Hillary Clinton won’t be able to say she didn’t see the bad moon rising. Donald Trump gave her a blistering introduction this week to Presidential Politics 102, which differs in a remarkable way from Politics 101, which she encountered in her first attempt in 2008 and before that as the managing partner in Bubba’s two campaigns.
Whatever she learned from Bubba didn’t take. He was a master at covering his tracks and playing the rube when forced to, with a Huck Finn grin and country charm: “Aw, whatcha gonna do with a good ol’ boy like me?” He got away with murder, and the goobers in the cheap seats loved him for it.
But Hillary is a different kind of Clinton. Bubba was in fact an actual good ol’ boy, a product of the unlikely Hot Springs casino culture that thrived among the hardshell Baptists and teetotaling Methodists, presided over by a mayor who paraded down the main street of the town he owned behind a brace of black and white horses he called Scotch and Soda. Bubba could get by with anything if he was respectful of the code he didn’t have to obey.
Hillary spent a term in Arkansas, which she despised and finally did everyone the favor of leaving. She was the Yankee lady only after the money. Bubba didn’t have anything against the money but all he really wanted were women – tall ones, short ones, vanilla and strawberry pastries occasionally washed down by a tall chocolate soda. And of course a political campaign, which Bubba played with the obsession that some men apply to golf or the horses.
Like the correct feminist that she is, Hillary gallantry and the manners wrought by the gentle breeding prized by Southerners (sometimes honored only in the breech), but she expects the deference and the courtesy alien to her nonetheless. Donald Trump obviously understands this and is determined to give her the rough and ribald ride she is not prepared for. In a “major address” this week he gave her the preview of the wrath to come, calling her “a world-class liar” who collected cash by the tub full when she was the secretary of State pretending to look out for the nation’s interests. “She gets rich,” he said, “by making you poor.”
He called her “the most corrupt person ever to run for president,” recognized as exaggeration and embroidery by anyone with a passing acquaintance with rude and rowdy frontier politics, but it had the ring of truth to anyone who has been reading the newspapers or watching cable television over the past two or three decades. The Clintons themselves wrote the book on Clinton corruption.
The political correspondents still don’t understand the politics of 2016, and continue to concentrate on the trivia of conventional politics that no longer apply, how the Donald has invested too little in infrastructure, how he struggles to manage the transition to the general election, how he’s unable to calibrate an uneven organization. All true, more or less, but the conventional pales before the unorthodox candidate with the gift for the memorable phrase or label that sticks to an opponent like something plastered on Velcro with Gorilla Glue.
“Hillary Clinton perfected the politics of personal profit and even theft,” the Donald told a rally this week in New York. The numbers of the audience were not worth counting, but the number of reporters with pad and pencil and the number of television cameras was of a sufficient plenty. “She ran the State Department like her personal hedge fund,” he told them, “doing favors for oppressive regimes and many others for cash, pure and simple.” Not very pure, actually, but simple enough.
The Clinton scandals, none forgettable and all memorable, are the gift that keeps on giving. One that bubbled to the surface again this week was the tale of one Rajiv Fernando, who traded millions to the Clinton Foundation, the family money sponge, for an appointment by Secretary of State Hillary to the International Security Advisory Board. Mr. Fernando was owner of something called Chopper Trading, hardly a qualification to measure and advise anyone on nuclear weapons and national security, even with his access to national secrets. He served only briefly, until questions were asked, with nuclear scientists, former senators, Cabinet officers and presidential security advisers.
This cash-for-access trade smelled so rank that even Hillary’s top aides could finally not abide the stench. Asked Philippe Reines, an assistant secretary of State: “Couldn’t he have landed a spot on the President’s Physical Fitness Council?” Hillary’s the authority on how to sell the White House. She practiced by peddling the Lincoln bedroom to campaign donors she was the first lady. Now she’s after a bigger inventory, and the Donald has her number.