Contra Hillary

The Agonist’s editors have taken a principled stand in favor of Hillary Clinton’s nomination by the Democratic Party for president.  In the tradition of The Agonist, contrary opinions are always welcome, and in that spirit I offer arguments against the nomination of Hillary Clinton.  Fundamentally, I find her an unprincipled person, by which I mean two things: her political principles are opportunistic, and her ethical principles are lacking.  In normal circumstances, these failings would not disqualify her from high office.  Bill Clinton, after all, thrived as president, even though he has these exact same faults, because the times were such that the economy, and the population in general, benefited considerably during his eight years as president.  It was a false prosperity, built on an increasingly mountainous pile of private debt, but economic want did not stalk the land, as it does now.

Twenty years later, our situation is radically different, not just nationally, but globally.  What we need are political leaders with vision, a willingness to work for radical change, and a capability to push the “system” along to be able to enact such change.  This is a very tall order, which even Bernie Sanders does not fully meet, but Hillary Clinton doesn’t come close, because she lacks vision entirely.  She is politically opportunistic, grabbing on to whatever policy seems best suited to garner the most votes.  Setting policy through public opinion polling was always a hallmark of the Clinton presidency, and we shouldn’t be under any illusions.  Electing Hillary Clinton as president doesn’t mean necessarily that Bill Clinton will be back in the Oval Office, but it does mean that the Clinton style of governance shall return.  Everything about Hillary Clinton’s political career suggests as much, from her carefully scripted and nuanced public statements meant to offend the fewest amount of people, to her reliance on the same advisers, such as Robert Rubin, who did so much damage during the Clinton administration.

Let us look at several policy positions that she has held throughout her career, which define her as a reactionary, in the limited sense that she reacts to circumstances rather than trying to mold public opinion and political policy toward a different and better future.

She is by any definition a neoconservative hawk on foreign policy.  She’s made no secret of this.  As Secretary of State she stood in open opposition to Barack Obama’s refusal to commit the United States to military intervention in Syria.  On the campaign trail, she talks about the need for continued military involvement in the Middle East to fight ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism.  The concept that the United States should disengage militarily, and as completely as possible, from participating in a Sunni-Shi’ite religious war, is completely alien to her.  She follows the Madeleine Albright principle of foreign policy, who famously asked:  What good is the strongest military in the world if you cannot use it?  It would never occur to Hillary Clinton that the United States needs to drastically scale back its military involvement overseas, and the entire military-industrial complex, to survive the ongoing global economic depression.

As to that last statement, she doesn’t have an inkling of the economic circumstances facing the United States.  The idea that income inequality is a cancerous debilitation that is destroying the American middle class has never occurred to her.  The fact that she is talking about it now on the campaign trail is entirely forced upon her by political exigencies that result from polling.  She evinces no understanding that some portion of the American public is slipping into Third World economic status, and that the country is politically hobbled by a paralyzed federal government, forcing political power to devolve on to the states, which are financially unable to meet the demands of their citizens.

She is clueless as to her involvement, and that of her husband, in the destruction of African-American families through the War on Drugs and the elimination of welfare programs that are needed now more than ever.  In the 1990’s she spoke viciously about black “thugs,” and she eagerly endorsed mass incarceration, which her husband now says he regrets implementing because it was a mistake.  She cannot bring herself to say that.  Nor does she understand a basic ethical principle: profit from punishment is a perversion; it is a system that turns prisoners into product.  She embraced the conversion of federal prisons into private enterprises run for profit.  This is a Republican economic principle that derives from the belief that the market is superior to public enterprise.  Nothing could be further from the truth when certain fundamental public services are at stake, such as health care, policing, penal treatment, consumer banking, municipal infrastructure, and the military.  There are so many ways Hillary Clinton could have stood up in favor of a forward vision – progressivism if you will – from endorsing Wall Street reform to decrying the conversion of important public services like water supply to private interests.  She didn’t, and she still doesn’t unless forced to on the campaign trail because her poll numbers are lagging.  She is a follower, never a leader, and always wedded to Republican free market solutions.

