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The Harvard Crimson last week announced that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would receive the Radcliffe Medal on May 25 at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Past recipients of the honor, given annually to individuals (usually women) who have had “a transformative impact on society,” include U.S. Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor, the tennis player Billie Jean King, the writer Toni Morrison, and another former secretary of state, Madeleine K. Albright.
Lizabeth Cohen, the dean of the Radcliffe Institute, noted the award to Clinton was being made “in recognition of her accomplishments in the public sphere as a champion for human rights, as a skilled legislator, and as an advocate for global American leadership.” Dean Cohen went on to describe Clinton as “a model of what it takes to transform society: a lifetime of relentless effort combined with the vision and dedication to overcome one’s inevitable defeats.”
The Crimson omitted any specifics about Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments as a “champion for human rights,” her prowess and achievements as a legislator, or the results of her advocacy of “American global leadership.” Nor did it dilate on her role as a “model” of someone whose efforts had transformed society while serving as beacon of hope and propriety for those struggling with life’s “inevitable defeats.”
A full inventory of Clinton’s activities in these areas would be tediously long. But as the Evangelist Matthew admonished (5:15), one should not hide one’s light under a bushel but rather let it “so shine before men, that they may see” one’s good works. So let me at least partially redress Dean Cohen’s unaccountable oversight, which was doubtless predicated upon Hillary Clinton’s native reticence, and mention just a few of the accomplishments that qualify her for this signal honor.
Many readers, dazzled by the memory of Clinton’s recent presidential campaign, may be a bit shaky about her long history of private-sector accomplishment and public service. Here, without pretending to anything like completeness, are a few highlights.
- In 1973, she failed the D.C. Bar exam, a fact she concealed for 30 years.
- Fresh out of Yale Law School, she worked on the Watergate impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. Jerry Zeifman, chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee during the inquiry, described Clinton as “a liar. She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.”
- Following her then-boyfriend Bill Clinton to Arkansas in the late 1970s, she managed to get a job at the Rose Law Firm only after Bill became state attorney general. She was described as a “trial lawyer,” but as Betsy McCaughey notes in an article on Hillary’s “coattail career,” none of her former colleagues can remember her ever having tried a case.
- Also in the late 1970s, Hillary demonstrated her prowess as an investor. She parlayed a $1000 investment in cattle futures into $100,000 in just nine months. How did she do it? She later said it was from reading the Wall Street Journal. Perhaps she also got a little help from James B. Blair, a Clinton friend and top lawyer for Tyson Foods, one of Arkansas’s largest businesses and a conspicuous donor to Clinton. “During Mr. Clinton’s tenure as Governor,” the New York Times reported, “Tyson benefited from several state decisions, including favorable environmental rulings, $9 million in state loans, and the placement of company executives on important state boards. . . . The commodities trades were the most successful investment the Clintons ever made. The nearly $100,000 profit enabled them to buy a house, invest in securities and real estate and provide a nest egg for their daughter, Chelsea.”
- When Bill became president in 1993, he invested Hillary as the chair of a task force to revamp the nation’s health care policy. Barring the press and the public from the committee meetings, she presented her recommendations to Congress as a fait accompli. Betsy McCaughey recalls that “Within four months, a federal judge ruled the Clintons were violating federal open meeting laws, and The Wall Street Journal ridiculed her meetings as ‘an exercise in Soviet-style Kremlinology.’ Hillary’s M.O. was to vilify critics (including me) as ‘extremists.’ Her mismanagement sabotaged the momentum to get health reform done, even in a Democratically controlled Congress.”
- In 2000, when a Senate seat in New York became vacant, Hillary tugged again on Bill’s coattails. Neither Clinton had ever lived in New York. But it was the work of a moment to buy a house in Chappaqua. Hillary then set about parlaying her husband’s celebrity and influence into the tangible dispensation of a seat in the U.S. Senate.
- In her eight years as senator, Clinton’s activity as a “skilled legislator” resulted in exactly one bill that she introduced becoming law. That “transformative” piece of legislation provided that the U.S. courthouse at 40 Centre Street in New York City be renamed the “Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse.”
- After failing to win the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton became Barack Obama’s first secretary of state. In that position, she presided over many signal instances of “American global leadership.” Consider, for example,
- Her “reset” with Russia, an initiative that we are living with even today.
- Her savvy diplomatic dealings with Israel, not least her endorsing a demand that Israel return to its 1967 borders.
- Her clever engagement with Iran over its nuclear program.
- Her deft handling of the emergency in Libya, resulting not only in the murder of Colonel Gaddafi, the descent of Libya into near anarchy and an entrepôt for terrorist activity, and the attack on our diplomatic enclave in Benghazi, a planned terrorist attack that left our ambassador and three other Americans dead but which she dismissed as a “spontaneous uprising” sparked by an anti-Islamic internet video.
- As “a model of what it takes to transform society,” Hillary Clinton can boast many initiatives. For example, she endeavored to transform her Chappaqua house through the simple expedient of shipping tens of thousands of dollars of government property from Washington, D.C. to her New York demesne.
- When it comes to Hillary Clinton as a “champion for human rights,” is there anything more telling than her activities through the Clinton Foundation in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake in that unfortunate country? Hillary, then secretary of state, and Bill, heading up a Haiti reconstruction fund, funneled tens of millions of dollars to Haiti for “relief efforts.” But the money never went to the Haitians. It went instead to a wide network of Clinton relatives, friends, and cronies, often via the Clinton Foundation. The Haitians themselves initially regarded the Clintons as saviors. They soon learned otherwise and now routinely protest outside the offices of the Clinton Foundation.
- Since the Radcliffe Medal is so intimately associated with higher education, it also worth remembering Laureate Education’s Walden University, a Clinton-backed, for-profit university that paid $16 million to Bill Clinton to be honorary “chancellor” (no work required) while the State Department funneled $55 million of taxpayer funds to Laureate when Hillary was Secretary of State.
- These days, no account of Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments can omit her many logistical innovations while secretary of state in the realm of communications. Imagine, setting up a private email server in your home and using that unsecured server for your official email correspondence while secretary of state. Imagine destroying more than 30,000 emails when subpoenaed by Congress. Or having your server professionally wiped before turning it over for scrutiny (and then feigning that you didn’t know what it meant to “wipe” a computer’s hard disk.)
These few items merely scratch the surface of Hillary Clinton’s many “transformative” activities. No one, at any rate, can doubt her success in transforming the Clinton bank account. When Bill and Hillary left the White House, they were in debt to the tune of $500,000. Over the next 15 years, they raked in some $240 million.
Perhaps the Radcliffe Institute is hoping some measure of that pelf will be sent their way. My observation is that, when it comes to the Clintons, money flows in only one direction. Be that as it may, this little list, incomplete though it is, may help the multitude who will assemble this May to pay homage to Hillary Clinton’s “transformative impact on society” gain a deeper appreciation of the nature of her “lifetime of relentless effort.” How proud Radcliffe must be.