Danger: mind-broadening ahead
24 July 2017 18:40 (South Africa)
Opinionista Ivo Vegter

The lesser of two evils is no less evil

  • Ivo Vegter
    IvoVegterBW
    Ivo Vegter

    Ivo Vegter is a columnist and the author of Extreme Environment, a book on environmental exaggeration and how it harms emerging economies. He writes on this and many other matters, from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets. He is seldom wrong.

Relief that Donald Trump’s campaign is stumbling towards a probable defeat in the American elections next month is tempered by remembering how truly awful the only realistic alternative is. Hillary Clinton is not merely an experienced politician. She is a canny lawyer defending the status quo of crony corruption and lies.

Recent revelations painting Donald Trump as a cad given to crude braggadocio should not have come as a surprise. Nobody who has followed his career and personal life has ever accused him of class. His disregard for political correctness and conventional civility might even endear him to many of his supporters.

Still, his campaign seems to be in meltdown, with less than a month to go before election day and early voting already under way. Of the few Republican patricians who reluctantly supported the party’s insurgent nominee, several have withdrawn their support. The party itself has begun diverting funds away from the presidential campaign to down-ballot Congressional candidates, in an attempt to save the House from the wreckage. Trump is not the sort of man to take this blow with dignity, as Bob Dole did in 1996. If he goes down, he’ll probably try to take the GOP establishment with him.

In many ways, the knowledge that Trump will not be America’s next president is reassuring. He has no policy positions that are both consistent and realistic, but he panders to protectionism and xenophobia, neither of which are liberal ideals. Neither position will benefit the rest of the world.

He shoots from the hip, making it up as he goes along. This may be a refreshing change from the staid rhetoric of experienced politicians, but it does not fill one with confidence in the man’s ability to act responsibly as leader of the free world.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, the Libertarian Party candidates running on a platform roughly consistent with principles of individual liberty, small government and free markets, are unlikely to make significant inroads in all but a handful of states.

This leaves the field wide open for the coronation of Hillary Clinton. To many in the media, who with few exceptions have been loyally defending the nominee who stole the primary elections from her popular socialist rival Bernie Sanders, this will be a comforting thought. And to many opponents of Donald Trump (among whom I count myself), this may come as a relief.

But it reminds me of a passage by Douglas Adams, in So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, the fourth instalment of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. A flying saucer had landed on Earth, disgorging a 100-foot tall silver robot, to the surprise of the protagonist Arthur Dent and his alien guide Ford Prefect.

I come in peace,” it said, … “take me to your Lizard.”
Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this... “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see ...”
You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
No,” said Ford..., “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. … Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”
But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.

Hillary Clinton represents the powerful and the rich. Her rhetoric, of course, would deny this, much like billionaire tycoon Donald Trump claims to represent the working class. But her record speaks volumes. She’s a consummate politician, with all that species’ worst characteristics: mendacity, hypocrisy, corruption, and a skin of Teflon to which no scandal appears to stick.

Her feigned outrage at Trump’s attitude towards women, however justified on the surface, belie the fact that she defended her husband’s serial infidelity and intimidated the women who accused him of sexual harassment and rape. Unlike Bill Clinton, Trump didn’t abuse his power to exploit women and then lie about it under oath, leading to a vote of impeachment in Congress. Three of Bill’s accusers – Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, and Paula Jones – attended a press conference with Trump prior to last weekend’s CNN presidential debate to protest against Hillary’s candidacy.

Also present at the press conference was Kathy Shelton, the victim of a rape when she was only 12. If you want callous disregard of women, one only has to listen to Hillary Clinton recount her defence of Shelton’s rapist, laughing that she would never trust a lie detector test again, and bragging about how she got an obviously guilty man off with time served.

The shadowy network of individual, corporate and state donors to the Clinton family’s charitable foundation are far more troubling. Although it is hard to prove quid pro quo allegations, there are many curious coincidences between major donations to the Clinton Foundation and actions by Bill and Hillary Clinton – many of which occurred while she served in the Obama administration as Secretary of State. This raises grave concerns about corruption. It seems all that is needed to sway the Clintons is a fat speaker’s fee, or a few million donated to the foundation.

Some of the Clintons’ charitable initiatives, such as the rebuilding of Haiti after its 2010 earthquake, are notable only for funnelling billions of dollars into contractors’ pockets, without making any appreciable difference to intended beneficiaries of donors’ largesse. In other cases, the Clintons have cozied up to disreputable leaders or corrupt regimes, including several in Africa, apparently in return for favourable business or trade concessions.

The documentary Clinton Cash, based on the eponymous book by Peter Schweizer, provides an extraordinary look at the nexus of philantropy, power and profit that is the Clinton Foundation. Although the Clinton campaign has tried with some success to debunk the claims in the film, many of the responses are weaselly, claiming that there is no proof a particular donation influenced a particular decision, that quotes were reported without including favourable comments, that it’s “old news”, or that the Gates Foundation or President George W. Bush did it too.

However, the fig leaf of charity, or that the vast amounts of money sloshing around in international philantropy has affected the political decisions of other leaders too, is no defence for corruption. At the very least, as one television channel put it, the Clintons had been “sloppy, bordering on being greedy”. But the sheer number and scale of the allegations suggest that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

New evidence about Clinton’s cronyism has emerged in excerpts from speeches she gave to top bankers. It is clear why the campaign has repeatedly refused to release the transcripts of these speeches. They record her complaining about ethics rules requiring public servants to divest from private interests before assuming office. Most damagingly, she told one group that on certain issues, she has “a public and a private position”.

If everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least,” said Clinton, according to The Intercept. “So, you need both a public and a private position.”

If this isn’t proof enough that Clinton has an honesty problem, one can cite several other cases. She once claimed to have landed on a peace mission in Bosnia under sniper fire, but television footage showed that this was a complete fabrication. This is just one of her many well-documented lies, misdirections and denials of previously held positions. It’s as if she hasn’t woken up to the fact that we have videos and an internet to publicise them these days.

She also said that FBI director James Comey, in declining to press criminal charges against her for using an unprotected private server for classified e-mails, had called her statements about the affair truthful. This was not true. The FBI findings strongly contradict her public claims. It found classified material was handled in an unlawful manner, and thousands of e-mails were deliberately deleted after a legal subpoena to produce them. It let her off merely because it could prove no intent to commit a crime. As if that is a defence any lesser mortal would get away with.

There hasn’t been a war that Hillary Clinton didn’t like, but the signature military intervention of her watch as Secretary of State, which toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi under the guise of humanitarian relief, has deteriorated into a protracted civil war. This does not bode well for future foreign policy, particularly in the troubled Middle East.

She also likes the idea of using drones to assassinate thorns in her side. Her memory routinely becomes foggy when asked about controversial statements, and true to form, she says she cannot recall having joked about a drone strike on Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, which at the time had just published thousands of cables from US embassies around the world.

Assange has since published troves of damaging documents hacked from Clinton campaign and Democratic Party servers, which would not have endeared him to Clinton. There may be good reasons to dislike both Assange personally and Wikileaks in general, but do we really want to entrust the authority to order extrajudicial drone killings to someone who feels entitled to joke about murdering people they dislike?

Add to all this that she thinks many voters are “buckets of losers” and “baskets of deplorables”, and I fail to see the appeal of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

It is probable that any Republican candidate other than Donald Trump would have cleaned the floor with her. The Clinton campaign certainly knew this and helping Trump win the Republican nomination was a large part of its strategy.

Considering that Trump has in the past donated to the Clinton Foundation, it is even plausible that he is part of the corruption web the Clintons have weaved, and served merely as a straw man to promote his own brand while getting Hillary Clinton elected. Trump’s business ventures probably would not suffer under a Clinton presidency.

Hillary Clinton does represent the status quo, but she stands for everything that is wrong with it: cronyism, elitism, corruption, dishonesty and secrecy. I’m not convinced she is the lesser of two evils, but even if she is, that still makes her evil. DM

  • Ivo Vegter
    IvoVegterBW
    Ivo Vegter

    Ivo Vegter is a columnist and the author of Extreme Environment, a book on environmental exaggeration and how it harms emerging economies. He writes on this and many other matters, from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets. He is seldom wrong.

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