Jeb and Hillary. Bush and Clinton, the two most prominent names in U.S. politics are building their campaigns for the presidency on an early foundation of ham-handed hypocrisy.
"If we're going to get into hypotheticals I think it does a disservice for a lot of people that sacrificed a lot." That is how Bush tried Wednesday to dodge questions about the 2003 invasion of Iraq—after telling one FOX News interviewer, "I would have" invaded, even with the benefit of hindsight, and backpedaling a day later to tell FOX he would have made a different decision.
Bush now won't say what that decision would have been. "That's a hypothetical."
That's hypocritical. First, he had already provided hypothetical answers to hypothetical questions on Iraq. He can't stop now, just because Iraq appears to be his Kryptonite.
Second, a person who engages in a months-long hypothetical about his "presidency," cannot whine about or duck hypothetical questions. Any political campaign—much less a bid for the most powerful job on Earth—is a hypothetical rolled in a theory and wrapped in a dream. As an audience member told Bush himself on Wednesday, "If I become president" is as wispy as it gets.
The final assault is the most offensive because Bush seems to be using fallen American troops for political cover. While some veterans and family members may not want to re-litigate the war started by Bush's brother, George W. Bush, doing so is not a "disservice." A person honors their sacrifice by openly discussing the mistakes, the distortions, and the invasion bias that led to war. Ducking questions dishonors past, present, and future troops.
"We need to get this corporate and unchecked money out of politics." That is how Clinton launched her presidential campaign, promising to make transparency and campaign-spending reform one of her "four big fights."
That is hypocritical. First, The New York Times has reported that the former secretary of State is meeting with potential donors of a Democratic super PAC, the first step toward her practicing exactly what she preached against. Her allies argue that no candidate can "unilaterally disarm." That's a cop-out: It takes a leader and a little effort to raise enough money to win the presidency without morally bankrupting the cause.
Second, this unchecked money "fight" is part of a broader promise by Clinton to run a government that is more efficient, accountable, and open than what President Obama delivered. "I believe in transparency," she told Congress during a 2013 hearing on the Benghazi attack.
What a hypocrite. As she uttered those words, Clinton was keeping secret from Congress an off-the-books email account and server that housed every electronic mail she sent and received as secretary of State. Under pressure from the Benghazi committee, Clinton later deleted at least half of her emails before turning the rest over to the State Department.
Because she doesn't really believe in transparency, we may never know what we should about: Any of her emails involving donors to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Foundation; any emails involving corporations paying former President Bill Clinton huge sums of money for speeches; or exactly how many of those Clinton benefactors were doing business with the U.S. government while she served it.
The shame of all this is that both Bush and Clinton are good and able public servants from families who've served the nation with distinction. They know better. They are better. And they stand a good chance of offering voters another Clinton-Bush election—whether we want it or not.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.