Monday, September 14, 2015

Clinton, Inc. by Daniel Halper (Book Review #73 of 2015)

Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine
I worked through Clinton Inc. by Daniel Halper and Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer subsequently. I found Clinton Cash to be much more intelligent and factually accurate, the author investigates financial records and the timing of Sen. Clinton's meetings, votes, and policy changes when she was at the State Department. Clinton, Inc. is a much longer view of the lives of the Clintons, is less precise in its focus, and definitely biased in its commentary. The author focuses less on their actual income and business dealings than Clinton Cash does so the title is sort of a misnomer. I recommend the latter highly over the former. (I have also read Hillary's previous two memoirs and two other books written about her, so I'm not approaching these books ignorantly.)

Clinton, Inc. opens with an apt quote from The Great Gatsby:
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

This book actually reminded me more of Michael Lazenby's acclaimed biography of Michael Jordan, as the author mainly just compiles 30 years of other people's articles and books on various Clinton controversies. Similarly, Daniel Halper did not interview the Clintons but interviewed everyone else remotely connected to them that would grant him time. He writes that he was contacted by Clinton handlers like James Carville to find out what he was writing about and warned repeatedly.

It is not a balanced view, there are too many times when Halper inserts opinion as fact. When Hillary cries, the tears are "prepared," without citing a source saying as such. There is too much armchair psychiatry-- is Bill Clinton subconsciously trying to wreck his wife's campaigns because the scrutiny and security details he would face if she is President would hamper his lavish lifestyle and numerous mistresses? (Halper provides documents and interview sources for both of those).

There are the reminders of what was publicly criticized about Bill Clinton's presidency:
The last-minute pardon of Mark Rich that stunned Carville and other long-time friends and made a "lifelong enemy" of future Obama AG Eric Holder. Rich was pardoned after he and his wife made lavish donations to Clinton's library, Hillary's Senate campaign, and the DNC.
After the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, Bill Clinton gave no help to Louis Freeh who was investigating and needed cooperation from the Saudis. Clinton met with Saudi leadership but came away with over $10 million in donations to his library and Freeh's investigation was never brought up.
While Governor of Arkansas and running for re-election as President, Bill Clinton (and the DNC) illegally took Chinese money for his legal defense fund or campaign and later had to give it back.
Similarly, Hillary Clinton's first presidential campaign and the Clinton Global Initiative saw an inflow of donations and speaking fees (for Bill) from India and Indian ex-pats, something the Obama campaign pointed out and later apologized for. Both campaigns had donations where it appeared the money was coming from foreigners funneled by U.S. proxies.
The Clinton Global Initiative has similarly taken millions in foreign donations that it has not been as transparent about as promised under its Memorandum of Understanding with the White House when Hillary became Secretary of State. The timing of many of these donations and "speaking fees" for Bill coincide either with key votes and hearings in the Senate or policy decisions while Hillary was Secretary of State.
The Clintons have always had multiple staffers getting multiple salaries from both government agencies, the Clintons' foundation, and other private sources creating a complex web of interest conflicts. Just this past week, it was revealed that  Huma Abedin, Hillary's "second daughter," was investigated for playing fast-and-loose with her time sheet and compensation while at the State Department.
Likewise, the man who supposedly maintained Hillary's private email server did not disclose his multiple income sources to the State Department and could be in trouble. Abedin, according to Halper, was intent on having her own career outside Hillaryland until her husband Anthony Weiner resigned his congressional seat in disgrace and suddenly she needed income and away back in. Now, she's active on the presidential campaign for "rehabilitation."

Then there is the not-illegal-but-disgusting aspects of Clinton World:
Bill Clinton's playboy lifestyle. Halper cites many "anonymous" insiders on the exploits of Clinton and his Global Initiative business partners and what they do on their private jets and offices. The guy who plays President Bartlett's "body man" in The West Wing said he had modeled himself after Clinton's own body man, Doug Band, whom he had spent a lot of time with. Band knows Bill "better than anyone" and has profited off it. Here is one New Republic article if you want a criticism from the Left:
Bill Clinton's mistress on the 2008 campaign trail was an open secret. Israeli intelligence supposedly had recordings of Clinton's phone sex conversations with Lewinsky and used it for blackmail, the Russians seem to also have had some intel on his exploits.

Hillary became the first Secretary of State to have a spokesperson for her personal affairs and office rather than one which represented the State Department as a whole. Halper writes that it was the Clinton campaign that started the Obama "birther" rumors in 2007 that the Republicans have since been blamed for. There is Media Matters and other pro-Clinton outfits that try to manipulate or intimidate the media into favoring Hillary, these got ugly during the 2007 campaign as many in the Democratic establishment (such as the Kennedys) began to favor Obama, who Bill Clinton was famously reluctant to support. Halper interviews John McCain who reveals that Bill Clinton and he conversed frequently throughout the campaign, Clinton advising the opponent of his own party.

The Clintons, particularly Bill, have a way of charming their enemies and Halper devotes much of the book to this aspect. Halper quotes former enemies such as Trent Lott, Ken Starr, Newt Gingrich, and the Bush family as praising and defending Bill Clinton after he repeatedly reached out to them over the years, sometimes sending a note of condolence after tragedy or inviting them to meetings where he'd be quite personable. People who have lent rooms to Clinton only to see him trash them in his escapades still get calls from Bill in which he again endears himself to them and they remain loyal.

But what can be said about Hillary's improprieties? Clinton, Inc. contains much less damning evidence than Clinton Cash. She was a true "team player" in Obama's cabinet. She got along with Bob Gates and other cabinet members, and earned the respect of John McCain and others when she was Senator. But Halper spares no punches in discussing Bhengazi, writing that Clinton "did not lift a finger" to offer any aid to the beseiged consulate, make phone calls to the White House or the Defense Department, or seem to even be getting updates as it was going on. He quotes her Senate testimony as simply avoiding the questions. It is clear Halper has convicted Hillary on these points in his own mind. Halper relies heavily on previous muck-raking books regarding Hillary's relationship with Vince Foster and the mysteriousness of his death.

Contrary to other journalists, Halper takes the Obama-Clinton joint appearance on 60 Minutes as an overt endorsement of Clinton for President, even though Halper writes often that Team Obama "despises" the Clintons and see Bill as "overrated." Here is where I see one potential inaccuracy of Halper's reporting: he writes that Obama "disdains" Joe Biden, hence the endorsement of Hillary. This is the opposite of what Ed Klein has written, that the Clintons were irked by what they perceived as reneging on the deal made during the re-election campaign-- Bill Clinton would campaign hard for Obama and do his magical speech at the DNC in return for Obama's endorsement of Hillary. Ed Klein wrote that the 60 Minutes bit was not an overt endorsement of Clinton because Obama liked Joe Biden and thought he should also consider running. I have read Bob Gates and Leon Panetta's memoirs, as well as the Broadwell biography of David Petraeus, and all  write about how Biden is the last person in the room with Obama on major decisions and meetings. They certainly seem to have a chummy relationship, even though Obama obviously struggled with Biden's gaffes. This contrasts with the "insider" portrait of Obama hating his "non-person" VP, and I don't buy it.

I give this book 2.5 stars. If you're looking for a summary of all that has been written about Clinton scandals through the years, this book will save you the time of reading the previous ones. If you're looking for original thoughts or research, there is not many. I find it amusing that several of the 1-star reviews for this book state that it was too favorable and didn't go far enough, as it leaves out some of the more incredible conspiracy theories about the Clintons.

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