The hysteria about the DNC hack and the frenzied efforts to focus blame on Putin and Russia have brought to the fore many anti-Russian/anti-Putin types who are so revolted by the prospect of a Trump presidency (in part because of Trump’s alleged admiration for Putin) that they have come out foursquare for Hillary. Most notable among these is Garry Kasparov. Neocons like Robert Kagan too. Journalists like Julia Ioffe of the Washington Post and Miriam Elder (formerly Moscow correspondent for the Guardian, now with BuzzFeed) qualify, as do myriad other journalistic and think tank pilot fish who are not really deserving of mention by name.
But here’s the funny thing. One of this crowd’s main indictments of Putin is his corruption and venality. They have a point about that, but if corruption and venality are reasons to detest a politician, how can they then turn around and support Hillary? For she is corrupt and venal as they come in American politics.
There are actually some similarities in Vladimir’s and Hillary’s trajectories of corruption. Putin’s schemes began not when he was at the center of power in Moscow, but when he was a functionary in the administration of a regional official, the mayor of St. Petersburg. Hillary’s career as a grifter also began in the sticks, when she was First Lady of Arkansas.
For who can forget cattle futures? Some years ago some academics calculated the odds that the typical trader could have turned $1000 into $100,000 in such a short period of time with such a high frequency of winning days. What were those odds, you ask? A mere 31 trillion (with a t!) to one. Yeah. It could happen to anyone who read the WSJ (which didn’t have a commodities page at the time, mind you).
Now you tell me. Would you have stopped trading if you were that good–or on that good a roll? As if: nobody would. But if these profits were part of a scheme (e.g., buying and selling the same contract, and allocating the winners to her account and the losers to the briber’s account) to pay off $100,000 to the governor and/or his wife, you’d have to stop as soon as that number was hit. So both the making of the money, and the stopping of the even trying to make more money, are damning.
Then of course there was Whitewater and Castle Grande, for which Hillary did legal work–and the developers went to jail.
Like Putin, Hillary went from the sticks to the center of power in the capital in one leap. There’s no indication that Hillary profited directly from her position in the White House, but the entire eight years of the Clinton presidency was a litany of stories about dodgy campaign finance schemes. Ironically, given Hillary’s harrumphing about the audacity of foreigners influencing American elections, the 1996 Clinton campaign assiduously courted foreign donors attempting to influence American elections–in anticipation of seeing their favors repaid by the winner.
After leaving the White House, Hillary complained of her straitened financial circumstances. Those soon changed, through the magic of her “charity”–the Clinton Foundation. The main beneficiaries of this “charity” have been herself, Bill, and daughter Chelsea. It is notorious for raising large amounts of money, very little of which goes to the causes (e.g., earthquake relief in Haiti) for which it was ostensibly intended–and large amounts of which go into salaries, travel, and “overhead.” Then there are passing mysteries, like how Bill gets paid $16.5 million dollars over a few years for being the “honorary” chancellor of a for profit education company (that is closely linked with George Soros).
With considerable justice, Putin critics look askance at his purported fortune and claim that it is evidence of his deep corruption. How can you possibly not say the same of Hillary’s wealth? For the Clinton Foundation was collecting tens of millions of dollars in contributions from corrupt governments (especially in the Middle East) at the same time as Hillary was dealing with these governments as Secretary of State. Purely a coincidence, no doubt! The Saudis are deeply, deeply concerned with the long-suffering Haitian people, aren’t they?
The nexus between the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s role as Secretary of State shows a complete disregard for appearances of impropriety and conflict of interest, and reeks of pay-for-play. Indeed, one of the leaked DNC emails frets that “Clinton Foundation quid pro quo worries are lingering.” The DNC feared that more than her secret emails.
Such blurring of the lines between private interest and public office is also evident in Putin’s Russia, where Putin’s friends (like the Rotenbergs and Gennady Timchenko) have profited handsomely in deals with the Russian state. There is of course suspicion that Putin shares in these windfalls. There is no suspicion that Hillary’s foundation has received windfalls from governments with whom Hillary dealt as Secretary of State: it is a documented fact.
Hillary did her part as a high-ranking member of The Most Transparent Administration in History® by having meetings with donors, and then either (a) not recording these meetings in her schedule, or (b) the most recent revelation–burning her schedules! If there’s nothing to hide, why go to such lengths to hide them? (We can of course be completely confident that emails deleted from her private server contained only yoga routines and wedding plans, and no communications with foreign governments or their agents who are donors to the Foundation.)
Putin’s opacity is of course another subject of criticism amongst the Putin hating/Hillary loving crowd. Yet he has nothing on Hillary in that department. The entire email scheme was a pre-planned, preemptive coverup to prevent the release of information that could be used to hold Hillary to account. Putin also clearly understands the importance of the control of information.
And of course, when it comes to Russia in particular, how do Kasparov et al square their support for Hillary with this?:
The article, in January 2013, detailed how the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, had taken over a Canadian company with uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West. The deal made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Mr. Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.
But the untold story behind that story is one that involves not just the Russian president, but also a former American president and a woman who would like to be the next one.
At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.
Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The Canadian behind that deal (Frank Giurstra) and others associated with it have paid a mere $145 million to the Clinton Foundation. More bleeding hearts for Haiti, no doubt.
Indeed, there is a nexus between Rosatom and the email scandal. Politico(!) has documented numerous and extended lacunae in Crackberry addict Hillary’s emails. Most of the gaps are temporal: there are long time periods for which no emails on any subject have been produced. The Rosatom gap is different. During the entire period of her tenure, Hillary personally and the State Department generally were involved in Russian nuclear matters generally (remember that Nunn-Lugar was operative until 2012) and Rosatom in particular. But despite the fact that there was extensive State Department cable traffic discussing the company, there was one lonely and innocuous email in what Hillary produced:
But then there is an instance where the State Department cable traffic rises and there are few if any Clinton corresponding emails. It’s the case of Rosatom, the Russian State Nuclear Agency: Clinton and senior officials at the State Department received dozens of cables on the subject of Rosatom’s activities around the world, including a hair-raising cable about Russian efforts to dominate the uranium market. As secretary of state, Clinton was a central player in a variety of diplomatic initiatives involving Rosatom officials. But strangely, there is only one email that mentions Rosatom in Clinton’s entire collection, an innocuous email about Rosatom’s activities in Ecuador. To put that into perspective, there are more mentions of LeBron James, yoga and NBC’s Saturday Night Live than the Russian Nuclear Agency in Clinton’s emails deemed “official.”
What could explain this lack of emails on the Russian Nuclear Agency? Were Clinton’s aides negligent in passing along unimportant information while ignoring the far more troubling matters concerning Rosatom? Possibly. Or, were emails on this subject deleted as falling into the “personal” category? It is certainly odd that there’s virtually no email traffic on this subject in particular. Remember that a major deal involving Rosatom that was of vital concern to Clinton Foundation donors went down in 2009 and 2010. Rosatom bought a small Canadian uranium company owned by nine investors who were or became major Clinton Foundation donors, sending $145 million in contributions. The Rosatom deal required approval from several departments, including the State Department.
When you’re the Dem darling, and you’ve lost Politico . . . . But she hasn’t lost the loudly anti-Russian, anti-Putin crowd, despite the fact that the stench of this particular Russian connection would make even a Rotenberg gag.
Oh, and Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank controlled by oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov. Clinton said “I’ve gotta pay the bills.” I guess baby’s too old to need new shoes. But the anti-Putin Hillary hive bats not an eye.
Putin critics also attack him-with good reason-for his high handed approach to the law. Who can witness what Hillary has done with regards to her server and her handling of classified information before, during, and after the fact and not conclude that she is lawless too, and also believes herself to be above the law? (FBI Director Comey’s excuse for her conduct is mental defect: she’s was too stupid to form criminal intent. He said this the day after Obama claimed that she is the most qualified candidate for the presidency since Jefferson. Maybe he meant George.)
Her complicity in the jailing of a hapless filmmaker to deflect attention from her failings in Benghazi also has more than a slight Russian smell to it: the case of the wife of a Kursk crewman who was tranquilized and bundled off while protesting against the Putin government’s handling of the sinking comes to mind. Going back to the beginning of her public career, Hillary’s desire to run roughshod over the law was noticed during her time as a staffer on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate investigations. Legal nihilism is a term often used to describe Russia (Medvedev employed the term, in fact): it would be a fair way of describing Hillary’s attitude to the law.
When campaigning recently with Hillary in Charlotte (complete with a break from tradition by allowing her to speak from a podium displaying the Presidential Seal), Obama praised her for dedicating her life to public service. Whenever I hear that phrase, I reach for my wallet with one hand, and a airsickness bag with the other. This is particularly true when the alleged public servant is Hillary Clinton, who has served herself first, last, and always, grasping for more power, and more money. Putin, of course, often portrays himself as a mere humble servant, toiling ceaselessly for the benefit of the Russian people, for which he is paid a pittance. Both inveigh against the greed of others, while having fared quite well themselves. Both claim they are advocates for the little guy, while doing all they can to avoid actually spending any time with them.
I can understand disliking Putin, including because of his venality, corruption, lack of transparency as a public official, and disregard for legal norms. But if those Putin traits outrage you, you have to be outraged by Hillary too. Indeed, Putin is the product of a system that is notoriously corrupt and where the rule of law is more of an object of derision than an ideal. Hillary is contending for the highest office in a nation that believes that it operates according to a far higher standard (though her getting a pass for her flouting of the law with her private server calls those pretensions into serious doubt). For all his sins, Putin is not nearly the hypocrite Hillary is. And her coterie of Putin-hating supporters are as hypocritical as she.
Hillary’s Putinesque corruption and mendacity should be disqualifying. Her incompetence should be as well. She took pride in Libya, for crying out loud, and that was only one of the things that makes her the Mr. Magoo of international statecraft, merrily and blindly plunging ahead while leaving havoc and destruction in her wake.
But as shocking as these disqualifications are, they might not represent the greatest danger that she poses–which happens to be the very thing that attracts the neocons in particular to her, despite their professed dislike for Putin. As Libya demonstrates, Hillary is an adventurer with a predilection to intervention–another similarity with VVP (and whom the neocons berate for it). During her tenure at State, she had a reputation for advocating a far more truculent foreign policy than Obama. Libya is one example. Since her departure, she has been an advocate for a more muscular approach to Syria. In contrast, Trump has expressed skepticism about American intervention abroad.
The prospect of a corrupt, dishonest, not too bright, and demonstrably incompetent person as president should give anyone pause, especially so to alleged policy mavens. But neocons are overlooking all that, because she is the best prospect to give them the interventions-and wars-they want.