Is this New York Times story of Bill Clinton’s use of his reputation as a former President going to suck the oxygen out of Hillary’s campaign this week? It doesn’t accuse him of any wrongdoing, but it will call into question Hillary’s ability to put a lease on her husband and his personal ambitions. Although those ambitions may be admirable (raising money for his charitable foundation) the method by which he raises those funds may be called into question.
In a statement Kazakhstan would highlight in news releases, Mr. Clinton declared that he hoped it would achieve a top objective: leading the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which would confer legitimacy on Mr. Nazarbayev’s government.
“I think it’s time for that to happen, it’s an important step, and I’m glad you’re willing to undertake it,” Mr. Clinton said.
A Speedy Process
Mr. Clinton’s praise was odd, given that the United States did not support Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid. (Late last year, Kazakhstan finally won the chance to lead the security organization for one year, despite concerns raised by the Bush administration.) Moreover, Mr. Clinton’s wife, who sits on a Congressional commission with oversight of such matters, had also voiced skepticism.
Eleven months before Mr. Clinton’s statement, Mrs. Clinton co-signed a commission letter to the State Department that sounded “alarm bells” about the prospect that Kazakhstan might head the group. The letter stated that Kazakhstan’s bid “would not be acceptable,” citing “serious corruption,” canceled elections and government control of the news media.
In a written statement to The Times, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman said the former president saw “no contradiction” between his statements in Kazakhstan and the position of Mrs. Clinton, who said through a spokeswoman, “Senator Clinton’s position on Kazakhstan remains unchanged.”
Noting that the former president also met with opposition leaders in Almaty, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman said he was only “seeking to suggest that a commitment to political openness and to fair elections would reflect well on Kazakhstan’s efforts to chair the O.S.C.E.”
But Robert Herman, who worked for the State Department in the Clinton administration and is now at Freedom House, a human rights group, said the former president’s statement amounted to an endorsement of Kazakhstan’s readiness to lead the group, a position he called “patently absurd.”
“He was either going off his brief or he was sadly mistaken,” Mr. Herman said. “There was nothing in the record to suggest that they really wanted to move forward on democratic reform.”
What this all boils down to is Bill Clinton trading on his reputation as a former President. While that in and of itself is not illegal, it does appear that his personal efforts to assist Mr Giustra were in opposition to stated US Foreign Policy. These actions could set a dangerous precedent, while causing his wife’s campaign problems.
What sort of muddy waters do we threaten to toss ourselves into if we elect Mrs. Clinton? It’s beginning to look a lot like the 90’s.