There's been a lot of talk, going back to the presidency of Bush 41, of the Bush family's ties to Saudi Arabia.
That's all well and good, but in this day and age there are other presidents – and those with presidential aspirations – whose ties to Saudi Arabia deserve a second look.
Bill and Hillary Clinton, one a former president, one a presidential wannabe, seem to be on very good terms with the Saudis:
"Bill Clinton's presidential library raised more than 10 percent of the cost of its $165 million facility from foreign sources, with the most generous overseas donation coming from Saudi Arabia…
The royal family of Saudi Arabia gave the Clinton facility in Little Rock about $10 million, roughly the same amount it gave toward the presidential library of George H.W. Bush."
The Saudis, of course, not only control a great deal of the world's supply of oil, but Saudi Arabia is home of Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam. More odiously, the Saudis are heavily involved in providing funding and educational materials for students in the United States about the Middle East. According to Stanley Kurtz,
The United States government gives money – and a federal seal of approval – to a university Middle East Studies center. That center offers a government-approved K-12 Middle East studies curriculum to America's teachers. But in fact, that curriculum has been bought and paid for by the Saudis, who may even have trained the personnel who operate the university's outreach program. Meanwhile, the American government is asleep at the wheel – paying scant attention to how its federally mandated public outreach programs actually work. So without ever realizing it, America's taxpayers end up subsidizing – and providing official federal approval for – K-12 educational materials on the Middle East that have been created under Saudi auspices. Game, set, match: Saudis.
Education, you say? There's more. According to a 1993 New York Times article, Prince Turki bin Feisal was a college classmate of Bill's at Georgetown University and (at the time of the article's writing) was the head of the Saudi Arabian intelligence service. While he was still governor of Arkansas, it looks like Bill Clinton cashed in on that relationship, "work[ing] hard to secure a multimillion-dollar Saudi donation to a Middle Eastern studies program at the University of Arkansas." Due to the intervention of the Gulf War, the first installment of $3.5 million didn't arrive until 1992, with another $20 million arriving after Bill Clinton's first inauguration.
So a Clinton connection to the Saudis and their money goes back nearly 20 years. While this doesn't necessarily mean that the Clintons are in the Saudis' pockets, it does raise the red flag of perceived impropriety and a possible conflict of interest. Dick Morris weighs in on the controversy:
As American banks go hat in hand to foreign financial institutions and governments, begging for capital to help them get out of the mess into which their subprime loans have landed them, the question arises as to whether the United States should permit nations like China, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the banks they control to acquire part ownership of our leading banks.
The presidential candidates discussed this issue in their Nevada debate and Hillary was asked about it in an interview with Neil Cavuto on the FOX Business Network yesterday. She replied that she would not "stand in the way" of such investments, but said that they needed to be vetted and called for more disclosure and "transparency."
The fact is that Hillary Clinton is totally unable to be objective on this key question of our national financial sovereignty because she and her husband have been so compromised by their financial dealings with the very countries at issue in the decision.
Should the Saudi monarchy be permitted to purchase an important equity position in some of America's leading banks? How can Hillary be objective when the very same monarchy donated $10 million to the Clinton Library and Foundation?
Should the UAE be allowed in? How can Hillary decide fairly when Bill – and therefore herself – have been getting a reported $10 million per year from a fund that administers the investments of the Emir of Dubai, the largest component state in the UAE?
Critics of a potential Hillary Clinton presidency have often pointed to the baggage she'll be bringing along from not only her personal past, but also from her husband's administration, a fact illustrated by these questionable Saudi monetary connections.
As a point of direct contrast, former New York Mayor (and presidential candidate) Rudy Giuliani rejected a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince to the city of New York directly following 9/11. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal suggested that U.S. Middle Eastern policies led to the attacks, something Giuliani did not appreciate:
"I entirely reject that statement," Giuliani said. "There is no moral equivalent for this [terrorist] act. There is no justification for it. The people who did it lost any right to ask for justification for it when they slaughtered 4,000 or 5,000 innocent people."
"Transparency" is not enough. The leaders of our nation must be beyond reproach, both personally and officially, when it comes to dealing with any country – but especially one that espouses fundamentalist Islam. Full disclosure of conflicts of interest from all of our presidential candidates is essential when it comes not only to personal integrity, but to policies that affect our security interests at home and abroad.