Politics & Policy

The Clintons Haven’t Changed a Bit

Bill and Hillary Clinton in January 2001 (Photo: Reuters)
Their sleaziness, bad judgment, and scandal-management playbook are the same as ever.

Some fans of Bill Clinton’s presidency choose to believe that its cavalcade of scandals reflects how well the country did on his watch: Because the economy was humming along in the dot-com boom and America was at peace, they say, Washington was free to focus upon the tawdry misdeeds and allegations against the Clintons.

That self-serving interpretation never held much water, and the proof is before us in this election cycle: The economy is sputtering along, the social fabric is tearing, ISIS is on the march, the Clintons are still behaving badly, and they’re still reacting as if they’re the victims when their bad behavior is pointed out: The law doesn’t really mean what it appears to mean! Career law-enforcement officers are being partisan! Deny, deny, deny! Attack, attack, attack! Bring out the former prosecutors to denounce FBI Director James Comey!

In the 1990s, greed drove the Clintons to effectively rent out the Lincoln Bedroom in exchange for campaign donations; now it drives them to seek $12 million donations to their foundation from the Kingdom of Morocco. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton’s selfish belief that the federal government existed to serve his needs drove him to ask White House staff to help Monica Lewinsky find a job; now the same selfishness drives the complex, corrupt intermingling of the U.S. State Department and the Clinton Foundation. In the Clintons’ minds, this is the way things are supposed to be. To them, it’s perfectly normal for Bill to collect giant checks from entities and countries that have business before the State Department Hillary is running. It’s perfectly normal for Hillary to receive $225,000 from UNLV for a speech about the exorbitant cost of higher education. It’s perfectly normal for NBC News to give Chelsea a $600,000 part-time gig. When you’re a Clinton, people just throw enormous amounts of money at you for no reason.

In the 1990s, arrogance and a belief that he was above the law drove Bill Clinton to commit perjury and ask others to do the same; now it drives Hillary Clinton to keep all of her e-mails on an insecure private server, flouting public-records laws, congressional subpoenas, FOIA requests, and other tools of public accountability. She’s worked in government her whole life; she knows damn well how all of those tools work and where they apply. Her mentality is clear from her actions: We, the little people, don’t deserve a transparent account of her words and actions, despite what the law says. The law wasn’t meant to apply to her. She’s special.

#related#Hillary Clinton is exactly who she has always been, and there is no reason to expect her to change. She remains convinced that she’s been uniquely victimized by a vast right-wing conspiracy so irredeemably evil that it justifies almost any act of retaliation — any lie, any violation of the law, any unsavory exercise of power. This mindset allows her to rationalize anything —  smearing the FBI director or the State Department inspectors general or the victims of Bill’s unwanted sexual advances — as for the greater good.

So the Clintons are who we thought they were. And why should they change now what’s gotten them this far? After all, if they’ve learned anything from past scandals it’s that lying, counter-attacking, and waiting out the storm usually works. It probably will this time, too.

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