The New York Times fronts an absolutely brutal story today about Bill Clinton’s dubious dealings on behalf of a Canadian mining mogul.
According to the article, by Jo Becker and Don Van Natta Jr., the mogul, Frank Giustra, unexpectedly won a lucrative uranium-mining deal in Kazakhstan after Clinton flew to that country with him in 2005 and schmoozed the human-rights-abusing dictator, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Giustra then turned around and donated $31 million to Clinton’s charitable foundation, with a pledge to give $100 million more.
There’s also an account of Bill Clinton’s and Giustra’s somehow not able to remember meeting with the head of Kazakhstan’s state-controlled uranium agency, Kazatomprom, at the Clintons’ home, in Chappaqua, N.Y., until confronted with evidence. Here’s a lowlight:
“You are correct that I asked the president to meet with the head of Kazatomprom,” Mr. Giustra said. “Mr. Dzhakishev [the head of the uranium agency] asked me in February 2007 to set up a meeting with former President Clinton to discuss the future of the nuclear energy industry.” Mr. Giustra said the meeting “escaped my memory until you raised it.”
That’s perfectly understandable, of course. I mean, any of us could forget about meeting with a former U.S. president and the guy who was about to make us many millions of dollars richer, right? Admit it: You probably can’t remember what you had for breakfast this morning.
The story raises the question of how happy Hillary Clinton is with this, as she has been an outspoken critic of Nazarbayev. But she certainly can’t distance herself from her husband’s shenanigans given that she’s ultimately responsible for unleashing him to attack Barack Obama during the past few weeks. It is the Clintons who’ve created the impression that they’re running for co-president, so his baggage is now hers as well. (Not that it ever wasn’t.)
But there’s an additional point of interest here, and that involves timing. This is, of course, a perfectly legitimate story, and the Times deserves a lot of credit for ferreting it out. Tonight we’ll see the most crucial debate of the campaign, as Clinton and Obama go at it one-on-one on CNN at 8 p.m. I suspect that this story will be a big part of the debate. And from there, it could dominate coverage right through Super Tuesday.
As we know, the Times has already endorsed Hillary Clinton. Today’s story may have far more of an effect on the outcome. Whether by accident or design, the news side has sent a clear message that it’s more relevant and more important than the paper’s opinionmongers.