The Real Scandal of Clinton’s Emails: Conducting Foreign Policy In Secret
Former White House counselor Bill Curry says nothing illegal took place - but that's the essence of corruption which characterizes the political system of the US
Former White House counselor Bill Curry says nothing illegal took place - but that's the essence of corruption which characterizes the political system of the US
KIM BROWN, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown.
Well, Bernie Sanders may have spoken too soon when he said to Hillary Clinton during one of the Democratic debates, we’re tired of hearing about your damn emails. According to the FBI there are about 15,000 additional emails and documents from during the time she was Secretary of State that were not turned over by her lawyers to investigators. And this discovery has led to more questions about whether or not Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State was pedaling influence and giving favorable deals to donors to the Clinton foundation.
Joining us today is Bill Curry. Bill is a columnist for Salon.com and he was also White House councilor to President Bill Clinton. Bill thank you so much for joining us.
BILL CURRY: My pleasure as always.
BROWN: Well there’s so much to unpack here so let’s get right to it. The Associated Press is reporting that 154 people from private interest groups either met or had scheduled phone conversations with then Secretary Clinton. Out of those 154 persons, as many as 85 of those individuals ended up either donating to the Clinton Foundation or pledging a commitment of some kind to the foundation’s international program. Now the tally for those donors came to about 156 million dollars. Bill is this unusual dealings for a sitting Secretary of State?
CURRY: I think it’s probably a little more of that particular kind of influence seeking for Secretary of State. But my guess is not way more. I can tell you that for any president, vice president, senator, cabinet secretary, governor, all you’re seeing here is the curtain pulled back on a conveyor belt of the wealthy, powerful, and privileged who show up at the doors of every government agency every day of our lives seeking special favor. And one of the things that I think — as I listened to Donald Trump and Reince Priebus call for a special prosecutor, I haven’t seen any evidence that a law has been broken.
But that’s the problem. The problem is that our laws our entire, especially our campaign finance system but all of our no big contracts and revolving doors and the list goes on, whistle blower protections that we don’t have, freedom of information which has been in so many ways defamed. We lack civic self-respect as a nation. So we’ve allowed things that are wrong that are nonetheless legal. It’s all wrong. But one it’s not just the Clinton system, it’s the entire system. And two from everything we’ve seen so far it’s pretty much perfectly legal.
BROWN: And the AP noted that exact point in their reporting. They said that agreements signed by both Bill and Hillary Clinton when she accepted the position of Secretary of State, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that either Clinton violated these agreements. So as you said, it doesn’t appear as though anything illegal transpired. However, it does seem that Bill Clinton on Monday was trying to get in front of this when he announced that the Clinton Foundation would no longer accept donations from foreign governments or from American corporations or corporate charities should Mrs. Clinton be elected. Do you think Bill Clinton saw this coming?
CURRY: Let me just first of all say that it’s way too late to get in front of it. It’s more like trying to get out from under it at this point because its already hit. I wrote in Salon over a year ago that the Clintons should divest themselves completely of any interest in the Clinton Foundation. Put it in some sort of managerial equipment of a blind trust and have no further communications with it of any kind. At the time that was considered, no one took me up on it. I’ll just leave it at that.
But it was the smart thing to do as well as the right thing to do. It’s amazing how often those two things actually converge. But they don’t. They’re always a day late and a dollar short on this. It always causes them more trouble than they needed to have and you know they should shut it down. I think now what I thought then which is there’s no reason to wait till she’s president to do any of this. This is an intrinsically ethically problematic situation. It’s just bound to create these kinds of problems.
Again that doesn’t mean that it’s legally problematic. My guess is that they’ve been quite careful to abide by the laws. Not to nuzzle up against that fence at any point. Or to the best of their ability. But that’s not the point. It’s still wrong. It’s still a problem for us. And we still want to have a different kind of foreign policy just as we want to have a different kind of government out of democracy.
