Hillary Clinton: Who Are We Dealing With?

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By choosing Sarah Sole’s portrait of a pistol packing Hillary Clinton to announce the publication of Doug Henwood’s exposé My Turn, the marketing department at OR Press showed that they know their business.

What could have been a pro forma announcement became an event in its own right as pearl clutching Clinton supporters quickly formed a protective phalanx. For the Nation’s Joan Walsh, the image was “disgusting”, for Peter Daou it was “deplorable”. Sitcom maven and erstwhile Obama speech writer Jon Lovett found it “gross”, James Fallows “campy and preposterous”.  Others, among them Rebecca Traister and Amanda Marcotte, tried to defuse it with lame one liners referencing the book’s likely audience of “left dude bros”.

 

Of course, none of them made even a token attempt to engage with actual substance of the image.

 

And for good reason: the best portraits capture the truth and that’s what Sole’s portrait does.  The undeniable truth is that Hillary Clinton’s routine support of military intervention has led to countless deaths, albeit orders of magnitude greater than a two bit thug brandishing a Saturday night special could ever hope to claim.

 

And that’s what Clinton’s liberal defenders can’t face up to.  So they avert their eyes to the one million deaths from the catastrophic Iraq intervention which Clinton notoriously supported (and lied about , the deaths of a half million children from sanctions imposed during the Clinton I regime, Clinton’s direct support for the coup in Honduras, her cheering on bombings of Kosovo  Sudan and Libya  her signing off on extrajudicial “signature” drone strikes90% of which miss the intended target, all capped by her recent insane prescription for the Syria crisis to send in “hard men with guns.”

 

Clinton’s triangulatory centrism has from the beginning been based on her willingness to make “hard choices” a standard euphemism for a willingness to kill and to sacrifice our own in defense of what she and her bankrollers define as our vital interests.

 

For those investing in Clinton’s carefully groomed image as a pragmatic liberal, this is a recipe for cognitive dissonance as the Hillary of their fantasies collides with the reality of a Thatcherite Iron Lady routinely deploying force as a first rather than last resort.

 

But at a deeper level, Sole’s ultimate subject is not Clinton.  Rather it is Clinton’s target, namely, ourselves.  Clinton’s supporters finding themselves in Clinton’s sights are forced to see themselves and must confront, maybe for the first time, their opportunism, their capitulations and their complicity in the catastrophic neoliberal project.

 

They are appalled by what they see. As they should be.

 

And we should not let them forget it.

 

Chomsky on Sanders 2016 vs. Obama 2008

One of the widely circulated left criticisms of the Sanders campaign claims that the hopes invested in it can be equated with those which were raised for Obama  2008 and with the disastrous outcome which this precipitated.   Some of those doing so cite Noam Chomsky’s rejection of Obama in 2008 as well as his well known suspicion of electoral politics as their grounds for rejecting supporting Sanders.

In fact, Chomsky supports the Sanders campaign.  In the following exchange, I asked him to discuss the basis of his support and why he feels Obama 2008 and Sanders 2016 should not be equated:

Noam,

It struck me that it might be useful to have an on the record answer from you to the following question:

While you have stressed the low probability and also the limitations of a potential Sanders presidency, you have commented somewhat favorably on the Sanders campaign.

This contrasts to your response to Obama in 2008 regarding the high hopes for his presidency to be largely misplaced (correctly as it turned out).

Could you please explain the basis for why your judgements appear to differ with respect to the two candidacies?

John

Chomsky’s response:

“Because the candidates seem to me very different. Even before the 2008 primaries, I wrote (quite critically) about Obama, relying just on the webpage where he presented himself as a candidate. I wasn’t impressed, to put it mildly. And I had also followed his career and statements to a certain extent. On that basis, I felt that the widespread beliefs about him were mistaken.

Sanders I think is a different story. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I think he is a decent and committed social democrat, pretty much a New Dealer, which is a breath of fresh air in the current political spectrum.

The main significance of his campaign, I think, will be if the popular forces he’s mobilized for a continuing and growing active political movement, not limited to the quadrennial extravaganza. And I understand that he’s been calling for that. Again, quite different from Obama.”

