Two articles in yesterday’s NY Times usefully shed light on the probable 2016 Democratic nominee for president .

Hillary-haters ought to read Nicholas Kristof’s op.ed. Kristof debunks the myth that Hillary is an exceptionally devious or mendacious or shifty politician. He points to her Politifact rating,* which puts her basically in a tie with Bernie Sanders for truthfulness, with both of them far ahead of all of this year’s past and current Republican presidential candidates.   Yes, Hillary, like her Democratic rival and like most seasoned politicians, knows how to dodge tough questions and how to stretch and trim the truth without exactly lying, but she’s not particularly exceptional in this regard.

Kristof explains that when the media get hold of a favored narrative, they find it very hard to let go of it: it’s just too easy to fit new facts into familiar frames. What Kristof doesn’t mention is that the narrative of Clintonian mendacity and untrustworthiness has been fed by an obsessive, hateful right-wing campaign of vilification that began even before Hillary became first lady over 23 years ago. (I made this point in a post over a year ago.) Rabid Hillary haters on the left—and there are a good number of them among Bernie supporters—should consider that they are adopting a narrative that originates with sources that they would justly despise, sustained by media that they appropriately distrust.

Hillary fans, on the other hand, should read Mark Landler’s fine article in the NY Times Magazine, which, for me, sharpened my own most serious longstanding concerns about Hillary. Clinton is a hawk, as she has demonstrated in many ways beyond the Iraq war vote for which Sanders repeatedly berates her. She was consistently on the hawkish side of the internal policy debates in the Obama administration, and her predilection for an aggressive foreign policy clearly sets her apart from her ex-boss, President Obama. Clinton’s attraction to military might apparently has roots in her biography and grew during her years in the Senate as a member of the Armed Srvices committee, when she  cultivated relationships with a number of hawkish advisers, mostly generals and ex-generals. Landler even thinks Clinton is more hawkish than her leading potential Republican rivals:

For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas have demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.”

Here is Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum explaining his reaction to the Landler article:

If anything worries me about Hillary Clinton, this is it. It’s not so much that she’s more hawkish than me, it’s the fact that events of the past 15 years don’t seem to have affected her views at all. How is that possible? And yet, our failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere apparently haven’t given her the slightest pause about the effectiveness of military force in the Middle East. Quite the opposite: the sense I get from Landler’s piece is that she continues to think all of these engagements would have turned out better if only we’d used more military power. I find it hard to understand how an intelligent, well-briefed person could continue to believe this, and that in turn makes me wonder just exactly what motivates Hillary’s worldview.”

This is a particularly sensitive issue for me, having lived through one disastrous war started by a liberal Democratic president.   Yes, we’re not going to be able to do better than Hillary Clinton for the White House in 2016, but let’s be clear-eyed about what we’re getting into. There is no way that American interests can be served by major involvement in a war in the Middle East. I hope HRC understands that, but I’m not at all confident that she does.


* There is much to criticize in the Politifact rating system, but it’s the best attempt available at holding politicians accountable for the accuracy of their statements.



  1. Harry April 25, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    If you think Hillary is a worse warmonger than Cruz or Trump, then why would you ever vote for her? A war is worse than anything they could do in terms of domestic policy.

    • tonygreco April 25, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      A very fair question, to which there are two connected answers: (1) I do believe that unfortunately the risk of war is probably somewhat greater under Hillary than under Cruz and possibly under Trump, but neither of those two gentlemen is risk-free when it comes to warlike proclivities. Given the need to choose between the marginally greater risk of war under Hillary and the certainty of terrible domestic policies under Trump/Cruz, I choose the former, especially since (2) It is not so clear that a war would be worse than anything a Republican president could do domestically. Different economic and social policies could well result in differences in national mortality rates (not to mention non-lethal suffering). Even a very small increase in mortality could eventually mean thousands of deaths, which might well be comparable quantitatively to the results of a war.

  2. Jeffrey Herrmann April 26, 2016 at 1:21 am

    I think Kristof’s analysis is correct and you are certainly right about the right-wing haters’ role in spreading the hatred. But reading Kristof or your blog wouldn’t change their hatred. You can’t reason them out of a state of mind they didn’t reason themselves into.
    I agree that the certain harm that would be done by a Repugnican president operating with a Repugnican Congress and a Repugnican-packed Supreme Court outweighs the hypothetical risk that Hillary would take us into a conflict that the Repugnicans would be wise enough to avoid.

  3. Nick Adamo April 26, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Hillary might be Hawkish but its not like she would launch a war for fun. Sometimes Military action is necessary, we shouldn’t be blindly opposed to War.

    What if America didn’t get involved in WW2? What if a pacifist attitude lead to an avoidance of the civil war and the confederacy was still a separate nation?

    The point is sometimes War cannot be avoided. Until the context or details of a potential engagement are brought up, how can anybody say that its the wrong option?

    We live in a very dangerous time and I think more should be done in regards to putting pressure on Isis. With Russia and China we should obviously use diplomacy to avoid war or any possible engagements. However we are top dog when it comes to military might, we should not let anybody openly challenge us without a proper response.

    For example, if Russian jets try buzzing our ships again they should be turned to ash. We gave them a freebie and let them slide last time, but anything more would look really weak.

    • tonygreco April 26, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      I think you pose the issue too starkly. It’s not a question of being a pacifist vs. starting wars for fun. Rather, there’s a continuum. On one end are those, like the neo-conservatives, who are ever-very ready to deploy American military might on behalf of what they perceive to be US interests, which they tend to define very expansively. (Exhibit A, of course, is Bush-Cheney and Iraq.) On the other end are those, including most libertarians and many liberal Democrats, who tend to be highly skeptical of the efficacy and desirability of military intervention. H. Clinton to my mind seems uncomfortably close to the neo-conservative end of the continuum; Obama has been closer to the other end, and has moved further in that direction over time.

      • Nick Adamo April 26, 2016 at 5:20 pm

        I agree completely, but honestly with the international situation as it is, I think more American intervention may very well be the correct policy option.

        I would rather have a president who leans Hawkish than someone like Sanders who leans Isolationist or someone like Trump/Cruz who openly advocate barbaric practices.

  4. John Duggan April 26, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Good, thoughtful, thought provoking piece Tony. I shared with all my friends.

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