By now, Hillary Clinton is as polished as politicians come. At 69, her hair is perfectly coiffed and colored, her makeup is subtle and her clothes are expensive. A trained debater, educated at Wellesley and Yale Law School, with decades of public life, she speaks well.
In an election that she has framed around temperamental fitness for the presidency, her deliberate comments and careful parsing of words suggest that she possesses the steadiness and judgment required. That is the image we saw when she stood on a debate stage with the far less controlled, more hot-tempered Donald Trump.
Clinton’s public persona is a façade, though a well designed one, held up by her staff, masters of television illusion and a collaborating national media. With the release of WikiLeaks emails, it has become clear that her senior staff questions that image among themselves.
To understand what she is likely to do with the enormous, now largely unchecked power of the American presidency requires seeing the reality behind that façade. Judging by her actions over the past 35 years in Washington and Arkansas, in roles from governor’s wife to First Lady, senator to secretary of state, it is clear that Hillary’s deep character flaws and temperamental shortcomings, while better hidden than Donald Trump’s very visible ones, present a much greater danger to our democracy.
Clinton’s character-revealing behavior includes incessant lying to the public; vast personal greed leading to corruption in high office; abuse of power on behalf of herself and against private citizens and political rivals; disregard for the law, and the very idea of the Rule of Law; disdain for the “deplorable” half of her opponent’s supporters, and the confession, made during a private Goldman Sachs speech revealed by WikiLeaks, that she typically offers one position on policy and politics in private and another, often very different one, for public consumption.
This admission alone makes it impossible to know whether any policy agenda she has campaigned on reflects her intentions. Or is she actually planning to implement unwelcome policies voters would reject if she were honest about them?
Nor is the media helping find the truth. As we have learned lately, some top-tier news organizations have offered her staff questions before interviews and debates, so that she can rehearse, and her staff can veto uncomfortable questions. Reporters have run copy past her campaign staff. The press seems happily complicit in this corruption, but it makes any reporting hard to trust.
Given that the Democratic National Committee worked with the Clinton campaign to beat Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primaries, using money, smears and other tools, there is no reason to believe that Clinton will develop sudden respect for democracy and refrain from chicanery against her GOP rival. Her use of operatives like Robert Creamer to foment violence at Trump rallies, as Creamer boasted on a Project Veritas videotape, suggests she will stop at nothing.
Finally, her political judgment is terrible from any perspective. Her policy mistakes at home and abroad — from the secretive attempt in the early 1990s to foist government-run health care on the country as the unelected First Lady; to helping fuel the Arab Spring by using the State Department to train young, mostly radical Islamist “revolutionaries” to destabilize their governments; to encouraging the killing of Muammar Khadafy, which unleashed a civil war in Libya — have been costly.
Her concrete achievements are hard to name, which is why both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, at her Democratic National Convention, were reduced to describing her as an “agent of change,” and not the author of any particular accomplishment or significant legislation in the Senate.
For all her talk of working tirelessly for children, just three bills of hers were passed in eight years in the Senate. They were for name designations of a local post office, a portion of a highway and a historic site. As New Yorkers across the state are aware, her campaign promises to bring jobs and sorely needed economic growth to upstate amounted to nothing. She was not able to get a bill passed to help fund “government investment” in the region.
The American people understand much of this. Only 11% of voters find her honest and trustworthy, even if they plan to vote for her.
It is puzzling that so many of Clinton’s supporters seem indifferent to her unethical and illegal behavior. Living in denial, they insist that each instance in which she has been accused of lying, breaking laws set up to protect national security, letting large donations bend policy or failing massively with policy can be explained by accusing the imaginary “vast right-wing conspiracy” of persecution.
Investigations, accusations and evidence amassed by Congress, and recently by the FBI, are dismissed because she has never been convicted of or charged with a crime.
That would mean something, perhaps, had she ever been tried in a court of law. Earlier this summer, we saw what happens when the FBI, a formerly clean, respected agency, undertook an investigation of the Democratic candidate for President for serious breaches of national security that were a consequence of using a private email server in contravention of all government rules concerning the handling of classified information.
Revelations of the political pressure brought to bear on FBI Director James Comey to decline to recommend indictment, even in the face of the clear evidence of violation of the Federal Records Act and the Espionage Act and evidence-tampering by destroying 33,000 emails after they were subpoenaed, demonstrate Clinton’s willingness to corrupt the FBI and the Justice Department itself, and undermine the rule of law.
Clinton supporters now dismiss Comey’s re-opened FBI investigation into newly unearthed emails that Clinton’s close aide Huma Abedin may have failed to turn over previously as an unfair action so close to the election. As always, they show no interest in the substance — including the exposure of secret government information and the selling of U.S. policy.
Let’s go to the record.
She’s a liar
Most politicians are not above small untruths, and occasionally larger ones. Clinton has been known as a bold and frequent liar, under oath and to the media, since her first stint in Washington. Everything from the nature of her marriage, to her health, to any random anecdote she might tell (landing under sniper fire in Bosnia!), to her public stand on any issue at any moment is or could be a lie.
While some of this has been apparent, in recent weeks, WikiLeaks has released emails between members of her staff concerned about her health, her ability to articulate a serious rationale for her candidacy and the problems created by emailing back and forth with President Obama on her illegal server. These emails drive home the magnitude of her lies.
In a January 1996 column called “Blizzard of Lies” about the then First Lady’s mounting scandals, the late, highly respected New York Times columnist William Safire wrote:
“Americans of all political persuasions are coming to the sad realization that our First Lady … is a congenital liar … she is compelled to mislead, and to ensnare her subordinates and friends in a web of deceit.”
Safire listed the Clinton-era scandals: the $100,000 she claimed to have made trading in the cattle futures market; the abuse of presidential power in which she “induced a White House lawyer to assert flatly to investigators that Mrs. Clinton did not order the firing of White House travel aides, who were then harassed by the F.B.I. and Justice Department to justify patronage replacement by Mrs. Clinton’s cronies”; and her decision to hide incriminating records from the Rose Law Firm, which showed she had lied under oath “when she denied actively representing a criminal enterprise known as the Madison Guaranty S&L.”
Safire concluded, “Therefore, ask not ‘Why didn’t she just come clean at the beginning?’ She had good reasons to lie; she is in the longtime habit of lying; and she has never been called to account for lying herself or in suborning lying in her aides and friends.”
Twenty years on, in face of larger scale but similar influence-peddling accusations, she still has never been held accountable.
A rotten temperament
Behind the cool façade that suggests steadiness under fire, Hillary is a well-known rageaholic, infamous for shrieking nasty imprecations at both professional staff and people who guard her, as leaks from the Secret Service and others have long indicated.
For instance, newly released FBI records show that, in her years as secretary of state, the nation’s leading diplomat, Clinton was so rude and nasty to the State Department security agents assigned to guard her that they refused to work with her. “[Redacted] explained that CLINTON’s treatment of DS agents on her protective detail was so contemptuous that many of them sought reassignment or employment elsewhere,” the interview summary says. “Prior to CLINTON’s tenure, being an agent on the Secretary of State’s protective detail was seen as an honor and privilege reserved for senior agents. However, by the end of CLINTON’s tenure, it was staffed largely with new agents because it was difficult to find senior agents willing to work for her.”
This behavior occurs frequently, and it undermines any idea that Mrs. Clinton is in control of her emotions, or in any way “steady.”
The personal is political
Mrs. Clinton’s sex life is no concern of ours. The nature of the Clinton marriage, however, remains relevant, on two counts. First, Democrats have questioned how conservatives can tolerate a thrice-married man as the GOP candidate. That is a fair question.
But when the other choice is a long-term marriage riddled by chronic infidelity, in which, according to sources close to both Clintons, the husband and wife have not lived under the same roof since leaving the White House 16 years ago, a couple of divorces start to seem, if nothing else, honest.
Of far graver concern as a marker of character is the role that Hillary Clinton played when her husband was governor and President in suppressing “bimbo eruptions.” We don’t need to rehearse Bill Clinton’s affairs, or even the accusations of rape and harassment lodged against him. Nor does it matter how Hillary felt about that behavior.
What matters is that she personally was known to suppress potential scandals and keep the women involved silent, either by intimidating them herself, or allegedly sending one of several men who did such things in Little Rock and D.C.
Mrs. Clinton’s current crusade against “bullying” seems ironic given that she personally bullied the women her husband slept with in pursuit of keeping the Clinton, Inc. reputation clean enough to fool most Americans.
Many women found it puzzling that such a strong-seeming woman stayed with a husband who humiliated her by constant cheating. But it makes a lot more sense if you consider them a pure partnership, devoted to acquiring power and money.
Money, money, money, money
Amassing vast amounts of money, by whatever means, has always occupied a significant part of Hillary Clinton’s energy. She has consistently been indifferent to the legal and ethical considerations that apply when a holder of high public office takes large sums from private interests. She has a stunning ability to corrupt people and institutions around her as well, most recently the State Department and the Department of Justice.
While all of Hillary’s early scandals were about obtaining money, usually in return for the kind of favors a governor can dispense, former Clinton strategist Dick Morris claims that the current level of greed didn’t begin until shortly before the Clintons left the White House.