Dangerous Times: Thoughts on the US Presidential Election

by Mark English

“Could fear of Trump rattle Stoics, while fear of death finds no purchase?”

Dwayne Holmes was alluding to self-styled Stoic Massimo Pigliucci’s readiness – in the face of the possibility of a Trump presidency – to endorse over-the-top, emotion-driven political analysis. [1] Panic levels are certainly high in liberal and progressive circles, and if current trends continue and Trump wins in November they will be through the roof.

The only thing that (just about) everyone agrees on is that serious consequences will flow from this election. Not being an American, I am much more interested in the consequences for the world at large than in the consequences for the US.

Holmes notes that both candidates sound like hawks but Trump is “more blustery [and] less hawkish.” Quite so.

The key difference is that Clinton is a neocon and supported by neocons. Trump is not.

I won’t attempt to analyse Trump’s foreign policy proposals except to say that they lack the imperialist dimension of neoconservatism. The general direction of his stated intentions is to scale back foreign bases and foreign commitments (such as to NATO) and to encourage (or force) allies to bear the cost and responsibility for their own defense. This would involve quite a radical change in US foreign policy.

It’s arguable that a scaling back of commitments in far-flung places is appropriate, but obviously one would prefer (if one had the choice) to see such policies implemented by a more seasoned and less volatile commander-in-chief than Trump. Trump is a risky proposition, no matter how you look at it. But a continuation of old policies in the current circumstances (which Clinton promises) could be seen to be even riskier.

I accept that there is no way of deciding this sort of question “scientifically” or in a rigorous way, logically speaking, as it involves a reading of two very different personalities, policy questions (which in themselves raise a wide range of both practical and values-based questions), and contingent factors.

One of the frustrating but fascinating things about the politics of recent times is that many of the standard terms used to classify ideological positions no longer seem to work. Not long ago the neocons were considered conservatives by most conservatives. Christopher Hitchens was a former Trotskyist who never renounced his socialism, but even he often seemed to have more in common with neocons than with progressives on foreign policy questions. A vocal supporter of the second Iraq war, he was generally liked by conservatives (and hated to death by the left).

Things have changed however. A key turning point was that the promised weapons of mass destruction (the pretext for the invasion of Iraq) were not found. Worse, Iraq spiraled out of control and the promised stability and prosperity failed to materialize. Worse again, Americans were actively involved in various countries, fanning the flames (at least to some extent) of various uprisings and protest movements, engaging in bombing raids and special operations and in the overthrow of evil dictators like Muammar Gaddafi (who at least had the virtue of being an effective leader), and generally exacerbating the no-doubt real and deep-rooted political problems of North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Many conservatives got the message. They had erred. Perhaps they had been duped. As a consequence, the neocons lost favor in  conservative circles, and it was no surprise when the arch-neocon and veteran of a string of Republican administrations (Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush), Paul Wolfowitz, endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.

In fact, we’ve come full circle, because the neoconservative movement has its roots in various branches of the anti-Stalinist left, and it formed itself within the general framework of the Democratic Party during the 1960’s and 70’s. The magazine Commentary, edited by Norman Podhoretz, was very influential in articulating its characteristic ideological preoccupations and foreign policy stance. Wolfowitz himself was a Democrat, before he joined the Reagan administration in 1981.

Though various strands of radical and not-so-radical left-wing thought can be meaningfully identified, the old left/right divide just doesn’t really make sense anymore, if it ever did. What’s more, across the Western world, a lot of people – including many traditional conservatives, classical liberals and previously apolitical folk – are becoming more and more disgusted with the political status quo and so are voting or threatening to vote for candidates outside the mainstream or otherwise in quite radical ways (e.g. Brexit).

Conservatives are no longer conservative. The silent majority is no longer silent. Given the widespread failure of social, economic and monetary policies and increasing expectations of a prolonged period of stagnation and social unrest, it’s little wonder that the political landscape in Western countries is reshaping itself in quite dramatic ways.

Hillary Rodham was a keen Goldwater supporter before she went to Wellesley College and was introduced to radical left-wing thought. She wrote her senior thesis on Saul Alinsky. But she certainly seems to have moved away from Alinsky’s ideas – apart perhaps from his ideas on lying (he was all for it).

Hillary’s lying is legendary. All politicians do it of course, but they usually (at least if they are effective politicians) do it in restricted contexts and in rather formulaic ways that more sophisticated members of the public almost expect. They retain a degree of trust. Clinton is different and is perceived as more untrustworthy than her peers. Her lies are often strangely gratuitous. The notorious case of her account of her arrival in Bosnia was like this, not the sort of strategic lie that Alinsky advocated, but rather a totally unnecessary fabrication reminiscent of the sorts of lies that children often tell. She claimed that she and her team arrived “under sniper fire,” skipped the arrival ceremony and “just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” [2] But a video of the event shows her being greeted on the tarmac by Bosnian officials and an 8-year-old Muslim girl who read a poem. All was peaceful.

Both candidates have personal foibles aplenty, of course, and these foibles (or worse) are all too well-known to the general public. They are important, but only insofar as they play into a broader, political, narrative.

One old narrative that is getting new traction is associated with President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s prescient warnings about the American military-industrial complex (which is often now conceptualized in terms of the broader concept of the deep state). These particular concerns about the post World War 2 American system have waxed and waned over the years and have come to the fore again in the wake of recent scandals and failed military interventions. Interestingly (and encouragingly) these disasters have prompted a questioning not just of strategic or tactical matters but also of the moral underpinnings of such foreign interventions.

During the Cold War, the USSR and the USA were engaged in a worldwide strategic battle which could be seen to have provided (it certainly did in the minds of many) its own moral justification. But since the demise of the Soviet Union, with Russia and China focused (militarily) on their respective regions rather than on the wider world, America’s military presence in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the western Pacific is looking very questionable. And doubts about the moral legitimacy of its foreign and defense policy are compounded by a loss of confidence in America’s future prospects of economic prosperity and (partly as a consequence of this) of geo-strategic power.

Economics and geography matter, and it is clear that the center of gravity of the world’s wealth is reverting to a more normal historical pattern, balanced between the Eastern and Western hemispheres. There even seems a real prospect that the West is entering a period not just of relative decline in economic and social terms but of actual decline. And, of course, those overseeing this difficult period – the promoters and implementers of recent and current financial, monetary, social and foreign policies in the West – have lost or are rapidly losing credibility.

None of this applied during the Reagan era, and arguably the neoconservatism of that period had a different cast. Current and recent neocons could be seen to be in denial, desperately seeking to re-establish an American hegemony which, in reality, is inexorably slipping away. By contrast, in the Reagan-era, American might and power were unquestioned.

Jeane Kirkpatrick was a prominent neoconservative who worked for Reagan and was the US ambassador to the United Nations. She was a controversial and divisive figure. But, as a writer at the Economist said in an obituary, “[c]ertain sentences from her most famous article, ‘Dictatorships and Double Standards’ – written on [a] summer holiday in France, published in Commentary, in November 1979 – now induce a sigh.” [3] Here are the sentences in question: “No idea holds greater sway in the mind of educated Americans than the belief that it is possible to democratize governments, anytime and anywhere, under any circumstances.” “Decades, if not centuries, are normally required for people to acquire the necessary disciplines and habits. In Britain, the road [to democratic government] took seven centuries to traverse.” “The speed with which armies collapse, bureaucracies abdicate, and social structures dissolve once the autocrat is removed frequently surprises American policymakers.”

As I say, my main concerns regarding this election are geopolitical. Clinton’s general foreign policy orientation (and she has form on this front, remember) is dangerous in a different way from Trump’s. She represents continuity, while Trump represents discontinuity.

The problem with Clinton’s kind of continuity, however, is that it is associated with an attempt to actively resist the challenges that inexorable geopolitical and economic changes now pose to the central role that the US has played on the world stage, at least since World War 2.

There are also doubts about Hillary Clinton’s health. If it proves to be the case that she has serious health problems it would, I think, only add to the danger/instability were she to be elected. Would she step aside if her health deteriorated while she was in office? Somehow I doubt it.  There are precedents here.Woodrow Wilson had a debilitating stroke and stayed in office.

And there have been many similar cases in other countries. Some occurred in the old Soviet Union. There was, for example, Leonid Brezhnev who had severe arteriosclerosis which affected his speech and other aspects of neurological functioning. His immediate successors were almost as bad but didn’t take so long to die. And then, of course, there was the sad case of the bloated-looking and alcohol-fueled Boris Yeltsin, in post-Soviet Russia (with one Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin waiting in the wings, biding his time).

REFERENCES

  1. https://theelectricagora.com/2016/09/11/first-party-spoilers/
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/hillary-clinton-who-tells-dreadful-lies/2016/09/19/cd38412e-7e6a-11e6-9070-5c4905bf40dc_story.html?utm_term=.366f42baf55d
  3. http://www.economist.com/node/8447241

92 Comments »

  1. labnut,
    your position is actually more defensible than Mark’s, and more interesting, and I failed to pay it due in my remarks. However, a couple of notes:

    DanK was not remarking your position as political realism, but clarifying what political realism was, regarding American foreign policy.

    Secondly understanding the personality differences between Clinton and Trump is what this election is all about. In the last analysis, Americans will vote for what they perceive as their interests, whatever outsiders argue. In that regard, your complaints are actually irrelevant, regardless of their cogency. On that score, it must be noted that the complaints you make cannot be addressed this late in the election cycle; rather, the question comes down to which candidate would be more open to addressing such complaints. Mark suggests that would be Trump, but there is no evidence of this, but much evidence to the contrary. Clinton, despite her neo-con/ neo-lib attitudes, has already shown capacity to rethink issues given advice and the weight of evidence.

    We are not discussing the specific issues you raise; Mark’s politically charged essay precludes that. The question is, whom shall we elect to best deal with those complaints. Both choices have marks against them; Mark argues that Clinton’s are the worst, I argue that Trump’s are not only worse than Clinton, but wholly unacceptable.

    As an outsider, your principle concern is the effect of this election on global politics. As an American, my principle concern is the effect it has on domestic politics.

    The American people have made unconscionable misjudgments over the past decades. I simply wish to make sure that we don’t rend the very fabric of this society by electing a clown, a criminal, a racist, an authoritarian demagogue. Hopefully, we can address your concerns after this nightmare is over.

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  2. ” (And no, ‘he’s not Clinton” is not good enough.)”

    ‘But aren’t you arguing “she’s not Trump?’

    I am; that’s how bad Trump really is. Think about it.

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  3. EJ,
    The American people have made unconscionable misjudgments over the past decades.

    Is there any reason to think they will not continue doing this into the foreseeable future? It is in the very nature of hubris to be blind to one’s own mistakes and to be blind to the impending future. America just does not see they they are confronting two implacable, ruthless, highly competent, intelligent and determined opponents. America is sleepwalking into a confrontation that will result in a bloody nose.

    I simply wish to make sure that we don’t rend the very fabric of this society by electing a clown, a criminal, a racist, an authoritarian demagogue.

    Neither you nor I will make sure of anything along these lines. We are miniscule voices in a large ocean of noise. We indulge in these debates 1) for our entertainment(I certainly am entertained), 2) so that we can develop our understanding and insights(this is very important to me) and 3) very likely, to give expression to our emotional needs(not so likely in my case since I am an intrigued observer).

    When confronted with contrasting opinions I am forced to examine them and further develop my thinking. I love this process and suggest it is the main benefit of our debates. But let’s not imagine that we will change anything except ourselves. Some participants will not even change themselves. C’est la vie.

    a clown, a criminal, a racist, an authoritarian demagogue.

    You have made your mark in this forum as a careful and insightful debater so I am surprised by your extreme language. What does this tell me? That your emotions are strongly engaged and perhaps this says more about you than Trump.

    I care more about understanding than about condemnation. Why is it that a person like Trump has such a strong appeal? It is not good enough to rubbish nearly half the American electorate. There must surely be a deep and important process at play. What is this process? What caused it? How should we address it? I see no attempt to address deeper issues and find that disappointing.

    Hopefully, we can address your concerns after this nightmare is over.

    No, the nightmare won’t be over because the deeper, systemic causes will still be present. American society is dysfunctional and thus it is pursuing a damaging, dysfunctional foreign policy. Clinton, like Obama, is just another dull functionary who will perpetuate the dysfunction. Who knows what Trump will do? He is certainly a contrarian and perhaps his contrarian energy will supply the impetus for useful change. But my crystal ball is fogged over(it was made in China).

    Perhaps the biggest issue of all is the extraordinary wealth disparity. Clinton is part of the process that is perpetuating this wealth disparity. Trump is no better. No one has produced fresh, useful thinking for fear it may alienate their donors. And that tells us that the political process has been captured by the kleptocrats.

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  4. EJ,
    We are not discussing the specific issues you raise; Mark’s politically charged essay precludes that

    I think they are related and therefore worth discussing. Any one of the multitudes who have been a victim of American foreign policy would agree with me.

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  5. EJ,
    As an outsider, your principle concern is the effect of this election on global politics. As an American, my principle concern is the effect it has on domestic politics.

    Your concern is understandable. But your place in the world is changing to a diminished role and thus you will no longer be immune to foreign perceptions. Hubris is only sustainable on a base of real power.

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  6. Real power? The US could defeat any country in the world with a single submarine. Europe is in a demographic death spiral.

    This discussion is getting silly. EJ thinks Trump is beyond the pale and Mark doesn’t. That about sums it up.

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  7. Real power? The US could defeat any country in the world with a single submarine.
    and
    This discussion is getting silly.

    You said it.

    The US is not the only country that owns submarines but that is wholly beside the point. Economic power is the basis of military power and we need only look at the trajectory of economic power to see the trajectory of military power. Military power unchecked by democratic restraints is power to be feared but hubris blinds one to fear. Sadly.

    EJ thinks Trump is beyond the pale

    Perhaps so, but it might be useful to understand why Trump has such appeal. Condemnation is emotionally satisfying but understanding is useful. I choose useful.

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  8. I just don’t see anything that could come from further exchanges that would be productive.

    We are at the point where each side accuses the other not just of being wrong or having bad ideas, but of being illegitimate. People on both sides are already talking about impeachment, before the election has even happened.

    This represents a fundamentally broken politics, and i don’t see how bashing further on Trump v. Clinton is going to help.

    Until each side recognizes not just that the other side has interests, but that they are legitimate in *having* interests and in voting for those whom they perceive as acting in their interest, we will have no productive politics, but rather, a form of non-violent warfare.

