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Friday, December 19, 2008

Clinton's Conflicts Worrying in the Context of History

All Americans should take note, not just those with partisan motivations on the right. Former President's Bill Clinton whose wife has been nominated to be the new Secretary of State has numerous conflicts of interest that could affect American foreign policy adversely.

Their is no precedence for this in American history. Some previous Secretaries of State have had pre-disposed biases towards foreign nations and thus did not serve in the position well. Thomas Jefferson was a notorious Francophile whose bias towards the French Revolution put him on a collision course with President George Washington and his closest confidante Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury. James Monroe's similar bias towards the French precluded the Madison administration from truly staying neutral in the Napoleonic Wars and as Henry Adams correctly surmised in his masterpiece History, this had a clear bearing on our Declaration of War on Great Britain in 1812.

It's no small irony Henry Adams close friend John Hay became perhaps the model Secretary of State in American history. Hay was not predisposed towards any great power and had come of age as Lincoln's private secretary during the Civil War. Hay helped position the US as an arbitrator of disputes and ultimately as a defender of liberty despite the disgraceful American actions in the Philippines.

Today we have a situation where a former President has sought individual fame and perhaps self realization by cozening up to interests abroad. This former President's wife has been nominated for Secretary of State. This is the same President who broke countless Campaign Finance rules in his 1996 re-election campaign by taking money from foreign interests and even allegedly involving his administration in a quid pro quo to use American forces militarily based on receiving campaign funds.

While I do not believe President Bill Clinton compromised American security with his illegal fund raising he certainly allowed access to the White House for arms dealers and in the case of James Riady and the Lippo Group, may have been close to giving the Chinese Intelligence service unfathomable access to American officials. Clinton did not want to help the Chinese. He wanted to help himself raise money: once again the Clinton's ambition to raise money and keep power met national security head on and the power of ambition won. In other words, we as Americans should be thankful Riady, Charlie Trie, and John Huang among others were caught before national security was in fact compromised.

But this is the problem. Clinton's need to be admired and to raise money now for his Global Initiative could compromise his wife's work as Secretary of State. According to Bloomberg News, "Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Brunei all contributed between $1 million and $5 million, as did the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office. An Irish government aid program gave at least $500,000."

The first four nations on that list are all oil producing states who firstly would probably like to see the price of oil stabilized with American cooperation and would love to see the US continue its dependence on petroleum, be it domestic or foreign. Taiwan is a nation the US does not even diplomatically recognize and one of President Bush's few accomplishments in office has been the remarkable fusion of American and Chinese interests he has helped to create. Should Hillary Clinton show any deference to Taiwan in the future, America's most strategic partnership abroad with the world's other great power could be threatened.

Bill Clinton has never exercised proper discretion since becoming a national political figure in 1988. That year he rambled on at the Democratic convention even as the red lights were buzzing to try and get him to stop speaking. Since then he has had an unknown number of affairs with women, and skirted the law many times. He has has absolutely no reservations about taking money for whatever cause promotes him personally from anybody willing to contribute. This is very dangerous with America's foreign policy hanging in the balance.

We can only hope Hillary Clinton has the proper discretion to avoid being influenced by her husbands numerous conflicts of interest that could undermine American security abroad. I have no problem with Senator Clinton personally, but her husband the former President who helped to polarize America in the 1990s needs to be kept as far away from President Obama and his national security team as possible.

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I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.