August 31, 2016

Wondering on Wednesday (v63)

Wondering, tonight, about money, meetings, foreigners, and lots of pots calling kettles black. 

We’ve been hearing conspiracy theories about ‘pay for play’ between donors to the Clinton Foundation turning around asking for meetings, dinner invitations, and the like from the Department of State when Hillary Clinton was Secretary. 

Most of the reports I've seen so far (and I haven't seen them all, so don't yell at me) have indicated that there really wasn't anything of any significance given to any of the donors, many of whom had requested and gotten meetings with Secretaries of State, their staff, or ordinary State Department bureaucrats under previous administrations.

That there are foreigners looking for meetings with State Department people only makes sense, since that's who the State Department deals with, right?

Nah - see, the reason why we have to talk about foreigners is that we are supposed to be scared of them generally, and we are supposed to be scared into thinking that 'evil Killary' would be beholden to foreigners and foreign interests, or put foreigners or foreign interests ahead of Americans and American interests. That's the evil plan, right? 

So I'm wondering why the same people who are all concerned about 'pay for play' with Clinton are not at all concerned with Trump's finances and the fact that he is #JoeBidenLiterally beholden to foreign banks,Wall Street companies including the dreaded Clinton-speech-buying Goldman Sachs, and lord only knows who else? 

In case you missed it, an investigation by the NY Times disclosed that Trump businesses have some $650 million in debt. As the report notes,
As president, Mr. Trump would have substantial sway over monetary and tax policy, as well as the power to make appointments that would directly affect his own financial empire. He would also wield influence over legislative issues that could have a significant impact on his net worth, and would have official dealings with countries in which he has business interests. 
To say nothing of the risk that pretty much any of the lenders, including the Bank of China, could call the debt at some point when Trump inevitably pushes their buttons, like when he personally negotiates a trade deal that includes terms they don't like.

We're familiar with presidents putting their business interests in a blind trust, so that their decisions cannot be influenced by any potential impact on personal holdings. How that typically has happened in the past, we learn in the Times article, is that the assets are sold and replaced with new assets with similar value, which are 'blind' to the politician. Given that the Trump Organization is basically a family business, and Trump has said his children will run it when he's elected, it's unlikely they'd take that route.

The whole thing is mind-boggling, frankly. It's hard to imagine how there'll be any kind of Chinese wall between Trump and his businesses and properties, or that he could somehow not talk about business with his children, who are his top executives and most trusted advisers. 

On the other side, we have the Clintons and their Foundation, and people in their circle of close advisers.Yes, they press the ethical boundaries all the time, and they walk a much finer line than most of us do in that regard. I've made no secret of the fact that I didn't want her to run, or to be the nominee, one reason being the ethical baggage she carries, and how that would become the focus of the campaign, and likely of her presidency, should she get elected.

But I wonder, as we look at Trump and his maze of financial statements and business deals and leases and loans and debt, and an unwillingness on his part to clarify any of this, or to release his taxes, which of these two poses the greater risk?

The Clinton Foundation is in the process of finding ways to significantly reduce its footprint if Hillary gets elected; the process has been underway for some time. I wonder if even these major steps will be enough for Clinton critics?

I wonder if the Trumps are even thinking about, or talking about, how they're going to plan for their financial future should The Donald get elected.

But more than any of the wondering above, I wonder at the bald-faced audacity of a bunch of politicians who live and die by their donors, who take donations from outside their districts on a regular basis, who open their doors to lobbyists, who put forth legislation written directly by the companies that will benefit it, and who sign loyalty pacts with special interests --

I wonder, how can they spew all of this righteous indignation with a straight face?