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Do the Clintons Love Their Donors, or Their Donors' Money?

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images Entertainment

The New York Times, which apparently believes rich people do not have a loud enough voice in American society, decided on Tuesday to devote a front-page story to the different ways in which politicians court them. Specifically, the article detailed how Team Clinton is adept at personalizing its interactions with donors, while Barack Obama is cool and detached at fundraisers. You have probably heard this before—apparently Bill Clinton is really gregarious!—but the piece at least provides a few amusing quotes and anecdotes. 

“It’s a whole different shtick,” said Arthur L. Schechter, a Houston-based lawyer whose support for Mr. Clinton led to an ambassadorship in the Bahamas and who has also raised money for Mr. Obama. "The Clintons have a way of making people feel like they’re part of something and important to what’s going on, and I found that lacking in the Obama team," he added.

What I liked about this quote was the unstated but still palpable reality that what Schechter truly desires is to be deceived. It isn't a matter of whether something "important" is going on; it's a matter of whether Schechter is made to feel that something important is going on. He respects the Clintons because they put on a better performance, even though Schechter is smart enough to know that it is indeed a performance. Schechter seems like the type of person who, say, enjoys getting a thank-you note from a teenager who he knows has only written the note under orders from his or her parents. Speaking of notes:

Even while serving as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton called some longtime supporters on their birthdays (“It’s your secretary of state calling to wish you a happy birthday...”), and sent personal notes when a new grandchild arrived. An aide emphasized that those donors are personal friends with whom Mrs. Clinton has stayed in touch.

“I know thank yous, and whether they come from a sincere place,” said Mrs. Clinton’s friend Susie Tompkins Buell, who has helped raise money for Mrs. Clinton in the past. “They don’t have someone sitting down with them saying, ‘Now you have to write your notes,’ ” Ms. Buell said.

Where to begin? The whole point of this anecdote—and the article—is that Clinton is a savvy fundraiser. So are these notes related to fundraising? Is Clinton trying to raise money by sending these notes, or is she a good and decent friend? Does Clinton send these notes to all of her friends, even the ones who don't give her money? If so, then what is the point of the story? 

The other possibility, which the piece unintentionally raises, is that after making politics their life for so long, the Clintons no longer really distinguish between friendship and business.