Progressives don’t vote Hillary

Hi-Lie-ry Clinton

Disclosure: I have never been a fan of Hillary Clinton, so I’m just going to wear my bias on my sleeve right here and now. My opinions are my own and are not to be construed as representative of Scholar & Rogues or any other group of civilized people.  Am I trolling?  You decide.

Policy differences aside, this, almost more than any other reason, is why I simply cannot abide the thought of a President Hillary:

Hillary Clinton calls Bosnia sniper story a mistake

Mistake is a funny thing to call a lie, I think.

If that’s not enough, here’s Chelsea Clinton weaseling her way through a ham-fisted support of that lie.

Chelsea Clinton lies about Bosnia

How is it possible for the two of them to have misremembered the same fictional event?

As a dear friend once pointed out to me, if opportunism alone were sufficient reason to dislike a candidate, I could never vote for anyone. There’s a difference here, in my opinion. “Falling back” on her Southern drawl to pander to a black audience is one thing. But to lie about being under sniper fire should be grotesquely offensive to any member of our armed forces that has actually been under enemy fire, should be repugnant to honorable members of our police forces that risk their lives day in and day out, and should be repudiated in full by any electorate that is sick and tired of being lied to by our “representative” government.

That said, let’s segue to a recent poll by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Liberals Aren’t Buying Obama And Kerry’s Arguments For Action In Syria

By 73% to 18%, respondents oppose U.S. military action in Syria.

Further, in an email I (and a great many others) received from MoveOn.org:

Because this is such a big decision, we asked every MoveOn member to weigh in on whether MoveOn should support or oppose the congressional authorization to use military force in Syria.

The results are in, and they are unequivocal:

73% said MoveOn should oppose the congressional Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria.

Summary: progressives do not support President Obama in his quest to attack Syria.

Who does?

Why, Hillary Clinton, of course.

Hillary Clinton backs President Obama on Syria

Ergo, Hillary Clinton is no progressive.

Ergo, progressives do not vote Hillary in 2016. Progressives need a horse in that race, and she just isn’t it. We desperately need to remember this if she shows her face in the primaries.

What do you think?  Speak out, or the crickets win.


Image credit: Donkey Hotey.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

15 replies »

  1. i think both are valid points and interesting.

    the bosnia thing only sort of bothers me, because i have false memories as well. but the backing obama on syria thing can only be one of two things, both of which are troubling:

    1. she’s never read mcnamara;s book and doesnt realize that this is a terrible idea.
    2. she knows its a terrible idea and is sticking up for her old boss out of loyalty or political expediency.

    either is problematic.

    i never thought i’d find myself depending on Ron and Rand to keep us away the cliff of disaster. sheesh.

    • I’ve had false memories, too. We all do. Memory is as unreliable as can be. But this goes beyond remember the time one was attacked by a swarm of bees when the reality was that one was stung by two of them at the age of eight. To me, her “false memory” is like remembering the time one banged the Prom King/Queen (circle one/both) with the whole class watching when nothing remotely like it actually happened. Thing is, if Hillary did innocently recall it incorrectly, then how did Chelsea do that, too? To look at the Chelsea video, it’s almost worse that she doesn’t come right out and repeat the lie. She ducks and dodges, because she knows full well that her mom is lying through her teeth.

      Your points are far more salient, to be sure. For me, it’s also a primarily a matter of her lack of experience, competence, and politically expedient loyalties (party before country!), but it’s compounded by an even greater degree of mistrust for her than I have for the vast majority of politicians. I can be cynical and play the Stupid or Evil game with most of them, but still have to resort to “well, it really could be that this bunghole is truly just a moron.” A fabrication of this nature, however, tells me she could pull a Bush-lying-us-into-Iraq with a straight face, or be complicit in all manner of skullduggery while playing us all for fools with a glib slip into an innocent drawl.

  2. It seems to me that there are two, unstated assertions in what you’ve written, Frank: (1) what should a progressive be, and (2) how a progressive politician (and by inference, a progressive, I suppose) should think and act. I have substantial reservations about your approach to both of these things.

