The Clintons Need a Restart

The power couple looks more like an example of excess in politics than a force to tame it

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This has been an annoying summer for the Clintons. There was the spectacle of Hillary Clinton's closest aide Huma Abedin standing by her man, the infantile former Congresspervert Anthony Weiner--an unfortunate reminder of the interns of yesteryear. There was the splashback over whether Lawrence Summers, a former Clinton Treasury Secretary, should become chairman of the Federal Reserve Board--an unfortunate reminder of the feckless Clintonian attitude toward financial deregulation, which led rather directly to the Great Recession of 2008. And to top it off, there was a New York Times exposé of moral and fiscal slovenliness at the Clinton Foundation--an unfortunate reminder of the way the Clintons too often go about their business, combining great works in the world with shameless world-class fundraising.

All this while former Secretary Clinton was getting her ducks in a row, preparing, no doubt, for another run at the presidency in 2016. And all that as the political book of the summer, Mark Leibovich's This Town, was providing the rest of the country with a hilarious excoriation of Washington's incestuous culture of money, media, lobbying and paralysis.

I suspect that this will be a problem for Hillary Clinton going forward, unless she decides to do something about it. The Clintons, Leibovich makes clear, were present at the creation of Washington celebrity culture. Their political consultants became TV stars. Their press aides and pollsters careened through the revolving door to take jobs doing crisis management--and boy, were the Clinton aides experienced at that!--for some of the greatest corporate malefactors. Their fundraisers, like the relentless Terry McAuliffe, set new levels of brazen display. (You may recall the renting of the Lincoln Bedroom.) They were not alone in this, of course. Other Presidents' men and women have slid into greasy manipulation of the gears of power; former congressional leaders like Dick Gephardt and Trent Lott have abandoned what skimpy principles they had to lobby for the plutocracy.

Bill Clinton certainly has the right to make a little money. He grew up poor and stayed poor while in public office. He was Bubba, the lover of McDonald's fries, the fatherless empathy hound who really cared, in the pollster's eternal question, about people like you. A sleek vegan now, he made it clear during his moment of transcendent brilliance at the 2012 Democratic Convention, and in the most entertaining way possible, that the Republicans were different. They were from the fancy side of the tracks, peddling fantasies--talking to empty chairs, as it were; ignoring arithmetic--because they were, er, covering up the fact that, ah, they represented the interests of, well, the rich folks. Meanwhile, his top aide and surrogate son, Douglas J. Band, was moonlighting as the co-founder of a "corporate consulting, public relations and merchant banking" firm called Teneo while also directing the Clinton Global Initiative. Teneo's clients forked over as much as $250,000 per month for its services, including access to the aura of a paid adviser named William Jefferson Clinton. Band has resigned from his paid position at the Clinton Foundation, and Clinton has resigned from Teneo, but the memory lingers on.

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