I talk with Mark Sutcliffe about Iranian hostages and US presidental debates. Click here to listen.
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In a commentary for Mercatornet I argue that if Hillary Clinton wins the election she may be so bad she’ll actually have a beneficial purgative effect on American politics by forcing voters to reexamine themselves.
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In my latest National Post column I say that while Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump loom horrifyingly larger, we should spare a little horror as U.S. President Barack Obama looms ever smaller.
The Washington Post reports, à propos of the lavish compensation Bill Clinton received as “honorary” chancellor of Laureate International Universities while his wife was coincidentally United States Secretary of State, that:
“In addition to his well-established career as a paid speaker, which began soon after he left the Oval Office, Bill Clinton took on new consulting work starting in 2009, at the same time Hillary Clinton assumed her post at the State Department. Laureate was the highest-paying client, but Bill Clinton signed contracts worth millions with GEMS Education, a secondary-education chain based in Dubai, as well as Shangri-La Industries and Wasserman Investment, two companies run by longtime Democratic donors. All told, with his consulting, writing and speaking fees, Bill Clinton was paid $65.4 million during Hillary Clinton’s four years as secretary of state.”
The Post further notes that “The Laureate arrangement illustrates the extent to which the Clintons mixed their charitable work with their private and political lives.”
Yeah. That’s one way of putting it.
Here’s a wonderful talk by historian David McCullough from 2003, just sent to me by Nick Zahn. I strongly recommend it for such insights as “When the world is storm-driven and the bad that happens and the worse that threatens are so urgent as to shut out everything else from view, then we need to know all the strong fortresses of the spirit which men have built through the ages.” Now that’s history as it should be done. And as we need it in these characteristically troubled times.
McCullough draws together all kinds of things in this talk including the famous 1819 painting Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull which has been on display in the U.S. Capitol since 1826. It’s not an accurate depiction of an actual historical event, yet somehow it embodies the meaning of the Declaration in a way that continues to compel and attract attention almost 200 years later.
McCullough also describes George Washington’s fascination with architecture and interior design, expressed particularly in his renovation of his Mount Vernon home in the midst of the pressing public concerns that led to the Revolutionary War. “He cared about every detail — wall paper, paint color, hardware, ceiling ornaments — and hated to be away from the project even for a day.”
Which makes this a good moment to remind people of Brigitte’s new C2C Journal piece The Political Power of Art. Such matters are not only a fitting concern for conservatives, they are an indispensable one, because as McCullough says, “it is in their [the American Founders’] ideas about happiness, I believe, that we come close to the heart of their being, and to their large view of the possibilities in their Glorious Cause.”
Their ideas about happiness were not narrow and cramped. But nor were these men without flaws. McCullough’s talk is the 2003 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, a series created by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1972 and described by the NEH as “the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.” And of course McCullough is not blind to the various Founders’ failings including that Jefferson was “evasive, at times duplicitous” and like many others a “stunning” hypocrite in championing liberty while holding slaves.
These men were human, all too human. As are we. History is our story. For as McCullough also wisely notes, “One might also say that history is not about the past. If you think about it, no one ever lived in the past. Washington, Jefferson, John Adams, and their contemporaries didn’t walk about saying, ‘Isn’t this fascinating living in the past! Aren’t we picturesque in our funny clothes!’ They lived in the present. The difference is it was their present, not ours. They were caught up in the living moment exactly as we are, and with no more certainty of how things would turn out than we have.”
I won’t reprint the whole thing here; I hope I have excerpted enough to send you to read it. It is wise and thoughtful and full of fascinating details about these real human beings including Washington’s preoccupation with design of which I confess I was not aware. But I will conclude with one more crucial quotation from it: “Daniel Boorstin, the former Librarian of Congress, has wisely said that trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers.”
This lecture shows how history should be done. And why it matters.
Here’s the kind of story that inspires a mixture of rage and bewilderment. NBC reports that while Hillary Clinton has been lambasting “for-profit schools” including Trump University, “Over five years, former president Bill Clinton earned $17.6 million from the world’s largest for-profit education company, Laureate Education, Inc. In his role as “honorary chancellor,” Clinton has traveled the world on Laureate’s behalf, extolling the virtues of the school.” And doing very well indeed. We should be so, uh, lucky.
Now look. I know a lot of people like Bill Clinton, focusing more on the charming than the rogue in his makeup. I am not among them. But a lot of people do.
