If she’s elected, Aaron David Miller predicts that the second President Clinton will bring a quick thaw to American-Israeli relations:
Given the lack of competition, unless he stumbles badly, Netanyahu may well outlast Obama. And that brings us to the matter of Hillary Clinton. Those of you looking for a new sheriff in town — one who is willing and able to teach those Israelis a lesson, cut them down to size, and make it clear to them as Bill Clinton, who exploded in frustration following his first meeting with Netanyahu in 1996, did when he said, “Who’s the fucking superpower here?” — best lay down and lie quietly until the feeling passes.
President Obama arrived in Burma today for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia summits. Given how the country has backslid on reforms since Obama’s groundbreaking visit two years ago, his return highlights how the rehabilitation Burmese junta didn’t quite go off as planned:
Skeptics warned at the time that the presidential visit and the relaxation of most U.S. sanctions were mistakes because they gave Myanmar’s military leaders too much of a reward for the changes they’d made and diminished U.S. leverage going forward. “Two years after that trip, there have not been a lot of big changes. There has been a lot of backsliding and a lot of inertia,” said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch. “Once the bulk of the financial sanctions were lifted, right after that, reforms began to stall, which is why we urged them not to do it in one go.” After that push in 2012, he said, “There was very little motivation for [the generals] to continue to move.”
The Obama administration is now facing a real test of its resolve in Iraq. The depressing but utterly predictable resurgence of Sunni Jihadism in a country broken in 2003 and never put back together again by the “surge” has been so successful and the Iraqi government so weak that even Kurdistan is now at risk. The policy now is to do enough – but no more – to keep the Kurds in the game, keep the Yazidis on planet earth and push the Iraqis in Baghdad to get real. I felt queasy when the president announced this intervention and feel queasier two days later. Even though attempted genocide creates a uniquely grave crisis, as soon as the US is committed militarily to an open-ended endeavor in that country, and is in any way dependent on the Iraqis to take the lead, then we are at the mercy of that country’s profound dysfunction once again. It is quicksand. One foot in and you start sinking.
Or you can think of Iraq as perhaps the least reformable of all welfare dependents. Chronically divided, disintegrating yet again at a particularly explosive moment in Middle Eastern madness, it will always seem on the brink of some disaster or other. The temptation to go in again – especially since we gave it tens of thousands of corpses and years of trauma to add to its chaotic polity – is great. And Obama’s signature achievement so far has been his steadiness in resisting that vortex, in defusing Jihadism rather than giving it yet more reason to be inflamed, in being that rare president capable of internalizing what most Americans want – rather than what Sunday talk show blowhards demand.
He still has a chance to do that – but it will be much, much tougher now. Give the hegemonists some blood in the water, and they will soon swarm, demanding more war, and more meddling. You can see that dynamic in the idiotic ravings of John McCain who wants a full-scale war against ISIL – or in the classic scare tactics of Butters, with the inane idea that we have to fight them over there or they will come here. It is madness as strategy – madness that already created catastrophe. But no one responsible for that catastrophe in Washington was ever held accountable – they’re doing their damndest right now to make sure war criminals are white-washed as well – and so their ability to snap back right to 2003 is intact.
And the greatest throwback to 2003 in this respect is Hillary Clinton. So far as one can tell from her interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, there is no daylight between her and John McCain or even Benjamin Netanyahu – but a hell of a lot of space between her and Barack Obama. The interview confirms my view that she remains neoconservatism’s best bet to come back with bells on. It appears, for example, that her boomer-era pabulum about foreign policy on the Jon Stewart show – “We need to love America again! – was not an aberration. She actually means it. And once we believe in ourselves again – don’t look at that torture report! – it will be back to the barricades for another American century of American global hegemony. And why not start in Syria and Iraq? I mean: she’s already hepped up about the threat of Jihadism – and what could possibly go wrong this time? If only we believe in America!
You know, when you’re down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward. One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.
Just forget that this country destroyed its military deterrence and its moral authority by the war that Clinton favored and has never fully expressed remorse for. Forget the trillions wasted and the tens of thousands of lives lost and the brutal torture we authorized and the hapless occupation that helped galvanize Jhadism, let’s just feel good about ourselves! And do it all again!
And so try and find a real difference between John McCain and Hillary Clinton on these topics. It’s certainly the same “fight them over there so we don’t fight them over here” fear-mongering:
Following her tone-deaf claim that she and her husband were “dead broke” when they left the White House, Alec MacGillis posits that Clinton’s wealth will be an issue if and when she runs for president:
Americans are famously slow to begrudge successful people their good fortune. Still, the country is getting more sensitive to the winner-take-all trends benefiting the top one percent (and top-tenth of the top one percent that the Clintons qualify for), and it will be very interesting to see how candidate Hillary Clinton reconciles her family’s fabulous wealth with her and her husband’s explicit attempt to fit their rhetoric (and the mixed economic legacy of the Clinton administration) into a more populist frame.
