And that’s not good news for either of the Clintons, not now and certainly not for 2016 when Hillary Clinton plans to run for the nomination of the party that’s made class warfare its central strategy. The problem began almost three weeks ago, when Hillary began insisting that the Clintons were “dead broke” at the end of their time in the White House and are not “truly well off” now despite having made at least $100 million in book sales and speaking fees over the last 13 years. As she “struggled” to differentiate herself from the Democrats’ class-warfare bête noir Mitt Romney, Bill attempted to backstop his wife.
And all of that gave the media yet another opening to explore the Clintons’ wealth and the manner in which it was acquired. The Washington Post today dissected Bill Clinton’s income in a manner which will hardly look attractive to the Democratic base that fulminates over the One Percent:
Over seven frenetic days, Bill Clinton addressed corporate executives in Switzerland and Denmark, an investors’ group in Sweden and a cluster ofbusiness and political leaders in Austria. The former president wrapped up his European trip in the triumphant Spanish Hall at Prague Castle, where he shared his thoughts on energy to a Czech business summit.
His pay: $1.4 million.
That lucrative week in May 2012 offers a glimpse into the way Clinton has leveraged his global popularity into a personal fortune. Starting just two weeks after exiting the Oval Office, Clinton has delivered hundreds of paid speeches, lifting a family that was “dead broke,” as wife Hillary Rodham Clinton phrased it earlier this month, to a point of such extraordinary wealth that it is now seen as a potential political liability if she runs for president in 2016.
Bill Clinton has earned more than $100 million just for his speeches between 2001 and 2013, apart from what Hillary Clinton earns for hers or from what both receive from their memoirs. He has earned more speaking abroad ($56.3 million) than he has at home, which may raise more than a few eyebrows about the baggage that could carry in a presidential campaign. Combined with Hillary Clinton’s speech income — which is not public — and her massive bonuses for her two memoirs (more than $20 million combined), it’s clear that the Clintons are very truly well off.
Plus, as Chuck Todd pointed out today on Morning Joe, it’s not as if this wealth came from wise business investment and job-creating risk acumen. It entirely trades on their celebrity and connection to power:
And let’s remember how they acquired their wealth. They didn’t do it in some incredible business, creating jobs and all this. They just acquired wealth for being the Clintons. … This is not like shoveling coal, this is not like building a factory.
Yes, that’s a bit emblematic of the disengaged One Percent, no? Plus, the Washington Post notes who actually pays Bill Clinton the most for his time, too, and it’s not going to make the base any happier:
The financial industry has been Clinton’s most frequent sponsor. The Post review showed that Wall Street banks and other financial services firms have hired Clinton for at least 102 appearances and paid him a total of $19.6 million.
Maybe they can argue that Bill Clinton occupied Wall Street before Occupy was cool … but I doubt it.
Joe Scarborough also pointed to the nearly $20 million Bill Clinton earned from speeches to the financial industry as perhaps the most damaging part of the story for Hillary’s political aspirations:
Maybe, but I think he gets closer to it at the end. “I’m sorry, that is disconnected,” Scarborough concludes, “when you don’t think you’re that rich because the billionaires you hang out with all the time are paying 14% taxes.”
At some point, the Clintons will have to either come up with a better explanation or just shut up about the poverty of seven-figure incomes. Perhaps Bill felt like he had no choice but to attempt to rescue Hillary from the trap she’s created for herself, but now he’s ensnared by it and it’s just giving the media even more reason to scrutinize their class-warfare hypocrisy. And with that attention comes the obvious conclusion that a Democratic Party that supports Hillary Clinton is just demagoguing on income inequality, a conclusion that steps all over the midterm strategy of the Clintons’ colleagues.
Update: At the Daily Beast, Keli Goff outlines the danger for 2016, too:
Now, two decades, later the Clintons find themselves confronting the same problem. And just like former President Bush, the problem will only be amplified should Hillary find herself facing a contender who, like her husband 20 years ago, is more representative of America’s little guy.
Though in recent years the GOP nominees have been scions of privilege (think Bush, McCain and Romney) the current GOP lineup has more middle- and working-class bona fides. Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio all come from backgrounds that make it likely they know how to operate a grocery store scanner. They also come from backgrounds in which the meaning of “dead broke” probably has a very different meaning for them than it appears to for the former secretary of state, especially since unlike her they are all still relying on government salaries.
That’s an aspect that hadn’t occurred to me, but which makes a very good point … unless Jeb Bush wins the nomination.