Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Campbell on where Hillary Clinton may be worse than Trump

Anyone with misgivings about Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions had them confirmed in spades by Clinton’s appalling speech this week on the Israel/Palestine conflict. In one stroke, Clinton vowed to defy any UN attempts at a resolution, to cozy up to Benjamin Netanyahu and to roll back even the minor pressure being exerted on Israel by the Obama administration. In short, Clinton promised to revert to naked, partisan support for Israel.

In her speech, Clinton tried to convey that U.S.-Israel relations would significantly improve under her leadership, noting that one of her first actions would be to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. “We will never allow Israel’s adversaries to think a wedge can be driven between us,” she said.

And as for the Israeli settlements – which even our Foreign Minister Murray McCully has pointed out are eroding the space (diplomatic and physical) for that elusive ‘two state’ solution? According to Clinton, Palestinians have an obligation to avoid taking any ‘ damaging actions’ against them :

She lightly criticized the Israeli government’s policy allowing settlement construction across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, considered by most world leaders as a violation of international law that inhibits the peace process. “Everyone has to do their part by avoiding damaging actions, including with respect to settlements,” she said.

And as for the United Nations and international law... forget it.

At the same time, she garnered a wave of applause by promising to “vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution, including by the U.N. Security Council” to the Israel-Palestine conflict, a proposal floated by some Obama administration officials but never acted upon.

Clinton’s main target in her speech was Republican contender Donald Trump who - compared to Clinton – has come across of late as something of a pinkish moderate on the Palestine issue.

In February, Trump said he would be ‘sort of a neutral guy’ when brokering peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in order to secure the ‘deal of all deals….It’s probably the toughest negotiation anywhere in the world of any kind,’ Trump has said.

To Clinton, that kind of neutrality on this issue is heinously wrong in principle :

“We need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who-knows-what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable,” she said. “We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent,” she added. “Some things aren’t negotiable.”

This highly selective roll call of atrocities is bound to be dispiriting and de-motivating for the supporters of Bernie Sanders. Polls have consistently shown that the young and minority voters are far more even-handed about Israel, and are increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinians. Gratuitously, Clinton has just given young Democratic Party activists every reason not to campaign for her, or to vote for her in November. As one commentary on the speech has noted, Clinton either believes her own rhetoric on Israel, or is cynically using it against Trump – and it is hard to tell which is worse.

For the rest of the world, the Clinton speech is a reminder of the truly terrible choice looming in this year’s presidential campaign. It is coming down to a contest between a flaming egotist with a hawkishly aggressive foreign policy agenda, and Donald Trump.

Trump’s Apprentice

As the primary process rolls on, two factors are emerging as being crucial to Trump’s presidential ambitions (a) his choice of running mate and (b) his ability to reach and inspire people who normally do not vote. Trump is painting himself as the king of voter turnout.

The running mate. Once Trump has secured the nomination at the convention in Cleveland in August, a running mate could help Trump to seem like a more re-assuring, mainstream candidate. Trump could choose to pursue a chairman of the board/CEO split, in much the same way that George W. Bush came to rely on Vice-President Dick Cheney to run his administration. For Trump’s purposes, the ideal CEO figure would be Paul Ryan, the 46 year old House Speaker. The Republican Party would unite behind such a ticket, and it would stop the “Republicans for Hillary” movement in its tracks. Ryan, of course, is more likely to conclude that Trump 2016 is already a lost cause, and saving himself for the 2020 nomination is a better investment of his political capital than trying to make Trump look palatable this year.

By default, Trump is more likely to choose a biddable subordinate who might counter Trump’s all too obvious weaknesses. Given Trump’s reputation for misogyny, New Mexico governor Susanna Martinez and Arizona governor Jan Brewer are both VP contenders. Martinez would also help counter Hillary Clinton’s obvious edge among Hispanics. However, this audiotape (in which Governor Martinez tries to creepily intimidate hotel staff and police 911 dispatchers over complaints about a rowdy party in her hotel room) will do her no favours. I particularly liked the bit where Martinez claims that she and her guests have been quietly ‘eating pizza’ in her room, and nope, no-one has been throwing bottles off the hotel balcony…‘for the past six hours’ anyway. Theoretically, wealthy Florida governor Rick Scott should help to deliver a perennial swing state for Trump, but Scott has not been a popular state governor.