She still does not understand the tragic political circumstances facing the United States.  She talks about her abilities as a public servant, which are technocratic and bureaucratic talents.  These are very useful qualities to have in many public positions, but not in the presidency.  Hillary Clinton implies she is the person for the moment because of her knowledge of Washington, and her ability to get things done that are achievable on a practical basis.  It took Barack Obama four wasted years to discover the falsity of this premise.  He simply did not grasp in his first term of office that the Republican Party’s position was to oppose him at every turn, to prevent him from achieving any of his goals, and to make the federal government as dysfunctional as possible by paralyzing the Congress and harassing the executive branch and the courts through withholding of appointments.  In this present constitutional crisis, which is the result of the Republican Party abandoning the Constitution, Hillary Clinton’s talents are useless and counterproductive.

Let us not omit to mention the most pressing issue of our time: climate change.  Is there anything in Hillary Clinton’s record that says she takes this issue seriously?  The evidence was mounting even in the 1990’s that this was a growing and urgent public problem.  Al Gore understood that.  Hillary Clinton has been altogether absent in this fight, because she hasn’t the intellectual curiosity to learn on her own why this is a vital matter, and why leadership is urgently needed in order for the U.S. to make the massive changes in its economy and in the lifestyle of every citizen in order for the problem to be addressed.

Ethical Lapses

Her policy stances mesh inextricably with her personal desire for wealth.  She and her husband have earned over $100 million in speaking fees since he left office in 2001.  Hillary Clinton says these fees are what were offered her by various organizations, but she leaves out the term sheet she sends to anyone requesting her services, which set her fees at $200,000 minimum, and requiring either private or first class air travel for her and her staff and accommodation at luxury hotels.  She lives a life of luxury befitting someone in the 1% class.  It has never occurred to her that a firm like Goldman Sachs isn’t willing to pay her $250,000 for thirty minutes of work just so they can hear her wisdom garnered from years of public service.  They don’t care beans about her public opinions.  They want private access to her, they want to generate a favorable opinion in her mind about issues important to them, and they are willing to place a very inexpensive bet on someone with serious potential to become president of the United States, because it means billions of dollars to their bottom line.

This much is obvious to the public, but so eagerly does Hillary Clinton participate in the lifestyle of the rich and powerful, that she cannot comprehend that she is being bought.  This is also evident by the fact that she and her husband have converted their political activities into a corporate brand, which is why they drag Chelsea Clinton out on to the campaign trail.  They are selling Clinton Enterprises, which in their mind is of the stature of Goldman Sachs, or Pfizer, or the Bush Dynasty – organizations which have a product to sell for a profit.  This is the free market run amok, poisoning the political process along the way.  If she had the slightest sense of decency, for example, she would refuse to accept the hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to her by the private firms which run prisons for profit.

The venality of Hillary Clinton is not measured in her personal corruption.  It is measured in her personal participation, and eager endorsement, of a corrupt political system.  This is why people do not trust her.  Her recent conversion to support of a public health care plan is a perfect example of her phoniness.  No one can possibly accept that this conversion came after careful analysis and was based on a heartfelt desire to put in place Medicare for all.  This decision was based on personal opportunism, because her road to the Democratic Party nomination requires it of her if she is to counter Bernie Sanders’ success at promoting the idea.

These criticisms cannot be leveled against Bernie Sanders.  He has throughout a long public career been steadfast in support of unpopular social issues, such as gay rights.  He has railed against growing income inequality from the time Ronald Reagan was in office.  I remember him standing alone in the well of the Senate in 2002 and 2003, explaining why the invasion of Iraq was based on false premises and what type of disaster was bound to ensue.  For decades he has been a Jeremiah, alone in his principles and ignored in his warnings.  But the times have caught up to him, and reality has proven him right.