 

 

Bernie Lost. Here’s How to Deal with It.

Berniebots are not going to want to hear it, but the fact of the matter, is that Hillary did “win” the debate in the only way that matters: as polls have clearly indicated, she was perceived as having won not just by media pundits but by the overwhelming majority of those who saw it.

Rather than deal with this reality, the left has responded, typically and depressingly, by claiming a conspiracy involving CNN’s corporate ties to the Clinton campaign, allegations of deleted comments from Sanders supporters, pundits

In addition to coming across as foolish and ridiculous, by adopting this line the left obscures what should be the most import lesson from the debate which was how Clinton won the debate.  She did it the old fashioned way, as I pointed out previously, by lying: copiously, shamelessly and with complete assurance knowing that she would not be called out on her lies by the media or by Sanders himself who has interpreted his strategic decision to run a positive campaign as allowing Clinton’s lies to pass unchallenged.

If the Democratic Party base fails to view Clinton’s lies as consequential-dishonest campaign rhetoric to obscure her longstanding sleazy role as a servant of corporations and the wealthy-she will coast to the nomination.

Those who are sufficiently aware of the facts need to expose Clinton’s lies for what they are. That goes for Sanders’s most enthusiastic supporters who believe that they don’t need to do so: that Bernie’s message is sure to catch on and that it will be sufficient to counteract Clinton’s total domination of all of the institutional structures of the DP (not to mention her virtually unlimited funds). The fact is that Sanders remains a long shot, and those who fail to see this are fooling themselves.

And that goes for those on the left who rationally, or more commonly otherwise, view Sanders with contempt. If they think that an unchallenged continuation of four decades of neoliberal governance in the form of a Clinton II administration will constitute anything other than a planetary catastrophe they are deluded too.

Clinton Lies

Any performer knows that “polished”, “confident” and “assured” performances such as that delivered by Hillary Clinton on Tuesday do not just happen. One factor relevant to the specific circumstance was previously discussed: it’s easy to sound convincing in a debate when you can invent whatever facts are required to support your assertions as Clinton did again and again.

But lying is one thing, lying well is something else.

 

And with Clinton we are dealing with a true virtuoso, one whose skills in lying were developed over three decades at the highest levels of public life.

 

Most recently, she honed her craft in her capacity as Secretary of State where, as David Sirota has documented, she lied about the human rights records of numerous governments thereby allowing firms (many of them donors to the Clinton Global Initiative) to obtain lucrative foreign contracts.  Prior to that, as U.S. Senator, Clinton insisted that demonstrable falsehoods about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were “beyond dispute” and “not in doubt” justifying her tragic vote in support of the authorization for the use of force in Iraq. In her tenure as first lady, she was a lead player in undermining core new deal programs and the evisceration of domestic economy through trade deals such as NAFTA, usually justified by lies and fudged statistics.
Running the tape back to her tenure with the Rose Law Firm, she would help develop the arsenal of anti-union tactics deployed by her main client Wal-Mart, with which she now, acccording to the New York Times, claims to have had “serious differences”-a lie, as evidenced by her maintaining “close ties with Wal-Mart executives.”

That was in the past. What this means for the present is that she is now able to invent facts about her record with complete comfort and assurance as displayed on at least the following four occasions on Tuesday:

1) In response to Anderson Cooper’s question,  Clinton declared herself an “enemy” of big pharma.   Michael Moore’s Sicko provided the most effective demolition of this lie, one scene featuring Clinton parading across the stage at her inauguration to the U.S. Senate while displaying the price tag from having been a top recipient of contributions from the medical services industry.  Not surprisingly, Clinton herself walked out of the screening of the film when this scene appeared and an aide later smeared Moore by referring the film as having been financed by Al-Qaeda.

2) A particularly brazen lie was Clinton’s claim that her intervention in the Copenhagen IPCC convention forced China to come to the table to negotiate stronger limits on greenhouse emissions.  In fact,  Rather than achieving a deal, the Obama administration played a leading role in scuttling any possibility for binding limits, according to virtually all environmental organizations in attendance who described the meeting as “a major disappointment”,  and a “huge failure” as “Hopenhagen became Nopenhagen”, in the words of Mark Hertsgaard.

