Last night in Nevada, the two remaining candidates to be the Democratic Party’s 2016 nominee participated in a town hall ahead of this weekend’s caucus.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced more questions concerning the $2.9 million she personally made in Wall Street speaking fees. One member of the audience asked why she would not release transcripts of her Wall Street speeches that she contractually required to be created.
Clinton has generally responded in two ways to recent questions about personally taking money from Wall Street banks for speeches and whether that creates a problem for taking on Wall Street interests if she becomes president: To deny the legitimacy of the question and distract from the issue with vapid appeals to identity politics.
But last night, Clinton not only tried to deflect and delegitimize the issue, she also tried to confuse the issue further by dishonestly claiming she had used a Wall Street speech to tell bankers to “cut it out” with fraud in the mortgage securities market and to stop foreclosing on people’s homes.
Investigations by Politico and Pro Publica have shown this to be untrue.
While Clinton did indeed speak before a group of Wall Street executives shortly before the 2008 financial crisis in December 2007 regarding the mortgage market, she actually told the banks the growing crisis was not entirely their fault “by a long shot,” and that people who had taken mortgages on homes they could not afford were mostly to blame. During the speech, after celebrating her “wonderful donors,” Clinton said:
Who is, exactly to blame for the housing crisis? I think there is plenty of blame to go around… homebuyers who paid extra fees to not have to document their income should have known they were getting in over their head.
This is also not true. As it turns out, it was fraud in the mortgage securities market, not homebuyers, that primarily drove the financial crisis – which is why those wonderful Wall Street donors and their firms have been paying billions in legal settlements for the past few years. 
But what about those paid speeches behind closed doors?
Those speeches may be equally if not more problematic for Clinton’s message about getting tough on Wall Street. One Wall Street speech reportedly included a section in which “Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish.”
Clinton first claimed she would “look into” releasing the transcripts, but later changed her position, saying she was being held to a different standard and would only release transcripts if “everyone else did.” It is not clear who “everyone” is in this instance, as her primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, has not given any Wall Street speeches.
Deflections and non sequitur responses pervaded the rest of Clinton’s town hall performance. When she was asked questions about her support for deporting immigrant children, serving on WalMart’s board, and the legacy of NAFTA, she dodged them all and focused on her opponent not being a Democratic Party member until the current election.
Though few answers seem forthcoming from Hillary Clinton herself, one of her allies, David Brock, did try to dismiss the millions Clinton made as merely the “market value” of a speech. So there you have it–Clinton 2016: Let the market decide.