HRC’s Candid Motto for Democratic Party: “Represent Banks”

by

In 1992, a 44-year-old attorney made the following remarkable assertion: “For goodness’ sake, you can’t be a lawyer if you don’t represent banks.”

The attorney was Hillary Clinton. She made the statement to journalists during her husband’s first campaign for president. Her legal representation of a shady savings and loan bank while working at a top corporate law firm in Arkansas (and her firm’s relations with then-governor Bill Clinton) had erupted briefly into a campaign controversy.

Mainstream pundits rarely mentioned Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary statement about lawyers and banks. Instead, they obsessed over and immortalized a remark she made minutes later – her feminist appeal: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was pursue my profession.”

Members of elite media didn’t make an issue of Clinton’s bank comment probably because it set off no alarm bells. It sounded right to them, non-controversial, almost a truism.

Having been an attorney briefly myself, my reaction upon hearing her comment was: “I know nearly a hundred lawyers, but not one represents a bank.” My lawyer friends worked for unions, tenants, immigrants, indigent criminal defendants, civil liberties, civil rights, battered women, prisoners on death row, etc. (Which explains why I wasn’t a great fit in corporate media.)

I’ve never forgotten Clinton’s remark about representing banks because it tells us much about her worldview – both then and now that she’s even more embedded in the corporate elite (and had Rupert Murdoch host one of her senate fundraising events).

More importantly, Clinton’s comment speaks to the decline of the Democratic Party as a force that identifies with the broad public, those who often get stepped on by big banks and unbridled greed. Her remark is an apt credo for a party leadership that has spent the last quarter-century serving corporate power (through Wall Street deregulation, media dereg, NAFTA-style trade pacts, etc.) as persistently as it spews out empty rhetoric about “the needs of working families.”

Back then, it was a minor controversy that Hillary Clinton had represented a shifty S&L. Today’s Democratic elite is inextricably tied to far more powerful interests – Wall Street, big pharma, giant insurers and other pillars of the corporate 1-percent.

The problem is much broader than Hillary Clinton, extending to Team Obama that promised hope and change on the campaign trail, including a break from Clintonite insider coziness. Once in office, Obama chose:

**  three successive White House chiefs of staff who’d made fortunes in the financial industry: Rahm Emanuel (amassed $16 million within a couple years of exiting the Clinton White House), William Daley (JPMorgan Chase) and Jacob Lew (Citigroup/now U.S. Treasury Secretary).

**  Wall Streeters to dominate his economic team, including Clintonites like Larry Summers as chief economic advisor and Peter Orszag as budget director.

**  Monsanto executives and lobbyists for influential food and agriculture posts.

**  a corporate healthcare executive to preside over healthcare “reform,” while allowing pharmaceutical lobbyists to obstruct cost controls.

**  an industry-connected nuclear power and fracking enthusiast as Secretary of Energy.

**  two successive chairs of the Federal Communications Commission who’ve largely served corporate interests, including former lobbyist Tom Wheeler now undermining Net Neutrality.

In 2007, candidate Obama had taken on Hillary Clinton with campaign rhetoric like “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists in Washington that their days of setting the agenda are over.” The day after his inauguration, he promised to “close the revolving door that lets lobbyists come into government freely.”

Despite the long-forgotten oratory, Obama recently appointed superstar lobbyist Wheeler as his FCC chair, who promptly pushed a Net Neutrality proposal undercutting an open Internet. He was top lobbyist for not one but two industries (cable TV and cell phone) regulated by the FCC – “the only person inducted into both the cable industry hall of fame and the telecom hall of fame,” according to columnist Juan Gonzalez.

If you staff your administration with corporatists, many of those individuals will ultimately opt to exit the White House to make more money working directly for big business.

In the book This Town – an insider’s account of the permanent members of The Club in D.C. who oversee the corporate state whether Democrats or Republicans hold power – journalist Mark Leibovich tracks Obama grads who moved to greener pastures. For example, Obama budget director Orszag predictably took a high-level job at Citigroup.  Leibovich also mentions:

ANITA DUNN – a key 2008 campaign strategist and then White House Communications Director, she assisted Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. After exiting the White House, she became a consultant for food companies working “to block restrictions on commercials for sugary foods targeting children.” Dunn went on to consult for TransCanada in its push for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

JAKE SIEWERT – he left his job as a top Treasury Department official to become head of global communications for Goldman Sachs, the bailed-out-firm central to the financial meltdown. (Before the Goldman job was announced, Politico had suggested Siewert might take the helm of the purportedly progressive Center for American Progress.)

GEOFF MORRELL – chief spokesperson for Defense Secretary Robert Gates under both George W. Bush and Obama, he left that job a year after the BP oil spill in the Gulf and became head of communications for BP America. As Leibovich writes: “Bloomberg News would later report that BP’s Pentagon contracts more than doubled in the two years after it caused the biggest spill in U.S. history.”

Two realizations must be faced.

First:  Whether Republicans or corporate Democrats control the White House, economic elites largely control policy – and it’s this corporate power and corruption that threatens the economic and environmental future of our country and planet.

Second:  Despite gains on issues like gay rights and pot legalization, the trend since the 1980s has been economic/environmental decline alongside the solidification of corporate power and economic inequality – a long-term downward trend that has persisted through the Bill Clinton and Obama years, though at a slower rate than with the GOP in the White House.

The only way to reverse this dangerous trend is to tell the truth about and challenge corporate Democrats – including Clintonites and Obamaites – whenever and wherever feasible.

As much as I’d like to see a woman president (I have two daughters), a good place for that challenge to happen would be through a progressive candidate taking on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primaries, if she runs. That challenger might be a Bernie Sanders or someone else.

Without that battle and many others, the corporatization of the Democratic Party and our government will continue to threaten all our futures.

As candidate Obama said in 2008: “The greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result.”

Today, trying the same old Democratic players is a risk we cannot afford.

Jeff Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and cofounder of the online activism group RootsAction.org.

 

Jeff Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and cofounder of the online activism group RootsAction.org.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman