Friday, October 13, 2017

The Democratic Party As A Hate Group?

From Medium: Today, I opened my "Medium Daily Digest" email and found what turned out to be a rather curious recommendation; whoever is charged with assembling those digests thought I'd be interested in a piece called "The Democratic Party is America's Largest Hate Group." It's written by someone named Austin Frank and it was apparently published at the end of August. Frank is a rightist attempting to critique the Democratic party and, lost in that fever-swamp wherein dwells the worst elements of the Trumpanzee right, failing badly. Still, it was an interesting day to encounter his piece; the Values Voters Summit is kicking off today in the nation's capitol. It’s an event organized by four of the most prominent hate-groups in the U.S., a platform extended to GOP pols and commentators and this year, for the first time in history, a sitting U.S. President will be headlining there. Even as I read Frank trying to conjure his image of Democrats as some sort of hate-group, we're in for an endless parade of Republican reactionaries, racists, conspiracy kooks offering vile ravings against Muslims, brown people from foreign shores with funny accents, gay people, etc. that will go on for days and is now being given the imprimatur of the highest office in the land--an office not occupied by a Democrat.

Dismantling Frank's fantasy seems a waste of time--let's be, yes, frank, he isn't terribly interested in reality--but it would perhaps be unsporting to point out its fever-swamp quality without hacking through at least some of the weeds. So a few items:
"Democrats' abandonment of policy for a full-blown embrace of identity politics: the party seeks to divide the country into victims and oppressors, and claims its moral authority by purporting to be fighting for the victims. The party's message is no longer 'This is how we will make life better for you and your family,' it is, 'Let's take revenge on the white/male/heterosexual oppressors who are responsible for all the evil in the world today.'"
Hillary Clinton abandoned policy and used a weaponized faux-"identity politics" to attack Bernie Sanders last year. A loud but small handful of her cult is still beating that drum today but the progressives, who have always insisted that politics is about policy, are the dominant faction in the party (even though they don't fill many of its leadership roles yet). Clinton isn't "the left"--she's an opportunist who, politically, is basically a rightist who, because she was hopelessly outgunned on substantive matters (and in the wrong party for someone with her views), tried to use that phony ID politics as a cudgel in a campaign. Your own caricature of "identity politics" is unhelpful and tries to wipe away the reality of baked-in problems re:these matters that need to be addressed. "Vote for me because I'm a woman" is a self-evidently stupid non-starter; desperately-needed law enforcement reform is not. Addressing those problems isn't "punishing" anyone; it's correcting injustice. Attempting to prevent those problems from being addressed--by, for example, presenting efforts to address them as aimed at punishing straight white males--does no service; it perpetuates them. And sides with keeping them.
"Think of the 2016 election: as far as a political agenda went, Hillary’s was forgettable. It was basically 'Uh, What Bernie Said' + 'Let's Break the Glass Ceiling!' The signature moment of her campaign was when she denounced half the country as irredeemable bigots in her 'Deplorables' diatribe. But that's Democratic politics today."
You start, here, by getting very close to the truth then you have to ruin it with more nonsense. Clinton was, in fact, constantly offering watered-down versions of Sanders' proposals then denouncing Sanders' own as unrealistic, undoable, ill-advised (she now tries to rewrite this history and insist Sanders was aping her policy proposals). Clinton's campaign was never about policy. She was politically incompetent and a terrible candidate but she never "denounced half the country as irredeemable bigots"; she said half of Trump's supporters were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic--you name it"--things she (correctly) called deplorable. This was off-the-cuff and although polling data supported her contention, arguably quite politically stupid. That's not any sort of indicator of "Democratic politics today"; it's just something stupid said by one very bad candidate who lost and who never should have been that party's presidential nominee.
"...in reality, the Tea Party was a legitimate grassroots movement with a coherent and appealing political agenda that wound up sweeping the GOP to power in the 2010 midterms. The Tea Party was clearly a success from the standpoint of channeling conservative frustrations and and concerns into a winning political strategy. The Tea Party infrastructure and ethos drove Republican gains in the 2014 midterms and largely carried Donald Trump to the Presidency in 2016."
The Tea Party wasn't a "grassroots" anything; it wasn't even a movement. After all this time, it shouldn't be necessary to continue to have to point out its actual origins in the machinations of well-funded professional astroturfers who, in cooperation with right-wing media, used it to rebrand disaffected reactionaries at a time when the Repub party was very unpopular. That story has been told, re-told and re-re-told--documented all to Hell and back. The "Tea Party" didn't lead to Republican victories in 2010 or any other year. Its fruit-loopy candidates, in fact, cost Republicans Senate seats that year.[1] Democrats have been losing for years in part because the party in the White House always loses in mid-term elections, both in congress and at the state and local level.[2] Repubs will lose seats next year too (although they won't lose the U.S. House, as they hold that by virtue of extensive gerrymandering in various states). The "Tea Party" didn't have a political platform--its creators made a big deal out of not giving it one. It didn't take Trump to the presidency, although many of the disaffected reactionaries who, back then, associated with it certainly became Trumpanzees. It doesn't really exist and, in effect, never really existed.
"Nancy Pelosi is one of the few Democrats with any political sense, seeing as she just the other day unequivocally condemned and disavowed Antifa."
Antifa activists aren't "Democratic" anything and they haven't, as you would have it, "emerged for Democrats post-2016." They've been around since the 1980s, many decades longer in other countries, and are radical leftists, primarily anarchists, who don’t believe in liberal democracy and have no significant sympathizers among the regular liberals/progressives who make up much of the Democratic party. Contrary to your caricature, prominent progressive/Democratic commentators and pols have offered them nothing but scorn.

And Nancy Pelosi, whose reaction to the sweeping 2016 loses in her own party was to go on television and insist voters didn't want Democrats to change, is not a good example of a pol with "political sense."


"Which Democrat politicians have emerged from the wreckage to lead the party forward? 79-year-old Maxine Waters, a rabid, corrupt Trump-hater who calls for impeachment anytime she's near a microphone. Tom Perez, the foul-mouthed DNC chairman who seems to offer nothing but vulgarity and anger. And Hillary Clinton still pops up here and there to blame somebody for her loss last November, or to painfully try to be hip, even though her party wishes she'd just go away."
Smarter Democrats do wish Clinton would just go away. She isn't going to "lead the party forward." But no one ever said she was. Maxine Waters is outspoken (and black) but your singling out of her is otherwise random. Tom Perez was installed as DNC chief when the conservative Establishment wing of the party came to be horrified that Keith Ellison, the favorite of the surging progressives, was about to become chairman. It recruited Perez to prevent that and installed him using some very dirty tactics. As a consequence, Perez is widely despised and at the Democratic "Unity" events earlier this year, was booed by audiences everywhere he went.

Those same audiences were, however, cheering for Bernie Sanders, and it's rather curious that you exclude him from your list. Sanders isn't just the most popular active politician among Democrats, he's the most popular in the U.S. Even Establishment Democrats are trying (though often fairly cluelessly) to ape his populist appeal and he has inspired a whole new generation of progressive candidates who have been throwing their hats into the ring in various races around the U.S.. It’s a mistake to look for some big, prominent leader to show up and make things right with the world--that isn't how political parties should function--but Sanders is the closest Democrats have to such a thing now.
"How can a movement animated by anything other than hatred and disdain produce political cartoons such as this one?"
Politics are primary grist for the mills of comedians and comics and if you're going to write about 'em, it's very ill-advised to be this thin-skinned. Good comedians and cartoonists hold a mirror up to a people and when this works--and Matt Wuerker, the cartoonist here, is often very good--it's because it gets at a truth. Texas is full of rightists who proudly and loudly burnish their conservatism while safely tucked beneath the wing of the nanny state. A slew of right-wing Texas politicians, who spew that same poison and actually voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy then turned up with their hands out to the feds when Harvey plowed through their state. That cartoon isn't born of "hatred and disdain" and it doesn't bother you because of you think it was; its target is hypocrisy and people who are full of shit, and it bothers you because it's true.

You insist "the number of actual 'Nazis' in this country is a rounding error" but you wrote this article at the end of August, in the aftermath of the nightmarish events in Charlottesville, Virginia. There, white supremacists/Nazis/fascists, gathered to show their support of Donald Trump and Robert E. Lee, violently attacked counter-demonstrators. In the end, one of them drove his car into a crowd of those counter-demonstrators and murdered a woman. If he'd had his way, he would have murdered many more. These hate-movements have been surging for years--they didn't like that whole black president thing--and they've been particularly emboldened by Trump, who speaks their lingo and has courted them in ways that would have been political suicide for any other national politician. His immediate reaction to that VA horror was to blame both sides, as if there were two sides in the matter. It took him two further days to finally condemn the animals who actually were responsible and he'd walked back those remarks by the next afternoon, insisting there were "very fine people" marching with the Nazis and condemning the "alt-left." You watched all of this unfold and your reaction wasn't to condemn those white supremacists/Nazis/fascists or to condemn Trump for his own unconscionable behavior but to write this article in which you crafted a fantasy of the Democratic party as a big hate-group.

That speaks for itself.

--j.

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[1] That year, Republicans had potential Senate victories in Colorado, Nevada, California, Delaware and Alaska but lost all of them because of nutty "Tea Party" candidates.

[2] That isn't, by any means, to say this is the Democratic party’s only problem but it's the place to start when it comes to evaluating those losses.

Monday, October 2, 2017

If You Aren't Blaming Hillary, You Aren't Paying Any Attention

Hillary Clinton's view is that she isn't at all responsible for what happened in 2016 and she and her circle of loyalists have used this premise as a bedrock foundation on which to construct a series of often-contradictory, disingenuous and counter-factual narratives collectively adding up to one larger exculpatory myth. Her personality cult has dutifully treated all of this as if it were revealed religion but no serious analysis of 2016 can avoid the centrality of Clinton herself to her own loss.

While certainly not one of the more obnoxious Clinton cultists, Mark Olmsted still often repeats and carries water for their narratives. Witness his recent piece entitled and on the theme "If you're still blaming Hillary, you're asking the wrong questions." Of the many targets Clinton has chosen to blame for her own loss, Olmsted chooses as his primary focus the voters. "In the end," he writes, "there is no getting around the bizarre truth about 46% of the American electorate went temporarily insane, frankly."

That, of course, refers to voters during the general election, and it's no accident that this entirely ignores Democratic primary voters who sided with Clinton, a weak, loser candidate whose disgraceful 2008 campaign had already established to the satisfaction of any reasonable observer that she was a terrible campaigner, a terrible person and entirely unfit for the office. Even if one isn't old enough to have experienced that campaign as an adult, her weakness was positively screaming from the data every step of the way, long before any votes had even been cast. If any group of voters are to blame for 2016, it's the ones Olmsted avoids, those who suicidally closed their eyes to all of that and backed her. With their decision, they, in effect, elected Trump.

If one is conducting a proper autopsy of 2016 though, blaming voters doesn't really get one anywhere. Clinton has made it quite clear she feels she was entitled to the votes of people who didn't wish to give them to her but the only point in following her down that rabbit-hole is to absolve her of any real responsibility for what happened. That isn't just obnoxious and indefensible in itself, the implications of it, if Demos opt to roll with it, are that there's no need to for Democrats to reform and try to improve their party. Such a course of action--or, more precisely, a lack of one--would prove catastrophic for the party and its candidates, already in a state of crisis.

Olmsted:

"The premise is that Trump was so awful that it should have been laughable [sic] easy to defeat him. Everyone on the Democratic side actually agreed with this when she ran, which is why they concentrated so hard on making her campaign about Caligulyam's awfulness. But the same articles upbraid Clinton for this strategy, citing the real problem as her not offering a positive vision to enthuse the voters."

It's unclear what "articles" Olmsted is referencing here--whatever he may have in mind he never cites--but he has no real response to the criticism of Clinton in this either:

"This sidesteps the fact that the level of irrationality was arguably the highest among previous Obama voters who switched to Trump. Clinton was endorsed by Obama and pledged to continue his same policies. This part of the electorate wasn’t voting for or against policy--however it had been delivered."

Besides entirely dodging the criticism of Clinton he's allegedly trying to refute, this is a comically superficial analysis that makes no use of the abundant available data on these matters. A few points:

--Clinton's 2008 campaign against Obama was unspeakably ugly. Clinton repeatedly race-baited Obama, Muslim-baited him (at one point, circulating a photo of Obama in traditional Somali garb, laying the groundwork for 8 years of right-wing attacks aimed at Other-ing him), insisted white voters would never support him, even publicly offered fantasies about Obama being murdered. When voters went, instead, with Obama (whatever their feelings about him), they thought they'd rejected that appalling candidate, and even if Clinton's latest reinvention of herself is as the embodiment of the Obama legacy, people do sometimes remember.

--That effort by Clinton to draw such a close association with Obama was, in some quarters, to Clinton's doom. People simply become tired of a long-running incumbent. At the end of an 8-year administration, the opposition party invariably tries to tie the candidate of the incumbent party to the fellow already in the White House. The campaign always runs like this: "Do you really want four more years of this?"[1] In going Faux-bama, Clinton stupidly did the GOP's work for it.[2]

--People don't believe Hillary Clinton and don't trust her. That's the one thing that sticks out of her polling data above all other things; it couldn't have been clearer if it had appeared in bold, neon letters 30 feet high. Clinton was not considered honest or trustworthy. She was (correctly) perceived as an unprincipled opportunist who would say whatever she thought would be to her benefit at any given moment. That's crippling in itself. On this particular matter, no one had any reason to believe her effort to position herself as Obama's legacy would prove to be any more genuine than anything else she's ever said.

--Clinton wasn't "offering a positive vision" in the race. Her campaign ads were overwhelmingly just personal attacks on Trump. The most substance-free, in fact, in recent memory, maybe ever--per the Wesleyan Media Project, only 25% of Clinton's ads even mention policy. Olmsted's suggestion that "everyone on the Democratic side actually agreed with" focusing on "Trump's awfulness" instead of policy is laughable. The entire Democratic primary was about Bernie Sanders' efforts to get the Democratic party to adopt a positive, progressive vision for the future. At the Democratic National Committee Summer meeting in August 2015, he flat-out said that without one, Democrats would lose the White House, fail to regain the Senate and lose in the states. "The same old, same old will not be successful." Utterly--and tragically--prescient. Clinton's enthusiasm-murdering, defeatist, diminished-expectations primary campaign against Bernie Sanders yielded to her just as uninspiring "I suck less than Trump" campaign in the general. As vile as Trump undeniably was and is, he was talking about policy and even ran to Clinton's left on several key issues and as meaningless as his words may have been, he gave some little glimmer of hope to people who were angry, hurting and needing it, while the other side wasn't offering anything.[3]

--Olmsted singles out those who had previously voted for Obama then switched to Trump. There's some pretty good data on these voters courtesy of the Clintonite super PAC Priorities USA, which surveyed both the Obama-to-Trump voters and the larger body of voters who had previously supported Obama but sat out 2016 rather than cast a vote for Clinton. Its findings are devastating. Obama-to-Trump voters are people being left behind by the economy; 50% report their income is falling behind the cost of living (only 19% report it growing faster). Priorities USA breaks down O/T voters into those who say they strongly support Trump vs. those who say they have mixed feelings about him. The problem of having the unfortunate Clinton representing the Democratic ticket looms large indeed:


It's when one gets to the specific policy concerns of the O/T voters that things get particularly ugly:


With the exception of the two highlighted items, which are only prioritized by a plurality of those who say they strongly support Trump, it's a laundry-list of progressive priorities, things that would have credibly been Democratic priorities if Democrats hadn't gone with Clinton. "Why should we think," asks Olmsted, "that Sanders' message would have resonated with these same voters, even though Sanders' endorsement of Clinton (and campaigning for her) were unable to sway them?" The chart answers that question fairly decisively.

