Monthly Archive for December, 2007
A great article by Stuart Taylor.
Honesty: Hillary’s Glass House
Hillary Rodham Clinton is supposed to be smart. But how smart is it for a woman with such a bad reputation for truthfulness and veracity to put those character traits at the center of the campaign?
The irony of her potshots at Barack Obama‘s character has hardly gone unnoticed. Nor has the idiocy of her December 2 press release breathlessly revealing that “in kindergarten, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled ‘I Want to Become President.’ ” (Emphasis added.) This, the Clinton release explained, gives the lie to Obama’s claim that he is “not running to fulfill some long-held plans” to become president. Hillary was not, it appears, joking.
At a campaign stop the same day, Clinton added: “I have been, for months, on the receiving end of rather consistent attacks. Well, now the fun part starts.” Indeed.
I will not excavate Clinton’s own kindergarten confessions. Nor will I compare the honesty quotient of her campaign-trail spin with the dreadful drivel dutifully uttered by Obama and other candidates to pander to their fevered primary electorates.
Instead, let’s take a trip down memory lane — from the tawdriness of the 1992 presidential campaign through the mendacity of the ensuing years — to revisit a sampling of why so many of us came to think that Hillary’s first instinct when in an embarrassing spot is to lie.
Gennifer and Monica. Former lounge singer Gennifer Flowers surfaced in early 1992 with claims — corroborated by tapes of phone calls — that she had had a long affair with then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who had arranged a state job for her. Bill Clinton told the media, falsely, that the woman’s “story is untrue.”
Although well aware of her husband’s philandering history, Hillary backed his squishy denials, famously asserting on “60 Minutes” that she was not “some little woman standing by her man like Tammy Wynette.” More deceptively, she suggested to ABC’s Sam Donaldson that Bill’s contacts with Flowers were just an example of how he loved to “help people who are in trouble” and “listen to their problems.”
“Hillary’s words uncannily foreshadowed her insistence six years later to … a White House aide that Bill had ‘ministered’ to [Monica] Lewinsky because she was a troubled young woman,” Sally Bedell Smith writes in her fine new book about the Clintons, For Love of Politics. Hillary has continued to insist that she believed what she said about Lewinsky. But friends and former aides have told Smith and others that she knew her husband was lying all along.
Travelgate. The first Clinton scandal after Bill became president started in May 1993, when Chief of Staff Mack McLarty fired the seven employees in the White House office that arranges travel for the press corps. The White House cited gross financial mismanagement. (The charge was never substantiated.) The sudden firings created a media uproar, especially when the dismissed employees were quickly replaced by friends and relatives of the Clintons.
Hillary later told the General Accounting Office, in a document prepared by her attorney, that she had no role in the decision to fire the employees, did not know the “origin of the decision,” and “did not direct that any action be taken by anyone” other than keeping her informed.
But her statements were contradicted by evidence, including a long-concealed memo to McLarty and a written chronology prepared by White House aide David Watkins that came to light years later. Hillary, Watkins wrote, had said that “we need those people out and we need our people in” and had made it clear that “there would be hell to pay” unless she got “immediate action.” Another aide wrote that Hillary intimate Susan Thomases had said, “Hillary wants these people fired.”
While saying that no provable crime had been committed, Robert Ray, who had succeeded Kenneth Starr as independent counsel, reported in October 2000 that Hillary’s statements had been “factually false” and that there was “overwhelming evidence that she in fact did have a role in the decision to fire the employees.”
Cattle futures. The New York Times revealed in March 1994 that in 1978, just before her husband became governor, Hillary had made a $100,000 profit on a $1,000 investment in highly speculative cattle-futures contracts in only nine months. Hillary’s first explanation (through aides) of this extraordinary windfall was that she had made the investment after “reading The Wall Street Journal” and placed all the trades herself after seeking advice from “numerous people.” It was so preposterous that she soon had to abandon it. Eventually, she had to admit that longtime Clinton friend James Blair had executed 30 of her 32 trades directly with an Arkansas broker.
In an April 1994 press conference, Hillary denied knowing of “any favorable treatment” by Blair. But the astronomical odds against any financial novice making a 10,000 percent profit without the game being rigged led many to believe that Blair, the outside counsel to Arkansas-based poultry giant Tyson Foods, must have put only profitable trades in Hillary’s account and absorbed her losses. The heavily regulated Tyson needed friends in high places, and Bill Clinton helped it pass a 1983 state law raising weight limits on chicken trucks.
