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WHY TRUMP WON: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 18, 2016 at 10:22 am

Donald Trump owes his victory to a wide range of circumstances. Among these:

#10 Hillary Clinton gave only one memorable speech during the campaign–and then she quashed any benefits that might have come from it.  

This was the “basket of deplorables” speech, delivered at a New York fundraiser on September 9.  It was the only Clinton speech to be widely quoted by Democrats and Republicans.

She divided Donald Trump’s supporters into two groups. The first group were the “deplorables,” for whom she showed open contempt:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic –you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.

“He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people–now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”  

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Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore photo)

But the second group, she said, consisted of poor, alienated Americans who rightly felt abandoned by their employers and their government:

“But the other basket–and I know this because I see friends from all over America here….but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

“They don’t buy everything [Trump] says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

After giving this speech, Clinton threw away the good it might well have done her.

First, the day after making the speech, she apologized for it: “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’–that was wrong.”  

Many of Trump’s followers were racists, sexists and xenophobes–who deserved condemnation, not apologies. By apologizing, she looked weak, indecisive.

Second, having eloquently reached out to many of the men and women who were a prime constituency for Donald Trump, she made no effort to follow up.  

She could have used this moment to offer an economic package that would quickly and effectively address their vital needs for jobs and medical care. 

But that would have required her to put one together long ago. And all she had to offer now was boilerplate rhetoric, such as: “Education is the answer.”

Worst of all, Trump turned her speech against her, tweeting: “Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!”  

It did.  

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#11 Neither the Democrats nor the TV networks dared reveal the full intensity of hatred and violence that were hallmarks of Trump’s rallies–and campaign.  

Three New York Times reporters who covered Trump’s rallies for over one year routinely witnessed his supporters hurl vulgar taunts such as:

At Hillary Clinton: “Trump that bitch!” “Kill her!” “Lock her up!” “Hillary is a whore!” “Hang the bitch!”

At protesters: “Get out of here, you fag!” “Get him!” “Get the fuck out of here!”

At Latinos: “Build a wall–kill them all!” “Fuck those dirty beaners!” “Send them bastards back. I’m sure that paperwork comes in Spanish.”

At Muslims: “Fuck Islam!” “Islam is not a religion, partner. It’s an ideology.” “You don’t come and talk about America when you’re supporting Muslims.”

At President Barack Obama: “Fuck that nigger!”  

H. Allen Scott, a reporter for Fusion, attended a Trump rally and overheard conversations that startled him.

In one, a man marked Arabs as the enemy: “Those sand niggers are out to get us. We need to bomb the hell out of them.”

In the other, the supposed threat came from a different source: “The Donald will get all those Jews out of Washington.”

When protesters were ejected, Trump supporters went wild–and usually turned violent. Protesters were beaten and kicked–often with Trump’s encouragement.

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Protesters and supporters duke it out at a Donald Trump rally

Audiences at Trump rallies were overwhelmingly white. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.” Confederate flags were commonly displayed.

TV news networks and the Hillary Clinton campaign could have aired–repeatedly–such footage. Had they done so, Americans would have gotten a brutal, firsthand look at the anger and racism inherent in Trump’s candidacy–and followers.  

Instead, Trump was allowed to appear on late-night shows like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show where he was treated with kid gloves for fun and laughs. 

Thus, it is pointless to blame any one person (such as Hillary Clinton) or group (such as those who voted for third-party candidates) for Clinton’s loss. Many factors played a part–including some that, to keep this series at a reasonable length, could not be mentioned.

WHY TRUMP WON: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 17, 2016 at 12:05 am

Fans of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders have loudly claimed that if he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Donald Trump at the polls. 

Since he didn’t get the nomination, we will never know.

But Sanders would have carried his own negatives–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  Among the issues he championed:

  • Make college tuition free and debt-free.
  • Medicare for all.
  • Strengthen and expand Social Security.

Although worthy positions, they would have allowed Republicans to label him a “big-spending liberal.” 

In addition, Sanders had labeled himself a “democratic Socialist.” For millions of proudly ignorant Americans, “socialist” means “Communist.” And Fox News and the Republican party would have gladly assured them they were correct.  

