Littwin: Wall Street questions drag Hillary Clinton down

It was great theater, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an act.

I’m guessing Hillary Clinton actually believes that there’s too much big money in the political system, corrupting everything and everyone it touches — except, well, her. And that Bernie Sanders, if he were honest with himself, would know that, too.

It’s a theory. And, more than that, it was a strategy.

And it was a way, finally, for Clinton to answer the Wall Street/Goldman Sachs question, for which, if we’re honest, there is no good answer. In fact, we’ve seen her give inexplicably bad answers. It was 9/11 that made her do it. She was “dead broke.” And in the Wednesday night town hall, when asked about the $675,000 for three speeches, she shrugged and said that’s what they were offering. It was a gif and a gift.

But there we were one night later, in the second of the back-to-back episodes of the Bernie-Hill Show, the first of the many head-to-head debate confrontations to come, and Clinton was on the attack.

The situation was obvious. They had fought to a virtual tie in Iowa, Clinton seeming to have pulled out a tight win that included winning a series of coin flips, of all things, while losing more than 80 percent of the 18 to 29 vote. And now in New Hampshire, where she had come back to beat Barack Obama in 2008 despite trailing by 11 points — her comeback based on the still-recalled near-tear moment — she was now trailing someone everyone had once considered a fringe, one-message candidate by 20 points or more. She wasn’t just losing on enthusiasm. She was also losing on losing. In the year of the outsider, Clinton is pure establishment. And even in rejecting the label, she later name-checked Henry Kissinger, who — for those who may not remember him — was someone people who support Bernie routinely call a war criminal.

Sure, Clinton remains the heavy favorite to win the nomination, and liberal candidates routinely make futile runs, with varying levels of success, at Democratic establishment types (Dean, Bradley, Hart et al) but none of them was a self-described Democratic socialist who says, as Sanders did in the debate, that “The business model of Wall Street is fraud.”

How do you fight that? Does Clinton really want to debate the fairness of the American economic system with Sanders? But backed into a corner, Clinton did what you’d expect her to do — she came out swinging.

The debate began on the question of who is really the progressive in the party. Since Sanders is a self-proclaimed democratic socialist and Clinton is a mainstream Obama-style liberal, there’s really no debate, but we had one anyway. Clinton said that Bernie was the purist “gatekeeper” of all things progressive, and that by his definition, Obama, Biden and the late, great Paul Wellstone didn’t quality. This was part of her dreaming-is-fine, but-getting-things-done-is-what-really-matters tact.

It was working, for something like a half hour, although Sanders made his case for effecting real change, if not actually showing how to pay for it or how any of it might get passed through Congress short of Bernie’s political revolution. But if you watched the cranky old man with the unkempt hair and the Brooklyn accent, it’s no secret why those millennials searching for something or someone to believe in have picked Sanders.

And then came the Goldman Sachs question, and whether the Clintons could raise obscene amounts of money from Wall Street and get paid obscene amounts for making canned speeches and still be trusted to reform Wall Street.

Clinton faced at least two problems.  One is the fact of the money. I mean, it’s a lot of money, even these days — and for what? Everyone knows for what. And the second problem, the bigger problem, is judgment. How could anyone planning to run for president in 2016 fail to see how this would be used against her?

After all, there is no Bernie Sanders in this race without the issues of income inequality and big banks and the 1 percent. But it didn’t need to be Bernie. It could have been Elizabeth Warren. Actually, it could have been anyone. In this climate, Clinton would have been better off giving paid speeches in defense of the Oscars.

But this is Hillary Clinton we’re talking about. And so even if there isn’t a good answer, even if Sanders was standing there representing one of the nation’s few unsullied-by-money politicians, Clinton did what she could. She attacked. She accused Sanders of accusing her — and anyone else taking speaking fees or donations from “interest groups” — of being “bought.” She said she was tired of the “innuendo” and the “insinuation.”

“Enough is enough,” she said, talking directly to Sanders, who had that Bernie-eye-bulging-in-disbelief look on his face. “If you’ve got something to say, say it directly … I think it’s time to end the artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out in recent weeks, and let’s talk about the issues that divide us.”

Artful smear? By Bernie?

The crowd booed a little (and cheered a little), and it didn’t solve Clinton’s problem, but it did put Sanders on the defensive — he gave out a Bernie o-o-o-h and the eyes bulged.

If big money has corrupted Clinton, she wanted to know, show her some examples. She can point to the Wall Streeters and hedge funders who have funded attacks against her for decades. Wasn’t that proof whose side she was on?

Sanders didn’t attack Clinton. He could have, just as he could have on the emails. Instead, he attacked the system, insinuating, yes, that Clinton is part of the system.

Sanders: “Let’s talk about why, in the nineteen-nineties, Wall Street got deregulated,” Sanders said, going back to Bill’s Wall Street dance.  “Did it have anything to do with the fact that Wall Street provided—spent billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions? Well, some people might think, yeah, that had some influence.”

As the debate headed into its second half, Bernie faltered on foreign policy — bringing everything back to Clinton’s 2002 vote on Iraq, allowing Clinton to get off the line that nothing that happened in 2002 will help us defeat ISIS today. There were a lot of “I think Secretary Clinton” is right answers, and if that’s all the debate you saw, you’d wonder why Bernie has been such a phenomenon.

It’s a year, looking back, in which someone like Sanders was inevitable. And now Clinton’s Wall Street problems of 2016 are not unlike her Iraq problems of 2008. And now we’re left wondering how she’s going to answer it next time.

Photo credit:MSNBC via Vox. 


  1. Sanders never “openly” attacks Clinton because he doesn’t want to look like a bully attacking a woman, however he rips her a new one by innuendo. Comments like “I’m not going to comment on Bill’s behavior when he was in the White House. It was despicable behavior, but I’m not going to comment on his despicable behavior.” Or, “reporters ask me questions daily about your emails, but I’m not going to comment on your email problems. So I’m not going to comment on your email problems.”
    Why doesn’t anyone ask Bernie about the almost $3 million dollars he accepted from the nurse’s union, when he goes on and on about how he doesn’t have a super pack giving him money.
    Did anyone also notice his wide eye grin when Chuck Todd asked him why he insisted on running as an independent in Vermont and it resulted in the Republican winning, I believe, a senate seat? He had no comment on that.
    And why doesn’t Bernie admit that he knew that he couldn’t possibly win the election without being a candidate in one of the two main parties? He knew that he didn’t have a chance in hades to run as a Republican, as they would have laughed him off the stage, and he knew that to run officially as an independent, he would split the ticket with Clinton and the Republicans would win, so what does he do, he decides to become a “fake” democrat. Bernie’s motivation is no different than all of the Republican candidates and Clinton. He wants to be President at any cost, and he will do anything and say anything to reach that goal.
    So let’s get Bernie, or as I call him, BS Sanders, to give us a detailed summary of how he expects to achieve his “revolution” without a lot of bluster and finger wagging. Bernie talks big but the devil is in the details. And Bernie gives no details.

  2. It pains me to say this but it must be said: Mr. Littwin has finally written a good column!

    Who’da thunk it, “Mr. Littwin” and “good column” in the same sentence.

    And by good I mean even handed. He treated the two debating Democrat presidential candidates as if they were, well, Republicans.

    While it’s unlikely Mr. Littwin will be able to sustain this level of journalistic integrity it is one small step in the right direction and one giant leap for mankind.

    It is worth mentioning though that while Mr. Littwin says, “(Mrs. Clinton) was now trailing someone everyone had once considered a fringe, one-message candidate by 20 points or more.”, he remains a very vocal part of “everyone”.

    And, of course, Mr. Littwin has yet to explain how this “benign summer fling” fought Mrs. Clinton to a virtual tie in Iowa and is leading by 20 points in New Hampshire.

