Exclusive – Special Report
With her recent spate of primary wins all but giving her bragging rights on the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton appears to be inching closer to the presidency. Yet Americans should think long and hard about her fitness for office. Australian writer Greg Maybury ponders her past, along with the implications and possible consequences of her election as America’s next commander in chief.
Buy One, Get one Free
For House of Cards ‘tragics’ who can’t get enough of fictional President Frank Underwood and his formidable First Lady Clare, it must be tempting to view Bill and Hillary Clinton as their real-life political doppelgangers. Certainly there’s fertile ground for those seeking common ground between the two main protagonists of this quintessential political soap opera, and our more flesh and blood ‘heroes’. For starters, like their fictional foils, the Clintons inhabit a moral universe at the centre of which sits a massive, all consuming black hole.
To be sure, any critical assessment of Mrs Clinton’s fitness for the Oval Office can’t be undertaken absent some reference to the respective roles her and her husband have played in each other’s professional lives. Many folks will recall their most indelible campaign slogan from Bill Clinton’s successful tilt at the top job in 1992, where the pitch to voters was [you can have], “Two for the price of one”. Again, not unlike the mantra Frank and Clare Underwood might invent to offer their own ‘constituents’. One wonders why the Clintons have not come up with a similar refrain in 2016, and here I’m thinking, “Buy one, get one free” would no doubt fit the (ahem) bill.
The Clintons then (cue Frank and Clare again) are the consummate political chancers, all the while style overwhelming substance, ruthlessness eclipsing truthfulness, [and] political expediency supplanting policy integrity. Occupying their own ‘house of cards’ is a long, yet not so illustrious history of deception, corruption, duplicity, careerist opportunism, avarice, malice, war-mongering, hubris, incompetence, arrogance, media manipulation, venality, hypocrisy, influence touting, and everything in between that the ugly, sleazy side of politics has on offer.
For those looking, this reality was underscored most notably when – in what must be the modern American narrative’s most memorable “stand by your man” moment – the then “Tammy Wynette” of U.S. politics vigorously defended her husband against allegations of unbridled lechery and sexual predation. These allegations in her view were concocted by what she later defined as a “vast right wing conspiracy”, one that was trying to take them down and out before they even got halfway up the national political ladder.
But irrespective of whether this “conspiracy” was actually a reality, [or] a product of Mrs Clinton’s penchant for delusional fantasising, or simply dirty politics (the perfect tautology if there is one), it is now safe to say it was going to take much more than a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to stop the Clinton juggernaut in its tracks. That this “juggernaut” shows few signs even after all these years of losing steam is evident; at the same time it continues to showcase all that’s wrong about Establishment politics – whether Republican or Democrat.
And whilst we might say now the accusations against her husband contained more than a grain of truth – an understatement of heroic proportions – either way, both were in for the long haul.
To be sure, the Clintons themselves are no slouches when it comes to playing “dirty politics”, for whom we might imagine all’s fair in love, war and their chosen vocation. Moreover, they embody raw political ambition at its hard-core finest, steeled by narcissistic megalomania, all of it unencumbered by accountability, integrity, transparency, humility, morality, ethics, honesty, scruples or altruism. Her seemingly inevitable selection as the 2016 Democratic flag-bearer – and from there most likely the presidency – is ample indication of that longue durée ambition.
As dubious as it might be, to their credit they’ve been effectively dodging the slings and arrows of outrageous political snipers ever since they parachuted into public consciousness during the 1992 campaign. And if the current contest is any indication, the Clintons have not lost their innate talent in this regard. As for Hillary, one suspects even her most zealous detractors could not help but admire – if begrudgingly — the mix of chutzpah and resilience that amongst other qualities have been key to her longevity, [with] “longevity” of course being at least one of the candidate’s ‘trump’ cards. “It’s my turn” anyone? Even without playing the “elect me as your first woman president” card, the palpable sense of entitlement becomes ‘icing on the Clinton cake’!
We might argue that given the weight of mounting evidence against her fitness for office – a modicum of which would deep-six most politicians’ career ambitions — they have become ever more adept at keeping their political ducks flying in a row, and well out of the range of the shooters. Not that they’ve achieved this all on their own. In this the Clintons have been ably served by the mainstream media (MSM) who’ve eschewed the forensic analysis – whether political, policy, or personal — vital to evaluating her fitness as the Democratic nominee (and therefore president), a point to which we will return.
