Imagine if Hillary owned Mar-a-Lago

State Dept. websites promote Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club
State Dept. websites promote Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club

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    State Dept. websites promote Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club

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State Dept. websites promote Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club 02:49

Story highlights

  • Jill Filipovic: Trump violated ethics rules by touting his private Mar-a-Lago as "the winter White House." Imagine if Hillary had done this?
  • Filipovic: Instead, Clinton was slammed for involvement in charity that brought relief to millions. Now, Trump making plans to cut foreign aid

Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and Nairobi, Kenya, and the author of the forthcoming book "The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness." Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)It's getting to be an almost laughable refrain, repeated whenever our current President garbles his interviews, insults a foreign leader, disregards norms of either politics or polite human behavior, or uses his position to enrich himself or his family: "Imagine if Hillary Clinton did that."

The latest example might be the most egregious. In a now-removed post, the State Department touted Trump's private Mar-a-Lago club as "the winter White House," advertising the place's history and violating ethics rules in the process.
Jill Filipovic
Of course, Trump himself has used his position to line his pockets by way of the club -- membership dues doubled to $200,000 the year after his election, and he's spent a quarter of his first 100 days at Mar-a-Lago (with travel costs and extra security costing American taxpayers million of dollars).
By contrast, Hillary Clinton was questioned unrelentingly about her involvement in her family's global health charity, an organization that brought HIV/AIDS treatment, sustainable farming initiatives, malaria prevention and other relief to millions. The organization had her hobnobbing with some of the world's most powerful people; the ethical concern was that a donation to the charity might be seen as pay-for-play, currying favor with the would-be second President Clinton. Mrs. Clinton's involvement in the organization was one part of what made her "crooked Hillary," according to Trump.
Apparently working your relationships to get AIDS treatment to kids is an unacceptable ethical breach, but using your position as the sitting president to funnel money back to yourself -- well, that's just good business in Trump's world.
The rules are simply different for Trump. He flouts them so flagrantly, lies so relentlessly, and seems to have no emotional capacity for shame or intellectual capacity to process what he's done wrong, making him incredibly hard to nail down. Indeed, the forever problem with Trump is simply that his misdeeds and errors and scandals are so numerous it's impossible to keep up, or to keep the media watchdog eye trained on just one.
Politicians and journalists could obsess over Benghazi or the Clinton Foundation or emails because they fit an agreed-upon narrative, and they were individual stories, each limited in scope. And Hillary, a typical political animal, responded: hit her enough and she'll try to shape-shift, apologize, please the public, all to get the media to give her a fair shake.
Trump? He just gives journalists the finger. We shrug, take it, and continue to play whack-a-mole, chasing the story of the day.
Imagine if Clinton not only owned a private club, but used it to enrich herself. Journalists and politicians alike would be crowing -- and rightly. Trump is so crooked, and such a huckster, we're used to it. Taking the promotional page down from the State Department website was "enough." What a pathetic shift in norms -- in what is considered acceptable behavior of the President of the United States.
Candidate Clinton was hammered for trying to do some good in the world. Meanwhile Trump is golfing on a property he owns, rubbing shoulders with the global elite willing to pay to have access to the President, even as his administration is crafting a plan to end foreign aid as we know it -- gutting programs that help vulnerable people in developing countries.
Cutting help to the world's poorest people while fattening his own wallet. Aren't we all glad we focused our ire on the Clinton Foundation?