Hillary Clinton's Machine Sputters
You might as well make yourselves comfortable.
That’s advice Republican presidential candidates might want to follow, given how often they will be summoned to Iowa over the next nine months or so to explain themselves to the state's notoriously demanding voters.
This weekend, they'll be turning up to prove their evangelical fervor at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, part of the national organization created by Ralph Reed in 2009, after his fall from grace as head of the Christian Coalition.
Reed has sufficiently rehabilitated himself to have some status as a Republican power broker. So the party's candidates and would-be candidates have to make repeated appearances in Iowa and take positions on issues such as abortion, gays, guns, educational standards and climate change that they end up regretting in the general election.
This time, though, Republicans may not have to bow so low. They have an ace in the hole: Hillary Clinton. Her name can be used as a magic incantation to change the subject at will, get out of any tricky situation and instantly make the toughest Republican crowd forget all that nitpicking about conservative bona fides or a lack of agenda.
Unfortunately for the former first lady and secretary of state, it doesn't work in reverse. There are just too many Republicans to pick one to go after and she has no primary opposition worth mentioning (apologies to Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley).
And that's not Clinton’s only challenge. In addition to parrying the attacks of the Republican pack, she has to fend off the press and her prior selves.
But Extreme Makeover Hillary Clinton 2016 Edition began to sputter almost from the moment she formally announced her candidacy via a cameo in a video on April 12. As she sought to prove she's one of us by driving (well, with a driver) from New York to Davenport, Iowa, she made a stop in a Chipotle. The grainy security camera footage showed a dour woman in huge dark glasses who could either been upset about the upcharge for guacamole or holding up the place.
Her aides must have decided Everywoman needed a rest because their candidate flew first class from New Hampshire this week to meet with wealthy donors at lawyer Vernon Jordan’s house in Washington.
To be fair, the press isn't helping. Reporters didn’t even give the Normality Tour a chance to look normal, as they chased Hillary's Scooby van with a fervor usually reserved for O.J. on the Los Angeles Freeway or the final stage of Tour de France.
It got worse. No sooner had she left Iowa for New Hampshire, a feeding frenzy began over the imminent publication of “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer. The press reverted to its default position, which is to be suspicious about how the Clinton Foundation, and the once "dead-broke" Clintons, piled up huge amounts of cash.
The New York Times got a copy of the book in advance of its May 5 publication and summarized its basic charge on Monday: Countries, potentates and governments -- some of them unsavory -- funneled money to the Clinton Foundation and to Bill Clinton through donations and high speaking fees ($13.3 million for 54 appearances, mostly abroad, earning the premium amount of $500,000 for 11 speeches during his wife’s tenure at state). Schweizer asserts, with multiple examples, that those who paid up were simultaneously seeking favors from the State Department.
Schweizer is being attacked by Democrats as a conservative writer with an axe to grind, although he’s writing a similar book about Jeb Bush’s financial self-dealing.
What the book has done is unleash the press to dig deeper for disturbing if not illegal benefits that accrued to donors to Clinton Inc. On Thursday, the Times showed in meticulous detail how cash from Canadian mining entrepreneurs at Uranium One found its way to the Clinton Foundation as the Canadians were selling their company to the Russian state-owned nuclear energy company. The deal gave Russia control of one-fifth of the world’s uranium and required approval by the federal government, including the State Department. The donations, which included $2.35 million from the chairman of Uranium One, weren't publicly disclosed by the foundation, even though Hillary Clinton had signed an agreement with the Obama administration requiring disclosure of all donors as a condition of becoming secretary of state.
Shortly after the deal, Bill got $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank promoting Uranium One stock.
Hillary's spokesman, Brian Fallon, has pointed out that there's no evidence the secretary delivered anything of value to those who forked over the speaking fees and donations. Did she do something she wouldn’t have done but for the money changing hands? The difficulty of proving such quid pro quos is the reason more politicians aren’t driven from office or in prison.
It should be easy to check, right? There are e-mails, right? Oops.
In New Hampshire, Clinton called all of it a “distraction” and said how much she “looked forward” to getting back to the issues. That may be a tall order even if she dropped Everywoman for Superwoman. A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday found that 54 percent of those surveyed thought the former secretary was "not honest and trustworthy."
If the past is a guide, Hillary won’t deal with the claims one by one, but blame a vast right-wing conspiracy. She may have a secret weapon of her own: It's a fair bet that Republicans will pile on so hard this weekend that she'll end up looking like the underdog.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.
To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.
If you believe that you may have received this message in error please let us know.
- Putin Won at the Ballot Box. He's Losing Elsewhere.
- There's a Blamer-in-Chief in the Oval Office
- Cambridge Analytica Behaved Appallingly. Don't Overreact.
- Warren Buffett Is Just an Average Employee
- McCabe's Firing Wasn't Political. Until Trump Made It Political.
- The Population Bomb Has Been Defused
- Putin's Hawks Got the Confirmation They Wanted