Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series covering why each and every candidate for president in 2016 is an awful human being who should not for the love of God be elected to any position of responsibility ever.
To be fair, there is a lot to Hillary Clinton. Hillarys Clinton, even. In all her positions she has been substantial and serious. Donald Trump may be a traveling show steamrolling through town, but Clinton has had a recurring gig in American law and politics since before the days of Richard Nixon. She has been a law partner, a First Lady, a Senator and Secretary of State. Long ago she was a “Goldwater girl,” but she hasn’t been an official Republican for decades, so this change of party makes her seem thoughtful instead of flighty.
Thoughtful she is. She is in fact deathly-deliberate about what issues she stresses. She is ready to fear what needs fearing and to reform what needs reforming. Even if her husband is the one who caused the problem, she will fix it. And yet for all her bold speechifying, Clinton is frequently the last to jump on a bandwagon. She is desperately, tragically safe; consistent on abortion, gun control and her desire for power.
Hillary Clinton is, in her heart of hearts, a politician. For just a few the reasons why that is the most cutting pejorative possible, read on.
In 1996 Bill Clinton happily let the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) pass because nobody wanted to risk political capital on gay people’s happiness back then. We know Hillary Clinton eked out her own political path after her husband yielded the White House to George W. Bush. That path took her to a senatorial seat in New York and included being passionately in favor of marriage being between a man and a woman. Activists and liberals, too, tore their hair and screamed with frustration until Obama admitted he was for gay marriage in 2012. Clinton held out against the changing times until 2013. To her mild credit, she never did support the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment idea.
As a senator Clinton demonstrated that she had a chewy, authoritarian center when she – along with hater Joe Lieberman – introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act. The year 2005 felt bizarrely late for such a retro moral panic. But let’s not forget 2005 was the year of national gnashing of teeth over the sexy bit of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. That silly scene lead to Hillary and Lieberman’s bill that would have fined retailers who sold video games with a Mature rating to kids under 17.
More hilarious were her quotes about how video games threaten kids’ innocence, and so “We need to treat violent video games the way we treat tobacco, alcohol and pornography.”
It might be unfair to diss a First Lady for the issues they push on, since the position remains unelected. But Hillary wanted and was given power and influence while serving as wife of Bill. She famously advised him on healthcare and spoke on various issues, and one of them was the urban campfire tale known as “superpredators.”
Everyone was terrified of crime in the 1990s, even though it peaked in 1991 and then began a near-continuous decline for the next decade and a half. The thinkers at The Weekly Standard were sure that we were in a lawless age of sociopathic teen gangers. Three-strikes laws (which Hillary backed) were passed and mandatory minimums beefed up. Everybody was for it, and who were the Clintons to be any different? The 1994 crime bill, which Bill Clinton now claims to regret, included money for more cops, $10 billion to build more prisons and more options for the federal death penalty. Tough on crime was all the rage back then, and Bill road that gravy train to reelection.
Some time around when Ferguson, Missouri became shorthand for “police need reforming,” and when the media noticed cops were a national story, politicians actually began to say something out loud about fixing the criminal justice system. Hillary Clinton was late enough on the issue to trail Republicans from Sen. Rand Paul to Gov. Rick Perry, but dammit she’s all for reform now! Because it’s popular and safe now, and it wasn’t in 1994, 1996 or even 2006.
While a senator, Clinton also introduced another feeble, pandering bill that failed. This one was about flag-burning and would have jailed someone convicted of desecrating that hallowed rectangle of cloth for up to a year. This absurdity is tempered by the fact that at least she did not support a Constitutional amendment on the issue. Nevertheless, protecting the flag should have given her some serious right-winger bona fides. As should her continued support of the death penalty – an issue with waning popularity. What’s a former Goldwater Girl to do to get people to see her as the Nixonian hard-ass she truly is at heart? Got to support the death penalty, but vaguely. Just for the real bad guys.