    Let’s leave the sniper incident aside for the moment.That has nothing to do with progressives or progressivism. It’s just another public figure telling a whopper, which is quite common and dates back to the dawn of written history (literally). One can decide to vote or not vote for Hillary (or any other pol) on this basis if one so chooses, but it’s not a progressive or non-progressive issue; it’s a personal one that goes to one’s judgment of Hillary’s character.

    Progressivism, as I understand it, is over 300 years old. Its followers believe that the human condition can be improved, that there can be and has been progress in doing so, and that one should work for further progress. If progressivism prescribes actual formulae to achieve this end, I’m not aware of what they might be. Certainly, a progressive would be against war in a general sense, since war is a source of large-scale, human misery. It would be best for humans if it were eliminated. This does not mean that a progressive can’t be in favor of a particular war in the same way a person who spends her life improving fire safety, and working diligently on reducing the root causes of fires, might be very much in favor of fighting one that breaks out and threatens to evict hundreds from their homes.

    My way of looking at progressives would include people like Jefferson, Washington, Paine, Franklin, etc. as foremost practitioners, since they believed ardently in human progress and put their lives and fortunes on the line to advance it, even if it meant a protracted war. I believe that they largely succeeded in their aims, but other progressives, like Robespierre, Danton, etc. largely did not, not to mention that men like Lenin and Trotsky might well have been considered progressives.

    So, we have ample evidence that progressives have, historically, used means that increased human misery in order to produce longer term results that improved the human condition. We also have evidence that, in some rather notable cases, they not only failed, but also produced conditions that were arguably worse than those they fought against in the first place.

    This history has given rise to the pragmatic progressive (and to be clear, I count myself among those). :Pragmatic progressives believe in human progress just as much as other progressives, but we believe in a thoughtful approach that just might yield better long-term results than the hit-and-miss, ideology-over-sense approach that has led to so many well intentioned failures in the past that conservatives use to bludgeon progressives every time they suggest changes in the way things are done, now.

    Even a non-pragmatic progressive might support a cruise-missile strike on Syria if he/she believes that the nerve gas attacks actually happened, that there are likely to be more of them if they go unpunished, that thousands of Syrian civilians have died vomiting, defecating, urinating, spasming, and suffocating to death, and that such things are terrible and could be improved with a military strike. The pragmatic progressive asks the question, “What are our options, and what are the possible short- and long-term consequences of those options.”

    As a pragmatic, I look at consequences of inaction as well as action. The consequences of inaction (assuming the sarin attacks actually happened) are that many more thousands of Syrian children, women, and men may die awful deaths, and that the next time gas is used on civilians in a different time and place and the US wants to act, it will be accused of acting not on moral grounds, but on grounds of national self-interest, only, which will undermine its ability to put together coalitions in the post-Iraq-hangover world. I also believe that inaction will badly weaken treaties banning the use of gas, in general, which will not improve the human condition in the slightest.

    I also recognize that action may still not produce the desired results. It may not inhibit the Syrian government from using gas in the future. It may weaken the government to the point that elements even more hostile to the US take over and make Syria a huge pain in the ass in the future. It will almost certainly strain relations with Russia and, to a lesser degree, China, though it’s hard to believe that relations with Russia could be much more strained short of another out-and-out Cold War, which seems unlikely. It certainly weakens the UN, but that’s a weakness that has been evident for some time, now. At worst, action could suck the US into putting troops into Syria, or providing air support for one faction or another, escalating the war and, potentially, causing both more human misery and having a bad, long-term outcome.

    The devil is in the probabilities. Potential bad outcomes are not uniformly probable. Given what information is available at this time, I believe that the worst of the possible outcomes of a cruise missile strike are unlikely, and that the worst of the outcomes of not acting are very likely, indeed. So, I tepidly support a cruise-missile strike. I do not support ground troops in Syria, because I believe the probabilities shift heavily toward worsening outcomes if that is the case.

    I believe that I can be a progressive and support these things, and I believe that politicians can be progressives and support what I support. I reject the litmus-test labels and politics that are the hallmark of the Tea Party as being fundamentally harmful to the progressive cause.

