Hillary Clinton’s tone-deaf comments about being “dead broke” after she and her husband left the White House were unfortunate, revealing and — if Clinton chooses to learn from them — instructive for the likely presidential campaign ahead.
ABC’s Diane Sawyer asked Clinton about her reported $5 million in speaking fees since leaving the Obama administration, and Bill Clinton’s supposed $100 million pile.
“We came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt,” Clinton responded. “We had no money when we got there and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education, you know, it was not easy. ... We had to make double the money because of obviously taxes, and then pay off the debts, and get us houses and take care of family members.”
Oh my. Ask John McCain, ask Mitt Romney. When one refers to houses in the plural, one is entering dangerous political territory. Car elevators, anyone?
Sawyer persisted. “But do you think Americans are going to understand five times the median income in this country for one speech?”
Clinton: “Well, let me put it this way. I thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do.”
Excuse me, but “I could have sold out worse” does not strike me as a good answer, especially because the purported reason — being “dead broke” — had long expired by the time Clinton finished her stint as secretary of state.
This was unfortunate because there was a far better answer available: “You’re totally right, Diane. It’s a ridiculous sum of money for a single speech. Do I think Americans can understand it? I can’t even understand it myself! But a lot of people — former presidents, former secretaries of state — have been paid ludicrous amounts for speeches. It’s what the market will bear. What I have tried to do is to use my good fortune, through the Clinton Foundation and through other charitable giving, to help create a better America and a better world.”