It’s a tough day to be Republican. But then most of them are this year, aren’t they? This thing with the FBI letting “crooked Hillary” off on that colossal e-mail scam … well, until someone starts shouting for a special prosecutor to investigate the FBI, that notorious den of lefties, men and women of conscience (and with nothing better to do with their time and our money) are going to have find another dead horse to flog.
Not that “e-mailgate” didn’t succeed almost as well as other ginned-up Clinton scandals. I mean it began with Benghazi and after throwing years and taxpayer millions at that mirage it begat e-mail servers. It was just like how Whitewater begat Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky and impeachment, which as you remember was such a winning strategy for Republicans Bill Clinton left office more popular than St. Ronald the Daft.
The fact is that like Whitewater and Travelgate and Benghazi before it, the Republican attack machine never had a coherent theory of the crime with e-mailgate. Which is why it bored people and never caught on like, well, like hanky panky in the Oval Office. (Now if among Hillary’s e-mails had been some hot mash notes to Anthony Weiner/Carlos Danger we might have had some fun.)
I mean, she used her own servers … to do what, exactly? Send military secrets to Al Qaeda? Sell off Texas to the North Koreans? What? Please tell me. Because I was never grasping the Constitution-tearing gravity of the situation.
“Well,” came the usual response, “we’ll never know. Because she won’t disclose everything. That’s the way the Clintons are. Clearly corrupt. Every time we accuse them of something they refuse to turn over all the evidence we need to make our case! Bastards! It’s like they don’t trust us! We have to Make America Great Again!”
This perpetual cycle of molehill non-scandals that … we the people have paid to prosecute … only to watch “the case” evaporate under the harsh light of actual evidence is of course central to the widespread perception that Hillary and Bill “can’t be trusted”. Never mind that if you ask “why can’t they be trusted?” the most frequent response is something along the lines of, “Well, because I hear they’re always in trouble over something.”
Somehow, maybe by adding a little video to this argument, from Kevin Drum Team Hillary has to turn the guns back on the firing squad.
For the record: Whitewater was a nothingburger. Travelgate was a nothingburger. Troopergate was a nothingburger. Filegate was a nothingburger. The Vince Foster murder conspiracy theories were a nothingburger. Monica Lewinsky was Bill’s problem, not Hillary’s. Benghazi was a tragedy, but entirely nonscandalous. The Goldman Sachs speeches were probably a bad idea, but otherwise a nothingburger. Emailgate revealed some poor judgment, but we’ve now seen all the emails and it’s pretty obviously a nothingburger. Humagate is a nothingburger. Foundationgate is a nothingburger.
Bottom line: Don’t let Donald Trump or the press or anyone else convince you that Hillary Clinton is “dogged by scandal” or “works under a constant cloud of controversy” or whatever the nonsense of the day is. That constant cloud is the very deliberate invention of lowlifes in Arkansas; well-heeled conservative cranks; the Republican Party; and far too often a gullible and compliant press. Like anybody who’s been in politics for 40 years, Hillary has some things she should have handled better, but that’s about it. The plain fact is that there’s no serious scandal on her record. There’s no evidence that she’s ever sold out to Wall Street. There’s no corruption, intrigue, or deceit. And if anything, she’s too honest on a policy level. She could stand to promise people a bit of free stuff now and then.”
I make no apologies. I have no great problem with Hillary. She’s pulling the gears on a huge, sophisticated, well-heeled and well-oiled political machine. Live with it. That’s the game in 2016 USA. It’s how you get elected. You want to change it? Me too. But it ain’t happening this year.
Moreover though, I tell anyone who cares to listen that I believe she’ll be a better president than Bill, who if you remember anything other than the stained blue dress, did a pretty good job of keeping the economy on the rails and US troops out of unwinnable foreign wars.
She arrives in the Oval Office with more experience on every imaginable level than anyone since maybe LBJ (problematic comparison), plus the full support of officers and staff from two successful Democratic presidencies and a whole lot less of Bill’s, shall we say, “impulse control” issues. She has also demonstrated masterful control over the Republican wing nut fringe, an enormous time, energy and money suck in D.C. these days, that must be persistently neutralized.
So there are plenty of rational reasons to trust her to competently manage matters here and abroad.
Not that the usual suspects will be screaming “scandal” and “special prosecutor” before she takes the oath of office.
What do I know about political strategy? Somewhere along about the second hour of the latest interrogation of Hillary Clinton over Benghazi … Benghazi! … BENGHAZI!!!, I turned to my dog, who looked about as interested in what was going on as the average voter. “I don’t get it, Lou. I would have opened with the blockbuster new revelation, the killer detail, the smoking pipe bomb that would have her sweating, ‘like Dan Quayle on ‘Jeopardy’, as we used to say. But they’re two hours into this and they’re talking … e-mails. This Gowdy guy couldn’t possibly be so stupid that he’d let the lights go up on this circus without bringing something new to the show, could he?”
Well, Trey Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, may not be stupid, but he pretty clearly found himself in the position that having pandered for a year to his Tea Party base he couldn’t figure out any way to pull the plug on the lifeless corpse he was required to roll out on national TV, showing off a kind of Tea Party “Weekend with Bernie”, without any intentional laughs. He had no other choice than to put on whatever show he could, so he can go back to South Carolina, look the tri-corner hat crowd in the eye and say he brought the fight to the devil incarnate.
You knew it was a resounding disaster, certainly for the ambitious Mr. Gowdy, when his close-ups showed him slathered in Nixonian flop sweat by the time he gaveled the thing to adjournment 10 hours and 59 minutes after it opened. At least his faux hawk held up.
If you’re a Republican outside the Freedom Caucus psycho ward you had be shaking your head and reaching for the Jim Beam before lunch. All you could possibly see, knowing that Gowdy had nothing, much less anything new, is that Ms. Clinton would not only prevail against GOP’s clown car of interrogators, but that their easily foretold failure was only going to strengthen her for the 13-month run to the White House.
The conventional (Freedom Caucus) wisdom (sic) was that given enough time, the tea cup Torquemadas on Gowdy’s committee would either force Clinton into at least one juicy, viral 5-second gaffe or reduce her to a babbling Socialist, troop-hating ninny. Because, you know, she’s Hillary Clinton, someone who has never before in her long career ever had a tough/stupid question put to her or been forced to sit in front of cameras and smile patiently at a panel of filibustering buffoons. Of course they’d break her! She’s never seen the likes of Gowdy or Jim Jordan (leader of the Freedom Caucus) before! By the glory of God and our guns we’ll show her what freedom’s all about!
Talk about a fool’s errand. You got nothing. She knows it. She’s been at this game for 25 years. You’re still trying to find the Capitol rest rooms. What could possibly go wrong?
Until Hillary oversees the indictment of Goldman, Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein and JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon she won’t be my dream candidate. But as long as mastery of The Game and serenely swatting down mosquito logic — keep biting until it bleeds — are criteria for high office, she’ll do just fine.
Lord, what a pathetic farce that was.
So it seems Hillary Clinton, presumptive next president, played by her own rules and kept her State Department e-mails (more or less) hidden from official prying eyes. That is except for government types who received her e-mails. Those are still on the big server system, accessible to every EOH (Enemy of Hillary) who wants to root around and prove she personally armed the terrorists who killed the ambassador in Benghazi.
Now … obviously … this is a (big) deal because she’s Hillary goddam Clinton, with an empty six-lane freeway in front of her leading to the White House. If she wasn’t we’d still be obsessing over that stupid dress thing. Whether this outrage(!) actually has legs, which is to say if the conservative outrage machine can sustain it for 18 months, remains to be seen. Personally, I doubt it, since Es of H have a bad habit of picking the wrong horse to saddle up their righteous indignation. See: Whitewater, Benghazi.
But this email flap is another reminder that liberals might want to demand a hell of a lot more from Her Regency before the coronation. Personally, I’ve never been comfortable with the acclamation route to big power. I like candidates who have had a scare thrown into them, people who have been forced to explicitly defend and/or adjust their thinking and promises based on aggressive examination from E’s and F’s alike.
The current Hillary-Jeb match-up is so embarrassing. Clinton and Bush. Again. We look like a goddam banana republic, alternating between owners of the two biggest estancias every eight years. It’s bad enough we have to endure a system at both the national and state level where millionaires (of both parties) essentially buy themselves a job, usually guaranteeing that their previous stakeholders have primary access to their souls. It’s so damned unimaginative, if nothing else.
More to the point, as many have written before, the Hillary ascension, with no Plan B, strikes me as recklessly perilous. Even if the jowl-flapping buffoons of modern conservatism fail to make “Email-gate” stick, where are we if something truly grave happens to our one-and-only roadblock to Bush III, or President Scott Walker? Tomorrow is promised to no one. Hillary may not get hit by a bus, but not being the springiest of chickens, her health could fail, or we could discover that she really did plan the Benghazi attack. What then?
Given a choice between female candidates, I’d much prefer Elizabeth Warren. (Hell, I’d prefer Warren over any other Democrat, x or y chromosome, off the top of my head.) But a Warren candidacy would ignite the most godawful firestorm of coordinated, multi-front, big money attacks this back water oligarchy has ever seen. She’s despised and feared that much by Wall Street. And frankly, I doubt she’s prepared yet for that level of intensity of defamation. Hillary on the other hand seems quite cozy and well-triangulated among the Goldman Sachs and Citigroups of the world.
Liberal women in particular seem all but unanimously united in their support of Hillary, which is understandable to a point. After 240 years of alleged democracy, a woman president is waaay overdue and Hillary clearly has more experience and retail savvy than any plausible male on the scene. (Sorry, Joe Biden. Ain’t never going to happen.) That said, it may be that the women rushing to carry Hillary’s sedan chair up the White House steps are precisely the people to be grilling her most intensely on how exactly she intends to transform this country’s financial regulatory system, which is so tightly inter-locked with campaign finance, which is to blame for the obscene, truly Guatemala-like corruption and waste of DC?
There are a half dozen other good questions, but getting Her Highness on record, explicitly and in detail on that point alone would be a damned valuable start.
And if (not when) she answers, don’t put up with any of the usual Clinton-ish legalisms.
[Updated]. From the number of pieces I’ve read recently, handicapping the 2016 presidential race has become a click-bait hobby for plenty of allegedly reputable people. So let’s see how it works with a disreputable, unabashed, socialize-all-medicine, raise the tax and fix the damn roads, free community college for all, screw the F-35 and legalize pot liberal.
With Hillary Clinton a given for the Democrats — although god help them if she’s hit by a bus or caught in a love nest with Vladimir Putin, because there is no “Plan B” — I’ll assign a percentage value to the Republican field poised against her. 0% being the most serious candidate, someone likely to beat her, and 100% being a laugher, the equivalent of another Michele Bachmann delusion.
Jeb Bush: 5%. The Republican ruling class actually did a very good job sweeping the worst of the nut cases off their candidate slate last year. (Yes, Joni Ernst won in Iowa.) But there were no witches, no “legitimate rapes” and very little open Tea Bag pandering, at least compared with 2010. This suggests authority –spreading money to local Tea Party captains — is capable of getting Jeb through the primaries without forcing him to wear a tri-corner hat, leggings and ‘rassle snakes at prayer breakfasts. If that’s true, he’s bona fide serious opposition. He certainly more serious and intellectually engaged than his feckless brother. (I seriously doubt we’d have gone to Iraq with Jeb instead of W*, if only because he wouldn’t have laid the “detail stuff” off on Dick Cheney). But I still don’t think he could beat Her Regency. The Democrats have a profound electoral map advantage, the horror of another Bush is just too much for millions of active voters and while Hillary Clinton is hardly anyone’s idea of a “transformational candidate”, the stage is set and lit, with roses in place for a woman.
Scott Walker: 15%. In most ways a textbook example of the ideal Movement Conservative. He’s got that Tim Pawlenty careerist talent of rarely sounding like the pathological narcissist/cynic he is. Despite a Pawlenty-like mismanagement of his state’s economy, laying on massive multi-billion dollar deficit while Minnesota tries to decide what top do with giant surplus, his “go-big” brawl with public unions is all it takes to be hero to … the rubes who aren’t in unions and his industrialist, union-hating benefactors, most notably the Koch brothers. He’s no serious threat top defeat Hillary in a general election, but there’s no question he has the duplicitous wiles to survive a GOP primary campaign.
Rand Paul: 25%. He’s sort of this year’s version of Newt Gingrich. “What dumb people think a smart guy sounds like.” There are college-age wonkers who love his contrarian poses and think tankers who see a guy who’d go out play with their most batshit Ayn Randian theories. But he’s also a little like Joe Biden, in that he’s not big on filters. Over the course of the grind he’ll say at least 20 nutty things that will serve to remind fence-sitters that Hillary at least is a predictable commodity.
Mitt Romney: 40%. Face it. He’s the only Republican with the exception of Jeb, who doesn’t have bury his face in the laps of the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson. He could pay for the race out of his mad money jar. Moreover, he might have learned something about pandering to the loonies in 2012. But, come on. Everywhere outside of a Palm Beach investment bankers luncheon Mitt is still the clueless rich guy, a cartoon who gives no indication that even he knows what he really believes.
