[guest post by JVW]
Evan Halper of the Dog Trainer yesterday treated us to the story of one Susie Tompkins Buell, a San Francisco matron who has parlayed her vast wealth and a friendship with Bill and Hillary! Clinton (especially apparently the latter) into becoming a major player in Democrat fundraising, and her home in Pacific Heights is now recognized as a must-stop for left-wing politicians looking to cash in. First we meet the subject of the article herself through the clichéd J-school use of a banal anecdote:
When Hillary Clinton parachuted into Los Angeles recently, some of the well-heeled donors who swarmed her brought unsolicited campaign advice, while others brought ambitions of White House appointments. Susie Tompkins Buell brought a bag of dry-roasted chickpeas.
It was fitting that Buell, a wealthy San Franciscan who ranks near the top of the sprawling national network of Clinton benefactors, was obsessing about the candidate’s nourishment. Few people in the orbit of the Clintons have done more for their care and feeding than this 73-year-old fixture of Bay Area philanthropy and salon society who wanted nothing to do with politics — she didn’t even vote — until a chance meeting with Bill Clinton well into her adult life.
Because nothing says “credible political thinker” quite like an admission that you cared nothing for matters of policy or politics until you met some fast talking snake oil salesman from an area that you probably think of as Dogpatch. But it’s not just the ex-President who has charmed his way into Ms. Buell’s life. Enter Her Clintonic Majesty:
Buell not only has become a fundraising powerhouse since then. She has also become Hillary Clinton’s soul mate. Theirs is among a handful of friendships that have been key to fueling the candidate’s ambitions, providing emotional and financial sustenance. It reflects the uncanny Clinton ability to build and maintain unyielding loyalty from the people positioned to help them the most – even people, like Buell, who have no business interests or political aspirations the couple might advance. In many cases, the bonds have only solidified through the stresses of scandal, electoral disappointment and Democratic Party rivalries that the Clintons have powered through.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: the Clintons don’t have friends, they only have people in their orbit who are useful in service of their ambitions. Would Ms. Buell be Hillary!’s “soul mate” if she was a retired teacher on a $59,000 per year pension in Turlock? Hardly.
From there the article provides a bit of background on Ms. Buell, and it turns out she is the embodiment of the mega-affluent Bay Area leftie whose introduction to the Clintons sounds as if it were scripted by the laziest screenwriter on the studio lot. Was she a hippie in her young adulthood? Check. Did she and her husband hit the financial jackpot by starting trendy clothing labels like Esprit and North Face? Roger that. Did she end up divorcing the husband? Certainly. Did she first hear of Bill Clinton at some gathering of insufferable Baby Boomers at a tony resort in Big Sur 25 years ago? You got it. Did she then meet Bubba at a fund-raiser where her turned on his legendary douchebag charm (and it’s not at all coincidental she was at the time an attractive recently-divorced rich woman)? Oh yeah. Did he play on her wealthy progressive guilt by yammering on about poverty? Indubitably! Did she immediately write him a campaign check for $100,000? But of course.
Soon, Ms. Buell would meet Ms. Clinton, and according to our earnest scribe Mr. Halper: “The women clicked immediately, and Buell grew more enamored when she saw [Hillary!] Clinton deliver an impassioned Mother’s Day address at Glide Memorial Church, a hotbed of leftist activism in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.” Mr. Halper goes on to report that some $15 million has since passed from Ms. Buell’s bank account to “the campaigns and causes of the Clintons.” And the article wants us to know that this largesse is all done in the spirit of altruism. Yet, confusingly enough, while Ms. Buell allegedly does not discuss politics with her friend the former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State (“I don’t want to be one more thing she has to think about [. . .] She knows who I am, she knows how I feel. We don’t talk shop.”), she has no such compunction about haranguing less-fortunate Democrat supplicants: “This is the same donor who showed up at a high-stakes fundraiser for President Obama near the end of his first term and told him to knock off the small talk when he began to genuflect. Then she launched into a scold about his failure to get a landmark climate change bill through Congress.”
The remainder of the piece is a howler in its vivid description of a rich dilettante (dilettantess?)* whose comfy lifestyle stands in stark contrast to her bleeding-heart politics. For instance, naturally Ms. Buell is staunchly against the Keystone XL project. I mean, no one that she knows needs a job in the energy sector, and what’s paying a few more extra bucks to fly to Aspen or Davos if it means saving the planet? According to the always-obnoxious Senator Barbara Boxer, her friend Ms. Buell has all the proper opinions on women’s rights and children’s rights, and I don’t think it’s much a stretch to assume that she’s fully supportive of the whole San Francisco smorgasbord of lifestyle liberalism from guns to gays.
And it wouldn’t be a mindless puff piece if some tedious himbo politician like Gavin Newsome didn’t drop by to try to exculpate Ms. Buell for living the life of the one percent of the one percent. Of the aforementioned Pacific Heights home, Lieutenant Governor Newsome assures us that even though it has a gorgeous view of the bay, “There is an austerity to it. It is an opulent building, an opulent view. But the space itself is austere.” Mr. Halper, ever the helper, adds “The rooms are sparsely but carefully appointed. Pieces worth more than a small condominium share rooms with stylish items plucked from far-flung flea markets.” Because it is just delightfully whimsical to put your $750,000 artwork next to the crazy lamp from the souk in Marrakesh that you bargained down to 30 dirham.
The article goes on with quotes from both Clintons rhapsodizing poetically about their deep and unwavering friendship with Ms. Buell, and President Obama drops by the austere Pacific Heights mansion to suck up some of the guilt money that (largely white) San Francisco lefties like to spread around to progressive politicians. Along the way we’re treated to a description of how much of an imposition it can be when Secret Service agents are roaming around your home to protect your special guests, because that’s something that all of us are going to have to face at one point or another.
I hold no animosity towards Susie Tompkins Buell, nor am I particularly jealous of her financial success. I grew up in the 1980s when Esprit was the hip fashion line for teenage girls, and I grew up in Colorado where every guy who even fleetingly gazed upon the Rocky Mountains felt compelled to do so in a North Face jacket. Good for Ms. Buell (and her ex-husband) for building a fashion empire and getting filthy rich off of it. But I am under no obligation to respect or admire the predictable leftwing groupthink opinions of a woman who by her own admission didn’t care at all about public policy or politics until she was 48 years old and facing a midlife crisis. That she fell under the influence of the two most dishonest and corrupt politicians in America is sad and lamentable, but it goes to show the weird spell those two continue to cast over a certain strain of needy Baby Boomers. It’s an important reminder that people like Bill and Hillary! Clinton depend heavily upon the patronage of people like Susie Tompkins Buell and, I suppose, people like her need the Clintons for intellectual and moral validation. Chalk up another case study for the weird symbiotic relationship between aging boomers.
*Holy smokes, right as finished typing the word “dilettante” it was used in the movie I am watching on TV. That’s eerie.