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At The Clinton Foundation, You Can Smell The Meat A-Cookin'

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

With so many journalists spending so much time shaming Donald Trump's voters so as to protect Hillary Clinton in November, I'm getting mighty worried.

I'm not worried about Trump. He's a megalomaniac, and his kind of narcissism will help him blend in quite nicely in Washington if he's elected president. And I'm not worried about Clinton either. She's a pathological liar and well-suited to the Washington way, where liars are praised.


What worries me is that many -- but not all -- in my business are spending so much time shaming Trump voters, that they seem to have forgotten some important features of political corruption: what it is, what it looks like, what it sounds like and what it smells like.

Particularly when it comes to Mrs. Clinton, her husband, Bill, and the pungency of the influence-peddling scandal involving the multibillion-dollar Clinton Foundation.

Her defenders keep insisting that there was "no quid pro quo" in having Mrs. Clinton, when she was secretary of state, meet privately with Clinton Foundation donors -- many of them foreign donors -- seeking the favors of Mrs. Clinton and the American government.

And, these defenders insist, that there is no "smoking gun." When I hear the phrase "no smoking gun," I picture some Washington cat purring, expecting sweetmeats once the Clinton Restoration is secure.

The talking points were established early on by Clinton surrogate and interim Democratic Party Chair Donna Brazile on ABC, after the Associated Press broke its story about Clinton Foundation megabucks donors getting all that happy face time alone with Hillary.

Brazile said:

"So, you know, this notion that, somehow or another, someone who is a supporter, someone who is a donor, somebody who's an activist, saying, I want access, I want to come into a room and I want to meet people, we often criminalize behavior that is normal. And it's -- I don't -- I don't see what the smoke is."


Only in Washington can it be considered normal, not criminal, for insiders to use our government to get rich.

There have been many Republican officials who stood up and said they can't vote for Trump for what he's done or said.

So where are the Democrats who are standing up to say they can't support influence peddling and the Clintons? Their silence indicates assent.

What is clear is that when Clinton surrogates say "there's no smoking gun" or "no quid pro quo," you'll soon hear some talking head repeat the same dang thing.

It doesn't take days. Just about the time it takes to toast an English muffin and slap some cheese on it, they commence with the "no evidence" and "no smoking gun" and "no quid pro quo."

I don't work in Washington. Years ago, editors tried to send me to D.C. in the hopes I might acquire the necessary polish and gravitas. But I fought them off and happily stayed put.

So maybe it's that being a Midwesterner, I can't quite appreciate the difference between normal influence peddling and abnormal influence peddling.

But being from Chicago, where corruption is the glue that holds politics together -- and the bread and the meat and the sport peppers and the fries -- I can tell you what corruption does not smell like.

It does not smell like a smoking gun or a nonsmoking gun. And it does not speak Latin.


It smells like meat a-cookin', and that's not a language of words, but of appetite. It smells sweet, and there is no recipe. The recipe is understood, implied, and if you dare ask for the recipe, you are immediately ostracized and kicked out of the kitchen.

It doesn't involve a straight payoff. Everything is layered. A deal goes to Mr. X. Another deal goes to Ms. Y. It's all circular and rather complicated, like the Clintons parsing English, and everything is understood in the spaces between the words.

When pundits moan about "no smoking gun" and "no quid pro quo," they must be referring to some cartoon definition of corruption, as if it involved an envelope stuffed with dead presidents, handed over to some grubby-fingered hack in the backroom of a greasy tavern with a tired Kiefer Sutherland doing the voice-over.

But people with governments and nations in the palms of their hands don't deal that way.

The other day at breakfast, I was talking about this stupid, narrow Washington definition of political corruption with a man who has made it his life study.

"Say you're in a meeting with an elected official, and you say, 'I'll give you so much money if you give me this favor and that favor,' You know what happens next?" asked the man wise in the Chicago Way.

I knew, but I played along: No, what happens?


"The first thing the politician will think to himself, 'Why is he talking that way? This son of a b---- is wired up,'" he said. "And no one will ever talk to you ever again."

That's why it's depressing to hear meat puppets insist that there is no there, there, with the Clinton Foundation and Hillary, because it's already been laid out.

The corruption was in the selling of access to the highest reaches of the federal government.

To someone who was then a sitting secretary of state who -- as all the foreign tough guys with treasure understood -- was already reaching for the White House.

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