Saturday, March 8, 2008

Campaign 08: Vetting Mrs. Clinton Softly

I recently observed that "vetting" in the dictionary of Hillary Clinton appears to mean to provide "clumsy rebuttals to scrutiny without significant consequence." You could hardly find a better example of my reasoning than in a CNN transcript that can be found here. On casual review, what stands out is 1) this very active - and therefore "experienced" - member of the White House for eight years knew nothing about her husband, the deputy White House counsel, her husband's brother, her own brother, her campaign treasurer or her own legal advisor. These individuals were into pardon scandals up to their ears. But she knew nothing about any of it. What also stands out is that 2) she refuses to condemn the controversial last-minute pardons of Marc Rich in the face of a direct question and a comment by former President Jimmy Carter.

Instead, Mrs. Clinton seems to advise us that it is not kind to be judgemental or to second-guess the decision making of her husband, and that we all just have to decide for ourselves and, of course, suck it up. Now that Mrs. Clinton has had eight long years to think about it all, it is obviously appropriate for someone to ask her about it once again. As president, will she pardon her own relatives, top donors, most-wanted fugitives and terrorists and tell us all that she is shocked and dismayed that we are judgmental? and ask us to just draw whatever conclusions we can conclude, because everyone is entitled to their own opinion? Here are some excerpts of the "vetting" process for Mrs. Clinton (be prepare not to be impressed):

QUESTION: ... your brother and the pardon and clemency petition, first? And secondly, do you think your husband handled these pardons appropriately?
CLINTON: Well, I was very disappointed and saddened by this whole matter. You know, it came as a surprise to me, and it was very disturbing. And I'm just very disappointed about it. With respect to any questions about the pardons or the president's handling of the pardons, you'll have to ask him or his staff about that ...

QUESTION: What about Roger Clinton in specific: Did he ask for a pardon?
CLINTON: I don't know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Did he ask the president for a pardon?
CLINTON: I don't know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Why would anyone, Mrs. Clinton, contact your brother if they were not trying to get access to you or the president?
CLINTON: Well, you'll have to ask him. If I had known about this, we wouldn't be standing here today. I didn't know about it, and I'm very regretful that it occurred, that I didn't know about it. I might have been able to prevent this from happening. And I'm just very disappointed about the whole matter ...

QUESTION: What exactly did you not know about? Did you not know that he was representing them? Did you not know about the money? And finally, what about your campaign treasurer, William Cunningham? Should he also return the fee that he got regarding the two other pardons?
CLINTON: Well, let's separate these out. I did not know my brother was involved in any way in any of this. I learned that there were some press inquiries, of a vague nature, last week sometime. I did not know any specific information until late Monday night ... Now, with respect to Mr. Cunningham, I knew nothing about that. But I know that he is, you know, a fine lawyer and a fine man. And I had no knowledge that he was involved ...

QUESTION: What about Mr. Ickes? It sounded like...
CLINTON: I did not know anything about that either ...

QUESTION: Senator, did you ever have a discussion with your brother, notwithstanding his professional involvement, about pardons or commutations? And the same question as regarding Bruce Lindsey?
CLINTON: No, I did not. You know, I don't have any memory at all of ever talking to my brother about this. You know, that's my best memory. But I have to say, and I will repeat once again, information was coming to me, information was passed on. So, you know, if I said information came, people wanted to look at, I might have said that. I just don't remember anything further than that ...

QUESTION: So your brother may have spoken to someone who then spoke to you.
CLINTON: No, not about any involvement of my brother. No, I want to make that 100 percent clear. I don't want you to try to put words in my mouth. I knew nothing about my brother's involvement in these pardons. I knew nothing about his taking money for his involvement. I had no knowledge of that whatsoever ...

QUESTION: Did [the President] ever speak to you about the pardons?
CLINTON: No, he did not ...

QUESTION: Senator, is Marc Rich among the people that he passed information on?
CLINTON: No. You know, I never knew about Marc Rich at all. You know, people would hand me envelopes, I would just pass them. You know, I would not have any reason to look into them. I knew nothing about the Marc Rich pardon until after it happened ...

QUESTION: Senator, do you think your husband made a mistake in pardoning Marc Rich?
CLINTON:
I know that other senators have commented on this, and I think you might understand why I'm not going to have any comment on any of the pardons, on the merits or demerits that might surround any of these pardons.

QUESTION: The person who is handling your campaign finances is also pushing pardon matters before the president you're married to. Doesn't that send a signal?
CLINTON: Well, you know, I don't know anything more about this than what has been reported. ... That's all I know about it. And he certainly did not talk to me about it. I did not know about it until it was, I guess, written about today ...

QUESTION: Are you going over any of these pardons now, yourself, to see which one next could possibly create another political problem for you and/or your husband?
CLINTON: You know, I have no idea what is coming next. You know, I was talking to a friend of mine today, and you know, we were just amazed by what has unfolded over the past weeks. I don't have any information. I don't know anything about these. And if issues are raised, I'm going to be in the same position as I've been in, which is to say that, you know, I was not involved in the decisions. I didn't even know about the vast majority of these things ever being considered. And you'll have to, really, ask the president and his staff who handled all of this ...

QUESTION: Former President Carter has said that these pardons and commutations were disgraceful and brought discredit on the process and one of the biggest mistakes that your husband has ever made. So is Mr. Carter wrong?
CLINTON: No. Mr. Carter is someone whom I admire and respect deeply, and he has every right to express his opinion. And I believe that, you know, people will have to make their judgments based on the facts as they are available ... people will have to make their own decisions. But there is a very big difference between saying what someone did and why they did it and what their motivation for doing it was and whether you agree with it or not. And, you know, we all I'm sure make decisions in our life that we believe we make for the absolutely, you know, right reasons and right motivations which someone can disagree with. You know, that is, you know, part of life, I think. So I would just say that anyone can draw whatever conclusions they choose, but ultimately the reasons rest with the president and his staff. And he can put those reasons out and people can say, "Well, I agree or disagree," and that's the way it has to be. And I believe that's, you know, the appropriate context for all of this to be discussed and judged.

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