Eight Steps Clinton Must Take As President
The email revelations over the past couple of weeks confirm what left and right have long known about Bill and Hillary Clinton: They blur and erase the lines between personal enrichment and public service at every turn. The Atlantic’s Russell Berman writes: “For Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the publication of the [Doug] Band memo is yet another WikiLeaks-induced headache, as it provides even more detail into the unsavory-if-not-illegal intersection of interests at the heart of her family’s philanthropic work.”
Berman continues: “Mostly, it just doesn’t look good. (And thanks to Donald Trump’s endless antics, it probably won’t stop her from winning the election.) Both Clintons have vigorously defended the charitable work they have done over the last 16 years, and while that work may be admirable, the WikiLeaks hack has exposed that the former president’s philanthropy, his personal enrichment, and the business interests of perhaps his closest aide were too closely tied.”
The Clinton foundation certainly has performed good works, but plenty of foundations do good without becoming a slush fund or, as Kimberley A. Strassel dubbed it, “an unregistered super PAC.”
Were any other Republican opposing Hillary Clinton (i.e. someone not named Donald Trump), all of this could well have prevented her election. Given the GOP’s monumental stupidity in selecting someone more unfit for office than she is, Hillary Clinton will nevertheless win. The concern should be that once again the Clinton duo will have learned the wrong lesson, namely that they can get away with just about anything. This is no small matter for Hillary Clinton, who will need to govern and fend off to the extent possible GOP inquests (justified and not) into her and Bill Clinton’s financial chicanery.
If her closest advisers and high-ranking Democrats really have her interests at heart, they will recommend a number of steps to prevent the Clinton sludge from oozing into the White House:
1. Shut down the foundation or spin it off in its entirety to a respected, independent figure. That means all the Clintons must avoid soliciting and speaking for the successor, exercising any management or advisory role or meeting with any representatives of the foundation.
2. My Washington Post colleague Ruth Marcus smartly suggests that Bill Clinton have no role in the administration. Agreed, and beyond that, Hillary Clinton should explicitly make Chelsea Clinton the first lady. It’s not required that the job go to a spouse and, in fact, non-spouses have filled the spot for previous presidents. (According to the National First Ladies’ Library Blog, “Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren and Chester Arthur were the four Presidents who assumed office as widowers. Jefferson’s daughter Martha Randolph, Jackson’s niece and daughter-in-law Emily Donelson and Sarah Jackson, Van Buren’s daughter Angelica Van Buren, and Arthur’s sister Molly McElroy served for varying lengths for them. ... [Grover] Cleveland’s sister Rose Elizabeth served as his First Lady until he married fifteen months into his administration.”)
3. Donors to the foundation should be excluded from positions in the administration. But so many wouldn’t be allowed to serve! Some have given to the Clintons for decades. That’s right, and going cold turkey on crony appointments can assure the American people that all those donations were not thinly disguised bribes to secure administration posts.
4. All communications have to be conducted on government phones and email servers. Enough said. (We suspect that use of email is going to decrease significantly anyway.)
5. Clinton would be wise to set up a respected, neutral figure as a chief ethics officer. Conservative lawyer Ted Olson, former undersecretary of Treasury Stuart Levey (who did a commendable job on Iran sanctions), Ben Bernanke or someone else of their stature should be given the job and report solely to the president.
6. All inspector general spots at the various departments and agencies should be promptly filled and funded.
7. Clinton should seed her administration with some respected Republicans and put them in meaningful spots, including White House counsel, attorney general, etc.
8. The Clinton administration should commit to speeding up the Freedom of Information Act process and agree in advance to waive all but the most essential privileges as grounds for withholding documents. With regard to Congress, the White House should explicitly waive “executive privilege” for White House officials’ testimony and records production.
All of this may seem extreme and cumbersome, even an interference with the legitimate powers of the president. So be it. Unless Clinton goes above and beyond what other presidents have done, she’ll spend her term under fire for “Clinton Inc.” issues. She may still have to battle it out with Republican oversight committees, but it would do her a world of good to start out on the side of the angels.
Jennifer Rubin writes for The Washington Post, where this first appeared.