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Clintons, Scandal, and The Imperial Presidency

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There are a couple of scandals brewing around Hillary Clinton.  One, her use of private email when SoS, is front page NYT.  (Which, by the way, may be far more significant than just the preservation of documents for historical purposes.)  The other scandal, far less covered, surrounds the Clinton Foundation’s willingness to accept donations from foreign governments and its rather lavish use of the funds so acquired.  This later scandal is new territory legally and ethically.  In a former president much of the foundations shenanigans are pushing the envelope of propriety, but when that former president’s wife is considered the front runner for the Democratic nomination for POTUS, propriety takes on a whole new impetus.

That said, these stories have struck me as yawners.  In a party as devoted to its presidential candidates as the Democrats have been of late, this kind of stuff is just water off a duck’s back.  And this early in the cycle, this stuff is completely off the radar of the general electorate and inoculating for when the general finally rolls around.

And Hillary knows that.  Hence her utter lack of discipline when serving as Obama’s Secretary of State.  Why worry about something as trivial as email accounts  years before votes are cast when your husband got away with perjury while in the White House?  Rules, after all, are for little people, not blessed folks like the Clinton’s.  It certainly brings to mind the term “imperial presidency.”

Which made me recall a piece by Ross Douthat from back in November of last year.  In it, Douthat proposes three factors as origins of Obama’s shift from a candidate that ran in opposition to an imperial presidency to the most imperial of presidents ever.  One factor he lays at the feet of the public, the second Congress.  It is the third that is most interesting:

Which bring us to the third factor in the president’s transformation: his own ambitions. While running for president, Obama famously praised Ronald Reagan for changing “the trajectory of America” in a way that Bill Clinton’s triangulation did not. And it’s his self-image as the liberal Reagan, I suspect, that’s made it psychologically impossible for this president to accept the limits that his two predecessors eventually accepted on their own policy-making ability.

As I reread that, I thought  “nonsense.”  It is not Obama’s self-image as “the liberal Reagan” that matters here; it is his inheritance of the Clinton legacy of personality over legality that drives his imperial actions.

It is astonishing to me that Bill Clinton and by extension, Hillary, enjoy such popularity after surviving impeachment.  I don’t know anyone that doubts the man committed perjury while president of the United States.  But I know a lot of people that do not think that crime was worthy of his removal as POTUS.  That the person is more important than the crime shifts the ground under the presidency from servant of the people to anointed ruler – and the true imperial presidency is born.

If you want to know the origins of Obama’s imperial actions, don’t look to Ronald Reagan, look to Bill Clinton.  And then look to Bill Clinton’s wife and ask yourself what will happen if the originators of this trend are allowed to further it.  It is not a pretty picture.


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