Hillary Clinton has always been at the head of her class. That includes being among the leading edge of the 80-million strong baby boom generation that first started arriving in 1946-1947.
She did everything they did: Got out for Barry Goldwater in high school; got upwardly mobile to Wellesley and social liberation during college; got “Clean for Gene” and manned the anti-war barricades in the late 1960s; got to Washington to uplift the world in the 1970s; got down to the pursuit of power and position in the 1980s; joined the ruling class in the 1990’s; and has helped make a stupendous mess of things ever since.
The baby boom generation which started with so much promise when it came of age in the 1960s has ended up a colossal failure. It has turned America into a bloody imperial hegemon aboard and a bankrupt Spy State at home where financialization and the 1% thrive, half the populations lives off the state and real main street prosperity has virtually disappeared from the land.
Quite a deplorable legacy, that. And all the while Hillary has been our class president. God help the world if she becomes our nation’s President. She has betrayed all that was right about the baby boomers in the 1960s; and has embraced all the wrong they did during their subsequent years in power.
It starts during our defining moment when peace finally had a chance in the spring of 1968. We drove a sitting President from office, and, at that, one whose megalomaniacal will-to-power was terrifying.
We called bull on the cold war hysteria that had once put us under our desks at school and now claimed that peasants in far off rice paddies threatened our security. We stopped the Vietnam War cold, dented the Cold War deep and put the whole warfare state apparatus on the run—–the Pentagon, CIA, the generals and admirals, the military-industrial complex. Within a few years the warfare state budget was down by 40% in constant dollars.
So it was an epochal chance to break the deadly cycle of war that had started a half-century earlier in the bloody trenches of northern France during the Great War; that had been rebooted for a future reprise in the vengeful folly of Versailles; that had been made inexorable by the rise of nationalism, statism, autarky and militarism during the 1930s; and that had been unnecessarily and dangerously extended by the clash of military machines that both victors refused to demobilize after they won the peace in 1945, supplanting the silence of the German and Japanese war guns with the nuclear nightmare of the Cold War.
True enough, the defeat and retreat of the American Imperium by the idealism and defiance of the baby boomers was interrupted by the Reagan defense and Cold War revival. But that historical error is what makes the Clintons all the more culpable. As I argued in the Great Deformation, by 1981 the Soviet Union was already in terminal economic decline and America was safe behind its nuclear deterrent:
At the dawn of the 1980s, the Soviet empire was dying under the weight of its statist economic yoke; its militarized “state-within-the-state” was sucking the larger society dry. What the United States needed to do at that juncture was to wait it out—safe behind an ample strategic retaliatory force of Minutemen missiles and Trident submarines. That this more benign course—upon which history had already firmly embarked—was denied at the eleventh hour can be blamed on the neocons primarily...
While there were clues and signs everywhere of Soviet industrial decay, the neocon branch of the military-industrial complex trumpeted a new version of the phony missile gap that John Kennedy had promoted during the 1960 campaign.
But the neoconservative version of the alleged “gap” in military capabilities was portrayed as pervasive, ominous, and intensifying. The Soviet Union was hell-bent on acquiring nuclear war–winning capabilities...
In truth, this Soviet nuclear war–fighting strategy never really existed. Moreover, the huge US military buildup mounted to counter it allocated almost nothing to strategic weapons and countermeasures. Instead, the Pentagon poured hundreds of billions into equipping and training a vast conventional armada: land, sea, and air forces that were utterly irrelevant to the imaginary Soviet nuclear first strike. Ironically, the Reagan conventional force buildup was still cresting when Boris Yeltsin, vodka flask in hand, mounted a tank and stood down the enfeebled Red Army. Future presidents were thus equipped to launch needless wars of invasion and occupation, mainly because owing to the Reagan armada they could.
Ironically, right thereafter two American political dynasties arose, and both of them did just that. The elder Bush was born with a cloak and dagger and christened “Magog” by the Yale Skull and Bones—-so maybe he did honestly think there was a difference between the corpulent, tyrannical Emir of Kuwait and Saddam Hussein that made worthwhile the spilling of American blood and treasure in Gulf War 1.0. We now know there wasn’t.
But you can’t exonerate the Clintons, and that includes Hillary who even in 1993 was not baking cookies in the White House mess. It was their job as the first baby boom co-Presidents to finish the work of 1968, and by the time they entered the White House it was a lay-up. The Soviet Union was no more and Mr. Deng had just declared that to get rich is glorious.
Their job was to have at least the vision of Warren G. Harding. After all, he did demobilize the US war machine completely, eschewed the imperial pretensions of Woodrow Wilson and actually launched a disarmament movement which resulted in the melting down of the world’s navies and the Kellogg-Briand treaty to outlaw war.
Yet the opportunity at the Cold War’s end was even more compelling. There was absolutely no military threat to American security anywhere in the world. The Clintons could have drastically reduced the defense budget by mothballing much of the navy and air force and demobilizing the army. They should have cancelled all new weapons programs and dismantled the military-industrial complex. They could have declared “mission accomplished” with respect to NATO and made good on Bush’s pledge to Gorbachev to not expand it “by an inch” by actually disbanding it. And, as legatees of 1968, they were positioned to lead a global disarmament movement and to end the arms export trade once and for all.
That was their job—-the unfinished business of peace. But they blew it in the name of political opportunism and failure to recognize that the American public was ready to end the century of war, too.
So they capitulated to the pork barrel politics of the Pentagon, plunged into the lunacy of the Balkan wars, launched the misbegotten project to expanded NATO, failed to bring Iran back into the community of nation’s when its leaders reached out to Washington, and kept America in harm’s way by keeping our war machine in the Persian Gulf and extending the pointless campaign against Saddam Hussein that could only open the gates to hell in Bagdad.
Needless to say, all of this betrayal did not pacify the neocons and Republican Right. It just egged them on to full-throated imperialism, and enabled the madness of Cheney-Bush to be put into operation without the political inconvenience of raising a war budget. The great sin of the Clintons was that they left the Reagan conventional armada of invasion and conquest in tact and ready to roll.
To wit, at the height of the cold war in 1961 Eisenhower had left in place a defense budget of $380 billion in constant dollars(2005$) and a speech warning about the military-industrial complex. The Clinton’s left behind a budget of $400 billion a full decade after the Cold War ended after having capitulated to the very forces that Ike warned about. What the only general to lead the nation during its century of war thought was more than enough at the peak of Soviet power, the Clintons did not even bother to challenge at a time when the Kremlin was occupied by a harmless drunk.
And you can’t let Hillary off the hook on the grounds that she had the health care file and Bill the bombs and planes. On becoming Senator she did not miss a stride betraying the opening for peace that had first broken-through in 1968.
She embraced Bush’s “shock and awe” campaign in Iraq and was thereby complicit in destroying the artificial nation created by Sykes-Picot in 1916. So doing, Clinton helped unleash the furies of Islamic sectarian conflict that eventually led to the mayhem and brutality of the Shiite militias and the rise of the ISIS butchers on the backs of the dispossessed Sunni tribes and the demobilized officer corps of Saddam.
Tellingly, Hillary Clinton made a beeline for the Senate Armed Services Committee, the domain of the Jackson war democrats, not the Foreign Affairs Committee, where Frank Church had exposed the folly of Vietnam and the treacherous deeds of the CIA. Undoubtedly, this was to burnish her commander-in-chief credentials, but it spoke volumes.
By the time Hillary got to the seat of power, the idealism and defiance of the warfare state that had animated her and the baby boomers of 1968 had dissipated entirety. For her and most of them, it was now all and only about getting and keeping power. In that respect, Hillary’s term at the State Department was a downright betrayal.
