Commentary Magazine


Topic: Hillary Clinton

While Hillary Slept

Only the most conspiratorial among us suspected that the State Department’s decision to release a tranche of Hillary Clinton’s private emails on the Friday before a long holiday weekend just might be an effort to bury the revelations. Well, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

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Only the most conspiratorial among us suspected that the State Department’s decision to release a tranche of Hillary Clinton’s private emails on the Friday before a long holiday weekend just might be an effort to bury the revelations. Well, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

The journalists who combed through the emails learned, among other things, that State officials spent quite a bit of their time investigating leads sent to Clinton via her longtime associate Sidney Blumenthal. Though Barack Obama’s White House blocked Clinton’s request to add Blumenthal to her staff at State as a speechwriter, it seems that the Clinton confidant served as a key outside advisor to the former secretary of state.

But some of the most compelling details in those emails regarding Clinton’s conduct were in regards to the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. The emails reveal that the White House regarded Clinton as the “public face of the U.S. effort in Libya” in 2012. “She was instrumental in security the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime.” The White House noted that Clinton had been a “critical voice on Libya,” working closely with the president, NATO, and a number of contact groups both during the coalition intervention and in its aftermath. And when officials received a presidential briefing three days after the September 11, 2012 attack that took the life of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, Hillary Clinton was asleep.

“I just woke up,” Clinton wrote in an email sent at 10:43 a.m. ET on the morning of Saturday September 15, 2012. Surely, those Republicans tasked with crafting political advertisements in 2016 will not fail to contrast this revelation with Clinton’s famous 2008 spot in which she suggested that she would be a better candidate to take the crisis call that comes in at 3 a.m. When the crisis arrived, Hillary was literally napping.

When Clinton’s first private email account was exposed earlier this year, she belatedly took to a podium at the United Nations to control the spiraling damage that the scandalous revelation was doing to her political prospects. Clinton was asked if she was ever “specifically briefed on the security implications” of using a private email to conduct State affairs. To this inquiry, Clinton launched into a response that centered on the fact that she had never sent classified information over the one “homebrew” server of which the public was aware.

“I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email,” Clinton insisted. “There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.”  Once again, America, whether Clinton engaged in any impropriety depends on what the definition of “is” is.

No one asked Clinton about classified information, per se. And it was revealed this week that Clinton had, in fact, received sensitive/unclassified materials via her email account. One of the emails released by the State Department on Friday indicated that the former secretary of state had receive electronic correspondences that included a classified document, but that document was only officially awarded classified status on the same day those emails were released – more than 32 months after the Benghazi attack. Curious.

As The Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay observed, Clinton wrote in her 2014 autobiography Hard Choices that her first thoughts after she learned of the attack were with the late U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. In an interview with Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley, an exchange apparently so fawning that Clinton’s aides exchanged a series of emails mocking the reporter’s obsequiousness and repeated invasions of Clinton’s personal space, the secretary made it clear how hard she had taken his loss.

“I sent Chris Stevens to Benghazi at the height of the Libyan conflict [during the Arab Spring],” Clinton told Langley. “He was eager to go and was very effective. I recommended him as ambassador.” Except that Clinton was apparently not even fully aware of Stevens’ name. In an email sent to her confidants at state on the evening of the attack, Clinton referred to him as Chris Smith, noted that she had received informal confirmation of his death, and asked when that news should be disclosed.

Finally, Clinton seemed to be acutely aware of the political damage that might have been done by the administration’s ill-considered efforts to blame the attacks on a spontaneous demonstration related to a YouTube video. In a September 30 email to her aides at State, Clinton asked if she had ever described the conditions prior to the assault on the Benghazi outpost as a “spontaneous” demonstration. Her aides relieved her of any stress when they noted that she had been appropriately cautious with her words.

Indeed, even Reuters noted that the frequency with which Clinton and her cadre of aides prioritized protecting Clinton’s image in the wake of the deadly attack was conspicuous.

“The emails from Clinton’s personal email account made public by the State Department do not appear to contain any revelations that could badly damage her bid for the presidency in 2016 or provide fodder for Republicans who accuse her of being negligent before the Benghazi attacks,” the Reuters dispatch read. “But they offer a glimpse into how Clinton’s team was concerned about her image immediately afterward.”

There is nothing like a little beauty rest to help image maintenance. These emails are only a fraction of those released to the State Department for review, and those are just the emails that Clinton’s team did not summarily delete. Surely, these are not the only embarrassing revelations about Clinton’s behavior at State that will be disclosed in coming days.

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The Press Leaps to Protect Obama, Hillary From Abusive Anonymous Twitter Users

A strikingly candid New York Times dispatch published on Friday has apparently spooked Hillary Clinton’s cadre of supine acolytes. The arch-conservatives at the Times noted accurately that Clinton only reluctantly broke her 28-day streak of ignoring inquiries from the press after Fox News Channel White House correspondent Ed Henry aggressively prodded her. The Times dispatch from journalist Jason Horowitz observed truthfully that the media has only barely been able to conceal their “annoyance” with the former first lady’s stonewalling.

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A strikingly candid New York Times dispatch published on Friday has apparently spooked Hillary Clinton’s cadre of supine acolytes. The arch-conservatives at the Times noted accurately that Clinton only reluctantly broke her 28-day streak of ignoring inquiries from the press after Fox News Channel White House correspondent Ed Henry aggressively prodded her. The Times dispatch from journalist Jason Horowitz observed truthfully that the media has only barely been able to conceal their “annoyance” with the former first lady’s stonewalling.

“In Iowa, Queen Hillary and the Everyday Americans of the Round Table distribute alms to the clamoring press,” Horowitz later tweeted. This editorializing inspired a backlash from the coterie of palace guards at Media Matters for America, but it was also perfectly justified. If you haven’t had the opportunity to review Clinton’s response to Henry’s question, and I highly recommend you do, her unconcealed disdain for the Fox reporter’s impertinence is best described as similar to that of a sovereign.

“Maybe when I finish talking to the people here,” Clinton said response to Henry’s query. Adopting a wry smile while surrounded by a group of Iowans handpicked by her campaign to represent a random sample, the likely Democratic presidential nominee added, “How’s that?”

“You’ll come over?” Henry probed.

“I might,” Clinton replied, chin pointed toward the heavens. “I have to ponder it, but I will put it on my list for due consideration.”

All that was missing was a reference to herself in the first person plural.

Clinton earned and received some due mockery for this display of airs both within and outside the journalistic establishment. But that is itself a problem for some in the world of political reporting. Some in the media have begun to concern themselves with the problematic nature of those insolent Americans who have the temerity to mock and even insult both the president and his heir apparent.

It seems that both the Times and Politico discovered this week the existence of the microblogging site Twitter, and the fact that anonymous users on that site can be, gasp, mean to public figures in positions of authority.

This week, Politico published a bizarre dispatch focused entirely on the “trolls,” or social media users who behave in an intentionally provocative fashion, that hound Clinton’s online presence.

“Some call her names like ‘witch,’ ‘dictator,’ ‘monster,’ and even ‘Hitlary,’” the report read, “all reminders of how polarizing Clinton can be — a feminist hero and glass-ceiling cracker to supporters; an untrustworthy, pandering operative to the haters.”

Politico noted that Clinton’s Twitter presence is followed by more people than the entire Republican 2016 field combined, “But that formidable footprint comes with a price.”

[S]he also trumps her opponents in terms of her legions of trolls, who sometimes overwhelm the conversations she generates, picking at the scabs and scars Clinton has accumulated over nearly four decades in public life.

When Clinton recently tweeted “Healthy women ? healthy communities. Sign up if you agree with Hillary,” one quick response to that relatively anodyne message was, “On average how much does Bill spend on hookers each week?”

Indeed, even Clinton’s “physical appearance is not considered out of bounds” for those anonymous cads who dare speak above their station. Apparently, one unnamed micro-blogger who saw the former secretary of state walking down a street near her Brooklyn headquarters as “a human pear.” How vulgar.

The Times, too, lashed out on Friday at the uncivilized elements on social media who hurl slurs at their betters. In a 1,113-word dispatch, the Times noted that Twitter is full of coarse barbarians who have a penchant for slinging repulsively racist insults at the president.

This week, President Barack Obama revealed that he would use Twitter when he leaves office and unveiled the account handle from which he will send out 140 character messages. This revelation yielded a slew of racially insensitive comments that would surely sap anyone’s faith in their fellow man.

“The posts reflected the racial hostility toward the nation’s first black president that has long been expressed in stark terms on the Internet, where conspiracy theories thrive and prejudices find ready outlets,” the Times reported. “But the racist Twitter posts are different because now that Mr. Obama has his own account, the slurs are addressed directly to him, for all to see.”

But there was one measure of a specific slur. According to analytics compiled by Topsy, a research company that collects and analyzes what is shared on Twitter, the number of postings that included Mr. Obama’s name and one particular racial epithet jumped substantially on Monday, the day of the president’s first posting, to 150.

One Twitter user who did not use that specific racial slur responded to the president with just two words: “Black monkey,” a comparison that was not uncommon. “Get back in your cage monkey,” another person wrote.

This is repulsive, unalloyed racism, and it should not be excused. Indeed, no one of merit is excusing it. But only the anonymous or those utterly unconcerned with their livelihoods would dare issue such slurs in a public forum. It’s not much of a secret that the Internet is populated with jerks. Hopefully, the New York Times is fully stocked up on smelling salts in the event the Gray Lady’s editors ever discover YouTube’s comments sections.

A White House reporter even determined that the abuse the president suffered on social media was a worthy line of inquiry during the daily press briefing. Press Sec. Josh Earnest had the unfortunate duty of disabusing this reporter of the rosy notion that the web is a safe space when he noted that uncivil discourse is “all too common on the Internet.”

Those media outlets feigning shock over the abuse dealt out to public figures are being more than a little dishonest. Reporters should not be surprised to learn that George W. Bush was not spared the belligerence of anonymous commenters over the course of his presidency. Though they did not have Twitter to vent their rage, it was not difficult to find anti-Bush “trolls” who did not shy away from attacking the former president’s character, his relations, and his heritage. This condition did not result in handwringing pieces in the Times about the left’s incivility or the nation’s lingering antipathy toward representatives of Southern states.

People are mean on the Internet, but that is not a story. In order to scold a nation that includes citizens who are rude to Clinton and Obama on the web, these outlets had to pretend as though this was a unique and new phenomenon. While the worst of the comments that the president and the former secretary of state have had to endure are certainly condemnable, it’s perhaps as offensive that these journalistic institutions leapt at the chance to morally preen and posture in order to deflect criticism, however unhinged, from these leading Democrats.

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Do You Deserve to Be President After Jeopardizing National Security?

Taking a page from the well-worn Clinton playbook, a digest compiled almost entirely before the dawn of the digital age, Hillary Clinton has responded to the deluge of scandalous revelations regarding her conduct at the State Department by clamming up. But the proliferation of citizen journalists, commendably dogged reporters, and a seemingly endless digital trail to follow has undermined this tactic. New details about Clinton’s improprieties continue to mount. As the fabrications pile up and Clinton’s character is called into question, it seems clear that the former secretary of state did casually imperil American national security in the effort to preserve the “convenience” to which she had become accustomed as a U.S. Senator. But can she make the case that she will serve as a competent commander-in-chief after such a revelation? It is a question the press has been hounding Republicans with for the better part of two weeks.

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Taking a page from the well-worn Clinton playbook, a digest compiled almost entirely before the dawn of the digital age, Hillary Clinton has responded to the deluge of scandalous revelations regarding her conduct at the State Department by clamming up. But the proliferation of citizen journalists, commendably dogged reporters, and a seemingly endless digital trail to follow has undermined this tactic. New details about Clinton’s improprieties continue to mount. As the fabrications pile up and Clinton’s character is called into question, it seems clear that the former secretary of state did casually imperil American national security in the effort to preserve the “convenience” to which she had become accustomed as a U.S. Senator. But can she make the case that she will serve as a competent commander-in-chief after such a revelation? It is a question the press has been hounding Republicans with for the better part of two weeks.

Clinton’s transparent aim is to allow the sting of these myriad controversies to be acutely felt early, and only to address them when she can legitimately dub them “old news” and thereby scold those reporters who myopically dwell on ancient history. That strategy is only effective, however, when the revelations dry up. But the scandalous details of her behavior exposed in the press continue to emerge, one by one, drip by drip, gradually eroding away Clinton’s presidential prospects.

The latest report to expose Clinton’s mendacity comes from the New York Times, which revealed that the former secretary did send sensitive government information over her private email account:

Clinton’s Personal Email Account Contained Sensitive Information

Mrs. Clinton’s emails show that she had a special type of government information known as “sensitive but unclassified,” or “SBU,” in her account. That information included the whereabouts and travel plans of American officials in Libya as security there deteriorated during the uprising against the leadership of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011. Nearly a year and a half before the attacks in Benghazi, Mr. Stevens, then an American envoy to the rebels, considered leaving Benghazi citing deteriorating security, according to an email to Mrs. Clinton marked “SBU.”

That report also detailed the communications sent to Clinton via her longtime ally and political hit man Sidney Blumenthal in the wake of the Benghazi attack. It noted that Blumenthal informed Clinton on September 13, 2001 that the deadly event was not the result of a spontaneous demonstration but rather a coordinated terrorist act conducted by Ansar al-Shariah. This disclosure casts into doubt the administration’s claim that it was unaware of the precise nature of that attack until September 16, 2012.

Clinton defenders will note that “sensitive” information is not “classified” information, and the former secretary’s contention that she never sent or received classified documents via her email account remains, for now, intact. But any information security expert will attest that just because “sensitive” documents are not classified does not render them useless to America’s adversaries, as the details in this Times report attest.

This is just the latest misstatement from Clinton’s disastrous March press conference to be called into question. Standing before a lectern at the United Nations, Clinton claimed that she only used one mobile device in service to her sense of entitlement while at State. We now know there were at least two devices she used to conduct State business. Clinton insisted that her system was never “breached,” but information security experts now believe that her “homebrew” server was vulnerable to infiltration and was possibly compromised by foreign intelligence services. Clinton insisted that she only deleted those emails that were personal in nature; a trove of communications that amounted to the majority of the emails she sent as Secretary of State. One of the recipients of private email communications, she averred, was her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Wrong, the 42nd President’s office contended. He only sent two emails in his life, according to Bill Clinton spokesperson Matt McKenna, and both of those were composed and transmitted while he served as president.

This all paints a picture not only of a political figure utterly unconcerned with accountability, the public trust, and national security, but of a person with a pathological aversion to truth.

This also should lead observers to an inescapable conclusion: Clinton carelessly jeopardized national security while she served as America’s chief diplomat. Does this erode Clinton’s claim to be able to serve as America’s next commander-in-chief? It should, and the press seems to be aware of that. Why else have they been hounding 2016 Republican presidential aspirants to account for the last GOP chief executive’s decision to invade Iraq?

Old habits die hard, it seems, as the left and their allies in the press have been busily engaged in a process of forced collectivization over the last week. But instead of plots of arable land, we are collectivizing guilt – namely, Republican guilt for the decision to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. The underlying assumption in the media’s dogged pursuit of Republican admissions that the war was a mistake is that George W. Bush carelessly and callously endangered American national security in pursuit of the parochial goal of ridding the world of a particularly unpleasant regime. In this way, not only does the press absolve Barack Obama for sloppily surrendering the West’s hard-won gains in that turbulent country, but it also liberates all Democratic figures – Clinton included – from having to account for the present state of affairs.

If we are to believe that Bush was thoughtless in his approach to safeguarding American national security, Clinton deserves a similar reproach. If Republicans are collectively to blame for the disaster in Iraq, even those who held only minor office in 2003, why then are Democrats not collectively responsible for Clinton’s serial lies and her hard-hearted indifference to the behavior associated with a Cabinet official entrusted with protecting America’s information security? Is there a logically satisfactory explanation for this double standard?

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The Myth of the Progressive Movement

When the last of the GOP’s viable conservative alternatives to Mitt Romney had been dispatched, a sense of fatalism briefly consumed the right’s ideological stalwarts. They knew that, eventually, they would be compelled to pull the lever for the technocratic father of socialized health care in America. Those who did not engage in a process of self-delusion designed to assuage their own guilt over this condition raged futilely against the prevailing winds.

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When the last of the GOP’s viable conservative alternatives to Mitt Romney had been dispatched, a sense of fatalism briefly consumed the right’s ideological stalwarts. They knew that, eventually, they would be compelled to pull the lever for the technocratic father of socialized health care in America. Those who did not engage in a process of self-delusion designed to assuage their own guilt over this condition raged futilely against the prevailing winds.

Reason’s A. Barton Hinkle scoffed that it would not be “easy” for conservatives to justify supporting Romney. “And it’s especially hard because it requires them to do the one thing they most revile Romney for: change positions for the sake of political expedience,” he wrote.

The conservative movement that had appeared ascendant amid the tea party wave of 2010 had run out of steam just 18 months later. Some wondered whether the conservative insurgency was a mere figment in the first place.

Similarly, the political commentariat is forever touting the progressive populist movement that they claim is today only just dawning. Though the voices in print and on television that foresee a great progressive tide on the horizon are also surely cheering on its arrival, they are not without evidence to support this contention. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s popularity and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s progressive manifesto, compiled with the support of luminaries like Susan Sarandon and Van Jones, validate the notion that the Democratic Party’s lurch to the left is a broad-based phenomenon.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spent an inordinate amount of time appealing to the supposedly ascendant left wing of her party, even despite the absence of a viable presidential primary challenger. But just as the Republican Party’s base was not convinced by Romney’s unctuous claim to have governed “extremely conservative” as the Bay State’s chief executive, the progressive wing is justifiably skeptical of Clinton’s liberal bona fides.

In opposition to a proposed free trade agreement with a variety of Asian nations, Senate Democrats demonstrated just how lame of a duck President Barack Obama had become when they denied him trade promotional authority earlier this month. In response to progressives’ suspicions of this proposed trade deal, Clinton has adopted a cagey stance on the matter. Though she has taken $2.5 million in speaking fees from pro-trade groups and has called the Trans-Pacific Partnership the “gold standard” of free trade agreements, she would have her left flank believe that she is now deeply conflicted about the potentially negative effects free trade will have on American labor.

On what the progressive wing now regards as the defining civil rights issue of our time, the legal right of gay and lesbian couples to wed, Clinton was suspiciously slow to embrace the consensus position. She came out in favor of same-sex marriage only after President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden did the same. When probed by NPR’s Terry Gross about her evolution on the issue, Clinton lashed out defensively. It was an understandable fit of pique on her part; Clinton’s husband signed the Defense of Marriage Act and a travel ban for individuals infected with HIV into law, both of which the gay community has long regarded as betrayals from the last Democratic president.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Hillary Clinton’s close aides at the State Department attempted to withhold politically sensitive documents from being revealed to the public as a result of successful FOIA requests. This Machiavellian approach to governance is hardly surprising from Clinton’s team, but the documents they were attempting to suppress should raise eyebrows. Some of them pertained to the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project vehemently opposed by the environmental left. One of the emails uncovered was addressed to Paul Elliott, a lobbyist for the firm seeking approval for that pipeline and a former staffer on Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid.

“In one email, the [Ottawa] embassy official sent Mr. Elliot a message saying “Go Paul!” after he circulated some potentially positive news on the pipeline plan,” the Journal revealed. “She also complimented an appearance by the CEO of the company seeking to build Keystone XL.” The Friends of the Earth, the environmental group that successfully secured the release of these documents, called it the “smoking gun” that revealed the Clinton State Department’s pro-pipeline bias. Clinton has refused to take a position on Keystone, leading many environmentalists to draw their own unflattering conclusions.

There is a reason why President Barack Obama will attempt to link the trade promotional authority he wants to the threat of climate change in a report released on Wednesday morning. However dubious the link between these two issues, the White House is gambling that the progressive left’s near religious devotion to the cause of reducing carbon emissions will trump their antipathy toward free trade. But outside of the U.S. Senate, where a handful of committed ideologues can derail just about any initiative, is there any evidence to suggest that the progressive movement is worthy of this kind of deference?

If the Democratic Party’s far left was going to advance a truly liberal candidate for the presidency, that window is rapidly closing. There is no shortage of prospective usurpers who might assume the mantle of progressive champion ahead of 2016, but they have been largely cowed by Clinton’s stature within her party. As Republicans acquiesced to the inexorable Romney juggernaut in 2012, Democrats are apparently forced to come to terms with Clinton’s predestined ascension to the nomination.

A truly dominant political force would extract more concessions from Clinton and Obama than halfhearted mollification and lip service. At the moment, neither of them seems to think that more substantive concessions are necessary. For all the self-serving television presenters who are forever presaging the progressive moment that is about to dawn, there is precious little evidence to support that conclusion.

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How Did Clinton Conflict of Interest Schemes Work? Ask Sidney.

For the past two years, liberals have been laughing at Republican attempts to link Hillary Clinton to something incriminating or at least embarrassing about the Benghazi terror attack. But, as we saw with the issue of her emails that was uncovered by the investigatory efforts of the House special committee on Benghazi there is still plenty for her to be concerned about. Today, the latest shoe dropped in a depressing drip, drip, drip of scandal. As the New York Times reports, longtime Clinton family hit man Sidney Blumenthal was simultaneously advising Hillary on Libya during her time serving as secretary of state while also by employed by the Clinton Foundation and also working for other independent groups that were laying the groundwork for her presidential campaign. At best, this blatant conflict of interest raises questions, in the words of the Times, about the “blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years.” At worst, it’s another sordid example of the corruption and bad judgment at the heart of the Clinton machine’s style of governing.

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For the past two years, liberals have been laughing at Republican attempts to link Hillary Clinton to something incriminating or at least embarrassing about the Benghazi terror attack. But, as we saw with the issue of her emails that was uncovered by the investigatory efforts of the House special committee on Benghazi there is still plenty for her to be concerned about. Today, the latest shoe dropped in a depressing drip, drip, drip of scandal. As the New York Times reports, longtime Clinton family hit man Sidney Blumenthal was simultaneously advising Hillary on Libya during her time serving as secretary of state while also by employed by the Clinton Foundation and also working for other independent groups that were laying the groundwork for her presidential campaign. At best, this blatant conflict of interest raises questions, in the words of the Times, about the “blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years.” At worst, it’s another sordid example of the corruption and bad judgment at the heart of the Clinton machine’s style of governing.

That Blumenthal, a disreputable political assassin who earned notoriety for his antics while serving in the Clinton White House, worked as a paid consultant to the State Department on Libyan affairs is interesting by itself. It would take a Venn diagram to adequately illustrate the conflicts his employment by Clinton involved. Yet as the Times notes, he had already been barred from a job in the State Department by intervention by aides to President Obama who apparently had a more highly developed sense of smell, if not impropriety than Mrs. Clinton. But his role at the State Department involved more than a questionable taste in advisors:

Much of the Libya intelligence that Mr. Blumenthal passed on to Mrs. Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates he was advising as they sought to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government. The venture, which was ultimately unsuccessful, involved other Clinton friends, a private military contractor and one former C.I.A. spy seeking to get in on the ground floor of the new Libyan economy.

The projects — creating floating hospitals to treat Libya’s war wounded and temporary housing for displaced people, and building schools — would have required State Department permits, but foundered before the business partners could seek official approval.

It is not clear whether Mrs. Clinton or the State Department knew of Mr. Blumenthal’s interest in pursuing business in Libya; a State Department spokesman declined to say. Many aspects of Mr. Blumenthal’s involvement in the planned Libyan venture remain unclear. He declined repeated requests to discuss it.

But interviews with his associates and a review of previously unreported correspondence suggest that — once again — it may be difficult to determine where one of Mr. Blumenthal’s jobs ended and another began.

The Times goes on to detail the rather tangled web that Blumenthal and his associates wove. But the main questions we should be asking is what on earth was someone knee deep in a bizarre Libyan business scheme acting as an advisor to the secretary of state about a country with which he had previously had little to do.

Blumenthal was writing intelligence memos about Libya that were largely the product of the opinions of his business associates. Some of the memos he wrote made sense. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who would be murdered by terrorists in the Benghazi attack, shot others down. But whether or not they made sense, Clinton circulated them to her department as gospel, appended with notes praising their insight. But whether they were right or wrong, it is simply astonishing that someone who was on her family foundation payroll as well as working for other political outfits aimed at furthering her political future was put in a position where he could influence policy related to his business interests.

At the very least, this merits serious questions about the Clintons’ already notorious lack of ethics. We don’t know where one Blumenthal job ended and another began. All we do know is that he was getting paid by a number of different sources as well as the government while seeking to make profits enabled by the whims of Hillary’s State Department. The fact that the scam fell through before he could start raking in the profits is beside the point.

As the Times reports, Blumenthal’s role also breached a number of normal barriers intended to prevent conflicts of interest as well as measures that might seek to probe the reliability of intelligence sources.

This story illustrates how the Clinton Cash way of governing works. Clinton’s defenders rightly say there is no “smoking gun” proving that the secretary paid off donors to her family foundation with favors or biased decisions. But the way Blumenthal snaked his way through a complicated labyrinth of consulting jobs for the foundation, political operations and the government illustrates how unnecessary it was for there to be such a piece of damning evidence whether or not it was ultimately deleted from Clinton’s infamous home email server.

We know the Clinton Foundation was used as an informal political slush fund for Bill, Hillary and their daughter to which wealthy foreign donors hoping for and sometimes getting favors contributed. But the more we learn about the Blumenthal connection and other Clinton Cash hijinks, its clear that the once and would-be future First Family and their cronies consider philanthropy and the government just two interchangeable ATM’s they can use at will.

While Democrats may continue to dismiss all questions about the propriety of this sordid tale, even many liberal partisans must be beginning to wonder about what sort of person it is that they are trying to put back into the White House.

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Can the Left Be Baited to Attack Hillary?

The silence of many on the left about their misgivings about the Democratic Party’s putative 2016 presidential candidate is a tempting target for conservatives. As the New York Times noted over the weekend, some mischief-making conservatives have been using social media to prod liberals into criticizing Hillary Clinton on a host of issues where they may have profound differences with the former First Lady. As the Times notes, some of these efforts have met with success. But Republicans shouldn’t get too excited about these small triumphs. The left may not like the Clintons, but so far there is no sign that a critical mass of liberals are prepared to give in to the temptation of examining her views or the corrupt manner with which she and her husband have conducted their affairs. Until proven otherwise, this generation of liberals appears to be focused solely on winning elections in a way that many conservatives still are not.

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The silence of many on the left about their misgivings about the Democratic Party’s putative 2016 presidential candidate is a tempting target for conservatives. As the New York Times noted over the weekend, some mischief-making conservatives have been using social media to prod liberals into criticizing Hillary Clinton on a host of issues where they may have profound differences with the former First Lady. As the Times notes, some of these efforts have met with success. But Republicans shouldn’t get too excited about these small triumphs. The left may not like the Clintons, but so far there is no sign that a critical mass of liberals are prepared to give in to the temptation of examining her views or the corrupt manner with which she and her husband have conducted their affairs. Until proven otherwise, this generation of liberals appears to be focused solely on winning elections in a way that many conservatives still are not.

It is true that there have been signs that a Democratic Party that has been marching in lockstep since nominating Barack Obama is about to implode. The trade bill currently before Congress has illustrated a profound split between those Democrats dedicating to governing and those elements in the party still in thrall to either traditional left-wing institutions like the unions or to populist liberal ideology. The exchange between President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren showed that there was plenty of fodder for a Democrat civil war that could, if it were not restrained by the fact that most Democrats feel a sense of personal loyalty to the president, blow up into something pretty nasty.

It is that breach that Senator Bernie Sanders and perhaps former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley would like to exploit as they prepare to challenge Hillary Clinton for the party’s presidential nomination. But though Clinton’s political rust, arrogance and the appalling sense of entitlement that characterize her halting progress toward 2016 would seem to offer an inviting target for a true-believing liberal, so far the challengers show little sign of making much progress.

Indeed, O’Malley was hurt more by his association with tough police procedures in Baltimore during his past terms as mayor than Clinton has been by any effort to tie her to the Iraq War and inconsistencies about trade, let alone the scandalous Clinton Cash allegations. That Democrats would be screaming bloody murder about the conflicts of interest noted in Peter Schweizer’s book if they were about a Republican goes without saying. But the silence of liberals who know they are not in step with Hillary on many issues is a tribute to the Democrats’ party discipline.

It is particularly significant that liberals who have been talking about going to the mat against Obama on the trade bill have been remarkably quiet about Clinton’s refusal to take a position. Hillary is terribly vulnerable on the issue since she is a past ardent supporter of free trade. But rather than hounding her stealth campaign demanding that she declare herself one way or the other, most of the same people moving heaven and earth to sabotage Obama’s efforts to pass the trade bill haven’t uttered a peep about Clinton’s strange silence.

That’s especially significant because if Warren were really tempted to challenge Clinton, this might be the issue on which she would start to tentatively attack her opponent at her weakest point. If Warren were seriously contemplating getting into the presidential sweepstakes, she’d be putting Clinton’s feet to the fire being lit by unions and other left-wing special interests on trade. That would be the way to either smoke Hillary out as an ally of big business and Wall Street or to force her to back their opposition to the bill.

But Warren, the one Democrat that most observers think could give Clinton a run for her money, has left her alone. The same goes for the unions that have, as the Washington Free Beacon reports, been using their members’ dues to funnel money to the Clinton Foundation that has been operating as a political slush fund for the former First Family.

So while, as the Times reported, stray left-wingers have been goaded into sniping at Hillary on Twitter by clever provocations from the right, most liberals are sticking to the party line about their candidate. Though Clinton’s weak start to her campaign showed she is not going to be the general election juggernaut that Democrats anticipated, she remains ahead of potential primary challenges by 40-50 percentage points. While Republicans are still struggling with the question of whether it is okay to nominate a candidate who strays from the consensus on the right on any issue, Democrats are interested only in victory. So long as Clinton is seen as a likely winner, a proposition that, as our Noah Rothman writes, may be in doubt, her party faithful will continue to ignore her faults and her positions, no matter how hard Republicans beg them to take note of them.

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Hillary Clinton’s Incredible Shrinking Electoral Targets

It was only a few months ago that Democrats were celebrating Hillary Clinton’s likely 2016 election victory. Not only was America’s former chief diplomat ordained by fate to become the nation’s first female chief executive, but also she would probably win that mandate with historic margins of victory. That early enthusiasm has given way to fatalism as Democrats begin to take a critical look at their party’s inevitable standard-bearer.

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It was only a few months ago that Democrats were celebrating Hillary Clinton’s likely 2016 election victory. Not only was America’s former chief diplomat ordained by fate to become the nation’s first female chief executive, but also she would probably win that mandate with historic margins of victory. That early enthusiasm has given way to fatalism as Democrats begin to take a critical look at their party’s inevitable standard-bearer.

The election was still two years away when Talking Points Memo’s Dylan Scott allotted 386 Electoral College votes to Clinton. That heady dispatch quoted extensively from the sequestered camp of prospective Clinton campaign staffers. They were certain that the former secretary of state would not merely revive Barack Obama’s 2008 electoral coalition, but she would significantly augment it.

“Clinton has a record of appealing to white working-class voters — especially women — and they could be enough when paired with the Obama coalition to pull out a win,” Scott wrote. That appeal to working-class whites as well as traditional Democratic constituents like minorities and single women would yield Clinton victories in states like Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, and Arizona.

Much of that initial excitement has been dramatically tempered by the intervening scandal-plagued months. Today, Clinton is hoping – no, “banking on” the fact that the members of Obama’s coalition of voters will reassemble one last time to propel her back into the White House.

The Washington Post’s Anna Gearan observed on Monday that Clinton has been lurching toward the left recently despite a lack of a viable primary challenger solely in order to appeal to the dwindling true believers who made up the 2008 and 2012 electorates. To that end, embracing progressive priorities like universal paid sick leave, a higher minimum wage, debt-free college attendance, and publicly funded early childhood education make some degree of sense.

It is, however, optimistic to suggest that the recitation of liberal programmatic objectives rather than the historic nature of President Obama’s identity as the first black president contributed to assembling the last two winning Democratic coalitions. In fact, that belief may appear as ill considered in the coming weeks as Scott’s anticipation of a Clinton landslide in 2016 does today.

“The strategy relies on calculations about the 2016 landscape, including that up to 31 percent of the electorate will be Americans of color — a projection that may be overly optimistic for her campaign,” Gearan observed. “Clinton will have to expand Hispanic support, increase turnout among independent women and still hold on to a large share of black voters who were drawn to the first African American major-party nominee.”

Few objective political observers believe Clinton will be able to turn out the president’s voting base merely because she can claim to be the first woman to have a credible shot at winning the White House. 28 percent of the electorate that turned out in 2008 was made up of minority voters. Four years later, the minority share of the electorate dropped to 26 percent. Though it is true that Hispanics and Asians voted in larger numbers for Barack Obama in 2012 than they did in 2008, it’s unclear that Clinton can recreate that performance without Mitt Romney on the ballot. Indeed, the 2014 midterm election exit polls suggested that Hispanic and Asian voters swung toward the GOP by 12 and 50 points respectively.

As for the young, unmarried women who are supposedly destined to turn out for Clinton in record numbers next year, to suggest that she can outperform Barack Obama is equally as dubious. In 2012, the president managed to win the support of between 50 and 68 percent of women voters in every state surveyed by Edison Research’s exit pollsters. “Obama already did better among female voters than almost any other Democratic candidate since data are available in 1976,” The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein noted. “In 2004, Kerry only won women by 3 points, but Obama won them by 13 points in 2008 and 11 points in 2012.” And this was amid the fabricated Republican “War on Women” that has since lost much of its luster.

Many bright political observers are equally skeptical that the working-class whites that abandoned Obama will nevertheless form a central pillar of Clinton’s electoral coalition. Chief among them is the co-author of the oft-cited Emerging Democratic Majority, John Judis. “These voters, and particularly those well above the poverty line, began to shift toward the GOP decades ago, but in recent years that shift has become progressively more pronounced,” Judis wrote of blue-collar voters in the wake of the Democratic rout in 2014.

The more surprising trend is that Republicans are gaining dramatically among a group that had tilted toward Democrats in 2006 and 2008: Call them middle-class Americans. These are voters who generally work in what economist Stephen Rose has called “the office economy.” In exit polling, they can roughly be identified as those who have college—but not postgraduate—degrees and those whose household incomes are between $50,000 and $100,000. (Obviously, the overlap here is imperfect, but there is a broad congruence between these polling categories.)

“The defection of these voters—who, unlike the white working class, are a growing part of the electorate—is genuinely bad news for Democrats, and very good news indeed for Republicans,” Judis added.

Clinton is banking on the notion that government-provided services for middle-and lower-income working professionals will lure them away from the Republican camp. But is the upshot enough to convince those toiling away in “the office economy” to endure the associated increase in their tax burden? The issue is certainly not as clear-cut as those who see Clinton winning Arkansas in 2016 would like to believe.

Formerly sanguine Democrats are certainly taking more sober stock of Clinton’s electoral prospects ahead of 2016. And Republicans haven’t even settled on a nominee yet.

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The Clinton War Room Jumps the Shark

By the end of last week, the Hillary Clinton camp was acting as if they had weathered the worst of the Clinton Cash scandal and emerged unscathed. While polls showed that trust in Hillary and belief in her truthfulness was heading south, support from the overwhelming majority of Democrats remained strong. She also maintained leads in head-to-head matchups against possible Republican opponents. But in spite of these reasons for confidence that the Clinton brand can survive — as it has before — virtually anything, their bold talk about no one believing the book isn’t convincing anyone. The drip, drip, drip of scandal stories from a variety of news outlets inspired by Peter Schweizer’s muckraking book has kept the allegations in the news rather than it fading away. As a result, the Clinton “War Room” that has been assembled to trash Schweitzer and dismiss the book is starting to show the initial signs of panic. When longtime Clinton family retainer Lanny Davis called the book and those exploring its charges an example of “McCarthyism” during an appearance on C-Span, it was clear that Hillary’s friends have officially jumped the shark in their efforts to silence the nation’s unease about the former First Family’s conduct.

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By the end of last week, the Hillary Clinton camp was acting as if they had weathered the worst of the Clinton Cash scandal and emerged unscathed. While polls showed that trust in Hillary and belief in her truthfulness was heading south, support from the overwhelming majority of Democrats remained strong. She also maintained leads in head-to-head matchups against possible Republican opponents. But in spite of these reasons for confidence that the Clinton brand can survive — as it has before — virtually anything, their bold talk about no one believing the book isn’t convincing anyone. The drip, drip, drip of scandal stories from a variety of news outlets inspired by Peter Schweizer’s muckraking book has kept the allegations in the news rather than it fading away. As a result, the Clinton “War Room” that has been assembled to trash Schweitzer and dismiss the book is starting to show the initial signs of panic. When longtime Clinton family retainer Lanny Davis called the book and those exploring its charges an example of “McCarthyism” during an appearance on C-Span, it was clear that Hillary’s friends have officially jumped the shark in their efforts to silence the nation’s unease about the former First Family’s conduct.

The context of Davis’s rant is the fact that even after weeks of news organizations seeking new Clinton Cash angles to explore, it appears they aren’t close to running out of material. Over the weekend, Politico began to unravel the complicated ties between Bill Clinton’s speechmaking business and Hillary Clinton’s State Department. According to their reporting, State Department officials vetted some of the former president’s speeches. While that isn’t evidence of criminal conduct, it does show how closely connected Hillary’s staff was to Bill’s fundraising and speaking business affairs, something her defenders routinely deny. And while questions remain about the Clinton’s involvement in the egregious sale of 20 percent of the country’s uranium reserves to Russia, a lot of reporting about their dubious role in vetting disaster relief for Haiti and the way Hillary’s brother profited from their work was being dug up by both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Just as bad for the Clintons is the reporting that the liberal New York magazine is doing about their foundation’s unsuccessful attempt to get the watchdog group Charity Navigator to endorse their efforts. The group has refused to rate the Clinton Foundation as trustworthy because of its “unique business model” which has it raising hundreds of millions of dollars but only spending about ten percent of it on actual charity. The foundation works as a middle man that spends most of the vast fortune placed at its disposal paying for people to consult about helping the poor but never doing much of it itself. It can’t be called a scam because donors know they are paying for influence not charity. But the more people find out about how the foundation is less of an actual charity and more of a slush fund to pay for the Clintons to crisscross the globe talking about poverty the lower Hillary’s trust poll numbers will go.

But faced with these hits to the Clintons’ image, their defenders are predictably escalating their rhetoric. But just for a moment, let’s unpack the charges Davis has lodged against Schweitzer. Like other Clinton Cash critics, Davis kept repeating that there are no “facts” in the book. But this is absurd. The book is full of facts about the suspicious donations to the foundation and huge honorariums paid to Bill Clinton from foreign donors who had business before the State Department while Hillary was running it. What Schweitzer doesn’t have is a smoking gun memo or email that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Clintons colluded to give the people funding their family business the advantages they were seeking. Of course, Clinton opponents might say that such evidence might be in those emails that were on the server she had wiped clean. But even if we assume that they were too smart to ever commit anything like that to an email, let alone paper, that leaves critics with a circumstantial case to make against the pair that might get other politicians in trouble with the law (like Senator Robert Menendez whose favors for a wealthy friend look fishy and earned him an indictment but for which there is a similar lack of a smoking gun memo).

Davis claims that the fact that one cannot connect some very suspicious dots with the sort of certainty you could use in court is McCarthyism. But this makes no sense. It is true that Senator Joseph McCarthy was often irresponsible and made false charges that some public figures were communists. But the presumption of innocence on official charges of corruption does not mean that it is impermissible to note the tremendous conflicts of interest that were a daily affair while Hillary was at the State Department. Nor does it vindicate the questionable behavior of the foundation and the former president. Suffice it to say that were any Republican to be caught exposed in this manner, Davis and every other Democrats would be screaming bloody murder and demanding special prosecutors and indictments.

If Hillary and Bill want to put this to rest they can try answering some tough questions from the press instead of merely dismissing the issue as another invention of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” they have always hated (even though much of the reporting about this has come from the New York Times and other liberal bastions). Until then, they should tell their mouthpieces to stop foaming at the mouth. It’s only making them look guiltier.

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Hillary’s Foolish Amnesty Double Down

If the current objective of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is to give possible liberal challengers as little room to maneuver as possible then her remarks on illegal immigration yesterday was smart politics. The former secretary of state not only embraced President Obama’s extralegal executive orders granting amnesty to millions of illegals but also went further signaling her support for an easy path to citizenship for all 11 million people currently in this country without permission. By tilting to the left in this manner, Clinton believes she is making it harder for a credible opponent to outflank her with the base of the Democratic Party. Even more, she appears to think that by doubling down on amnesty, she is guaranteeing a heavy Hispanic turnout in 2016 that will vote for her over any possible Republican rival. But as with most of her recent moves, Clinton’s strategy seems to be the product of an ill-conceived fear of the left. Though this overreaction may help the Democrats keep their stranglehold on the Hispanic vote, by going too far on amnesty, Clinton may be creating more problems than she solves for her candidacy.

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If the current objective of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is to give possible liberal challengers as little room to maneuver as possible then her remarks on illegal immigration yesterday was smart politics. The former secretary of state not only embraced President Obama’s extralegal executive orders granting amnesty to millions of illegals but also went further signaling her support for an easy path to citizenship for all 11 million people currently in this country without permission. By tilting to the left in this manner, Clinton believes she is making it harder for a credible opponent to outflank her with the base of the Democratic Party. Even more, she appears to think that by doubling down on amnesty, she is guaranteeing a heavy Hispanic turnout in 2016 that will vote for her over any possible Republican rival. But as with most of her recent moves, Clinton’s strategy seems to be the product of an ill-conceived fear of the left. Though this overreaction may help the Democrats keep their stranglehold on the Hispanic vote, by going too far on amnesty, Clinton may be creating more problems than she solves for her candidacy.

Clinton’s support of Obama’s executive orders isn’t surprising. Nor is her embrace of the concept of a path to citizenship for illegals. But what she seemed to be offering her audience yesterday goes even further than the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate but failed in the House in 2013. That plans, which was supported by some Republicans (though many of them, like Senator Marco Rubio, have backed away from it now), did speak of a path to citizenship. But it was accompanied with penalties and illegals being forced to go to the back of the line behind those who have followed the rules. But Clinton mentioned no such measures yesterday. Nor did she mention the need to secure the border first or actions designed to signal potential illegal immigrants that they would not face immediate deportation should they be caught.

To the contrary, Clinton’s proposal seems to be Obama’s amnesty on steroids. Her talk of a “simple, straight-forward, accessible way” for illegals to not only get on the right side of the law but to also become citizens with no muss and no fuss. If implemented, it would not only be a gift to those who have already come here illegally. It would also constitute a virtual invitation for those thinking about crossing the border to do so since they would be able to do so with impunity.

Given her growing credibility problems due to the drip-drip-drip of damaging reporting in the mainstream media about the Clinton Cash allegations, Hillary knows she has to act quickly to head off a potential run by Senator Elizabeth Warren. If Warren has any interest at all in the presidency, the Clinton Cash mess has to be tempting her since it has highlighted not only Hillary’s glaring weaknesses as a candidate but the fact that her husband Bill seems to have lost some of his touch as well. So anything that makes it harder for Warren or other left-wing opponents to gain traction makes sense for Clinton right now.

But the assumption on the part of some Democrats and their cheerleaders in the mainstream liberal media that Clinton’s shift will be a masterstroke in a general election may be incorrect. Going overboard on amnesty may help generate an even bigger Hispanic majority for the Democrats and given their status as the fastest growing demographic in the electorate that seems like a good idea. But what Clinton seems to be forgetting is that running against the rule of law has its drawbacks as well. Clinton is right when she thinks independents and other voters who are (unlike most Hispanics) up for grabs in 2016 may not want to hear harsh rhetoric about immigrants or a repetition of Mitt Romney’s tragicomic embrace of “self-deportation” next year. But talk of wholesale amnesty without more border security and no penalties for the lawbreakers will strike swing voters as being every bit as extreme as the anti-immigrant tone heard from some on the right.

Just as Republicans need to worry about being driven so far to the right in the primaries as to make the necessary course correction in the general election too difficult, so, too, must Democrats be concerned about being driven over a cliff by their left-wing base. Hillary does best when she runs as an experienced centrist not a desperate politician pandering to special interests. As much as she has reason to fear Warren and the left, Clinton might be better off stopping trying to appease her base. Taking her chances on winning the nomination while concentrating on winning the general election would be the best bet for her.

Just as important, Clinton seems to have come into this election thinking that, as was the case in 2012, Democrats would be able to define any Republican emerging from the pack in the GOP race as an extremist loser, while never letting the other side lay a glove on her. But as we’ve already seen in the early months of the race, the only person who is currently being defined by opponents is Clinton. The Clintons are coming off as dishonest, greedy and possibly corrupt. Now she is adding a touch of left-wing extremism to an already toxic mix. Anyone who thinks that taint won’t come with a price is overestimating the ability of the left to win general elections and underestimating the distaste of most voters for lawbreakers.

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Will Americans Elect a President They Don’t Think is Honest?

