She’s sailing, pretty much unopposed, to the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and, if current polls are any indication, to the White House in 2017. The latest poll, from Quinnipiac, finds that Clinton leads Elizabeth Warren by 58-11 percent, with Joe Biden at 9 percent. And matched against would-be challengers on the Republican side, including Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan, Clinton leads each by seven to nine points, and her favorability rating (“likable enough”?) is 48-43 percent positive.
The Clinton-vs.-GOP numbers are likely to tighten as a candidate emerges from the pack, and as the Republican party’s avalanche of negative ads gains momentum: Benghazi! That 1975 rape case! Umm, and what about that Whitewater/Vince Foster thing? But none of that is likely to stick, and she’s by far the strongest candidate as the presidential season gets underway. But, as a series of recent articles underscores, Clinton is the quintessential über-establishment candidate, with close ties to Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, and a passel of neoconservatives. So, just as the Tea Party is going to face the unpalatable choice in 2016 of (1) holding its nose and voting for whatever GOP establishment figure gets the nomination, (b) staying home on election day and handing a lopsided victory to Clinton or (c) bolting the party for an independent or third-party standard-bearer, liberals, the left, and progressives have the same difficult choice to make, in the other direction.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, even before the race gets started Clinton is distancing herself from an increasingly unpopular President Obama on both foreign policy and economic policy. For anyone who’s paid attention to Clinton’s political arc since 1992, however, it’s clear that she won’t run either as an Elizabeth Warren–style populist or as a peace candidate. Though her rhetoric might veer back and forth, she’s almost certain to run as one more hawkish than Obama on world affairs and as a candidate who won’t challenge Wall Street’s egregious record of criminality, reckless speculation and staunch defense of the privileges of the 1 percent.
In its important July 5 piece by Jacob Heilbrunn—called “The Next Act of the Neocons: Are Neocons Getting Ready to Ally with Hillary Clinton?”—The New York Times described how an important faction of the neoconservative movement, led by Robert Kagan and Max Boot, and including Michael McFaul, are edging their way into Clinton’s camp, where they’re likely to get a cautious welcome. (Clinton and Kagan have been close in the past, and in 2011 she appointed him to her Foreign Affairs Policy Board when she was secretary of state.) Especially if the GOP’s anti-interventionist, libertarian wing gets traction in 2016, neoconservatives are likely to flock toward Clinton. In the beginning—that is, back in the 1970s—the neoconservatives were almost all Democrats, working in the offices of right-wing Democratic senators such as Scoop Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan and working for liberal, hawkishly pro-Israel media outlets. So, in a sense, they could be returning to their roots.
Parallel with its exploration of Clinton’s relationship with the neoconservatives, two days later The New York Times also examined Clinton’s ties to Wall Street. The article opens:
As its relationship with Democrats hits a historic low, Wall Street sees a solution on the horizon: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Under pressure to sound off as a populist, Clinton, Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation all maintain intimate ties to Wall Street’s biggest players, and while her spokesman told the Times that she’s committed to “reducing inequality and increasing upward mobility,” she’s hasn’t seemed willing to confront Wall Street. One Clinton backer, Bill Daley, the pro-business ex-mayor of Chicago who served as President Clinton’s secretary of commerce and then as President Obama’s White House chief of staff, told the Times:
I think there’s a potential window for Democrats to come back, but if it is one wing of the party pushing the populist line—anti-big banks, punishing people whether or not they had anything to do with the crisis—they’ll lock this crowd into a Republican alternative.
By “this crowd,” Daley—now a hedge fund manager—meant the people Obama in 2009 called “fat cats.”
Lately, of course, Clinton has rightly drawn heavy fire for claiming in an interview that she and Bill Clinton were “dead broke” in 2001, even as they reaped many tens of millions of dollars on lucrative speeches and other ventures. Way back in April 2008, The Washington Post reported that the Clintons earned $109 million between 2001 and 2008, including $30 million from best-selling books and $15 million from “an investment partnership with one of her top presidential campaign fundraisers.” More recently, on June 26, the Post reported that Bill Clinton alone earned $104.9 million for 542 paid speeches between 2001 and 2014, including nearly $20 million from Wall Street. (According to the article, Bill Clinton has earned $1.35 million from Goldman Sachs alone, speaking eight times.) Regarding Hillary Clinton, the Post reported:
Since leaving the State Department, Hillary Clinton has followed her husband and a roster of recent presidents and secretaries of state in this profitable line of work, addressing dozens of industry groups, banks and other organizations for pay. Records of her earnings are not publicly available, but executives familiar with the engagements said her standard fee is $200,000 and up, and that she has been in higher demand than her husband.
The Clintons, it must be admitted, are not “Romney rich.” They’re not rich like the Koch brothers, George Soros, the Kennedys, the Rockefellers or the Internet-era billionaires such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. (Hillary Clinton’s own, rather inelegant way of making this point is to say that she and Bill are not “truly well off” and that they pay ordinary income taxes, not capital gains taxes.) But that’s not the point, really: in the end, the truly wealthy are independent and not beholden to anyone, while the Clintons are essentially 1 percent’s hired guns, well-paid servants of the ultra elite.
If Clinton runs against, say, Jeb Bush, in a dynasty vs. dynasty clash of the rich, her Wall Street ties and enormous wealth might be neutered. But if her challenger is someone like Christie or, less likely, Rand Paul, she’ll find herself having a difficult time posing as the friend of the middle class, the workers and the poor, since she’ll be by far the wealthier, better-off one. And, as the National Post reported, that ought to worry Democrats. The Washington Post, reporting on Clinton’s 1 percent status, ran a piece on June 22 titled: “Some Democrats fear Clinton’s wealth and ‘imperial image’ could be damaging in 2016.” In it, Philip Rucker reported that her “$5 million Washington home” is “appointed like an ambassador’s mansion”:
Mahogany antiques, vibrant paintings and Oriental rugs fill the rooms. French doors open onto an expertly manicured garden and a turquoise swimming pool, where Clinton recently posed for the cover of People magazine.
And the Post added:
On her current book tour, the former secretary of state has travelled the country by private jet as she has for many of her speaking engagements since stepping down as secretary of state last year. Her fee is said to be upwards of $200,000 per speech; the exceptions tend to be black-tie charity galas, where she collects awards and catches up with friends such as designer Oscar de la Renta and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.