Ted Cruz: 60%. Now this guy can do some damage. Not to Hillary. It’d be a landslide in her favor if he ever went mano a mano. But he’s the sort of wholly self-absorbed, unapologetic douche bag who’ll blow off any notion of collegiality and force the Jebs and Mitts to explain why they’re not sending in the Marines to block Obamacare. Frankly, I’m amazed that someone hasn’t dug up a juicy scandal on the Tedster. If ever someone looked like they’re hiding a closet full of perversions, its Cruz.
Marco Rubio: 75%. By now his reputation is locked in concrete. An empty suit. A cutey-pie shill for old money interests without the Clintonesque imagination to make a serviceable case for either pole of the same argument.
Rick Perry: 80%. An even emptier suit than Rubio, even with his new “I must read something because I’m now wearing glasses” look. Worse, for him, Jeb, though associated lately with Florida, is closer to the big, safe-bet Texas money. Still, in terms of pure entertainment, Perry was good stuff on the campaign trail, we’d all love to see him back
Rick Santorum. 90%. Say what you will, Santorum was the hardest working guy in a sweater vest Iowa and the Deep South primaries have ever seen. Lacking Bush and Romney-style money, he has no choice but to pander to the most medieval of the crazies, while reminding everyone else of the guy in high school who no other guy wanted to hang out with. He’s the Republicans’ Harold Stassen, unless Romney wants to fight him for it.
Mike Huckabee: 95%. He’s one of those sweaty, grasping characters who just refuses to go away, clinging to the belief, like Jim Carrey in “Dumber and Dumber”, that “there’s still a chance”. There isn’t. There never has been. Besides there’s more money in slinging stale meat to rubes from FoxNews.
Sarah Palin: 1000%. There’s nothing, short of a long weekend with Sofia Vergara, (sorry, dear), that would delight me more than a Hillary v. Sarah face-off. Michele Bachmann was an opportunistic nut-case sucking up $20 checks from embittered revivalists living on Social Security checks, but Palin is the gold standard for naked pandering, startling stupidity, rank incompetence and non-stop public buffoonery. We are already looking back on her as an icon of the age of celebrity worship. “Does she look good in a form fitting suit? Well then she can be president.” I think John McCain said that.
But whether he wins — which is doubtful, despite, I believe being warranted — I’d like to think his willingness to mount an attack will have, if only a momentary, impact on our vast, fetid “non-fiction” industry.
Our guy Jesse is many things. Among them: A grasping, self-serving, self-aggrandizing, thin-skinned galoot. But he is also positively reverential about the Navy SEALs and the bond of macho brotherhood with those who have served. Similarly, he has been unabashedly vocal about the War in Iraq since it was launched, saying rational, reality-based things about that misbegotten adventure I’ve still never heard from the likes of John McCain or Lindsey Graham.
For those reasons alone it is nearly impossible for me to believe that he ever said the SEALs “deserve to lose a few” to anyone, much less a group of actual (half drunk) SEALs practically in their own backyard. Even if he too was drunk or hell, on mescaline, like some sage native mystic, asking me to believe Jesse Ventura urged death on any of his brothers-in-shark-infested-waters is a bridge … way too far.
And based on the deposition of Chris Kyle, the now-deceased “American Sniper” himself, the whole incident at the bar in San Diego, with all the chest bumping, swaggering, taunting and brawling sounds deeply flaky, as in it made for a much better story when you’re trying to sell a tough guy/uber-patriot memoir. Certainly a lot better than letting Ventura get away with an anti-war crack. When your target audience is gun-worshipping, flag-waving, hoo rah wannabes, you slap that shit down … even if you actually didn’t.
Jesse’s fight coincides with right-wing fantasist Edward Klein’s latest best-seller, “Blood Feud”, in which we’re too believe the Obamas and the Clintons are, behind the scenes, in private, barely different in their connivery and blood lust than the Lannisters and the Starks on “Game of Thrones”. If Jesse thinks he got unfair treatment in Kyle’s book (ghost-written, of course) imagine how Hillary feels with Michele Obama calling her the “Hilldebeest”, and how about Barack pounding down the vino and bad-mouthing Bubba to his face? I always knew that guy a drunk and a boor. I mean, hell, did you see him boozing it up in Texas? W* never behaved like that.
Point being of course we rarely have any good reason to believe anything in a memoir — really, any memoir, including Hillary Clinton, Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachman, every tired old statesman, jock, pop star, etc. — although, personally I’d actually read Vladimir Nabokov or William Styron in their own words than the ghost-written, demo-targeted tale of an expert rifleman, who despite the hagiographic lurches would never have been mistaken for Vasily Zaytsev defending Stalingrad from the Nazis.
