Gauis Publius: The Clinton Campaign Speaks to the New York Times

Yves here. The New York Times article that Gauis parses below, and a more recent one about the Clinton campaign, are terribly revealing, and in not a good way. Lambert early on was referring to the campaign as the S.S. Clinton, I assume intending to evoke the Titanic. His choice of image now looks more apt than one can possibly have imagined. Clinton’s team made the dangerous, and what may prove to be fatal flaw: assuming that she was unsinkable. They believed their own PR. While the “inevitability” messaging was very effective, and the notion of locking Sanders and other challengers out of the mainstream media appeared to be a sure-fire winner, the campaign was utterly unable to anticipate what Sanders has done, which is go almost entirely outside traditional (as in Big Money) channels and launch a grass roots revolt.

What is astonishing about the second New York Times article, which we featured in Links yesterday, was the Clinton camp’s failure to build a meaningful campaign infrastructure much of anywhere beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, while Sanders has been campaigning all across the US for months. The not-so-hidden assumption is very clear: that Clinton’s lock on big-money donors meant could win via favorable media coverage and ad buys. She apparently thought she needed to to do only Potemkin campaigning once she’d secured her anticipated large-margin wins in early primary states. And the arrogance of that assumption raises a second question: where has all the money gone when they’ve focused on so few states?

Oh, and I strongly urge you to watch the Sanders clip towards the end of this post. He was on to all the adverse structural developments in the economy early.

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. Originally published at at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.

Jay-Gould-quote_working-class_pc_6748e067b05e1d5dff5e6e889f0451dc

“Rule by the rich” gone wild. He not only could, he would. Are we there again?

New York Times writer Patrick Healy has produced another piece that shows Clinton campaign insiders speaking off the record and anonymously to reflect on their candidate’s potential troubles. His first was this piece, written in July (“Hillary Clinton’s Team Is Wary as Bernie Sanders Finds Footing in Iowa“), and my analysis of it is here (“The Clinton Campaign Notices the Sanders Campaign, or How to Read the Media“).

My overall take on these pieces is — what seems like off-the-record navel-gazing on the part of campaign insiders is actually strategic leakage to the press. In other words, messaging, with the hook being an answer to the question, “Are they worried yet?” The answer is the campaign’s carefully considered reply.

That said, there’s much that can be learned from pieces like this, some of it surprising. Healy is a person to leak to for a reason, and not a bad analyst in his own right. So I want to take a look at some of what he says and make a few comments of my own. Keep in mind, this is not coverage of his main idea, but spot comments on some interesting and inadvertent revelations.

Healy’s piece starts this way:

Clinton Campaign Underestimated Sanders Strengths, Allies Say

Advisers to Hillary Clinton, including former President Bill Clinton, believe that her campaign made serious miscalculations by forgoing early attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and failing to undercut his archliberal message before it grew into a political movement that has now put him within striking distance of beating her in Iowa and New Hampshire.

According to Democrats close to the Clintons and involved with her campaign, Mrs. Clinton and the former president are also unnerved by the possibility that Mr. Sanders will foment a large wave of first-time voters and liberals that will derail her in Iowa, not unlike Barack Obama’s success in 2008, which consigned Mrs. Clinton to a third-place finish. They have asked her advisers about the strength of the campaign’s data modeling and turnout assumptions in Iowa, given that her 2008 campaign’s predictions were so inaccurate.

Note the sourcing: “Advisers, … including former President Bill Clinton, believe…” Did Healy speak to Bill Clinton, or to someone speaking for him? Did he speak to the candidate herself? It’s possible either Clinton was interviewed, but we don’t know and we’ll likely never know. This is as close as we get to a naming of sources, and kudos to Healy for being this direct:

Most Clinton advisers and allies would speak only on the condition of anonymity to candidly assess her vulnerabilities and the Clintons’ outlook on the race. This article is based on interviews with 11 people — campaign advisers, outside allies, friends and donors — who have spoken to the Clintons about the race.

Again, though, the framing of this piece implies that the advisers and allies are speaking for themselves. You should assume they’re not, and in fact when this article is mentioned in other articles, it’s assumed to represent the campaign’s orchestrated response to the surging Sanders challenge. Keep that in mind as you read on; it will matter when evaluating its accidental revelations, as opposed to its purposeful ones.

Now for some finds and glosses.

On Clinton’s Ambition

The article accidentally, I think, comments on the nature of Hillary Clinton’s ambition in this passage (my emphasis throughout):

According to Democrats close to the Clintons and involved with her campaign, Mrs. Clinton and the former president are also unnerved by the possibility that Mr. Sanders will foment a large wave of first-time voters and liberals [!] that will derail her in Iowa, not unlike Barack Obama’s success in 2008, which consigned Mrs. Clinton to a third-place finish.

Note the phrase “large wave” and consider what that means. David Atkins, commenting in a recent Washington Monthly on this same possibility — a “wave” of new voters — wrote this:

2008 was a wave year for Democrats downballot, and it is easily arguable that the disaster of 2010 was due to the depression of the Democratic base when the progressive promises of the Obama campaign to tackle Wall Street and implement real universal healthcare were dashed by conservative Democrats like Max Baucus and Joe Lieberman.

And:

It is unclear that a strategy based on strong turnout from women voters will be successful, while Sanders’ support is strongest among the very voters Democrats need big turnout from to win downballot races … And as it turns out, wide majorities of younger women are backing Bernie Sanders. If leading Democrats are concerned about depressed turnout among left-leaning women, they might be backing the wrong horse when it comes to women under 45…

Given what we know now, Sanders would likely help downballot Democrats by driving progressive base turnout, reinforcing popular policies, capturing a few Perot voters, and bringing a swath of energized young voters to the polls.

A “wave election” is one where a very large number of new voters attempt to make big changes. Very large numbers of new voters. Now go back up to the Healy comment gleaned from the Clinton campaign. Ms. Clinton is “unnerved by the possibility that Mr. Sanders will foment a large wave of first-time voters…”

How would a “wave of first-time voters,” which would heavily drive Democratic base turnout, not be very good for the Democratic Party, as in, 2008-good. The Healy passage basically says that Hillary Clinton would trade away all of that to-the-party benefit to become the nominee, that she would be willing to seriously weaken the party so long as she could then lead it. This is almost the definition of destructive ambition. Is that a fair characterization? I think we’d have to ask Patrick Healy, as the quoted passage is his.

Don’t forget that the quoted passage add the phrase “and liberals” to the “large wave of first-time voters” that Mrs. Clinton and her husband are “unnerved by.”Are Mr. and Ms. Clinton really “unnerved” by “liberals”? Again, the phrasing is Healy’s, but the sentiments are claimed to be those of the Clintons.

The Campaign Lists Its “Advantages”

In another accidentally revealing passage, Healy quotes the campaign as listing its advantages thus:

Given her many political advantages, like rich donors and widespread support from Democratic Party elites, she is also surprised that Mr. Sanders’s fund-raising has rivaled hers and that her experience — along with her potential to make history as the first woman elected president — has not galvanized more voters.

If this is the campaign speaking, the statement is accurate but a bit tone-deaf. After all, “rich donors” and “widespread support from elites” is not the calling card you want to openly present in this election. These are indeed advantages, but should they be saying so — out loud, I mean? I would assume they would know that speaking to Patrick Healy for publication is speaking out loud.

The Clinton Campaign and the Debate Schedule

There’s been a lot written about Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the debate schedule, including in these pages. Wasserman Schultz is a former Clinton campaign co-chair and as current head of the DNC is widely thought to be depressing both the number of Democratic primary debates and their turnout (via terrible scheduling, like the weekend before Christmas) in order to explicitly benefit Ms. Clinton.

Does the Clinton camp know and approve this? Healy:

Instead Mrs. Clinton, who entered the race as the prohibitive favorite, played it safe, opting for as few debates as possible, scheduled at times when viewership was likely to be low — like this Sunday at 9 p.m. on a long holiday weekend.

“Opting for as few debates as possible” implies agency and control. Is that what they think? We’d have to ask Healy if he’s characterizing properly what he was told. Assuming he is, I’d say this is damning, not just for Wasserman Schultz, but for Clinton herself. This basically says that the Clinton campaign owned (or owns) the debate schedule.

Attacking the Sanders “Big Government Agenda”

My last point — attacking Sanders from the right, and by using Republican code words, speaks volumes to my ears about what a Clinton presidency would look like, at least in economic terms.

Healy again:

Several Clinton advisers are also regretting that they did not push for more debates, where Mrs. Clinton excels, to more skillfully marginalize Mr. Sanders over his Senate votes in support of the gun industry and the enormous costs and likely tax increases tied to his big-government agenda.

We saw that argument play out in the most recent debate, but here again, the campaign seems to acknowledge, though Healy, what they’re selling and to whom. I actually found “marginalize” the most frightening word in that passage. It implies that the current Clinton campaign thinks sweeping tax and spending changes — all of which would (a) reduce the nation’s obscene income and wealth inequality, and (b) grow the health and wealth of the nation — should be swept into the “margins” of thought and discussion. If that’s how Clinton would truly govern, I fear for the nation in this crossroads time of economic decision-making.

A Time of Economic Decision and Crisis

Put simply, not only the United States but the entire world appears to be entering a time of politically induced economic crisis. If the wealthy would stand down — in Greece, for example — and allow just a little breathing room for the beleaguered rest of us, most would suffer through the next decade or so on largely diminished dreams and no rebellion.

But the wealthy are turning the screws, and relentlessly so. The push for TPP (thank you, Mr. President) was relentless, as will be its damage. Democratic elites, whom Ms. Clinton is apparently proud to count as an “advantage,” combined with Republican elites to pass it. Are the rich not rich enough? Apparently not. Are they determined to squeeze the last drop from the last turnip on the last table in the room? To pocket the last dime from the last bum in the last town in the world? Apparently so — with a ferocity that would make robber baron Jay Gould proud (see image above).

The rich will kill us for money and power; they’re doing that today, here and all over the world. To this there is and will be a response, and it won’t be pretty. The nation in this election stands (a) at a time of great peril, if it once more follows the yellow-paved road; or (b) at a time of great opportunity, if it turns its back on the money that wants to control it. The Sanders campaign, put simply, not only offers hope of that opportunity, but unlike the 2008 Obama campaign, it offers the opportunity itself.

Obama was never going to be anyone but this guy:

Barack Obama in 2006. “Bob” is Robert Rubin, sitting in the room.

Sanders has always been this guy:

Bernie Sanders in 2003. That’s Alan Greenspan on the hot seat.

I don’t think the nation will survive in its current form if the “Jay Gould rich” rule for another eight years. I think the nation knows this. I wonder if the Clinton campaign knows this, or do they have their eyes more on their own success than on the nation’s. The answer, at least as Patrick Healy tells it, isn’t encouraging.

(Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. If you’d like to help out, go here; you can adjust the split any way you like at the link. If you’d like to “phone-bank for Bernie,” go here. You can volunteer in other ways by going here. And thanks!)

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35 comments

  1. Chris Geary

    I have to give it to you Yves. You said Bernie was one to watch back when I had steadfastly refused to look at the “coronation” of Clinton aka the primaries. Seeing Clinton potentially losing the nomination is quite delicious. One can only hope.

  2. Fabian incerto

    Excellent article with a lot of very good insights. One thing about Trump that we have to be cognizant of is that he cannot be categorized as a robber baron in the typical sense. I referred to this excellent article http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/24287. That does not mean that we do not have a lot to criticize and evaluate about his place in business and his role in current American culture. His nomination could bring to the forefront a relevant discussion that looks at contemporary American and world business. But, the critiques of the past and comparisons to robber baron, although good soundbites, really don’t get at the heart of the current issue .

