Saturday, May 28, 2016

Forget Donald Trump -- Let's Talk About Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump at Rally Mocking Reporter with Disability
Sure, Donald Trump is a jerk — an odious person woefully unqualified by knowledge, temperament, or character to be president. Still, a lot of people support him. They do so for various reasons, none good in my opinion, but that’s another discussion. I want to address one of those reasons; their dislike, and for some, even visceral hatred of Hillary Clinton. For these people, Trump is the lesser of two evils. They are not so much voting for Trump as against Clinton.

Now to be clear, not all Republicans are voting against Clinton because they hate or dislike her. Many are voting against her for ideological reasons. They don't want to see a Democrat in the White House; one who could potentially change the ideological character of the U.S. Supreme Court. So even though they may admit that Donald Trump would be dangerous as the leader of the most powerful country in the world, they are willing to risk "destroying the world in order to save it," to paraphrase an infamous U.S. officer's explanation for the almost total destruction of Bến Tre, during the Vietnam War.

I’m not going to bother addressing the people who hate Clinton. Hate is not something you reason with, but something from which you distance yourself. So let's talk about why people dislike Hillary Clinton so much they're either planning not to vote, or, as one of my Republican friends said, "I'm holding my nose and voting for Trump."

There are quite a few reasons given for disliking Hillary Clinton, but in my view they boil down to the following:

(1) Hillary Clinton is not a "real progressive." She’s too cozy with Wall Street; she's taken campaign contributions from PACs; Charles Koch of the ultra-evil Koch Brothers endorsed her (he didn't); she's "hawkish;" and last but not least, she's not Bernie Sanders.

(2) Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy — in Republican speak, she's a “liar.”


Not a Real Progressive

On being "progressive" in a political sense, my bet is that most Americans have their own ideas about what that means. The Nation, in a recent article co-authored by four historians, provides an historical perspective on what "progressive" meant throughout our modern political history. Some of what they write makes for uncomfortable reading for those of us who see racial and religious tolerance as part of the progressive credo.

For some, the label "Progressive" was a substitute for "Liberal," which declined in popular usage among democrats due to Republican success in preceding the label with, "bleeding heart," and conflating it with leftist, socialist, and communist. We democrats can be so thin-skinned, and Republicans are undeniably good at labeling people and groups, as presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump has illustrated in his attacks on other Republican candidates, on ethnic or religious groups, on Hillary Clinton, and on women in general.

The fact that Hillary Clinton has accepted campaign donations from Wall Street firms, and made paid speeches to Wall Street firms, does not make her less progressive than Bernie Sanders. Policy positions and votes on policies across a spectrum of issues determine one's position on the ideological spectrum. Clinton and Sanders have differences -- mostly I think in what each believes can be accomplished, when -- but while in the Senate together, Clinton and Sanders voted the same way 93% of the time.

It should also be noted that accepting donations from outside entities, whether they be Wall Street firms or Emily's List, proves nothing nefarious about Clinton's relationship with any of the contributors to her campaign. If accepting money from Wall Street and big business generally were illegal (and I wish it were), almost everyone in politics would be in jail (not just former Illinois governors).

Now it's true that Hillary Clinton is not going to lead a socialist revolution. I’m good with that, although I’d love to see big money out of politics, and tax policies that narrow the income/wealth gap, as Bernie Sanders (who once again, she's not) has demanded. I believe Clinton can get done what she proposes. I can’t say the same for Bernie (has he somehow missed the Republican Obstructionist Era?).

The best evidence for Hillary Clinton’s values can be found in her upbringing and in her faith. Clinton was raised a Methodist and remains a devout Methodist. As a result she is an activist for social justice, and as such she believes in the dictum of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church;

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Hillary Clinton holding her 1997 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Album for an audio recording of her book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us.

Untrustworthy

Republicans have been painting Hillary Clinton as untrustworthy for decades, including before she was in public office. They’ve turned rumor and innuendo into “scandal” and made a science of anti-Hillary urban myth, creating from it a virtual cottage industry, selling: she’s a crook, she’s a liar, and she’s a flip-flopper.

Let’s be clear, Secretary Clinton has been convicted of absolutely nothing. Unlike Richard Nixon, she can declare, “I am not a crook,” and the evidence would support her. Republicans have tried every which way to convict her of something, and have failed  — no indictments, let alone convictions. When the FBI finishes their investigation of Secretary Clinton’s handling of classified information, Republicans will be disappointed once again.

The details on Secretary Clinton’s handling of email emerged from the shameful Republican circus over Benghazi. The Benghazi Committee’s investigation alone has cost taxpayers some seven million dollars and counting (a combined $22 million has been spent by various committees). Republicans, acting as a tax payer-funded “Super PAC,” have managed to transmogrify a tragic event into a “Secretary Clinton lied about what caused the attack.” Objective research into the immediate aftermath of the attack shows she did no such thing.

When all else fails, the Republican mud machine splashes up the video of Secretary Clinton NOT under sniper fire when landing in Bosnia in 1996, although she said she was when giving a talk about the incident more than a decade later, in 2008. A week after her statement she admitted she misspoke.

Fortunately, for those of us who care about substance, hundreds of thousands of people did not die as a result of this embellishment by Clinton. That happened five years earlier as a result of lies George W. Bush told that led us to invade Iraq (notice I am not souring this, because we all know the story so well, even those of us unwilling to acknowldge it).

I might also remind my memory-challenged Republican friends that Ronald Reagan, in his “awe shucks,” folksy way, was a pretty darned good liar. He ultimately admitted his lie about not selling arms to the Iranian government and using the profit to fund Nicaraguan terrorists, but only under the threat of impeachment. He never did fess up to fabricating his tale about personally shooting footage of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. Reagan spent the war in Culver City, California, where he processed footage from the liberation of the camps. But so what? As with Clinton, no one died as a result of Reagan’s little embellishment.

Finally, let’s talk about how Hillary Clinton has changed her mind on everything from free trade to gay marriage, once again in Republican parlance, she’s flip-flopped. Well, let’s be clear, changing one’s mind does not constitute “lying.” If it did, we’d either all be liars or catatonic.

Hillary Clinton’s shifting views on some things — free trade for example — can largely be attributed to her circumstances at the time. When her husband, then President Bill Clinton brokered the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) she spoke in favor of it. When she was a member of the Obama Administration and Obama was floating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Clinton was a loyal soldier supporting her boss, and his “pivot to Asia.”

Clinton backed away from NAFTA when she campaigned for senator for New York, because upper state New York was losing manufacturing jobs and “free trade” was not a popular concept with unions. It still isn’t, and in her current campaign she’s also changed her tune on the TPP. Her shifting support on these policies makes her a politician, not a liar. Sometimes circumstances change and deals have to be cut; “Read my lips; no new taxes!”

As far as gay marriage goes, I’ll give Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt and believe her when she says her views have evolved; along with the rest of America’s I might add.

The real questions are, what are Hillary Clinton’s core values, do you as a voter share those values, and if she’s elected president, can you trust Clinton to follow through and transform those values into policies?

Least I end this short defense of Secretary Clinton against “the slings and arrows” of her detractors without admitting her faults, I will admit that Hillary Clinton has said some things that are cringe-worthy. Clinton is no saint. But she is also not a terminally ill lesbian, who murdered Vince Foster and plotted to have the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrate the CIA.

The most saintly person I know who actually served as President of the United States was Jimmy Carter — a man I greatly admire. He has been ranked 7th among 44 presidents on integrity. Overall, he’s ranked 32nd.