Just when the dumpster fire of 2016 couldn’t get any hotter, the Associated Press dropped a bombshell. Yesterday they reported over half of the non-government people who got an audience with Hillary Clinton while she was serving as Secretary of State were donors to the Clinton Foundation.
You might read this scoop and think, “Quid pro quo! J’accuse! Argumentum ad hominem! Semper pedes!” But you, dear reader, are not a veteran Clinton-watcher.
Yes, it looks bad that the Clinton family’s philanthropic organization took tens of millions of dollars from foreign dictators and so-called “enemies” of America. It paints Bill and Hill as immoral influence-peddlers whose loyalty lies exclusively with a global ruling class contra their public image as crusaders for working people.
But to the veteran Clinton-watcher and Beltway Insider, this is par for the course. Every politician in recorded history has given special treatment to wealthy campaign donors. From Abraham Lincoln granting his top hat-shiner a commission in the Union Army to Bernie Sanders letting Vermont’s maple syrup barons bankroll a Twitter harassment insurgency against veteran journalists, pay-to-play is just how the system works. Dick Cheney has Blackwater. Paul Ryan has the Koch brothers and private debtor’s prison CEOs. Hillary has Saudi princes and Jabhat al-Nusra.
While it’s easy for many of us to cast stones from our modern steel and glass skyscrapers at such behavior, I think we have to take a look back into the past, where things were better. While younger Gen Xers and Millennials see a completely amoral network of payments from despots to technocrats, I see the sexy and familial world of Mad Men. Yes, back when men were trusted to drink a martini or six at lunch and office trysts were kept between both parties, influence peddling was as normal as going into divorce court and not having your entire life ruined by a power-crazed sociopath in a robe.
Bill Clinton is in fact a man frozen in time, a time capsule from a better era. In Bill’s youth, it was perfectly acceptable for a man to receive millions of dollars from theocratic tyrants who behead gay people as state policy, then wander off to South Carolina to go on curiously racist tirades. Yes, palms were greased in these times. But grease is what makes wheels turn.
Without influence-purchasing donations, how would the Clinton Foundation complete its “Appfrica” program, where millions of Sub Saharan children are given the privilege of driving Uber? Can anyone seriously argue that they could have brought charter schools to the Gaza Strip without millions from the Suharto Blades Of Honor Fund? Does it not require generous payoffs from ivory importers to write a blank check for Afghan war orphans who have not yet learned to code?
So wake up and face the hangover, haters. I’ll cook you some eggs if you stop the handwringing.
Moreover, what all of the “good” government Sunlight Foundation Chicken Littles forget is the Clinton Foundation isn’t some “Death Star” of corruption. Bill and Chelsea have used these donations to do valuable humanitarian work, such as bringing entitlement reform and free and fair family courts to Haiti. In the aftermath of deadly floods in Bangladesh the Clinton Foundation was the first on the ground with lawyers and lobbyists to help their primitive legislature pass free enterprise zones to help fine young men build their resumes by starting work at age 7.
I’m no apologist for the Clintons. I have long called for them to be indicted for treason for sending illegal emails to Sid Blumenthal. My sources tell me Hillary is 100% certain to be removed from the ticket the week before Election Day, with DNC panjandrums likely to replace her with a war hero like Jim Webb or Wesley Clark. I also have reason to believe they murdered 3% of the population of Arkansas in order to hide their crimes.
But the Clinton Foundation is not one of those crimes. It’s just politics.
FULL DISCLOSURE: From 2009-2013 Carl Diggler received $267,280 from the Clinton Global Father’s Initiative for indigent divorcees who have been driven to near-bankruptcy by alimony.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years and is the host of the Digcast, a weekly podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at email@example.com or Tweet to @carl_diggler.