By Greg Maybury
For “House of Cards” fans who can’t get enough of fictional President Frank Underwood and his First Lady Claire, it must be tempting to view Bill and Hillary Clinton as their real-life political doppelgangers. Certainly there’s fertile ground for those seeking parallels between the main protagonists of this quintessential political soap opera, and our more flesh and blood “heroes.” Like their imaginary foils, the Clintons’ moral compass is functionally impaired, so much so one suspects the HoC scriptwriters modeled their lead characters on the Democratic Party’s resident “royal couple.”
To be sure, a critical assessment of Hillary Clinton’s fitness for the Oval Office can’t be undertaken absent some reference to the respective roles she and her husband have played in each other’s professional lives. Many folks will recall their indelible slogan from Bill Clinton’s successful tilt at the top job in 1992, where the campaign pitch to voters was, “Two for the price of one.”
Again, one not unlike the mantra the Underwoods might concoct for voters. One wonders why the Clintons have not retooled that hoary old refrain for 2016, and here I’m thinking, “Buy one, get one free” might fit the bill.
The Clintons then (cue Frank and Claire again) are the consummate political “chancers” (British slang for “opportunists”), with style overwhelming substance, ruthlessness eclipsing truthfulness, and political expediency supplanting personal integrity. Occupying their own “house of cards” is a long, yet not so illustrious history of deception, malice, corruption, duplicity, careerism, avarice, turpitude, warmongering, hubris, incompetence, arrogance, media manipulation, venality, hypocrisy, influence touting, and everything in between that the ugly, sleazy side of politics has on offer.
This reality was first underscored most notably when — in what must be the modern American narrative’s most indelible “stand by your man” moment — the then “Tammy Wynette” of U.S. politics vigorously defended her husband against allegations of unbridled lechery and sexual predation. These allegations, along with many others in her view, were invented by what she later defined as a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” one that was unscrupulously trying to take them down and out.
But irrespective of whether this much touted “conspiracy” was actually a reality (the Clintons surely had powerful and well-heeled enemies), a product of Mrs. Clinton’s penchant for self-aggrandizing delusion, or simply dirty politics (the perfect tautology if there is one), it is now safe to say it was going to take much more than a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to stop the Clinton juggernaut in its tracks.
That this “juggernaut” shows few signs of losing steam is evident; at the same time it continues to showcase all that’s wrong about Establishment politics — Republican or Democrat. And whilst we can say now the accusations against her husband contained more than a grain of truth (at least those related to womanizing and self-aggrandizement), both Bill and Hillary were in for the long haul. That she tendered her impassioned denials in the full knowledge that many were true is difficult to refute, and if nothing else, says much about the candidate’s capacity to deny reality in the service of a larger ambition.
And without placing too fine a point on it, this is one area where given the prevailing zeitgeist in Washington – in both neoliberal and neoconservative circles – Hillary Clinton is most definitely qualified as both the preferred candidate of Democratic insiders and the Establishment’s choice for president (including a number of erstwhile Republicans).
In any event, the Clintons themselves are no slouches when it comes to playing “dirty politics,” for whom we might say all’s fair in love, war and their chosen vocation. They embody moreover, raw political ambition at its hard-core finest, steeled by narcissistic megalomania, all of it unencumbered by accountability, transparency, humility, ethics, honesty, scruples or altruism. Her seemingly inevitable selection as the 2016 Democratic flag-bearer — and from there most likely the presidency — is ample indication of that “long haul” ambition.
To their credit as political survivors, they’ve been effectively dodging political snipers ever since they parachuted into public consciousness during the 1992 campaign. And if the current contest is any guide, the Clintons have not lost their innate talent in this regard. As for Hillary Clinton, one suspects even her most zealous detractors could not help but admire — if begrudgingly — the mix of chutzpah and resilience that have been key to her longevity, with her not always subtle campaign “trump” cards: “It’s my turn!” Even without playing the “elect me as your first woman president” card, the palpable sense of quasi-regal entitlement becomes icing on the Clinton cake!
We might argue that given the weight of mounting evidence against her fitness for office — a modicum of which would deep-six most politicians’ career ambitions — they have become ever more adept at keeping their political ducks flying in a row, and well out of the range of the shooters. Not that they’ve achieved this all on their own.
In this the Clintons have been ably served by the mainstream media (MSM), who’ve generally eschewed the forensic analysis — whether political, policy or personal — vital to objectively evaluating her fitness as the Democratic nominee (and therefore president).
Mistress of Malevolent Mayhem
The prospect then of another Clinton presidency should make all right-thinking Americans increasingly concerned – even afraid – about the direction in which their country is heading. I know I am, and I’m not even an American!
Like many of America’s key allies over recent years, our country Australia is no different in that more and more Aussies are harboring anxious — one might say existential — fears about the respective agendas of the U.S. neoconservative and neoliberal establishments. And notwithstanding her blandly reassuring campaign rhetoric on both counts, Clinton hasn’t just aligned herself with these agendas; it’s increasingly clear she’s the preferred standard bearer of the authors.
With this in mind, outside of her aforementioned Tammy Wynette moment, we should explore a little more of the aspiring president’s résumé. In an excellent book, aptly titled Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, Diana Johnstone does just this. The author chronicles in a clear-eyed manner her subject’s back story in excruciating detail. What makes Johnstone’s tome all the more remarkable and essential is the depth and breadth of her narrative, one that goes way beyond the outwardly narrow focus suggested by the book’s title.
For Johnstone, Clinton’s “misadventures” aren’t simply a reflection of the warmongering misadventures of the country she aspires to lead and whose dubious “virtues” Clinton obsequiously and glibly extols at every turn. In Johnstone’s studied analysis of the candidate, Hillary Clinton embraces all the vices that distinguish the prevailing Washington “group think” on foreign, national security and military policy. Indeed, Clinton does so as promiscuously as her philandering spouse did in pursuing his own personal vices.
Moreover, along with being attendant to her husband’s career, the back story of Hillary Clinton’s political ascendancy is inextricably woven into the larger narrative of America’s preeminence as the “indispensable” empire du jour in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, itself coinciding more or less with Bill Clinton’s election to the presidency in 1992.
As Johnstone notes, in her youth, the then Hillary Rodham, a former Republican and “Goldwater girl,” “grew up with the viewpoint of a rich and dominant America obliged to maintain its position on top of an envious and resentful world. This was the standard attitude.”
It should be noted that it was her husband’s foreign and national security policies that in so many ways facilitated the rise of the “full-spectrum dominance” mindset that prevails in Washington to this day. In fact, Bill Clinton’s track record as POTUS is a singular pointer to how a Hillary Clinton presidency will shape up on the critical economic and financial, as well as the geopolitical and national security fronts.
Though we may never know the full extent of Hillary Clinton’s influence on her husband’s foreign and national security policies during his tenure, we can safely assume it was never less than substantive. In this we might point to her well-documented encouragement of Bill Clinton to bomb Yugoslavia, as just one example.
Bringing in Bubba
And now with her husband as a key fundraiser, campaign strategist and arguably her closest political confidant, it’s a safe bet that once Hillary Clinton is ensconced in the White House, “Bubba” Clinton will almost certainly reign behind the throne as her indispensible consigliore. In fact, we can’t rule out his appointment as a key player in the next administration.
As it is, such a prospect was announced just this past week when the candidate said she is likely to appoint her husband to a senior economic advisory position, purportedly to “revitalize” the economy. “You know, he knows how to do it,” she declared.
On the foreign policy front, the aptly designated “War Party” — the cabal of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who are the flag-bearers of America’s hegemonic ambition — are now more entrenched than in Bill Clinton’s heyday and key leaders are backing Hillary Clinton. This being the case, the die one imagines is already cast — America’s future preordained. There can be only one outcome from a Hillary Clinton presidency – more wars.
In an interview with Joan Brunwasser on OpEdNews, Johnstone explained there were two things [that] inspired her to write Queen of Chaos. The first was the Libyan intervention and accompanying “regime change” gambit. Johnstone described the war that eventually destroyed Libya as “totally unjustified” — a familiar refrain in the decades-long history of America’s war for the Greater Middle East. The author added that most people are “totally unaware [of] how much falsification was used to justify that war.”
It was Clinton as Secretary of State, Johnstone says, who cajoled President Obama into that war and is “quite ready to use it as model for further regime change in countries whose leaders she doesn’t like.” Clinton’s sniggering, grandiose exultation — “we came, we saw, he died” — upon hearing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s grisly demise at the hands of Western-aided anti-government rebels was clear evidence of this.
Her close pal (and now presumably, aspiring “presidential whisperer”) Henry Kissinger — himself a past master of malevolent mayhem and Machiavellian mischief — doubtless would’ve been mightily impressed with the way the Libyan debacle unfolded, although “Hank” one expects may have had the decorum not to gloat about it in public, if only for appearances’ sake.
As for her second reason, Johnstone points out it was, “the totally disproportionate hostility aroused against Vladimir Putin and Russia as a result of the Ukrainian crisis … [itself] incited largely by Washington and the European Union. That hostility was already brewing, and Hillary has kept it stirring. These events are part of a trend toward a much greater war than people today think possible.”
In a recent article at Counterpunch, Johnstone declared that she had hoped the occasion of the campaign might be seized upon not only to “expose the lies of Hillary Clinton,” but, also to “seek freedom from America’s seven decades of subjugation to the military-industrial complex and its organic intellectuals who never cease conjuring up threats and enemies to justify the war economy. This entire policy needs to be exposed, denounced and rejected.”
The Regressive Progressive
Andrew Levine from the Institute for Policy Studies singled out so-called “progressive liberals” for their unstinting support of Hillary Clinton. In his view, no notable people within this nebulous constituency (one of her unabashed admirers Paul Krugman comes to mind here) have been able to come up with examples of “anything progressive or worthwhile that Hillary has accomplished.”
Levine notes, somewhat acerbically, as First Lady Clinton, “set the cause of health care reform back a generation, laying the groundwork for all that is wrong with Obamacare; as a Senator, she did nothing noteworthy at all; and, worst of all, as Secretary of State, all she has been good for is facilitating world-endangering disasters.”
And on the neoliberal front, more people are now viewing secretive faux trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as Trojan Horses concocted to enhance corporate power and influence, allowing the transnationals to further enrich themselves at the expense of the national sovereignty, economic prosperity and self-determination of the countries who sign off on them. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons and Neolibs: How Dead Ideas Kill.”]
In Australia, our all but obligatory commitment to this agreement has many Australians doubtful not just about the alleged benefits of the pact itself, but our “no questions asked” vassal-status alliance with America in general. That few if any of these agreements do what their advocates claim they do is evident to all but the most myopic or deluded of observers of the political economy.
Bill Clinton’s own 1994 NAFTA agreement might be Exhibit A here. And Hillary Clinton’s flip-flopping on this issue is not a good “look” in the eyes of those increasingly opposed to these “trade” regimes.
Further, despite her earnest proclamations about reining in Wall Street, Clinton is not likely to do so. The Clintons’ respective presidential campaigns — indeed their political ascendancy, and by some accounts, their personal financial rehabilitation after Bill Clinton left office — were funded in large part and via various means by the “gangbanksters” of “grab-it-all” street.
These massive payments — essentially pay-to-play “payola” dressed-up as speaking fees, charitable donations or campaign contributions — could be viewed as Wall Street’s protection money guaranteeing that a President Hillary Clinton will use her office as the bulwark between the financial criminals and the folks with the pitchforks.
Pepe Escobar has noted that “Wall Street’s Golden Girl” likes to portray herself at least for public consumption as a dedicated disciple of the “No Bank Is Too Big To Fail” ethos and “fully committed” to financial industry reform. But she is “the reigning Queen of Turbo-Charged Casino Neoliberalism … the evidence insists to suggest that her actions do not exactly match her rhetoric.”
It seems then that few presidential aspirants have campaigned for office schlepping so much obvious “baggage” with them. In fact, it is a testament to the Clintons’ formidable, perpetual motion political machine that much of HRC’s “baggage” is either hidden from public view or is rarely subjected to the rigorous scrutiny that should accompany any candidate aspiring to the highest office in the land.
Paradoxically, this applies even more so now despite more informed folks having the Clintons’ political and personal measure. But as indicated, the MSM has dutifully shoved her dirty linen down the political laundry chute and welded the doors shut at both ends so the smell doesn’t offend the nostrils of the voting public.
In at least one case, the MSM appears to have been joined in pulling punches by some in alternative, independent media (AIM) circles. Fellow Australian, renowned filmmaker and journalist John Pilger noted recently, in reference to an article he published on Counterpunch concerning Clinton’s fitness for the White House, another well known and generally respected AIM outlet Truthout, refused to republish it in full until he excised some of what they viewed as his more contentious statements regarding the Woman who Would be President. Pilger said this was the first time he’d ever been asked to undertake such self-censorship. He was, as might be expected, less than impressed, saying “like all censorship, this was unacceptable.”
Pilger added that Truthout said “my unwillingness to submit my work to a ‘process of revision’ meant [they] had to take it off their ‘publication docket’. Such is the gatekeeper’s way with words. At the root of this episode is an enduring unsayable. This is the need, the compulsion, of many liberals to embrace a leader from within a system that is demonstrably imperial and violent. Like Obama’s ‘hope’, Clinton’s gender is no more than a suitable facade.”
In this case, it was a news outlet positioning itself as a credible alternative to the glorified stenographers and perception managers populating the newsrooms and editorial boards within and across the NYT/WPost/LAT axis.
For Pilger and other like-minded observers, the broader challenge for those wishing to expose the leading candidate’s “dirty linen” to greater scrutiny when it is needed most is made more difficult as a result of her status as the anointed candidate amongst the Washington power elites.
Now that Clinton has fashioned herself as the “women’s candidate” and “champion of American liberalism” in its “heroic struggle” with those mostly unelected folks who dictate U.S. economic, foreign, military and national security policy, it is increasingly difficult given the existing political climate to counter this cockamamie narrative.
Or as Pilger put it: “This is drivel, of course; Hillary Clinton leaves a trail of blood and suffering around the world and a clear record of exploitation and greed in her own country. To say so, however, is becoming intolerable in the land of free speech.”
Surviving President Clinton-45?
What should be especially troubling for Americans contemplating their next commander in chief, Clinton clearly views herself amongst those elites whose position, profile, public persona and self-importance license them to see themselves being above the law. Of course, this phenomena is nothing new, but it is becoming increasingly obvious to ordinary Americans that those in power and/or those with influence aren’t routinely — without fear or favor — subject to the same rules and penalties as they would be, all things equal.
Given her legally suspect track record on so many issues, this alone should disqualify Clinton from consideration as President. Her arrogant, contemptuous dismissal of the very idea that she might face prosecution from her careless handling of sensitive information in the so-called “Server-gate” scandal — “it’s simply not going to happen” — is ample evidence that she sees herself as a member of the exclusive but expanding “Too Big to Jail” Club.
As former CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern sees it, with the FBI investigation into the matter about to wrap up, it’s anyone’s guess at this stage as to whether the U.S. Justice Department will find against her for using a private email account and server to conduct official, classified and/or top secret State Department business while Secretary of State, and from there prosecute her to the full extent of the law.
But McGovern goes on to add the following: “if there is something incriminating — or at least politically damaging — in Clinton’s emails, it’s a safe bet that at least the NSA and maybe the FBI, as well, knows. And that could make life difficult for a Clinton-45 presidency. The whole thing needs to be cleaned up before the choices for the next President are locked in.”
In a recent piece — querulously titled “Would The World Survive President Hillary?” — Paul Craig Roberts noted that the Clintons represent everything that is deeply flawed about the way Washington works as they serve as the “poster couple” for the corrosive graft, corruption, political perversion and criminal sleaze that infects the Beltway milieu.
Roberts writes: “government has been privatized. Office holders use their positions in order to make themselves wealthy, not in order to serve the public interest. Bill and Hillary Clinton epitomize the use of public office in behalf of the office holder’s interest. For the Clintons, government means using public office to be rewarded for doing favors for private interests.”
Part of the reason HRC’s fitness for the Oval Office has not been subjected to the sort of scrutiny we all should expect was the reluctance of her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders to go for the jugular throughout the primary campaign. Hillary Clinton might own the most vulnerable “jugular” in this battle, but she’s been extraordinarily adept at ensuring hers is a constantly moving, hard-to-hit target.
Yet even if Sanders had conducted a more aggressive campaign against Clinton based on her dubious record, it’s arguable the MSM would not have accorded such efforts that much attention, no matter how on the money Sanders was or how well such tactics might have played with voters. Insofar as the MSM is concerned, the nomination of Clinton as the Democratic — indeed, Establishment — candidate, was a foregone conclusion from the get-go. The MSM’s job is to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
All this was underscored by the amount of MSM ink lavished on the respective campaigns, with Sanders receiving a fraction compared to Clinton (or certainly Donald Trump). Even then, the coverage of Sanders was often begrudging and dismissive (focused recently on why he won’t just concede the nomination and stop “hurting” Clinton).
Plus, there were the reports of vote rigging in various primary contests and Democratic campaign funding anomalies, all of which have been ignored or played down in MSM circles. For its part, the MSM have long since abrogated any and all responsibility for guiding voters towards the selection of a president who might begin to reverse the course America seems hell bent on pursuing, whether in the broad economic, financial, social, military, national security or geopolitical spheres. It wasn’t going to change gear this time around.
Last but not least is the aforementioned Clinton machine itself, whose principal drivers are doubtless leaving nothing to chance in their relentless, ruthless drive towards the “inevitable” nomination of their standard bearer and ultimately the presidency. This, coupled with the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) own “out of the starting gate” anointment of HRC as the presumptive nominee along with the crucial backing (above and below board) that accompanies said “anointment,” translated to Sanders having to work much harder to gain sufficient traction, and from there position himself as the more qualified, suitable candidate for nomination.
That he continues working harder as of this writing is both a testament to Sanders’s own determination and the undeniable level of grassroots support for him. It is also an indictment of the Democratic Party itself which seems determined to stop him — along with those among the “opinionocracy” equally determined to write him off — even if this means risking destruction of the party as a viable political entity.
In an interview with talk show host Ed Schultz, Sanders said “super-delegates” – party insiders who get to vote on the nominee without being elected as a regular delegate – had to “do some hard thinking” before deciding who to support at the convention.
The Vermont senator had this to say about the state of play: “‘Take a look at the polls, take a look at the nature of the campaigns. And I think if you do that, you’ll find that the energy, the enthusiasm, the voter turnout will be with us. We are the strongest campaign to defeat Hillary Clinton — to defeat Donald Trump, and hopefully Hillary Clinton as well here, and if that’s the case, I would hope they support us.”
And though it may be too little, too late, some people within the AIM ranks are still calling into question Clinton’s suitability, qualification and fitness for the White House. To this end, in a recent article journalist Robert Parry of Consortiumnews posed a simple but seemingly vexed question about HRC — is she qualified to be president, not just based on her résumé but on her actual performance in office?
Parry wrote that Clinton “seemed incapable of learning from her costly errors — or perhaps she just understands that the politically safest course is to do what Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment wants. …
“That way you get hailed as a serious thinker in The Washington Post and at think-tank conferences. Virtually all major columnists and big-name pundits praised Clinton’s hawkish tendencies as Secretary of State, from her escalating tensions with Iran to tipping the balance of the debate in favor of ‘regime change’ in Libya to urging direct U.S. military intervention in Syria in pursuit of another ‘regime change’ there.”
Such fitness for office should be a fundamental consideration for selecting a U.S. president, along with an equally crucial question: What kind of individual is the best person to reverse the course America seems intent on pursuing at the expense of everything it purports to stand for? At one stage Obama held out this promise to America, and more recently for some, Sanders.
Hillary Clinton is, indeed, the “Queen of Chaos” inhabiting her own real-life “House of Cards,” one that’s been erected by a fawning, uncritical mainstream media, bankrolled by wealthy elites and the denizens of Wall Street and the military-industrial-security complex with its perimeter secured by the neoconservatives and their fellow travelers, the (not-so) liberal interventionists. In other words, the power enclaves that constitute the existentially toxic Washington political firmament.
All things considered, simply being “afraid” somehow just doesn’t cut it. When it comes to the Clintons, one imagines we’d all be safer and more secure with the conniving Frank Underwood as President and his calculating wife Claire as Vice President, or perhaps vice versa. Now, there’s a thought!
Greg Maybury is a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia.