Vladimir Putin and Syria: What I’m reading, March 17, 2016 (updated)

Updated for a critique of Hillary Clinton’s alleged feminism in the New York Review of Books and an assessment of the Republican strategy of obstructing President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court by Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo.


Syria

Alexander Titov, “Why is Putin Really withdrawing from Syria?” Informed Comment, March 17, 2016, http://www.juancole.com/2016/03/why-is-putin-really-withdrawing-from-syria.html


Islamic State

Elise Labott and Tal Kopan, “John Kerry: ISIS responsible for genocide,” CNN, March 17, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/17/politics/us-iraq-syria-genocide/index.html


Supreme Court

Greg Sargent floats a scenario in which Barack Obama withdraws his nomination in the event that Hillary Clinton wins the general election, on the theory that if indeed voters should have a say, she should be permitted to (assuming she would) nominate someone more liberal.[1] I think how plausible this is depends on your view of how ‘liberal’ Clinton is. The Political Compass pegs her in 2016 as even farther to the economic right than Obama in 2012 (figure 1) albeit not so authoritarian.[2] I perceive her as neoconservative and probably, in actuality, even farther to the authoritarian right (along both axes) than Obama. She would be less authoritarian than Republicans on abortion, but in accepting “a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother,”.[3] and otherwise being beholden to Wall Street,[4] really only marginally so. Either way, I think she would be completely comfortable with Merrick Garland.

Overlay of political compass charts from 2012 and 2016. Original images from Political Compass, as of January 27, 2016, combined by David Benfell, fair use.
Fig. 1. Overlay of political compass charts from 2012 and 2016. Original images from Political Compass, as of January 27, 2016, combined by David Benfell, fair use.

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall, the editor at Talking Points Memo, thinks that

the need to block an Obama appointment was seen as having such total importance that something that to be tried. And this was the best, though not very good, plan. Also, Republican partisans and operatives push for this seemed impossible to resist. Who knows how it plays out? But at this point, just one day in it’s not holding up well at all.”[5]

We shall see.

David M. Herszenhorn, “Some Senate Republicans Will Meet With Supreme Court Nominee,” New York Times, March 16, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/17/us/politics/supreme-court-merrick-garland-senate.html

Josh Marshall, “The Importance of ‘The Three Nos,'” Talking Points Memo, March 17, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-importance-of-the-three-nos

Greg Sargent, “How Obama could get last laugh in Supreme Court fight,” Washington Post, March 17, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/03/17/how-obama-could-get-last-laugh-in-supreme-court-fight/


Hillary Clinton

Emails have come to light which further illuminate Hillary Clinton’s situation with regard to her email server. It seems that these messages “show a 2009 request to issue a secure government smartphone to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was denied by the National Security Agency.”[6] The NSA denied the request because “[t]he current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State, and is very expensive.”[7] “‘These documents show that Hillary Clinton knew her BlackBerry wasn’t secure,’ Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, said Wednesday. ‘The FBI and prosecutors ought to be very interested in these new materials.’”[8] But, to be fair, such infrastructure was made available to Barack Obama and was apparently deemed a lower priority at the State Department. Clinton was, apparently, “relian[t] on her BlackBerry for email and keeping track of her calendar . . . [and] chose not to use a laptop or desktop computer that could have provided her access to email in her office.”[9] The NSA’s response was, itself, not very user-friendly and, I think, damning. It hardly seems fair to deny her this request and then blame her for dealing with email in a way she found comfortable. On the other hand, as Jonathan Turley has written repeatedly, information coming out of her office should presumptively have been considered classified and that does mean living with some restrictions.[10] I’m not a lawyer but I’m guessing the way this would be interpreted legally is that the government’s failure to accommodate Clinton’s request means that it is jointly negligent with her and that she is no less negligent for handling her email the way she did.

Meanwhile, Douglas Schoen served in Bill Clinton’s administration so his comment on Hillary’s problem with likely voter participation might be a bit more interesting than the usual Wall Street Journal strongly Republican functionalist conservative bias. Here’s the money line: “According to the latest WSJ/NBC News poll, . . . 56% [of registered voters] said they could not see themselves supporting her in the general election.” Despite this, Schoen thinks “Mrs. Clinton remains the favorite to win in November,”[11] which is pretty much now the standard pundit reading given Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.

But there’s a huge difference between the Clinton and Trump candidacies. Clinton runs on entitlement, panders to progressives in a bid for trust, and is ludicrous in imagining that as a woman, the neoconservative former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State can’t be an establishment figure. Trump, on the other hand, earns trust from authoritarian populists and some social conservatives by bashing the establishment, appealing to the paleoconservative tendency, and generally being “politically incorrect.” People may not like him and he may not deserve trust, but he wins that trust anyway while Clinton reinforces her untrustworthy image through “triangulation.” As Schoen puts it, “Mr. Trump will have the advantage of a candidacy with clear themes, fueled by a deep-seated anger with Washington and party elites. By contrast, Mrs. Clinton hasn’t put forward a compelling rationale for her candidacy or a coherent message.” Schoen acknowledges that “given how unpredictable Mr. Trump’s fortunes have been in the primary season, there is no telling how a general-election campaign might play out.”[12]

Trump thus not only exploits a longer-term widespread and widening distrust of Democrats but reinforces a sense that while he may be evil, at least with a Republican, voters “know” what they are getting.

