We previously discussed Hillary Clinton’s claim that she and Bill understand economic hardship because they were “dead broke” after leaving the White House. The claim has been widely ridiculed after it was shown that within one year, not only were legal fees paid off by supporters but the Clintons amassed nearly $12 million. What is most striking however with the coverage of this statement and the problems in Clinton’s book is, again, the lack of much neutral coverage in the media which has become robotically programmed along liberal and conservative lines.
As we discussed earlier, Clinton was using the legal fees to claim that she and Bill were virtually indigent and struggling to pay for the tuition of Chelsea and their mortgage. However, these were heavily Democratic firms that would never have pursued the Clintons for payment. This was debt on paper only. Politicians in Washington routinely run up such debts that are paid off by friends and lobbyists in fundraisers. Indeed, there was coverages at the time on how lobbyists and supporters were lining up to pay off the Clinton’s bill to curry favor with the powerful couple. That reportedly happened within roughly a year.
When the Clintons left and filed their 2000 forms, they reported assets between $781,000 and almost $1.8 million — and liabilities between $2.3 million and $10.6 million in legal bills. However, the wolves were hardly at the door for those legal fees. In addition, Clinton was guaranteed a large annual salary and had promises of millions in speaking fees. Moreover in 1999, the couple bought a five-bedroom home in Chappaqua, N.Y., for $1.7 million and then in 2000, they bought a seven-bedroom house near Embassy Row in Washington, D.C. for $2.85 million.
Faced with a backlash over the clueless claim, Clinton insisted that “we’ve continued to be blessed in the last 14 years.” She repeated this spin later in stating “We were obviously blessed and worked hard for everything.” However, she still maintained that they “fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans.” It is hard to see how this life lesson was learned while the couple was racking in millions while friends paid off millions in debts and secured their loan for a mansion in New York.
The Clintons rank as one of the richest couples ever to occupy the White House. USA Today reported “former President Bill Clinton, has made millions on lucrative book deals and more than $100 million on the speaking circuit. Secretary Clinton has recently begun to earn that kind of money as well.”
As with Romney’s disastrous “47 percent” statement , it is amazing to see candidates (particularly notoriously scripted candidates like Clinton and Romney) make these mistakes. This is a comment which is likely to be replayed for months just as Romney’s comment was replayed. For people who are struggling to pay their mortgages (and do not have Terry McAuliffe to pony up the scratch), Clinton’s claim of being broke will reaffirm the view that Clinton lacks authenticity and honesty. It was also remarkably dim to even try to suggest some “rags to riches” or “hard times” narrative.
While Democratic sites have struggled to somehow convince people that Hillary really was dead broke, the Pultizer Price winning organization Politifact found her statements largely false and implausible. Some of the pro-Clinton reviews of her book seem to take the flaws pointed out by others and convert them into curious strengths or at least excusable half-truths. The breathless pro-Clinton review by Sharon Poczter in Forbes is an example. Poczter writes of Clinton’s book Hard Choices:
[Her] book is not a completely truthful account of everything that has happened. It can’t be and it’s not meant to be. It’s an autobiography. It is a personalized account of what happened, written by a politician in a political way. By construction, this means it may not be the entire truth.
It is a depressing spin that we now do not expect politicians to be truthful. They get a type of moral Mulligan on the truth because that is their nature. I actually thought that autobiographies were reviewed on the basis of their honestly and completeness. Instead, Poczter heralds the book as showing “how much she loves her country.” Indeed, one of the most important aspects of the book for Poczter is not the discussion of Bergdahl or Benghazi but how the jacket of the book shows Clinton smiling and laughing and that the book (which she concluded is less than truthful) was Clinton’s brave stand that “she will not make the mistake of letting others be in control of how people see her.” It is a telling measure of our review of candidates today that the fly-leaf is highlighted as the counter to criticism of the content of a politician’s book.
Then conversely on the conservative side, commentators are returning to conspiracies of how Clinton is behind every catastrophe since the Hindenburg. Ironically, the hate is so great, that her critics tend to inflate her role and significance in many of these crises. The result is the usual “night and day” coverage between the liberal and conservative media. It is either spin or attack. We have lost the core of independent coverage. People want to watch news that is an echo-chamber of their own views and follows stations and blogs that give them a reaffirming narrative. The result is not magnify the hate on both sides and push people away from any fair dialogue. Clinton consciously put out this image and narrative as part of the rollout for her book (and possible campaign) and the statement is worthy of ridicule. However, like all contemporary issues it must be cycled through partisan spins in the media. It is possible to criticize Clinton for her statement or her book without supporting the other side. Yet, as with the Romney statement, it is either radio silence or endless chatter depending on your source for news. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Richard III (my favorite Shakespearean play) when the Queen mother explains to her daughter-in-law how to hate:
Compare dead happiness with living woe;
Think that thy babes were sweeter than they were,
And he that slew them fouler than he is.
Bett’ring thy loss makes the bad-causer worse;
Revolving this will teach thee how to curse.