The reaction of the mainstream media to the Clinton scandals is telling. News reporters and independent-minded analysts by and large seem to understand the gravity of the claims concerning foreign monies and concede that there is no “quid pro quo” or “smoking gun” required. Peter Baker of the New York Times is among those who have not been thrown off the scent of scandal. He told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “this is a big issue for Hillary Clinton because, in fact, it goes back to some of the issues we’ve been seeing with the Clintons going to the ’90s, which is the interaction between money and politics, money and the Clintons in particular.” Likewise, Mark Halperin argued on ABC’s “This Week“: “The Clinton Foundation does great work. Some of the charges against her are overstated. That’s on one side of the ledger. On the other side of the ledger, it’s extraordinarily serious. Imagine if an assistant secretary of State had done what Hillary Clinton — we know that she did. They’d be out of the State Department.”
It’s getting increasingly difficult to dispute that this is serious and to wave it off as simply Republican smears. “Clinton Cash” author Peter Schweizer explained on “This Week”:
Well, I think the real question here, George, is when you ever have an issue of the flow of funds to political candidates, whether that’s to their campaigns, whether that’s to private foundations, whether that’s to their spouse, is there evidence of a pattern of — of favorable decisions being made for those individuals?
And I think the — the point that we make in the book is that there is a troubling pattern.
There are dozens of examples of that occurring.
Some people, I think particularly the Clinton camp, would say that these are all coincidence. I don’t think, when you’re talking about 12 instances, you’re talking coincidence. I think you’re talking trend.
As we have said, Schweizer reminded the audience that a specific quid pro quo is unnecessary. (“For example, Governor [Robert] McConnell down in Virginia, or you look at Senator [Robert] Menendez, in these cases, you didn’t have evidence of a quid pro quo. What you had was funds flowing to elected officials, some of them gifts, some of them campaign contributions and actions that were being taken by those public officials that seemed to benefit the contributors. Certainly, I think it warrants investigation. What that investigation will reveal, we’ll see.”)
Ron Fournier of National Journal summed up, “I wrote the first story back in February, this was stupid and seedy. It’s stupid politically because she’s putting herself in a position where people can’t trust her and it’s seedy because of the obvious, at the very least, perceptions of a conflict of interest. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist here, Chris, to know that the foreign companies hope to buy influence. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that they violated ethics laws. You don’t have to be a historian to know that they have a history of having an ethical blind spot. They being the Clintons. And you don’t have to be a political scientist to know that this really undermines the trust that we can have in her as a potential president and if she becomes president, the trust we can have in a leader of our government. This is very bad politics. This is very bad governance.”
Schweizer and other reporters noted that there are also issues concerning her failure to abide by the terms of her agreement with the administration, failure to disclose certain speaking fees and supporters, and failure to disclose foreign donors to the foundation (which is necessitating refiling of at least five years of taxes.) John Heilemann on ABC reminded us, “There are now several that we know of at this moment, several documented instances where whether or not it’s illegal, where they broke their agreement with the administration. And when you think about the president having set a standard of being the most transparent and open administration in history, and what the Clintons have done here, clearly, is not the most transparent and open.” Likewise, Jeff Zeleny of CNN reiterated that this “does raise questions of speaking fees, of why that one $2.35 million donation was disclosed when she was becoming secretary of state in January of ’09. She signed a document saying she would disclose all contributions to the foundation that apparently did not happen here. So, there are still more questions about this.”
Sure, many in the liberal punditocracy are still creatively defending Hillary Clinton, perhaps out of habit, although they might want to consider how difficult it will be to tout her and argue that her behavior is acceptable for a presidential candidate. LBJ acolyte and liberal historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, for example, declares it “boggles the mind” (not all minds) that Clinton does not come front and center to deny all charges. Silly goose. Clinton never wants to say anything herself that is flat-out wrong or that can be disproved. She hides in the shadows, letting gullible liberals and her own supporters insist that there is no evidence (except maybe the erased e-mails) proving criminality. The foundation may have been forced to put out a vaguely written “we made mistakes” statement, but Clinton remains silent and unremorseful.
Other sympathetic liberal pundits remain flummoxed that the Clintons could be so “sloppy.” C’mon, gals and guys. Hillary Clinton is a control freak, secretive, tone-deaf and many other things, but “sloppy” she isn’t. Sloppy people don’t destroy e-mails that might establish guilt. Still, others in the punditocracy lamely still insist that a quid pro quo is needed.
In sum, the band of those excusing or minimizing the Clinton scandals is shrinking. (Soon only relatives, paid staff and David Brock may be left.) If liberals acknowledge that Clinton’s behavior is inexcusable, how will they justify supporting her in November 2016? Is support for gay marriage and abortion rights supposed to trump everything else, even ethical unfitness?
Many will recall that in August 1974, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), House Minority Leader John Rhodes (R-Ariz.), and Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R-Pa.) went to the White House to tell President Richard Nixon that impeachment — and perhaps conviction — was nearly certain. He resigned two days later. No senior Democrats seem ready to carry such a message to the Clintons. No substantial candidate has emerged to rescue the Democrats and the nervous liberal pundits from defending her. There is no sign so far of any of that, but it is early.