Wearing blackface is/was an idiotic thing for the Virginia governor or attorney general to do when they were young. It may destroy their political careers and maybe that’s OK. But many more politicians do far worse things that truly deserve severe sanctions and get rewarded for them instead.
What if Hillary Clinton had won 114,000 more votes in four key states? Or, what if she’d picked up the two to three percent of the vote she lost because Bernie Sanders’ supporters sat on their hands on election day? She’d be “Clinton 2” or “Clinton 45” or “the second President Clinton” — and the world would look very different.
In terms of personnel and therefore policy, a Clinton Administration II would look and feel like a mash-up of Obama’s third term and a throwback to figures who populated her husband’s White House during the 1990s. Having moved to the right since Bill’s first term, progressive figures like then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich would be out in the cold. Rahm Emanuel and Timothy Geithner could expect cabinet offers. So could some Bush-era neo-cons like Robert Kagan.
Hillary didn’t promise much change to domestic policy during her campaign. Her biggest proposal was to spend $275 billion on infrastructure, which would have left us $1.3 trillion short of what’s needed. Not that she could have gotten it through the Republican Congress.
The alternate presidential history of 2017 differs most significantly in two respects: foreign policy, and tone.
Clinton’s liberal supporters always glossed over her long history of hawkish, arguably far-right, approaches to military matters. Those who mourn her loss to Trump today have completely forgotten that she convinced Obama to back military coups against the democratically-elected leaders of Honduras and Egypt. She also successfully advised advised Obama to arm and fund radical Islamist militias in Syria and Libya, plunging two modern Muslim countries into civil wars that have reduced them to failed states. Clinton’s famous cackle after a U.S. drone blew up Libyan ruler Moammar Khaddafi’s convoy, leading to his being sodomized by bayonet on video, is terrifying.
“It’s impossible to know which national security crises she would be forced to confront, of course,” Micah Zenko speculated in Foreign Policy in July 2016. “But those who vote for her should know that she will approach such crises with a long track record of being generally supportive of initiating U.S. military interventions and expanding them.”
Two months later, another FP writer penned an astonishing look behind the Kremlin walls at the thinking of top Russian officials worried about the U.S. election: “Moscow perceives the former secretary of state as an existential threat… That fear was heightened when Clinton surrogate Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, recently accused Putin of attempting to rig the U.S. election through cyberattacks. That is a grave allegation — the very kind of thing a President Clinton might repeat to justify war with Russia,” wrote Clinton Ehrlich.
Would Hillary’s tough talk have triggered World War III with Russia by now? Probably not. But it’s not impossible — which shows us how far right she stands politically on the use of the force.
More likely and thus more worrisome, Hillary might have leveraged the current U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan into attacks against neighboring Iran. “I want the Iranians to know, if I am the president, we will attack Iran” if Iran were to attack Israel — even if there were no Congressional authorization or a clear and present danger to the U.S., Clinton said in 2008. “And I want them to understand that… we would be able to totally obliterate them [to retaliate for an attack on Israel].” Unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has a real military and thus a real ability to defend itself — which would mean a long, costly and possibly unwinnable war.
The one arena where most people agree that President Clinton would have been better than President Trump is presidential tone. Yes, “she does yell into microphones and speak in an overly enunciated voice—two factors that may make her seem abrasive.” But this is a woman whose campaign assigned 12 staffers to compose a tweet; they went through 10 drafts over 10 hours. There wouldn’t be any Trump-style 3 a.m. Twitter diarrhea coming out of a Clinton White House.
When George W. Bush was president, there wasn’t one morning I didn’t regret that Al Gore wasn’t there instead. Gore wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. He might not have gone into Afghanistan either. Unlike pretty much every other president, he cared about the environment.
There isn’t a single moment I miss President Hillary Clinton, though. Trump is a disaster, a real piece of crap. But everyone knows it. Because Trump is so loud and stupid and cruel and greedy and corrupt, all liberals and not a few conservatives clearly discern the true nature of his administration, and of the system itself.
If Hillary Clinton were president, the left would still be just as asleep as it was between 2008 and 2016. First woman president! Aren’t we just the best.
Meanwhile, the drones fire their missiles and U.S. troops and spooks prop up tyrants, and the filthy rich rake in their loot.
Trump gives us clarity. That is no small thing.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
The U.S. Senate voted down an amendment that almost every American could have approved of heartily, a Chuck Schumer-sponsored measure that would have allowed the FAA to tell airlines to stop packing passengers into planes like sardines. At a time like this can anyone doubt that this isn’t a democracy?
Can Obama Get Reelected?
Usually I don’t care about political horseraces. Yet I am fascinated by Obama’s reelection bid. Never mind what’s good for the country. I’m dying to hear him make his case for another four years.
I don’t pretend to be able to predict the future. But I have a rich imagination—and I still can’t begin to guess how the president can convince a majority of voters to choose him over the Republican nominee whether he be Mitt Romney or she be Michele Bachmann.
Obama is good with words. But what can he possibly say for himself after this first fiddling-while-Rome-burns term?
The president only has one major accomplishment to his credit: healthcare reform. However—assuming Republicans don’t repeal it—it doesn’t go into effect until 2014. Which, from Obama’s standpoint, actually helps him. After people find out how it transforms the First World’s worst healthcare system into something even crappier and more expensive, they’ll be burning him in effigy.
“Socialized” (if only!) healthcare has driven away the Reagan Democrat swing voters who formed half of Obama’s margin of victory in 2008. Unless the GOP nominates some total loon (hi Michele) or past-due retread (what up Newt) these ideological reeds in the wind will blow Republican.
The other major component of the Obama coalition, young and reenergized older liberals, see ObamaCare as a right-wing sellout to corporations. Nothing less than single-payer would have satisfied them. On other issues it seems that Obama has missed few opportunities to alienate the Democrats’ liberal base.
“The combination of Afghanistan and Libya could bring a bitter end to the romance between Democratic liberals and Obama,” Steve Chapman writes in Reason magazine. “Many of them were already disappointed with him for extending the Bush tax cuts, bailing out Wall Street, omitting a public option from the healthcare overhaul, offering to freeze domestic discretionary spending, and generally declining to go after Republicans hammer and tong.”
Chapman predicts a strong primary challenge to Obama’s left flank—someone like Russ Feingold.
Lefties are also angry about Obama’s other lies and betrayals: keeping Gitmo open, signing off on assassinations and even the torture of U.S. soldiers (PFC Bradley Manning), redefining U.S. troops in Iraq as “support personnel.” Just this week he reneged on his promise to get rid of Bush’s kangaroo courts and put 9/11 suspects on trial.
Everyone—left, middle and right—is furious about his Herbert Hoover-like lack of concern over the economy. While the multimillionaire president blithely talks about a recovery as he heads off to golf with his wealthy friends, unemployment is rising and becoming structural. Obama will surely pay for the disconnect between reality (no jobs, shrinking paychecks, hidden inflation) and the rosy rhetoric coming out of the White House and U.S. state media.
What, exactly, will be Obama’s 2012 sales pitch? I seriously want to know. Think about it: how many other presidents have been so disappointing that they had to distribute lists of their accomplishments so their supporters would have talking points?
Among the highlights of one of these enumerations going around the Internet are:
“1. Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut spending.
“5. Families of fallen soldiers have expenses covered to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB.
“14. Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research.”
I’m in favor of these things. (Although I’m not sure why, with real unemployment over 20 percent and the NSA rifling through my email, I should care about numbers 76—”appointment of first Latina to the Supreme Court”—or 86—”held first Seder in the White House.” Really?)
Will micro-mini-accomplishment lites be enough to pry liberal asses off the sofa on Election Day? I think not. On the Big Issues That Really Matter—war, the economy, civil liberties—Obama is a right-wing Republican. He’s only a Democrat on the little stuff. Liberals won’t turn out big for Obama in 2012.
That goes double for the youth vote, a big bloc for O in 2008. From student loan debt to unemployment (which hits Americans under 30 even harder than other age groups), Obama hasn’t delivered. They’ll sit on their hands.
“We’ve always known that lasting change wouldn’t come quickly or easily,” began Obama’s official campaign announcement.
Remember those Soviet-style “Hope” and “Change” posters from ’08, presenting the skinny Columbia grad as a postmodern Messiah for a nation ravaged by eight years of Bush? Just guessing, but somehow I doubt Obama’s propaganda would have gone over as easily with the caption “Change That Won’t Come Quickly or Easily.”
“It begins with us,” will apparently be one of the slogans for Obama-Biden 2012.
That’s the problem Obama faces next year. In 2008 he told us it was going to begin with him.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL
Blame Politicians’ Lies, Not Apathy
I can’t stop thinking about what Obama said about Christina-Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl shot to death in Tucson.
Christina-Taylor, said the president, saw politics “through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often take for granted.”
Those are disturbing words. But not the way Obama intended.
Obama relies on a deeply flawed assumption: that becoming cynical is an inherent part of growing up.
That’s a lie. As American citizens travel the long road from childhood to adulthood to valued members of the AARP, their political system repeatedly lets them down. Cynicism is taught. Optimism is ruthlessly crushed.
People vote for politicians who break their promises. Disappointed by the limited choices offered by the two major parties, they pick one only to see it repeatedly sell out its purported principles. As year after year slips by they watch the problems they worry about go completely unaddressed, much less solved, by their so-called representatives.
On those rare occasions that “their” government impacts their lives, it does so negatively, with taxes, fines, paperwork, parking tickets. Meanwhile the pols fatten themselves and their cronies at the public trough (before moving on to the even richer private one).
Say you have an absentee parent who drinks up the grocery money and beats you up. To protect yourself you develop a bit of a shell. Who can blame you? When you finally stop talking to the deadbeat SOB, is it fair to call you cynical?
Hardly. You’re merely acknowledging reality. You’d be a fool not to.
In researching this column I found countless articles and studies that try to explain why the United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates on earth. Almost all suggested ways to get more Americans to the polls. None focused on the supply side of the equation: improving politicians and politics so they become more appealing to the electorate.
Ask not, Mr. President, what Americans can do to become less cynical, but rather ask what you and your pals in D.C. can do to deserve our trust.
It’s interesting to ask why many Americans are registered to vote but rarely cast a ballot. (Usually whether or not a person is registered is the best predictor as to whether or not they actually vote.) A 2006 Pew Research survey found that 42 percent of these individuals were “bored by what goes on in Washington,” 14 percent were “angry at the government,” 32 percent said “issues in D.C. don’t affect me,” and 30 percent said “voting doesn’t change things.”
These people aren’t stupid or lazy. They’re cynical, and rightly so. They think the government is evil, irrelevant, or both. Lords knows politicians give them lots of reasons to hold those beliefs.
Start, for example, with President Obama himself.
In a September 2010 interview with Rolling Stone Obama claimed to have “accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do—and by the way, I’ve got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum.”
These politicians! Even in a line about keeping promises, the dude fudges facts. “Minimum”? You can’t assume a second term when you’re president. Moreover, no one who voted for Obama in 2008 wants to wait until 2016 to see the fulfillment of a 2008 promise.
Anyway, Obama has kept a mere 24 percent of his 2008 promises. That’s according to Politifact—and their assessment is generous.
Totally broken promises—promises Obama didn’t even pretend to try to keep—include the following:
He said he would close Guantánamo concentration camp.
He said he would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq.
He said he would create a $10 billion foreclosure prevention fund.
He said he would let the Bush tax cuts expire.
He said he would eliminate warrantless wiretaps.
He said he would eliminate extraordinary renditions.
He said he would eliminate torture.
He said he would create a transparent online database related to government ethics and lobbying activities.
He said he would close the revolving door between government and private sector lobbying.
He said he would create a national publicly funded healthcare system.
So many broken promises. No wonder so many optimistic kids turn into hardboiled adults.
Politicians lie and lie and lie. Then, when we notice, they accuse us of being faithless. Us! What about them?
“I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it,” Obama said. “All of us—we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”
No, Mr. Obama. “All of us” don’t have to do jack. It’s not our job to take an interest in politicians. It’s the politicians’ job to take an interest in us.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL