One of the attacks currently being leveled at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the idea that campaign contributions and speaking fees have influenced her positions, although Sen. Bernie Sanders has tried to frame the criticism as a more generalized attack on money in politics. However, the Sanders campaign has been circulating a 2004 interview by Elizabeth Warren in which Warren puts a much finer point on Hillary’s positions on a bankruptcy bill:
On Sunday morning, Jake Tapper tried to get Sanders to admit what he’s been accusing Hillary of, and while he didn’t succeed at that, he shook loose an interesting quote from Bernie:
TAPPER: Her response has been, among other things, to say, “Nobody can point to a vote that I have ever changed because of this.”
And your campaign just put out a section from a book by Elizabeth Warren, a 2003 book, in which she noted, Elizabeth Warren, that Hillary Clinton, as first lady, had opposed a bankruptcy bill in 1998- ’99. And then, as a senator, she voted for the bill. [09:20:11]
Elizabeth Warren wrote — I’m just quoting Elizabeth Warren — “The bill was essentially the same, but Hillary Rodham Clinton was not.”
And Warren basically charges that, because Hillary Clinton had taken $140,000 from banks, she did change her vote.
Now, that’s Warren saying it, not you.
SANDERS: Right. Right.
TAPPER: But do you think that’s an example of Clinton changing her vote?
This is what I think. I think you have a corrupt campaign finance system. I think you have the Koch brothers, billionaires, ExxonMobil. You have Wall Street. You have pharmaceutical companies pouring huge amounts of money into our political process, undermining American democracy.
…TAPPER: OK. But your campaign did send out this excerpt from Elizabeth Warren, and she directly said that Clinton in her view changed her vote.
SANDERS: Well, that’s Elizabeth’s point. I think the point that we wanted to note — I suspect the point that the campaign tried to make was to identify a particular vote that Secretary Clinton cast. And, by the way, they’re sending out 10 things a day attacking me. I should — just to set the record straight on that.
Sorry, no sale on “that’s Elizabeth’s point,” because it was Bernie’s campaign that sent it around. That’s a little gutless. What’s even weirder, though, is Sanders explaining what he “suspects” his campaign of doing, as if he’s some gumshoe on the trail of an elusive serial killer. He seems genuinely not to be in control of his political operation, which naturally makes you wonder what a Sanders White House would be like.
Hillary Clinton fired back at Sanders and (via bank-shot) Elizabeth Warren on Sunday morning’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Hillary explained that her work on the bankruptcy bill in question had to do with protecting women and children, not cow-towing to banks. While she put up a vociferous defense of her record, Hillary was studious about not directly slamming Warren, instead focusing her ire on the Sanders campaign:
CLINTON: When I got to the Senate in 2001, one of the first big votes there was on a version of the bankruptcy bill and I was deluged by women’s groups and children’s advocates groups to do everything I could to make sure that child support and women’s precarious financial situation in case of divorce or not being able to get the kind of funding they needed from a partner or a spouse in bankruptcy would not be endangered. And it was. The current — that bill was making it a very low priority. So I did go to work on behalf of all these women’s groups and children’s groups because they needed a champion. And I got that bill changed. And in return, it had nothing to do with any money whatsoever — and I resent deeply any effort by the Sanders campaign to so imply. It had to do with trying to get a deal…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that’s not what…
CLINTON: — that would protect women. But now let me finish, George, because this has been bandied about and I just want to set the record straight. And so then three years later, part of the — part of what Senator — Senator Warren said, you played. You didn’t play the whole thing, because we’ve been allies. I faced a tough decision and I stood up for women and children. I went to the Senate floor, said that was exactly what I was doing. Then the bill did not pass. It never became law. And then when the next bill came up, 2005, women’s issues were taken care of because I had made that a point back in 2001. And so then I was against that bill. I didn’t get a chance to actually vote against it because Bill was in the hospital having a heart procedure. But I put a statement out. I was against it. So I’m happy to set this record straight. And I really want to, once again, call out the Sanders campaign, which claims they like to run a positive campaign. But they have been quite artful in raising questions and trying to cast doubts about my record.
And I really am not going to sit and take it anymore —
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator —
CLINTON: I have a public record. I have never, ever been influenced in a view or a vote by anyone who has given me any kind of money. So I’m just going to keep setting the record straight.
I give Hillary credit for coming up with a substantive defense here, but this is also a no sale. If her argument is that she made a pragmatic compromise to try and get something good into a bad bill, that’s fine, but it was a bad compromise. Taking on the sanders campaign is a good move, though I question the wisdom of tiptoeing around Elizabeth Warren the way she is. She’s not going to get Warren’s endorsement, but showing the strength to push back directly on her would display some political courage.