As a longtime observer of the American political scene one of my favorite pastimes is to watch mega-rich politicians pretend they are “regular folks” who love the “little people.” Baloney!
The most recent example of this weird but entertaining phenomenon is ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s claim she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were “dead broke” when they left the White House — taking some of the furniture with them — in January, 2001. I have to give Ms. Clinton due credit, however, because she managed to maintain a straight face while she poor-mouthed the Clintons’ financial crisis. It was quite a performance.
The main problem with the “dead broke” scenario was the Clintons signed multi-million-dollar book deals before they left the White House. According to PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter, Ms. Clinton’s poverty claim is “mostly false” because official financial disclosure forms reveal the Clintons earned more than $1 million in 2000 and nearly $12 million in 2001. And moreover, Bill began collecting a federal pension of more than $150,000 per year while Hillary was earning $145,000 as a U.S. senator from New York. Dead broke? Not likely. Most American families could probably get by on a combined income of nearly $300,000 not counting speeches and book advances.
Most of the Clintons’ 2001 income came from Bill’s speech making — at more than $200,000 per speech — and Hillary’s million-dollar book advance. In 1999 they bought a five-bedroom home in Chappaqua, N.Y. for $1.7 million and purchased a luxurious seven-bedroom home in Washington, D.C. for $2.85 million in Dec., 2000 as they departed the White House. This is just the most recent example of how politicians who live the good life in Washington, D.C., only pretend to understand the financial struggles of Middle America. By now the Clintons are creatures of Washington, as are most potential 2016 presidential candidates.
The Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea, now commands $75,000 per speech, which spurred liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd to write Chelsea is “cashing in to feed the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton, Inc. . . . The Clintons keep acting as though all they care about is selfless public service. So why does it keep coming back to gross money grabs?” Good question. Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal chimed-in by writing “most of their (the Clintons’) scandals were about money -- from luckily timed cattle-future investments to Whitewater to campaign financing lapses to last-minute pardons for donors to ‘renting out’ the Lincoln Bedroom, and more.”
Hillary Clinton explained her “dead broke” comment by telling Diane Sawyer of ABC News “we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses (and) for Chelsea’s education. It wasn’t easy.” But she acknowledged she and her husband have done well over the past 14 years. Ms. Sawyer then asked whether Ms. Clinton had made at least $5 million in speaking fees in recent years, a relevant question for Nevada because Hillary is set collect $225,000 for an upcoming speech at UNLV; the president of the UNLV Students Association has asked Hillary to donate her fee back to the university. Fat chance!
“I think she’s been out of touch with average people for a long time,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
“Whether she was flat broke or not is not the issue. It’s tone deaf to average people.”
So Hillary will have to overcome Clinton Fatigue if she runs for president again in 2016.
One final question: Do we really want to put the Clintons back in the White House? I don’t. How about you?
Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.