Hillary Clinton’s “Low Blow”

Bernie and Hillary at last night’s debate (Source: NYT)

W.J. Astore

Last night’s Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Milwaukee hit the usual notes for these two candidates (the transcript is here). Clinton is all about competence and being ready on “day one” in the Oval office, whereas Bernie seeks a political revolution to galvanize the people. But a few telling items came up, mostly toward the end of the debate.

1.  Hillary accused Bernie of being too critical of President Obama, of not supporting him, of suggesting he was “weak,” and of not respecting Obama’s legacy of results, especially the Affordable Care Act.  This was a “low blow” for Bernie, who explained that he fully supported Obama, considered him to be a friend, and that he did indeed respect the president’s accomplishments.  Besides that, Bernie noted, “one of us ran against Barack Obama [in 2008]. I was not that candidate.”

2. Bernie actually dared to suggest the Defense Department’s budget had to be given careful scrutiny, noting that the DoD has yet to pass an audit.  In these days of issuing blank checks to the Pentagon, it was a significant moment.

3.  Bernie took Hillary to task, successfully I believe, for her cozy relationship with Henry Kissinger.  In my view, this was the most important moment of the night. With respect to U.S. foreign policy, Hillary promises continuity with neo-conservative principles of American interventionism and preemptive war.  Bernie, even as he promises to crush the Islamic State, is far less enamored with neo-con agendas and peace through aggression.

Here is what Bernie had to say about Kissinger:

“I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.  I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. And in fact, Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. So count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger…”

“Kissinger was one of those people during the Vietnam era who talked about the domino theory. Not everybody remembers that. You do. I do. The domino theory, you know, if Vietnam goes, China, da, da, da, da, da, da, da.  That’s what he talked about, the great threat of China.”

“And then, after the war, this is the guy who, in fact, yes, you’re right, he opened up relations with China, and now pushed various type of trade agreements, resulting in American workers losing their jobs as corporations moved to China.”

“The terrible, authoritarian, Communist dictatorship he warned us about, now he’s urging companies to shut down and move to China. Not my kind of guy.”

Hillary defended her relationship with Kissinger, just as she defended herself from suggestions she’d be influenced by big money donors. In both cases, she came across as the establishment candidate, one who is most comfortable in the corridors of power, schmoozing with other power brokers and players.

In sum, even as Hillary attempts to appropriate some of Bernie’s anti-establishment rhetoric, her actions demonstrate how much she’s ensconced within the establishment camp, especially when it comes to U.S. foreign policy.

For voters looking for change in November, Hillary promises only an amped up version of more of the same.



6 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton’s “Low Blow”

  1. I thought the dancing around by Hillary on her donations from Wall Street versus Bernie’s small donor campaign was more significant. (Note: I only watched a few minutes of the televised affair, but heard extensive soundbites on “Democracy Now” today.) It sounded to me like the live audience in Milwaukee was biased in favor of Hillary. Perhaps it had been infiltrated by supporters of Scott Walker’s anti-labor crusade up there in Wisconsin? They don’t take kindly to the notion of “socialism,” “democratic” or otherwise! I don’t think HRC need fear ever being accused of being a “socialist”…except by the lunatic GOP presidential wannabes (those still standing!).


    1. Pretty much the same thing for me here in Taiwan, Greg. I caught some analysis of the debate by commenters on Democracy Now, the PBS Newshour, and even the usual-suspect pundit panel on CNN. Like Bill Astore, I thought the comments by Senator Sanders regarding mass-murderer Henry Kissinger really hit the mark, although the Clinton campaign — like David Brooks of the Newshour — clearly thought that the audience wouldn’t have a clue about the “ancient” history of America’s bloody, blundering, post-WWII foreign policy and hence would not care what crimes venal fools and murderers like You-Know-Her have perpetrated over the past sixty years. Anyway, You-Know-Her had only one transparent debate strategy: namely, to come off as “more black than Bernie,” hugging President Obama’s black skin like a protective political cloak, hoping-against-hope that the African-American vote in South Carolina and Nevada will come to her rescue in the upcoming Democratic Party caucuses and primaries.

