Hillary, Lord Acton, and Willie Sutton

By most accounts, there should be no nexus between the spaces occupied by Lord Acton, and Willie Sutton. It was Lord Acton, 19th century English Catholic historian and statesman whose quarrel with Anglican Archbishop Mandell Creighton prompted Acton’s famous axiom: “ Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Willie Sutton, 20th century legendary American bank robber whose appetite for vacuuming bank vaults, cashiers’ drawers, and jewelry cases, provoked lifelong unrepentant recidivism, when asked why he robbed banks, quipped: “ Because that’s where the money is.”

With gymnastics perhaps unmatched by any political duo in U.S. history, Hillary Clinton, along with nominal husband former president Bill, consort of convenience, have straddled Lord Acton’s wrath and Willie Sutton’s passion.

Lord Acton’s observation about power and corruption derived from his conviction that historians shouldn’t flinch from applying moral scrutiny to famous people in authority, notably monarchs and popes. Creighton, not only an Anglican churchman but also an historian of considerable repute, had finished a draft of a multi-volume tome, The History of the Papacy. Lord Acton reviewed it. Lord Acton detested the doctrine of papal infallibility when applied to those corrupt popes of the Renaissance, particularly the most notorious Pope Alexander VI, installed via the machinations of the Borgia dynasty.

For Creighton, the sordid papal conduct was apparently immaterial to the narrative, whose scant disapprobation was a silent apologia. Thus Lord Acton didn’t look kindly on Creighton’s History, where the most notoriously corrupt and decadent popes, along with their enablers, elicited impervious fidelity, when condemnation should have been swift, and decisive.

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it”

While Willie Sutton denied uttering his most famous quote, likely an embellishment by a reporter, there is no doubt he revealed the authentic motive that mattered most to him,

"I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life."

It is a given that Hillary Clinton has a lifelong appetite for dishonesty, cronyism, self-dealing, and all purpose character assassination. Hillary’s greed, arrogance, and entitlement is fueled by Bill’s pathological casual reckless abandonment of ethics and truthfulness. The Clintons seem cut from the same insatiable lawless risk-taking genes that bewitched Willie Sutton.

Why do Hillary and Bill trade in influence peddling? Because that’s where the money is. And because appeasing bank account greed is an aphrodisiac; perhaps the only kind that would stroke Hillary’s self-esteem libido. And give Bill the freedom to satiate his other kind of libido.

Corrupt quid-pro-quos in politics -- no matter the culture nor socioeconomic system, nor governance structure -- have been part of the human condition for millennia. The treachery level only depends on the size of the price tag, and how many eager and well-positioned courtiers, and chroniclers are only too willing to facilitate the plausible but worn-out denials, serial cover-ups, shameless rationalizations, and retributions against accusers.

Anticipating the late 20th century embrace of moral relativism, where the whims of political expediency, celebrity, and identity politics have triumphed over integrity, and decency, Acton added: “If we may debase the currency for the sake of genius, or success, or rank, or reputation, we may debase it for the sake of a man’s influence, of his religion, of his party, of the good cause which prospers by his credit and suffers by his disgrace.”

Lord Acton’s complaint today would scour the mainstream media… and a fawning media-inspired voting bloc now accustomed to endorsing celebrity, lacking even a smidgeon of familiarity with objective truth and enduring trust. And it isn’t a fluke, occasioned by mere short-term amnesia in knowing right from wrong. That anchor has long been fouled.

No, Hillary wasn’t beaten in 2008 by a man offering contrasts in substance, humility, and integrity. Obama was a bigger fraud than Hillary; nonetheless was re-elected even after proving he was the antithesis to honest brokerage, truthful candor, and irreproachable competence.

And so, the media-influencing class and dutiful electorate are no longer able to discern, nor care, about wholesale dishonesty. Instead they are happy to witness, and endorse, corruption obvious to anyone with a pulse. This would be all too familiar to Lord Acton, who would be equally horrified in seeing their delight in welcoming Hillary, the Willie Sutton soul mate, to vacuum up their loyalties, and brain cells, for the only end that matters -- herself.