He has virtually no chance to get the Democratic nomination but former Rhode Island Governor and Senator Lincoln Chafee deserves credit. He finally said what all responsible Democrats need to acknowledge about their inevitable nominee:
It’s a long record going back over decades of questionable ethical practices. People groan when I bring up Whitewater and all these things, the Rose Law Firm records; it seems like it never stops. Now, we are into the tenure of secretary of State and the emails and of course the Clinton Foundation donations at the same time the State Department is making critical decisions, combined with some of those donations by the Clinton Foundation. It’s just too close and too many ethical questions. Over my 30-year record in public office, I’ve never had any ethical questions about my behavior.
Well, good for him. There are a few critical points worth noting here.
First, we are not talking about an isolated incident in Clinton’s career. We are talking about endemic behavior, a pattern of conduct reinforced over decades. She has inverted the essence of public service. Rather than serve the voters she has used to her office and her potential candidacy to further her own political and financial interests. It undermines the notion of accountability and ultimately of democracy itself to say that corrupt, secretive and dishonest pols deserve our indulgence.
Second, not everyone does it. Not all politicians are crooks; in fact no other politician behaves as she does.
Consider the litany just since 2009: She repeatedly violated her agreement with the administration to disclose potential conflicts of interest. While in office the State Department made decisions directly implicating donors to the foundation and her husband’s speaking fee sponsors. She violated administration guidelines in keeping her entire email system private, risking hacking and preventing oversight. When it became an issue, she destroyed tens of thousands of emails. She evaded her president’s directive not to hire a scurrilous political operative Sidney Blumenthal, but instead received and circulated his official-looking, but entirely unvetted, memos on Libya — while he was paid by the foundation and despite his business connections to those who stood to profit there. And that does not touch on issues of gross incompetence (e.g. failing to protect diplomats in Benghazi, Libya), lack of vision (e.g. no coherent response to the Arab Spring), bad judgment (e.g. Russian reset), shortsightedness (e.g. celebrating withdrawal of all troops from Iraq in 2011), and self-delusion (e.g. outreach to Iran and obsessing over the “peace process”).
And finally, Chafee’s outburst reminds us that she still refuses to be questioned about any of this in depth. She hides from real voters and the press, scoffing at the need to explain herself.
Unfortunately for the Democratic Party and for the country, only Lincoln Chafee is saying this. Members of Congress, liberal pundits and big donors have yet to say, “Hey, this is a bridge too far. We can’t justify supporting her. There is no excuse for this.” Only if they finally admit this can the party recover its soul and a candidate not ethically disqualified to hold office (let alone the presidency) can emerge. For now, Clinton — just like with Whitewater, the Rose Law Firm, the White House travel office, the Chinese finance scandals of the 1990’s, the foundation, the emails and the conflicts of interest — is getting away with it. She’s conducted herself this way for 20-plus years because she’s never paid any real price.