I’m still trying to make sense of the news that the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign were the forces behind the infamous “Steele Dossier,” a dodgy document full of hearsay about Donald Trump that was put together by an even dodgier outfit called Fusion GPS, which has done shady work on behalf of Russia in the past.
Named after Christopher Steele, the former British spy who put it together, the document has scads of salacious but unverified stories about the Russians having compromising material on Trump. The sources for some of the allegations are apparently Russian government officials.
My scorecard is a hot mess. For months, defenders of the Trump campaign’s meeting with a representative of the Russian government insisted that there’s nothing wrong with collecting dirt, even from a hostile foreign power. “It’s just opposition research,” went the talking point. “Everybody does it.” Clinton’s acolytes replied that, au contraire, it is borderline treasonous to rely on hostile governments for this kind of thing.
But now that the Washington Post has reported that the Clinton campaign and the DNC were behind the “Trump Dossier,” everyone’s shoes are on other feet. Team Trump now insists this is outrageously improper, if not treasonous, and Team Clinton is trying to wave it all away with, “It’s just opposition research, everybody does it.”
Make of that what you will. I, for one, will wait until we get some people under oath, and until the relevant — and necessary — investigations play themselves out.
Still, it seems to me there are only a few obvious takeaways from this development. One is that TrumpWorld only believes the Post is “fake news” when it reports inconvenient facts about Trump. When Hillary is in the crosshairs, the WaPo is gospel.
A second is that Clinton Inc. has been lying for over a year to the country and the press about its involvement in the dossier. As New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted this week, “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.”
And that brings us to a third, incandescently obvious fact: The Clintons will always abuse, exploit, deceive and make fools of their biggest fans and friends, the press, the public and even each other.
During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton lied to the public for a long time. But he also lied to his confidantes, including his wife, so that they could go around and sanctimoniously deride and dismiss Bill’s accusers, even under oath. This had been Team Clinton’s M.O. long before Lewinsky became a household name. In 1992, the Clinton campaign set up a whole operation to quash “bimbo eruptions” — i.e., to discredit the victims of Bill’s sexual harassment (something to consider amid the discussion of Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly and, yes, Trump these days).
But that was just one tile in the rich mosaic of deceit that is the Clinton Way. Bill, who earned the nickname “Slick Willie,” always believed he was smart enough to talk his way out of anything — and he was often successful. But what came naturally to Bill took study for Hillary. He was an improvisational deceiver. She had to prepare. The net result was always the same, though: Their failures were always somebody else’s fault. (Since the election, Hillary has blamed everyone from the DNC to Bernie Sanders to woman-haters everywhere for her loss.) And the people who put faith in the Clintons and defended them always end up holding the bag.
But the lies were always a symptom of a deeper pathology. The Clintons saw themselves as better than the institutions they were supposed to serve, from the White House and the State Department to the Democratic Party and even the country. The rules are for other people. That’s why Clinton Inc. collected millions upon millions of dollars from foreign governments, Wall Street and Hollywood while demonizing their opponents as shills for corporations and wealthy interests. That’s why Hillary flouted the rules for her email server. That’s why Bill flouted the rules for pretty much everything.
And at every step, they expected others to protect them, lie for them, clean up after them and, if necessary, go to jail for them.
As James McDougal, a former friend and business partner of the Clintons (in the now ancient Whitewater land deal turned scandal) put it, “I think the Clintons are really sort of like tornadoes moving through people’s lives. I’m just one of the people left in the wake of their passing by.”
Jonah Goldberg is an editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him in care of this newspaper or by email at [email protected]