      Unfortuneately for the U.S. and world, You-Know-Her and David Brooks obviously believe what the Teutonic Rasputin, Henry Kissinger, had to say about Americans and their notoriously short-term memories:

      “…remarkable, considering how long the war lasted and how intensely it was reported and commented upon, that there are really not very many lessons from our experience in Vietnam that can be usefully applied elsewhere …” — Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in a 1975 memo to President Gerald Ford (quoted by Andrew Bacevich in Washington Rules

      In other words, to the tune of You-Know-Her’s Kissinger-and-Nuland theme song:

      Let’s Already Do It Again

      Let’s already do it again
      Let’s write with no ink in the pen
      On the paper no trace of the egg on our face
      Let’s already do it again

      Let’s start on our very next loss
      With a coin and some dice and a toss
      Let’s forget this here game where we’ve come up so lame
      The next time around we’ll be boss

      Let’s hurry to do it again
      With the chorus still shouting “Amen!”
      Before we can think of the fact that we stink
      Let’s pour on the perfume and then…

      Let’s you and him get in a fight
      Then we’ll get involved for a night
      Helping out here and there, we’ll of course gladly share
      What was yours that we’ve “earned” with our might

      The brass needs a billet or two
      And some soldiers in order to screw
      A few jumbo jets and they’ve got no regrets
      Not with CNN asking their view

      They “can do,” you see, though they can’t
      Rhetorically venting their rant
      They talk a good show then the battle they slow
      Making “long time” the footprint they plant

      A “journey,” they say, not a “race”
      Attempting to save naked face
      In four years and more, they’ve produced a “long war”
      Of their “victory” — no sign or trace

      Let’s unlearn our history now
      And not ask about why or how
      While still sort of numb and sufficiently dumb
      Let’s not any learning allow

      We failed in Vietnam before
      Despite all the blood, guts, and gore
      Yet no fortune’s vast for our leadership caste
      To squander on warbucks galore

      A syndrome we need to construct
      To conceal the true fact that we’re fucked
      Our governing group has just stepped in the poop
      Now they’ve got to deny that they’ve sucked

      We need war to prop up the few
      Who really have nothing to do
      Their lack of a skill means that others must kill
      To produce all the “metrics” they skew

      The Worst and the Dullest, they paint
      Every failure with their smell and taint
      In a rut or a groove, they have set out to prove
      What Tweedledee said “isn’t” ain’t

      We’ve got the worst leadership team:
      A truly mad, nightmarish scream
      But screwing the pooch while a backside they smooch
      To them seems like just a wet dream

      Wherever they came from, who knows?
      Incompetence in them just grows
      They get us bombed stiff then they jump off a cliff
      Demonstrating what already shows

      We just hung a man in Iraq
      Once gone, though, we can’t get him back
      Now without any rope, down the slippery slope
      Our excuses get ever more slack

      They talk of a “spike” and a “surge”
      All to cover a fear and an urge
      They’ve shot our last wad, now they’ve left it to “GAWD”
      To figure out where next to splurge

      They’ve had all the time that they need
      To knock off the bullshit and screed
      With their flat learning curve, they’ve one hell of a nerve
      To demand more sick bodies to bleed

      This ain’t good and it’s got to stop
      Whatever they try at they flop
      If left at the helm they’ll just wreck the whole realm
      In planting their dragon’s teeth crop

      So let us dismiss these vile men
      Now mainly less rooster than hen
      Before they can blow what at sundown they crow:
      “Let’s already do it again!”

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2007


  2. Good summary. Hillary put on an act, pretending to be progressive, pretending to care about racial minorities, pretending to be uncorruptable, pretending to be what she is not and has not been. Bernie came across as genuine. He doesn’t need to pretend.


    1. Given You-Know-Her’s transparent “More Black than Bernie” debate strategy, I thought Senator Sanders missed a few golden opportunities. He could have, for instance quoted famed African American Frederick Douglass to the effect that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” From there, Senator Sanders should have gone directly after You-Know-Her by labeling her “The Candidate of Can’t,” saying something like:

      “You should speak for yourself when you proclaim the impossibility of progress for the working men and women of this country. Do not attempt to speak for the rest of us. We can do whatever we want if we first imagine that we can and then work, suffer, and bleed until power concedes to our demands. So please, step out of the way because, to quote an African American candidate for the presidency whom you opposed: ‘We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,’ not you and the vast sums of money you loyally represent. For them, you can and will do anything and everything. How many times have you ever told them “I can’t’?”

      Something like that.


      1. Yes. Interesting as well that Bernie chose Winston Churchill as a foreign leader he admired, whereas Hillary opted for Nelson Mandela. You would expect the opposite. But Bernie is trying to look “tough enough” on foreign policy, and Hillary is going for the Black vote, hence the choices.


      2. I agree with Bill Astore when he points out Senator Bernie Sanders’disappointing habit of trying to “out-tough” a chicken-hen “hawk” like You-Know-Her who has already side-tracked the Democratic Party debate onto right-wing Republican turf. Just imagine a “Democrat” praising a Republican suck-up to power like Henry Kissinger.

        The Republicans certainly like to run that “weak” thing on Democrats — like the Clintons and Obama — who inevitably succumb to the intimidation out of a sense of fear combined with a lust for corporate money. A truly strong Democrat like FDR would just laugh at the Republicans and say: “I don’t mind attacks, and my wife, Eleanor, she doesn’t mind attacks, but our little dog, Fallon, he does mind attacks.” FDR would have simply said of the Republicans: “I welcome their hatred.”

        The charges of “weakness,” though, do indeed apply to President Obama, as with the Clintons, but not the kind of weakness that “elite” Republicans and Democrats both assume. In the case of self-styled “strong” Democrats — especially that Drone killer, Barack Obama — the real weakness stems from:

        Congenital Stockholm Syndrome

        He started by giving up quickly,
        Surrendering early his case.
        He offered to kiss their asses.
        Replying, they pissed in his face.

        Their urine, he thought, tasted strangely;
        Yet not at all bad to his taste.
        He’d gotten so used to it, plainly.
        Why let such a drink go to waste?

        The people who voted in favor
        Of him and his promise of “change”
        Now see in his many betrayals
        A poodle afflicted with mange.

        Each time that the surly and crazy
        Republicans out for his skin
        Condemn him for living and breathing,
        He graciously helps them to win.

        He’ll turn on his base in an instant
        With threats and disdain and neglect
        While bombing some Muslims so Cheney
        Might thrill to the lives that he’s wrecked.

        A black man in love with apartheid
        He offers his stalwart support
        To Zionists and their extortion
        With “More, please!” his only retort.

        A masochist begging for beatings
        Obama takes joy in abuse
        Receiving just what he has asked for
        Which makes him of no earthly use

        The little brown men that he’s murdered
        In homes far away from our land
        Bring profits obscene to his backers
        Who give him the back of their hand.

        Obama seeks praise from the vicious
        Republicans, no matter what.
        He suffers, apparently, nothing
        So much as his need to kiss butt.

        Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2011

        Senator Bernie Sanders needs to point out that, in order for the U.S. to make any diplomatic progress at all — as in our relaxation of relations with Cuba and Iran — he first had to ease You-Know-Her out of the State Department and bring in John Kerry to get anything done. Senator Sanders has so much low-hanging fruit to harvest from You-Know-Her’s atrocious record, that he probably just doesn’t know where to begin. But I don’t see where praising an old imperialist like Winston Churchill does him, or us, any good. Poor choice there.


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