Liberty Maniacs, a Minnesota-based brand that designs and sells political and satirical apparel, literally cashed in on this image with an eye-catching T-shirt.

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It depicted Sanders’ face alongside those of Karl Marx, Freidrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. And underneath were the words: “Bernie IS MY COMRADE.”

No doubt Republicans would have flooded the airways with similar images.

Sanders’ partisans continue to insist he was “cheated” out of the nomination by Hillary Clinton. But this still leaves unanswered the question:

If Sanders couldn’t prevail against the alleged ruthlessness of Clinton in the primaries, how could he have done so against Trump in the general election? 

As the saying goes: “Politics ain’t beanbag.”

#5 Democrats and liberals fell prey to hubris. They dismissed Donald Trump as a bad joke: Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times

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If comments on Facebook are any guide, many liberals believed Clinton would bury him at the polls: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics will turn out huge for her. Democrats will retake the Senate, and maybe even retake the House.

If many Democrats/liberals didn’t vote, one reason may be that they expected others to do it for them.

#6 The coalition that twice elected Barack Obama deserted Hillary Clinton.

Clinton did worse-than-expected among all the groups she was counting on to support her: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics.

  • In 2012, Obama got 93% of the black vote; in 2016, Clinton got 88%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 55% of the women’s vote; in 2016, Clinton won 54%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 60% of the vote of those under 30; in 2016, Clinton got 54%
  • In 2012, Obama got 71% of the Hispanic vote; in 2016, Clinton got 65%.

Clinton proved less popular even among whites than Obama: In 2012, Obama won 39% of their votes; in 2016, Clinton won 37%.

#7 For years, Republicans had waged a vicious campaign to demonize Hillary Clinton.

This included even falsely accusing her of conspiring to murder American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

Kevin McCarthy, a Republican member of the House of Representatives unintentionally admitted this on Fox News on September 30, 2015:   

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her [poll] numbers today?

“Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

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Kevin McCarthy

Thus, McCarthy revealed that:

  • The House Select Committee on Benghazi was not a legitimate investigative body.
  • Its true purpose was not to investigate the killings of four American diplomats during a 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
  • It’s actual purpose: To destroy the Presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

#8 Republicans attacked Clinton for using a personal email account–while ignoring that her two Republican predecessors had done the same.

General Colin Powell served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He not only used a private email account but advised Clinton to do so as she was about to move into the same job in 2009.  

Powell’s successor as Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, similarly used a private email account during her tenure (2005-2009).

Yet while Republicans hounded Clinton, accusing her of recklessly endangering national security, they totally ignored Powell’s and Rice’s uses of private email accounts.

#9 Trump, adopting the role of a populist, appealed to blue-collar voters. Clinton offered a “love-your-CEO” economic plan–and suffered for it.

Trump visited “Rustbelt” states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and vowed to “bring back” jobs that had been lost to China, such as those in coal mining and manufacturing. Clinton didn’t deign to show up, assuming she had those states “locked up.”

Most economists agree that, in a globalized economy, such jobs are not coming back, no matter who becomes President.

Even so, voters went for the man who promised them a better future, and shunned the woman who didn’t come to promise them any future at all. 

In May, Democratic pollster CeLinda Lake had warned Clinton to revamp her economic platform.

“Democrats simply have to come up with a more robust economic frame and message,” Lake said after the election. “We’re never going to win those white, blue-collar voters if we’re not better on the economy. And 27 policy papers and a list of positions is not a frame. We can laugh about it all we want, but Trump had one.”

WHY TRUMP WON: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 16, 2016 at 12:13 am

Since November 8, Democrats and liberals (the two are not always the same) have been in shock.

“How could this happen?” they keep asking–themselves and others. “How could the country go from electing a brilliant, sophisticated, humane man like Barack Obama to electing an ignorant, coarse, brutal man like Donald Trump?”

Efforts have been made to blame one person/group or another. But the truth is that many factors were involved, and the fallout will be felt for months–if not years–to come.

#1 Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate. When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw compared his rallies to Hannah Montana concerts. Audiences were excited by his charisma, eloquence, relative youth (47) and optimism (“Yes We Can!”).

Clinton radiated none of these qualities. She was 67 when she declared her candidacy for President–and looked it. Her speaking voice grated like the proverbial fingernail on a blackboard.

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Hillary Clinton

She seemed to have been around forever–as First Lady (1993-2001), as Senator from New York (2001-2009) and as Secretary of State (2009-2013). Those born after 2000 thought of the Clinton Presidency as ancient history. She was offering a resume–and voters wanted an inspiration.

#2 Clinton brought a lot of baggage with her. In contrast to Obama, whose Presidency had been scandal-free, Clinton–rightly or wrongly–has always been dogged by charges of corruption.

During the Clinton Presidency, a failed land deal–Whitewater–while Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas triggered a seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor. No criminality was uncovered, and no charge was brought against either Clinton.

After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”

As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government were with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If a “pay-to play” system wasn’t at work, one certainly seemed to be.

She cast further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. This wasn’t revealed until March, 2015–after she was no longer Secretary of State.

She claimed she had used it to avoid carrying two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she traveled with a huge entourage who carried everything she needed. Her critics believed she used a private email system to hide a “pay-for-pay” relationship with Clinton Foundation donors.

Finally,  as a candidate for President, she “secretly” worked with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she would get the nomination.

As DNC chair, Wasserman-Schultz was expected to be impartial toward all Democratic candidates seeking the prize. This included Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s chief competitor.

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Bernie Sanders

So Sanders and his supporters were outraged when WikiLeaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC.

The emails revealed a clear bias for Clinton and against Sanders. In one email, Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist.

#3 The Obamas’ support proved a plus/minus for Clinton.  Understandably, President Obama wanted to see his legacies continued–and she was the only candidate who could do it.

So he–and his wife, Michelle–stormed the country, giving eloquent, passionate speeches and firing up crowds on Clinton’s behalf.

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President Barack Obama

So long as either Obama stood before a crowd, the magic lasted. But once the event was over, the excitement vanished. Hillary simply didn’t arouse enough passion to keep it going.

And when Obama supporters compared the President and First Lady with Clinton, they found her wanting–in attractiveness, grace, eloquence, trustworthiness and the ability to inspire.

#4 Not enough Democrats entered the Presidential race. Among those few who did:

  • Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland;
  • Lincoln Chaffee, former governor of Rhode Island;
  • James Webb, former U.S. Senator from Virginia;
  • Lawrence Lessig, professor at Harvard Law School;
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders;
  • and former First Lady/U.S. Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Of these candidates, it’s worth noting that O’Malley withdrew during the primaries. Chaffee, Webb and Lessig withdrew before the primaries started.

Many liberals wanted Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to run. As a specialist in consumer protection, she had become a leading figure in the Democratic party and a favorite among progressives.

But, without giving a reason, she declined to do so.

Thus, at least on the Democratic side, the stage was already set at the outset of the race.

No matter who the Republican nominee would be, the Democratic one would be Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.  

Sanders fans have loudly claimed that if only he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Trump at the polls. 

But Sanders would have carried big negatives as well–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  

These will be explored in Part Two of this continuing series.

WIMPS ON THE LEFT, BULLIES ON THE RIGHT

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 2, 2016 at 12:04 am

Most Americans believe that Nazi Germany was defeated because “we were the Good Guys and they were the Bad Guys.”

Not so.  

The United States–and its allies, Great Britain and the Soviet Union–won the war for reasons that had nothing to do with the righteousness of their cause. These included:

  • Nazi Germany–i.e, its Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler–made a series of disastrous decisions. Chief among these: Attacking its ally, the Soviet Union, and declaring war on the United States;
  • The greater material resources of the Soviet Union and the United States; and
  • The Allies waged war as brutally as the Germans.