BROWN: And there’s a lot of reporting about this. Not just from the Associated Press but from a variety of media outlets. One of those being the International Business Times, the IBT. It’s reporting that while Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton gave either some sort of preference or she pushed along or pushed through an arms deal with the country of Bahrain. Bahrain being a donor to the Clinton Foundation. Bahrain also being a notorious human rights violator. It’s so hard to say there’s something not correct here because when you look at that sort of chain that the IBT set out in their reporting, it looks a little nefarious at minimum. Is there a problem with Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State using her influence in that position? Because as they point out in their piece that the State Department is solely responsible or has a large responsibility in the arms deals with other countries and foreign entities. And Mrs. Clinton as her role as Secretary of State also accepted donations from Bahrain and also had her hands in this arms deal. What do you think about that?
CURRY: Again I think with all this there’s a larger point being missed. And I get that this is the kind of thing that the media could facet on but here’s the thing. You don’t have to out anybody’s emails to know that certainly at least a third of the countries we give arms to have terrible human rights records. But this is in the budget. This has been a matter of public knowledge since I was born. And so you want the country to step but just a little bit and say by the way, if this bothers you then really there’s an entire American foreign policy bipartisan and continuous that ought to bother you.
Everybody knows we give arms to Saudi Arabia and everybody knows they have a terrible human rights record. You don’t need Hillary Clinton’s emails. And I could list more but we don’t have all the time in the world. The second thing about this is the question about her lying and what is the nature in terms of the — remember the James Comey press conference and think of all the allegations that had been made. Reince Priebus and Trump saying there ought to be a special prosecutor when there are no apparent violations. Priebus saying Clinton’s a terrible liar.
Then Trump has a narcissistic character disorder. He’s a serial liar. The likes of which we’ve never seen. It’s a tough case to make frankly. The problem here though, if we just want to stop for a second and look at it is that so much of American foreign policy has been conducted in secret. And that every time the national security or foreign policy issues are settled in secret, the odds of our doing something that shames us as a country go way up. And when our foreign policy and national security issues are conducted out in the open, they tend to often be more high minded.
They tend to be more like the kind of foreign policy that we think America is identified with. And we like to think we would be identified with. And so there’s a piece here that the problem with this from the beginning is — and it never ends up being the beginning of the conversation. The problem is that Clinton wasn’t doing this for convenience. She wasn’t doing this to keep her daughter’s wedding or her mom’s funeral out of public scrutiny. She was doing this in order to foil freedom of information. She was doing this to take her business affairs and even her policy affairs further from the possibility of public scrutiny.
What there really ought to be here is a recognition. Again when it’s down and dirty and in private you get the Vietnam War. You get the Iraq War. You get serial lies drawing us into conflicts that have led our country in the world. And when it’s done out in public you get the Martial Plan and Alliance for progress. You get better stuff. And so this really is — if Clinton wanted to have a moment in which she took some responsibility for this, the thing she could do is turn to the camera and it would be great if she really meant this and said, look I get that people are upset about this and I understand why. I understand that people have had enough secrecy. I understand they don’t want American foreign policy taken private and I promise you that when I get into office I’m going to take this lesson to heart. I’m going to make the most publicly accountable foreign policy, national security policy that we have. So far that hasn’t seemed to occur to anyone to say that. But I’d feel better if all the progressive anger were directed at that machinery of foreign policy and that machinery of national security which has served us so poorly.
BROWN: Bill I think it was Greg Sargent of the Washington Post. He wrote today, I’m paraphrasing here that basically this most recent revelation about these 15 thousand not turned over emails, its only being scandalized because of who it’s about. It’s about Hillary Clinton and about Bill Clinton. And I think if most people are honest regardless of how you feel about the Clintons, they’ve certainly been the targets of political media operatives, going back 20 or 30 years depending on who’s counting. Is this just a matter of people being mad that Bill and Hillary Clinton play the game seemingly a lot better than everybody else?
CURRY: Among elites, especially among Republican elites it probably is a question of people just being angry that Bill and Hillary play the game better than they do because they are playing the exact same game just not quite as well. But among the broader public I think its anger at the game itself. And again this is the point of the Bernie Sanders campaign was that we had two huge problems. One that the democracy was corrupt and two that the middle class is dying. And his third point was that the first problem is the principle cause of the second.
