Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Swift-Boating of Hillary Clinton: The Anatomy of a Non-Scandal, Infinity Edition

What a real scandal looks like: Cheney's Halliburton and its subsidiaries
profited greatly from the Iraq War. Where was the Republican outrage?

Does Hillary Clinton look good when set next to the piles of cash that goes through a charitable foundation on the best of days? Of course not. Greater charities -- remember the United Way or Komen for the Cure? -- have collapsed under the abuse that can simmer around actions with the apparently best intentions. So giving Hillary a complete pass is hard to do and shouldn't be done.

But -- and this is a fundamental but -- the scandal du jour that the Clinton Foundation has morphed into has a terrific amount of no-there-there, something even its promoters spend quite a bit of time admitting.

Take the classic case of WaPo pundit and former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson and his piece, typically titled "The Heavy Baggage Hillary Clinton Brings." After all the sturm und drang, Gerson gets to the part of the article all articles about Hillary contain:
The Clintons, no doubt, are confident of their own virtue in this matter. No quid pro quo has been demonstrated. I am equally confident that donors thought they were gaining access and a vague sort of influence during a high-stakes, politically sensitive business takeover.
Once again, there is probably not enough here to derail the Clinton presidential freight train. But the timing and content of this controversy are damaging. Democrats are beginning to recognize that the first few weeks of the Clinton candidacy have been a disaster, opening up several lines of Republican attack. [...]
What classic hedges did Gerson put in that you see in so many articles about Hillary "scandals?" The lines "No quid pro quo has been demonstrated" and "there is probably not enough here" are in all but the most scurrilous attack pieces. Gerson, after all, prides himself on being reasonable, hence the qualifiers.

Gerson also links to an article that he claims "would have placed the Rosatom uranium power play in the outbox labeled 'stinks to high heaven'." Fine. But was was the context of the deal, after all is said and done?
The national security issue at stake in the Uranium One deal was not primarily about nuclear weapons proliferation; the United States and Russia had for years cooperated on that front, with Russia sending enriched fuel from decommissioned warheads to be used in American nuclear power plants in return for raw uranium.
So the US and the Russkies have been making nice with uranium, even weapons-grade uranium, for years. That's some serious context.

Gerson rightly points out that the "reset" with Russia looks like a failure in hindsight, but it also demonstrates that during a time of rapprochement with Putin, a typical make-nice deal would look, in the rear-view mirror, a little shady after relations had fallen apart because of the Ukrainian and Crimean affairs. But that's a different kettle of fish.

Again, remember the context. Newly elected president Barack Obama was trying resets all over the place, what with the Russian reset and the Cairo speech, among others. Obama has been busy with these resets, which include Cuba and Iran, which may in fact be major game changers when viewed as legacy items. Success is not assured, but these are real accomplishments-in-waiting. Why are the Republicans so against them? We know why.

So, Hillary's foundation that she shares with Bill gets entangled in an international deal that six federal agencies and the Canadian government signed off on. Big whoop. Oh Noes!!

We're going to get pretty tired of these retread scandals. At least I am already. And you should be, too. The Clinton "narrative" that "stinks to high heaven" is being written by beltway fiction writers. And it's pretty boring, tepid stuff. Stop already.

Is she tough enough? After all she's been through, oh yeah. Whitewater off a duck's back.

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