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Don't Let Hillary's Dems Cash In on Iraq

Hillary Clinton's carefully scripted display of canned anger at Donald Rumsfeld was for his screwing up the 'execution' of the Iraq war, not because he thought invading Iraq was a good idea.
 
 
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"Never has so much military and economic and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively … I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership not tied to the mistakes and policies of the past." -- Richard Nixon, 1968

"We hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the administration's strategic blunders -- and frankly the record of incompetence in executing -- you are presiding over a failed policy." --Hillary Clinton, addressing Donald Rumsfeld, August 2006

Hillary Clinton has taken an enormous amount of abuse over the years from some very bad people, but her basic problem is that she's deserved all of it.

It never should have happened this way. Hillary's real destiny was to destroy American progressivism forever, taking the Democratic Party down with her, but an unlikely alliance of unwitting male conspirators screwed things up along the way by making her into the first great martyr of the mass-media age.

First among these were Rush Limbaugh and the other rightist media clowns of his ilk, who burned up the airwaves for over a decade, furiously miscasting Hillary as a kind of pompous, castrating Trojan Horse of liberalism and socialism. They sold Hillary as the Satan of the conservative's unwritten political Bible -- an icy, polysyllabic creature from the north bent on installing costly, intrusive and, frankly, lesbian government programming in place of the God-fearing Southern male as the ultimate authority in the American home.

These morons cranked out a virtual Mt. Everest of hysterical Hillary merchandise (Buy a "Stop Hillary!" Political Infant Creeper for just $12.99!) and sold her relentlessly in the media as a kind of evil socialist asteroid hurtling inexorably toward earth ("Hillary Endorses World Government!" "Hillary Linked to Marxist-Terrorist Network!"). The whole thing was so childish and overdone that even I felt sorry for her for about five minutes once.

The other conspirator, of course, was Bill Clinton himself. By screwing everything that moved, and especially by publicly engaging with the irritatingly wide-eyed and much younger Monica Lewinsky in the kind of weird and interesting sex most older career women only experience in fading memories or at exorbitant per-hour rates in Third-World vacation locales, Bill turned his wife into the ultimate martyr for modern feminism.

Hillary was educated, driven and accomplished, a superwoman who brilliantly matched wits with CEOs and senators on live national television, and what did it get her? A one-way trip to the sexual scrap-heap, followed by a late middle age lived out as an unsmiling pro-military curmudgeon with a fast-rusting vagina endlessly haunting the Sunday morning news magazine shows, with nothing left to look forward to but the questionable rewards of power and ambition, and a thicker neck every year … Hillary's life story, in other words, spoke to the deepest fears of the modern liberated woman, who by the turn of the century was beginning to have serious doubts about what was waiting for her at the end of the rainbow.

All of which theoretically made her an interesting and tragic figure, but as it turned out, Hillary is neither interesting nor tragic. The life story that made her so compelling in the '90s is being subsumed in the 21st century by a larger cyclical drama of American politics, in which she's chosen to play a rank-and-file soldier's role.

We live in a two-party system where both parties are pro-war; when the wars go badly, the system scrambles to find a way to prevent anti-war sentiment from taking the drastic step of mounting a meaningful opposition.

Therefore, from time to time, we have to suffer through the spectacle of some status quo dingbat letting his hair down and performing a tortured impersonation of a peace activist during an election season. He bounds to the podium all hot and bothered and indignant-looking, and he sounds like he's against the war.

Only once you've listened to the tape five or six times do you realize that he's saying that he's actually in favor of the war; he just thinks it should have been prosecuted more effectively.

This was the basic message of Richard Nixon in 1968, and exactly the same message now belongs to Hillary Clinton, who unveiled her new pseudo-anti-war pose during an absurd clash of war collaborators with Donald Rumsfeld on the Senate floor last week.

Pitched as an effort by senators to discover the truth about the "on the ground" situation in Iraq, the series of interrogations of leading administration officials was really a forum for Conventional Wisdom to publicly abandon the war effort.

Generals admitted that Iraq was on the verge of civil war; senators gave gloomy speeches and repositioned themselves for midterm election season. Even a slew of erstwhile media war-cheerleaders, most notably mustachioed Times dipshit Thomas Friedman, used the occasion of the hearings to throw in the towel, universally describing the war as both a lost cause and somebody else's fault (the hilarious Friedman formulation was "Whether for Bush reasons or Arab reasons …"). But the headline outcome was Hillary angrily demanding Don Rumsfeld's resignation, apparently for the crime of screwing up a perfectly good war.

Her semantically tortured apostrophic attack against Rumsfeld's "incompetence," in which she railed against the administration's "strategic blunders" but carefully avoided any discussion of the decision to invade, which she and most other Democrats so enthusiastically supported, identified her as the status quo dingbat in this generation's version of the same old story.

So much for being a martyr. Hillary officially stopped being a victim with that stunt, finally completing her self-propelled transformation into just another soulless stuffed suit willing to do anything to keep a job. There are thousands of these types in Washington, huge crowds of faceless drones in glasses and blue suits, each raised on DVD boxed sets of "The West Wing" and each willing to suck off a whole field of racehorses for the right internship or committee appointment. Collectively, they represent the least interesting group of people on the planet Earth, and once-compelling Hillary is their champion now.

The Iraq war has surely produced many landmark moments in the history of American cynicism -- GOP Rep. Bob Ney storming the House cafeteria to crusade against french fries before jetting off to a Scottish golf junket with Jack Abramoff is a particular favorite of mine -- but no one in the whole course of this conflict, not even George Bush, has yet sunk as low as Hillary's Democrats are sinking now. They're making a conscious effort to try to cash in politically on the Iraq catastrophe without making any admission of culpability or responsibility, hoping to limp across the finish line first in the midterm elections with nothing but a semantic absurdity -- for the invasion, against its "execution" -- for a war policy.

To milk the blood of soldiers and innocent civilians for the principle of rank careerism is surely lower even than sacrificing young lives for oil or money, but the Democrats will get away with it, because American voters have always been too afraid to contemplate the reality of their monolithic system of government.

The only kind of change most dissenting voters in this country can contemplate is the rejection of an openly drooling imperialist like Joe Lieberman, whose real crime was not his war stance but his refusal to participate in the kind of craven cover-your-ass posturing the Hillarys and Joe Bidens and John Kerrys have indulged in this election season. Had Lieberman merely pretended to be anti-war once things went wrong in Baghdad, he almost certainly could have counted on the pusillanimity of the American voter to carry him to yet another Connecticut landslide.

Beltway pros like Hillary have long understood that, in tough times, the vast majority of disgruntled Americans would rather find a way to convince themselves that their party agrees with them than face the fact that they never had any choice at all on a wide range of crucial issues. They're willing to be swayed by a carefully scripted display of canned anger like Hillary's outburst in the Senate, because the alternatives -- third-party politics, grassroots activism, dropping out of society altogether -- are too exhausting and radical to even imagine. Because getting to the root causes of things is so hard and scary, they'll settle for punishing an unpopular politician, even if it means electing his accomplice.

So they'll vote, even for a factory-produced fraud like Hillary Clinton, because voting is easy. Much easier than doing something. That's the real platform the Democrats are running on this November.

Matt Taibbi is a writer for Rolling Stone .