Why Hillary’s ‘Dead Broke’ Comment Matters
Hillary’s “Dead Broke” comment is the 2016 presidential cycle’s early version of her “Tuzla Dash,” – when she claimed that during a visit to Bosnia as First Lady, “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” Of course, there is no record indicating any danger to her.
Hillary Clinton misremembers events so they fit into her own personal heroic narrative, not as they actually were. Lots of people do this, particularly politicians, but this is a dangerous habit for a leader to have. If they cannot assess and interpret past events clearly, how much faith can we have in their ability to assess and interpret what’s in front of them now? Or in the future?
In case you missed it . . .
Hillary Clinton said she and husband, Bill, were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001 with a meager income of $416,039 and $11 million in debt, as she defended her $200,000 speaking fee to ABC’s Diane Sawyer.
Clinton insists the speaking fees were necessary for the family of three to make ends meet, managing two mortgages and the steep bills for daughter Chelsea’s private school education.
“We struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy,” Clinton told ABC’s Diane Sawyer, in an interview to air Monday.
Remember when I chuckled about a New Yorker writer referring to her as “Lunch-Pail Hillary,” suggesting she will run a populist campaign that is “critical of the Wall Street types”? Apparently she really intends to do this.
A woman with a net worth of $200 million, who gives speeches to Goldman Sachs for $200,000 each, is perhaps the single least plausible populist of all time. She may attempt to pose as this reform-minded outsider who will shake up “The System,” when she is perhaps the personification of “The System.” You can count on one hand the number of people who have had more influence over public policy than her since January 1993.
But she’s going to try it, because she is apparently incapable of perceiving herself as she is. Because massive wealth is seen as suspicious or inherently corrupting in today’s political culture, particularly in Democratic circles, she has to pretend she’s middle class, that her personal finance worries are just like those of Americans making mid five figures or less.
The “he’s unbelievably rich and out of touch” attack clearly did damage to Romney in 2012. Hillary Clinton has to hope lots of people don’t react the way Jimmie Bise Jr. did: “I know of dozens of ridiculously-talented, hard-working people who’ll never set foot in a mansion. But Hillary Clinton buys two and weeps.”
Our Charlie Cooke:
Leaving aside for a brief moment how utterly farcical it is to use “struggle” and “houses” in the same sentence, the notion that the Clintons were presented in their post-presidency with anything other than a license to print money is unyielding in its abject hilarity. By 2001, Bill Clinton had made $200,000 per annum for eight years while paying nothing toward his housing or upkeep, and, in addition to the extraordinarily lucrative speaking gigs that American ex-presidents are now to expect, he had a lifetime of pensions and benefits to look forward to. (David Graham points out that, in the last 14 years, he has received nearly $16 million from the government.) By the end of the year in which he left office, the couple had made $16 million and enjoyed between $5 and $30 million in assets. By 2004, they had $50 million to their names. And by 2014, Clinton had become the highest-earning former president in America’s history, with net assets of nearly $200 million. Being smart sorts, the couple knew full well that this was coming, which is why in 1999, with their apparently destructive legal bills still racking up, they bought a $6 million house in Chappaqua, N.Y., so that Hillary could legally run for the Senate. One suspects that if the Clintons had been genuinely worried that their legal fights might bankrupt them, they would not have done this, nor would friend Terry McAuliffe have agreed to loan them $1.3 million toward its purchase.