What leaked Clinton speech transcripts reveal about her campaign

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Luke Dalessandro, Politics Editor

During her primary campaign, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton refused to release the transcripts of multiple paid speeches she had given to a number of Wall Street banks throughout 2013-2015, despite persistent pressure from her then competitor Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

That has since changed as investigative organization Wikileaks has made good on a threat to gradually release over 50,000 hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Among the emails are excerpts from multiple speeches Clinton refused to release. The contents of these excerpts affirm many of the fears uneasy Democratic base voters have had over Clinton consistently on major issues of both before and during the campaign trail. Issues like campaign finance, politics, and trade were all subjects throughout the speeches, and many of the statements made contradict the positions Clinton has taken during her campaign.

Campaign Finance

During a speech from June of 2014, Clinton said, “I lose track, but I think I raised $250 million or some such enormous amounts, and in the last campaign President Obama raised $1.1 billion, and that was before the Super PACs and all of this other money just rushing in, and it’s so ridiculous that we have this kind of free for fall with all of this financial interest at stake, but, you know, the Supreme Court said that’s basically what we’re in for. So we’re kind of in the wild west, and, it would be very difficult to run for president without raising a huge amount of money and without having other people supporting you because your opponent will have their supporters. So I think as hard as it was I think it’s even harder now.” [Clinton Speech For General Electric’s Global Leadership Meeting – Boca Raton, FL, 1/6/14]

Across her long political career, being beholden to special interests has been a common criticism of the Clinton. Her fundraising record has not helped her reputation here either, as across the last 41 years both her and former president Bill Clinton have raised more than $3 billion dollars from special interest groups. Despite this notoriety, Clinton has maintained throughout her campaign that as president she would fight to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, the ruling by the Court decided that restricting campaign contributions from corporations was a restriction of freedom of speech. Yet in this speech Clinton seems to concede that she would be unable to overturn the 5-4 ruling, claiming, “The Supreme Court said that’s basically what we’re in for. So we’re kind of in the wild west you know.”

Politics

At a speech in April 2013 Clinton suggested that to be a successful politician in the U.S you must have a “public and a private position” on issues. “You just have to sort of figure out how to — getting back to that word, “balance” — how to balance the public and the private efforts that are necessary to be successful, politically, and that’s not just a comment about today. That, I think, has probably been true for all of our history, and if you saw the Spielberg movie, Lincoln, and how he was maneuvering and working to get the 13th Amendment passed, and he called one of my favorite predecessors, Secretary Seward, who had been the governor and senator from New York, ran against Lincoln for president, and he told Seward, I need your help to get this done. And Seward called some of his lobbyist friends who knew how to make a deal, and they just kept going at it. I mean, politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.” [Clinton Speech For National Multi-Housing Council, 4/24/13]

Trust with voters has been a struggle for Clinton throughout most of her political career. In a Quinnipiac University poll taken last year, voters were polled on the first word that came to mind when Hillary Clinton was referenced. Among all terms said, the most frequent was liar, dishonest, and untrustworthy were also terms commonly used. A recent New York Times poll showed that 67% of registered voters did not have confidence in her trustworthiness.

Clinton has been a fierce critic of Donald Trump for his ‘secret’ plan to defeat ISIS, saying at the first presidential debate, “He says it’s a secret plan, but the only secret is that he has no plan.” Yet she says here the reason politicians need a public and private position is because “If everybody’s watching, you know, all the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous.”

Trade

In 2014, eight months after the finalized Trans Pacific Partnership proposal was signed, Clinton praised the free trade agreement to a Canadian think tank. “Greater connections in our own hemisphere hold such promise.  The United States and Canada are working together with a group of open market democracies along the Pacific Rim, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, to expand responsible trade and economic cooperation.” [Canada 2020 Speech, 10/6/14] Before Clinton had come out against TPP during her primary campaign, she had lobbied for the bill at least 45 time. Final negotiations of the bill were not completed until October 5th 2015, which has made Clinton’s defense to this that she wanted to reserve opposition to the agreement until after negotiations were completed. Despite this, her previous statements indicate she was hardly undecided on the issue while Secretary of State, saying at a speech in November 2012, it “sets the gold standard in trade agreements.”

Clinton also voiced pro free trade rhetoric in a speech to a Brazilian bank Banco Itau in May 2013. “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, sometime in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”  [05/16/2013 Remarks to Banco Itau.doc, p. 28] Clinton’s statements to the bank have been a point of contention since the leaks, to where Clinton commented on it at the third presidential debate, there she defended it by claiming, “I was talking about energy. You know, we trade more energy with our neighbors than we trade with the world combined. And I do want us to have an electric grid, an energy system that crosses borders. I think that will be a great benefit to us.” Professor for Policy and Governance at the University of Washington Jacob Vigdor commented on the excerpt. In his analysis, he says, “I would read the remark as calling for open borders with both trade and immigration. Otherwise the term ‘open trade and open borders’ would be redundant, he said.”

However, he still said he saw no visible timetable in her results anywhere beyond “sometime in the future.”

While the DNC and the Clinton campaign has refused to verify the validity of the emails, U.S intelligence officials have claimed that they are confident the leaks are a result of  Russian cyber attack. When questioned on these transcripts at the third presidential debate, she quickly pivoted to this, saying “What is really important about Wikileaks is that the Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans. They have hacked American websites, American accounts of private people, of institutions. Then they have given information to Wikileaks for the purpose of putting it on the internet. This has come from the highest levels of the Russian government. Clearly from Putin himself in an effort, as 17 of our intelligence agents have confirmed, to influence our election.”