Showing posts with label Bill Clinton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill Clinton. Show all posts

Monday, April 13, 2015

America Should Not Settle for Hillary Clinton

(Image credit: Bloomberg) 

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Lord Acton 

Before people start jumping to conclusions that this article is driven by the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman, let me be very clear; her gender has nothing to do with it. I do not consider ethnicity or gender a factor when evaluating people for office; I prefer to judge them on the merits of their record, on their integrity and most importantly their character. That said, I would love nothing more than for America to follow in the footsteps of India, Great Britain, Germany, Brazil and Liberia, and elect a woman to the highest office in the land. But it should be based on the best possible candidate for the job, rather than an attempt to make history, as tempting at that may be.

There is no question that Ms. Clinton has both the experience and the smarts to be President. She has served as first lady, been a senator from New York, and a well-respected Secretary of State. Her professional pedigree is not in question. In fact, on this front she is probably better qualified than most of the Republican field put together. However, arrogance from having been in the public eye and on a pedestal for so long should be a question. This is where we should have our first concern with Ms. Clinton. It has to do with a sense of entitlement and a complete disregard for the rules applying to her. The recent email hoopla is the most recent case in point. In what world does a government servant have the gumption to decide, unilaterally, to not only use personal email while in office but also set-up a private server in their home, a server that nobody in government can access? 

I understand that we must respect the privacy of public officials, but we are talking about a government work email account that is meant to be preserved for the public record. Ms. Clinton had no business making this decision. Even more frightening to us should be the sheer arrogance with which she dismissed the issue; it smacked of the old adage of ‘absolute power.’ She had the audacity to suggest that we should all be grateful because she “took the unprecedented step of asking that the State Department make all my work-related emails public for everyone to see.”(Source: Time article). Forgive me if I am not feeling thankful.

Even if she was within the rules, the email example and her handling of it pose fundamental and intractable questions about her clear lack of judgement. More worryingly, it begs the question of what she is hiding. She said at the same press conference that she “turned over some 30,490 emails to the State Department in December”, nearly two years after leaving office. But she also said she “deleted nearly 32,000 others.” (New York Times article).  As a NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) employee told the New Yorker “Anytime a government official takes it upon themselves to edit their own communications, good government ceases to exist.” Any public servant who is deluded enough to believe that they are responsible enough to ‘police’ themselves surely cannot be trusted with the highest office in the land.

The second concern we should have with Ms. Clinton’s candidacy is her age (same goes for male candidates). She will be in her seventieth year when assumes office, not exactly in the prime of her life. Age is part of a bigger issue we should consider in politics. Why is this, the only profession where we routinely elect people who would otherwise be retired? Would you trust a surgeon or hire a defence lawyer in their seventies? The point is that no matter how fit or healthy a person might be, we all slow down physically and mentally as we get older. These days the only way many senators and congressmen vacate their offices is when they die. Strom Thurmond was eighty-four years old when he was briefly and absurdly second in line for the Presidency in the nineteen-eighties. He went on to serve in the senate until the age of 100, still firmly holding onto his pro-segregation views when he died in 2003. Senator Robert Byrd continued to serve despite years of declining health and routine hospital visits, and finally died in office at the age of ninety-two. It is one thing to serve as a congressman or senator, but the US President’s job is without doubt the toughest in America.

We all saw how quickly and visibly both George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama aged, after taking the oath of office. Based on his behaviour and actions I always suspected Mr. Reagan was senile during most of his second term; we now know that his Alzheimer’s started three years into his first term (Source: The Guardian article). Frankly, the world is a far more complex and fragile place today than it ever was during the cold war. We need fresh thinking, new solutions and bold ideas. We need someone who is hungry and daring, not tired and expecting a coronation. Ask yourself if you really want to put a person who in every other profession would be retiring to take on the most mentally gruelling, emotionally draining and physically challenging job in the world?

Then there are the ethics violations and open hypocrisy that should concern us. When Ms. Clinton accepted the position of Secretary of State, the White House was rightly concerned about the millions foreign governments had donated to the Clinton Foundation, and how they might try to use it as leverage to curry favour with the Secretary of State. For this reason Ms. Clinton agreed to sign an ethics agreement which we now know she violated at least one time during her tenure (Source: WashingtonPost article).

There is good reason why it is illegal for a foreign government to give money to a US political candidate (but Ms. Clinton’s candidacy is unprecedented in this respect, since her husband was President and after leaving office they started a foundation). I have no doubt the Clintons will stop accepting money now that she has decided to run, but it does not change the fact that nations who donated generously over the years will still want collect their dues. It would be naïve to think otherwise. 