The Mistress of Malevolent Mayhem
The prospect then of another Clinton presidency should make all right-thinking Americans increasingly concerned about the direction in which their country is heading, afraid. Very afraid! I know I am, and I’m not even American! Like many of America’s key allies over the years, our country Australia is no different in that more and more Aussies are harbouring anxious – one might say existential — fears about the respective agendas of the U.S. neoconservative and neoliberal Establishment elites. And notwithstanding her blandly reassuring campaign rhetoric, Mrs Clinton hasn’t just aligned herself with these agendas; it’s increasingly clear she’s the preferred standard bearer of those running them.
With this in mind, outside of her aforementioned Tammy Wynette moment, we should explore a little more of the aspiring president’s resume. In her excellent book, aptly titled Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, Diana Johnstone does just this. The author chronicles in a clear-eyed manner her subject’s history in excruciating detail. What makes Johnstone’s tome all the more remarkable, credible, and essential reading is the depth and breadth of her narrative, one that goes way beyond the outwardly narrow focus suggested by the book’s title.
For Johnstone, Clinton’s “misadventures” aren’t simply a reflection of the war mongering misadventures of the country she aspires to lead and whose virtues – specious as they so often are regardless of which politician or public figure is voicing them — she obsequiously and glibly extolls at every turn.
In the author’s studied analysis of the candidate, as if to ensure no stone is left unturned in the realization of her ambition, Mrs Clinton (aka “Mummy Warbucks”) goes further by embracing all of the vices that distinguish the prevailing Washington groupthink on foreign, national security and military policy. That she does so as promiscuously as her errant spouse pursued his own personal vices is an observation few would dispute.
Moreover, along with being attendant to that of her husband’s career, the backstory of Clinton’s political ascendancy is inextricably woven into the larger narrative of America’s preeminence as the “indispensable” empire du jour in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, itself coinciding more or less with Bill’s election to the presidency in 1992. As Johnstone notes, in her youth, the then Hillary Rodham, a former Republican and a “Goldwater girl” no less,
‘…grew up with the viewpoint of a rich and dominant America obliged to maintain its position on top of an envious and resentful world. This was the standard attitude’.
It should be noted that it was her husband’s foreign and national security policies that in so many ways facilitated the rise of the “full-spectrum dominance” mindset that prevails in Washington to this day. In fact Bill Clinton’s track record as POTUS is a singular pointer to how a Hillary Clinton presidency will shape up on the critical economic and financial, as well as the geopolitical, and national security fronts. Though we may never know the full extent of Hillary’s influence on her husband’s foreign and national security policies during his tenure, we can safely assume it was never less than substantive. In this we might point to her well-documented encouragement of Bill to bomb Yugoslavia, as just one example.
And now with her husband as a key fundraiser, campaign strategist and arguably her closest political confidant, the prospect that once she is ensconced in the White House, ‘Bubba’ Clinton will almost certainly reign behind the throne as her indispensible consigliore is something of a lay down misere. In fact, we can’t rule out his appointment as a key player in the next administration. In this case, the die one imagines is already cast – America’s future preordained.
With the aptly designated “War Party” – the cabal of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who are the flag-bearers of that hegemonic ambition – now more entrenched than it was in Bill’s heyday then, there can only be one outcome from a Hillary Clinton presidency. Put simply, unlike her putative Republican rival Donald Trump, we might comfortably predict Mrs Clinton’s form as president will likely to be more of the same, and then some!
In an interview with Joan Brunwasser on OpEd News, Johnstone explained there were two things [that] inspired her to write Queen of Chaos; these are instructive to the narrative herein. The first reason was the Libyan intervention and accompanying regime change gambit. After describing the war that eventually destroyed Libya as “totally unjustified” – a regular refrain in the decades-long history of America’s war for the Greater Middle East – the author declared that most people are “totally unaware [of] how much falsification was used to justify that war”. It was Clinton as Secretary of State she says, who cajoled [president] Obama into that war and is “quite ready to use it as model for further regime change in countries whose leaders she doesn’t like”.
Clinton’s sniggering, affected exultation — “we came, we saw, he died” — upon hearing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s grisly demise at the hands of mostly Western backed anti-government rebels was clear evidence of this. Her close pal (and aspiring presidential whisperer) Henry Kissinger – himself a past master of malevolent mayhem – doubtless would’ve been impressed with the way the Libyan debacle unfolded, although one imagines Hank may have had the ‘decorum’ to gloat on the inside, if only for appearances’ sake.
