Commentary

Saunders: Just face it, Hillary Clinton - you're rich

bsaunders@newsobserver.comJune 23, 2014 

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is honored at Public Counsel's William O. Douglas Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on June 19, 2014 in Century City, California.

ANGELA WEISS — Getty

Note to Hillary: SHUT UP!

Ignoring the first rule of how to extricate one’s self from a hole – stop digging – Hillary Clinton keeps digging herself a deeper hole with her mouth.

Earlier this month, when she was beginning her latest book tour – she reportedly received an $8 million advance for her first book – she betrayed a “let them eat cake” sensibility that would’ve made Marie Antoinette wince.

When she and hubby Bill left the White House in 2001, she stated without laughing, they were “dead broke.”

Last week, she appeared to be making a distinction between her family and “the truly well-off” and seemed to want kudos for paying her taxes. Psst, Hill: We all do. Or should. If she is not careful, Clinton risks coming across as tone-deaf as 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Multi-millionaire Romney, remember, claimed to be unemployed, said his wife, Ann, “drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually” and during a debate casually offered to bet another faux-good ol’ boy, Rick Perry, $10,000 to settle a dispute.

Ouch.

I’ll tell you what: Last time I was at Golden Corral waiting on them to bring out a new hunk of meatloaf, I don’t remember seeing Mitt and Ann or Bill and Hill standing in line behind me.

Clinton is already one of the most polarizing political figures out there, so every word she utters is going to be parsed for ways to demean, denigrate or disqualify her. With her at-best imprecise language, she is merely providing ammo to those of her detractors who claim she is imperial and out of touch.

Yo, Slim. I can introduce you to some people who are really flat broke, if you’re interested in meeting them. Three women I talked to Monday, all in that desired 28- to 45-year-old demographic, were aghast by Clinton’s comments. They were so aghast that only one, Monique Tomlison, had a response that was fit to print in a daily newspaper.

“That sounds pretty well-off to a lot of people who have regular, basic jobs,” Tomlison, 36, said as she left her job at Jimmy John’s on Monday afternoon. “I don’t see what her complaint is.”

Does being “well-off” – well-off, my eye: RICH! – make someone incapable of representing the interests of poor and middle-class people? I asked her.

“Not at all. That should make them want to help poor people more,” she said.

Clinton is, to be fair, only following in a grand tradition of politicians embellishing their hardships, exaggerating the humbleness of their beginnings – as though that enhances their populist appeal and makes them heirs to rail splitter Abe Lincoln’s humble roots. Upon closer inspection, though, few can lay claim to what the Kingfish called a real-life “Horatio Algebra” upbringing.

Edwards and Boehner

John Edwards, when he began his political career, let people think he grew up as a lowly linthead working in a textile factory. His daddy did, sure, but the family was entrenched in the middle-class by the time Johnny Boy grew up.

Despite that, though, of the three candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2008, Clinton, Obama and he, none articulated a concern for the poor as well as did Edwards.

House Speaker John Boehner, in a “60 Minutes” interview last year, got all weepy when speaking of how he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps by mopping floors in a bar. As an afterthought, though, he acknowledged that he was mopping floors in the bar owned by his father.

So yeah, he can technically say he mopped floors in a bar while growing up, but that hardship loses some of its Horatio Alger cred when you learn that it was his dad’s bar.

Likewise, Clinton’s proclamation that the family was dead broke upon leaving the White House loses some of its “woe-is-her” resonance when you realize that family members knew multimillion-dollar book deals awaited them, as well as a pension that paid Bill $200,000 a year. That’s chump change when you consider that she reportedly can earn $200,000 with one speaking engagement.

There is, as Monique Tomlison said, no correlation between being wealthy or poor and having empathy for poor people. JFK grew up wealthy, as did his brothers, yet all are associated with having worked on behalf of the poor.

No FDR poor-mouthing

FDR was the ultimate Hyde Park patrician, yet policies enacted under his administration have done more to help the poor and elderly of America than any other president.

Fortunately for his legacy, there is no record of FDR ever poor-mouthing or pooh-poohing his privileged existence, pretending to be poor. “I say, old Bean. I had to mix my own martini today. I’m dreadfully bushed. Not up to polo today, old sport.”

So again, Hillary: Shut up and be rich. We won’t hold it against you.

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or bsaunders@newsobserver.com

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