Month: January 2016

This Is What A Real Scandal Looks Like

Now that I’ve vented regarding all the trivial and petty Hillary Clinton scandals, let’s talk about something that matters.

If you could only be angry about one thing in America today, the poisoning of Flint, Michigan should be it:

In 2014, the city of Flint, under the control of an “emergency manager” appointed by the governor, was looking for ways to save money. To that end, the Snyder administration approved a plan in which the city would switch its water source: instead of getting water from Detroit, Flint would cut costs by drawing water directly from the Flint River.

In theory, there’s nothing particularly wrong with getting drinking and bathing water from a nearby river; plenty of communities across the country already do that. But in order to make Flint River water safe for people, it has to receive a special anti-corrosion treatment. Failing to treat the water sends corrosive river water through local pipes, it starts to eat through plumbing, and the result is lead poisoning.

The Snyder administration did not take the necessary precautions. What’s more, as the community grew concerned about its water, administration officials initially told local residents not to worry and to keep drinking the water.

The result, of course, is a public health crisis in which countless city residents, including many children, have been poisoned, which leads to severe and long lasting  consequences. Snyder last week declared an official emergency – he also issued an apology of sorts on New Year’s Eve – but the people of Flint still don’t have safe, clean water.

There’s also the political crisis as a result of this man-made disaster. The EPA warned Snyder administration officials about rising lead levels, but the governor did not alert the public and state officials delayed action to address the problem.

The Republican governor is now facing calls for his resignation and #ArrestGovSnyder protests. Local residents are also moving forward with a class-action lawsuit over the crisis, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Michigan has confirmed it is investigating the matter to determine if any laws were broken.

The Detroit Free Press reported late yesterday that Michigan State Police troopers and other state officials “will start a door-to-door sweep of Flint on Tuesday to hand out bottled water and water filters, and the White House says it is monitoring the situation ‘very closely.’”
Flint has (of course) been a Category 5 economic shitstorm for about 30 years now. (Remember when a thin and youthful Michael Moore went searching in vain for some guy named Roger?) This is a scandal with very long roots, and it is not even entirely Rick Snyder’s fault; Flint was abandoned by GM, the government, and eventually by many of its residents. Snyder is just the latest fat cat to take a piss on Flint.

Happy New Year, Hillz

I went home this week to visit with my parents. While they’ve asked the progeny to avoid mentioning their political beliefs on social media, I do think it’s probably fair to say they are not supporting certain candidates. So, the past week gave me a lot of time to think about my own views and ponder the mysteries of partisan politics.

I’m not particularly anti-Hillary myself; I would say I am more lukewarm. I am currently supporting Bernie Sanders. I will support whoever my party nominates, provided they’re not in the KKK or Scientologists or La Rouchites or something gauche like that.

But, anyway. I have had the chance to meditate a bit on the Hillary phenomenon over the past week. Here are some random thoughts of mine:

1.) I am rather annoyed with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, over the debates, and the initial handling of the NGP-VAN mini-scandal. I do think many Bernie Sanders supporters are getting a bit paranoid and are spouting conspiracy-theories. But I do think any fair reading of the facts would show that the DNC chair is somewhat biased in favor of Team Clinton.

2.) I think some people, particularly those leaning toward the right, are inclined to believe that Hillary Clinton is an evil person, a pathological liar, etc.

I’m not inclined to view Mrs. Clinton as entirely a kindly grandma. I think she is a very competitive and ambitious person, and in some regards I find this entirely admirable. I believe that many of her critics do not give her credit for that, and that is unfair and (perhaps) sexist.

But, I also think that, objectively speaking, those traits do make her “unlikable” to a lot of people, and I think that after decades in politics, she has legitimately put-off a lot of people. She is certainly divisive, and seems to revel in that.

All those years of experience in public service (which, by the way, also are what qualifies her to hold the highest office in the land) has probably taken a toll on her personally – mentally, and potentially physically.

Anyone who has engaged at-length in political debate in the past two decades probably has at least a mild-case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Serious partisans (and I include myself in this statement) have tended in recent years to adopt a “bunker mentality” and this has resulted in many people (at best) ignoring good-faith criticism and (at worst) the dehumanization of political opponents.

So anyway, I think that the stress of national politics since at least 1991 has probably made Hillary Clinton and her closest supporters a bit paranoid and cranky, and probably have been for quite a while (remember the FBI file scandal?)

As such, I think that Hillary’s political judgment is going to be colored by anger, frustration and bitterness — and not all of it rational or constructive.

