Hillary Clinton's 'artful smear' an artful dodge

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What being part of the establishment is, in the last quarter, having a super PAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street; that throughout one's life raised a whole lot of money from the drug companies and other special interests.

To my mind, if we do not get a handle on money in politics and the degree to which big money controls the political process in this country, nobody is going to bring about the changes that [are] needed in this country for the middle class and working families – Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders mocks ‘tough guy’ Trump for changing mind on debate Clinton email headache is about to get worse WATCH LIVE: Trump holds Calif. rally after backing out of Sanders debate MORE (I-Vt.), New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Debate.

Surely those remarks couldn't have taken Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonClinton email headache is about to get worse Asian, Pacific Islander lawmakers to endorse Clinton Feds fight to prevent Clinton deposition in email case MORE by surprise.  They were consistent with the central theme of the Sanders campaign.  

Clinton would no doubt like the electorate to believe that the tirade that followed was spontaneous.  It is highly probable that what we saw and heard that night was nothing more than an adroit performance.  Her indignation was transparently feigned.  Her "artful smear" remark was a punchline: an application of the strategy that the best defense is a good offense.

Clinton went into the New Hampshire debate still smarting from her surprisingly inept performance at the Nov. 14, 2015 CBS Democratic Debate. Previously, she had been caught flat-footed.  Sanders and CBS moderator John Dickerson raised questions about her receipt of millions of dollars from Wall Street in campaign donations and "speaking fees."   Clinton responded with what Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilly described as "a non-sequitur" -- 9/11.

Let's get real.

Through the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, Congress erected an impenetrable firewall between commercial and investment banks.  It was designed to shield commercial bank depositors from high-risks speculative ventures.

On Nov 12, 1999 President Bill ClintonBill ClintonWATCH LIVE: Bill Clinton speaks at NJ rally The Hill's 12:30 Report The Trail 2016: Interleague play MORE signed into law legislation that repealed Glass-Steagall. According to economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, that repeal not only facilitated "too big to fail" but expanded the high-risk and all too often fraudulent behaviors that brought the world's financial system to the brink of collapse in 2008.  Both Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenVerizon, striking unions reach agreement in principle What Bernie needs to do right now An all-female ticket? Not in 2016 MORE (D-Mass.) concur with Stiglitz assessment.

Sanders's plan for Wall Street contains three major components: (1) Reinstate Glass-Steagall, (2) end "too big to fail" by breaking up the big banks, and (3) impose a tax on Wall Street speculation that would "discourage short-term gambling."

During the debates, Clinton, who opposes reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, made the bald claim that her "reforms" would be tougher on Wall Street than Sanders's -- a contention that has been refuted by 170 of this nation's top economists:

Secretary Hillary Clinton’s more modest proposals do not go far enough. They call for a bit more oversight and a few new charges on shadow banking activity, but they leave intact the titanic financial conglomerates that practice most shadow banking. As a result, her plan does not adequately reduce the serious risks our financial system poses to the American economy and to individual Americans. Given the size and political power of Wall Street, her proposals would only invite more dilution and finagle.

As Thomas Jefferson recognized when he penned the Declaration of Independence, the legitimacy of any government is contingent upon the "consent of the governed."  Consent is meaningless unless it is "informed." An opposing candidate not only has the right but an obligation to educate the public as to matters that have a direct bearing on their ultimate decision as to who would best serve their interests.

The public has a right to know that four of the top five firms that had furnished campaign contributions to Clinton over the course of her political career are the same Wall Street banks and investment firms whose exponential growth was facilitated by the repeal of Glass-Steagall.  The public is also entitled to know that, after she resigned as secretary of state, Bill and Hillary Clinton received more than $25 million in speaking fees in just 14 months.

When placed in this context, Clinton's claim that her proposals are tougher on Wall Street than those advanced by Sanders and Warren make no sense.  Clinton would have the American electorate believe that Wall Street has donated millions of dollars to her campaign because they want a president who will crack down harder on their fraudulent schemes?

It is a scenario that prompted Dr. Cornell West to observe:  "I was born at night, but I wasn't born last night."

Canning is a retired attorney, author, Vietnam veteran (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968) and a senior adviser to Veterans For Bernie.  He has been a member of the California state bar since 1977.  In addition to a juris doctor, he has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science.  Follow him on twitter: @cann4ing

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