The data on those who voted for Obama then sat out 2016 are even worse. The drop-off voters are strongly Democratic; 70% of them say they have a favorable opinion of the Democratic party (28% very favorable), 74% say they have an unfavorable view of the Republican party (47% very unfavorable) and 82% have an unfavorable view of Trump (73% very unfavorable). Their priorities are even more progressive.

One of the instances in which Priorities USA gets cutesy with the data is in its presentation on why the drop-offs didn't vote, which it only breaks down by when they made their decision instead of by why, offering only a handful of anecdotes for the latter. This, which one strongly suspects is just an effort to fudge the extent to which Clinton was the problem with these voters, reminds one that this is, after all, a pro-Clinton org telling the tale. Still, Priorities USA, to its credit, has done a far better job of examining this matter than some.[4]

The election was lost in the Rust Belt and as Konstantin Kilibarda and Daria Roithmayr documented in Slate, that's the correct way to describe what happened; Trump didn't win previously Democratic voters, Democrats lost them. "In the Rust Belt, Democrats lost 1.35 million voters. Trump picked up less than half, at 590,000. The rest stayed home or voted for someone other than the major party candidates." There are probably a lot of things behind this and the thing that's probably most behind it is Clinton.

--Trump should have been a ridiculously simple opponent to defeat. Olmsted himself describes Trump's awfulness. There's no way around the fact that Trump was just a reality-show clown who had the highest negatives of any major-party presidential candidate in the history of polling. On election day, an average of 57.1% had an unfavorable view of him. When he defeated Clinton, her own average was 55% unfavorable, and well before the end, Trump was polling better than her on the issue of honesty, an important fact that is almost universally overlooked.

Olmsted attempts to counter the idea that Sanders would have done better than Clinton against Trump but as before, he's doing so without reference to a single fact, even though there is substantial and readily-available data on that question:

https://extranewsfeed.com/yes-sanders-would-have-won-exploding-false-clintonite-narratives-7c5a6bd17091

Obviously, one can never say with certainly how this sort of hypothetical scenario would have played out but anyone arguing Sanders would have done worse than Clinton doesn’t just do so without any supporting data, he does so in the face of all of the data.

"...if we’re still trying to figure out why Trump won," Olmsted writes, "can we just retire the laundry list of Clinton’s mistakes as the focus of the blame?"[5] But he's made no real case for doing so, and to note the obvious, an analysis that blames voters for being "insane" isn't of any value in helping guide Democrats moving forward. Clinton ran one of the historically bad campaigns. The decision to value loyalty over competence and to surround herself with yes-men and morons was hers. She was the one who opted to run that defeatist primary campaign and that "I suck less than Trump" general wherein her strategy was aimed at appealing to Republican voters. She was the one who was going out of her way at every turn to try to utterly alienate the progressive base of the Democratic party. The ongoing FBI investigation into her State Department emails was also a swamp of her own making; she was the one who chose, in an incredibly reckless manner, to set up that private server in her basement as a means of evading pubic records requirements and she was the one who ensured it was a constant presence in the news by lying about it at every turn. Her decision to run in the first place was entirely irresponsible. The truth about 2016 is that Clinton was just a politically inept, terminally out-of-touch narcissistic elitist who thought she was entitled to be elected president. No matter how one tries to dress it up, she was the problem. There's no way to "just retire the laundry list of Clinton’s mistakes as the focus of the blame" without confronting this, particularly as long as Clinton and her cult continue to deny she bears any real responsibility. That false narrative simply can't be allowed to become a Conventional Wisdom.

--j.

---

[1] This dynamic, it's worth noting, would have had minimal impact on the anti-Establishment populist Sanders.

[2] And some of us--like this writer--were raising a stink about this incredibly stupid move all along.

[3] Here, fill in the usual rant about the perils and problems of a two-party system.

[4] There have appeared at least two "studies" that purport to explain Trump's success among these groups as a result of his appeals to bigotry, offering the bizarrely counterintuitive notion that bigots voted for Obama then had some sort of racist awakening and decided to vote against Clinton. Priorities USA put the importance of Trump's appeals to bigotry in context--items like deporting illegal immigrants and building a wall on the Southern border are far less important to Obama-to-Trump voters than those many progressive priorities--and those other "studies" appear to be just another cynical variant on Clinton's "everyone's fault but mine" narrative.

[5] I'd also note that's a very questionable premise; after the entire party Establishment lined up behind her, Democrats have, as a rule, done everything possible to avoid addressing Clinton's mistakes. Among other things, the allegations of Russian interference in the election has certainly been used--rather obsessively--as a means of avoiding this matter.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Review of A Review of "What Happened"

Mediumite Jamie Pow has written a review of Hillary Clinton's "What Happened." I began a response, ran long--you know the drill--and I decided to post it as an article:

There’s this idea I often entertain, one that inevitably ends up reinforced by every bit of Clinton apologia I encounter: Show me someone who admires Hillary Clinton and I'll show you someone who doesn't really know anything about Hillary Clinton. The someones in this formulation are obviously ordinary folks who may have some kind thoughts toward her, rather than her personality cult, which doesn’t care a whit about the truth, but I never seem to find anything that suggests to me its wrong.

Your article is just the latest in a very long line of articles that reinforces it, and by addressing it in this way, I’m extending to you the benefit of the doubt on which of those categories of someones into which you fall. Simply put, what you're uncritically repeating here is the same nonsense Clinton and her circle have been programming into her cult all along. You write about Clinton being an introvert. That may be true or, as is more likely the case, it may just be nonsense put out for public consumption as a rationale for her compulsive secretiveness and resistance to public accountability but in either event, it isn't a personality trait of any real importance. The one that matters, the one that is behind this book tour, just as it's been behind her presidential races and everything else she's ever done in politics, is that she’s a narcissistic elitist, one who, in this instance, thought she was entitled to become president.

She’s never taken any real responsibility for anything. Narcissists don't. People who run for president do so because they have certain things they want to do. Clinton ran for president because she wanted to be president. It was all just vanity. The authors of "Shattered" covered what a dilemma this represented for Clinton's team, tasked with trying to come up with a way to sell a candidacy that had no rationale. Clinton really "can't let go of her belief that she would have made a very good president." A narcissist can't.
"'For me, political campaigns have always been something to get through in order to govern, which is the real prize,' she admits."
That’s an extraordinary statement. Even politicians with that level of contempt for the constituents they're supposed to be representing at least pretend they care. This is Clinton, for ever so brief a moment, dropping any pretense. For her, politicking isn't a sincere effort to sell a platform; it's just an obstacle to be overcome in order to rule, which she wants to do because she thinks she's great. You write that "Hillary Clinton can't reinvent herself to the American electorate. She can only re-introduce herself." But, in fact, she's reinvented herself dozens of times over the  years. Last year, Domenico Montanaro wrote a good article at NPR on Clinton's constant "evolution" on the "free trade" pacts backed by her donors. She always says she's against them whenever an election looms then "evolves" into supporting them once in office. Multiply that by every other issue and you have Clinton, a politician who regularly sheds personae the way a snake does its skin, taking on whatever new flesh she thinks will advance her ambitions, always careful to avoid anything bold that may thwart them, and who is utterly contemptuous of those who elect her. In her six-figure speeches to her Wall Street cronies, she casually explained her belief in the virtues of being a two-faced phony, saying politicians need "both a public and a private position" on contentious issues in order to be successful.[1]

