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. Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it. What the bankers heard her to say was just what they would hope for from a prospective presidential candidate: Beating up the finance industry isn’t going to improve the economy—it needs to stop. And indeed Goldman’s Jim O’Neill, the laconic Brit who heads the bank’s asset management division, introduced Clinton by saying how courageous she was for speaking at the bank. (Brave, perhaps, but also well-compensated: Clinton’s minimum fee for paid remarks is $200,000).Not good. Just not good at all.
Certainly, Clinton offered the money men—and, yes, they are mostly men—at Goldman’s HQ a bit of a morale boost. “It was like, ‘Here’s someone who doesn’t want to vilify us but wants to get business back in the game,’” said an attendee. “Like, maybe here’s someone who can lead us out of the wilderness.”
While I am more interested in the bottom and middle of the ticket than I am the very top in 2016, a potential Hillary Clinton campaign predicated on soothing the feelings of billionaire Wall Street bankers is going to be a tough sell. Times have changed. The American people, espeically Democrats, are plenty pissed about having Wall Street run the economy into the ground, and then get bailed out by the government, and then complaining that they are getting bashed over it. Having Clinton running around as Wall Street's champion is going to be a hard sell even to the women and children she's fought for her whole life.
Furthermore, Democratic Party politics have changed since 2008. The 'Reagan Democrats' that Bill Clinton courted are either dead or Republicans. There's no place for them in the modern Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton couldn't beat Barack Obama with them in 2008 and the demographics of the party are even further away from her now than they were then. Occupy Wall Street has ignited a broad, anti-Wall Street sentiment in the Democratic primary electorate. And the economy has still not improved to the point to where people have forgotten what happened in the fall of 2008. The white collar professionals courted by Democrats over social issues aren't going to bolt from the Democrats for cracking down on Wall Street. There isn't much upside, I think, to running as Wall Street's favorite in either party, as evidenced by Mitt Romney's various close calls in his quest for the GOP nomination.
And now you've got a popular Pope out there criticizing just these sorts of folks. And he's Person of the Year. And healthy.
If I were in the Clintonista camp, and I most certainly am not, I'd be advising them to steer clear of meetings with Goldman Sachs and start meeting with the fast food and anti Wal-Mart protests growing around the country. This could be a moment just like her Iraq War vote, where she misread the political winds and blew it.