And why stop with memoirs? The publishing industry has only the most loosely defined and even more loosely policed definition of “non-fiction”. It hardly matters to the average publisher, and not at all to the partisan houses pushing precisely what their demographic wants to hear, if no one can corroborate the author’s astonishing verbatim dialogue from private episodes between characters who’d rather flatten him under their limo wheels than grant him an interview.
House attorneys may scour books for the most egregious slander, to avoid time-sucking litigation. But once into the realm of “celebrity” or “public person”, why waste time checking and deleting the juicy stuff that might accelerate on the Interwebs and move product? If the aggrieved celebrity yob wants to declare the whole thing an insult to nature and a hideous, despicable lie, well hell, thank them for being stupid and vain enough to goose the publicity effort.
According to reports from the Ventura trial, Jesse’s original complaints about the Kyle book spiked sales and delighted the publisher, proving again that the best offense in the face of obscene offense is … nothing. Ignore it. The shelf life of the average, under-publicized unlitigated memoir is about as short as a mayfly, or a jihadi in a sniper’s crosshairs.
As we watch our political leaders try to deal (and not deal) with the flood of Central American kids over our southern borders, and as the pundit class wiles a few summer days offering variations on the same themes they always play — Why is Barack Obama ineffective in this crisis? Why is “Washington” broken? Why, darn it, does everything have to be so hard? I’ve heard several “experts” invoke (again) the name of Lyndon Johnson. LBJ is the kind of guy, they insist, who would … get something done. There’d be no mealy mouthed politesse about him. No bogus “reaching out” to virulent enemies crapola. What they’re wetting themselves over is a guy who, on reflex, would threaten your livelihood, your reputation and the well-being of the family dog to get you to do what he wanted done.
Although a lot of them look old enough, the same pundits seem to have overlooked a handful of serious misadventures — The Domino Theory/Vietnam — in Lyndon Johnson’s career of unmitigated success. Likewise, few of them spend much energy imagining LBJ maneuvering through Texas politics, circa 2014. Even fewer bother to wade too deeply into the much more recent reality of the current GOP (House variety to be absolutely specific) blocking the “Gang of Eight” immigration legislation, then cutting off all discussion of a coherent immigration policy, with adequate funding while howling about Presidential ineffectiveness … in order to stay “true” in the eyes of their most rabid, primary-voting base in an election year.
Likewise, I don’t hear much from liberals and Democrats on how the current scenario, with the Tea Party dictating total gridlock to their “leaders”, will be any different with Hillary Clinton in the White House. The Clintons may be more ruthless and better connected through the bureaucracy than Barack Obama. But I don’t see Hillary having any magic wand ability to break the Tea Party spell over the few traditional Republicans left in DC.
My wife has just finished listening to the John Heilmann-Mark Halperin book, “Game Change”,and has been reporting her surprise at how badly the Clintons come off — in the early stages, before the arrival of Sarah Palin and uttter batshittery makes Bill and Hill look like petal-strewing cherubs by comparison. Simultaneously, I finally pulled Seymour Hersh’s late ’90s book on JFK, “The Dark Side of Camelot” off the shelf and have been refreshing my memory of what a gangster the Old Man was and the bubble world of reckless privilege and double-standards Jack and Bobby were born into, molded by and never ever worked too hard to escape.
Point being, the average American knows very little about the true nature of any high-profile politician and an enormous number of us, credulous pawns to a celebrity culture, don’t want to know. We actually prefer the slickly marketed hagiographies, perhaps because raw reality has a nasty way of leaving us even more cynical than we already are. (How we as a culture have clutched at the lacquered veneer-over-rotted wood Camelot myth for so long, proves my point.)
All elections come down to “the choice”, and given the imbecilic levels the GOP has fallen to, the choice these days is profoundly easy. At least with Hillary Clinton or the average Democrat you’re not dealing with someone who is dubious of evolution, climate change, women’s reproductive and employment rights, the desperate need for affordable health care, a less ideological Supreme Court and immediate immigration reform.
But anyone wistful about a “new LBJ” really should read Nick Confessore and Amy Chozick’s piece this week, titled, “Wall Street Offers Clinton a Thorny Embrace”. The reminder, in case you’ve forgotten, is that Bill and Hill are about as tight with the true barons of American-style democracy as any two people can get, and give no indication that they’d go “all-LBJ” on the crowd best-positioned to drain the juice out of the lunatic Right.
Most likely the game has changed so much since Lyndon Johnson’s, uh, uninterrupted march of success that we’ll never see his kind again. But fodder for another post is the peril underlying Democrats’ near-unanimous embrace of a Clinton Restoration.