  3. not with you on this one. i think the salient definition of progressive is the modern context, and that the use of statistically based polls to define that is valid. i do think that you have to look at more than one issue, i.e., none of us will agree on every issue, and that you can’t really vote HC off the island based on one issue.

    i am against the strike o n purely pragmatic reasons.

    we should not intervene because;

    1. this type of intervention (airstrikes) seldom accomplishes much. you could argue it’s a deterrent (ghadaffi,) but it’s a thin argument.

    2. the evidence for chemical weapons is sketchy at best and it’s coming from proven liars (cia, etc)

    3. the rebels are not people we want to help.

    4. people die all over the world every day horribly and wrongly. we can’t help them all and don’t. pulling out the humanitarian card whenever we feel like it is bullshit. we didn’;t jump in to help iran when irag gassed hundreds of thousands. we let the child soldiers raped and maim. we sat on our hands when pol pot exterminated millions. we have no guidelines on which lives we think deserve saving and which dont’

    5. almost by definition, anything that mccain, boehner et al agree on should be viewed with tremendous suspicious.

    6. it will come at a great cost–worse relations with russia, view of us as a rogue state, etc.

    • I’m still undecided on the whole “intervene in Syria” thing. There are a few examples of airstrikes with minimal ground involvement working, but not many. I’m reasonably convinced that nerve gas was used (although I’m waiting on the UN to weigh in for sure), but I don’t trust either the Iranian and Russian news outlets who say it was a botched rebel transportation job or the CIA who claim it was Assad’s military. And I happen to agree with Obama that gassing your own civilians (if that’s actually what happened) is a “red line.”

      But until I’m convinced it wasn’t some kind of horrible accident (there’s a reason why chemical weapons are banned and only idiots manufacture/stockpile them – and this is that reason), I’m just not sure. But I’m not hard-core opposed either.

      • I think it should be fairly easy to determine if this was some sort of accident by the distribution pattern and the concentration in soil samples. If the delivery came through a weapon, providing a aerosol across a wide area, then there’s almost a 100% chance that it came from the Syrian military (barring some other military, and I assume someone will be blaming the Israelis any moment, now).

        One really difficult issue, as Otherwise has pointed out, below, is that US intelligence services have, badly, badly damaged their credibility. I’m not one of those people who think intelligence has to be perfect. It never has been and never will be. But the monumental size of the screw up over Iraq causes all of us to be skeptical, or in some cases, cynical, about all intelligence. And that’s an intolerable situation we shouldn’t be in.

        Like you, I’m not sure. I just don’t think that progressive should be defined by whether or not they support military action in this particular case.

  4. Otherwise: I suppose this begs the issue of who gets to define what. I contend that progressivism is no more well-defined than libertarianism, and it would appear that I am not alone in this: http://dailycaller.com/2010/11/09/can-progressives-define-what-to-be-a-progressive-actually-means/2/

    (Yes, I know this is not a progressive publication, but it doesn’t make them wrong.)

    Perhaps LaFollete defined it to begin with or perhaps not (depends on whom you talk to), but the issue of who gets to define the ideological purity of progressives would appear to be unsettled. Or perhaps it’s you and Frank. Who knows? I would like to point out, though, that one of the articles Frank references uses the word “liberal,” which suggests that Frank might think the terms are interchangeable, which further muddies the picture.

    Let’s visit your reasons, though, which you say are pragmatic.

    “1. this type of intervention (airstrikes) seldom accomplishes much. you could argue it’s a deterrent (ghadaffi,) but it’s a thin argument.

    I believe that this sort of intervention also worked with Serbia. And I’m trying to recall every time it’s been employed. It clearly didn’t work on the Taliban when missiles struck terrorist training camps, but I doubt anyone thought that would work. It was just a gesture, taken against a shadow enemy. It may well have worked in 1998 with the attack on Iraq, but we’ll probably never know. Hussein did end up destroying his WMDs. He just never told anyone he did.

    Regardless, history can be very misleading, because objectives and targets vary widely. If the objective, in attacking Syria, were to end the war and cause the Syrian government to capitulate, that’s not going to happen and it would be a stupid gesture and most likely a stupid move. But to the best of my knowledge, the objective here would be to strongly discourage Assad from using gas on people. That may well work. It will probably work better if, like the Libya attack, the targets are very personal to the people in charge, instead of military. We shall see.