3) Among the more surreal of the evening’s exchanges involved Clinton  divesting “the big banks” of responsibility for the financial crisis shifting the blame to the defunct firms AIG and Lehman Brothers and unnamed “shadow banks”. According to Matt Taibbi these claims would be dismissed as “laughable (by) people in the industry.” But, as Taibbi notes “that’s probably the point – that the average voter won’t know how absurd and desperate it is to point to faceless ‘shadow’ financiers as villains when the real bad guys are famed mega-firms that are right out in the open”, many of them Hillary main campaign contributors.”  Or at least it won’t be known given the lack of interest mainstream reporters have shown in exposing this an other egregious lies.

4) Clinton suggested that rather than fleeing prosecution Edward Snowden should have returned home to “face the music” since “He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower.” Again, likely a fully conscious and transparent lie. As Politifact noted, that Snowden would be protected is demonstrably false since he would have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act thereby exempting him from whistle blower status.

All this raises the question of how she gets away with it.  And the answer here is that, as we all know, outing someone as a liar is an uncomfortable business.  In politics accusing an opponent of lying is the definition of “going negative” something which Clinton’s main competitor, Bernie Sanders, has promised not to do.

 

The corporate media, bought and paid for by same interests as Clinton herself, won’t do the job.

 

That job is up to us.
We either expose her lies or suffer the consequences of corporations and the wealthy continuing to wreak havoc on what remains of the planetary ecosystem and its increasingly impoverished, frightened and angry inhabitants.

Polishing a Turd? (Dis)honesty is the Best Policy

The media’s characterization of Clinton’s debate performance last night as polished is accurate so far as it goes.  But what is elided from the coverage is any reference to what should be understood as the actual noun which the adjective “polished” modifies.  That noun is “liar”. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Clinton’s handlers have managed to polish their turd of a candidate to such a high gloss metallic sheen, but modern PR continues to amaze, and it did so again and again last night.

E.g. Clinton’s looking directly into the camera as she earnestly described herself as an “enemy” of the pharmaceutical industry, an advocate of breaking up the big banks, and “enemy” of Wall Street. That the audience didn’t dissolve into hysterical laughter was a tribute both to  the magic wielded by “communications specialists” combined, of course, with the utter cynicism and incompetence of the mass media which has veiled the leading role of the Clintons in creating the conditions for the financial bubble which burst in 2008.

I suppose it’s progress of a kind that establishment Democrats have returned to their old game of lying about what they will do when they take office. Lies are now necessary since the bankruptcy of the neoliberalism embraced by generations of Democrats has been revealed in all its nakedness. That was not the case in 2008.  What made the Obama candidacy so revolutionary was that at that point the dominance of neoliberalism was so firmly established that a Democrat could be enthusiastically embraced while being entirely up front about his objectively reactionary politics: that he would “take on entitlements” such as social security, that he had no intention of significantly scaling back tax cuts imposed by Republican administrations, and that he would adopt an “all of the above” energy strategy.

Clinton II seems to indicate a return to the former approach in which dishonesty is a fundamental component. This was most successfully implemented by Clinton I whose campaign slogan famously advocated “putting people first.” Anyone with a minimum of sophistication knew very well that his administration would be all about “putting corporations first”, and that’s what happened.

The same will occur in the likely event of a Clinton II presidency. It should hardly need to be mentioned that she was routinely lying through her teeth and doing so with tremendous polish. But reminders of this sort seem to be required for my less skeptical friends, so I’ll issue them here.

The Enver Hoxha Prize

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It’s my great pleasure to announce the initiation of the Enver Hoxha prize for Marxist/Leninist obnoxious lunacy. This year’s prize goes to a DFL, the administrator of a “non-partisan Marxist (Facebook) discussion group.” Where’s the obnoxious lunacy in that, you may ask. None at all of course: here’s where it comes in.

