I know its kind of a cliche when it comes to political candidates. But I still find it a really effective and lightning quick litmus test in gaging how I feel about a candidate. Of course, it's only helpful if you believe that integrity and trustworthiness are important characteristics in a politician. And I am not talking about that minimum threshold of wiggling and spinning that is sadly part and parcel of being a politician today.
When I ask that question of the current crop of Democratic candidates vying for their party's nomination for President I come up one short. Although of course I have my favorites in the field,
there is only one that I wouldn't feel comfortable buying a used car from. And sadly that one is Hillary Clinton.
Don't get me wrong. Any of the Democratic candidates, including Hillary, are preferable to any of the Republicans. And I think it would be a wonderful and long overdue accomplishment to see a woman occupying the big seat behind the desk in the Oval Office. But I have never had a lot of trust in Hillary Clinton. For me, she is too much of a politician. In fact, she is a politician's politician. Remember the old joke back when Bill was President? It went something like this: "Where would Bill be without Hillary? Pumping gas in Arkansas." And as a politician's politician, it is hard to discern if she is saying something she truly believes versus saying something she believes is going to make her popular.
An article in todays Los Angeles Times shows one of her strategies to make herself very popular with certain corporate and moneyed interests. It seems that Hillary is a huge fan of pork:
It's a real estate developer's sugar-plum dream: a mega-shopping mall complete with 10 Broadway-style theaters, an indoor river, a Tuscan village and a 39-story luxury hotel sheathed in green solar panels shaped like giant blades of grass. Plus as much as $1 billion in government-backed financing, thanks in part to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton....
Not everyone thinks the plan, known as Destiny USA and still in the early bulldozer stage, is a good idea...One thing is clear, however: Destiny is a classic example of how New York's junior senator has embraced old-fashioned pork-barrel politics, first to build power in the state, then to extend it nationwide as she becomes a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Clinton will claim of course that her pork-barrel politics have been for the benefit of her constituents, as I am sure they often have been in terms of jobs and infrastructure, she has certainly also benefited:
In the case of Destiny, she teamed up with other New York lawmakers to secure federal backing for the private investment project. And she collected tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the developer and others associated with the project...
And its not just this Destiny project:
Since taking office in 2001, Clinton has delivered $500 million worth of earmarks that have specifically benefited 59 corporations. About 64% of those corporations provided funds to her campaigns through donations made by employees, executives, board members or lobbyists, a review by the Los Angeles Times shows.
And of course almost all elected representatives do stuff like this. But it's a matter of degree:
Her record stands in contrast with others in the Senate seeking the presidency, particularly John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.). McCain, who has long opposed earmarks, does not write them. Obama has used the device, but now declines to earmark funds for private companies... Other senators seeking the presidency provide earmarks to home-state constituents and collect donations from recipients of the federal largesse. But The Times review found that Clinton does it on a different scale.
For example, in the appropriations bills that have passed the Senate so far this year, Clinton earmarked 216 separate projects for a total of $236.6 million. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) secured $112.8 million; Obama earmarked $90.4 million, and Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) earmarked projects totaling $70.8 million.
Since Clinton arrived in the Senate, she has collected in excess of $1 million from earmark beneficiaries and their associates.
After 8 years of Bush&Cheney, Inc., I am not sure how happy we should be with Hillary, Inc. The more indebted a candidate is to corporate and monied interests, the more difficult it is to trust the motivations at work. On top of my long-standing doubts about Hillary's genuineness, it is her apparently unbounded appetite for pork that has sealed her fate in my book.