WASHINGTON – So, there you are working hard as the globe-trotting US Secretary of State, talking to heads of state and promoting US economic interests, including deals involving major US corporations.
Husband asking for money
At the same, your husband, who happens to be a still very popular former President of the United States, is busy working the same international circuits, drumming up major contributions on behalf of his foundation from some of the governments you are working with, along with major corporations or wealthy individuals within them. In fact, while you are Secretary of State, he also gets fabulous fees for speaking engagements abroad, (we are talking $ 500,000 or more per event).
Then, upon leaving public office –with a mile long contacts list that includes every head of state you met with– you also join the foundation. But then you decide that you want to get back into politics and so you announce that you will seek the presidency.
No evidence of any wrongdoing
In extreme brevity, this is Hillary Clinton for you. Look, whatever the recent allegations and innuendos about impropriety, so far nobody has come out with any evidence of any criminal wrongdoing. Nobody can claim that, while US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made policy decisions with the goal of benefiting the Clinton Foundation or Bill Clinton personally.
A convenient setup
But critics cannot be blamed when they question the ethics of this rather convenient set up of a wife in high office while the husband travels in the same circles, soliciting and getting huge amounts of money for his foundation in the process.
If you hate the Clinton family, you can conclude that they abused public office in order to enrich and/or benefit themselves.
The Clinton defenders reply to this assertion is that there is not even a shred of evidence to prove any of this. And this may very well true. Therefore: no evidence, no crime, case closed.
There is no evidence
Yes, except that here we are talking about the public image of a person running for the highest office in the land. And here the bar is not what may or may not stick in a court of law. Here we are not talking about being innocent until proven guilty. Here the bar, fairly or unfairly, is much higher. Here we are talking about not doing anything while in office that may create even a slight appearance of impropriety.
To say to America that “I am OK because you have no hard evidence against me” is not the right message coming from someone who wants to be the next President of the United States.
I am ethical
The message should be: “I am an honorable person who is totally above reproach. While in public office, I adhered to the highest ethical standards. No, I did not work with my husband to set a clever system that would prove to be advantageous to us, personally or politically. I did not work with him so that we could cover our tracks and make it impossible for anybody to accuse us of any wrong doing. I am an ethical person. I went into public office and I am now seeking the presidency because I want to serve the American people.”
Yes, in America every citizen is innocent until proven guilty. In this particular case of the Clinton couple there is not even the beginning of any criminal case against either of them. Most likely there will never be one.
Appearance of impropriety
But they have created the appearance of impropriety. And, fairly or unfairly, the American voters will decide on Hillary Clinton’s viability as President in part on the basis of what they assume (even without any evidence whatsoever) she did while Secretary of State. Of course, the American voters may assume a lot of fictitious wrongdoing that never happened.
But when voters see a somewhat questionable setup –Hillary Clinton in high government office while the Clinton Foundation goes around asking and getting hundreds of millions of dollars, often from the same people she engages with– and then a careful clean up process, (remember all those e-mails that have been destroyed without any third party review?), they may conclude that there is something fishy in all this.
So far, the immediate impact of all these allegations has been that a majority of US voters now believes that Hillary Clinton is not trustworthy. Of course, all of this can and will change. The presidential elections are still very far, (November 2016). And people change their mind.
In the meantime, there are plenty of opportunities to dig up stuff that may make any Republican would-be President look bad.
And we know that in politics anything goes. If any Republican did anything wrong or can be portrayed as having done anything wrong, you can rest assured that the Clinton people and their proxies will let us know.
We should be able to assume that all who seek high office are moral persons
Of course, in an ideal world it would be nice if we could limit any political debate on the merit of policy positions.
The very fact that we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to determine whether candidates for high office are or are not moral persons is an indication of a deep problem.