Clinton’s Senate interlude was an uneventful prelude to her 2008 presidential quest, which earned her, as a consolation prize, the State Department. There her tenure was defined by the “reset” with Russia and by regime-change-by-bombers in Libya.
Russia has responded by violently dismembering a European nation. Libya was the object of “humanitarian intervention,” an echo of Bill Clinton’s engagement in the Balkans that appealed to progressives because it was connected only tenuously, if at all, to the US national interest. Today, Libya is a humanitarian calamity, a failed state convulsed by civil war and exporting jihadists.
These episodes supposedly recommend a re-immersion in Clintonism, a phenomenon that in 2001 moved The Washington Post to say, more in anger than in sorrow, that “the Clintons’ defining characteristic” is that “they have no capacity for embarrassment.” This judgment was rendered as two episodes were demonstrating that the Clintons in power were defined by their manner of leaving it.
Bill Clinton punctuated his presidency by pardoning the late Marc Rich, a fugitive who 17 years earlier had been indicted for tax evasion, fraud and racketeering. He also traded with Libya and South Africa in contravention of embargos, and traded with Iran during the hostage crisis. Rich’s former wife reportedly contributed more than $1 million to assorted Democratic causes, $450,000 for Clinton’s presidential library and $10,000 to the legal-defense fund necessitated by Clinton’s glandular life that led to the Supreme Court effectively disbarring him from practicing before it.
A year before the Clintons decamped from Washington to begin planning their return to it, they began trucking away from the White House $190,000 worth of furnishings. Perhaps exigencies dictated this; the couple was, Hillary Clinton says, “dead broke.” The furnishings became, as things often do with the Clintons, another occasion for an “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” tiptoe along the ledge of illegality.
The White House chief usher thought many of the items were government property donated in 1993 to a redecoration project. Several donors of items said they were told this. Although the Clintons said that all the removed furnishings were personal gifts, they returned $28,000 worth of them.