One of the biggest Republican attacks against Hillary Clinton, and Bill too, is how rich they’ve gotten since leaving the White House in 2001. Yes, they are rich: by some estimates, more than $100 million.
Their wealth has been one of Trump’s main targets. I saw a pro-Trump T.V. ad, aired during the fabulous seventh game of the World Series, in which a narrator with an ominous voice calls the Clintons “filthy rich” and insinuates that the source of their wealth is nefarious.
(Never mind that Trump’s wealth is based, at least in part, on scams: Trump University, his late-night infomercials on how-to-get-rich-quick through real estate, not paying his bills, taking advantage of bankruptcy loopholes, etc.)
Republican voters have been eager to buy into the Trump denunciation of Clinton money. An anti-Hillary letter to the editor in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal referred to an alleged Harry Truman quote: “You can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.”
Well, the Clintons didn’t get rich “in politics,” they got rich after Bill left the White House, and after Hillary left government service. Their wealth derives from book sales and speeches, not from siphoning money off the Clinton Foundation or any “crooked” practices. Let’s face the fact that, when you’ve been a high-level politician in America, the opportunities for making a lot of money legitimately are manifold. Ronald Reagan—who already was rich from his career as an actor—took advantage of his post-Presidential fame to earn millions from speeches, before Alzheimer’s robbed him of that ability. When Richard Nixon died, he had become a very wealthy man, mainly through real estate deals. George W. Bush—very wealthy through his family connections—made a lot more money when he left office, including at least $7 million for his memoir, and at least $15 million from giving speeches (which he’s still doing). Now, you might object that it’s tacky and unseemly for ex-Presidents (and their spouses) to cash in, but the fact is, writing books and giving speeches is not illegal, and you would probably do the same thing, were you in a position to do so.
The Trump campaign—arguably the most dishonest in recent American history—is, as I said, strongly insinuating that the Clintons’ wealth derives, in large part, from the Clinton Foundation, but there’s no evidence whatsoever that that’s true. Of course, “truth” is a fungible commodity in the Trump campaign; The Donald understands that his followers aren’t looking for truth, they’re looking for their resentments to be validated, their chief resentment being an unreasoning hatred of the Clintons. Trump is the validator-in-chief: he has never offered a shred of evidence that Hillary Clinton has done anything illegal or even unethical*, but that doesn’t matter to Trumpsters.
It’s odd, isn’t it, for the right wing—which celebrates, or claims to celebrate, the right of Americans to get “filthy rich”—to turn so violently against the Clintons for the “crime” of their wealth. But then, consistency has not been the highlight of Republicans during this campaign season. The morally pompous religious right has, for the most part, pardoned Trump’s sexual predation, while Republicans in Congress have been conspicuously silent about Trump’s promises that he won’t touch Social Security or Medicare, which have been the GOP’s bete noires for decades.
Finally, what’s so disgusting about this Republican attack on the Clintons is the suggestion that the Clinton Foundation is a money-making front for them. It is not. From everything I have read and heard—and if you have evidence to the contrary, let me know—the foundation’s work is incredible, working across a range of issues around the world to help poor, dispossessed people. What has George W. Bush done since leaving office to help anyone? Nothing we know of. And what has Donald J. Trump ever done to help anyone, except himself? You know, and I know, the answer is: nothing. The man is a greedhead, pure and simple. It just goes to show that the old saying is true when it comes to Republicans with regard to the Clintons: No good deed goes unpunished.
*That having a private email server was stupid is unarguable, but Colin Powell had one, so do lots of other politicians, and no doubt Hillary, and all other politicians, learned her lesson not to do that again.