Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remains the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, even though her policies are largely underwhelming and hardly deliver the radical change that people want to see from the next president. Her debate performance, if positive, does nothing but reinforce her position as the front-runner whereas a poor performance could dent her campaign. Fortunately for her the media was writing the headlines hailing her glorious performance before the debate took place. Here is my honest analysis of her actual performance.
On foreign policy Clinton was her hawkish self. She outlined her three-point plan to defeat ISIS as attacking militarily, dismantling their global network, and “do more to keep us safe”. What the hell does “do more to keep us safe” mean? The most obvious thing that she could be referring to is that she would support further restrictions on Americans’ civil liberties, but this is just a guess. Also she completely omits the need to stop the flow of money to ISIS that appears to be coming from Turkey because she doesn’t want to criticise America’s NATO ally. She reiterated that the US air campaign was needed to provide support to the troops on the ground and that it was crucial to share intelligence with other nations and work with Muslim Americans rather than demonising them like the GOP.
These points all sound fine if you ignore the fact that the first one, that the US needs to bomb ISIS to provide cover for Arab troops, is largely not true. The Kurds are fighting on the ground and the US is providing them with air-cover, but most of the troops on the ground fighting ISIS are groups that are just as extreme and want to take ISIS’ place. It also ignores other facts like the rebels that Clinton later boasts about arming, are being bombed by Russia and the Assad regime, and that Turkey are still bombing the Kurds. I fail to see how going in more strongly will help the situation.
In relation to the response of American people at home, Clinton said that arming more people isn’t an appropriate response to terrorism and that Trump’s rhetoric of a clash of civilizations is making radicalisation worse. By saying that “Trump has become ISIS’ best recruiter” Clinton walked the line between criticising the GOP and appearing like a pragmatic politician, which unsurprisingly saw her receive plaudits, justifiably so, from the audience and the news media.
Clinton went on to state the blindingly obvious fact that ISIS “wants American troops on the ground” but I guess I have to give her credit for not pulling a John McCain and wanting to invade literally everywhere. She stressed the importance of not alienating America’s allies, which includes countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey and is probably why she didn’t talk about who is buying ISIS’ oil.
The former First Lady went on to say that she backs a no-fly zone in Syria and argued that a no-fly zone would stem the flow of refugees. Firstly if you bomb ISIS it won’t stop people fleeing ISIS anyway unless there are troops on the ground preventing their advance. Secondly, she said that she believes that a no-fly zone would give the US leverage against Russia. To this I put the same question as I do to Republicans that want a no-fly zone: do you think Putin will care if he is fighting the same people as America? Also what right does the US have to tell countries what to do in Syria and Iraq when the governments of Syria and Iraq have given Russia permission to bomb ISIS?
Clinton came back into the conversation and said that the US should focus on fighting ISIS and the Assad regime simultaneously; good luck with that. As reports from intelligence agencies around the world have said, a large amount of the rebels fighting Assad are jihadis and therefore it is likely that if Assad falls from power these groups will fill the void. The ‘moderates’ that Clinton boasted about arming have fled because they were being shot at by the Assad regime and ISIS, and reporters on the ground have said that the weapons that the CIA gave to these rebels have ended up with jihadist groups including ISIS. Clinton still believes that the US should be in the business of regime change to which I say: STOP IT!
The final contribution of the former Secretary of State was in relation to Libya in which she said nothing much but, when pressed, said that “we can’t impose something on the Libyan government”. Actually, you can. When Gaddafi was going to massacre people in Benghazi, which was the premise for Western intervention, you have all the cards. You could easily say to the Libyan government “we’ll help you if we also help to secure your territory and send aid in to rebuild the territory under your control”. If, in this situation, the Libyan government refuse you can threaten not to intervene.
Also, in this hypothetical, the intervention would be to protect the civilians in the parts held by the Libyan opposition and wouldn’t be cover to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. My point isn’t a particularly relevant one as the past is the past but to say that a group of people who could get massacred by a despot have any negotiating power is ludicrous.