You cite an example of this, quoting Clinton: "I'm a progressive, but I'm a progressive who likes to get things done." Clinton, of course, became a political figure on the coattails of her husband, a conservative Southern "New Democrat," the first chairman, in fact, of the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC, long despised by progressives and now mercifully extinct, was a corporate-backed project that overtly sought to convince Democrats to abandon progressive values and move to the right. Bill Clinton embraced destructive right-wing priorities on crime, welfare, "free trade," deficit reduction, foreign interventionism and so on, and when it came to these policies, there was never any daylight between he and Hillary. Bill honed Dick Morris's "triangulation" strategy for selling all of this, which involved throwing progressives under the bus in order to portray "both sides" as extremists and position oneself as the sensible center, and both he and Hillary have used this same strategy in every national campaign in which they've participated. Clinton's 2016 Democratic primary persona was Sanders Reduced, a watered-down version of Sanders who insisted she was a progressive and that Sanders was an unrealistic extremist. "I take a backseat to no one," Clinton declared in July 2015,"when you look at my record in standing up and fighting for progressive values." But then on another occasion in September, she confessed to being a "moderate" and a centrist and extolled the virtues of this. Then it was back to playing at being a progressive again; when, at a Democratic debate, she was asked about Sanders' contention that she wasn't progressive enough, she offered that line about being "a progressive who gets things done," then went on a question-dodging, triangulation attack against Sanders aimed at portraying him as an entirely unreasonable purist on this point. Now, after contesting this so viciously, she's back to being a "moderate" again. "I think we operate better when we're kind of between center-right and center-left..." As I've written in the past, Clinton is an unprincipled opportunist whose instincts, in a liberal party, are conservative. All of this jockeying she does is sheer mendacity offered in contempt of the electorate by a pol whose only real cause is herself.

That same mendacity is on display in Clinton's criticism of media coverage of the election, which you cite:
"When it comes to the content of reporting, Trump had the easier time in the run-up to the election. Citing a study from Harvard's Shorenstain Center, public policy discussion constituted 10% of all news coverage before the election. Controversy over Clinton’s emails dominated, and received far more sustained attention than any of Trump's 'scandals'."
There are a raft of problems with this.

--Clinton complaining about the serious shortage of policy coverage beggars belief. Clinton didn't run an issues campaign. This was her game:
"Hillary Clinton’s campaign ran TV ads that had less to do with policy than any other presidential candidate in the past four presidential races, according to a new study published on Monday by the Wesleyan Media Project."

"Clinton’s team spent a whopping $1 billion on the election in all — about twice what Donald Trump’s campaign spent. Clinton spent $72 million on television ads in the final weeks alone.

"But only 25 percent of advertising supporting her campaign went after Trump on policy grounds, the researchers found. By comparison, every other presidential candidate going back to at least 2000 devoted more than 40 percent of his or her advertising to policy-based attacks. None spent nearly as much time going after an opponent’s personality as Clinton's ads did... Beyond overall ad spending, the study also breaks down the content of the attack ads aired on behalf of each candidate... About 90 percent of Clinton's attack ads went after Trump as an individual--compared with just 10 percent that went after his policies, the study found."
This chart puts the matter in its historical context:

Clinton likes to portray herself as some sort of policy wonk. You run with this, writing, "It's easy to get a sense of [Clinton's] frustration with Trump--for his obvious lack of appreciation for any policy detail," but Clinton has never shown any real interest in policy; her stated positions on this-or-that have always been dictated by whatever seemed safe and politically beneficial to her at the moment. She performed quite badly when Sanders forced her to discuss actual issues and in the general, she simply discarded any sustained effort at talking policy. You don't get to ignore policy then complain about press coverage that reflects this.

--The corporate press as a virtual monolith supported Clinton from the day she officially entered the race. Mediumite Andrew Endymion and I just had a good exchange on this point, covering the ugly details. Press hostility to Trump was, likewise, near-universal. It's true, as Clinton now says, that the press boosted Trump throughout the 2016 cycle--he was a freak-show, which means ratings, which translates into insanely disproportionate wall-to-wall coverage, even if most of it is negative. Clinton can hardly complain about this either though, as it was the official policy of her campaign from the beginning to elevate Trump and get the press to do the same (another revelation that came to light via Wikileaks).

--Clinton now complains about the sustained coverage of the email controversy but the only reason that stuck around and kept returning to the news was that Clinton insisted on lying about it at every turn. She would lie, the lie would be exposed and she would offer a new one in place of the old, beginning the cycle again. "[D]o you know what the big deal was about Hillary Clinton's emails?" you write. "It seems to me that it all came down to her being able to keep her single Blackberry, access all her email accounts on it, and not having to carry two phones." It's impossible to believe you've followed any aspect of this story if you've honestly reached that conclusion. Those emails are, by law, public records. Back in 2007, then-Sen. Clinton condemned the Bush administration for its inappropriate use of a server controlled by the Republican National Committee to conduct official government business. Less than two years later, the ever-secretive Clinton who had just been chosen as Secretary of State established a private email server in her own home so she could have exclusive control of her own official correspondence. The mere fact that she established such a set-up is a major scandal. Clinton ignored repeated warnings that her Blackberries were security risks. The server itself was a massive security risk. She never requested approval of it and the responsible officials made it very clear she wouldn't have gotten it if she had. Clinton left the State Department in February 2013 without turning over any of her emails and, in fact, she didn't turn over any until December 2014, after the Benghazi special committee had requested them and State didn't have them. She printed up 30,000 pages of them, deleted the rest, the server was wiped and she began a long string of lies that kept the story in the news throughout the campaign. Endymion:

"No, she did not turn over all work-related emails. Yes, she did send classified information. No, there has never been a Sec State who set up a private server in his or her basement to establish exclusive control over all correspondence. No, Comey didn’t call her 'truthful.' The story wouldn’t die because Clinton wouldn’t let it and nobody else was under any obligation to kill it."

She lied about there being nothing marked "classified" in her emails. When confronted with the fact that some were plainly marked, she claimed she didn't know what those markings meant! And on and on. You can't behave like this then complain that the story you're keeping alive via this behavior is still being covered.

This writer doesn't get very excited about the mishandling of classified material. While there are obvious dangers in it and Clinton's behavior was, in the face of them, really reckless, stupid and probably criminal, this is happening inside a government obsessed with secrecy that routinely overclassifies just about everything. That's more my concern. Clinton set up that server to skirt public records requirements. That alone is enough to damn her in this matter but her own view, reflected in everything you quote from her, is that she never did anything wrong in any of this, just made a stupid decision in setting up that server then was unreasonably victimized by everyone. That's how narcissists are. 

I don't know you but I’ve assumed, for the purposes of this piece, that you're genuinely ignorant of most of what I’ve just described rather than just another Clinton cultist mouthing the programming. I would urge you to delve much more deeply into these matters before writing on them any further. You say you admire Clinton but there simply isn't anything terribly admirable in malignant narcissists. Don't too easily throw your own good name away on one.

--j.

---

[1] Those Wall Street speeches were full of damaging information that probably would have sank her primary campaign. and like the two-faced phony that she is, she concealed them from public view, trying to dance around every demand for them with doubletalk until Wikileaks acquired and released partial transcripts of them.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Clinton Happened & She Lied About That Too

The 2016 Democratic primary/caucus season ended over a year ago but for much of this year, I've found myself writing articles here debunking the unhinged ravings, ludicrous lies and delusional dipshittery of a small but incredibly devout and vocal contingent of Clinton loyalists intent on perpetually re-fighting that contest. Like any other personality cult, these hardcore Clintonites typically haven't proven themselves to be, shall we say, very big on independent thought; for the most part, their oeuvre is a significant but ultimately limited collection of fables and fictions programmed into them last year by the Clinton campaign and its surrogates and that they all recite like robots with little innovation. The relative ease with which their talking-points can be debunked doesn't seem to have made a dent in the cult's dogged, usually quite passionate, insistence on them. The open hostility with which the cultists greet facts that contradict their cherished myths is an extreme manifestation of a common human failing that, in contemporary American politics, finds its only other comparable expression among the fringe right. While polling suggests the cult is quite small,[1] a disproportionate number of cultists hold positions of power and influence, giving them a lofty perch from which they can sow discord and commit mischief.

This week, the Cult Queen herself will be feeding her followers (and as many bystanders as she can manage) a new book about the election entitled "What Happened." As internet quipsters have been quick to note, rarely does one see both a question and its complete answer depicted on the cover of the book itself. That this effectively removes any need to purchase the book probably doesn't bode well for its long-term sales potential but the Clinton cult, ever ravenous for new pronouncements from their Glorious Leader, will no doubt give it a boost upon its initial debut, and no doubt publicly crow about its great sales too (while they last). In an effort to stimulate interest, Clinton and her surrogates have been doling out advanced excerpts from the text in recent days and while America has undeniably suffered a serious wound via the election of Donald Trump, these snippets have only reinforced the extent to which America most definitely dodged a different but also deadly bullet when Clinton lost.

In one critical respect, there isn't really any difference between Clinton and Trump: both are driven by a particularly malignant narcissism. Both package lies and historical revisionism into aggrievement fantasies they pitch to their respective personality cults, cults made up of people who don't care about the truth anyway. As with Trump, Clinton, by Clinton's narrative, is always the victim and is never really responsible for anything.[2] These characteristics--perpetuating a heavily fictionalized narrative of victimhood while dodging any real responsibility--have, in fact, been her preeminent and defining ones throughout her time in the national spotlight. Like her husband before her, she's been subjected to various attacks over the years that were genuinely unfair, misleading, nonsensical and though this writer doesn't like either of them, I've spilled a lot of ink defending both on those occasions when it was merited, but as public servants, they are, to put it as charitably as possible, extremely flawed and I'll stand for no nonsense from Hillary's creepy cult of Kool-Aid guzzlers who, at her persistent behest, insist on treating every criticism of her as the equivalent of "Obama was born in Kenya." When Clinton first reemerged into the public spotlight earlier this year, she was absolutely brimming with people to blame for her latest loss. She'd offer some perfunctory comment about how she took responsibility for her actions then launch into her real litany: it was James Comey, it was sexists, it was the Russian conspiracy, it was the Democratic National Committee, an entity that, in reality, violated its own chartered neutrality at every turn in order to stack the primary season in Clinton's favor. It was absolutely anyone but Hillary Clinton.[3] Her close associates adopted the same approach, as has the cult, resulting in a stream of articles here in response. At the end of May, Clinton granted a long interview at Recode and was asked what mistakes she made during the campaign. In perhaps the defining moment of her political career, she hemmed, hawed and was ultimately unable to come up with anything. That's Clinton, a narcissistic elitist who takes no real responsibility for anything and thought she was entitled to the presidency.

That's the Clinton on display in the recent advance excerpts from her upcoming book and even in the way in which she's released that material. The first release was a fairly inconsequential snippet in which she complained about Donald Trump repeatedly invading her personal space during one of their debates and for this, she even released a recording of her reading the passage in question, but the next round of excerpts, which went public a few days ago, was devoted to attacking Bernie Sanders and adding he and others to the growing list of people Clinton has blamed for her loss. Clinton's underlings have never shown much hesitation about blaming Sanders and his supporters but she, herself, had largely avoided it and the public release of this material was classic Clinton; wanting it out there and to have people focused on it but not wanting to be responsible for people focusing on it, she delegated the explosive stuff to surrogates, who released it through social media, while she, herself, declined any public comment on it.

The excerpts themselves are a phantasmagoric reimagining of the 2016 campaign, recasting it into Clinton's favored mold, a self-serving lie made up of lies. This is how Clinton, in one of the excerpts, describes policy debates with Sanders:

"Jake Sullivan, my top policy advisor, told me it reminded him of a scene from the 1998 movie There’s Something About Mary. A deranged hitchhiker says he's come up with a brilliant plan. Instead of the famous 'eight-minute abs' exercise routine, he's going to market 'seven-minute abs.' It’s the same, just quicker. Then the driver, played by Ben Stiller, says, 'Well, why not six-minute abs?' That’s what it was like in policy debates with Bernie. We would propose a bold infrastructure investment plan or an ambitious new apprenticeship program for young people, and then Bernie would announce basically the same thing, but bigger. On issue after issue, it was like he kept proposing four-minute abs, or even no-minute abs. Magic abs!"

In the real world, of course, Clinton, who sheds personae the way a snake does its skin, crafted an iteration of herself for the 2016 primary season as an attenuated version of Sanders. Throughout the period she bore that flesh, she was the one who was aping Sanders' proposals, usually suggesting watered-down versions of them then presenting hers as more realistic, his as pie-in-the-sky. This is Dick Morrisean triangulation tactics, wherein one throws one's own base under the bus in order to make it appear as if "both sides" are extreme and to position oneself as the sensible "center." Both Clinton and her husband have used these same tactics in every major political campaign in which they've participated. Even accounting for the squish factor that typically accompanies the unprincipled Clinton's endorsement of any given policy at any given time, Clinton's new Sanders-inspired proposals were often at direct odds with positions she'd previously expressed on the same issues.

--Bernie Sanders introduced his plan for free tuition at state colleges and universities in May 2015. Three months later, in August, Clinton proposed a significantly watered-down (and pretty awful) version of it. A year after that, during the general election campaign, she introduced another new one, one that was a lot closer to the proposal Sanders had made from the very beginning.

--Sanders had long opposed the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2010, Clinton said she was "inclined to" support it. Sanders used the issue against her on the campaign trail and in Sept. 2015, she suddenly turned against it.

--Sanders had always opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Clinton helped create it, called it the “gold standard” of trade deals, pimped it for years then, as Sanders was criticizing her on it, cynically came out against it only in October 2015.

--During the 2008 presidential race, Clinton had opposed raising the cap on earnings for Social Security and had repeatedly attacked then-candidate Barack Obama for proposing this. Sanders has always supported raising the cap and favors expanding the program. As usual, Clinton opted to peddle a watered-down version of the latter, extending some minor benefits, and promised only to "protect" the program from Republicans. Sanders criticized her and by April 2016, she'd half-heartedly come around to supporting raising the cap.

--Sanders called for a $15/hour minimum wage from his first major presidential campaign event. "The minimum wage must become a living wage," he said in May, "which means raising it to $15 an hour over the next few years." At her first major campaign rally--three weeks after that--Clinton called for raising the minimum wage but didn't say how high. When, at the end of July, she finally suggested a number, it was yet again diminished Sanders: she endorsed legislation to raise it to $12/hour. "Let's not just do it for the sake of having a higher number out there,” she said, offering her usual triangulation tactic, "but let's get behind a proposal that actually has a chance of succeeding." Then in November, she began flat-out saying she supported $12, but out of the other side of her mouth, she offered a friendly tweet to the Fight For 15 campaign, the goal of which was a $15 minimum wage. Leaked Democratic emails later revealed the cynical behind-the-scenes calculations that went into the tweet, Clinton trying to reap the political benefit of siding with Fight For 15 without actually endorsing its goal. That same cynical calculation underpinned Clinton's evolving statements on the matter; as she began to say $15 was simply too high in some places in the U.S. and would be economically harmful and to insist she supported localities raising their minimum wage above the $12 federal level she favored--a convenient view for a would-be president whose potential office would play no role in such local matters. In April 2016, she introduced a new position. At a Democratic debate, she was asked if she, as president, would sign a $15 minimum wage if congress passed it. "Well, of course I would," she insisted, and then offered a master-class in multi-mawed mendacity in which she suggested she'd always supported $15. "That's what I will do as president, go as quickly as possible to get to 15... [I]f we have a Democratic congress, we will go to 15!"

--Back in 2008, Clinton attacked then-candidate Barack Obama as soft on crime because of his criticism of harsh mandatory minimum sentences (which, up to then, she herself had either supported or opposed depending entirely on which day she was asked). In 2015, when Sanders argued for simply eliminating such sentences, Clinton found religion on the issue and came out in favor of reducing them.

--In the new excerpts, Clinton specifically writes of a "bold infrastructure investment plan" she introduced, "then Bernie would announce basically the same thing, but bigger." The facts: Sanders introduced his infrastructure investment plan, the "Rebuild America Act," in Jan. 2015, a few months before he officially entered the presidential race. The Act aimed to spend $1 trillion over 5 years on much-needed infrastructure improvements. It was over 10 months later, at the end of November, before Clinton finally got around to introducing her own infrastructure investment plan. And--stop me if you've heard this before--it was another scaled-down take on Sanders' own, spending only $275 billion over 5 years.

Examples of this are legion, significant examples of Sanders doing the opposite, as Clinton now describes, are non-existent. As the primary season unfolded, Clinton even started trying to copy Sanders' angry populist tone, a radical departure from her usual comportment that was noted by multiple media outlets at the time. This was her primary-season persona: Sanders Reduced.

It's worth noting that how this translated in a political environment in which people want the Sanders policies was as a barrage of defeatist rhetoric feeding an uninspiring campaign of diminished expectations aimed at squashing the energizing hope-and-change candidate then arising and being carried out by a politician who, on the first day she entered the race, was already disliked by more of the public than liked her. This blended with the notion, well-cultivated by the Clinton camp, of Clinton's inevitability to drive down interest in the Democratic contest. Clinton couldn't draw a crowd--often had trouble filling high-school gymnasiums. "Over the last year, in at least a dozen states," reported NBC in May 2016, "Clinton has dedicated hours and hours to events so small that members of the media often match or outnumber the attendees." Ratings for the Democratic debates were a joke compared to the Republicans (though that was partially engineered by the DNC in collaboration with the Clinton campaign). Turnout for Democratic primaries and caucuses was down. Facing an opponent who started the race as a virtual unknown and with the underhanded assistance of a Democratic National Committee intent on keeping him that way, Clinton mostly just skated to victory on name-recognition and Establishment connections, drawing the votes of older Democratic die-hards in mostly poorly-attended contests and the backing of the party good ol' boys club, the anti-democratic superdelegate contingent.

That, one suspects, won't be going into Clinton's book.

This, on the other hand, is in it:

"Throughout the primaries, every time I wanted to hit back against Bernie's attacks, I was told to restrain myself. Noting that his plans didn't add up, that they would inevitably mean raising taxes on middle-class families, or that they were little more than a pipe dream--all of this could be used to reinforce his argument that I wasn't a true progressive. My team kept reminding me that we didn’t want to alienate Bernie's supporters. President Obama urged me to grit my teeth and lay off Bernie as much as I could. I felt like I was in a straitjacket."

Another instance of Clinton blaming others and refusing to own her own decisions--her underlings and President Obama put her in a straightjacket--and for anyone who actually lived through the 2016 campaign, the idea that Clinton ever showed any restraint in her handling of Sanders is just ludicrous. She and her surrogates disregarded nearly every ethical consideration[4] in throwing everything and the kitchen sink at him. A few items:

--Sanders, the life-long feminist, faced a constant barrage of accusations that he was actually a sexist and that his supporters were just a bunch of sexists too, dubbed "Bernie Bros," in a bit of garbage recycled from Clinton's 2008 campaign (when Obama supporters, charged with the same offense, were labeled "Obama Boys").

--Sanders the life-long champion of civil rights, was race-baited, said to be only a candidate of white males who disregarded minorities. At perhaps the lowest point of the campaign, John L. Lewis, civil rights legend and Clinton surrogate, suggested that Sanders hadn't really participated in the civil rights struggle at all and that the Clintons had--both assertions entirely fictional (Lewis apparently had an attack of conscience and quickly walked back these comments).[5]

--The Clintonites red-baited Sanders, following the noxious lead of the likes of Breitbart and the New York Post.

--Clinton falsely accused Sanders of supporting all manner of deplorable causes and legislation. When Sanders advocated a universal healthcare plan, Clinton insisted Sanders wanted to repeal Medicare, Obamacare and other health policies and leave those negatively impacted by this with nothing so he could start over and try to pass his own plan, one over which she falsely insisted he would allow Republican governors a veto.

--Sanders' supporters were falsely accused of carrying out a violent, chair-throwing riot at the Nevada Democratic convention, a lie spread throughout the press by the Clinton-supporting chief of the Democratic National Committee, who added, as her own touch, the false suggestion that Sanders hadn't condemned any and all violence.

--The Clinton camp fed oppo research personally attacking Sanders to sympathetic press outlets, which then published the material under the premise that if Sanders were to win the nomination, this is what Republicans would use against him.

--At one point, the Clinton camp launched a campaign aimed at presenting Sanders as unqualified to be president, then when Sanders responded, the Clinton camp and its sympathetic press outlets came down on him like a ton of bricks, claiming Sanders had called Clinton unqualified.

--While Sanders ran an issues campaign free of sleaze, part of the Clinton camp's attack on him was to propagate the laughable fiction that Sanders was running a very negative campaign against Clinton. In January, Clinton dispatched aide Joel Benenson to assert that Sanders was "running the most negative campaign of any Democratic presidential candidate" in history! He offered a fantasy version of the Sanders campaign wallowing in personal attacks. "He's out on the campaign trail every day raising issues about her personally, her character." In March, Benenson was at it again, claiming the Sanders campaign had "spent about $4 million on negative ads... This is a man who said he'd never run a negative ad, ever. He's running them. They're planning to run more... [H]e's running a very negative campaign against us." In reality, Sanders had run no negative ads at all, and, in fact, never ran one.[6] (Clinton also vowed never to run negative ads, then she and her surrogates ran anti-Sanders ads throughout the campaign). Among Clinton cultists, the image of Sanders running a very negative campaign against Clinton persists to this day.

--In the book excerpts, Clinton complains that "some of his [Sanders'] supporters, the so-called Bernie Bros, took to harassing my supporters online. It got ugly and more than a little sexist." Clintonites have turned that charge of "sexism" into a daily attack, thrown around as ubiquitously as some rightists use "socialist" and applied to anything and everything until it's just as meaningless (and, more importantly, just as much a hindrance of any serious discussion of actual sexism as the "socialist" nonsense is to talk of actual socialism).[7] That one's supporters are allegedly harassed online isn't a serious grievance--anyone who has outspoken political views and participates in discussions of them on the internet gets the same treatment--but the reason this Clinton complaint is worthy of note is because there was only one campaign in 2016 that was actively fielding a massive army of internet trolls whose job was to harass supporters of the other candidate: Clinton's own. Super PACs can accept unlimited donations but are legally barred from coordinating with political candidates, which, in practice, is usually a big joke that's practically never properly enforced but Correct The Record, David Brock's Clintonite troll operation, boldly skirted campaign finance laws and openly collaborated with the candidate to attack her opponent's online supporters. Given Clinton's complaint, the CTR trolls probably aren't going to make it into her book either.

Clinton's current effort to consign her constant resort to this sort of slimy fuckery to the same Memory Hole as her triangulation-driven mimicry of Sanders is an example of the same ethical bankruptcy that led her to carry on in such a way in the first place. While Clinton was wallowing in this slime, Sanders ran a principled campaign based on issues. While Clinton wanted to be president for no other reason than simply a narcissist's desire to be president,[8] Sanders had the most ambitious agenda of any pol since the '60s. Sanders said right from the beginning that he considered Clinton a friendly acquaintance and wasn't going to run a negative campaign of personal attacks against her. It's a policy he followed to his own significant detriment (because if he'd actually gone after Clinton, he would probably be president today). When he criticized Clinton, he was pointing to legitimate disagreements he had with her.