Removal of Vince Foster documents. During the same press conference, Hillary was asked why her then-chief of staff, Maggie Williams, had been involved in removing documents from the office of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster after his suicide. Foster had been a partner of Hillary’s at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Ark. “I don’t know that she did remove any documents,” Hillary said. But it was reported three months later that Hillary had instructed Williams to remove the Foster documents to the White House residence. Then they were turned over to Clinton attorney Bob Barnett.
Castle Grande. In the summer of 1995, the Resolution Trust Corp. reported that Hillary had been one of 11 Rose Law Firm lawyers who had done work in the mid-1980s on an Arkansas real estate development, widely known as Castle Grande, promoted by James McDougal and Seth Ward. McDougal headed a troubled thrift, Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, and had given Hillary legal business as a favor to Bill. McDougal and his wife, Susan, were the Clintons’ partners in their Whitewater real estate investment. Ward was father-in-law to Webb Hubbell, another former Rose Law Firm partner, who was briefly Clinton’s associate attorney general in 1993. Later, Hubbell went to prison for fraud, as did James McDougal.
Castle Grande was a sewer of sham transactions, some used to funnel cash into Madison Guaranty. Castle Grande’s ultimate collapse contributed to that of the thrift, which cost taxpayers millions. Hillary told federal investigators that she knew nothing about Castle Grande. When it turned out that more than 30 of her 60 hours of legal work for Madison Guaranty involved Castle Grande, she said she had known the project under a different name. A 1996 Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. report said that she had drafted documents that Castle Grande used to “deceive federal bank examiners.”
Prosecutors later came to believe that Hillary had padded her bills; she “wasn’t guilty of [knowingly] facilitating nefarious transactions — she was guilty of doing less work than she took credit for,” Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. explain in their 2007 biography, Her Way. Hillary herself never took refuge in this explanation.
Billing records. Hillary’s billing records for Castle Grande were in a 116-page, 5-inch-thick computer printout that came to light under mysterious circumstances on January 4, 1996 — 19 months after Starr’s investigators had subpoenaed it and amid prosecutorial pressure on Clinton aides who had been strikingly forgetful. For most of that time, Hillary claimed that the billing records had vanished. But a longtime Hillary assistant named Carolyn Huber later admitted coming across the printout in August 1995 on a table in a storage area next to Hillary’s office; Huber said she had put it into a box in her own office, without realizing for five more months that these were the subpoenaed billing records.
This implausible tale, on top of other deceptions, prompted New York Times columnist William Safire to write on January 8, 1996, that “our first lady … is a congenital liar.”
The next day, the White House press secretary said that the president wanted to punch Safire in the nose for insulting his wife. Five days later, the president invited Monica Lewinsky to the Oval Office for what turned out to be one of their 10 oral-sex sessions. Two years and 13 days after that, Hillary was on the “Today” show suggesting that her husband’s Lewinsky affair was a lie concocted by “this vast right-wing conspiracy.”
And now she is citing Barack Obama’s supposed kindergarten “essay” as evidence of dishonesty. Astonishing.
“By the end of 2007, the nation’s health care bill was some $2 trillion a year, or 16% of the U.S. economy. Government is already paying 47% of it. All of the major party presidential candidates of both parties are proposing, in one way or another, that government assume more of the burden. Leading Democrats advocate increasing taxpayer spending by around $100 billion a year, largely to help people purchase private insurance plans. Is this a march toward socialized medicine, a system run by the same people who operate our postal service? Is it a boondoggle for the insurance industry, eager for mandatory insurance laws? Or is the campaign issue solely about getting more votes?” — Thomas C. Reeves, blogging at the History News Network
I met Arthur Laffer in July of this year, at the Libertarians FreedomFest Convention in Las Vegas. I found him to be, by far, the most entertaining and provocative speaker (He is also, btw, a HUGE illegal immigration supporter). Since then, I added him to my “Must Read Anything They Write” list of economists. So I was excited to find this interview of Arthur Laffer, though surprised to find him say this:
The evidence I cited there on Kennedy, it’s clear. Kennedy went from a deficit to a surplus with the tax cuts and the pro-growth policies. I do not believe that was luck. I don’t believe that Reagan was luck. I don’t believe that Bill Clinton was luck. I think Clinton did a great job as president.
