It’s amusing to see how our staunch progressives — who believe so deeply in a level playing field and fair play, who railed so vociferously against crony capitalism back in Bush-Time — are now twisting themselves in knots to dismiss the stories about that long-festering font of corruption, the Clinton Foundation. Suddenly, what was once evil and corrosive — peddling elite insider influence for private profit — is just old hat, no big deal, business as usual. Indeed, Digby, the very avatar of “anguished support” (Tarzie’s deeply apt description of our progressives’ blind self-tethering to a party whose leaders — like the Clintons, like Obama — are so servile to Big Money and war profiteering that they make Dick Nixon look like Diogenes), points us to an “excellent piece” by the ever-overexcited Charles Pierce, esquire (sorry, I mean Charles Pierce of Esquire), which sounds this very theme.
Pierce, wearing his prodigious classical learning lightly, informs us that “every politician since Cato” has engaged in the multimillion-dollar crony fluffing and policy twisting that the Clintons have been practicing for years. This kind of thing — say, taking more than $100 million in “donations” from an uranium magnate who then reaps gargantuan profits when the Clinton-headed State Department greenlights the sale that makes said magnate richer and gives Russia (led by a man that Hillary ignorantly likens to Hitler) control of one-fifth of America’s uranium production capacity — is just “business as usual,” says Pierce. “Every politician” does this, every single one of them — and has done since the high and palmy days of Rome. You may agree or disagree with Professor Pierce — but no one can deny that this is a deeply informed, richly nuanced piece of analysis.
Pierce, renowned in progressive circles for his sharp-edged acumen, here plays the naif — Goober Pyle Goes to Washington. He scratches his head like a simple, honest feller befuddled by the silver-tongued talk of fancy-pants nabobs, and says that, as far he can tell, the detailed stories in the New York Times and Washington Post are just peddling a nebulous conspiracy theory, something about how President Hillary would be beholden to foreign donors or that the couple were pocketing Foundation cash or something. This is not, of course, the import of the stories, which lies in their fresh confirmation and amplification of the Clintons’ particularly successful example of elite influence-peddling. But a simple shrug of the shoulders blows this straw man away, and Pierce is off to the races in his time machine, reliving the false accusations that assailed the Clintons back in Starr-Time.
And of course, many of the allegations assiduously peddled by partisan operators and the respectable press in those days were false, or petty, or pointless. And yes, the Clintons beat the rap (except for Bill’s law license), and ended up with Bill as the most popular politician in America (a rank he still holds, incidentally) and Hillary in the US Senate.
But all of this was a sideshow. The learned Theban of Esquire somehow omits some salient facts from his magical history tour. For even as right-wing agents were needling Clinton about failed land deals and Oval Office canoodling, Clinton was overseeing the deaths of up to half a million innocent children (and many more innocent adults) through the draconian sanctions he imposed on Iraq. This, even though Clinton and US intelligence knew in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction. As I noted back in 2005, confirmation of this fact came from “from none other than the man in charge of the Iraqi WMD program, Saddam’s defecting son-in-law, Hussein Kamel. Kamel’s wealth of information on the destruction of Iraq’s WMD ‘was so extensive it was almost embarassing,’ said UN interrogators.”
This was not secret, by the way; it was reported in Time Magazine and other venues. And it was later confirmed independently by UN inspectors in 1998, who had verified the destruction of 95 percent of Iraq’s WMD arsenal before they were stopped from finishing the job by Bill Clinton’s four-day bombing assault on the country. Clinton justified the attack — which killed dozens, perhaps hundreds of civilians — by pointing to Iraqi “interference” in the almost completed inspections. The Iraqis were being quarrelsome, because they believed America had planted spies among the supposedly neutral inspectors. Clinton sternly denied such lies, and ordered the attack. (Conveniently, it occurred during his impeachment hearings.) However, just one year later, guess what: the UN admitted that, er, America had planted spies among the supposed neutral inspectors: “UNSCOM had directly facilitated the creation of an intelligence collection system for the United States in violation of its mandate.”
Oh well. Bombing raids under false pretenses and the senseless death of half a million children due to sanctions based on “causes” known to be false — I guess that’s just “business as usual” too, eh Charles? As for Hillary’s later vote to OK a whole war based on false pretenses (which, once again, saw the arms inspectors pulled out before they could confirm, again, the fact that Iraq had no WMD) — well, hell, “every politician” since the dawn of time has done the same, ain’t they, Goob?
But none of this matters to our progressives. Nor does Hillary’s bloodthirsty record as Secretary of State, her vital role in the vast War Machine, ever pushing for more aggressive responses, for overturning governments (as in Honduras), for arming dictators (like her “close family friend,” Hosni Mubarak), for targeted assassinations and drone attacks, for allying with extremists to reduce whole nations to chaos (Libya). Who can forget that moment when the mask slipped and Hillary revealed the true, brutal nature of our bipartisan ruling elite — her gleeful exultation after Moamar Gadafy was sodomized and killed: “We came, we saw, he died!”
No, what matters is that Republican “ratfuckers” trumped up charges against the Clintons 20 years ago. (Charges that related only to personal and financial behaviour; the Republicans didn’t care about the bombing and killing; they would’ve liked more of it.) The sleaziness of the Clintons’ enemies absolves them of all blame, apparently. Any evidence of their corruption — financial, legal or moral — no matter what the source, is, ipso facto, nothing more than the noxious fumes of conspiracy.
As with Obama, there seems to be no crime or morally corrupt practice they will not countenance if it is committed by the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party. As Tarzie points out, they will “anguish” over their support — both Digby and Pierce preceded their Clinton apologias with stern posts criticizing the drone attack that killed two al Qaeda hostages, and two other Americans said to be al Qaeda members. Digby took issue with the “targeted assassination” program and Pierce pointed out that the drone campaign only creates more enemies for America. But the fact that Hillary Clinton will certainly continue these polices — and will probably intensify them — doesn’t stop the progressive duo from taking up the cudgels for her when someone questions her ethical and financial probity. The values and moral principles that underlie their attacks on the various depredations of the Terror War that Obama has expanded suddenly disappear at the first scent of partisan warfare. Their “ultimate concern” (to use Paul Tillich’s term) is the political victory of the Democratic Party — no matter what crimes and horrors its leaders perpetrate. However anguished their support, nothing will ever induce them to withdraw it.
There will be much, much more in this vein as the long, degrading freak show of the presidential campaign drags on. What our progressives once despised, they will soon defend. (As with Obamacare, which was originally — and rightly — scorned by progressives like Digby as an egregious sell-out to corporate interests and a death-blow to hopes for genuine health care reform, only to become a precious jewel to be adamantly defended against all attacks.) That thousands are dying, that extremism is spreading, that chaos is accelerating, that inequality is growing, that millions of people are suffering horribly from the deliberate choices of their champions does not, in the end, override their tribal instincts. And in this way, they help our rapacious elite insider to keep rat-fucking us all.