Friday, October 07, 2016

Not Saying Things: Part Three

Well, sure. Let's talk about plutocracy and corruption, then.

There's such an array of stuff that Clinton is accused of that you can end up a bit dazed. This part is easier if you're old, because the stuff came at you a little at a time, and you knew where it was coming from. I don't even remember what the hell Whitewater was supposed to be about, but I know that I looked at it and thought it completely bogus. Likewise the murder of Vince Foster. In those days Bill Clinton was hugely popular, and attacking his far less popular, unladylike wife looked like a better shot than attacking him directly. They started making crap up to throw at her.

If you want to dive it and relive those wonderful days, be my guest. I'm done. The Clinton enemies have been at this for a very long time.

But there was lots of new stuff to sort through. There was the whatever-it-was she was supposed to have done or left undone in re Benghazi. She was supposedly giving all our uranium away to Russia. She was taking extraordinary amounts in speaker fees from Wall Street.

Michael Arnowitz -- a Portlander, I'm happy to say, though I don't know him -- did a nice takedown of the whole silly speaker fees thing. The guys holding the Benghazi hearings ended up with egg on their face and the question of whatever-it-was is as mysterious as ever. It turns out that, no, Secretary Clinton did not sign away the nation's uranium. What I ran into that was entirely new to me was the Clinton Foundation, presented as a sinister money-laundering operation.

So, the foundation? As it happens, I know a bit about non-profits and how to evaluate them. The Clinton Foundation is a good one, and it spends its money exactly as it says it does. It calls itself a foundation, but it's actually, mostly, a charity: they run their own programs, addressing things such as the availability of drinkable water and HIV medications in Africa. So Pence gets to say the Clinton Foundation takes in all this money and then only spends ten percent in grants. That's true -- because it isn't primarily a grant-funding operation. They do their own stuff, and they do it well and transparently, and they get good ratings from the people who rate charities.

Aha! But people get political favors if they make big donations! Well -- no, they don't. I spent a while chasing this stuff down as well as I could, and I found exactly one iffy-looking nomination to some board after a big donation. It wasn't really a very exciting corruption story. Okay, but -- if you make a big donation you get face time with Clinton, possibly at the State Department, and God knows what goes on in those meetings! No doubt some very sinister favor trading, so cleverly done that no one can detect it.

This is where we're finally getting down to what's real about the trouble with Clinton, and the Democratic Party, and money. Yes. Money gets you access. It generally always has. This is why so many big corporations donate to both parties. When they've got a political issue, they want to make sure they can stroll over and have a little talk about it.

Clinton thinks this is not a problem, because she is not going to offer a quid pro quo. I actually -- laugh at me if you like -- totally believe her about the quid pro quo. I think she's incorruptible. If somebody says, "here's thirty million for your foundation, will you get the State Department to approve our arms deal?" she'll say, "thanks so much! The State Department will approve it or not approve it on its merits!" And they'll go away thinking they've bribed her, and the State Department will approve it or not approve it on its merits, and some people in Africa will get HIV meds.

I have no doubt whatever that one of the benefits that the Clintons anticipated, when they started their foundation, was an extra reason to have face to face time with people in the donor class. Those are people with power, and the Clintons gravitate to power. Always have. They would probably have given these people face time anyway, because they like to keep in touch with powerful people. And *that* is a problem. Just that these are the people that Clinton sees, week in and week out. The people she talks with. The people she's tuned to.

It is not, however, corruption. Clinton is pro-business: she's hardly made a secret of that. She thinks corporation and businesses are the source of American prosperity -- I think that's true myself -- and that therefore they need to be supported and encouraged. As a far-left kind of guy, I think this is a problem. Clinton (and the Democratic party) are just too cozy with these folks. They're biased in favor of business from the git-go.

But being pro-business is not the same thing as being corrupt. It means you lean rightward. It means that you have no particular impulse to become well-versed in environmental issues. It means that you know all about business and corporate concerns about legislation right away, and maybe hear about other concerns later, if at all. It's the perpetual bias of both parties, and will be as long as politics is donation-driven.

Is this plutocracy? Well, yeah, kinda sorta, over the long haul it works out that way. But it's no particular fault of Clinton's, and she's no worse about it than anyone else. It's a systemic problem, and it's not one that Sanders or anyone else was going to fix from the White House. If it's to be fixed, it will fixed legislatively, and state by state -- almost precinct by precinct. It's very, very deeply inwoven in American politics. (And if you think it's worse now than it used to be, you really need to read up on American political history. I particularly recommend the first volume of Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson, The Path to Power.)

The most important step at present, in reducing money's sway over politics, is overturning Citizens United, which Clinton is totally and publicly committed to doing -- she's even saying in so many words, if you don't plan to overturn it, don't apply for a Supreme Court nomination. Even if you think Clinton is crooked, I think you can agree it is not her style to renege on something that simply put and forcefully repeated: if she's president, Citizens United goes down.


Ruth Werner said...

Love this. Thank you Dale.

Dee Hiatt said...

You drive a clear path on the logic train.

marly said...

Thanks for doing these three posts. I wish there was more detail about Clinton. I need to do more research.

Zhoen said...

Thank you. I like to think I voted for more than NOT for someone.