THERE IS something uncomfortable about President and Hillary Clinton's financing of their New York house with $1.35 million belonging to fund-raiser Terence R. McAuliffe. The problem is not a legal one. The money is not exactly a gift or a loan, because Mr. McAuliffe merely is putting up collateral for the president's mortgage and because the president is, in any event, allowed to receive gifts. It is a problem of appearances. Mr. Clinton has accepted an enormous, personal financial favor from a wealthy businessman, and one is entitled at least to wonder what if anything Mr. McAuliffe will get in return.
This favor is of a different order than other fund-raising Mr. McAuliffe has done for the Clintons and the Democrats. Even Mr. McAuliffe's efforts to raise money for the president's legal defense fund have an organizational structure between those giving the money and Mr. Clinton. The current deal is simply a private citizen assuming the personal financial obligations of a public official.
Most Americans whose net worth is measured in the negative millions don't buy houses worth $1.7 million. The decision to buy now a house that they can only afford by creating some measure of appearance problem seems to be compelled by the need to assuage carpetbagging concerns in Ms. Clinton's senatorial campaign.
The appearance problem is augmented when the magnitude of the favor is so large and when the circumstances so personal. It is probably true, nonetheless, that in practical terms the problem is muted by the extent of the preexisting presidential indebtedness to Mr. McAuliffe.
What leaves us uneasy about the financing of the house is that it wraps into one conspicuous package several different features of Mr. Clinton's status as an unwealthy and indebted president who has a taste for hobnobbing with politically sympathetic millionaires. The house deal may not be wrong, but it doesn't feel exactly right either.