In the only one-on-one debate before the New Hampshire primary next week, Hillary Clinton got a chance at what amounted to a do-over on her recent comments taking $675,000 in fees for giving three speeches to Goldman Sachs.
Asked about the exorbitant payday during a town hall event in New Hampshire on Wednesday night, the former Secretary of State gave an almost glib reply: "I don't know. That's what they offered."
The response dominated the 24-hour news cycle with many observers, and Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) chiding the comments as coming straight from the “establishment” wing of the party.
One day later, Clinton tried to do some cleaning up, taking the fight right to Sanders.
“I want to run a positive campaign. I have tried to keep my disagreements over issues. But time and time again -- by innuendo, by insinuation, there is this attack that he is putting forth, which really comes down to, you know, anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group, has to be bought. And I just absolutely reject that senator,” she said.
“And I really don’t think these kind of attacks by insinuations are worthy of you. And enough is enough. If you’ve got something to say, say it directly.”
She later admitted she didn’t do a good enough job of explaining her record.
“I did go on the speaking circuit,” Clinton said, noting many former government officials often do. "I spoke to heart doctors, I spoke to the American Camping Association … and yes I did talk to Wall Street. I went to Wall Street before the crash ‘You’re going to wreck the economy because of these shenanigans with the mortgages.’”
The expanded answer prompted a heated exchange about how money, specifically money from Wall Street, affects policy on the presidential campaign trail and in Washington.
“Wall Street is perhaps the most powerful political and economic force in this country,” Sanders retorted, and invoked former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt for his vision of breaking up the country’s biggest banks.
Clinton countered that the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill is the instrument to try to rein in Wall Street and other corporations.
“We’re missing the big picture” if we only focus on “one street,” she said.
Press on if she would release the transcripts for her all her paid speech, Clinton said she would “certainly look into it.”
Her arguments left Sanders, predictably, unmoved.
“The business model of Wall Street is fraud,” he said.