On this last point:

  • From D-Day to the fall of Berlin, Americans often shot captured Waffen-SS soldiers out of hand.
  • When American troops came under fire in the German city of Aachen, Lt. Col. Derrill Daniel brought in a self-propelled 155mm artillery piece and opened up on a theater housing German soldiers. After the city surrendered, a German colonel labeled the use of the 155 “barbarous” and demanded that it be outlawed.

German soldiers at Stalingrad

  • During the battle of Stalingrad in 1942, Wilhelm Hoffman, a young German soldier and diarist, was appalled that the Russians refused to surrender. He wrote: “You don’t see them at all, they have established themselves in houses and cellars and are firing on all sides, including from our rear–barbarians, they used gangster methods….”

In short: The Allies won because they dared to meet the brutality of a Heinz Guderian with that of a George S. Patton or a Georgi Zhukov.

This is a lesson that has been totally lost on the liberals of the Democratic Party.

Which explains why they lost most of the Presidential elections of the 20th century.

It also explains why Hillary Clinton finds herself on the defensive in the last week of the 2016 Presidential race.  

Throughout her campaign, the Democratic Presidential nominee has been stalked by her use of a private email server at her home in Chappaqua, New York, while Secretary of State (2009-2013). 

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Hillary Clinton

She did not use, or even activate, a State Department email account, which would have been hosted on servers owned and managed by the United States government.

Republicans have portrayed this as a criminal act–and their Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has threatened to send her to prison for it if he’s elected.

It wasn’t. 

When she became Secretary of State, the 1950 Federal Records Act mandated that officials using personal email accounts turn over their official correspondence to the government. 

Clinton maintains that most of her emails went to, or were forwarded to, people with government accounts, so they were automatically archived.

In November 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments, which require government officials to forward any official correspondence to the government within 20 days. But even under this new law, the penalties are only administrative, not criminal.  

In May, 2016, the State Department’s Inspector General found that:

  • Clinton’s email system violated government policy;
  • She did not receive permission in setting it up; and
  • The agency wouldn’t have granted approval had she asked.

Nevertheless, her behavior did not constitute criminal conduct. 

Clinton’s use of a private email system became a major political issue when The New York Times broke the story in March, 2015. 

Since then, Republicans have attacked her as having endangered national security as a result.  

In doing so, they have totally ignored two embarrassing facts:

First: During the George W. Bush Presidency, Clinton’s two Republican predecessors as Secretary of State–Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice–also used private email accounts; and

Second:  Government computer systems are not secure–and have been repeatedly hacked. Among the agencies attacked:

  • The White House (2014)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (2015)
  • Department of Defense (2015)
  • Internal Revenue Service (2015)
  • Pentagon (2015)
  • Department of State (2014)  
  • Department of Homeland Security

As soon as Republicans began attacking Clinton’s use of a private server, Democrats should have threatened to convene hearings spotlighting similar behavior by Powell and Rice.  

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Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice

Powell and Rice–both still highly influential figures within the Republican party–would have pressured their fellow Republicans: Knock this off–now.  

Even if Republicans had continued to hound Clinton on her email server, Democrats could have summoned and publicly grilled Powell and Rice. 

This would have served Republicans a lesson on Realpolitik straight out of Niccolo Machiavelli’s primer, The Prince:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. 

The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved….

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

For Democrats to win elective victories and enact their agenda, they must find their own George Pattons to take on the Waffen-SS generals among Republican ranks.

SECRECY PAST IS SECRECY PROLOGUE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on August 9, 2016 at 12:20 am

The Washington Post was angry.

Its reporters and editors believed they had been stonewalled by the 1992 Bill Clinton Presidential campaign.  

And now that he had been elected President, they wanted access to a treasury of documents relating to potential irregularities in Whitewater and a gubernatorial campaign.  

David Gergen, a conservative adviser to Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, had been hired by Clinton in 1993 to provide a counterbalancing perspective to his liberal team members.  

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Gergen had served in the Nixon White House during Watergate.  He knew firsthand the political dangers of stonewalling–or merely appearing to stonewall.  

So he advised Clinton: Give the Post the documents. Yes, it will be temporarily embarrassing. But in a little while the bad stories will blow over and you can get on with the job.  