Clinton insisted on treating one of those disagreements as merely some sort of personal attack, a theme to which she returns in these new excerpts. "Because we agreed on so much," she writes, "Bernie couldn’t make an argument against me in this area on policy," this area being campaign finance, "so he had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character... When I finally challenged Bernie during a debate to name a single time I changed a position or a vote because of a financial contribution, he couldn’t come up with anything."

The key theme of Sanders' entire campaign was the desperate need to reform the corrupt bribery-and-donor-service system that so completely dominates politics and government. A few years ago, Wall Street, a particularly generous financier of politicians, spectacularly crashed the U.S. economy, dragging America to the verge of ruin, and not only were none of the responsible parties ever prosecuted, the subsequent efforts at regulatory reform were watered down to uselessness. There's nothing in place today to prevent the malefactors from doing exactly the same thing again. That's a problem. And the even bigger problem is the power of Wall Street over the state that allows for that, and that's the kind of power, wielded by a vast plethora of entrenched interests far beyond just the financial sector, that Bernie Sanders was directly challenging.

Hillary Clinton's largest campaign contributor was Wall Street. Moreover, the Clintons have, for decades, been key figures in moving the Democratic party toward embracing the bribery-and-donor-service system. Like Bill before her, Hillary's entire political career had been spent aggressively raising money from oligarchs with deep pockets and vested interests in government policy.

Sanders, by contrast, was funding his campaign with small donations from ordinary people, averaging $27. The reason he attracted such a large and enthusiastic following is because he was passionately advocating a slate of issues that were very popular but that weren't being properly represented in the allegedly democratic political process. In January 2016, after months of various press outlets insisting Sanders was selling a way-out-there assemblage of radical ideas, Mitch Clark and I undertook what we intended to be as comprehensive a survey as anyone had ever done of the polling data on Sanders' major issues. We found that on almost every item, the Sanders' view had not only majority public support but usually overwhelming support, often even drawing majority support from Republicans.

These progressive issues are what people want, that thing that's supposed to matter in a democracy. They're winners; the numbers are very clear on that point. The biggest reason every Democratic pol hasn't embraced them long ago is all the money poured into the process by the oligarchs, who are opposed to them and who buy the pols to game the system in their own favor at everyone else's expense.

Sanders challenged the oligarchs' right to rule over our politics in this manner and as a part of that, challenged Clinton on her close association with those oligarchs, particularly Wall Street. Clinton talked about getting tough on Wall Street on the campaign trail, particularly when she was trying to sound more like Sanders, but this is what was going on at the same time:
"Even as Hillary Clinton has stepped up her rhetorical assault on Wall Street, her campaign and allied super PACs have continued to rake in millions from the financial sector, a sign of her deep and lasting relationships with banking and investment titans.

"Through the end of December, donors at hedge funds, banks, insurance companies and other financial services firms had given at least $21.4 million to support Clinton’s 2016 presidential run — more than 10 percent of the $157.8 million contributed to back her bid, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission filings by The Washington Post.

"The contributions helped Clinton reach a fundraising milestone: By the end of 2015, she had brought in more money from the financial sector during her four federal campaigns than her ­husband did during his ­quarter-century political career.

"In all, donors from Wall Street and other financial services firms have given $44.1 million to support Hillary Clinton’s campaigns and allied super PACs"
Really sounds like someone preparing to get tough on critical Wall Street oversight, eh? And we're apparently also to believe these financial firms donate that kind of money because they see it as a patriotic duty. Or something. And the fact that they always seem to get their way when it comes to government policy, well, that's probably just a coincidence. When Clinton insists she'd never "changed a position or a vote because of a financial contribution," she's intentionally framing the issue in an absurdly narrow way. During the campaign, she took this even further and repeatedly suggested no one in government ever voted a certain way because of contributions, which is not only laughably false but undermines the entire case for campaign finance reform, a reform effort she claims, out of the other side of her mouth, to support. Clinton's narrow frame, it's also worth noting, isn't one Sanders ever advanced. Sanders made it very clear, whenever he would address this matter, that his critique wasn't about Hillary Clinton being owned by Big Money interests; it was about the entire government being dominated by such interests. If a congressman sits on a banking committee charged with oversight of banks, he gets huge contributions from banking. If he sits on one of the committees charged with regulating healthcare, he gets big donations from the healthcare industry. Those on the armed services committees are generously financed by the defense industry. The major interests give to both sides to cover their bets. That's how the system works and the problem with that is self-evident. If Clinton wasn't doing what those Wall Street firms wanted, they wouldn't be pouring all that money into her.

In that last equation, replace her name with that of nearly any elected official in government and for the donor, fill in whatever powerful interest one likes and therein lies the problem, a political system that has been hijacked by billionaires and special interests who spend whatever it takes to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans, one where big money has an outsized influence that has discouraged everyday Americans from participating in the political process, where hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate and special interest money buy elections and distort democracy, where government works for the wealthy and well-connected, not the people. And if all of that sounds familiar, it's all paraphrased or directly quoted from Hillary Clinton herself, on those occasions when she wasn't running around pretending as if those same concerns were illegitimate and just a personal smear against her and trying to undermine the entire premise of the campaign finance reform she had so long pretended to support.[9]

To note the obvious, there's no way to square Clinton's demagoguery regarding Sanders impugning her character with the years she's spent parroting this rhetoric, and the only way criticizing her own record during a primary campaign is somehow, as she insists, inappropriate is if one works from the premise that she was entitled to the nomination. As for her image, the public perception of the undue influence of money in politics and the general antipathy toward that influence has been well-established by pollsters; if Clinton was genuinely concerned about how she would be perceived, she wouldn't have spent so much of her life so enthusiastically participating in that system--something Sanders' crowd-funded campaign proved pols didn't have to do--or trying to undermine the effort to reform it. Sanders' "attacks," Clinton now whines, "caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump's 'Crooked Hillary' campaign." Presumably, Clinton's own decision to go out of her way to alienate progressives at every turn[10] wasn't, in her view, what made it "harder to unify" the party--though one can, on that complaint, add to the list of those Clinton blames the voters who weren't smart enough to realize she was entitled to their votes--and her compulsive lying, her extolling to her Wall Street cronies the merits of being a two-faced phony[11] and her conspiring with the Democratic National Committee to tilt the primary/caucus season in her favor while aggressively prostituting her potential future administration to every Big Money interest willing to drop a few hundred-thou in her collection-plate played no role in creating the "Crooked Hillary" campaign. Because Hillary is never responsible for anything.

I've written a lot about the ugly sense of entitlement that emanates from Clinton and her cult, and that entitlement is the beating heart of Clinton's attack on Sanders in these book excerpts. It's an attack we've often heard from her cult since the primary season itself, the notion that Sanders' entire campaign was illegitimate, a fraud, nothing more than a scam launched and carried out with ignoble motives that succeeded only in causing a lot of damage for no good reason. In her telling, Sanders wasn't honorably representing the views of a legitimate constituency. Instead, she insists she and Sanders had few real policy differences and he was just following her around like some malevolent imp peddling those bigger-and-louder "magic abs" copies of her own proposals and helping Republicans win. "[H]e isn’t a Democrat," she writes, offering up a tired, terminally out-of-touch line she's had her followers spewing for two years. "He didn't get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party." To a woman who begins with the premise that she was entitled to the presidency, how could it be otherwise?[12]

That's the subtext of everything in these recent excerpts: "How dare someone stand in the way of my coronation?" With Clinton, it's all about Clinton, always. This time, that could be her undoing. Some Democrats have fretted in recent days that the divisiveness of the text will only serve to reopen old wounds and to the extent that it has any influence, that's certainly true. In fact, it already has, as massive battles over the excerpts have broken out across social media. But consider this: Clinton has packaged for public consumption a divisive text, something that can do harm to her party[13] and to her professed causes--well, the causes she professes on some days--and is a gift to the Trumpanzee right, and it's all entirely self-serving; every significant assertion in these excerpts is either a direct lie or is such a complete misrepresentation that there isn't any point in making any distinction between it and a lie. It's a petty wrecking-ball that exists for no other purpose than to serve Clinton's narcissism. One can confidently predict it will completely destroy whatever positive place in history she may still have had prior to it; posterity never cherishes this kind of garbage. In the here-and-now, maybe it will just feed her cult and sow further division but maybe--just maybe--it will prove to be the camel-crippling straw that finally undoes her in the eyes of those more rational souls who have continued to want to extend to her a modicum of respect, finally showing them the  truth about this malignant creature and beginning the process of letting the name "Clinton" pass into its proper place in history as the future answer to a trivia question no one remembers.