    Benign does not accurately describe a 74-year-old fringe Democratic Jewish one-message socialist who–as Mr. Littwin has pointed out “are 0-for-forever in U.S electoral politics”– has pushed Mrs. Clinton deep into the presidential primary season. A candidate backed by the vaunted Clinton Political Machine, a candidate married to a two-term US president (aka The Big Dog) and a candidate who has earned the coveted Kim Kardashian endorsement.

    Mrs. Clinton has learned one important tactic from her husband: “she came out swinging”. President Clinton has been swinging for quite some time.

    With all of Senator Sanders’ political weaknesses, perceived and real, it would seem the longer he stays viable in the presidential primary race the weaker Mrs. Clinton appears.

    And since Mr. Littwin did not pick a winner in this debate I will assume Senator Sanders won.


    “Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has erased Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s wide lead for the Democratic presidential nomination since the start of year, putting the two in a dead heat nationally, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

    Clinton leads Sanders 48 percent to 45 percent among Democratic voters, according to the poll of 512 Americans, conducted Feb. 2-5 following the Iowa caucus. The poll has a credibility interval of 5 percentage points.” – Reuters

    “In the Democratic race nationwide, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has 44 percent, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 42 percent, and 11 percent undecided. This compares to a 61 – 30 percent Clinton lead in a December 22 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll.” – Quinnipiac University

    “But there’s another loser here, one who has long been overshadowed by the media’s love affair with the frenetic Mr. Trump. That would be Hillary Clinton, America’s supposed feminist icon who barely squeaked past wild-eyed, tufty-haired socialist Bernie Sanders. According to the latest counts in Iowa—counts that may yet be challenged by the Sanders camp—Clinton “won” by fewer than four delegates, with the help of at least six coin tosses.

    This has led certain feminists to the verge of a nervous breakdown. Why, the chorus goes, is Bernie cast as the future, while Hillary gets painted as “the establishment”? Hillary Clinton is a woman, didn’t you notice? She is by her very nature oppressed; by definition, she cannot be the establishment. Never mind her questionable treatment of the many women who accused her husband of sexual assault; never mind her current classified e-mail quagmire, in which she may have put national security at risk. She is a woman, America. Everything else is chump change.” –

    “So now it looks like I’m going to bed without exactly knowing who won. They both won, or neither won. Sanders won because he exceeded expectations—Nate Silver gave him a 20 percent shot of winning the state. Clinton didn’t win in the way she was supposed to, but she didn’t exactly lose either. She dodged a serious bullet by about one inch.” –

    “If it wasn’t strictly a loss for Clinton, it might as well have been.” –

    “Polls show the generation gap. Mr. Sanders does poorly among the old. They remember socialism. He does well among the young, who’ve just discovered it and have little to no knowledge of its effects. A nationwide Marist poll in November showed Mr. Sanders already leading Mrs. Clinton, 58% to 35%, among voters under 30. She led him among all other age groups, and 69% to 21% among those 60 and older. By this month a CBS/New York Times poll had Mr. Sanders up 60% to 31% among voters under 45.

    Bernie Sanders is an indicator of the Democratic future. He is telling you where that party’s going. In time some Democrats will leave over it, and look for other homes.

    It’s all part of the great scrambling that is happening this political year—the most dramatic, and perhaps most consequential, of our lifetimes.” –

    “Hillary Clinton’s campaign has spent the past few days indulging its worst instincts. It blundered into a dumb attack on Bernie Sanders, but rather than back down it raised the stakes. The result has been a reminder, to liberals, of what they like about Sanders and mistrust about Clinton. But it’s also been a missed opportunity for Clinton to make the case to Democratic primary voters that she should have been making all along.

    The subject was Sanders’s support for a single-payer health care system. The policy puts Clinton in a bind: It’s popular with liberals but dangerous in a general election. Sanders’s support for it is, to Clinton, everything wrong with his campaign in miniature — it’s an idea that sounds good on the stump but really reveals a preference for ideological symbolism over the hard work of policy change. “- Vox

    We’re told “Black Lives Matter,” but when it comes to black cops … not so much.” – National Review

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Memorial Day – May 30, 2016

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