The Clin-tons. See: Theme for “The Simpsons.”

After leaving the White House in 2001, Bill Clinton found himself at loose ends. He didn’t have a ranch with brush to clear, so he started a little foundation to help children in Harlem. In 2002 he added an effort to raise money to lower the cost of AIDS drugs in Africa. In 2005 he launched the Clinton Global Initiative: an annual meeting of the smart, rich, and “concerned.”   This mini-Davos still runs, providing an opportunity for powerful people from many domains to hob-nob. However, the Clinton Foundation soon saw itself awash in donations ($2 billion and counting) from big business and foreign governments. In addition, Bill Clinton found himself much in demand as a speaker: he’s earned $26 million in fees.[1] It is, or should be, hard for any American to carp about this tale of a poor country boy who made good.

One fly in the ointment is that examination of the tax records of the Clinton Foundation for 2011-2013 shows that only 10 percent of the donations it has received go to actual charitable projects. The rest goes to administrative expenses.[2] Those administrative expenses include a staff of 2,000 that is packed with Clinton loyalists. .

A second fly in the ointment is that Hillary Clinton launched her own political career at the same moment that Bill Clinton launched his profitable post-presidency. She won election to the Senate, ran for the Democratic nomination for President in a year when the Democrats actually did win the White House, served for four years as Secretary of State as a consolation prize from Barack Obama, and is no the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for President. The millions of dollars pouring into their joint account began to look very much like a slush fund and as influence-peddling.

In the second term of the George W. Bush Administration, the US sold about $85 billion in weapons to twenty State Department-approved countries. In the first term of the Obama Administration, the US sold about $165 billion in weapons to twenty State Department-approved countries. Those twenty countries had made millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton Foundation.[3] For example, the government of Algeria donated $500,000 to the foundation, then received State Department approval for a 70 percent increase in authorized military purchases from the United States. That looks bad, to my eye, but it gets worse. The Obama administration had extracted a promise from the Clintons that all foreign donations to the foundation would be fully reported. Somehow, the foundation forgot to report this one and others as well.

When the Hillary Clinton e-mail “scandal” first broke, 44 percent of Republicans thought it was a “very serious problem,” while 17 percent of Democrats thought it was a “very serious problem.” After a week of both parties spinning the issue for all it was worth, the divergence had increased. By late March 2015, 68 percent of Republicans thought that it was a “very serious problem,” while 8 percent of Democrats thought that it was a “very serious matter.”[4] That “scandal” centers on Hillary Clinton’s use of a potentially insecure private e-mail server located in the Clinton family home in New York. Under pressure, she turned over 30,000 e-mail messages that bore on State Department business. Some Republican inquisitors may hope to find a smoking gun with regard to Benghazi. However, the real issue may be in the many other “personal” messages that she deleted. Worming around in the minds of many people is the suspicion that “If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.”

[1] “The Clintons’ controversial foundation,” The Week, 3 July 2015, p. 11.

[2] “Clinton Foundation: Is it a true charity?” The Week, 15 May 2015, p. 16.

[3] “Noted,” The Week, 12 June 2015, p. 16.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 27 March 2015, p. 17.

American Public Opinion in June 2015.

In 2014, 30 percent of people described themselves as social liberals, while 34 percent described themselves as social conservatives. That totaled 64 percent of the vote, while the other 36 percent were mostly “moderates.” In June 2015, 31 percent of people described themselves as social liberals, while 31 percent described themselves as social conservatives.[1] That totaled 62 percent of the vote, while the other 38 percent were mostly “moderates.”

What’s a “social liberal”? The share of the population favoring social liberal causes greatly exceeds the share identifying as social liberals. If the social liberals are added to the moderates in the two polls, we end up with totals of 65 percent in 2014 and 69 percent in 2015. Some 55 percent favor legalizing recreational marijuana, support gay marriage, and say that it is acceptable for two gay men to kiss in public.[2] All these would once have been identified with social liberalism. If it is posited that social conservatives would oppose these measures, then that makes it possible to conjecture how many “moderates” hold social liberal views. If 30 percent identified as social liberals in 2014 and 55 percent of the total favored the liberal causes, then 25/36 of the moderates supported these social liberal causes. Applying the same calculations to 2015, 24/38 of the moderates support these social liberal causes.

To belabor the obvious, there has been a shift of public opinion toward social liberal causes between 2014 and 2015: liberals added 1 percent who migrated from the moderates, and the moderates picked up 3 percent who migrated from conservatives. Any Republican wager on a socially conservative position in 2016 looks to be a loser. At the same time, the social liberal causes mentioned in the polls are all about enhancing individual rights, especially with regard to identity. The polling doesn’t tell whether the moderates will also support social liberal causes when it comes to expanding social welfare.

In June 2014, 53 percent of Americans regarded Hillary Clinton as trustworthy. Then came the e-mail story and the questions about the Clinton foundation accepting donations from foreign donors with business before the State Department. In June 2105, 41 percent of Americans regarded Hillary Clinton as trustworthy.[3] As views on her trustworthiness declined, her favorability numbers went up. In April 2015, 36 percent had a favorable view of Hillary Clinton; in May 2105, 42 percent had a favorable view[4]; in June 2015, 45 percent had a favorable view. Thus, although 45 percent of the June 2015 polling sample viewed her favorably, only 41 percent viewed her as trustworthy. So, some 4 percent of voters—all of them Democrats?—are rubbing their hands together and going “she’s a liar, good!” The same percentage, 49 percent, do not regard her as trustworthy (not trustworthy + don’t know) and view her unfavorably. It is likely that the people who distrust Clinton are divided between Republicans, Independents, and dissident Democrats.   The size of the dissident Democrat community is nothing to be sneezed at. In June 2015, 45 percent of self-identified Democrats believed that their party had too few candidates running for President in 2016[5], while 52 percent were pretty sure of for whom they would vote.[6] The dissident Democrats are never going to vote Republican. If push comes to shove, they will hold their nose and vote for Clinton.

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 5 June 2015, p. 19.

[2] “The way we were in 2014,” The Week, 31 December 2014, p. 12. Curiously, 72 percent are OK with lesbians kissing in public. This groups all social liberals with all moderates and about one in seven social conservatives. Probably explained in part by the popularity of lesbian porn among men.

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 12 June 2015, p. 17.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 15 May 2015, p. 17.

[5] In particular, there is reason to think that most Democrats would be happier if a different Clinton was running for President. One poll reported that 42 percent listed Bill Clinton as the most admired president of the last quarter century. At 18 percent President Obama ranked second. See: “The way we were in 2014,” The Week, 31 December 2014, p. 12.

[6] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 5 June 2015, p. 19.