But over the past two weeks, with back-to-back revelations that she was working with foreign countries that gave millions of dollars to her family’s charitable foundation and that she set up and exclusively used a private e-mail system, that argument has been put in peril.
Instead of a fresh chapter in which Clinton came into her own, her time as the country’s top diplomat now threatens to remind voters of what some people dislike about her — a tendency toward secrecy and defensiveness, along with the whiff of scandal that clouded the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton.
That side of Hillary Clinton also plays directly into the main Republican argument against her, that she is a candidate of “yesterday” — as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida recently put it — who comes with decades of baggage the country no longer need carry.
“Part of the reason the story is gaining traction is that it reminds people of what the Clinton White House was like,” said American University political science professor Jennifer Lawless. “It reminds people of the scandals, the secrecy and the lack of transparency that were often associated with Bill Clinton’s eight years in Washington.”
But the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation has accepted tens of millions of dollars in donations from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Algeria and Brunei — all of which the State Department has faulted over their records on sex discrimination and other human-rights issues.
The department’s 2011 human rights report on Saudi Arabia, the last such yearly review prepared during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure, tersely faulted the kingdom for “a lack of equal rights for women and children,” and said violence against women, human trafficking and gender discrimination, among other abuses, were all “common” there.
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Saudi Arabia has been a particularly generous benefactor to the Clinton Foundation, giving at least $10 million since 2001, according to foundation disclosures. At least $1 million more was donated by Friends of Saudi Arabia, co-founded by a Saudi prince.
Republicans quickly zeroed in on the apparent contradiction. Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief, told a crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month that Mrs. Clinton “tweets about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights.”Maureen Dowd writes:
Everyone is looking for signs in how Hillary approaches 2016 to see if she’s learned lessons from past trouble. But the minute this story broke, she went back to the bunker, even though she had known for months that the Republicans knew about the account. The usual hatchets — Philippe Reines, David Brock, Lanny Davis and Sidney Blumenthal — got busy.
The Clintons don’t sparkle with honesty and openness. Between his lordly appetites and her queenly prerogatives, you always feel as if there’s something afoot.
Everything needs to be a secret, from the Rose Law Firm records that popped up in a White House closet two years after they were subpoenaed to the formulation of her health care plan.
Yet the Clintons always act as though it’s bad form when you bring up their rule-bending. They want us to compartmentalize, just as they do, to connect the dots that form a pretty picture and leave the other dots alone.
If you’re aspiring to be the second president in the family, why is it so hard to be straight and direct and stand for something? Why can’t you just be upright and steady and good?
Given all the mistakes they’ve made, why do they keep making them? Why do they somehow never do anything that doesn’t involve shadows?