The prevailing assumption about the 2016 race is that Hillary Clinton’s biggest problem is that she hasn’t a fraction of the political skills that her husband possesses. But it appears that some of that conventional wisdom may be wrong. Not the part about Hillary’s poor political skills. But rather the belief that Bill Clinton is still the master politician. The former president’s NBC interview in which he claimed that he took $500,000 speaking honorariums because he “had to pay the bills” and that he deserves sympathy because he had to “work a couple of hours a day” preparing for them illustrated that his political skills are as rusty as his wife’s. As we learned in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Hillary’s numbers, especially those concerning “honesty,” are starting to plummet in the wake of the Clinton Cash and email scandals. But the question facing Democrats, whose loyalty to the pair seems unshaken, is whether they are hitching their fortunes to a political brand that is becoming seriously tarnished.

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The prevailing assumption about the 2016 race is that Hillary Clinton’s biggest problem is that she hasn’t a fraction of the political skills that her husband possesses. But it appears that some of that conventional wisdom may be wrong. Not the part about Hillary’s poor political skills. But rather the belief that Bill Clinton is still the master politician. The former president’s NBC interview in which he claimed that he took $500,000 speaking honorariums because he “had to pay the bills” and that he deserves sympathy because he had to “work a couple of hours a day” preparing for them illustrated that his political skills are as rusty as his wife’s. As we learned in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Hillary’s numbers, especially those concerning “honesty,” are starting to plummet in the wake of the Clinton Cash and email scandals. But the question facing Democrats, whose loyalty to the pair seems unshaken, is whether they are hitching their fortunes to a political brand that is becoming seriously tarnished.

Only a man of legendary charm and appeal could have risen to the presidency in 1992 the way Bill Clinton despite the less than savory that he dragged along with him to the White House. Nor could a person with lesser political skills have survived the Monica Lewinsky scandal, let alone emerge from his presidency with enormous popularity. The 42nd president parlayed that good will into the creation of a powerful foundation that supported him and his family handsomely while also helping to bolster his wife’s political ambitions. But along the way he seems to have lost his perfect political pitch and replaced it with the same sense of arrogant entitlement that characterizes the public personas of many of the wealthy celebrities that have hooked on to the Clinton Foundation as a way to be seen as philanthropists while also profiting from the Clinton’s political influence.

The former president’s rationalization of the egregious payoffs he’s been getting from foreign donors and others seeking to gain from an association with him and his wife was reminiscent of Hillary’s bogus claim that they were “broke” when they left the White House in 2001. But while Americans love celebrities and probably don’t begrudge the former First Family their current “lifestyles of the rich and famous” existence, they are understandably finding it difficult to trust them.

That’s the upshot of the new WSJ/NBC poll that, among other things, shows that Americans do not regard Hillary as “honest and straightforward” by a 50-25 percent margin. A recent AP poll was even worse as it showed that 61 percent of those surveyed believed the word ‘honest” applied to Hillary only slightly or not at all. Unlike the Journal poll that showed Democrats still trusted Clinton, the AP poll showed that only 40 percent of members of her party considered her honest.

Is it possible to be elected president with those kinds of poll numbers? Maybe. Overall, Clinton’s net favorability — the number of those who view her positively and those negatively — was even. That’s not good but it could be worse. And she still leads all of the leading Republican presidential contenders in head-to-head matchups though not by the same margins that were recorded not that long ago. So perhaps it’s possible to imagine that the usual Clinton response to scandals will work again. That means an avalanche of smears aimed at anyone who dares to question their probity and a steadfast refusal to own up to any problems enabled by destruction of evidence.

But whereas Bill’s charm has always enabled him to survive these kinds of problems while keeping the money thrown at him by wealthy people who wish to profit from the association, Hillary may not be as lucky. The problem goes deeper than one or two polls or even the immediate fallout from the Clinton Cash revelations. It’s the sense on the part of many Americans that we’ve seen this movie before. The Clintons tin-eared utterances betraying their sense of entitlement about the riches thrown their way, whether uttered by Hillary or her equally maladroit husband makes it harder to think of them as unstoppable. So, too, does their arrogant refusal to acknowledge the obvious conflicts of interest involved in running a mega charity dependent on foreign donations while one of the pair serves as secretary of state and prepares a run for the presidency.

The outcome in November 2016 will depend a lot on the matchup with the GOP nominee and the issues that will dominate the news cycle at that time, both factors that are unknown to us now. But anyone who thinks Americans will elect Hillary to the White House if they think she isn’t honest doesn’t know much about American politics. And she isn’t going to be rescued by a husband that is mired in this scandal and not politically adroit enough to avoid fueling it with foolish remarks about profiting from their influence peddling. Though the strength and the viciousness of the Clintons should never be underestimated, neither should we discount the depth of the hole into which their avarice has placed them. That’s especially true as long as they keep making it bigger.

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Sorry, Media, but Hillary is Incompetent

A recent article in The Economist, in stating that Hillary Clinton starts as the favorite to win the 2016 presidential election, posed the question: What does she stand for? To which the author answered:

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A recent article in The Economist, in stating that Hillary Clinton starts as the favorite to win the 2016 presidential election, posed the question: What does she stand for? To which the author answered:

Competence and experience, say her supporters. As secretary of state, she flew nearly a million miles and visited 112 countries. If a foreign crisis occurs on her watch, there is a good chance she will already have been there, read the briefing book and had tea with the local power brokers. No other candidate of either party can boast as much.

Chris Cillizza, in his column published earlier today in the Washington Post, wrote this:

There is little doubt among the electorate — with the exception of conservative Republicans who will never vote for Clinton under any circumstances — that her life experiences and résumé have prepared her to do the job. First lady, senator from New York, secretary of state — no one in the field (on either side) can match those credentials.

Clinton is universally known and, generally, regarded as hyper-competent. That’s her as her best asset.

That judgment, like the one in The Economist, strikes me as baseless. Not only is Mrs. Clinton not “hyper-competent,” she is not even minimally competent.

What exactly are her brilliant achievements? Is it HillaryCare, a substantive disaster that led to a political disaster (the Republican sweep in the 1994 mid-term election)? The multiple ethical problems she’s encountered during her years in politics? Here fierce opposition to the Petraeus-led surge in Iraq long after it was obvious it was succeeding? Perhaps the Russian reset? Referring to Bashar Assad, the genocidal dictator of Syria, as a “reformer“? Or maybe her masterful handling of the Iranian Green Revolution, relations with Egypt, Libya, Israel, the attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Poland, the Czech Republic, the “pivot” to Asia and countless other failures during the first Obama term?

What exactly are her achievements – her concrete, tangible, exceptional achievements – as First Lady, senator, and secretary of state? They don’t exist. In fact, the things she has her fingerprints on have, much more often than not, turned into disasters. The case that her supporters put forward on her behalf — she has flown nearly a million miles, visited more than 100 countries, read briefing books (!) and had tea with local power brokers (!!) – highlights just how pathetic her achievements are.

The media meme that Mrs. Clinton is “competent” – nay, “hyper-competent” – is silly. During the quarter-century she’s been on the national stage, she has proved herself to be an individual of extraordinary ambition, a conspiracy theorist, ethically challenged, and a key figure in a brutal political machine. She is also, pace The Economist and Chris Cillizza, unusually inept. This judgment is not an opinion; it is based on a reasonable assessment of her actual record. Including her briefing book reading habits and tea times.

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Is the Clinton Cash Gravy Train Ride Over?

After what is now becoming a steady drip, drip, drip of revelations from the Clinton Cash story, the wealthy donors to the former first family’s foundation may be having second thoughts. As Politico reports, some of those who have already handed over huge amounts to the Clinton Foundation are now worried about whether doing so again would be more trouble than it is worth. They have good reason to think so. After years of raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from the rich, big businesses, as well as foreign entities and governments, the price of a donation to the Clintons just went up. Instead of getting positive press attention for being philanthropic and the added bonus of access to the former president and the ex-secretary of state who hopes to be the next president, foundation donors are now getting the kind of intense scrutiny from the press they could live without. The foundation’s resources are so enormous that it could withstand a downturn in giving even beyond the planned slowdown of activity as Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign started up. But it’s worth asking how an institution whose existence is predicated on donors’ expectations of burnishing their images as do-gooders and possible influence on the world’s ultimate power couple can survive if the Clintons are forced to end the pay-for-play aspect of their charity.

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After what is now becoming a steady drip, drip, drip of revelations from the Clinton Cash story, the wealthy donors to the former first family’s foundation may be having second thoughts. As Politico reports, some of those who have already handed over huge amounts to the Clinton Foundation are now worried about whether doing so again would be more trouble than it is worth. They have good reason to think so. After years of raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from the rich, big businesses, as well as foreign entities and governments, the price of a donation to the Clintons just went up. Instead of getting positive press attention for being philanthropic and the added bonus of access to the former president and the ex-secretary of state who hopes to be the next president, foundation donors are now getting the kind of intense scrutiny from the press they could live without. The foundation’s resources are so enormous that it could withstand a downturn in giving even beyond the planned slowdown of activity as Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign started up. But it’s worth asking how an institution whose existence is predicated on donors’ expectations of burnishing their images as do-gooders and possible influence on the world’s ultimate power couple can survive if the Clintons are forced to end the pay-for-play aspect of their charity.

One anonymous donor that spoke to Politico admitted that they had already had questions about how the vast sums donated to the foundation were being spent. As we noted yesterday, the foundation’s tax filings show that it spends as little as ten percent of their resources on actual charity work as opposed to the enormous amounts spent on the Clintons comings and goings, travel, staff, and boosting the Clinton Presidential Library and the annual Clinton Global Initiative paparazzi-fest.

But if the next CGI jamboree in New York in September is more of a press stakeout than a photo-op, the incentive to participate will not be so great. Donors need to realize that this time, rather than the feel-good story it has always been, the media focus will be to keep tabs on the big givers and what they expect to get for the money.

Beyond the new perils of attending the Clintons’ annual event, giving to the foundation has just become hazardous. After Peter Schweizer’s book opened up the topic, credible mainstream media outlets, including reliably liberal ones such as the New York Times, are devoting serious resources to tracking down Clinton donors and attempting to connect the dots between their gifts and what it is they want to get for their contributions.

The problem with the foundation is that it is awash in money and has relatively little, other than the impression of do-gooding, to show for it. Politico notes that the Clintons expected that the last months before the annual CGI bash were going to be a “victory lap” of publicity and fundraising that would allow the foundation to survive what was expected to be a relatively fallow period that would coincide with the heating up of the 2016 presidential campaign. But instead of that, any foundation activities will be subjected to the sort of attention that will feel more like a perp walk than an ego boost for those involved.

The Clintons have already raised enough money to create a $250 million endowment that would enable the foundation to continue to thrive once Bill Clinton as well as Hillary stops raising money during the campaign. It is probably correct to assume that the Clintons can continue to get away with anything from perjury to the sort of blatant conflict of interest that has gotten lesser mortals such as Senator Robert Menendez indicted for corruption. But what is going to be tested in the coming year is whether the opprobrium that is now being attached to giving to the Clinton Foundation will make it impossible for them to be able to go on riding an unprecedented charitable juggernaut. The ability to use the foundation to cash in on their name and their past and perhaps future positions has made the Clintons immensely wealthy and turned a post-presidency vanity project into one of the wealthiest of nonprofits.

