The reason you and I will never see the transcripts of Hillary Clinton's speeches to Wall Street fat-cats -- and the reason she's established a nonsensical condition for their release, that being an agreement by members of another party, involved in a separate primary, to do the same -- is that if she were ever to release those transcripts, it could end her candidacy for president.
Please don't take my word for it, though.
Nor even that of the many neutral observers in the media who are deeply troubled by Clinton's lack of transparency as to these well-compensated closed-door events -- a lack of transparency that has actually been a hallmark of her career in politics.
Nor do we even need to take Clinton's word for it -- as we could certainly argue that her insistence that none of these transcripts ever be seen by the public is itself a confession that her words would cause significant trauma to her presidential bid.
In fact, it appears they'd cause enough trauma that Clinton would rather publicly stonewall -- to the point of being conspicuously, uncomfortably evasive -- in public debate after public debate, to endure damning editorial after damning editorial, and to leave thousands and thousands of voters further doubting her honesty and integrity, all to ensure that no one outside Goldman Sachs, and certainly no voter who wasn't privy to those closed-door speeches, ever hears a word of what she said in them.
Nor should we do here what Senator Sanders kindly declined to do at the Democratic debate last night, which is mention any of the proof -- voluminous as it is, as Sanders conceded in a post-debate interview that cited Elizabeth Warren's criticisms of Clinton -- that during the housing crisis Clinton acted precisely like a politician who'd been bought off by Wall Street.
As Politico has noted, "During 2007 and 2008, when the housing market collapsed and while [Clinton] was also running for president, the Democrats controlled the Senate. Of the 140 bills Clinton introduced during that period, five [3.5%] were related to housing finance or foreclosures, according to congressional records, including one aimed at making it easier for homeowners facing foreclosure to get their loans modified. Only one of the five secured any co-sponsors -- New York Senator Charles Schumer signed onto a bill that would have helped veterans refinance their mortgages."
Two years. One legitimate bill. And even then, only one co-sponsor -- a same-state Senator.
When a Congressional bill gets no co-sponsors, either it's an unserious bill or it's a bill whose sponsor did nothing to push it. Neither possibility is in Clinton's favor.
But enough of that.
The real experts on this topic are the friends and acquaintances of Hillary's who, for whatever reason, have chosen to be candid about what they believe is in those speeches. And it's only that candor that helps explain the longest-running mystery of the Democratic primary -- a mystery that's been ongoing for over seventy days -- which is this: why would anyone pay $225,000 for an hour-long speech by a private citizen who (at the time) claimed to have no interest in returning to politics?
Mr. Sanders has implied that there are only two possible answers: (a) the money wasn't for the speeches themselves, but for the influence major institutional players on Wall Street thought that money could buy them if and when Clinton ran for President; or (b) the speeches laid out a defense of Wall Street greed so passionate and total that hearing it uttered by a person of power and influence was worth every penny.
Per Clinton surrogates and attendees at these speeches, the answer appears to be both (a) and (b).
Here's a compilation of what those close to Clinton and/or the institutions that paid her obscene sums to chat with them are saying about those never-to-be-released speeches:
1. Former Nebraska Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey (Clinton surrogate)
"Making the transcripts of the Goldman speeches public would have been devastating....[and] when the GOP gets done telling the Clinton Global Initiative fund-raising and expense story, Bernie supporters will wonder why he didn't do the same....[As for] the email story, it's not about emails. It is about [Hillary] wanting to avoid the reach of citizens using the Freedom of Information Act to find out what their government is doing, and then not telling the truth about why she did."
2. Goldman Sachs Employee #1 (present at one of the speeches)
"[The speech] was pretty glowing about [Goldman Sachs]. It's so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a 'rah-rah' speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director."
3. Goldman Sachs Employee #2 (present at one of the speeches)
"In this environment, [what she said to us at Goldman Sachs] could be made to look really bad."
4. Goldman Sachs Executive or Client #1 (present at one of the speeches)
"Mrs. Clinton didn't single out bankers or any other group for causing the 2008 financial crisis. Instead, she effectively said, 'We're all in this together, we've got to find our way out of it together.'"
5. Paraphrase of Several Attendees' Accounts From The Wall Street Journal
"She didn't often talk about the financial crisis, but when she did, she almost always struck an amicable tone. In some cases, she thanked the audience for what they had done for the country. One attendee said the warmth with which Mrs. Clinton greeted guests bordered on 'gushy.' She spoke sympathetically about the financial industry."
6. Goldman Sachs Employee #3 (present at one of the speeches)
"It was like, 'Here's someone who doesn't want to vilify us but wants to get business back in the game. Like, maybe here's someone who can lead us out of the wilderness.'"
7. Paraphrase of Several Attendees' Accounts From Politico
"Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish. Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, 'We all got into this mess together, and we're all going to have to work together to get out of it.'"
Did we, though, "All get into the mess together"?
Would middle-class voters considering voting for Hillary Clinton in New York on Tuesday take kindly to the idea that the Great Recession was equally their own and Goldman Sachs' fault? How would that play in the Bronx?
Lest anyone suspect that Clinton doesn't release the transcripts because she's not permitted to do so under a non-disclosure agreement, think again: Buzzfeed has confirmed that Clinton owns the rights to the transcripts, and notes, moreover, that according to industry insiders even if there were speeches to which Clinton did not hold the rights, no institution on Wall Street would allow themselves to be caught trying to block their release.
And Politico and The Wall Street Journal have reported exactly the same information about Clinton's ability to release these speech transcripts unilaterally.
The problem with the quotes above is not merely their content -- which suggests a presidential candidate not only "gushingly" fond of Wall Street speculators but unwilling to admonish them even to the smallest degree -- but also that they reveal Clinton to have been dishonest about that content with American voters.
Last night in Brooklyn Mrs. Clinton said, "I did stand up to the banks. I did make it clear that their behavior would not be excused."
Yet not a single attendee at any of Mrs. Clinton's quarter-of-a-million-dollar speeches can recall her doing anything of the sort.
Release of the transcripts would therefore, it appears, have three immediate -- and possibly fatal -- consequences for Clinton's presidential campaign:
- It would reveal that Clinton lied about the content of the speeches at a time when she suspected she would never have to release them, nor that their content would ever be known to voters.
- It would reveal that the massive campaign and super-PAC contributions Clinton has received from Wall Street did indeed, as Sanders has alleged, influence her ability to get tough on Wall Street malfeasance either in Congress or behind closed doors.
- It would reveal that Clinton's policy positions on -- for instance -- breaking up "too-big-to-fail" banks are almost certainly insincere, as they have been trotted out merely for the purposes of a presidential campaign.
In a nation whose economy nearly collapsed just a few years ago because of precisely the people and institutions Clinton is now "gushy" toward, it's not hard to imagine the three revelations above being enough to cost Clinton the primary in New York and thereafter, at a minimum, the votes in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and California.
Coupled with the many states remaining that Senator Sanders is expected to win, this could leave Clinton in a situation in which she loses 22 of the final 25 states -- enough of a collapse for unpledged super-delegates to abandon her in large numbers at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Certainly, it's hard to understand how any super-delegate could cast a ballot for Clinton in Philadelphia without knowing, first, what the candidate actually believes about protecting America from another greed-driven Great Recession -- or worse.
Seth Abramson is the Series Editor for Best American Experimental Writing (Wesleyan University) and the author, most recently, of DATA (BlazeVOX, 2016).