No, Jon Favreau: We Will Not Learn To Love Hillary Clinton
The moment has arrived. That moment when the establishment’s sniggering apologists tell those damn idealists that it is time to get with the program and settle for the latest shabby party product or risk going home empty-handed. Hear the eternal refrain: Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.
There has been a slew of these strident come to Jesus jeremiads from the usual suspects after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s win in the New York primary. But the latest sermon on submitting to destiny from former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau both perfectly encapsulates the mindless DNC Hillary Clinton Campaign talking points, while attempting to provide a how do you do fellow kids credibility because he was part of the 2008 primary fight against Hillary Clinton.
See? Even former rivals for power with future career interests tied to the Democratic Party support Hillary Clinton, you guys.
The substance of the screed is as tired as it is tiresome. Favreau makes a number of claims that fail basic scrutiny when he counsels supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, or “Berniacs” as they are called by The Daily Beast. For instance:
“Maybe you don’t believe that she’s different from the caricature we’ve all helped perpetuate. But she is running a campaign with a policy platform that’s more progressive than her husband’s administration, her 2008 campaign, and—in a few cases—Barack Obama’s administration.”
The problem, of course, is not that Hillary Clinton is not taking progressive positions. The problem is that, given her record, the best analysis of her policy platform is that she is lying about those positions. Now, lying is a strong word and given her profession (politician) let us use a nicer word, bullshitting. Hillary Clinton is bullshitting people on what she will do in office and a large slice of the Democratic Party base knows it.
Favreau supports his previous point by claiming Sanders supporters should essentially declare victory because “Guess what? Bernie Sanders helped make that happen. He helped push Hillary Clinton to the left. And he should keep pushing her if she becomes president.”
Guess what? She’s bullshitting and even her most ardent supporters acknowledge she plans to move rightward for the general election. So, no, she has not been pushed anywhere, she is just saying what she thinks Democratic primary voters want to hear, just as she will change the tune and say what she thinks 51% of the general electorate wants to hear should she become the party’s nominee. That’s not taking a progressive position, Jon, that’s pretending to take progressive position.
But if you bought Favreau’s claim that former Secretary Clinton has really evolved in real time, maybe you will buy his larger analysis of not just this primary race, but all primary races:
“Primaries are often a clash of personalities and magnified policy differences.”
Once again, no. There is no clash of personalities. The antipathy to Hillary Clinton is based on her record. Unless Favreau means to couch Clinton’s notorious dishonesty as a personality difference, which I doubt is what he was implying.
More to the point, there are substantial policy differences between the candidates, as was pointed out in a thorough piece by Professor Matt Karp over at Jacobin, called, “Against Fortress Liberalism.” Karp notes that “It’s not just the policy differences that separate Sanders’s blunt social-democratic platform from Clinton’s neoliberal grab bag. The two candidates embody clashing theories of politics — alternative visions of how to achieve progressive goals within the American political system.”
Senator Sanders not only offers a progressive platform that he has a well-demonstrated commitment to, but his theory of change is vastly different than former Secretary Clinton’s. Sanders sees change as coming from social movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement he participated in, which uses people power to pressure government officials into making concessions. Clinton claims that she will use her extensive experience in politics and government to personally work the gears of the state apparatus from the inside on behalf of the causes and people she states she cares for.
Say what you will about either approach, but they are far from identical. No magnifying glass necessary, Jon.
Now we move to perhaps the most insidious and oft-repeated argument of all, the trump card if you will:
“A campaign against Donald Trump or Ted Cruz won’t just be a mission to save our country from something terrible, it will be an opportunity to elect a progressive majority and a progressive president who could tip the balance of the Supreme Court for a generation.”
And here is a key point: electing Hillary Clinton as president would be something terrible for our country. To be clear, Hillary Clinton has continually proven to be both malevolent and incompetent while serving in public office (also, arguably, venal).
In her highest foreign policy related post, secretary of state, she was an unmitigated disaster, championing the cause in Libya that even President Obama laments as his biggest foreign policy mistake. The parallels between the intervention in Libya and Iraq are stunning.
If Jon Favreau should remember anything about the 2008 campaign, it is the decisive role Hillary Clinton’s support for the Iraq War played in winning Democrats over to supporting then-Senator Barack Obama, who stood up to the DC bipartisan consensus and spoken out against the Iraq War. That is not to take away from the innovative and disciplined campaign he ran or his virtues as a candidate, but it would be manifestly dishonest to pretend that the Iraq War issue was not responsible for his rise, and provided him both a sword and shield to use against Hillary Clinton’s (eerily familiar) attacks against him in 2008 based on his foreign policy inexperience.
What is so amazing about Libya is how little Hillary Clinton learned from Iraq, repeating some of the same exact mistakes, along with making new ones.
Ultimately, the decision was President Obama’s, but by all reports it was Secretary of State Clinton leading the charge. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told The New York Times that US involvement in the war was a 51-49 decision, and Clinton made the difference.
The analysis of former Secretary Clinton’s actions on Libya reveal another inconvenient truth: Clinton really does not regret her vote for the Iraq War outside of the political headaches it caused. She appears, from Iraq to Libya to Honduras and beyond, to genuinely believe in regime change as a perfectly legitimate and acceptable foreign policy tool.
When former Secretary Clinton was confronted on the regime change issue on MSNBC by anchor Chris Matthews she embraced the tool citing the Rwandan genocide and Nazi Germany, where regime change could have saved lives. That she was citing counter-factual examples while Matthews offered real ones from recent history did not appear to have any impact on her reasoning or worldview.
So, yes, if Hillary Clinton becomes president, expect more Iraqs and Libyas and a doubling down on all forms of warfare (drone, cyber) across the board. She is, without question, the war candidate in the Democratic Party and in no way an alternative to a war candidate in the general. If you want four more years of the wars we have going now, plus some new faceplants thrown in, Hillary Clinton is your candidate.
In summation, for those who genuinely support a progressive platform on domestic and foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is not qualified. Her record shows her approach to domestic policies is to run to the right while throwing up progressive rhetoric to cover her escape, and her foreign policy would be a return to Bush-era belligerence and incompetence.
In other words, no Jon, we won’t learn to love her, though maybe some of us will hold our noses and vote for her in November if she is the nominee to prevent an even worse candidate from taking over the empire. Then again, maybe not.