Politics, et Cetera
A publication from The Political Forum, LLC
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
They Said It:
The Cook: He’s ravenous [the General] all right, but why rotten?
Mother Courage: Because he’s got to have men of courage, that’s why. If he knew how to plan a proper campaign what would he be needing men of courage for? Ordinary ones would do. It’s always the same; whenever there’s a load of special virtues around it means something stinks.
The Cook: I thought it meant things is all right.
Mother Courage: No, that they stink. Look, s’pose some general or king is bone stupid and leads his men up s . . . creek, then those men’ve got to be fearless, there’s another virtue for you. S’pose he’s stingy and hires too few soldiers, then they got to be a crowd of Hercules’s. And s’pose he’s slapdash and don’t give a bugger, then they got to be clever as monkeys else their number’s up. Same way they got to show exceptional loyalty each time he gives them impossible jobs. Nowt but virtues no proper country and no decent king or general would ever need. In decent countries folk don’t have to have virtues, the whole lot can be perfectly ordinary, average intelligence, and for all I know cowards.
Bertolt Brecht, “Mother Courage and Her Children,” 1938.
HILLARY CLINTON AND THE RETURN OF POLITICAL DRAMA.
If you follow us on Twitter or if you happen to check the blog on the website occasionally, you may have noticed that our mood improved just a little bit last week. We know we’ve been pretty dour of late. But there’s no better cure for a case of the political blues than a dose of Bill and Hillary Clinton. And much to our delight, there she was last week, in her full Whitewater glory, hiding documents from the world, (probably) breaking the law, coming out of her hidey-hole only to declare to the world that she will do everything in her power to see that justice is served, when everybody knows full well that she will actually do the opposite. They’re back, gentle readers! And we, for two, couldn’t be more excited.
Now, we know what you’re thinking: how can you be excited about this? How can you be enjoying the fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton is the frontrunner for both the Democratic presidential nomination and the presidency itself? Moreover, how can you be enjoying her embarrassment, when the only other Democrat running for the nomination is the batty, 73-year-old “junior” Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.
Funny you should ask (even if you didn’t). We love the Clintons – for a variety of reasons. And while we think that they’re more than a touch “ethically challenged,” we also think that they are perfect representatives of the American ruling class. Moreover, this current reminder of their representativeness couldn’t come at a better, more opportune moment.
The first reason to be excited about the Clintons return to the public eye – and in such typically Clintonian fashion! – is selfish on our part. Barack Obama, you see, is incredibly boooo-ring. He is perhaps the most uninteresting man to occupy the Oval Office since . . . well . . . ever. Nixon may have looked boring, but dang! Those secret tapes revealed something far less anodyne. The same goes for Truman. He may have seemed dull on the surface, but that’s before you figured out that the guy was a mobbed-up “haberdasher.” Obama, of course, was a “community organizer,” which isn’t even a real thing, is it? He’s over-cautious about what he says. He’s self-absorbed. He’s not an especially controversial speaker. The only thing even remotely interesting about the guy is his unique heritage and childhood, all of which every single one of us has known by rote for the better part of a decade now. And much of that is a lie that he made up to make him look more interesting than Pee Wee Herman.
Even Obama’s scandals are boring. There’s the IRS, the NSA, the VA, the ATF, the . … ZZZZZZZZZZZZ…. whoops! Pardon us! We dozed off for a sec. Where were we? Oh yeah. Obama is a bore.
Bill and Hillary, by contrast, are fantastic entertainment and have been for years! They may not be especially edifying or life-affirming entertainment. But they’re entertainment nonetheless. As the late great Fr. Richard John Neuhaus put it (and as we have recalled more times than we can count): watching Bill and Hill was like watching “with fascinating disgust as an unstoppable toilet backs up into [your] living room.”
The second reason we’re happy to see Bill and Hillary back in the news is because we’ve been waiting for six years now for someone – anyone! – outside of a small group of conservative journalists to show some interest in the Obama administration’s lawlessness. Obama’s scandals may be dull and tedious, but they’re also important. And yet the claque of mainstream reporters tasked with covering this White House could not appear less interested if they tried. They may not think of the guy as their Lord and Savior any more, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to push too terribly hard to dig up any real dirt on him or his cronies.
What’s that you say? The emails to and from the Director of the IRS’s tax-exempt division were destroyed by a mysterious hard-drive crash? That’s interesting – but not too interesting. Her back-up drives were erased by mistake? Well, that’s too bad; but sometimes these things happen. Now you say that her emails were in fact preserved, that everyone knew they were preserved, but the White House actually prevented anybody from going to the storage facility to find them? Wow. Wake us up when we should care, OK?
For most of its six years, the Obama administration has been allowed – actively allowed – to tell the American people the most ridiculous and absurd lies without ever being seriously challenged on them by anyone not named Byron York. If Nixon had been treated as delicately by the press as Obama has, his cryo-preserved head might still be president today. When it comes to Obama’s scandals, the mainstream press could not care less.
But you throw the Clintons into the mix, and suddenly…things get interesting again, whether the media like it or not.
When the email scandal broke last week, Hillary’s defenders and the Obama administration – forced to defend her by default – insisted that the whole thing was much ado about nothing. Everyone uses private emails, they said. Colin Powell did. Condoleezza Rice did. Hillary did. But so what? It was simply no big deal. Of course, that line of defense turned out not only to be untrue, but irrelevant as well, given that the rules mandating preservation of emails did not apply when Powell served and that Rice never used email at all. Had Hillary not been involved, the whole thing might have died then and there. But with Hillary in the thick of it and with her history of and reputation for patent dishonesty, this initial fudging of the facts simply whet the appetites of the long-bored, long-obsequious press corps. Ron Fournier, the former Washington Bureau Chief for the Associated Press and a diehard Obamanaut, used his column in the National Journal to express the mainstream media’s disbelief in Hillary’s reaction and their agitation with the revival of the Clinton scandal-machine. To wit:
A cornered Clinton is a craven Clinton, which is why we should view Hillary Rodham Clinton’s latest public relations trick with practiced skepticism. “I want the public to see my email,” she tweeted Wednesday night. “I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”
If she wants us to see her email, why did she create a secret account stored on a dark server registered at her home?
If she wants us to see her email, why didn’t she give State all of her email rather than a self-censored fraction of the correspondence?
If she wants us to see her email, Clinton should turn over every word written on her dark account(s) for independent vetting. Let somebody the public trusts decide which emails are truly private and which ones belong to the public.
Like everything else about the response to this controversy, Clinton’s tweet is reminiscent of the 1990s, when her husband’s White House overcame its wrongdoing by denying the truth, blaming Republicans, and demonizing and bullying the media. It’s a shameless script, unbecoming of a historic figure who could be our next president – and jarringly inappropriate for these times.
Fournier followed up with a column accusing the Clintons of using the “dark server” to censor information that might be helpful in figuring out which foreign entities gave money to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, when they gave that money, and what they might have expected in return. All of which is to say that this really is the 1990s all over again! If the name John Huang or Charlie Trie or James Riady show up in Hillary’s missing emails, we’ll have to double check to make sure we didn’t just imagine the last fifteen years.
Much to the media and the White House’s chagrin, of course, Hillary’s email scandal exposed not just her to press scrutiny that had been absent for the last six years, but the rest the Obama administration as well. Within hours, we learned that some other State Department officials may have used private email addresses exclusively, meaning that some of Hillary’s communications would have been entirely off of the government radar. Next we learned that Barack Obama himself, learned about the private email scandal the same way he has learned of every scandal in his administration, from the media. Yet…Yet…He had nevertheless received email from Hillary’s private server. Before the weekend was over, reporters had begun digging around in other administration officials’ email, trying to find out what they could about Team Obama’s transparency, honesty, and willingness to cooperate. Sharyl Atkisson, the former CBS reporter, whose computer was reportedly hacked by the mysterious forces inside the Obama administration, recounted her preliminary investigation as follows:
High-level federal executives routinely use personal email for business, in likely violation of the Federal Records Act. That’s according to a recent survey of federal employees. The survey was conducted by the research group Government Business Council just prior to revelations that Hillary Clinton allegedly exclusively used personal email and a private server at her Chappaqua, N.Y., residence for her government communications while serving as President Obama’s secretary of state.
Personal email is “always” or “often” used for government business in their agency, according to 16 percent of survey respondents. One-third, 33 percent, said personal email is used “sometimes” or more frequently. Thirty-one percent said personal emails used for business are not preserved for archiving. Forty-seven percent said they don’t know whether or not the records are properly preserved. . .
IRS manager Lois Lerner allegedly used an msn.com email account labeled ‘Lois Home’ for government-related communications. Lerner was a key player in what the IG found was the tax agency’s unfair targeting of conservative groups.
Former Obama EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used private email accounts, as well as a secret EPA email address under the pseudonym “Richard Windsor,” to conduct official business. That included communicating with a climate lobbyist. . .
