A week ago Bernie had a perfectly reasonable interview with the New York Daily News. Many corporate news outlets tripped over themselves in their race to frame it as a disaster, saying Bernie was unprepared or uninformed about the topics he claims to care about. Several experts/wonks calmly pointed out that his answers were all essentially correct and adequately substantive, but the media’s attention had already moved on to the next “controversy” by then. Today, Hillary sat down with the NYDN Editorial Board for an interview. The transcript is available here. Corporate media are currently either ignoring it or framing it as a major win for Clinton, hailing the depth of her expertise and length of her answers. Blinded with bias, they completely missed three smoking guns, each of which should be devastating to her campaign.
A failure by her own standards
Aside from the popular myth that Clinton has more experience (Bernie has 32 years in elected office), her campaign repeatedly uses two lines of criticism on Sanders and his policies. One, that his numbers just don’t add up, and two, that he won’t be able to pass his plans against Republican opposition. Instead of defending Bernie, let’s suppose these are valid points. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help Clinton, because by her own admission these same criticisms hold against her.
As an example of the first, consider their college affordability plans. Clinton has repeatedly criticized Bernie’s plan, saying that it relies on states for funding and pointing out that Republican governors like Scott Walker have been doing the opposite of late. But let’s look at Clinton’s answer in the interview concerning her college plan:
I will not make it free the way my opponent, Sen. Sanders, has offered, for two big reasons. First, I want not only to incentivize states to reinvest in higher education. I want to incentivize colleges and universities to take a hard look at their costs, because I do think that there needs to be a rigorous analysis. […]
So the federal government would hold out this promise. And I think states with Democratic governors like New York or California would accept it.
This information is also freely available under the “College” section of her campaign website “Issues” page:
States will have to step up and meet their obligation to invest in higher education by maintaining current levels of higher education funding and reinvesting over time.
So the exact same criticism she uses to say the numbers for Bernie’s college just don’t add up is also true about her own college plan. This isn’t a secret. It’s not some journalistic scoop. She is openly proclaiming this, “I think states with Democratic governors… would accept it.” She knows her plan has the same weakness, but she still repeatedly uses it against Bernie on the campaign trail and during interviews and debates.
Let’s consider the other criticism, about “getting things done” despite Republican obstructionism. The very first question asked by NYDN reveals a smoking gun here. In the quote below I have taken the liberty to paraphrase Clinton’s much longer response, but I encourage the reader to read the whole transcript if they are interested (I have).
Daily News: You’ve made lifting the fortunes of the working and middle classes a centerpiece of your campaign. And you’re well aware that in 2000, you pledged to create the conditions that would add 200,000 jobs upstate. You’re also well aware that that didn’t come true. The state Labor Department data show that the average annual number of jobs actually fell during that period. What went wrong?
Clinton: It was George W. Bush’s fault, also 9/11 had ripple effects going upstate.
She admits that as a Senator of the state of New York she was unable to implement her plans, and the excuses she gives are Republicans and 9/11. In fact, when was it ever apparent that Clinton would be able to accomplish more against Republican obstructionism? She hasn’t explained how she will get anything past them. Do people just hope that because her plans are not ambitious, Republicans won’t oppose them? Because she’s only asking for a $12/hr federal minimum wage they’ll step aside because at least it’s not $15?
The Daily News, to its credit, kept pushing and pointed out that upstate New York continued to suffer economically even during Obama’s administration. Clinton then admitted it’s because of outsourcing, which was accelerated by all the trade deals she supported and helped to pass. There was a reason she was already promising to create 200,000 jobs back in 2000, at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency. This isn’t a Republican problem, it’s a neoliberalism problem, and both party establishments still love neoliberalism. If there is one issue Clinton has flip-flopped on more than any other, it’s trade deals. She was for them until she ran for president in 2008. Then she was for them again as Secretary of State until her campaign started in 2015. In fact, later in the interview Clinton openly admits that neoliberalism is the “fundamental theory of her economic plan.”
Daily News: But going back to something more basic, I think your theory is: promote growth, increase growth, will increase employment, will increase the upward pressure on raises, on salaries, right?
Clinton: Yes, right.
Daily News: That I think is the fundamental theory of your economic plan.
Clinton: Right, […]
Never mind that this is exactly the same thing any Republican would say, or that it has been thoroughly debunked empirically by our own national experiment since Reagan…
But I digress. The point is that Clinton, by placing blame for her own failures as a Senator at the feet of George W. Bush, has all but openly admitted that Republican obstructionism can and will defeat her as it has in the past. The main difference between her and Bernie on this issue is that Bernie is actually trying to bring about a grand overthrow of Republicans and re-engagement of the public in politics.
Child’s play on Wall Street
The supposed smoking gun against Sanders in his Daily News interview was a bit about breaking up the big banks. They asked him specifically how he would do it, and he gave vague answers. This was not because he doesn’t know the details- he has actually written legislation to do it. But the media all agreed to pretend like Bernie doesn’t actually know what he’s talking about. Against that backdrop, Hillary’s answer on the same question is cringe-worthy.
Daily News: How do you stop too big to fail? What needs to happen?