If more of the donations they’ve already received come to be seen as questionable if not corrupt, it’s hard to see how they continue successfully shaking down celebrities and executives for the same kind of cash they’re used to getting. Even more to the point, if the foundation is to really free itself of an addiction to money given by foreign governments and those connected to them, the foundation may not be able to continue as a charitable version of “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

Even worse, if Hillary’s presidential hopes eventually falter under the weight of Clinton Cash allegations if not her own lackluster political skills, it’s also difficult to see a lucrative future of a foundation whose marquee names will no longer include a possible future president. If so, then rather than merely a blip on the radar for the once and perhaps future first couple, the Clinton Cash revelations may mark the beginning of the end for the Clinton gravy train.

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Is the Clinton Foundation Really a Charity?

One of the mantras one must invoke when discussing the Clinton Cash controversy is to say that whatever one might think of the pay-to-play aspects of the former first family’s charitable endeavors, the Clinton Foundation does a lot of good work around the world. But now that more of the press is finally asking tough questions about the Clintons’ activities, it appears that their charity may not pass the basic question donors ask of any philanthropy: how much of the money raised is actually spent on the causes you are supposed to be aiding? Though the foundation has claimed that 88 percent of its expenditures are spent on good deeds, their own tax filings reveal that the real number is about ten percent. But far from being an unrelated, albeit embarrassing, sidebar to the allegations about influence peddling, this data is a reminder that the main point of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is to support its namesakes in a lavish fashion and to allow wealthy donors access to them.

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One of the mantras one must invoke when discussing the Clinton Cash controversy is to say that whatever one might think of the pay-to-play aspects of the former first family’s charitable endeavors, the Clinton Foundation does a lot of good work around the world. But now that more of the press is finally asking tough questions about the Clintons’ activities, it appears that their charity may not pass the basic question donors ask of any philanthropy: how much of the money raised is actually spent on the causes you are supposed to be aiding? Though the foundation has claimed that 88 percent of its expenditures are spent on good deeds, their own tax filings reveal that the real number is about ten percent. But far from being an unrelated, albeit embarrassing, sidebar to the allegations about influence peddling, this data is a reminder that the main point of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is to support its namesakes in a lavish fashion and to allow wealthy donors access to them.

Sean Davis highlighted the discrepancy between the 88 percent figure and the reality of the Clinton Foundation spending ten percent on charity in a recent Federalist article. He followed up with another, skewering a claim by the left-wing Punditfact site that this claim was “mostly false.” As he wrote, the only way to come to such a conclusion was to simply ignore facts, including, most importantly, the filings of the Clinton Foundation that made it clear that it spent very little of its money on good deeds. But Punditfact says we should ignore these basic facts because of “the unusual business model” of the foundation which causes it to spend the lion’s share of the vast sums raised on its behalf on conferences, travel, and staffing.

The two largest items on its list of charitable expenditures are support for the Clinton Presidential Library and paying for the Clinton Global Initiative.

The Library is, like those edifices built to house the papers and glorify the memory of other presidents, a not-altogether-worthless endeavor. But it is a monument to the vanity and the legacy of the Clintons, not the sort of “good work” helping the impoverished of the Third World, as well as the women and the girls, Hillary Clinton is always telling us she’s out to save. It may be a non-profit institution but it is not a charity.

The Clinton Global Initiative is also not a charity. According to the New York Times, it’s a “glitzy annual gathering of chief executives, heads of state and celebrities.” Those who attend it may do charitable work. But their main purpose in attending is to see and be seen talking about being charitable. The same can be said of the event itself.

The foundation’s “business model” is that rather than raise money to give to those helping the poor on the ground, its alleged charitable acts are done by those on its payroll. Fair enough. But the controversy here is that the foundation and its liberal apologists want us to think that when the Clintons and their staff scurry around the world talking about helping the poor that amounts to charity.

This is not a made-up argument about how to characterize expenditures. The Clintons don’t feed the hungry or clothe the poor. They are conveners of famous and smart people who supposedly brainstorm about how to do those things. They call this “life-changing” work and no doubt it does some good. But the only ones whose lives we can be certain have been “changed” are the Clintons, their cronies, and their staff. Most of the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by the foundation yearly is spent on salaries, travel, offices, and other perks. The Clinton Foundation is the ultimate “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” reality show cloaked in a veneer of good intentions and charitable rhetoric. But it is not much of a charity.

What makes this relevant to the Clinton Cash allegations is that most of the money spent by the foundation is geared toward providing access for the donors to the Clintons via the annual celebrity conference and events at the Library. The business model here is all about the show of charity and, as our Abe Greenwald wrote on Monday, primarily interested in lauding a “class of global VIP celebrating its good works.” That doesn’t help many poor people, but it did aid the Clintons in their effort to attract wealthy, self-interested donors who preferred to give to a foundation that could advance their personal political and economic agendas rather than aid the poor.

Technically speaking this isn’t a scam, since the Clintons’ donors know exactly what they are getting. Indeed, many of them may well have gotten their money’s worth of influence by giving money to the ex-president and a sitting secretary of state and would-be president. If so, that is a scandal and one that ought to disqualify Hillary Clinton for consideration for the presidency.

But though it may not be illegal, it is not quite the noble cause to which we’re all supposed to pay homage. What’s more, the “mistakes” the foundation has made in its filings are leading to reasonable suspicions that we have just started to scratch the surface of its questionable dealings. Those liberals that are dedicating themselves to rationalizing and apologizing for the foundation may find that they have taken on a task that is in the process of becoming a full-time and increasingly impossible job.

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No, Bernie Sanders Will Not Make the Election a Battle of Ideas

Bernie Sanders is running for president. Bernie Sanders will never be president. These two facts, taken together, represent good news for Hillary Clinton in a week when she could really use it. Sanders will run to Hillary’s populist left, but–spoiler alert–his ideas won’t have much impact. We won’t have a truly important “national conversation” thanks to Bernie Sanders. He will remind Americans that Vermont exists, and then he will fade back into the background with a pint of Chunky Monkey to resurface as an answer to the occasional trivia night question at the pub.

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Bernie Sanders is running for president. Bernie Sanders will never be president. These two facts, taken together, represent good news for Hillary Clinton in a week when she could really use it. Sanders will run to Hillary’s populist left, but–spoiler alert–his ideas won’t have much impact. We won’t have a truly important “national conversation” thanks to Bernie Sanders. He will remind Americans that Vermont exists, and then he will fade back into the background with a pint of Chunky Monkey to resurface as an answer to the occasional trivia night question at the pub.

It’s not exactly controversial to say Sanders can’t win. It has a lot to do with why he’s running in the first place: he was elected to Congress a socialist, and a socialist he remains. It is true that a poll last year found that Democrats approve of socialism at the same levels they approve of capitalism. But that doesn’t mean Democrats will nominate an avowed socialist. If you want to get public policymaking to reflect the dangerous folly of socialism, you can’t call it that. Use words like “justice” and “fairness” and other liberal euphemisms for armed robbery instead.

Now you might think that the entry of a socialist into the Democratic Party primary, at a time when a majority of Democrats approve of socialism, would at the very least make for a lively debate that could pull the eventual nominee to the left. And further, you might think that would be even likelier since the main candidate in the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton, is the very embodiment of privilege, corruption, entitlement, influence peddling, and swamping American elections with foreign money.

But in order for that to be the case, two things would have to be true. The Democrats would have to actually oppose cronyism and corruption rather than see them as useful vehicles to attain power. And Democrats would have to be willing, in large numbers, to publicly embrace their inner socialist rather than prize electability over principle.

Neither of those is true.

As the Obama administration’s weaponized IRS and its reliance on lawmaking by bureaucratic regulation have shown, Democrats have fully realized something very important about American politics. If you hold the levers of power–especially the White House–and you’re of the correct political beliefs as far as the traditional organs of the fourth estate are concerned, you can get away with quite a lot. And you don’t really need Congress (though it helps).

As such, for leftists political campaigns are quite different from what the political parties have traditionally thought of them as being. They are not, for the left, about ideas or vetting their would-be leaders. They are simply about winning at any cost so that the unaccountable bureaucracy can go on ruling undisturbed.

And a key part of this, for Democrats, is to never say what everyone knows to be true.

If it were really about ideas, progressive activists would be flocking to Sanders and ignoring Elizabeth Warren, instead of the other way around. Warren, after all, is not really a populist but a demagogue. She merely does the bidding of certain wealthy bank lobby shops instead of others.

The press wants to believe this isn’t true. Hence NBC News tried to claim–bless their hearts–that “Bernie Sanders Won’t Win. But His Ideas Might.” On the matter of preferring Warren over Sanders, NBC has this to say:

Sanders, though, is less well-suited to run a credible challenge to Clinton than Warren. Sanders does not play the part of the typical presidential candidate, both because of his age and his style, which leans toward long, dense policy speeches instead of the more aspirational rhetoric of Obama.

Translation: when Bernie Sanders speaks, he says something. Democrats are far more likely to support a candidate who is not nearly so reckless, and who is instead careful to say nothing at all.

And Sanders’s entrance into the race also obviates the need for another “populist” to challenge Hillary. So by Sanders taking up Hillary’s left flank, he will ensure that a more serious candidate won’t attempt to grab that role for themselves. It’ll also mean that Hillary can position herself as the Democrats’ alternative to staid socialism, since there’ll be an overt socialist running against her. This is all good news for her impending coronation, and bad news for anyone hoping for a substantive debate on the left side of the aisle.

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Clinton Cash Nation

The Clinton Cash scandal has spurred much discussion of the serial misconduct of Bill and Hillary Clinton. But the affair speaks to realities larger and more destructive than the political pathologies of one family. The Clinton Foundation saga marries liberalism’s core grandiosity to the impunity of the new high-flying elite and lays bare a class of global VIP forever celebrating its progressive good works while holding the common citizen in contempt.

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The Clinton Cash scandal has spurred much discussion of the serial misconduct of Bill and Hillary Clinton. But the affair speaks to realities larger and more destructive than the political pathologies of one family. The Clinton Foundation saga marries liberalism’s core grandiosity to the impunity of the new high-flying elite and lays bare a class of global VIP forever celebrating its progressive good works while holding the common citizen in contempt.

Progressive grandiosity was born long ago with the socialist impulse to remake the world. It lives on in the liberal expectation of a savior who will set things right. Such political messianism makes it hard for many liberals to find fault with liberal leaders. While conservatives reject perfection and take human defects as given, many liberals see the shortcomings of a Barack Obama or a Hillary Clinton as a threat to their faith.

It’s easier, then, for liberals to downplay a progressive politician’s record and focus instead on their “meaning.” This goes a long way in explaining both the reelection of Obama and the continued support for Hillary, two liberal politicians stuffed to the gills with meaning and shot through with teleological purpose. They’re not admired for what they’ve done but for simply being objects of admiration—and inevitability.

It follows that liberal and conservative candidates respond to very different incentive structures. Jeb Bush must declare, “I don’t see any coronation coming my way,” lest he seem entitled. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, asks, “Don’t you someday want to see a woman president?” lest we forget her date with destiny. Not only is she already among the elect; it’s her selling point.

Today we recognize the elect by a particular set of associations. The Davostocracy that’s come to include rock stars, politicians, athletes, tech gurus, and CEOs puts out glossy books about charity, inclusiveness, and cooperation. On panels and talk shows they serve up their lives as inspirational tales in which outsize success is always tempered by gratitude and generosity. They build foundations to anchor their personal brands in popular concepts such as globalization and sustainability. The hope—and it seems usually to be fulfilled—is that ordinary folks outsource some degree of their own good sense and moral inclination to these pervasive media superstars. To be a fan of one of the elect is to indicate one’s own probity and sound judgment. Buy into a feel-good brand and you don’t have to worry about all the sticky details.

While pundits fret over the Bush or Clinton Dynasty, the more insidious threat to democracy is a beatified jet-set nobility to whom the rest of us hand over our stake in the culture and the country.

Among this nobility, the Clintons are the perpetual first family. In 1996 Hillary Clinton wrote a book titled It Takes a Village. Disguised as a how-to guide for helping the children of the future, the bestseller was a book-length advertisement for the Clinton brand. In 2007, during Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign, Bill Clinton put out a bestseller titled, hysterically, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World. Disguised as an account of selflessness, it was an advertisement for the now infamous Clinton Foundation.

Even before the Clinton Foundation appeared to be an international clearinghouse for high-stakes influence peddling, it was an opaque and self-serving project of the Davostocracy. According to some accounts, the foundation spent as little as 10 percent of its budget on charity in 2013. The opacity explains how the Clintons could go a decade and a half pulling money from scoundrels, not claiming donations, and misfiling taxes while earning only praise for their efforts.

Liberal messianism and elite-worship enjoy a wholly complementary relationship. Progressives expect to cede large realms of their lives to capable leaders who will deliver a fairer world. The Clintons have traded on both their meaning and their unquestioned elite status to earn pardons for a multitude of sins. While the world looked the other way Clinton Cash happened. Both ideas are there in Hillary’s campaign message: “Everyday Americans need a champion. I want to be that champion.” The Clintons have long thrived in the convergence of these trends. It remains to be seen if they will also be undone by them.

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Do the Clintons Have Enough Scapegoats for an Entire Presidential Campaign?

The latest series of Clinton corruption scandals have allowed voters to get a preview of the way Hillary would govern if she were elected president. Most of that has focused, rightly, on the pay-for-play issues and the way the Clintons profited from taking official actions that harmed American security interests. But now the Clintons have completed the picture by also revealing just how they would handle revelations of misdeeds while in office. In true Clintonian fashion, they’ll pass the buck. The Clintons remain allergic to anything resembling accountability.

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The latest series of Clinton corruption scandals have allowed voters to get a preview of the way Hillary would govern if she were elected president. Most of that has focused, rightly, on the pay-for-play issues and the way the Clintons profited from taking official actions that harmed American security interests. But now the Clintons have completed the picture by also revealing just how they would handle revelations of misdeeds while in office. In true Clintonian fashion, they’ll pass the buck. The Clintons remain allergic to anything resembling accountability.

We shouldn’t miss the significance of the Clintons’ latest effort to dodge the blame for the influence-peddling scandals. What the Clintons are telling us, essentially, is that they are incapable of ensuring the honesty and integrity of any organization over which they preside. And the next such organization would be, if they have their way, the United States government.

Last week, it was revealed that Bill Clinton facilitated deals for donors to the Clinton Foundation, as well as those who paid him directly in speaking fees, to give the Russians control of a huge chunk of American uranium deposits–and that those deals needed Hillary Clinton’s approval as secretary of state, which she provided. Additionally, in an attempt to hide foreign influence peddling, the Clinton Foundation filled out years of false tax returns. And yet, the Clintons’ response to this is the following, via Politico:

The acting chief executive of the Clinton Foundation addressed mistakes that the philanthropic organization has made in a blog post on Sunday, while also emphasizing that its policy regarding donor disclosure and foreign governments is “stronger than ever.”

Maura Pally, the organization’s CEO and senior vice president, women and youth programs, said that the foundation “will likely refile” tax forms for some years after a voluntary external review, which found that it had “mistakenly combined” government grants with other donations.

“So yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don’t happen in the future,” Pally wrote. “We are committed to operating the Foundation responsibly and effectively to continue the life-changing work that this philanthropy is doing every day.”

Pally also addressed the Clinton Foundation’s relationship with Canadian businessman Frank Giustra, who set up an independent charity called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership.

The fact that individual donors are not listed on the foundation’s site is not an effort to avoid transparency, she said, noting that Canadian law requires charities to get prior permission from each donor to disclose their identities.

Ah yes, mistakes were made. Also, blame Canada. Welcome to Hillary 2016: it’s not only someone else’s fault–whatever it is–but it also might be some other country’s fault.

There is, in fact, nothing shocking whatsoever in what Hillary’s trying to pull here. And that in itself should be shocking.

Hillary’s camp actually previewed this defense somewhat, by saying there was no proof that she personally signed off on the deals that needed her State Department’s approval. Sound familiar? It should: we heard it with regard to Libya as well. An American ambassador was killed in a terrorist attack after months of warnings of such attacks and a request for additional security, all made to Hillary’s State Department.

Yet after the deadly attack–in the aftermath of a war that was fought precisely how Hillary wanted to fight it–we were told that maybe those very important requests and briefings didn’t get all the way to Hillary. After all, she had to do some delegating: maybe the furniture questions, as we’ve seen, were the only ones to get all the way to the top, but the requests for security in a war zone could be handled by Frank in the mailroom. At least she didn’t try to blame Benghazi on Canada.

Hillary uses the complexity of bureaucracy to claim she didn’t know. And that’s why the Clinton Foundation scandals read like a Rube Goldberg rendering of political and financial corruption.

It’s bad enough for officials of the government to use the bureaucracy to insulate themselves from accountability, but they are merely availing themselves of the system’s perks. The Clinton Foundation, and the Clintons’ personal bank accounts, into which speech fees went, are the Clintons’ constructs. They arranged their family enterprise to mimic the way the federal government fleeces taxpayers while shielding those at the top from responsibility for their misdeeds.

The bet made by the Clintons was that reporters wouldn’t be sharp or dogged enough to connect all the dots. And they were almost right. Peter Schweizer, who wrote the forthcoming book Clinton Cash, has been the engine driving much of this. But reporters are building on what he’s uncovered, and putting their resources to good use. There are a lot of dots to connect, but once you connect them, you see a pretty disturbing picture.

Once reporters did connect those dots, Hillary had a fall-gal at the ready: an executive at the Clinton Foundation, as if it were some free-floating entity only loosely tied to the Clintons themselves, when in fact it is not only their family business but also served as a kind of super-PAC for Hillary while she was still at State at which her top aides served simultaneously while on her staff at the State Department.

That was a brilliant stroke, having someone not named Clinton at the foundation admit fault and apologize. But it’s getting a bit predictable, and if the scandals keep coming at this pace the Clintons are going to run out of scapegoats. The public, however, is likely to stop falling for it long before that.

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Must We Ask a Rude Question About the Clintons?

On the surface, it isn’t that hard to understand the Clinton Cash scandal that Democrats are trying very hard to ignore this week. We have a former president making millions giving speeches and doing favors for wealthy foreign entities and nations that give massive sums to the Clinton family charity that subsidizes the lavish lifestyle of the former First Family. He did this at the same time as his wife spent four years as secretary of state where she made decisions that influence the fortunes of those donors. And all this was happening while said former first lady/secretary of state is planning to run for president herself at the next opportunity. No one can deny that this smells to high heaven of impropriety, and the best Billy and Hillary’s court of admirers and apologists can say in their defense is that the evidence of a conflict of interest is circumstantial and that there is no smoking gun proving their guilt. But there is another defense that Politico’s national editor Michael Hirsch hints at in a piece published yesterday: their marriage is so dysfunctional that any alleged coordination between the two is unlikely.

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On the surface, it isn’t that hard to understand the Clinton Cash scandal that Democrats are trying very hard to ignore this week. We have a former president making millions giving speeches and doing favors for wealthy foreign entities and nations that give massive sums to the Clinton family charity that subsidizes the lavish lifestyle of the former First Family. He did this at the same time as his wife spent four years as secretary of state where she made decisions that influence the fortunes of those donors. And all this was happening while said former first lady/secretary of state is planning to run for president herself at the next opportunity. No one can deny that this smells to high heaven of impropriety, and the best Billy and Hillary’s court of admirers and apologists can say in their defense is that the evidence of a conflict of interest is circumstantial and that there is no smoking gun proving their guilt. But there is another defense that Politico’s national editor Michael Hirsch hints at in a piece published yesterday: their marriage is so dysfunctional that any alleged coordination between the two is unlikely.

As Hirsh notes, to discuss the “impenetrable” Clinton marriage is a difficult task. Upon their arrival on the national stage in the 1992 presidential campaign, Americans have on the one hand been deluged with far more information about the Clintons’ relationship than we wanted, as he confessed to having “caused pain,” while never giving us any further explanations. A few years later Bill plunged the nation into a degrading debate about the definition of sex and whether it’s OK to commit perjury about acts of sexual harassment after his dalliance with an intern in the Oval Office. Since then we’ve been asked at one and the same time to sympathize with Hillary as the long suffering wife while also being warned to keep our noses out of their private business.

Would that we could. As Brit Hume recently noted on Fox, one of the key questions about Hillary’s presidential prospects is whether the “American people want another four, eight years of the Clintons and their weird marriage.”

That sounds pretty harsh and uncharacteristically ungentlemanly coming from the courtly Hume. But he’s on to something that can neither be ignored nor swept under the carpet. Having asked us to take them as a two-for-one package in 1992, the ordeal of watching their odd contortions as a couple has become a long national nightmare that, if she wins in 2016, will have no end in sight.

If the questions about them were merely the prosaic ones about whether their continuing union is one primarily of convenience like some royal dynastic pairing rather than a conventional marriage in which two people strive to love and stay together, any queries about their private lives would be rude and even inadmissible. Whether the Clintons are in any sense a romantic couple is none of our business. But if they are still a working political partnership, then we are entitled to know a great deal about their personal interactions. In particular, we deserve to learn about how large a role Bill played as an advisor to her when she was running U.S. foreign policy. We’re also entitled to know more about her role in their charity’s insatiable campaign to raise enormous amounts of cash from individuals, companies, and countries. In classic “pay for play” style, those donors thought they could do themselves quite a bit of good by giving to the Clintons rather than more established philanthropies that were not run by former and perhaps future presidents.

Other than merely claiming that we can’t prove it to a legal certainty without a smoking gun, Mrs. Clinton’s defense against the allegations raised in Clinton Cash rests on a few shaky limbs onto which her defenders can climb. One is to assert that the actions the Department of State took that benefitted Clinton donors were handled below her level. Which is to say she was, shades of Benghazi, not in the know about crucial decisions taking place on her watch. Which is to say she was an incompetent secretary of state.

Another possible defense raised by Hirsh is that Clinton was completely removed from major policy decisions in the Obama administration. This has a ring of truth to it as Obama distrusts the Clintons and runs a top-down administration in which Cabinet secretaries have little say on important matters, though that doesn’t absolve her on issues that the president did not decide. It also further undermines her claim that her experience as secretary of state entitles her to the presidency.

Yet there is an even more credible defense that Clinton’s clique can’t raise. It is that Bill and Hillary are just so disconnected a couple that the idea that they coordinated the family charity business with her foreign-policy ambitions is absurd.

Is this true? We don’t know for sure and, as with so much else about the Clintons, we may never know. Whatever their personal problems might be, their political and business partnership seems to be intact. Moreover, that defense didn’t work for an equally dysfunctional couple, Bob and Maureen McDonnell, when they faced prosecution for pay to play charges for their actions during his time as governor of Virginia.

Whatever form their personal relationship now takes, it’s too late to say that the vast charitable and political web they have woven is none of our business. Both Bill and Hillary have benefitted enormously from their charitable empire and so have those who donated to it.