If I were a puppet master, I would love to put words into his mouth, because he is an imperfect candidate (as any candidate must be).  For example, he would do well to assert that it is necessary to destroy the Republican Party, because his political revolution requires it.  I’ve written about the urgency of this matter here, and I sense other writers, such as Elias Isquith in this article about David Brooks, are on the verge of coming to the same conclusion.

In my view Bernie Sanders is the quintessentially necessary political figure at the moment, despite some weaknesses, despite his age, and despite the assured opposition he will receive from a Republican Party.  Hillary Clinton is a political figure of the past, and a representative par excellence of a corrupt political system.

The only reason to vote for her, and I will if she is nominated, is that any Republican alternative would be an utter disaster.  But America should stop voting against candidates and start voting for candidates.  We liberals thought that is what we were doing when we voted for Barack Obama in 2008.  We were cruelly disappointed.  He was a neocon of the Clinton variety, surrounding himself with Clinton administration incompetents on economic, foreign, and social policies.  We do not need another Clinton of the exact same nature as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  Whatever Hillary Clinton says on the campaign trail, rest assured it is political opportunism.  Once in the Oval Office, she will be more of the same, and while it is manifestly untrue that we should be indifferent to whether a Clinton is in the White House or a Republican, it is obviously true that the United States cannot tolerate any more of the status quo.  If Hillary Clinton represents anything, she is the embodiment of a corrupt political status quo.

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Numerian

Numerian is a devoted author and poster on The Agonist, specializing in business, finance, the global economy, and politics. In real life he goes by the non-nom de plume of Garrett Glass and hides out in Oak Park, IL, where he spends time writing novels on early Christianity (and an occasional tract on God and religion). You can follow his writing career on his website, jehoshuathebook.com.

30 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Joe Bageant is still pertinent 5+ years later.

    But the truth is that when we are looking at the political elite, we are looking at the dancing monkey, not the organ grinder who calls the tune. Washington’s political class is about as upwardly removed from ordinary citizens as the ruling class is from the political class.

    Moneywise, Washington’s political class is richer than the working class by the same orders of magnitude as the ruling class is richer than the political class. This gives the political class something to aim for. To that end, they have adopted the ruling elite’s behaviors, tastes and lifestyles, with an eye on becoming members.

    Along with the habits, the political class adopts the ruling class’s social canon and presumptions, especially the one most necessary for acceptance: That the public has the collective intelligence of a chicken. [ ] …as a group, the political elites think, look and act alike, and act toward their own interests.

  • To be fair I unilaterally endorsed Hillary here with only weak support from the editors I’d talked to. My use of the word “we” was top-down.

    They were more in favor of my earlier plan to split the Agonist endorsement between the two top Dems, but Sanders economics kept looking worse the deeper I dove.

    Re Hillary’s foreign policy, I don’t see a run toward isolationism as prudent. We do as a nation need to learn lessons from the all revolutions, civil wars, and interventions that have unfolded. We’ll rarely be “greeted as liberators” and state building in the middle east is harder than many like to admit.

    But ISIS and Russia and China and dozens of other groups will continue to expand their turf as they’re able. Without US/NATO presence, actors with even less scruples than assigned to the US military will fill the power vacuum and the headlines won’t be pretty.

    I agree that some of the things she talks about on stage are driven by whatever the citizens are interested in this week. But I think that to say that any of these issues are new to her is disingenuous.

    Here’s some of what she’s been up to on income inequality.

    She’s been involved in race issues since college. One of her first projects was tracking segregation. Her site has more. And on the general economy. And on Wall Street, where her finance reform platform is miles stronger than Sanders’, who is still hung up on a Glass-Steagall that wouldn’t have prevented the 2008 crash.

    Climate change? Does no one remember her and Obama crashing the Chinese delegation, leading eventually to China coming to the table on emissions? Not the first time she’s called China to task.

    Hillary catches flak for her speaking fees, but they’re described as “industry standard” for a woman of her vast experience. If Dr Phil and Chef Giada can command $200k, why not a Senator and Secretary of State who can talk intelligently on just about any issue put in front of her?