    And so long as its “Kenyan Muslim communist” and “Box of deplorables” that’s exactly what we’re going to continue having.

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  9. I just don’t see anything that could come from further exchanges that would be productive.

    That is the normal result of discussion based on blame. Blame polarises, hardens positions and blocks understanding.

    This represents a fundamentally broken politics, and i don’t see how bashing further on Trump v. Clinton is going to help.

    The operative word here is “bashing“. You are quite right, bashing is unproductive. But even so “fundamentally broken politics” have deep, underlying, systemic causes. What are they? From that understanding can come a search for remedies. Surely it is useful to search for such an understanding?

    Until each side recognizes not just that the other side has interests, but that they are legitimate in *having* interests and in voting for those whom they perceive as acting in their interest, we will have no productive politics, but rather, a form of non-violent warfare.

    Absolutely. That is so true. And this points us to one of the problems. That politics has entered a new phase where one side attempts to delegitimise the other side by painting the other side’s interests as being ethically wrong. We have moved from a pragmatic view of the truth to a prescriptive view of the truth. A pragmatic view of truth accepts a three dimensional view of the world where different viewpoints have validity. This has come into conflict with an increasingly absolutist view of the truth where there can only be one truth. The possessor of such absolutist truths feels compelled to impose or prescribe his view of the truth since the other viewpoints are clearly wrong. This prescriptive view of the truth has its roots in scientism since science does not recognise multiple truths concerning one set of facts.

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  10. labnut,
    “a clown, a criminal, a racist, an authoritarian demagogue.”
    Technically, not a clown, but a reality TV entertainer. technically not yet a criminal until investigations into his various business procedures are completed; perhaps not a racist, but one who has used racially charged language to appeal to racists. An authoritarian demagogue? That would require some clarification of terms, but arguable in comparison with historical exemplars. So, in the current crisis, not necessarily extreme.

    My last series of comments came from my realization that this is the first election in American history – of which I am aware – when issues and policy simply do not matter. It comes down to an issue of personality.

    That shouldn’t be the case. I don’t know how we got here; I don’t like it.

    ” EJ thinks Trump is beyond the pale and Mark doesn’t. That about sums it up.” I think Dan is right; and I think he adequately diagnoses the situation as a “broken politics.” I have a sense of how we got here; I don’t know how we’re going to fix it.

    I did want to add that, despite our differences, I appreciated Mark’s essay, because it helped focus my thinking on this matter.

    (Again, this election now simply being about personalities of the candidates, I’m afraid policy issues need to be discussed separately from the election cycle. I think that discussion would prove invigorating, because both you and Mark make good points, cogent to the problems of foreign policy; unfortunately, they are simply irrelevant to how Americans see themselves or their interests.)

    “It is not good enough to rubbish nearly half the American electorate.” The question of motivations of Trump supporters has been raised before here, and in fact it is the question that many reasonable people are scratching their heads over. My fear is that the political motivations of many Americans – including many Clinton supporters – are both obvious and embarrassing.

    Dan, i appreciate your frustration; this will be my last comment on the topic.

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  11. ejwinner

    What you seem to be missing is that I am focused in the essay on the issue of neoconservatism and Hillary Clinton’s links to that tradition.

    In your first comment you said: “I’ll grant most of your critique on Clinton here, and I wouldn’t vote for her […] However, you’re making a gross misjudgment, as has most of the media, that Donald Trump has any policy positions whatsoever. This man is a complete sociopath, everything about him screams it.”

    I am fairly confident about what I say about the nature (and dangers) of Clinton’s foreign policy orientation. I tentatively suggest – given that his statements on foreign policy are diametrically opposed to the neocon line – that Trump *may* be less risky from a foreign policy point of view. But I made it very clear that I believe that the question of which of the two candidates poses the greater geopolitical risk is impossible to answer definitively because it depends on a whole range of contingent factors most of which have little to do with ideology.

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  12. EJ,
    I said:
    It is not good enough to rubbish nearly half the American electorate.

    You replied:
    The question of motivations of Trump supporters has been raised before here, and in fact it is the question that many reasonable people are scratching their heads over. My fear is that the political motivations of many Americans – including many Clinton supporters – are both obvious and embarrassing.

    Well? What are the root and systemic causes, as you understand them? How did they arise? What perpetuates them? What has changed? What is the outlook? Surely these are important questions?

    I accept that it is satisfying to indulge in an orgy of condemnation and, on a certain level, may even be useful(pseudo conflict ending in catharsis?). I prefer to vent these feelings in a bar while drinking a good beer and watching the rugby. The difference between your catharsis and mine is that yours is self-confirming(a dangerous habit) while mine is in the hands of the rugby gods(which can be painfully disappointing). My catharsis even boosts the profits of the beer brewing oligarchs. Now what could be wrong with that?

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  13. A few comments before all this fades into memory

    Mark: I’m interested in some citation when you say Alinsky was “all for” lying. I haven’t carefully studied all his work, but spent some time going over it lightly when I wrote this: http://therealtruthproject.blogspot.com/2014/07/myths-about-saul-alinsky-and-obama.html
    which takes down point by point the rules or principles for ‘How to Create a Social State’ sometimes called “8 Levels of Control” falsely attributed to Alinsky.

    As often happens due to a sort of poor scholars’ black market, I found his major works in PDF form (did enough checking against print copies to confirm they weren’t fake), and searched them, finding that most of the “principles” were about things Alinsky never spoke of at all, such as national health plans.

    See also http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/alinsky.asp although they didn’t take the trouble to show just how absurd the “8 whatevers” were.

    Also, my impression is that he was mostly active in 40s/50s issues like racial equality and fair treatment of unions, and generally local community issues, and was the sort of “radical” characteristic of his time who despised the Communist party (this is documented) and had little faith in big government, and was promoting “bottom up” struggle, so I’m not convinced he was ever “radical left-wing” but rather radically (for his time) anti-racist, pro-union, etc.

    Also, if Hillary, shopkeeper’s daughter was a Young Republican in High School, who cares?

    Re neo {liberal/conservative}, my impression is that neoconservative has mostly been used in the US to characterize generally right-leaning folk who believe (just like the die-hards on Vietnam) “that it is possible to democratize governments, anytime and anywhere”, while neoliberal is used mostly outside the US, where “liberal” tends to mean democracy/free market ideology.

    I’d also request some expansion on the statement that ‘Hillary’s lying is legendary’. Technically, yes, there are scores of legends about it, but I assume you didn’t mean that. Just a few more cases besides the Bosnian landing business which was recollected 12 years after the fact, and according to Christopher Hill who was there, the passengers on the cargo plane that took her there got a very over the top pep talk on the possible dangers including “possible snipers” as they were landing. Could it have been more of an impromptu embellishment that she regretted and promptly retracted the next day? So just a few more instances would be helpful.

    As for other things, that other people have said, I too am leery of the Clintons’ DNC Democratism which led to the sweeping away of much regulation whose absence contributed to the 2008 crash, and sending loads of free market fundamentalist economists to Russia to give them bad advice and pressure. Also of their entry into the “Junior Billionaires’ Club” in the years since 2000. But if it had been up to her, we would have had a health care plan like those of other western democracies 16 years before we got a somewhat mutilated and crippled one.