The Wall Street Journal found in its investigation that “At least 60 companies that lobbied the State Department during her tenure donated a total of more than $26 million to the Clinton Foundation…” (Source: New Yorker article). The Clinton Foundation does an amazing amount of good in the world, and I support and laud their initiatives. But this is not about the foundation's efforts, but rather about the undue influence and sway donors have over recipients of their largesse and about the dangers of these recipients now occupying the White House; burdened with these obligations. 

There is also a great hypocrisy with regards to an issue Ms. Clinton claims to champion: empowering women. It is a great cause and while it is fair to say she has been a great champion, it is equally fair to question her acceptance of money from countries like Saudi Arabia and Brunei that openly abuse and deny women the most basic freedom and rights. I would have greater respect for Ms. Clinton if, on principle, she had refused to accept donations from this small handful of countries where women are less than second class citizens. One other point to consider is that she has also stood by a serial cheater and alleged abuser of women. While her marriage is her personal business, by calling herself a champion for women, it begs the question of whether she is more preach than practice.

We are at a critical and complex time in history. America has never been more divided, and the world is a far more complex place, one where it is hard to distinguish friend from foe. We need someone hungry and energetic enough to grab these challenges by the collar and take them on, not someone who feels the job is their due, and looks more tired than hungry; as Peggy Noonan recently wrote in a Wall Street Journal article. The world needs new ideas and fresh perspectives, not the same old same old.

My first great disappointment with Obama (among a long series that have followed) was that the moment he was elected, on the promise of “change,” he went and appointed a group of washed out Clinton-era advisers and Bush One and Two bureaucrats. This has shown in his administration’s lack of imagination and inability to change the status quo. While Jeb Bush is much younger than Ms. Clinton, there are many of the same issues with him pertaining to dynastic politics (incidentally, he also used private email as Governor of Florida, but did not set up his own server).

We know that Hollywood with its deep pool of talent, resources and money has never managed to deliver a sequel that lives up to the original; so rather than settling for a Clinton or Bush sequel that will never change the narrative, let’s use the vote to script a bold and original story in 2016.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

U.S. Political Wall of Shame: 2000 to 2011


"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
President Bill Clinton



Rep. ANTHONY WEINER (D-NY) 
In 2011, the newly married Congressman admitted to sending sexually suggestive photos of himself to several women through his Twitter account. He finally admitted that he had engaged in "several inappropriate" electronic relationships with six women over three years, and that he publicly lied about a photo of himself sent over Twitter to a college student in Seattle over a week ago. (source: ABC News)

Rep. CHRIS LEE (R-NY) 
A "family values" Republican, Lee even talked about passing legislation to educate children on internet safety. In 2011, he resigned hours after a news report that the married Congressman had sent a shirtless picture of himself flexing his muscles to a woman via Craigslist, along with flirtatious emails. He did not use a pseudonym or a false email address, but relied on his congressional email for all communication. (source: CBS News)

Rep. MARK SOUDER (R-IN) 
A staunch advocate of abstinence and family values who got high marks in his district for his evangelical beliefs. He received an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association and a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. In 2010, he resigned to avoid an ethics investigation into his admitted extramarital affair with a female staffer. Famously, he and she had made a public video in which they both extolled the virtues of sexual abstinence.  (source: Washington Post)

Sen. LARRY CRAIG (R-ID) 
In 2007 Craig was arrested for "lewd conduct" in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. He sent an undercover cop a coded message with some flirtatious foot tapping in a public restroom known for male-on-male romps. Craig, as always, denied any wrongdoing, because as you know, bathroom play doesn't make a gay. (source: Time)

Rep. MARK FOLEY (R-Fla) 
He introduced several pieces of legislation intended to protect minors from sexual predators. In 2006, someone leaked a series of sexually explicit instant messages between Foley and teenage boys--namely those who formally served as congressional pages. Oh, the irony. (source: Washington Post)

Gov. ELIOT SPITZER (D-NY) 
After some sketchy transactions in early 2008, the IRS feared that Democratic New York Gov. Spitzer might have been the victim of extortion or identity theft. Actually, he was a paying customer of a big-time prostitution service. Long story short: He lost his job; his wife was publicly humiliated. Ashley Dupre, the call girl he made famous, now writes a sex column for the New York Post. (source: Time)

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC) 
At the start of the decade, many hailed Edwards as this decade's answer to Bill Clinton. He was a handsome, charming, Southern good ol' boy who fought for the little guy and stuck with his cancer-stricken wife when she got sick. But he turned out to be a not-so-great husband. Edwards had an affair with a woman who worked on his campaign, and maybe fathered her child. (source: Time)

