This past Monday night (June 9th) ABC News broadcast a Diane Sawyer interview with Hillary Clinton, ostensibly to promote the former Secretary of State’s new memoir, but also to serve as the advance notice of her coming 2016 Presidential campaign. This friendly chat ranged widely over issues, but the most telling moment consisted of Hillary’s moving account of she and her husband’s financial woes after they had left the White House in early 2001. By Hillary’s account, the First Couple “struggled” to make ends meet after losing their taxpayer subsidized housing and meal allowance. She repeated the oft-told tale that the Clintons had gone to Washington with no money and that they left with nothing, but were also deeply in debt. We will examine these claims momentarily. The larger issue that makes the Sawyer-Clinton interview noteworthy is the fact that it perfectly illustrates Hillary Clinton’s troubles with the truth, and the entire Clinton sense of entitlement.
First of all, let us examine Hillary’s poor-mouthing and claims of indigence upon arriving in Washington in 1993. She claims that the Clintons came to Washington broke, but TH readers with long memories will recall the stories seeping out in the 90s about Hillary investing a few hundred dollars in cattle futures and turning it into a $100,000 payout. Granted, the Clintons lost some of that profit in the complex and tangled mess known as the Whitewater Development affair, but Hillary Clinton was a very highly paid attorney at the prestigious Rose Law Firm at this time, earning a handsome salary, and moonlighting with a $2,000 per month retainer as the corporate attorney for Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, an admitted criminal enterprise. In addition to Hillary’s earnings, her governor-husband Bill earned total compensation equivalent to $ 86,000 yearly, although, thanks to creative accounting, only $35,000 was taxable income. The Clinton’s received free housing, meals and child care due to his office. Finally, when the couple moved to Washington, Hillary resigned her position at the Rose Law Firm and cashed in her partnership. She received $220,000 in this transaction. If the Clintons arrived in Washington without a cent the reader can reasonably ask: “What happened to the money?”
Hillary continues her plaintive whine about life after 2001 thusly. “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt.” She cited the fact that they would no longer receive free housing, having to pay for their lodging. Certainly an outrage…can you imagine that? She also mentioned that they were facing heavy legal bills, and had to find work after leaving the stage of history.
Let us examine those claims a little more closely. The claim that the Clintons needed housing can be taken at face value. Certainly they needed a place to live, since they had no intention of returning to Little Rock, except for ceremonial events at the Clinton Presidential Library. The Clintons managed to scrape together enough for a down payment on a mansion located in Chappaqua, a bedroom suburb in tony Westchester County, near New York, so that Hillary could claim Empire State residence, thereby allowing her to run for the U.S. Senate in 2000. After Hillary won her Senate seat she clearly did not want to live in New York, but, again, was supposedly too poor for anything else. Well, no matter! Hillary’s friends got together and bought her a $ 2.5 million dollar home in Georgetown, which she duly accepted in December of 2000. The Clinton’s supposed poverty did not cause them much difficulty in securing comfortable quarters in two of the most expensive American cities.
How did the Clinton family plan to furnish these homes? The First Couple registered at major Washington and New York department stores, just as a newlywed couple would, and the Democratic Party asked major donors to furnish the houses as an “appreciation” for eight years of service. The donors, some of whom stood to benefit from Senator Clinton’s access to power, anted up to the tune of nearly $100,000 in requested gifts. Apparently, this was not good enough. In January of 2001 Hillary Clinton began shipping furniture and appliances to the Chappaqua and Georgetown homes. These items had been supplied as part of a half-million redecoration of the White House in 1993, and were public property. The Clintons simply took the stuff and sent it home. Caught red-handed, they agreed to return items clearly marked “National Park Service,” but kept others. The brand new Bush Administration, wanting to avoid a public spat with the former occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, let the matter drop.
On the matter of Clinton family legal bills, the unbiased reader is tempted to simply ask, “Whose fault was that?” If Bill Clinton had paid as much attention to his duties as he paid to talking about his underwear on television, pursuing teenage interns, stonewalling investigations into his past criminal activity, and quibbling over the meaning of “is,” he would not have amassed such a hefty debt. Still, this situation proved to be much less grim than first assumed. Clinton family friends put together a fund to pay off the legal debt, and largely succeeded in retiring the debt by 2004. Bill Clinton was forced to personally pay the $90,000 contempt of court fine when his former law student, Judge Susan Weber Wright, ruled that he had committed perjury in a deposition in her court. The remainder of his debt was paid by Democratic high rollers, and the Clintons were perfectly happy to allow others to bail them out of trouble.