    In short, and to be blunt, I think most claims of “where was Hillary?” are intellectual laziness.

    Others of us were paying attention.

    • However true your claims about her may be, she could be a potentially disastrous choice against Trump, because he will without shame exploit her weaknesses. She comes into this campaign with one of the highest negative ratings of any candidate other than Trump, and because of this she has a way of motivating the Republicans that Bernie does not. And I doubt she would get very far claiming her fees for speaking engagements are on the level of Dr. Phil’s. A celebrity is selling himself; she is selling access to the government. P.J. Podesta raised these points about Hillary Clinton this morning on Salon, under the headline “This is the disaster Democrats must avoid.” He lays out why the Democrats would be throwing away almost every advantage they have against Trump by putting her on the same stage with him. I can’t get the link to work so here is the article.

      http://www.salon.com/2016/02/28/the_case_against_hillary_clinton_this_is_the_disaster_democrats_must_avoid/

      • You ignore the polls that indicate if you aren’t with Trump, you’re against him.

        He has a hardcore following, but very little support outside of those already voting for him.

        If you don’t think Hillary should command that level of speaking fee you’re unfamiliar with how these work. I saw Martha Stewart and Arianna Huffington at a business event in San Jose. Both charge $100k per appearance.

        It’s hard to argue against conspiracy theory about “buying access” and “buying votes”.

        Her history on finance reform and her current platform are both leagues beyond what Bernie has put together.

      • Given the Gallup poll from last June with statistics that 50% of Americans would not vote for a socialist and 40% would not vote for an atheist, Bernie Sanders is hardly the better choice vis-a-vis electability. Especially given that Clinton has been through the ringer for a very long time, and Sanders is basically untouched by the GOP. There is a reason they are hoping to go up against Sanders this November, after all.

        • You are absolutely correct – for now. What Bernie needs to establish is that we already have socialism in America. Nothing could be more socialistic than allowing the financial system to walk away completely unharmed from terrible errors of judgment in 2008, and thereby socializing hundreds of billions of dollars of losses on to the taxpayers. Similarly, corporations have the right to socialize their losses on to their bondholders and the taxpayers by using the bankruptcy courts, which Trump has done four times now. Yet consumers are forbidden to use bankruptcy as a means of dealing with crippling student loans, and the government will hound them for life for repayment of their loans. In fact, if a consumer defaults on a student loan, the loss is instantly socialized to the government, and the banks who have profited from making these loans walk away free of any losses. What could be more socialistic than giving the financial sector a means to make loans that from the get-go will never come back to hurt them if they lend to the wrong people? This, by the way, is why we have over a trillion dollars in student loan debt, exceeding now all credit card debt. Bernie’s plan of free tuition for community colleges is cheaper than the student loan system we now have, and is consistent with systems like this run in many other countries. Even Trump is now pointing out that socialism is how Big Pharma is given the ability to set drug prices wherever they want since the government is forbidden to negotiate with them on drug costs to Medicare. It’s time to let the consumer benefit in selected areas of the economy from the socialism that is now restricted only to wealthy people and corporations, and to restore free market capitalism to other parts of the economy so that bad investment decisions by corporations are punished by the market, and not socialized to the taxpayers.

          • I think it’s a bit late in the game for the average American voter to be re-educated on the meaning and practice of the various forms of socialism, at least in this election cycle. The problem is that for 100+ years we’ve been very effectively demonizing the Left, equating Communism with Socialism with Dictatorship with Evil. It would require a couple of generations getting an honest education before the word ‘socialist’ ceases to be pejorative and programs can be looked at on their merits instead of the knee-jerk rejection they get today.

            • Yes TARP was repaid. And the revenue for the repayments came from where?

              Possibly the credit cards at 20%+ interest rate and excessive fees?

              At one time such credit card interest rates were considered unethical and illegal.