TED HAGGARD (PRESIDENT, National Assoc. of Evangelicals) 
He was pastor of one of the largest churches in the country. He spoke with former President George W. Bush weekly. He was famous for his anti-gay rhetoric, so many took joy in 2006 when they learned that he was getting both his salad tossed and his brain cells fried by a male prostitute. What's worse than a homophobic homosexual with a meth addiction? (source: NBC News)

Gov. JIM McGREEVY (D-NJ) 
He quit politics in 2004 after announcing that he was a "gay American.' McGreevey had come under considerable scrutiny for appointing Golan Cipel, an Israeli national, as his top security adviser.  Turns out that Cipel was his “himstress.” After Cipel threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against the governor, McGreevey resigned, came out of the closet, got a divorce and a new boyfriend. All's well that ends well? (source: CNN)

Mayor KWAME KILPATRICK (D-MI) 
We had high hopes for this young, bright politician who dubbed himself the "hip-hop mayor" and promised to steer Detroit in a new direction, but that narrative shifted to a tawdry tale of a sexting politico consumed with sex and lies. In Jan 2008, the Detroit Free Press published text messages between the married Kilpatrick and his chief of staff. Both lied under oath about their affair and both ended up in jail. (source: Time)

Gov. MARK SANFORD (R-SC) 
This Republican South Carolina governor takes the "And I Am Telling You" approach to political scandal: If you want him out, you better throw him out because he's not leaving on his own accord. What's his crime? He told his staff last summer that he was "hiking the Appalachian Trail." What was he really doing? The married father of three was hiking through the streets of Buenos Aires with his Argentine mistress. As a result, he faces 37 ethics charges. Good luck with that, Mark. (source: Time)

Rep. GARY CONDIT (D-CA) 
Former Congressman known for his "pro-family politics" became a household name in 2001 after a young woman he'd been having an affair with, Chandra Levy, went missing. After 67 days, Condit acknowledged the affair but denied any involvement in her disappearance. Levy's remain were found more than a year later in a park in Washington, D.C. (source: BBC)

Rep. VITO FOSSELLA (R-NY) 
Got busted for having an affair back in 2008 after being stopped for a DUI just three blocks from the home of Laura Fay, the other woman.  Fay was an Air Force intelligence officer working for the pentagon when they first hooked up. The affair got pretty hot and steamy, and even went international when the two carried it over to the UK in 2003. It got so serious, and they had a kid together, but no marriage. She bailed him out of jail. (source: NY Times)

Gov. BOB WISE (D-WV) 
Wise made the mistake of hooking up with Angela Mascia-Frye, who has since dropped the -Frye because her husband divorced her. Phil Frye, the pissed-off husband, not only called the two of them out on their shenanigans, but also up and ran for governor in a bid not for the seat (because he had no chance of winning), but simply to annoy Bob Wise and call more attention to his hot little secret. They do drama differently in Appalachia. (source: Manolith)


Sen. JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV) 
This guy was a real piece of work, but not nearly as bad as his buddy’s wife, with whom he had an affair for quite some time before she finally turned on him — for cash. Ensign is a Senator from Nevada, and still is, but this one hurt. (source: Time)

Assemblyman MIKE DUVALL (R-Yorba Linda) 
His story is hilariously entertaining. The guy was in the middle of a committee appropriations meeting, during a break, and didn’t realize that his mic was still live as he talked about his affair and all sorts of naughty things to his chuckling buddy. The whole conversation was recorded, and aired for the world to hear, and it’s worth a listen. At least the guy had fun, right? (source: LA Times)

Rep. TIM MAHONEY (D-Fla) 
He took his post as a replacement for a guy who was run out of office after getting caught sending dirty IMs to young male intern. By comparison, Mahoney wasn’t bad, but his constituents still weren’t happy about his affair with Patricia Allen, a staffer of his. She found out he had other girls and wanted either more, or nothing, so he fired her. That didn’t work out too well. He ended up paying her $121,000 to keep quiet, only it was too late. (source: Politico)

Rep. DON SHERWOOD (R-PA) 
In 2004 he had an incident. Apparently he and a woman named Cynthia Ore, who was not his wife, liked to get a little rough. Sometimes they got too rough, and Ore called the cops from the bathroom of Sherwood’s DC apartment one weird night that Sherwood would sorely regret. Not only did his opponent bring the whole thing to light during re-election campaigning, but Ore sued him, claiming multiple assaults throughout their relationship. (source: Outside the Beltway)