Thursday, July 14, 2016

Eyes Wide unShut

So now that Bernie Sanders has finally gotten off his pity pot and endorsed Hillary Clinton - big yawn - the only two questions left to be answered are: 1. Who will she choose as her running mate? and 2. Why should I or any progressive support her in November?

As far as the first question, we'll know soon enough. Once il Duce picks either Chris Christie or Mike Pence as his number two, Clinton will make her choice. My heart says Elizabeth Warren, but my gut says Tim Kaine. He's the safe pick and Hillary is, if anything, a creature of habit.

And now for that second question: Why should I or any progressive support Hillary Clinton this fall?

Well, first off, I think it's important that I get a few things off my chest. I am not a Hillary supporter in the same way that many of her supporters are. A simple perusing of my blog will demonstrate that on many occasions I have taken her to task for her conduct. Perhaps my greatest "takedown" of her, if you will, was in a piece I wrote back in February, titled, ironically enough, "Feeling Berned Out."
"Look, I understand. Every time you see Hillary Clinton you're reminded of that friend who would come over to your home for lunch and go through your house checking for dust on the shelves and mildew in the bathroom. She'd give you that fake hug, you know the one that says please don't mess my hair; I'm going out tonight with someone I actually give a shit about. And the conversation would be SO banal. Seriously, you would've done better inviting a homeless person over. But you didn't, so you're stuck with her. And then that moment comes when she departs and you can finally exhale and say, 'Thank Christ that's over. That's two hours of my life I'll never get back.'"
And then for good measure, I added:
"Hillary Clinton is the consummate politician. She makes her husband Bill look like Clark Kent. She's the Democratic equivalent of Jeb Bush, only without a trillion dollar war hanging over her head. And I understand perfectly well why so many progressives can't stand her. She wants to be liked the way Elizabeth Warren is adored, but more often than not she comes across as Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians. She even has the same laugh, doesn't she?"
If that's your idea of a supporter, you and I obviously read from different dictionaries. Unlike so many of her supporters and, yes, detractors, I have a far more objective and sober assessment of her strengths and weaknesses. And she has many on both sides.

Let's start with her biggest weaknesses, since that appears to be the popular theme these days.

Number one: her lack of authenticity. Let's face it, the woman reeks of insincerity. This isn't just a Republican talking point, it's a legitimate criticism that even some of her staunchest defenders have sadly noted. They've attempted to rationalize it by saying, well, she's just being careful. Bullshit. Obama is careful, but when he speaks, you know he means what he says. When Clinton speaks, you get the feeling you're listening to a salesman looking for the right pitch to close a sale. There is a huge difference.

Now I understand to some extent why she is so cautious with her words. She's been bitten a lot over the last quarter century. And let's face it, her husband has been something of a loose canon both in this campaign and the one in '08. He's gone off script so much he could play the lead role in a B movie. And if you'd had the microphone stuffed in your face as much as she has, you'd be a little gun shy, too.

Number two: her lack of a moral compass. Throughout her long and storied political career, Hillary Clinton has taken many positions on a wide range of issues, only to contradict herself later on down the road. She was against gay marriage before she was for it; she was against a pathway to citizenship before she was for it; and she was for TPP before she was against it.

Some of her apologists have pawned this off as her merely evolving on these issues. With respect to gay marriage, that might be a plausible explanation. The country has done a one eighty on this issue, so it's understandable that politicians like Clinton could evolve on it. Even Obama had to be outed by his VP on Meet the Press before he finally endorsed it. So, fine, I'll give her a mulligan here.

But the rest is pure politicking 101. The sad truth is that Hillary Clinton is the political equivalent of a weather vane. The woman never met a poll she didn't like. I once mockingly mused that I heard she had come out with a poll to determine what her favorite food should be. Ed Koch used to ask, "Hi, how am I  doing?" Hillary would probably ask, "Hi, how do you think I should be doing?" Seriously, can you think of a single time that she took a stand on something of consequence that didn't have some kind of political calculation behind it? Neither could I.

Number three: she lied about her email server. I don't know how else to say it. Either she lied or she's an idiot. And Hillary Clinton is no idiot. She's one of the smartest people in politics. In fact she runs rings around Bill. But her excuses / explanations regarding this whole chapter in her career have been thoroughly debunked by the FBI investigation. James Comey, while electing not to seek an indictment, nonetheless gave a scathing and blistering report on not only the server but her handling of it. In short, it wasn't just a lack of judgment, as she has maintained from the start, but a willful disregard for proper protocol and national security.

Yes, she escaped criminal prosecution, but she is hardly out of the woods, as so many of her supporters are vehemently maintaining. Donald Trump and the GOP will harp on this throughout the rest of the campaign and Clinton has no one but herself to blame. Even now, she can't bring herself to apologize and admit that this was all her fault. Any she wonders why so many people don't trust her.

And now her biggest strengths.

Number one: her resume. As strange as it may seem, in a year when being an insider has become a death knell for other candidates, Hillary Clinton is proving to be the exception. She successfully fended off a serious challenge from Sanders during the primary by convincing the majority of Democrats that she has the experience and temperament to be commander in chief. Given how Trump waltzed to the GOP nomination that was no easy feat. And in general elections, experience can matter a great deal, even to voters who would otherwise be predisposed to prefer an outsider.

From her days in the White House as First Lady, to her two terms in the Senate, to her stint as Secretary of State, Clinton does have an impressive resume. She has been at the forefront of many issues, including healthcare and women's rights. And she has cosponsored many bills while in the Senate. She also was the chief architect of the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table.

Yes, she's a little too hawkish for my tastes, but these days that could help her, especially with voters who are socially liberal, but who are concerned about what's going on around the world. The fact that she's separating herself a bit from Obama on foreign policy is a sign that she knows the political headwinds are moving rightward. And it takes away one of Trump's biggest attacks on her: that she's weak.

Number two: her ability to negotiate. Ironically, the thing that drives many progressives up the wall about her - her willingness to abandon long-standing ideals for political gain - is the very thing that could make her an exceptional president. Sometimes the lack of a moral compass has its advantages. It means you're open to trade offs. And in politics, the best negotiators are often the ones who don't box themselves into a corner.

For all the adoration his supporters lauded on him, the simple fact is that Bernie Sanders would've made a terrible president. Ideals make for wondrous speeches; but they seldom amount to much when it comes to passing legislation and signing laws into effect. My guess is that Clinton will be far more amenable to striking deals with Republicans that will infuriate her base but will actually achieve badly needed results.

Number three: she has the temperament to be president. Yes, she's cautious to a fault, but I'd rather have that than the alternative: someone who's pure id and who shouts out the first thing that pops into his head. Trump is the epitome of the kid in the backseat of the car who keeps asking, "Are we there, yet?" The bully who intimidates his enemies and doesn't listen to his friends. He is easily rattled and very thin skinned.

Hillary Clinton, by comparison, is cool under pressure and measures her words carefully. The last twenty-five years of intense scrutiny have prepared her well for this job. She spent eleven grueling hours in front of a House subcommittee being interrogated over the Benghazi attack. For their efforts, the GOP came off looking like fools, while Clinton emerged vindicated. Trump, meanwhile, whined because he was asked a couple of tough questions in a debate. In a firestorm, I'd go with Clinton over Trump in a heartbeat.

Well, there you have it. A list - however incomplete it might be - of Hillary Clinton's strengths and weaknesses. I suppose there's enough there for people to like and not like. She is hardly the ideal candidate; hell, she's not even a particular strong one. Let's not forget she was defeated in '08 by a freshman senator from Illinois and got pushed around pretty good by someone who, prior to last year, less than half the country had even heard of.

I'm not blind, nor am I jaded. I'm simply making the case that, given all the facts, Hillary Clinton is the best choice that's out there. In fact, she's the only one standing between Donald Trump and the Oval office. That, in and of itself, should be the only incentive voters should need to go to the polls this November and elect her.

Jill Stein is not the answer; she's a distraction. Her candidacy bears a striking resemblance to another third-party candidacy in 2000 that helped get George Bush elected president. No responsible Democrat should ever allow that to happen again.

There are no FDRs out there, or JFKs or LBJs for that matter. In fact, sad as it might be to admit, Obama may end up being an anomaly in modern politics: that rare blend of wisdom and principles, and even he had his weak moments when reality bended him to its shape.

If I had my druthers, I would've preferred Warren, but I don't and neither do you. And even if she winds up being Hillary's running mate, she'll still be number two, NOT number one. That may be a bitter pill for some to swallow, but it's a helluva lot better than watching an egotistical, maniacal, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist man-child being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

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