Whether by accident or not, Obama had actually been elected as the peace candidate by echoing the rhetoric of 1968 that he had apparently read in a book but had been to young to actually hear. What this untutored and inexperienced idealist needed to hear from his Secretary of State was a way forward for peace and the dismantlement of a war machine that had rained havoc on the world, left behind 4 million damaged and disabled veterans who had sacrificed for no good reason and a multi-trillion dollar war tab that had bloated the national debt.
What he got was Hillary The Hawk. When Obama took Bush’s already bloated $650 billion war budget (2005$) to a level that was almost 2X Eisenhower’s, Hillary was completely on board. When Obama was bamboozled into a “surge” of forces in the god forsaken expanse of the Hindu Kush, Hillary busied herself rounding up NATO support. When her neocon and R2P (responsibility to protect) advisers and Administration compatriots urged making peace by starting wars in Syria, Libya and the Ukraine, Hillary lead the charge. All of them have been disasters for their citizens and a stain on America’s standing in the world.
When the Deep State began lining up the next enemy, Hillary joined the gumming brigade, warning about the China threat. My god, were the red capitalists of Beijing to actually bomb 4,000 Wal-Marts in America their system would collapse in six months and their heads would be hung from the rafters in the nearest empty Foxcon factory.
Here’s the thing. Hillary Clinton’s sell-out to the Warfare State is not just about war and peace—-even as it fosters the former and precludes the latter. It’s also about the nation’s busted fiscal accounts, its languishing main street economy and the runaway gambling den that has taken over Wall Street.
The one thing that I learned during my time on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is that the defense budget, and the military-industrial complex which perpetuates it, is the mother’s milk of fiscal irresponsibility. One of Hillary’s predecessors, Alfonse D’Amato, who was known as “Senator Pothole”, symbolized it succinctly. There was not a weapons system made in Georgia, Texas, California or Washington that he wouldn’t support if he could trade his vote for another pothole appropriation for New York.
Since the time of Reagan there has been no fiscal responsibility in Washington because there is no longer a party of fiscal rectitude. The GOP spends half its political capital defending the defense budget and the neocon agenda of permanent war and the other half pretending that deficits don’t matter or that they are solely caused by too many democrats in Washington or too little growth on main street.
And so the Clinton democrats have had a free political ride. Unlike Tip O’Neill of circa 1980, they do not fear a political attack from the right on the issue of deficits, debt and big spending. So nothing is done to defuse the generational time bomb known as social insurance—-even though means testing the wealthy recipients of social security and Medicare would ameliorate much of the problem.
Likewise, nothing is done to put in place a 21st century consumption tax that could pay the nation’s bills before it is too late or permit the elimination or sharp reduction of the jobs destroying payroll and corporate income taxes before the US economy grinds to a complete halt.
As it is, the day of fiscal reckoning is being forestalled by an artificial, destructive and unsustainable monetary regime that has drastically lowered the true cost of the national debt and monetized trillions of public debt with central bank credit plucked out of thin air.
After all this time, however, Hillary doesn’t get any of this. She thinks war is peace; deficits don’t matter; the baby boom is entitled to the social insurance they didn’t earn; and that the Fed’s serial bubble machine is leading the nation back to prosperity.
Actually, its leading to the greatest financial bubble in human history. After 75 months of ZIRP and a decade of Wall Street coddling and subsidization by the Fed, the windfalls to the 1% have become unspeakable in their magnitude and illegitimacy.
Soon 10,000 people will own a preponderant share of the wealth; 10 million people will live grandly off the droppings; 150 million will live off the state; and the rest of America will be left high and dry waiting for the house of cards to collapse.
Hillary rose to fame delivering an idealistic commencement address at the beginning of her career. But like the generation she represents, she has betrayed those grand ideals over a lifetime of compromise, expediency, self-promotion and complacent acquisition of power, wealth and fame.
She doesn’t deserve another stint at the podium—-let alone the bully pulpit.