One income tax cut that almost cost him almost everything. Then he became more Reagan than Reagan the day afterwards. He lost the House, he lost the Senate, he lost the governorships, he lost the state legislatures. And then he became more Reagan than Reagan: He got Nafta through Congress, against the unions, against his own party. He reappointed Reagan’s Fed chairman twice. He signed welfare reform, that you actually have to look for a job to get welfare. He cut government spending as a share of GDP by 3.5 percentage points. No president ever has come anywhere near him on that. He had the biggest capital gains tax cut in our nation’s history in ’97. He got rid of the retirement test on Social Security. This guy was a great president and I voted for him twice.
An argument I have made several times in the past – Bill Clinton was one of the best conservative Presidents this country has had in a long time (speaking w.r.t. economics, not social issues).
He gets even better, he states:
What Chait did in his article was he said the income disparity has increased dramatically. I’ll stipulate that, counselor. There’s no question that income disparity has risen. I don’t mind rich people making more money. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is poor people making less money. That bothers me a lot.
Now the question is, how do you raise the income levels of the lowest group? If you wanted to reduce income distribution discrepancies, let me go to the extreme, you would reduce it to zero. Everyone who made above the average wage, you would tax them 100% of the excess. And everyone who made below the average wage, you’d subsidize them up to the average wage.
That will reduce income discrepancies. That will. But you’ll have everyone making the same at zero. And that’s intolerable.
I don’t believe that Chait and these other people are aware or care about that by reducing the incomes of the upper incomes you’re going to lower the incomes of the lower incomes. That I really believe is true. That to me is far more important than any goddamned Laffer curve. I don’t mind running deficits, if you make people better off. Do you?
It’s what you’re investing the money in. With Reagan it ended up looking like a good investment to spend all that money on the military.
And with Clinton he did it perfectly correctly paying down the debt. He didn’t need the money. What Clinton did was he gave Bush the fiscal flexibility to do what was right, fiscally. By the time Bush took office on Jan. 20, 2001, we were in the midst of a real problem. The market had been crashing for a year. And then we get bombed 8 months later. What was the guy supposed to do? Raise taxes on the last three people working? He needed to stimulate the economy and spend for defense spending, and Clinton gave him the ability to do that. I mean, my hat’s off to Clinton. As I told you I voted for him twice.
As I said, Art Laffer is a must read. I wish he would write a book explaining his overall view of the economy, I’d immediately put it at the top of my reading list.
“In deciding on rules about combat integration, the ultimate question can’t be how to maximize women’s opportunities. Instead, it has to be how to maximize the military’s power to defeat the enemy. Clausewitz wrote that “everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.” Mixing the sexes together in an integrated combat force adds substantially to what he described as the “friction” of war. The combat environment is difficult enough; we do no one any favors by making it even more so.” — Kingsley Browne, author of Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence that Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars, concluding statements in his guest blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy blog on the question of Women In Combat
“Since electricity is generated mostly by burning coal, has anyone calculated how much pollution is created by electric cars, even though none of that pollution comes out of their tailpipes?” —Thomas Sowell, Random Thoughts
“We live in times of great uncertainty when men of faith must stand up for American values and traditions before they are washed away in a sea of fear and relativism. I have never been one who is particularly comfortable talking about my faith in the political arena, and I find the pandering that typically occurs in the election season to be distasteful. Our nation was founded to be a place where religion is freely practiced and differences are tolerated and respected. I come to my faith through Jesus Christ and have accepted him as my personal savior. At the same time, I have worked tirelessly to defend and restore individual rights and religious freedom for all Americans. The recent attacks and insinuations, both direct and subtle, that Gov. Romney may be less fit to serve as president of our United States because of his faith fly in the face of everything America stands for. Gov. Romney should be judged fairly, on his record and his character, not on the church he attends.” — Ron Paul, quote via Julian Sanchez Notes From The Lounge Blog
“Now that Congress has violated the First Amendment by restricting free speech with “campaign finance reform” laws, in the name of getting the influence of money out of politics, have you noticed any less influence of money in politics?” — Thomas Sowell, Random Thoughts
I have not followed the primaries as much as I’d like to. It’s still too early and alot can change. However, from what little I have read, here are my thoughts on the political candidates.
