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Friday, April 15, 2016


Question:  Why does a very intelligent person do something that appears stupid?

Answer:  Because, contrary to appearances, it is not stupid.

Question:  Why does Hillary Clinton, a very intelligent person, refuse to release the transcripts of her Wall Street speeches, even though not doing so hurts her, and is therefore apparently stupid?

Only Possible Answer;  Because there is something in the speeches the release of which would hurt her worse than not releasing them.

Question:  What is in them?

Speculative Answer:  Reassurances to the audience, in some form or other, explicitly or implicitly, that they have nothing really to fear from her as President.

Nothing else makes sense.


Chris said...

But she says it's because we ought to hold her to the same moral standard as republicans!

Which is such a laughably idiotic argument.

Tom Cathcart said...

Maybe, Bob. But here are two alternative theories:

1) She thinks like a lawyer. Remember that she wouldn't turn over any of the Whitewater stuff, even though, when it was all released, it turned out there was nothing there.

2) She knows that something she said will be taken out of context and made into a big deal, and she wants an equal chance to do that to the Republican candidate. I guess that really comes down to thinking like a lawyer too. I guess I only have one alternative theory.

Speaking of thinking like a lawyer, it occurred to me last night, while watching the debate, that there's a correlation between our criminal justice system and our political campaigns. In a criminal trial, the job of the prosecutor is not supposed to be to win a conviction at all costs. The prosecutor is supposed to act in the interest of justice. Therefore, he or she should not withhold exculpatory evidence, use legal ruses to gain unfair advantage over the defense, etc., etc. Of course, that is not what happens. The prosecutor typically wants to "win," and winning entails convicting the defendant, so the prosecutor does whatever it takes.

In our political campaigns, the horse race is all-important, so candidates twist the truth about their opponent in order to get the win, and the upshot is that one candidate "wins," but he is sullied, not only by the claims of his opponent, but by his own behavior. Last night, each candidate could be seen at various points with sardonic smiles on their faces as they watched their opponent spin the story, and I thought, "What the hell way is this to elect a president?"

Jerry Fresia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Fresia said...

Tom, you are far too generous. When I read the following this morning - " could anyone who is minimally sentient not know that one of the bedrock truths of recent American politics is that, when it suits their purpose, Clintons lie." - it rang true to me. Option 3: She knows that something she said will be taken in context - namely that she will do anything to become president - and made into a big deal

Chris said...

There's overwhelming evidence for that bedrock truth in this campaign, and even this weeks debate alone.

Tom Cathcart said...

Anyone read "On Bullshit?" Politicians are professional bullshitters. It's their job. Clintons, sure. But also, "My meeting with the pope was not political."

s. wallerstein said...

I.F. Stone

"All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hash they give out".

I think we can safely substitute the word "politicians" for the word "governments".

Tom Cathcart said...

Good one. That's the important distinction.

Jerry Fresia said...

Good point, Tom Bernie plays the game, of course. But I trust you aren't suggesting parity.

s. wallerstein said...

It's always easier for the critical outsider, that is, Bernie up to now, to be honest than for those in power to be so. Chomsky, who remains a critical outsider, is undoubtedly more honest than Bernie.

Once in power, everybody lies, but with different aims. A socialist government lies about different things than a capitalist government does. I'm not sure that a socialist government lies less.

Tom Cathcart said...

Jerry, yes, I think there is parity in the level of bullshit, but once again s. wallerstein makes the right distinction.

Jerry Fresia said...

I think the issue may be drawn more sharply - namely that the process is one that compromises politics and republicanism - if not citizenship, and more. (Perhaps that is what you and S Wallerstein are getting at?) Bernie, to me at least, seems to be actually pointing to the compromising effects of plutocracy as a problem whereas most politicians seem to unreflectively accept the institutional framework as an arena in which to accel; ie, given the reality of the institutions we inherit, how then do with penetrate and advance within them.

By the way Tom, I was just listening to Bernie talk about his meeting with the Pope and while pointing to the Pope's positions on inequality, markets, and the like also said that his meeting with the Pope had nothing to do with "church and state." Might this have been the statement that you referred to?

Tom Cathcart said...

Jerry, this report has both statements.

Your comment, btw, sounds right to me. It also sounds like something that voters in good faith on either side could agree to.

Paul Proper said...

I don't see much of an escape for Clinton here. If there's something damning in the speeches, then her campaign gets badly hit.

And if there's nothing significant in them, we would wonder why these shrewd investors are repeatedly paying her heaps of money for mouthing platitudes. Clinton has very likely judged that her current response incurs less damage.

There is a third possibility which I didn't seriously consider --that each of her speeches contains nothing damning about her candidacy, but conveys such brilliant industry insights that those fellows consider the money well-spent. But she wouldn't release the transcripts as the insights are too precious.

Jerry Fresia said...

Okay Tom, Yes.

Matt said...

I'll admit that I find this a more plausible account than that in the main post, or most of the comments above:

I'd say that many people have forgotten how insane "Clinton derangement syndrome" was, except that some of the commenters here seem to suffer from it, too! (Of course, it's fine to think that Hilary Clinton would be a worse president than Sanders, or would be worse for the country, or the like, but that's not what some of the people here seem to think. I don't think those views are supported by evidence.)

Tom Cathcart said...

Thank you. Matt. Kevin Drum says more articulately what I was trying to say. Having sat through a few political speeches at corporate banquets, I can attest to the fact that anything other than the most anodyne comments would be unlikely in the extreme.

Paul Proper said...

From the article:

"My own guess is that it's vanishingly unlikely Hillary said anything in these speeches that's truly a bombshell. Her entire life suggests the kind of caution and experience with leaks that almost certainly made these speeches dull and predictable."

Sure. If so, we ought to wonder why these shrewd investors have repeatedly paid her heaps of money for mouthing platitudes.

s. wallerstein said...

Because the real deal-making between Hillary and Wall St. went on and goes on in very private environments. Having lots of money to throw around, the Wall St. boys engage in a bit of conspicuous consumption in inviting Hillary to their banquets and showing off their power by having her there and even humiliating her a little.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I think what we ordinary people have trouble understanding is how little $250,000 is to these folks. I see it as sort of a tip, a polite gesture. It means nothing to them and almost nothing to her, save as a kind of reciprocal courtesy. The real corruption is the ease and comfort she feels in their presence.