Tens of thousands of deleted emails. Eighteen-and-a-half minutes of missing tape. As one who worked closely with former President Nixon during the last years of his life, I find the comparisons between him and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be insulting — to Nixon.
If Mrs. Clinton would like to survive her current growing implosion, she may want to take a page from Nixon’s playbook. Yes, the same Nixon she worked to impeach as a young attorney on the House Judiciary Committee (until she was let go by the Democratic counsel who said she was a “liar” and “an unethical, dishonest lawyer.”)
Set aside, for the moment, the similar accusations of stonewalling, evidence destruction, misrepresentations, penchants for secrecy, and imperial privilege.
Consider instead just one part of the scandals enveloping Mrs. Clinton and her presidential candidacy: “following the money.” (Another Nixon-era irony.)
Peter Schweizer’s new book, “Clinton Cash,” has exposed the complex and shady financial dealings of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and its subsidiary, the Clinton Global Initiative. Big money flowed in, and according to Mr. Schweizer, big political favors flowed out. Were they tantamount to quid pro quos? The Clintons say no; their critics, including many in the establishment left-wing press, say the circumstantial evidence is damning.
Consider some of the more recent stories:
• A Clinton Foundation mega-donation by a Russian oligarch seeking federal approval to expand his operations involving uranium; he got it.
• The $26 million in speaking fees Bill Clinton received from donors to the foundation; his fees spiked when she became secretary.
• The foundation must refile at least five years of tax returns because of omissions and other improprieties.
• The foundation failed to disclose more than 1,100 foreign donations, despite Mrs. Clinton’s signed promise to President Obama to disclose all foreign donations.
• And Charity Navigator, the nation’s most influential charity watchdog group, just put the foundation on its “watch list.” In fact, the money maneuvering is so suspect that the foundation was described as a “slush fund for the Clintons” by a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation.
The Clinton folks argue that there is no evidence to prove corruption. Of course, she reduced her private email server to subatomic particles, along with any possible evidence.
Meanwhile, the allegations of the misuse of funds for personal benefit are expanding — and going largely unanswered by Mrs. Clinton.
It may be time for Mrs. Clinton to do the full Nixon.
In 1952, then-Sen. Nixon faced an existential political crisis. He had been named Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s vice presidential running mate. But weeks before the election, Nixon was accused of having a “slush fund” of his own, involving money set aside by some of his supporters to reimburse him for some political expenses. The fund was completely legal, and there was never any evidence to suggest Nixon was doling out political favors to the donors.
The growing story, however, made Eisenhower increasingly apprehensive, so Nixon made a bold move: He delivered a powerful, 30-minute address to the nation in which he explained the fund, defended his actions, and urged the public to let the Republican National Committee know if he should stay on the ticket.
“My fellow Americans,” he began, “I come before you tonight as a candidate for the vice presidency, and as a man whose honesty and integrity has been questioned.”
He continued: “Not one cent of the $18,000 or any other money of that type ever went to me for my personal use. Every penny of it was used to pay for political expenses that I did not think should be charged to the taxpayers of the United States. It was not a secret fund.”
(Another irony: a big fuss over $18,000 involving Nixon when the questionable Clinton Foundation money is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.)
After disclosing his family’s modest personal finances, he appealed directly to regular folks: “That’s what we have and that’s what we owe. It isn’t very much but Pat and I have the satisfaction that every dime that we’ve got is honestly ours. I should say this — that Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat. And I always tell her that she’d look good in anything.”
He ended on a defiant note, referring to one gift they received — a dog — that they intended to keep: “And our little girl — Tricia, the 6-year-old — named it ‘Checkers.’ And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it. “
Well-crafted and emotionally charged, the “Checkers speech” led to a tidal wave of public support for Nixon, saving his place on the ticket.
Of course, the speech only worked because Nixon had the truth on his side. He hadn’t done anything illegal, unethical, or tried to cover it up or lie about it.
If Mrs. Clinton’s defenders are telling the truth about the Clinton Foundation money, then she should deliver a major speech addressing every allegation — and accounting for every penny — as Nixon had done. She could very well save herself — as he had done.
Her continuing silence speaks volumes.
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