Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street speeches are a ticking time bomb.
The former Secretary of State finds herself in a predicament midway through the nomination process. During Thursday night’s heated debate with Bernie Sanders, Clinton was forced to deflect from questions of why she wouldn’t release the transcripts of speeches she delivered to employees of Goldman Sachs a few years ago. Her unease was evident, and it has been brewing for a while now.
The accusations surround three speeches Hillary Clinton delivered to Goldman Sachs executives and technology titans in 2013, for which she was allegedly paid a total of $675,000. Since that is an astonishing amount to be paid for what were, at most, hour-long speeches, the insinuation from fellow Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has been that she must have said things which were damning to the interests of the working people of America.
But while Sanders has been saying that for some time now, it is only now that his accusations have attained proportions which are difficult to ignore, or to accept, for Hillary Clinton. The primary reason for this transformation is the distinctly evolving nature of the 2016 presidential race.
The anti-establishment nature of Sanders’ persona has led to a demarcation of Democratic voters on lines that simply did not exist before. No candidate before him had fought on the grounds of breaking up the big banks as vehemently as Bernie Sanders has done, which has in turn led to a galvanization of voters who see the control exerted by Wall Street on Washington as basically antithetical to the tenets enshrined in the United States constitution.
So, while previously Hillary Clinton, or another politician in her shoes, did not need to be accountable for speeches they deliver at Wall Street conferences (which is a pretty common thing), the nature of the present race means that it could become an issue that could practically lose Hillary Clinton her candidacy.
For all we know, Clinton might have said fairly innocuous things to Goldman Sachs employees, as is evident by remarks made by some members of the audience present in those meetings. One of the members spoke to Politico about the contents of the speech.
“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.”
Another member of the audience confirmed that the speeches contained a fair amount of praise for Goldman Sachs and its work, but did not contain anything that could be considered detrimental to a politician’s career. But, considering this presidential race is being fought on pro-establishment vs. anti-establishment grounds, the member conceded that releasing the transcripts could have a negative bearing on Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the nomination.
“It was mostly basic stuff, small talk, chit-chat,” the member said. “But in this environment, it could be made to look really bad.”
Yet another member said that while Clinton did not pledge her allegiance to the Wall Street in those speeches, she conceded that the Wall Street alone was not fully responsible for the Global Economic Crisis of 2008.
“It was like, ‘Here’s someone who doesn’t want to vilify us but wants to get business back in the game. Like, maybe here’s someone who can lead us out of the wilderness.’ “
The larger picture, one could probably construe from such statements, is that while Hillary Clinton might not have said anything specifically damning to the direct interests of the working people of America in those speeches, she quite clearly did not hold Wall Street banks accountable for the economic depression of 2008, an allegation which Clinton has sought to clear without much success over the last few days.
The predicament for Hillary Clinton, then, is essentially this: To release or not to release?
If Clinton decides that the speech transcripts do not contain anything which could sway her voters and releases the transcripts, the nature of the current race could mean her statements are construed within the prevalent anti-Wall Street sentiment that’s sweeping middle and working-class America. In such a case, Clinton could under no circumstances be prepared for what might be construed from her statements, and the allegations could be so far and varied that it would take her more time responding to them than concentrating on the present race.
Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets summed it up best.
“On the one hand, if Clinton discloses these speech transcripts that’s not going to be the end of it. I think you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t in this never ending game of gotcha.”
On the other hand, if she does not release the transcripts, voters might assume that Hillary Clinton has something to hide. In fact, it is more likely that she wouldn’t want to share the transcripts, which strengthen accusations by her critics that she has barely been transparent throughout her political career, and that she wouldn’t be now. In such a context, her mistakes are going to be amplified, which could in turn lead to her losing ground in the race for nomination.
In either case, Hillary Clinton is treading a very delicate rope at the moment, and with three days to go to the New York primary, she might prefer to wait to reassess her position in the race before making any decisions.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]