              What lovely people are bankers. Kind and Gentle in their dealings and manners.

  • Right On Partner…,
    Write On.

    If Hillary Clinton represents anything, she is the embodiment of a corrupt political status quo.

    Yeah…, that is much better than my Facebook private message to Tina when Hillary’s endorsement was posted here…, I described her as “…vile and corrupt”.

    Earlier this week I floated another $100 to Bernie…, and now my emails asking for more are addressed to “Scott R.” instead of just “Scott”. Makes you think that there are real and thoughtful people running his show.

    I do think though…, that a lot of Bernie supporters are really just anti-Hillaryers. If it comes down to her and Trump…, the only way she will win is if the Republicans vote for her out of spite for Trump. And a lot of Bernie supporters are likely to vote for Trump rather than Hillary. I sit on that fence myself.

    And once again…, right on partner…, write on.

    • I don’t believe the Bernie or else crowd on social media. The hardcore Hillary supporters said the same thing in 2008. I do however see the real possibility of republican cross over to Hillary if Trump continues to drive the clown car. personally I relish the idea of Hillary making Trump lose his cool during a debate. 🙂

  • On the necessity of destroying the Republican Party — In 2008, the Republican Party was drowning, and while Obama should have thrown it an anchor, it would probably have been sufficient simply to ignore it as it went under on its own. Bush had totally discredited himself and his party. The Democrats had substantial majorities in both houses of Congress and held the White House. Just push for policies that would help most Americans, for crying out loud! Instead, Obama saved the Republican Party and brought it back to power. He made a fetish of bi-partisanship and speachified about how important it was for both parties to agree on policy. Everything had to be crafted to appeal to the Republicans. They were more important than the American people. He left Republican political appointments in place. He and his appointees jeered at anything approaching liberal Democrats (most memorably, his chief of staff calling us “fucking retards”). The result? Since 2009, Democrats have lost 900+ state legislative seats, 12 governorships, 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats. Way to go, Democrats!

    Clinton is now making the argument that she knows how to reach across the aisle. And if she were able to defeat Trump, she would get the same results.

    • It doesn’t matter how much Clinton knows how to reach across the aisle. I believe the Repu*gnants* hate women even more than blacks. It’ll be 4 more years of gridlock heaven.

    • Right on Partner…,
      write on.

      The Big O (that is a zero.., not an oh) had more than one opportunity to drive a wooden stake into the vampire hearts of the Grand Old Party…, and utterly failed. I waver between feeling that it was on purpose…, or negligence. Depending on how many Hamm’s I have consumed. It won’t be much longer tonight and I will be believing it is a full blown conspiracy.

  • But ISIS and Russia and China and dozens of other groups will continue to expand their turf as they’re able. Without US/NATO presence, actors with even less scruples than assigned to the US military will fill the power vacuum and the headlines won’t be pretty.

    The US has scruples? Ever heard of Palestine?

    Who are “The Agonist” editors?

  •   I have remarked previously that Sanders seems to me to be the only one who is in the race for the sake of the people. There are a handful of other politicians who are in the same category but don’t happen to be running for the Presidency.

      Hillary and the entire GOP slate minus Trump are in it for their own enrichment and the enrichment of their masters, the .1%.

      Trump is in it for the sake of his ego.

      That said, I have a difficult time getting a mental image of President Sanders. I can visualize Trump or Rubio or Cruz. Not without vomiting, but I can see them in my mind’s eye – and reach for the mind’s-eye-bleach. I can visualize President Hillary.

      I cannot see President Bernie. Gravitas? Auctoritas perhaps?
    Maybe my gut is trying to tell me something. 🙁

  • Voting bernie in Calli prime but in real time voting Green. The sad thing is do the sheeple white/black need the bat shit repugs to get them all over that the 1% love their at each others throats. The 1% loves this battle in the end they gain more power and $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

  • For me, all of Numerian’s points are relevant, but there are only two facts that make Hillary absolutely toxic to me: She supported the Iraq war. She supported the Wall Street bailout.

