To the untrained eye, Hillary Clinton's new anti-Trump ad may appear to cast the blame of the financial crisis and subsequent foreclosures on Donald Trump, but to the millions of people who were there to witness the carnage, it casts a much more negative light on her.
To the casual observer the ad makes Trump look like the sleazy opportunist that he is, but it also makes the Democrats and Clinton look disingenuous and smug.
The ad opens up with a picture of Trump with his signature sh*t-eating grin plastered across his face with an overlay stating, "In 2006, Donald Trump was hoping for a real estate crash."
The text fades to, "9 million Americans lost their jobs. 5 million people lost their homes." Que the ominous music and scenes of destitute neighborhoods and then another shot of a grinning Trump followed by, "And the man who could be our next president was rooting for it to happen."
Then the coup de grâce: Audio from Trump during an interview in 2006, before the mortgage crisis. "I sort of hope that happens, because then people like me would go in and buy," Trump says. "If there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know, you could make a lot of money."
So what's the problem? The problem is that as much as I hate to admit this, Donald Trump and people like Donald Trump did not cause the financial crisis or the mortgage and foreclosure crisis. People like Donald Trump may have profited from the crisis and taken advantage of rock bottom prices once people lost their homes. They may even have done so with little or no compassion for the people who suffered and who continue to suffer from the reckless and unregulated actions that caused the crisis, but they did not cause it. They did what businesses and investors do. They saw an opportunity and profited from it. Albeit at other people's misfortune.
While one could argue that it was scummy, sleazy, and even heartless, it was not illegal. It may have been, by some standards, unethical, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone on Wall Street that would agree with you on that point. It's business and it's what we've come to expect from the financial sector.
Elizabeth Warren has come out, to a degree, in close to the same vein during a recent speech, saying:
What kind of a man does that? What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their house? What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their jobs? What kind of a man does that? I'll tell you exactly what kind of a man does that. It is a man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure money-grubber who doesn't care who gets hurt so long as he makes a profit off it.
Good point. And she's right. What kind of man does that, and do we want him in charge of and representing the country? Do we want a man who would not think twice about swooping in and buying up homes that once belonged to people who had lost everything through no fault of their own and due to the irresponsible actions of Wall Street? Do we want our president (or anyone representing us in government) to be that uncaring and void of compassion? Should a man who wants to be president of the "greatest country in the world" be able to sleep at night knowing that he profited from his constituents' pain and suffering, much less that he hoped for it? Do we want to give a man like that the power and ability to be able to trigger another financial crisis just for his own personal profit?
What the Clinton ad does, however, is disingenuous. The ad portrays Trump as a predator. The grin, the ominous music, the destitute buildings, and the huge over-sized foreclosure sign all point to Trump as the cause, when he was merely a hyena picking at the carcass of someone else's prey.
While it might be fair to say that Trump is a scumbag for proudly voicing and admitting to being an opportunist post-crisis, the real cause of the crisis were Clinton's close pals.
The real perpetrators were the banks who caused the crisis. If you've seen (or read) "The Big Short" you know that is what investors do - they take advantage of the market. What the banks did, by comparison, was to short the market while advising clients to bet in the other direction -- causing unions, hedge funds, pension funds, and the like to get slammed. It was a Ponzi scheme.
The companies responsible for this have agreed to pay huge settlements while taking no direct responsibility for any of the wrongdoing -- even though they have been accused of using fraudulent documents to kick people to the curb, among other things. Companies like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan Chase.
One of those names, Goldman Sachs, should stand out among the rest as the Wall Street behemoth that has paid Clinton $675,000 for three speeches - a subject of debate and contention with Senator Sanders and his supporters. The other companies equally large are, along with Goldman Sachs, among Clinton's top six donors, having contributed in the neighborhood of $800,000 each to her campaign. Apparently, Wall Street wasn't threatened significantly enough by Hillary's admonition to "cut it out" when she went down there to keep them from throwing money at her.
None of this is a big secret, nor is it some vague insider information. It's a topic that I and many others have written about for years after the crisis. It does beg the question, though, as to whether the Clinton campaign is smug enough to think that we're that stupid or that we've forgotten. And why would she give Trump enough ammunition to very credibly prove her hypocrisy?
Tony Trupiano and I had a conversation about this and other issues on today's episode of T&Z Talk. You can listen to it below and don't forget to subscribe to the newsletter at tandztalk.com.