And whether and I would add to those two that the third grade issues and perhaps the greatest issue of our time is climate change. And in order to deal with these issues, in order to deal with the slow death of the middle class and the slow death of our environment we have to clean up our politics. We have to bring all of our decision making open. We need a democratic revolution against money interests who have never in the Gilded Age, not [boss tweed], there’s no precedent for the amount of control that they exercise every day in this country.
And so that’s really our job and what I see here the Clinton on the democratic side there is no question that they were architects both of global finance capitalism and the pay to play politics that sustains and they didn’t do illegal things. It’s not a question of who has better character. And if it’s a question of character again Donald Trump finishes last in any race by a lot. But the point here, the problem for Clinton, the problem that I had hoped Bernie Sanders would’ve made when he said we’re tired of hearing about your damn emails was that really the problem is that the entire system is corrupt and no one including Mrs. Clinton seems to have admitted that to themselves.
The fact that she remains in denial about the corruption of the system is the greatest target against her candidacy. Again you can’t help it. I feel morally bound to point out that Donald Trump has spent his entire life corrupting the system. Everything I just said, his entire business. He lives at the intersection of business and politics. By his own account he has spent his life buying influence around politicians. And he says the politicians are bad because they sell it but he’s good because he buys it? There is no logic to it. So to see us all having this discussion about whether Hillary Clinton is more corrupt than some other political candidate, certainly Trump, when we need to be having a discussion.
We need to have a whole new foreign policy. We need a whole new climate change policy to develop a sustainable economics based on the conservation and renewable energy. We need to clean up our democracy. There are a set of political choices we could make right now. If we made the right choices, we could get on the right road. What’s most amazing about all of this is that we’re talking about this other stuff instead.
BROWN: And Bill lastly you say we need other choices right now in terms of president we have two of the most unpopular candidates historically that according to polling the American people not only dislike both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, they don’t seem to trust either of them. With this email scandal seemingly the story that does not want to die. We’ve been dealing with this well over a year now. Do you think this latest revelation is going to have any impact on Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness amongst voters?
CURRY: I’m hoping that something has happened in the last few weeks and that is that Trump’s craziness has made its point. The media did such a horrible job here. Trump is self-evidently a fascist. I’ve never thrown that word around. I hope not in the future but he fulfills every sociologist and political scientist’s textbook definition at some level.
His entire life is a fraud. Almost everything he’s ever said about himself including his wealth is completely fraudulent. And he’s emotionally unhinged. It’s important for us to realize however as a country that if it weren’t for the mental instability this race would probably be tied. If Trump had any impulse control apparently the fact that he’s a fraud and a fascist wouldn’t have been enough to take him out. That’s a very disturbing possibility to ponder.
I look at this and I very much want him to lose. I really do believe the progressives are better off by a lot. By not electing Donald Trump and that means electing Hillary Clinton. End of story. And the question to me is what do we do at 8:01 that night? I hope Trump loses in a landslide. I don’t even care what state you’re in. This is the closest that someone so fascistic has come to the White House in the history of our country.
I hope it’s a double digit defeat in the end. I think probably one of the many reasons I supported Bernie Sanders and strongly is that I felt that all the other democrats said that his radicalism would be a problem for them. They didn’t see that the Clintons’ ethical problems would mean more to people than the fact that Bernie wanted single payer healthcare, free college. In fact, those were in fact attractive things. I feel like we’re in a terrible situation here.
Even now while I believe Hillary will win. I do not think this is a done deal. This is according to real clear politics a 5-point race. So it’s still out there. So to me I see a two-step process. I pray Trump is defeated and then at 8:01pm on election night that we begin the construction of an independent progressive movement starting with public ethics and world peace and peace issues.
Starting with the very two things that are under discussion in these emails. Ethics and foreign policy and defense. That we need the strength in the progressive movement and we need to take steps to make sure there’s a progressive movement that simply hasn’t been colonized by the democratic party. But which like the old [women’s] and peace and environmental movements of the 60’s and 70’s stands up independently and brings pressure for change.
BROWN: We’ve been speaking with Bill Curry. Bill is a columnist for Salon.com. He was also a White House counselor to President Bill Clinton. Bill Curry thanks a lot for joining us.
CURRY: My pleasure as always.
BROWN: And thank you for watching the Real News Network.
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