Friday, November 21, 2008


Reports are circulating everywhere today (including the New York Times today) that Hillary Rodham Clinton will give up her Senate seat and accept the offer from the Obama transition team to be the Secretary of State in the Obama cabinet. Although the official line from the Obama transition team is that "meetings are proceeding on track," the official announcement is predicted to take place after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Her appearance on the Obama short list was greeted with a near unanimous approval from K street, especially from the conservatives, who see Clinton as more of a moderate than her soon to be boss, Barack Obama. Although they share a basic overall vision for American foreign affairs, Clinton is more hard line, as proven by her voting to declare Iraq a threat to the United States, and went on the offensive against Obama's willingness to talk to any head of state without pre-conditions. If memory serves, she also was quoted during the primary as calling the Obama diplomatic platform "naive," as well as calling him "dangerous" as a result. She was especially hard on Obama for speculating he would bomb Afghanistan, should intelligence confirm the where abouts of Bin Laden. These positions, although certainly fodder for the press, will be easy to explain away as spoken in the heat of the battle.
As a junior member of the Armed Forces Committee, she went especially hard on Condi Rice, and on Pentagon officials over the existence of an Iraqi exit strategy. Given that this is a done deal, besides the usual political posturing in congress, I expect a smooth and quick confirmation hearing.
The one hang up, the one sticky wicket in the Clinton confirmation fan will be the insistence by congressional Republicans for financial disclosures from the former President, and Hillary's erstwhile hubby, William Jefferson Clinton. It is a matter of public record that the 42nd president has made a ton of cash since leaving the Oval Office. Almost all former Presidents do.
Typically, ex-presidents make money on the lecture circuit while finishing the fundraising for their presidential libraries. In fact, they can start the fundraising in office, without being subject to the usual campaign finance rules. President Bush, for example, is busying himself raising half a billion dollars for his post-presidency, with, no doubt, much of that coming from individuals interested in influencing public policy. Not only can this money be collected in unlimited sums, there's no disclosure of who is doing the giving.
It is common knowledge that his father, a former president himself, once out of the Oval, made a beeline for the Middle East for a series of extremely lucrative speeches and appearances. Next came the obligatory ghost written autobiography garnering millions as well.
But, the speed in which Bill made his money (seemingly overnight), and the tremendous amounts of cash he generated, between his honorariums, his library and the global institute, make many Washington insiders extremely nervous.
It was widely reported that the Clintons, although far from broke, had a very modest financial portfolio post presidency. Six years later, they could afford to loan her campaign ten million during the heat of the battle.
The post presidential parade of dollars is a subject most are very reluctant to discuss, especially since it is a huge loophole which leads to no where pleasant, especially in terms of presidential foundations. Presidential foundations -- unlike political campaigns -- can accept contributions from foreign citizens and even foreign governments. So, although candidate Hillary Clinton was barred from cashing a $100 check from David Beckham, on the theory that he might be attempting to undermine U.S. sovereignty (or force decent Americans to play soccer), Bill is free to have his annual meeting co-sponsored by the country of Oman, whose interests surely don't overlap 100% with those of the U.S. Most likely, those companies (and one sultanate) that wanted their names on a poster outside the Global Initiative meeting rooms weren't after anything more insidious than a little good publicity. The donors to worry about are the ones who aren't eager to brag about their generosity, and that is what makes almost everyone nervous.
Any Senate confirmation hearing will surely focus on the ex-Pres, especially in these areas;
* Bill Clinton's overseas fund-raising from Chinese companies, the Saudi royal family, the king of Morocco, a foundation linked to the United Arab Emirates and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar - as well as many others never identified.
* The millions of dollars his foundation raised from Canadian mining tycoon Frank Giustra, whom the former president accompanied on a 2005 trip to meet with Kazakhstan's president. Within days, Giustra's company landed preliminary rights to buy into state uranium projects.
*The rumored deal between Giustra and Clinton's Global Initiative where Giustra will donate half of the profits from his Canadian mines to the foundation for the rest of his life, a deal which will reap the foundation untold millions.
As smart as this nomination will be, as well suited as Hillary is for the top cabinet post, this will officially mark the end of the "No Drama Obama" period he once enjoyed during the campaign and election. For as we all know, the Clintons almost always win, albeit sometimes in a rather ugly and distasteful fashion.
What I do know is, the ratings for Cspan during the Clinton confirmation committee hearings will absolutely go through the roof. Wherever the Clintons go, drama is sure to follow. And when Hillary swears into the position, Bill will need to swear off his jet setting ways.

No comments: