The sight, smell and taste of cor­rup­tion

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By John Kass John Kass is a colum­nist for the Chicago Tri­bune. His e-mail ad­dress is jskass@tri­, and his Twitter: @john_kass.

With so many jour­nal­ists spend­ing so much time sham­ing Don­ald Trump’s vot­ers so as to pro­tect Hillary Clin­ton in Novem­ber, I’m get­ting mighty wor­ried.

I’m not wor­ried about Mr. Trump. He’s a mega­lo­ma­niac, and his kind of nar­cis­sism will help him blend in quite nicely in Wash­ing­ton if he’s elected pres­i­dent. And I’m not wor­ried about Ms. Clin­ton ei­ther. She’s a patho­log­i­cal liar and well-suited to the Washi Post-La­bor Day schools won’t hurt ed­u­ca­tion and will help a key Md. in­dus­­ton way, where liars are praised.

What wor­ries me is that many — but not all — in my busi­ness are spend­ing so much time sham­ing Trump vot­ers that they seem to have for­got­ten some im­por­tant fea­tures of po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion: what it is, what it looks like, what it sounds like and what it smells like.

Par­tic­u­larly when it comes to Ms. Clin­ton, her hus­band, Bill, and the pun­gency of the in­flu­ence-ped­dling scan­dal in­volv­ing the multi­bil­lion-dol­lar Clin­ton Foun­da­tion.

Her de­fend­ers keep in­sist­ing that there was “no quid pro quo” in hav­ing Ms. Clin­ton, when she was sec­re­tary of state, meet pri­vately with Clin­ton Foun­da­tion donors — many of them for­eign donors — seek­ing the fa­vors of Ms. Clin­ton and the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment.

And, these de­fend­ers in­sist, that there is no “smok­ing gun.” When I hear the phrase “no smok­ing gun,” I pic­ture some Wash­ing­ton cat purring, ex­pect­ing sweet­meats once the Clin­ton Restora­tion is se­cure.

The talk­ing points were es­tab­lished early on by Clin­ton sur­ro­gate and in­terim Demo­cratic Party Chair Donna Brazile on ABC, af­ter the As­so­ci­ated Press broke its story about Clin­ton Foun­da­tion megabucks donors get­ting all that happy face time alone with Hillary. Ms. Brazile said: “So, you know, this no­tion that, some­how or an­other, some­one who is a sup­porter, some­one who is a donor, some­body who’s an ac­tivist, say­ing, I want ac­cess, I want to come into a room and I want to meet peo­ple, we of­ten crim­i­nal­ize be­hav­ior that is nor­mal. And it’s — I don’t — I don’t see what the smoke is.”

Only in Wash­ing­ton can it be con­sid­ered nor­mal, not crim­i­nal, for in­sid­ers to use our gov­ern­ment to get rich.

There have been many Repub­li­can of­fi­cials who stood up and said they can’t vote for Mr. Trump for what he’s done or said.

So where are the Democrats who are stand­ing up to say they can’t sup­port in­flu­ence ped­dling and the Clin­tons? Their si­lence in­di­cates as­sent.

What is clear is that when Clin­ton sur­ro­gates say “there’s no smok­ing gun” or “no quid pro quo,” you’ll soon hear some talk­ing head re­peat the same dang thing.

It doesn’t take days. Just about the time it takes to toast an English muf­fin and slap some cheese on it, they com­mence with the “no ev­i­dence” and “no smok­ing gun” and “no quid pro quo.”

Be­ing from Chicago, where cor­rup­tion is the glue that holds pol­i­tics to­gether — and the bread and the meat and the sport pep­pers and the fries — I can tell you what cor­rup­tion does not smell like.

It does not smell like a smok­ing gun or a non­smok­ing gun. And it does not speak Latin.

It smells like meat a-cookin’, and that’s not a lan­guage of words, but of ap­petite. It smells sweet, and there is no recipe. The recipe is un­der­stood, im­plied, and if you dare ask for the recipe, you are im­me­di­ately os­tra­cized and kicked out of the kitchen.

It doesn’t in­volve a straight pay­off. Every­thing is lay­ered. A deal goes to Mr. X. An­other deal goes to Ms. Y. It’s all cir­cu­lar and rather com­pli­cated, like the Clin­tons pars­ing English, and every­thing is un­der­stood in the spa­ces be­tween the words.

That’s why it’s de­press­ing to hear meat puppets in­sist that there is no there, there, with the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion and Hillary, be­cause it’s al­ready been laid out.

The cor­rup­tion was in the sell­ing of ac­cess to the high­est reaches of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

To some­one who was then a sit­ting sec­re­tary of state who — as all the for­eign tough guys with trea­sure un­der­stood — was al­ready reach­ing for the White House.

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