Clinton’s Leaked Emails Are Problematic–But That Doesn’t Matter

If you had told me back in January that the most objectionable parts of Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs would be revealed, that they would confirm many of my worst suspicions, and that I would barely even care, I would have laughed you out of the room. And yet, here we are.

Julian Assange continued his vendetta against Hillary Clinton–almost assuredly enabled by Vladimir Putin’s team of hackers determined to disrupt the U.S. election–by releasing thousands of her campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails. Those emails included matters that range from the trivial (the Clinton campaign apparently really dislikes Jake Tapper) to the newsworthy. Among the most important of these are excerpts from Clinton’s highly sought-after Goldman Sachs speech transcripts.

And what do they reveal? Basically what we already might have expected from them, for better and for worse. Those of a center-left disposition will find them mostly unobjectionable. Those who are more sympathetic to the Occupy movement and Bernie Sanders-style politics will find them an infuriating confirmation of what they already believed about her worldview. That frankly would–and should–have been a big problem for her, had they been released in a timely manner during the Democratic primary.

Clinton doesn’t take an adversarial attitude towards Wall Street, but thinks the right answer lies in a moderate increase in regulations, agreed on and negotiated in concert with financial industry insiders. She believes that there’s a “bias” against people who have “led successful and complicated lives” and thinks it’s wrong to force people to divest from their assets if they serve in public office. She feels that Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis was overblown and “politicized,” that the economy isn’t as rigged as many claim. She feels that both parties should be “moderate.” She openly praises the execrable Simpson-Bowles framework as “right” and talks about the need to “restrain spending,” even though to many Democrats like myself Simpson-Bowles might as well be a swear word on a par with “Trump” and “Ryan budget.” She advocated for open borders and open trade policies–a stance I happen to agree with as a self-identified global citizen and post-Westphalian democratic socialist, but which would obviously have been news to much of the Democratic base and the labor groups that endorsed her in the primary–and which no good liberal should hold without some fairly dramatic policy counterweights like universal basic income and massive government jobs programs to protect Americans put out of work. Clinton later adopted an anti-TPP and and anti-Keystone Pipeline stance out of necessity when challenged by Sanders, but it’s obvious where her instincts lie. There’s more, but you get the idea.

This is all a very far cry, sadly, from FDR’s legendary Madison Square Garden speech in 1936, in which he declared that “never before in all our history have these forces [organized money] been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.”

All of these are seriously problematic statements–any single one of them, much less all of them, would have sufficed to deny her hundreds of thousands or even millions of votes in the Democratic primary. Had all these statements been released in a timely manner prior to the Democratic primary, we might have a different Democratic nominee today. Nor, given what we have seen from Trump, could it credibly be claimed that a different nominee would have handed the White House to Donald Trump.

But that’s all irrelevant water under the bridge now–at least until the day after election–because Julian Assange and Wikileaks didn’t release this information during the Democratic primary. They released it now, in an obvious and pathetic attempt to throw the election to Donald Trump, a man who would be ten thousand times worse on all of these issues than Hillary Clinton would be on her worst day. And in a hilarious irony, they chose to release Podesta’s emails on the same day that Trump’s sordid comments bragging about sexual assault drove the Clinton story onto the back pages as an irrelevant footnote by contrast.

There will be a day to hold Clinton accountable to better Democratic principles. That day is November 9th, the day after the election. Until then, voters who care about these core economic issues–even if they’re comparatively disheartened by Clinton’s stances on them–have no choice but to ensure that Trump doesn’t get access to the White House, and that Julian Assange isn’t rewarded for the exercise of his vendetta while hiding out in an embassy dodging accusations of rape.

Nothing in the leaked emails should surprise us, for better or for worse. And it doesn’t alter the existential choice looming before the country in November.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.