Hillary Had Nothing to Apologize For

Democrats are nice. Minnesota nice. North Carolina polite and Tupelo honey sweet. Nice like children who’ve been browbeaten and bullied by their parents are nice. With the slightest upturn of an eyebrow and downturn of a mouth they apologize for being born and everything they’ve done since.

So of course Hillary Clinton apologized for her remarks about half of Donald Trump’s supporters being a “basket of despicables.” When she said it, she was the cheerful upbeat Hillary that we love to see. Speaking in front of a group of unequivocal supporters, she enumerated some of the qualities that Trump and his followers share – “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”

Of course Hillary was criticized. And of course Hillary apologized. She said, “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong.” You can read the Republican nonsense about her comments for yourself. One  interesting  “rebuttal” is the statement by Republican VP candidate Mike Pence at the Values Voters Forum: “The men and women who support Donald Trump’s campaign are hardworking Americans — farmers, coal miners, teachers, veterans, members of our law enforcement community — members of every class of this country, who know that we can make America great again. This is essentially what Hillary Clinton said about the other half of Trump’s supporters: “That other basket of people feel that the government has let them down — the economy has let them down … those are people we have to understand and empathize with, as well.”

In my opinion, Hillary had nothing to apologize for. She should have chided the media for not giving as much coverage to the second half of her comment as to the first. And there should have been an outpouring of support from Democrats for her statement. But in their role of scared children most Democrats were silent.

One voice that responded to Hillary’s critics was that of Charles Blow, writing in the New York Times. I’ve got the link here. You should read it. Blow cites reputable polls of Trump supporters that prove them to be anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant, Obama birthers. In Trump’s value system these are upstanding Americans. In my value system, they’re pretty despicable.

I can find no words of rebuttal that equal the closing words of Blow’s OpEd:

“ I understand that people recoil at the notion that they are part of a pejorative basket. I understand the reflexive resistance to having your negative beliefs disrobed and your sense of self dressed down.

I understand your outrage, but I’m unmoved by it. If the basket fits …”



We Know Who Hillary Clinton is Against. Soon We’ll Find Out What She’s For.

Hillary Clinton is the de facto Democratic nominee for the presidency. And she has been campaigning with that understanding in mind. She has a multitude of endorsements from high-ranking Democrats and a few disaffected Republicans. President Obama and Vice President Biden have endorsed her and will soon campaign for her nationally. Senator Elizabeth Warren has endorsed her and campaigned with her enthusiastically and energetically.

The essence of Ms. Clinton’s campaign so far has been to attack Donald Trump. However, it is not enough for her to tell potential voters what’s wrong with Mr. Trump. We need to know what Hillary Clinton stands for, what she will attempt to accomplish as President.

It’s not that Clinton has not taken positions on the important issues facing the US. A perusal of her official website will indicate some of her major concerns – stated in general terms – and some specific policy positions. Many of these positions will appeal to liberals and some “independents” – gun control, increasing the minimum wage, stricter regulation of “Wall Street,” low cost public higher education (including tuition-free community college), paid family leave, support for Planned Parenthood, and support for LGBT rights.

While her positions are likely to resonate with her supporters and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, they may not get the support of “moderates,” conservatives, and those who are disposed to mistrust or outright hate the Clintons. So, pointing out the disastrous nature of a Trump presidency is a way to overcome the resistance of these voters.

But soon Clinton will have to begin campaigning on the basis of her plans for the country. She will have to make promises to the public at large, not just speeches to members of interest groups. She will have to risk having her proposals critiqued by experts and adversaries. She will face attacks on her plans by organized right-wing groups. The media, having given us “all Trump, all the time,” may begin to give Clinton fair coverage. But loving a “horserace” as they do, the media might also assert a false equivalence between Trump’s excesses and Clinton’s positions. She will have to simultaneously affirm the benefits of her platform and denouce and discredit everything that Trump represents.

We can consider this a period of transition in the Clinton campaign. I believe that she will soon begin to focus her message on her platform as well as Trump’s shortcomings. Three things will complete this transition. The first is the entry of President Obama into the campaign. Obama will be eager to cite his accomplishments, and praising Hillary Clinton as the continuation of his vision for the US will celebrate both Clinton and himself. The unfinished business of Obama’s presidency will give Clinton concrete points of contact with Democratic voters. With unlimited access to President Obama’s political apparatus, Clinton will have the resources to get out the vote of the Democratic base.

The second factor is the Republic National Convention. The convention will define the Republican platform and Trump’s relationship to the party. And, as we can surmise, it will be the process and dynamics of the convention as much as its platform and candidates that will shape how voters perceive the party. Clinton’s positions and her record will be offered as a sharp contrast to whatever the Republicans offer the electorate.

Finally, the Democratic National Convention will provide the platform on which Clinton will run for President. The platform contains a number of liberal planks, including a $15/hr minimum wage, support for labor unions, defence of voting rights, clean energy jobs, support for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and similar positions (although taking a decidedly non-committal position on the TPP). Regardless of how much of the proposed platform makes it into the party’s final position on the issues, Clinton will have the entirety of the Democratic Party committed to her campaign. She will have the support of Democrats who will advocate for her position on the issues and Democrats who will attack Trump in particular and Republicans in general.

