In February 1998, the incomparable Michael Kelly wrote one of his most memorable columns on the scandal-ridden administration of President Bill Clinton. I have written this update to Mr. Kelly’s brilliant essay not because I think myself equal to his talents but because his remarks on the Clinton years, updated for today, are particularly apt.
I believe Hillary Clinton. I have always believed her. I believed her when she said that her own investment savvy allowed her to realize a 10,000 percent profit by turning a $1,000 investment in cattle futures into nearly $100,000 within ten short months with help from an Arkansas crony, James Blair, just as her attorney general husband was about to become governor. I believed her when she said that Blair did not arrange to have a broker fraudulently assign trades to benefit her account, even though economists calculated the odds of such a return happening as, at best, 1 in 31 trillion.
I believe Mrs. Clinton and her husband did not pressure David Hale, when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, into providing an illegal $300,000 loan to the Clintons’ business partner in the infamous Whitewater land deal. I believed Mrs. Clinton when she reported as missing hundreds of pages of her law firm billing records and other documents in response to a grand jury subpoena seeking to investigate the Whitewater matter.
I believe there was nothing ethically suspect about the Whitewater real estate development, for which Mr. Clinton’s successor as Arkansas governor, Jim Guy Tucker, was convicted and went to jail for his role in the fraud. I believe that the Clintons had nothing to hide in the matter. I believe that their business partner, Susan McDougal, who served 18 months in prison for contempt of court for refusing to answer questions about Whitewater and later received a pardon by President Clinton on the very last day of his presidency, was motivated by nothing other than the search for truth.
I believe that it is normal for a First Lady, such as Mrs. Clinton, to become involved in summary firings of longtime White House travel office employees and their replacement with an Arkansas-based travel company with close ties to the Clintons. I believed Mrs. Clinton’s view that it was appropriate for friends of the Clintons to become involved in a matter with which they had a business stake. I believed Mrs. Clinton when she said that the report by the Government Accountability Office incorrectly indicated that she played a significant role in the travel office firings, quoting a witness who said she had urged “to get ‘our people’ into the travel office.”
I believe that the White House memo regarding the travel office was misunderstood when it said “there would be hell to pay” unless “swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady’s wishes.” I believe it is typical for a First Lady to take charge of White House personnel matters by firing longtime civil servants and replacing them with campaign hacks. I believe that it was difficult for Mrs. Clinton to remember details of these events in her deposition by the independent counsel reviewing the matter.
I believe it is perfectly plausible that, after nearly two years of searches and subpoenas, a White House staffer “unexpectedly discovered” Mrs. Clinton’s long-missing billing records and other documents in the Clintons’ private residence in the White House in January 1996, just days after relevant statutes of limitations had elapsed. I believe that personal animus, rather than the evidence surrounding the cattle futures profit, Whitewater and travelgate, motivated New York Times columnist William Safire, who had earlier endorsed Mr. Clinton’s candidacy, to conclude that Mrs. Clinton is a “congenital liar.”
I believe that Mrs. Clinton bears no responsibility for the gross security lapses in Benghazi, Libya that led to the murders of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in a terrorist attack while Mrs. Clinton was our nation’s top diplomat. I believe it was appropriate for Mrs. Clinton’s State Department to blame the incident on a non-existent protest supposedly fomented by an obscure YouTube video and that Mrs. Clinton rightly refused to acknowledge those attacks, on September 11, 2012, as acts of terrorism. I believe that she aptly bellowed, “What difference at this point does it make?” in response to a senator’s question whether “a simple phone call” would have “ascertained immediately that there was no protest.”
I believe that Mrs. Clinton’s multimillion-dollar tax-exempt organization, the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, is a model of legal compliance and ethical standards. I believe it is appropriate for her Foundation to have accepted eye-popping donations from foreign governments despite Mrs. Clinton’s calls for campaign finance reform and despite the fact that current law forbids campaign donations from foreign nationals. I believe that major donations to the Foundation from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates were motivated by altruism and, in the Foundation’s phrase, “the power of creative collaboration.”
I believe it was entirely appropriate for Mrs. Clinton to install a private email server in her home to conduct government business as Secretary of State. I believe that most high federal government officials have their own private email server at home for use in conducting official federal government business. I believe that Mrs. Clinton permanently deleted from her personal server only “emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.”
I believe that none of the deleted emails could shed light on any of the dozens of questions about her tenure as Secretary of State. I believe that most Americans incorrectly think that Mrs. Clinton purposely deleted or withheld emails relevant to her State Department work.
I believe that The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS and NPR are all part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Especially NPR.