Comedian Jimmy Kimmel made an astute observation the other day: the only way Barack Obama can lose to Hillary now is to marry Bill.
As the toxic oil slick from the wreck of the USS Clinton continues to spread throughout the once unified Democratic Party, the refusal of Billary to gracefully withdraw from the race is being spun (by them) in heroic terms, like “We’re not quitters”; “Every last voter deserves to be heard from”; “We’re doing Obama a big favor by toughening him up.”
But there is something far more venial at work here. You guessed it— money. Much attention is being focused on the enormous debts being piled up by the Clinton campaign, not the least of which is the $11M owed to the Clintons themselves, or the similar amount owed to Boy Wonder, failed strategist/ pollster, Mark Penn. Not surprising then that the first words out of Hillary’s mouth after the disastrous Tuesday primaries in North Carolina and Indiana was a request for more green. (The latter’s thin margin of victory of 18,000 can be attributed to a combination of Rush Limpbot’s “Operation KKKhaos,” and the 120,000 student voters, a big Obama demographic, who were disenfranchised at the polls.)
But far less attention is being given to the other side of the ‘coin.’ Apparently, occupying the most powerful office in the world is good for the pocketbook. The Clintons left the White House mired in debt (legal bills, especially). But in the subsequent seven years they’ve managed to eke out a mere $109M in personal income, punctuated by lucrative book deals and $400,000 speaking fees. Yet that hardly covers it.
Take the $165M that’s been donated to the Clinton Library. Despite numerous requests from the media and other interested parties, Billary adamantly refuses to release the 38,000 strong donor list until after the nomination is determined. This despite the fact that it’s already been sold, at least in part, to numerous fund raising entities. And further suggests that the Rethugs have a copy and are just waiting to smack “thoroughly vetted” Hillary upside the head with it during the general election.
What little is known about the donors was reported in The New York Sun in 2004 after someone thoughtlessly left a copy of it on a Library touch screen computer (since removed) during its opening. As reported by ABC News, the list includes a host of rich oil sheiks from the Middle East, including various Saudi princes, and the governments of Kuwiat, Dubai, Qatar, and Brunei.
And then there’s Bill Clinton’s charitable gig, the William J. Clinton Foundation, which soaks up additional tens of millions of dollars of donations. While I’m sure it does good work around the world, it also serves a lucrative networking locus for the Friends of Bill (FOBs). Since no country provides a better example of the power of the presidential Rolodex than the government of Columbia, let’s take a peak there, starting with The Big Dog himself.
During his presidency, Bill arranged for a $1.3B aid package to its government, ostensibly to fight the now mostly forgotten “war on drugs.” After leaving office, Bill received a tidy $800k in speaking fees from a Columbian pro-free trade group.
His former Press Secretary, Joe Lockhart, started a lobbying firm, the Glover Park Group, who has among its biggest clients, the Columbian government. One of Joe’s employees is the current Clinton campaign media strategist, Harold Wolfson.
Another FOB and lobbyist for the Columbian Government is the aforementioned Mark Penn. Recently, Penn took a couple of days off, flying to Columbia to put in some Billable hours trying to salvage a “free trade” pact Hillary claims opposition to. After his little business trip was revealed in the press, Penn apologized, had his wrists slapped by the Clinton campaign, but suffered a bigger owie when he was promptly fired by the Columbians.
Then there’s mining magnate and financier, Frank Giustra, who after checking under his sofa cushions and emptying the kitchen cookie jar was able to find an extra $31M to donate to Bill’s foundation. Naturally, one thing leads to another and Bill introduced Frank to Colombia’s president Alvaro Uribe, who granted Frank a sweetheart oil development deal. As Arianna Huffington has pointed out, “Giustra is the same guy Clinton helped land a uranium deal in Kazakhstan…” (For more details of the Columbia Connection, see Arianna’s blog here.)
Now that even solid supporters like California Senator Dianne Feinstein are questioning the viability of the Clinton candidacy— her superdelegate lead disappeared today, prompting Jimmy Kimmel to observe that the only way for Obama to lose now is to marry Bill— talk has once again turned to a “dream ticket,” with Hill settling for VP.
The usually staid David Gergen warns that if Obama falls for that, he’d better hire a damn good food taster. Part of such an improbable deal would have the Obama campaign retire the Clinton campaign debt as their price for not dragging the party down with them, not something I imagine Obama’s 1.5 million contributors would be too thrilled about.
It’s been said that the Clintons will do anything to win. Apparently that includes political blackmail, with no compunction about playing the race card and alienating millions of newly registered Democrats, many of them young, first time voters who could be expected to become life long Democrats, a generational sea change that could force the Rethugs to the back benches of Congress for decades to come.
Ending the war in Iraq, fixing a badly wounded economy, insuring that our courts won’t be dominated by arch-conservatives well into the 21st century, restoring our Constitutional democracy, repairing our moral and legal ties with the world community— these are just some of the crucial issues at stake in the ’08 election. Time will tell whether they prove a match for the Clinton’s hunger for control over the new Presidential Rolodex.
UPDATE: 5/10/08 3:50 pm
NY Times columnist Bob Herbert (shhh! Don’t tell anyone, but he’s black!) reminds us how much money changed hands pursuant to Billary’s issuing of pardons on their way out the White House door. As Herbert recounts:
Both Clintons professed to be ignorant of anything improper or untoward regarding the pardons. Once, when asked specifically if she had talked with a deputy White House counsel about pardons, Mrs. Clinton said: “People would hand me envelopes. I would just pass them on. You know, I would not have any reason to look into them.”
‘Specially when Hillary’s Brother Hugh Rodham…
…was paid $400,000 to lobby for a pardon of Almon Glenn Braswell, who had been convicted of mail fraud and perjury, and for the release from prison of Carlos Vignali, a drug trafficker who was convicted and imprisoned for conspiring to sell 800 pounds of cocaine.
And the winner is– the envelope, please…