Friday, October 12, 2007

Clinton's latest fan: Chuck Krauthammer

A return to good, old-fashioned contemporary politics here, at the risk of lapsing into a "104th Fighting Keyboarders" moment.

Charles Krauthammer has a column in today's Post about the "liveability" of a Clinton presidency. For once, let me say that I agree with Krauthammer on a few key points: namely, that Clinton's political strategy is "flexible, disciplined, calculated, triangulated" (although I'm not sure how one squares "disciplined" with "flexible") and that she, like her husband, is "careful, always calibrated, always leaving room for expediency over ideology." The logical followup question, of course, is how this pattern deviates from any other serious would-be contender for the Presidency, but I digress.

Krauthammer says, "I could never vote for her, but I (and others of my ideological ilk) could live with her -- precisely because she is so liberated from principle." Here he is also substantially correct. Out of all the Democratic candidates, Clinton is the one most open and adaptable to the conservative agenda. Krauthammer explains that she "always leaves open the possibility that she would do the right thing for the blessedly wrong (i.e., self-interested, ambition-serving, politically expedient) reason." I'll get back to those descriptors in a moment.

What exactly are the "right thing(s)"? For one, Iraq: Clinton "knows she may soon be commander in chief and will need room to maneuver in order to achieve whatever success might be possible," and she "has emphatically refused to give assurances that she would get us out of Iraq during her first term." So, in Krauthammer's coded or not-so-coded language, Hillary will retain the strong Executive position charted out by Bush (and all the secretive signing statements and warrantless spying that goes along with it) and keep us in Iraq.

Point two: Iran. Clinton voted in favor of labeling the Revolutionary Guard Corps a "terrorist organization." Krauthammer claims that this Senate resolution ultimately means nothing, but we should, I think, infer from this that he has confidence that Clinton could conceivably order an attack on Iran. Her "no option should be left off the table" comments generally support this inference. She has said recently that the President cannot authorize a military strike on Iran without Congressional approval, but this doesn't, of course, rule out an Iran attack per se. (And she certainly signed the original 2003 bill authorizing Bush to use force against Iraq.) I stand to be corrected here if I've left out any important facts, but that seems to be the situation on the ground.

Point three: Government-subsidized personal retirement account. Krauthammer objects to the whole "government" part of this move but says that "a universal, portable, personal retirement account (though without the government subsidy) is something conservatives have long and devoutly sought."

Fourth, and this is the most disheartening "right thing," Krauthammer says that Clinton's comments on Presidential approval of torture have been "elegantly phrased to imply an implacable opposition to torture and yet leave open the possibility that in extreme circumstances a president would do what she had to do, i.e., authorize torture, regardless of the express policy." This is pretty bald-faced, even for Krauthammer, who doesn't bother to dress up "torture," which is certainly what it is, with innuendos like "necessarily harsh but lawful techniques," etc. His comment "regardless of the express policy" further reveals what an authoritarian stooge he is, but this is already public knowledge.

Endless war, expanded military operations against Iran, complete privatization of benefits, torture: This is roughly what Krauthammer is calling for in this piece, and most importantly he is saying that there's a good chance that Clinton will follow through with it. This should be extremely disheartening to Democrats and progressives, although there's probably not enough Post readership (and more importantly, enough money) to realize this and prevent Clinton from winning the nomination. My friend who works in DC for Republican Jon Kyl says that there is a certain "inevitability factor" around Clinton these days, that prospects are looking dim for the Reps in the Senate, House, and White House, and that the Republican party is more or less on defensive damage control. At this point I too am leaning towards a Clinton presidency as a fait accompli. And I'm not looking forward to it, or if I am, only in the most minimalist, "let's not endure a Giuliani quasi-fascist dictatorship, shall we?" sort of way.

But let's return to Krauthammer's point about Hillary doing the "right thing" for the "blessedly wrong reason." Whose right thing? And whose wrong reason? All the "right things" Krauthammer lists are incredibly unpopular with the public. If they are, then how could Clinton, in executing them against popular opinion, be either "self-serving" or "politically expedient"? Who will reward her for such actions and thus serve her interest? Whose political criteria will she fulfill and thus cash in on this expediency? This is left unclear by Krauthammer, and with good reason. It's not difficult, however, to see that the only possible answer to the "who" question would be something like the economic and political elites who manage the American system. Clinton talks a lot of feel-good progressive rhetoric around the Democratic party base (and this is what Krauthammer means by her "no-principles liberalism"), but she appears to be deep in the pockets of the business interests already. A glance at the Center for Responsive Politics' "open secrets" website reveals that Clinton has the largest amount of funding raised so far and that she far outpaces the other candidates in "Lobbying" donations (with 150% of the funding of the runner up, McCain). The big industries are smelling a winner, methinks.