Upon attempting to withdraw from the group-which I had been signed onto (unrequested, needless to say), he immediately reenrolled me. This was repeated on THREE subsequent occasions. By creating this Roach Hotel of the ultra-left (“you can get in, but you can’t get out”) DFL embodies the sprit of Enver Hoxha in a way which one would not have thought possible in these benighted times.

Take a bow DFL! You are this year’s proud recipient of the Enver Hoxha prize for Marxist/Leninist obnoxious lunacy.

Urime të ngrohtë!

Also, worth mentioning is the contents of the discussions which make a near perfect complement to this kind of offensive stupidity-thus nicely linking style and substance. In this capacity, the efforts of participant JR should be noted. who criticized Socialist Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant for “bragg(ing) about how well she has ‘worked with'” other council members on local on living wage and rent control ordinances. Needless to say, Sawant should be ashamed at having any achievements to her credit. If she were a real socialist, like JR and his cohort, she would have none whatsoever. That’s what real socialism is about after all. Doing nothing for anyone! We should have long since learned this, and no doubt my enforced membership in the group is to teach me this important lesson.  Thanks JR. Thanks DFL.

There was, as might be expected, stiff competition for the prize, as there always is from the alphabet soup of Trotskyite sects some of whose efforts I have had occasion to mention previously. Sorry guys. You came up short this time. But the Sanders campaign is providing numerous opportunities to display your remarkable capacities, honed over many generations, for driving away socialism’s natural, albeit much fetishized, constituency: the “working class”. I have no doubt your efforts will pay off.

Keep your shoulder to the wheel, comrades. I know you will!

The Truth about Sanders

Interesting off-the-record conversation with a media professional who noted that a well known liberal editor was wary about appearing too supportive of Sanders and insufficiently enthusiastic about Clinton. The reason? Doing so would “jeopardize (this person’s) status as a member of the club.”

That’s pretty much all you need to know about Sanders. Some marginal ultra-left pundits might claim otherwise, but elites (and those who aspire to move among them) know perfectly well where he stands and what he stands for: and it’s not with them. We can either help them do their job in marginalizing him or work to build the movement coalescing behind him.

The Pope is Catholic

It would seem that the Pope’s recent whirlwind tour should have at least resulted in the understanding of one thing: that the The Vicar of Christ on Earth, the Pastor of the Universal Church, the Head of the Episcopal College, the Metropolitan of the Roman Ecclesiastical Council, is, in fact, Catholic. But this evidently came as a surprise to certain leftists who were taken aback by his notably reactionary positions on “choice”, women’s rights, the nuclear family, and on the sins of the church itself.

The George Zimmermans policing the compound’s boundaries were, it should be noted, temporalily silenced as the Pope delivered his own uniquely virtuosic set of variations on traditional left themes,  denouncing capitalism as excrementum diaboli (“the dung of the devil”) and joining in with Naomi Klein and others in the radical wing of the environmental movement in calling for a green new deal implemented on a global scale.

But it was the final days of the visit which provided an opportunity for them to pounce: the Pope, it was claimed, had met with the much reviled theocratic right wing icon, Kim Davis.

And with that MSNBC’s Chris Hayes sprang into twitter-action to remind us that

“BREAKING: The Pope does not have your politics.”

Also singing from the same hymnal was Salon’s Scott Timberg who pronounced “the honeymoon” with the “cool Pope” over, Kim Davis providing “the tipping point” to the realization that “There’s only so much we’re ever going to have in common with each other.”

Those with some capacity for skepticism might have wondered why Hayes has rarely seen fit to mention that Barack Obama, the patron saint of MSNBC neoliberalism hardly shares the politics of Hayes’s left of center audience. Nor did Timberg bother to observe that the left has little in common with Hillary Clinton, relentlessly hyped to the Salon readership by editor Joan Walsh.

But it wasn’t necessary to do much thinking since the Kim Davis story turned out to be mostly a canard:  Not only had the Pope not met with her personally, he had privately met with an old friend, who happened to be gay, and his same sex partner. And the official responsible for Davis’s appearance in the receiving line is in the process of being sacked by the holy see.

