Now that both Hill and Bern have gone negative and set out to disqualify and demolish each other on the killing fields of New York, it helps to recall the wisdom of Bill Clinton’s labor secretary Robert Reich. Hillary Clinton, whom Reich has known since she was 19, is “the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have,” he said. “But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.”
It’s as simple as that. Do you want a widely recognized face fronting an oligarchy of billionaire tax dodgers, Wall Street bankers, multinational corporation execs, and the merchants of death that President Dwight Eisenhower originally called the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex? Or do you prefer a more just and equitable social democrat welfare state similar to those that flourished in Scandinavia and much of Western Europe in the decades after World War II?
“The upcoming election isn’t about detailed policy proposals,” said Reich, a self-admitted policy wonk who endorses Sanders. “It’s about power ‒ whether those who have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well.”
Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and columnist for The New York Times, takes an opposing view. Consistently favoring Hillary’s well-honed command of policy details over Bernie’s frontal attack on Wall Street, he has little patience for calls to renew the Glass-Steagall division between commercial and investment banking and to break up banks that are too big to fail. Krugman’s concern, which I share, is that the collapse of the global economy had its cause in smaller shadow banks and non-Wall Street institutions like Countrywide Financial. I would also focus on the Clinton administration’s crippling of Brooksley Born’s efforts as chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to regulate credit default swaps and other hybrid instruments.
But Krugman jumps in with both feet, chastising Sanders for saying that Hillary was unqualified to be president. “I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is through her super PAC taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds,” Sanders said in Philadelphia on Wednesday. “I don’t think that you are qualified if you voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are qualified if you supported almost every disastrous trade agreement.” Krugman risks his own credibility by failing to mention that the Clinton campaign started the mud-slinging, as reported by CNN’s senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny:
The Clinton campaign has refrained from going nuclear on Sanders, aides say, in large part to keep at least some good will alive in hopes of unifying the party at the end of the primary fight.
No more, a top adviser told CNN. The fight is on. Extending an olive branch to Sanders’ supporter “will come later,” an adviser said.
It’s a new moment in this Democratic primary fight, with the Clinton campaign poised to dramatically escalate its criticism of Sanders in the coming days.
As the Clinton campaign summed up its three-part strategy, “Disqualify him, defeat him, and unify the party later.”
Will Clinton’s negative approach ‒ or Bernie’s embarrassed reaction to it ‒ make any difference? We won’t know until after April 19, the day of the New York primary. But if Krugman has it wrong and Reich gets it right that this primary election is about power rather than policy, someone has to say that Hillary is completely unqualified to lead any effort to bring change. And in political terms, nothing would set that change in motion more effectively than breaking up the Wall Street banks, either at the start of a Sanders administration in 2017 or an Elizabeth Warren administration in 2021.
The new strategy builds on Clinton’s earlier effort to frame the primary as a choice between “Hillary’s pragmatism” and “Bernie’s idealism,” defining herself as “a progressive who gets things done.” She also acted as if she and Bernie wanted many of the same things, which seems to be true of social issues, including women’s rights. But as media maven Jeff Cohen pointed out in February, “what she gets done is anti-progressive (not unlike President Clinton in the 1990s).” What on earth is progressive about her promoting fracking worldwide, boosting corporate-friendly trade deals, enabling military coups, escalating the Afghan War, pushing chaotic military intervention in the Middle East and Libya, or pocketing millions from corporate lecture fees?
If she truly believes these are the way to a better world, she is the wild-eyed idealist. By contrast, Bernie is pure pragmatist when he insists on our building a huge popular movement to force through the changes America needs. Hillary’s pragmatism is more limited. Just listen to her long, wonky answers where she carefully leaves herself free to go back to her earlier support for the kind of world that her corporate and Wall Street backers want. What a brilliant lawyer she is, fully in the tradition of Slick Willie and what the definition of “is” is.
At the CNN debate in early March, she supported fracking, but only if local communities want it, if it does not cause pollution, and if the fracking companies disclose the chemicals they use. “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place,” she said. She added that some places with fracking are not sufficiently regulated. “We have to regulate everything that is currently underway, and we have to have a system in place that prevents further fracking unless conditions like the ones that I just mentioned are met.”
“My answer is a lot shorter,” said Sanders to applause. “No, I do not support fracking.”
She leaves herself the same freedom on Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which she once supported but now opposes. As Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue assured viewers on Bloomberg TV in January, if elected president, Hillary would find a way to support the corporate backed trade agreement. That alone would make her unqualified to be president.
Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News
Weissman writes: “Do you want a widely recognized face fronting an oligarchy of billionaire tax dodgers, Wall Street bankers, multinational corporation execs, and the merchants of death? Or do you prefer a more just and equitable social democrat welfare state similar to those that flourished in Scandinavia and much of Western Europe in the decades after World War II?”