As for her second reason, the author points out [it was],
‘….the totally disproportionate hostility aroused against Vladimir Putin and Russia as a result of the Ukrainian crisis….[itself] incited largely by Washington and the European Union. That hostility was already brewing, and Hillary has kept it stirring. These events are part of a trend toward a much greater war than people today think possible.’
And if that wasn’t enough to underscore her fealty to the “War Party” and broader implications of a Clinton presidency, in a recent piece on Counterpunch, Johnstone declared that she had hoped the occasion of the campaign might be seized upon not only to “expose the lies of Hillary Clinton”, but, [also to]
‘….seek freedom from America’s seven decades of subjugation to the military-industrial complex and its organic intellectuals who never cease conjuring up threats and enemies to justify the war economy. This entire policy needs to be exposed, denounced and rejected.’
Hillary the Regressive Progressive
Partly it seems to highlight the anomalies and absurdities that have characterised this campaign as well as accentuate, based on her previous form, Clinton’s palpable lack of fitness for the Oval Office, Andrew Levine from the Institute for Policy Studies singled out so-called “progressive liberals” for their unstinting support of Hillary. In his view, no notable people within this nebulous constituency (one of her fans Paul Krugman comes to mind here) have been able to come up with examples of “anything progressive or even worthwhile that Hillary has accomplished.”
Levine notes, somewhat acerbically, as First Lady [Clinton],
‘….set the cause of health care reform back a generation, laying the groundwork for all that is wrong with Obamacare; as a Senator, she did nothing noteworthy at all; and, worst of all, as Secretary of State, all she has been good for is facilitating world-endangering disasters.’
With many key players in the hard-core neoconservative camp – from the uber-rich Koch brothers to the mega-influential Kagans (Robert Kagan and his wife Victoria Nuland) – now more likely to support a Clinton presidency certainly over a Trump presidency, the writing is on the wall. This factor alone potentially represents a game changing development, providing a whole new twist, perverse as it is, to the term ‘partisan politics’. By the same token, such is the abhorrence in which Clinton is held in some circles, Trump himself is held up as a more appealing alternative.
On the neoconservative front, herein one might point to U.S. provocations of China in the East Asian and South China Sea sphere of influence, and more broadly, the so-called pivot to Asia in general, wherein Australians have signed on to play a major role.
Then there is her embrace of Washington’s incessant sabre-rattling policy towards Russia and belligerent demonising of her president Vladimir Putin, much of it ominously reminiscent of the rabble-rousing antagonism the British directed towards Germany in the years leading up to the First World War. In both of these cases Hillary Clinton as POTUS is unlikely to reverse or even modify the existing policies and seek a more conciliatory, cooperative course.
And on the neoliberal front, with fewer people viewing secretive faux trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as little more than Trojan Horses concocted to enhance corporate power and influence, allowing the transnationals to further enrich themselves at the expense of the national sovereignty, economic prosperity and self-determination of the countries who sign off on them, our all but obligatory commitment to this agreement has many Australians questioning not just the benefits of the pact itself, but our hitherto ‘no questions asked’ vassal-status alliance with America. Clinton’s flip-flopping on this issue is not a good sign for those increasingly opposed to these ‘trade’ regimes.
Further, as for her earnest proclamations about reining in Wall Street, Clinton is no more likely to entertain this prospect than Obama was, and for not dissimilar reasons. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either rationally challenged or reality impaired. Their respective presidential campaigns – indeed their political ascendancy – were funded in large part and via various means by the ‘gang-banksters’ of ‘grab-it-all street’.
Moreover, these massive payments – essentially frocked-up ‘payola’ disguised as speaking fees, charitable donations, or campaign contributions – she (along with her husband it should be noted, whose own political ascendance and longevity has been greatly aided and abetted by the ‘Street’ mavens past and present), has received from the financial industry, translates to Mrs Clinton taking up the mantle once in office as the crucial bulwark between the financial felons and the folks with the pitchforks.
As Pepe Escobar has noted, although “Wall Street’s Golden Girl” likes to portray herself, at least for public consumption, as a dedicated disciple of the “No Bank Is Too Big To Fail” ethos [and is] “fully committed” to financial industry reform, she is,
‘……the reigning Queen of Turbo-Charged Casino Neoliberalism…..the evidence insists to suggest that her actions do not exactly match her rhetoric.’
It seems then few presidential aspirants have campaigned for office schlepping so much obvious baggage with them. In fact it is a testament to the Clintons’ formidable, perpetual motion political machine that much of HRC’s “baggage” is either hidden from public view or is rarely subjected to the rigorous scrutiny that should accompany any candidate aspiring to the highest office in the land. Paradoxically, this applies even moreso now despite now more informed folks ostensibly at least, having the Clintons’ political and personal measure.
But as indicated, the MSM have dutifully shoved her dirty linen down the laundry chute and welded the doors shut both ends so the pong doesn’t offend the nostrils of the voting public. And in at least one case it would appear, so have some in alternative, independent media (AIM) circles been pulling their punches.
As veteran Australian filmmaker and journalist John Pilger noted recently, in reference to an article he published on Counterpunch about Clinton’s fitness for the presidency, another well known and generally respected AIM outlet Truthout, refused to publish it in full until he excised some of what they viewed as his more contentious statements regarding the Woman who Would be President.
Tellingly and to his dismay, Pilger admitted that this was the first time he’d ever been asked to undertake such self-censorship. He was, as might be expected, less than impressed, as much it seems by what he was asked to censor as by whom. In this case it was a news outlet positioning itself as a credible, authentic alternative to the glorified stenographers and perception managers filling the newsrooms and editorial boards within and across the NYT/Washington Post/LAT axis.
After noting that, “like all censorship, this was unacceptable”, he had this to say in response:
‘[Truthout said]…my unwillingness to submit my work to a “process of revision” meant [they] had to take it off their “publication docket”. Such is the gatekeeper’s way with words. At the root of this episode is an enduring unsayable. This is the need, the compulsion, of many liberals to embrace a leader from within a system that is demonstrably imperial and violent. Like Obama’s “hope”, Clinton’s gender is no more than a suitable facade.’
For Pilger and other like-mined observers, the broader challenge for those wishing to expose the leading candidate’s “dirty linen” to greater scrutiny when it is needed is made more difficult as a result of her status as the anointed Establishment candidate within and amongst the Washington power elites. Now that Clinton has fashioned herself as the “women’s candidate” and “champion of American liberalism” in its “heroic struggle” with those mostly unelected folks who dictate U.S. economic, foreign, military, and national security policy, it is increasingly difficult given the existing political climate to counter this cockamamie narrative.
Pilger’s withering, ‘blowtorch to the belly’ assessment of this fiction peddling and increasingly infectious meme leaves no room for ambiguity:
‘This is drivel, of course; Hillary Clinton leaves a trail of blood and suffering around the world and a clear record of exploitation and greed in her own country. To say so, however, is becoming intolerable in the land of free speech.’
Surviving President Clinton
What should be especially troubling for Americans contemplating their next commander in chief, Clinton clearly views herself amongst those elites within the Washington firmament whose position, profile, public persona, and self-importance gives them licence to consider themselves above the law. Of course this phenomena is nothing new, but it is becoming increasingly obvious to ordinary Americans that those in power and/or those with influence aren’t routinely – without fear or favour — subject to the same rules and penalties as they would, all things being equal.
Given her legally suspect track record on so many issues, this alone should disqualify Clinton from consideration as president. Her arrogant, contemptuous dismissal of suggestions she may face prosecution for the so-called ‘Server-gate’ scandal – “it’s simply not going to happen” — is ample evidence that she feels safe and secure in the exclusive “Too Big to Jail” Club.
As former CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern sees it, with the FBI investigation into the matter about to wrap, it’s anyone’s guess at this stage as to whether the U.S. Justice Department will find against her for using a private email account and server to conduct official, classified and/or top secret State Department business whilst Secretary of State, and from there prosecute her to the full extent of the law. But McGovern goes on to add the following:
‘…..if there is something incriminating – or at least politically damaging – in Clinton’s emails, it’s a safe bet that at least the NSA and maybe the FBI, as well, knows. And that could make life difficult for a Clinton-45 presidency….The whole thing needs to be cleaned up now before the choices for the next President are locked in.’
In a recent piece – titled “Would The World Survive President Hillary?” — that in part revisited the Clintons’ shared history both during and since his time in office, Paul Craig Roberts noted that, for those looking the Clintons represent everything that is deeply flawed about the way Washington works, their status intact as the ‘poster couple’ for the corrosive graft, corruption, political perversion and criminal sleaze that infects the Beltway milieu. Roberts adds:
‘…..government has been privatized. Office holders use their positions in order to make themselves wealthy, not in order to serve the public interest. Bill and Hillary Clinton epitomize the use of public office in behalf of the office holder’s interest. For the Clintons, government means using public office to be rewarded for doing favors for private interests.’