Hillary’s other concern, namely what would they do for work once they were through as First Couple, is really laughable. Hillary knew she had a political future, and not in small time gigs like alderman or precinct captain, either. When she won her Senate seat she was guaranteed to earn $145,000 per year. Bill Clinton’s presidential pension kicked in immediately after he left office at $200,000 per year. Both of the Clinton’s got multimillion dollar advances on their memoirs, and he raked in big money in the form of speaking fees. The Clinton family adjusted gross income for 2001 was nearly $16 million dollars. No wonder Bill Clinton politely declined Steven Spielberg’s offer of a position as the figurehead president of SKG DreamWorks, complete with the million-dollar-a–year salary. He was earning much more than that in other ventures!
Since 2001 the Clinton’s have done very well, as everyone knew they would. Bill Clinton’s public wailings about impending bankruptcy were always written off a part of his “everybody’s being so mean to me” childishness, and Clinton, himself, admitted in lucid moments that he would make a good living after the Presidency. How good has it been? He has earned roughly $90 million dollars since 2001. Hillary has taken in over a million dollars in salary for her government positions. She took an $8 million advance for her White House memoirs, added to that with an advance for this current book, and has earned a fortune in speaking fees. Moreover, she has no campaign debt for her failed presidential run in 2008, since Team Obama agreed to pay that off, when she came into their camp in 2009. The Clinton’s two homes are worth over $12 million combined.
The Clinton family has, as we see, done very well since 2001. When Harry Truman retired in 1953 he took his wife and returned to live with his mother-in-law in Independence, Missouri. He refused to write his memoirs, refused to take speaking engagements, to appear in commercials, or to sit on corporate boards and collect fees. He said that he would not profit in an unseemly manner for the mere fact that he had been President of the United States. The Clintons, however, are a different matter. They are certified members of the 1%, that group of super-rich masters of the universe that the Democratic Party regularly flogs and abuses. This is so completely evident that Hillary could state, in 2008, concerning illegal immigrants, “These are the people who mow our lawns, these are the people who clean our houses, these are the people who care for our children.” It might come as a surprise to this Georgetown denizen that many Americans mow their own lawns, clean their own houses, and care for their own children. Still, Hillary Clinton says that she was poor and deeply in debt in 2001.
The second thing point that this ill-advised interview illustrates is the Clinton sense of entitlement. This showed itself in Arkansas as far back as 1978. The rest of America came to this realization after 1992. The Clintons do not believe that rules made for mere mortals apply to them. Bill Clinton, like a cat with nine lives, lived dangerously for decades. He always managed to wiggle out of troubles with friends agreeing to take the fall, with legalistic smokescreens obscuring the issues, and with a largely compliant media helping him to cover up his misdeeds. That explains his rage during the run-up to impeachment. Clinton had always been able to escape his troubles, but that time his luck ran out, and he was furious. Hillary’s sense of entitlement is also crystal clear. As the sitting First Lady she ducked trouble by refusing to answer questions, and by assailing the messengers. Even though she remains the only First Lady of the United States to be questioned in a criminal proceeding, her adoring media insist that she is the smartest woman on earth. Hillary skirted Senate ethics rules by taking title to the Georgetown house three days before she took her oath as a U.S. Senator, when such a gift would have been a criminal offense. An obliging media said nothing. Finally, we can see Hillary’s sense of entitlement in the talk about her as the inevitable Democratic Presidential candidate as early as 1997. She had accomplished nothing, except for the fact that she had married an operator who was going places. Hillary married well and used that union as a springboard for her own undisguised ambitions. She may be many things, buy this is hardly a feminist heroine.
We can clearly see that the Clinton’s are not and have never been poor. Hillary being poor is as factual as her being a Yankees fan, coming under sniper fire in Bosnia, having vast experience, or being a great attorney. She is now backpedaling from her statement somewhat, as she issued a “clarification” yesterday, saying that she meant “poor” in a different manner than the traditional understanding, and didn’t mean to compare her plight with those who are desperately poor, and whose votes she needs in 2016. Still, Hillary is playing the role of the poor little rich girl, and we’ll hear more of this once the current blowback dies down. It cannot obscure the fact, however, that the Clintons, like the Obamas, the Kerry’s, and yes, the Bush families are all very well off. It is sad to say, but, government by plutocracy is the new American way.