Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bill Clinton's strange choice of friends

A story in today's NYT raises some serious questions about what we might expect from a Hillary Clinton presidency. And there's a bizarre Canadian connection.

Seems that in 2005, the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra, a newcomer to the business after running Lion's Gate Films, wanted to get the rights to explore some potentially rich uranium veins in Kazakhstan. Turns out that one of the guys with him on the flight was Bill Clinton. During the trip, Slick Willy made some rather complimentary remarks about the President of the country, Nursultan Nazarbayev who has ruled the republic with an iron fist since 1989, two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union of which it was a part. This seemed to contradict the common sense evidence gathered by human rights groups and criticism publicly issued by his own wife -- Hillary.

The organization Nazarbayev wanted to run, and ultimately got to for a year? The one set up under the Helsinki Accords -- known as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

It didn't matter what other people thought. Giustra, defying the odds, won the contract to get three of the mining fields. Months after the deal was closed, Giustra thanked Willy by donating over $31 million to Clinton's foundation; and he has since pledged an additional $100 million. Giustra since sold his company to Goldcorp after securing other mining rights in Argentina, Australia and Mexico -- correctly predicting the current bull market in gold.

Here's the problem, once that John Kerry faced with his wife Teresa four years ago: Clinton has a huge network of friends, and like Mrs. Kerry operates a well settled charity. Clinton has also promised to continue to run the foundation business as usual if Hillary is elected President.

Forget the fact there's already a possible conflict of interest with her as a Senator. Can Clinton really be expected to give up all his friends for another four to eight years? Moreover, what does it say about a country -- America - where people theoretically have the right to petition for grievances but may only do so when he or she has friends in the right places? Whose spouse does one have to have a connection with to -- well, make the connection?

Hillary is trying to prove she's her own woman, and of course, she is. If she continues to get distracted by her husband and his wheeling and dealing, how can she be expected to run a competent administration let alone the kind needed to guide America out of the crisis it almost surely faces in the next few years?

If her husband has friends like those, then she has the wrong husband. She would do well to neutralize him and fast.

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