Hillary Clinton's third crack at addressing questions about her fabulous wealth didn't go much better than her first two attempts. You'll recall that she told Dianne Sawyer in her Hard Choices debut interview that she and her husband were "dead broke" upon leaving the White House, and that they "struggled" to afford mortgages on their houses (plural). A Washington Post fact check exposed this posture as a whopper of a stretch, particularly in light of Mrs. Clinton's enormous book advance, agreed to before her husband left office, and highly generous home-buying help from a wealthy crony, who's now the governor of Virginia. Hillary followed that performance up with a less-than-inspiring "clarification" on Good Morning America, fueling incredulous questions from the commentariat about whether she'd prepared at all to reconcile her family's "one-percenter" affluence with her class warfare agenda. Now comes this line from an interview with The Guardian, a lefty British paper, which has even some Democrats doing a double-take:
America's glaring income inequality is certain to be a central bone of contention in the 2016 presidential election. But with her huge personal wealth, how could Clinton possibly hope to be credible on this issue when people see her as part of the problem, not its solution? "But [the American people] don't see me as part of the problem," she protests, "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 dint of hard work," she says, letting off another burst of laughter. If past form is any guide, she must be finding my question painful.
The Clintons pay "ordinary" income tax -- unlike a lot of the folks who are "truly well off," you see. Since leaving the White House, Bill and Hillary Clinton have earned nine figures in income. Their net worth is estimated to be between $50 and $200 million. But please don't mistake them for the really wealthy plutocrats among us. Her income tax line is a reference, one assumes, to wealthy Americans whose annual haul comes substantially through investments, which are taxed at a lower rate than regular income. See? Hillary is just like the rest of us -- if, that is, the rest of us also hired high-powered financial planners to help us shield our money from taxes we also happen to support raising on others. One wonders how many Americans can relate to Hillary's definition of "hard work:"
When Hillary Rodham Clinton said this month that she was once “dead broke,” it was during an interview in which she led ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer through her $5 million Washington home, appointed like an ambassador’s mansion. Mahogany antiques, vibrant paintings and Oriental rugs fill the rooms. French doors open onto an expertly manicured garden and a turquoise swimming pool, where Clinton recently posed for the cover of People magazine. On her current book tour, the former secretary of state has traveled the country by private jet as she has for many of her speaking engagements since stepping down as secretary of state last year. Her fee is said to be upwards of $200,000 per speech; the exceptions tend to be black-tie charity galas, where she collects awards and catches up with friends such as designer Oscar de la Renta and Vogue editor Anna Wintour
Woman of the people. The Washington Post goes on to quote Democratic sources fretting about Hillary's out-of-touch mishandling of questions about her wealth:
“I don’t know whether it’s just that she’s been ‘Madam Secretary’ for so long, but she’s generating an imperial image,” said Dick Harpootlian, who recently stepped down as Democratic Party chairman in South Carolina, which hosts an early presidential primary...[he] added: “She’s been living 30, going on 40 years with somebody bringing your coffee to you every morning. Is it more ‘Downton Abbey’ than it is America?” Multiple Obama campaign advisers — who spoke only on the condition of anonymity to avoid alienating the Clintons — said they fear Clinton’s financial status could hurt her as it did Republican nominee Mitt Romney, whom Obama portrayed in 2012 as an out-of-touch plutocrat at a time of economic uncertainty. “It’s going to be a massive issue for her,” one Obama adviser said. “When you’re somebody like the secretary of state or president of the United States or first lady, you’re totally cut off [from normal activity], so your perception of the middle-class reality gets frozen in a time warp.” Asked what Democrats should do, the adviser said: “Panic.”
Click through for two more juicy quotes from unnamed Obama advisers dumping on her, as well as Clinton confidante Donna Brazille attributing criticisms of Hillary's faux-populist fumbles to sexism, of course: "What is wrong with a woman having the same earning potential as any man?" she asks. Answer: Nothing. People aren't bagging on Hillary's earnings. They're bagging on her inability to talk about her mountains of money in a way that isn't strikingly tone deaf, and they're pointing out the gulf between her rhetoric and her political positions. Meanwhile, Chelsea Clinton has helpfully chimed in, telling another British paper that try as she might, she can't quite bring herself to care about money. As Allahpundit notes, she's trying to draw attention to her own virtue -- but one might imagine that ignoring money may come relatively easily for a child of international celebrity parents who lives in a $10.5 million condo, and who was paid $600,000 by NBC ($26,000 per on-air minute) to do practically nothing. I'll leave you with CNN's morning team laughing out loud at Hillary's "truly wealthy" gaffe:
The same network kindly provided Hillary with a (low-rated) hour-long infomercial platform to sell her book last week, replete with a producer who coached the studio audience on how and when to applaud. For "television optics," naturally.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography