Time Inc.’s Challenge
Multi-Millionaire Hillary Tells ABC She Was "Dead Broke” (And Deflects on Benghazi)
Personally, I have no problem with Hillary Clinton going out and making a ton of dough on the speaking circuit.
If people want to pay to listen to her, that’s the free market at work—and it’s a lucrative path that’s been trod by politicians of both parties.
But is anyone going to view Hillary as an up-by-the-bootstraps success story? Is anyone going to feel that she was deprived by her years of government service—especially as she promotes a book for which she received an advance of nearly $8 million?
In her interview last night with Diane Sawyer, the author of “Hard Choices” said that she and her husband faced a difficult time in 2001.
Hillary did not dispute the ABC anchor’s assertion that she had made $5 million in speeches and her husband the more eye-popping figure of over $100 million.
Instead, she said: “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.” (One of the houses was a $2.85 million place in Georgetown that’s now probably worth twice that.)
Now it’s true that the Clintons, despite Bill’s $200,000 salary, were saddled with big legal bills during the Whitewater/Monica investigations. But it’s equally true that a former president and first lady know full well that they are highly marketable commodities. Without giving a single speech, they each made a killing on their autobiographies, with Hillary’s fetching $8 million. What’s more, former presidents, upon leaving office, get Uncle Sam to pick up much of their postage, phone and office rental expenses.
That’s not quite the same as being “dead broke,” in debt and not knowing where your next dollar is coming from.
What Hillary is doing, of course, is trying to strike a bond with middle-class folks who are worried about the future. It’s an age-old political tactic of signaling to voters that you share their concerns and were not always a rich and famous person. But it sounds rather tin-eared to me, especially for a woman who didn’t just “leave” the White House but had just been elected a United States senator.
Hillary backtracked a bit today on "Good Morning America," telling Robin Roberts that she understood her life coming out of the White House was quite different than that of most Americans, but added that she and her husband were $12 million in debt.
In the Sawyer interview, Hillary added: “I thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do.” True, she could have served on corporate boards or joined a law-and-lobbying firm, but that would have tied her to any controversial policies of the company or the firm’s clients.
On the speaking circuit, Hillary gets to vacuum up cash from such blue-chip firms as Goldman Sachs without being responsible for what they do.
As Mother Jones reported last month: “Since leaving State, Clinton has made more than 90 speeches and notable appearances. Her hosts have included private equity firms, investment banks, nonprofit galas, trade association conventions, and a slew of colleges and universities. At least two-dozen of those were paid speeches. With her usual fee of $200,000 a speech, Clinton has banked close to $5 million for her speeches and appearances in the last 15 months.”
Nice work if you can get it.
By the way, if the Hillary strategy in leaking her Benghazi chapter to Politico was to defuse it as old news, it didn’t work. Sawyer spent some time on the 2012 attacks, and others will undoubtedly follow her lead.
When the former secretary tried to say she gave orders to the experts on protecting the Libyan consulate, Sawyer interrupted and asked what she had done personally.
“That is personal, Diane. I’m not equipped to sit and look at blueprints to determine where the blast walls need to be,” Hillary responded.
Sawyer’s rejoinder: “I wonder if people are looking for a sentence that begins from you, ‘I should have…I should have…’”
As for Hillary’s lament of having been “broke,” there’s a long tradition of politicians poor-mouthing their history--a modern-day log cabin strategy. In the last campaign, Mitt Romney told an audience that “I know what it’s like to worry whether you’re gonna get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.” Romney is the son of a former head of American Motors who became Michigan’s governor.
Ann Romney said that when they got married they “ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish” in a basement apartment with a desk that was “a door propped up on sawhorses.” But there was little question that the Romneys, even before Bain, had a wealthy future ahead of them.
Hillary Clinton didn’t grow up rich or marry into a rich family. But she was hardly in danger of poverty after eight years in the White House, a place she would clearly like to live again.
Time Inc.’s Challenge
The owner of such iconic brands as Time, Fortune, People and Sports Illustrated was spun off from Time Warner yesterday—and faces a rough road.
Without all the movie and TV properties, Time Inc. begins its new life $1.3 billion in debt, and during a tough time for the magazine biz. And layoffs are in the offing.
“As recently as 2006,” David Carr reports, “Time Inc. produced about $1 billion in earnings, a figure that is now down to $370 million. Revenue has declined in 22 of the last 24 quarters, which has tried the patience of both investors and Jeffrey L. Bewkes, Time Warner’s chief executive…
“According to two people with knowledge of the strategy, leaders at the company met with editors of Time Inc. publications last week and told them they were expected to make deep cuts in staffing and other areas — totaling 25 percent of editorial costs — in the coming months.”
It’s tough to make a profit in print, which is why Time is the last newsmagazine standing. I hope Henry Luce’s creation is still standing a decade from now.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.