Responding to remarks that former President Clinton made last week about Hungary tiring of democracy and longing for a Putin-like, authoritarian system (see my blog post, Frankly speaking, Mr. Clinton, we have plenty of our own heroes to thank for our democracy), Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that
"the mouth belongs to Clinton, [but] the voice belongs to George Soros,”
And the PM went on to say that "there are certain Americans – I wouldn’t say the United States, because it is a big country with many [different] power groups – there are people who believe that it would benefit Europe if a lot of Muslims, tens of millions would come into Europe. George Soros, with his human rights-based reasoning, supports this standpoint. Hungary is against it."
Some claimed that drawing this Clinton-Soros link was too far-fetched. It smacked of your typical Eastern European paranoia, always quick to find a conspiracy. The facts, however, paint a clear picture of a close relationship between Soros and the Clintons.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg published some fascinating details on the close relationship and access that a political donor like George Soros enjoys when he gets behind a candidate.
“[H]e's been impressed that he can always call/meet with you on an issue of policy and he hasn't met with the president [Obama] ever," wrote Neera Tanden, a Clinton confidant, in a 2012 e-mail to the then-secretary of state, a message that was later released by the State Department. More emails quoted by Bloomberg point to Soros contacting Clinton a number of times about his pet causes around the globe when she served as the nation’s top diplomat.
And what would be among his pet causes in Hungary? Supporting opposition political figures and movements, of course. For example, the largest financial supporter of the now defunct Haza és Haladás, which served as a sort of think tank and political action committee to support former PM Gordon Bajnai’s failed campaign in the lead up to the 2014 elections, was none other than the Center for American Progress. The Washington-based Center was founded by John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Clinton. Its president and CEO is Neera Tanden (see above), and among its major donors is – wait for it – George Soros.
So it should come as no surprise then that a figure who “can always call/meet” the US secretary of state may have had some influence on her outlook on Hungary and remarks when she visited Budapest back in 2011. In a joint press conference with PM Orbán, the then secretary of state uttered her now notorious line expressing “concerns” about “preserving the democratic institutions of Hungary.”
There’s more, of course. In February of this year, the New York Times and other major news outlets reported that George Soros had donated 6 million USD in late 2015 to the Clinton-affiliated Priorities USA Action, one of hundreds of super PACs that have sprung up with the relaxation of campaign funding rules in the United States. Politico reported on another 1 million USD that Soros donated to a different Clinton super PAC, American Bridge. The Bloomberg article cited above also reported that Soros had made recent gifts, estimated at a value between 1.5 and 6 million USD, to the Clinton Foundation.
And as this close relationship has been growing closer, the billionaire financier has been making plain his views on Prime Minister Orbán and president of Poland’s ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. In an interview published in February in the New York Review of Books, Soros, commenting on the democratically elected Hungarian and Polish leadership, said: “They will be difficult to remove.”
In that interview, he outlined his six-point plan to allow migrants to enter Europe, saying that PM Orbán wants “to keep out migrants.”
That sounds familiar.
“The Hungarian prime minister – they [sic] owe a lot to America,” said former President Clinton on The Daily Show back in September 2014, “he’s just saying ‘I don’t want to ever leave power.’”
Last week, while again reminding Hungary how much we owe America, Mr. Clinton said that the Hungarian people are tired of democracy, want “an authoritarian dictatorship” and want to “keep the foreigners out.” These comments and the extraordinary attention from a former president, apparently out of nowhere, seemed so odd at first blush.
But understanding all these links, the close and financial nature of the relationship, it’s not surprising. In fact, a reasonable person might conclude that “although the mouth belongs to Clinton, the voice belongs to George Soros.”