Saturday, June 04, 2016

Hillary Clinton and the "D" Word

Ambition is No Substitute For Talent and Accomplishment

One of my favorite professors in college was Dr. Williamson "Wick" Murray, who specialized in European military history.  Professor Murray had a favorite phrase to describe an incompetent individual.  Such folks were inevitably dismissed with "clearly a dilettante".  It was not a word I was familiar with at the time, but it means someone who cultivates an interest in a subject without any real knowledge or commitment.  This is Hillary's real problem.  The "D" word.

She has no real core or ability except for ambition.  Policy is nothing more than the means to her ends, and actually accomplishing something means little as well - a good show is all that matters.

Bernie Sanders supporters are very vocal in their opposition to Hillary Clinton as a candidate.  They feel that that the deck has been stacked against their guy unfairly by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in deference to the donor class, who see Hillary as a continuation of the highly successful second term of Bill Clinton.  The Sanders supporters are not wrong in this.  Everything from the lack of debates early in the election cycle, the deliberate timing of the few that were held to downplay their impact, to the entire super delegate process and how it is being manipulated to give Hillary wins in delegate counts even when she loses the popular vote in a primary, give the impression that the game is rigged.  A great example of this is the New Hampshire primary.  Bernie Sanders won 60% - 38% in the popular vote and was awarded 15 of 24 available delegates.  Yet by the end of the week, he was trailing Hillary by over 400 delegates because of "commitments from the superdelegates" (who technically do not vote until the convention).

There is a point of view behind rigging the system that is shared by both parties.  They want to manipulate things so the "establishment" candidate wins.  This candidate, with the backing of the deep pockets of the donor class, is considered to be the best option in November, and to advance the prestige of the party.  Philosophy or core values be damned, this is pure oligarchy in action.  Key elections are just too important to be left to the will of the people.  

To say that Hillary Clinton is ambitious is breathtaking understatement.  Everyone knows it, but Hillary acts like it is her little secret.  Whenever pressed on whether she would run for president, she acted like she had no idea.  Yet everything she did upon leaving the White House was built around a triumphal return eight years later.  Moving to New York and getting elected to the senate was step one.  But the plan went sideways in 2008 when Barack Obama came from nowhere and stole Hillary's dream.  So steps were taken to ensure Hillary faced no serious opposition in 2016 and would enjoy an unbroken triumphal parade to the convention.  These manipulations were not supposed to be as obvious as they are, because they were supposed to quietly function in the background, not be thrown on the table like trump cards (no pun intended) as the super delegates were following her initial setbacks.  

This system was supposed to (quietly) ensure that 2016 would be Hillary's year.  Serious contenders like Biden were quietly urged to sit this one out.  The competition was supposed to be easily blown aside allowing her to arrive at the convention with a united Democrat Party behind their candidate. With an almost unbreakable lock on electoral votes based on the whole Red State/Blue State dynamic, the plan seemed foolproof.  Yet, as in 2008, something unexpected happened.  This year, an even more unlikely contender emerged in the form of Bernie Sanders, and he is raining on Hillary's parade in a big way.

This raises an important question - if Hillary Clinton is the "inevitable candidate" she strives to be, then why can't she get the job done of decisively defeating what should have been a token candidate like Bernie Sanders? I think the reason is that she has lots of baggage that won't go away that a sense of entitlement or selfish ambition won't solve.  

Shakespeare phrased it perfectly in the mouth of Macbeth:
I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself,
And falls on th'other. . . . 
I first got smacked by Hillary's ambition back in 1994.  I was running a small business selling physical therapy equipment and supplies trying to carve out market share.  Startup businesses are like water pumps - there is the initial startup capital, which goes into setting things in motion for the business.  This capital primes the pump, and the hope is the business starts cash flowing sufficiently to meet expenses before it runs out of money.  Otherwise a decision needs to be made whether to close the business or throw more money to prime it some more.  It is a pretty cut and dry system and one that is often on the razor's edge for years.  

In 1993 Hillary was the controversial appointment to head the Task Force on National Health Care Reform to develop a plan for national healthcare.  Many folks scratched their heads asking how she was qualified to do such a thing, with no good answer.  Worse, the deliberations of the committee were secret, and no bones were made that unsolicited outside input was both useless and unwelcome.  Eventually though, they had to bring something into the light of day, so they released their report on November 20, 2003.  

This report ignited much controversy and led to numerous congressional hearings.  One problem with the plan was, as with any government driven healthcare system, the committee's recommendations would have put a great financial burden on small businesses to comply.  When this was pointed out to Hillary as she testified before Congress she said, in the grand tradition of Marie Antoinette, “I can’t be responsible for every under-capitalized small business in America.”

