Chelsea Clinton says she tried to care about money, but gosh darn it just couldn’t give up working with her parents — you know, flying the globe and rubbing elbows with the “truly well” off. That implies that she has sacrificed some creature comforts for her chosen career, but from the $600,000 salary for doing nothing at NBC to her $10 million apartment it doesn’t sound like she has given up anything. Frankly we’d have a lot more respect if she had been honest: “Rather than work 12 hours a day in a job I hate, I get to fly all over the world with mom and dad and have a lifestyle you could only dream about!”
Bill Clinton says he and the Mrs. are in touch with average Americans since they go to the grocery store (in Chappaqua, N.Y., of course and certainly with a Secret Service driver) and talk to neighbors — who are almost certainly in the top 1 percent. He insists Hillary Clinton was right on the facts that they were at one point “dead broke.”
It is painful to watch, the Clintons’ poor man act. These are frightfully powerful, wealthy and privileged people and should stop pretending otherwise. Maybe they regret having gone overboard in attacking Mitt Romney’s wealth, but they musn’t forget that the media studiously keeps two sets of books — one for liberals and one for conservatives. The latter, even if they give a huge percent of their income to charity, are never in the clear. The former need only think nice, fuzzy liberal thoughts and wealth, inside connections and charitable stinginess are all forgiven. Yet the Clintons seem to long for the days when Bill Clinton was just the boy from Hope (Ark.), and therefore the ideal representative for the middle-class people who worked hard and played by the rules, as he liked to say. Now they are just a couple of rich liberals, but not as rich as they’d like.
What come across most is the rank insincerity of the Clinton clan. They can’t help but chase the almighty dollar (millions of them), but they are embarrassed when caught. In just one book tour, Hillary Clinton managed to make herself and her family (including her husband, one of the most adept politicians of his era) appear both pretentious and inauthentic.
In the iconic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Hollywood agent says of Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly, “She is a phony. But on the other hand you’re right. She isn’t a phony because she’s a real phony. She believes all this crap that she believes. You can’t talk her out of it.” When it comes to the Clintons, however, they are real phonies — they don’t believe they are like everyone else (fly commercial?! shop for sales?!) and yet they feel compelled to pretend so.
The Clintons have a few choices. They can embrace their wealth, as in a sense Romney did, crediting the greatest country on Earth for affording them unparalleled opportunities. But then the degree of their noblesse oblige might also come under scrutiny and keeping an unsightly amount of their haul without sharing some with the little people might draw flak. (They might be compelled — gasp! — to start giving those $200,000 speaking fees to the less well off.)
Alternatively, Hillary Clinton can start talking about something other than herself, demonstrating she has an agenda that reflects her compassion and understanding of working-class and middle-income Americans. For someone who once fancied herself as a policy wonk, she has very little to say about poverty, upward mobility and other relevant domestic policy topics.
Lastly, she could chuck the whole thing, rake in the dough, enjoy the grandkid and delight in summers in the Hamptons, skiing in Gstaad and Hollywood premieres with L.A. and New York elites (the “truly well off”). Most of us would sorely be tempted to do the third, but somehow I think the Clintons want power and money so they’ll strive for a return trip to the White House. It is what they do. Without the promise of another White House tenure some of the money and those friends might disappear.