Attorney General Eric Holder’s criminal division head, Lanny Breuer, was caught forwarding controversial Fast and Furious-related emails to his personal account.
Obama Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Holder’s former assistant attorney general for civil rights, allegedly used his private email account to leak non-public information about official business.
As to whether Holder himself ever used personal email for government business, the Justice Department isn’t saying. A spokesman did not respond to requests for information about Holder’s email practices.
In Justice Department emails turned over in a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Holder’s email name is redacted with no explanation. It’s unknown whether the redactions conceal use of an email address that does not belong to an official government account.
The IRS, Fast and Furious, the EPA and the “Climate Change” decisions, leaked “non-public” information. Hey! This might actually start getting a little more fun now! Or at least we might start to get some answers to the questions that a few of us on the Right have been asking for years. And ALL of it is thanks to Hillary Clinton, who created interest where none existed before. We’re not betting men, but if we were, we’d bet Barack Obama and the members of his cabinet escape their terms in office without major scandal causing any of them serious harm. At the same time, we’d bet that they spend considerable time over the next two years engaged in damage control, which means that they will spend much less time taking one last shot at “transforming the nation.”
Some conservatives may hope desperately to “get” someone for some scandalous behavior or another. And if they can, good for them. For our part, we’ll just be glad if some of these matters – particularly the abuses of power perpetrated by the IRS and the Justice Department – get the full media vetting they deserve. It’s great to have George Will writing columns about how the IRS is corrupt and needs to be reined in, but it would be even better if actual reporters, rather than columnists, were digging for the truth and exposing the perversion of the federal bureaucracy for overt political ends.
All of which brings us, at long last, to the final reason that we get a kick out of Hillary’s pre-campaign reversion to the mean, which is, in some ways an extension of the first two. It’s difficult to remember now, given what a disaster Barack Obama has been for the Democratic Party, but Bill Clinton was a disaster for his party as well. Indeed, until Obama came along, we didn’t think it was possible for anyone to be as damaging to his party as Bill was. True, George W. Bush lost control of Congress, but that was the result of an unpopular war and therefore somewhat mitigated. More to the point, Bush’s losses were nowhere near as severe or as deep as were Clinton’s. Bill lost everything for his party – including, eventually, the White House. And unlike Bush, he never seemed to notice, never seemed to care one whit. He was popular. He was happy. He was “beyond good and evil.” Why should he care about the rest of the party, which wasn’t really good enough for him anyway.
Sixteen years ago, at roughly the same point in the Clinton presidency as we’ve reached in the Obama presidency, we ran a series of pieces detailing just how bad Bill and Hillary had been for the Democratic party and just how amazing it was that he didn’t seem to care. The first of these was a satire, although we’re not entirely sure that everyone who read it knew that. It was titled “The Kool-Ade Gambit,” and the spoof went as follows:
As regular readers know, we have rarely, if ever, agreed with anything First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has said or done. But as we have watched the events of the past week unfold, we have found ourselves slowly coming to the conclusion that she was correct when she proclaimed a few months ago that there is a “vast right wing conspiracy” afoot in the land.
She didn’t get it all right, of course. Conspiracy theorists rarely do. There are always details that only the conspirators themselves know. In fact, in our opinion, she missed the one key element, the linchpin so to speak, that unites all the circumstantial evidence which formed the puzzle that her brilliant, finely-tuned, Yale-educated, legal mind has sensed for years, but couldn’t quite solve.
She can be excused for missing this point, we believe, because the conspiracy is operating so close to her person. You see, that one piece in the puzzle that she hasn’t yet grasped is that the principal operative in this conspiracy to wreck the Democratic party and American liberalism is the guy who sleeps right down the hall from her. Yes, we are speaking of her husband, the President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton.
Spotted as an enterprising, ambitious, and unusually intelligent young lad by a cabal of right wing Arkansas dirt farmers during his early days as a boy running the rough and rowdy streets of Hot Springs, Arkansas, with its bawdy houses and gambling dens, Bill was meticulously groomed for the difficult task of someday taking control of the Democratic party and then destroying it.
Like Mrs. Clinton, we do not know all the details of the plot, and some of what we do know we can’t reveal out of fear for our lives. But ever since Bill’s role in this conspiracy was revealed to us by an ancient Republican sage on his deathbed in a cave in Tibet, we have known that despite the danger to our beings, we must tell our loyal readers the facts.
The second piece in this loose “series” was titled “Hey Buddy, Get The Beer Man Over Here!” and explained just why one might get the impression that our satire about the “Kool-Ade Gambit” was something less than satirical. In brief, we ran through the numbers showing precisely what damage the Clinton presidency had done to the Democratic Party. As you might have guessed from the title of the piece, we were actually enjoying the final couple of years of the Bill’s second term (until we got fired, of course), watching him struggle to explain why it was OK for him to get “busy” with an intern not much older than his daughter and watching his fellow partisans explain why it was OK for them not to be completely repulsed by the man, by his behavior, and by his and his wife’s attempts to blame anyone and everything else for their problems. In any case, we quoted a piece from Commentary magazine, written by Daniel Casse, which did a good job of explaining Bill and Hill’s effect on their party. In “Defining the Democrats Down,” Casse wrote:
By any objective measure, the Clinton era has been calamitous for the Democratic party. Since the President took office in January 1993, the party has suffered a series of defeats at virtually every level of government and in every region of the country. At the time Bill Clinton was elected, 30 states had Democratic governors; today, the number is down to eighteen. If, six years ago, nearly 60% of legislators in statehouses across the country were Democrats, now only 52% are. The two largest cities in the U.S., Los Angeles and New York, have elected Republican mayors. And, most notably, in the midterm election of 1994, the Democrats lost control of both houses of Congress for the first time in four decades.
There are other signs of weakness. Since 1992, nearly 400 elected officials nationwide, including five Congressmen and two Senators, have switched party affiliation from Democratic to Republican. Voter allegiance has likewise been affected: two months after Clinton took office, 52% of respondents to a New York Times survey said they most closely identified with the Democratic party; this past May, only 44% of respondents gave the same answer.
The weakness of the party’s support may help explain why it has failed to nurture a new generation of national leaders even as a Democratic President has been occupying the White House. The Clinton cabinet is uniformly unimpressive, and there are no promising legislators in either the House or Senate. The two most able Democratic governors, Lawton Chiles of Florida and Zell Miller of Georgia, are both stepping down this fall.
The third piece in this trilogy was probably the most subtly important of them all, in that it went some way toward explaining why the conventional wisdom about the Democratic Party’s losses in the 1990s was wrong. Most of the (largely Left-leaning) political experts insisted that Democratic losses were largely the result of demographic changes and the gradual “Republicanization” of the “solid South.” Bill and Hillary, they claimed, had very little to do with it.
In this third piece, titled “Some Thoughts on Politics Today,” we argued that the conventional wisdom had missed the point pretty badly, failing to recognize that the demographic and geographic voting-pattern shifts that it had identified were hardly the result of mere happenstance, but were, in fact, a reaction of much of the country to the Clintons specifically. Yes, the South became more Republican, for example. But that didn’t happen “organically.” It happened because a majority of voters in the South took a look at Bill and Hillary Clinton and realized that their values were incompatible. They realized, in short, that they were on the other side of the “clash of moral codes” from their native son and from the party they had embraced since before the Civil War.
We found support for our contention in strange place, in a column penned by Mark Shields, one of the best know, most respected, and most liberal political columnists in the business. Shields had apparently tired of the Clintons and their ethical lapses and argued as we did that Bill and Hillary’s brand of politics had precipitated a sort of moral exhaustion among the electorate, which just wanted normal, decent, relatively honest people to lead them again. Shield’s column, “The Towson Twelve,” discussed “Clinton fatigue” in bluntly moral terms. Citing Shields, we wrote:
Columnist Mark Shields called attention to this issue in a recent piece entitled “The Towson 12,” which referred to a focus group discussion of 12 middle class Democrats from Towson, Maryland. Pollster Peter Hart chaired the two hour discussion about “the condition of their country and the strengths and weaknesses of its leaders.”
Shields listened and watched from behind a one-way mirror. One conclusion he drew from this experience was that voters this time around won’t be interested, as they were in 1992, in “somebody who understands what I am going through.” This time, he says, they will want “somebody to look up to.”
There are two reasons for this change, Shields notes. The first is that Americans are pretty comfortable right now, so they aren’t really “going through” all that much. The second is a reaction to the Clinton scandals. When asked to describe their feelings toward Bill in a word or phrase, the “polite” answers given by these 12 Democrats were “slick,” “dishonest,” and “untrustworthy.”
So, it’s going to be “somebody to look up to.” That’s easy, right? Well, not so, according to Shields. He notes that when asked to name their living heroes, none of the 12 could name even one. Implicit in this, of course, is that none named any current presidential candidate. According to Shields, one man, a physician, “probably spoke for most of the group when he added that not only did he not have a hero, but ‘my children have no role model or hero, and that is very troubling.’”
For many years now, we have said in speeches and in print that Hillary Clinton’s enduring political popularity amazes us. She is not charismatic. She is not affable. She is not a good contemporaneous speaker, much a less a particularly talented reader of teleprompters. She has terrible political instincts and when confronted by difficult situations or difficult questions she tends to lash out at everyone around her. She is, in short, the polar opposite of her husband who, for all is faults, remains the most impressive political talent in the country today.
More to the point, Hillary is more polarizing in her ethical imperfections. Whereas Bill strikes voters as a cad or a loveable scoundrel, Hillary appears more ruthlessly corrupt – and not without cause. She is harsh. She is vindictive. And she is and has been patently dishonest. The late great William Safire called her a “congenital liar,” and even her defenders would be hard-pressed to dispute the characterization effectively. As we have long maintained, if you were the director of an HR department for any company in the world, you would look at Hillary’s list of ethical travails and toss her resume right in the old circular file. She is simply too dishonest and too corrupt even for a business known for its dishonesty and corruption.
What utterly shocks us is the fact that both the leaders and the base of the Democratic Party seem to have forgotten all of this. They seem to have forgotten the cattle futures and the crooked land deals; they’ve forgotten the firing of the travel office staff and the Rose Law Firm billing records; they’ve forgotten the failed health care reform and the ultra-secret (and illegal) advisory committee meetings; they’ve forgotten, in short, everything that made Hillary Hillary. And because they’ve forgotten all of this, they have decided that it would be a good idea simply to hand her their party’s presidential nomination, with no further vetting, no further inquest, and no opposition at all.
This weekend, on his Fox News show, Chris Wallace asked the perennial Clinton fixer Lanny Davis about the current scandal and about the Clinton’s never-ending list of ethical lapses. In closing, Wallace asked Davis about his own role in facilitating the Clinton’s scandals. “Finally,” Wallace probed, “you served in the Clinton White House handing legal matters like campaign finance, like impeachment. Do you ever get tired of cleaning up after the Clintons?”
That’s the very question we want to ask the entire Democratic Party. Do you ever get tired of cleaning up after the Clintons?
If the Democratic leaders don’t, then they deserve what they get. If, however, they do, then we cannot understand why they continue to do so, all in the hope of getting Hillary elected and thereby destroying what little remains of their party. Bill was hell on the Democrats. Obama has been worse. Will there be anything at all left when Hillary is finished with it?
Fortunately for them, we suppose, they may get lucky and never have to find out the answer to that question. We have long believed and have long said that Hillary Clinton will not be the next President of the United States. In fact, we’ve gone so far as to say that we doubt whether she’ll even run.
The email scandal and the related Clinton Foundation donors scandal alter our calculus a little bit, but don’t change our ultimate prediction.
Ironically, we think that this email business may actually be the event finally persuades Hillary to run. She likes to think of politics as a game of her and Bill against the world. The reemergence of scandal will, we think, only serve to convince her of her own righteousness and the “necessity” of her campaign to beat back those who would deprive her and Bill of their rightful place in history.
At the same time, we think that she is now less likely than ever to be elected president. You start with her personal abrasiveness, her inability to win over the Jacksonian white working-class voters who delivered victory for Bill, and her gauche profiteering off of her name and political connections; then mix in this palpable and harsh reminder that she and Bill are the two biggest drama queens on the planet, and you end up with a candidate whose proverbial star is falling rather than rising.
You see, as political analysts we were able to enjoy the drama of Bill’s presidency for the same reason that the country was able to tolerate it without any drama of its own: because that presidency didn’t really matter. The 1990s were the much-ballyhooed “vacation from history.” The Cold War was over. The Soviet Union was gone. The economy chugged along on its own, propelled by a once-in-a-generation technology and productivity boom. The budget sorted itself out, benefitting from both the peace dividend and rapidly rising incomes and capital gains. Bill and Hillary were perfect for the decade because they provided a distraction, entertainment for a global populace with fewer worries and more spare time than anyone could ever have imagined.
Unfortunately, that era is long gone, and neither the nation nor the world has much time or patience for drama now. The next president will face massive challenges on both the domestic and global fronts and will have to be free of distractions to function with even marginal effectiveness. Hillary Clinton is not up to that task, we’re afraid, if for no other reason than she and her husband are living, breathing political distractions.
We’ve said before and we’ll say it again now in the wake of the email scandal: Hillary Clinton will NOT be the next President of the United States.