POLITICS: White House

At it again: Hillary Clinton tries, fails to downplay family's enormous wealth

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,White House,Hillary Clinton,2016 Elections,Campaigns,Mitt Romney,Income Inequality,Becket Adams

Hillary Clinton may be a millionaire several times over, but she's not that “well-off.”

At least, she doesn't think so, and said as much during an interview to promote her new book, Hard Choices.

"They don't see me as part of the problem," Clinton said in a Guardian interview published Saturday night, referring to Americans who are concerned about so-call “income inequality.”

She said her family's wealth, which has ballooned in recent years to more than $150 million, making the Clintons the wealthiest former first couple, won't be an issue for voters if she decides to run in 2016.

"Because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well-off, not to name names; and we've done it through dint of hard work,” Clinton added.

Hillary Clinton's “well-off” remarks, which likely won't be met with sympathy from most voters, come on the heels of her saying in a separate interview that she and former President Bill Clinton were “dead broke” when they vacated the White House in 2001.

"We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt," Clinton told ABC News' Diane Sawyer after being asked about her steep speaking fees. "We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea's education. You know, it was not easy.

"Bill has worked really hard — and it's been amazing to me — he's worked very hard. First of all, we had to pay off all our debts, which was, you know, he had to make double the money because of obviously taxes and then pay off the debts and get us houses and take care of family members,” she added.

The former secretary of State was later compelled to clarify her remarks after she was roundly criticized for sounding out-of-touch.

"Let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today," Clinton said during an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America." "It's an issue that I've worked on and cared about my entire adult life. Bill and I were obviously blessed, we worked hard for everything we got in our lives and we have continued to work hard.

"For me, it's just a reality. What we faced when he got out of the White House meant that we had to just keep working really hard," Clinton said. "I want to use the talents and resources I have to make sure other people get the same chances."

She added that she and Bill Clinton both struggled to pay off their law school debt.

"We have a life experience that is clearly different in very dramatic ways from many Americans," she said. "But we also have gone through some of the same challenges as many people have."

Still, despite these clarifications, Hillary Clinton's wealth may continue to dog her as she contemplates running in 2016. Indeed, considering that most of the 2012 presidential election centered on the personal wealth of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Clinton's opponents could launch a similar offensive against her family's fortune.

And this is an issue both sides of the aisle recognize.

In fact, a number of President Obama's campaign advisers in a recent Washington Post report confirmed that Clinton's wealth could be a drag on her White House ambitions.

“It’s going to be a massive issue for her,” an Obama adviser told the Post. “When you’re somebody like the secretary of state or president of the United States or first lady, you’re totally cut off [from normal activity], so your perception of the middle-class reality gets frozen in a time warp.”

The same adviser told the Post that Democrats should be in a “panic” over the issue of Clinton's wealth.

That's probably not bad advice. The attacks were largely successful when used against Romney. It would be interesting to see if they stick when applied to Clinton.

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