Gaffe Track: Clinton Tries to Explain Away Her Goldman Sachs Speeches

Rick Wilking / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Hillary Clinton

The gaffe: During Wednesday night’s Democratic forum, Anderson Cooper asked Clinton whether she shouldn’t have taken $675,000 to give three speeches to Goldman Sachs. “Well, I don't know. That’s what they offered,” she replied. That, uh, wasn’t the point of the question, Madam Secretary.

The defense: “Every secretary of state that I know has done that.” Which: LOL! That’s not a great excuse, and also none of them are running for president. Also: “They’re not giving me that much money now,” which is a tougher sell given that they’re giving even less to her rival, Bernie Sanders. Finally, she said that she gave the speeches because she wasn’t committed to running for president.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): This answer is especially strange, but Clinton’s ongoing struggles to explain her relationship with Wall Street—remember this November gem?—are a real liability, especially against Sanders, who is obviously no friend to Wall Street. Not only has she failed to put these questions to rest, answers like her one Wednesday night are so tin-eared as to amplify the problem. And her not-yet-running excuse is risky. Does anyone truly believe she didn’t intend at the time to campaign for president? And if she was considering it, shouldn’t she have skipped the speeches, under her own logic that a candidate shouldn’t give the talks?

The lesson: You can take the money, or you can run, but you can’t take the money and run.