My Two Cents on How Hillary Clinton Should Answer the Wealth Question

June 26, 2014

My Two Cents on How Hillary Clinton Should Answer the Wealth Question

Photo by Kai Mörk for the Munich Security Conference.

Often it is the easy questions that cause corporate executives and politicians alike to stumble. Case in point, the inability of Hillary and Bill Clinton to put to rest the issue of whether their wealth means the former Secretary of State is out of touch with working families. Watching the questions persist reminds me of Roger Mudd’s interview with Ted Kennedy during the 1980 election when he asked why the Senator wanted to be President. Kennedy didn’t have a good or quick answer to that question either and it became an Achilles’ heel of his campaign. If Secretary Clinton is to avoid a similar fate, she needs a much better answer to the wealth and out-of-touch question than she has given to date.

I’d suggest the following:

1. Acknowledge you are wealthy. There is nothing wrong with success in America, unless you try to hide it or get defensive about it.  

“Yes, we’ve been fortunate to do well as a family since Bill was President, and it is one of the great things about our country that if you work hard and are fortunate to have success, you can live well.”

2. Then dismiss that wealth is a measure of one’s values or ability to connect in public life.  

“Bill and I have been in public life for a long time and we know well that it is the values in our hearts – and not the money in our pockets – that guide our views and drive us to fight to help working families.”

3. Last, there are also some important don’ts that the Clintons should follow. Stop trying to persuade us that you are not rich because you don’t have the wealth of Warren Buffett. That just makes you look out of touch because to families earning $60,000 or so a year, you are very wealthy. And, don’t try to relate to working people by talking about your trips to the grocery store or gas station. Most people probably don’t believe you really go to either, and besides, the grocery store in Chappaqua surely doesn’t look anything like the ones in Topeka, Portland or Norfolk. Instead, keep talking about your views on the issues that matter to you and working families.

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