There were a lot of things wrong with Mitt Romney in 2012. He was stiff, overcompensated on some issues (immigration/self-deportation) to win over the conservative base, and his nomination prevented Republicans from speaking honestly about health care. Romneycare was the blueprint for Obamacare, and it was infamously invoked when Mitt’s press secretary, Andrea Saul, said it could have saved Joe Soptic’s wife from succumbing to cancer if the couple had lived in Massachusetts. Soptic, a former steelworker, was featured in a nasty political ad, which basically accused Romney of killing his wife after he was laid off from the company he worked for upon its acquisition by Bain Capital. Now, don’t get me wrong; Mitt Romney was probably the best we had to work with in 2012. Yet, when I compare what made Romney a flawed candidate to Hillary, there simply is no comparison.
She has to be the gold standard for flawed candidacies. She had unsubstantiated intelligence sent to her private email system; from an address her lawyers said did not exist when she was at State. That was a lie. She claims to be the most transparent (chuckle) person in public life, yet we find little nuggets every day about her non-profit failing to disclose donations, botching tax forms, and allegedly being the nexus for foreign governments to cash in on their favors from their donations to the Foundation. She had a private email system, which she used to conduct all her business while at the State Department, even though it was pretty much against government regulation to do so–and served as judge and jury for emails on that server that were work-related and personal. Oh, and she deleted the personal emails and wiped the server clean.
Regarding her finances, we now know that Bill Clinton established a shell company, which wasn’t disclosed since its assets were less than $1,000. The arrangement was designed to “pass-through” payments to the former president, but “the precise amounts of Bill Clinton's earned income from consulting have not been disclosed, and it's not known how much was routed through WJC, LLL [the company in question], according to the Associated Press. They’re also loaded, like Romney, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is America; I’m all for people making money. But there is a level of disconnectedness that people thought Romney displayed in 2012. Bill Clinton incredulously said getting paid $500k per speech was necessary because he has bills to pay. Romney tried to make a $10k bet with Gov. Rick Perry on a debate stage. The fact is not many Americans can bet $10,000 on much of anything. Regarding the Clintons’ speaking fee rates, if either of them delivers just three speeches, they make more money than most Americans do in their entire lifetimes. On top of that, there’s the “dead broke” remark that Clinton uttered last June, which highlighted another aspect of her flawed candidacy: she’s an abysmal campaigner. If there’s anything that will carry over into next year, it’s this remark, which Maggie Haberman noted is still fresh in a lot of voters’ minds–and possibly the alleged shady dealings surrounding the Foundation. Recently, these dealings veered into the world of arms deals, where foreign governments got billions worth of military equipment that was approved by Clinton’s State Department after they gave the Foundation millions of dollars. There’s not a concrete timetable, but the International Business Times, which reported on the story, wrote, “news reports document that at least seven foreign governments that received State Department clearance for American arms did donate to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary: Algeria, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Thailand, Norway and Australia."
Oh, and Bill Clinton was getting paid to deliver speeches to countries that gave the Foundation money around the same time their arms sales were being approved by the Clinton State Department.
Back to their finances, the truth is that the Clintons were obviously never going to be “dead broke.” The earning potential for a former president is astronomical, and Bill Clinton was making, on average, $24,000 a day in the first few months after he left the White House. Prior to that, the Clintons occupied the governor’s mansion in Arkansas pretty much since 1978. Bill lost re-election in ’80*, but came back with a vengeance in 1982, remaining the state’s governor until he ran for president in 1992. So, neither of them have really been a power couple for the people, which they’re trying to cast themselves in this election cycle. Moreover, the Clintonomics of the 1990s comprised of being pro-Wall Street and reducing capital gains taxes; two things that are anathema to the Democratic Party base today. Another reason why Hillary plans to run on Obama’s economic record since that’s really the only option, though she could do whatever she wants since she already has the nomination in the bag.
Now, forget Mitt Romney for a second. Could you imagine any Republican candidate surviving the media scrutiny upon learning any of the things we now know about the secretive world of the Clintons? Replace the Clintons with any Republican family that’s run for president, and I guarantee you the media would be saying how any of these issues (email system, Libya, wealth, and non-profit dealings) disqualify that person from being the next president. When the news of the private email server broke, pretty much every major news outlet reported on it. They continued until it began to impact Clinton in the polls regarding favorables and trustworthiness, and the coverage virtually collapsed.
Current incarnation of the Hillary email story is going, going, gone. pic.twitter.com/bb2DpaZL4l
Current incarnation of the Hillary email story is going, going, gone. pic.twitter.com/bb2DpaZL4l— Patrick Ruffini (@PatrickRuffini) March 23, 2015
As I’ve written before, even before the Clinton Foundation dealings became more explicit, Hillary is eminently beatable. There’s nothing people can really say about her that doesn’t boil down to the fact that she’s a Clinton, a woman, and she has strong leadership qualities. Yet, voters in key states also view her as dishonest, which sort of cancels out the high marks on leadership. Oh, and as for her tenure at State, we now have renewed Russian aggression, Yemen collapsing, the rise of ISIS, and lingering questions about Benghazi. In short, smart power has been a disaster.
Yes, Mitt Romney was flawed, but he pales in comparison to Mrs. Clinton. It’s as stark as North and South Korea, minor and major league baseball, or Godfather and Godfather Part II. She’s truly the Willie Mays of bad candidates, but we all know the media have different standards.
Last note: Yahoo!’s Matt Bai noted that maybe Clinton’s wealth isn’t the problem; it’s the fact that she doesn’t seem to think of herself that way. Moreover, insecurity is the problem:
…if there’s anything voters should fear about Clinton, perhaps, it’s not that she’s rich but that she doesn’t seem to regard herself that way. Having come from modest means and devoted most of their lives to public service, the Clintons seem to spend an awful lot of time these days focused on accumulating money, as if they still don’t have very much of it.
The speeches that have recently netted them $30 million, the foundation that sucks up cash from foreign governments, the first-class tickets for a two-hour flight from New Hampshire to Washington — all of it speaks to some underlying need to live in the rarified world they could only hope to glimpse as career politicians.
I don’t buy that Clinton is hopelessly out of touch with the lives of these “everyday Americans,” and I doubt that voters will, either. But I do wonder if she harbors some persistent insecurity about her own financial wherewithal after all these years spent in the company of staggeringly rich contributors.
Where insecurity lurks, bad decisions follow.
Yet, given all of this, Hillary could be the next President of the United States (Lord, save us!). Will it be because of gender politics, the media providing exceptional political cover, or American voter apathy regarding the enormous ethical issue of a family-owned non-profit accepting donations from foreign governments, in which case the mother is the President of the United States?
*In 1984, Arkansas' Amendment 63 extended terms to statewide officers to focus years.