Michael Biesecker, “Emails Show Clinton Sought Secure Smartphone In 2009, Was Rebuffed By NSA,” Talking Points Memo, March 17, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/hillary-clinton-sought-secure-smartphone-after-rebuffed-by-nsa

Zoë Heller, “Hillary & Women,” review of Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works, by Jay Newton-Small, and My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency, by Doug Henwood, New York Review of Books, April 7, 2016, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/04/07/hillary-women/

Douglas E. Schoen, “Hillary the Shaky Favorite,” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/hillary-the-shaky-favorite-1458169079


Donald Trump

Here is someone else who thinks what I think about what will happen when (if) the Republican Party indeed nominates Donald Trump for president: “‘They’re all going to get behind Donald Trump,’ [Rudy] Giuliani said. ‘Here’s one thing we’re united about — we do not want Hillary Clinton as president of the United States.’”[13] But I do think Giuliani exaggerates about Republicans being all united about this. From what I can see, some neoconservatives might well cross party lines to support the neoconservative Hillary Clinton. Will such neoconservative resistance make a difference? I suspect not; I think neoconservatives are most numerous within the military-industrial complex and intelligence community—this kind of influence is disproportionate to their share of the voting population and may not amount to much in the general election.

Meanwhile, once again, Jonathan Turley chooses alleged freedom of speech over any kind of sensitivity to subaltern concerns. Here, he continues his theme on “the increasing intolerance on the left for conservative and controversial speech” in which Adrienne Foster, the director of the Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission apparently supports Donald Trump and some (rare) Democratic Kansas legislators have called for her resignation.[14] Turley writes that he

can well understand such feelings but it is shocking to see lawmakers seeking to punish someone for her political views. People can disagree about Trump, even with the hispanic community. I do not believe that different political views diminish an organization but rather shows its strength and diversity. I cannot imagine that these legislators would want such a political litmus test applied to them in participating in commissions or groups.[15]

Turley acknowledges the Kansas legislators’ (accurate) statement that “Donald Trump has described Latin American immigrants as being killers, criminals, drug dealers and rapists, has called for the building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and has even praised the beating of a Latin American man by his supporters”[16] but refuses to understand that Foster’s support for Trump clearly demonstrates her unsuitability to represent Hispanic interests on a commission that at face value, appears intended to do just that.

Adrienne Foster, via Jonathan Turley, March 17, 2016, fair use.
Fig. 2. Adrienne Foster, via Jonathan Turley, March 17, 2016, fair use.

My guess is that Foster’s job is, in any event, safe in Kansas, the subject of Thomas Frank’s now-classic exploration of authoritarian populism and its relationship with functionalist conservatism.[17] From her photograph (figure 2), it’s reasonable to suspect that Foster is another example of a member of a subaltern group who gains and enjoys privilege by supporting wealthy white patriarchy. I’ve noticed this more often with Blacks, such as Barack Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Herman Cain, and Bill Cosby, but it should not be surprising in other groups as well. Certainly, this pattern applies as well to Hillary Clinton, the neoconservative establishment candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency. Such people should be regarded as traitors; they undermine not only their own groups’ interests, but the interests of all subaltern groups.

Caitlin MacNeal, “5 N.C. Deputies Disciplined For Not Intervening In Assault At Trump Rally,” Talking Points Memo, March 17, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/deputies-disciplined-trump-rally-punch

Nolan D. McCaskill, “Spokesman: RNC would support Trump ‘100 percent,'” Politico, March 17, 2016, http://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-gop-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/03/sean-spicer-donald-trump-gopination-220943

Jeff Stein, “Harry Reid: Republicans’ ‘moral cowardice’ created Donald Trump,” Vox, March 17, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/3/17/11254638/harry-reid-donald-trump

Times of Israel, “Sheldon Adelson on supporting Donald Trump: ‘Why not?’” March 17, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/sheldon-adelson-on-supporting-donald-trump-why-not/

Jonathan Turley, “Kansas Hispanic Commission Director Faces Calls To Resign For Supporting Donald Trump,” March 17, 2016, https://jonathanturley.org/2016/03/17/kansas-hispanic-commission-director-faces-calls-to-resign-for-supporting-donald-trump/


The Horse Race

Maggie Haberman and Michael D. Shear, “Obama Privately Tells Donors That Time Is Coming to Unite Behind Hillary Clinton,” New York Times, March 17, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/us/politics/obama-hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders.html


Bernie Sanders

Eric Bradner, “Clinton wins Missouri Democratic primary as Sanders concedes,” CNN, March 17, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/17/politics/sanders-concedes-missouri-to-clinton/index.html

Footnotes

  1. [1]Greg Sargent, “How Obama could get last laugh in Supreme Court fight,” Washington Post, March 17, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/03/17/how-obama-could-get-last-laugh-in-supreme-court-fight/
  2. [2]Political Compass, January 27, 2016, http://politicalcompass.org/
  3. [3]Hillary Clinton, quoted in Emily Crockett, “Clinton and Sanders were asked about abortion. Their answers weren’t the same,” Vox, March 9, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/3/9/11181870/clinton-sanders-abortion-questions-fox
  4. [4]Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick, “Wall Street Offers Clinton a Thorny Embrace,” New York Times, July 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/us/08wallst.html; Nick Confessore and Jason Horowitz, “Hillary Clinton’s Paid Speeches to Wall Street Animate Her Opponents,” New York Times, January 21, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/22/us/politics/in-race-defined-by-income-gap-hillary-clintons-wall-street-ties-incite-rivals.html; James Downie, “Hillary Clinton’s unbelievable defense of Wall Street contributions,” Washington Post, November 15, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2015/11/15/hillary-clintons-unbelievable-defense-of-wall-st-contributions/; Matea Gold, Tom Hamburger, and Anu Narayanswamy, “Clinton blasts Wall Street, but still draws millions in contributions,” Washington Post, February 4, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/clinton-blasts-wall-street-but-still-draws-millions-in-contributions/2016/02/04/05e1be00-c9c2-11e5-ae11-57b6aeab993f_story.html; New York Times, “Hillary Clinton Botches Wall Street Questions,” November 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/16/opinion/hillary-clinton-botches-wall-street-questions.html; Janell Ross, “Hillary Clinton invoked 9/11 to defend her ties to Wall Street. What?” Washington Post, November 15, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/11/15/hillary-clinton-invoked-911-to-defend-her-ties-to-wall-street-what/
  5. [5]Josh Marshall, “The Importance of ‘The Three Nos,'” Talking Points Memo, March 17, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/the-importance-of-the-three-nos
  6. [6]Michael Biesecker, “Emails Show Clinton Sought Secure Smartphone In 2009, Was Rebuffed By NSA,” Talking Points Memo, March 17, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/hillary-clinton-sought-secure-smartphone-after-rebuffed-by-nsa
  7. [7]Donald R. Reid, quoted in Michael Biesecker, “Emails Show Clinton Sought Secure Smartphone In 2009, Was Rebuffed By NSA,” Talking Points Memo, March 17, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/hillary-clinton-sought-secure-smartphone-after-rebuffed-by-nsa
  8. [8]Michael Biesecker, “Emails Show Clinton Sought Secure Smartphone In 2009, Was Rebuffed By NSA,” Talking Points Memo, March 17, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/hillary-clinton-sought-secure-smartphone-after-rebuffed-by-nsa
  9. [9]Michael Biesecker, “Emails Show Clinton Sought Secure Smartphone In 2009, Was Rebuffed By NSA,” Talking Points Memo, March 17, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/hillary-clinton-sought-secure-smartphone-after-rebuffed-by-nsa
  10. [10]Jonathan Turley, “Inspector General: Clinton Emails Contain Special Access Material Above The Top Secret Level,” January 20, 2016, http://jonathanturley.org/2016/01/20/inspector-general-clinton-emails-contain-special-access-material-above-the-top-secret-level/; Jonathan Turley, “State Department: 22 Emails Will Not Be Released As ‘Top Secret,’” January 29, 2016, http://jonathanturley.org/2016/01/29/state-department-22-emails-will-not-be-released-as-top-secret/
  11. [11]Douglas E. Schoen, “Hillary the Shaky Favorite,” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/hillary-the-shaky-favorite-1458169079
  12. [12]Douglas E. Schoen, “Hillary the Shaky Favorite,” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/hillary-the-shaky-favorite-1458169079
  13. [13]Times of Israel, “Sheldon Adelson on supporting Donald Trump: ‘Why not?’” March 17, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/sheldon-adelson-on-supporting-donald-trump-why-not/
  14. [14]Jonathan Turley, “Kansas Hispanic Commission Director Faces Calls To Resign For Supporting Donald Trump,” March 17, 2016, https://jonathanturley.org/2016/03/17/kansas-hispanic-commission-director-faces-calls-to-resign-for-supporting-donald-trump/
  15. [15]Jonathan Turley, “Kansas Hispanic Commission Director Faces Calls To Resign For Supporting Donald Trump,” March 17, 2016, https://jonathanturley.org/2016/03/17/kansas-hispanic-commission-director-faces-calls-to-resign-for-supporting-donald-trump/
  16. [16]Jonathan Turley, “Kansas Hispanic Commission Director Faces Calls To Resign For Supporting Donald Trump,” March 17, 2016, https://jonathanturley.org/2016/03/17/kansas-hispanic-commission-director-faces-calls-to-resign-for-supporting-donald-trump/
  17. [17]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005).

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