Whatever message Hillary Clinton’s handlers try to push in her run for president, the slogan “Woman of the people” is now off the table.
On Sunday, the Review-Journal’s Laura Myers broke the story about the travel tastes and requirements of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state when she’s on the speaker circuit. According to documents concerning her Oct. 13 speech to benefit the UNLV Foundation, Mrs. Clinton expects to stay in the “presidential suite” of any luxury hotel she visits, and she typically requires those who pay her six-figure speaking fee to also provide a private jet for her and her entourage of “travel aides.” Her lead travel aide gets a $500 travel stipend to cover out-of-pocket expenses and all meals and incidentals. Mrs. Clinton also requires hotel accommodations for a pair of staffers who check out her speech locations before she arrives.
Phone charges for Mrs. Clinton and her staff must be covered, as well. Talk about out of touch. She can’t find a decent unlimited talk and text plan?
That said, Mrs. Clinton gave UNLV a break. After initially asking for $300,000, she discounted her speaking fee to $225,000, and she’ll cover her travel and hotel expenses. But she has full control of the event.
The UNLV Foundation cannot advertise her appearance on radio, TV or billboards. Mrs. Clinton’s staffers must approve in writing any promotional material. She gets final approval of all moderators and introducers, and she is the only person allowed to appear on the stage while she speaks. She will remain at the event no longer than 90 minutes and pose for no more than 50 photos with no more than 100 people. Although she prohibits any press coverage or video or audio recordings of her speech, she will allow a stenographer to record her remarks when she visits UNLV, but she gets to keep the only copy of the transcription.
We expect a former first lady to have adequate security, comfortable accommodations and special consideration. But this is enough to make the most brazen elitist blush.
Mrs. Clinton has taken a lot of heat for saying that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were “dead broke” upon leaving the White House in 2001, as well as for their efforts to dodge the estate tax they’ve long championed. But Mrs. Clinton has an even bigger image problem to overcome — and it’s not the amount of money she demands for her speaking engagements. (Like her or not, Mrs. Clinton sells tickets. The university’s fundraising arm expects to profit nicely from October’s event.)
If Mrs. Clinton is the Democratic Party nominee for president in 2016, she cannot claim to be more “approachable” or “relate” better to average Americans, regardless of who the Republican nominee is. Her contract demands are less about luxury and more about ensuring she has no contact with regular folks. They’re also about control.
It’s reasonable for UNLV, or anyone else who pays big money to a speaker, to expect some kind of reciprocal generosity, someone who’ll go above and beyond to treat donors well, help promote the institution and engage the larger community. But it’s clear Mrs. Clinton wants no part of that — it’s all about getting the most for herself while delivering as little as possible in return.
Is that what she’ll want out of the presidency, too?