Bob Franken

The Embarrassment of Riches

Call those folks in Hillaryland the “Friday Night Dumpsters”. Through all the scandals and controversies of the Bill Clinton presidency, those of us who reported on that soap opera learned never to lock in social plans on a weekend.

They had it down pat: After fighting and maneuvering for as long as they could to avoid releasing records of some misadventure, real or imagined, the Clinton handlers would always “dump” all of them too late for anyone to make heads or tails of them on the evening newscasts.

The first embarrassing nuggets would only be discovered after hours of siftingthrough thousands of pages.

True, they would make the morning newspapers, but we’re talking SATURDAY morning when most people are too bleary to read anything, much less think about it

Then as the really juicy stuff trickled out after days more of analysis, it would have become the “Old News”. The fickle reader and viewer was tired of the story and wanted different stuff.

It’s nice to know little changes. Those who read this morning’s papers will see why candidate Hillary Clinton was reluctant to release these tax records.

Call it an “Embarrassment of Riches”. Every Saturday front page features the Clinton 109 million. Right next to that is the headline about growing unemployment. It’s the hard life up against the Clintons’ extraordinarily good life.

The dump occurred late in the very same day that Clinton had proposed the creation of a cabinet department to combat poverty in this country. How is this for starters: What about taxing the hell out of those who make obscene amounts of money and giving the money to the poor?

Let’s not hold our breath on that one, but while we wait, let’s ponder who paid those millions to Bill and Hillary? Setting aside the book deals the question is not only who paid but why?

Was a Bill Clinton speech really worth hundreds of thousands? Was his investment advice really that valuable? Or was this another case of fat cats investing in the possibility that another President Clinton might be able to return the favors when she was in power?

There’s another story that gets overshadowed on this big news day. It’s the disclosure that campaign’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, met a few days ago with Colombian government officials to discuss ways to pass the free trade agreement between their country and the United States.

When he isn’t running the Hillary campaign Penn’s day job is CEO of Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s biggest lobbying firms.

The problem is candidate Clinton publicly opposes the trade deal. To hold any other position would be political suicide in economically bleak Pennsylvania. But right in the middle of that state’s critical primary battle, Mark Penn (no relation to William Penn I assume) slips away from campaign strategy to discuss lobbying strategy with the Colombians.

Now he’s apologizing for his “error in judgment”. Baloney. He’s apologizing for getting caught.

It’s like one of John McCain’s chief advisers, Charles Black, who was reported to be calling his lobbying clients while he was actually riding the bus on McCain’s wildly successful gimmick, “The Straight Talk Express”.

Black, we’re told, is not doing that anymore. Of course not. He got caught.

Let’s not forget Barack Obama and the backyard sweetheart deal he got from his now-indicted old buddy Tony Rezco. Obama now calls it a mistake. But was the biggest mistake feeling back then he could get away with it?

And is our biggest mistake ever believing there’s no quid-pro-quo, a at least an implied one, a chit to call in, sometime?

Here’s the point: Those who believe these people buzz around the candidates and gorge them with money without expecting anything in return, please line up. I have some land in Arkansas, Arizona and Illinois to sell you. And Colombia too.

Speaking of Arkansas we haven’t even seen the roster of those who contributed to the Clinton library. The way things are going it’ll take a millennium before we do. Only then will be find out if these Clinton if it’s a list of the civic minded or a rogue’s gallery.

This is hardly a new issue. Surely we’ve all noticed that the big fundraisers are usually held in someone’s mansion. The hosts and hostesses know that they can keep their mansions if they have friends in high places.

If all of this appears to be seamy, it also explains why, when going public is unavoidable, the best way to do so is the furtive “Friday Night Dump”. What an apt name for the garbage of politics.

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