The Democratic debate’s Wall Street fight left Clinton looking bad

Updated by Ezra Klein on November 14, 2015, 11:58 p.m. ET

Two things are true about Hillary Clinton on financial regulation:

1. She has the most detailed, and arguably the strongest, financial regulation plan of the three Democratic candidates.
Wall Street skeptics don’t really trust her to implement said plan.

2. Understanding those two points helps make sense of a fairly confusing, but important, exchange at the second Democratic debate — an exchange in which both Hillary Clinton and Two things are true about Hillary Clinton on financial regulation:

Understanding those two points helps make sense of a fairly confusing, but important, exchange at the second Democratic debate — an exchange in which both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders played into their critics’ hands.

Hillary Clinton: Once again she played the 9/11″ card.

It began when moderator John Dickerson asked Hillary Clinton, “You have received money from Wall Street. How will you convince voters you will level the playing field when you’re indebted to some of its biggest players?”

Clinton initially tried to talk about her financial regulation plan, but Sanders wouldn’t let her escape the issue of donations.

“Let’s not be naive about it,” Sanders said. “Why, over her political career, has Wall Street been the major campaign contributor to Hillary Clinton? Now, maybe they’re dumb and they don’t know what they’re going to get, but I don’t think so.”

In response, Clinton, unwisely, played the 9/11 card.

“I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked,” she replied. “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.”

But Mrs Clinton didn’t mention Wall Street’s donations to her. And to mention it was good too for Wall Street

Clinton’s answer was bizarre — she doesn’t believe Wall Street has backed her many campaigns primarily because of 9/11, and it’s borderline insulting that she thinks anyone else would believe it, either.

Clinton didn’t trust the audience with the truth. Wall Street supported her candidacy because both she and her husband often backed legislation Wall Street supported, because Wall Street routinely tries to buy favor with prominent politicians of both parties, and because many on Wall Street are Democrats who supported Clinton for other reasons.

That doesn’t mean Clinton always backed Wall Street’s priorities, or even that Wall Street was unusually positive toward Clinton — the financial industry also funneled a massive amount of money to Barack Obama in 2008.

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