With the official entry of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont into the 2016 presidential race comes an atypical challenger for Hillary Clinton. Unlike traditional presidential aspirants, Sanders opened his campaign by sharpening his rhetoric rather than trying to dull it down. While this may mean Clinton will not have to worry about being outflanked by Sanders for the so-called (and largely illusory) “center,” it certainly means that Clinton’s alignment with Wall Street and Corporate America is going to prove problematic in the Democratic primary given her record.
This is something, reportedly, that Team Clinton is well aware of. It would not be at all surprising that Hillary Clinton and her supporters fear a contest of ideas – the neoliberal ideology she and her husband are closely associated with is very unpopular both with the general public and most members of the Democratic Party in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
Hillary Clinton knows this all too well and has been trying to distance herself from her own recent past including her husband’s presidency. Unfortunately for her, the shift looks too opportunistic and does little to neutralize the clear contrasts a Senator Sanders candidacy draws.
Insiders familiar with the Clinton campaign’s thinking described it as “frightened” of Sanders — not that he would win the nomination, but that he could damage her with the activist base by challenging her on core progressive positions in debates and make her look like a centrist or corporatist. The source described the campaign as “pleased,” at least, that O’Malley and Sanders will split the anti-Clinton vote. A Clinton spokesman declined to comment.
At his kickoff rally in Burlington, Vermont, on Tuesday, where thousands turned out to support him, Sanders vowed to “break up the largest financial institutions in the country” and provided the kinds of specifics Clinton has yet to color in. Sanders called for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. (Clinton has said she supports raising the minimum wage but has yet to say by how much.) Sanders also supports a single-payer health insurance system, expanding Social Security benefits, free tuition at public universities and universal pre-kindergarten.
Hillary Clinton is not only not illuminating her 2016 campaign platform, she is avoiding the press as best she can. Part of that is due to a few ongoing scandals concerning deleted emails and the corruption at the Clinton Foundation, but another aspect is surely due to worries over exactly what her positions should be. Crafting a poll-driven message is difficult in a country with such volatile politics, especially given that Clinton is going to be raising money from the very millionaires and billionaires her party’s base wants taxed and regulated.
Those donors, of course, will want something in return should Clinton become president. So maybe the real issue is not whether Sanders will make Hillary Clinton look like a corporatist, but whether she will govern like one if elected.
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) May 14, 2015
ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos has agreed to not moderate an ABC News-sponsored Republican primary debate after it was revealed that he had given $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Stephanopoulos acknowledged the donation was inappropriate saying “In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have, even though I did it for the best reasons.”
Prior to joining ABC News Stephanopoulos served as communications director under President Bill Clinton and led the communications team on Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign famously recorded in the documentary film The War Room. In the film Stephanopoulos and Democratic strategist James Carville methodically work to manipulate the news media into adopting a pro-Clinton narrative.
Stephanopoulos left the Clinton White House in 1996 after Clinton was successfully re-elected and later wrote a book titled All Too Human: A Political Education about the Clinton experience which became a best-seller and set up his journalism career. He then joined ABC News first as an analyst then a correspondent and eventually an anchor. Stephanopolous maintained his strong relationship with the Clintons, though up until now it was not known that there was a financial aspect to that relationship.
The Stephanopoulos revelations are just the latest controversy for the Clinton Foundation which continues to face scrutiny for its shady fundraising practices conducted while Hillary Clinton served as the secretary of state. Unease with the fundraising practices have been amplified by a corresponding scandal regarding Hillary Clinton refusing to comply with federal record keeping rules when serving at the State Department.
What additional deal-making between the Clinton Foundation and foreign/corporate interests was facilitated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and subordinates will be a lot harder to know now that those emails have been destroyed.