This has been a running theme among political analysts since it became obvious that Hillary Clinton was going to run. As if she doesn’t have enough to worry about already, what does candidate Clinton (and potentially First Female President Clinton) do to make sure that her husband doesn’t throw a wrench in the works just by, well… being Bill? We’re not talking about the potential of any “inappropriate” female company or running roughshod over her own policy decisions, but just the optics of his very high profile life. Hillary is in the midst of a battle to paint herself as an opponent of Wall Street and an advocate for getting poisonous big money out of politics. She wants to appeal to the common man (and woman) and show how she relates to the plight of the middle class who are being squeezed by lower incomes. And then there’s Bill.
The Washington Post’s Phillip Rucker points out the rather jarring tone that the candidate’s husband sets.
Gathered in Marrakesh for a Clinton Global Initiative confab, foreign oligarchs and corporate titans mingled amid palm trees, decorative pools and dazzling tiled courtyards with the former president and his traveling delegation of foundation donors — many of whom are also donors to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.
When daughter Chelsea moderated a discussion on women’s empowerment, the only male panelist was Morocco’s richest person, Othman Benjelloun, whose BMCE Bank is a CGI sponsor. For the week’s biggest party, guests were chauffeured across the city to an opulent 56-room palace that boasts a private collection of Arabian horses, overlooks the snow-capped Atlas Mountains and serves a fine-dining menu of “biolight” cuisine.
Ahead of that event, Bill Clinton greeted Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal. “See you tonight, Turki,” he told his royal highness.
Every one of these photo ops has to have Hillary’s team of advisers squirming. Even David Axelrod has seen the light… and the lightning.
“Bill Clinton is like nuclear energy,” said David Axelrod, a strategist on President Obama’s campaigns. “If you use it properly, it can be enormously helpful and proactive. If you misuse it, it can be catastrophic.”
I’ll go ahead here and say something which may come as a surprise. I honestly believe that, deep down, all of the work going on surrounding Bill Clinton with his foundation is being done, at least in part, because he has a genuine desire to help people. Former presidents are in a rather unique position to do good and most of them exert that influence in a positive fashion somewhere or another. George W. is famous for the work he does supporting wounded soldiers and even Jimmy Carter has helped out poor people through building affordable housing and trying to cure diseases in Africa. And even though much of the work of the Clinton Foundation clearly goes to benefit the Clintons, he’s helping some other folks out and I’m sure he wants to see them do well.
Of course, all charitable work at that level tends to come with its own set of benefits in terms of aggrandizing the benefactor, and Clinton is no exception. But, again, that’s part of the package. As to the millions that Bill brings in for speaking engagements, it would be hypocritical for me to criticize him on that score if it weren’t for the potential implications in terms of selling influence with his wife. I’m still an ardent fan of capitalism and if Bill can parlay his fame into a fortune, I say go for it.
But all of this remains a huge headache for Hillary Clinton. Even if there were absolutely nothing untoward going on, the optics are awful. And when you mix in the combination of money and potential influence it really begins to stink on ice. But we can’t extend too much sympathy for Hillary. She knew what she was getting into when the whole Clinton Foundation idea took flight. It’s not as if she woke up one morning this year with the stunning idea of running for President. She was fully aware what was coming down the pike, and if she couldn’t anticipate these complications, that’s a lack of planning on her part.
But in the meantime, the looming question still remains. What do you do about Bill?