In fact, Yglesias remarks, the amount of debt the Clintons accrued in the late ’90s was not at all a sign of penury. Quite the contrary:
You need to be really rich to go that deeply into debt.
Douthat’s Sunday column proclaimed Clinton the only thing holding the Democratic party together, pointing to Obama’s dwindling approval ratings and the party’s “ramshackle” coalition of constituencies:
If her party is Austria-Hungary, she might be its Franz Josef — the beloved emperor whose imperial persona (“coffered up,” the novelist Joseph Roth wrote, “in an icy and everlasting old age, like armour made of an awe-inspiring crystal”), as much as any specific political strategy, helped keep dissolution from the empire’s door … But without her, the deluge.
I found it a sprightly piece – and certainly a helpful reminder of how Clinton’s ascendancy has marginalized many other potential Democratic leaders. But I tend to agree with Larison, that the diversity of the Democrats’ Austrian-Hungarian empire is a strength, not a weakness:
The Democratic Party has long been “a sprawling, ramshackle and heterogeneous arrangement,” but that hasn’t stopped it from winning the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.
Kim Ghattas paints Hillary Clinton as a secretary of state much more concerned than her boss with upholding American power and prestige around the world, and as her new book would have it, more realistic about the need to deal firmly with international threats:
Clinton was loyal and discreet, but within the confines of that loyalty, she sometimes chafed at Obama’s policy, perhaps never more so than over Syria. In Rabat in February 2012, we chatted after an interview that had focused on Syria’s revolution and Washington’s hands-off approach. She shook her head as she told me that Russia, Hezbollah, and Iran were all in, supporting Assad.
Her implicit question was: Where is the United States? We know now she was advocating internally for more robust support for the rebels, because she understood that America was leaving too much empty space for spoilers like Hezbollah to fill (there’s a separate debate to be had about whether it would have been the right policy). And with regard to dealing with Russia more directly, Clinton emphasizes in Hard Choices that she was more clear-eyed about Vladimir Putin than Obama, advising the president to turn down a summit with the Russian leader months before Obama ended up doing just that.
For me, it’s one fundamental worry about her: an instinct to meddle, and a barely reconstructed mindset about interventionism straight from the hubristic 1990s. Then there’s the question of Israel/Palestine and the settlements that continue apace. Aaron Blake pulls from the book one key foreign policy issue on which Clinton and Obama disagreed:
In her campaign book Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton offers a mea kinda culpa on her vote in favor of the Iraq War:
According to CBS News, which obtained a copy of her book, she says: “I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”
Note the lack of an outright apology – or a broader statement about the appalling human cost of that wrong call. And that’s particularly worth pondering as Iraq returns to the entropy of endless, sectarian warfare in the wake of the US invasion and occupation. Civilian deaths doubled in 2013 and show no signs of abating. Larison looks at Clinton’s broader instincts in foreign policy and remains unimpressed:
One might think that a supposedly chastened Iraq war supporter would be considerably more skeptical about pursuing regime change overseas or more reluctant to support the use of force after having erred so badly on the biggest foreign policy vote of her Senate career, but that hasn’t happened. In every internal administration debate, Clinton sided with the hawks that wanted the more aggressive policy, and this also conveniently aligned her with whatever the purveyors of conventional wisdom in Washington thought ought to be done.
Her explanation that she cast that vote “in good faith” troubles Beinart, who interprets that to mean that she probably didn’t read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMDs:
In her interview with Diane Sawyer last night to plug her new book Hard Choices, Hillary claimed that she and Bill were “not only dead broke but in debt” when they moved out of the White House, and that the couple needed the millions of dollars they accrued in speaking fees to pay down those debts. Philip Bump fact-checks:
Clinton left the White House to head to the Capitol as New York’s junior senator in 2000, meaning that she had to file annual disclosures of how much she and her husband earned, owned, and owed. We took a look at those filings, via Open Secrets. And this is what the Clinton’s wealth looked like for the first four years after they left office in early 2001. We considered three things: what the Clintons reported as income on their taxes, what they reported as assets in Hillary Clinton’s mandated disclosures, and what was listed as being owed. The disclosures only give broad boundaries for the value of the assets owned, so the true value of their assets lies somewhere within the dark-red bar.
So, yes, it is technically true the Clintons left office in debt. But, a year later, the couple’s assets had soared. And, as was reported at the time, the Clintons’ debt was entirely gone by the end of 2004 — well before Hillary Clinton left the Senate and well before she left her position as secretary of state.
Indeed, Zeke Miller adds, by the time she left the Obama administration last year, Hillary was a wealthy woman even without her husband’s millions:
It’s more emphatic, more convincing and less tortured than her pirouetting on the Iraq war – and it’s on her 2008 campaign:
[I lost] I think because I really didn’t have a good strategy for my campaign. I didn’t plan it the right way … As a candidate who was already so well known … I don’t think I ever said, ‘Yes, you may have known me for eight years, but I don’t take anything for granted. I have to earn your support.’
It’s a pretty clear admission that she expected to be coronated last time around. Which means she might not be so cocky this time around. Might.