Sunday, April 06, 2008

Clintonism and Its Discontents

The revelation that the Clintons have finally gotten their cut from the public-service trough is less distressing than it should be, I suppose. Certainly it's not surprising; we are, after all, talking about a couple whose first home purchase was in Chappaqua at the end of Bill's time in office. It seems that everyone at that level uses their status to elevate themselves in some fashion -- toys, trinkets, junkets, trophy wives, sweet-ass real-estate deals, cash money in pocket.

So it's impossible to be shocked and difficult to actually be offended that they raked in $109 million, in a period of time where a gelatinous cube like Rush Limbaugh made twice as much to scarf down oxy and boner pills and head to the Dominican Republic for some young brown ass, or Alex Rodriguez making a quarter-billion to swat a ball and miss the playoffs every year.

And yet, in the midst of Hillary's hard-times pulpit-thumpers she belts to hapless crowds hither and yon, there are things like this:

Former President Bill Clinton has earned $15.4 million from billionaire Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Cos. investment firm since 2003, according to tax documents released by his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The earnings represent 20 percent of the approximately $75 million Bill Clinton earned during the same period, according to the documents. That may raise new questions about what services he performed for Los Angeles-based Yucaipa, whose investors include the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al- Maktoum.


The tax returns indicate the couple paid all the U.S. federal taxes owed on the income from Yucaipa, which controls three funds located in the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands doesn't charge any individual or corporate income tax and has strict bank secrecy laws.

Bill Clinton's ties to Yucaipa have sparked controversy over the past year, including a September report in the Wall Street Journal that detailed how one of the former president's aides had helped arrange a partnership with Burkle that dissolved amid litigation over allegations of misused funds.

It's not exactly Chinese bagmen bringing sacks of laundered money, but it's probably not much better than what it sounds like.

Even better is this:

In all, the Clintons earned $109 million from 2000 through 2007 and paid $33.8 million in federal taxes, the returns and campaign documents show. They donated $10.3 million of their income over that time to charities.

The bulk of those charitable donations went to the family foundation. From 2002 through 2006, $5.9 million of the $6.4 million, or 93 percent, of the Clinton's charitable giving went directly to the Clinton Family Foundation, according to the tax returns and foundation records.

Because The Human Fund would have been too obvious.

The other entertaining Clinton nugget during the past week was this gem, which should have been seen coming up the road:

An angry Colombia said on Saturday it ended a contract with a lobbying firm headed by a top campaign aide to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after he apologized for meeting with Colombian officials to advocate a trade deal that she opposes.

Mark Penn, who in addition to working as Clinton's chief campaign strategist is a lobbyist in his capacity as chief executive officer of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, said his meeting with Ambassador Carolina Barco Isakson "was an error in judgment that will not be repeated."

"The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians, and finds this response unacceptable," the Colombian Embassy in Washington said in a statement.

Hammer of the Blogs is pleased to present an exclusive photo of Penn's negotiations with the angry Colombians:

Note the look of consternation in the Colombian's eyes, as well as the sweat pouring off his beak. I think we all learned what pissed-off Colombians are capable of from Scarface; if Penn actually possessed elbows and knees, and any of the Colombians happened to have a chainsaw handy, Penn would have been in really deep shit.

More seriously, I think this is an area where the Clintons (and let's not beat around the, erm, Bush here -- as with a decade and a half ago, we are again being offered two for the price of one, as if we were at the political Dollar Tree looking for a deal on toiletries) are vulnerable. Penn is an operative's operative, and one of his subordinates at Burston-Marsteller is John McCain's henchman, Charlie Black. So either way, B-M wins, which really means a lot to Mister and Missus Joe Six-Tooth.

Even diehard Clintonistas will have to acknowledge that Bill got a certain amount of mileage out of rhetorically feeling our pain, and it rang true, since he couldn't afford his own house either. He was one of us, skeevy big-hair glad-handing priapism and all.

But the schtick plays a bit more hollow nine figures later, well-entrenched in the same machine which spent eight years attacking both Clintons, hanging with the exact same people whose pastime was calumniating them, making money hand over fist, her supporters paying him six figures to "consult" and speak at their events. Lotta inbreeding going on there, which does not make them special, but rather mundane. It's a racket, and they've learned to play.

Maybe we can all play, and feel each other's pain, or something. But if we all could afford to live in the Hamptons, where would the swells go to feel superior, and whom would they have to look down upon?

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