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Hillary’s Neocon Problem

Hillary Clinton has a dark history in foreign policy. Indeed, if the Nuremberg principles were applied evenly, her name would certainly be on the docket, along with her former boss in the White House, who is actually less of a hawk than she. When Donald Trump publicly expressed a willingness to negotiate with Russia over international conflicts, she referred to such an idea as putting “Christmas in the Kremlin.”  She’s red-baited Bernie Sanders for his support for the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions back in the 1980s. Clinton basically backs not “political realism,” but the more imperial tradition of neoconservative “American exceptionalism,” a chauvinist mindset by which the US sets the political, economic, and military priorities of the world and the places and times of its interventions, sometimes with allied support, sometimes without, at its own discretion.

Hillary is a product of her husband’s alignment with Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and the right wing shift of the party, which moved the Democrats away from its moorings in organized labor, the New Deal, civil rights, and the Great Society. Bill Clinton’s successful election undoubtedly inspired the formation of “New” Labour in Britain, which likewise broke with its party history in the labor movement. In the 1990s, then MP Tony Blair, his shadow government chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown, and his chief pollster Philip Gould came to America as apprentices of the Clinton presidential campaigns to study their public relations and other electioneering tactics. This became part of New Labour’s successful “Third Way” victorious strategy in 1997. Back then, Anthony Howard, writing in the Times of London, said that Clinton’s New Democrats “lighted the path” for Blair’s New Labour. Blair partnered with Clinton and the DLC in taking a more militarist stance toward Saddam Hussein, which paved the way for Bush’s and Blair’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Bill Clinton’s and the DLC’s legacy candidate is Hillary. And what better way to prove her cojones, in case anyone thought a woman president might turn out to be a negotiator and peacenik, than to pick on Russia and reignite the Cold War. Despite the Russians’ brilliant mix of negotiation – warding off a US invasion of Iran, getting the US off Assad’s back with the disposal of his chemical weapons stash – and their effective military intervention against ISIS, Obama, Clinton, and now Kerry will not relent in their hostility. The US neocon inner circle cannot countenance a balance of power arrangement with the Kremlin, disregarding Russia’s status as the second most militarily powerful country in the world. Clinton has called Putin a dictator, the favorite term of disgrace in American ruling circles, except when it comes to America’s allies in the Gulf states, Erdogan, and the long list of authoritarian friends the US has backed over the entire course of the postwar era. Indeed, Putin may be a strongman of sorts, and an extremely popular one in his own country, but is far less of an authoritarian than his predecessor, ” Boris Yeltsin, who ruled by decree and whom Hillary’s husband lauded and financed as a genuine, if quite inebriated, democrat.

Was Hillary in on Bill’s political choices? Recently speaking to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, Clinton’s secretary of labor Robert Reich said that Bill never made an important decision without consulting the first lady. What are the programs to which Hillary can claim advisory credit during her husband tenure? NAFTA, welfare reform (“ending welfare as we know it,” said Bill), balancing the budget (inflicting austerity measures), the 1994 crime bill (“three strikes and you’re out”), bank deregulation (a sonata for the Great Recession). All of these projects, says author Thomas Frank, were for working Americans and people of color absolute disasters. And one might add to his list the expansion of NATO and the assault on Yugoslavia.

As secretary of state, Hillary backed CIA director Petraeus’ plan to overthrow the Assad government in Syria, from which Obama eventually backed away, thanks to Russia’s intervention and defense of Syria’s sovereignty. As a good neocon soldier for American exceptionalism, Clinton aligns herself with whatever appears at the moment to be the “national interest” center of political gravity (promoting the oil industry, arms sales, the pro-Zionist alliance, divide and rule aid to opponents of secular nationalism, right-to-protect military and economic interventions). The distraction over her emailgate and the Benghazi investigation hides the real crimes of her active support for the bombing of Libya, the overthrow of the government, and the resulting chaos and ISIS organizing in the country, not to mention her backing for the Honduran coup d’etat. Former secretary of defense Robert Gates says that it was Hillary who pushed Obama into the decision on Libya, for which the president now publicly expresses regret, calling the present condition of the country (his words) “a shit show.”

Her champions who cheer her work with women and children ignore the thousands of women and children in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, who were slaughtered under her leadership in the State Department. Speaking on regime change, even a right-wing former Pentagon analyst, Michael Maloof, didn’t believe it was appropriate to attack Iraq. “Now with Libya,” he says, “it’s the same. And Hillary Clinton was very much responsible for that.”

If she becomes president, what can be expected of her on domestic policy? She’ll be a good team player – that is, the neocon team – and may even get something accomplished, such as privatizing part of social security and medicare, which was always part of the DLC agenda, and working more closely with the oil companies. Among her other achievements during her years in the State Department, according to investigative journalist, Lee Fang, was her creation of a separate bureau, with more than 60 staff, whose focus was on energy resources. Traveling the world, Clinton used her position, partnered with Chevron, to promote the practice of fracking in developing countries.

With the power couple in the White House, their assets already worth well over $100 million, and with a Congress being mostly a millionaires’ club, no serious tax increase on the rich can be expected. Indeed, the White House will be more of a revolving door for government officials and staff moving back and forth between the corporate world and “public service.” Open Secrets.org found 84 revolving door personnel working for Hillary, more than on any other politician’s staff: “the greatest number of staffers who either came to Capitol Hill after representing private interests or left the member’s staff for a lobbying position.”

Her march to the White House relies on over 400 superdelegates pledged to her – a number of them also wearing the hat of corporate lobbyist – rather than to the democratic voice of the people, Even if nominated and then elected, Hillary, lacking credibility about her authenticity, will not be a popular president. Nearly half of Democrats don’t trust her (56% express trust vs. 81% for Bernie). And a new AP-GfK poll reveals that 55% of all Americans hold a negative opinion of her. Under her presidency, and with the return of the first man, American politics will continue to be business as usual.

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Gerald Sussman is professor of urban studies and international and global studies at Portland State University. He is the author and editor of several books, including The Propaganda Society: Promotional Culture and Politics in Global Context (2011).

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