Former English teachers probably shouldn’t be allowed to vote in presidential elections. Those Shakespeare characters keep getting in the way. Some things are inevitable. The younger Bush was bound to be Prince Hal, the heavy drinker and general goofball who got sober and became the heroic Henry V giving that “band of brothers” speech just before the Battle of Agincourt, rallying the troops go out there and win one for England – except George Bush with his bullhorn, standing in the smoking rubble in lower Manhattan, shouting out that we’d get the guys who’d done this, and then a few hours later saying now go shopping or else the terrorists have won, wasn’t exactly the same thing. We didn’t get the guys who did this either – we got Saddam Hussein for some reason – although people did go back to shopping. Obama got that Osama fellow, finally, long after that mattered much at all. There were new bad guys by then, worse ones – there always are. The parallel falls apart. The drunken wastrel, always getting in fights, even with his own father, the previous king, gets his act together and becomes the next wise king. The next-wise-king thing didn’t work out in this case.
Hillary Clinton, however, has always had a bit of Lady Macbeth about her. Everyone remembers Lady Macbeth. She was a ball-buster, telling her thoughtful and careful husband that even if those three witches prophesized that he would become the King of Scotland, he couldn’t just sit around and wait for that to happen. He had to DO something. She told him, over and over, to man-up and just go murder the current king, Duncan – that’s what real men do. She wore him down and he finally did just that, and then she nagged him into arranging the murders of people who knew too much or who just might be a bit pesky. A lot of people die in that play, but if you want power, and want to hold onto power, then lots of people have to die – that’s just the way it is. Those who live will fall in line. They’ll understand what’s going on. Perhaps Lady Macbeth was the first neoconservative.
That play is a tragedy of course – Macbeth is wracked with despair and guilt and Lady Macbeth commits suicide (offstage) – but that was just Shakespeare tacking on a happy ending, where the bad guys get what’s coming to them. Their consciences always catch up with them. Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost and all that, but that sort of thing has little to do with the real exercise of power, even the exercise of power for good. Harry Truman was never visited by the hundreds of thousands of ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some things have to be done. That’s the nature of power. America led the world after that. The judicious application of death, or the fear of death, is leadership. Lady Macbeth understood that, at least for four of the five acts of that play.
Hillary Clinton also understood that as far back as July 2007:
Barack Obama’s offer to meet without precondition with leaders of renegade nations such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran touched off a war of words, with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton calling him naive and Obama linking her to President Bush’s diplomacy.
Older politicians in both parties questioned the wisdom of such a course, while Obama’s supporters characterized it as a repudiation of Bush policies of refusing to engage with certain adversaries.
It triggered a round of competing memos and statements Tuesday between the chief Democratic presidential rivals. Obama’s team portrayed it as a bold stroke; Clinton supporters saw it as a gaffe that underscored the freshman senator’s lack of foreign policy experience.
“I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive,” Clinton was quoted in an interview with the Quad-City Times that was posted on the Iowa newspaper’s website on Tuesday.
In response, Obama told the newspaper that her stand puts her in line with the Bush administration.
There was a great deal of back-and-forth on this idea that it is irresponsible and naïve to just talk to these folks. They need to fear you first. Make demands. If they don’t meet them, they’ll be damned sorry. Put the fear of death in them – not that she put it that way. But that was implied. She was saying that Obama just didn’t get it, and the next April it was this:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton warned Tehran on Tuesday that if she were president, the United States could “totally obliterate” Iran in retaliation for a nuclear strike against Israel.
On the day of a crucial vote in her nomination battle against fellow Democrat Barack Obama, the New York senator said she wanted to make clear to Tehran what she was prepared to do as president in hopes that this warning would deter any Iranian nuclear attack against the Jewish state.
“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran (if it attacks Israel),” Clinton said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,” she said.
This was a continuation of the same argument. As president, she might negotiate with Iran, or she might not, but they should know she was ready to wipe out every man and every women and child there, and leave the place a desert of glowing radioactive sand-turned-to-glass if they did anything stupid, or even thought of it. She wouldn’t hesitate. That’s why people should vote for her, because everyone knows that the judicious application of death, or the fear of death, is real leadership. Dick Cheney said so. No, wait – she didn’t mention Dick Cheney. She was just doing her Lady Macbeth thing.
Obama wasn’t impressed. He suggested this sort of talk wasn’t very useful – it tends to make the other side angry and harden their position and then make similar parallel threats – and Obama won his party’s nomination because enough Democrats had heard this sort of thing from Cheney, and Bill Kristol and all the neoconservatives, and knew where that had gotten us. Hillary Clinton had also voted to authorize the Iraq War and she never could quite apologize for that vote. It just wasn’t in her. That’s not how she understands geopolitics. That is, however, how John McCain understands geopolitics – war or the threat of war works wonders – and he lost to Obama too. Macbeth may have listened to Lady Macbeth, but that was his problem.
That was settled, and the final irony was that Obama named Hillary Clinton his secretary of state. She had do things his way, seemingly reluctantly, which might be the reason no one remembers one single big thing she did as secretary of state. Those years before she was replaced by John Kerry must have been interesting. No doubt she often told Obama to man-up. No doubt he nodded and thanked him for her suggestion, and then ignored her. He’d see the Shakespeare play.
Presidents do, however, have to leave after eight years, and now it’s her time to try again, and she’s reverting to type:
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton blamed the rise of Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria on failures of US policy under President Barack Obama, in an interview published Sunday.
Clinton specifically faulted the US decision to stay on the sidelines of the insurgency against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad as opening the way for the most extreme rebel faction, the Islamic State.
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad – there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle – the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton told the Atlantic.
Clinton, widely considered an undeclared presidential candidate, was an unsuccessful advocate of arming the Syrian rebels when she was secretary of state during Obama’s first term.
She told him to arm these guys. This is all about who kills whom. He wouldn’t listen, so now she’s gone public, and so has Obama:
In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, President Barack Obama defended his administration’s foreign-policy approach in the Middle East. In Syria, Obama said the idea that arming rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy.”
The president, though not mentioning his former secretary of state by name, said such a plan was unlikely to work and was never going to happen.
“This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards,” the president said.
Yeah, well, Clinton told the Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic otherwise:
As she writes in her memoir of her State Department years, Hard Choices, she was an inside-the-administration advocate of doing more to help the Syrian rebellion. Now, her supporters argue, her position has been vindicated by recent events.
Professional Clinton-watchers (and there are battalions of them) have told me that it is only a matter of time before she makes a more forceful attempt to highlight her differences with the (unpopular) president she ran against, and then went on to serve. On a number of occasions during my interview with her, I got the sense that this effort is already underway. …
Of course, Clinton had many kind words for the “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful” Obama, and she expressed sympathy and understanding for the devilishly complicated challenges he faces. But she also suggested that she finds his approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good.
Lady Macbeth told her cautious husband some folks had to die, but as those three witches had said, some things were meant to be, which Hillary Clinton puts this way:
You know, we did a good job in containing the Soviet Union but we made a lot of mistakes, we supported really nasty guys, we did some things that we are not particularly proud of, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, but we did have a kind of overarching framework about what we were trying to do that did lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism. That was our objective. We achieved it.
Some folks died, folks who shouldn’t have died, but what are you going to do? Achieve the objective, and Goldberg gets her to focus on the importance of the objective:
At one point, I mentioned the slogan President Obama recently coined to describe his foreign-policy doctrine: “Don’t do stupid shit” (an expression often rendered as “Don’t do stupid stuff” in less-than-private encounters).
This is what Clinton said about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
She softened the blow by noting that Obama was “trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy,” but she repeatedly suggested that the U.S. sometimes appears to be withdrawing from the world stage.
She might be saying you have to be a bit crazy, even murderously crazy, if you want to lead the world, or she might not be saying that:
During a discussion about the dangers of jihadism (a topic that has her “hepped-up,” she told me moments after she greeted me at her office in New York) and of the sort of resurgent nationalism seen in Russia today, I noted that Americans are quite wary right now of international commitment-making. She responded by arguing that there is a happy medium between bellicose posturing (of the sort she associated with the George W. Bush administration) and its opposite, a focus on withdrawal.
“You know, when you’re down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward,” she said. “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.”
I responded by saying that I thought that “defeating fascism and communism is a pretty big deal.” In other words, that the U.S., on balance, has done a good job of advancing the cause of freedom.
Goldberg forgives all, and there’s also this:
I asked her if she believed that Israel had done enough to prevent the deaths of children and other innocent people.
“Just as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians,” mistakes are made, she said. “We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are – and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position – that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.”
It does? But let that be, and consider this:
She also struck a notably hard line on Iran’s nuclear demands. “I’ve always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment,” Clinton said. “Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded. There is no such right. I am well aware that I am not at the negotiating table anymore, but I think it’s important to send a signal to everybody who is there that there cannot be a deal unless there is a clear set of restrictions on Iran. The preference would be no enrichment. The potential fallback position would be such little enrichment that they could not break out.”
When I asked her if the demands of Israel, and of America’s Arab allies that Iran not be allowed any uranium-enrichment capability whatsoever were militant or unrealistic, she said, “I think it’s important that they stake out that position.”
So there you have it. She’s a neoconservative Lady Macbeth, although Andrew Sullivan puts it this way:
So far as one can tell from her interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, there is no daylight between her and John McCain or even Benjamin Netanyahu – but a hell of a lot of space between her and Barack Obama. The interview confirms my view that she remains neo-conservatism’s best bet to come back with bells on. It appears for example that her boomer-era pabulum about foreign policy on the Jon Stewart show – “We need to love America again!” – was not an aberration. She actually means it. And once we believe in ourselves again – don’t look at that torture report – it will be back to the barricades for another American century of American global hegemony. And why not start in Syria and Iraq? I mean: she’s already hepped up about the threat of Jihadism – and what could possibly go wrong this time? If only we believe in America!
Just forget that this country destroyed its military deterrence and its moral authority by the war that Clinton favored and has never fully expressed remorse for. Forget the trillions wasted and the tens of thousands of lives lost and the brutal torture we authorized and the hapless occupation that helped galvanize Jihadism, let’s just feel good about ourselves! And do it all again!
And so try and find a real difference between John McCain and Hillary Clinton on these topics. It’s certainly the same “fight them over there so we don’t fight them over here” fear-mongering.
Yeah, she went there:
One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States. Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’être is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank – and we all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.
Sullivan isn’t buying it:
Well, actually, their raison d’être is not to be against the West. Right now and for the foreseeable future, it is about defeating the apostates of Shia Islam and wimpy Sunni Islam. It’s about forcing other Muslims to submit to their medieval authority – with weapons left behind from the last American interventionist project. The West for these Jihadis is a long, long way away. But not for Clinton or for McCain who see every struggle anywhere as involving the US because … America! And that’s when you realize how fresh Obama was and how vital he has been – and how in foreign policy, a Clinton presidency is such a threat to his legacy.
And then there’s Israel:
Among those most eager for a return of the past is, of course, Benjamin Netanyahu. And you see in the interview with Goldberg how closely Clinton’s views mirror his. She hits every single neocon talking point: the Israelis have no responsibility for the killing of hundreds of children because “there’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict … So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.” That’s almost a paraphrase of the Israeli prime minister or Joan Rivers (take your pick of the nuance artists). You can almost feel the love between her and Goldberg in getting back to the good old days when Israel could never do any wrong, and our job was to keep throwing aid at it and pretending they’re not building ever more settlements. Almost all criticism of Israel is about anti-Semitism, after all. And Clinton even backs Netanyahu’s recent dismissal of a two-state solution! Yep: she’s not just running to succeed Barack Obama, she’s running against him.
And yes, that would be Hollywood’s red-carpet-queen, Joan Rivers:
A week ago, Joan Rivers told a TMZ news crew that she was perfectly fine with wiping out Palestine. This morning, she continued opining about Israel, but then took it into uncharted territory:
“We now don’t count who is dead,” she declared, saying it was “good” that thousands had died. “If you’re dead, you deserve to be dead. You started it.”
In her opinion, Hamas, which governs the Gaza strip, was “re-elected by a lot of stupid people who don’t even own a pencil.” Rivers then exploded when the cameraman asked her about the high mortality rate in the current conflict. “Go back to the atomic bomb and what we did in Japan. You don’t start wars and then decide ‘I’m sorry.'”
“They were told to get out, and if you don’t get out, you’re an idiot. At least the ones who were killed were the ones with low IQs.”
That’s what Hillary Clinton was saying, without the nuance. Joan Rivers – Joan Alexandra Molinsky – doesn’t do nuance, but she’s not running for president. Sullivan is more concerned with the woman who is:
Clinton’s position is Netanyahu’s. And that’s important to understand. If you want a United States with no daylight between it and any Israeli government, whatever that government may do, vote for Clinton. If you want someone who believes the Libya intervention was the right thing to do, vote for Clinton. If you think America’s problem is not torture or drones or destabilizing occupations but that we don’t tell the world how great we are enough, vote for Clinton. If you really long for 2003 again, vote for Clinton.
She may be the only option – if the GOP nominates a full-bore pro-torture neocon. But isn’t it amazing that after the catastrophes of the Bush-Cheney era, both parties could effectively be running neocons for the presidency in 2016! Welcome to Washington – where the past is always present, amnesia is a lubricant, and the leading Democrat is running as a neocon.
Actually, she’s running as Lady Macbeth – or Dick Cheney in drag in some sort of La Cage aux Folles (“the cage of mad women”) thing – but either way this might be a play you don’t really want to see again. Everyone knows how things turn out. One’s a tragedy and the other’s a farce. Obama, however, will be gone in 2016, and Elizabeth Warren won’t run, and the Republicans, who don’t want the Hispanic vote, or the black vote, or the women’s vote, or the youth vote, or the urban vote, or pretty much any votes but those of the Deep South, don’t stand a chance. Hillary Clinton is it, and it will be tragedy or farce, or both – but we’ve been here before. We’ll deal with it. We have no other choice.