The campaign manager for Sen. Barack Obama has a point. David Plouffe wants Hillary Clinton to release her income tax returns for the last several years and couple that with a speedier process for releasing papers from the Clinton White House years. That's so voters will be able to judge whether Mrs. Clinton's claims of experience are justified by what she says she did as a virtual "co-president."
Plouffe told reporters last week that Mrs. Clinton is "one of the most secretive politicians in America today." Who would disagree, other than Mrs. Clinton? There does seem to be some inconsistency, if not outright duplicity. On one hand, we are supposed to accept at face value that she is, as former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski is said to have once called her, "the smartest woman in the world." On the other hand, we are to think nothing of her inability to find records, or produce records in a timely fashion, or get records released from the Clinton Presidential Library.
One would think that if the records validated her claim of experience in being part of so many international and domestic policy decisions, she would rush to produce documents that back up those claims. And if her income tax returns contain nothing that could cause embarrassment, those, too, should be coming off the copying machine at Kinko's to be handed out to reporters.
The Clintons have always had a fascination with money and how to make more of it. According to Forbes.com, on his 1986 return, "Bill Clinton deducted $6 for three pairs of underwear and $75 for a suit with ripped pants given to the Salvation Army." Neither Clinton has to worry about money now, but the country ought to know where the millions they have vacuumed up in recent years came from, and if that money has strings attached.
Last week, The Washington Times reported that in May 2006 (the spring before his wife began her campaign for the White House) Bill Clinton made "$700,000 for his foundation by selling stock he had been given from an Internet search company that was co-founded by a convicted felon and backed by the Chinese government." Mr. Clinton had received the non-publicly traded stock from Accoona Corporation in 2004 as a gift for giving a speech at a company event. His windfall came when he sold the 200,000 shares to an undisclosed (naturally) buyer. Clinton got $3.50 a share at a time when the company was reporting millions of dollars in losses.
Perhaps Mrs. Clinton should start invoking her husband's name when she criticizes CEOs for their golden parachutes, as they flee sinking companies or layoff employees. Too bad Mr. Clinton wasn't among those testifying before a Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing last week about huge salaries and bonuses paid to corporate CEOs, while their employees suffer layoffs.
In a related story, USA Today reports archivists at the Clinton Presidential Library are blocking release of hundreds of pages of White House papers related to pardons approved by the former president. These include clemency documents for the fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich.
There are the familiar explanations - there always are with the Clintons - about why they can't be more forthcoming with documents and records. When asked about her tax returns during a recent debate, Mrs. Clinton said she hadn't gotten it done yet because she's "a little busy right now." The question was not about the 2007 return, but those from previous years. Surely those earlier returns are available, or have they been misplaced like disappearing documents at the Rose Law Firm, which magically materialized in the White House residence after Ken Starr and a Senate committee subpoenaed them?
As for the documents at the Clinton Presidential Library, both Clintons say they have asked the library to release materials as quickly as possible. But when the Clintons' agent, former Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey, chooses not to review the withheld documents, it makes one question their sincerity.
This game of they hide while everyone else seeks is familiar to all Clinton observers. Barack Obama should take advantage of the questions of character that have always been asked of the Clintons and the public doubts about their honesty and sincerity in anything that does not promote their personal, political and financial interests.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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