If it isn't obvious why this is a bad response, then consider the following facts from the Small Business Administration:
Small businesses make up: 99.7 percent of U.S. employer firms, 64 percent of net new private-sector jobs, 49.2 percent of private-sector employment, 42.9 percent of private-sector payroll, 46 percent of private-sector output, 43 percent of high-tech employment, 98 percent of firms exporting goods, and 33 percent of exporting value.
As the head of what was most certainly an "under-capitalized small business" I found her attitude obnoxious.  But worse, they reflected a real lack of understanding on how the US economy works. Most small businesses are under-capitalized, in the sense that do not have enough money to do everything they want.  So if a significant new government mandate is laid upon them, then something has to give.  The easiest solution is "do more with what you have."  So hiring is curtailed.  This, in turn, limits growth, which limits free flowing cash to reinvest in the business.  But this negative cascade of events, with serious ramifications to the economy was dismissed with cavalier "let them have healthcare."

Her accomplishments during her time in the Senate were so memorable that Dianne Feinstein, who served with her almost a decade, could remember none of them. In fact, the most significant contribution I have found given mention is she was instrumental in getting $20 billion to rebuild New York following the 9/11 attacks.  Given the political atmosphere following those devastating attacks, I think even Donald Trump could have pulled that off.

Her time as Secretary of State was lackluster as well.  She traveled much and accomplished little.  Supposedly signature achievements, like "hitting the reset button" on US/Russian relations and her handling of the change of government in Libya have come back to haunt her (and us).  Arguably America's position of international leadership was damaged severely on her watch.  

But my biggest bone of contention with Hillary is her duplicity, arrogance (rules are for the small folk) and corruption.  Hillary is slippery as an eel on any position.  This is so well known that it is even mocked on SNL. Her flip-flopping on fundamental issues is not the "triangulation" that Bill Clinton was known for.  Instead it is the cold calculation of figuring what will get you the most votes with the folks you are talking to at the moment.  That's easy to do when you lack a moral core.

So what then is her message?  When she talks for enormous fees before corporate boards, mum's the word.  One thing that is apparent though is that she does not mind trading on her position in government for some of the big bucks she rails against as candidate Clinton.  Both directly and indirectly, through the Clinton Foundation, the potential for cash for influence seems pretty obvious.  Coupled with some creative tax accounting and reporting at the Clinton Foundation, the "appearance of impropriety" certainly exists.  This too is nothing new, but so much smoke must have a fire burning somewhere.  As a recent article in the Atlantic points out, Clinton scandals are so prolific that they support an entire cottage industry. 

 For me though, the worst of these is scandals is the private server issue.  There is a reason the State Department wants to keep its information secret.  If it is compromised, it can have bad ramifications and hinder or even prevent our national aims from being accomplished.  During Desert Storm, I was exposed for the first time to non-tactical secure communications, and the importance of maintaining operational security was firmly impressed on us.  Similar admonitions must have been given to Hillary as well, but they were ignored because such things are for lesser beings.  Equating Colin Powell's sending a few e-mails from his laptop to her deliberate avoidance of a secure government server for all her email is laughable.  When called on this irregularity (her correspondence as Secretary of State is supposed to be public record) 30K emails she decided were irrelevant were deleted from the server.  Supposedly these were trivial personal matters like wedding plans and yoga class notes, but how can we know for sure? What's more, we now know that she had classified information on this server, and that it was likely hacked.  

None of this is new, of course, but I have been continually astounded by the lack of interest this story is shown, or how it was dismissed as a trivial issue until now, when Bernie Sanders supporters belatedly realized how vulnerable Hillary is on this issue and starting screaming bloody murder.  Now, almost daily, there is a new an damning revelation concerning this scandal.  This week it is Cheryl Mills, Clinton's former chief of staff at the State Department, testifying that "little thought" was given to the problems that Hillary Clinton would have if asked to turn over her official emails. Again, these are supposed to be part of the public record, but evidently no one thought they would ever be called upon to produce them.  And this attitude of amending problems by deleting them is catching - we also found out this week that responses by State Department officials given at public briefings that were untrue and unflattering about the Iran negotiations were deliberately deleted from the public record as well.  An organization takes the tone of its leadership.

David Petraeus, a soldier who served his country with honor and distinction, was prosecuted on the charge of "mishandling classified materials" and given 2 years probation and a $100K fine.  But Hillary Clinton, whose magnitude of crime makes Petraeus look like a piker?  "Move along citizens - nothing to see here" has been the attitude previously.

At the end of the day character matters because power has a corrupting influence on people.  To give a corrupt individual like Hillary Clinton the reins of power is asking for trouble.  What is just as bad, though, is that she is "clearly a dilettante".


Mark Grimsley said...

Scott, what's your source for the allegation that Clinton's server was likely hacked?

Scott Grimsley said...

Here is a link to the story in Politico from October 8th from last year:
More recently there have been additional allegations. Reading the Politico article, it appears that additional security was purchased for the server, but not installed for 3 months. Most damning of all confirming the point made in my post is this:

In 2011, after Google revealed a wave of hacking attacks against accounts belonging to senior U.S. officials and human rights activists, Clinton's State Department warned employees to avoid using personal email accounts for official business. However, she continued to exclusively use a private account and server for her work.

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