My problem with Hillary
The New York primary comes next Tuesday and I realize it is past time for me to toss in my two cents worth. I will, later, tackle the issue of Bernie Sanders' campaign. I realize that while the American Left is shattered, and there are no definitive spokespeople, as someone who was twice the chair of the Socialist Party, and twice it's Presidential candidate, I should take up the question of the Sanders' campaign, and will do so, but not tonight.Tonight I want to outline my serious problems with Hillary Clinton, and explain why, in the event she wins the Democratic Party's nomination, I will vote for Jill Stein of the Greens rather than Hillary Clinton. That is not an easy decision, since I think it imperative that the Republicans not take the White House. (And I know that in New York State it is not a reckless position, since New York is one of the states which is virtually certain to vote Democratic, as Texas is virtually certain to vote Republican, so that "maverick votes" don't really risk things).I do not hold Hillary's support for Goldwater and the Republicans. when she was very young. against her. After all, at her age I was in the Prohibition Party! It is what happened to Clinton and where she has gone in her later years that needs to be examined
Part of me feels genuinely sorry for Hillary. Put it down to my puritanical streak (something which, as an aging homosexual, I don't really have a right to!) but I felt that was it in poor taste for Bill Clinton to have his cock sucked in the Oval Office by an intern (somehow a mistress would be easier to take - Bill's actions were simply gross). I believe this event must have been utterly shattering for Hillary and for Chelsea. The humiliation was surely much worse than the earlier reports of his sexual liaisons with women in his home state. It was not to Hillary's credit that she tended to shift the blame to the women - a most dubious kind of feminism.But let's leave her personal humiliations aside, though I think they left her hardened. It has been her political record which leaves me unable to cast a vote for her. She moves in a crowd of wealth and celebrity, which not only has included Donald Trump, but vastly worse, includes, to this day, Henry Kissinger. So much time has passed since the end of the Vietnam War - 41 years - that new generations do not realize that thousands of young Americans died in Vietnam, and tens of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians, because of the foreign policy pursued by Richard Nixon, whose closest adviser was Henry Kissinger. If the term "war criminal" has meaning, it must be applied to Kissinger. (Nor was the Indochina War his only crime - he played a key role in the overthrow of the elected government of Salvador Allende, In Chile. An overthrow which saw the bloody suppression of Allende's supporters).
After the end of World War II the allies, at the Nuremberg Tribunal, sentenced a number of Nazi leaders to death by hanging. If we look back at Vietnam, and realize that an estimated three million Vietnamese died in that war, where, on that scale, would we place the possible punishment of Kissinger?
Hillary Clinton is fundamentally a war candidate. When Bush launched the Iraq War (now, also, so distant in time we forget how sharp was the debate before the dreadful "shock and awe" which opened that war, and destroyed a nation) it was not only simply Bernie Sanders who spoke against it - so did Barack Obama. So did the Pope. Literally millions of people marched for peace in the streets of London, Paris, Tokyo. The UN inspectors on the scene had reported at that time that they had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
The opposition to that war did not spring from any affection for Saddam. I had been in Iraq just before the war began, on a delegation from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and felt the pressure of the Saddam dictatorship, with huge posters of him all over the city. No, it was not an opposition built on affection for Saddam Hussein, but on a belief the war would not solve the problems.
We - those of us in total opposition to Bush - were right. Hillary Clinton was wrong, along with Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush. Now she admits her vote was "a mistake" but there is no sense of guilt in her voice. No awareness that thousands upon thousands of young Americans - and tens upon tens of thousands of Iraqis died in that war. She counts on voters too young to remember how widespread was the opposition to that war. How is it possible for her to forget the images of torture from Abu Ghraib?
When there was unrest in Libya, she supported - proudly, eager to take credit for it - the US policy of helping overthrow Gadhafi. As Bernie Sanders has noted, it is not her experience which is weak, it is her judgment. The horrors of the Iraq War did not leave her hesitant about Libya, nor did the disaster of Libya lead her to support negotiating the Syrian crisis - it was the prolonged, patient work of John Kerry which has given us, at least for the moment, a break in the fighting. Perhaps because Kerry had actually seen a war from the front line, not from the comfort of an office in Washington DC.
Of the candidates for President, Trump is so fascinating he merits an article of his own. Ted Cruz is a man looking squarely toward the past and would lead us there. Hillary is the candidate of the establishment, who seeks to manage what is, rather than to imagine what might be. Only Bernie Sanders points us to the future. And while Bernie is not without error, he can be trusted, even by his opponents, while Hillary is trusted by no one.
Bernie has always been for gay rights - Hillary waited until the coast was clear before taking a position, Along with her husband, she was happy with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and with opposing gay marriage.
I know - I've been in politics a long time - that the Establishment will support Hillary. She poses no threat. The trade union leadership (and not even all of them) supports Hillary, but the rank and file supports Bernie. Hillary's boast is that she can get things done, and Bernie can't. I put it to you that this is a very risky proposition. For whatever reason, the GOP hates Hillary, with a much greater venom than it hates Obama. The idea that once elected she can settle down and negotiate with the GOP is an illusion. I put it to you that, if Bernie Sanders is elected, that will have reflected such a true shift in the body politic that the GOP will realize it has to go along at least part of the way.
Hillary will provide decent nominees for the Supreme Court, she will support Social Security and health care, but she will not take on the pharmaceutical industry which makes health care so expensive. She will not expand the health care program to cover the millions not covered now. On most domestic issues she will be OK - no more, but no less. And that is not good enough. When Bernie suggests medical care for all, tuition free public colleges, (not a new idea, when I went to UCLA in the 1950's there was no tuition), Hillary explains we can't afford it. We live in a nation where there is enormous wealth in the hands of a tiny minority - and Hillary will not take a single step toward the taxation policies that would begin the redistribution of that vast wealth.She has not - thus far not even tried - to explain why the US cannot afford the things which in Denmark, or Holland, or Sweden, or Finland, are taken for granted. When Bernie says we need a political revolution he is on target - and that is what Hillary will do her best to avoid.
However on foreign policy she will opt for guns. Look at her record in the tiny country of Honduras, imagine her possible actions in Ukraine. And if you followed her speech to AIPAC, where she covered every possible base, including a pledge for an early meeting with Netanyahu, you can see that she is in touch with the past, not the future. AIPAC represents that wing of the Jewish community which has substituted total support for Israeli policies for the much deeper and more important part of the Jewish community which remembers the Judaic tradition as one of justice, not oppression. There are a great many young Jews, not "self-hating", and not indifferent to the problems of Israel, who seek a new relationship with Israel and the Palestinians. Hillary not only doesn't speak for them, she doesn't even know they exist. Besides, the AIPAC folks include billionaires who will fund her campaign - the young Jewish folks don't have that kind of money, just integrity!The world is changing, but Hillary has not changed. It would be wonderful to have a woman as President, but not this woman. Not a woman who accepts hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wall Street for her speeches - but will not release those speeches to the public.
The machinery of Establishment will break its back to get Hillary the nomination. The Chair of the DNC made sure, when the first debates were scheduled, that they would be few, and mainly at times when people would be following a sports event. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is a good example of the establishment which Hillary represents. The establishment fears the kind of change Bernie Sanders is urging - and which is possible. The military-industrial complex fears the cuts in their budgets.
When I see Hillary on TV, I remember the war dead. I remember her friend, Henry Kissinger. I remember the speeches made to Wall Street but kept secret from us. I cannot in conscience vote for her if she wins the nomination. I do not urge others to follow my lead. It is a personal one, that the dynasties of Bush and Clinton need to end. Those who represent them need to mourn the past. The rest of us need to build the future.
This is an Edgeleft essay, one of a series of occasional essays by David McReynolds, who worked for War Resisters League for nearly forty years, was chair of War Resisters International, and active in socialist politics all his life. He is retired and lives on New York’s City Lower East Side with his talkative cat. He can be reached at: email@example.com