The headline in today’s NY Times: Clintons Made $109-Million in Last Eight Years
As Ross Perot used to say, don’t look now but that loud sucking sound you hear is the rush of air escaping from the balloon of Hillary’s populist campaign message. No wonder she hesitated so long to release her tax returns when pressed a few weeks ago in a debate. She knew they would mean the death knell of this part of her campaign strategy.
I don’t begrudge the Clintons their hundred million plus. It’s the American way after all. But it’s not the American way to try to steal a march on Obama by co-opting his populist message and trying to make the issue your own. Now Hillary’s efforts ring hollow and she simply can’t raise this issue again without looking like a hypocrite.
Populism doesn’t always help Democrats win elections. I remember Al Gore used it in his convention nominating speech and Bush hammered him pretty effectively afterward claiming he was waging a war against the rich. But I have no doubt that Obama would advance the argument in a much more effective and nuanced way than Gore. And McCain, darling of fat-cat corporate lobbyists is a sitting duck on populist issues. As of today there is only one Democratic candidate who can raise this issue without looking like a schmuck. And his name isn’t Clinton.
Nothing new here: FDR was very wealthy and yet he carried out a battle against “the barons of Wall Street”. Joe Kennedy, a ruthless speculator and vicious antisemite was the one who carried out the most important reforms on Wall Street in a way that stabilized it to this day. So if the Clintons made millions, that, in and of it itself, doesn’t mean they can’t carry out reforms. In any event, Obama is quite well off as well. The United States is not a country that has a history of Marxist “class warfare”.
How about John Edwards? He was the king of the class warfare populist message? He’s pretty wealthy…..
the point of this post was simple… Mr. Silverstein is for Obama so he found something to chide Hillary and Bill with…
A rather trivial petty post though its doubtful it will garner either even a single vote one way or the other….
As Solomon123 pointed out, this is the same silly message that was pounded at John Edwards: he can’t really be a populist because he’s rich! As someone who is not in love with either Clinton or Obama, but feels it’s vital that one of them be elected rather than McCain, I would dearly love to see their supporters focus on policy, and pressure the campaigns and the press to do so as well. Or are you enjoying the endless nattering about Obama’s lack of bowling skills, and how they prove he can’t be a real man of the people?
Richard Silverstein says
What are you talking about? I think you’re confusing Joe Kennedy w. someone else.
I didn’t say they couldn’t carry out reforms. I said they had no credibility with the voters to make such a claim & they no longer do if they ever did. As for Obama. He is comfortable but by no means wealthy. His fortune is not even $1-million if I recall the numbers.
Leave it to right wingers not to be able to distinguish between populism & “Marxist class warfare.” You seem to be channeling the Bush playbook circa 2000. How tiresome.
@Solomon123: Talk about “trivial & petty.” I think you invented the terms.
Richard Silverstein says
You’re not trying to argue that the fact that the Clintons are worthy over $100 million is equivalent in relevance to the campaign to Obama’s bowling skills, are you? And btw, John Edwards has credibility in talking about poverty & other populist issues because he walks the walk & talks the talk. He grew up poor as well. And he’s not worth $110-million either by a long shot. All Hillary does is talk when it comes to the same issues. She can’t walk the walk.
Yes, it was Joe Kennedy was appointed to the Security and Exchange
Commission by FDR at the beginning of FDR’s first term when the crisis was most severe. He was there IIRC only 14 months but he pushed through the most important reforms that banned the
corrupt and irresponsible speculative practices that led to the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and that he himself used to become wealthy. He was the best man for the job because he knew all the tricks.
And I despise the man, but I can give credit where credit is due.
Some rather harumphy responses here, but that’s OK. Look, Hillary Clinton’s massive wealth doesn’t by itself mean she can’t be a populist, but if you take the Clintons’ fairly newly minted extreme wealth in conjunction with the rest of the Clintonian package, you just are not going to arrive at any kind of genuine populism, I’m sorry. And Hillary does clearly want to pass herself off now as some kind of authentic woman of the people. Throughout the 90’s, Ms. Clinton argued robustly for NAFTA, and the Clinton camp generally are diehard globalist free-traders. This economic orientation really consitutes the heart of corporate elitism. And we know that Bill Clinton basically governed as a moderate Republican in the White House, etc., and since Hillary wants to take the 90’s White House years as HER experience, she can go ahead and own that moderate conservative Reagan-Lite legacy. So, her newfound populist schtick seems opportunistic and affected. Before she found a serious and unexpected challenge in Obama, Hillary Clinton was quite comfortable as the corporatist Establishment candidate.
Yes, Edwards is quite well-off and FDR was super-damn rich, but the welfare of working Americans and the nation as a whole is (and was) at the heart of both their messages and actions. Edwards, like FDR before him, is willing to speak the language of what the imbecilic Right calls “class-warfare”. And FDR openly stated that he welcomed the hatred of the corporate elites. Listen to some of FDR’s old speeches, bar kochba, and to a right-wing nutjob like yourself they will positively breathe ‘Marxist class warfare’, as you term it. So much for your inspiring grasp of American history.
I’m more comfortable with former candidate Edwards economic language than I am with Obama’s, yet Obama still offers a much better possibility for a real progressive liberal candidacy than does Hillary Clinton. Yes, some of his economic language is too cautious for me, but you have to look at the whole person, where he’s come from, what he’s done with his life (hoofing it as community organizer on the mean streets of the South Side of Chicago, etc.), his liberal history in action and word. Hillary Clinton just seems to say whatever she thinks will get her the distance.
