The Problem with Hillary
by Dave Lindorff
CounterPunch (November 03 2016)
With one week to go in this year’s presidential election – an astonishing and depressing contest in which the two least-liked and least-trusted candidates in history are the two choices put up by our two main political parties – it’s time to look past the silly stuff like Wiener’s wiener and Trump’s women to real issues.
Obviously, nobody on the left or center left is going to vote for Donald Trump, but all too many are falling for the Clinton campaign’s main argument, which boils down to: You probably don’t like her, don’t trust her, and realize that she’s a greedy, entitled rich person, but she’s still better than Trump.
Honestly, is better than Trump a good justification for voting for Clinton?
I suppose, if we lived in a peaceful world, if the US were a peace-loving country instead of one that is wasting 55% of our federal taxes on military spending, much of it to terrorize or actually blow up people in other parts of the world – usually places where people are living in abject poverty even before they are bombed and invaded – if we weren’t facing an existential crisis of accelerating climate change that could wipe out most of the human race if something urgent isn’t done, and if there weren’t already 45 million people, or roughly fifteen percent of the US population, stuck below the poverty line, perhaps such an argument would make sense. But the reality is that Hillary Clinton won’t change any of that, any more than President Obama did. In fact, she is likely to make these situations worse, if elected – in some cases perhaps worse than even Trump would do.
For me, the big issue with Clinton has to do with war and increased military spending.
Clinton is, to put it gently, a confirmed and unapologetic “hawk”. She calls for what in the US is euphemistically called a “muscular” foreign policy. Muscular is a term of art in vogue among Washington chicken hawks that means using the US’s outsized military might to pressure or even terrorize other countries into backing US foreign policy (think Philippines, Pakistan, Spain, et cetera), and to invade or subvert those that do not go along (think Libya, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, et cetera).
Clinton – a classic chicken hawk rivaling former vice president Dick Cheney – has made it clear, including in her third national debate against Donald Trump, that she intends to try and impose a “no-fly” zone over Syria if elected. Now recall that Syria is a nation with an internationally recognized government, and that its government, headed by Basher al Assad, while clearly a dictatorship, did what government’s do, and invited Russia to send air support to protect it from a terrorist insurgency known as ISIS, funded and trained by the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries. A US air campaign to try and bar Syrian aircraft and the aircraft of their Russian ally from conducting military actions against ISIS and other elements like Al Nusra (the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda) fighting to overthrow it, would, in the view of top American generals, mean war with Russia.
War with Russia! We haven’t talked about that nightmare possibility since the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we now know the world was saved from a nuclear war only by the cool-headedness of a Russian submarine captain who refused his government’s orders to fire a nuclear torpedo at a US aircraft carrier if US ships continued their attempt to sink him or force his sub to surface and be boarded. Instead, he surfaced his sub and defused the crisis.
Nor is Syria the only flashpoint where Clinton appears willing – even anxious – to try and push Russia to see if President Vladimir Putin (whom she has compared to Hitler) can be forced to choose between a humiliating back-down or all-out war. One is in Ukraine – a country where, as Secretary of State, she helped an opposition led by fascists to topple the government of a Russian ally by funding and fomenting a coup – a coup which ultimately ousted the elected pro-Russian president and led to the installation of a US handpicked junta leadership which sparked the current civil war there. Clinton wants to push Ukraine deeper in that bloody civil conflict by supporting efforts by Kiev to reclaim the eastern, ethnically Russian part of the country which has effectively seceded. She may hope Russia won’t feel compelled to move in with troops and air support, but what if it does?
What’s scary there is that if Russia did decide to directly fight Ukrainian forces, and to occupy part or all of Ukraine – something that even US experts say its military could easily accomplish, how would Clinton respond? She has already pushed the Obama administration to move aggressively to put offensive weapons, including nuclear-tipped missiles, nuclear-capable fighter bombers and Abrams tanks, along Russia’s western border, in the Baltic nations, in Poland and, if we count British military forces, which act in accordance with US directives as part of Nato, Rumania. Would those forces be ordered to threaten or challenge forces facing them inside Russia if Russia moved on Ukraine?
Who knows? These kinds of things develop a life of their own, like Frankenstein’s monster, once lit up by conflict.
