The ‘trans­ac­tional’ na­ture of Clin­ton Inc.

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Jonah Gold­berg is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices. Read­ers may write to him via email at gold­bergcol­umn@gmail.com. Jonah Gold­berg The Na­tional Re­view

Gold­berg: ‘Trans­ac­tional’ was an apt de­scrip­tion of Doug Band, Bill Clin­ton’s long­time right-hand man.

“Doug is very trans­ac­tional.” This was an apt de­scrip­tion of Doug Band, Bill Clin­ton’s long­time right-hand man and the fig­ure at the cen­ter of the lat­est Wik­iLeaks rev­e­la­tion.

The quote comes from an un­named for­mer White House col­league of Band’s in an il­lu­mi­nat­ing 2013 New Repub­lic pro­file by Alec MacGil­lis.

Band, who touts him­self as the founder of “Clin­ton Inc.,” started out as a White House in­tern. He turned down higher-sta­tus jobs to fo­cus on be­ing the “body man” for Pres­i­dent Clin­ton. In pol­i­tics, a body man is the guy (or gal) whose only job is to make sure the prin­ci­pal is happy, com­fort­able and treated with the max­i­mum amount of re­spect. No task is too small or too hu­mil­i­at­ing for a pres­i­dent’s body man. If PO­TUS wants a bowl of green M&Ms, green M&Ms it is. But it was also Band’s job to make sure no one wasted Clin­ton’s time. In short, he was the gate­keeper, the han­dler, the prob­lem-solver. Like a royal valet, it was his job to an­tic­i­pate the pres­i­dent’s needs be­fore he even ar­tic­u­lated them.

Band rec­og­nized what throne-snif­fers have known for mil­len­nia: Prox­im­ity to power can be lu­cra­tive.

When Clin­ton’s rep­u­ta­tion was in tat­ters at the end of his pres­i­dency, thanks mostly to the Mon­ica Lewin­sky scan­dal and Clin­ton’s ou­tra­geous mid­night par­dons of felons and friends, Band turned down a job at Gold­man Sachs to stay with Clin­ton. Equipped with a law de­gree he earned at night, Band was like Tom Ha­gen in “The God­fa­ther” — a lawyer with a “very spe­cial prac­tice” han­dling ex­actly one client.

It was Band’s idea to launch the Clin­ton Global Ini­tia­tive, an amor­phous pseudo-char­ity ad­junct to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion whose main pur­pose was to pull to­gether celebri­ties, CEOs, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and var­i­ous char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions into one gi­ant con­fab where Bill Clin­ton was the star at­trac­tion.

The ap­peal for Clin­ton was ob­vi­ous. He loves talk­ing. He loves riff­ing on wonky so­lu­tions — real and al­leged — to var­i­ous pub­licpol­icy prob­lems. He also adores hob­nob­bing with the rich and fa­mous and be­ing praised by them. And he has a deep-seated need to be rel­e­vant.

Band rec­og­nized that all of these needs could be mon­e­tized, and that he could get his cut. In the memo re­leased by Wik­iLeaks, he ex­plained how he did it. If you wanted a speech, an en­dorse­ment, a meet­ing with the big guy, you had to go through the lit­tle guy and pay the ap­pro­pri­ate trib­ute, not just to Clin­ton but of­ten to the foun­da­tion as well.

In 2011, along with De­clan Kelly, a long­time fundraiser for Hil­lary Clin­ton, Band set up a com­pany, Te­neo, to fully ex­ploit this sys­tem, with a much big­ger pay­day for him­self. He steered tens of mil­lions to the Clin­tons and their foun­da­tion, as well as lav­ish “in-kind ser­vices for the pres­i­dent and his fam­ily — for per­sonal travel, hos­pi­tal­ity, va­ca­tion and the like.”

MacGil­lis has too much credulity on one score. Bill Clin­ton, MacGil­lis writes, “was no­to­ri­ously blasé about fi­nan­cial mat­ters.”

“He doesn’t care about money,” a Clin­ton friend told MacGil­lis. “He doesn’t even have a credit card. When he wants to get some­thing he says, ‘Wow, I love that,’ and who­ever he’s with says, ‘Here it is!’”

This isn’t proof Clin­ton doesn’t care about money so much as it’s proof he takes it for granted. It’s a pris­tine ex­am­ple of Clin­ton’s aris­to­cratic en­ti­tle­ment. In me­dieval so­ci­eties, the no­bil­ity looked down on money not be­cause they didn’t care about be­ing rich, but be­cause they had lit­tle peo­ple to sweat the de­tails.

For years I’ve been mak­ing the point that the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion’s char­i­ta­ble ef­forts are both real and mis­un­der­stood. They do good things. But, as with the cor­po­ra­tions and cor­rupt monar­chies Doug Band squeezed for do­na­tions, the good deeds were al­ways a cost cen­ter, an over­head ne­ces­sity like the light bill.

Char­ity was the price the Clin­tons had to pay — to get Bono and Bill Gates to show up, and pay up. The real mis­sion of the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion, in­clud­ing the Clin­ton Global Ini­tia­tive, was to keep Bill a global celebrity and main­tain the life­style to which he felt en­ti­tled.

But there was a sec­ond pur­pose.

“Clin­ton Inc.” is the wrong term. House Clin­ton — like House Lan­nis­ter in “Game of Thrones” — is closer to the mark.

The Clin­tons al­ways wanted to get back into power, and for a self­styled royal fam­ily in ex­ile, the foun­da­tion served as a bril­liant way to keep all of the re­tain­ers, courtiers and hench­men em­ployed — and the donors en­gaged — as they plot­ted their re­turn. And, sadly, it ap­pears to have worked.

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