- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2009


Hillary Clinton announced a “new era” as she assumed her position as secretary of state on Thursday — but at least one big question lingers: Does Mrs. Clinton exhibit the integrity required for the job? (Notice we did not say “have the integrity,” but “exhibit” or demonstrate the integrity). She did not sufficiently address during her confirmation hearings how she can fully give evidence of defending American sovereignty when her husband leads a foundation that receives substantial foreign donations. Foreign governments might attempt to curry favor with the secretary of state by providing money for the foundation. Just as Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion (Pompeia’s scandal caused a divorce), so must Hillary’s husband, or Mr. Obama’s Foggy Bottom secretary.

If President Obama is serious about improving government, one of the areas he needs to control is the impact that foreign funds have on policy. Even the appearance of impropriety needs to be curtailed. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., expressed his reservations on this issue at the hearings. He had four suggestions to ensure transparency, but the Obama administration accepted only one - that the foundation provide information on its annual donations.

Mr. Obama should give more thought to imposing the other three Lugar recommendations: the immediate disclosure of donations of $50,000 or more, alerting ethics officials when such large donations are made, and insisting that foreign businesses are also subjected to the same requirements. Better still: Why not ask Mr. Clinton to suspend the operations of the foundation or put it in a trusteeship for four years?

If the past is any guide for the future, we can expect drama of some kind from the Clintons - and possibly scandal. Mr. Obama must take every precaution to ensure that the credibility of his foreign policy is not undermined by an ethical cloud emanating from this obvious conflict of interest.

It is telling too, that Mr. and Mrs. Clinton are not volunteering to resolve this. If their intentions are really to advance the greater good, why not find a way to remove this issue from consideration for the next four years?

Thus we begin the Obama administration with the same patterns that plagued the Democratic primaries: While Mr. Obama says “we” to the nation; Mrs. Clinton takes her oath of office thinking “I.” Remember Pompeia.

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