Joseph Klein: Edit HILLARY'S TWO FACES

One of the online questions posed to Hillary Clinton during the second presidential town hall debate in St. Louis on Sunday evening had to do with remarks she had reportedly made in private to a Wall Street audience, revealed by WikiLeaks, that she has “both a public and a private position” on such issues as Wall Street reform. The questioner wanted to know whether “it is okay for politicians to be two-faced.”  Hillary Clinton rationalized her private remark to her audience of Wall Street benefactors as a reference to “Abraham Lincoln after having seen the wonderful Steven Spielberg movie ‘Abraham Lincoln.'”

The only association Hillary Clinton can legitimately claim with the memory of Abraham Lincoln was when the Clintons traded on his name and rented out the Lincoln bedroom to wealthy donors while she and Bill Clinton inhabited the White House. 

Donald Trump was ready with the perfect retort:  “She got caught in a total lie... She lied. And now she’s blaming the lie on the late, great Abraham Lincoln – Honest Abe. Honest Abe never lied. That’s the big difference between Abraham Lincoln and you. That’s a big difference.”

The latest releases from WikiLeaks revealed other disturbing dimensions of Hillary’s private/public dichotomy. For example, Hillary Clinton, in a bid to win over Bernie Sanders voters, reversed her previous support for free trade deals. Although originally a supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Hillary has in more recent years publicly criticized it.  During her primary campaign against Sanders, Hillary also came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which she had called the “gold standard” while serving as Secretary of State. With respect to the issue of open borders, Hillary Clinton’s so-called fact-check website charges that “Donald Trump and his allies have falsely said Hillary Clinton wants to 'create totally open borders.’” Yet, in a private speech to a Brazilian bank in 2013, Hillary extolled both “open trade” and “open borders,” according to this excerpt released by WikiLeaks: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”

Hillary has time and again publicly insisted that she did not place any classified information at risk from hacking by adversaries when using her private e-mail system and devices while Secretary of State. However, she acknowledged in one private speech, excerpts of which were released by WikiLeaks, that “at the State Department we were attacked every hour, more than once an hour by incoming efforts to penetrate everything we had.”  Hillary also acknowledged security concerns with the use of blackberries for government business at the time she arrived at the State Department. Yet she would have the public believe that her unsecured private system, server and blackberry devices were somehow not vulnerable to enemy intrusion.

During the primaries, Hillary Clinton tried to outflank Bernie Sanders on the Left. However, while railing against Wall Street and special interests in public, a WikiLeaks excerpt of a private speech that Hillary Clinton delivered in 2014 to the securities law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd in San Diego showed her very different side. Hillary said in her speech at the law firm that, as a New York Senator, she did all she could to make sure the “many talented principled people who made their living in finance…continued to prosper.”  

During a February 2016 CNN town hall meeting, Hillary Clinton portrayed herself publicly as the target of intense Wall Street opposition to her candidacy: “The Wall Street interests, the money interests, the Republican political interests are spending a lot of money to try to defeat me.”  Yet in her paid speeches to Wall Street firms, she could not have been more solicitous. In a private speech to a Goldman Sachs audience, Hillary all but asked for donations outright, complaining that “running for office in our country takes a lot of money, and candidates have to go out and raise it.” And where should they go for such donations? The headquarters city of the Wall Street firm she was addressing:  “New York is probably the leading site for contributions for fundraising for candidates on both sides of the aisle, and it's also our economic center.”

In public, Hillary Clinton criticized the “revolving door” between the “well-connected” in business and work in government. Yet in a private speech to another Goldman Sachs audience on October 29, 2013, she lamented that “there is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives. You know, the divestment of assets, the stripping of all kinds of positions, the sale of stocks. It just becomes very onerous and unnecessary.”

Publicly, Hillary has positioned herself as an environmentalist opposed to fracking. However, in an excerpt of a speech to Deutsche Bank in April 2013 released by WikiLeaks, Hillary boasted about how she “promoted fracking in other places around the world… we are truly on a path -- and it's not just United States; it's all of North America -- that will be net energy exporters assuming we do it right.” In another speech in 2014, she blamed some environmentalists’ opposition to fracking on Russian funding of media attacks to undermine the growing industry. Now she is blaming her “reset” partner Russia for trying to influence the presidential election in Trump's favor.

Finally, the self-proclaimed champion of the middle class admitted at a Goldman-Blackrock conference in 2014, that she was “kind of far removed” from her middle class upbringing because of the “fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy.” Those were fortunes, by the way, that Hillary and Bill were able to make for themselves and their foundation by leveraging access and favors from her State Department.

The materials released so far by WikiLeaks only reinforce the late New York Times columnist William Safire’s unflattering description of Hillary Clinton twenty years ago. Safire called her “a congenital liar.” A Bernie Sanders supporter, who was trying to find common ground with Hillary's campaign, wrote her campaign chairman John Podesta that Hillary often “says things that are untrue.” Hillary Clinton has not changed a bit during her career in the public eye. There is no reason to expect that she will as president.