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Murc’s Law: Clinton Rules Edition


Libertarian pundit Josh Barro observes that Trump’s corruption isn’t considered a big deal because Bill and Hillary Clinton were pretty much the same:

Of course, the Clintons’ behavior was never normal. They had the second-deepest set of financial conflicts of interest we’ve seen in a national political operation in my lifetime — second only to Trumpworld.

Democrats could have picked virtually any other candidate for president and gotten a clean advantage on the corruption issue in the general election. But by defending the Clinton model, Democrats were playing right into Trump’s hands, essentially telling voters there would always be a swamp, that everybody does it, that a leader is always going to have financial interests that intertwine with his or her public duties.

Is it any surprise so many voters decided they might as well put their own corrupt guy in charge of the swamp?

Years before Trump started taking policy advice from friends at Mar-a-Lago, Hillary Clinton was forwarding freelance intelligence memos about Libya from Clinton Foundation consultant Sidney Blumenthal around the State Department as Blumenthal pursued business interests in Libya with other Clinton associates.

Yes, Hillary Clinton sending out memos from her longtime confidant to the State Department is pretty much the same thing as Donald Trump remaining in control of his businesses, profiting of them while in office in violation of the Constitution, ripping off creditors so systematically he can’t get credit from American banks, defrauding marks with a fake university to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, etc. Clinton was unprecedentedly corrupt and Trump just the teeniest more so.

Getting in private business at the same time you serve as a top official adviser in government? Huma Abedin was doing it years before Jared Kushner.

From the conveniently linked piece:

Abedin’s legal team maintains that the part-time jobs were appropriate and approved by Abedin’s supervisors at State and that she did nothing wrong. Indeed, in the email request obtained by POLITICO, there is no evidence that Abedin interceded on behalf of Teneo as it sought a new appointment for Judith Rodin, a Teneo client and the president of The Rockefeller Foundation.

Still, questions are raised! Shadows were cast! Pretty much the same thing as Jared Kushner getting huge bailouts from foreign interests he’s engaged in diplomatic relations with, when you think about it.

Barro has to admit there might just be some minor distinctions here:

My point is not that what Bill and Hillary Clinton’s associates did is as bad as what Trump and his associates have done. It’s not as bad. Trumpworld has taken graft and influence peddling to a new, vulgar level. And my sense is Trump’s associates have been significantly more sloppy about legal compliance than Clintonworld ever was.

You have to love the “sloppy about legal compliance” phrase — nice passive-aggressive way of trying to preserve the idea that the difference between the Clintons and Trump are just minor differences in degree. And what “graft” have the Clintons been shown to have committed, exactly? What “influence peddling” that isn’t ubiquitous behavior?

The Clinton Foundation certainly created the potential for conflicts of interest. They were — appropriately! — investigated vigrously. And all of this investigation turned up no inappropriate behavior by the Clintons at all, which is why the ridiculously trivial Blumenthal thing is the only thing Barro can cite. The idea that running an A-rated, live-saving charity with zero evidence of any donor ever receiving anything in return represents unprecedented corruption in American political history is absurd. But hacks like Barro pretending to believe that it was certainly played a significant role in the 2016 election.

This is a persistent problem for Barro, as it is for anyone in the firm grip of Clinton Derangement Syndrome. He’s also convinced that EMAILS was a major, major scandal but has no idea why:

This is just abject nonsense:

It’s become a bit of an article of faith among journalists frustrated with public officials’ constant FOIA-dodging that this is all obviously dissimulation and Clinton was really trying to evade the Freedom of Information Act.

Many people, for example, point to the fact that Clinton would routinely travel with multiple digital devices as debunking her supposed convenience argument. But this is silly. I’ve been known to travel with an iPhone, an iPad, a Kindle, and a laptop all at once. That doesn’t mean needing to carry two separate iPhones (one to check my work email and one to check my personal email) wouldn’t be inconvenient. After all, what if I was replying to a work email while a text came in to my personal phone and I wanted to check it.

I’d be left juggling phones and looking like an idiot, exactly how federal employees tended to look in the heyday of the double-fisting phones era.

I would not want to do that. Colin Powell did not want to do that. Hillary Clinton did not want to do that. Because that would be terrible.

By contrast, it’s a terrible solution to a desire to avoid having your emails disclosed to the public via FOIA. One way you can tell it’s a terrible solution is that Hillary Clinton’s work emails have been disclosed to the public. You can read them right here.

The specific timeline is that the House Select Committee on Benghazi requested Clinton’s emails in the summer of 2014, at which point the relevant State Department personnel realized they did not have the emails because Clinton had been using her personal address. State asked Clinton for the emails, and she handed them over later that year. It was only in March of 2015 that the New York Times broke the story of Clinton’s personal email account in a scoop by Michael Schmidt (the server was reported a few days later by the AP)*, which reported that the emails had been handed over to the State Department “two months ago.”

This is fairly clearly not an optimal approach to government record-keeping, as Thomas Blanton of the National Security Archive at George Washington University told Schmidt at the time:

It’s a shame it didn’t take place automatically when she was secretary of state as it should have. Someone in the State Department deserves credit for taking the initiative to ask for the records back. Most of the time it takes the threat of litigation and embarrassment.

According to the Inspector General’s report, Clinton “should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary.”

There are two possible interpretations here. One is that Clinton hatched the private email account plan as an elaborate dodge of federal record-keeping laws, but then months before the public became aware of the server’s existence complied with requests to turn them over. The other is that the federal records rule on the book was antiquated and a bit absurd, requiring officials to turn over paper copies of emails for no good reason, and simply got ignored out of sloppiness.

The point about having to sue is particularly risible. Journalists have had to sue to get records under FOIA all the time. Trying to turn this into a scandal about Hillary Clinton’s unique perfidy is amazing. But the EMAILS! chicken-fucking was the ultimate in Clinton rules — they could never explain exactly what Clinton was doing wrong and couldn’t be bothered to even get basic details right, but if Jason Chaffetz pulls the fire alarm there’s got to be a towering inferno somewhere. And Hillary Clinton, not the journalists who kept botching these stories, is fully responsible for Donald Trump, because God forbid anyone ever admit error.

…as a commenter observes, more than 100 Reagan administration officials were indicted. Oddly, this was not mentioned in Barro’s column about how there was no corruption in America before the Clintons.

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