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Goldman transcripts show how Clinton has evolved

Lewis Wallace Oct 17, 2016
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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts  in Las Vegas, Nevada. 
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The transcripts of Hillary Clinton’s expensive speeches to Goldman Sachs came out over the weekend, and while they don’t contain any bombshells, they do reveal some differences between Clinton circa 2013, and Clinton on the campaign trail today.

The release came from Wikileaks, and we can’t independently verify them. Without denying their authenticity, Clinton’s campaign has accused Wikileaks of trying to undermine her campaign with the support of the Russian government.

Still, there’s no smoking gun, as it’s not a secret that Hillary Clinton the candidate has hardened her rhetoric on Wall Street compared with a few years ago.

“If anyone was under the impression that Hillary Clinton was not a politician, they have been set straight,” said Julia Azari, a political science professor at Marquette University. She says when Clinton talked to Goldman Sachs  in 2013 it’s unsurprising that she sounded lukewarm about financial reforms. For example, she talked about Dodd-Frank as being passed for political reasons — now, she’s more likely to frame her views on financial reforms in moral terms, promising that she will veto anything that rolls back regulation.

David Birdsell, Marxe Dean of the Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College at City University of New York, says Clinton’s views on trade have similarly been updated. “Plainly she has been a proponent of increased trade, of more trade agreements,” he said, and that comes through in the transcripts. During the campaign she’s emphasized her skepticism about these agreements and promised to insure they are good for workers.

Still, the concern for many voters is what Clinton would do were she to become president. 

“You can’t go back on those policy positions, because she’s weak with Democrats on trade, and she’s weak with Democrats who view her as too cozy with Wall Street,” said Erin O’Brien, chair and professor of political science at University of Massachusetts Boston. She says even if Clinton’s elected, there will be re-election to think about. “Basic self-interest kicks in.”

In other words, she’s compromising to get votes now…and election 2020 is just around the corner.

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