Gennifer Flowers. Cattle futures. The White House travel office. Rose Law Firm files. The Lincoln Bedroom. Monica Lewinsky. And now, the Clinton Foundation. What ties these stories together is the predictable, paint-by-numbers response from the Bill and Hillary Clinton political operation.
1. Deny: Salient questions are dodged, and evidence goes missing. The stone wall is built.
2. Deflect: Blame is shifted, usually to Republicans and the media.
3. Demean: People who question or criticize the Clintons get tarred as right-wing extremists, hacks, nuts, or sluts.
The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation is both an admirable charity and a shadow political operation awash in conflicts of interest—a reflection of the power couple who founded it. Bill and Hillary Clinton, like history's most enduring characters, seem to stride through public life with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.
The seedy side of the foundation is a legitimate campaign issue. While the Clintons deserve credit for making foundation donations largely transparent, other activities raise serious questions. They violated an ethics agreement with the Obama White House. Hillary Clinton deleted most emails she sent and received as secretary of State, including any concerning the foundation or its donors.
What did donors expect from the Clintons? Did they receive favors in return? Why did the Clintons do business with countries that finance terrorism and suppress the rights of women? Did family and friends benefit from their ties to the foundation? And, in a broader sense, what do the operations of the foundation say about Hillary Clinton's management ability and ethical grounding?
These questions are reportedly explored by conservative author Peter Schweizer in a soon-to-be-published book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich. I say "reportedly" because I haven't read the book; I have no idea whether Schweizer reveals any wrongdoing or relevant information. Scheduled for publication May 5, its contents are unknown.
That hasn't stopped the Clintons from denying, deflecting, and demeaning.
"[I'll be] subjected to all kinds of distractions and attacks, and I'm ready for that," Hillary Clinton said when asked about the book while campaigning for the presidency in New Hampshire. "I know that comes, unfortunately, with the territory."
Clever how she casts herself as the victim of a book she hasn't read and of questions she has yet to answer. The Clinton campaign circulated a memo to its supporters Tuesday night with talking points on the book. According to Politico:
In the memo, [Brian] Fallon links to a series of critical reports on Schweizer and the book, including one ThinkProgress post noting that one of Schweizer's sources is a TD Bank press release that was revealed to be fake in 2013. Fallon also details how Schweizer has spoken with Republicans—but apparently not Democrats—about the findings prior to the publication date.
The memo quotes a report by Media Matters For America, the liberal watchdog founded by Clinton ally David Brock, that says Schweizer's Government Accountability Institute has "close ties to a billionaire family funding Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential run. GAI has also received substantial support from groups backed by Charles and David Koch," the libertarian billionaire brothers.
Liberal groups like Media Matters and Correct The Record—a subsidiary of American Bridge, also founded by Brock—have served as a rapid response unit against the book, digging into the author's record and the book's alleged findings.
The issue isn't Hillary Clinton and her ethical shortcuts, Fallon intimates, it's Schweizer. The memo doesn't point to Clinton's detailed defense of the foundation's fundraising process, because she has never given one. It doesn't explain why it's proper for a sitting secretary of State and presidential hopeful to accept foreign donations, because she has never offered an explanation. It doesn't detail the profits secured by her brother and other intimates via the foundation, because Clinton has never owned up to them. It doesn't justify the huge personal and administration expenses charged to the charity, because Clinton has offered none.
Finally, the memo doesn't say whether Clinton's deleted emails involved favors for foundation donors, because—well, we may never know.
"The book relies on distortions of widely available data that the Clinton Foundation already makes public on its own," Fallon writes. "The author attempts to repackage and twist these previously known facts into absurd conspiracy theories."
Who is repackaging and twisting facts into absurd conspiracy theories? I can't say that about Schweitzer; I haven't read his book. But I do know what the Clintons are capable of.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.