At least Trump, who has said some bizarre things in this campaign, has stuck to one wise position, which is that “the US should not be viewing Russia as an enemy”. In his view, the US should be working with Russia on mutual problems like ISIS, and should be doing business with Russia. He’s right. The same goes for China, where Clinton claims authorship of the aggressive “Asian pivot” policy of the Obama administration, which now has the US confronting Chinese forces in the South China Sea, at exactly the opposite side of the world from this country.
Stupid? Yes. Scary? For sure. Good for the arms industry? Yes indeed.
Again (and I’m not suggesting one should vote for Trump, whose prouncements also include calls for using nukes and for boosting military spending), it needs to be said that he has argued against the long-standing position of his own adopted party in calling for a US pullback from Nato, an organization that since 1990 has lost its raison d’etre and is now fighting in places as remote from the North Atlantic as Afghanistan. His explanation – that the European nations aren’t paying their fair share for the “defense of Europe” – may be inadequate, but his point that neither Nato nor the US should be engaging in regime-change military actions around the globe is correct.
Clinton, for her part, unambiguously calls for increased military spending.
Why? US military spending – a staggering $1.6 trillion in 2015 according to noted economist Jeffrey Sachs – represents 37% of all global military spending and exceeds the amount spent by the next seven largest military nations of the world, only two of which (China and Russia) can even be remotely considered military rivals (the others – Saudi Arabia, the UK, India, France and Japan – are not only friendly with the US but are major buyers of US military hardware!).
But enough about war-mongering and military spending.
Clinton is at least as much of a narcissist as is her opponent Trump and is at least as greedy. The Clintons have amassed an astonishing $231 million in personal wealth since Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001. That’s over $16 million net per year over a fifteen-year period. They “earned” this money primarily by giving speeches to wealthy corporations, at more than $250,000 per speech. Clearly, as Bernie Sanders pointed out during his primary campaign, these fees were not paid because of the brilliant insights and words of wisdom offered by Hillary and Bill. Rather, they were a way of buying influence with two of the most powerful people in the Democratic Party. Thanks to Wikileaks, which published the emails of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, we now know both that the secret speeches Hillary Clinton was giving to Goldman Sachs and other big banking firms as well as to other powerful corporate entities were simply fawning peans to those firms and their executives, and promises to do right by them if she were to become president. We know too that Bill’s fixer and agent was actually hustling up major donations to the Clinton Family Foundation along with simultaneous personal bribes to Bill in the form of absurdly high-priced speaking engagements.
Hillary Clinton’s response to the news that she (and her husband) have for the past fifteen years been little more than a pair of tawdry multi-million-dollar hustlers on the make has been to ignore the question and to blame it all on “the Russians”. She is claiming on the basis of no hard evidence, that Russia was the source of the hacks, even when the veracity of those hacks has been admitted, and so nobody should pay attention to them.
And that’s not even mentioning Clinton’s casual willingness to violate basic federal security laws with regard to the protection of state secrets, not to mention the requirements of the federal Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), by conducting all of her official communications during her six-years as Obama’s Secretary of State on a private server in her home. While she initially tried to play “dumb blonde” over that decision, it has become clear from reports on what those communications involved, that her real reason for not using a State Department server for State Department business was that she was basically selling access to her as Secretary of State to both powerful US corporate interests like Goldman Sachs, Citicorp, Barclays Capital and Standard Chartered Bank, and to foreign government leaders, including those of a number of ugly totalitarian states like United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Saudi Arabia. And she didn’t want those communications subject to FOIA searches by prying media and political opponents.
We’re talking here about a top government official and her spouse, himself a former president, selling off US interests to the highest bidder for personal gain. (And remember, two of those entities Hillary was hitting up were Citicorp and Standard Chartered, which both accepted deals with the US Justice Department to pay huge fines for laundering vast sums of drug cartel cash and Iranian funds, respectively, of course both without having to admit guilt.)
