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On Doug Henwood’s Piece About Hillary Clinton

So what’s wrong with business as usual?

There has so far been a good deal of controversy about Doug Henwood’s piece (“Stop Hillary“) excoriating Hillary Clinton in the most recent Harper’s magazine (November 2014), and now that this issue can be purchased in newsstands, I feel permitted to comment upon the Henwood piece and the debate so far. Much of this debate dates back to before the Harper’s issue appeared in stores — many of the commentators must either 1) have Harper’s subscriptions or 2) be able to access the piece online somehow. At any rate, this is a summary of the conversation that has occurred so far.

The thesis of Henwood’s piece is in black and white in front: the world is about to experience global warming disaster, and the economy is clearly ailing, but from Hillary Clinton one can expect more of the same. “And that shouldn’t surprise us,” we are told on page 31. So what’s wrong with business as usual? Henwood:

Today we desperately need a new political economy — one that features a more equal distribution of income, investment in our rotting social and physical infrastructure, and a more humane ethic. We also need a judicious foreign policy, and a commander-in-chief who will resist the instant gratification of air strikes and rhetorical bluster.

Is Hillary Clinton the answer to those prayers? It’s hard to think so, despite the widespread liberal fantasy of her as a progressive paragon, who will follow through exactly as Barack Obama did not. In fact, a close look at her life and career is perhaps the best antidote to all those great expectations.

So what does Henwood say about Hillary Clinton’s life and career? Her father was an “authoritarian drillmaster” (32). She was exposed to Martin Luther King, Jr., but campaigned for Goldwater in 1964. Saul Alinsky offered her an organizing job, and she rejected the offer for law school. She argued a case for business interests against ACORN over a ballot measure “that would lower electricity rates for residential users in Little Rock and raise them for commercial users.” (33) She tried to organize a health care initiative that was “very high-minded, and good for her image, but of limited impact.” She supported the Welfare Bill of 1996. She was involved, with Bill, in what was later to be called the Whitewater scandal. She passed a lot of symbolic legislation as a Senator from New York, while “mak(ing) friends with her Republican colleagues.” (36) She “backed an escalation of the Afghanistan war, lobbied on behalf of a continuing military presence in Iraq, urged Obama to bomb Syria, and supported the intervention in Syria.” (37) There is a summary of this piece at Huffington Post.

Henwood, then, portrays Hillary Clinton as a standard-issue neoliberal, and so if we are to judge her from her record we can expect a standard-issue Democratic Party neoliberal, with lots of symbolism and status quo substance.

I have yet to see a point-by-point encounter with this piece that refutes its factual statements. Oh, sure, Gene Lyons attempted a takedown of Henwood, but Lyons focused upon Henwood’s mentioning of Blackwater, ignoring most of the substance of Henwood’s piece, and he did so in a way that did not quite establish a direct clash with Henwood’s stylistic criticism of Hillary’s penchant for secrecy and evasion. Max Sawicky responds to this.

Scott Lemieux thinks that “there’s a good Clinton critique waiting to be written (but that) this ain’t it.” I am not convinced by Lemieux’s dismissal. In dealing with Henwood’s critique of the status quo Lemieux praises Obama’s record on the environment. Obama has done a few nice, symbolic things for the cause of Obama as an environmental President, such as are well critiqued in ThinkProgress by Joseph Romm. Maybe that’s all he can do. Should we expect more from Hillary Clinton?

Salon has a piece on Henwood’s article which features an interview with Doug Henwood. He says he wrote the piece “to throw a stink bomb into liberals’ [sense of] certainty.” Here Henwood argues about Hillary’s life that “she went from a youthful semi-radicalism (she was never a real ’60s radical) to a sort of early-middle-aged conservatism, at least in style and temperament, pretty quickly.” And, as regards the bigger picture:

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On Doug Henwood’s piece about Hillary Clinton

(also to be found at DailyKos.com)

So what’s wrong with business as usual?

There has so far been a good deal of controversy about Doug Henwood’s piece (“Stop Hillary“) excoriating Hillary Clinton in the most recent Harper’s magazine (November 2014), and now that this issue can be purchased in newsstands, I feel permitted to comment upon the Henwood piece and the debate so far. Much of this debate dates back to before the Harper’s issue appeared in stores — many of the commentators must either 1) have Harper’s subscriptions or 2) be able to access the piece online somehow. At any rate, this is a summary of the conversation that has occurred so far.

The thesis of Henwood’s piece is in black and white in front: the world is about to experience global warming disaster, and the economy is clearly ailing, but from Hillary Clinton one can expect more of the same. “And that shouldn’t surprise us,” we are told on page 31. So what’s wrong with business as usual? Henwood:

Today we desperately need a new political economy — one that features a more equal distribution of income, investment in our rotting social and physical infrastructure, and a more humane ethic. We also need a judicious foreign policy, and a commander-in-chief who will resist the instant gratification of air strikes and rhetorical bluster.

Is Hillary Clinton the answer to those prayers? It’s hard to think so, despite the widespread liberal fantasy of her as a progressive paragon, who will follow through exactly as Barack Obama did not. In fact, a close look at her life and career is perhaps the best antidote to all those great expectations.

So what does Henwood say about Hillary Clinton’s life and career? Her father was an “authoritarian drillmaster” (32). She was exposed to Martin Luther King, Jr., but campaigned for Goldwater in 1964. Saul Alinsky offered her an organizing job, and she rejected the offer for law school. She argued a case for business interests against ACORN over a ballot measure “that would lower electricity rates for residential users in Little Rock and raise them for commercial users.” (33) She tried to organize a health care initiative that was “very high-minded, and good for her image, but of limited impact.” She supported the Welfare Bill of 1996. She was involved, with Bill, in what was later to be called the Whitewater scandal. She passed a lot of symbolic legislation as a Senator from New York, while “mak(ing) friends with her Republican colleagues.” (36) She “backed an escalation of the Afghanistan war, lobbied on behalf of a continuing military presence in Iraq, urged Obama to bomb Syria, and supported the intervention in Syria.” (37) There is a summary of this piece at Huffington Post.

Henwood, then, portrays Hillary Clinton as a standard-issue neoliberal, and so if we are to judge her from her record we can expect a standard-issue Democratic Party neoliberal, with lots of symbolism and status quo substance.

I have yet to see a point-by-point encounter with this piece that refutes its factual statements. Oh, sure, Gene Lyons attempted a takedown of Henwood, but Lyons focused upon Henwood’s mentioning of Blackwater (oops! I mean Whitewater), ignoring most of the substance of Henwood’s piece, and he did so in a way that did not quite establish a direct clash with Henwood’s stylistic criticism of Hillary’s penchant for secrecy and evasion. Max Sawicky responds to this.

Scott Lemieux thinks that “there’s a good Clinton critique waiting to be written (but that) this ain’t it.” I am not convinced by Lemieux’s dismissal. In dealing with Henwood’s critique of the status quo Lemieux praises Obama’s record on the environment. Obama has done a few nice, symbolic things for the cause of Obama as an environmental President, such as are well critiqued in ThinkProgress by Joseph Romm. Maybe that’s all he can do. Should we expect more from Hillary Clinton?

Salon has a piece on Henwood’s article which features an interview with Doug Henwood. He says he wrote the piece “to throw a stink bomb into liberals’ [sense of] certainty.” Here Henwood argues about Hillary’s life that “she went from a youthful semi-radicalism (she was never a real ’60s radical) to a sort of early-middle-aged conservatism, at least in style and temperament, pretty quickly.” And, as regards the bigger picture: (more…)

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