When you have been a major national figure for 25 years, elected to the United States Senate and twice a formidable candidate for the Presidency, one might expect that you have developed a certain proficiency in the political game. But Hillary Clinton continues to demonstrate her tone-deafness, defensiveness and seeming inability to think beyond today’s question.
At Thursday night’s debate, she was predictably asked about her taking speaking fees of $675,000 from Goldman Sachs for three talks she delivered. It had been in the news and she had already been asked about it on several occasions. Once again, she could not explain adequately why a major Wall Street player – and one who had had just agreed to a $5 billion fine for its deceptive behavior in the mortgage sub-prime melt down – would pay her that kind of money. This time, it was because they wanted to hear her thoughts, in particular about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. She used the bin Laden comment twice.
As President Rudy Giuliani could tell you, you cannot make enough political hay from the 9/11 attacks. Clinton herself had already tried the 9/11 tactic on the Goldman Sachs payments by earlier saying – to much derision – that the payments were justified because she was the United States Senator representing Wall Street on 9/11.
But if a savvy Wall Street investment bank is going to pay $225K per pop to learn about the bin Laden killing, it is to hear details that were not in the public record. Of course, that would necessarily involve classified information, for which Clinton is already under scrutiny because of her email issue.
She was then asked by NBC moderator, Chuck Todd, if she would release the transcripts of her remarks. Once again, predictably, she did not attempt to diffuse any further controversy by saying “Of course, I have nothing to hide.” Rather, she said “I will look into it.” What that means, of course, is that she will only release them after considerable pressure, and never while in a primary fight with Bernie Sanders. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone has a take on the likely content of her remarks.
Clinton also ridiculed the notion that she was a member of the “establishment” that is so under attack in both the Democratic and Republican campaigns. She may have been a key policy advisor in her husband’s Administration, served as a United States Senator, twice been the front runner for the Democratic nomination, and a multi-millionaire based on that CV, but could not be an “establishment” figure because – she is a woman.
While there can be no doubt that electing a woman as President would be a significant breakthrough, nor that the “establishment” is dominated by white men, her claim is fatuous. Aside from her background and legitimate claim to be one of the best qualified candidates to run for the office since George H.W. Bush, being a woman does not disqualify her from being not only part of the “establishment,” but one of its preeminent members.
And while running as a woman is certainly a valid point, she may wish to seriously consider the wisdom of the support she has received recently from allies who criticized young women for supporting Bernie Sanders. Madeline Albright, 78 years old, lamented that young women did not appreciate the contributions those of Hillary’s generation made to further equal rights. Icon Gloria Steinem, who is 81, speculated that young women joined the Sanders campaign “to meet boys.” Steinem recanted her remarks after public criticism. What could be more sexist than presuming that women – of any age – will vote based on their gender rather than on what they perceive the merits to be?
Such comments are not only tone-deaf and counter-productive, but oblivious of the reasons younger women may support Sanders. The most obvious one, of course, is that Sanders has strong support among younger voters – not just women. But also that Hillary’s questionable tactics in denigrating the many women who accused her husband of sexual behavior are especially troublesome in today’s atmosphere regarding violence against women.
Clinton, of course, may well defeat Bernie Sanders soundly. And her relationships with Wall Street and support among young women voters are unlikely to be a negative in a campaign against any of the Republican candidates. But her continuing inability to effectively anticipate problems and respond to them are going to continue to dog her campaign.