Wednesday evening, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton joined CNN’s Anderson Cooper for town hall style interviews at an opera house in Derry, New Hampshire. Sanders, who currently leads in New Hampshire with 63 percent of the vote, spoke first.
Sanders went through his usual talking points, attacking billionaires, income inequailty, and Super PACs. He also tried to convince a concerned middle class voter that his desire to raise taxes on him wouldn’t impact his family negatively.
Not quite sure that worked, but it was an amusing attempt.
Awkwardly, Sanders also managed to shrug off questions about Veteran’s Administration’s waitlists and the scandal around that, which has resulted in deaths. That was all unfortunate, Sanders conceded, but we should trust the government to efficiently administer his “Medicare For All” program! (I’d like to opt out of that, thanks. Oh wait, I can’t – he wants to ban private insurance!)
But the real fireworks started with Hillary Clinton. While it’s obvious, whether you agree with her or not, that Clinton is highly knowledgable, it’s also clear why she faces a trust deficit with voters.
One of the most cringeworthy moments of the evening came when she was asked about the exorbitant speaker fees she collected for giving three speeches to investment bank Goldman Sachs. Clinton shrugged the question off, saying she’s spoken in front of a lot of groups, simply to give her honest perspective. Cooper retorted by asking, “Did you have to be paid $675,000?”
“Well, I don’t know,” replied a sardonic Clinton. “That’s what they offered,” she added, to some degree of audience laughter. Clinton pressed further, saying every Secretary of State has done similiar things. But Cooper noted that’s the case only when they aren’t running for office again.
“Well to be honest, I didn’t know I was running again,” Clinton said. “Several times when I was Secretary of State I said, I think I’m done.” When she said this, it was truly quite hard to believe. And many members of the audience seemed to share in that feeling.
From my perspective, she gave a half decent answer. The idea that there was a market transaction and she took the fees they offered? Good for her. But to claim she didn’t think she was going to run for president again at the time? Give me a break. People have to realize that’s an outright lie.
And you know which group of voters really see through her act? Millennials. When confronted with this reality, Clinton seemed confounded. Perhaps you could even say she was speechless. (It would have been better for her had she stayed silent, honestly.)
But in response to Anderson Cooper telling her that in Iowa, she lost voters under 30 to Sanders by 70 points, Clinton blurted out, “that’s amazing.” When he asked her why she thinks this is the case, Clinton simply said, “I don’t know.”
What’s incredible about Clinton is, for all of her experience, she seems to possess an alarming lack of self-awareness. Perhaps she’s been in a pro-Hillary bubble for so long that she’s incapable of seeing how others view her. (This is the woman who admits she hasn’t driven herself around since the Clinton White House era, when many young voters were still in diapers.)
When you say in the same interview that you accepted $675,000 from Goldman Sachs after running for president in 2008 because you didn’t think you were going run again, of course people, especially liberals concerned about corporate influence, are going to think you’re untrustworthy. A cursory look at the donations she’s received over her career tells the same corporatist story.
While I believe Clinton will ultimately beat Sanders, particularly because she polls well with older voters and minorities and should do well in the south, it’s a good thing for the democratic process that Sanders is giving her a run for her money.
Clinton deserves the competition. It might be the only way to keep her honest.