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Jane Smiley Headshot

I'm Already Against the Next War

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It's become clear over the last week that the more Hillary Clinton
is pressed, the more she reveals her true self. The fact that this self
is unscrupulous is bad enough, but the fact that her whole campaign
for the last year has been predicated on positioning, spin, and other
varieties of public relations is worse. In fact, it is not only worse,
it is Bushian, and that is the worst. Even though Clinton won two and
a half contests of the four staged on Tuesday, her campaign
strategists are fighting among themselves, her campaign is in a
turmoil, and, it seems, they can't decide which tack to take. Should
they try the lying (about NAFTA, about Obama's religion)? Should they
try the cheating (trying to seat delegates from the Florida and
Michigan primaries)? Should they try the fear-mongering (the red
telephone ad)? Should they try the sucking up to Republicans (spelling
out similarities between Clinton and cheerleader-for-war McCain)?

No one ever said that the Clintons weren't corrupt. Even they didn't
say that. The only questions were 1) Were they less corrupt than the
Republicans and 2) Did they combine at least a modicum of compassion
and interest in the public good with their corruption? Back in the
90s, I felt that, on balance, Bill Clinton was openly compassionate,
and that his corruption did not fatally taint his administration. At
any rate, he did not GLORY in corruption as Reagan and Bush 1 and
their advisors did. I also felt that after the Reagan Revolution
(excuse me, I meant to say Reagan Devolution), triangulation was the
only way to get anything done, and so they did it.

But Hillary Clinton seems to have learned the wrong lesson from her
Senatorial success. The lesson she has learned is that Republicans
such as McCain are more her friends than Senators with progressive
principles. As a result, it now appears that Clinton and McCain stand
together on one side of a divide, and Barack Obama stands on the other
side of that divide. The divide is between the inside-the-beltway
ruling class, who can see no reason of any kind that they should give
up the power they have accumulated and the avenue to wealth that it
represents, and the citizenry of the country, who in every poll insist
that the country is headed in the wrong direction. In the last week,
Clinton has put herself on McCain's ticket, attacking the change that
Obama promises and seems poised to deliver (whether or not he can
remains an open question), and promising more more more of the same of
what we have had for the last thirty years. More of the same is
exactly what almost everyone does not want, but Clinton tells us
everyday in every way that that is what we will get -- what we have had
is what she touts as her "experience". What we see in her campaign is
that we will get the same old same old with an added measure of chaos.

Clinton, of course, is not Cheney. Dick Cheney is the mad master of
corruption, a person who literally doesn't know what integrity is. But
Hillary is too smart not to know, and she has made up her mind to
shelve her integrity for the sake of ambition. And let me be clear
what I mean by corruption -- I have no idea what her financial gains
have been over the years, and I don't care. What I mean by corruption
is any and all support of the criminal policies of the Republicans
while calling herself a Democrat, in order to gain power.

Some weeks ago, I wrote a Huff post about a remark Bill Clinton
made, that if Hillary became the nominee, the presidential campaign would be
exceptionally "polite". We now see that he wasn't joking. Both
Clintons are in favor of the status quo, and will fight tooth and nail
to maintain it. They are surrounded by advisors who both literally and
figuratively are married to the Republicans. They are, indeed, now
part of the "vast right wing conspiracy".

One of the key questions about the Democrats since the 2006
elections is, where do their loyalties really lie? Time and again they have
failed to stop the Republicans, or settled for a little populist
embroidery around the edges of policies that by and large serve to
increase the power of the Republicans. Their excuse, which is growing
thin, is that they don't have the power to confront Bush. Hillary
Clinton is now showing their real agenda -- preserving the status quo at
the expense of the military, the taxpayers, the economy, world peace,
and the rule of law.

Obama is not a known quantity. I have seen him one time and listened
to one speech, and I was reasonably impressed by that speech. But
Hillary Clinton is a known quantity. If you like the world that the
Bushes and Clintons have made in the last twenty years, then you
should by all means vote for her. But as of this week, I don't see her
as the person I want answering the red phone.