Hillary versus Trump: How the Hell Did that Happen?

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Peter Van Buren

Editor’s Intro: At his “We Meant Well” blog, Peter Van Buren, whose first career was with the U.S. State Department, has an insightful (if somewhat depressing) post on how we ended up with Hillary versus Trump on next Tuesday.  His conclusion: Each candidate in her or his own way represents major cultural and political forces in America, even as neither truly represents the American people’s interests.  Here it is, in its (grim) entirety:

You hear the expression “lesser of two evils” when people talk about how they will vote in November.

Poll after poll shows a growing number of voters saying they will vote negatively – they’re against Hillary, so they’ll hold their nose and vote Trump, and vice-a-versa.

It is also likely a large number of discontented voters will simply stay home on Election Day. Both candidates are among the most unpopular and least trusted in American history. One of them will end up in the White House.

How did we get here? How is it the only two mainstream candidates left standing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?

Hillary Clinton: All Appetite

Hillary Clinton is the archetypal 21st century candidate’s candidate, a fully formed tool of the oligarchy. Whether she wins or loses in November, she is the model for the next era of American politics.

Clinton sees The People as some mass to be pandered to and manipulated. She is simply a machine to gain power for its own sake (and money.) The One Percent tagged her early as exactly who they want to see in charge, someone who could be bought off, and she was nice enough to create her own vehicle to allow them to conveniently do that — write a check to the Clinton Foundation. As a bonus, it was also tax-deductible.

If Hillary did not exist, it would have been necessary for the wealthy who control most of America to create her.

The Once and Future Hillary

That wasn’t necessary, as Hillary Clinton had spent her entire life preparing for this.

By all accounts an intelligent, committed, feminist coming out of law school, she quickly fell into the TV classic 1950s role of dependent spouse, as “first lady” of Arkansas when Bill was governor, and of course, in the White House. Sure, she was given health care to mess around with during Bill’s first term, but when the issue crashed and burned, her role was reassigned to make safe speeches calling for more rights for women and girls. Safe in that she was allowed to pound the pulpit for those ideals in enemy territory like China, but not in countries like Saudi Arabia.

She was the good wife. And good wives look the other way when hubby strays a bit, even to the point of having sex in the Oval Office. And that’s because Hillary knew the Democratic Party would owe her for not blowing things completely apart in a messy divorce certain to reveal even more bad news.

First up was a Senate seat, a springboard for her presidential run.

In November 1998 four-term incumbent Democratic New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced his retirement, opening a seat in a Solid Blue state. In early 1999 the Clinton’s bought a house in Chappaqua, New York (with “donated” money), all so that by September she was eligible to run as a “New Yorker.” While in the Senate Hillary was served up prime committee slots, and voted the safe votes (the Iraq War vote was safe at the time, of course, as everyone wanted to go to war. Nobody foresaw that one bouncing back the way it did.)

By the time the George W. Bush era finally gave up, everyone on earth knew the next president was going to be a Democrat.

So 2008 was going to be Hillary’s big moment, the first woman president, the one to clean up the Bush wars, who knows, maybe even score a Nobel Prize. But Hillary misread the degree of change Americans wanted, and in return for putting her plans on hold for another cycle or two, she settled in for four years as Secretary of State as a consolation prize. And have you heard? She sat in the Situation Room the night bin Laden was killed!

Taking No Chances

As the 2016 election approached, the Clinton’s took no chances.

The favors Hillary accrued as Secretary of State via the Clinton Foundation were transformed into money and support. As she pretended not to run, Clinton packed her campaign war chest with big-money speeches. A happy “listening tour” (remember the Scooby Van?) was created to show everyone how human Hillary was. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz lined up the Democratic Party machinery. Designated chump Martin O’Malley was set up as the loyal opposition so Hillary could create the appearance she was running against someone in the primary.

Then, oops, Bernie.

When Bernie Sanders came out of nowhere (as had Obama in 2008), Clinton again misread or did not care about how much change many Americans sought. As many long-suspected, and as we all now know after the hacks of the Democratic National Committee servers, the Party machinery was brought to bear against Sanders. The mainstream media was lined up to belittle, marginalize and ignore him. The millennial vote Sanders inspired was largely written off by Clinton. Bernie was reduced to a sad, little old man helping nominate someone at the Democratic Convention he clearly loathed.

Add to that the flood of disdainful remarks talking points-prepped Democratic pundits spewed forth, announcing as one support for Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein is near-treason. A voter’s well-reasoned, act-of-conscious decision to support one of the two is held as nothing less than support for the Dark Lord.

