There is a Monty Python sketch in which a hopelessly aristocratic gentleman played by Graham Chapman says that his surname is spelled “Throat-warbler-mangrove” but that it is pronounced “Luxury yacht.” Similarly, when I see the name “Clinton” in print I immediately think it should be pronounced “Show-me-the-money.”
To be sure there were a lot of rolled eyes and grimaces inside the beltway when Hillary declared somewhat hyperbolically in June of last year that she and her husband were dead broke and deeply in debt when they left the White House in January 2001. Even then the Clinton avarice was well known to observers, including pre-departure debates about what “gifts” to the presidency they could take with them. The impending division of the spoils of office spawned jokes about the First Family exiting with the White House silver tucked into its suitcases. In reality, most of the alleged Clinton debt was due to legal expenses connected to lawsuits relating to Whitewater, Paula Jones and the attempted impeachment of Bill for perjury. Many of the legal fees were actually covered by a defense fund set up by current Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and it is doubtful whether the lawyers really expected to get paid fully since defending the president was then and still is now good publicity.
Since those dark days, the Clintons have certainly made sure that they will enjoy a comfortable retirement. One does not expect former senior politicians to forego gorging on the spoils available through revealing inside accounts of their time in office, but the Clinton’s are singular in terms of both their greed and their hubristic sense of entitlement. Bill’s post-presidential memoir produced a publisher’s advance of $15 million and Hillary’s two books added $21 million more. Bill has made at least $136.5 million, mostly from speaking engagements, between 2001 and 2012 and Hillary, having left the Obama Administration in 2012, is now earning even more than he is per speech on the circuit. It is estimated that she has made at least $12 million since her leaving the State Department at the end of 2012. Even the Clinton son-in-law hedge fund manager Marc Mezvinsky is reportedly cashing in on Bill and Hillary’s ability to network with the wealthy.
The Clinton family fortune is conservatively estimated to be $55 million, making Bill the wealthiest ex-president. The Clinton Foundation, administered separately from their private wealth, had assets totaling nearly $278 million at the end of 2013. Bill also receives a federal government pension currently set at $221,000 per annum which presumably is supplemented by an Arkansas state pension from his time as governor and Hillary’s pension as both a former Senator and Secretary of States is also substantial.
Now bear in mind that no one gives in excess of $100 million to anyone just to listen to a boilerplate twenty minute speech while chewing on some rubbery hotel chicken. There is a quid pro quo. Power brokers in the United States and elsewhere, who forked over all the cash, do so with the clear understanding that the Clintons are far from finished politically. Hillary could well be the next president of the United States and Bill would presumably be the First Philanderer. Both would be well positioned to return favors. That makes Bill and Hillary money magnets and neither has ever been known to turn down a buck. Or rather 300,000 bucks which is reported to be Hillary’s current rate as a speaker, plus travel on a private gulfstream jet to include her speech “team,” luxury hotel accommodations for all, and very specific instructions on chairs, cushions, podia, sound and teleprompter systems, snacks backstage and even the supply of water and lemon wedges for onstage.
Given all of the above, it was particularly unpleasant to read recently about the extent to which the Clintons have been tapping the U.S. taxpayer. The Former Presidents Act provides taxpayer support for the offices maintained by ex-presidents but characteristically the Clintons have abused the largesse by mingling their personal finances with the accountings for their Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which is a global non-profit that includes both charitable elements and initiatives for investors. Media reports indicate that the Clintons have been using taxpayer provided money to cover pensions, travel and office expenses as well as the salaries and benefits of the employees working for the foundation. The bill will come to $16 million, which might include as much as $1 million for infrastructure relating to the private internet server system that Hillary used while at the State Department and another $873,000 for the Clinton penthouse office in Manhattan.
To be sure there is much about the Clintons to give one pause apart from their greed, mostly in the area of foreign policy. Bill signed on to a bloody air war directed against Serbia and attacked non-existent “enemy” targets in Afghanistan and Sudan using cruise missiles to divert attention from his affair with Monica Lewinsky. He also appointed completely unqualified cronies to important senior positions at State Department and the National Security Council.
And going back farther, Hillary’s connection with the life and death of Vince Foster continues to intrigue some as does her difficulty in keeping records and maintaining accountability in general, going back to her vanishing law office papers in her Arkansas days but continuing into the present with her email problems at State Department.
More recently, Hillary was the driving force behind the ill-conceived national health insurance scheme promoted during her husband’s first term in office. She also failed to disclose large contributions to the Clinton Foundation made by foreign governments while she was Secretary of State. Emulating Bill in the area of foreign aggression, she was the principal proponent of the war against Libya which has brought chaos to the Libyans and proliferating terrorism throughout North Africa and her possible role in the subsequent deaths of four American diplomats has yet to be resolved. It has also been noted that Hillary is hawkish by nearly every metric, including her expressed desire to bomb Syria and be suspicious of any agreement made with Iran over its nuclear program. Victoria Nuland, currently agitating for a war with Russia, is a Hillary protege. If she is in fact elected her major financial supporter will undoubtedly have been Israeli Haim Saban who has said he will spend whatever it takes to elect her and has also declared that he is a one issue guy and that issue is Israel.
There is surely a touch of sleaze and self-righteous entitlement that surrounds the Clintons, though one might argue that it also applies as well to the Bushes, who hide it better since they have had serious money for at least three generations. And for those who argue that every ex-President and First Lady behave the same, the answer is no, they don’t. Harry Truman had to sell the family farm to make ends meet after he left office, which led to the passing of the Former Presidents Act. Dwight Eisenhower lived modestly on a farm in Pennsylvania. Jimmy Carter, a terrible president but an exemplary ex-president, has devoted himself to humanitarian projects and charities and Ronald Reagan likewise did not scramble for money after he left office. Indeed, most former Presidents have considered it unseemly to personally profit from their time in office and a relatively impecunious Jerry Ford was on the receiving end of unfavorable commentary when he made speeches for money after he was defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976. The only other former head of government to rival the Clintons in terms of exploiting high office for cash is ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a politician often compared to Bill Clinton, who is now reported to be worth seventy million pounds, nearly 105 million dollars.
Most important, because when you take money from someone they will expect something in return, the American public has to ask to what extent that will apply to President Hillary Clinton, being awash with cash from foreign sources with political agendas as well as domestic contributors who have their own axes to grind. It is all too reminiscent of the Bush family with its ties to Saudi Arabia, which clearly impacted on the after-the-fact investigation of the events surrounding 9/11. The Horatio Alger story of single mother raised poor boy from Arkansas William Jefferson Clinton making good through hard work is fine as far as it goes, but American government has already been far too corrupted through the buying of influence, so much so that it threatens our republic. Do we really want to vote for someone in 2016 who accepts the principle that there is nothing wrong in exploiting high office to make money and who has already proceeded far down that road?