While some defenders say ho hum, Hillary Clinton’s failure as secretary of state to follow through on a pledge aimed at reducing the possibility of conflict of interest was either inexcusably negligent or deceptive.
The lapses relate to the Clinton Foundation and former President Bill Clinton personally raking in millions from foreign interests while Hillary made decisions that could benefit or hurt them. At least one episode has national security significance, and when you put it all together, we come to a big question: Is she anywhere near trustworthy enough to be president?
There are ready-at-hand dodges, many citizens may not get it or care, and examples of press sentiment in her favor have hardly gone into hiding. Even so, the bare facts as reported by The New York Times speak loudly, clearly and ruinously about what transpired.
First off, it’s important to understand what Hillary Clinton pledged to the White House on becoming secretary of state – that the Clinton Foundation would publicly name all donors. This was no inconsequential promise. She was America’s top diplomat. Mess up on something as easy and fundamental as this, and you’re telling leaders all over the world to be wary. Very, very wary.
But she did mess up. The person in charge of the foundation during that time, husband Bill, merrily embraced gobs of cash from foreign donors, and among the undisclosed gifts were millions from people with an interest in completing the sale of a Canadian uranium-mining outfit to a Russian agency.
The deal, which would give the Russian government control of a fifth of U.S. uranium assets needed to keep American nuclear power plants going, had to be approved by the U.S. government. Nine agencies each had veto power, including the State Department headed by Hillary Clinton, who apparently said nothing. Despite loud objections from some in Congress, the arrangement was OK’d.
Supposedly, the new Russian-owned company would still not be allowed to export uranium from the United States, but it has already exported some to Canada. Some of that may have found its way to Japan and Europe and there are those worried some could even find its way to Iran someday for the construction of nuclear weapons.
Well, this decision was really beneath the secretary of state, some say, but the Times tells of experts saying it “seemed to warrant attention at the highest levels.” And even if Hillary Clinton did not become officially connected with the foundation until after she left the secretary’s position, she should obviously have taken great care to be told of any transactions pertinent to her duties so they could be reported.
The lame response from her presidential campaign and some commentators is that there was no instance of bestowing favors to get money, and probably not, but being asleep at the wheel can cause mighty crashes, too. It is even possible that she desired deniability and did not want to be told about the donations or that she knew and looked the other way.
Some say she may have been in violation of a constitutional prohibition against federal officials taking gifts or fees from foreign countries. Others dispute it, saying gifts to the foundation were not gifts to her. Maybe it does not count, but there were also vast amounts Bill Clinton received from some of those foreign donors for speeches, including $500,000 from a Russian bank pushing the uranium pact. As a Washington Post story says, such “proceeds … benefited them both.”
The foundation, to be sure, has done notable good, but its management was once described as a mess and questions have been raised about enormous waste hardly benefiting the needy. Hillary Clinton has good deeds to her credit, too, but count it all up and there has been a great deal amiss. Consider that there’s a lot more to this issue, consider the foreign and domestic issues that a new President Clinton would have to face, and ask what her behavior tells you.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.