From the Thursday Morning Jolt:
The Democrats’ Vices
There’s a difference between having money and having power.
Congressional staffers who write the details of legislation have a lot of power, but they’re usually making mid-five figures in high cost-of-living Washington, D.C., hoping to cash in someday with a more lucrative job on K Street. Sheldon Adelson can spend enormous sums in his political endeavors, but he doesn’t have the power to guarantee his preferred guy wins.
Since 1992, the Clintons have had exceptional, almost unparalleled political power. From the point of view of most Americans, they’ve been wealthy. But not super-wealthy. In 1992, they listed their net worth at nearly $700,000. Yes, they had to spend quite a bit of money on lawyers during their time at the White House. But even before President Clinton gave his first post-presidential speech or signed his first book deal, he was going to get a pension of about $199,000 per year, plus a taxpayer-funded office, etc. She was elected to the Senate, with a salary of $141,300.
Hillary Clinton famously declared she and her husband were “dead broke” when they left the White House; of course, around that time they bought a $2.35 million home in Chappaqua. Between leaving the White House and beginning her Senate term she signed the $8 million book deal for “Living History”; years later, she got a $14 million advance for “Hard Choices.”
PolitiFact declared, “By Feb. 5, 2001, Bill Clinton was commanding regular speaking fees of $125,000 or more.” By 2004, their net worth was at least $10 million. His speaking fees brought in tons of money, exceptionally quickly:
Bill Clinton has been paid $104.9 million for 542 speeches around the world between January 2001, when he left the White House, and January 2013, when Hillary stepped down as secretary of state, according to a Washington Post review of the family’s federal financial disclosures.
Today Bill Clinton is the wealthiest ex-president. Hillary made more than $5 million in paid speeches after leaving the State Department.
Even as she continues ramping up a likely 2016 presidential candidacy, there’s another paid speaking stop on the books this week: The American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey.
It’s a not-for-profit organization that may be spending up to 10 percent of its $2 million budget to land Clinton for the Thursday speech in Atlantic City, if the former first lady is charging her usual fee of $200,000.
The Clintons are always surrounded by a wide circle of generous donors. When you add up his campaigns, her campaigns, and their fundraising for the Clinton Foundation, the pair raised $2.1 billion from 1992 to 2013.
The Clintons travel entirely by charter or first class, with the expenses paid for by the Clinton Foundation.
(Hillary Clinton, speaking to an audience at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2012: “There are rich people everywhere, and yet they do not contribute to the growth of their own countries.”)
The Clintons’ paid speeches are a bit like Peyton Manning taking a $200,000 check to appear at a corporate event (rumored at first to be a Sweet Sixteen party). Sure, it’s a free country, but after a while, don’t you have enough money?
The Clintons had enormous power, and considerable wealth. But mere considerable wealth wasn’t enough; they wanted enormous wealth. Mogul wealth.
Maureen Dowd, two summers ago, lamented “the Clintons’ neediness, their sense of what they are owed in material terms for their public service, their assumption that they’re entitled to everyone’s money.”
There’s a word for all this: Greed.
Barack Obama is comfortable, and certainly enjoys taxpayer-funded travel and vacations, but he seems like a man driven primarily by power. He enjoys a net worth of about $12.2 million. And surely he intends to cash in with book deals and lucrative speaking contracts and the works after he leaves office.
But you get the feeling that Obama’s a guy who’s driven by the need for power. It’s what defines his presidency: unilateral military action, the executive order on immigration, the unilateral decision to restore relations with Cuba, shutting Congress out of negotiations with Iran, the recess appointments, the secrecy, the budget brinksmanship and daring his opposition to shut down the government, the discussion of raising taxes through an executive order . . . Obama doesn’t think he was put on Earth to live the high life. He was put here to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.”
From the conservative perspective, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are bad. Obama is more dangerous to the constitutional order, checks and balances, and the rule of law.
Obama ran for president because he wanted the authority of a king; Hillary is running again because she wants to be treated like a queen.
It’s in her slogan: “Ready for Hillary.” You’re ready for her. It’s not about what she’ll do for you or the country. This is a gift to her, a rectification of a great injustice inflicted upon her by ungrateful Democratic-primary voters in 2008.
The Clintons may be less power-hungry, but as the e-mail scandal demonstrates, they’re every bit as allergic to transparency, accountability, and obedience to the rules, regulations, and laws.