Wednesday,25 April, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1318, (3 - 9 November 2016)
Wednesday,25 April, 2018
Issue 1318, (3 - 9 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The grubby war between Clinton and Trump

Who is the more repugnant, Trump or Clinton? This is the question American voters are being asked to decide in the US presidential elections, writes Jeremy Salt

Al-Ahram Weekly

Is Democratic Party US presidential elections candidate Hillary Clinton a nasty person? Yes, probably, seeing as she meets many of the definitions of nasty.

Is Hillary Clinton a woman? Yes. So it seems reasonable to call her a “nasty woman,” but when her Republican Party opponent Donald Trump did just that, instead of being politically correct and calling her a “nasty person,” he came under heavy shellfire from celebrity females, pop stars and politicians in the US, who rushed into print or before the cameras to declare defiantly that they were also nasty women.

Deceit and dishonesty are deeply ingrained in Clinton’s character.  She lies or dissimulates effortlessly. She has a laminated personality, built up layer by layer over the decades. Who knows what lies at the core? Perhaps nothing: Perhaps lamination is all she is.

What she says she is, the evidence indicates, is not what she really is. She talks endlessly of defending women and girls yet has a long record of hurting them when it suits her purposes. Early in her career as a lawyer she defended a man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl, arguing that the girl had “a tendency to seek out older men.” Later she recollected, laughing, that she had had the man take a polygraph test: He passed, “which forever destroyed my faith in polygraph tests,” she said.  

She abused Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern during her husband’s presidency, as a “narcissistic loony tune,” which Lewinsky may/may not have been – the whole point being to abuse and discredit the intern her husband had used his position to exploit.

She voted for the 2003 war on Iraq in which countless numbers of women and children were killed.  She was one of the architects of the attack on Libya in 2011, which ended with the same result as Iraq – dead women and children all over the place. She is still arguing for an air war on Syria, despite the 300,000 dead so far, countless numbers of women and children, needless to say, among them.  

Her many residences include the pocket of the Zionist lobby in the US: She intends to take US-Israeli relations to the “next level” whatever future horrors that will turn out to mean.  She justifies Israel’s slaughter of men, women and children in Gaza: It is not Israel that has provoked the Palestinians through 70 years of occupation, dispossession, and theft, but the Palestinians who provoke Israel by striking back with the occasional rocket, she claims. It is Hamas, not Israel, that is really responsible for their deaths.

So, yes, she has expressed her support for women and children everywhere, except in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine or wherever else they really need to be defended from the aggression coming from the Clinton stable of friends and allies.

As US secretary of state she visited Tripoli in October 2011 and said she “looked forward” to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi being captured or killed: After seven months of a pulverising air war on their country by the US, the UK and France she said that Libyans had to renounce violence. She cackled when the news came through that Gaddafi had been murdered, exclaiming “we came, we saw, he died.” Only a sociopath would find murder amusing.

She has threatened to “obliterate” Iran. Leaked documents reveal that she knew long ago that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. We know from a US Defence Intelligence Agency memorandum stating that the establishment of a Salafi state in eastern Syria would suit America’s interests why she and US President Barack Obama went along with funding the organisation they publicly excoriated. They were covertly supporting it, too.

The atrocities it was committing could not be allowed to stand in the way of destroying the Syrian government. It was a tool they could not do without. This is the reality behind Clinton’s pretence of fighting terrorism, of destroying the Islamic State and “taking down” its so-called caliph. Doesn’t all this add up at least to nastiness?

Clinton’s shoddy record goes all the way back to the time when she was the governor’s consort in the US state of Arkansas. Her nastiness poked through in the debates with Trump when, deceitfully and dishonestly, the former supporter of Republican Party presidential elections candidate Barry Goldwater become a latter-day McCarthyite by raising the Russian card. She then pledged that if elected US president she would declare a no-fly zone over Syria. One of America’s top generals had just said that this would mean war with Syria and Russia, but what is a top general’s opinion to Hillary Clinton when she wants to ignore it for political purposes?  

There is no evidence that Russia hacked her emails, as some in the US press have been saying, only politically-loaded speculation, but Clinton needed to take attention away from what these emails contained, so she lied and added to the lie by saying Trump was Putin’s puppet. The media sucked it up.

It was Trump who argued against war, Trump who was saying that the trillions spent on foreign wars was needed at home (and which American could honestly deny that?) and Trump who wanted to sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin and sort things out. It was Hillary who argued for more war on Syria, who talks of ringing China with the US military as well as taking on Russia, and is still regarded by the international media as the best person to replace Obama in the White House.

A WOMAN PRESIDENT: The London Guardian newspaper recently ran an editorial saying it was time for a woman to be US president.

Well, it is always time for a woman president anywhere, but surely she has to be a good woman, a good person, displaying the same characteristics as a good man? Hillary Clinton’s dismal record shows that she falls well below the bar.

She has made the most of Trump’s remarks about groping women when her husband did more than grope them. Taking advantage of his power and authority former US president Bill Clinton assaulted women who caught his eye whenever he had the chance. He greeted one woman, Paula Jones, at the door of his hotel room with his pants down. He had sex with intern Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office in the White House, the symbol of the dignity of the office of the US president. Then he lied about it. This behaviour is clearly unacceptable.