Clinton: […] There are two approaches. There’s Section 121, Section 165, and both of them can be used by regulators to either require a bank to sell off businesses, lines of businesses or assets, because of the finding that is made by two-thirds of the financial regulators that the institution poses a grave threat, or if the Fed and the FDIC conclude that the institutions’ living will resolution is inadequate and is not going to get any better, there can also be requirements that they do so. […]
Clearly, she did her homework in preparation for this exact question. Impressive? Maybe if this were a test for regulator certification school and not an interview of the potential future President of the United States. Hillary Clinton is the person you want on your debate team. She is not the person you want making important decisions affecting hundreds of millions of people. Corporate trade deals. Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Opposing marriage equality until 2013. She has demonstrated throughout her entire career that she lacks either the judgment to choose wisely or the morals to do what’s right, or both.
Maybe this answer makes Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow get all wonk-giddy. But does it inspire any confidence that Clinton is the candidate to push for sufficiently strict Wall Street reform? Lest we forget, the Clintons together have a very long and very cozy relationship with Wall Street. The Street bankrolled Bill’s presidential campaigns and Hillary’s senatorial and presidential campaigns. Bill deregulated them, thinking the repeal of Glass-Steagall was a great idea. The Clintons have made tens of millions of dollars for a few hours of speaking at their private events. Their son-in-law is a hedgefund manager.
And what, exactly, is her track record, as a New York Senator?
“What Wall Street wanted then was for everyone to look the other way,” said former Representative Brad Miller, a Democrat who sat on the House Financial Services Committee and struggled to get attention from his colleagues as he pushed legislation to halt predatory mortgage lending. “And to a large extent, we did.”
Financial institutions and their employees were Clinton’s biggest donors when she was in the Senate from 2001 to 2008. The top four banks were Citi, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Morgan Stanley. […]
There were other fights. During Clinton’s Senate years, her colleagues were trying for reform proposals that banks spent millions of dollars trying to stall.
One senator tried desperately to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — but it didn’t go anywhere. Another pushed to give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission more authority.
Clinton signed on to none of these bills, the record shows.
Crickets. As a Senator from New York, she was one of the people best-positioned to foresee, prevent, mitigate, or once the crisis was in full swing, swiftly respond. She did nothing. And after an entire career informed by a worldview that makes this kind of stuff seem reasonable or excusable, she quotes “Section 121, Section 165” like the fact that she remembered that is supposed to be meaningful. This is not leadership on reforming Wall Street, this is child’s play.
The weakest anti-Trump arguments imaginable
The Daily News, again to their credit, asked about the transcripts of her paid speeches. Her response is, I believe, terrifying.
Clinton: […] I have reason to believe that others have made some speeches of some interest, and so…
Daily News: Who might that be?
Clinton: Well, we’ll have to wait and find out.
Daily News: Right now you’re only running against Bernie Sanders, and he’s your only opponent. He hasn’t given the speeches….
Clinton: Yeah, but he will not be my only opponent in this general election. So I’m looking over the horizon.
Daily News: Do you know these three Republicans have given speeches paid to?
Clinton: I have reason to believe Donald Trump has, for money, rather considerable amounts. A lot more than I ever was offered.
Leaving aside that she once again reveals she considers the primary a foregone conclusion, this teaser of an anti-Trump talking point convinces me that Clinton’s campaign has completely failed to understand Trump. Will Trump’s supporters care that he made lots of money talking to private audiences? On the contrary, they will love him all the more for it. His speeches could be at the Playboy Mansion and they’ll count it to his credit. If she believes this will help her stave-off Trump’s relentless attacks on her trustworthiness, I am beginning to worry that the match-up polls showing she would beat Trump might be proven wrong.
Trump is an outsider fueled by populist rage against the Washington/Wall Street power center that currently controls this nation. He will bring up her transcripts constantly, merely ask what she has to hide, and make her already-dismal “honest & trustworthy” polling numbers worse by the day. There is an unfortunate side-effect of Bernie running a positive campaign, and that is everyone is forgetting how weak Hillary Clinton is as a presidential candidate. She was defeated by a Junior Senator from Illinois and is currently being given a run for her money by a cranky old Jewish socialist from Vermont. Consider what Trump did to Jeb Bush. He repeatedly humiliated him and forced him out of the race despite enormous SupePAC spending on Bush’s behalf. Now imagine Hillary, in a debate, explaining her Wall Street reform plan by citing “Section 121, Section 165,” and then parrying Trump’s attacks on her transcripts/character by saying “I’ll show mine if you show yours!”
The transcripts have been one of her greatest weaknesses. Bernie didn’t even start talking about them until January. She should have known better before she even gave the talks, but her worldview is so warped around this issue that she still hasn’t come up with a believable defense. In February she thought she could shrug it off, saying “Well, I dunno, um, that’s what they offered.” Later in her answer she claimed, “They’re not giving me very much money now, I can tell you that much.” Again, this was in February, and even CNN wasn’t buying that story two months earlier. If Hillary is the nominee and faces Trump… he is going to wreak havoc, and she apparently still doesn’t understand the first thing about how to counter him.