After blaming everyone but herself for her embarrassing upset loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election, Hillary Clinton has finally admitted what millions of Americans have known for years now: Maybe Trump made some good points.
In an interview with the Guardian that has infuriated the "new face" of the Democratic Party that Clinton once purported to lead - ie, those "Democratic Socialist" millennials who celebrated the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - the former secretary of state and senator from New York said Western Europe needed to do something to lessen the flow of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa if it wants to stop the surging support experienced by anti-establishment and eurosceptic populist parties that have seized power in Hungary, Poland, Austria, Italy and elsewhere.
Clinton praised Angela Merkel for her "generosity" (Merkel recently walked back her earlier "open door" policy for migrants and many believe her handling of the crisis led to the drop in popularity for her party that inspired her not to seek a fifth term) before adding that the governments of Germany and others need to signal that they are "not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support."
"I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame," Clinton said, speaking as part of a series of interviews with senior centrist political figures about the rise of populists, particularly on the right, in Europe and the Americas.
"I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message – 'we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support' – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic."
As a reminder, Europe has struggled with the arrival of more than 1 million migrants since 2015, prompting an anti-establishment backlash and straining social services at a time when stagnant economic growth and simmering debt crises were already contributing to record youth unemployment and stagnant growth throughout much of the Continent.
The greatest irony in Clinton telling Europe to get a handle on migration is the fact that, as secretary of state, the interventionist policies she advocated - which only helped aggravate civil wars in Syria and Libya - it was Clinton who was one of the causes of the refugee wave that started with the Arab spring several years ago and has only gotten worse since.
Clinton also urged other center-left figures in the West not to ignore the issues of identity and populist anger that she says helped contribute to her loss to Trump. The former first lady urged forces opposed to rightwing populism in Europe and the US not to neglect the concerns about race and identity issues that she says were behind her losing key votes in 2016. She accused Trump of exploiting the issue in the election contest – and in office.
"The use of immigrants as a political device and as a symbol of government gone wrong, of attacks on one’s heritage, one’s identity, one’s national unity has been very much exploited by the current administration here," she said.
"There are solutions to migration that do not require clamping down on the press, on your political opponents and trying to suborn the judiciary, or seeking financial and political help from Russia to support your political parties and movements."
Clinton's remarks elicited accusations of hypocrisy from those on the left, some of whom also pointed out that, once upon a time, Clinton and her husband advocated many of the same strong-border policies that President Trump is pushing today.
It’s almost as if this is a consistent pattern pic.twitter.com/174o5hxXrw— David Sirota (@davidsirota) November 22, 2018