Getting to the bottom of the Clinton Cash problem may require us, as Hirsh says, to “unscramble the omelet.” The putative 2016 Democratic Party candidate for president has shown no signs of being willing to speak candidly about these questions and a presidential campaign is a bad time for the pair to sort out their marriage for the public. It might be the best defense she can offer, but Hillary is unlikely to try to acquit herself of any involvement in the Clinton Foundation’s dirty business by telling us the truth about how disconnected the two really are.

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Clinton Cash and Circumstantial Evidence

A few days into the Clinton Cash scandal and apologists for Hillary and Bill are starting to retreat. After days of focusing on smearing author Peter Schweizer, the investigative reports of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and now Fox News have made it harder to dismiss the discussion about the connection between the massive donations to the Clintons’ foundation and speaking fees for the former president and influence peddling at the State Department. Instead, they are relying on more legalistic defenses and saying that Schweizer and other journalists who have followed up on his reporting can’t prove that Hillary Clinton performed favors for donors to her family charity or those who paid her husband half-million-dollar honorariums. So far, that’s true as there is no “smoking gun” memo in which the Clintons make clear promises of corrupt action in payment for the largesse that had been bestowed upon them. But what Democrats and all Americans should be asking about this argument is why some people get prosecuted for corruption on such circumstantial evidence while others are considered likely to be elected president. If circumstantial evidence less compelling than that contained in Clinton Cash can lead to an indictment of Senator Robert Menendez, why should we dismiss this story as just a political attack?

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A few days into the Clinton Cash scandal and apologists for Hillary and Bill are starting to retreat. After days of focusing on smearing author Peter Schweizer, the investigative reports of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and now Fox News have made it harder to dismiss the discussion about the connection between the massive donations to the Clintons’ foundation and speaking fees for the former president and influence peddling at the State Department. Instead, they are relying on more legalistic defenses and saying that Schweizer and other journalists who have followed up on his reporting can’t prove that Hillary Clinton performed favors for donors to her family charity or those who paid her husband half-million-dollar honorariums. So far, that’s true as there is no “smoking gun” memo in which the Clintons make clear promises of corrupt action in payment for the largesse that had been bestowed upon them. But what Democrats and all Americans should be asking about this argument is why some people get prosecuted for corruption on such circumstantial evidence while others are considered likely to be elected president. If circumstantial evidence less compelling than that contained in Clinton Cash can lead to an indictment of Senator Robert Menendez, why should we dismiss this story as just a political attack?

The Menendez analogy is inexact but nevertheless worth thinking about. The New Jersey senator faces jail for having done favors that benefited the business of his longtime political donor and friend. The donor was a doctor who made a fortune via Medicare and there’s little doubt that Menendez helped smooth his path to riches. But what’s lacking in the case is any hard evidence that showed that this was a corrupt transaction between the two rather than just constituent service or a favor to a friend. Unless the doctor informs on the senator (something the federal prosecutors are hoping to achieve by over-indicting the senator’s alleged partner in crime with enough charges to keep him in prison for hundreds of years), it’s hard to see how they will obtain a conviction. Even if everybody in New Jersey and Washington probably thinks this is a classic example of pay for play, there is a huge gap between what looks fishy and the sort of thing that can put a senator in prison.

The same can be said of all the allegations about the Clintons since it is unlikely either they or their donors will tell on each other absent the possibility of legal coercion.

The latest shoe to drop is the report about the way the Clintons became the “gatekeepers” for any company that wanted to do business in Haiti during the reconstruction effort after a devastating earthquake in 2010. By the same set of curious coincidences that led those who profited from the sale of 20 percent of America’s uranium reserves to Russia to become donors to the Clinton Global Initiative and sponsors of highly paid speeches by Bill Clinton, a different set of “philanthropists” wound up getting contracts to aid reconstruction and infrastructure work in Haiti also after donating fortunes to the ubiquitous Clinton Foundation. The former president, who was co-chair of a recovery commission, and the State Department facilitated such access. One of the most egregious and embarrassing examples came when a company with little mining experience was granted a gold mining permit. By another astonishing coincidence, Tony Rodham, the secretary of state’s brother, was soon named to its board.

In reply to this and the shocking revelations about a Russian state agency acquiring an American uranium mine from Clinton donors, friends of the putative 2016 Democratic presidential candidate can only shrug their shoulders and demand that critics “prove” to a legal certainty that the favors done their benefactors was part of corrupt deal. They’re right. There probably isn’t a piece of paper lying around in which Bill or Hillary say what it will cost in terms of charitable gifts or honorariums to help potential donors. And if it was ever written in an email, we know that email and the server on which it was recorded have since been erased.

All we have left is the circumstantial evidence that shows that some of the nice people who gave to the Clintons’ charity the cash needed to do some good, but also make the former first couple immensely wealthy, wound up having some of their business affairs advanced by government action. Others clearly hoped that this would be so. After all, the Clinton Global Initiative is just one of many worthy causes and others have longer pedigrees and more impressive records of achievement. People gave to the Clintons because of the good they could have done for themselves rather than to merely do good.

But just because a prosecutor isn’t likely to haul the Clintons into court over all these astonishing coincidences (or at least not so long as the Democrats control the Department of Justice), that doesn’t mean their behavior doesn’t smell to high heaven. Nor should it allow their court of apologists to obscure the real issues here with personal attacks and diversionary tactics. The court in which the Clintons deserve to be condemned is that of public opinion. It is there that Hillary’s friends must be, like Bob Menendez will soon be doing in a federal courtroom, reduced to saying that the journalists who have dug up their secrets can’t prove they’re guilty of corruption even if the circumstantial evidence points in that direction. That may be enough to avoid jail, but what we’ll find out in the coming year is whether it is enough to get elected president.

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Is Clinton Corruption Narrative the End of the “War on Women?”

Most of the candidates for president in 2016 have turned the announcement of when they’re going to announce into an announcement in itself, to drum up both attention and attendance for the big day. And so Carly Fiorina joined the meta-announcement crew two days ago by revealing she will announce her candidacy for president on May 4. This did not get a ton of attention, in part because the astounding revelations of Clintonian corruption have devoured the news cycle. But this also might not be temporary for Fiorina; she may have to get used to the strange way Hillary’s corruption could affect her own candidacy.

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Most of the candidates for president in 2016 have turned the announcement of when they’re going to announce into an announcement in itself, to drum up both attention and attendance for the big day. And so Carly Fiorina joined the meta-announcement crew two days ago by revealing she will announce her candidacy for president on May 4. This did not get a ton of attention, in part because the astounding revelations of Clintonian corruption have devoured the news cycle. But this also might not be temporary for Fiorina; she may have to get used to the strange way Hillary’s corruption could affect her own candidacy.

That’s because Fiorina is a perfect test case for how the full GOP field will tailor their attacks on Clinton according to the news cycle. This may sound obvious, but in fact it’s not: the media tends to be so far in the tank for major Democratic candidates that it’s a struggle to get the mainstream press to put Democrats on the defensive the way they prefer Republicans to be throughout the election.

But that’s simply not the case this time. Of course, Hillary’s corruption scandals do, to some degree, represent a media failure. After all, the latest revelations are that the Clintons were personally enriched by donors who they then helped access American uranium deposits only to sell them to the Russians, who were also supplying the Iranians while shoveling large sums of money at Bill Clinton, who facilitated the deal and whose wife, Hillary, signed off on it while she was secretary of state.

Which is to say, this is a monumental scandal involving the corruption of American foreign policy for profit while boosting America’s enemies at the expense of our own national security. Had the story come out when it happened, it could have ended Hillary’s political career by forcing her resignation from the State Department, and might have torpedoed President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and derailed whatever remained of the concessions Obama wanted to give Vladimir Putin as part of the failed “reset.”

That’s a worst-case scenario for this round of alternate history, but it’s hard to argue it wasn’t at least a possibility.

Additionally, some of this was prompted by conservative researcher and think-tanker Peter Schweizer, who endeavored to connect the dots that were hiding in plain sight. The New York Times, for example, should be commended for putting its resources behind expanding on Schweizer’s investigations. As Politico noted yesterday, “The fact that Schweizer’s revelations have now been vetted and reported out by the likes of the Times, POLITICO, etc., means the Clinton campaign can no longer be so dismissive.” That is true–and also quite an indictment of the reporting atmosphere in which Democrats can get away with far too much.

So the attempts to ghettoize conservative reporting this time around aren’t having much success. The stories themselves are far too explosive, and they’re not all coming from Schweizer either. Reuters, for example, revealed that the Clintons have been filing years of false tax returns in order to hide foreign donations. It turns out the Clintons are following neither the spirit nor the letter of the law, and that isn’t easy to hide in 2015.

And it changes the focus of Republican criticism as well. Now that the Clintons have failed to characterize the facts about their family foundation as right-wing conspiracy theories, the leftist game plan on the election has to be at least somewhat revised. Initial attacks on Hillary centered on her complete lack of accomplishments and sense of entitlement. To this, the left would respond by shouting “sexism!” In general, Hillary would like to steer the conversation toward all manner of “war on women” subjects.

But blatant corruption of the kind we’re seeing here makes it impossible for the Clintons to control the narrative right now. And the corruption storyline gives Republicans a way to criticize Hillary while avoiding the culture wars.

This is great news for the GOP field in general, but less so for Fiorina. As I wrote after her CPAC speech this year, Fiorina was able to talk about social issues and Hillary’s failings in a way that Republican men just weren’t. That’s not all there is to her candidacy; Fiorina speaks with fluency on a range of subjects, and her career in the private sector has given her both executive experience and an outsider’s perspective on government.

It’s possible the Clinton corruption stories will fade, or at least go through a lull at some point. Maybe Fiorina will still be in the race if that happens, maybe not. But if she was hoping for much of a poll bounce after her official campaign launch, she might find Clinton raining on her parade by, paradoxically, giving everybody something to criticize Hillary over.

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Hillary Clinton’s Bribery Scandal

Earlier this week I referred to Hillary Clinton’s “tangle of corruption.” It turns out I was being generous.

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Earlier this week I referred to Hillary Clinton’s “tangle of corruption.” It turns out I was being generous.

As the politically explosive story in the New York Times demonstrates, the depths of the Clintons’ corruption and avarice is stunning. The facts in the Times story are utterly damning and prima facie evidence of a conflict of interest. If foreign governments, including adversarial ones like Russia, paid the Clinton Foundation and/or Bill Clinton huge sums of money, they assured themselves favorable treatment. (Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was pursuing the purchase of a Uranium One, a uranium mining company.) What we’re talking about looks very much like bribery, as former Governor Mitt Romney told Hugh Hewitt.

It’s worth placing this revelation in context: The Clintons have known for years that Hillary would run for president–and yet they still undertook this transparently unethical and potentially politically catastrophic action. The same is true of Mrs. Clinton’s deletion of 30,000 emails, another breathtakingly inappropriate, and possibly illegal, act. (It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that some of those deleted emails included a discussion of Uranium One, the company the Russians assumed control over.)

All of this confirms what many of us have long believed: The Clintons are, in important respects, unethical and unscrupulous. They think the rules apply to other people but not them. They are self-indulgent, narcissistic, out of control. There don’t appear to be moral guardrails in place. They oversee a brutal political machine that destroys those who threaten their political viability.

The Clintons are so brazen in their transgressions and corruption that they are like figures from a Robert Penn Warren novel. But in this case, we’re dealing not with fiction but real life, not with make-believe characters but real people. One of them wants to win the presidency. But being engulfed by a bribery scandal won’t help her.

A recommendation to my Democratic friends: It’s time for Elizabeth Warren to start warming up in the bullpen.

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