Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hillary's Money Speech

One big, eloquent speech in a presidential campaign can sometimes do the job. Nixon did it, with his typical sanctimony, as VP nominee with his Checkers speech in September of 1952. Obama did it in disavowing Jeremiah Wright in March of 2008. And most notably, because it was not just personal but an understanding that then lived forever after in America, JFK did it before Protestant ministers in Houston in September of 1960, affirming the separation of church and state for a Catholic President. Big speeches can put a matter to rest.

Now Hillary Clinton faces a problem that she needs to put to rest. Everyone sees the problem of plutocracy clearly now, especially since no one from Wall Street went to jail. Everyone sees the problem with high rollers funding campaigns, and buying influence with both the executive and legislative branches. Trump sees it, Bernie Sanders sees it, and Hillary sees it. But Trump is rich enough not to need other people's money, and Bernie's raison d'etre is this very issue, and since it has always been his issue, he has rejected Super PAC money and has surprisingly been able to fund himself from small donor contributions.

Hillary, however, is a different story. She needs big contributions, and has gotten them not only this year, but in many years in the past, as did Bill. She knows the big donors well. And in addition, she has shown herself vulnerable to the allures of big money with Goldman Sachs, most notably. And Chelsea's indulgence makes her even more vulnerable, Chelsea who made $650 grand a year with NBC, I think it was, and who lives in an $11 million Central Park apartment. Disgusting, really.

So it's only natural for voters to think, how can you trust someone who likes money so much so that she became rich by giving talks, and who needs money for campaigns? Won't she be beholden to the sources of that income and campaign funds? Or as Donald puts it so floridly, do you think they just like throwing the money around because they can, or are they expecting something for it, the way I did when I gave it?

Well, she's not viewed as trustworthy, that's her major electoral flaw, and she's got to answer that accusation. And as I say, it didn't help that no one went to jail, so cleaving to Obama is no help there.

So what she's got to do is to do a Houston, give a big speech. And she's got to give it well, put herself into it, lower her voice to the intimate, and make herself vulnerable. It's a tall order and I don't know whether or not she's up to it. I think if she were convinced of its necessity, she could do it, but she's always so defensive, I'm not sure she will allow herself to be convinced.

Here's what she's got to say in The Money Speech. She has to say, first, I agree with Donald Trump! And I agree with Bernie. This system of funding elections sucks and needs to be changed. I've thought that for a long time (she raised it in 2008 but no one took it up and she dropped it, I remember.) It goes back to the 1980's or even beyond. Senators and Congresspeople need to spend huge hunks of time dialing for dollars, begging for money. National campaigns are even worse – we travel all over for fundraisers, and while we meet good people at them, we are only meeting one part of the electorate, and that's not good enough. And it's true, the dollars spent by lobbyists and corporations, and labor unions and others, pay dividends. It's a terrible system.

Now let me get more personal. Just like everyone else in electoral politics, as a political person without overwhelming personal wealth (or a very small state to compete in), I have played the game by the rules, even if I hate the rules. All of us in public elected life, we have no choice. It's either that or walk away, and I haven't been willing to walk away because I have wanted to be a public official doing good for the country. I have some deep beliefs in where we should go as a country, and walking away because the system is tainted would do nobody any good. That's been my belief.

So how have I handled it, being part of a system that begs for corruption? What I have tried to do, like many other good people in public electoral life, has been to try to make it clear that my vote is not for sale. I will listen to contributors, and I will listen to non-contributors. In fact, I will listen to contributors to other campaigns that opposed me. That's my job, to listen and to represent everyone. As a contributor, of course you get “access,” and that in itself can be a source not of corruption, but a source of skewing of my views, shall we say. But, I will also strive to get the views of others who may not have been contributors, but who have other viewpoints, and I will try to weigh them as equally as I can. That's my pledge. I will take the money because the system makes me do that – a system that needs to be changed! – but I will not be bought.

So, to answer Donald Trump – and don't forget, we agree on the problem, the system sucks – if the contributors expect favors, that's not what I promise or deliver. What I expect is for donors to understand what my views are, and if they like them, contribute. I'm also asking the donors to think not of their own welfare, but the welfare of the country, and to trust that if the welfare of the country is served, they will be able to feel good about their contribution to it.

This may be hard for people to believe about me. It sounds pretty goody two-shoes, I understand. It does. But what else can one do in this system? That's why I agree with Donald, and with Bernie. We need to change the system. Buying a government should not be possible. We need to have public financing of campaigns so that private interests cannot buy governmental decisions. If it takes a constitutional amendment, that's what we have to do.

Now this is me, Budd, talking. She probably also needs to confess to her money complex. When she said “we were dead broke” when they left the White House (sign of a complex), and when it's obvious that Bill cavorts with billionaires all the time and when their friends are all so rich, it's not surprising that they want to be rich, too. When they have risen to the top of society as they have, should they forego the usual financial rewards in a capitalist country? It's a big problem, and it's symptomatic of the problem of money in the modern world, and not just capitalism, but everyone. How she weaves a confessional tone into The Money Speech, I don't know. But if she could, it would be a big plus.

Maybe say something like this: they say that money is the root of all evil. I don't know about that, but I do know that the fears of not having money, and the desire to have a lot of it are front and center for our modern life, and I, Hillary, have not been exempt. But as I work on this problem in my private life, I want everyone to know, I see the problem. And I know that others with less money than I have often handle it much better than I do. But, I want you to know, I will work very hard to make sure that everyone in this country gets a fair break. It's OK for people to make lots of money if they work hard and contribute, but it can't be at the expense of others. People in the lower 90% need a better deal than they are getting. And it will be my mission as President, if I should be elected, to make sure that we improve everyone's chance to get an education, to be properly rewarded for achievement, to rise in life and give their kids even better than they have had it, and to un-fix the game. Things are not fair now, and I will not be bought off, I will not relent until everyone, everyone, everyone gets a fair deal in this country. That was our source of greatness in the past, and that greatness, that fairness, needs to be reclaimed.

Maybe that would work. It would be worth a try. 

 Go to Houston, Hillary!

Budd Shenkin

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