As a first approximation, I really don’t like Giuliani and especially McCain, they both seem to exemplify the worst of President Bush. Though I trust McCain more than Guiliani on social issues and Giuliani more than McCain on economics (his latest on healthcare seemed promising) neither margin seems positive enough to overcome their negatives. Thompson, being a former lobbyist, also worries me (theres something eery about a conservative being a former lobbyist). I used to favor Romney, and having Mankiw as his economic advisor was certainly a big reason why, but lately I worry about his electability and convictions on certain issues.
On the Democrat side, the complaints grow exponentially. Edwards seems to be the worst of the Democrat front runners, so politically ambitious that he would even use his own deceased sons name in furthering his political future. Obama seems to lack experience and has a limited grasp of economics – though picking Austin Goolsbee as his economic advisor was certainly a redeeming choice. Though I have warmed up to Clinton I still consider her to embody the very worst of President Bush (for one example, see here) and could only see myself voting for her in an extremely limited set of circumstances.
Then there is Mike Huckabee, a candidate I know even less about. He seems to be a solid conservative, in the mold of Rick Santorum. And since he has been rising in the polls, I have been paying a bit more attention to him than I otherwise would. Here are some interesting – and contrary to popular opinion – facts about this candidate.
On immigration, here is something a bit surprising:
People drawn to Huckabee may not have in-depth knowledge of his positions. Huckabee is the top choice of Republicans who say immigration is their most important issue, yet his positions are at odds with the opinions expressed by respondents. For instance, just 8 percent of Republicans say children of illegal immigrants should be able to qualify for in-state college tuition discounts. As governor, Huckabee supported allowing those children to apply for academic scholarships.
“We are a better country than to punish children for what their parents did,” Huckabee said in a Nov. 28 Republican debate in Florida after being criticized by Romney on the issue.
That’s the good. What worries me is this:
The New Hampshire chapter of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, has endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mike Huckabee for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations respectively, sources said Wednesday.
This makes me wonder how principled he might be at pushing school choice, an education policy he seems to be in favor of.
I plan to pay more attention to the candidates as the primaries close and look more closely at their stances on important issues, things like free trade, immigration, education especially vouchers (an almost decisive issue for me), role of government, foreign policy, social issues and others. In the end though, as a libertarian-conservative, I am not happy with any of the candidates currently available. Of course this is the case in all elections, but the problems seems especially acute in this one. Maybe I’ll vote libertarian this time around, Ron Paul anyone?
“Not until about 15 percent of a school district’s children are in charter schools do those schools exert pressure to change the way the district functions. Of this city’s 1,453 public schools, only 61 are charters. They serve 19,000 of the 1.1 million public school students — 1.7 percent. Andy Smarick, writing in Education Next, reports that only 2 percent of America’s public school pupils are in charters, which are being opened very slowly — only 335 a year nationwide, even though the students already on charter waiting lists would fill more than 1,000 schools. At that rate, by 2020 charters will serve only 5 percent of the public school enrollment. One reason for the slow growth is that some school districts, terrified of competition, mount expensive advertising campaigns — parents’ tax dollars at work — to dissuade parents from choosing charter schools.” — George Will, writing about one mans quest to open up a charter school to help the downtrodden, and the constant roadblocks he faces
“A mere 65,000 H-1B visas for foreign professionals are allocated in the U.S. each year. And this year, as in the previous four, the quota was exhausted almost as soon as the applications became available in April. This effectively means that more than half of all foreign nationals who earned advanced degrees in math and science in 2007 have been shut out of the U.S. job market. It makes little sense for our universities to be educating talented foreign students, only to send them packing after graduation. Current policies have MIT and Stanford educating the next generation of innovators — and then deporting them to create wealth elsewhere.” —American Brain Drain
“A 2006 nationwide survey conducted by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found that 56% of young people ages 15 to 25 did not know that only citizens can vote in the United States. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor exclaims, “Today, only a little more than one-third of Americans can name the three branches of government—much less explain the balance of power among them.” In a 2006 survey of California high school graduates who had recently completed a course in American government, half were unable to identify correctly the function of the Supreme Court, a third were unable to name the state’s two U.S. senators, and 41% did not know which of the two major political parties was more conservative. Nothing new here. Our greatest educational challenge is to find ways to reverse the anti-intellectualism behind such ignorance. The solutions involve not just schools but the course of our entire popular culture. Still, educators can make a big difference. See the success story of the Milwaukee College Preparatory School, using the Knowledge Is Power Program, [here]”. Thomas C. Reeves, blogging at the History News Network