Regarding the latest chapter in this ongoing scandal – the announcement by FBI Director James Comey that his agents had found as many as 650,000 Clinton emails saved on the hard-drive of a laptop computer shared by the disgraced former Congressman Anthony Wiener (he of the penis instagrams), and his now-separated spouse, top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. While nobody knows at this point – perhaps even Comey himself – whether some or all of those 33,000 emails improperly erased by Clinton and her staff during the investigation of her private server are included in that huge cache, the odds are good that at least some of them are. After all, Comey knew he’d be taking tremendous heat for announcing this discovery days before the election, and that if Clinton, ahead in the polls, were to still win the election after he did so, his days as FBI Director would be numbered. So he must believe that the contents of some of these emails are so damaging to Clinton that not reporting on the finding before Election Day would have been even worse for him and his reputation.
If it were to turn out that those deleted emails were not just about “birthdays, weddings and other personal things” as insisted by Clinton, the impact upon a Clinton presidency would be devastating, with impeachment efforts likely to be launched immediately after her inauguration.
Already, news of the reopened FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails is cutting her lead in critical swing states, and perhaps more seriously, is putting Democratic control of the House, and perhaps the Senate too out of reach.
This brings us to the final big Clinton issue: her obscene efforts, along with the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) which she had in her pocket from the outset of her campaign, to sabotage the primary campaign of the tremendously popular Senator Bernie Sanders (Democrat, Vermont). This sabotage, we now know from leaked emails as well as from disenchanted party officials like DNC vice chair Representative Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat, Hawaii), who resigned her position, ranged from scheduling early debates between Clinton and Sanders for times when there would be fewer viewers, like during the Superbowl, to planting anti-Sanders hit pieces in major news media, including even the New York Times and Washington Post, and most recently to word that Donna Brazile, interim chair of the DNC, slipped advance word of questions in the CNN Sanders/Clinton debate to the Clinton campaign, allowing her to prepare answers in advance.
The leaderships of many labor unions, including for example the American Federation of Teachers, rammed through early endorsements of Clinton, in some cases months before the first primary was held, often over the strenuous objections of the rank and file. The argument was always made that Sanders, while a good guy, “cannot win”.
How does that play now? Sanders would have been looking at a Democratic landslide today against Donald Trump. Instead we have two corrupt narcissists running against each other, and the entire national electorate is talking about holding its collective nose and voting … and then perhaps, along with many Republicans, puking in revulsion at what they’ve just done.
One last thought. The other desperate gambit of the sinking Clinton campaign is to point to the Supreme Court, currently, thanks to the untimely but fortuitous demise of the junketing Justice Antonin Scalia, evenly divided between conservative and liberal judges, and to warn of the opportunity Trump could have to appoint new Scalia clones over his four-year term as President.
This is just a scare tactic.
First of all, let’s recall that it’s not at all certain that a President Trump would not be replacing liberal jurists. Scalia’s acolyte, Justice Clarence Thomas, who is known for dutifully copying whatever Scalia did, while only 68, is at least as unhealthy looking as was the late Scalia. And Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy, the least conservative of the four right-leaning jurists on the bench, is eighty, and could easily decide it’s time to retire sometime over the next four years. Chief Justice John Roberts, while only 61 and seemingly healthy looking, is prone to serious epileptic seizures, which points to a certain vulnerability, particularly to falls.
On the liberal side of the court, the oldest member is Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, who at 83 is a cancer survivor. That is worrisome, but she seems to be a tough and committed woman, who could well beat the actuarial odds out of sheer intransigence and dedication. The other three liberals – Elena Kagan, 55, Sonia Sotomayor, 60, and Stephen Breyer, 78 – are all seemingly healthy, and should be able to hang on through a Trump presidency.
So really the question is what happens to that Scalia vacancy.
Republicans are already talking about how they would handle that issue in the event of a Clinton presidency: As Senator John McCain has suggested, the could just refuse to confirm any Clinton nominee and will leave the court stymied at 4-4. Democrats, even if they narrowly lose the Senate thanks to Clinton’s corruption and lack-of-trust issues, can simply agree to do the same if Trump wins. They could also pick up where Republicans left off, blocking most federal judicial appointments unless Trump were to offer up a genuine, non-ideological nominee.
So there you have it. The answer to being presented by the two major parties with a choice between two genuine evils is not to vote for the lesser of those evils, but to reject them both. There are, after all, other options, from voting for third party candidates, to writing in Bernie Sanders or perhaps some appropriate expletive.
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (2012).