Shreddy for Hillary

Harpers1411HP302x410I have to start by saying I fully expect Hillary Clinton (HRC) to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, and when she runs, I fully expect to vote for her. In spite of this, I would bet cash money that somebody reacting to this post will say, “Bleagh, you must want Ted Cruz to be president.”

The subject of this post is the futile attempted take-down of my friend Doug Henwood’s Harpers article (subscription required) by Gene Lyons, in The National Memo. I don’t know Lyons. I recommend his saucy web site, for which some friends write.

First some remarks about Henwood. If you’ve followed this site you know my “Anybody but Hillary” theme. My point in a nutshell is I want to see some competition for the nomination that includes meaningful conversation about the purpose of the Democratic Party. So anybody willing to challenge HRC and interrupt the coronation is welcome. HRC is politics as usual, and politics as usual is killing us. If you are a serious progressive you have to want to open up this process, and I don’t mean to provide some kind of toothless sparring partner.

The value of the article for me is to elaborate how completely ordinary a political hack HRC has become. Like her college boyfriend, she had some potential to turn out differently, acknowledged in the article, but here we are. The article is certainly polemical. It doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. It’s not scholarship, it doesn’t pretend to be dispassionate. Politics ain’t beanbag, as the cliché goes. I see no obligation on Henwood’s part to be fair. Are politicians fair to their adversaries? Of course they aren’t. Accuracy is another matter. We do like accuracy here.

I concur with the article’s premise, which I take to be not that HRC is some secret right-winger, but that she is an empty suit. Her currency is the hackneyed rhetoric of modern national politics. She has no vision. Obama has a poetic command of this rhetoric. HRC is less adept. In both cases the substance is either lacking, or what substance there is cannot be defended.

Two reservations about the piece. Dick Morris is overused, even as Henwood is explicit about his lack of credibility. I would have preferred to see less of such a congenitally dishonest person as a source. The article does not depend on Morris for facts crucial to the argument. He’s there as a kind of amusing gremlin. Second, the ending comes kind of abruptly. I was expecting more, along the lines of what stopping HRC means to Henwood. How does it unfold. I’ve said what it means for me.

The Lyons (GL) article begins with four paragraphs that attempt to trap Henwood in a context absent any references to his article. The context he attempts to erect is the banal one that we tend to be too focused on elections as horse races, and isn’t this going to be boring. Of course, Henwood’s whole purpose is to disrupt the horse race.

Then GL offers an inane objection to use of the word ‘dynasty’ in reference to the Clintons, since they are merely a dynasty in embryo. Though at this point there is nothing nascent about their money.

This from GL is crucial in a couple of ways:

That this cavil (that the Clintons are prolifically self-seeking — MBS) would apply to virtually all American politicians seems not to have occurred to Henwood, whose loathing of the couple transcends such mundane considerations. To him, the whole case for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy “boils down to this: She has experience, she’s a woman, and it’s her turn. It’s hard to find any substantive political argument in her favor.” (To which GL replies, “Maybe so, maybe not.” Well! Which side are you on, Gene?)

That the Clintons are ordinary and self-seeking is precisely one of my take-aways from the article. GL’s dismissal bespeaks cynicism about politics, which is another way of stating the case for the HRC candidacy. The cynicism of liberals is her banner.

So far we’re still batting opinions back and forth. GL wants to get into facts. He notes his own background covering Whitewater, for Harpers in fact, noting that his work was fully vetted for accuracy. Then some more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger regrets about the collapse of standards at that very same magazine. In the quest for accuracy, GL says “Clearly, no such effort (fact-checking — MBS) went into Henwood’s essay.” This is kind of delicious, if you think about it. Does GL have some information about how Harpers dealt with Henwood’s article? If he does, he doesn’t let on.

So what specifics are in question? This should be GL’s strongest suit, since he covered Whitewater in detail, wrote a book about it with Joe Conason, but his debunking of Henwood in this particular realm is strikingly weak. And I don’t know crap about Whitewater. I can barely remember last month. Henwood doesn’t spend much time on the affair himself.

After more throat-clearing about recycled Republican talking points and allusions to Henwood’s lack of fealty to the truth, GL points to purported errors about Whitewater, asserting Henwood is wrong but not saying why. There are some quotes from the McDougal trial with unfathomable relevance to what Henwood wrote. He asserts the Clintons were victims more than perps, but that is the sense I get in the Harpers article as well. The vast bulk of facts put forward by Henwood go unchallenged by GL.

For instance, and I am not going to rehash the crappy things Bill did as governor, and I am not going to blame HRC for adapting to the Arkansas political environment:

HRC, while working for the Rose law firm, argued a case opposing a populist measure to reduce electricity rates.

HRC served on the board of Walmart.

HRC utterly mismanaged the Clinton health care initiative, out of overweening arrogance and political immaturity.

HRC supported and later defended the atrocity that was the 1996 welfare reform bill.

So HRC, not very liberal, not very honorable, not very competent.

