Hillary Clinton may have decided to follow Barack Obama’s example by keeping her rivals at arm’s length. On Thursday, while sizing up the drapes in the Oval Office, the Clinton camp floated the prospect of entombing Vice President Joe Biden in the former first lady’s old haunt at the State Department. The 73-year-old Biden is hardly a threat to Clinton 2020, but he was very much a threat to her in 2016. This trial balloon speaks to how Clinton views those she would draw into her orbit. While some are valued for their utility, others are kept close precisely because they’re a risk.
Call them the Three Bs—Sidney Blumenthal, David Brock, and Doug Band. They’re satellites caught in Hillary Clinton’s gravity that that add more baggage than benefit to the former Secretary of State’s campaign. It’s clear that these are millstones around the candidate’s neck even for Clinton’s inner circle, yet Hillary Clinton just cannot quit them.
Brock, founder of the liberal press criticism outlet Media Matters for America, has spent the 2016 election cycle serving as a Clinton attack dog. The controversy-courting Brock is also a source of headaches for the Clintons. He led the charge to impugn the integrity of Bernie Sanders’ campaign when it became clear the septuagenarian socialist was a real problem. Brock filed lawsuits against the Vermont Senator alleging campaign finance violations and prepared advertisements questioning his physical fitness. The latter move prompted a public brushback pitch from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Privately, Podesta wondered if he should be more candid. In emails released by WikiLeaks, Podesta mocked Brock’s “eccentricities,” called him an “unhinged narcissist,” and rebuffed multiple requests for meetings. “I continue to believe he’s the Manchurian candidate of the GOP – secretary out to tank her,” wrote Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden. And yet, despite the liability he represents, Clinton keeps Brock close.
Brock is in good company. Sidney Blumenthal, too, would be fired out the airlock by any campaign that was not blindly committed to its most loyal henchmen, regardless of their distastefulness. Clinton famously tried to get Blumenthal on her staff at the State Department as a speechwriter but was rebuffed by the White House in a rare violation of Clinton’s autonomy at Foggy Bottom. The Obama administration was justified in their grudge against Blumenthal. He had tested messaging against Obama in the 2008 campaign ranging from the president’s ties to Islam, to his cocaine use, to the validity of his American heritage.
Even after the White House’s rebuke, Clinton continued to rely on the political assassin’s advice as revealed by emails secured via Freedom of Information Act requests. That is, those emails between the Secretary and Blumenthal that Clinton had not destroyed. These included links to articles published by Blumenthal’s son Max, a bitterly conspiratorial anti-Semite who recently made headlines attacking humanitarian aid workers in Syria as tools of the international conspiracy against the genocidal dictator Bashar al-Assad. During hearings into the Benghazi attacks, Republicans landed a blow on Clinton when they noted that the late Ambassador Chris Stevens did not have Clinton’s email, but Blumenthal did. Still, Clinton cannot abandon the family’s favorite political assassin. Like Brock, Clinton apparently sees this black asset in indispensable.
The newest member of this elite club of burdens is former Bill Clinton aide Doug Band, the president and founder of the consulting firm Teneo Holdings and a key figure in the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative. Band oversaw the work of some State Department employees who received special dispensation to work for Teneo while also working under Clinton at the State Department, including close Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Recently uncovered emails show Band bragging openly about his role in “Clinton Inc.,” in which he describes his efforts to “secure and engage in for-profit activities” for Bill Clinton. In another email, Band confessed that the 42nd President received reportable income from Clinton Foundation donors, from whom he “gets many expensive gifts.” Records indicate many Foundation donors received preferential access to Clinton while she served as Secretary of State. Band’s emails are the first indication that this access was explicitly solicited via the arms of the Clinton Machine’s profit-seeking activists.
There are many within Clinton’s inner circle who, one would think, could be easily thrown overboard, if only to provide Hillary Clinton with distance from their activities. But she cannot bring herself to cut them loose. The Three Bs know where the bodies are buried. Clinton keeps her rivals close, but she also jealously guards her biggest liabilities. The mistake that the former First Lady’s defender make in presuming that this won’t come back to haunt her is in their erroneous presumption that Hillary is Bill. She’s not. This is careless, and Clinton is not Teflon. In maintaining a collection of time bombs, Clinton may be sowing the seeds of her own destruction.