Hillary And The Squeaky Clean President

Ken AshfordElection 2016Leave a Comment

The Clinton Foundation has announced that, should Hillary Clinton win, it will stop accepting donations from corporations or foreign entities.  In a normal year, this would not even be news.

But this is a Clinton candidacy, and she has been tainted with 19 years of a false narrative that she is dishonest, that she engages in pay-for-play, etc.  So this move of the Clinton Foundation, rather than being innocuous, is being presented as a way to buffer herself against criticism that she trades power for cash.  In fact, some are asking why she didn’t do this before.

And this is her problem.  Fair or not (I say “not”), Bernie Sanders emphasized real issues like collecting speaking fees from Goldman Sachs rather than fake issues from the GOP like the murder of Vince Foster.  Together, the impact is the same — Clinton was introduced to a generation that had never voted for her or her husband, as a shadowy, duplicitous insider.

Kevin Drum adds:

A little appreciated facet of Obama’s presidency is that it was almost entirely scandal free. This didn’t stop Republicans from trying to invent scandals, of course, as the endless Benghazi witch hunt proves. But none of the Obama “scandals” ever caught on. There are two potential reasons for this:

  1. They were all ridiculous.
  2. Obama has such a clean reputation that they just didn’t stick.

If you think the answer is #1, then I admire your optimistic view of Washington and the political press corps and wish you the best of luck in your future political analysis.

The real answer, plainly, is #2. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been the target of dozens of equally invented scandals. In Clinton’s case, the press follows them endlessly. In Obama’s case they don’t. Why? Because in Obama’s case they don’t fit a narrative. Obama has a reputation as a wonky guy who runs a tight ship and doesn’t play games. Because of this, invented nonsense will get a few days or weeks of coverage, but that’s usually it.

Clinton, needless to say, has a reputation that’s just the opposite. Mostly this is undeserved, but not entirely. That doesn’t really matter, though. What matters is that she has the reputation she does, and that means scandals fit the press narrative of who she is. So when Republicans launch attacks on her, it doesn’t much matter if there’s any substance to them. The press will play along endlessly.

Bottom line? If Hillary wants to avoid a failed presidency, she needs to be squeaky clean. That won’t stop the attacks, but at least it will blunt them. Conversely, if there’s even one scandal that has some real truth to it, it will dog her for her entire presidency.