I also realize that Bill Clinton is a champion schmoozer and makes good connections. He pulls in huge sums for the Clinton Foundation and by no means all of them were people hoping for favours from one H. Clinton when she was Secretary of State. But $17.6 million over five years is over $3.5 million a year. That’s over $9,600 a day, even in a leap year. And it wasn’t the only thing he was doing nor, indeed, the only thing he was doing that brought in vast sums. (For instance The Washington Post says he made $104.9 million giving 542 speeches between 2001 and 2013, an average of $193,542.44 per. And that he was paid $3.13 million in “consulting fees” in 2009 and 2010 by an investment firm whose boss’s charity has given the Clinton Foundation millions more and who did at least try to contact Hillary Clinton for a favor when she was Secretary of State.)
What can anyone do for you on a part-time basis that’s worth nearly $10,000 a day? Per customer? And what has he got to say that’s worth 200 grand a pop, 45 times a year, for over a decade? I mean, we’re out there asking people to support our documentaries and commentaries and other work like the “Ask the Professor” feature with, say, $5 a month, which is about 17 cents a day. That’s less than one fifty-six-thousandth of Clinton’s haul from Laureate Education alone. I’d need 3,226 people to answer that call to make as much in a year as Clinton does for an average speech of the sort he was giving nearly once a week.
I’m not saying I’m in the wrong business. But I am saying if this news bugs you as much as it bugs me, and if you think it’s important to keep the voices that matter to you audible, please do try to find that 17 cents a day for us, and for other groups like Ezra Levant’s The Rebel, Dave Reesor’s Let’s Do It Ourselves, Danny Hozack’s Economic Education Association of Alberta (and yes, I’m professionally involved with two of them) and other similar outfits like the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Constitution Foundation and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (who helped us enormously with our Fix the Constitution documentary project).
Unlike the Clintons, we’re never going to get rich doing what we do. But that’s kind of the point.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain is under American pressure to send an extra 100 troops to Afghanistan. How did it come to this?
I’m not judging the merits of the Afghan mission at this point. I’m just noting that this is a protracted, difficult discussion between the two leading powers in the Western alliance about a company of soldiers. One hundred troops. One company.
The Telegraph says the deployment would make a difference to the American ability to deploy troops elsewhere in the country and bolster U.S. commanders’ arguments with their own president about further reducing the American presence.
A hundred soldiers? I can see how the decision to send three regiments might signal serious allied commitment to a cause. But if it still matters, sending 100 soldiers should be a minor administrative decision not a major strategic issue.
Consider that in April 1940 in a failed attempt to rescue their Norwegian ally, the British put 3,500 men into a minor action at Namsos, despite having 200,000 in France and deployments worldwide, from the Caribbean to Burma and Hong Kong, in the midst of a major war. Yet such a deployment would strain the capacity of the far richer and more populous UK of 2016 in peacetime, with few other demands on its armed forces, and entirely exceed our own. How can we have let such a situation arise in a clearly turbulent world?
Look, the Afghan mission may have been misconceived from the beginning or badly executed. I don’t think so, except in the unrealistic expectations for transforming the country through military action rather than just removing a regime dangerous to us. But it may be time to withdraw. It may be impossible to prevent a Taliban resurgence. The major terrorist threat may be elsewhere now. Or showing weakness once committed might be perilous. All these things can be debated.
What it seems to me cannot be debated is that when the two most powerful nations in the Western alliance are having protracted high-level discussions over 100 soldiers, both our military establishments and our will are dangerously weak.
Amid all the sound and fury in the American presidential election, with the latter being on the whole more justified than the former, a remarkable voice of sanity emerges in the form of an open letter (yes, a much overused format, but justified this time). It’s from two women, both mothers, about the central issue in the apparent unraveling of America: the unraveling of the family.
They ask Donald Trump what he might do about it, especially given his own example. And it’s an entirely appropriate question for the man who would be Republican nominee and apparently will be. But it could also be asked of almost anyone aspiring to office, as a reproach in some cases including Hillary Clinton’s and merely an urgent policy question in others.
Nothing matters more than intact families in making America “great” again. Nothing matters more in making it whole, in making it free, in preserving limited government, decentralization and vigorous citizens able to tackle problems both public and private instead of passively waiting for incompetent overbearing government to barge in and make things worse. And nothing matters more in people’s private lives.
So what has anyone to say about it? The problem is by no means unique to the United States. Whether you are American, Canadian, Australian or any other nationality, I strongly urge you to read the letter, to ponder it, to see what answer you might give as well as what answer any candidates do American or otherwise.
While politicians are gassing on, here’s the sort of thing that really matters: the Washington Post reports on a superbug resistant to last-resort antibiotics, and liable to share its genes with other more sinister bacteria, that has reached the United States.
People tell me, oh, I wouldn’t want to live in the Middle Ages because they didn’t have antibiotics. Well, we did and we squandered them.
Three cheers for modernity.