The Associated Press, supposedly an impartial journalistic organization, has published their investigation, revealing that, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had met with some 45 people who had also made financial donations to the Clinton Foundation.
"Scandal," screamed the Trump campaign. The AP reported this as though it were evidence of "pay for play" kind of double dealing -- or at least the failure to avoid the appearance of such. Even the progressive, very smart newspeople I follow were not immune to worrying about this, saying that at least she isn't very good at rebutting these charges.
Folks, the Clintons have been in the spotlight for well over 30 years of public service. Yes, they've done some things wrong, especially Bill and his zipper problem. And Hillary does too often seem to cut corners, does seem to operate on the assumption that, if her motives are good, then it's not such a big deal if she fudges a bit, now and then, on details of what she says.
But 99% of the bad rap, I'm convinced, is created by the constant drumbeat of accusations that have been spewed out relentlessly by the other side. Donald Trump and his minions (Rudi Guiliani, have you lost your mind?) are scraping the bottom of the barrel with ridiculous, unsubstantiated claims.
But let's go back to this about her meeting with people as Sec. of State. Look, everyone agrees that there is a delicate line between the social, diplomatic aspects of the job and not letting that turn into pay-for-play dynamics. There's a certain amount of courting and hosting "important people," including foreign dignitaries, that seems necessary. Clinton and President Obama had a written agreement for how she would keep a wall between her government job and the Clinton Foundation and its donors. If she crossed that line at all, it was in a minimum number of cases; and there is no evidence so far presented to suggest that anyone got anything they wouldn't have gotten anyway and deservedly so.
Let's start with the most unlikely example of anything untoward. One of these 45 people she met with was Nobel Peace Prize winner, Holocaust survivor and global moral leader, Elie Wiesel. The Nobel Committee referred to him as "a messenger to mankind . . . of peace, atonement and human dignity." He was a founding board member of the New York Human Rights Foundation. Now, if Elie Wiesel calls and asks for a meeting with the Secretary of State, are you going to refuse just because he has also made a contribution to the Clinton Foundation? Might there not also be other, very legitimate, reasons for meeting with Elie Weisel?
Then there were Bill and Melinda Gates, who occupy that rare atmosphere themselves, along with the Clinton Foundation, of channeling huge sums of money to make life better for millions of people worldwide. You're going to refuse to meet with them, just because they have also contributed to the Clinton Foundation? And then there was another Nobel Peace laureate, Muhammad Yunus, the Bengladeshi economist who originated the microcredit, microfinance concept that made such a profound change in helping third world poor people become self-sufficient. These people already know each other -- or, if they don't, they should. They have common interests in making the world a better place.
What does anyone think these fellow world-changers are trying to get, if anything, other than more of the kind of work that the Clinton Foundation and the U. S. Government outreach programs are doing anyway? It's not personal enrichment they're seeking. It's making the world a better place for people on a global scale.
Maybe more questionable was millions of dollars donated to the Foundation by the wealthy Saudi government and other Islamic groups. Glenn Greenwald and others have pointed out that many of the Clinton Foundation programs (empowering women, for example) run counter to their ultraconservative Wahhabi restrictions, thus implying that they would have contributed to the Foundation only to gain access to the Secretary of State.
Maybe. Perhaps currying favor with the Clintons is what they think will get them better deals in purchasing fighter jets from the U.S. manufacturers. On the other hand, isn't it just possible that they truly admire the Foundation's humanitarian work (like keeping millions of people in Africa from dying from AIDS) -- and that, because of their particular theological regimes, they cannot do it themselves; so they give money to the program that is doing it? Or maybe not; maybe it is all just quid pro quo. The fact is, that's only supposition. Show us the proof, if you have any.
Beyond this, however, let me raise this question. Why is it scandalous for Sec. Clinton to meet with donors to her husband's charitable foundation, which as far as I can tell, only does good work to help millions of people around the world -- but it's OK for Congressmen to meet with lobbyists who fund their political campaigns, trying to influence their votes? It's bad to meet with someone who gives money that your foundation then uses to save lives, but it's good to let the NRA fund your re-election campaign in exchange for your firm opposition to any gun control laws?
Answer me that question. And then we'll talk about diplomatic niceties versus corruption.
There is a circle of good people doing good work out there in the world. Some of them are very rich -- and also do good work. Some of them are also in politically powerful positions -- and do good work. It does not necessarily follow that a meeting between the two could only have a sinister, self-profiting motive.
Only in Donald Trump's world would that be true.