If you don’t hand over the documents, you’ll look like you’re hiding something. The press will raise a stink. The Republicans will demand a Special Prosecutor.  And there will be no end to it.

Clinton agreed with Gergen.  But there was a catch: He didn’t feel he could make the decision alone. Hillary had been a partner in the Whitewater land transactions.  

“You’ll have to speak to Hillary and get her agreement,” he told Gergen. “If she agrees, we’ll do it.” 

Gergen promised to see her. 

Two days later, Gergen called Hillary Clinton’s office and asked for an appointment.

“We’ll get back to you,” her secretary promised.

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Hillary Clinton

Hillary never did.  Finally, two weeks after the canceled December 10 meeting with the Clintons, Gergen got the news he had been dreading: Bruce Lindsay, Clinton’s trusted adviser, would deliver a one-paragraph letter to the Post, essentially saying; “Screw you.”

Events quickly unfolded exactly as Gergen had predicted:

  • The Post’s executive editor, Leonard Downie, called the White House: “Nothing personal, but we’re going to pursue this story relentlessly.”  
  • The New York Times and Newsweek–among other news outlets–joined the journalistic investigation.  
  • Coverage of Whitewater intensified.  
  • Republicans began demanding that Attorney General Janet Reno appoint an independent counsel.  
  • On January 20, 1994–exactly a year after Clinton took the oath as President–Edward Fiske, a former federal prosecutor, was named independent counsel.
  • In August, Fiske was dismissed by a Federal judge who considered him too liberal and replaced with Kenneth Starr, a former solicitor general and federal appeals court judge.
  • Starr unearthed Clinton’s salacious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which culminated in an unsuccessful Republican impeachment attempt in 1998.
  • Starr resigned in 1999, and was replaced by Robert W. Ray.
  • The investigation continued until 2002, but no criminal charges were ever filed against either Clinton.

In his 2001 book, Eyewitness to Power, Gergen summarizes the meaning of this episode: 

If the Clintons had turned over the Whitewater documents to the Washington Post in December 1993, their history–and that of the United States–would have been entirely different.  

Disclosure would have brought embarrassing revelations–such as Hillary’s investment in commodity futures.

“But we know today that nothing in those documents constituted a case for criminal prosecution of either one of the Clintons in their Whitewater land dealings…

“Edward Fiske and Kenneth Starr would never have arrived on the scene, we might never have heard of Monica Lewinsky (who had nothing to do with the original Whitewater matter) and there would have been no impeachment.

“The country would have been spared that travail, and the President himself could have had a highly productive second term.”  

Gergen blames President Clinton rather than Hillary for refusing to disclose the documents. Voters elected him–not her–to run the government. He–not she–ultimately bears the responsibility.  

Still, his comments about Hillary are telling, considering:

  • That she is likely to win election to the White House this November; and
  • That she continues to reflexively stonewall instead of opt for transparency when facing questions.  

As Gergen puts it: “She should have said yes [to disclosure] from the beginning, accepting short-term embarrassment in exchange for long-term protection of both herself and her husband.  

“She listened too easily to the lawyers and to her own instincts as a litigator, instincts that told her never to give an inch to the other side. Whitewater was always more a political than a legal problem.”  

The same might be said of her lingering credibility problem with the use of a private email server as Secretary of State.

Both of her predecessors, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, used private servers, and neither has been subjected to Republican inquisition.  

She could have easily avoided the turmoil that has dogged her for years by simply admitting at the outset: “Yes, I used a private server–just like my two Republican predecessors did. Everyone knows government servers are compromised.”  

Instead, she fell back on Nixonian stonewalling tactics–which proved fatal to Richard Nixon and almost fatal to her husband.  

This is, in short, a woman who has learned nothing from the past–her own nor that of her husband.

It’s a safe bet that as President Hillary Clinton will continue to stonewall over matters whose disclosure is embarrassing only in the short-term–thus jeopardizing her tenure as Chief Executive.

SECRECY PAST IS SECRECY PROLOGUE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on August 8, 2016 at 10:30 am

“History can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

So wrote the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.  And with history–in the form of a second Clinton Presidency–about to repeat itself, useful lessons may be found by studying the first one.

