Monday, October 24, 2016

Against Hillary

Yesterday, Ross Douthat made the case against Hillary Clinton. As it happens, the case he made was not really very strong. He argued that Hillary is an establishment type and that with her we will have more of the same. Even if you believe that the same is not very good and that we are sorely in need of a course change, you must recognize that more of the same is at least familiar. Most people, given the choice, will choose the familiar over the strange.

One might say that the Hillary candidacy harkens back to the days of the first Clinton administration, but most people did not have it so bad during those times. It might be wrong to give Bill Clinton all the credit, but he—unlike the current POTUS-- worked effectively with Republicans in Congress and even signed a number of the laws that arose from the Contract with America.

True,  Clinton was impeached for lying under oath and that much of America was disgusted by the way he treated women, but Republicans, dare I say, have recently lost all credibility on the question.

As it happens, Douthat believes that the American foreign policy establishment, in particular, made grievous errors over the past decades. In that he echoes an article penned by Angelo Codevilla in the Claremont Review of Books.

To read Codevilla you would think that everyone who has been in charge of American foreign policy has thought the same thoughts and implemented the same policies. And that they have all been wrong. One hesitates to embrace unthinkingly such a broad brush indictment.

To return to Douthat, here is his case against Hillary:

The dangers of a Hillary Clinton presidency are more familiar than Trump’s authoritarian unknowns, because we live with them in our politics already. They’re the dangers of elite groupthink, of Beltway power worship, of a cult of presidential action in the service of dubious ideals. They’re the dangers of a recklessness and radicalism that doesn’t recognize itself as either, because it’s convinced that if an idea is mainstream and commonplace among the great and good then it cannot possibly be folly.

Unlike Codevilla, Douthat limited his indictment to the last 15 years:

Almost every crisis that has come upon the West in the last 15 years has its roots in this establishmentarian type of folly. The Iraq War, which liberals prefer to remember as a conflict conjured by a neoconservative cabal, was actually the work of a bipartisan interventionist consensus, pushed hard by George W. Bush but embraced as well by a large slice of center-left opinion that included Tony Blair and more than half of Senate Democrats.

Likewise the financial crisis: Whether you blame financial-services deregulation or happy-go-lucky housing policy (or both), the policies that helped inflate and pop the bubble were embraced by both wings of the political establishment. Likewise with the euro, the European common currency, a terrible idea that only cranks and Little Englanders dared oppose until the Great Recession exposed it as a potentially economy-sinking folly. Likewise with Angela Merkel’s grand and reckless open-borders gesture just last year: She was the heroine of a thousand profiles even as she delivered her continent to polarization and violence.

And, of course, there are other problems:

This record of elite folly — which doesn’t even include lesser case studies like our splendid little war in Libya — is a big part of why the United States has a “let’s try crazy” candidate in this election, and why there are so many Trumpian parties thriving on European soil.

He continued:

Indeed what is distinctive about Clinton, more even than Bush or Obama, is how few examples there are of her ever breaking with the elite consensus on matters of statecraft.

She was for the Iraq War when everyone was for it, against the surge when everyone had given up on Iraq, and then an unchastened liberal hawk again in Libya just a few short years later.

She was a Russia dove when the media mocked Mitt Romney for being a Russia hawk; now she’s a Russia hawk along with everyone else in Washington in a moment that might require de-escalation.

She cites Merkel as a model leader, she’s surrounded by a bipartisan foreign policy cadre that’s eager for a Details To Be Determine descalation in Syria, and she seems — like her Goldman Sachs audiences — intent on sailing serenely above the storm of nationalism rather than reconsidering any of the assumptions of her class.

Saying that Hillary Clinton has been hanging around with the wrong crowd does not feel very persuasive. Douthat might have noted the stench of corruption that surrounds her and that has infested the FBI and the Justice Department. And he might have asked whether she is competent. Surely, that is a more pertinent issue. Sinecures are one thing. Concrete achievements are quite another.

Douthat seems to believe that Hillary can be discredited for having the wrong ideas. I think it will take more. If it is even possible any more. If the election were being run as a battle between ideas, Trump would be winning. Unfortunately, it is a battle between two people. On that score Trump has not presented himself as the candidate of ideas or of competence.

The people in charge of American foreign policy have made significant errors—Codevilla lists them in excruciating detail—but it does not seem fair to lump them all together. Hasn’t there been a significant divide in the foreign policy establishment, between idealists and realists for a century at least?

Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson did not see the world the same way. We saw how Wilson dealt with World War I and we can read what Roosevelt would have done in four volumes of contemporaneous newspaper columns. The difference was stark. Surely, we know that the American Senate rejected the call to join the Wilsonian (and Kantian) folly called the League of Nations.