    Also, a couple of things were said by Clinton in the debate with Trump that might qualify assertions that it was a stupid spectacle; in particular derision of “Trickle down economics” and a clear statement that the ultra-rich should pay “their share” of taxes, and relating that to the value of “debt-free education”.

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  14. Mark, I like you and we have had some friendly exchanges, but I wonder whether some of your information sources are tainted, to some degree by systematically promulgated propaganda.

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  15. I’m confused with this piece, when I got to the end and the insinuations about Clinton’s health, even more so.

    “Hillary’s lying is legendary.”

    If Hillary’s is legendary, what hyperbole is left for Trump’s lying?

    “reminiscent of the sorts of lies that children often tell.”

    I wouldn’t call most of them lies, and definitely not like Trumps, he lies habitually and without remorse.

    “As I say, my main concerns regarding this election are geopolitical. Clinton’s general foreign policy orientation (and she has form on this front, remember) is dangerous in a different way from Trump’s. She represents continuity, while Trump represents discontinuity.”

    I don’t think that’s right, if I’d want to worry I’d do it more about Trump, if only because he hasn’t said much and what he has said isn’t very coherent:

    Moderator: “You have described at times different components of a strategy, Military, cyber, financial and ideological. Can you just expand on those four a little bit?” Trump: “Well, that’s it. And you know cyber is becoming so big today. It’s becoming something that a number of years ago, short number of years ago, wasn’t even a word. And now the cyber is so big. And you know you look at what they’re doing with the Internet, how they’re taking and recruiting people through the Internet. And part of it is the psychology because so many people think they’re winning. Any you know, there’s a whole big thing. Even today’s psychology — where CNN came out with a big poll. Their big poll came out today that Trump is winning. It’s good psychology, you know. It’s good psychology. I know that for a fact because people they didn’t call me yesterday, they’re calling me today. So that’s the way life works, right?”

    What?

    More on ISIS from Trump: “I will bomb the shit out of ISIS”

    On Iran: “Iran is a very big problem and will continue to be. But if I’m elected president, I know how to deal with trouble.”

    That sounds a lot like the same kind of simplistic analysis and bravado of past republican administrations, just more so.

    Meanwhile the Obama administration has restored relations with Cuba, Iran, and dropped the republican’s recent counter productive interventionism in South America.

    So again, on foreign policy I’d worry more about Trump’s direction than about Clinton’s.

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  16. Hal

    “[M]y impression is that neoconservative has mostly been used in the US to characterize generally right-leaning folk who believe (just like the die-hards on Vietnam) “that it is possible to democratize governments, anytime and anywhere”…”

    The term came to be used to describe a very specific bunch of people. One prominent neoconservative was Jeane Kirkpatrick from whose famous essay that quote (*critical* of trying to impose democracy willy-nilly) was taken. I was making the point that perhaps some of those old neocons like Kirkpatrick had more brains and subtlety than the people advising George W. Bush.

    On Hillary Clinton’s lies, did you read my second reference (to an op-ed in the Washington Post)?

    Regarding Alinsky on lying. My knowledge comes from a bit of (online) reading of Alinsky’s own writing some time time ago. I’ll check it again but I’m pretty sure that he openly advocated various forms of deception. I’m not saying he was an orthodox Communist but he was certainly radical and, I would have thought, clearly left-wing. (Noam Chomsky, for example, is known as a left-libertarian). I recall reading the Wikipedia article on Alinsky as it stood at the time and thinking that it played down the radical side of his thought. His father was a rabbi and I got the sense that his political commitments (like Chomsky’s) were driven by an almost religious passion for radical social change. Anyway I’ll post this now – and do a bit of checking soon. If I find anything that surprises me I’ll let you know.

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  17. Marc

    I am not denying that Trump also represents a dangerous choice but he has shown no signs of embracing the neocons’ ‘imperial’ vision of America’s role in the world.

    “… [T]he Obama administration has restored relations with Cuba, Iran, and dropped the republican’s recent counter productive interventionism in South America.”

    As I understand it, there are factions within the Obama administration, some (like Obama himself perhaps) not so committed to neocon-style policies, some more committed to hawkish intervention. I think the election of Hillary Clinton would give comfort to the latter group and there would be a policy shift in that direction. That is my fear and what – above all – motivated my essay.

    Regarding my “insinuations” about Clinton’s health (I would prefer the more neutral word ‘speculations’), her known medical history (I could talk about this if you like) is enough to raise serious concerns, I would have thought. Time will tell on this one.

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  18. Hi EJ, all I get from your comments is that you really hate Trump to the point that nothing hyperbolic could be said about his threat to the nation (and the world), that you like Clinton to the point you are willing to whitewash her past decisions and clear ambitions to power (which are equivalent to Trump in nature if not in tone and method), and that you deem anyone criticizing Clinton and/or not bashing Trump on every aspect as de facto arguing people should vote for Trump.

    I was especially baffled by a comment comparing Clinton to Trump: “Clinton has been fighting for recognition of her intelligence and capability for many decades…”, which you juxtapose against Trump’s single minded quest for personal financial power.

    Well here’s the thing, people recognized her intelligence and capability long ago, that’s how she got into office and later appointed to very powerful positions. If there ever was a fight for that recognition, it certainly hasn’t been over the last 20+ years. And once given power (which she has clearly coveted as much as Trump) she has made many mistakes, with devastating consequences, on both domestic and foreign policy. Thus whatever her intelligence and capability, she has created a body of work we can judge her capacity for an office, a concept of what she is likely to do. The outlook for her foreign policy is especially troubling.

    We can say that without endorsing Trump. In fact we have to say that particularly when not endorsing Trump, so that we don’t get in the dangerous mindset that his defeat means we have dodged the only bullet coming our way.

    Intriguingly, Clinton does not seem as pessimistic about Trump’s effect on the nation as you. As much as I agree he would be an embarrassment (which I argued is good enough for a person not to vote for him) I have yet to see any credible evidence he poses a threat to democracy. And I hope you were at least relieved to hear him state clearly he was against first-strike with nuclear weapons.

    Hope my response doesn’t seem to harsh. It just seems like you need to re-calibrate your feelings about Clinton v Trump a bit, so they both come back into some human spectrum.

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  19. Hi Hal, ” Could it have been more of an impromptu embellishment that she regretted and promptly retracted the next day?”

    Unfortunately, no. She doubled down and expanded over time, changing details as counter evidence was produced, eliciting further counter evidence to new sets of lies. That whole thing was really pretty strange.

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  20. Hi Dan, I really enjoyed your links, especially the blogging heads piece. I had not known much about Abrahms but he really stated my thoughts on this subject very well.

    Regarding realism as a foreign policy, I am unsure if I could embrace it fully. I see limitations on some issues (as Abrahms argued), and also believe there is evidence (not discussed in Walt’s article) that it can produce spectacular failures. Kissinger is an intriguing figure to me, because of his clear intelligence and experience, and yet he managed to lose credibility by holding to analytical solutions devoid of human compassion. While Walt can argue realism would have avoided some of the actions we took over the last 20 years, it seems clear that the threats we face (as a result of those actions) were set in place by realist policies during the Cold War.

    Basically it seems that we should have continued relatively realist policies given the effects prior realist policies had had on the world. Suddenly switching to liberal or neo-con methods undid the delicate balance created, as well as creating new problems of their own.

    I think I’d be a limited realist.

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  21. dbholmes

    Thanks very much for your contributions here. I haven’t yet got to that bloggingheads piece which Dan linked to and which you endorsed but I was particularly interested in your reservations about realism and listening to that interview will presumably give me a better idea where you are coming from.

    Looks like our views on foreign policy and the current threats are quite close; even so it’s always good to explore differences.

    Like

  22. Concerning Trump’s appeal, I said:
    “It is not good enough to rubbish nearly half the American electorate.”
    EJ replied:
    My fear is that the political motivations of many Americans – including many Clinton supporters – are both obvious and embarrassing.

    I am reminded of a friend’s favourite quotation – ‘it is obvious the obvious is not so obvious‘.

    I really think there is something else going on here. My line of thinking started when I read Dan-T’s comment that volunteers had know-how but not know-that. This brought to mind two memories:

    1) I was marching in our regiment’s winning drill squad during the annual inter-regimental drill competition, a keenly ‘fought’ affair. As we marched I marvelled at our perfect synchrony, precision and grace. It seemed so effortless, so natural and yet I, a participant, had no idea how we were doing it. Yes, we had practised endlessly and yet, at that moment, as we competed, I had no idea ‘how’ we were doing it.

    2) In our team of managers were men not at all competent or knowledgeable. And yet they had effortlessly won promotion while I had struggled for promotion through dint of hard work. Their teams naturally followed them to produce good work while I only got results through the intense demonstration of deep technical competence, unsurpassed dedication and the utmost sincerity. I had to win respect for my leadership while it was naturally granted to my far less competent and quite disdainful colleagues.

    What was going on here? And then I noticed something quite disturbing. The teams belonging to my incompetent ‘natural leader’ management colleagues produced work every bit as good as the work of my own teams. That crushed my sense of superiority!

    The drill squad example demonstrates that there is complex signalling between individuals that harmonise their actions without them even being fully aware of it. The management team example shows that the same signalling can be subconsciously marshalled by a leader to harmonise teams of people for some greater purpose.

    What both examples show is that a team impulse exists(some people call it tribalism) and that people naturally submit to the team impulse when a natural leader taps into important common needs. We can call these team impulses and leadership impulses. We need membership of a team and we need that the team should have leadership. These impulses are enabled by a complex set of low level signalling that today we still do not understand.

    What my management team example also shows is that quality of the outcome need not depend on the qualities of the leader. The leader must articulate clear goals that motivate team members and then give the members enough space to get on with the job.

    These impulses can operate on local, regional and national scales. Regardless of the scale, the impulses are still present.

    Just as ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ so too society abhors a leadership vacuum, or, in the case of America, weak leadership, typified by Obama. This creates space for stronger natural leaders to emerge and be attractive even if they have unattractive personal qualities. Clinton is perceived as being more of the same and similarly lacking in leadership qualities. Demagogues tend to naturally emerge, in times of great stress, in the space created by leadership vacuums. And so we have Trump.

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  23. And now I want to turn to an issue that will disturb my liberal colleagues. Is it possible that liberals have created the conditions that have created Trump? I think so and instead of self-indulgent orgies of condemnation they should rather be doing some honest soul searching.

    Liberalism, while admirable in so many ways, is prone to some crippling defects.
    1) They have an absolute, prescriptive view of the truth. They moreover believe they are the possessors, indeed guardians of that truth. This unshakeable moral certainty has three consequences:
    – they tend to behave with condescending hauteur;
    – they tend to prescribe their world view rather than negotiate it;
    – they tend to subject non-liberals to vicious condemnation(witness this and other discussions).
    2) As a consequence they tend to attack, with the intent of destroying, the values held dear by other groups(militant atheism is a good example).
    3) These behaviours have a grievously polarising effect that creates serious conflict(witness the culture wars).
    4) They naturally produce weak leadership. This is the result of valuing individual freedoms over all other values. Rampant individualism tends to repel strong leaders because strong leadership constrains individual freedoms in the pursuit of common goals.
    5) Weak leadership and rampant individualism creates space for exploitative behaviour, chief of which is the kleptocracy (witness the growing and extraordinary wealth gap).

    And then to this deadly cocktail another ingredient is added, the economic decline of America in the face of Far-Eastern competition. This adds economic stress to the internal stresses. Finally we have the military stress of failed foreign adventurism.

    Put all of this together and a new problem emerges, loss of self-confidence.

    Thus we have an uncertain, stressed and polarised nation with weak leadership. There is a longing for inclusiveness, certainties and confidence. In these conditions a strong leader becomes appealing, even if possessing unattractive personal qualities. Anybody will do if only they will take the helm of the ship, know where they are going, repel the hordes of boarders, make conditions more comfortable in steerage class and steer the ship to safety. Can Trump do this? I doubt it but a lot of people think so. Clinton seems likely to steer an overloaded ship with an overcrowded steerage class onto a Chinese reef while the crew parties. There the Chinese can bombard it at will, with the enthusiastic help of the Russians.

    But then who am I to criticise since I am on a leaky ship in the middle of an economic storm and half the crew are criminals! Please make a place for me on your ship! And in any case I have worked with the Chinese and rather like them.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Hi Labnut, while reading your last reply I felt like saying “and don’t forget modesty!” Thankfully you got to the point where your sense of superiority was crushed. 🙂

    These were interesting accounts and I generally agree with the argument you are making. I’m not so sure I’d say we “need” team membership, but I agree that individuals have personal instincts which drive them toward team follower or leader when entering into social arrangements.

    On your conclusion, I’m skeptical about society naturally abhorring a leadership vacuum. That is really cultural. Some societies (and that includes portions of US society) are resistant to leadership, abhorring strong leaders and desiring personal autonomy. The strong leader seems an authoritarian and so despised. Contrary to your claim Obama is weak, some (on the right and left) have seen him as authoritarian and growing too powerful… Clinton being the same.

    Though I totally agree that in times of great stress, more people come to desire strong leadership (solutions from outside, like having the cavalry appear) giving demagogues their chance for real power.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Hi Mark, thanks for the essay. I definitely recommend the blogging heads piece. They get to Abrahms’ problems with a full realist position toward the end, which are more limited in focus than what I brought up (but are enough).

    Like

  26. Hi DB,
    Thankfully you got to the point where your sense of superiority was crushed. 🙂

    Life conspires to cut us down to size(fortunately).

    Contrary to your claim Obama is weak, some (on the right and left) have seen him as authoritarian and growing too powerful… Clinton being the same.

    Being authoritarian and being a strong leader are different things. A strong leader has a clear sense of purpose, a vision, a mission; he can communicate that purpose to others; he can secure their buy-in and commitment; he can reconcile disparate factions and unite the body politic behind him. A strong leader can get results because he mobilises the populace to perform his will.

    By contrast authoritarian figures rely on the machinery of power to impose their will on others. Stalin was an authoritarian while Churchill was a leader.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Mark,

    “I am not denying that Trump also represents a dangerous choice but he has shown no signs of embracing the neocons’ ‘imperial’ vision of America’s role in the world”

    I think Trump shows his target audience what they want hear, it’s his job, just like for Trump university, he’s proud of conning people, he calls it “smart”. You want to hear no international intervention, then that’s where he’ll steer his audience.

    I wouldn’t find his lack of information on foreign policy reassuring, what does he even mean about Iran when he says “I know how to deal with trouble” … ; and neither has he shown signs of conning the middle and lower classes, officially he’s all “for the working man”, but when you look at what his economic policy actually says it’s about lowering taxes for the extremely rich and cutting services for the lower middle classes and the poor.

    “there are factions within the Obama administration, some (like Obama himself perhaps) not so committed to neocon-style policies, some more committed to hawkish intervention. I think the election of Hillary Clinton would give comfort to the latter group and there would be a policy shift in that direction. That is my fear and what – above all – motivated my essay.”

    Hillary? Obama’s number one diplomat? I don’t see why you’d be scared of her intentions. Look at her whole life work so far, and what she’s been involved in and what’s really been important for her. How could Trump be even slightly better? He’s the guy who wanted to beat up people who disagreed with him at his conventions like in “the good old days”.

    “Regarding my “insinuations” about Clinton’s health (I would prefer the more neutral word ‘speculations’), her known medical history (I could talk about this if you like) is enough to raise serious concerns, I would have thought. Time will tell on this one.”

    Yeah, I wished I’d said “allusions” right after I posted that, but I can go with speculation too.

    Like

  28. Labnut, in his most recent remarks, reminded me of (and exemplified) a subject I’ve been mulling over for years, maybe decades – which is why do people “always” (figuratively speaking – “scarequoting” myself) form bipolar understandings of societal problems, for example right vs left, black vs white, elite vs “regular people” Islamic vs Western, academic vs “straight-talking”, Christian vs Demonic, Rational vs Irrational, Mets fan vs Yankee fan, nerds or goths vs jocks…?

    To complicate matters, and obscure or cast doubt on my thesis, people frequently hold more than one bipolar position, and perhaps one reason so many people are not “true believers” is that we have several of these swimming around in our heads, keeping (for the time being) any one from taking over ones passions. But with years of trying out this set of optics for seeing the world, I am convinced that it is very real, and merely obscured (and even tempered) by our ability to multiply bipolarisms.

    Though I’ve singled out Labnut in this instance, this thing has such a tight hold on all of us, that in trying to escape it, one it apt to say something like “There are two kinds of people in the world, people who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and people who don’t”, and, by trying to be one of the latter, making oneself one of the former.

    [it’s quite a bit like Russell’s paradox which is in turn quite a bit like Ayn Rand’s #1 epistemological principle via which she “objectively proved” her extreme bipolarism “EXISTENCE EXISTS”. It is in both John Galt’s long rant, and in her small book “Objectivist Epistemology”. I’ve never tried very hard to see how she derives a philosophy from this, but she really did proclaim it as the #1 key to understanding (that, to put it otherwise, the set of all things existing belongs to itself).]

    Many of the most dangerous people for society *are* fixated on some ONE such bipolar distinction and work very hard to get other people aligned with them. Actually, some such aren’t so ‘fixated’ but are sociopaths who have figured out the usefulness of this mode of thought for getting a group of followers, already mentally prepared for easy manipulation, to line up behind oneself. I suspect this is the only social strategy strong enough to dupe people into freely giving away their freedom. Every totalitarian genius I can think of used this technique brilliantly.

    Maybe this “bipolarism” should be seen as a meta-cognitive concept, or maybe an “attractor” that exerts constant pressure on our thinking. I might suggest our notions of cognition sit on top of bipolarism, and other qualities and tendencies that we tend not to see. Human nature, because we are immersed in it, is much like “water to the fish”, as has been said.

    Bipolar “common sense”:
    * There are two sides to every issue.
    * You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.
    * You’re either with us or against us.

    Another meta-cognitive principle could be that (1) a given set of beliefs, and (2) the set who hold those beliefs, tend to look like “transforms” (somewhat like Fourier transforms) of each other. The group embodies the ideology, and/or the ideology organizes the group. I’m pretty sure the embodiment aspect is the stronger driver of the partnership (it is, or course, closer to physicality). We tend to form good/bad poles even when there is no question of ideologies. Especially in attitudes towards sports. That we often cheer for our local team is not so surprising, but the very prevalent tendency to designate an “archenemy” team (kind of like the way superheroes are matter-of-factly endowed with archenemies) might be a consequence of whatever drives this meta-cognitive principle.

    What’s it like to NOT be bipolar?

    It’s really difficult to see something that’s part of our seeing mechanism. Take for example, another hidden principle: “Iconify everything”, which people have to be trained out of in order to become good at drawing, especially drawing people. One of the tricks in _Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain_ is to turn a photograph of a person upside down and draw it. It subverts our way of “knowing” what we’re looking at. Until you try this, if you have no drawing ability, you say to yourself “There’s the eye” then look down at the paper and draw what you think an eye looks like. You “know” where the nose belongs w.r.t. the eye, and soon you are drawing a really bad cartoon. With the photograph turned upside down, you see lines and areas of dark and light that don’t have iconic significance and try to hold their shapes in your mind., or try to look simultaneously at a line and your hand on the paper to reproduce the slant. The result tends to look like a realistic person made of clay that has had various parts stretched oddly.

    Bipolar “common sense”:
    * There are two sides to every issue.
    VS how many sides there are to an issue depends on how you parse it, and there are almost always more than one legitimate or useful way to parse it in order to get different insights.
    * You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.
    VS resist the temptation to parse people up like a “division of parliament” and iconifying the problem as the contrast between those to “kinds” of people, look at the problem itself. Is it really a problem? Have we defined it well or badly? Are we failing to carve reality at the joints?
    * You’re either with us or against us.
    VS again, don’t look so much ts the people you instantly imagine being “for” or “against”, and try to properly dissect the objective and continually question it. Very likely most people don’t even have a dog in this fight. E.g. Saddam Hussein didn’t care one way or another about extreme Islamist’s Manichean Holy War with the western “Satan”. If a chance came along he might try to use it in some way. Neither the South Vietnamese government, no the North Vietnamese were truly “with us nor against us”, so no wonder that was such a mess. In the Cold War I think we’d have done well to enlarge the neutral zones, and stop escalating proxy wars all over the place. The current dangerous state of the world IMO a direct result of our doing that.

    Now, to emphasize how little I consider Labnut and myself “two kinds of people”, let me say you contributed one of the most interesting and useful things to this conversation, an attractive definition/declaration of what political “realism” consists of, as opposed to the usual bipolarist tendency to not do define realism, but just know that it means people who think like me. People of all sorts of tendencies have congratulated themselves on their “realism”, including Karl Marx, who was easily sent into paroxisms of ridicule by thoughts of “utopian socialists”.

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  29. Hi Marc Leveseque, while I understand people running down Trump, I am still not getting why Clinton is being treated with kid gloves.

    “Hillary? Obama’s number one diplomat? I don’t see why you’d be scared of her intentions. Look at her whole life work so far, and what she’s been involved in and what’s really been important for her. How could Trump be even slightly better?”

    But I have (and it seems Mark has too) considered her whole life’s work so far, what she’s been involved in, and what’s really important for her. So did Abrahms in the link Dan provided, and so have neocons who have come out in support of her. We are stating what her body of work and interests indicate she would likely pursue in office (policy and mechanism).

