Clinton lawyers must have been wincing yesterday as former President Bill Clinton sought to defuse the criticism of the Clintons in accepting money from a wide variety of businesses and foreign parties (including dubious donors) with interests before the State Department. Bill Clinton took to the airways to insist that it is perfectly natural for donors to seek favors at the State Department and that he and Hillary trusted government officials to do the right thing in dealing with such requested favors. That is hardly going to help. Even if you dismiss the controversy with an “everyone does it” defense, the problem remains that Hillary Clinton was not some politician but the Secretary of State and the donors were seeking official actions by the United States government. It sounds like an admission that some wanted to “pay and play” but the Clinton left it to others to refuse to play.
When asked about the ongoing controversies, Clinton dismissed questions of corruption by saying that “it was natural” for donors to seek favors from the Clintons because he “trusted” that the State Department would avoid any conflicts. It sounded like the Clintons had no duty to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and felt free to accept millions by shifting the burden to some unknown bureaucrats to mind the ethical line: “It was natural for people who’ve been our political allies and personal friends to call and ask for things. And I trusted the State Department wouldn’t do anything they shouldn’t do.”
That cannot be helpful for Hillary Clinton. Many voters are balking at the choices this election. At a time when voters clearly indicated that they did not want another establishment candidate, the Democrats came forward with perhaps the ultimate such candidate. Now, to have Bill Clinton explain to voters that it is only natural to make donations and seek favors, the message seems to be that “this is just how things are done” in politics. That is precisely what a sizable number of voters want to stop.
Clinton did deny that there was any “pay to play” but the articulation of a type of Clintonian Natural Law of Politics is not likely to appeal to uneasy independents in this election.