--j.

---

 [1] Perhaps the best indicator is an extreme dislike of Bernie Sanders; polls show about 3% of Democrats have a strongly unfavorable view of the senator.

 [2] Trump had, within weeks of his election, already started holding what were billed as 2020 campaign rallies, opportunities to hear his followers scream his name and cheer him on, and he's devoted significant portions of every one of these events to both rehashing the dubious glories of his 2016 victory and to extended bouts of beta-male whining about the press, Democrats, anyone not cheering him on and how mean and unfair they all are to poor widdle him. This reached its latest crescendo of comicalness a few days ago when, at one of his rallies in Arizona, Trump opted to relitigate the outraged reaction to his disgraceful response to the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. White nationalists, Nazis, fascists had organized a rally in Charlottesville to protest the removal from public grounds of a statue of Robert E. Lee and one of the fascists had driven a car into a crowd of anti-fascist counter-demonstrators, murdering one and injuring many. Trump's initial response was to condemn both sides, as if there were two sides to such a thing. The furious reaction this provoked led Trump to eventually make a second statement in which, reading from a teleprompter remarks prepared for him, he finally condemned the fascists, but being made to speak ill of that portion of his fan-club was apparently more than he could stand; twenty-four hours later, he was walking it back and doubling down on his earlier comments, insisting that "very fine people" were marching with those fascists, ranting and raving about alleged violence from the "alt-left" and even repeating the fascists' rhetoric about "changing culture" re:the matter of the statue. At his Arizona rally a week later, Trump, as is his custom, decided to to whine about the furor his behavior caused. He complained about "truly dishonest people in the media and the fake media, they make up stories... I'm really doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are." And then he recounted at great length his statements on the matter. But while he brought the proceedings to a complete standstill for an extended period in order to read them aloud, he carefully left out all of the comments that had caused the uproar in the first place. The parallel to Clinton's book is, well...

 [3] The list of people and things Clinton has blamed for her loss has become quite lengthy; as a drinking game, it long ago hit deadly alcohol poisoning levels.

 [4] In one of the leaked Democratic emails, a DNC official contemplated putting out the (false) story that Sanders is an atheist. This, at least, was one line that was never crossed.

 [5] It's particularly odious that Lewis made those comments when he and several other black legislators had come out to support Clinton on the eve of the Democratic primary in South Carolina, a state with a large black population and that was then being looked at as a test of how Clinton was able to hold together that portion of the Obama coalition.

 [6] When Benenson made these particular remarks, Sanders was seeking further debates with the elusive Clinton, who was dragging her feet on agreeing to them, as usual, and I suppose one could interpret this nonsense as merely making a hostage of further debates and trying to use it to blackmail Sanders into shutting up.

 [7] The Clintonites have been doing the same thing with the charge of "racist" lately, using it against the progressive left--the one committed anti-racist political faction.

 [8] In "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign," Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes document the difficulty Clinton's team had in coming up with a way to sell a presidential bid that was based only on Clinton's desire to be president. "Hillary didn't have a vision to articulate," they write, "and no one else could give one to her." During a conference with her speechwriting team, "her marching orders were to find a slogan and a message. The absence of any talk about her actual vision for the country or the reasons voters should choose her stunned some of the participants. 'There was never any question, and no adviser prompted discussion of, "why you, why now?" one of them recalled." Allen and Parnes write of "a root problem that confounded everyone on the campaign and outside it. Hillary had been running for president for almost a decade and still didn't really have a rationale." The authors quote one of Clinton's top aides: "'I would have had a reason for running or I wouldn't have run.'"

[9] And Clinton is still full of shit on this matter: earlier this year, even as she announced she was writing the upcoming book, the one in which she repeats her demagoguery about Sanders impugning her integrity, she also announced she was founding a new dark-money group to pump into the system even more secret, unaccountable money from powerful interests looking to hijack the democracy--just about the last thing in the world American politics needs.

[10] Clinton went out of her way to alienate progressives at every turn. During the primary season, Rachel Maddow asked her what she'd be willing to grant the progressives to get their support and her answer was that she wouldn't give them anything; she went on a rant about how "I am winning!", going on about the extent to which she was winning, attacked Sanders and talked about how her views on issues were so much better than his and that's why she was winning and looked utterly disgusted that anyone would even suggest she needed to do anything to earn the votes of progressives--her entitlement mentality in all its ugly glory. While she and her surrogates were making a mantra of their talk about the need for unity, she chose Tim Kaine as her running mate over the furious objections of progressives. When Dirty Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign over the Wikileaks revelations about DNC efforts to tilt the primaries, Clinton immediately hired her into the campaign. Clinton’s general-election strategy was geared toward courting Republicans, spending her time in red states that would never vote for her, running ads aimed at attracting Republicans and touting endorsements of her campaign by a seemingly endless menagerie of rightist figures, even a war-criminal like John Negroponte (Clinton lobbied to get an endorsement by another right-wing war-criminal Henry Kissinger, who had, to her delight, endorsed her in the Democratic primaries, but he declined to endorse anyone in the general). Chuck Schumer openly asserted Democrats would be able to pick up Republicans to replace every Democratic vote they lost. Clinton burned every bridge she crossed then acted like an entitled child stamping her foot when some took offense at that.

[11] Shortly before she was officially a presidential candidate, Clinton had accepted six-figure speaking fees for speeches she'd given to Wall Street bigwigs. Sanders made an issue of it in the campaign and demanded she release the transcripts of those speeches. She stalled, tried to talk her way around the matter at every turn and refused to release them. Partial transcripts of them finally came to light after the primary season as part of the hacked Democratic emails released by Wikileaks. They were full of damaging information that probably would have sunk her primary campaign. Among them, she explained politicians need "both a public and a private position" on contentious issues in order to be successful.

[12] When he lost, Sanders endorsed her and even after all her shitty behavior and that of the DNC in league with her, he campaigned hard for her. She offers token gratitude to him for that ("I appreciate that he campaigned for me in the general election. But...") but this is how she actually thanks him.

[13] In the last, she gives us a direct mirror of what Trump and so much of the right tried to do to Obama via the birther "issue"; she presents the Democratic party as a tribe, wraps herself in its flag and insists Sanders is something alien and destructive to it:

"I appreciate that he campaigned for me in the general election. But he isn't a Democrat--that's not a smear, that's what he says. He didn't get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party... I think he was fundamentally wrong about the Democratic Party--the party that brought us Social Security under Roosevelt; Medicare and Medicaid under Johnson; peace between Israel and Egypt under Carter; broad-based prosperity and a balanced budget under Clinton; and rescued the auto industry, passed health care reform, and imposed tough new rules on Wall Street under Obama. I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were, too."

In the real world, polls throughout this year have shown that Sanders enjoys around 80% support from Democrats. In order to alienize Sanders, Clintonites constantly harp on this idea that that Sanders "isn't a Democrat," which is so entirely out of touch with the political reality it's comical; at present, about 40% of Democrats--defined as those who always vote Democratic--identify themselves as independents.