‘Clinton Cash’ Inspires a Few Conservatives to Defend Clinton

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Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and husband, Former U.S. President Bill Clinton address the audience during the Opening Plenary Session: Reimagining Impact for the Clinton Global Initiative on September 22, 2014 at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Since Clinton Cash scattered its scoops about the Clinton Foundation’s finances on the public discourse, people on the left and right, as well as the generally skeptical or cynical, have been quick to add this to the crowd-sourced list of reasons to be wary of the Clintons. 

However, Hillary Clinton found a few defenders in an unexpected place: “the vast right-wing conspiracy.” A few conservatives — with various reasoning and motives — decided to speak out in favor of a more complex reading of Clinton Cash, despite plans never to vote for her. 

Here are the three conservative explanations for why Clinton Cash deserves as much scrutiny as those it investigates.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson

Why is he defending Clinton? He’s worried the Clinton Foundation allegations could backfire.

Backstory: Asa Hutchinson and the Clintons go way back. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee in the ‘90s, Hutchinson helped lead Clinton’s impeachment proceedings — although he has said he’s sorry about the whole thing now that it’s all in the past. He told the Associated Press in 2008, “I knew it wasn’t good politics for Arkansas, being the president’s home state. My firm reaction was thanks but no thanks.” 

Hutchinson told Politico last year, “So we’ve always been very respectful adversaries, respectful political adversaries. That’s how I viewed that relationship.” In other words, there’s no relationship there that would spur Hutchinson to jump to Clintons’ defense — the nicest thing he can say about his relationship with the Clintons is that it has developed into something boring. However, when asked about Clinton Cash on Meet the Press last Sunday, he warned that Republicans need to be careful not to overstate the case” as there is “no evidence of a quid pro quo.”

However, Hutchinson believes this information teaches us something about the Clintons. “It reminds us,” he said, “that Clintons are complicated and they tend to make mistakes.”

In other words, he isn’t defending the Clintons because of any warm and fuzzy trust in them, but because he is afraid this could backfire and leave independents feeling bad for Clinton and the endless criticism she gets. John Cassidy at the New Yorker came to a similar conclusion

Until this week, it was easy to label such tactics as political spin, and few fair-minded people questioned the credibility of the Clinton money stories or the motivations of those writing and publishing them. Now that Schweizer has entered the fray, with the likes of Hannity and Paul to ballyhoo what appear to be largely unsubstantiated allegations, partisan politics is likely to color the views of the broader public.

Bill O’Reilly

Why is he defending Clinton? He “loathes political hit jobs.” 

Backstory: When the Fox News commentator has to choose the lesser evil between the lamestream media and the Clintons, it appears he sides with the latter. In a segment on the Clinton Cash allegations last week, he said, “Right now the evidence is circumstantial, not vetted, and the subject of wild speculation by anti-Clinton forces. … the Clintons are to be given the presumption of innocence. As one who has been dishonestly smeared,” he said, alluding to his opinions of the allegations that he flubbed some reporting Brian Williams-style, “I loathe political hit jobs.” Before the book came out, he exercised similar caution, saying of the questions about whether she traded “donations for favors,” “at this point, that’s a gross overstatement and one that actually helps the Clinton campaign,” following the same logic as Hutchinson.

However, he’s not putting up a Clinton bumper sticker on his desk just yet. “There is enough evidence of major money flowing to the Clinton Foundation and to the Clintons themselves through lecture fees that an official investigation has to be launched,” he added. 

Christopher Ruddy

Why is he defending Clinton? He loves capitalism — and the Clinton Foundation.

Backstory: Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and author of “The Strange Death of Vincent Foster,” was a strong antagonist to Bill Clinton’s presidential administration. But in the years since has lost interest in digging into the family’s dirt. In 2007, he told the New York Times, “Clinton wasn’t such a bad president. In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways.”

He has also become a donor to the Clinton Gobal Initiative, as he noted in an op-ed defending the organization on Monday. “Knowing a bit how [the Obama] administration works,” he wrote, “it is preposterous to think that President Obama or his White House approved any deal to benefit the Clinton Foundation or one of its donors.” He adds that those complaining about the massive amounts of money that Bill Clinton has made since his presidency sound pretty anti-capitalistic. Ruddy writes of the fact Clinton has made millions, “I thought to myself, God bless him. This is the American way.” 

Ruddy, like O’Reilly, found that this episode proved an instructive lesson on why the media is America’s chief enemy, not the Clintons:

The sister companies of News Corp and 21st Century Fox own HarperCollins, which published Peter Schweizer’s book; they own The Wall Street Journal, which first raised the issue of the foreign donations; they own the New York Post, which broke the details about the Schweizer book; and they own Fox News, which gave the story oxygen and legs. With so much media mojo from one company, there is no doubt they will be doing some pretty good “cashing in” from the many millions of dollars their new best-seller will generate. Nothing wrong with that, it’s the American way. And yes, God bless them too!