Posted on May 31, 2016
Fishy Or Not,
Vince Foster’s Death Matters
For the purposes of this discussion, let’s stipulate that all of the official findings about Vince Foster’s death are correct. Let’s agree that when Donald Trump referred to it as “fishy,” it really was one of the more outlandish things he has said. Most of us aren’t in a position to dispute the forensic evidence. Furthermore, motivational questions like why Foster drove to Fort Marcy Park to shoot himself, and why he would transport the gun to the park in an oven mitt, might have answers that were personal to him, and wouldn’t otherwise make sense to you and me.
If we dispense with all speculation over the many peculiar details of the case, and look at those facts that are not in dispute, we can see that it’s totally reasonable that Foster would become an issue in the presidential campaign, even if Trump isn’t too clear on exactly why.
One point about Foster on which the skeptics have been empirically refuted is in their disbelief that he had been depressed. At first, that claim seemed to be unfounded, but official investigations have since factually established that Foster had sought help for his depression. What’s really peculiar is not that Ken Starr took that fact to support the conclusion of suicide, but that he was so incurious as to why Foster was depressed, and how it related to his other investigations of the Clintons.
While serving as President Clinton’s deputy White House counsel, Foster was also employed as Bill and Hillary’s private attorney, a circumstance that itself placed him in an ethical conundrum, given the administration’s penchant for dubiously claiming attorney-client privilege. Exactly when Foster was working for the American people, and when he was working for the Clintons, was ill-defined by design.
One of the tasks he performed in his White House office was to prepare several years’ worth of delinquent tax returns for the Whitewater Development Corporation, in which the Clintons had partnered with Jim and Susan McDougal. Concerned that he couldn’t substantiate the losses Bill and Hillary were claiming on the venture, he warned that by doing so they might trigger an IRS audit, calling it “a can of worms you shouldn’t open.”
This assessment was among the documents the administration eventually turned over to investigators, after first having ransacked Foster’s office upon learning of his death. What’s not documented is just how the Clintons took that advice. We do know that when Foster filed the returns, he didn’t claim any losses, but instead claimed a $1,000 capital gain from the Clintons’ sale of their share of Whitewater to Jim McDougal. Are we to believe that this resolution, which cost the Clintons money, alleviated the pressure on Foster, or brought more to bear upon him?
Those tax returns were far from the only ethical problem having to do with Whitewater, nor were they the only facet of it that involved Foster. It was Foster who had championed Hillary’s application to join the Rose Law Firm, where she became a partner by the time that entity represented Madison Guarantee Savings and Loan before state regulators. Madison had been purchased by the McDougals, who used it to partially finance Whitewater, at the expense of the taxpayers who would ultimately bail that lending institution out. Foster, who was known to be conscientious about appearances of impropriety, cannot help but have felt cornered inside that incestuous triangle comprised of Whitewater, Madison and Rose.
… And that’s not all. Arkansas financier David Hale testified that Bill Clinton had strong-armed him into illegally obtaining a $300,000 loan for Whitewater through a Small Business Administration program that was meant to assist low-income and minority business owners. In 1996, President Clinton testified on the McDougals’ behalf, denying that he’d ever solicited or received a loan from Hale, nor had any business dealings with him whatsoever. The jury, which proceeded to convict the McDougals of fraud, evidently didn’t believe him.
Even some facets of the development that weren’t illegal were extraordinarily unethical, in that it was essentially a scheme to bilk retirees out of their life savings. If an investor missed a single monthly payment, he could be evicted, with all his payments to date converted to rent, meaning that he no longer had any investment to show for his money. Another investor could then be found for that same property. Mind you, Foster would have had nothing to do with this whole arrangement, if not for his tragic association with the Clintons.
One piece of evidence that was used to establish Foster’s state of mind was his alleged suicide note, which is devoid of fishiness in spite of its having been found in a briefcase that had previously been searched. It was unfishily torn to pieces before being put there for safe keeping, and was missing the one piece that was where his signature might have gone (also not fishy). Because we’re accepting the official conclusions, we must assume the note to be genuine, so what does it tell us?
The note did not delve into Foster’s internal struggles, nor did it express concern for his wife and children. Instead, it was a series of paranoid references to the White House travel office scandal, pathetically bemoaning that, “The public will never believe in the innocence of the Clintons and their loyal staff.” (How’s that for non-fishy?)
“The FBI lied in their report to the [attorney general],” the note claimed. “The press is covering up the illegal benefits they received from the travel staff.” … “the GOP has lied and misrepresented its knowledge and role and covered up a prior investigation.” … “The [Wall Street Journal] editors lie without consequence.”
In reality, everybody wasn’t lying about the Clintons, who themselves were not innocent. There was nothing illegal about their firing the travel office staff and replacing them with their own people. In order to justify these unseemly actions, however, they smeared and persecuted the outgoing staff, even to the point of having former travel office director Billy Dale falsely arrested for embezzlement. What irony that adds to the note’s conclusion, that “Here [in Washington] ruining people is considered sport.”
Foster’s notes indicate that he doubted any wrongdoing among the travel office staff; nevertheless, it was he who was tasked with overseeing their investigation and firing. Even though Hillary Clinton’s orchestration of the fiasco is well documented, she denied any involvement, but instead allowed Foster and his colleague William Kennedy to take the blame. According to Robert Fiske’s report, Foster was racked with guilt over the reprimand given to Kennedy, whom he had appointed to conduct the investigation. If the former First Lady has ever felt so much as a pang of conscience about it, nobody knows.
If it were discovered that a close associate and very good friend of Mitt Romney’s had committed suicide after Romney had thrust him into a series of inextricable ethical tangles, that would have surely been considered fair game for political exploitation. A belatedly discovered (and unfishy) suicide note whining that “The public will never believe in the innocence of the Romneys” would only be considered all the more damning.
Now that Hillary (!) is running for president, and promising to put Bill in charge of the economy, it has been deemed a breach of decorum to “dredge up the past” – a standard that has never been applied to any Republican candidate, nor should it be. If we didn’t consider the past to be relevant, all we’d have to go on would be whatever the candidates tell us on a day-to-day basis. For instance, Hillary’s husband once told us that his would be “the most ethical administration in history.” So how did that work out, Vince?
The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press