As everything falls into place, in a short time should expect to see Hillary Clinton’s run for president as something more than an anti-Trump campaign.

Rethinking Elizabeth Warren as Hillary’s Running Mate: Is This the Sacrifice that Democracy Demands?

In a recent Facebook post, I stated my belief that Elizabeth Warren should not seek the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination. I illustrated my case with the 17th century French poet Jean La Fontaine’s version of Aesop’s fable of the Wolf and the Dog. The moral of the fable is that the dog, while enjoying the comforts and security of life among humans, has traded his freedom – which the wolf cherishes – for the chain by which his human master restrains him every night. Learning this, “So ran Sir Wolf, and runneth yet.”

My argument is that Sen. Warren enjoys the freedom to take a firmly progressive stand on public policy issues. She already occupies a leadership position among liberals/progressives – in the Congress and among Democratic voters. I can envision her becoming Senate Majority Leader at some time when the Democrats regain the majority in the Senate. As Hillary Clinton’s Vice-President, however, like the dog in the fable, she is bound to the policies and priorities of the President.

She would, of course, have some area designated by the President over which she would have special responsibility. She would have some say over that assignment. But ultimately she would be the President’s second-in-command for things in general with no authority in particular. She would have to delicately maneuver to have her voice heard over those of influential cabinet secretaries and advisors with responsibility for foreign policy, intelligence, military affairs, economics, and other important functions of government.

Why then have I become more open to a Warren Vice Presidency? There are only two reasons: to stop Donald Trump and to get Hillary Clinton elected President. For whatever reasons, and despite her commanding lead over both Sen. Sanders and Mr. Trump in the popular vote, the dominant meme is that Ms. Clinton is “uninspiring” and that she seems “inauthentic.” She and Trump share the misfortune of high “unfavorables” among potential voters. In her political rallies, Ms. Clinton has turned her attention from Sen. Sanders to Donald Trump. Still she gets less media coverage than Trump gets for anything he says.

On the other hand, Sen. Warren’s attacks on Trump have lit up the internet.  After a recent speech by Warren, Slate writer Jim Newell wrote a telling critique of Clinton and her team.  The headline of the article reads “Elizabeth Warren Knows How to Attack Trump. Why Doesn’t Hillary?” He states that, among other problems,

“It could be that the Clintonistas’ inability to settle on an overarching story about Trump is a reflection of their inability to settle on an overarching story about themselves.”

He insightfully states,

“Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton are very different politicians. Warren specializes in financial reform and corporate abuse, while Clinton, by nature of the job she seeks, has to represent the various constituencies that make up the Democratic coalition, and thus doesn’t have the luxury of being narrow in her attacks. Or something like that. What’s motivating Clinton to run for president beyond her belief that she has the appropriate skillset and experience to manage the federal government? If there is something else, it really hasn’t been communicated well.”

Meanwhile, Trump has sown up the Republican nomination and the corporate media continue to cater to him and promote the idea that he is on his way to the presidency. Comics joke about the Trump presidency in a tone that suggests a kind of graveyard humor. Progressives are understandably worried. Democrats are used to being outsmarted by the Republicans and their ability to distort facts and mislead the public. But Trump has run his con on the whole of the Republican Party and has the sycophant media treating him like he is already President. Stiff-upper-lipped Democrats are secretly quaking in their wingtips and Doc Martens.

What Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, and progressives/liberals in general need is a boost. A boost in morale, a boost in energy, and a boost in public perception. Enough of a boost to gain quality time in the mediasphere. Enough of a boost to reclaim the electoral landscape from Donald Trump. Perhaps that boost can be propelled by the announcement of Elizabeth Warren’s nomination as Hillary Clinton’s running mate.

Accepting the nomination would be a great sacrifice for Sen. Warren. But it may be the sacrifice we need in order to save our democracy.

Hillary’s “Unfavorables:” Is She Paying for the Shortcomings of Bill and Barack

I have an idea about why Hillary Clinton’s “unfavorables” are so high, especially among supporters of Bernie Sanders. I have heard more than I care to about the “civil war” within the Democratic Party between Hillary and Bernie supporters.  Liberal talk radio is filled with unconditional condemnation of Ms. Clinton by people who take the “Bernie or bust” position. Perhaps not too surprisingly, these critics include Millenials, Gen-Xers, and a few Baby Boomers. I have heard vociferous rejection of Clinton by women as well as men.

We have come to accept without question the fact that Hillary Clinton is viewed with such disfavor by the voting public in general and by certain Democrats in particular. But, this acceptance should be questioned. What has she done that generates such unrelenting condemnation? Is she being made the scapegoat for the failings of the men who preceded her as Democratic presidents?