    “2. the evidence for chemical weapons is sketchy at best and it’s coming from proven liars (cia, etc)”

    I have no idea whether the evidence is sketchy or not, and I hope you’ll forgive me for being skeptical that you have that sort of inside information. Whether past inaccuracies from US intelligence services were deliberate lies, simple incompetence, and/or simple sycophancy at the highest levels is arguable. I would argue for all three in some measure. Regardless, relegating US intelligence services to the dustbin of “whatever they say is a lie” seems counterproductive to me. If we were to do that, we could never use or act on any intelligence our services gather and report about the world, which would force US policy to be entirely blind as well as often dumb.

    “3. the rebels are not people we want to help.”

    I agree entirely. I would not support military action on behalf of the rebels. I suppose it is inadvertently “helping” them, somewhat, to try to deny Assad’s government the use of poison gas without punishment, but if so, our own military and those of every other signatory to the Geneva Protocol are also, similarly, constrained, which would suggest that the Geneva Protocols provide aid and comfort to all enemies of the signatories, I suppose.

    Anyway, we’re talking a few enemy and a lot of civilians, here, if the death totals are even remotely accurate, and I do believe that it is highly probably that there is fire under all this smoke.

    “4. people die all over the world every day horribly and wrongly. we can’t help them all and don’t. pulling out the humanitarian card whenever we feel like it is bullshit. we didn’;t jump in to help iran when irag gassed hundreds of thousands. we let the child soldiers raped and maim. we sat on our hands when pol pot exterminated millions. we have no guidelines on which lives we think deserve saving and which dont”

    I believe you are making at least part of my argument for me. I also said that inaction in this case could cause any future actions to be viewed, in the world community, as the US’s taking action only when it suits us, and not when it’s the right action to take, given treaties in effect. The issue is consistency, and predictable consistency. And that’s a function of pragmatism.

    First, the Iran/Iraq War and the Pol Pot regime happened under Nixon and Reagan, and I don’t believe anyone would count them among the progressive ranks. Pragmatically, though, any just war must have a reasonable chance of success and not produce worse results than not going to war. Even if Iran had not been an enemy at the time, and Iraq supposedly an ally, it’s highly unlikely that any intervention short of a full military commitment by the US would have influenced that conflict, and the cruise missile was in its infancy (not that Reagan would have used it against an “ally”). Pol Pot’s massacres happened when the US was still in the post-Vietnam hangover period, and no further intervention in SE Asia could have been mounted, politically. Not that the US could have done much good there, as the Vietnam experience demonstrated pretty well.

    There are many other instances in which the US has failed to act, some for political reasons (allies and all that, you know old sport) and some for very practical reasons, such as having very little power to help or at costs that were prohibitive.

    This case, though, properly targeted, has a reasonable chance of meeting the limited objective of halting gas attacks at a very low cost, as costs of war are reckoned. It’s much more difficult to make a case to the world that we are powerless or that the adverse effects/costs are too high.

    “5. almost by definition, anything that mccain, boehner et al agree on should be viewed with tremendous suspicious.”

    OK. When those you generally disagree with think something is a good idea, it’s your own good idea to proceed with caution. Still, to discount them as being wrong all the time would be to become like the Tea Party. And there’s always the case of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. To me, this is a bit like saying in the 90s, “Apple stock has been in the tank for years. Never, never buy Apple stock.”

    “6. it will come at a great cost–worse relations with russia, view of us as a rogue state, etc”

    Oh, I doubt Russia will view us as a rogue state. They’re Russian. They think everyone thinks like Russians. So, they’ll view us as a state operating in its own best interests in the Great Game (and to be fair, that is our driving motivation, often). They’ll be looking around for those interests, and probably will focus on Israel. The Russians, historically, haven’t thought a whole lot about the fact that punishing the use of poison gas, whenever possible and useful, is in everyone’s best interests. Nor do I think Putin ever saw a humanitarian situation that would cause him to act minus an immediate and obvious national interest.

    Putin gets a lot of internal support from tweaking the US to reassure Russians that Russia is still a player. Add that to the long-term relationship Russia has had with Syria as a Soviet client state, and it makes perfect sense that Russian relations have deteriorated. And that’s not to mention Putin’s cold warrior, KGB background.

    Really, in a post-Cold War world, it’s hard to imagine US/Russian relations getting any worse than they are now, or any substantial consequences if they do.

    Look, I’m not saying that I know, for a fact, that cruise missiles into Syria is a good idea. I don’t, and I would challenge anyone who asserts that he/she has such a perfect crystal ball that the future of any action, or any inaction, is certain. I object to the idea that a single person who writes for this site gets to define progressive, and to an ideological approach to this important decision that no one will remember in five years ;-).

  5. I think I’ll meld J Stephen’s and Otherwise’s opinions together as my view on Frank’s piece. Hillary may well be our next president but not with this progressive’s vote. The USA desperately needs a conciliator-in-chief who can tone down the rhetoric and lead us all back towards common ground. Ms. Clinton is a shrill angry human with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and concession and diplomacy do not appear to be pages in her playbook.

    So much hate, so much vituperation and venom. We don’t all have to agree, but we do all have to get along. Sam’s New Constitution is right on, especially the amendment disconnecting private money from public office. We are never going to be able to move forward if we don’t fix our pay to play political system.

    And Syria. To decide future action I think we should look at our recent previous adventures (misadventures?) in the sand box for guidance. After 22 years, $$$trillions spent, countless lives lost, is the average Iraqi better off today? How about the average American? After 12 years in Afghanistan, with similar somewhat smaller toll in dollars and lives, is anyone better off for our efforts?

    You guys are smarter than me but watching this shittin’ mess unfold over the last few decades from the Peanut Gallery, it sure looks like we create two new terrorists for every one we kill.
    The simplistic solution would seem to be for us to stop killing innocent people indiscriminately.

    • Frank, how do you feel about Frank Balsinger getting to determine the definition of “progressive”?

      W’s Iraq War is not a good reference point. I was very much against that war for the simple reason that I didn’t believe that, even if Hussein had WMDs, he had the ability to weaponize and deliver them outside Iraq and a fairly narrow strip along the Iraqi border.In NO way did I believe his regime would harbor religious terrorists. I also saw the subsequent occupation of Iraq, which was a natural and predictable outcome, as a losing proposition with virtually no chance of turning out well. In fact, it has turned out better than I expected in the long run, but still not well, and no thanks to those who perpetrated that war.

      As for hate, I seriously, seriously doubt if there’s a candidate for the presidency who could possibly have much impact on it. The GOP has continued to move increasingly right even in the face of data that makes it very, very clear that such a thing is political suicide on the national level. That’s so irrational that it can only be emotionally driven, and strong, ideological emotions are the enemy of “common ground.” To my way of thinking, Obama’s primary mistake in the first months of his presidency was to try to build a coalition and common ground with those who had exactly the opposite interests in mind. Wasn’t it McConnell who said something about goal number 1 being making Obama a one-term president? How can you find common ground with that?

      I don’t know much about Iraq, but I can testify strongly and confidently that things are much better in Afghanistan than they were when the US came there (not that humanitarian reasons had anything to do with the invasion of Afghanistan — it was to clean out a safe harbor for Al Qaeda). I have close contacts there who testify that girls can now attend school, women can earn money, the Hazara are no longer the subject of pogroms, all orphans are no longer forced to seel their bodies to survive, etc. This may all change back when the US leaves, but for now, things there are infinitely better for Afghanistan’s most vulnerable citizens.

      To be clear, I do not and would not support a strong, boots-on-the-ground effort in Syria, nor would i support giving support to one of the factions there that hates the West. I may support an action to punish, and perhaps deter, Sadat and/or his military for using nerve gas. That limited action may achieve limited goals. Or not. But the downsides seem very minor to me, as were the downsides of a cruise missile attack on Afghanistan and the Sudan.

      • Hey J Stephen, it’s Frank’s op-ed so he can define progressive as he wishes. I agree it seems like a new speak version of liberal which does not match my conception of the ideology but I’m here to learn new things not to push my views on others. Maybe my version is whack, I like seeing other viewpoints.

        We can’t use our experience in Iraq to predetermine what our chances are in Syria?
        I’ll have to think about that one. We’ve just (barely) come out of a humongous fuckup there and now we’re poised to jump another evil dictator’s bones only this time the shaky evidence and battle cries are righteous? My cognitive dissonance bell is ringing loudly.

        Hate, divisiveness, unwillingness to compromise. Do you really see this as endemic only to the right? To me it seems like it’s coming from everywhere, stoked by a sensationalist press and fanned by false media prophets with ulterior motives. Cui bono, who benefits? Not the American people that’s for sure.

        Interesting slip saying Sadat rather than Assad. Our history in Egypt is another fine example of American Corporatism putting profit ahead of a foreign country’s internal best interests. I guess my point here is that we have such a shady and underhanded history of intervention in the last few decades that I don’t think we can be trusted as a country to do something altruistically. We’re dirty cops and I don’t trust us.

        Afghanistan? Maybe, I’ll listen. I just remember how we supported our dear friends the Mujaheddin against the Russians in the 80’s and 90’s and then son of a bitch if we didn’t have to go back in and try to kill our now mortal enemy the Taliban in the 00’s. Them using our own Stinger SA missilies against us would almost be comical if it wasn’t so sorrowful.

        I’m not an isolationist but we need to get our own house in order before we roll out the drones and light up yet another country with our precision laser guided surgical munitions that inevitably seem to kill more women and children than actual combatants.

  6. Frank D.

    Thanks for the response. We’ll have to agree to disagree about who gets to define what on a blog post. I could write a blog post and define “Republican” as a bigot, but it wouldn’t make it right. At least not in all cases.

    We’ll also disagree about the use of past experience to define the exact way to go about current events, as though current events are exact analogs. I believe they rarely are. Should past experience inform current decision making? Of course, absolutely, if it’s done well and with great care to acknowledge not just what makes the events similar, but what also makes them different. The fact that we have just come out of a humongous fuckup there is, to me, a very good reason not to let it have an outsized impact on current decision making. There’s a human tendency to let the most recent experience dictate emotional responses to current situations. I think that’s counterproductive.

    Do I see “hate, divisiveness, and unwillingness to compromise” as endemic only to the right? No. Not when “only” is the standard. Had you used the word “largely,” and specified “recently,” then I would have answered in the affirmative.

    I believe that Egypt is just another example of how great nations make decisions in which the opposite decision is a Hobson’s choice. Egypt is a US client state because the US was able to lure them away from the Soviet orbit, and in doing so, brought decades of relative stability to the Levant and to shipping through the Suez. The other choice was to leave them in the Soviet orbit and endure many more years (probably) of armed conflict between Israel and its neighbors. Client state relationships usually don’t last, especially when the governments of said states are oppressive. At the moment, however, Egypt is still a US client, albeit one we’d probably rather disavow after the massacre.

    As for Afghanistan, let me introduce you to these wonderful, wonderful people: http://afghanistan-parsa.org/ I know the exec director very well, and she is braver than anyone else I know or have even heard of. She puts her freedom and life on the line over and over again to help the helpless, while earning dirt doing it. She’s one of the few true heroes I know, and if you ever have a mind to donate money to a worthy cause, you’d be hard pressed to do better than these people.

    If you haven’t already read Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars” (and you probably have), then I highly recommend it. One of the things I took away from it is that our mistakes in Afghanistan were substantially caused by disengagement there prior to the Soviet invasion, forcing us to rely on the Pakistanis, who were playing their own game against India.

    I agree that we need to get our house in order, and I would suggest that those making foreign policy actually be experts in the field instead of political appointees who are probably bright enough, but lack the experience and training to make good decisions. But, we live in a democracy, and political appointees are the bad we have to accept with the good, it would seem. I would assert that action and inaction are flip sides of the same coin. Both can have very bad effects and, like it or not, the US has to choose. We can only hope for a wise choice that is sometimes only the lesser of two evils.

    • I went through the whole thread again Saturday morning over a coffee and homemade brownie Otherwise, and I agree good discussion.

      My Cliff Note’s for Dummies on Frank’s piece. Hillary is a bad choice for president in 2016 but not because of aggrandizing one event in Bosnia. Attacking Syria is highly questionable without a smoking gun pointing directly to Assad. And lastly “progressive” means many things to many people.

      Have a fine week gentlemen!