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Artificial Creation: Released Emails on Clinton

Chozick and Confessore’s article in NYT (Oct. 10), “Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Strained to Hone Her Message, Hacked Emails Show,” provides an initial overview of just-released documents by WikiLeaks (readers are invited to return to the full transcript, see my excerpts on Wall Street below) damning in their indictment of Clinton’s manicured campaign pored over by numerous advisers and consultants to achieve a nuanced effect of Reaction if not borderline fascism partly restrained or disguised through carefully prepared liberal rhetoric. Hillary, the billboard figure, is an empty receptacle, bending with the political wind (when absolutely necessary). Nonetheless she has a backbone of entrenched conservatism, militaristic belligerence, opportunism, suitable for presentation to an advanced capitalist society used to prevarication in the service of expansion, confrontation, and a closely stratified class system centered on global hegemony and domestic order. How does this differ from Trump, aside from style and tone? My thought is, very little. In substance and ideology, the two major parties, as tested by their foreign policies and accommodation (aka, strong support) of business, finance, and generalized corporatism symbolized by Wall Street, and their candidates, are essentially one.

The emails, the reporters note, “show a candidacy that began expecting a coronation and was thrown badly off course by a misreading of the electorate and a struggle to define what she stood for.” So much for integrity and independent judgment. The correspondence, covering a nine-year period (mine: important that shows the ambitiousness, the years of preparation and grooming, etc.) “captures in detail the campaign’s extreme caution and difficulty in identifying a core rationale for her candidacy, and the noisy world of advisers, friends and family members trying to exert influence.” To paraphrase Pirandello, here is one character in search of power.

Even jokes at Iowa dinners were scrutinized and monitored. Denying her interest in running, Clinton assembled a staff “to wrestle with how to reposition a career politician [which she was and is, thank you Chozick and Confessore for reminding us] as an agent of change and how openly to rely on gender to stoke grass-roots enthusiasm.” One aide in 2014 suggested the campaign motto: “Neither change nor continuity but the different way. The new way. She champions with clear vision and grit. We will not build the partisan ships. But rather the Ship of State flying the American Dream flag.” Whether or not employed, it reveals the artificiality and cynicism of the build-up, with “grit” one of my favorite designators, given her pride with military brass in proving herself one of the boys.

Crafted imagery, even what to say about gray hair, Palmieri, one of her advisers, saying: “More humor, first woman, ass kicker and coloring her hair.” Be all things to everyone. The reporters make an astute point: “Almost all campaigns calibrate stage craft, speeches and strategy. But the new emails seem to underscore Mrs. Clinton’s public struggles in defining her politics and her reasons for wanting to become president.” The discussions with aides “often revolved around the political advantages and pitfalls of different positions,” with little attention to what she may or may not have believed. The team “seemed consumed with positioning and optics.” What then can be said about regulation and peace, where her actions contradicted her public statements? Is there anything one can bank on—why I emphasize ambition, prevarication, and opportunism. (At least with Trump, you know what you are getting, not a composite image provided by a legion of others. Two markedly different paths to the same destination, with neither path particularly conducive to democracy and human rights.)

A case in point, 2015, is what public stand to take on Wall Street. “Her senior advisers agonized over whether she should address calls to reinstate Glass Steagall [the separation of commercial and investment banking],” another adviser, Grunwald, feared that unless Clinton endorsed it she would lose the support of Elizabeth Warren: “I understand that we face phoniness charges if we ‘change’ our position now—but we face political risks too. I worry about Elizabeth deciding to endorse Bernie [Sanders].” Clinton typically ran around end, holding that there are other ways to regulate Wall Street. On criticizing Sanders, on adopting a position about gay rights, on the private email accounts while serving as Secretary of State, Clinton and her aides went back and forth canvassing every aspect affecting her position and reputation. Even on the emails, she had high-powered consul changing “hand over” to “turn over” documents as being less pejorative. The Clinton Foundation was also a thorn in the side in how to present its role.

From the Independent, Rachael Revesz reporting (Oct. 11), we learn that Goldman Sachs paid Clinton $675,000 for speeches, and, after leaving State, she received $3M from delivering speeches on the financial circuit. For Goldman she suggested that “Wall Street insiders are what is needed to fix Wall Street.” The speech in 2013 asserted that executives were best suited to shape regulatory policy. Thus, from the transcript: “How do you get to the golden key, how do we figure out what works? And the people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.”

Essentially this is self-regulation under government auspices, the interpenetration of business and government, the integration of the State and capitalism, with government, as Gabriel Kolko wrote in Triumph of Conservatism long ago, providing a shield of protection for banking (and all of corporate America) against strict regulation. The transcript continues, her same speech on transparent favoritism to Wall Street: “I started traveling in February of ’09, so people could, you know, literally yell at me for the United States and our banking system causing this [financial crisis] everywhere. Now, that’s an oversimplification we know, but it was the conventional wisdom.” And Clinton hinted at the help she hoped to receive in her presidential bid: “It would be very difficult to run for president without raising a huge amount of money and without other people supporting you because your opponent will have their supporters. So I think as hard as it was when I ran [for the US Senate], I think it’s even harder now.”

Here, with this background, let me turn to the transcripts themselves, with attention to her views on, and speeches to, Wall Street. On Oct. 18, 2013, to the CME Group, she said: “You have to keep looking over the horizon to make choices that are not only going to benefit you but…the larger economy.” Fortunately, in this feel-good address (as with her other speeches) the two coincide, Wall Street self-interest redounds to the benefit of all. She goes on: “Now, one thing that came through to me loudly and clearly as Secretary of State for four years is that you have to keep looking to the future [in that capacity it turns out, to future confrontations, interventions, and regime changes]. That’s what you do, and you do it extremely well. You have to keep looking over the horizon to make choices that are going to not only benefit you but your institutions and, I would hope, the larger economy.” Flattery like this qualifies her for poster girl for interpenetration; as president, which is likely, finance and banking should have no worries, other than their own mistakes that they create.

When it comes to Goldman, flattery gives way to sheer gushiness (Clinton has earned her speech fees and then some, as at a Goldman Builders and Investors Summit, Oct. 29, 2013: “Many of you in this room are masters of the trend lines. You see over the horizon, you think about products that nobody has invented, and you go about the business of trying to do just that.” Goldman emerges as a world beater and savior, bringing democracy to the benighted: “But the trend lines are both positive and troubling. There is still continuing movement toward open markets, toward greater innovation, toward the development of a middle class that can buy the products. As Lloyd [Goldman CEO, on first-name basis] was talking in his intro about the work that you do creating products and then making sure there’s markets by fostering the kind of inclusive prosperity that includes consumers is a positive trend in many parts of the world now. Democracy is holding its own, so people are still largely living under governments of their own choosing.” The pitchwoman for American capitalism makes one aware that going head-to-head with Trump reveals little daylight between them of a systemic nature, she perhaps even more chauvinistic than he on the merits and virtues of the corporate order.

And with Morgan Stanley she reaches the sublime (April 18, 2013): “I greatly appreciate when companies, like Morgan Stanley, do work in communities here and around the world that makes a difference.” As introduction to that statement, she observes: “But fundamentally, we have a system that has survived and flourished [blessed capitalism, to be sure] for so long because we recognize that beyond the contest, the competition, the moment, there are larger values and stakes that we have to keep our eyes on. I think businesses thrive when communities and countries thrive.”

Goldman, Morgan Stanley, here’s what she has to say to Deutsche Bank on the subject of regulation—actually self-regulation (she or an adviser must have read Kolko, although she draws the opposite conclusion, the virtues of interpenetration): “Remember what Teddy Roosevelt did. Yes, he took on what he saw as the excesses in the economy, but he also stood against the excesses in politics [i.e., authentic government supervision of banking]. He didn’t want to unleash a lot of nationalist, populistic reaction. He wanted to try to figure out how to get back into that balance that has served America so well over our entire nationhood [the balance between business and government, private and public interests, in both cases weighted to the former]. Today, there’s more that can and should be done that really has to come from the industry itself, and how we can strengthen our economy, create more jobs at a time where that’s increasingly challenging, to get back to Teddy Roosevelt’s square deal.” That Square Deal is, the large corporation, the major bank (remember who her audience is—Deutsche Bank), as central to social progress: “And I really believe that our country and all of you are up to that job.” Clinton prefaced these remarks by stating that financial reform “really has to come from the industry itself.” That refrain was certainly echoed in Bill Clinton’s financial, banking, and economic policy, now continued by Mrs. Clinton.

In an AIMS Alternative Investments Symposium, Oct. 24, 2013, sponsored by Goldman, Clinton began with the same idea on proper regulation she would use throughout her speaking engagements for the firm: “The people who know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.” Praise is lavished on other sponsors, Fidelity for “mak[ing] important contributions in many communities across America where you do business….” The same for Ameriprise, July 26, 2014: “So I thank you. I thank you for the work you do across our country. You contribute to Americans’ financial success and security in many ways. You help families, literally, live the American dream.” Finally, at the Alternative Investments Symposium, she was thanked by a Goldman officer, who said: “By the way, we really did appreciate when you were the senator from New York and your continued involvement of the issues (inaudible) to be courageous in some respects to [be] associated with Wall Street and this environment. Thank you very much.” Her response: “Well, I don’t feel particularly courageous. I mean, if we’re going to be an effective, efficient economy, we need to have all part of that engine running well, and that includes Wall Street and Main Street.” Very similar to TR, the fictive equality of both—we go up and down together—the rich and the poor are equally free to sleep under the bridge at night (Zola).

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Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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