Voter Turnout. One of Trump’s big, big themes has been that he is generating a massive uptick in voter turnout in the Republican primaries, while the turnout on the Democratic side of the contest has been down, especially when compared to 2008.

While superficially true, the underlying realities do not make this story quite such a positive one for Trump. Contested primaries always boost participation, and much of the turnout this year has been among Republicans trying to stop Trump. On the Democratic side in 2008, the contested Obama/Clinton primaries created an artificial high water mark, and in fact, this year’s turnout has otherwise been higher than in any other election in the past 24 years

…other than 2008, it is higher than any year since 1992. In other words, Democratic primary turnout this year is doing a bit better than was typical in the three elections before the 2008 aberration.

More to the point, there seems to be no connection between voter turnout in primaries and subsequent success in presidential elections.

Moreover, even if there was such a link, Trump’s ability to mobilise hitherto disenfranchised white voters only underlines the narrow demographic basis of his appeal. Come November, any voting surge created by his appeal to white extremists is likely to be countered by a corresponding surge in those groups – blacks, Hispanics and women voters – who oppose him. Democratic Party strategist Ruy Teixiera has already made that case:

[Teixeira] pointed out that while there are large numbers of conservative, working-class white voters in key battleground states like Florida and Virginia, who could provide a fertile support base for Trump, there are also a lot of African-American, Hispanic, and college-educated white voters, who will have noticed the kinds of things he has been saying over the past eight months. “I find it just so implausible that we could have this massive white nativist mobilization without also provoking a big mobilization among minority voters,” Teixeira said. “It is kind of magical thinking that you could do one thing and not have the other.”

The real danger would be if those minority groups came to see Clinton and Trump as being mutually repellent. Amazingly, Clinton’s Israel speech this week did a lot to accomplish that difficult feat, among the left in the Democratic Party at least.

Cautions and Consolations

If the prospect of a Clinton/Trump contest drives you to drink and/or if, like Governor Martinez, you find yourself to be ‘eating pizza..’ among friends….here are a few suggestions and cautionary messages :

and from 1928, this is still a spooky, cautionary track :

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Reese Erlich: Foreign Correspondent: Trump Plays Both Sides Against The Middle

Is he a hawk? Is he a peacenik? The President keeps us guessing . By Reese Erlich President Donald Trump has convinced Republican isolationists and hawks that he supports their views. That’s a neat trick, since the two groups hold opposing positions. ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Waiting For The Old Bailey: Julian Assange And Britain’s Judicial Establishment

On September 7, Julian Assange will be facing another round of gruelling extradition proceedings, in the Old Bailey, part of a process that has become a form of gradual state-sanctioned torture. The US Department of Justice hungers for their man. The More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Sorry Plight Of The International Education Sector

Tourism and international education have been two of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. They’re both key export industries. Yet the government response to them has been strikingly different. There has been nothing beyond a few words of ministerial condolence and a $51.6 million package (details below) to get the sector through the pandemic...

Binoy Kampmark: Google’s Open Letter: Fighting Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code

Tech giants tend to cast thin veils over threats regarding government regulations. They are also particularly concerned by those more public spirited ones, the sort supposedly made for the broader interest. Google has given us an example of this ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Trump’s Current Chances Of Re-Election

By now it seems clear that National have no fresh ideas to offer for how New Zealand could avoid the Covid-19 economic crisis. As in the past, National has set an arbitrary 30% ratio of government debt to GDP that it aims to achieve “in a decade or so,” ... More>>

The Conversation: Rogue Poll Or Not, All The Signs Point To A Tectonic Shift In New Zealand Politics

Richard Shaw AAP(various)/NZ Greens (CC-BY-SA)/The Conversation Strong team. More jobs. Better economy. So say the National Party’s campaign hoardings. Only thing is, last Sunday’s Newshub-Reid Research poll – which had support for the Labour ... More>>

The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising

The United States is famed for doing things, not to scale, but off it. Size is the be-all and end-all, and the coronavirus is now doing its bit to assure that the country remains unrivalled in the charts of infection . In time, other unfortunates may well ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face

Be wary what you protest about. The modern moral constabulary are out, and they are assisted by their Silicon Valley friends in the Social Media club. Should you dare take a stand on anything, especially in a dramatic way, you will be found out ... More>>