The content of several paid speeches Hillary Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs has become an issue of contention: publicly, Clinton has condemned the banks for their role in the 2008 financial crisis; might she have been any less reproachful behind closed doors?
“Let everybody who’s ever given a speech to any private group under any circumstances release them—we’ll all release them at the same time,” Clinton said on This Week on Sunday, thus firmly ruling out the possibility of doing so. “These rules need to apply to everyone.”
Politico’s Ben White spoke with Goldman Sachs employees to try to piece together the content of a controversial talk in October of 2013, for which she earned $225,000. Apparently, they mark a sharp contrast from the tough regulation she has recently touted.
“It was pretty glowing about us,” one employee who attended said. “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 said: “It was mostly basic stuff, small talk, chit-chat. But in this environment, it could be made to look really bad.”
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon dismissed the recollections as “pure trolling,” while the Clinton campaign declined to comment further on calls that she release the transcripts of the three paid speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs, for which she earned a total of $675,000.
But the descriptions of Clinton’s remarks highlight the trap in which the Democratic presidential front-runner now finds herself. In a previous election cycle, no one would much care about the former secretary of state’s comments to Goldman. They represent the kind of boilerplate, happy talk that highly paid speakers generally offer to their hosts. Nobody pays nearly a quarter of a million dollars to have someone criticize their alleged misdeeds. But 2016 is different.
Of course, it is well within Clinton’s right to refuse to divulge the content of her speeches—and, truly, it shouldn’t matter so much (the notion that politicians don’t alter their message slightly to appeal to whatever group they are addressing strikes us as slightly naive). But when the election hinges on Clinton’s questionable trustworthiness and hypocrisy, and when Bernie Sanders’ biggest leg-up on his opponent is his career-long crusade against the banks, the speeches earn a kind of pivotal importance.
And now the issue has gained footing in media coverage, Clinton may not be able to avoid the question. On Monday, Clinton noted that Sanders had also been paid by Wall Street and we haven’t paid much attention to it.
“Sen. Sanders took about $200,000 from Wall Street firms. Not directly, but through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. There was nothing wrong with that. It hasn’t changed his view!” she said. “It hasn’t changed my view or my vote either!”
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via Getty.