|Arkansas Mischief: The Birth of a National Scandal is a tale of the "Whitewater" scandal that was co-authored by Curtis Wilkie, a respected presidential campaign reporter from Mississippi who teaches at the University of Mississippi. The book contains some very unflattering vignettes involving Hillary Clinton that may shed light on her character as her current email scandal unfolds more than twenty years later.|
This post will disappoint some in the Mississippi Democratic Party, but with all due respect to those I respect, the rush to rubber stamp Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee of choice in Mississippi may be premature and dangerous if things keep developing in the direction they're developing.
If you are keeping score, staffers are abruptly leaving the Clinton Foundation, a former aide responsible for setting up Clinton's email server invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating himself in front of Congress, the FBI and State Department are starting to compare evidence per orders of a federal judge, including the contents of a private server that Clinton's sycophants wiped clean for her, and Clinton's own conduct throughout this process has had all the trademarks of some sort of coverup. How can Secretary Clinton look the press and the American people in the eye and suggest that she does not know what a reporter means when Clinton was asked if she wiped her email server?
[One more disclaimer: In addition to the Democratic Party, I fear I may disappoint some activist progressive women who are ready for a woman to become president. But with all due respect to those ready to break this anachronistic glass ceiling, I say this: Why does it have to be HRC? Senators Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, or Claire McCaskill are all interesting prospects for Presidential or Vice-Presidential nominees on the Democratic side, even in 2016. Clinton is not the only show in town, and if she is, Democrats may already be in trouble in 2016 as the FOIA court case and the FBI investigation moves forward.]
Concealing evidence, leaving aides to seek Constitutional shelter from self-incrimination, lying to the press… What sort of person does these things? Unfortunately, the unsurprising conclusion is this. The kind of person who lies, cheats, and leaves people out to dry has found its political archetype on the Democratic side, and her name is Hillary Clinton. And this is not her first rodeo, as this post will detail.
My point in recounting just the most recent parts of the Clinton email saga is not to provide an exhaustive list of all the apparent misfeasance and nonfeasance in this scandal. My point is that if a Republican had committed even one of these acts that violates the law or undermines the democratic and legal process, Democrats would be all over it and referring to that person as Richard Nixon 2.0. It's no wonder that recent surveys revealed that average voters (not just Republicans) associate words such as "liar" with HRC, and three in five respondents believe Clinton to be untrustworthy.
The Original Sins of Hillary Clinton as Told by Curtis Wilkie
Among political reporters, Curtis Wilkie is arguably one of the top three living or top five living or dead in Mississippi's history. But based on Wilkie's experience in covering eight presidential campaigns (seven for the Boston Globe), I personally believe Wilkie is inarguably the most esteemed and experienced national political reporter in Mississippi's history. When it comes to national presidential politics, he's the most authoritative and credible journalist in Mississippi. Period.
While Wilkie retired as a presidential campaign reporter after 2000, the guy is nowhere near finished. After the Boston Globe career, post "retirement," Wilkie now seems to be at the height of his writing powers. Among lesser known works, Wilkie wrote and published two important books in the 2000s: a memoir entitled Dixie in 2001 and a work of investigative journalism called The Fall of the House of Zeus in 2010. According to his profile page at the University of Mississippi, Wilkie continues to work as a professor and an Overby Fellow at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the Oxford campus.
To put it bluntly, Wilkie is not an idiot. He does his homework and has credibility as an interviewer and as an investigative journalist. That's where a lesser known book becomes relevant when it comes to Hillary Clinton's scandal-plagued career and scandal-prone predisposition.
In Arkansas Mischief: The Birth of a National Scandal, Wilkie tells the tale of his coauthor and a late associate of the Clintons, Jim McDougal. The latter died rotting in prison for his major role in the Whitewater real estate scandal dating back to Bill and Hillary Clinton's tenure in the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock.
So maybe you're with me on Wilkie being respected and trustworthy. What about this character who went to prison while the Clintons remained free? Why should we believe the co-author Jim McDougal who was the primary source of Wilkie's in writing Arkansas Mischief? Three reasons.
First, Wilkie and other Whitewater reporters trusted him as credible, as this quote from Wilkie's Preface to the book shows. "I decided [Jim McDougal] was believable . (Journalists who covered the Whitewater case say he was a very reliable source.)" McDougal, Jim (2015-07-21). Arkansas Mischief: The Birth Of A National Scandal (Kindle Locations 41-42). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
Second, also in the Preface to Arkansas Mischief, Wilkie describes a variety of corroborating sources to McDougal's story, and Wilkie again reiterates his faith in McDougal as a source: "Where it was possible, the quotes in the book were taken from transcripts, periodicals, and court documents. In some cases, the quotes were reconstructed from Jim’s account and confirmed with the individuals involved. In a few cases, I had to rely on Jim’s memory. The research undertaken convinces me of the truth of his account." McDougal, Jim (2015-07-21). Arkansas Mischief: The Birth Of A National Scandal (Kindle Locations 60-62). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
And third, if you actually read Arkansas Mischief, you will see that McDougal was not a guy with just an axe to grind against the Clintons. While blowing the whistle on Bill and Hillary, he seems to keep a soft spot for Bill (while also acknowledging Bill Clinton's personal failings as an unfaithful husband on many occasions). If McDougal was fooling the Whitewater press corps to get back at the Clintons, you would think he would extend some of his vitriol to Bill Clinton, but he seems to still admire Bill and hardly blames Bill for much of the Clinton corruption in Arkansas. Based on a fair reading of McDougal's account, which passed the journalist gauntlet as embodied by Wilkie, while Bill is unquestionably a sex scandal culprit, it is Hillary Clinton that comes off as the true villain of the Clinton financial scandals of the 1970s and 1980s.
While the entire Whitewater saga is convoluted and incites conspiracy theorist conservatives to frenzy (for instance, an attorney from Hillary Clinton's firm who was involved in Whitewater committed suicide, and many documents also disappeared, in addition to Wilkie's coauthor McDougal dying in prison), there is still some there there when it comes to studying Whitewater. The underlying crimes actually happened, or McDougal probably would not have been in prison, and the Clintons were involved in some of the real estate speculation venture referred to as Whitewater.
But the instructive thing about Whitewater in today's context is Hillary Clinton's reaction to the temptations and sins of political power. It is the character sketch of HRC in Arkansas Mischief that damns HRC in my eyes and leads me to believe that she is up to the same sort of mischief in 2015 (as she lies to the press and covers up unlawful conduct) as she was in her formative political years as the first lady of Arkansas.
Here are some quotes I pulled that reveal Hillary to be a real villain in the Whitewater scandal, according to Jim McDougal's memory and Curtis Wilkie's supplementary investigations:
1. On Bill and Hillary's initial reaction to the Whitewater real estate scheme that later landed the author, Jim McDougal, in prison where he died: "I remember that the Clintons accepted the offer instantly. Bill had nearly doubled his money in his other investment with me. But a businessman’s blood did not run in his veins. He simply smiled and said, “Okay,” as though agreeing to buy a potted plant. Hillary was more enthusiastic. She clutched Bill’s arm , remarking that the investment sounded like a terrific idea. Her eyes brightened with excitement over the prospect of getting a piece of the action in the development. Susan was happy, too. She told the Clintons she already had a name for the project. It would be called Whitewater." McDougal, Jim (2015-07-21). Arkansas Mischief: The Birth Of A National Scandal (Kindle Locations 2276-2281). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
2. On Bill and Hillary's misuse of government resources in Arkansas (unrelated to Whitewater but revealing nonetheless in the wake of current scandals): "One of the Arkansas legislative committees took a hard look at the mileage expenses run up by Russ Perrymore, a Clinton aide. Since I had prevailed upon Bill, when he was attorney general, to hire Russ in the first place, I was asked to check on the situation. It turned out that Bill and Hillary had been sending Russ around the state on personal errands, running up his expenses. When I talked to him about the matter, I asked, “What am I supposed to tell the legislators, Russ?” “Hell, tell them I’m prepared to take a lie-detector test,” he said. “I’ll say exactly how many thousands of miles I drove around for Bill and Hillary, going up to Fayetteville to pick up a suit, stuff like that.” McDougal, Jim (2015-07-21). Arkansas Mischief: The Birth Of A National Scandal (Kindle Locations 2398-2404). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
3. On Hillary Clinton's request for assistance in finding a tax shelter for a $100,000 windfall she received through potentially unlawful means (also unrelated to Whitewater but revealing of character): "While on Clinton’s staff, I, too, had an unpleasant brush with Hillary. Knowing of my background in preparing income tax returns, Bill took me aside one day. “Hillary and Jim Blair made a bunch of money on the stock market,” he confided. He didn’t give any details, and I assumed Hillary had bought some shares in a venture company that produced a nice return. Maybe a few thousand dollars, like the profit Bill realized from his land deal with me. Bill seemed concerned about the tax implications of Hillary’s investment, and mentioned the possibility of finding a tax shelter. This seemed a bit odd, considering the Clintons’ finances. Even with two salaries, they could not have been making $ 100,000 a year at the time. I wondered why they would need a tax shelter. I agreed to help Hillary find a write-off. She and I met at the capitol and drove downtown to see Charles Owen, a tax lawyer I had known since our days in the Young Democrats. As the meeting began, Hillary explained that commodities were the source of her windfall, but she didn’t say how much money she had made. I asked Charles about putting the Clintons into one of the popular tax write-offs of the day, investing in a limited partnership in a gold mine. He said my scheme wouldn’t work. We failed to reach a resolution during the brief meeting, and as Hillary and I drove back, I casually asked how much money was at stake . When she said, softly, that she had cleared $ 100,000 on a small investment, I was astounded." McDougal, Jim (2015-07-21). Arkansas Mischief: The Birth Of A National Scandal (Kindle Locations 2485-2496). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
4. On Hillary Clinton's likely commodities futures insider trading that netted her a 100 to 1 profit thanks to political connections: "Driving up the hill to the capitol, I grew agitated as she laid out the mechanics of her deal. Hillary had made a $ 1,000 investment with Blair in October 1978, two months after she and Bill became partners with Susan and me in the Whitewater development. The money was applied to cattle contracts, and she cashed those out in less than two weeks, netting a profit of $ 8,000. Through Blair, she reinvested in more contracts and reaped even greater profits. By the time Hillary closed her account in July 1979, she had cleared $ 100,000— a 100-to-1 return on her investment in less than a year. Several things troubled me. I knew fortunes were made and lost overnight in commodity trading, but the magnitude of her return and the tidy, round number— $ 100,000— defied belief. I had been taught by my family that commodities were not only dangerous, but a device by big-money interests to screw the farmers. Furthermore, I harbored suspicions about Blair, her adviser in the commodity market." McDougal, Jim (2015-07-21). Arkansas Mischief: The Birth Of A National Scandal (Kindle Locations 2496-2503). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
5. On Hillary Clinton's entitled nature and her desperation to make a buck based on political connections in the floundering Whitewater venture: "Early on the morning after the votes were counted, Hillary called our house in Kingston. She sounded as though there had been a death in the family and said she needed money. She wanted to sell their stock in the Whitewater Development Company. “That might not be easy,” I told her. “It’s not listed on the New York Stock Exchange.” I tried to be comforting, but Hillary was distraught. “I have to support everyone now,” she said. “Bill’s out of a job and I have a daughter to support.” Chelsea had been born that year. “I have all these responsibilities. I’ve got to find means of support.” She was no longer talking as a proud political wife, but about herself. It seemed that every sentence began with “I.” There was little I could say to bolster her. No one wanted to buy into Whitewater at this point. The development had become a heavy burden, and Susan and I were already carrying the brunt of the financial load. When I hung up, after explaining to Hillary that she should not expect a sudden influx of money from Whitewater, I turned to Susan and said, “She’s in a panic.” When the Clintons first joined us in Whitewater, their original investment of about ten thousand dollars would have been a princely sum to them. Neither Bill nor Hillary had accumulated much money before he became governor. But I knew Hillary had since made ten times their Whitewater commitment in the commodities market, so they were not starving. It was typical of Hillary to expect me to take care of her and Bill— the same way Jim Blair had brought in the big payday on cattle futures. Hell, other than putting up some money for the down payment on the property, the Clintons had shown no interest in our project. They had never even bothered to drive up to Marion County to look at it. Hillary may have been expecting money to gush from Whitewater like a geyser, thanks to Jim McDougal, but that’s not the way it was working out." McDougal, Jim (2015-07-21). Arkansas Mischief: The Birth Of A National Scandal (Kindle Locations 2664-2680). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
6. On Hillary Clinton's insistence on the unlawful usurpation of tax deductions that belonged to a corporate entity, not her family: "My bleak assessment of Whitewater was not my first discouraging word on the subject to Hillary. We’d had earlier disagreements when she’d insisted on claiming deductions on the Clintons’ personal income tax return for payments I made through the Whitewater company. Although the Clintons made an investment equal to ours in the early stages of the project, I assumed all obligations as the development continued. To spare Bill a potential election-year problem, I even relieved the Clintons of liability for the down payment by taking a loan from Maurice Smith’s bank to pay off our note at Union National. I also took care of shortfalls, handling payments with new loans in my name or by writing personal checks. The first year Hillary claimed tax deductions, I told her, “You can’t do that. It’s the corporation that’s making the payments.” She took the deduction anyway. The next year, she asked again and I repeated my advice. She did it anyway. In 1981, the third year of Whitewater’s existence, Hillary told me she planned to claim further deductions. I lost my temper. “Goddamnit, Hillary,” I said, “with that high -priced eastern education, don’t you know you can’t write it off unless you pay it? I paid it for you, goddamnit, so you can’t take it out on your tax return.” Her face took on a startled expression, the kind of look stubborn or obtuse people use to show they don’t want to understand." McDougal, Jim (2015-07-21). Arkansas Mischief: The Birth Of A National Scandal (Kindle Locations 2681-2692). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
7. How Hillary Clinton took fraudulent legal fees of $2,000 per month as first lady of Arkansas in order to cover up what sounds like an illegal bribe that was going to Bill each month: "At the time of Clinton’s early-morning visit, our savings and loan operation already retained Tucker as our local lawyer. Yet I was so anxious to get back to the papers on my desk that I asked Bill, “Would it help if we gave her some business?” I made the offer simply to get him out of my office. Bill brightened and said, “Oh, yeah.” I told him I’d put Hillary on a retainer, stood up, and said, “Glad you dropped by.” I was trying tactfully to dismiss him. He left, saying Hillary would be in touch with me. After Clinton departed, Susan’s brother Bill stuck his head in my office. I gestured toward the chair just abandoned by the governor and told him, “I don’t mind supporting the guy, but I wish he’d keep his wet butt out of my new chair.” Within two hours, Hillary arrived. It was as though my office had become a stage set for a play with comic entrances and exits. It was still early, before our business office opened. Months had passed since I had seen Hillary. She was wearing a stylish suit, and I was pleased to see that she sat in the soggy chair. “Bill asked me to come by,” she said . “What am I supposed to do?” In Hillary’s oblique manner, the question was quite disingenuous, as if she did not know why she had been asked to stop by. Speaking vaguely of intermittent legal problems we faced, I told Hillary the Madison operation would be willing to pay the Rose firm a two-thousand-dollar-a-month retainer . There would not be much work involved on our account, but I’d concluded that we could afford another legal retainer. I said nothing to Hillary, but I saw her retainer as a way to legalize my monthly two-thousand-dollar subsidy to Clinton. In the months since Henry Hamilton had convinced me of the importance of giving to political friends, I’d tried to think of the payoff as an insurance premium rather than a form of bribery. Bill never said anything to me, and I never raised the subject when suggesting an appointment. With the same amount of money going to Hillary at Rose Law Firm instead of the governor’s office, the payments would take place over the table. Hillary seemed happy with the arrangement, and she left smiling . “Bye, Jim, I’ll see you,” she said. It would be the last time I ever saw her." McDougal, Jim (2015-07-21). Arkansas Mischief: The Birth Of A National Scandal (Kindle Locations 3135-3153). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
8. The frustration of Hillary Clinton that the real estate scheme known as Whitewater was a failure and would not pay for Chelsea's college education as she wanted: "Weary of dealing with the Clintons , especially Hillary, I suggested to Bill that he and Hillary should simply extricate themselves from Whitewater. I had borne most of the financial burden. In the end, by my accounting, Whitewater cost the McDougals about $ 140,000 and the Clintons about $ 13,500. I told Bill he could resolve the issue without further loss of family money or political face by turning their shares over to me. I would assume all the remaining liabilities, and Whitewater would no longer be a political albatross. Clinton said that suited him fine, but asked me to “run it by Hillary.” I had no interest in running it by Hillary. Instead, I prepared a stock transfer certificate and asked Susan to take it to Hillary. Susan was in a bubbly mood when she delivered the papers to the Rose Law Firm. The transfer would relieve us from worry about the Clintons’ finances, and it would free the Clintons from their Whitewater woes. According to Susan, Hillary looked at the certificate and frowned. In hostile tones, she demanded to know what Susan thought she was doing. Hillary’s reaction stunned Susan. Although she did not know all the details, Susan explained that Bill and I had agreed on this course of action to spare the Clintons further problems from Whitewater. Hillary refused to sign the stock transfer. She told Susan, “Jim promised that Whitewater was going to pay for Chelsea’s education.” When Susan reported her exchange with Hillary to me, I was amazed. I had never told Hillary any such thing about Chelsea’s education." McDougal, Jim (2015-07-21). Arkansas Mischief: The Birth Of A National Scandal (Kindle Locations 3180-3191). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.