By David Swanson
This past Sunday, crime thriller author John Grisham hosted a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in my town. I talked with a lot of the people attending. Some said they supported Clinton because they wanted to keep troops in Iraq. But most were there because they opposed Bush and Cheney's policies on Iraq. Who was confused, and who was not? Or could they both be right?
Among the protest posters at the event: "You and Rupert Murdoch are raising $ for the same candidate." That message seemed to disturb people. Did they have the wrong candidate, or did Murdoch? Or could they both be right?
Earlier that day, Clinton had appeared on every single Sunday morning television talk show. She had announced that she would vote against any more money for the occupation of Iraq. Surely the peace movement should chalk up a victory, and anybody backing Clinton because they like the war is going to have to "change course," right?
But let's look a little more closely. Clinton said she will vote against funding unless she sees Bush change direction in Iraq. That's vague enough to allow her to vote for funding again if it's needed. In fact, there is substantial evidence that Clinton plans to vote Nay on war funding only if she's sure the bill will pass. She has never yet talked about ending the occupation in 2007 or 2008. She only talks about ending it in 2009 as president, as if only presidents can end wars, as if Congress has no role. Even so, she is always very careful to talk only of "starting" to end it in 2009. She says she'll "bring the troops home," but very carefully avoids ever saying "all the troops."
Ted Koppel reported on NPR several weeks back that Senator Clinton's military advisor said she plans to still occupy Iraq at the end of her second term, should she be elected. She has never disputed this. As far as I know no member of our intrepid journalistic community has ever asked her about it.
Ok, you say, but how can Congress end the occupation? They'd have to have 60 votes to get past a filibuster and 67 votes to override a veto.
Actually, no. The fact that your television says something over 800 times just doesn't make it true. The Democratic leadership in Congress, which very closely follows Senator Clinton's lead, could announce tomorrow (and could have announced nine months, several hundred troops, and tens of thousands of Iraqis ago) that there will be no more bills to fund the occupation, only bills to fund withdrawal or to fund the actual reconstruction of Iraq by Iraqis. Blocking any bill to fund the occupation of Iraq requires 41 senators, not 51, not 60, and not 67. It requires 41, because the filibuster is not a tool available only to Republicans. We've already seen 28 senators vote for a bill to end the occupation. Getting from 28 to 41 would not be hard, with a little leadership. The problem is that you'd lose some of the 28 you now have, if you asked them to take a step to actually end the occupation, not just to put on a show of "opposing" the occupation.
Rahm Emanuel has told the Washington Post that the Democrats are best off keeping the war around until November 2008. Numerous congressional staffers have told me that the Democrats are best off keeping the war and Bush and Cheney around until November 2008. Several have told me that the major influence on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discouraging her from taking up impeachment is Senator Clinton. Others have told me that the reason the National Organization for Women flipped from backing impeachment to opposing it was the influence of Clinton and Pelosi on NOW president Kim Gandy. I've not seen NOW joining in any anti-war events this year, as in previous years, either. Even Code Pink has taken a step back from protesting Clinton, arguing that she now opposes the war – although a local Code Pink chapter led Sunday's protest.
Let's look at the record. Clinton voted for the invasion of Iraq and then voted many times to fund the occupation. She raised money last week by charging war industry lobbyists $1,000 each to dine with her and the congress members and congressional committee chairmen who handle their issues. Even MSNBC's Chris Matthews referred to this as "pimping." When Clinton attempted to speak to progressives about Iraq at the 2007 Take Back America conference, she blamed the Iraqis for our occupation of their country and was completely shocked when people booed her, yet she still this week referred to the occupation as a civil war, and to the civil war as the reason to leave. She has been unable to identify a single item she would cut from the pentagon's budget. And her position on Iran indicates that the reason she's never apologized for her votes on Iraq is that she hasn't learned anything yet. Clinton refuses to take any option "off the table" with regard to Iran, including launching another illegal aggressive war, and including using nuclear weapons. That would seem to me to be setting the bar outrageously low and having her still fail to clear it.
And, yes, Clinton has raised money at a fundraiser hosted by leading war promoter and Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch – perhaps the single individual who has done the most damage to our public communications other than Clinton's husband Bill who gave us the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Murdoch clearly sees Clinton as the Democrat most friendly to big media's dreams of further consolidation, as the Democrat most friendly to war, and as a ratings boon because of the hatred the right has for her.
The trouble is that the left is none too fond of her either. Her husband managed to get elected with a charming personality and a big assist from Ross Perot, but his corporate friendly policies helped reduce the ranks of Democrats in Congress, state legislatures, and state houses. While Hillary Clinton now talks a good line on the occupation of Iraq, she doesn't even try on NAFTA, on single-payer health coverage, or on the influence of corporate lobbyists. And the better she talks on Iraq, the bigger the contrast will be when her Republican opponent buys time on the airwaves for video clips of the speech she made when voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq.
I've heard people say "The Clinton years were the good years," comparing Bill Clinton's presidency with that of George W. Bush. Nonsense. The 230 years prior to Bush were the good years. Every president before him now looks like a saint. And the damage he is doing is being done with a big assist from Congress. He has over a year left to do it in before any election.
Whether or not you are committed to voting for whatever candidate the Democratic Party nominates, we are now in the primaries, the purpose of which is to make sure that nominee is the best candidate possible.