Sturm und Drang and the Clinton Foundation

Sturm und Drang and the Clinton Foundation
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The irrational antagonism aimed at the Clinton Foundation and Secretary Clinton is enough to make one wonder where the priorities are of those who have made this into an issue of such supposed significance.

A few facts are in order:

•The Clinton Foundation is a highly respected charitable organization that has an impressive record of helping millions of people. None of the Clintons, neither the President, nor the Secretary nor their daughter, have profited from the Foundation or its work.

•The Foundation received support from a number of donors before Barack Obama was President and Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. The Foundation has enjoyed bipartisan support from its inception.

•The Secretary of State meets with a large number of people, every day, every week, every month, every year. Some of them she or he knows, some them she or he does not.

The question is: why are there so many accusations about an alleged quid pro quo regarding the Foundation and Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State? The answer is: it's the politics of gossip and innuendo. There are no facts to back up allegations that anything untoward went on with the Foundation while she was Secretary, but there is plenty of speculation, much like the ridiculous speculation about her health.

Some of the stories written about her meetings with donors to the Foundation are perplexing. For example, she was asked by a staffer of President Clinton to meet with the Crown Prince of Bahrain. The government of Bahrain had made the request directly through appropriate State Department procedures, and the email exchange between President Clinton's staffer and the Secretary's Deputy Chief of Staff indicate that the meeting was handled thru official channels. It is worth noting, that the US 5th Fleet is stationed in Bahrain, and the Crown Prince was involved with trying to find a solution to the problems between Bahrain's Sunni and Shiite communities. He also has had meetings on Capitol Hill to discuss US relations with Bahrain.

Secretary Clinton met with Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Laureate and founder of the Grameen bank, which does groundbreaking work for the poor with micro-finance. He is a brilliant man, dedicated to helping those who were thought to be beyond help. Governor Clinton was interested in his work decades ago as a possible model for helping the poor in the US.

The Secretary also met with individuals like S. Daniel Abraham, who founded the Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, which is headed by former Congressman Robert Wexler and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Toni Verstandig. She met with Melinda Gates who helps run an important charity that does a great deal of international work. It makes sense that she would meet with individuals like this to get their perspective on issues that impact US policy.

Concerns have been expressed about how many meetings the Secretary had with Clinton Foundation donors. Every public figure is asked to meet with individuals with various interests, backgrounds and agendas. When you run one of the most important Departments in the US Government, there are too many checks and balances in place (from the White House in particular) on policy and appointments, as well as transparency in this era of rampant media venues, to think that Secretary Clinton could devote her time--which is the most precious commodity a Secretary has--to meeting with individuals on a regular basis merely because they donated to the Clinton Foundation.

As to the requests coming from a staffer of President Clinton, he had the right, as does anyone, to make requests. It is clear that his voice was often ignored, and never dispositive in making a decision about the Secretary's schedule.

What is too often pushed aside in discussions of this issue, somehow not deemed relevant, is the great work the Foundation has done in helping people. President Clinton sent a letter to Foundation supporters, laying out the way the Foundation will be run if the Secretary is elected. Some of the accomplishments he mentions include:

•More than 11.5 million people in over 70 countries have access to lifesaving HIV/AIDS drugs at 90 percent lower cost through the affiliated Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), including more than 800,000 children. That's more than half the adults and three quarters of the children on treatment today.

•Through the affiliated Alliance for a Healthier Generation, more than 18 million students in over 31,000 American schools, in every state, now have healthier food and more physical activity options, and agreements with the beverage industry have reduced the caloric intake from drinks by 90 percent in the vast majority of U.S. schools.

• The Health Matters Initiative is working in six communities to improve health and has worked with innovative drug companies to help reverse opioid overdoses and combat prescription painkiller misuse by lowering the cost of auto-injection naloxone and making naloxone nasal spray available to every high school in the U.S. at no cost.

•Climate change projects have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 33,500 tons annually across the U.S. This includes partnering on reforestation and land restoration efforts in South America and East Africa, and working with island nations to develop renewable energy projects and reduce dependence on expensive imported diesel and petroleum.

•The Too Small to Fail (TSTF) initiative is working with the faith-based community, pediatricians, community and business leaders, and Head Start educators to provide parents with resources in everyday settings to support their young children's early brain and language development, and have reached 155,000 parents with tips through direct text messages.

The Clinton Foundation, like the Carter Center, like the Points of Light Foundation, like the work President Clinton did with President George HW Bush in the wake of the great tsunami in East Asia in 2004, is the kind of thing that ex-Presidents should be doing, using their names and their prestige to help people at home and globally. It would be good if all our former political leaders followed the example of President Clinton, both President Bushes and President Carter regarding what we want our nation's leaders to be and to do after they leave office.

It would be a shame to hinder the work of the Foundation because of the sturm und drang that surrounds this issue. It would be better to promote its very successful formula, which has helped millions, and use it as an example of how to leverage non-governmental funds to aid people in need, as well as pursue policies and projects that the US Government supports.

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