Pri­vate words to Wall Street put Clin­ton’s al­lies in bind

Sur­ro­gates refuse to con­firm lib­er­als’ fears

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

Democrats strug­gled to re­spond to damn­ing rev­e­la­tions that Hil­lary Clin­ton wants “open bor­ders” across the Western Hemisphere and that she re­peat­edly as­sured wealthy bankers in pri­vate speeches that her pub­lic state­ments on Wall Street re­form were merely po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing.

As Mrs. Clin­ton headed into a high­stakes sec­ond pres­i­den­tial de­bate with Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump, her state­ments in pri­vate speeches to pow­er­ful banks — re­vealed by Wik­iLeaks af­ter a hack of Clin­ton campaign chair­man John Podesta’s pri­vate emails — ap­pear to re­in­force the worst pre­sump­tions that con­ser­va­tives and skep­ti­cal pro­gres­sives have about the for­mer first lady.

Repub­li­cans ar­gue that her self-de­scribed “dream” of open bor­ders proves Mrs. Clin­ton isn’t will­ing to se­cure Amer­ica or make pro­tect­ing the home­land a top pri­or­ity. For lib­er­als, her dou­ble­s­peak on Wall Street re­form crys­tal­lizes the crit­i­cisms lobbed by Sen. Bernard San­ders and oth­ers through­out the Demo­cratic pri­mary campaign that Mrs. Clin­ton is a hyp­ocrite who will say and do any­thing to get and keep power.

“If ev­ery­body’s watch­ing, you know, all of the back­room dis­cus­sions and the deals, you know, then peo­ple get a lit­tle ner­vous, to say the least. So you need both a pub­lic and a pri­vate po­si­tion,” Mrs. Clin­ton said in an April 2013 ad­dress. “You just have to sort of fig­ure out how to — get­ting back to that word, ‘bal­ance’ — how to bal­ance the pub­lic and the pri­vate ef­forts that are nec­es­sary to be suc­cess­ful, po­lit­i­cally, and that’s not just a com­ment about to­day.”

Mrs. Clin­ton’s top sur­ro­gates strug­gled to de­fend her com­ments di­rectly, though their cause was helped by the over­whelm­ing me­dia at­ten­tion to the firestorm around Mr. Trump’s lewd 2005 leaked re­marks about grop­ing women with­out their con­sent.

From Demo­cratic vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Tim Kaine to Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee in­terim Chair­woman Donna Brazile to Clin­ton campaign man­ager Robby Mook, the Clin­ton op­er­a­tion’s strat­egy was to refuse even to ac­knowl­edge that the com­ments were gen­uine, even though no one in the campaign ex­plic­itly de­nied the au­then­tic­ity of the in­ter­nal campaign emails from which the com­ments were taken.

“Any­body who hacks in to get doc­u­ments is com­pletely ca­pa­ble of ma­nip­u­lat­ing them,” Mr. Kaine told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I have no way of know­ing the ac­cu­racy of doc­u­ments dumped by this hack­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Democrats blamed the hack­ing on Rus­sians who are in­tent on swing­ing the Novem­ber elec­tion in fa­vor of Mr. Trump. Even as they strug­gled to ex­plain away some of the most con­tro­ver­sial pas­sages from the speeches — for which the for­mer sec­re­tary of state was paid hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars — they tried to cast doubt on whether Mrs. Clin­ton even ut­tered the words.

“I don’t know if it’s true or not,” Ms. Brazile told ABC News. “I’ve asked the staff at the DNC and all of our Demo­cratic al­lies: Don’t open up that crap be­cause it’s post­marked from Rus­sia.”

Shin­ing a spot­light on Clin­ton

Repub­li­cans rushed to turn the spot­light away from Mr. Trump’s lat­est con­tro­versy and shine it di­rectly on Mrs. Clin­ton’s paid speeches.

For­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani, a top Trump sur­ro­gate, said Mrs. Clin­ton’s pri­vate speeches would have been the top head­line were it not for the firestorm around the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee’s 2005 com­ments.

“I mean, if this hadn’t hap­pened, the whole story you’d be ask­ing me about is the Wik­iLeaks and the fact that Hil­lary Clin­ton makes it clear to the bankers that she says one thing to them — which is she’s on their side and she’s with them and they’re pay­ing her a lot of money — but then she’s go­ing to say some­thing else, you know, pub­licly,” Mr. Gi­u­liani told ABC’s “This Week” pro­gram.

Like other Democrats, Mr. Mook down­played Mrs. Clin­ton’s com­ments while re­fus­ing to con­firm that she made them.

“There’s a dis­tinc­tion be­tween what goes on in ne­go­ti­a­tions and what her po­si­tions are on the is­sues and have been on the is­sues,” he told CBS’ “Face the Na­tion,” stress­ing that Mrs. Clin­ton is com­mit­ted to fi­nan­cial re­form de­spite her friendly com­ments to bankers and in­vestors be­hind closed doors.

Mrs. Clin­ton found her­self on the de­fen­sive in the de­bate over the newly re­leased campaign emails, leaked on­line, that re­vealed her in a closed-door paid speech de­fend­ing hav­ing one pol­icy stance in pub­lic and an­other in pri­vate, shield­ing her real be­liefs from vot­ers.

She ac­cused Rus­sia of be­ing be­hind the hack that pried the emails loose and said what she was re­ally do­ing in that ex­change was prais­ing Abra­ham Lin­coln as de­picted in Steven Spiel­berg’s bi­o­graph­i­cal movie, who held dif­fer­ent pub­lic and pri­vate stances in the run-up to get­ting the 13th Amend­ment end­ing slav­ery ap­proved in Con­gress.

“Hon­est Abe never lied,” Mr. Trump re­torted. “That’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween Abra­ham Lin­coln and you.”

Un­like her campaign op­er­a­tives, Mrs. Clin­ton did not di­rectly chal­lenge the va­lid­ity of the con­tent of the emails in her an­swer.

But Mrs. Clin­ton’s re­la­tion with Wall Street is just one is­sue that has arisen af­ter the Wik­iLeaks re­lease. Equally dam­ag­ing is Mrs. Clin­ton’s call for “open bor­ders” one day from Canada to Chile, a charge Mr. Trump has re­peat­edly lev­eled at her and which she has re­peat­edly de­nied.

“My dream is a hemi­spheric com­mon mar­ket, with open trade and open bor­ders, some­time in the fu­ture with en­ergy that is as green and sus­tain­able as we can get it, pow­er­ing growth and op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery per­son in the hemisphere,” she said in the May 2013 speech to the Brazil­ian bank Banco Itau.

Mr. Mook said that state­ment was taken out of con­text and that Mrs. Clin­ton meant only that North Amer­i­can coun­tries must co­op­er­ate on projects us­ing green en­ergy.

“Does Hil­lary Clin­ton sup­port throw­ing open our bor­ders? Ab­so­lutely not,” he said.

Mr. Kaine de­fended his run­ning mate and re­it­er­ated their op­po­si­tion to the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade deal.

But the Democrats’ de­fense has done lit­tle to soothe doubts among the party’s left wing.

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