One of the things that I admired about Obama is that I think he honestly tried to appeal to conservatives in good faith, even to the point where he looked like a fool. I don’t see Hillary trying to do that. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

3.) Certainly, many people on the right seem to dehumanize and demonize Hillary Clinton unfairly. And probably far worse than Hillary has or does or will.

4.) I am frustrated and annoyed with the hecklers who are on Hillary’s tail regarding Bill Clinton’s indiscretions. I think it’s tacky to interrupt a campaign rally to attack people personally, which, given the identities of the hecklers, is exactly what this is about. I think Hillary Clinton was right to shutdown one of her hecklers as “very rude.”

(I wouldn’t mind if the hecklers were directly raising real issues; this is why I have no lingering enmity toward #BlackLivesMatter for interrupting Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton; I likewise think Bernie was admirable for allowing private citizens to bring up their concerns — let’s not forget that the President works for us, not the other way around).

However, I do think there is a serious issue that underlies the heckling, and one that Democrats ought to care about – not just right-wing cranks like Kathy Prudhomme-O’Brien.

Vox wrote an excellent explainer about this recently, as did Slate‘s Michelle Goldberg, who writes:

We will probably never know the truth of what happened between [Juanita] Broaddrick and [Bill] Clinton. But today, few feminists would find her shifting story disqualifying. Consider, also, another piece of evidence that was marshaled against Broaddrick in the 1990s: Three weeks after the alleged assault, she attended a fundraiser for Clinton. Speaking to Klein, she says she was traumatized and blamed herself for what happened. “I felt responsible. I don’t know if you know the mentality of women and men at that time. But me letting him come to my room? I accepted full blame.” In any other context, most feminists today would find this credible. After all, many were outraged when rape skeptics tried to discredit Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz because she’d sent friendly Facebook messages to her alleged rapist after the alleged rape.

 

To be clear: I don’t think for a moment that the people who hope to use Broaddrick against Hillary care about victim blaming. And it would be a profound sexist irony if these accusations, having failed to derail Bill Clinton’s political career, came back to haunt his wife. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see why many on the right are giddy at the prospect of a new national conversation about Bill Clinton’s sex scandals, and thrilled that Trump is giving them one. As Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro told the Washington Post, “The irony of the situation is that the old Clintonian defense, ‘everybody lies about sex,’ doesn’t fly in a world in which Hillary has declared that nobody lies about sexual assault.”

There were many accusations made against Bill Clinton in the 1990s; many of the accusers, frankly, come across as demonstrably nutty (Paula Jones and the non-existent penis birthmark; Kathleen Willey and the various problems with her story). But, in my opinion, the accusations made by Juanita Broaddrick were never really disprovable, and Bill Clinton has never really answered them with the seriousness that is warranted (all I have ever seen is sort of a general, blanket denial; as well as a bunch of vague innuendo spread by Friends-of-Bill regarding Broaddrick’s credibility).

Anyway, the point here is that Bill and Hillary Clinton has not always been consistent feminists, at least with regard to women who have made accusations against Bill.

I think that this is largely because of a “bunker mentality” amongst the Clintonites, like the one I described above; I think that Hillary is sincere in her feminism, and not simply cynical and calculating (as many of her critics would suggest).  And I still think Hillary is a much better candidate on women’s issues than any of the Republicans. But, even with those concessions, I still think it is intellectually dishonest to ignore the problem entirely.

Now, as a Democrat, I would prefer the issue  would just “go away” (preferably with a plausible explanation from Bill, something we’ve never really gotten). But I have a feeling that this won’t happen.

5.) Regarding substantive progressive issues like bank regulation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the minimum wage — Hillary is, at best, a “day late and a dollar short” (or in the case of the minimum wage, three or four bucks short).

To be sure, I am certain she is better than literally every Republican. But Hillary Clinton would still feel like a step back from the (very incomplete) legacy of Barack Obama.

(In large part, because I remember Hillary running as a moderate-conservative in 2008, and am still annoyed with some of the things that happened then).

6.)  One of the complaints I heard this week, of course, is “why can’t Bernie Sanders criticize Hillary over [Benghazi/E-mails/Bill’s bimbo eruptions/whatever].”

Aside from the fact that doing so would be a massive distraction from the substantive issues at hand (one of the most important reasons that Bernie Sanders is running for President – aside from winning – is to educate voters about the democratic socialist alternative) — criticizing Hillary Clinton would just play into her hands. She’ll use it to polarize the party against her critics, and persuade Democrats to write-off critics as right-wing stooges.

7.) In conclusion: I respect Hillary Clinton and her campaign in the same way that a rodeo clown respects a steer — I know they’re kinda full of bullshit, but I’m not stupid enough to say it to their face!