|Bush / Clinton|
by Julian X  /  non-fiction  /  9 Jan 2008
Let’s be perfectly clear what’s at stake here. Bush has pushed the United States towards an unconstitutional authoritarian government where power is openly constituted by the rich. Any President, whether Democratic or Republican, must reverse Bush’s policies if the nation is to survive in the form we love.
Bush and Cheney have argued for the unitary executive, exerted executive privilege, and attempted to raise the President to unconstitutional levels of power. Bill Clinton asserted executive privilege too and lobbying for the line-item veto, granting the President powers the Supreme Court quickly declared unconstitutional.
Bill Clinton argued in court that the President couldn't be sued while in office. He didn't even go to Congress or the United Nations before waging war.
Bush has refused to respond to subpoenas and his administration has turned the Department of Justice into a party machine, purging the competent but disloyal and replacing them with unqualified party hacks. Quasi-legal arguments have proliferated: Cheney declared that he was immune from executive orders because the Vice-President isn't a member of the Executive branch.
Bill Clinton didn't stoop to gutting the Department of Justice, but he refused subpoenas as well. Remember the files that the Clinton administration refused to turn over for months, then claimed were found sitting on a nightstand? Remember Clinton lying under oath, then claiming his response depended on the definition of "is"? He was a lawyer and knew better; he had his law license suspended as a result.
Bush has held fewer press conferences than any President before him in the age of TV. He's shut out members of the press when they ran stories against him. He's credentialed unqualified right-wing reporters while refusing access and interviews to real reporters.
Hillary Clinton, after promising to reintroduce herself to the American public, has shut out reporters from her campaign, refusing interviews even to local reporters. Her campaign has been admired by observers for its astounding level of control over the press. Instead of seeing this as a continuation of Bush-style politics, this has been spun as electability.
Bush has taken us into a quasi-legal war using cherry-picked intelligence, ignoring the facts, and demonizing his slightest opponents as unpatriotic, in favor of terrorism, and against the troops. When Democrats have talked about withdrawing funding for the war – the means provided to Congress under the Constitution – Bush said that, rather than use whatever money would be left to bring the troops home, he'd happily strand the troops in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, fighting without bullets or supplies.
Hillary Clinton prominently endorsed the war in Iraq – not because she believed in it, but because she cynically thought it would position her well for her run for President in 2008. She has subsequently refused, again and again, to apologize for her vote or even claim, in retrospect, that it was a mistake. In her typical fashion of saying different things to different audiences, she has told liberal audiences that she would quickly pull out of Iraq while telling moderate audiences that she would keep troops there for the foreseeable future.
Bush has been known for his vicious attacks upon political opponents. Running in 2000, his campaign orchestrated an independent group coming forward and asking whether John McCain's black child, which he adopted, was a secret love child with a black woman. From his Texas campaigns onward, Bush cronies have played the lowest sort of politics, focusing on racism and homophobia. While his surrogates were slurring his political opponents, Bush smiled and claimed no responsibility.
Prior to the Iowa caucuses, Hillary cronies attacked Obama, enumerating the number of Muslims in his family while claiming innocent motives. Other cronies brought up Obama's use of cocaine in youth – something he confessed in print years before. Clinton smiled and claimed innocence. In response to reports that she was ambitious, long planning to run for President, Clinton's campaign issued a press release attacking Obama for wanting to be President, listing essays he wrote in kindergarten and second grade. Hillary had miscalculated: it wasn't her ambition that was the problem, but the feeling that she had cynically tooled her positions accordingly – charges easily believed about Hillary but not about Obama. Clinton's campaign quickly claimed the press release was a joke, astounding reporters who had read the actual press release.
But Bush attacks have gone further, actually repeatedly claiming that a victory for the Democrats would mean more terrorist attacks and more American innocents dead. After losing the Congress to Democrats in 2006, Bush was asked in a press conference how he could work with the same Democrats he had said were unpatriotic and dangerous; his response was that these statements were made in a campaign – that, essentially, they meant nothing, and that this is merely how politics is played. Other Republicans have followed Bush's lead by claiming the election of Democrats means more terrorism. Rudy Giuliani, campaigning for the Republican nomination, has repeated these charges over and over.