But: She has experience, she’s a woman, and it’s her turn. It’s hard to find any substantive political argument in her favor.” In response to which, quoting Gene Lyons of The National Memo, “Maybe so . .  . “!!

Ricky Ray Rector, 1950-1992

Ricky Ray Rector, 1950-1992



Shreddy for Hillary — 9 Comments

  1. I wish I could read the Henwood piece; I’d probably agree with it.

    I have no patience with Hillary worship and I don’t understand it. I’ve never seen the qualities of leadership that we need in a President in her. She’s a born transactional Dem.

    Her one shot at leadership was heading up her husband’s health care initiative and she bungled it with an overdose of high-handed secrecy and failure to manage public relations in the roll out.

    As NY’s junior senator, she spent her time trying to curry Republican favor in the typical centrist Dem manner. Her hallmark as senator was that she was a hard worker. “She does her homework!” That’s nice.

    What made her a serious presidential candidate, given her limited public experience? She ran the East Wing? She was a junior senator who won in a deeply blue state against a pushover opponent? She was a woman?

    No, the only reason I could see that Hillary was touted as a serious contender was that she was Bill Clinton’s wife. That bought her name recognition and borrowed cred as a savvy politician and campaigner. Peddling a presidential campaign based on being someone’s wife actually negated the feminist aspects of her candidacy for me.

    Since 2008, Hillary has, of course, served as Secretary of State. I can’t really judge how good she was in that job. I think she had some successes and some failures. At least she didn’t bloviate in the John Kerry manner. Even so, that’s still not a career path to the Oval Office, IMO.

    The problem is that right now I don’t see any other strong candidates to challenge her, either on Democratic policies or political viability. Like every other liberal, I love Elizabeth Warren, but she’s not running and would in any case have an extreme uphill battle to dislodge Hillary and then win the general election. Warren is probably far too sane to entertain presidential ambitions.

  2. “…not very liberal, not very honorable, not very competent.”

    You expect too much from a President and will always be disappointed.

    What’s more disturbing is the lack of a vision. The country simply hasn’t done well enough under Obama for a “stay the course” campaign to be effective. Clinton needs to have a positive reason why people should vote for her instead of giving the Republicans another chance, and I don’t see that she has one. Democrats can’t just assume that demographics will save them, they have to make it happen.

  3. Why do you need to vote for HRC? You live in Maryland, same as me. In Maryland, particularly the metro areas, the Dems could nominate week-old potato salad (exhibit: Steny Hoyer), and he’d be pretty much assured a hefty majority.

    I’ll be voting **against** the clown Republican candidate for governor, and when I vote for Donna Edwards I can (for a change) vote **for** a Dem. Otherwise, Van Hollen, Mikulski, Cardin et al are pretty much all “empty suits” in the HRC mold, too. In Maryland all the action is in the Dem primary. Once that’s done, in the general election one can cast a protest vote without qualms.

  4. Look, it’s pretty simple. Henwood opposes Hillary Clinton on ideological grounds. Fine. So why not try to be halfway honest about it? Instead, he digs up the aged Whitewater scandal to try to prove her a liar and a cheat, a person of bad character.

    So here’s what I posted to Mr. Henwood’s FB page yesterday after he called me names. It stands unrefuted by him or any of his followers.

    “I find it interesting that when confronted with several quite basic factual errors in his description of the great Whitewater scandal of legend and song, Doug Henwood’s response is name-calling. That tells me pretty much all I need to know about him. However, it’s false to say that the late Jim McDougal’s savings and loan financed the Clintons’ Whitewater investment. He didn’t buy it until five years later. Another bank made the loan, for which both Clintons were jointly and severally responsible–meaning they’d have to pay it off regardless of what happened to McDougal or his other investments. Which they did. Whitewater cost the S&L nothing. It’s doubly false that “the Clintons, of course, were also investors in McDougal’s schemes.” They had no other financial relationship whatsoever. That was the whole point of quoting the prosecutor’s closing argument in McDougal’s bank fraud trial: convicting him depended upon convincing the jury that the poor guy–he’d succumbed to manic-depressive illness as his financial problems worsened–had misled the Clintons about their investment and resorted to desperate measures to try to keep the bank afloat. In a word, they got conned. Regardless of one’s opinion about Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy ideas, those are the facts, available for about 18 years now. Henwood simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

    I could go on, but the point’s made. On this evidence the person of bad character here ain’t Hillary Clinton.

  5. Lyons sure knows how to fling ’em. I’m a worse character than Hillary Clinton, even though I never supported welfare “reform,” and never said “We came, we saw, he died.”

  6. Indeed Lyons does. His objections remain unrebutted (because unrebuttable).

    Straightforward journalists admit error.

  7. And my biggest obstacle is exactly the deficit delirium which you highlight in a more recent post — a meta-policy of cooperation with the banksters and FIRE sector that kills any chance for progressive fiscal policy.

    Fvck ’em all.

  8. Pingback: On Doug Henwood’s piece about Hillary Clinton – cassiodorus

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