Sunday, April 22, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Spiro Agnew would be proud of the Clintons

Poor Spiro Agnew. The disgraced former vice president who was forced from office in 1973 after pleading no contest to bribery, extortion, conspiracy and tax evasion must be spinning in his grave.

Agnew, who would have ascended to the presidency after Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, instead barely avoided prison and was disbarred from the legal profession. He spent the rest of his life as the face of political graft for accepting roughly $170,000 in cash payments both in the Maryland governor's mansion and his White House office.

Agnew was a sucker for traditional modes of corruption. Had he only been smart enough to create a charitable foundation run by his wife, who in turn traveled hither and yon delivering canned speeches for six-figure fees, it's entirely possible that today we would be visiting the Spiro T. Agnew Presidential Library — and don't miss the bagman wing.

The political landscape has been consumed with reports of hinky donations to former President Bill Clinton's Clinton Foundation, including $40 million shaked down from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, all while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of state.

The piece d'grifter episode in all this money grubbing was the revelation that during Hillary Clinton's tenure as the nation's top diplomat, Rostrum, the Russian atomic energy agency, managed to acquire more than 20 percent of U.S. uranium mining operations with the acquiescence of the State Department. The happy-happy/joy-joy moment just so happened to occur after the Russians involved in the deal made a $2.3 million donation to the Clinton Foundation, in addition to the former president receiving $500,000 to give yet another riveting speech to a Moscow bank.

During his wife's tenure as secretary of state, Bill Clinton pulled in nearly $6 million in speaking fees ranging from $500,000 to $700,000. Or think of it this way: At $700,000, Abraham Lincoln would have been paid $2,573 per word when he delivered the Gettysburg Address.

Or consider Agnew's $170,000 in kickbacks would barely cover the opening of a Bill Clinton homily.

There also are questionable foreign donations made to the Clinton Foundation that were never reported as required by the former president in a memorandum of understanding when Hillary Clinton joined the Obama administration. Is it remotely possible the Clintons might be a pinch sleazy?

It is reasonable to assume that if interested parties had figured out that handing Bill Clinton ridiculous checks and secretly sending millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation was the way to get things done, by now the Keystone XL Pipeline in North Dakota would be the eighth, ninth and 10th wonders of the world.

The traditional understanding of bribery is there must be a quid pro quo. A bar owner greases a building inspector's palm, or a road contractor forks over a grocery bag full of cash to a governor, and magically doors open and bids are approved. Old school, in a charmingly perverted way.

But we've advanced as a society of sophisticated public service floozies.

In Florida, the governor and members of the Legislature form phony political action committees that allow them to collect unlimited amounts of cash from special interests to spend as they please. A bribe? Sure. But it's still all perfectly legal.

Will you find a smoking gun linking money paid to the secretary of state in return for favors rendered? No. A: Hillary Clinton is not that stupid. B: She doesn't have to sell herself out when she has Bill to handle the, uh, paperwork. And C: Forget about discovering any emails related to the charitable gratuities.

All manner of Clinton flunkies have fanned out attesting to the secretary's unerring integrity and complete detachment from any semblance of wrong-doing in the uranium mining cookoff, or her husband's "Pay Me, I'm Bill" gilt-edged speechifying.

Hillary Clinton has not had one word to say addressing the optics of a secretary of state who, if she wasn't on the take, was more wilfully oblivious as to what was going on around her than Sgt. Schultz.

In politics, perception becomes reality. What should we call this? Primary Colors Blindness?

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