The Democrat machinery and the people who control it made Clinton the inevitable candidate. There was no one else who ever had a chance. America was told to suck it up and vote for her, whether they liked it or not.

Trump Stumbles into His Role

The Republican Party fully misunderstood its constituency, thinking one of a spray of robo-candidates would be good enough to simply run as Not Obama, Not Hillary.

Each candidate on offer fell into the mold of ultra-mainstream, such as the why-am-I-here Jeb Bush, or the nut case category with Ben Carson. Ted Cruz couldn’t make up his mind, and vacillated between the two options. The plan was likely to meld the two wings into a ticket and scoop up as many conservative votes as possible.

Whatever Trump may have really been thinking when he started his campaign, he stumbled on to something hiding in plain sight. Large numbers of Americans, mostly white and formerly middle class, were angry. They were really angry. They had been left behind as the country changed, left like an audience at a magic show who saw the trick done, but couldn’t for the life of them figure out how it had happened. These people knew they were getting poorer, they could not find decent jobs, and they wanted someone to blame.

Enter Trump.

He told them it was not their fault. It was because of Obama, it was the Chinese, it was the Muslims, the Blacks, the Democrats, NAFTA, immigrants, refugees, whoever they feared and hated, whatever they wanted to hear. He told them their racism and hate was valid, and gave them a place to express it as no one in the mainstream had ever before done in a modern campaign.

Trump became a predator sniffing the wind. When he sensed people fed up with Hillary’s scamming for donations, he said he was self-funded. When he sensed people wanted change, he said he was an outsider. When voters tired of Hillary’s lawyerly answers and outright lies, Trump came out as plain spoken, even rude and crude — what candidate before had ever spoken of his penis size on the national stage?

Weakness overseas? Bomb the f*ck out of them. Worried about China? Renegotiate. Tired of terrorists? Torture them, maybe kill their families. Problems with the economy? I can fix it, says Trump, and he didn’t need to explain how because while no one really believes it, they want to believe.

Whole races and religions were condemned. People were bored with long think pieces and empty political language. Trump dished things out in 140-character Tweets. Voters made up their minds with the same tool they use to follow Beyonce.

Trump Ascendant

As a sign of Trump’s populism, and his popularity, he has garnered more small-dollar donations for the GOP than any other Republican candidate in history, and all that only since he seriously started asking for contributions in June. “He’s the Republican Obama,” Politico quotes one operative about Trump monetizing his Republican supporters.

Like nearly every person in the media, and the Democratic and Republican parties, I suspect when he first started out Trump never expected the ball to bounce as it did. Running was an ego thing, an elaborate prank, performance art, something maybe good for business. No such thing as bad PR.

But as others wrote him off, including the oligarchy, Trump learned.

Every time someone said “well, that’s the end of Trump” after some outrageous statement, Trump learned he needed only to top himself in the next sound bite. People wanted him to be racist, they wanted him to be larger than life, and they didn’t care if he lied or exaggerated. Most of the media, still reporting his latest statement (birther, debates are rigged) as a bad thing, still don’t get it.

Face It: They Are Us

America will have Trump or Clinton in the White House for the next four years because they are us.

Clinton is the ultimate end product of a political process consumed by big money. She is the candidate of the One Percent. She believes in nothing but the acquisition of power and will trade anything to get it. The oligarchy are happy to help her with that.

Trump is the ultimate Frankenstein product of decades of lightly-shaded Republican hate mongering. He is the natural end point of 15 post-9/11 years of keeping us afraid. He is the mediagenic demagogue a country gets when it abandons its people to economic Darwinism, crushes its middle class, and gives up caring what happens to its minorities.

Both candidates are markers of a doomed democracy, a system which somewhere in the past reached its apex and has only now declined enough that everyone, not just the boiling frogs, can see where we are. They’re us, people. We watched this happen, and we’ll be stuck trying to live with the results.

The Bizarre and Scary World of Republicans

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There they go again

W.J. Astore

I watched last night’s Republican debate from Florida (transcript here) and then checked this morning’s coverage from major networks such as NBC and CBS.  The focus of media coverage was the “civility” of this debate compared to previous ones, combined with typical horse race speculations about which candidate won and which lost.

Well, I can’t tell you who won, but I can tell you who lost: the American people lost.

Several lowlights from the debate that stick in my mind:

1. Marco Rubio was asked about climate change and whether human action, such as the emission of greenhouse gases, contributed to it.  Rubio essentially denied that human action had any significant impact on global warming.  The essence of his answer: the climate is changing because the climate always changes.  And the U.S. government can take no action to reduce it.