The joke is that Krauthammer would even attempt the pretense that Republicans choose these "right things" for "the right reasons," sub specie bonae fidis, as opposed to the very same sorts of charges he imputes to Clinton: currying favor with the economic elite, expansion of power, etc. As if the Republican party were not, to paraphrase an older commentator, "but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole corporate world," with the Democrats fulfilling this role whenever the Republicans manage to monumentally fuck up as much as they have during the Bush years. For more on this connection, there is Timothy Noah's piece in Slate on Christopher DeMuth, who has just stepped down as head of the American Enterprise Institute and has commemorated his tenure with an auto-encomium in the Opinion Journal, with a quote apropos of Krauthammer's piece: "I predict that if Sen. Clinton is elected president the corporate income tax will be further reduced during her tenure." I knew the AEI was bad (my 94-year-old grandmother, I trust, could detect their hackery in an instant), but I was unaware that earlier this year they offered $10,000 apiece to scholars to discredit a UN finding on global warming. As the Guardian article points out, former Exxon-Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, he of 400 million dollar waddle, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of directors. (It will be remembered that five years ago Exxon-Mobil gave Stanford $100 million for its Global Climate and Energy Project.)

Just to squeeze in some other relevant current events, this all comes as the Wall Street Journal is reporting that "the richest Americans' share of national income has hit a postwar record, ... [with] the wealthiest 1% of Americans earn[ing] 21.2% of all income in 2005, ... up sharply from 19% in 2004." Of course, President Bush assures us that this is because "skill gaps yield income gaps," as if lack of skills was the only thing leading to such gross appropriations of wealth by the privileged, and furthermore as if the economic and political elite had not fought long and hard to restrain the benefits flowing to the lower and middle classes to the tiniest, barest modicum of acceptability.

Is this really the best we can do? Are we to throw up our hands, hope for the best, and condemn the critique of the takeover of our democracy by entrenched, unaccountable elites as so much "political determinism"?


Blogger John Liberty said...

Coulter: We want 'Jews to be perfected'

Further insight into these people.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Robot said...

I didn't mind the Coulter quotation so much. Of course she thinks Jews need to be perfected. She's a Christian!

My vote will not go to Hilary in the Democratic primary, but there are two reasons to be less skeptical of her than you are: 1) As much as Krauthammer is spilling his honest shit beans over torture, I simply don't trust this man to tell the truth here or anywhere. I've heard many-a-theory that Republicans are going soft on Hilary now because they feel she's the only Democratic candidate they can beat. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a little bit of that here; 2) Hilary's stance on many issues (including torture) and her ties to big business are alarming, but she's run such a great campaign that you've got to wonder if she's just a far better politician than you think she is. The most benign view (one that I don't fully agree with) is that she needs to make some calculations now to put her in a good position later. Twenty years of Republican rule in the last twenty-eight, Scantron.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Robot said...

It's worth adding that whatever sanguine face I want to put on this mess, it remains just that. This country is fucked up in deepest sense.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Robot said...

To continue...

LEAD STORY ON Brokers Snatch Joy from Hannah Montana Fans

6:05 PM  
Blogger John Liberty said...


Ex-General Cites "Nightmare in Iraq", "Complete Failure of National Leadership"

3:59 PM  
Blogger John Liberty said...

biggest donors to commentary magazine:

alliance bernstein(the scariest investment firm in the world)

rupert murdoch


4:59 PM  
Blogger John Liberty said...

i like this article so much scantron you should really submit it somewhere.

5:00 PM  
Blogger John Liberty said...

neoconservative is the new cool

5:00 PM  
Blogger John Liberty said...

and a symbol of an unjust period spurred by largess

5:01 PM  
Blogger John Liberty said...

Two Things: 1)I think we should have more frequent posts and divvy out the topics to their respective experts. This is so we can generate more visitors and up the value of the blog.

Me: Celebrity and Current News Events
Austin: Right-Wing stuff(hunting, fishing, pro-american rhetoric)
Sherieff: Technological Gizmos
Scantron: Serious intellectual matters.
Robbie: Sports
Dina: Race Issues in America and Europe.

Someone should also be able to set up a donation area to political candidates.

2)If you look at the nigel perry post, someone from the outside said my comments were misleading. I didn't know anyone really cared about Mr. Perry. I have a feeling it is Mr. Perry himself or one of three fans.

6:41 PM  
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3:59 AM  

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