More than half the people outside of government whom Hillary Clinton met in her capacity as Secretary of State were donors to the Clinton foundation, the Associated Press reported yesterday. Beware autoplay video with sound at the other end of this link. According to the AP’s review of State Department calendars:
At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.
Does that mean Secretary Clinton sold access to State in exchange for donations to her foundation? No. But if she had, she only would have needed to update about 45 percent of her calendar. Since this is an election year, we don’t have to worry about whether what she did was ethical. We only need to know what it means for the horse race.
The Clinton campaign has repeatedly argued that donors to the Clinton Foundation didn’t get special treatment when she was secretary of state. Yesterday’s report makes that argument less plausible, and Trump pounced on it, calling again for a special prosecutor to investigate. Trump calls for stuff all the time, and nobody listens, since he’s a buffoon. Clinton didn’t even dignify his outcry with a response—perhaps because, master of optics that she is, she’s spent the last three days in private fundraisers.
But her campaign struck back, calling the AP story “a distorted portrayal” based on “utterly flawed data.” “It is an act of desperation on his campaign, given the turmoil that we’ve seen from his campaign in recent weeks,” spokesman Brian Fallon told MSNBC.
That’s a peculiar argument, yet also somehow familiar. I don’t see how this report from the Associated Press constitutes an act of desperation by the Trump campaign. Calling for a special prosecutor seems excessive, but it doesn’t invalidate the story. Fallon’s statement is fairly nonsensical, but it reminds the viewer of what has become Clinton’s defense against this and most other suggestions of wrongdoing: the alternative to her is President Trump.
Nobody1 wants that. But should the awfulness of her opponent proof Clinton against any criticism? Even if Democrats owe her their support, the nominee owes Democrats some explanation beyond “you’re helping Trump win.” Sure, she may have abused her position as secretary of state, but at least she’s not a racist celebrity blowhard. Let’s make her president!
Clinton’s non-response to what seems like an important and troubling story continues the narrative that has frustrated Democratic voters for the last year. Their nominee has problems. Talking about those problems is an act of disloyalty, though, in light of how hideous the GOP has become. The Democrats seem to be at risk of falling into the same trap as the Republicans: constructing their message around opposition to the other party, while their own leadership pipeline stagnates.
Here’s a fun question: Is there anything you could learn about Hillary Clinton in the next two months that would make you vote for Donald Trump? Short of treason, I can’t think of anything. I was going to say “short of treason or violent crime,” but I’m not sure I’d vote for Trump even if Clinton killed somebody. Followup question: Given your answer to question one, how responsive do you expect your candidate to be?