    With those two strokes, she ensured that I’ll never support her political ambitions as long as I live, and I’ll ridicule anyone who does if they opposed those two things.

    Nixon was a better candidate on the issues that matter. And he was, as we well know, a bastard and a crook.

    • I actually voted for Tricky Dicky in 1960. I figured we never had anyone better prepared for the presidency – he ran the show acceptably for a couple of months after Ike had a heart attack. He did have middle class virtues as well as middle class faults. His great failing was that he wanted to rise from Middle Class to the Elite and would do anything to get there. And whether we like to admit it or not, that is a very Middle Class ambition.

    • Without TARP we would still be in a depression, as would a large part of the world.

      She supports Dodd-Frank, which is proving to be pretty effective, and her finance reform platform is the most robust of all the candidates.

  • Thank you Numerian, a good discussion on Hilary, Sander and Trump, with one glaring omission, even in the comments:

    Unions.

    No one wants to join a Union. Generally it is the only option for workers who suffer bad management. Workers have more invested in the success of their employer than shareholders, because the shares are readily sold.

    Employers get the Unions they deserve.

    What is Hilary’s position on Unions? Do she (and Bill) believe in a strong Union movement, and would they dies to uphold the needs of workers?

    My impression of the Clintons is that above all else they love money and attention, and have and will do anything to get both.

    They are not to be trusted.

    As I poster in earlier comment, Jay and I appear to agree on little.

    • My time expired, so here is my revision:

      Thank you Numerian, a good discussion on Hilary, Sander and Trump, with one glaring omission, even in the comments:

      Unions.

      No one wants to join a Union. Generally it is the only option for workers who suffer bad management. Workers have more invested in the success of their employer than shareholders, because the shares are readily sold.

      Employers get the Unions they deserve.

      What is Hilary’s position on Unions? Do she (and Bill) believe in a strong Union movement, and would they dies to uphold the needs of workers?

      My impression of the Clintons is that above all else they love money and attention, and have and will do anything to get both.

      They are not to be trusted, and the will perform machinations to increase they personal wealth, just as Obama has funded his post presidential fortune with wavering support of bankers and his TPP efforts.

      I have less reservations about Saunders.

      Trump may do good, may be populist, or may destroy the republicans. I do not believe Clinton will do any of these. Given the choice between “might” and “will not” I’d take might, and not hold my breath.

      At least Trump will be entertaining.

      • It is tempting just to abandon Hillary Clinton because she is such a product of the neocon, conservative wing of the Democratic Party (which used to be equivalent to the respectable wing of the Republican Party). But it is way too dangerous not to vote for her, and potentially fatal for the country to throw a vote at Trump because he is entertaining, or just to see what happens when the establishment is overthrown. The man has all the attributes of a serious personality disorder. His behavior under stress, or when he is denied something, or when he is boxed in and must admit a mistake, is utterly unpredictable. People like him are dangerous enough in business (see for example the tragic fate of Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Industries, who appears to have taken his life yesterday a day after being indicted, but fortunately had no one else in the car with him). Trump should not be allowed anywhere near political power.

        Please do not join the Trump cult.

          • My ultimate hypothesis is “The Intelligence we practice” is an evolutionary dead end. The dinosaurs existed in multiple forms for 240 million years and were killed by a large meteor. We’ve have about 15,000 “intelligent” years and when I consider the state of the planet, I’m pessimistic.

  • About a year ago, Raja posted a link to The Saker interviewing Paul Craig Roberts.

    There really are no people powerful in themselves. Powerful people are ones that powerful interest groups are behind.

    The only way a presidential election could matter would be if the elected president had behind him a strong movement. Without a movement, the president has no independent power and no one to appoint who will do his bidding. Presidents are captives. Reagan had something of a movement, just enough that we were able to cure stagflation despite Wall Street’s opposition and we were able to end the cold war despite the opposition of the CIA and the military/security complex.

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