Since her debut as a potential First Lady in 1992, Hillary Clinton has aroused strong passions–for and against.

David Gergen is one former staffer who has viewed her up close and yet offers a balanced perspective of her strengths and weaknesses.

He did so in his 2001 book, Eyewitness to Power, in which he chronicled his experiences as an adviser to Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan–and a Democratic one: Bill Clinton.

In 1993, then a conservative political commentator, Gergen returned to the White House. 

The liberal Clinton, sensitive to criticism on the Right, wanted Gergen’s advice on how to defuse it.

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David Gergen

In December, 1993, Gergen got a call from Bob Kaiser, the managing editor of the Washington Post: “We’re getting the runaround over there on Whitewater and I want you to know about it.”

“Whitewater” encompassed the Arkansas real estate investments of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their associates, Jim and Susan McDougal in the Whitewater Development Corporation, a failed business venture in the 1970s and 1980s. 

A Post reporter had sent a letter to Bruce Lindsay, a trusted Clinton adviser, raising questions about the finances of the Clintons in the years before they came to Washington.

Two weeks had passed, and there had been no reply.  

Gergen assured Kaiser that this was the first time he had heard about the letter: “I’ll look into it and get back to you.”

Gergen and Kaiser shared a Watergate past–Gergen had worked in the Nixon White House, Kaiser at the Washington Post, whose reporting had ultimately brought Nixon down.

Both men, Gergen later wrote, “remembered how destructive the stonewalling of those days had been.” And Gergen respected Kaiser, believing him “fair but tough–and, if misled, very tough.”   

Gergen immediately consulted with Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty, Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff. He advised McLarty that a trio of White House officials should visit the Post and find out what the reporters wanted.

McLarty agreed.  

When the White House officials arrived at the Post, they were met by a chorus of hostile reporters.  

They felt they had been stonewalled throughout the 1992 Presidential race. And now they wanted access to a treasury of documents relating to potential irregularities in Whitewater and a gubernatorial campaign.

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The Washington Post

Gergen and Mark Gearan, the White House director of communications, agreed that the best course was to give the Post all the documents it was requesting.  

The next day, Gergen laid out his case to Chief of Staff McLarty:

The Post should be allowed to view the documents and report on them. Then the papers should be made available to the entire White House press corps.  

Yes, said Gergen, a lot of negative stories would probably result. But if Watergate had taught any lesson, it was that it was better to admit mistakes and not try to hide them. Stonewalling only brought on criminal investigations–and potential criminal charges.  

McLarty agreed to set up a meeting with President Clinton where Gergen and Gearan could make their case.

On December 10, Gergen and Gearan were scheduled to meet with President Clinton, his wife, and possibly their lawyers.  

But when the appointed hour arrived, they found that the meeting had been scrubbed.

The Clintons had had their lawyers come in early for a private discussion of the documents, had heard their arguments, and had decided not to discuss anything. They didn’t even want to hear a case for disclosure.

Gergen was furious. He had been hired months earlier with the promise of full access to the President. And now he insisted on it.  

McLarty arranged for him to see Clinton the next morning. 

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Bill Clinton

Gergen laid out three reasons why the Post should be given the documents it wanted.  

First, he believed the paper had tried to be fair in its coverage of the Clintons.  

Second, Watergate proved that it was politically lethal to be accused of a cover-up.

And, third, having won international renown with Watergate, the Post would never back down on Whitewater.

Gergen warned that the Post “would sic a big team of investigative reporters on the White House” and that would lead other news organizations to follow.  

“I agree with you,” said Clinton. “I think we should turn over all of the documents.”  

But there was a catch: He didn’t feel he could make the decision alone. Hillary had been a partner in the Whitewater land transactions.  

“You’ll have to speak to Hillary and get her agreement,” he told Gergen. “If she agrees, we’ll do it.”  

Gergen promised to see her.  

Two days later, Gergen called Hillary Clinton’s office and asked for an appointment.

“We’ll get back to you,” her secretary promised.

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