Actor Susan Sarandon recently caused a panic when she revealed her potential unwillingness to vote for Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton in a general election matchup with likely Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Sarandon was echoing an attitude shared by many supporters of Clinton’s Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, who say they will not vote for Clinton even if it means Trump becoming president of the United States.
In response, the establishment lost its collective mind.
New York Times columnist Charles Blow blasted “Bernie or Bust” voters for engaging in “scorched-earth electoral portentousness” mired in “petulance and privilege” and “filled with lust for doom.”
The Forward’s JJ Goldberg, in an article headlined “ ‘Bernie or Bust’ is Self-indulgent, Stubborn – and Dangerous,” warned that “[w]hining about [Clinton’s] weaknesses can only depress November turnout and hand Washington to the GOP, lock, stock and barrel.”
And Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast lamented that these anti-Clinton refuseniks are mostly privileged white people with no skin in the game.
Even Hillary Clinton chimed in, tweeting: “Some folks may have the luxury to hold out for ‘the perfect.’ But a lot of Americans are hurting right now and they can’t wait for that.”
It has become accepted orthodoxy in establishment circles to view Trump as an authoritarian race-baiter who would present a major threat to the world if elected in November.
While this characterization is certainly well founded, it ignores the fact that Clinton is also dangerous to world stability. And unlike Trump, she has the blood on her hands to prove it.
If lesser evilism is the goal, as establishment pundits insist, it remains unclear who the lesser evil is – if the choice is limited to Trump or Clinton.
On many issues, particularly trade and foreign policy, Clinton is to the right of Trump, with an inclination toward militaristic belligerence that more closely resembles a neoconservative war hawk than the progressive she claims to be.
For evidence, look no further than the neoconservatives themselves, who are so petrified of Trump’s noninterventionist approach to foreign policy, they are ready to line up behind Clinton.
This isn’t the first time Clinton has won the adoration of the war hawks.
Back in 2008, neoconservatives breathed a sigh of relief when President Barack Obama nominated Clinton as his secretary of state.
Richard Perle, former chair of the Defense Policy Board under President George W. Bush and a leading architect of the Iraq war, said of Clinton’s appointment, “I’m quite pleased … There’s not going to be as much change as we were led to believe.”
The neoconservative Weekly Standard also celebrated Clinton’s nomination, applauding her evolution from “First Feminist” to “Warrior Queen, more Margaret Thatcher than Gloria Steinem.”
Clinton went on to exceed neoconservative expectations.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he was impressed with Clinton’s work at the State Department, which amounts to a neoconservative seal of approval.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in 2014, Dan Senor, a leading neoconservative operative and former foreign policy advisor to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, declared, “Hillary is more hawkish than any of us!”
“Hillary is the neocon’s neocon,” added host Joe Scarborough. “It’s going to be fascinating if she decides to run and gets the nomination. She will be more of a saber-rattler, more of a neocon, than probably the Republican nominee. I mean, there’s hardly been a military engagement that Hillary hasn’t been for in the past twenty years.”
The love for Clinton isn’t at all surprising. After all, Clinton routinely accuses Palestinians of teaching their children to hate while closely aligning herself with Israel’s right-wing, Holocaust-revising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a card-carrying neoconservative whose demagoguery rivals Trump’s.
She has expressed pride in making an enemy of “the Iranians” whose country she once threatened to “obliterate” and continues to threaten with sanctions.
And she likened Russian president Vladimir Putin’s actions in the Ukraine to Hitler’s population transfers before World War II.
Despite her 2014 mea culpa over backing the calamitous 2003 Iraq invasion, and her current effort to rebrand herself as a progressive, the war hawk label is one Clinton is still proud to wear – as when she jubilantly touted this week’s New York Daily News endorsement of her as a “superprepared warrior realist.”
Trail of blood
Clinton’s hawkishness goes far beyond inflammatory rhetoric.
While serving as secretary of state, she greenlighted enormous weapons deals to US-backed tyrants, dramatically strengthening the military prowess of despots who happened to be some of the Clinton Foundation’s most generous donors.
In a stunning demonstration of her failure to absorb even the most basic lessons of the Iraq war, Clinton spearheaded the Obama administration’s overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi based on faulty intelligence.
After Gaddafi’s especially gruesome public lynching by US-backed Libyan rebels in 2011, Clinton could barely contain her excitement, gleefully telling CBS News, “We came, we saw, he died.”
Libya predictably descended into a lawless haven for extremist groups from across the region, including the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.
Obama this week called the failure to prepare for the aftermath of Gaddafi’s overthrow the “worst mistake” of his presidency.
As secretary of state and the leading champion of the intervention, that planning would surely have been Clinton’s primary responsibility.
Libya wasn’t the only country Clinton meddled in.
Following in the footsteps of her mentor, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Clinton supported and legitimized the right-wing Honduran military coup that ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, plunging Honduras into record-setting violence that sent thousands of children fleeing for their lives.
Clinton later advocated for the deportation of tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American refugee children who sought asylum in the US in 2014 to “send a message” to their parents that “just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”
Nearly a third of those children had fled post-coup violence in Honduras.
Clinton reiterated her support for deporting them as recently as August.
Indigenous rights and environmental activist Berta Cáceres criticized Clinton’s role in the coup prior to her murder by a Honduran death squad on 3 March.
The Clinton campaign denied that its candidate bore any responsibility for the violence, casting her role in Honduras as “active diplomacy.” This week, Clinton again defended the overthrow of Zelaya.
Despite the trail of blood she left behind, Clinton remains confident in the righteousness of US-backed regime change.
Asked last month what she thought about America’s history of overthrowing democratically elected leaders around the world, Clinton invoked the specter of Nazi Germany, arguing, “Somebody could have assassinated Hitler before he took over Germany, would that have been a good thing or not?”
Even Trump recognizes Clinton’s hawkishness to some degree, telling a March rally in Detroit that “the Middle East is burning to a large thought because of Hillary Clinton’s failed policies and her concepts.”
The great neocon panic
In almost surreal contrast to Clinton, Trump has called for reducing America’s military presence abroad and has repeatedly stated his opposition to foreign intervention, calling the Iraq war that Clinton backed “a big fat mistake” that “destabilized the Middle East.”
He even suggested a policy of neutrality in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, a proposal he eventually walked back after incurring the wrath of pro-Israel hardliners, including Clinton, who declared, “America can’t ever be neutral … anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being America’s president.”
The neoconservative establishment reacted by launching an all-out assault on Trump.
The Emergency Committee for Israel, a neoconservative think tank, released an ad conflating Trump’s opposition to US regime change in Libya and Iraq with support for anti-American dictators.
Soon after, a group calling themselves the “Republican national security community” published a letter condemning Trump’s blasphemy against the core tenets of their hegemonic principles.
Signed by a cadre of neoconservative intellectuals, former government officials and operatives, the letter criticized Trump’s flirtation with isolationism and opposition to corporate trade deals.
It went on to denounce Trump’s bigotry and torture advocacy, though these complaints can hardly be taken seriously given that the people behind them have for decades advocated torture, bigotry and worse.
Eliot Cohen, who organized the anti-Trump letter, went on to assert, “Hillary is the lesser evil, by a large margin.”
Meanwhile, on the advice of South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, Netanyahu is now rushing to sign a bloated US military aid deal, which he previously rejected as insufficient, before Obama leaves office out of fear that a President Trump might not be as generous.
If foreign policy separates Clinton and Trump, there are a number of domestic issues that unite them.
Clinton’s newfound enthusiasm for “tearing down barriers,” a direct reference to Trump’s anti-immigrant proposal to build a wall at the US-Mexico border, completely contradicts her own support for the border wall that already exists, much of it constructed on Obama’s watch.
Just five months ago, Clinton was bragging about her support for that wall.
“I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in,” Clinton boasted at a New Hampshire town hall in November.
Asked at a debate last month to distinguish her wall from Trump’s, Clinton pointed to size.
“As I understand him, [Trump’s] talking about a very tall wall,” she said.
Clinton is a huge fan of Israel’s separation wall that effectively annexes Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and has suggested using it as a model for the US border with Mexico.
And she continues to cite her support for Israel’s wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, as a selling point on her campaign website.
Her hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed by Trump, who tweeted back in January, “Hillary Clinton said that it is OK to ban Muslims from Israel by building a WALL, but not OK to do so in the US. We must be vigilant!”
Race to the bottom
In recent months, Clinton has reinvented herself as an anti-racist social justice warrior, using the language of intersectionality and privilege discourse to deride Sanders’ economic populism, distract from her well-publicized ties to Wall Street and distinguish herself from Trump’s hateful rhetoric.
But behind her social justice veneer are principles more in line with Republicans than the Democratic base.
While Trump has called Mexicans “rapists” and mocked people with disabilities, Clinton notoriously called Black children “super-predators” and referred to welfare recipients as “deadbeats.”
Trump wants to ban Muslims. But Clinton has a solid record of advocating for bombing Muslims, not to mention her ongoing pattern of trashing Arabs and Muslims to win over pro-Israel voters and donors.
Trump is riling up fascist sentiments. But he’s doing so by tapping into legitimate anger at the negative consequences of trickle-down neoliberal economics driven by establishment politicians like Clinton.
She played an active role in dismantling the welfare safety net and selling out American workers to disastrous corporate trade deals.
Another four or even eight years of Clintonian economics and military adventurism could well lay fertile ground for the rise of a demagogue even more bellicose than Trump.
A general election between Clinton and Trump would be a dreadful race to the bottom. It’s no wonder so many people would refuse to cast a ballot for either candidate.
Rania Khalek is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada.