How should one think about the unfolding allegations rocking the Clinton Industrial Complex (which includes both her campaign and her foundation)?
By now, you may have heard about Peter Schweizer’s book, “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”
The book isn’t even out yet, and Clinton’s team is already sheltering in place like Churchill’s cabinet during the Blitz. That’s in part because Schweizer, a conservative author and dogged investigative journalist, has teamed up with notorious right-wing rags The New York Times and The Washington Post to essentially re-report and expand on allegations made in the book.
Because it would be absurd to claim that these papers are part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” — which won’t stop flacks from saying it — they are much better equipped to drop the payload over the target.
Even Lawrence O’Donnell, a Democratic water-carrier of such sterling reliability that he makes Gunga Din look like a slacker, had to concede on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the Clinton campaign no longer has a Schweizer problem. It has “a New York Times problem.”
It’s hard to boil down the Times’ deeply detailed account, but the broad brushstrokes are as follows: A Canadian business wanted to sell its uranium mines in Kazakhstan and the U.S. to a Russian state-run — i.e., Vladimir Putin-run — firm. I know what you’re thinking: What could go wrong?
In order to grease the skids — allegedly, of course — Canadian uranium moguls Frank Giustra and Ian Telfer gave millions to the Clinton Foundation and arranged for $500,000 speech by Bill Clinton (whose speaking fees mysteriously skyrocketed after his wife became secretary of state), bankrolled by a Russian investment bank with interests in the deal.
While in Kazakhstan, former president Clinton agreed to hold a joint press conference with president-for-life Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. (He’s been getting “re-elected” with just shy of 100 percent of the vote since 1989.) Clinton generously praised Kazakhstan’s human rights record, a propaganda gift of the first order. Days later, Giustra’s deal was approved by the Kazakh government.
Also, when she became secretary of state, Hillary Clinton promised to disclose all such donations to the Clinton Foundation and submit her husband’s foreign speeches for White House review. None of that happened.
There are other allegations in this story and, more important, there are many more such stories to come (according to several people who’ve read the book).
So again: How should we think about all of this? One place not to look for answers is the Clinton leviathan and its sundry remoras. For starters, no matter what the allegation, the Clinton response is always to shoot the messengers and point to the alleged misdeeds of somebody else.
They have other familiar tactics as well. With the Clintons, the freshest evidence is instantly “old news.”
There’s also the long and storied Clinton fondness for lying. For instance, New York Times reporter Jo Becker tells Fox News that the Clinton team flatly denied a Giustra-arranged meeting at the Clintons’ Chappaqua home with Kazakh officials seeking another shady deal — until they learned the meeting was photographed.
In short, simply taking her word alone would be preposterous, particularly for journalists who aren’t supposed to take any politician’s word for anything, even ones who don’t suspiciously delete thousands of “personal” emails.
Still, I suspect that the conclusion that this was all simply about payoffs probably misses the mark. Sure, the Clintons like money. That’s obvious. But the money is incidental to what’s really behind all of this: a mixture of entitlement and machine politics.
The Clintons are like the Tudors of the Ozarks. They believe they are royalty, but they also understand that even monarchs need friends. The Clinton Foundation is the perfect vehicle for their ambition.
Like the medieval Catholic Church, it blurs the lines between ideals and interests. On the one hand, it does yeoman’s work in the Church of Liberal Dogoodery, but it also provides a conduit for business interests, foreign governments, academics, activists and journalists to gain access to the imperial court-in-waiting.
Even if Hillary hadn’t conveniently wiped her servers clean, I suspect there wouldn’t be a lot of emails about quid-pro-quos. Such transactions aren’t made in the language of the bazaar, but in the lingua franca of loyalty, friendship and noblesse oblige.
Yes, Clinton Inc. needs money, but the money is likely seen more as tribute than bribery, a bit of coin offered up as a sign of loyalty to the coming Ozarkian Restoration — a restoration that may just have to wait for Chelsea.
Jonah Goldberg is a columnist for Tribune Media.