Conservatives have long lamented the bitter irony of Hillary Clinton’s treatment of her State Department emails compared with the content of her Wall Street speeches. When it comes to confidential, even top secret, information that could impact national security if released, Clinton recklessly used a vulnerable, homebrew email server. When it comes to the transcripts of the speeches she gave to Wall Street millionaires, she seemingly guards them with her life. Finally, liberals are beginning to catch on to the charade.
The New York Times editorial board writes:
“Everybody does it,” is an excuse expected from a mischievous child, not a presidential candidate. But that is Hillary Clinton’s latest defense for making closed-door, richly paid speeches to big banks, which many middle-class Americans still blame for their economic pain, and then refusing to release the transcripts.
Public interest in these speeches is legitimate, and it is the public — not the candidate — who decides how much disclosure is enough. By stonewalling on these transcripts Mrs. Clinton plays into the hands of those who say she’s not trustworthy and makes her own rules. Most important, she is damaging her credibility among Democrats who are begging her to show them that she’d run an accountable and transparent White House.
Sadly, the “everybody does it” routine is just the latest in a long string of attempts to withhold the contents of those speeches from public scrutiny. It began in a November debate, when she attempted to turn Bernie Sanders’ criticism of her speaking fees into a political advantage by leveraging 9/11 victims. It went about as well as you expect.
“So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 wen we were attacked. Where were we attacked?,” Clinton asked. “We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spent a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild.”
The only thing her exorbitant speaking fees helped rebuild was the Clinton’s bank accounts. Fortunately, nearly everyone saw through the cynical attempt to tug on voters’ 9/11-related heartstrings, which forced Clinton to come up with a different approach.
So on a debate in early February, when Clinton was asked by moderator Chuck Todd whether she would release the transcripts of those speeches, she demurred, saying only that she would “look into it.” And if you believed that then, well, I’ve got a Nigerian prince who promises you’ll get rich quick if you send him some money over the Internet.
But the questions kept coming and Clinton kept squirming. At a town hall later that month she was asked why she accepted so much money from Wall Street firms that read like a who’s who of culprits behind the financial collapse. Clearly annoyed, Clinton could only muster a shrugged shoulder, and a flippant “That’s what they offered.”
That answer may work if she was defending her free market bona fides or touting her ability to negotiate a good deal. But it’s absolutely the antithesis of her populist message, which demonizes wealth and penalizes success. The left was predictably annoyed.
Finally, at another February town hall, an audience member begged, “Please, just release those transcripts so that we know exactly where you stand.” Clinton, finding her footing, told him, “I am happy to release anything I have when everybody else does the same, because every other candidate in this race has given speeches to private groups.”
Ah yes, the old, “I’ll show you mine when you show me yours” approach to campaigning for president. How classy. But it’s a silly standard. Bernie Sanders giddily announced that he’s happy to comply with Clinton’s demand because he’s never given a paid speech to Wall Street. And as for Republicans, we certainly want to put an end to “too big to fail” regulations, but that’s a far cry from the strident public rhetoric that Clinton has adopted when discussing the big banks. In short, there’s no call for Republicans to release such transcripts (if they exist) because there’s been no suggestion that what they’re saying in private doesn’t match what they’re telling voters in public.
And that’s the problem for Clinton. She’s desperately looking to delay, or deflect, or demure…anything to not have to release those transcripts, which she knows will pull back the curtain on her pro-Wall Street past. If you had any doubts just read this quote from one of the attendees of her speeches, as reported by Politico:
“It was pretty glowing about us. It’s so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a rah-rah speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director.”
Clinton knows that populists win Democrat primaries, not Wall Street managers. And she’ll do anything to convince voters that she’s the former, despite a record that suggests she’s the latter.