It’s not the same.
“You’re not trying to argue that the fact that the Clintons are worthy over $100 million is equivalent in relevance to the campaign to Obama’s bowling skills, are you?”
What I am saying is that if we want the media to focus on substance we have, at a minimum, to stay focused on it ourselves. You say, “John Edwards has credibility in talking about poverty & other populist issues because he walks the walk & talks the talk.” Well, that’s not very specific but whatever you meant by that, that is presumably where his credibility lies for you, his wealth aside. And Clinton does have a long history of promoting policies to support vulnerable children and women – that’s the good part of her resume.
The comparative wealth of the Edwards’ and the Clintons means nothing to the people a populist message is most directed to. Everybody running for the office of President in this country has a lot more money than the average voter, and everybody knows this. As far as Edwards growing up poor, so did Bill Clinton. And that $110 million has almost all been acquired by him, since he left the presidency. Such are the fruits of holding that office.
Voting on the basis of who you’d rather hang out with, or who you imagine would rather hang out with you, is what got us into this mess – that and Rove and the Supreme Court, anyway. But it’s hard to develop a better basis for your vote if the people from whom most folks still get the majority of their political information are interested only in that themselves, and talk about only how much money the candidates have, how they dress, whether they sail or bowl or hunt, and what this supposedly says about them as people, rather than what kinds of policies they were advocating for even before they began running for president, and the details of the policies they have put forward as candidates. Taking note of a candidate’s personal history and circumstances in formulating your own estimation of them is one thing, but to say that the Clintons’ new-found fortune, in and of itself, destroys Hillary Clinton’s populist message, plays up to the constant stream of, “Oh, look, something superficial and shiny!” from the national media that I think we should all resist getting sucked into and be pushing back against instead.
Come November, somebody is going to be elected and we’ll all have to live with it. The campaign won’t matter anymore. But the national press corps will go on – and we’ll all have to live with them, too.
Richard Silverstein says
That’s preposterous. It doesn’t matter to a poor person to know that the candidate currying favor with them earns more in a month than they earn in a decade or perhaps lifetime? Not to mention, that this issue doesn’t just apply to the candidate’s image in the eyes of the poor. It matters in the general public & media perception.
But BIll Clinton isn’t running for president. Hillary is. And her upbringing was nowhere near as mired in poverty as Edwards was. OBama too has had a lot more personal familiarity with poverty growing up as he did in Indonesia & elsehwere.
Now you’re just spouting media sound bytes. The fact that Hillary is worth $110 million & the fact that her husband has become a fixer for all manner of slightly seedy international wheeler dealers has nothing to do w. whether I’d like to hang out w. them or not or what they wear or who their minister is. It’s a substantive issue whether you think so or not. And if it isn’t substantive to you it will be to a significant minority of voters. And the fact that Hillary has a laudable history championing children’s rights does not create a comprehensive populist message about economic inequality, racism & poverty. She doesn’t have that track record, never has & will be even less able to advocate populist policies given her enormous wealth. As another commenter said, she is a corporate Democrat & has fallen into the embrace of the hawkish wing of her party. No way you can turn this into populism.
“That’s preposterous. It doesn’t matter to a poor person to know that the candidate currying favor with them earns more in a month than they earn in a decade or perhaps lifetime?”
Well, Richard, you don’t speak for the poor. I don’t speak for all of them either, but I am poor, and to people I know who live as I do, the difference between rich and very rich means far less than it does to the middle-class. It all tends to look equally distant from here.
“. . .her husband has become a fixer for all manner of slightly seedy international wheeler dealers has nothing to do w. whether I’d like to hang out w. them or not or what they wear or who their minister is. It’s a substantive issue whether you think so or not.”
Ah, how that fortune was acquired is a different matter. But you are mentioning a lot of things in defense of your position that you didn’t mention in the original post. That, too, raises the issue of how much Hillary Clinton is held responsible for Bill Clinton’s actions. It’s certainly being looked at differently by many than when the candidate has been (as always ’til now) the man. But I mention that only because the difference is interesting; I do indeed think that who the candidates and their spouses have partnered with and to what specific ends, in business and in politics, is worth considering,
Both Obama and Clinton are quite at home in the corporate wing of the Democratic party. Romance aside, their policy proposals are quite similar, and purely in terms of campaign rhetoric, Obama has done more to sooth the business-as-usual crowd than Clinton. I am enthusiastic about neither, for remarkably similar reasons considering all their personal differences. I’m just sorry to see so many Dems who previously emphatically pressed the media to discover policies and programs and get over their personal loves and hates stampeding right over the same cliff now that they’ve discovered a love and a hate. Yes, I did list a bunch of “media sound bites,” for the purpose of comparing them with another such, “Clinton’s Fortune Destroys Hillary’s Populist Message.”
Richard Silverstein says
“I do indeed think that who the candidates and their spouses have partnered with and to what specific ends, in business and in politics, is worth considering…”
It is especially worth considering in Hillary’s case both because her husband has already served as president AND because she touts the role he would play in her presidential administration. I think in a case like John McCain’s or Barack Obama’s if his wife had complicated business interests it would be less relevant unless the spouse’s business impinged on the making or setting of policy.
“Obama has done more to sooth the business-as-usual crowd than Clinton.”
I don’t agree & don’t know how you support this statement.