2.  Donald Trump held to his position on torture.  He believes waterboarding should be used, that laws should be changed to allow harsher means of torture, apparently because the enemy (ISIS) beheads its opponents or drowns them in cages.  He was not challenged on how he would change international laws against torture, nor was he challenged on consistent evidence that torture does not work in efforts to gain accurate intelligence.  Nor were any questions raised about the morality of torture and its proposed expansion if he wins the presidency.

3.  All of the candidates expressed support for sending U.S. ground troops, perhaps 20,000 to 30,000, to combat ISIS in the Middle East.  The situation was presented as a civil war within Islam between radical Sunni and Shia forces, but no candidate explained how U.S. combat forces could win someone else’s civil war, a war driven by fierce ideological differences.  Somehow, magically, the reappearance of big battalions of U.S. troops and massive displays of air power would “shock and awe” radical jihadists into collapse and capitulation.

4.  For the candidates, nothing Obama has done in the last seven years is worthy of the slightest praise.  Obamacare must be repealed.  The Iran nuclear deal is a disaster.  His forthcoming trip to Cuba represents a capitulation to communism.  His executive actions are illegal; all of them must be reversed.

5.  Each candidate tried to best the other on who is more pro-Israel.  According to Trump, “there’s nobody on this stage that’s more pro-Israel than I am.”  Apparently Israel is the only U.S. ally that is worthy of total support and unconditional love by Republican candidates.

6.  Trump refused to qualify his statement that there is “tremendous hate” in the Islamic world directed against the United States.  However, there was no reason given for this hate, and no sense that U.S. military actions overseas, to include invasions, drone strikes, and special ops raids, contribute in any way to Islamic animosity.  The candidates were simply not asked why some, most, or nearly all Muslims “hate” America.

7.  Finally, topics that weren’t discussed at this debate but which are commonly discussed at Democratic debates: racism, shootings by police against Blacks, prison and justice reform, raising the minimum wage, the rising gap between the richest 1% and everyone else, reducing the cost of college education, and efforts to guarantee affordable health care for all.  Nor were women’s issues, such as equal pay for equal work, mentioned.  Indeed, with the exception of Trump’s comment about women being mistreated by the Muslim world, women’s issues simply didn’t exist, not in this debate and not in most of the others.  Indeed, my wife turned to me during a previous Republican debate and said, “Not one of these guys cares one whit about women’s issues — they’re offering us nothing.”

And on that sad yet telling note, I’ll end.

 

 

Last Night’s Nasty Republican Debate

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Southern charm did not rub off on these candidates

W.J. Astore

One word describes last night’s Republican debate from South Carolina: nasty. That’s the word Donald Trump used to describe Ted Cruz (transcript here), and that’s the word that best describes the tone of most of the debate.  Ben Carson and John Kasich, as usual, tried to take the high road, but Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush joined Trump and Cruz in the mud-slinging, tossing accusations about who’s lying and who isn’t, who’s insulting whose family, ad nauseam. (According to the LA Times, the candidates together made 22 accusations of lying; all that was missing was the old expression we used as kids, “Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!”)

As far as content, there wasn’t much new.  The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia touched off a dishonest discussion as to what President Obama should do about his empty seat.  Pretty much all the candidates suggested the “lame duck” president should not nominate a replacement for Scalia (thereby abdicating his Constitutional duties). According to them, Obama is such a polarizing figure, and so untrustworthy, that he should leave to the next president the duty of nominating a new justice.  It was all nonsense, but it illustrated the patent dishonesty of politics as practiced in America today.

As I listened to the debate, the content and tone reminded me of the mean and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge before his conversion.  Again, there was much talk of deporting illegal immigrants, of blowing away our enemies (especially the Islamic State), of protecting gun rights, of ending Obamacare, of lowering taxes on the rich, all to be done in the name of our Lord.

Some media headlines from the debate coverage: “Jeb Bush attacks Donald Trump” (New York Times); “Sparks Fly at Rowdy Republican Debate” (NBC News); “The Gloves Come Off” (CBS News).  Yes, much heat was generated, but precious little light.  A dispiriting exercise, the debate illustrated the bad faith of the leading Republican candidates, as well as the rot within and across our entire political system.

If you missed the debate, consider yourself fortunate.

Republicans Are Scaring Me Again

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Kasich, Bush, Rubio, Trump, Cruz, Carson, Christie (left to right)

W.J. Astore

I watched last night’s Republican Presidential Debate from New Hampshire.  And then I slept poorly.  John Kasich and a subdued Ben Carson excepted, all of the candidates were determined to frighten me and mine.  As they shouted and gesticulated, I wrote down some of their words and some of the thoughts and feelings they generated.  It went something like this:

We’re in danger!  Obama’s gutting our military!  Muslims are shouting “death to America”!  China!  America is weak!  We must build a HUGE WALL to keep out illegals! Abortion is murder!  Take their oil!  Chopping heads!  Dying in the street! Waterboarding isn’t torture, which doesn’t matter, because we need more torture!  Respect the police! People need to fear us again!  We don’t win — we need to win again!  Iranian and North Korean nukes!  America must get back in the game and be strong!  Tough!  Win!

Well, you get the picture.  The prize for most obscene statement of the night (among a wealth of obscene statements) was Ted Cruz’s claim that America’s possession of overwhelming airpower — its ability to carpet bomb enemies into oblivion — is a blessing.  A blessing — I’m assuming he meant from God, not the Dark One, but who knows?

My wife’s impression?  She said the candidates reminded her of low-blow fighters, or teenage boys in high school.

It’s simple, really: If you want more bombing, more killing, more war, more torture, more police, more walls, and lower taxes on corporations (yes — that came up too), vote Republican in November.

My nightmare scenario: this is exactly the vision Marco Rubio had in mind when he repeatedly called America “the single greatest nation in the history of the world.”

 

The Republican Debate: Attack of the Clones!

W.J. Astore

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s one:

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From left to right, we have Kasich, Fiorina, Rubio, Carson, Trump, Cruz, Jeb!, Christie, and Paul.

Look closely.  Rubio, Trump, Cruz, Jeb!, Christie, and Paul are following the standard sartorial script for “conservative” politicians: dark suits, red power ties, flag lapel pins.  Obedient to their image consultants, they are conforming to the notion that one can appear confident and patriotic just by donning that red tie and flag pin.  In the spirit of the “Star Wars” season, let’s call this the “Attack of the Clones.”

Then you have Fiorina.  She upstages the men with a power red suit, complete with an ostentatious cross to assure viewers that she’s not just a kickass former CEO: She’s a kickass Christian CEO.

Fiorina Rubio

Then we have Dr. Ben Carson.  Yes, he has the (nearly) obligatory flag lapel pin, but kudos to him for wearing a smart blue tie with white polka dots.  His tie is much like the way the candidate speaks: calm and measured.  (The content of his speech is often a different story.)

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Finally we have John Kasich.  A soft blue tie and no flag lapel pin.  Why do you hate America, Governor Kasich?

Kasich

Well, if I had to vote for a Republican based purely on optics, I’d go for Kasich.  Imagine a Republican candidate brave enough not to wear a power red tie and a flag lapel pin.  With no Christian crosses in sight.

Perhaps Kasich actually wants to be judged by his words and deeds?

 

 

 

 

 

How Republicans Talk About Foreign Policy

The ideal Republican candidate for president
A Barechested Putin Riding Bareback on a Bear: The Ideal Republican Candidate for President!

W.J. Astore

At the New York Times, Robert Draper had a fascinating article last month on how Republican candidates for president are positioning themselves on foreign policy.  Rand Paul excepted, all of the Republican candidates are calling for a more “aggressive” U.S. foreign policy, one that promises more military interventions and higher military spending.  The goal is apparently to show more muscle than President Obama, who has been “weak,” according to these same Republicans.

The language here fascinates me.  Again and again in Draper’s article, you see references to “a more muscular foreign policy.”  Showcasing muscles appears to be a favorite trope of Republican advisers, as is the need to be more “aggressive” overseas (Obama, of course, is viewed as being passive and timid).  Republicans according to Draper favor the “aggressive promotion of American values” (whatever those are), an aggression that will somehow avoid recklessness (good luck with that).  So, ISIS will be aggressively “destroyed,” even as the Middle East is stabilized by infusing it with “American values” (freedom? democracy? human rights?) promulgated by (as near as I can tell) American military muscle.

To cite just one example, consider this political ad featuring Senator Lindsey Graham, seen in his Air Force reserve uniform, highlighting his promise to “destroy” ISIS.

A muscular and aggressive foreign policy to destroy America’s enemies: If that excites you, vote Republican.  But consider the cost of this love affair with muscles and aggression.  And then ask yourself: Are they not the real “American values”?

All this talk of bulging military muscles and coldly calculated aggression: the ideal candidate for gung ho Republicans is not the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan.  It’s an American Vladimir Putin.