Favorite

Election won't stop Hillary probes 

Hillary Clinton gave such a bravura performance at the first Democratic presidential debate that many are ready to hand her the presidency more than a year before the election.

Let it be said that she was smart (only a couple of forced factual errors), cheerful, personable, tough and even repentant — all qualities that a few or all of her critics from the right and the left said she did not have. Everyone knew she was a deft debater.

Let it be said, too, that the debate helped both her and her party because both its tone and its message contrasted sharply with the Republican debates. The five mixed it up on issues but did not cast nasty slurs at each other or excite fears that the United States was at the mercy of ne'er-do-wells at home and foes around the planet and headed pell-mell to ruin. Listening to a Republican debate would scare the daylights out of Pollyanna.

But it remains to be seen whether hope and confidence play better than fear in a national election. Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan would say hope is the better card. A year into Reagan's presidency, after he had passed mammoth tax cuts, the nation fell into the longest and deepest recession since the 1930s, running unemployment into double digits for 10 months and doubling its debt, and then in 1983 he sent 359 peacekeepers to Beirut to be killed or wounded by a truck bomb. But he told the country in 1984 that it was "morning in America" and voters happily obliged.

The apostles of fear, on the other hand, have been winning elections lately.

Still, whatever lift Clinton got from the debate, the dynamics of her political career have not changed. The road to the presidency will be no smoother than it ever was. That is owing to two conditions that shaped her public career and, almost to an equal extent, her husband's. Those are her brooding obsession with privacy and the media's manic obsession with everything about the Clintons. Those will continue to dog her until Election Day, and far beyond if she is elected, just as they did her husband.

Both in Little Rock and in Washington, Hillary insisted on a zone of privacy for the family and she largely got it on her terms in Little Rock but not in D.C. Privacy is one of Americans' most prized freedoms, but they do not grant it to politicians and their families or to other public figures. Hillary Clinton never understood, or at least never gave in.

She was the pivotal decision-maker in Bill Clinton's 12 years as governor just as I believe she was in his eight years in the White House but, except in her role as the school reformer in chief in 1983, she avoided and resented media. She went to lengths to keep the family's vacation spots secret, only to get a call from a reporter. It got worse in Washington.

Her memoir, "Living History," brooded about privacy. A friend staying over at the White House at the first inauguration found a rude note for Hillary that Clinton-hater Rush Limbaugh somehow got sneaked under a pillow in the Lincoln Bedroom. She figured the White House was "haunted by temporal entities." She would find furniture in the living quarters moved around and discover that security agents, without consulting her, had been looking for bugging devices.

Her privacy fixation lay behind many of the White House's troubles — Travelgate, the big national health insurance bust in 1994, and, most tellingly, the epic Whitewater snipe hunt that led to the president's impeachment for womanizing. It was her refusal to give up her law firm's flimsy billing records on work for Jim McDougal's thrift that led to the appointment of an independent counsel and eight years of hounding. The trifling legal work she did for private concerns back in the 1980s was nobody else's business, and even her husband could not budge her. When the records finally surfaced years later, as people back in Little Rock who had examined them knew, there was nothing there — invoices for niggling title work and the like. But the political damage was huge and lasting.

There was the inevitable email dustup at the State Department. For convenience, she opened and paid for a single email account that would include her everyday personal business with family and friends. Although no one will turn up any harm done to the country, it was a stupid blunder, driven again by her privacy complex. The FBI will turn up email exchanges involving matters that the government would stamp as secret, even though the knowledge was harmless and even though there will be no evidence that any enemy got hold of it. Maybe the agents will leak a juicy scrap sent to her wayfaring and perhaps wayward hubby.

And it will go on and on, just as everything the Clintons have ever done will continue to be pawed through for evidence of personal or political aggrandizement. Reporters every day are digging through state records and archives looking for long-ignored tidbits or new insights into all the arcane Arkansas events that made headlines from 1992 until 2001.

That would be especially the New York Times and the Washington Post, once known as the establishment liberal media. The two papers still drive both print and electronic media coverage of the Clintons and have since 1992, when the Times printed the first and sometimes erroneous stories about trifling Clinton financial dealings in the 1970s and '80s — the little Whitewater land development in Marion County, Hillary Rodham's short-lived trading in cattle futures when she arrived at Fayetteville to teach law, her law firm's work for an ill-starred little thrift, Madison Guaranty, and all the rest.

For more than two years, the Times has assigned a reporter full time to track the Clintons — their foundation's fund-raising and global philanthropic work, and their ancient associations, all picked up by other media. Other Times reporters have raced with the Post and other papers to develop new angles, often erroneous, on the emails or Benghazi. Its columnists, both liberal and conservative, snark about the Clintons' too-smart explanations and even her self-control, which enraged the liberal Frank Bruni.

The Times' public editor, who investigates complaints about the paper, concluded a couple of times that it was all a little too much and strange, but quoted the editors as justifying all the scrutiny because the Clintons were important and, well, fascinating people and, besides, they bring it on themselves.

A good debate won't change that.

Favorite

Speaking of Hillary Clinton

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • A little hope

    It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Religion as excuse upends Constitution

    Tirades over religious liberty since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide have awakened the ghost of James Madison, the author of the constitutional doctrine on the matter, and it isn't happy that his effort to protect religious inquiry in America is being corrupted.
    • Jul 9, 2015
  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • A little hope

    It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    No state political party in the modern era has had a more abrupt fall than Arkansas's Democrats
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation