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It’s not entirely obvious that there’s a moral equivalency between the manner in which the Clintons earned money and the way the Trumps are doing so. This isn’t stopping people from asserting that the two are the same – actually, that the Trumps are worse for of course they are. The latest screecher on this point being Jill Abramson:

I’m feeling nostalgic for Hillary’s Goldman Sachs speaking fees. Remember when we got our ethical knickers in a twist over Clinton’s $225,000 (£170,000) Wall Street speeches? Those worries seem positively quaint when compared with what’s happening now. At least Bill and Hillary put off their offensive buckraking until after they had left public office. The Trump family shows no such restraint. Why wait? Donald, Ivanka and Jared are getting theirs while serving in the White House. And, as with much scandalous behaviour in Washington these days, they insist their behaviour is perfectly acceptable.

There’s then a listing of how much the Trumps are making. From businesses they built over the years before they entered politics. Businesses which continue of course. This is outrageous because of course it is:

Here is a modest proposal: Ivanka and Jared should consider contributing a portion of their gains from sweetheart real estate deals and Chinese favours to help restore funds for the few programmes that still contribute to the health and welfare of Americans in need.

I believe that the US tax system still applies even to the Golden Family, thus they are doing so, aren’t they?

It was only two years ago that we were fretting over the Clinton Foundation taking foreign money, Hillary’s paid speeches, and that private email server. Looking back, it seems like a golden period.

You see what is being done here? The claim is that making money out of being or having been (quite how much influence was being bought is up for discussion) a politician – no one would have given the Clinton’s 5 cents if they hadn’t held office – is morally and practically the same as building a business which makes you money before and while you’re a politician.

It’s an interesting concept, isn’t it? I’m really pretty certain that Obama’s book royalties rose as a result of his being elected to the Presidency. Is that like Trump or Clinton? And did the same people make the same moral equivalence?

Yes, obviously, this is an entirely confected outrage. The only interesting thing about it all is the manner it shows the outrage among the bien pensants over Trump winning in the first place. They’ve spent decades laughing at him, his self-publicity, taste or lack of it, bombast. Then he vaults those gatekeepers into the Oval Office. Stings a bit, doesn’t it?

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  1. Bill and Hillary raked in those speaking fees not because anyone was seriously interested in hearing what they thought on specific issues (and they were never reticent to speak to the press on diverse issues). Patrons were buying access and influence, fully aware that neither speaker had fixed principles that might get in the way of selling favors, and in cases like the Uranium One episode, there is clear evidence of delivery of the favor following payment of a speaking fee.

    But Abramson does not win the argument if she compares qualitatively running a business with shaking down Russian oligarchs with the promise of corrupt administration of the office of Secretary of State. So Abramson’s comparison is exclusively on magnitude — as though it were a blemish to have made an extra million. I agree that all the Trumps have to do to gain absolution for their achievement is pay their taxes.

  2. Not sure about this, but doesn’t a US president relinquish control of his* business interests while in office? Some sort of arms length arrangement? So if he’s getting any from return from it, it’s for the expenditure of money & endeavour he’s made in it before he’s entered office. Not while in office. So no different from any other investment, pension fund or sale of assets he might benefit from during his presidency.

    *masculine gender used throughout. Since there’s never been a female US president. Although women being both equal & different & undoubtedly superior, Hillary could have sold the White House furniture off the back of a truck without controversy.

    • Federal politicians are expected to put investments in a “blind trust” so they cannot make decisions to explicitly favor their holdings. Politicians are not required to divest their businesses, discontinue their law firms, or sell their homes and wear sack-cloth. They are expected to recuse themselves in case of overt conflict of interests. They are required to enumerate all their property to the FEC, but only in broad dollar ranges with no precision at all.

      The eminently qualified Andy Puzder was expected to resign as the chief executive of a restaurant chain to face Senate hearings for Secretary of Labor. As they found his mind was independent of the labor unions, they dredged up discredited domestic-abuse charges and wrecked his nomination. He has become an excellent columnist but I think his executive career is ruined and that no compensation is forthcoming.

  3. Our new South African President Cyril Ramaphosa made his money via play for pay. He knocked on a few doors and said, if you want to continue doing business with any branch of government, give me 51% to front your company. This is a very popular form of entrepreneurship here, as to even be allowed to tender you have to supply your Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment credentials, verified by a ratings agency. Compared to this the Clintons are still amateurs.