[Since I wrote this post it has come to my attention that CNN is just this evening reporting the Clintons have actually received approximately $153 million in speaking fees since 2001, averaging about $200,000 per speech. I am astonished. I thought the $675, 000 discussed below was an unseemly amount for Hillary to get for three speeches. It's just their going rate! CNN further states: "The two also reported at least $7.7 million for at least 39 speeches to big banks, including Goldman Sachs and UBS, with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic 2016 front-runner, collecting at least $1.8 million for at least eight speeches to big banks." I repeat— I am astonished.]
Hillary Clinton is an attorney. I am an attorney. We both know one thing for sure. In fact, the attorneys' bar associations require we know this: Appearances do matter. As my sainted Irish politico mother used to say, "The appearance of propriety is as important as propriety itself."
We all know what that means. It's why judges "recuse" themselves, i.e. do not hear cases in which they have some connection to one of the parties. For the sake of protecting public respect for the law, judges must not even appear to have favorites in a case.
You don't have to be an attorney to get this. In Little League the general rule is that the umpire is not the father of one of the players.
When Hillary Clinton takes a lot of money from banks—and it's public record she has done so— she creates the impression she is beholden to them. To add to this impression she has indeed favored them even when the public interest seemed contrary. The banks would have been greatly aided when she changed her prior position and supported making bankruptcy laws harsher on middle class families, who typically were being crushed into bankruptcy by catastrophic medical bills. Before becoming a senator funded by the banks, she had actually opposed this crushing measure.
But even if we didn't know about this—and the media is just now digging up this sad act of hers—she has created the impression that she is the banks' bought-and-paid-for senator. You can't take $675,000 from Goldman Sachs in one year just to make three speeches without it looking pretty damn strange. When queried about the huge size of this fee by a moderator at a New Hampshire campaign event, Hillary looked flustered and said, "Well, that's what they were offering."
Couldn't she see such questions were inevitable if she took such huge sums? Hillary's not stupid. Why couldn't she see that she was setting herself up for looking very bad indeed.
What's worse is that she has made the Senate seem more corrupt than it might have otherwise. Of course, I have to admit that Congress is already held in low esteem by the American public, with a favorable rating somewhere around 14%. That's pretty bad even for Congress. But it isn't the fate of Congress I worry about.
It's the kids that I worry about. All those kids ages18-to-25 now pouring into politics. I raised six kids on my own, have ten grandkids of approximately college age, and I have taught thousands more young people in law school and college. I love the young. They have a right to believe in their country and in their own future. If their government appears corrupt, then their vision of their own future is diminished. They know they can't win in a rigged game. In fact, they know they can't even survive.
We are, in fact, in a life and death struggle this election year. The young know it. They fear climate change. They also struggle with inadequately paid jobs and severe college debt. Fewer and fewer can even marry, buy homes, start families. They see corruption in our government as a literal death warant for the planet, let alone the death of their own modest dreams of a home and family. With government bought and paid for by money-making, short-sighted businesses, limiting global warming is doomed and thus we are all doomed. We need laws and enforcement that make sense for our future rather than laws that just make money for the one percent.
If our government continues to appear corrupt, something really bad could happen. We see inklings of it in Donald Trump strutting and posturing like Mussolini. The media thinks his popularity depends entirely on his anti-immigrant tirades, but that's not entirely it by a long shot. He is speaking to the blue-collar men who are already so disheartended that they are reported as dying in droves from the virtual suicide of drugs and alcohol. The media is startled to find that some of the blue-collar men are also considering voting for Bernie Sanders because he too is against the rigged game. Donald Trump's biggest move was to declare he was financing his own campaign and would be beholden to no monied interest.
If Hillary's appearance of impropriety continues, it's not just that she will lose the nomination or lose the general election. She will help start the snowball downhill as we continue the beginnings of a slide toward some dreadful sort of rebellion in this country. I don't mean the "political revoluton" Bernie Sanders talks of. Not at all. It could be brown shirts and boots and torches. It could be broken shop windows and rounding up of "the others" who supposedly made the problems. I was a child when it happened in Europe as fascism and—yes!—it could happen here.
America is an act of faith. The appearance of a corrupt government destroys faith.
Is that worth the $675,000, Hillary?