Last night Hillary Clinton went “full Giuliani” when she compared criticism of her Wall Street ties to letting the terrorists win. For a candidate who is superb debate performer, the creepiest thing about last night is that this message wasn’t deployed as the result of a fumble. She said exactly what she meant to say.
It all began when Clinton was asked about how her ties to Wall Street would influence her and she basically said, ‘not one bit,” to which Sanders responded “let’s not be naive about it.” Sanders continued, “Why, over her political career has Wall Street been a major — the major campaign contributor to Hillary Clinton? You know, maybe they’re dumb and they don’t know what they’re going to get, but I don’t think so.”
Sanders was pointing out what every voter in America knows. Big donors, giving millions to her super PACs, are keenly aware of what that money buys. If billionaires, hedge fund managers and Wall Street bankers gave money away just because it felt good, we’d have fully-funded public infrastructure, schools and arts. We might even have cured cancer, and colonized Saturn by now.
All that money Wall Street throws at Hillary Clinton has a purpose behind it. Some is intended to “modernize Social Security.” Some is intended to “keep regulation in check.” You can bet that there’s a pile specially designated to maintain the “carried interest deduction.” Lobbyists know exactly what their dollars buy. Checks are written. Meetings are attended. Laws are passed.
Before playing the 9/11 card, Clinton briefly tried to play the sexism card. Here is where Sanders differentiates himself from Clinton on Wall Street and campaign finance: “Once again, I am running a campaign differently than any other candidate. We are relying on small campaign donors, 750,000 of them, 30 bucks a piece. That’s who I’m indebted to.”
Clinton initially responds to criticism of her Wall Street campaign contributions as being sexist, saying, “Wait a minute, he has basically used his answer to impugn my integrity. Let’s be frank here…You know, not only do I have hundreds of thousands of donors, most of them small. And I’m very proud that for the first time a majority of my donors are women, 60 percent.”
After that she quickly pivoted to 9/11. Why the sudden turn away from her usual charges of sexism? I’m glad she’s (maybe) giving that a rest for while. When Hillary Clinton accuses Bernie Sanders of sexism for using the phrase “we need to stop shouting at each other about guns,” there’s no escaping the fact that this cheapens the experience of every woman who actually has been silenced because of “tone complaints.” No one wants their struggle exploited for a candidate’s political gain.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like her pivot was because she saw the light on being a better feminist. She pivoted, I believe, because the campaign has more powerful talking point: In the wake of the Paris attacks, the new talking point is intended is to cloak Wall Street in our fear of terrorism.
Here’s the moment of the full reveal of the new talking point in the debate:
Clinton: “I represented New York on 9/11. I spent a whole lot of time helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”It’s fine to say what you’re going to say (to Sanders) — I look at reinstating Glass-Steagall,” and “I looked very carefully at your proposal; re-instating Glass-Steagall [provisions of the Banking Act of 1933, abolished by Bill Clinton] is a part of what very well could help, but it is nowhere near enough. My proposal is tougher, more effective, and more comprehensive because I go after all of Wall Street, not just the big banks.”
Regulate Wall Street and the terrorists win. It’s classic Clintonian triangulation. With a little luck, this message could ‘take Wall Street off the table’ for the rest of the campaign.
It’s such nonsense I can hardly believe it wasn’t Rudy Giuliani or Donald Rumsfeld spouting this stuff. Must we even remind folks that Wall Street collapsed in 2008 because of their own fraud? Their downfall had nothing to do with terrorism, back on 9/11, or today in the wake of the Paris attacks. This is the kind of rebuttal I imagine needing to deploy against George W. Bush.
If there was any question about her intention to make the connection between Wall Street and rising jingoistic antipathies, an incredulous Twitter question was chosen by CBS to give Clinton a second bite at the apple. Instead of backing-off her outlandish, mis-portrayal of the 9/11 attacks, Clinton doubled-down repeating her original statement almost word-for-word.
CORDES: And Secretary Clinton, one of the tweets we saw said this, “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now.” The idea being, yes, you were a champion of the community after 9/11, but what does that have to do with taking big donations?
CLINTON: Well, I’m sorry that whoever tweeted that had that impression because I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 for my entire first term to rebuild. So, yes, I did know people. I’ve had a lot of folks give me donations from all kinds of backgrounds say, I don’t agree with you on everything, but I like what you do. I like how you stand up. I’m going to support you, and I think that is absolutely appropriate.
It couldn’t be clearer that she prepared this statement to push back on her coziness to Wall Street interests, specifically with the Paris attacks in mind. Of all the moments to exploit 9/11, she did so while they are still wiping the blood off the streets in Paris. Why would anyone think it’s okay to stoke these fears, to these ends, at this time?
I’ve gone back and forth on my support for a new Clinton Presidency. There was a reason I went for Obama in 2008, and it was largely because of Hillary’s ugly campaign behavior. In this cycle I have my favorite candidate, but I would like to say we’ve got a good team no matter who wins.
After last night, I’m afraid I can no longer make that claim. There’s no excuse for exploiting terrorism for political gain, especially not in service of protecting the Wall Street bankers who blew up the world’s economy. Real people died in the attacks on 9/11 and in the Paris attacks. Some are still fighting for their lives with bullets in their bodies. Now is not the time to use our mourning and disgust as a means to advance a political agenda that protects Wall Street fraudsters. All the while, you’re trying to tell us that their money doesn’t buy them anything. This is what it buys them: your utter submission.
There’s “winning ugly,” and then there’s becoming so ugly that you deserve to lose. This might be one of those times.
Brook Hines is a writer, photographer, activist and former alt-weekly publisher, as well as an award-winning advertising creative with more than 20 years’ experience crafting strategy for clients ranging from healthcare companies to museums. She’s the Senior Political Correspondent for Progressive News Network (tune this Sunday at 7:30 pm or download the podcast anytime), and the Communications Chair for the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida. All opinions offered here are her own, delivered from the perspective of social theory, cultural criticism, and near constant stream of caffeine. Political and media analysis through a Progressive lens. Read all of Brook’s articles here. Check out brookhines.com.
These are her Italian Greyhounds, Trouble and Daphne.
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