Between government jobs Clinton started the Clinton Foundation, which accepts foreign donations. Such donations led to hundred-billion dollar weapons deals with 20 nations while Hillary served as Secretary of State. Or rather, one followed the other, and the best excuse seems to be that such things are not illegal, and that 1 followed 2 chronologically, but 1 didn’t necessarily lead to 2.
One of the more interesting aspects of the 2016 race is that in the shadow of the unending Iraq war, the Iraq war is still being brought up. Famously, damningly, and – after many years – regretfully, Clinton voted for the 2003 invasion.
She also holds a great deal of responsibility for the 2011 Libya invasion that is still causing a vacuous ruin in the region, albeit the mostly ignored kind. She wants airstrikes against ISIS, but for now she’s following President Obama’s lead on sneaking thousands of troops in to fight ISIS while pretending that doesn’t count as boots on the ground. Like every other hawk she swears military should be the last resort, but that last resort comes up an awful lot.
One thing Clinton is still happy about is her vote for the PATRIOT Act, which passed in a flurry of post-9/11 terror. She may have eventually staggered under the weight of official “Iraq war bad” obligations, but she is still a security hawk at home who merely pays occasional lip service to an idea of the necessary balance between security and privacy. Anyone at Wikileaks or named Edward Snowden helps terrorists and endangers American lives. Clinton herself is facing an FBI investigation over her private email server and the classified emails it occasionally contained and potentially endangered.
On computer stuff Clinton really is ancient. No matter how much she jokes about wiping a server with a dishcloth, the fact is that she is like any other Baby Boomer politician. She doesn’t understand technology, and she’s not willing to take a stance on it just in case she’s wrong about something. A Manhattan Project about encryption should square everything away. Something grandiose, yet inane.
Clinton’s supporters are not as offensive as Donald Trump’s, or even as in-your-face as Bernie Sanders’, Ron Paul’s or Barack Obama’s in days gone by. It’s not that some people aren’t enthusiastic fans of hers. It’s just that Clinton’s supporters are simply a particular type of feminist or liberal, often women, often older women who have backed her for many years. They (correctly) note that Clinton has faced sexism before, and that it’s time for a female president. Best of all, this female has lots of “experience,” which in politician talk means “has done enough morally dubious things to be considered electable.”
Lena Dunham loves her, because she’s a second-wave feminist at heart. Feminist godmother Gloria Steinem and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright (like Clinton also a hawk) both find it suspicious when their fellow lady travelers go for Bernie instead of the official Woman Who Could Win. Basically, if you’re too square to catch Bernie fever, or if you think sexism is a bigger problem than racism or the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the war in Iraq, Clinton is the woman for you.
Clinton can win again various Republicans, because she is malleable and moderate. She is there if you want someone who just squeaks onto the liberal side of centrist, based on support for gun control and abortion rights. If you want to turn America into Europe, for good and for ill, you back Sanders. If you want to screw the Republicans, and live out second wave feminist dreams about equality in power being true equality, you go hard for Clinton.
There’s a kind of sincerity in her insincerity. She will pander to whoever needs pandering to, or she will confidently take no position at all.
Even Hillary’s supporters don’t seem to be in denial about their candidate’s Wall Street strings. Counting committee money, and her own haul, she has about a $160 million treasure chest for her campaign. Corporate, financial and banking high-rollers count among her donors. Hell, she and Bill together made upwards of $100 million dollars for their speeches at such places as Goldman Sachs. Today, Hillary keeps sidestepping questions about releasing the transcripts of her speech there. During a recent interview she said, “I have never, ever been influenced in a view or a vote by anyone who has given me any kind of funding,” which is too deadpan a lie even for a politician.
But Clinton is that kind of woman. There’s a kind of sincerity in her insincerity. She will pander to whoever needs pandering to, or she will confidently take no position at all. Whatever keeps her in her authoritarian centrist groove, whatever is in fashion for the just-barely-liberal to care about, she is willing to do it. It’s a wonder she’s not already president.