In a Thursday op-ed headlined "Mrs. Clinton, Show Voters Those Transcripts," the New York Times editorial board gets to the heart of why Hillary Clinton's insistence that she will release her paid speech transcripts when everyone else in the race does makes no sense.
On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton further complained, “Why is there one standard for me, and not for everybody else?”
The only different standard here is the one Mrs. Clinton set for herself, by personally earning $11 million in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 for 51 speeches to banks and other groups and industries ...
... Her conditioning her releases on what the Republicans might or might not do is mystifying. Republicans make no bones about their commitment to Wall Street deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Mrs. Clinton is laboring to convince struggling Americans that she will rein in big banks, despite taking their money.
Yes, yes yes. Also, yes.
Clinton — as the Times piece helpfully notes — has run through a series of bad answers about why she gave the speeches and why she is now unwilling to authorize the release of the transcripts of them. She has migrated from some sort of convoluted citing of Sept. 11, 2001 and her work as New York's senator to justify her speech-giving on Wall Street to her current position, which amounts to "I won't do it unless everyone else does it."
The problem inherent in that point is that everyone else doesn't do it. No one else in this race has earned millions of dollars from speeches to Wall Street banks and investment firms. No one else was paid $675,000 for a series of speeches to Goldman Sachs. And, no one else in the race is trying to make the case that despite their financial ties to Wall Street that they are best positioned to hold that industry accountable for its practices.
Those are the facts. Clinton isn't being held to a different standard on the release of her paid speech transcripts. She's being held to a standard commensurate with her place in the race (the front-runner), her emphasis on her resume during the campaign and her message that she is the best equipped to address the economic inequality rampant in the country today.
Politicians don't get to pick and choose the parts of their biography that are fair game. If Clinton can run on her experience as a senator from New York and as the nation's top diplomat, then it is entirely fair for people to raise questions about what she was doing just prior to running for president. Like giving paid speeches.
I've always wondered why Clinton gave so many speeches and kept giving them right up until she announced for president. (The Clintons are not hurting for money, after all.) The Times op-ed raises this same question:
The hazards of Mrs. Clinton, a presidential hopeful, earning more than $200,000 each for dozens of speeches to industry groups were clear from the start. Mrs. Clinton was making paid speeches when she hired consultants to vet her own background in preparation for a run. If they didn’t flag this, they weren’t doing their jobs.
My conclusion? Clinton saw nothing wrong with speaking to these groups — then or now. As for the fees, she almost certainly sees that as capitalism at work; she was paid what the market would bear for someone of her decidedly distinguished resume.
All of which is correct. But, being correct isn't the same thing as being politically smart. And, politically speaking, Clinton's string of excuses for why she won't authorize the release of her speech transcripts don't hold much water.