With his sweeping victory in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders was crowned by liberal voters as king of the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of the Democratic Party. Stumping for Hillary Clinton before the Tuesday vote, Madeline Albright delivered her now-famous “special place in hell” warning to women who don’t help other women. If the Clinton campaign was sending a not-too-subtle message to Senator Warren, they’re going to have to wait a long time, maybe until hell freezes over.
The former Harvard professor has been scrupulously neutral in the race between Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Why? Sanders is the inheritor of the same progressive forces that swept Warren to victory in 2012. Secondly, Clinton’s relationship with Wall Street is too cozy, especially as the beneficiary of outsized speaking fees from the big banks Warren has spent her entire career battling.
To put Clinton’s tin-cup rattling on Wall Street into perspective — and why progressives like Warren are aghast — it would be as if an anti-abortion candidate like Marco Rubio were giving paid speeches to Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Clinton, in response to questions about the speaking fees, at last week’s CNN town hall in Derry, issued this challenge: “Anybody who knows me who thinks that they can influence me, name anything they’ve influenced me on. Just name one thing.”
A challenge that bold hasn’t been issued since Gary Hart dared reporters to follow him around in the run-up to the 1988 presidential campaign. It didn’t take long for the answer to arrive — from the most unlikely of sources. In a 2004 interview with Bill Moyers, Warren accused Clinton, then a senator from New York, of voting for a bankruptcy bill that was sought by the financial industry and that Clinton had previously opposed as first lady.
Asked why Clinton switched, Warren blamed the financial industry donations lining Clinton’s war chest. Of the big banks, Warren said Clinton “worries about them as a constituency.”
For Warren to endorse Clinton in the primary, she’d have to repudiate not only the anti-Wall Street crusade that carried her into office, but also her own words.
There’s another reason for Warren to keep her distance. Clinton has refused to release the transcripts of her private speeches. Who knows what they contain? One attendee told Politico that Clinton in her remarks sounded “like a Goldman Sachs managing director.”
Taken together — the hypocrisy, the greed, the stonewalling — it all serves to magnify Clinton’s underlying character problem. Exit polls in New Hampshire show that on the question of who is more “honest and trustworthy,” Democrats chose Sanders over Clinton 93 percent to 5 percent.
In 2013, Warren signed a letter with the other Democratic women in the Senate encouraging Clinton to run for president. Since then, Warren has clarified that it shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement. Given Clinton’s entanglements with Wall Street, it’s easy to see why.
Eric Fehrnstrom, a Republican political analyst and media strategist, was a senior adviser to Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. He wrote this column for The Boston Globe.