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Political Mercury

Mrs. Clinton, can’t we cry for New York and shout at Wall Street?

11/18/2015

Wall Street judges us every day. Minute to minute, in fact. No tears. No mercy.

But if we are to believe Hillary Clinton, the denizens of the New York financial district — and their U.S. senator at the time — earned immunity against our judgment 14 years ago.

To challenge Wall Street’s maneuvering within our politics is to disrespect the suffering of 9/11?

That’s Hillary Clinton’s play? It’s off limits to raise legitimate issues about concentration of wealth, loose regulation and the source of money and influence in American life?

“You’ve received millions of dollars in contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street companies,” John Dickerson of CBS News said to Clinton in framing a question on money in politics Saturday night, during the second Democratic presidential candidate debate at Drake University in Des Moines.

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Donors connected to Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, for example, have contributed to Clinton campaigns. That’s a fact.

“How do you convince voters that you’re gonna level the playing field when you’re indebted to some of the biggest players?” Dickerson asked.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s closest rival for the party’s nomination, said Clinton’s donor choices introduce obvious questions about where loyalties lie.

“I have never heard a candidate, never, who’s received huge amounts of money from oil, from coal, from Wall Street, from the military industrial complex, not one candidate, go, ‘Oh, these campaign contributions will not influence me. I’m gonna be independent,’ ” said Sanders.  “Now, why do they make millions of dollars of campaign contributions? They expect to get something. Everybody knows that.”

Responding, Clinton, in a matter of seconds, both played the gender card and raised 9/11 as a shield.

“You know, not only do I have hundreds of thousands of donors, most of them small, I am very proud that for the first time a majority of my donors are women, 60 percent,” Clinton said. “I represented New York. And I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. 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.”

Clinton’s 9/11 reach, her use of it to defend domestic political fundraising decisions, smacked of entirely unnecessary opportunism.

For the past three decades, a Clinton Destruction Complex has sprawled in our politics, its multimillion-dollar tentacles intent on diminishing Bill and Hillary Clinton.

And we do live in a post-Citizens United world with money soaking campaigns to the point where candidates are more brands than people, and have been for some time.

Is it fair to ask Clinton, who would be the nation’s first female president, to unilaterally disarm in fundraising and campaign spending against well-heeled conservative organizations, many of which were formed largely in opposition to her mere existence as a public figure? Voters didn’t hold Barack Obama to that standard of purity.

Where Clinton could have pivoted is here: The balance of power for the U.S. Supreme Court will be in the hands of the next president.

I think most Democrats trust her on this — and are frightened of the prospects of lifetime appointments to the high court coming from a Republican White House over the next eight years. The money, these Democrats know, may very well be a necessary evil — for now.

The most galling angle to the campaign-money exchange in the Drake debate was Clinton’s clear effort to cast Wall Street as a simple constituent for a freshman lawmaker, like the Goliath investment houses are just like some boat manufacturer in the rural South or a candy maker in Sioux City.

Some of Iowa’s best young men and women in uniform bled in battle in response to the attacks of 9/11. Our newspapers have covered the funerals.

Can’t we cry for New York’s post-9/11 suffering and shout at Wall Street’s excesses — at the same time? CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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