Debunking the Ralph Nader Scare Tactics For Supporting The Lesser Evil

Trump Clinton Illusion Free Choice

Many of us have principles and will not support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Many Clinton supporters have shown no understanding of the basic democratic principle that we have the right to support or not support whichever candidates we choose. They make bogus claims that not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump. If true, the opposite would also have to be true–our decision to not vote for Trump by their logic would be a vote for Hillary.

Clinton supporters raise Ralph Nader and the 2000 election, but this is wrong for so many reasons:

This assumes that the Democrats are entitled to our vote, and that if there weren’t third party candidates running, those on the left would automatically vote for the Democrat. Wrong. Many would stay home, or leave the presidential spot empty, if there was no other choice.

Most of us do not live in battleground states, leaving us free to vote our convictions without affecting the outcome. Plus Clinton is pulling away in the battleground states and Nate Silver reassures us that Clinton will win anyways. Considering what an inept campaign Trump has waged since clinching the nomination, he is probably right (although Quinnipiac does show them deadlocked).

Hillary Clinton is not Al Gore. She is far closer to George Bush. We were outraged by Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy, but Clinton is the neocon hawk running this year. We protested Bush’s assault on civil liberties, but Clinton also has a far right record on civil liberties issues, sounding much like Donald Trump on restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism. We objected to an increase in government secrecy under Bush, but Clinton has a long record of opposing government transparency. Bush’s administration was remarkable for expanding the influence of the religious right.  Clinton worked with The Fellowship to expand the influence of religion on public policy when in the Senate. Plus Clinton has been on the wrong side regarding the corrupting role of money in politics, on the environment and climate change, on the death penalty, on single-payer health care. She is even to the right of Donald Trump on drug policy and the drug war and on the wrong side of trade issues.

If you think having George Bush elected in 2000 was a terrible thing (and it was), it makes no sense to argue that Hillary Clinton should be president when she supports so much of what made Bush such a terrible president.

If anything, Nader has been proven right by the Democrats nominating a corrupt warmonger such as Clinton. This clearly shows the dangers of “lesser evilism.”

When does the “lesser evilism” stop? We are warned about what happened when Bush beat Gore and told me must support Clinton because of Trump, but Clinton has supported most of the evil done by Bush. Next election will the Democrats nominate someone like Trump and will we be told we must support him if the Republicans nominate someone even more evil?

Some Clinton supporters have been rather bad winners, attacking those who disagree with them on social media for expressing our opinions. Life is more than a binary choice between the limited options provided by the major parties. It even might be argued that a function of the major parties is to limit debate to the limited issues where their candidates disagree.

In reality, Clinton and Trump are both in the authoritarian right segment of the political spectrum, not differing by as much as supporters of either would admit. Those of us who hold opposing views are going to continue to express our views on the issue, regardless of whether we have a presidential candidate who is likely to win. We will continue to oppose oligarchy, neoconservative military interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism, the corrupting role of money in politics, destruction of the environment for profit, and an increased role of religion in public policy–even if the Democratic nominee is on the wrong side of each of these issues.

State Department Report Shows Clinton Violated Policy, Further Weakening Her Candidacy

Clinton Email Cartoon Deleted

An audit from the State Department Inspector found that Hillary Clinton did not comply with email policies. AP and CBS report:

A State Department audit has faulted Hillary Clinton and previous secretaries of state for poorly managing email and other computer information and slowly responding to new cybersecurity risks.

The Associated Press, which obtained the report, says that the audit cites “longstanding, systemic weaknesses” related to communications. These started before Clinton’s appointment as secretary of state, but her failures were singled out as more serious.

CBS News has also obtained a copy of the report, which singles out Clinton among her predecessors.

“At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report reads.

It goes on to say that Clinton produced 55,000 pages of emails to mitigate her failure to preserve the emails, but the inspector general “notes that Secretary Clinton’s production [of 55,000 pages of emails] was incomplete.” The report also says that the 55,000 pages included no emails from the first few months of her tenure as secretary for either received or sent messages.

The report also indicates that Clinton and her close advisers failed to cooperate with the investigation, and also suggests attempts at covering up their actions. This includes “how some technology staff said they were instructed to not talk of Clinton’s email set-up after they raised concerns about the unusual arrangement.” The report raised security concerns, along with the failure to report the incidents:

It states that a non-State adviser to Bill Clinton, who was the original user of the server later taken over by Hillary Clinton, shut down the server in early 2011 because of hacking concerns.

“On January 9, 2011, the non-Departmental advisor to President Clinton who provided technical support to the Clinton email system notified the Secretary’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations that he had to shut down the server because he believed ‘someone was trying to hack us and while they did not get in i didnt [sic] want to let them have the chance to,’” the report says. “Later that day, the advisor again wrote to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, ‘We were attacked again so I shut [the server] down for a few min.’”

The report goes on to detail another incident in May and says that Clinton and her staff did not appropriate report the matters.

“Notification is required when a user suspects compromise of, among other things, a personally owned device containing personally identifiable information,” it says. “However, OIG found no evidence that the Secretary or her staff reported these incidents to computer security personnel or anyone else within the Department.”

Since the scandal broke, Clinton has claimed she was allowed to do use her email system. Factcheckers have repeatedly demonstrated that this was untrue. Clinton supporters have been falsely claiming that the State Department cleared her for months based upon twisting statements from spokesmen which in no way cleared her. This should put an end to that claim.

Clinton apologists are already trying to spin this as favorable to Clinton, including that it is helpful that this report came out now as opposed to in the fall. However, there is no doubt that Donald Trump will be raising this and multiple other scandals throughout the campaign. There are also other investigations and court cases in progress which can provide further unfavorable news, making it risky for Democrats to go into a general election campaign with Clinton the nominee

Clinton apologists are also stressing that the report also criticized the actions of Colin Powell. This is a poor defense. New rules were put into place following this and other abuses under George W. Bush. Hillary Clinton was well aware of this, and even accused the Bush administration of shredding the Constitution over their use of private email and other matters in 2007. Stricter rules were initiated by the Obama administration in 2009 in response, and it is inexcusable that Clinton ignored them. It is hardly a defense of Clinton that someone else violated the rules, especially when a major criticism of Clinton from the left is that both her behavior and her policies are far too close to what we rejected under Bush.

This scandal demonstrates Clinton’s hostility towards government transparency, her view that she is above the rules, her dishonesty, and her poor judgment. All of these attributes will make her a weak general election candidate if nominated, and a poor president if elected. Clinton is already struggling in the polls against Trump, while Sanders maintains a strong lead. With the deterioration in Clinton’s support, which is likely to continue, the superdelegates should remedy the situation by throwing their support to Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Won’t Back Off, And His Supporters Will Not Learn To Like Hillary

Sanders Pennsylvania

Bernie Sanders continues to attack Hillary Clinton while campaigning in Pennsylvania. I’m glad that he is not listening to party leaders who think he should back off. This is not a case of one Democrat with similar views running against another Democrat with similar views.  There is a large ideological difference between the candidates, and the fight should continue regardless of how difficult it might be for Sanders to win the nomination.

Former Obama speech writer Jon Favraeu has been writing articles lately about how he learned to like Hillary, and why we should too. Today he wrote, “Primaries are often a clash of personalities and magnified policy differences.” No this is not about personalities (other than Clinton’s dishonesty) and the policy differences are rather major. I have opposed Clinton this year for the same reasons I opposed her in 2008. More significantly, I oppose her for the reasons I opposed the reelection of George Bush in 2004. Her militaristic foreign policy views, conservative views on civil liberties, and opposition to government transparency are little different from the views of the Bush administration, and are unacceptable, regardless of party.

Rather than leading us to learn to like Hillary, we learned, as Conor Lynch discussed, how the Democratic Party does not represent our values. He pointed out areas where Obama has continued the policies of the Bush administration, and Hillary Clinton is significantly to the right of him. He concluded:

How much will partisan Democrats be willing to forgive a Hillary Clinton administration? Many neoconservatives have already admitted that they prefer Clinton over Trump. At this rate, Clinton could fulfill most of Trump’s reactionary platform and still find widespread support among the Democratic faithful.

Earlier this week, the Clinton campaign accused Sanders “of trying to convince the next generation of progressives that the Democratic party is corrupt.” But do progressives really need to be persuaded that the Democratic Party is part of a corrupt political system, or that it is more reactionary than progressive on many issues? This is self-evident, and the Democratic party has done an excellent job over the past few decades making that case itself. The question is: how long will Democratic voters remain blindly loyal to their party?

Hillary Clinton probably could move the country much further to the right than Donald Trump or any Republican can. The same partisan Democrats who would loudly protest conservative actions from Republicans will defend the same actions if promoted by Hillary Clinton. We already saw how much Bill Clinton moved the country to the right when he was president.

Sanders recently warned that his supporters will not necessarily support Clinton. The Washington Post reports today that Sanders said he “would wait to see what Hillary Clinton includes in her platform before deciding how actively to campaign for her in the fall, if she is the party’s nominee.”

“I want to see the Democratic party have the courage to stand up to big money interests in a way that they have not in the past, take on the drug companies, take on Wall Street, take on the fossil-fuel industry, and I want to see them come up with ideas that really do excite working families and young people in this country,” Sanders said.

The problem is that, regardless of what the platform says, Clinton will probably do what she chooses if elected. When hearings were underway to confirm her as Secretary of State there were concerns about conflicts of interest. In response to such concerns, Clinton agreed to divulge the names of all contributors to the Foundation while she was in office. Clinton failed to provide this information, while making unethically making decisions regarding parties which were contributing to the Foundation, or paying Bill unprecedented amounts of money to give speeches. She has continued this pattern of unethical behavior after leaving office. In order to promote increased transparency after the Bush years, Obama instituted stricter rules to limit the use of private email, which Clinton then violated.

If Hillary Clinton failed to abide by rather limited agreements to act in an ethical fashion before she was confirmed as Secretary of State, why should anyone believe she will pay attention to any progressive planks she allows in the Democratic platform in order to obtain the support of Bernie Sanders? She has demonstrated too many times that she cannot be trusted–and certainly should not be trusted with the powers of the presidency.

White House Denies Claims That Obama Backed Clinton At Private Fundraiser

Trumps and Clintons

A report in The New York Times claiming that Obama Privately Tells Donors That Time Is Coming to Unite Behind Hillary Clinton was not received well by Sanders supporters today. The White House promptly walked back this claim. Multiple media outlets, including Reuters and Bloomberg, report that Obama Didn’t Back Clinton at Private Fundraiser.

Among items which Josh Earnest told reporters:

  • “I was there for the fundraiser, and I was there when the comments occurred”: Earnest
  • Obama said “that as Democrats move through this competitive primary process, we need to be mindful that our success in November in electing a Democratic president will depend on the commitment and ability of the Democratic Party to come together behind our nominee”: Earnest
  • Earnest declined to say whom Obama voted for in the Ill. primary

(As an aside, if anyone gets a chance to pose questions to Obama or Earnest, ask whether Obama would pardon Clinton and/or her top aides if indicted.)

Clinton is all set to claim will give us the third term of Barack Obama. Looking at her policy views, it would more likely be a third term for the neoconservative foreign policy of George W. Bush, and would be no better on civil liberties. Or in terms of ethics, it would be the third term of Richard Nixon, including a restoration of the views of Henry Kissinger.

Of course it is possible that Obama said one thing in private, but does not want to admit to this. Should Clinton get elected, he might some day also regret tying his legacy to her. Ironically, in a recent interview, he made statements which greatly undermined Clinton’s ability to be Commander In Chief based upon her mistakes on Libya and Syria.

Clinton also made a gaffe which will probably be repeated in GOP commercials this fall in saying “We didn’t lose a single person”is Libya. Her statement was technically true in the context she intended, ignoring all the bloodshed which her policy led to, and the death of four Americans. This is as foolish as Republicans claiming that George Bush kept us safe from terrorism, if you ignore 9/11.

We are also seeing plenty of arguments that Democrats must unite behind Clinton to stop Donald Trump. First of all, we also do not know for certain whether Trump will be the Republican nominee. Secondly, if stopping Trump is so important, we should all unite behind Bernie Sanders, who has a better chance than Clinton of beating Trump in a  general election. Besides, if Trump is so terrible, why support the conservative Democratic candidate who is far closer to Trump ideologically, even if she is the lesser evil?

Obviously it is an uphill battle for Sanders to win the nomination and Clinton has a substantial lead. If it was two near identical Democratic candidates, then perhaps it would make sense to unite behind one. However we have two candidates with vastly different ideologies, a true liberal running against a Republican-lite DLC style Democrat. The stakes are too high to give up now, regardless of the odds.

Accusations Of Lying Dominate Republican Debate

It was a difficult week in debates for the truth. I already discussed the dishonesty from Hillary Clinton at the PBS Democratic Debate. At the CBS Republican debate in South Carolina (transcript here) there were accusations during the debate of candidates telling lies nineteen times. This doesn’t include any lies which fact checkers  have found.

Donald Trump was in the rare position of being the one telling the truth when he pointed out that George W. Bush got us into the Iraq war based upon lies:

“Obviously, the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake, all right?” Trump thundered when asked about his call for then-President George W. Bush to be impeached. “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none, and they knew there were none.”

Trump added, “George Bush made the mistake. We can make mistakes, but that one was a beauty.”

Trump later pointed out that Jeb was wrong about his brother keeping us safe:

“The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe. That is not safe, Marco. That is not safe,” he continued. “The world Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton [didn’t] kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him. And George Bush– by the way, George Bush had the chance, also, and he didn’t listen to the advice of his C.I.A.”

“How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center…excuse me, I lost hundreds of friends!” Trump said as the crowd booed loudly.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how Bill Clinton could be blamed when the Republican Congress obstructed his attempts to fight al Qaeda, and they certainly did not give any credit to the president who did kill bin Laden.

Trump called Ted Cruz the biggest liar, probably a position he holds due to being his most serious challenger at the moment:

TRUMP: You probably are worse than Jeb Bush. You are single biggest liar. This guys lied – let me just tell you, this guy lied about Ben Carson when he took votes away from Ben Carson in Iowa and he just continues. Today, we had robo-calls saying. “Donald Trump is not going to run in South Carolina,” — where I’m leading by a lot.”

I’m not going to vote for Ted Cruz. This is the same thing he did to Ben Carson. This guy will say anything, nasty guy. Now I know why he doesn’t have one endorsement from any of his colleagues.

CRUZ: Don, I need to go on…

TRUMP: He’s a nasty guy.

CRUZ: I will say, it is fairly remarkable to see Donald defending Ben after he called, “pathological,” and compared him to a child molester. Both of which were offensive and wrong.

Cruz counterattacked with an attack on Donald Trump for supporting funding of Planned Parenthood. Trump then defended Planned Parenthood despite his current (but not past) opposition to abortion rights:

CRUZ: You said, “Planned Parenthood does wonderful things and we should not defund it.”

TRUMP: It does do wonderful things but not as it relates to abortion.

CRUZ: So I’ll tell you what…

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me, there are wonderful things having to do with women’s health.

CRUZ: You see you and I…

TRUMP: But not when it comes to abortion.

In yet another exchange which came down to honesty, Marco Rubio made this accusation against Ted Cruz:

I don’t know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn’t speak Spanish.

Cruz then responded in Spanish.

The Vast Ideological Gap Between Hillary Clinton and Supporters of Bernie Sanders

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

Politico looks at Hillary Clinton’s 43 percent problem:

Mitt Romney had a 47 percent problem. Hillary Clinton’s problem is 43 percent.

That’s the share of Democratic caucus goers in Iowa who identify themselves as “socialists,” according to a recent Des Moines Register poll. It’s a percentage that has turned a once-easy line of attack – painting Bernie Sanders as too far left to be electable — into a trickier endeavor for Clinton in the last days before the Iowa caucuses.

This gives one explanation of why the polls in Iowa are now so close, but it over-simplifies the situation. It is not really about socialists versus capitalists. Sanders’ views are far closer to those of European Social Democrats. He is not a socialist, and I certainly am not.  The ideological divide, and the reasons I support Sanders over Clinton, are more complex.

Using the flawed left/right ideological spectrum also creates more serious misunderstandings and feeds the Clinton camp’s false claims that she is more electable than Sanders. The left/right spectrum misses the fact that independents and voters in battle ground states are often hostile towards Clinton and that Sanders has a much better chance with such voters. Part of this is because of voters looking at character as opposed to ideology. Another factor is that Sanders is closer to the ideological center where voters who would consider voting Democratic fall.

Political Compass is one of many sites which measure political views along two or more axes. While no system is perfect, they do a good job of capturing the approximate relative positions of the primary candidates. This shows, as I have often argued during this primary battle, that Hillary Clinton is far closer to the Republican candidates than she is to Bernie Sanders (or to my position). Their graphing of the primary candidates is above and the following is from their description of the candidates:

Style more than substance separates Trump from Hillary Clinton. After all, Trump was a generous donor to Clinton’s senate campaigns, and also to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary is nevertheless disingenuously promoting herself as the centrist between an extreme right-winger (Trump) and an ‘extreme left-winger’ (Sanders). Abortion and gay marriage place her on a more liberal position on the social scale than all of the Republicans but, when it comes to economics, Clinton’s unswerving attachment to neoliberalism and big money is a mutual love affair.

Quite why Sanders is describing himself to the American electorate — of all electorates — as a ‘socialist’ or ‘democratic socialist’ isn’t clear. His economics are Keynesian or Galbraithian, in common with mainstream parties of the left in the rest of the west — the Labour or Social Democrat parties. Surely ‘Social Democrat’ would be a more accurate and appealing label for the Sanders campaign to adopt.

I don’t totally agree with the placement of the candidates. I think they rank Clinton a little more liberal on social issues than she falls, ignoring her past position on gay marriage until politically expedient to change, and her association with members of the religious right in The Fellowship while in the Senate. I would also put a greater distance between them on foreign policy than described in the full post linked above.

Despite these disagreements, the overall pattern is right. Clinton is a bit more moderate than the Republican candidates, but ideologically in the same authoritarian right area. Sanders falls closer to the libertarian than the authoritarian end where the other candidates fall, but not all that much left of center economically.

Personally I fall much further in the left-libertarian section, falling much more towards the libertarian end than Sanders (although I also question if he shouldn’t fall somewhat further along the libertarian axis than shown here). It is no surprise that left-libertarians have been heavily in support of Sanders this year.

This is the divide the Democrats now face. It isn’t that many Democratic voters are socialists, but we do differ considerably from Hillary Clinton in ideology, and do not see much of a difference between her and the Republicans.  Obviously this will not apply to all Sanders supporters, and some could even manage to vote for Hillary Clinton in a general election without having to hold their noses, but it does apply to many of us.

Many young voters share socially libertarian and secular views which put them closer to the left-libertarian portion of the political spectrum. Many of us older voters got more active in politics in response to the abuses of the Bush years. As I wrote earlier in the week, we are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has also been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

Hillary Clinton is just a slightly more moderate version of George Bush. Yes, the Republicans have moved even further towards the authoritarian right corner of the spectrum, but that still does not leave Clinton as a desirable choice.

Nomination Of Sanders Essential To Prevent Clinton’s Neocon Policies

Sanders On Iraq Vote

While foreign policy has frequently been pushed behind economics in this election, largely due to the emphasis placed on this by her major challenger, Bernie Sanders, foreign policy remains a major reason for opposition to Clinton on the left. Sanders showed the contrast in their views in the last Democratic debate, while the Republicans showed why they cannot be trusted on foreign policy their debate.  In an interview with The Guardian, Sanders  discussed how Clinton’s pursuit of “regime change” in Libya helped rise of Isis:

Speaking to the Guardian in an extensive pre-debate interview, the senator from Vermont criticised Clinton for carelessly fomenting regime change in Libya “without worrying” about the ensuing instability that has helped Islamic State forces take hold in the country.

“Regime change without worrying about what happens the day after you get rid of the dictator does not make a lot of sense,” Sanders said.

“I voted against the war in Iraq … Secretary Clinton voted for that war. She was proud to have been involved in regime change in Libya, with [Muammar] Gaddafi, without worrying, I think, about what happened the day after and the kind of instability and the rise of Isis that we have seen in Libya.”

Foreign policy has recieved far more emphasis in the liberal media compared to the rest of the campaign coverage. I have looked at Hillary Clinton’s neoconservative and hawkish views multiple times.  At Salon, Paul Rosenberg recently described how Clinton has been a neoconservative hawk, concentrating on her mistakes on Iraq and showing how she made similar mistakes in her failed policy in Libya. The foreign policy views she has held in the past should be taken as a warning of what to expect should Clinton be elected. As Secretary of State her more interventionist advice was overruled by more sensible people in the Obama administration. There will be no such restraints on Clinton’s militarism should she be elected.

Rosenberg looked at how Clinton justified the invasion of Iraq in her Senate speech. He discussed how Clinton failed to show understanding of the problems which the war would inevitably result in, including the increase in extremism and terrorism. He next discussed her fundamental errors in repeating the false claims of a threat of WMD in Iraq, first quoting from Clinton:

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.

Now this much is undisputed.

Rosenberg responded:

We now know unequivocally that Iraq did not rebuild its WMD capacities, as Clinton had claimed. There were already ample reasons to doubt it at the time, so she was clearly lying when she said “this much is undisputed.” But she was also expressing a common elite consensus view. And her stress on elite consensus was another troubling aspect of her speech for us to consider—which we’ll return to below. First, however, we need to focus on Clinton’s claim that Saddam had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.”

Of course, Saddam, as secular dictator, had no reason at all to behave as Clinton described. He and bin Laden were bitter ideological enemies, and the only thing that could bring them together was necessity and a common enemy they hated and feared more than each other. That would be us. And although both Saddam and bin Laden are dead, their followers have joined together to fight us. That is, in fact, the origin story of ISIS—or at least a crucial part of it, as counter-terrorism expert Malcolm Nance has explained, talking to William Arkin, for example.

There is more worth reading on how the invasion of Iraq led to the later threat from ISIS.

Rosenberg next criticized how, “Clinton went on to craft an equally misleading picture of the policy options,” leading to her support for the war. Clinton has called this a mistake, but we saw that as as Secretary of State she had not learned from this mistake:

After all, Clinton herself pushed hard for a similarly flawed regime change strategy in Libya—Conor Friedersdorf even compared her role in Libya to Cheney’s in Iraq. Hyperbolic? Yes. But he did have a point. As summarized by Joel Gillin at the New Republic, she did get carried away with questionable intelligence, over-focused on deposing a long-time U.S. bogeyman, and failed to give sufficient consideration to the depths of difficulties that would follow afterwards. All of which allowed the broader jihadi threat increased opportunity to spread.

In particular, the key claim that something genocidal was about to unfold was entirely unfounded, according to a lengthy review of the Libya intervention at the London Review of Books, which noted that “in retaking the towns that the uprising had briefly wrested from the government’s control, Gaddafi’s forces had committed no massacres at all; the fighting had been bitter and bloody, but there had been nothing remotely resembling the slaughter at Srebrenica, let alone in Rwanda.” Given that Libya had normalized relations with the West in 2003/2004, renouncing its former international outlaw role, including an active WMD program, it was strikingly counterproductive to turn on Gaddafi like that, if you want to coax other “rogue states” into the community of nations.

Rosenberg concluded:

The last 14 years have seen America completely lose track of what its own core ideological strengths are. If “they hate us for our freedoms,” then fine, we’ll get rid of them. That’s been our response in a nutshell. We’ve been taken so far out of touch with our own values that it might seem like a pipe dream to turn the tables on ISIS and exploit their contradictions. But that’s exactly what we need to do. And nothing in Hillary Clinton’s record shows any capacity for engaging ISIS on those terms.

To the contrary, Clinton’s just like Bush and the neocons in fighting the last century’s wars. She’s much smarter about it, in theory at least. But we’re in a whole different ballgame now, and none of our foreign policy elites seem to have a clue about that, despite a growing choru

In a normal election year, Clinton’s failures as Secretary of State would be a major election issue. We are now seeing the same mistakes with Clinton’s views on Syria. However, Clinton benefits from a double standard in which many Democrats feel that it is somehow unfair that Clinton be criticized or held accountable for her views, and the many mistakes which have characterized her career. Some claim that criticism of Clinton is a right wing plot, when they are the ones backing right wing policies in defending Clinton’s record. Criticism of Clinton is written off as Clinton Derangement Syndrome, with the conservative Democrats who make this argument echoing both the words of those who defended George W. Bush with cries of Bush Derangement Syndrome, and as a result pushing for what would amount to a third term for George Bush’s policies (with the ethics of Richard Nixon).

While Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who has a realistic chance of providing an alternative to the neoconservative views of Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidates, another candidate has also criticized Clinton’s foreign policy views. Jim Webb, who has kept open the possibility of a third party run, has criticized Clinton for her “inept leadership” on Libya in a Facebook post found via The Hill:

Our next commander in chief must define a strategic vision for the country and accept accountability for past actions. Hillary Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya, and the power vacuums that resulted in the rest of the region. She’ll need better answers than the recent nonsensical comment that she advocated taking out Muammar Qadaffi in Libya in order to avert a situation like Syria. The predictable chaos in Libya was bad enough, but it also helped bring about the disaster in Syria. Who is taking her to task for this? http://read.bi/1SbMG7h

She said, “If we had not joined with our European partners and our Arab partners to assist the people in Libya, you would be looking at Syria.” In reality that is what we are looking at. As the Harvard (Kennedy School) Lessons from Libya study of 2013 found, “The biggest misconception about NATO’s intervention is that it saved lives and benefited Libya and its neighbors.” Radical Islamist groups, suppressed under Qaddafi, emerged as the fiercest rebels during the war, highlighted by the September 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues.

Clinton talked at this last DNC debate about her failure as Secretary of State as if she was successful. While she held that office, the U.S. spent about $2 billion backing the Libyan uprising against Qadaffi. The uprising, which was part of the Arab Spring, led directly to Qaddafi being removed from power and killed by rebel forces in 2011. Now some 2,000 ISIS terrorists have established a foothold in Libya. Sophisticated weapons from Qaddafi’s arsenal—including up to 15,000 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles have apparently fallen into the hands of radical Islamists throughout the region. For a Secretary of State (and a Presidential administration) this is foreign policy leadership at its worst.

The first rule of wing-walking (and regime change) is never let go of what you have until you have a firm grasp on where you are going.

Clinton lacks any real grasp of the dangers of interventionism, repeatedly making the same mistake she made in supporting the Iraq war. Her mistakes on policy, including but not limited to foreign policy, are far more important than the mistakes she has made campaigning this year which the media is more likely to discuss.

Throwback Thursday, January 1, 2008: Barack Obama: Hillary Clinton ‘is just like Bush’

Telegraph Obama

Barack Obama: Hillary Clinton ‘is just like Bush’

Barack Obama on the campaign trail in Iowa, where he launched blistering attacks on his rival, Hillary Clinton
by Toby Harnden, in Perry, Iowa

Barack Obama unleashed a blistering attack on his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton yesterday, branding her “just like George W Bush”.

The cutting comparison came as he launched a last-ditch push to win over Democrats in Iowa, who vote on Thursday in their caucuses, the first stage of the presidential nomination process.

Now, his lofty rhetoric about hope and change is laced with sharp, sarcastic jabs at Mrs Clinton and her husband Bill, who have sought to paint him as a naïve lightweight who doesn’t have the stomach for a fight.

At a Des Moines rally that drew in more than 1,000 people despite freezing weather, Mr Obama abandoned his previous timidity and, while not mentioning her by name, aimed barbs straight at the former First Lady. “We can’t afford a politics that’s all about terrorism and ripping people down rather than lifting a country up,” he said. “We can’t afford a politics based on fear that leaves politicians to think the only way they can look tough on national security is to vote and act and talk just like George W Bush.”

Mr Obama is locked in a three-way struggle with Mrs Clinton and John Edwards in Iowa. Polls, which are notoriously unreliable in the Midwestern state, indicate Mrs Clinton might have edged just ahead in the past week.

Bill Clinton, now campaigning in Iowa for his wife every day, has raised the spectre of another September 11 style attack and stated that only Mrs Clinton had the experience to deal with a terrorist atrocity.

Mr Obama blasted back by suggesting that this was reminiscent of the tactics of Mr Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in 2004 and amounted to “using 9/11 as a way to scare up votes”.

The slap at Mrs Clinton — who voted to authorise the Iraq war — was no accident. Yesterday, at a smaller rally in rural Perry attended by about 250 people, Mr Obama used almost exactly the same words.

When asked by The Daily Telegraph about the increasing sharpness of Mr Obama’s words, David Axelrod, his chief strategist, said: “I don’t think they were sharp. I think they were well chosen.”

He added that Mrs Clinton was “100 per cent known” but “70 cent or more of voters in this state have consistently chosen other alternatives so there’s obviously a market for something different out there.

The Obama campaign has been angered by the negative attacks from Clinton operatives, most notably the suggestion — widely seen as a racial smear — that he had been a cocaine dealer. Clinton supporters have also circulated emails suggesting Mr Obama is a radical Islamist.

The Illinois senator took on Mr Clinton directly, disputing the former president’s contention that a vote for Mr Obama would be to “roll the dice” on America’s future. “The real gamble,” he thundered, “is to keep on doing the same things with the same folks over and over again and expecting something different.” A central argument of the Obama campaign is that electing the former First Lady would mean a Bush or a Clinton running the country for 24 years without interruption. The Clintons, the Illinois senator said, were Establishment creatures who resented someone new to Washington.

He lampooned their view of him as: “We need him in Washington longer to stew him and season him a bit and boil all the hope out of him so he smells just like every other politician.” Mrs Clinton’s repeated use recently of the word “change” — the theme of the Obama campaign since the start — was also mocked.

“This change thing must be catching on because I notice now suddenly everybody’s talking about change. ‘I’m for change, me too, I want to change things, I’m a change person’. “That’s good. We want everybody to be for change. But you have to ask yourself now with basically four days left is who can best deliver change.”

Any prospect of a Clinton-Obama ticket for the presidency and vice-presidency has evaporated but the Illinois senator’s supporters are convinced he can do better than the second slot.

“We have to get rid of the dynasties in this country,” said Carol Hofmann, celebrating her 64th birthday by going to the Obama rally in Des Moines. “We’ve had the Bushes, we’ve had the Clintons.

“The candidate people see as the front runner is very, very divisive and I think she’s dangerous. I voted for Bill Clinton. She wouldn’t have been elected a senator without him. She sure wouldn’t be running for president if she wasn’t married to him.” She added: “She probably has a list a mile long of people she would like to stick the knife into.” Few would doubt that Mr Obama is now on that list.

Related Post Throwback Thursday: Hillary 1984

Debate Shows Why Republicans Cannot Be Trusted On Foreign Policy

Republican Debate Los Vegas

The Republican debate (transcript here) showed once again that most of the GOP candidates have not learned a thing from the mistakes made by George W. Bush. The debate did play towards Rand Paul’s areas of sanity in opposing military interventionism and infringements on civil liberties, and did not include the many other areas where Paul is no better than the others in his parties. Jeb Bush, whose candidacy was derailed partially due to attacks from Donald Trump of being low energy, did manage some good counter-attacks on Trump. Chris Christie, back from the kiddie table debate, showed moments of strength, for better or worse.

As Esquire pointed out, Rand Paul didn’t win the debate (primarily because most Republican voters would not go along with his views) but did raise the important questions.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, was getting rid of Saddam Hussein a pretty good deal?

PAUL: These are the fundamental questions of our time, these foreign policy questions, whether or not regime change is a good idea or a bad idea. I don’t think because I think the regime change was a bad idea it means that Hussein was necessarily a good idea.

There is often variations of evil on both sides of the war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want.

They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They want it in Libya. It has not worked.

Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism and yet they’re the problem because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos.

Ted Cruz said he wanted to “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,” and to have”sand can glow in the dark.”When asked about killing civilians, Cruz replied, “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops.” But ISIS is in cities. does he think they are just sitting targets out in the desert, away from civilians, waiting to be bombed?

Ben Carson bragged about being tough enough to kill children:

HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian? It’s like…

CARSON: You got it. You got it.

Donald Trump both spoke of closing portions of the Internet and killing the families of terrorists. Rand Paul responded:

I’d like to also go back to, though, another question, which is, is Donald Trump a serious candidate? The reason I ask this is, if you’re going to close the Internet, realize, America, what that entails. That entails getting rid of the First amendment, OK? It’s no small feat.

If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there’s something called the Geneva Convention we’re going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America. So when you ask yourself, whoever you are, that think you’re going to support Donald Trump, think, do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?

Carly Fiorina pointed out that, “Hillary Clinton has gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong.” That is generally true, as she has the same neoconservative views as most of the Republicans, who are no better.

Chris Christie did sound strong when he mocked Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz when they argued.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I want to talk to the audience at home for a second. If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it’s like to be on the floor of the United States Senate. I mean, endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who’ve never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position.

But being tough does not necessarily mean being wise, and Christie showed a quite foolish attitude towards Russia. Again Rand Paul displayed a sense of reality lacking in both other Republican candidates, as well as Hillary Clinton, in their support of the no fly zone:

BLITZER: Governor Christie, if the U.S. imposed a no-fly zone over Syria and a Russian plane encroached, invaded that no-fly zone, would you be prepared to shoot down that Russian plane and risk war with Russia?

CHRISTIE: Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it. A no-fly zone means a no-fly zone, Wolf. That’s what it means.

See, maybe — maybe because I’m from New Jersey, I just have this kind of plain language hangup. But I would make very clear — I would not talk to Vladimir Putin. In fact, I would talk to Vladimir Putin a lot. But I’d say to him, “Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.” And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.

BLITZER: Senator Paul — Senator Paul, I want you to respond to what we just heard from Governor Christie. If there was a no-fly zone, you say that potentially could lead to World War III. Why?

PAUL: Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate. You know, here’s the thing. My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment, not someone who is so reckless as to stand on the stage and say, “Yes, I’m jumping up and down; I’m going to shoot down Russian planes.” Russia already flies in that airspace. It may not be something we’re in love with the fact that they’re there, but they were invited by Iraq and by Syria to fly in that airspace.

And so if we announce we’re going to have a no-fly zone, and others have said this. Hillary Clinton is also for it. It is a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for World War III. We need to confront Russia from a position of strength, but we don’t need to confront Russia from a point of recklessness that would lead to war.

This is something — this type of judgment, you know, it’s having that kind of judgment; who you would appoint and how you’re going to conduct affairs, that is incredibly important.

I mean, I think when we think about the judgment of someone who might want World War III, we might think about someone who might shut down a bridge because they don’t like their friends; they don’t want to — you know, they want to (inaudible) a Democrat.

So I think we need to be very careful.

Jeb Bush didn’t have much of consequence to say on policy, but he did do a good job of responding to Donald Trump’s antics. He told Trump, “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency. That’s not going to happen.” He summed up Trump here:

So Donald, you know, is great at — at the one-liners, but he’s a chaos candidate. And he’d be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.

He also questioned Trump’s source of information, referring back to a previous statement from Donald Trump that he obtained information on foreign policy from television shows:

HEWITT: Governor Bush, a commander-in-chief question. You’ve said that Mr. Trump is not qualified to be president because he’s not qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin. Why are you better qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin than Mr. Trump?

BUSH: Because I — first of all, I know what I don’t know. I know what I don’t know. I would seek out, as I have, the best advice that exists. I won’t get my information from the shows. I don’t know if that’s Saturday morning or Sunday morning. I don’t know which one.

None of the candidates was remotely qualified to be president. (While Rand Paul was generally right in this debate, his economic views and opposition to reproductive rights, which did not come up in this debate would disqualify him.) Unfortunately the Democratic front runner holds essentially the same views, even if Clinton uses different rhetoric in appealing to Democratic as opposed to Republican primary voters. Bernie Sanders represents our best hope to both have a president who has not made the errors which destabilized the region, and who can inspire voters to turn out to defeat the Republicans in a general election.

Avoiding Past Mistakes And Another American War Against Evil

Einstein Insanity

The fear of terror, exacerbated by recent episodes in both France and the United States, is leading politicians of both parties to repeat the mistakes of the past. Ira Chernus warns of, Oh, no! Not another American war against evil! His post begins:

This time, it’s the Islamic State (IS). After the attacks in Paris, Barack Obama, spokesman-in-chief for the United States of America, called that crew “the face of evil.” Shades of George W. Bush. The “evildoers” are back. And from every mountaintop, it seems, America now rings with calls to ramp up its war machine.

By the way, George W., how did that last war against the “evildoers” work out for you? Not quite the way you expected, right? I bet you didn’t imagine that your Global War on Terror would plant the seeds of an Islamic State and turn significant stretches of Iraq (and Syria) into fertile soil in which IS would grow into a brand new, even more frightening enemy.

But that’s the way wars against evil always seem to work.

Pardon me if I vent my exasperation with all the Washington policymakers, past and present, surrounded by their so-called experts and those war-drum-beating pundits in the media. I know I shouldn’t be shocked anymore. I’ve seen it often enough as a historian studying wars against evil in the past — ever since biblical times, in fact — and as a citizen watching wars in my own lifetime, ever since the one that tore Vietnam (and, incidentally, America) apart.

Still, it drives me crazy to watch policymakers and experts making the same dumb mistakes time after time, several mistakes, actually, which synergistically add up to one self-defeating blunder after another.

What’s worse, the dominant trend in public opinion is so often on the side of just those mistakes. You’d think someone would learn something. And in that someone I include “we, the people,” the nation as a whole.

Yet now, facing the Islamic State, you guessed it: we’re doing it all over again.

He then described six mistakes being made. All are worth reading, but this is most important:

Mistake Number Three: Call it blotting out history. We lose the ability to really understand the enemy because we ignore the actual history of how that enemy came to be, of how a network of relationships grew up in which we played, and continue to play, a central role.

The historical record is clear for all who care to look: The U.S. (the CIA in particular) was a key to the creation, funding, and arming of the mujahidin, the rebel fighters in Afghanistan who took on the Soviet army there in the 1980s, the men (often extreme Islamists) whom President Ronald Reagan compared to our founding fathers. From that situation came al-Qaeda.

George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq cracked the region open and paved the way for the Islamic State. The Bush administration tore Iraq to shreds and then demobilized Saddam Hussein’s army and dispatched its members to the unemployment lines of a wrecked country.

One of those shreds, al-Qaeda in Iraq, populated by disaffected officers from that disbanded army, would later transform itself into the nucleus of the new Islamic State movement. Indeed the U.S. nurtured the present leadership of that movement in American military prisons in Iraq, where we introduced them to each other, so to speak. The process was at least hastened, and perhaps ultimately caused, by the vehement anti-Sunni bias of the Shi’ite Iraqi government, which the U.S. installed in power and also nurtured.

To sustain our image of ourselves as innocents in the whole affair, we have to blot out this empirical history and replace it with a myth (not so surprising, given that any war against evil is a mythic enterprise). That’s not to say that we deny all the facts. We just pick and choose the ones that fit our myth best.

Hillary Clinton along with the Republican candidates with a chance of winning all look like they will repeat the same mistakes if elected. Only Bernie Sanders looks at the situation any differently, and he would rather not change the focus of his campaign from the economy to foreign policy. Time will tell whether this is a mistake politically or part of a brilliant political strategy in focusing on the economy.