The Jewish scriptures include a humorous and insightful episode. The god has appointed Adam, the first human, with the assistance of his wife Chava, to supervise the game preserve where he has placed all of the living creatures. At the end of Adam’s first day on the job, the god arrives, looking to find Adam, who it turns out has broken the only rule that the god has imposed. In his defense, Adam claims that his infraction wasn’t his fault; it was “the woman whom you gave to be with me.” Thus, Adam manages to blame his wife and his god.

There is a tendency in many societies, including our own, to blame women for the failings of society in general and of men in particular. Women need to dress “modestly” in order to prevent men from sexually assaulting them. It’s Mom’s fault that Billy can’t do his math homework.  Men have affairs because their wives are sexually unsatisfying or emotionally distant.

It’s my opinion that the Hillary Clinton is the victim of misplaced anger at and disappointment with Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Ms. Clinton is criticized for not being a real “progressive.” She is accused of being too close to “Wall Street.” She is supposedly too “hawkish” because of her vote (with 76 other Senators, 28 of them Democrats) authorizing the invasion of Iraq. She is held accountable for the harsh federal sentencing policies put in place by her husband and supported by most of the Congress, including the Black Caucus (with reservations).

The fact is that neither of the two Democratic presidents before her was a “progressive.” Bill Clinton transformed the Democratic Party into a bad imitation of the Republicans. He welcomed the corporate elites into the Democratic inner circle. He was a genuine friend of notable establishment Blacks, while helping to shred the safety net needed to hold Black families together when the tech bubble that generated his vaunted budget surplus went bust. He cynically chose to keep hands off the genocide in Rwanda while raining hell from the skies over Zagreb.

And America paid dearly for his arrogance. His sexual appetites opened him to the legal sanctions he had avoided despite the years-long probing of his finances. His anticipation of the growing power and expanding reach of radical Islam came to nothing. His efforts to blunt Al-Qaeda were dismissed as a “wag the dog” ploy. He was tried before the Senate for lying about sex with an intern. Yet, after his impeachment his popularity rebounded.

Bill Clinton used his charm to play the public like a saxophone.  And even now he is admired, venerated really, by supporters who may not actually know why he deserves their adulation. But Bill was handsome whereas Hillary was plain. Bill was cool while Hillary was drab. Bill was charismatic, but Hillary was matter of fact. It might surprise her critics to find that Hillary was, in fact, more liberal than her husband.

Barack Obama is also not a “real progressive.” By his own admission his economic policies are those of a 1980s “moderate Republican.” Mr. Obama was elected by voters who projected onto him their hopes for change and their beliefs that a new progressive era was dawning with his inauguration. However, as President he dismissed his ready army of activists with a pat on the head and instead installed as advisors and cabinet members “Clintonistas” and Wall Street insiders.

He saved the economy by continuing Bush’s policy of bank bailouts without giving corporate criminals any reason to fear prosecution for their theft of billions of dollars and their destruction of the incomes, savings, and home ownership of thousands of Americans. His bailout of General Motors was far more equitable in the benefits it provided to both the rich and to the working class. Probably the greatest accomplishment of the Obama presidency is the Affordable Care Act. But this was accomplished through major concessions to the pharmaceutical industry and insurance companies.

It is certainly the case that Black Americans have not seen appreciable improvement in their circumstances under Mr. Obama, as Black unemployment continues to be twice the stated national rate, incomes continue to lag behind those of whites, and the opportunity for wealth formation has declined rather than improved.

Unlike the Clinton presidency, the Obama administration has faced little opposition to military action. After a brief stirring of opposition, drone warfare has faded from the headlines and continues as a commonplace tool of warfare. After drawing down US troop strength in Iraq and Afghanistan, the administration has slowly but steadily begun to reinsert forces into these two regions, as well as overseeing a buildup of forces in Syria. In fact, it’s anyone’s guess as to how extensively the US is involved militarily in conflicts worldwide.

Nonetheless, despite some liberal criticism of his policies, President Obama generally enjoys the support of Democrats. The blatant disrespect shown him by Republican politicians and the victories that he has obtained despite consistent Republican congressional opposition has defined him as a heroic president. His support of LGBT rights, his restraint of DOJ action against states where cannabis has been legalized, his advocacy for non-violent criminals in federal prisons, and his support for the labor rights of federally contracted workers have justly earned him the admiration of liberals. But his failure to go after corporate criminals, his aggressive military policy, his refusal to address the needs of Black communities, and his frequent invitations to Republicans to negotiate away elements of the social safety net justify criticism by these same liberal Democrats.

Hillary Clinton is the recipient of relentless criticism. The vast right-wing conspiracy was real and it continues today. So we shouldn’t be surprised that Republicans continue to hound her with baseless accusations. But the vitriol poured on her by some “progressive” Democrats should challenge our comprehension.

I agree that “progressive” or liberal Democrats have been let down and are understandably disappointed. But the proper objects of their hurt feelings are Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But these men seem to have the power to charm the political-reality-challenged progressive purists with their eloquence and their triumphs over adversity.

In the mean while Hillary Clinton must daily cast off the role of villain that has been projected on her by some of those who have the most to lose if she is not elected President.