 

None of this made much difference to zealots for whom facts are irrelevant to “the truth” and so few retractions were issued by them when they became aware of the Pope’s schedule on the day in question.

***

That said, there are plenty of reasons to sympathize with those who will never be able to join with the Pope’s forces on the barricades.  Many are still nursing wounds inflicted on them by the church’s teachings or, still worse, by the church teachers themselves. They can be easily excused in directing their rage at a hierarchy which was not only responsible for but continues to cover up a long history of heinous crimes committed under its auspices.

The same can’t be said, however, of another segment of the left whose shotguns are always at the ready to take down those displaying anything less than perfect alignment with left dogma. Always on the look out for any signs of deviance from the official party line,  for them, the continuing success of the Sanders campaign is a constant irritant and has provided many expressive opportunities for their ex-communicative frenzies.

Notable among these was normally reliable former Times journalist Chris Hedges, who, while willing to accept the Pope’s credentials for entry into what he sees as the church of the left, has called for the excommunication of Sanders.  Just as the Pope’s institutional association with the Catholic Church consigns him to pariah status for one sector of the left, so too, for another, does Bernie Sanders for having committed the unpardonable sin of running with the Democratic Party.

While this is, as everyone knows, Sanders temporary affiliation, it elides the fact that Sanders has run, and, with one exception, won, as an Independent Socialist in every election he has entered.  It also disregards Sanders’s numerous expressions of contempt for a Democratic Party which he has referred to as  “ideologically bankrupt,” having “no ideology (with) Their only ideology (being) opportunism.”

But Hedges is not interested in what Sanders does or what he says preferring to simply invent out of whole cloth the claim that “Sanders has been the main obstacle to creating a third party within Vermont.”   This comes as news to those such as State Senator Anthony Polina, of the Vermont Progressive Party who pointed out in an emailed response that Hedges “makes no sense” since  “the Vermont Progressive Party is the strongest, most successful third-party anywhere in the United States.”


Rather than hindering the VPP’s efforts as Hedges suggests, according to Polina “There’s no doubt that our efforts have been helped by Bernie’s leadership; his ability to frame the issues and inspire others to run for office.”

Polina concludes that far from being an obstacle, as Hedges claims, “a third-party. . .  wouldn’t have happened in Vermont if not for Bernie Sanders.”

***


That Hedges has felt it necessary to ignore facts and invent others is by no means an isolated case.  The reasons why need to be recognized by those who are interested in understanding how the left has become irrelevant-why it has now for generations completely failed to offer even token resistance to the neoliberal onslaught degrading the lives of countless millions and now threatening to destroy the planetary ecosystem on which our species depends.


One of these, as I have pointed out previously, involves the left being populated by a range of cranks and fanatics, who, while having numerous differences, are united by inhabiting a fact free reality largely of their own invention.  Another of these involves a distinct form of left fundamentalism which insists on a rigid adherence to dogma which in practice means the inability to work with those they regard as doctrinally unsound on some point of scripture.  Though these are often (though not always) of little ultimate significance, they are sufficient to prevent the assembling of coalitions required to support a serious challenge to elite hegemony.


The combination of the two is toxic: a left whose sectarian dysfunctionality is supported by logically fallacies, trivial factual misunderstandings and dishonest canards.


To recognize this, of course, is in no way a defense of Sanders’s indisputable weaknesses, most notably his disappointing stands on Israel, on the military and his obsession with a “nuclear Iran” and his commitment to maintain the budget busting Global War on Terror.  Nor is it a defense of the vile present and still viler past history of the Catholic Church.


Rather what it recognizes is that political change sometimes involves working within fatally compromised institutional structures, recognizing the degree to which they can and cannot be reformed while other times focussing an eye on their eventual elimination through the exposure of their underlying contradictions to their rank and file base.


The Pope and Sanders have both clearly demonstrated that they are flawed but necessary vehicles through which a left opposition to the savage austerity promoted by neoliberal governance  is finally moving forward.


The legacy factions of the left can either get on board or bark annoyingly and irrelevantly while the caravan passes.