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The New Devolution: Hillary's Troubled Launch and the Latest Drone Fiasco and Bush Antics

04/30/2015 02:07 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2015

Think of it not as a new deal but a new devolution, an ongoing decline of quality substance, concern, and even basic awareness in public life. With three unfortunately good examples on current display.

First, we have the troubled ongoing roll-out of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Now, it may well be that she is the best qualified candidate for president; I suspect she is. And it is true, as the Clintons' defenders point out, that there is no smoking gun in the revelations about massive foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation during her tenure as US secretary of state. Just as there is no smoking gun in the controversy over her decision, decidedly unusual in federal government service, to run all her e-mail as secretary of state through a private e-mail address and server in her personal possession.

But there sure is a heck of a lot of smoke, isn't there?

Not at all incidentally, we have just learned that more than a thousand foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation have not been disclosed, despite the apparent policy.

That's not troubling, is it?

And the messiness around millions in contributions from a Canadian nuclear firm then undergoing takeover by Rosatom, the giant Russian nuclear concern, should not be concerning, either, should it?

Rosatom's acquisition of the Canadian firm gives it control over one-fifth of US uranium production capacity. Hillary's State Department was one of the agencies which had to approve this deal, given uranium's status as an obviously strategic resource.

Now, this is not to say that Vladimir Putin has anything like control over US nuclear weapons. Though Pravda did crow about this coup by the Putin administration; the Kremlin's security state advisors, many of them ex-KGB like the Russian president, have their hands in all major companies in Russia.

The whopping $500,000 speaking gig for for former President Bill Clinton from a Kremlin-tied Russian investment bank which played a major role in the nuclear takeover deal? Not a concern, either.

If Putin is akin to Hitler, as Hillary claimed in one of her own megabucks speeches last year at UCLA, why such a cozy financial relationship with the Kremlin?

Taking a thousand-mile van ride from her New York mansion out to Iowa as part of her campaign launch was a nice populist touch for HRC, especially since she seems to be adopting a significantly more left-leaning economic stance, but it doesn't really mesh with the long plutocratic history that the Clinton Foundation controversies highlight.

Moving away from kinkenseiji, the 1980s Japanese term for money politics, it seems that we accidentally killed two Western hostages in one of our supposedly highly-targeted, well-advanced drone strikes. American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto were being held hostage in Pakistan. In a compound that the CIA had ever so carefully targeted for its habitation by Al Qaeda operatives. (Including an American from Orange County who was a real blowhard but not much of a real threat.)

After we belatedly discovered we had killed two people we were supposed to save, without ever knowing they were there, there were some questions about what the heck we are doing with this program.

Amusingly, Senator Dianne Feinstein, then chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee overseeing the program, was asked in 2013 by the New York Times why she was so sure she was getting the truth about the drone program and its supposed lack of civilian casualties from the very agency she insisted was lying to her about its torture programs. Surprised, she replied: "That's a good question, actually."

Why yes, it is. A better question is why the CIA, and I'm for a strong CIA, is conducting warfare rather than intelligence. Which is its actual mission.

The drone program is the principal tip of the spear of our global war on terror. And the reality is that we don't really know much at all about what is going on. Because it's all a big secret. And that troubling ignorance clearly extends, albeit to a lesser degree, to the folks running the program for the Obama administration.

So when former President George W. Bush attacked Obama for his Middle East policies, I thought at first he might be referencing this. Hah! No such luck.

Instead, Bush blasted Obama, at a speech to the war hawk Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, for problems with Iran and Isis.

It's all so ludicrous. What Bush so conveniently forgets is that he himself created the very crises, to the extent they are severe, that he is supposedly so upset about. Absent his disastrous leadership, Iran is still counterbalanced by Iraq and Isis does not exist.

I was recently reminded of discussions with an old school friend from Kuwait when the Iran-Iraq War began in 1980 with Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran. The little oil emirate at the top of the Persian Gulf, stuck in the midst of Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, then had an even tinier navy than it has now. Kuwaiti elites were deeply worried about possible threats to their shipping and ports. For the first few years of the war, as it happened, there was great tension but no major problem. Then Iran, already perturbed by Kuwait's financing of Saddam Hussein's war against it, began trying to block Kuwaiti shipping, which often carried Iraqi supplies as well as a heck of a lot of oil.

Ultimately, the US, which already tacitly backed Saddam as a counter against newly revolutionized Iran, providing him with intelligence, fought a successful naval war against Iran to keep the shipping lanes clear.

Later, when Saddam invaded and seized Kuwait, Bush's father rolled back the invasion but wisely left Saddam in power in Iraq to continue his role countering Iran.

Hard to believe that W still doesn't get it.

And it's even harder to believe that Jeb Bush is using many of the same geopolitical advisors who got it so spectacularly wrong on our invasion of Iraq to advise him in his own presidential campaign.

But it's all of a piece with the new devolution. Careless, thoughtless, ever reliant on lack of awareness.

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