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Local Democrats defend Clinton as WikiLeaks releases speech excerpts about Wall Street

Local supporters of Hillary Clinton found themselves scrambling Saturday following the WikiLeaks report that the former secretary of state, in lucrative speeches, embraced many big business principles that she eschewed in her bitter presidential primary battle with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner said he is still questioning the accuracy of the WikiLeaks report, but added the leaked speech excerpts do not approach the seriousness of Donald Trump’s lewd remarks recorded 11 years ago when he bragged in vulgar terms of his attempts at sexual conquests.

“It doesn’t seem to be inflammatory,” Zellner said of the leaked Clinton excerpts. “But I think she’s going to have to address the situation in the same way which she has done for the last 25 years and the last 12 months. She will take responsibility for anything positive or negative, unlike her opponent.”

Rep. Brian Higgins said the excerpts of Clinton’s speeches didn’t trouble him.

“What she seemed to be saying is that we would prefer as a nation that industry, especially the financial industry, regulate itself,” said Higgins, a longtime Clinton supporter. “But when it doesn’t, that’s when Congress steps in.”

Asked if he was troubled that Clinton, while a private citizen, gave speeches to financial companies like Goldman Sachs for six-figure speaking fees, Higgins said: “That’s her business.”

But Republicans are hammering away at the reports of her sympathetic speeches about Wall Street, even if they find it hard to break through the Trump controversy now dominating the news cycle.

“The unfortunate thing is that the Trump comments have taken coverage away from the story about her comments,” Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said.

He predicted her reported remarks to Goldman Sachs executives before her presidential candidacy began would never sit with the Sanders supporters she still attempts to attract.

“But you can’t find any of that on cable news right now,” Langworthy added.

New York State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox also said the Democratic nominee’s speeches from her private life prove she embraces trade deals that will send jobs overseas despite her public position.

“Her dream is of open borders and open trade which would kill good American jobs,” he said. “It shows her disrespect for the American people that she would lie to them as opposed to what she says privately.

“It only proves what William Safire always said: that she’s a ‘congenital liar,’” he added.

Brian Nowak, who led Sanders’ grass roots efforts in the Buffalo area during last spring’s Democratic presidential primary, said he was disappointed but not shocked to see Clinton’s comments in the leaked emails.

“There’s no surprise to me here with these comments, so I’m not going to feign fake outrage,” Nowak said. “It’s what was expected. It’s what Sen. Sanders was saying during the primary season and what many Sanders supporters were thinking.”

Nowak said the emails show that Clinton is a “neoliberal” with economic views similar to those of former Republican President George W. Bush. For example, he noted that he expects Clinton to support the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal if she becomes president, as she did when she was secretary of state, even though she is now opposing it during the campaign season.

“I don’t see Hillary Clinton as a particularly evil person,” Nowak said. “My problem with her is that she’s not honest with people.”

Nowak stressed, though, that Clinton is far superior to Republican nominee Trump, whom he dismissed as “a Dumpster fire.”

“Compared to Trump, it’s important to vote for Hillary,” he said. “It’s just too bad those are the two options we have.”


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