Hillary Clinton said something remarkable and out of the blue during the second Democratic Party presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, last Saturday – something that ought to lead to the suspension of her quest for the White House. The comment came in response to a CBS debate moderator and Bernie Sanders pointing out that her campaign had received millions of dollars in election contributions and speaking fees from leading Wall Street financial institutions while Sanders relies on small contributions from ordinary middle- and working-class Americans. Here’s what Hillary said:
“Oh, wait a minute, senator. You know, not only do I have hundreds of thousands of donors, most of them small, I am very proud that for the first time a majority of my donors are women, 60 percent. So I – 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.”
How’s that for a wild comment out of the blue – out of the tragic blue skies over New York City fourteen years and two months ago? It’s good that most of Hillary’s individual donors are female and that she has a large number of donors. But leading major party presidential candidate typically get donations from hundreds of thousands of people. The fact remains that Mrs. Clinton is very heavily and disproportionately funded by predominantly male Wall Street elites, who back her because she is (quite reasonably) understood by them to be a good friend of the corporate and financial elite. She and her husband Bill Clinton have been leaders in the elite corporate and neoliberal takeover of the Democratic Party for nearly four decades.
The bigger problem with her statement, however, is her suggestion that the reason for her heavily Wall Street-tilted campaign finance profile is the fact that she was a Senator from New York, home to Wall Street, when lower Manhattan was attacked by al Qaeda on September 11, 2001. That’s right, America: forget that Hillary Clinton was already a heavily Wall Street-sponsored politician when she ran for the U.S. Senate in 1999 and 2000. Forget that that sponsorship continues to this day, reflecting the Clintons’ long record of serving elite financial interests by – among other things – working to keep serious financial regulation and break-up (much less overdue nationalization) at bay. Forget that the Wall Street headquarters of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Stanley, Citicorp and the rest were left intact by the 9/11 attacks. Never mind that any New York Senator or indeed any other U.S. Senator was going to support federal money to rebuild the lower Manhattan sections devastated by the jetliner attacks. Forget that 9/11 was fourteen years ago and the financial elite makes political investments based on policy calculations today. And that that elite much wants to make sure that she prevails over Sanders, who may actually mean it when he says that the nation’s leading parasitic financial institutions should be broken up and closely regulated (too bad Bernie can’t bring himself to call for nationalization).
The “mainstream” corporate media commentary on Hillary’s astonishing remark treats it as a momentary “gaffe.” But the comment wasn’t a mistake. Secretary Clinton has made similar Nine Eleveny intimations about her Wall Street funding on at least one prior occasion in the current campaign. She and her handlers clearly decided some time ago that they could exploit the tragedy of 9/11 – when 3,000 people, many of them ordinary working people, died – to defend her financial contributions for hyper-opulent elites. They lack a basic ethical sense of this as a sociopathic tactic.
Prior to her comment, the nominal and milquetoast socialist Sanders (of whom I am no great fan) said something consistent with elementary common sense. “I have never heard a candidate, never,” Bernie observed, “who’s received huge amounts of money from oil, from coal, from Wall Street, from the military industrial complex, not one candidate, go, ‘OH, these – these campaign contributions will not influence me. I’m gonna be independent.’ Now, why do they make millions of dollars of campaign contributions? They expect to get something. Everybody knows that.”
Hillary Clinton was offended, saying that this statement was meant to “impugn my integrity.” Sanders denied that, arguing that the real issue is “a corrupt campaign finance system,” but the fact remains that he was calling Mrs. Clinton’s moral integrity into question, if all too gently. Hillary’s subsequent, eyebrow-raising comment suggests that he was right to do so – and should do so far more forcefully and comprehensively in coming days and weeks if he is at all serious about providing a progressive alternative to the Clinton machine (something about which I have grave doubts). Where is the integrity in trying to harness the deaths of thousands of New Yorkers in 2001 to the cause of defending your cozy relationship with, and sponsorship by, the wealthy Few?
In a decent political culture, Hillary’s comment would lead to the suspension of her fake-progressive campaign. In the current reigning U.S. media-politics culture, her “gaffe” will likely fade from blue to black down Orwell’s memory home as she marches on to her inevitable, dollar-drenched dismal-Democratic nomination.