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.