“It Depends on What Your Definition of [Debt] Is”: Bill Clinton Doubles Down On “Dead Broke” Comment As “Factually True”

220px-Pyramid_of_Capitalist_System225px-Bill_ClintonWe have been discussing the rather fascinating role of wealth in American politics rather Hillary Clinton’s repeated flubs in claiming to be “dead broke” after leaving the White House and struggling like other Americans to cover tuition and mortgage costs (here and here and here). Despite the fact that most of our leading candidates are fantastically rich, they still feel the need to show voters that they feel their pain. With the Clintons, the new pitch feel flat with even usually favorable media outlets mocking Hillary over her statements. Now Bill Clinton has tried his hand at reviving the new narrative of a working couple done good. Bill Clinton has insisted that the claim of being broke is “factually true” since they had legal debts. However, everyone in Washington knows that these debts to Democratic law firms is funny money and that these firms would have closed shop rather than pursue the Clintons for payment. The debts, as is always the case, was quickly paid off by Clinton supporters, lobbyists, and others interested in helping the powerful couple. It was debt on paper alone and both Clintons were looking at massive windfalls after leaving the White House. It comes down to the meaning of “debt” to paraphrase a certain president. In the meantime, Joe Biden has tried his hand at the “poorer than thou” pitch.

Bill Clinton insisted that Hillary is “not out of touch” when she claimed that they were “dead broke” and later told the Guardian that voters “don’t see me as part of the problem” with income inequality in the United States “because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we’ve done it through the dint of hard work.”

Bill Clinton returned to the claim that it is “factually true” that his family was several million dollars in debt. However, he did not claim that any of these law firms had taken any action to force payment of the debt or address the obvious intention for supporters to pay off the debt. CNN documented that Clinton earned $106 million by making speeches from the end of his presidency through January 2013. Hillary Clinton has pulled in $200,000 a speech and was criticized for receiving $500,000 in one week from Goldman Sachs .

Bill Clinton dug the hole deeper with this rather dubious comment: “Everybody now assumes that what happened in the intervening years was automatic. I’m shocked that it’s happened. I’m shocked that people still want me to come give talks. And so I’m grateful.” The “shocked, shocked” claim was even less convincing than when uttered by Claude Rains. Everybody predicted Clinton would pull in massive bucks on the speaking trail and it was widely discussed before he left the White House. Moreover, he had already started to arrange for such work given the almost immediate speaking engagements.

It is becoming a snowballing disaster for the Clintons as they struggle to portray the image of “country done good.” I am not sure why wealth is so polarizing in American politics to the extent that these super rich candidates have to engage in such desperate re-invention. I do not believe that most people hold great animosity for the super rich while they harbor anger over any special deals or tax shelters. The Clintons have been famous for their army of speechwriters and political advisers shaping every word and gesture — as did candidates like Mitt Romney. However, the rollout of this new narrative has been a disaster. When Hillary later insisted that taking a quarter of a million dollars a speech was commendable thing as opposed to “getting connected with any one group or company,” it triggered analysis on recipts of half a million dollars from companies like Goldman Sachs and revived the scandal of over how a Tysons Food executive arranged for Hillary to invest $1000 to make $100,000 in roughly ten months. While most of us are cringing at the spin, the Clintons appear to see no alternative but to plow ahead on the narrative.

The new claim that Clinton was surprised that people would pay him so much for speeches entirely undermined the credibility of his defense. It played into the view of many voters that our leaders can no longer distinction spin from the truth or at least have little respect for voters to see the difference.

220px-Biden_2013What I thought was equally fascinating was how, as Hillary was struggling with the “dead broke” narrative, Joe Biden (who also wants to be the next nominee), just coincidentally revealed that he does not even have a savings account and will have to live off his government pension. That claim was reviewed by the Pulitzer prize winning organization Politifact. Earlier, the nonpartisan Politifact found Hillary’s comments to be largely false and implausible. Biden fairly only slightly better with a finding that it is “half true” which may be a high for American politicians. The group noted that “Biden also holds four checking accounts, two of which he shares with his wife. In addition, he holds six life insurance policies with Mass Mutual. The Bidens reported an adjusted gross income of $407,099 last year, including his vice presidential salary of $230,700.” He will also receive a $5 million “transition budget” for moving expenses, security, and other incidentals upon leaving office.

