Clinton caught in crossfire of class warfare

As speaking fees go, Hillary Clinton’s allegedly scandalous $200,000 per engagement is chump change compared with Donald Trump’s $1.5 million.

But, of course Trump wouldn’t bother to part his lips for less. It costs at least a million just to wake up in the rarified world he occupies.

So what’s the big fuss about Clinton’s fees, which are negotiated by her speaking agency?

There seem to be two “problems,” at least if you’re Bernie Sanders. One is that Clinton, because of her high-dollar rates, is out of touch with the “real Americans” she presumes to represent. Two, her speaking fees from financial institutions, specifically, supposedly suggest that, as president, she wouldn’t be “tough” on Wall Street, whatever this is supposed to mean.

The Sanders crowd is on firm ground in their assessment that Clinton is out of touch with everyday Americans. This is not news, folks. The Clintons have been living the life of millionaires since their first giggly night inside the White House. Except for dealing with domestic help, chauffeurs, chefs and Secret Service agents, Hillary Clinton hasn’t been in touch with regular folks ever since.

That said, there’s no basis for insisting that one must be poor to work for the interests of those less fortunate. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were hardly from the barrio. Indeed, it’s often the privileged who most fiercely embrace the adage that from those to whom much is given, much is expected. Giving back, after all, is a privilege of having something to give.

To this point, I’ve always been struck by an observation Broadway director Moss Hart made in his autobiography, “Act One.” Having grown up bitterly poor, Hart wrote that poverty is evil not because you have nothing but because you have nothing to give. This is very much in the spirit of Jesus’ beatitude that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Unfortunately, the Democratic base has been electrified by the notion that the poor are poor because the rich are rich. To this zero-sum interpretation of income inequality, a friend always responds: How many poor people has Oprah created?

On the right, the base is riled about those they perceive as taking their country from them.

Thus, our politics have been reduced to a tug of war between envy and resentment. And neither side seems able to stop building molehills when there are mountains to conquer. Clinton’s speeches are molehills.

First, on what planet do people not try to make as much money as they can? Speaking fees vary widely, as indicated by the gap between Clinton’s and Trump’s. Sanders made less than $2,000 total in 2014, which he donated to charity. A relatively wealthy man himself, forfeiting the paltry sum he earned from speaking and from appearing on a TV show ($850 from HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher”) wasn’t a make-or-break financial decision.

For perspective, a few other high earners include: Tim Geithner, $200,000 per speech; Ben Bernanke, $200,000 to $400,000; George W. Bush, $150,000; Chelsea Clinton and Dick Cheney, both $75,000; Newt Gingrich, $60,000. These figures are from an ABC News analysis. (Disclosure: I’m in Palm Beach as a paid speaker, but I’m dirt cheap — and tons funnier — compared with Clinton.)

Obviously, the Clintons have golden tongues, but the market pays what the market demands. And, yes, the former president and first lady have amassed a small fortune from telling folks whatever it is their audiences find so compelling.

What pearls tumble from Hillary Clinton’s lips?

This, Sanders surely would like to know, as would The Washington Post, which has repeatedly requested her speech transcripts. Thus far, Clinton has declined to provide them, a decision with which I agree or at least find defensible. Given that these were essentially private conversations, privately transacted, she’s under no obligation to share the texts with anyone else.

More likely than the cover-up conspiracy Clintons always seem to inspire, she probably prefers to protect the intimacy that any good speaker tries to develop with an audience — a particular group of people rather than the entire country. Personally, I don’t allow my speeches to be recorded so that I can relax and not worry over every word.

To a grown-up point, which Donny Deutsch argued on Friday’s “Morning Joe,” doesn’t a president need to work with Wall Street as well as Main Street?

Class warfare may inspire the angry masses, but it’s no way to run a country. Nor, one hopes, is it any way to get elected. The better way is to promote policies that will help more people become givers by raising them up, rather than pushing down others perceived as having “too” much.

Kathleen Parker’s email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon
Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, Nov. 30

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

An artist's rendering shows features planned for the first floor of an expansion of the Imagine Children's Museum. The area will include a representation of the old bicycle tree in Snohomish and an outdoorsy Camp Imagine. (Imagine Children's Museum)
Editorial: GivingTuesday offers chance to build better future

Organizations, such as Imagine Children’s Museum, need our support as we look past the pandemic.

Comment: Omicron met quickly with transparency and caution

Countries reacted quickly. The best advice now is to keep calm and continue vaccination efforts.

Harrop: There is a fix for stupid, at least concerning covid

How much sympathy are we to muster for those who die after campaigning against covid vaccines?

Comment: Biden learned from Carter’s mistakes on gas prices

Carter’s tough-love scolding wasn’t wrong on policy, but it lacked empathy for average Americans.

Comment: Keep history’s racist accounts, but not as only source

Removing the stories told by white men would whitewash history, but context must be provided.

School-age lead Emilee Swenson pulls kids around in a wagon at Tomorrow’s Hope child care center on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021 in Everett, Washington. A shortage of child care workers prompted HopeWorks, a nonprofit, to expand its job training programs. Typically, the programs help people with little or no work experience find a job. The new job training program is for people interested in becoming child care workers. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Editorial: Everett must make most of pandemic windfall

Using federal funds, the mayor’s office has outlined $20.7M in projects to address covid’s impacts.

toon
Editorial: Small Business Saturday a focus for local economy

Shopping locally supports your community’s businesses and employees and offers extraordinary gifts.

A man crosses the road under stoplights at Casino Road and Evergreen Way on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019 in Everett, Wash. The lights at Casino Road and Evergreen Way are being considered for controversial red-light traffic cameras. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Editorial: Train red-light cameras on problem intersections

The cameras, planned for seven Everett locations, should help prevent costly and deadly accidents.

Most Read