This was part of the grubby inner reality of the Clinton presidency, only part because a lot more was involved, and how did the feminists of the time react? The US magazine Vanity Fair once printed a round table discussion between US feminist Erica Jong and several others. They thought Clinton was “a hunk.” They liked a man who was “a man from the waist down.”

But it was not just this tittering group giving Bill a free pass. Most of the leading figures from the bra-burning feminist generation of the 1960s and 1970s in the US defended Clinton and vilified his accusers. They completely sold out on what were supposed to be their principles. The class element was significant. These feminist icons were all white, well-educated and well-placed, with open access to the media, whereas who and what was Paula Jones? Trailer trash, badly dressed, poorly educated and poorly spoken.

So we move on to 2016 and the past has to be forgotten and covered over. Of course, Bill Clinton’s failings belong to him, but Hillary covered up for him: Was she standing by her man or protecting her own long-term political interests? Now we get Trump’s talk of groping women. Hillary is openly disgusted, as she should be and should have been when her husband was engaging in this very behaviour himself. Of course, it is pathetic, especially for a man of Trump’s age, to be talking like this, as a man of 70 – not that Trump could have expected his stupid and sleazy talk in the back of a bus to hit the headlines one day.  

The accusations floating up from the past as if by coincidence, in the middle of a presidential election campaign, involve women Trump claims he has never met, including the prostitute who was shocked and horrified by Trump’s offering her $10,000 if she would just come to his hotel room for a little while.

The salacious sex talk has been used to shut out everything else. US comedians have had a field day. One, Stephen Colbert, is amusing and smart, but in lampooning Trump and leaving Hillary alone, or mocking her in the most gentle way, so that people may only like her more, he has acted as the court jester of the political establishment.  

Never before has a political candidate in the US been subjected to such venomous assaults by the media as has Donald Trump. Never before has the US media revealed itself for what is, not just the fourth estate, not just an extra arm of government, but as the arm of the political establishment that always prevails behind the government. The media along the spectrum has vilified Trump day-after-day for months while shielding Clinton from exposure of her grubby past. This is what Trump should have spelled out when he said the election was rigged.

On business Trump knows what he is talking about. He is a billionaire, after all, but at least he is honest about who he is and who he represents besides the people who will vote for him. Asked about tax avoidance he responded with pleasure. He is proud of not paying tax.  He’s not breaking any law. This is what the law allows people like Trump. It’s only the poor and what is left of the middle class that have to pay taxes in the United States. The mega wealthy have an army of accountants and lawyers on call to minimise their tax bills or evade payment altogether.  

The loopholes are not there accidentally but have been put in place deliberately to favour the wealthy. Clinton, on the other hand, pretends to be in there battling for the small businessman and the average Joe or Joanna, when her real clientele is Wall Street and the defence industry. There has been little discussion of the financial scandals associated with the Clinton Foundation, arising from the exploitation of disaster relief and the special favours given to their wealthy friends. On this subject as well as every other one, the media gives Clinton a free ride.

On foreign policy Trump appears clueless. But Clinton is no better, though she does know how to press the right buttons and satisfy the folks back home, i.e. the neo-cons, the arms lobbyists and the scribblers at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. On Palestine they are as bad as each other. Trump started well by telling Jewish Republicans in the US that he didn’t need their money (stunned silence from his audience), but soon caved in and promised to support settlement expansion on the West Bank and recognise Jerusalem as the Zionist settler state’s capital.  

On other Middle East issues Trump’s ignorance showed through at every turn, not that it would have mattered had he been more on the ball, given the way the so-called moderator in the second US presidential debate, Martha Raddatz, shouted him down with her propaganda version of what has been happening in Syria.

TRUMP VS CLINTON: Trump gropes women, or wants to grope them. Clinton does not just grope countries, she rapes them.  

The countless number of men, women and children who were killed in Libya or have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe were simply grist to her political mill.  She played a central role in the destruction of Libya. She lied over the death of the US ambassador in Benghazi in the events after 2011 just as she had lied over Iraq, claiming that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and supported Al-Qaeda.

The fact that others lied just as massively does not excuse her: After it was all over she explained that she had made a “mistake” and moved on. She led the charge against Syria and knows more civilians are going to die if a no-fly zone is declared, but this is still what she wants. The civilians who will die are expendable, the cost Clinton never has to pay for her aggression. Yet, it is Trump whom the media depicts as the only villain of the piece, Trump the groper and the Putin appeaser, not Clinton, the proven warmonger and destroyer from a safe distance of other countries and other people’s lives.

So who is more repugnant, Trump or Clinton, Trinton or Clump? Which one is the least bad? These are the calculations many Americans are making, desperate that in a country of 320 million people these two deeply soiled individuals are the best candidates produced by the political machinery. The women coming out for Clinton don’t see it like this, of course.  Clinton is not even to be compared with Trump. How can anyone even think of putting Trump in the White House? A good question, perfectly matched by how can anyone, male or female, think of putting Clinton in the White House, knowing what they should know of her record.  

Clinton strikes many people as being as mad or a cut snake, but for her supporters, deluded when they are not self-seeking (like Elizabeth Warren, the congresswoman from Massachusetts, who is clearly fishing for a high place in a Clinton administration), she is female and that is apparently more important than every serious national and international issue they should be taking into account when contemplating a Clinton presidency.

The writer has taught at the University of Melbourne, Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara, specialising in the modern history of the Middle East.

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