  3. cnchal

    . . . or do they have their eyes more on their own success than on the nation’s

    Yes. Psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists care only for themselves. The nation is a shiny bauble, to be used for their own pleasure.
    ———————

    Jay Gould is a particularly evil person. So evil, that when the hired guns (one half of the working class) finished their job (killing the other half), Gould would stiff them on their paychecks.

    1. Crazy Horse

      Don’t forget that “Assassination is as American as Cherry Pie” to paraphrase H. Rap Brown from the ’60’s.

      And if you don’t believe Clinton is sociopathic enough to resort to that form of politics, just watch her chortling after watching Qaddafi being sodomized with a bayonet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgcd1ghag5Y

  4. Sam Adams

    Clinton, the “rich” and the power brokers forgot thier history: squeeze the serfs too much and they march the overseers up a scaffold. Happens regularly in China, happened in France and the Americas.

  5. Merf56

    The more Sanders talks the more I see him as the only legitimate sane choice from all the candidates. He is the only one talking real sensible policy. I was very impressed with his healthcare plan (as were some republican extended family members ……amazingly.). He is a serious man who has been involved in serious governance for decades. He lives modestly which dovetails with his policy positions. Like former Uruguayan President Mujica he practices what he preaches – not as a publicity stunt or window dressing.
    Now – will he be able to implement anything? Who knows at this point. But an honest candidate devoted to policies that would help make us a better people and a fairer more peaceful country? It’s about time!! He is getting my vote and that of of my spouse and adult kids and their spouses.
    Hopefully the “SS Clinton” WILL go down like the Titanic once again as will all the members of the Republican clown car. Now if sense would reign down ballot we might actually get somewhere….

    1. PlutoniumKun

      If I was a betting man I’d love to check out the odds on which of the media or establishment Clintonites will be the first to break rank and declare that it was all a terrible misunderstanding and they really loved Sanders all this time….

  6. Brooklin Bridge

    One of the “advantages” I remember being listed (from a very similar Rag article in Links yesterday, 1/19/16) was Clinton’s superdelegates that numbered in the hundreds compared to Sanders 15 or 16 formally committed.

    The Democratic Party also has “superdelegates,” or party leaders and elected officials who are free to support any candidate. Mrs. Clinton holds a large lead among these party leaders, with several hundred superdelegates signed on to support her campaign, compared with 16 or so for Mr. Sanders.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/19/us/politics/hillary-clinton-readies-for-a-long-slog-against-bernie-sanders.html

    I’m hazy on this point. From what I understood, she did not ultimately use those in her run against Obama, but would she use them now? Obviously, this would almost certainly be viewed as a horribly undemocratic way of gaming the nomination process, emphasizing everything dynastic and underhanded about Hillary, but would she care at this point? This will, after all, be her last chance at this prize which as SHE knows, and assumes everyone else knows in their heart of hearts, belongs to her by nothing less than *divine right (*another way of saying, Wall Street).

      1. James Levy

        Except that the Republicans are planning to use their superdelegate equivalents to derail Trump. Both party establishments are grasping at straws here. They can’t believe the loss of legitimacy that afflicts them. So they blame the voters. Whether or not they can engineer a contest they can stomach, and what they’ll do if they can’t, are open questions.

    1. shinola

      “…but would she care at this point?”

      All Ms. Clinton cares about is winning – at virtually any cost.

      (see cnchal’s comment above at 8:07)

  7. Code Name D

    Something else to consider. This year, there are not the plethora of alternative candidates for the anti-establishment vote. Normally, when the alternative candidates drop out, they always end up handing over their hard earned delegates to the establishment candidate. In effect laundering the anti-establishment vote into delegates that land on the establishment column.

    This year, it’s just Clinton and Sanders. Mono a mono. No more free-bees for the Golden Child.

    I am getting the sense that Clinton’s campaign is going to collapse rather quickly. Possibly implode even once they move into Super Tuesdays.

    1. Arizona Slim

      My prediction: Despite what Sen. Sanders has said about Hillary’s damn e-mails, that issue is not going away. And it could sink her campaign in the coming months.

      On the Republican side, we have dear Mr. Trump. I predict that he will say or do the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that will be the end of his attention-fest campaign.

      1. Code Name D

        I wouldn’t say that the e-mails will “go away” as much as I would say that baring new revelations, its pretty much done its damage. While Clinton rests on the “I didn’t break the law” square, she is so disconnected from the outside world that she doesn’t know that A) the establishment always seems to be above the law, and this is a case in point, and B) this cynical lack of transparency reflects very badly on openness to both review and criticism. She is a black box that cannot be penetrated, so there is no real way to gage how or what she may think on various issues.

        As for Trump imploding. I don’t believe this is even possible any more. The rank and file have largely imprinted on him and now treat whatever he says true, no matter what it is he says. And any attempt to correct him for being wrong is simply translated as “political correctness”, a form of oppression visited by the left. It does appear he is like the GOP nominee, baring extraordinary action on the part of the establishment.

        1. Crazy Horse

          You are forgetting something.

          Clinton’s theft of sensitive classified information from official sources and placement of it on her private server constitutes treason. Yet no one, from her political enemies to ambitious prosecutors seems the least bit interested in demanding that she stand before the law and be judged for her crime.

          Not surprising in an era when the law no longer applies to the Overlords and their servants like Clinton—– or Obama who failed to prosecute fundraiser Jon Coizine while his hedge fund swindled its investors to the tune of nearly a billion dollars.

            1. An Educated Fool

              Placing the e-mails on her private server does not constitute treason but running an arms smuggling ring from Libya to Isis in Syria is treason. At least it was considered treason when Reagan was caught up in Iran/Contra.

              The emails will emerge if she wins the nomination. The Republicans can destroy her with those e-mails. Especially the e-mails linked to Libya gun smuggling. I doubt they would dare to use the e-mails when she discusses the genocide of black Libyans by our Al Qaeda allies in Libya.

              In the end she broke numerous laws which are felony offenses. I wonder if they can get her on perjury. I do not know if she was under oath during that 11 hour testimony but she certainly lied about how she handled classified data.

              Scott Horton on Anti-War Radio had an excellent interview on this topic. He also interviewed Symour Hersh and Gareth Porter on the military’s push back on US policy during Clinton’s tenure as Sec of State. I did not know that every male was against the war but every female was for it. Obama sided with the women. So anyone that thinks women are less blood thirsty than men need to reexamine their bias.

              Sorry if this is rantish..off to class.

    2. Stephen Gardner

      Don’t you mean mano a mano (hand to hand)? Mono a mono (monkey to monkey) will be if Clinton and Trump win their respective primaries. :-)

  8. James Levy

    Yves, what’s so shocking is that rather than leave nothing to chance, the Clinton “team” has repeated every mistake of 2008. I’m reminded of my miserably run baseball team, the NY Mets. After 2000, and again today, they followed up a World Series loss not by going that extra mile to make up for deficiencies that lost them the Series, but basked in the glow of media attention, swept up the extra revenue garnered, and hoped for a big fat dose of good luck to get them back again. The fact that the Wilpons are gonifs who were in league with Bernie Madoff seems to make the analogy somehow complete.

  9. Will

    The thing that I find most striking about Healy’s piece is how nakedly partisan it is — that Clinton’s struggle against Sanders is framed in the same kind of doing-noble-battle terms as coverage of US “strategy” in Syria. He writes like an embedded reporter in the campaign, never questioning whether his side has the high ground or the right idea.

  10. Waking Up

    I have waited to see a strong, female president as leader in the U.S. for a very long time. However, Hillary Clinton is NOT that person. Being a warmonger and laughing about killing another world leader does NOT show leadership qualities in the least. Endless pandering to 1% of the population does NOT show leadership for the people. All of the corruption and scandals associated with Bill and Hillary Clinton should have put a wrench in Hillary’s nomination long ago….

    1. Will

      Yes, this. I would love to see the US elect its first female president. But I don’t want her to be a corrupt, elitist, warmongering liar like Hillary Clinton.

    2. Malcolm MacLeod, MD

      Well, Senator Elizabeth Warren would not accept the nomination if you gave it
      to her. She’s too good for the job, she’s having too much fun, and we need her
      where she is.

  11. Anon

    Seeing this article makes me happy that someone else caught that line about opting for as few debates as possible. I made mention of it here:

    H O P

    That said, I hope that someone pays for this blatant act of favoritism.

  12. dcblogger

    How would a “wave of first-time voters,” which would heavily drive Democratic base turnout, not be very good for the Democratic Party, as in, 2008-good. The Healy passage basically says that Hillary Clinton would trade away all of that to-the-party benefit to become the nominee, that she would be willing to seriously weaken the party so long as she could then lead it. This is almost the definition of destructive ambition. Is that a fair characterization? I think we’d have to ask Patrick Healy, as the quoted passage is his.

    that goes a long way to explain her choice of a professional loser like Debbie Wasserman Schultz for chair of the DNC.

    Incidentally Debbie Wasserman Schultz has a primary challenge; Tim Canova

  13. Pespi

    The Clintons washed onto shore during the highest neoliberal tide. There need be no difference in political parties, as there’s only one way to do things, one lets massive corporations do whatever they want, whenever they want.

    The fact that there’s more than one party is simply a historical artifact. The legacy of the democratic party, the new deal, civil rights, that’s just stuff to be projected onto dioramas at a museum. Dynamic innovators lead by allowing forward thinking disruptors to steal and poison as they would.

  14. Ed Walker

    The end video is wonderful Bernie calls Greenspan a despicable toadie, and the scumbag replies with the oiliest possible words.

  15. knowbuddhau

    Good to see that video of Sen. Obama surfacing again. It’s also in a TRNN piece I’ve posted a couple times, about the formation of the DLC as similar to the process the GOP undertook after the notorious Powell/Chamber of Commerce memo.

    PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Ithaca, New York, and joining us again is Jeff Cohen. He’s the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, and he was the founder of the media watchdog FAIR. Thanks for joining us again.

    JEFF COHEN, FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF PARK CENTER, FOUNDER OF FAIR: Great to be with you.

    JAY: In the first part we talked a bit about Massachusetts and what a swing voter is, but we wound up really talking about the corporatization of the Democratic Party. And also, I guess, maybe we should–just before we deal with that, let’s talk a bit about the very conscious plan where to take the Republican Party, ’cause the Republican Party used to be this kind of also broad alliance of different political forces, and it’s gotten narrower and narrower.

    COHEN: A lot of people know that there was a memo written by Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer lawyer, to the US Chamber of Commerce in 1971 in reaction to the new left, saying that big business has got to fight for itself: we’ve got to do messaging; we’ve got to deal with liberals and leftists in academia; we have to challenge the media. And that Powell memo set off a series of fundraising by big corporate forces and big donors. They set up their think tanks; they set up the Heritage Foundation; they mobilized the Christian right.

    JAY: Also in response to, I guess, partly what you’re calling new left, but the antiwar movement. The politics was very in flux.

    COHEN: Oh, yeah. And, understandably, this corporate lawyer, who became a US Supreme Court justice after the memo was written–but the memo didn’t surface until he was already on the Court, or he may never have been confirmed–they had real reason to be upset. And he’s writing it to Chamber of Commerce, saying the business class has got to stand up for business and fight these forces of, you know, new left, anticorporate–

    JAY: Sometimes referred to as the forces of anarchy, I think.