In England Neville Chamberlin and Winston Churchill did not see the threat of Nazism the same way. In America, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy did not act in the same way when they were presented the chance to intervene in Vietnam.

Like it or not, the fall of Communism presented America with an enormous foreign policy challenge. As it happened G. H. W. Bush handled the crisis skillfully.  No one really pays it much mind.  Historians prefer chaos and drama to effective leadership.

Codevilla offered his indictment:

Since Woodrow Wilson, Progressive Democratic and Republican statesmen have confused America’s interest with mankind’s. In practice, they have taken upon themselves the role of mankind’s stewards (or sheriffs, leaders, pillars of order, or whatever) and acted as if, in Wilson’s words, America has “no reason for being” except to “stand for the right of men,” to be “champions of humanity.” Accordingly, a series of statesmen has forsaken war and diplomacy for strictly American ends and with means adequate to achieve them, and adopted foredoomed schemes pursued halfheartedly—Charles Evans Hughes (commitment to China’s integrity and renunciation of the means to uphold it), Franklin Roosevelt (seeking world co-domination with Stalin and the U.N. to banish “ancient evils, ancient ills”), Harry Truman (pursuing peace through no-win war in Korea), Nixon/Kissinger (scuttling Vietnam to help entice the Soviets into a grand detente), George W. Bush (democratizing the Middle East because America can’t be free unless and until the whole world is free).

True enough, George W. Bush got caught up in the ideological fervor when he announced that he would bring liberal democracy to the Middle East. But, Nixon and Kissinger drew down the Vietnam War because the American people were no longer willing to fight it. And, de-escalating Vietnam surely had something to do with the diplomatic opening with China. That must surely count for something.

Some presidents have pursued policies based on idealism, on the notion that we are all citizens of the world. Others have pursued balance-of-power realism and nationalism in the conduct of foreign affairs.

Yet, Codevilla throws it all into the same basket. He concludes that we should support Trump because he going to break things up and overthrow the establishment elites. One might ask with whom he is going to do this. One might ask which foreign policy experts will know enough to do it efficiently and effectively.

We can make the case against Hillary’s incompetence and corruption. We can make a case that she has done poorly in just about all of her undertakings. One can argue against her by looking at the horrors that have befallen the Middle East, in Syria, in Iraq, during the Arab Spring, since she and Obama—another rank amateur—took charge of American foreign policy. One can argue against her, not merely for pursuing ideals, but for implementing policies that signified, not American idealism, but American weakness around the world.

But, to argue for Trump on the grounds that he will be a bull in the china shop fails to see that no matter how incompetent Hillary is, she does seem familiar. A country has to be in miserably bad shape to take the risk that Trump would represent. And if it is in really bad shape, we would want to hire someone with demonstrated competence in foreign affairs. If the ship of state is sinking you want a captain who has navigated a ship before.

Codevilla supports Trump. He is right to say that Hillary will not cause the world to respect America. Not so much because of her ideas but because of who she is and how she got the job. World leaders might fear a Donald Trump more, because he is far less predictable, but if you believe that they would not relish the chance to take him down, you are simply wrong. He of the orange bouffant hairdo, he who is woefully underinformed about all foreign policy matters, will not restore respect for America.

Codevilla is quite right to say that we have lost the habit of winning wars. We no longer see conflict in terms of winning and losing. And yet, we did win the Cold War… even if crypto- Marxist ideas risk taking over the minds of America’s youth. We even won the first Gulf War. In fact, as Barack Obama himself said, the Iraq War had been concluded successfully… until he chose to surrender the victory.

Having created a monster, Codevilla suggests that anything is better:

The 2016 election is about whether that pattern should change. How much, if at all, it would change under Trump matters much less than the mere possibility it might change. Trump’s virtue in foreign policy lies in having voiced this simple, vital thought: U.S. foreign policy must put America first, and deliver victories rather than defeats. Whether Trump really believes that, whether he would act on it, or even whether he understands past mistakes, is secondary. 

As of today, most Americans disagree.


sestamibi said...

Stuart, Douthat got it right, and you got it wrong. Foreign policy is not the only thing at stake in this election. We are faced with the very real possibility of going down the same path as Germany under Hillary, which is what happens when cunt are in charge.

Imagine America with yet millions more Muslims and Mexicans--all of whom vote Democratic, and you get this idea. Even now, cuntefaction is the majority opinion in America (with the complicit help of huge numbers of beta male white knights who don't know any better), and it intends to be the ONLY opinion permitted. Watch for destruction of 1st and 2nd Amendment rights, and then don't say I and Ross Douthat didn't tell you so.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Vulgarity does not make your argument more persuasive.

Ares Olympus said...

Indeed, Sestamibi is verbally abusive, but as Trump said, we don't have time to be PC any more. Trump is their leader, what can we expect?

I've more heard the comparison of Hillary to Richard Nixon, both being in politics for decades before becoming president, and both secretive and paranoid in their own ways. But in the comparison we can also see Tricky Dicky was a Stateman, and knew good presentation. So outside of the world where presidents get to nominate candidates for the SCOTUS, assuming we delay a global recession for another year or so (no bets), but she might end up with a relatively high approval rating, just like when she was Secretary of State.

Overall for me its far too late to contemplate that Hillary isn't going to win (and Sam L. apparently has a $50 donation to a charity of Stuart's choice on that outcome), but what sort of president her one-term is going to be. And hopefully after 4 year's she'll say "enough" and let another Democrat step up for 2020.

And the nice thing about losing, is Trump can say things that need saying, if he'd just stop attacking his allies, like his recent speech to "drain the swamp", a nice picture given DC was built on top of a swamp, although now-a-days we'd call them wetlands, and keep them to filter out the pollutants before going into the lakes and rivers.

Anyway, Trump is now promoting an end to the revolving door (at least at the executive level) the revolving door between government positions and lobbying, where retired politicians or policy analysts can suddenly earn 10 times as much when they leave government service. So he could even get Elizabeth Warren on his side on that.

And supposedly Trump's also starting a new "TV station" and perhaps that's a different sort of lobbying, but Trump can hire the best people, and perhaps even compete Fox News into the gutter. But really I hope not.

Trump considers himself a deal maker, and he's even advocated on Sander's complaints against the DNC's bias towards Hillary, and in general Trump and Sanders both represent degrees of global protectionism, which apparently makes workers happy, so jobs can grow here again, without a race to the bottom for $1/day workers in Asia.

And Trump could expand his tent further, and admit he's not just the advocate for white old men, but an advocate for a more inclusive America that doesn't discriminate against people of different racial backgrounds, but recognizes and rewards people on their willingness to hard work, which is the hall mark of America, and the left and right both can agree on this.

So perhaps Trump will never be president, but we have no evidence Trump really wants to be president. He just wants to be loved and admired, and from the new bully pulpit of his TV station he can pay his crew to compliment him every day, while they also work hard to advocate for the American people as a whole.

It could be great, and more credible than Trump becoming dictator of the country and fixing everything in the first 60 days of office.

The funny thing about Trump is that he seems completely malleable, so all the issues he was harping on in this election cycle may be forgotten tomorrow, at least if he continues to listen to a breadth of voices, rather than just channelling his grumpy old man voice. And that's also what's weird about Trump - how he's two distinct people. Its still believable that he can do good things with good advisors. But clearly he just doesn't have the focus to be president.

And back to Hillary, maybe we're going to really find her watergate in a year or so, and President Kaine will finish her first term, and if Hillary goes voluntarily, we'll avoid the 1970s chaos.

The Republican party was really traumatized back then, many used to be called IR (Independent Republican) to split from Nixon. The Democrats may be closer to cracking than anyone knows. And we need two half sane parties.

Olympus Ares said...

Stuart, your argument reminds me of my childhood, when my mother told me to say 5 nice things every day. You said some nice things. You've made a good start.

The Second World War was a terrible thing. Many people died. But a lot of people didn't. One good thing that happened was that all the rubble in the streets prevented the takeover of Europe by large cars. They could only use bicycles. Very healthy. And most of the hospitals got blown up. So they invented free health care. Now the Europeans live longer than we do.

My voice coach once told me to sing for my supper. Hillary is singing. Trump is burping. People think burping is rude.

Ares Olympus said...

Hey, I have a twin OA (above@11:48am), rather than AO.

Given IAC was surprised my recent statement of Virtue in cycling (in the Netherlands study), perhaps its his alter ego having a spin today?

I'll go 50-50 whether IAC or someone else is my secret admirer.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Incorrect, but you did get a hearty laugh on my end.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Olympus Ares, the reversal of your name with the dreaded, vapid, silly Ares Olympus is unfortunate. Yet I see you add just as little to the conversation. Welcome. Maybe you can go back to your own blog and make yourself great again. Or perhaps you can start blogging... elsewhere.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Stuart @October 25, 2016 at 11:32 AM:


Sam L. said...

We are told "most Americans disagree", but i suspect many Americans who are polled are lying, one way or another, a little or a lot, and many of those not polled are keeping quiet. That's what I sense. Those for Hillary feel the wind of the media at their backs, and all is going their way. There's a lot of quiet anger out there, for the media, the Democrat Party, and the Republican Party as it's constituted. That quiet anger WILL vote. I await November 9.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

America first. I cannot believe it actually has to be said.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Olympus Ares @October 24, 2016 at 11:48 AM:

People also think burping is funny when amongst friends and not in polite company. When one is in a voting booth, whether one is couth or not is irrelevant, and this is the sacred place the media and the culture demagogues cannot control us. This is where we exact our revenge. Given the preposterously morose and lugubrious culture the Left has given us in the last couple decades, 'tis better to laugh. If we didn't laugh, we'd cry. Voting for Trump might not be desirable, but voting for Hillary is disgusting. (Burp!)

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

President Obama yesterday: “Make sure she wins big. Send a message about who we are as a people, send a clear message about what America stands for,” he said. “We want to win big. We want to win big. We don’t want to just eke it out — particularly when the other guy's already starting to gripe about the game is rigged.”

The greatest protest vote anyone could cast against the malaise, weakness and condescension of the last 8 years is to vote for Trump. I hope President Obama continues to campaign like this for Hillary, and it gets covered in the big media. It will backfire.

For those of you NeverTrumpers, Obama's legacy is what you are endorsing through your refusal. Consider that perhaps Obama will leave the country with O'Donnell, Streisand, et al. That should be enough to change your mind.

I have no idea who they are polling to give Obama the 50%+ favorability ratings he has. Obamacare premiums are going up 25% this year, we give Iran billions in cash and the people making out in this economy are tied in with the gov'munt. Enough.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Sam L.@October 24, 2016 at 5:23 PM:

Have you noticed that the BLM "movement" seems to have calmed down? Must not be polling well, so I'm sure Hillary told them to back off. Too many dead cops isn't good for business, and BLM never cared about the black lives, anyway. 8 killed, 40 wounded in Chicago last weekend. No justice, no peace.

Anonymous said...

Media companies made big profits from reality tv stars like Donald Trump. Looks like the chickens are coming home to roost.

Trigger Warning said...

"the BLM 'movement' seems to have calmed down"

They're professionals, dude. Have a little respeck.

Dennis said...

Did not look like your style.

For those of you who thought "journalist" or a form of it did not exist here is a list of supposed "reporters/journalists" who are coordinating with Hillary Clinton to shape the news:

This explains much of the news and polls which seem to make little sense. Don't let the establishment keep you from voting. Things are NOT what they seem. If they were really winning this big they would not be trying so hard to disenfranchise or dispirit voters. Why the need to keep raising money if it is a fait accompli? If it was already decided wouldn't they want to ensure there is no hint of voter fraud? These are not the actions of someone who thinks they have won.

Trigger Warning said...

Perhaps I'm interpreting a lot of commentary incorrectly, but all the talk about journalists and journalism seems to imply that there was a time when journalists reported the facts.

If that's true, I ask you...

How old is the concept of "yellow journalism"?

Have you read any of the sympathetic, even glowing, reporting around murderous thugs like Bonnie and Clyde Barrow, terrorists like Angela Davis, or political criminals like Huey Long?

When, exactly, was this Golden Age of Journalism?

In my view, journalists have always been a pack of liars. Remember Walter Cronkite and the Tet Offensive reporting?

I'm not sure when college degrees in "journalism" started, but if you look at the syllabi for a Masters in journalism from Columbia, there's basically zero intellectual content.

And probably the only reporting worse than political reporting is science reporting.

Dennis said...

There was never a golden age of journalism. There was the rarity of a reporter of the news vice views. Remember James Callender: Things have not changed which causes me to wonder why so many put faith in those who call themselves reporter. and/or journalist. When asked what they thought their job was most journalist state, "To save the world." (SIC) Excuse if I had the temerity to believe that was our job as citizens.
Reagan said "Trust, but verify." In the case of journalists never trust and always verify.

sestamibi said...

Maybe not, but I've been using that term for quite a while now and I stand by it. Stuart, it's your blog and you have the right to ban my comments if you want. So far you haven't. Either way, I'll still keep reading because you are right about just about everything.

sestamibi said...

"The Republican party was really traumatized back then, many used to be called IR (Independent Republican) to split from Nixon."

Ares, you must be an old Minnesota hand because "IR" was in fact the official name of the Republican party there from 1975-82.

sestamibi said...

A good definition of cuntefaction:

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

sestamibi @October 25, 2016 at 9:37 PM:

An excellent article from American Thinker. I agree with every word. Very persuasive.

What is less persuasive is your vulgarity. I cringe every time you use that term. It doesn't help you make your point. Please stop using it. The insult doesn't work: it doesn't sound like you have respect for women and want to protect them. Instead, you sound like you have complete, total, abject contempt for them.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

What is most striking to me in this election is how completely big media -- in all forms -- is in the tank for Hillary. There are almost daily news items that -- if the candidate were Republican -- would be 24/7 all week coverage as though it were the greatest affront in the history of the Republic. Almost every notable Wikileaks release would've been covered for weeks if it were a Republican. When Trump wins this election, the big media will never be trusted again. And that includes Fox News.

Days of the Broken Arrows said...
This comment has been removed by the author.