Belfast Telegraph

Hillary Clinton is cashing in on her fantasy peace process

By Eamonn McCann

Where Dave Lee Roth leads, Hillary Clinton follows. The Van Halen singer was much derided when it was reported a couple of years ago that he insists that bowls of M&Ms be supplied at every gig, with all the brown ones removed.

There was a method in Dave Lee's madness. If there was a bowl of the sweets laid out when he arrived without a brown one among them, he'd know that all the technical specifications of the contract had been complied with.

But what's Clinton's excuse? Her contract for a recent speaking engagement at the University of Nevada laid down that a 16-seat private jet be provided for her personal travel, plus round-trip business-class bookings for two of her entourage, accommodation in the hotel's "presidential suite" (including) three adjoining or contiguous single rooms for her travel aides and up to two additional single rooms for the advance staff". And there was her fee of $225,000 (£143,000).

The contract stipulated Clinton would spend no more than 90 minutes in the building. A maximum of 100 people would be allowed to form a queue in pairs to be photographed with her. However, no photographs could be made public without her written permission.

The Nevada speech must have gone down well. Next stop, Clinton was on-stage at the University of Buffalo. Her terms were much the same, but the fee had risen to $275,000.

Then on to the University of California at Los Angeles, where the fee had risen to $300,000. The organisers had asked whether, as a publicly-funded college, they might be allowed a little discount.

Certainly, came the reply. It's already included - $300,000 was the discount figure.

Since standing down as Secretary of State two years ago, Clinton has trousered tens of millions in speaker's fees. Whether this tells us more about Clinton or about the system of third-level education in the US is a moot point.

The relevance to the north is that Clinton (below) is reported to be once again referring to ourselves in her talks. It might be recalled that back in 2008, the first time she ran for the Democratic nomination, her stump speech included a claim that she had made a major contribution to bringing peace to our benighted land.

She had been much-moved by Protestants and Catholics never speaking to one another. So she had tried to arrange a meeting between Protestant and Catholic women in Belfast. Every politician and opinion-former in sight, British, Irish, unionist, nationalist, warned her that this was madness. It had never been done. Perhaps would never be done. No good could come of such dabbling in dangerous waters.

But she had pressed ahead and arranged a meeting in Belfast City Hall. Women from different sides, who had never in their lives broken breath with a woman from the other community, began speaking shyly to one another. And quickly discovered that, lo and behold, they had a lot more in common than they'd supposed. Friendships were formed, hatred forsworn, peace was on its way.

This is where I came in. It's the only reason I tell the story.

The phone rings one day and it's a US journalist I'd once tried to guide towards my preferred truth when he was reporting from these parts. Hillary was spinning these yarns day in and day out. What did I reckon? Was there any truth in it at all? I was able to put him right. You might say I was eager.

The conversation was a factor in the exposure of Clinton's self-serving fibs. The discrediting of an elaborate and entirely baseless story of her own heroism in the Balkans was more important. But one can only do what one can.

She's now hot favourite to follow beefy Bill into the Oval Office - which she probably thinks she should have done a lot more of the last time they lived there. I don't think she'll make it.

There's a fellow called O'Malley from Baltimore who may soon announce that he's running. I don't think he would make any great difference to anything important. That's not the point.

The point is, he sort of looks the part. And, like Dave Lee, he sings in a band. You can get good odds against him at the moment. Place you bets now.

And if anybody tells you it demeans democracy to look at elections only as a grubby means of making money, just point them in the direction of Hillary Clinton.

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