    COHEN: Yeah, right. And what’s interesting is that that memo to the US Chamber of Commerce–we look at the Scott Brown victory, where he takes Ted Kennedy’s seat, and everyone knows that the US Chamber of Commerce was a big player in getting Scott Brown elected as a populist. Alright. So, largely their goal was how do we take a mainstream party, the Republican Party, and turn it into an agency of the corporate right. And they did that over a period of decades. What’s not talked about as much is that there was a parallel movement that started in the 1980s, which was to take the other major party, the historic party of the people, the Democratic Party, and turn it more toward the corporate right. And what happened in the 1980s–and it was in fear of these same forces–labor unions, new left, antiwar, environmentalist, feminist. There was this sense that the Democratic Party was too allied with these movements, these social movements that were representing millions of people, so the Democratic Leadership Council was set up. It was set up, funded by oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, tobacco companies, some of the biggest companies in the country. It was largely a corporate front inside the Democratic Party to fight the movements in the Democratic Party and move the leadership of the party toward corporate prerogatives. Who were the leaders of it? Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman. These were three of the big figures, and, of course, they were the presidential and vice presidential candidates in ’92, ’96, and 2000. So it was, frankly, a very successful movement. Well, let’s update the Democratic Leadership Council. In 2000–. And they set up a few other groups, think tanks, that would push what was their agenda, so-called free trade, deficit reduction, budget balancing, and taking on the teachers unions, school vouchers. So now let’s move to 2006, and a new group is formed as part of this constellation of moving the Democratic Party to the corporate right, and it’s a group called the Alexander Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution. And the director of it is Robert Rubin, who had been the Treasury Secretary for Clinton, had been at Goldman Sachs and, later, Citigroup. Roger Altman had been US Treasury Department under Clinton. And there’s an amazing thing. And this group is set up for budget deficit, international trade, taking on the teachers union, and they had their founding meeting in April 2006. And only one US senator shows up to speak at this founding meeting, and that’s a very new senator, Barack Obama from Illinois, who’s only been in Washington a little over a year. So for a lot of us who were tracking Obama in 2007, of course he got a lot of $25 and $50 donations from people that really wanted change they could believe in, but in 2007, way before he was a front-runner, he was out-fundraising all the other candidates from Wall Street. And it was something I’ve never quite been able to figure out. There were two presidential candidates from the state of New York, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, and Obama was out-fundraising them from Wall Street early in ’07. Now, Wall Street money and corporate money always goes to the front-runner. Obama was getting this money before he was the front-runner. So the missing piece to the puzzle is this clip where Obama is the only senator who shows up at the Alexander Hamilton Project.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): Thank you very much. I would love just to sit here with these folks and listen, because you’ve got on this panel and in this room some of the most innovative, thoughtful policymakers. I want to thank Bob and Roger and Peter for inviting me to be here today. I wish I could be here longer.

    COHEN: By the way, Alexander Hamilton in American history was, you know, leader of the Federalist Party, was seen as the elitist party. And the Democratic Party of Thomas Jefferson was founded as a party of the people that would challenge the elitism of Alexander Hamilton. And here you have all these Wall Street Democrats setting up this group, had Obama as their first speaker from the US Senate, and in the clip Obama says that he wants to thank Bob, Roger, and Peter. Bob is Robert Rubin. Roger is Roger Altman. These are Clinton Wall Street Democrats. And who’s Peter? It’s Peter Orszag, the first founding director of the Hamilton Project, who then becomes, later, Obama’s head of Office of Management and Budget. So what you’ve had is the Democratic Party since the ’80s, big corporate money going in there, trying to elevate these candidates, giving them money, giving them a lot of media protection. This is a Democrat who can get elected, who can appeal to those swing voters. And so we’ve had Clinton, Gore, Lieberman, and now Obama that are part of this. Now, Obama was never close to the Democratic Leadership Council, but it’s interesting that a newer incarnation of Wall Street Democratic think tank, he’s there at their founding meeting.

    JAY: So the progressive political movement or segment of the population should have known most of this. Now, they may not have known about the Hamilton Project, they may not have known some of the specific details, but if you listen to what candidate Obama said philosophically–he was asked about his foreign policy. He said, “I come from a tradition of American pragmatism.” He would date–the lineage began with Truman. He would even include George Bush senior. On economics, on any serious interview, he talked like a center, center-right politician, but the progressives all kind of drank the Kool-Aid.