    Your statement makes me curious what you think her work, interests, etc have been (outside of the glittering generalities)? Nothing we have said regarding the facts of her past actions is controversial. She is a known hawk and was in disputes with Obama (yes even while being his secretary of state) because she was pushing more militarily aggressive actions to solve problems.

    Abrahms does a nice job in the video explaining what problems Trump might avoid, given his lack of ideology, compared to Clinton… which is not to say he comes free of problems.

    Given that you cite Trump’s idiotic comments which make him look like a thug, what did you make of Clinton’s gleeful remarks about the killing of Gaddafi? I’ll provide a link to a (ughhh…) Fox News piece which is interesting because it is an interview which shows her reaction to her bizarre gloating, as well as her rose-colored (neo-con) vision for the future of Libya. That it is Fox is besides the point, it is her words we need to be concerned with.

    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BVDZhOWE9o)

    Was she right about the future of Libya post military solution? And was her non-apology for mocking Gaddafi’s death satisfactory to you… in some way different than the thuggish attitude expressed by Trump? If so, one either of these, how?

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  30. Hi Hal,
    you made a very interesting comment.

    Though I’ve singled out Labnut in this instance

    That’s OK, even my name is bipolar – ‘lab’ and ‘nut’.

    ‘Them’ is the opposite of ‘Us’ and thus we are naturally bipolar. To make sense of the world it is necessary that we categorise and generalise. The simplest form of categorisation is bipolar and so we use it a great deal, but often bipolar categorisation conceals more than it reveals. Hence it is a dangerous habit, as you point out.

    The ‘Us’ vs ‘Them’ categorisation is the most dangerous distinction of all. We usually know much about ‘Us’ but know far less about ‘Them’. Knowing far less about ‘Them’ leads us to fail to recognise vital distinctions, and more importantly, fail to recognise their motivations. Misjudging the motivations of ‘Them’ is a potent source of conflict.

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  31. Labnut: We usually know much about ‘Us’ but know far less about ‘Them’.

    Often we think we know a lot about ‘them’ (and spend a lot of time elaborating what we “know”), while we think of ourselves as just, well, transparent.

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  32. Hi Db,

    “I am still not getting why Clinton is being treated with kid gloves.”

    That surprises me, maybe it has to do with different national biases, I’ve had the impression from major American networks and print media, that Trump is being treated with kid gloves and Hillary is being hounded on inconsequential matters. That’s what I’m responding to. But it’s true that from Canadian Media most of what I’ve seen is all about Trump’s faults, and pretty much nothing on Clinton.

    “Your statement makes me curious what you think her work, interests, etc have been (outside of the glittering generalities)?”

    I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t referring to her foreign policy involvement but to things like this “fought to increase research funding for prostate cancer and asthma at the National Institute of Health (NIH)” / “At the Department of Justice, she helped create the office on Violence Against Women” / “She cofounded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families” / “She worked with Ted Kennedy to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program” / “instrumental in working out a bi-partisan compromise to address civil liberty abuses for the renewal of the U.S. Patriot Act” / and the Clinton fondation “promoting economic equality for women, boosting entrepreneurship in emerging markets and tackling climate change — it is perhaps best known for its health care initiatives across the world” more specifics here: http://fortune.com/2016/08/27/clinton-foundation-health-work/ ,

    and based on things like that I was comparing her character to what we can deduce about Trump’s character based on activities and business ventures, because I think Trumps character is all we have to go on to evaluate him on foreign policy. Like Wright in the video Dan linked to, I think Trump is a complete “wild card” on foreign policy, and I find Abrahm’s comments on Trump few words on foreign policy interesting but not enough to give me a useful impression of how Trump would actually perform. This link kind of covers it for me: http://forward.com/opinion/345734/4-ways-president-donald-trump-would-be-israels-worst-nightmare/

    “was her non-apology for mocking Gaddafi’s death satisfactory to you… in some way different than the thuggish attitude expressed by Trump? If so, one either of these, how?”

    I’d never seen that short out of context clip of her between takes responding to an off camera journalist’s comment with: “we came, we saw, he died”. It is disturbing, I’m not sure she’s mocking Gaddafi’s death, I’m not justifying her comment but how is that worse than Trump’s repeated not so subtle promotion of violence, on camera and in front of crowds, or his repeated public denigration of women and minorities — even if in his mind he’s only doing it to gain votes. For that, and the reasons above, I don’t see anything that leads me to believe that Trump is any more likely to be less interventionist than Clinton.

    I’m not suggesting who to vote for, I still hope Clinton has learned more since Lybia, but of course I can’t know for sure, and like for Trump, I can make up ‘reasonable’ scenarios where her presidency is related to a deterioration of international relations.

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  33. Hi Marc L, in that case you seem to be unfairly criticizing Mark by changing the subject which was foreign policy.

    Regarding her domestic policies Clinton has also largely been a disaster*, but I would say likely better than what Trump promises. The debate (if anything) showed a crucial difference in (at least stated) domestic economic policies, where Trump was clearly out to lunch (on the taxpayer’s dime).

    I don’t think there’s a question that Trump would be a wild card on foreign policy (or any policy). That’s why I commented above that this race gives us a choice between an evil we know and an evil we don’t. People seem to be going hysterical over the one we don’t know, while glossing over the one we do. Regardless that Trump might make worse decisions, he does not have a track record of actual, disastrous, failure. And the nature of the known failures should be of great concern… even if you want to pull the lever for Clinton.

    The link you provided was an analysis pertaining to Trump’s potential for Israel. Not quite sure how that is relevant for most voters. In discussing Trump’s “volatility” it claims that he is not against using nuclear weapons, as if that were bad. And? The same is true for Clinton. They have from all appearances the same nuclear policy, except that he uses different “tough guy” language than she does (sometimes ranging into doofus level sounding ignorance). Thus the difference is about tone, not policy.

    Why do you think she wasn’t gloating about Gaddafi’s death? That’s the “he” she was talking about being killed (then laughing). This is known and in the clip I provided (which gives context) she does not deny it was about him. And her excuse was what? That she didn’t know how he was being killed (or something)? Anyway, whose death could have placed that into a context it was not chilling? I did not claim it was worse than Trump, but I don’t see it as being any better than him.

    If I wanted to draw a distinction I suppose I would point out that there is a difference between a known clownish blowhard engaging in braggadocio including casual threats of violence, and a person who normally exhibits (and touts) a calm, rather cold intellectual demeanor happily joking about someone they were actually responsible for killing (and then laughing at that joke).

    You hope she learned from Libya, but if she engaged in that after having failed to learn from Iraq, I’m not exactly inclined to believe that. For all the people claiming that she can learn I’d love to see evidence of anything she has learned, other than to change her stand when political winds change (which is used as a negative for Trump).

    *On Hillary’s domestic policies… the list you provided does not give me much comfort, especially having made “fixes to” the Patriot Act since she supported it. In any case it’s doubtful a pro-Clinton site will go on about her support for laws which have devastated black communities (along with propagating the clearly racist “super-predator” concept of young black men), laws discriminating against gays and bisexuals (along with touting their “threat” to straight marriage), bad trade policies, etc… which is not to mention the horrible effects her foreign policies have had (particularly the Iraq War) on the domestic front.

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  34. I reread the link I gave to forward.com. One thing I’m not for is the ‘status quo’, like the death and suffering in Syria, where the level of destruction and civilian casualties is extreme, and another hospital in Aleppo was just bombed; and I don’t think the bellicose attitudes from all sides have been helping, I hope things change, and that lessons have been learned from Iraq and Libya.

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  35. DB,

    “you seem to be unfairly criticizing Mark by changing the subject which was foreign policy”

    I’m not sure what you mean specifically but I consider Mark’s references to Clinton’s health and ‘lying’ opened the field.

    “Regarding her domestic policies Clinton has also largely been a disaster”

    I really made a mess of my point, I was trying to refer to her personal character, though I realize now, and with the help of one of your examples, that a ‘good’ character doesn’t imply good political actions.

    “Regardless that Trump might make worse decisions, he does not have a track record of actual, disastrous, failure”

    Too much hyperbole for me.

    “The link you provided was an analysis pertaining to Trump’s potential for Israel. Not quite sure how that is relevant for most voters”

    I understood him saying that instability can be expected from Trump on US foreign policy in the middle east.

    “Why do you think she wasn’t gloating about Gaddafi’s death? That’s the “he” she was talking about being killed (then laughing).”

    I was referring to the fact we don’t know what came before or what the journalist said to which she replied “we came, we…”

    “I did not claim it was worse than Trump, but I don’t see it as being any better than him”

    I agree, that’s basically what I said.

    “You hope she learned from Libya, but if she engaged in that after having failed to learn from Iraq, I’m not exactly inclined to believe that. For all the people claiming that she can learn I’d love to see evidence of anything she has learned, other than to change her stand when political winds change (which is used as a negative for Trump)”

    I think we agree there too. people can change their mind, and of course it can be legitimate too rather than opportunistic.

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  36. Mark,

    On foreign policy, other the paragraphs on Clinton’s truthfulness and health, I think you raised a lot of good questions.

    Like

  37. Thanks Marc. But let me just say a couple of things about the character and health issues.

    You seem to have a positive view HRC’s character and motivations. I have a negative view, as it happens, but this is subjective. You would have to know her personally to make a firm judgment, I think, but it looks to me as though you are bending over backwards to defend her (you put ‘lying’ in quotes; and you seemed to resist accepting that she was joking and gloating over Gaddafi’s death).

    I concede that by alluding to her reputation for lying I was questioning her character. My piece was indeed “politically charged” (as ejwinner said) and not just straight political analysis. I was writing more in op-ed than academic mode. That said, I think all my substantive claims are quite defensible and in accordance with the facts.

    Finally, unlike the question of lying (which involves moral and other judgments), the question of her health is a *purely factual* matter. It should not be a taboo topic. We don’t have all the facts. But the facts we have are very concerning. She has a history of fainting, blood clots (including cerebral venous thrombosis), and falls. She had a major fall (in late 2012) which caused concussion and which took at least six months to recover from. Her doctor has said she is on Coumadin (warfarin) a heavy-duty anticoagulant – which in itself can have dangerous side effects (e.g. intracranial bleeding, hemorrhagic stroke). Concussion itself can cause long-term damage.

    I raised the health issue because I see it as compounding the dangers of her general foreign policy orientation. You’d have to agree that *if* a head of state with executive power has major health issues (especially if they impact on brain function) then this increases the risks of bad outcomes. But this is one risk factor which can easily be minimized. Which is why the issue is a legitimate one. Tom Brokaw said recently: “I think that she should go to a hospital, see a neurologist, and get a clean report if it is available to her.”

    Why not? (Of course, she has her own specialists but she keeps most of this private, as is everyone’s right – *under normal circumstances*.)

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  38. I would trust a candidate who goes out to run a marathon. Every candidate should be required to publish how many km they run per week and candidates who run less than 50 km per week should be disqualified. !00 km per week earns them 5 extra electoral points while 150 km per week earns them automatic election.

    Yes, it is just a tongue in cheek proposal but it points to an important factor. Running is an efficient screen of health and an indicator of certain desirable personality traits. It boosts mental health and brain health, the things we should be worried about in a candidate. I certainly would look closely at the running history of a candidate before voting for her/him.

    It is time that ‘running’ for office took on a real meaning 🙂

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  39. Hi Marc L, ok so we agree on some of these points. 🙂

    Just to be clear I jumped into the convo between you and Mark based on a reply you gave to a quote that was on foreign policy, not the lying and health stuff. I’ll place it below so you see context…
    …………..
    “there are factions within the Obama administration, some (like Obama himself perhaps) not so committed to neocon-style policies, some more committed to hawkish intervention. I think the election of Hillary Clinton would give comfort to the latter group and there would be a policy shift in that direction. That is my fear and what – above all – motivated my essay.”

    Hillary? Obama’s number one diplomat? I don’t see why you’d be scared of her intentions. Look at her whole life work so far, and what she’s been involved in and what’s really been important for her. How could Trump be even slightly better? He’s the guy who wanted to beat up people who disagreed with him at his conventions like in “the good old days”.
    …………….

    So I thought you were criticizing Mark’s assessment of foreign policy, and I’d argue trying to bring up domestic issues and character would be switching topics.

    “Too much hyperbole for me.”

    I don’t understand this. If you named every major foreign policy failure of the last 16 years (at least) that have turned into disasters for the US (economically and/or cost of lives) and perhaps more so the nonUS people meant to “benefit” from our actions, Clinton was a supporter of them all. Unless you can come up with some evidence she didn’t (name one she did not support) then I’m not sure how you can claim what I said was hyperbolic.

    It’s like my saying the handling of hurricane Katrina by the Bush administration was an absolute, disastrous, failure. That’s not hyperbole. It is sadly accurate.

    “I was referring to the fact we don’t know what came before or what the journalist said to which she replied “we came, we…””

    Ok, this really baffles me. Although we don’t have the clip of what immediately came before (what the journalist said) it is widely known, and accepted by Clinton, that she was referring to the death of Gaddafi. What reason is there to have a doubt about this?

    More importantly, outside of “Have you heard any offensive jokes about the death of Mr X?” what could the journalist have asked, or who could she have been asked about, that would put her response in some sort of neutral or positive context?

    I suspect if Trump had said this there would be no doubt what he was talking about and how absurd and repulsive it was.

    I feel somewhat confident with that claim based on these amusing clips (they are pretty funny) of democrats forced to confront positions or comments by Clinton versus Trump. The only “context” that seems to matter is who they like, not the position or comment taken.

    ‘Trump tax plan great if from Hillary’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsxXty6vEBA

    ‘Trump quotes great if from Hillary (note guy responding to position on gay rights)’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzC-l7tovFk

    ‘Guess if Trump v Clinton (After all of the trashing of Trump here, note Clinton’s actual statements on Iran (use of nukes/war), women, and immigration)’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5nSvFvHZx0

    That last one is a treasure trove. Watching Clinton supporters spin when confronted with the reality of their candidate is amusing. That this would be true for Trump supporters as well is without doubt.

    Finally, on the question of character, Hillary appears not to have any concerns about Trump’s character and considers such attacks as something beneath her (of course back in 2015).

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  40. To editors, I don’t know why my last link showed up as a full video/image. It was meant to be a bare URL link. If I wanted any of them to be a video it would have been the third one. If that can be corrected, that would be great. Though I suppose the Trumps and Clintons having fun together makes a great picture near end of commentary for Mark’s piece.

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