Ever since the movie “Wall Street” hit the big screen in 1987, left-of-center pundits and partisans have tried to tie conservatives and Republicans to that movie’s villain, Gordon Gekko. His motto was “Greed is good.” Twenty-eight years later, Ed Morrissey argues that Gekko’s most famous saying seems to fit much better with the facts surrounding a leading progressive political figure. Morrissey is a conservative columnist, speaker, talk show host, author, and blogger at HotAir.com. He shared his analysis with Mitch Kokai for Carolina Journal Radio. (Click here to find a station near you or to learn about the weekly CJ Radio podcast.)
Kokai: Those of us who have seen the movie remember Michael Douglas and this evil character, Gordon Gekko, who loved greed and thought greed was good. This has been tied to conservatives and Republicans ever since. So this is actually a progressive mantra?
Morrissey: … It’s a fascinating movie. It’s actually a really good movie. It’s probably the best one Oliver Stone ever did other than the World Trade Center movie, which was excellent.
But it was an indictment of conservative principles, of free-market capitalism, and this was supposed to be sort of like the reductio ad absurdum of free-market capitalism — a guy like Gordon Gekko getting up and telling stockholders, “Greed is good, greed clarifies, greed succeeds,” that sort of thing. It was a big, long speech.
So, we got a taste of that, more than a taste — we got a double helping full of that — during the last presidential election when Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee. People were going on and on about the car elevator in his garage in his Southern California home outside of San Diego, and Ann Romney’s dressage with the horses. The [Democratic National Committee] actually ran ads about the horse dressage during the summer of 2012, and they were just absolutely burying Mitt Romney in all of these negative ads.
And so you’ve always had this kind of class warfare thing coming from the Democrats until the Clintons made $30 million over the last four years giving speeches to politically connected corporations and politically connected banks in places like Russia, and Saudi Arabia, and all of these various different entities that normally Democrats rail against — the oppressive regimes, and the international banking cartels, and Wall Street players and that sort of thing. All of a sudden this is all good.
And Matt Bai wrote a piece … about, “Well, why do we want a president who is just like one of us?” And he was comparing the Clintons to Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, both of whom are of fairly modest means. … So now the meme is, “Well, we don’t want a president who is just like us. We want somebody who is comfortable with their earning potential.”
The only really downside Matt Bai argued was that they just maybe are a little too acquisitive because they’re compensating for this lifestyle that they’d like to have. Well, if they’ve made $30 million off of just giving speeches in the last three or four years, I think they’ve compensated enough. I mean, this is a couple whose net worth right now is estimated to be in the nine figures, very low nine figures, but if it’s nine figures, very low is not much of a qualifier.
I mean, we’re talking over $100 million of net worth, and that’s the estimate anyway. But they’ve certainly made about $150 million that we know about over the last 15 years or so, from book deals, from speeches, from consultancies that Bill Clinton has tried to, more or less, mask by using a pass-through entity for the payment.
And so all of a sudden … these things are no big deal anymore. “We don’t want a president of modest means. We want somebody who is aspirational. Greed,” for lack of a better word, “is good.” “Greed clarifies” … if you’re a Democrat in 2016.
Kokai: Is this going to be something that ends up coming back to bite Hillary Clinton, or do you think that basically it’s just a case of “if our side does it, we’re going to ignore it,” and conservatives will just have to find some other way to attack her record?
Morrissey: No, no, I think it’s going to make a difference. How much of a difference obviously is arguable. But the difference is this — and, as you know, I’m doing some research on 2016 and how it’s going to impact the vote — and I’ll tell you one thing that I am discovering is one of the reasons Barack Obama was able to change the turnout model so dramatically … is because he was perceived as a transformational, unique individual [who] wasn’t beholden to Wall Street, [who] wasn’t beholden to an establishment. He was the voice of a new generation, and people could sort of project their hopes and aspirations onto him.
The hope-and-change thing … a lot of us conservatives derided it, and we still do, but there was something to that. Because he was who he was, and because his background really didn’t have any of these encumbrances, and because he also never spoke in really specific terms about what it was he wanted to do, people were able to project onto him their hopes and aspirations, and voting for him — this is a key thing that I’ve been hearing — voting for him made the voter feel special. They had an identity. They were looking to the future.
None of those things apply to Hillary Clinton. She has got all of this establishment baggage. First off, she’s got performance issues. When she starts getting into the debates and stuff like that it’s going to … be a real problem for her to explain her way through the Clinton Foundation morass, through the State Department for the four years that she was there, the failures in Libya, the failures of the Arab Spring. Those are all going to come back to bite her. Those are track records; those are things that are going to hang on her.
But even more importantly than that, because Democrats will excuse that, the problem for her and for Democrats is that she is not going to inspire that turnout model. It’s going to probably go back to something very similar to the 2000 model or the 2004 model, both of which were close elections.
Republicans, arguably, didn’t win the first one, and only barely won the second one. Certainly, in the popular vote, Democrats actually came out ahead in 2000. So it’ll still be close, it’ll still be tight, and Hilary Clinton still has a shot at winning it. But Republicans have an opportunity here to offer a future-looking — a forward-looking — candidate of their own.