Hillary Clinton’s bizarre answer about her ties to Wall Street

Confession time: I did not watch Saturday night’s Democratic debate as it happened. Buenos Aires is two hours ahead of the East Coast, meaning that the already-ridiculous 9pm Saturday start time was a comically absurd 11pm Saturday start time for me. On a given Saturday night at 11, I’m not staying in to watch a debate that the Democratic Party clearly wants as few people as possible to watch. I caught up yesterday.

And wow, I knew Hillary Clinton would need a better answer on her ties to Wall Street than she had delivered previously, but this was something else:

Said Clinton, responding to a charge from Bernie Sanders that Clinton can’t be trusted to regulate Wall Street given the extensive donations she has received from the industry:

Hillary Clinton with Tim Geithner, via Creative Commons

Hillary Clinton with Tim Geithner, via Creative Commons

Wait a minute, he (Sanders) 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.

So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort 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.

So, you know, it’s fine for you to say what you’re going to say, but I looked very carefully at your proposal. Reinstating Glass-Steagall 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.

Sandwiched in between two perfectly valid points — a majority-female donor base is historic and Paul Krugman actually prefers her Wall Street reform plan to Sanders’s — is a wild assertion that the only reason Wall Street donors like her is because she helped them rebuild their industry after 9/11. As many were quick to point out, to whatever extent that was true in 2002, it sure as hell isn’t true now:

As Ben White has found in those same conversations with Democrats on Wall Street, they are completely unfazed by a Clinton candidacy, calling her leftward shift on economic issues “just politics” and “a Rorschach test for how politically sophisticated people are.” Wall Street knows full well that regardless as to what Clinton proposes, serious regulation on their industry isn’t coming — not while Republicans control Congress. This frees Clinton up to put forward some actually-decent ideas about how to regulate the industry — ideas that, if implemented, may actually make the stock market look less like Vegas and more like an actual market — without her donors fearing that those proposals will actually take effect under a Clinton administration.

It’s also worth noting that Clinton also served her time in the Senate as a senator from New York. You don’t get elected (and re-elected) statewide in New York without strong ties to the state’s richest people.

But here’s the thing: “If I’m such a Wall Street sellout, why does Paul Krugman like my plan better than yours?” is a perfectly serviceable response to Sanders’s charge of “If you’re going to be so tough on Wall Street, why are they giving you so much money?” She doesn’t need to invoke 9/11 to make her point there. Sanders’s supporters don’t trust her to follow through with her plan given her donor base, but again, given the state of Congress her donor base is the last thing standing between a Democratic president and Wall Street reform.

At least, I think, she learned her lesson: Later in the debate, in response to a question from Twitter calling her out for invoking 9/11, she pivoted away from that answer and went straight to Krugman. We’ll probably see more of that from her as the campaign runs on — at least during the primary where Krugman’s got a net-positive image.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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24 Responses to “Hillary Clinton’s bizarre answer about her ties to Wall Street”

  1. Nonbeliever says:

    I am a democrat and just don’t connect to either of our candidates. Hillary is definitely same old politics not going to fix any problems just compound them and I am not ready to accept Bernie’s socialism with our debt I don’t understand how we can afford him! I wish we had multiple candidates to choose from like the GOP but they all suck. The only one that might actually care about the country is trump not being controlled by lobbyists but I don’t agree with most of his ideas but he does act like he is sincerely concerned about the country! So confusing probably not going to vote sitting this one out

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  3. Bill_Perdue says:

    Yep, in the absence of a massive civilian antiwar movement today’s GI antiwar sentiment, which exists and has been widespread, is hard to focus and organize. That explains, in part, the suicides of so many Iraq/Afghanistan vets.

    During the Vietnam war we organized GI-CAP, GI Civilian Alliance for Peace, and scores of similar organizations across the country that greeted and worked with Vietnam active duty soldiers, sailors, air crew and Marines in the process of coming out against the war. We leafleted the barracks at Ft Lewis (near Seattle) for an antiwar concert and hundreds of GI’s showed up and spent the evening saying ‘you too’ as they met other GI’s.

    That’s not so common now because of the success of the Democrats in undermining antiwar sentiment.



  4. mf_roe says:

    The GIs had seen what Fascism looked like, they understood what it took to defeat it and many were prepared to force action. The conscripts of my generation got a bellyful of the 60’s version of Fascism and were actually starting to become a threat to the powers that were (& Are). It will take a similar level of resistance to change anything today, I don’t see it, only the potential only the eventual unavoidable reckoning.

  5. Bill_Perdue says:

    That and the strike wave of 1946-47. Unions insured a recovery and a long period of prosperity that ended when Carter and his successors began to bust union.

    Eisenhower was aware the massive GI mutinies of 1945 when GI’s refused to go to China and the Balkans to fight.

    A similar, although far more conscious and widespread, development took place in the early 1970’s and forced the US out of Vietnam. http://depts.washington.edu/antiwar/gi_history.shtml

  6. mf_roe says:

    And wealth distribution didn’t improve until AFTER the War when the GIs came back demanding a fair share of the spoils. And the fucking repugs actually made that happen, Eisenhower understood the danger of treating the WWII vets like the WWI veterans.

  7. Bill_Perdue says:


    The upturn began in 1929-1940 and got huge after Pearl.

  8. mf_roe says:

    Actually, Lend Lease and various actions supporting GB started the ball rolling, Pearl Harbor was just the 9-11 trigger to reprogram the masses to WAR MODE. Once in war mode nobody noticed who was getting FUCKING RICH.

  9. Bill_Perdue says:

    Right. The depression ended at 7AM Hawaiian Time on the morning of Sunday, December 7th. The new Deal never did fix the Depression – it took the Japanese Imperial Navy to do that.

  10. mf_roe says:

    And those concessions were never sufficient to achieve success, WWII saved FDR and the Dems. FDR knew the war was likely and bought time until it erupted. Like all presidents who die in office he never had a real critique of his administration.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    The New Deal was the result of the real fear of Democrats that if they didn’t make concessions they’d face a revolution. That was not a far fetched idea.

  12. mf_roe says:

    The New Deal was weak tea compared to the proposals of the American Communist Party and many other Socialist movements of the 20’s & 30’s. Capital knew that the Repugs were toast and cut deals with FDR. FDR invented media politics and was a natural when it came to projecting a useful vision.

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    I disagree with it, but BS has a full platform.

  14. Bill_Perdue says:

    She got rich by being a tool of the rich. FDR was a strikebreaker. There’s nothing good for working people in either party that we didn’t force on them.

  15. nicho says:

    If people accuse me of being a Democrat these days, I proudly tell them that I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat. They ask what I am, and I announce that I’m a Socialist. That usually gets things going.

  16. Don Chandler says:

    Okay, Hillary is bought and paid for by Wall Street. 9/11 pretty much let her rub elbows with the powers that be–that’s where the gaffe resides. If Hillary were to win the nomination and Trump were to win his party’s nomination. Trump could say the same thing as Bernie, that Hillary is bought. Trump uses that line against Bush in the republican primary. Bernie sounded much better on Domestic issues. Still, neither Bernie nor Hillary have much chance of reforming Wall Street or breaking up banks. If they won the Presidency with their platforms, it would provide SOME impetus for reform. Things just won’t change overnight. Bernie’s best message is that people need to mobilize if change is to happen.

  17. Indigo says:

    Welcome to the Hotel Cortez.

  18. 2karmanot says:

    Oh so do I ! ” lingering academic Marxism”…ah, that sad ghost of past lucidity haunting corporate academe. sigh It used to be mainstream Democratic platform.

  19. 2karmanot says:

    True, but the difference between old money and new is that of a velvet glove holding a knife compared to that of a rusty hatchet in a callous hand. ( pun intended)

  20. Indigo says:

    It’s not that she’s a tool of the rich, it’s that she is one of them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, so was FDR.

  21. Bill_Perdue says:

    HRH HRC is very bad, as bad as any Republican when it comes to being a tool of the rich. Perhaps that’s because of her vast wealth and the fact that she very much enjoyed her role as Ribbentrop during Obama’s first term.

    BS is going to have more and trouble as his past catches up with him. He made a huge leap to the right becoming a Democrat and the DNC, for one, seems very unforgiving of the times when he actually had a spine.

    “It would be hypocritical of me to run as a Democrat because of the things I have said about the party. …“Why should we work within the Democratic Party if we don’t agree with anything the Democratic Party says?” – Socialist Scholars Conference in New York City, April 1990. http://www.keywiki.org/Socialist_Scholars_Conference_1990

    “The Democratic Party ideologically bankrupt, they have no ideology. Their ideology is opportunism.” – Interview with Vermont Affairs magazine, 1986 http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/8/15/1409803/-Introducing-Bernie-Sanders-the-Hypocrite

    “The Democratic and Republican parties are tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum, they both adhere to an ideology of greed and vulgarity.” – Op-ed in the New York Times, January 1989. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/8/15/1409803/-Introducing-Bernie-Sanders-the-Hypocrite

    “ The quotes and other information is from the Politico article: Can Bernie Sanders Win the Love of a Party He Scorns?” http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/bernie-sanders-2016-democrats-121181

  22. Indigo says:

    You’re right, there is that, of course. But I harbor a faint coal of concern that Bernie’s very excellent economic ideas will fall by the way side. I enjoy the warm feeling of saying “Socialist!” in a crowded room. Truthfully, it’s the vestige of that lingering academic Marxism that nourished my academic career. It fades, of course, in the face of our emerging police state, but it still has that warm-fuzzy feeling from the good old days. There are no Commie-Pinko-Fag professors around anymore, but I cherish the memory. I did what I could in those halcyon days of yore. 8-)

  23. nicho says:

    Why is that “worrisome?” Anyone with a lick of sense knows that Bernie isn’t going anywhere. When her handlers think the time is right, the Clinton Corporatist Machine will squash Bernie like a bug and he will support her. He’s already said he would. The Clintonistas aren’t going to spend a billion Wall Street dollars just to be outmaneuvered by Sanders. And 60 percent of her individual donors are women? Whoop-de-freaking-do! Their total contribution is probably about half on what the Clinton Machine takes in at one Wall Street fundraising dinner.

  24. Indigo says:

    That’s not really a wild answer, that’s a convenient answer. Beyond the realm of policy geeks, the public does not notice. What’s more worrisome is Senator Sanders one note campaign. Is that all he’s got?

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