Republicans take it all and leave nothing.

A fairly predictable way for most voters to process their support for a tainted candidate.

But if the scandal involves an actual taint, all bets are off.

Unknown said...

This is just classic swiftboating, trying to turn a huge positive for Hillary (her connection with the Clinton Foundation) into something so toxic she'll be afraid to mention it. The Clinton Foundation has done a lot of good in the world. In the absence of any facts proving "corruption", all these rumors do is create yet another cloud of scandal around her, and the sense that "where there's smoke, there's fire."