Ask for My Vote, Sure — But Don’t Make Me Swear That There’s Nothing Seriously Wrong With the Clintons

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"Ya gotta believe me!"

“Ya gotta believe me!”

For political observers, Jeff Greenfield’s recent article “Is This Why Hillary Clinton Is Trusted By So Few Americans?”, on why so many people don’t  trust Hillary (and Bill) Clinton is interesting, insightful, and fairly devastating.  I’ll get to more of what it says below; first, I have to take off my analytical hat for a moment and respond to it like an average flesh-and-blood human being.

I find it absolutely chilling. This article, by itself, explains why in large part I dread a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

And here’s the punch line, of course.  I may not vote for her, but I know that on election night I’ll root for her victory — because Trump’s own policies and psychopathologies are worse.  This is exactly what the Clintons wanted, and —  well, I was going to say that they couldn’t have ashed for a better opponent than Trump to run, but the story goes that Bill did encourage him to run.  I hate that that sort of scheme, if that’s what it was, worked so well.

I never dreaded an Obama Presidency.  And while I’ve had my disagreements with President Obama on many policies — TPP, a “Grand Bargain” on Social Security, charter schools — on balance I’m still happy with it.  Most of the things for which he’s criticized are looniness and, on the things for which  he deserves criticism, neither Hillary or Trump are likely to be any better.  We can presume that Hillary will try to weasel her way out of every commitment and that — as was famously said of Bill, “you’re better off being his enemy than his friend” — she will be giving into Republicans right and left (mostly right) while trying to choke of the blood circulation of the left wing of her own party.  Seriously, I don’t know why mainstream Republicans have such a problem with her, given how much she’ll cave into them all over the place.  But even so, that certainty is better than Trump — as we have no idea at all what he would really do in office, and from my perspective the probable downside is a lot bigger than the possible upside.

Hillary will be as hard-working as Obama, will generally lead to slow-motion rather than lightning-strike problems in foreign policy, and will be good on most non-economic social issues. She’ll be neoliberal and elite-oriented when it comes to economic issues — but we have little idea what Trump would actually do in power.

One thing about the President and the First Lady that I love is that they seem to be honest, normal, transparent, sane, and decent people — incredibly much so by the standard of successful politicians.  (I know that Republicans feel that way about Ronald Reagan too, and while I didn’t agree about some of the honesty part I could certainly understand why others did.  He was the best speaker we’ve ever had in politics.  I would have to snap myself out of his speeches to remind myself that these were so the droids I was looking for.)  We’ll miss their sane decency (or is it decent sanity? That too) in office, whoever wins.

That fundamental trustworthiness one reason that I find the constant attacks on him and Michelle so aggravating. His Administration has been the most devoid of ACTUAL scandal in my lifetime. And what legitimate scandal there has been — Hillary’s trampling on Open Records laws; the minor but real scandal described in Greenfield’s article about Bill finagling a meeting with Lynch — consistently seems to trace back to the Clintons.

Let’s quote a bit from the piece, just to get your juices flowing.

I’m willing to bet one of Bill Clinton’s speaking fees that he is absolutely sure there was nothing untoward about his half-hour meeting on a private jet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch. C’mon, she’s an old colleague! We talked about grandchildren! We talked about golf! We talked about travel! I’d bet almost as much—say, Chelsea’s speaking fee—that this is more or less what transpired.

And that’s the problem; not just with this incident, but with a decades-long pattern of behavior by both Bill and Hillary Clinton that goes a long way toward explaining why a hefty majority of Americans do not regard the likely next president of the United States as honest or trustworthy. It really does appear that both Clintons regard themselves as so removed from the grubby motives that tempt lesser mortals that they are to be judged by a wholly different set of standards.

Consider how just about anyone else might have thought about this latest dust-up. Hey, Loretta Lynch will be here in a few minutes. I’d love to catch up with her. But hold on—she’s the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, whose Justice Department is charged with deciding whether or not to charge my wife with a crime for her use of emails. I can’t sit down with her for a private chat; that’d be like the spouse of a litigant meeting with the judge in the case! I’ll catch up with her another time.

From there, Greenfield notes a whole lot of specifics — in which the Clintons’ apparent conviction that they can do no ethical wrong and that anyone who thinks otherwise is just out to get them is exercised energetically — that are really worth reading.  Near the ending comes this tour de force assessment of Hillary’s truckling when NPR’s Terry Gross asked her if a given flip-flop derived — come on, Hillary! — from political calculation, as it obviously did, and as Hillary denied:

At the risk of a bit of amateur psychology I think she believed that; just as she may well believe that about why she voted for the Iraq War, or why she first supported, and now opposes, Obama’s signature trade deal. The possibility that she might have changed out of political calculation—something common to, say 90 percent of office-seekers—seems to her to be an outrageous assault on her character.

It’s terrifying to contemplate that the Clintons are capable of believing whatever they need to in order to continue believing in themselves as moral actors — and even more terrifying is their success in convincing other people to do the same.  I don’t think of Dolores Huerta, John Lewis, Barbara Boxer, and Barney Frank (OK, maybe Barney Frank) as people disposed to take guidance from a campaign to misinterpret facts and actions then hurl out half-baked invective over what they claim to believe — but damned if it didn’t happen over and over again this year, and reasonable, intelligent people kept on excusing it.  It makes one wonder — although one needn’t really wonder for long.  The tail of wanting Hillary in the White House, either or both for her lack of Y-chromosomes or her lack of Trump chromosomes — seems to wag the dog of demanding that one believe that all the normal people who look at her and say to themselves “she’s lying” are deluded.

Look: I don’t mind people pressuring me for my vote, but please don’t ask me to disable my critical thinking and social perception skills in order to justify it!  And the problem I find myself facing now is that — as one, like Greenfield, who can with difficulty swallow the notion that the world is better off with Hillary rather than Trump as President — I keep getting people jumping into my face demanding that I agree that Hillary is actually honest and transparent and trustworthy and … MAKE IT STOP!  MAKE IT STOP!  I don’t have to believe that to root for her over Trump.  Please stop pretending that I do.  I can reconcile “dishonest” and “yet still preferable.”  If you can’t, that’s your problem.

The problems with Hillary from my perspective are these.

(1) She will viciously tear into the Sanders wing of the party (to which I belong), because the idea that WE HAVE NO CHOICE but to sell out to wealthy interests — which was Bill Clinton’s “innovation” in 1992 and was frankly a likely necessary tactic to keep alive a party that at the time really *was* teetering on the edge of extinction — is critical to maintaining her own self-image as a moral actor. (Considering the election of a feminist woman to the Presidency — one who “just happens” to be her — is another linchpin.)

(2) More practically, and of greater concern to all Democrats, is that she is likely to lead to monstrous Democratic losses in 2018 — when, like Bill in 1994, Bush in 2006, and Obama in 2010, SHE will be the issue. And worse, is she runs in 2020, she could lose as soundly as the elder Bush did in 1992, when he was perceived as having done a poor job of handling “Reagan’s Third Term.”

I’m currently not inclined to vote for her (in my safely blue state) because I don’t WANT her to feel that she can safely indulge the predilections that Greenfield notes — including the sense that she is above the law, above suspicion, above monitoring, above constraint.  This is not what I want my party to stand for — I think that it’s a political dead end for us — and while I can abide a Hillary Presidency I’m not going to feign enthusiasm for what I predict above.

Bernie Sanders, a moral and trustworthy man, has already conceded that he’ll likely vote for her, presuming that — as is almost certain by now, she will emerge from Philadelphia as the Democratic Presidential nominee.   As he has a following and is on the spot, he pretty much has to do this.  He can’t run third party for reasons that anyone who understands the Twelfth Amendment — not a high one on the hit parade, but devastating if it ever comes into practice — will concede.

But: Sanders is getting crap because he has not yet endorsed her — and will not currently commit at the point to ever doing so.  My guess is that his reasons are substantially similar to mine and Greenfield’s: yes, policy is important, but he also knows, better now than ever, that she and Bill’s psyches are, in some ways, really scary — and he doesn’t want to have to pretend to his supporters that that isn’t true.

Hillary won’t win with the votes only of people who enthusiastically and without compunction are willing to trust her.  She has to come up with a way to get votes from people despite their not trusting her — and while “I’m not Trump!” is part of the answer, it’s not the entire thing.  I’m not sure how to solve the problem, other than offering myself as a model of something who doesn’t trust her at all but would probably still swallow hard and vote for her if I were in a swing state (which happily I am not).  But I’m pretty sure that, as usual, the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that one has a problem — and right now, I think that Hillary and Bill don’t.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)