In relation to terrorism the former First Lady said she didn’t want to force tech companies to do anything and instead proposed bringing together a Manhattan Project-style programme to bring the government and private sector together. On guns Clinton touted her record as having voted for the Brady Bill, supports gun safety measures and “dealing with the gun lobby”, which received a large amount of applause from the liberal audience. When asked about refugees, because according to ABC News refugees, civil liberties, and guns are related, Clinton said that we need strong vetting of refugees but saw no need to stop people from coming in.
On the economy Clinton began her remarks by criticising the GOP. Although she said that she was in favour of raising the minimum wage, Clinton has previously said that she would raise in to $12 an hour which is many places is still short of a living wage. In addition to this weak-sauce policy, the former Secretary of State said that she would “do more to incentivise profit sharing”; this isn’t a policy its a suggestion, although my way of redistributing wealth (full communism) is probably not something Clinton would support.
She also said that she would pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and wanted to introduce the Buffet Rule of making billionaires to pay a 30% income tax rate. This is not nearly a high enough tax rate for a billionaire but again I can’t think Hillary Clinton will be supporting a maximum wage any time soon. Clinton later said that she wouldn’t raise taxes on families earning less than $250,000 per year however this appeared to be successfully derided by Bernie Sanders.
The other candidates on the stage started to ask legitimate questions about her links to Wall Street, but luckily Clinton was able to mislead her way out of the situation. She claimed that only 3% of her donations come from Wall Street whereas the rest comes from ordinary people. This is true however the reason this is misleading is that unlike Bernie Sanders, whose entire campaign his funded by normal people, this 3% is only in relation to the official campaign. Clinton, unlike Sanders, also has Super-PACs supporting her campaign which are taking money from all over the place including the financial industry, so spare me the ‘I’m so innocent’ shtick especially as it’s widely known that Clinton took hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from companies like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.
Unlike Sanders, who supports universal healthcare, Clinton implied that this was too expensive and instead suggested that Medicare should be able to negotiate down the price of pharmaceuticals. She also said that she would rather provide people with a $5,000 tax credit to help people pay for drugs. All of this stuff, although good for reducing the price of prescription drugs, does nothing to provide healthcare to 29 million people that do not have health insurance.
In regards to higher education Clinton said that she would ensure that the Federal government matches the funds that states invest in public colleges. Furthermore, the former Secretary of State suggested that the solution to the problem of higher education costs is debt-free tuition, rather than tuition free college.
On race relations Clinton said that trust in the police needs to be rebuilt and that “we have systemic racism in our justice system that has to be addressed”. Rather than link the racism in the criminal justice system to policies like the Drug War (which Bill Clinton introduced) Clinton did not acknowledge this policy’s role in institutionalising racism. Clinton did speak about drugs in relation to New Hampshire’s heroin problem by stating that she had a five-point plan including $10 billion of Federal money, improving assistance programmes, and mandating that police officers carry the antidote to a heroin overdose.
To conclude, Clinton’s performance was predictably strong but I don’t think did anything to boost her poll numbers. I have to admit that although she had the most amount of screen time (around 38 minutes) much of my notes were centred around a common theme: she’s not saying anything. For large amounts of her answers she was waffling in politician-speak and didn’t answer the question which in this election so far has resulted in people being turned off. However for some reason Clinton has managed to remain largely unscathed by attacks and criticism that have made her supporters unwaveringly loyal.
I would genuinely ask Clinton supporters if they genuinely think that she will stand up to Wall Street, deliver significant social change, and change American foreign policy. If they do then I can only point to her record of being on the side of the big banks, opposing gay marriage until it was politically expedient not to, and supporting foreign military escapades. I don’t think that any Clinton supporter can look me in the eye and say that someone even less radical than Barack Obama will bring in the change that is needed to transform America. She doesn’t want to, because she is the establishment.