Considering her track record in dodging political bullets, there seems little doubt she’s learnt a few lessons from the master himself, ‘hubbie’ Bill, who even more than Ronald Reagan might fairly claim exclusive bragging rights to the mantle of The Teflon President. More than that, part of the reason HRC’s fitness for the Oval Office has not been subjected to the sort of scrutiny we all should expect was the reluctance of her main Democratic rival Bernie Sanders to go for the Clinton jugular throughout the now all but over primaries. Madame Secretary might own the most vulnerable “jugular” in this campaign, but as noted, she’s been extraordinarily adept at ensuring hers is a constantly moving, hard-to-hit target.
Yet even if Sanders had conducted a more aggressive campaign against Clinton based on her baggage-filled background, it’s arguable the MSM would not have accorded such efforts that much attention in any event, now matter how on the money he was or how well such tactics might have played out with voters. Insofar as the MSM is concerned, the nomination of Clinton as the Democratic – indeed, Establishment – candidate, was a forgone conclusion from the get-go. The MSM’s job is to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
All this was underscored by the amount of MSM ink the respective campaigns garnered, with the Sanders’ campaign receiving a fraction as that of the Clinton effort. And even here that coverage has been at best, begrudging. And this is without factoring in reports of vote rigging in various primary contests and Democratic campaign funding anomalies, all of which have but been ignored in mainstream circles. For their part the MSM have long since abrogated any and all responsibility for guiding voters in the selection of a president who might begin to reverse the course America seems hell bent on pursuing, whether in the broad economic, financial, social, military, national security, or geopolitical spheres. It was hardly ever going to change gear this time around.
Last but not least is the aforementioned Clinton machine itself, whose principal drivers are doubtless leaving nothing to chance in their relentless, ruthless drive towards the ‘inevitable’ nomination of their standard bearer and ultimately the presidency. This, coupled with the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) own ‘out of the starting gate’ anointment of HRC as the presumptive nominee along with the crucial backing (above and below board) that accompanies said “anointment”, translated to Sanders having to work much harder to gain sufficient traction, and from there position himself as a more qualified, suitable candidate for nomination.
And though it may be too little, too late, some people within the AIM ranks are still calling into question her suitability, qualification, and fitness for the White House. To this end, in a recent article Robert Parry of Consortium News posed a simple but seemingly vexed question about HRC – is she qualified to be president? As noted, this should be the most fundamental consideration, and not just with rank and file voters. In this an equally crucial question might be asked: What kind of individual is the best person to reverse the course America seems intent on pursuing at the expense of everything it purports to stand for?
At one stage Obama held out this promise to America, and more recently for some, Sanders, who although as of this writing may not be down for the count, certainly has his work cut out for him in order to head the presumptive nominee off at the pass. Leaving aside any discussion of whether Donald Trump is a suitable candidate for the presidency (a story for another time), in Parry’s view, Mrs Clinton is decidedly not that person. For her part he says, [Clinton],
‘…..seemed incapable of learning from her costly errors – or perhaps she just understands that the politically safest course is to do what Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment wants…..That way you get hailed as a serious thinker in The Washington Post and at think-tank conferences. Virtually all major columnists and big-name pundits praised Clinton’s hawkish tendencies as Secretary of State, from her escalating tensions with Iran to tipping the balance of the debate in favor of “regime change” in Libya to urging direct U.S. military intervention in Syria in pursuit of another “regime change” there.’
Hillary Clinton is, indeed, the “Queen of Chaos”, inhabiting her own real-life “House of Cards”, one that has been constructed by a fawning, uncritical mainstream media, financed by the denizens of Wall Street and [the] military-industrial-security complex, and all the while with its perennially vulnerable perimeter secured (at least for now) by the hegemonically minded neo-conservatives and their fellow travellers the (not-so) liberal interventionists. In other words, the real power enclaves that constitute the toxic Washington political firmament.
All things considered, simply being “afraid” somehow just doesn’t seem to cut it. When it comes to the Clintons, one imagines we’d all be safer and more secure with Frank Underwood and his Mrs as the vice-presidential running mate, or more pertinently in this case, vice versa.
…..Now, there’s a thought!
5 May, 2016