By James P. Pinkerton
Isnt it great that Bill and Hillary Clinton have such a great marriage -- that they can agree to disagree on important issues, even national security issues? OK, thats enough faux political correctness for now.
So let me tell you what I really think: It stinks that the ex-president husband and his wife, the junior senator from New York, have had such divergent positions in an important homeland-defense debate. Indeed, Hillarys foreign-affairs fecklessness, most recently on the Dubai Ports World deal, calls into question her fitness to be president, as long as Bill, too, is in the picture. If she cant lead him, how can she lead the rest of us?
On Feb. 17, Hillary denounced the Dubai deal, declaring, Our port security is too important to place in the hands of foreign governments. But on March 2, the Financial Times reported that Bill was called in to advise the United Arab Emirates about securing the deal for its company.
Indeed, Hillarys own financial disclosure forms showed that Bill received $450,000 for giving speeches in Dubai in 2002, and that UAE officials had donated up to $1 million to the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock. Did Hillary really not know about that? Didnt she get curious about any possible conflict of interest that those Arab monies might have posed?
Hillary stoutly insisted that she knew nothing -- nothing. And she hastened to add that the two of them had reached the same position; they were both for an additional probe of the deal.
But just a few more questions, please, for this fast-track dual-career couple.
Lets start with the key assertion: Hillary didnt know for two weeks that she and Bill had different positions on the deal. For the sake of argument, lets take her at her word.
If shes telling the truth, then what do Mr. and Mrs. Clinton talk about? Are they in such different worlds that she never inquired as to Bills UAE dealings, and what impact those dealings might have on his position in the hottest political controversy of 2006?
After all, Dubai has been a source of difference between them in the past. In November 2005, Bill happened to be in, of all places, Dubai when he told an Arab student audience that the U.S. invasion of Iraq had been a big mistake. Hillary, of course, voted for the Iraq war resolution and has never expressed any regret over that vote. So one wonders: Do the Clintons just agree to disagree on such a wrenchingly divisive issue? Or could they figure that its shrewder to work both sides of the street -- that is, her the hawk side, him the dove side?
Other golden duos are confronting similar instances of career-cross-purposeness. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, for example, has been trying to crack down on Muslim extremism in his country. Yet his wife, Cherie, is a human-rights lawyer who took up the case of a Muslim student wishing to wear a head-to-toe jilbab, when school regulations permitted only a head scarf. Last year, Cherie won the case for her client. Thats great for her legal career, but does such a victory help his effort to build a more orderly United Kingdom?
Back here in the United States, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., finds that her position on the port deal has been undercut, too, by her husband, Bob, the senator-turned-lobbyist, who is on the UAE payroll.
Of course, neither Elizabeth nor Bob is running for president. But most likely, Hillary will be running as soon as she gets her Senate re-election out of the way. In which case, its not unreasonable to ask: Will Hillary be able to control her husband and his urge to dabble in messy entanglements? The stakes are higher this time. This isnt about the liberated condition of their marriage; its about the security of the American homeland.