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Wednesday 13 August 2014

Why Hillary


Hillary Clinton greets a supporter following her address at the 18th Annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum at Columbia University in New York: photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters via the Guardian, 29 April 2015

Why Hillary Became a Goddess on the Night of Her Acceptance Speech

Because her hair looked cool
Because some of the best alien minds are watching developments closely
Because she is the traditional Daisy poised fragile before the masculine mills
Of production, yet wearing out six black pants suits
To bring us to acculturation and consequence
Because the Nasdaq is plunging and there is a mandate for change
Sweeping through the gentle bacteria that make their home in her tireless campaign shoes
Because the worried market takes comfort in knowing what it must consume
Because choosing is not an issue except to the terrified cartoon eyeballs
In the take-out carton, wondering whose turn is first
Because some of the best alien minds consider "us" the shrill-voiced uncertainty factor
That threatens to bring the whole cosmic chorus to its whimpering knees
Because Utopia is the island in time that forgot itself as it lifted its utensil
At the altar of its great consuming goddess No Memory, with her sadclown smile strained
Because her lofty position at the social fulcrum which is the mercy seat
Takes a terrific toll on black pants suit bottoms
Because some of the best alien minds are surveying developments in numb disbelief
Because 65% of the wood lice aren't losing any sleep at all
Because retreat in the face of even greater problems,
While not a bad idea, won't solve anything
Because acceptance and consumption are just what the market needs
To shake it out of its trance-like belief in what it thinks alien minds are saying
Because acceptance means acculturation to the masculine mills
Because happiness is merely their invention anyway, because Dame Pleasure is wearied
Of Earth, has taken to the air, faded, fluttered down in a still, snow-
Like inwardness to spill, scatter and be raked up with all the sibyl's other fallen leaves
In this enchanted-recount self-enclosure, like a small-town autumn
Where the commoners lie down nightly with what they have made
Happen, amid the bedded reeds of the vigilant event horizon
Because in this collapse its truths are received
By their souls, because of what this means to the odd weightlessness they feel
Because they have no way to grace their laurels
Beyond filling up the best alien minds, intent upon those peerless screens,
With the black pants suits of our resident historian
Who's just keeping a chair among the blond clouds warm for them.

November 2000

File:Hillary Rodham Clinton.jpg

Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Senator from New York: photo by U.S. Senate, 2000

Hillary Clinton kissing Suha Arafat
: photo by Reuters, 11 November 1999

On November 11, 1999, back when she was first lady, Hillary Clinton visited Gaza. She was graciously greeted by Yasser Arafat’s wife, Suha, who spiritedly launched into a blood-libel diatribe.
None of this, incidentally, could be laid at the door of Binyamin Netanyahu’s demonic disrepute. Israel’s then-prime minister was Ehud Barak, whose electoral campaign was enthusiastically aided and abetted by Hillary’s own hubby.
But contrary to conventional wisdom, it never really matters much who’s in power in Jerusalem. Israel is always the regional bogeyman. And so, back in the good old days of post-Oslo Labor rule, America’s first lady, self-satisfied and basking in ultra-liberal sanctimony, smiled contentedly as Suha railed in indignation: “Our people have been subjected to the daily and extensive use of poisonous gas by the Israeli forces, which has led to an increase in cancer cases among women and children."
No way could Hillary claim to have gotten the wrong end of the stick. She listened via simultaneous translation to Suha’s prepared script, accusing Israel –- in genuine medieval well-poisoning tradition -– of resorting to all manner of noxious concoctions to kill Arab women and tots (as distinct, presumably, from adult males).
Among its other sins, Hillary’s hostess charged, Israel deliberately contaminated with lethal toxins 80 percent of the water (not 79% or 81%) consumed by Palestinian females and infants.
Hillary listened to the calumny without a hint of displeasure. Indeed, she nodded approval from time to time, and when Suha concluded, Hillary embraced her warmly and planted affectionate kisses on her cheeks.
Thus, the uninitiated onlooker may be forgiven for assuming that Suha listed irrefutable grievances and that her claims won at least the tacit corroboration of her American guest. Significantly, even after the bizarre scene ended, Clinton never bothered to dispel that impression. This, however, should have come as no shocker to anyone familiar with her record...

Sarah Honig: Another tack: The poison in the well, Jerusalem Post, 16 December 2011


Hillary Clinton kissing Suha Arafat, for which she later received a lot of criticism ("...a November 1999 political mistake that she recovered from")
: photo by Reuters, 11 November 1999; image by Tragic Baboon, 8 February 2007


New York Post: "Shame on Hillary": photo via Boker tov, Boulder! 2 December 2008

  "For many of us, Hillary Clinton's applause and kiss for Suha Arafat after a hateful anti-Israel diatribe..." No doubt that Hillary as Secretary of State is the same Hillary except for the fact that she hasn't had a decent haircut for ages: photo and caption via Shiloh Musings, 15 July 2012

Hildebeest Rampant

The Hillary Doctrine: “Smart Power” or “Back to the Crusades”?: John Cassidy, The New Yorker, 11 August 2014

This past weekend, Tom Friedman, of the Times, sat down with President Obama, and Jeffrey Goldberg, of the Atlantic, posted online a long interview with Hillary Clinton. With the grim events in Iraq, Gaza, and Ukraine dominating the news, it’s fascinating to compare and contrast what the two former colleagues (and 2008 election rivals) had to say.

Goldberg, in a post introducing the interview, highlighted Clinton’s claim that the Obama Administration’s “failure” to build up a credible opposition in Syria created a vacuum that was filled by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the Al Qaeda offshoot that U.S. warplanes are now bombing in northern Iraq. Other stories focussed on Clinton’s apparent dismissal of a phrase Obama has reportedly used to describe his approach to foreign policy: “Don’t do stupid stuff.” A Bloomberg headline blared, “HILLARY CLINTON FAULTS OBAMA FORSTUPID STUFFPOLICY.” Politico’s Maggie Haberman wrote, “Hillary Clinton has taken her furthest, most public step away yet from President Barack Obama, rejecting the core of his self-described foreign policy doctrine.”

barack obama

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama: photo by via Liberty Voice. 14 January 2014

By Monday, speculation had turned to Clinton's motives. Does this mean that she’s definitely running? (That was Goldberg’s interpretation.) Was it a cynical effort to distance herself from an unpopular President? Is she already looking beyond the Democratic primaries to appeal to independents and to moderate Republicans?

Newly appointed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with President-elect Barack Obama in Chicago, 1 December 2008: photo by Anne Ryan/Sipa Press, 1 December 2008

For folks inside the Washington politics-and-media bubble, these are endlessly fascinating questions. But what really stands from the interviews is the strident tone that Clinton adopted in her comments on Gaza and radical Islam. In defending the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s deadly response to Hamas’s rocket attacks, she sounded almost like a spokesperson for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In talking about the threat of militant Islam more generally, her words echoed those of Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, who has called for a generation-long campaign against Islamic extremism -- a proposal that one of his former cabinet ministers dubbed “back to the Crusades.”

White House War Room during operation to assassinate Osama bin Laden: photo by U.S. Government 2 May 2011

Let’s take Gaza first. When Clinton noted that Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas attacks, Clinton was merely restating what President Obama has said numerous times. But, when she passed on the opportunity to condemn the Israeli strikes on U.N.-operated shelters, which killed dozens of people, she was conspicuously failing to follow the example of her former colleagues in the State Department, who described one of the attacks as "disgraceful." Clinton did acknowledge that the deaths of hundreds of children in the four-week-long military campaign was “absolutely dreadful.” But, rather than put even a bit of the blame on the Israel Defense Forces for its aggressive tactics, she pointed the finger at Hamas, saying, “There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict and wanted to do so in order to leverage its position…. So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”


Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2005. After awkward episodes as first lady, she proved to be Israel’s friend as senator: photo by Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times, 1 January 2009

Another area where Clinton entered the realm of AIPAC talking points was in accusing Hamas of “stage-managing” the conflict and criticizing the media for going along with it:

What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza. It’s the old PR problem that Israel has. Yes, there are substantive, deep levels of antagonism or anti-Semitism towards Israel, because it’s a powerful state, a really effective military. And Hamas paints itself as the defender of the rights of the Palestinians to have their own state. So the PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel.
These statements will have delighted Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, whom Clinton defended several times in the interview. She even endorsed Netanyahu’s recent suggestion that Israel would never give up security control of the West Bank, a statement that some analysts have seized upon as the death knell for the two-state solution. “If I were the prime minister of Israel, you’re damn right I would expect to have control over security,” Clinton said of the West Bank, citing the need to “protect Israel from the influx of Hamas or cross-border attacks from anywhere else.”

"Hil[l]ary Clinton does a fine impersonation of Tony Blair"[Hillary Clinton with Benjamin Netanyahu, New York, 27 September 2012]: photo by AP, 27 September 2012 via Tony Gorman on twitter, 11 August 2014

Even for a former New York politician, these were contentious statements. But what is their ultimate import?

Hillary Clinton, Benjamin Netanyahu

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak before a meeting at the Regency hotel, Thursday, September 27, 2012 in New York: photo by John Mnichillo / AP, 27 September 2012

The cynical view is that Clinton is simply trying up shore up her reputation as a staunch ally of Israel. Earlier in Clinton’s career, pro-Israeli groups accused her of getting too close to the Palestinian cause. In 1999, a picture of her kissing Suha Arafat on the cheek ended up on the front page of the New York Post, under the headline “SHAME ON HILLARY.” After moving to New York in 2001 and running for senator, she adopted the default stance of most elected officials from the Empire State: unstinting support for Israel. As Secretary of State, in 2009-2010, she took part in efforts to restart the peace process, which, partly as a result of Israel continuing to expand its settlements, didn’t go anywhere. Unlike President Obama, however, Clinton maintained a reasonably cordial relationship with Netanyahu, and that was reflected in her supportive remarks to Goldberg.

Hard day of diplomacy  ... Benjamin Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton during a news conference in Jerusalem on Saturday.

Hard day of diplomacy ... Benjamin Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton during a news conference in Jerusalem on Saturday: photo by Rina Castelnuovo / AP via Sydney Morning Herald, 2 November 2009

If Clinton is courting the pro-Israel lobby, it wouldn’t be exactly surprising. With the Republican Party busy trying to make inroads among wealthy Jewish campaign donors, it hardly behooves her to adopt a more critical approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict shortly before announcing a run for President.

Hillary Clinton (center), flanked by Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Mahmoud Abbas, opened a day of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Hillary Clinton opened a day of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with a pep talk [from L, Benjamin Netanyahu, Clinton, Mahmoud Abbas]: photo by AP, via Politico, 2 September 2010

If you study Clinton’s words, though, there seem to be more to them than pandering. For one, she clearly believes that the best way to exert pressure on Israeli politicians, such as Netanyahu, is to win their confidence. Implicit in her comments is the suggestion that President Obama, by not making much of an effort to hide his dislike of the Israeli Prime Minister, or to win over the Israeli public, made another error. Referring to the failed negotiations at the end of her husband’s Presidency, the last occasion on which the Israelis and Palestinians came close to making peace, the former Secretary of State said, “Bill Clinton is adored in Israel, as you know. He got Netanyahu to give up territory, which Netanyahu believes lost him the prime ministership” -- in his first term -- “but he moved in that direction, as hard as it was.” A bit later in the interview, Clinton emphasized the point: “Dealing with Bibi is not easy, so people get frustrated and they lose sight of what we’re trying to achieve here.”


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meeting at a peace summit in Sharm el-Sheikh on September 14, 2010
: p
hoto by AP, 14 September 2010

In this instance, the difference between Clinton and Obama is a tactical one on how to achieve a goal that they share. There is a bigger issue, however, which rises to the level of foreign-policy ideology. Ever since taking office, Obama has conspicuously tried to avoid making generalizations about Islamic extremism, or lapsing into loose talk about a clash of civilizations. In his interview with Friedman, he described the turmoil in the Middle East in terms of history and economics rather than religion. “I do believe that what we’re seeing in the Middle East and parts of North Africa is an order that dates back to World War I starting to buckle,” the President said. More specifically, he pointed to the rise of a disaffected Sunni population, stretching from Baghdad to Damascus, that was politically alienated and economically isolated: “Unless we can give them a formula that speaks to the aspirations of that population, we are inevitably going to have problems.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres (R) and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak after a joint press conference on July 16, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. Clinton is in Israel to discuss diplomacy with Iran, Syria and Egypt in addition to peace talks regarding the Middle East: photo by Lior Mizrahi via Zimbio, 16 July 2012

Clinton, by contrast, placed the threat of radical Islam front and center, and she didn’t shy away from describing it. “One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States,” she said. “Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’être is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank -- and we all fit into one of these categories.”


Hillary Clinton and Shimon Peres in Jerusalem today
: photo by Menahem Kahana / AFP, 3 March 2009

The key issue, Clinton went on, is how to contain the jihadi threat, and the appropriate analogy, in her view, is the long battle against Marxism-Leninism. “You know, we did a good job in containing the Soviet Union,” she said. “We made a lot of mistakes, we supported really nasty guys, we did some things that we are not particularly proud of, from Latin America to Southeast Asia. But we did have a kind of overarching framework about what we were trying to do that did lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism. That was our objective. We achieved it.”

Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu - Israeli Troops Continue To Gather On Border As UN Call For Truce

In this handout provided by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) on November 21, 2012 in Jerusalem
: photographer unknown via Zimbio, July 2014

Rather than explicitly calling for a new Cold War focussed on radical Islam rather than on Communism, Clinton talked about exercising “smart power” and about engaging an American public that is now instinctively hostile toward foreign entanglements. But, reading the interview as a whole, that appears to be what she is advocating -- a sustained global campaign targeting radical Islam (some, doubtless, will call it a “crusade”) that encompasses all of the options at the disposal of the United States and its allies: military, diplomatic, economic, political, and rhetorical.

In this handout photo provided by the GPO, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 16, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel: photographer unknown via Zimbio, July 2014

As I said, the similarity to Blair’s recent call to arms is striking. If Clinton continues with this line of argument, she will inevitably be compared to Henry (Scoop) Jackson, the anti-Communist Democratic senator from the state of Washington who became a hero to the neocons. She will also be compared to modern-day Republican interventionists, such as John McCain. Judging by what she said to Goldberg, Clinton won’t necessarily mind the comparisons: “Great nations need organizing principles,” she said. “And ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

Hillary Clinton
: photo by AP via The New Yorker, 11 August 2014


Lally said...

what a terrific poem Tom, and thanks for laying this out so methodically and making the connections hum...

Tom Raworth said...

Thanks for the pictures, Tom. I imagine Madame Tussauds has a headless Thatcher ready in the basement. Keep going.... love, Tom

Ian Keenan said...

Hillary is, first of all, a Republican who realized she could get where she is today by latching on to a Democratic school mate. Embracing Suha was a pose of two corrupt families that got rich selling out their constituents.

I have never seen an American political leader relish punishing the vulnerable more than her.. the Honduras coup made that as clear as day. The Bushes are cold-blooded business people; Hillary is the same but also in it for something else. A Hillary administration without a Democratic opposition is potentially much more dangerous than W, leading to international chaos and the loss of any remaining patience for the US.

Hazen said...

What a great poem, Tom. A real pleasure to read and re-read.

Hillary, when she’s in Washington, has been known to attend prayer breakfasts with Dominionists, who resemble nothing so much as Christian jihadists. Following this Obama interregnum, one crime family will replace another in Washington.

Lord Charlie said...

Maybe Mrs Bush (Sr) was right when she said it's time for some family other than the Bushes, Clintons, and Kennedys. . .


Good work Tom, thanks for getting the word (and these photos, each worth 1,000 words) out there.

TC said...

I had thought the past six weeks of attempting to get the mind around the enormity of what's been happening in Gaza was bad enough... until I paused a moment to consider the future.

How Hillary built her NY senate campaign treasure chest

Not to say we're looking at a shameless cynical opportunist who'd kiss, touch, wave a flag for or take money from anybody, shortly before throwing them under the bus, here -- but that Hillary campaign for the Senate back in 2000 did offer helpful insights into the character of "our" future.

And that future is... now.

TC said...

In an op-ed in today's New York Times, Maureen Dowd speaks of a reporter friend who died in Iraq -- for absolutely nothing.

From her piece:


...Hillary Clinton was one of the 29 Democratic senators who voted to authorize that baloney war.

The woman who always does her homework, the woman who resigned as president of Wellesley College’s Young Republicans over the Vietnam War, made that vote without even bothering to read the National Intelligence Estimate with its skimpy evidence.

It was obvious in real time that the Bush crew was arbitrarily switching countries, blaming 9/11 on Saddam so they’d get more vivid vengeance targets and a chance to shake up the Middle East chessboard, and that officials were shamelessly making up the threat as they went along. For me to believe that Hillary would be a good president, I would need to feel that she had learned something from that deadly, globe-shattering vote — a calculated attempt to be tough and show that, as a Democratic woman, she was not afraid to use power.

Yet, she’s still at it.

With the diplomatic finesse of a wrecking ball, the former diplomat gave an interview to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, a hawk, in a calculated attempt to be tough and show that, as a Democratic woman, she’s not afraid to use power.

Channeling her pal John McCain, she took a cheap shot at President Obama when his approval rating on foreign policy had dropped to 36 percent, calling him a wimp just as he was preparing to order airstrikes against ISIS.

As one Democrat noted, citing the callous Clintonian principle that unpopular things make foolish investments: “If Obama was at 63 instead of 36, she’d be happy to be Robin to his Batman.”

It’s not that she’s too old, despite nasty cracks on conservative websites like the Washington Free Beacon. It’s that she’s too old-think, thrusting herself forward as a hawk at a time when hawks — in the season of Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul — aren’t so cool. Americans are sick of the idea that we should plunge in and plant our flag in the ground and work out the details later. It’s a complicated world, where you cross the border from Syria to Iraq and your allies are the enemy.

Hillary booed the president, who has been boosting her at the expense of his own vice president, and said that, as secretary of state, she had wanted to do more to help the Syrian rebels. She said that Obama’s “failure” in Syria led to the rise of ISIS and sniped about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

Saying you can’t live by slogans is rich, coming from someone whose husband’s presidency was built on “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Besides, a Times article by Tim Arango and Eric Schmitt demonstrated that “at every turn” the rise of ISIS’s self-styled caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq — putting the ball of blame back in Hillary’s court.

The neocon Weekly Standard gleefully printed her remarks with her byline under the headline: “Special Guest Editorial: Obama’s Foreign Policy Failures.”

David Axelrod tartly tweeted: “Just to clarify: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision.”

Hillary may know that she seemed unseemly. She called Obama to assert that she wasn’t attacking him, trying to avoid an awkward encounter when they both attend a Vernon Jordan party Wednesday night at the Martha’s Vineyard golf course where the president has been relaxing while the world explodes.

After buoying Hillary, Obama is learning the truth of another unofficial slogan in politics: “The Clintons will be there when they need you.”