I’ve just finished reading Blood Sport, my friend Jim Stewart’s latest #1 best-seller that meticulously examines “Whitewater.” (Whitewater, needless to say, has become a metonym* for all alleged Clinton wrongdoing.)

According to Blood Sport, the Clintons are not perfect.

But it also turns out, as regards the substance of the attacks against them, there’s very little there.

To me, the most interesting example of this was Hillary’s $100,000 profit trading cattle futures. After all, I’m the guy who for decades has been advising people to steer clear (pun sort of intended) of commodities because “you’ll lose your money.” And you will. I’ve certainly always lost mine when I’ve tried it. So how did Hillary do so well?

It turns out to have been even more innocent than I had assumed. Her mistake was in not coming right out, from the start, and stating, simply: “The truth is, I knew nothing about commodity trading. My good friend Jim Blair hooked me up with a broker who had an amazing run for all his clients, and I was very lucky to be one of them. I haven’t a clue how he did it.”

Because it turns out that’s really all it was. Yes, the broker in question had an inside track with a huge cattle magnate, which gave him an edge (insider trading is not illegal in the commodities markets, which is one reason why, as an outsider, you’ll lose your money).

I had always assumed that, unbeknownst to her, there had been an arrangement to make the future First Lady lucky, putting the successful trades in her account and the losers elsewhere. But Blood Sport makes it clear that even this — which, so long as she hadn’t known what they were up to, would not have been wrongdoing on her part — did not happen. She really did nothing wrong in making this $100,000.

So why didn’t the First Lady just tell all from the outset? I suspect part of it was just a knee-jerk “it’s none of your business” reaction, from someone grown deeply resentful of public prying into her private affairs.

Part may have been worry that maybe there had been something wrong about the trades that, although she hadn’t known about it, might reflect badly on her and be yet another distraction from what she and her husband were trying to accomplish, like health care reform.

Part may have been the desire to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest: Jim Blair was counsel to the Tyson chicken people, and to be perceived to owe him a favor could look bad.

And part may simply have been pride: a brilliant woman’s reluctance to acknowledge that her big score was just dumb luck on her part.

The details of all this make for interesting reading. But the bottom line of the $100,000 commodities “scandal” is: There’s nothing there.

*And “metonym” has become my new favorite word. Sort of a combination metaphor and synonym. Metonymy is the device of using a part of something, or a related something, to represent the whole. When you say, “counting heads,” you mean “counting people” — and heads is a metonym. When you say “it vexed the crown” you mean it vexed the monarch or the government. And so on. Was this on the S.A.T.’s and I just forgot?

Tomorrow: Whitewater


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