In an age when corruption and scandal have become so endemic in the body politic that many citizens are left either jaded or numb, it is difficult to identify a case of corruption which is so heinous that members of the general public are shocked back into a sense of awareness. The revelations of whistleblowers and tell-all books have a hard time competing for the attentions of an ambivalent audience. And when the scandals touch upon the interest of one of the self-proclaimed American dynasties such as the Kennedys, Bushes, or Clintons, the revelations may briefly titillate, but they rarely reshape the attitudes of political partisans who have long since made up their minds regarding the respective dynasties.
When it comes to generating scandals, the Clinton family often appears to be the political equivalent of a perpetual motion machine: All that seems to have changed since the days when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas is that the scale of the scandals has expanded to proportions that might once have seemed inconceivable. Thus, as the next presidential election cycle begins to ramp up, Hillary Clinton has endeavored to dismiss any and all of the questions about her record as a U.S. senator and as secretary of state as "much ado about nothing." From the tragedy of Benghazi to the legal wrangling over her private e-mail server, Clinton has continued to act as if responding to critics is beneath her dignity. It is a dismissive strategy that has worked — until now.
Clinton Cash — The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, a new book by Peter Schweizer, has punched through the teflon armor of Bill and Hillary Clinton and has stirred up the hornets’ nest of their flacks and sycophants. Schweizer is hardly a stranger to the howls of outrage which members of the political class make when someone slams the till closed on their thieving fingers: Several of his previous books (including Extortion, Architects of Ruin, and Throw Them All Out) have earned him a number of powerful enemies inside the Beltway among the ranks of both Democrats and Republicans. However, Clinton Cash exposes a scandal that threatens to overshadow everything that Schweizer has previously documented, and the author clearly understands that Clinton flacks will endeavor to dismiss his work as a partisan attack:
Given my previous focus on bipartisan self-dealing and corruption, why am I now focused on one couple? Do I simply have it in for Bill and Hillary? Am I somehow trying to derail her prospects of being elected president in 2016?
The answer is pretty straightforward: the global dealings of this political couple deserve bipartisan citizen attention as much as congressional insider trading or campaign contribution extortion did. No one has even come close in recent years to enriching themselves on the scale of the Clintons while they or a spouse continued to serve in public office....
To put an even finer point on it: I am focusing specifically on financial transactions involving foreign businesses, investors, and governments. Foreign interests can’t donate to political campaigns. But they can pay money for speeches. And they can donate to the Clinton Foundation.
In Schweizer’s analysis, the Clinton Foundation that the former president and first lady established after Bill Clinton left office is at the heart of a very strange meeting point of charity, politics, and personal aggrandizement. In Schweizer’s words:
The Clinton Foundation is not your traditional charity. A traditional charity doesn’t have a globe-trotting ex-president, an ex-secretary of state, and their daughter running the show. But for all the benefits that derive from such star power, the real problem is delineating where the Clinton political machine and moneymaking ventures end and where their charity begins.
The 11 chapters of Clinton Cash offer a summary of a record which is at some times infuriating and also galling. Schweizer’s extensive documentation of the Clintons’ involvement in the destabilization of the balance of nuclear power in the world takes front and center in the book. Thus, for example, Schweizer documents the questionable infusion of cash into the Clinton Foundation from Canadian mining interests that wanted to invest in uranium assets in Kazakhstan. At the same time, according to Schweizer, the Clintons facilitated deals that gave Putin-controlled Russian interests control over a substantial portion of American uranium production:
The result: Uranium One and half of projected American uranium production were transferred to a private company controlled in turn by the Russian State Nuclear Agency. Strangely enough, when Uranium One requested approval from CFIUS by the federal government, Ian Telfer, a major Clinton Foundation donor, was chairman of the board, a position he continues to hold.
From Kazakhstan, to India, to Haiti, to the Congo, and numerous other corners of the world, a pattern emerges, wherein wealthy, powerful interests suddenly find support for their dubious adventures through a strange coincidence of lucrative speaking engagements for a former president while his wife oversaw much of American foreign policy from the corridors of power in the U.S. State Department. The compounding of supposed coincidences emerging from a constellation of “charitable, political, and financial interests” is referred to as the “Clinton Blur” by Schweizer.
Roughly a quarter of Schweizer’s book is devoted to documenting his charges through extensive notes. However, as in his previous books, the author’s style is engaging and accessible, allowing the reader to follow the line of reasoning with relative ease, despite the complexity of the scandals that he dissects. Reading Clinton Cash, one may very well ask, “Why haven’t I heard about this before now?” The truth is that raising questions about the Clintons has a way of becoming a very self-destructive activity: Once Clinton operatives begin to target a critic, intimidation and denigration of the critic may become the order of the day.
Schweizer has certainly become the focus of such criticism. Even Bill Clinton deigned to enter the fray, and declared concerning Schweizer: “Even the guy that wrote the book apparently had to admit under questioning that, ‘We didn’t have a shred of evidence for this, we just sort of thought we would throw it out there and see if it flies.’ And it won’t fly.” The 60 pages of footnotes at the end of Clinton Cash makes one wonder how the former president defines “evidence.” However, when a man has a hard time defining “is,” one must presume that much of the dictionary is open to redefinition, as well.
Schweizer makes it clear throughout Clinton Cash that his purpose is to fulfill the journalist’s responsibility of documenting the chain of "coincidences" that have led to a great deal of wealth and power for the Clintons. In the assessment of this reviewer, the evidence that he has amassed calls out for an official investigation by those authorities charge with the responsibility to act in cases of influence peddling. Whether such an investigation will ever take place, only time can tell. However, Schweizer has directed a spotlight on some of the darkest corners of America’s shadiest first family, and the scandal that has erupted into the light of day with the publication of Clinton Cash is likely to reverberate for quite some time to come.
Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash — The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich. (HarperCollins: New York, 2015). 243 pages. Hardcover. $27.99