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 strikes, 90% 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.