Biden is still more credible on this subject as one of the least wealthiest members of the Senate when he represented Delaware. However, it is a narrative that will sit poorly with many citizens regardless of the party. Ironically, conservative figures like Clarence Thomas has a real and compelling story of growing up in poverty. In the end however there is a difference between powerful Americans claiming to be sympathetic with the poor and going even further to having been one of the working stiffs. Ironically, both Clintons have an admirable commitment to the poor and a demonstrated history of working on their behalf. They have street cred on the issue. That is what is so bizarre because this continued effort to claiming to have been dead broke has only alienated voters in an area where the Clintons should rightfully be given great credit.

And the campaign season has not even officially begun . . .

Source: USA Today

165 thoughts on ““It Depends on What Your Definition of [Debt] Is”: Bill Clinton Doubles Down On “Dead Broke” Comment As “Factually True””

  1. traveling limey,

    Actually, our pre-war intelligence on Iraq got more right than it got wrong. What Bush did wrong with the pre-war intelligence was to characterize it as ‘evidence’ which evokes an evaluation standard that is inappropriate for intelligence. The appropriate and normal characterization of intelligence is as ‘indicators’. When judged properly as indicators against the findings of UNMOVIC pre-war and the Iraq Study Group post-war, the pre-war intelligence comes off much better. It at least pointed in the right direction. Saddam was not compliant nor did he intend to comply with Iraq’s ceasefire obligations. Saddam was not rehabilitated. And Saddam was rearming.

    In the context of the Saddam problem, Clinton and Bush officials were obligated to judge the intelligence in an unfavorable light for Iraq, and 9/11 compelled US officials to increase their wariness due to Saddam’s belligerence and guilt on terrorism.

    A rough analogy is a father who has son a with a greedy sweet tooth and a habit of breaking house rules by squirrelling food in his room, which attracts vermin, and lying about it. The son also, dangerously, feeds the stolen snacks to his diabetic younger sibling. The father confronts his son with the belief, based on present indicators and his son’s past, that his son is hiding cupcakes in his closet, but then discovers that his son actually is hiding doughnuts and candy in his desk and toy chest, instead. His son remains guilty of violating the rules, just not precisely the same way as the father first thought.

    The pre-war intel wasn’t precisely accurate, which is normal for intel, but that didn’t cause the war. The entire burden was on Saddam to cure the established fact of Iraq’s guilt and thereby prove he could be trusted with the peace. Saddam’s failure to fulfill Iraq’s ceasefire obligations caused, or more accurately resumed, the war. The intel indicated correctly that Saddam was and remained guilty.

  2. Eric, for ‘inteligence’ we’ll have a better picture if we call it black propaganda.

  3. Yes, I am speaking about my fellow countrymen, here in America. Or are you determined to bicker and misunderstand, as I see happen too often on this site. Long gap? Yes, I’m working.

  4. Addition to the Iraq policy quotes at June 27, 2014 at 1:15 am:

    Bob,Esq: “Saddam’s failure to comply with UNSC resolutions could not and did not thrust the country into war.”

    Again, the cause of action for the 1991-2003 Iraq enforcement was whether Saddam complied with the UNSC resolutions and UNMOVIC confirmed that Saddam was noncompliant. Accountability was a main theme of Clinton’s and Bush’s enforcement with Saddam. With recidivist Saddam, we had to be certain. Excerpts from President Bush’s State of the Union regarding Iraq, January 28, 2003:
    http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/01/20030128-23.html

    “Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, even while inspectors were in his country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons — not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities.

    Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world. The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct — were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq’s regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.

    The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax — enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn’t accounted for that material. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

    The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin — enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn’t accounted for that material. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

    Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He’s not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

    U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them — despite Iraq’s recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed them.”

  5. Voting would have some value if more than 1 or 2% could vote intelligently.

  6. I’m a lot of things, Paul, but I do give a darn about the country I live in, America.

  7. Fascinating how you all grab at the latest blog and go nuts for a few hours then drop it like yesterdays news, even when it isn’t. This blog is 26 June and dead after 48 hours it seems.

    1. traveling limey – if you are what you claim to be, what do you care. You cannot vote on this issue anyway.

  8. Is the Silly Party bickering with the Stupid AH Party? Or is the Stupid AH Party bickering with the Silly Party?

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