Hillary Clinton's $12 million problem: Will focus on her wealth persist?

Hillary Clinton has earned $12 million since leaving the State Department in early 2013, says a Bloomberg News report. Though GOP officials are gleefully sharing this story on social media, here's why the issue of her wealth is likely to fade.

Jerry Holt/The Star Tribune/AP
Hillary Rodham Clinton signs copies of her new book 'Hard Choices' at the Common Good Books store, Sunday, July 20, 2014 in St Paul, Minn.

Hillary Clinton’s wealth problem isn’t fading. It began in June when she said she and husband, Bill, were “dead broke” when they left the White House – a comment she later publicly labeled “inartful.” It has continued through July as media reports document the Clintons' wealth and Republicans bash the former secretary of State as a closet 1 percenter.

The latest episode in this political soap opera is Monday’s Bloomberg News report that, since resigning as secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton has earned at least $12 million by giving speeches and selling books.

“Her earnings represent a fraction of the Clinton family’s total income and yet were large enough to rank her not only in the top 1 percent of the nation’s earners but in the top one-hundredth of the 1 percent,” write Bloomberg’s Lisa Lerer and Lauren Streib.

Republican Party officials have gleefully disseminated this story on social media. They’re using it as a means to promote their latest anti-Hillary website, poorhillaryclinton.com.

“How out of touch is Hillary? ... We’ve documented it,” tweeted the Republican National Committee on Monday morning.

Will mocking Clinton for her “hard knock life” help the GOP in the long run? Maybe – that’s the sort of political trend line it’s impossible to precisely predict. Perhaps Republican strategists hope to simply increase vague negative feelings about Clinton in the months prior to her expected 2016 presidential run.

But there are some problems with the tactic of attacking Clinton for her cash, per se. Presumably Democratic voters are the ones most concerned with the issue of inequality and concentration of US wealth. However, they don’t appear at all concerned about charges of Clinton buck-raking.

As we reported last week, polls show Clinton rolling full throttle toward the Democratic 2016 nomination, if she wants it. She’s crushing all potential intraparty challengers. That stuff about a challenge from the left by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts? Basically it’s bored journalists looking for ways to inject drama into a foreordained race.

Republican voters will be happy to tut-tut about Clinton’s perceived hypocrisy on money. But there’s a twist: What will they feel about their own party attacking someone for making money? Kind of a role reversal, no?

That’s what Politico’s Dylan Byers opines Monday in his post about Bloomberg’s new Clinton numbers.

“Wouldn’t it be rich if the same Republicans who complain about the demonization of wealth decided to turn this into a talking point? Oh wait,” writes Byers.

It’s likely the focus on wealth will fade at some point. It has persisted partly because Clinton is an unusual presidential precandidate, writes Bloomberg View political pundit Jonathan Bernstein.

At this point in a campaign the media are generally busy filling in the life story and political background of potential candidates. But everybody knows Clinton, so instead they’re picking at holes in her story.

When she switches into a more overtly political mode, she will begin making policy proposals and speaking more directly about the national situation. Then the media focus will move from Clinton wealth gaffes and book sales to the newer, more substantive material.

“None of the [current media] attention appears to be obstructing her path to the nomination, and it will be long forgotten by fall 2016. Except, perhaps, by those who aren’t going to vote for her anyway,” writes Mr. Bernstein.

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