Last weekend Hillary Clinton made the much anticipated announcement that she is once again a candidate for the presidency of the United States. The announcement no doubt set off much celebration through wide swaths of the Democracy for her lead in current polls over potential rivals is prohibitive.
For eight long years she sat at the right hand of King William the Fornicator, while the nation patiently awaited invitations to the Grand Ball. Presenting themselves as the modern reincarnation of Franklin and Eleanor, the Clintons went about the business not of presenting us with a "New Deal" but by and large simply ratifying the Reagan Reaction. The result was that very little was done to thwart the decades long assault on the middle class, and whatever prosperity the 90's presented was largely consumed by the already well-to-do. The 90's were the 80's and the 20's all over again with the much investigated and scandal-prone first couple emerging less like Franklin and Eleanor and more like Warren Harding and the "Dutchess".
The prospect of a ‘restoration’ in which the "Once and Future Queen" is once again ensconced in the palace is proving a difficult acquiescence among certain quarters in progressive circles. "Harper’s" magazine in its November 2014 issue featured a cover story by Doug Henwood entitled "Stop Hillary! Vote No to a Clinton Dynasty". "Hillary: Not So Fast", cried the "Nation" in its December 15/22 2014 edition featuring a front page drawing of Hillary in the foreground and Bill behind her measuring drapes for the White House. Both articles were highly critical of the Clintons questioning whether it is wise for the Democratic Party to acquiesce in what many see as the inevitability of a Hillary nomination, if not presidency.
On close inspection the case for Hillary, as it was in 2008, rests on very thin reeds. Basically, wrote Doug Henwoood in "Harpers" "It boils down to this: she has experience, she’s a woman, and her time has come." (1) Which is to say she’s tanned, she’s rested, she’s ready.
First let’s consider the question of experience. The record, such as it is, is a checkered one with little or no accomplishments. As pointed out in the "Nation" her early life was devoted to promoting the ambitions of her husband. As First Lady of the state she adopted a few causes as first ladies tend to do, but her time was mostly spent working for the Rose Law Firm whose client list included many of the major corporations who were involved with litigation with the state. In fact, much of the investigations of the Clintons financial and legal dealings in those early years, Whitewater included, involved Hillary rather than Bill. Conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest never, it seems, much concerned the First Lady. For years documents relating to these issues were not to be found, locations unknown, only to appear in the waning days of her husband’s administration tucked away in a White House closet. Noone, it will be recalled, could explain how they got there.
Then there are the questions surrounding Hillary’s years on the Board of Directors of Wal Mart Corporation, America’s largest employer, headquartered in Arkansas. For seven years she sat on the board of what was emerging as the largest corporation in America, and one of the greatest exploiters of labor, without uttering a word of protest or even concern. As Wal-Mart was expanding its operations on the backs of its workers, paying so little in wages that the company openly encouraged employees (sorry associates) to apply for public relief, Hillary for years sat silent.
As First Lady, it will be recalled, she was famously put in charge of fashioning a Health Care proposal. Instead of simply calling Ted Kennedy, who had been working on this for most of his adult life, and obtaining a preliminary bill from which to work, Hillary set about holding private meetings around the country spending precious weeks, then months, in the process. By the time the bill emerged the forces of reaction were well organized and financed and, bye and bye, the bill died an ignominious death. After this shattering rebuke she shed her role of Eleanor II and went about playing the traditional role of First Lady.
Her Senate record is equally devoid of accomplishment. Her attendance record is currently being questioned, but her time was mostly spent smoozing with political reactionaries like Jesse Helms, Orin Hatch, and Strom Thurmond. She supported a couple of bills for relief of 9/ll victims, and what Senator from New York wouldn’t, but her role in moving the bills through the Senate is negligible.
Finally there is her record as Secretary of State. Not much can be said of this time in office, Benghazi notwithstanding, for real negotiations were handled by others (George Mitchell in the Middle East as an example). On her website she features the number of miles she traveled as her signature accomplishment.
But the most damning aspect of her public record is Blackwater. Ever since it gained international prominence in 2007 by shooting up the streets in Iraq, (2) the record of ‘private security’ in war zones has been a pressing issue that has gone long unheeded by those in the corridors of power. Having more hired mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan that we have soldiers on the ground has not well served the national interests of this country, with the revolt at Fallujah in which several of these ‘contractors’ were killed, burned and hung from a bridge resulting in a military response that cost more lives and treasure and American prestige than it was worth. Clearly if the executives of Blackwater would not be brought to trial for war crimes, the contract with the company could certainly have been terminated. It was not.
What is not understood is that Blackwater is under contract not with the Department of Defense but with the Department of State. It should have been the first order of business as soon as Secretary Clinton entered her office at the State Department to void the contract with Blackwater. Here was a clear case of ‘privatization’ gone awry. Here is the poster boy for all that is wrong with the plundering of the public domain by corporate interests. I’m not talking here about the ‘no-bid’ contracts of Halliburton and others in the war zones, and the tens of billions of dollars that went unaccounted for during the Bush years in Iraq. Here, with Blackwater, is a clear example of blood in the streets, of senseless slaughter, of unprofessional behavior on the part of those charged with, among other things, protecting our diplomatic mission. Here Clinton had some discretion and, one would assume, enough of a presence to impress upon the new administration the need to rid us of this evil. Here a much needed first step toward reversing this Milton Friedman inspired headlong rush to plunder the public domain by privatizing everything; a step toward reclaiming public administration of the public’s business. Instead she remained silent and nothing changed.
Secondly, there is the argument that she’s a woman. That she is, but this alone is hardly a qualification for the highest office in the land. Perhaps it is the underlying belief that it is time for a woman to become president, ironically made possible by Clinton herself in 2008, that inspired an article in the February 23 edition of "The Nation" entitled "Waiting for Warren", referring to the newly minted Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren. Warren is, of course, demonstrably progressive, advocating and fashioning legislation that created the Consumers Protection Agency as well as much of the "Dodd-Frank" Wall Street reform law. She is also, happily for large segments of the progressive movement, female. But for Clinton to base her campaign on a nakedly sexist appeal without laying out a real rationale will leave her vulnerable come November of next year.
Lastly, she is ready. That is, she is a Clinton, and she’s there. Upon this, I suspect, rests the real foundation of her campaign. As in 2008 it boils down to the inevitability of the "Once and Future Queen" based on an emerging form of bastard feudalism that is our contemporary political culture.
1. Doug Henwood., "Stop Hillary: Vote No to a Clinton Dynasty", "Harper’s Magazine", November 2014. Page 31
2. See my posting: "September 18, 2007: Blackwater Down, Mercenaries
On Main Street, The Murtha of all Congressmen"