    COHEN: They heard the slogans, which was “change you could believe in”. When there’s thousands of people at a rally all holding up signs that say “change”, you know, people sort of glommed on a message that they wanted to hear. The important thing that Obama said as soon as Hillary was out of the race– Remember when both Hillary and Obama were trying to present themselves as populists who are against NAFTA in Ohio? Which is a joke, ’cause they’re both free traders. But as soon as Hillary was out of the race, what did Obama do? He runs to CNBC and says, “I’m a free-market guy. I believe in the market.”

    OBAMA: I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market. I think it is the best invention to allocate resources.

    COHEN: Now, Obama’s a smart man; he knows that in 2008, by 2008, there’s not a free-market. I mean, a few companies have taken over basically every industry. And when somebody announces “I’m a free-market guy,” it’s a softer way of saying “I’m a corporate guy.”Obama’s smart enough not to say that. But I think what’s happened was the left was so intent on getting the Clintonites out and defeating Hillary Clinton, which brought with it all the baggage of the Clintonites that the left had suffered through for eight years of what we consider DLC, Democratic Leadership Council governing, that there was this sense that while Obama’s got some of these same connections, at least he’s not a Clintonite and he’s not in the DLC. And it turns out he’s sort of a newer incarnation of the corporate Democrat. And what we’ve seen after one year is that while Bill Clinton, who’s as slick as any candidate ever was in ’92, or Obama, who’s as slick as even the “slickster” (which is what they used to call Slick Willy, Bill Clinton) in 2008, you have to govern, ultimately. You can’t get reelected, you can’t even get your people to win the congressional elections two years later, unless you deliver for the swing voter. And it turns out that Obama is just so tied to these economic advisers that he brought from the Wall Street Democrats that he’s just bungled away his first year. And the American public wanted change; they voted for change. He didn’t deliver change, and now the Republicans, the faux Republicans, are posing as the populists who will deliver change.

    JAY: Okay. So in the next second of our interview, let’s talk a bit about the historical struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party, assuming there is one, and where it might be going now. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Jeff Cohen. [Progressives and the Democratic Party Pt.2]

    So did anti-DLC zeal really give us Obama? Will the same zeal now finally nail shut the Clinton coffin lid for good? Let’s hope so, and that, if Chelsea ever does run, she’s seen as the elite’s zombie candidate.

  16. Sluggeaux

    Yes, thanks for the clip of Bernie lambasting Marie Antoinette Greenspan. It made my heart soar like an eagle.

    Yves, sorry that I’ve been light in the Tip Jar — my spare change has been going to the Sanders campaign. My two daughters, who will both be voting in their first presidential election this year, got Bernie Sanders donations in their Christmas stockings — and both are passionate supporters. As are their large wave of first-tim voter friends whose youthful feminism starts at with equity before gender (learned via the “Yay Dad!” messages on social media).

  17. ekstase

    That interaction with Alan Greenspan kind of says it all. You don’t get the feeling, with Sanders, that his goal is to be “important.” Pretty refreshing.

  18. Skippy

    One of those delirious irony’s is now – how after his stuff failed his Jr space cadet followers howled about him being a traitor or some such…. so does – is that a reflection of Greenspan or the followers….

  19. TheCatSaid

    The 2008 Presidential campaign was set up starting in about 1998-1999-early 2000. Read “The Apostles of Power” for a front-seat view of actual events I’ve not seen discussed elsewhere. The book came out in 2012. It was written & published only because it was the only way to avert a major catastrophe–by revealing enough factual information for the key players would know they could not proceed as planned. It succeeded in this goal.

    Only minor details were changed (some names, time sequences as libel protection), as per interviews given by the author in 2012, who confirmed he was physically present at the meetings described.

    This article is excellent and important. The events Martin recounts in his book provide a valuable counterpoint, as they reveal there is even more to corporate-connected individuals’ involvement in current events than we typically realize.

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