After losing in Iowa, Hillary said that the United States would be attacked if it elected Barack Obama. It's no coincidence, she said, that Britain was attacked shortly after changing Prime Ministers. As if fanatic Muslim terrorists wouldn't want to test a female Commander-in-Chief – as with Bush, logic doesn't matter in the wake of the most base exploitation of fear. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have claimed again and again that Obama is untested, asking implicitly how he would respond to another 9/11.
Bush used 9/11 to push through hard-line Republican bills that had nothing to do with terrorism. He let Enron literally write environmental legislation. He has used the war in Iraq as a windfall for independent contractors like Halliburton while the troops go years without body armor or armored vehicles, without adequate pay or medical care. He has been an eager supporter of tort reform to hurt lawyers, who generally support Democrats, and to help insurance companies, who finance his campaigns. He joked at a fundraiser dinner that the "haves and the have-mores" were his base.
While all candidates receive corporate donations, Barack Obama has raised money largely from small contributors. Hillary has gotten her money from large contributors, including insurance companies. Having helped ruin Bill Clinton's attempt to socialize medicine early in his administration, she now supports mandating that all citizens purchase health insurance – a huge windfall for insurance companies in the guise of universal healthcare.
The Bush administration has openly advocated torture in defiance of international laws, U.S. treaties, and the Constitution. Cheney has advocated the 1% doctrine: that a 1% chance of terrorist attack, however theoretical, justifies preemptive invasion. Independent contractors in Iraq have been given legal exemption, allowing them to kill civilians repeatedly and escape prosecution. Prisoners, some taken because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, have been interred without trail, tortured, and denied attorneys. When lawsuits challenge these practices, the administration has delayed and obstructed, preventing lawyers access to their clients. When the courts seem on the verge of ruling finally against such practices, the administration has changed the detainees' classification at the last minute – thus preventing a legal decision that would apply as precedent and ensuring more years of obstructed litigation.
Bill Clinton never attempted such abominations, but Hillary's true stance on them – given how much she changes her positions – remains unclear. What seems clear is that power corrupts and that whoever takes the Presidency after Bush must be someone who can resist such temptation. Since we can't ensure this, it would at least be nice to have someone who we can trust, preferably who has staked his entire political career on turning the page on the Bush administration.
The last eight years have seen titanic levels of political corruption and outright illegality on the part of the President and his administration. The 2000 Presidential elections were quasi-legally determined by the Supreme Court in favor of a candidate openly opposing counting the ballots and asserting that Florida could declare whoever it wanted the victor without legal recourse. The President has since used the Department of Justice to indict Democrats running for office and to advocate for voter rights only where it helps Republicans. Meanwhile, consistent questions remain about voting machines with no paper trails, controlled by corporations owned by Republicans. These machines conveniently swung towards Bush in 2004 about 5% more than exit polling showed – and exit polling has been used internationally to overturn corrupt election results.
These threats to the very continuation of democracy in the United States of America necessitate that we must ask, above all else, which candidate has the best chance of resisting and reversing this corruption once in office.
In truth, we never know exactly how any candidate will act once elected. Instead, we have to ask who we most trust to oppose the special interests and rise above petty partisan politics – not just because we’re sick of the recent partisan tone, but because those politics have corrupted the instruments of our government to such a degree that their continuation, in anything but name only, is in jeopardy.
I do not mean to equivocate between Hillary and Bill Clinton, much less Hillary and Bush. But everything we know about Hillary and Obama suggests that she would continue Bush’s style of tough partisan politics, while Obama would genuinely try something new.
To be sure, Hillary is certainly preferable to Bush and probably to any of the Republican candidates, who have lined up to endorse anything that merely sounds tough on terrorism, ignoring civil rights and the Constitution. The Republican candidates have enthusiastically endorsed using atomic bombs preemptively on Iran, as if the doctrine of preemption had worked well in Iraq.
But while we need a Democratic victory in 2008, we also need a Democrat who isn’t Bush Lite if America as we learned to love it is to survive.
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