It was a chance for a fresh start.
Hillary Clinton had a brand new clean slate. After years of imprinting on the American people that she was a not so clever liar for whom allegations of deceitful, arrogant, and even bullying behavior seemed to follow her like a perpetual rain cloud — to be Secretary of State was a chance to begin again. To shine as the smart woman her most devoted supporters insist she really is.
Gone would be the stories about the missing Rose Law Firm billing records that mysteriously turned up on a table in the White House Residence. Gone too would be the memory of her conduct in the Whitewater investigation, where the prosecutors assessment of her testimony was described as follows by Washington Post and Time investigative reporters Susan Schmidt and Michael Weisskopf in their 2000 book Truth at Any Cost: Ken Starr and the Unmaking of Bill Clinton:
Virtually everybody concluded that the first lady had lied but that the evidence was not strong enough to convict her.
Disappeared down the memory hole too was Juanita Broaddrick’s allegation that Hillary had threatened her to be silent over Broaddrick’s allegation of being raped by Bill Clinton. Not to mention had memories faded that Hillary was involved with getting investigators to rummage through the private lives of Bill’s various romantic targets, as with Broaddrick the objective being to intimidate into silence.
As January of 2009 dawned, all of these stories had vanished in the euphoria over the Obama ascension. Hillary Clinton was now Secretary of State — with a clean slate. Limited only by the President’s views, most of which she shared, she was now free to work her will on America’s role in the world. To roam the globe and imprint the Hillary Clinton trademark on a job that had once been held by predecessors whose historical reputations shone through history with accomplishment. Hillary Clinton now sat where George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Cordell Hull, John Hay, William Seward, John Quincy Adams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson had been seated. And as with those earlier predecessors — Jefferson, Adams, Madison and a few others — she would be free to position herself as the eventual Next President. A Sure Thing as the First Woman President.
Alas. There is the Aesop fable of “The Scorpion and the Frog,” which goes like this:
A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”
The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”
Replies the scorpion: “It’s my nature…”
Say again, the scorpion breaks his promise and stings the frog because “it’s my nature.”
So. Here we are yet again with Hillary Clinton. Well aside from disagreements over her policies — the Russian re-set, the departure from Iraq, the overtures to the Muslim Brotherhood, and American policy towards radical Islam — her tenure as Secretary of State is now mired in, yes, the same old, same old. Only this week she was being grilled by Fox’s Ed Henry, and as noted here at Fox Henry “recalled that Clinton insisted months ago that the server contained no classified information. Henry said we now know that was not true. ”
At the root of her email scandal is the same problem that surfaced with all those earlier episodes. To borrow again from reporters Schmidt and Weiskopf: “Virtually everybody concluded that the first lady had lied…”
This being the case, well beyond whatever happens to Hillary in this latest mess — everybody from the FBI to the State Department is now sucked into this — it is now apparent that her inability to tell the truth is an ingrained personality trait. This isn’t the amusing or, for some, outrageous business of Donald Trump’s tweets. This is the deadly serious realization that the Democrats’ prospective nominee for president is exactly what the late New York Times columnist William Safire called her: a “congenital liar.” Congenital is defined by Webster’s dictionary as an “essential characteristic” that is “dating from birth.”
Let’s return to that famous-in-the-day column of Safire’s from January of 1996. The headline was:
Blizzard of Lies
Safire wrote, in part, this:
Americans of all political persuasions are coming to the sad realization that our First Lady — a woman of undoubted talents who was a role model for many in her generation — is a congenital liar.
Drip by drip, like Whitewater torture, the case is being made that she is compelled to mislead, and to ensnare her subordinates and friends in a web of deceit.
… she is in the longtime habit of lying; and she has never been called to account for lying herself or in suborning lying in her aides and friends.
A better description of today’s Hillary email scandal could not be written.
Safire goes on to cite chapter and verse of the-then First Lady’s lying. Beginning with this one:
Remember the story she told about studying The Wall Street Journal to explain her 10,000 percent profit in 1979 commodity trading? We now know that was a lie told to turn aside accusations that as the Governor’s wife she profited corruptly, her account being run by a lawyer for state poultry interests through a disreputable broker.
She lied for good reason: To admit otherwise would be to confess taking, and paying taxes on, what some think amounted to a $100,000 bribe.
Then there was “Travelgate” — a scandal swirling around the Clinton White House travel office. Safire said this:
The abuse of Presidential power known as Travelgate elicited another series of lies. She induced a White House lawyer to assert flatly to investigators that Mrs. Clinton did not order the firing of White House travel aides, who were then harassed by the F.B.I. and Justice Department to justify patronage replacement by Mrs. Clinton’s cronies.
Now we know, from a memo long concealed from investigators, that there would be “hell to pay” if the furious First Lady’s desires were scorned. The career of the lawyer who transmitted Hillary’s lie to authorities is now in jeopardy. Again, she lied with good reason: to avoid being identified as a vindictive political power player who used the F.B.I. to ruin the lives of people standing in the way of juicy patronage.
One could go on — and on. Somewhere Bill Safire is shaking his head in recognition that the old Hillary pattern has surfaced yet again.
Time after time after time, like clockwork, this “essential characteristic” of deliberately and willfully lying surfaces with Hillary Clinton. She is Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson — or husband Bill — in a pantsuit. With the keys to the White House handed to her it is hardly difficult to predict that soon enough — perhaps when America can least afford it and desperately needs to keep its eye on the latest terrorist ball — the nation will be consumed in some controversy that revolves around presidential lying.
If the Hillary Clinton email scandal should say anything to Americans, it would be the old classic that the more things change the more they stay the same. And as William Safire documented almost twenty years ago, the “essential character” of a congenital liar never changes.
In today’s version of the story about the scorpion and the frog?
America is the frog — and Hillary Clinton is the scorpion. Look out.