IF YOU didn’t see the interview President Bill Clinton gave with Fareed Zakaria one of the interesting things broached was whether Clinton’s administration was conservative, something he doesn’t deny, but puts in context to challenge his critics. It won’t convince anyone that Hillary isn’t Bill, or that the newest piece in TNR on Doug Band doesn’t mean anything to Hillary’s future. It is the collision of (Bill) Clinton, Inc. and Hillaryland that’s at the center of any presidential candidacy Hillary would run, and is making headlines this week.
From NBC’s First Read, who offered a partial transcript from the Zakaria interview on the subject:
Was the Clinton Era a conservative era for Democrats? […] Speaking with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Clinton responded to the accusation that the Clinton Era was a conservative era for Democrats, especially on fiscal policy. “Well, first of all, there’s probably something to that. America’s growing more liberal culturally and more diverse. But, again, let’s not get carried away here. I ran on income inequality in 1992, when I was the governor of my state. I took 25 percent of the people out from under the state income tax, the bottom 25 percent. In my first congressional session, we raised taxes on high-income people, on corporations; we cut taxes on the working poor.” And here’s what he said on the repeal of Glass-Steagall: “I know that Senator Warren said the other day, admitted, when she introduced a bill to reinstate the division between commercial and investment banks, she admitted that the repeal of Glass-Steagall did not cause one single solitary financial institution to fail. Canada did a fabulous job in this financial crisis, and they have always allowed banks to issue securities and make loans.”
The more damning label that sticks to Clinton and then Obama from the Democratic left is neoliberalism, which reduced to its simplest form basically amounts to making deals with corporations as a matter of politics and policy. Of course, that’s not what gets talked about with Mr. Clinton, and it is an unspoken question on the minds of Democrats and progressives on the left as Hillary gets closer and closer to a decision on 2016.
This is where Doug Band comes in, with TNR’s in-depth look at the “scandal at Clinton, Inc.,” as the article is titled, setting teeth clacking across new media. It’s an inevitable article written about someone who isn’t known in the wider world, but has been a player inside everything Clinton. Doug Band is an insider’s insider in Clintonworld, which is not to be confused with Hillaryland, the two camps quite different and separate, at least they were until the Clinton Foundation just very recently formally became the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
As the various staffs of the three Clintons come under one roof, in a headquarters in the Time-Life Building in midtown Manhattan, there are dangers of internecine conflict. “It’s all people jockeying for position,” says a person with close ties to the foundation. “This is an operation that runs on proximity to people. Now there are three people. How does all that work?” – Hillary in Midair [New York Magazine]
How will all this work is a question that has kept Peggy Noonan and Maureen Dowd employed, waiting for Hillary’s next move.
Band has been close to President Bill Clinton for years, his former body man. TNR actually unpacks the machinations of neoliberalism as seen inside “Clinton, Inc.,” which up until very recently was exclusively the turf of Bill Clinton, which I wrote about when the New York Times did the first and sloppy look into the Clinton Foundation.
What does the TNR article say about Hillary at “Clinton, Inc.”? I’ll save myself and you a paragraph, simply quoting Blake Hounshell (formerly of Foreign Policy and now with Politico), who tweeted the following yesterday:
Worth noting that TNR’s (very good) Doug Band profile doesn’t lay a glove on Hillary Clinton. [via Twitter]
The fact is Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a trail to give us an idea what she’d do, let alone if she thinks similarly to her husband on economics. What we know about Hillary in matters commander in chief is that unlike where Bill started, she’s respected at the Pentagon, which is one reason a contingent of progressives will oppose her candidacy. People tried to hook NAFTA to her back during the 2008 season, which I debunked, because not even Carl Bernstein, someone who wrote a fairly tough book on Hillary, would allow that to go unremarked upon, throwing ice cold water on any notion she supported NAFTA, a free trade agreement that exemplifies neoliberalism.
Just because she’s Bill Clinton’s wife doesn’t mean her views are identical to him. You’d think Democratic activists and progressives would understand the insult of assuming Hillary would be just like Bill. Opposing NAFTA also doesn’t mean she won’t approve of other free trade deals. Of course, for many Iraq, then her role in Libya, now Syria, is enough to make her unsupportable.
The other issue is that to people inside the power structure who want to be in charge, pretending corporations aren’t part of politics is to lose your foothold on the ladder taking you upward. You can choose not to participate as a voter and activist, but anyone in the political food chain who wants to rise cannot. This is one of the immovable, unsolvable, implacable truths that create the catch-22 of American politics.
Anyone who wants to change the system can’t get access to power without using the system and by the time they rise within the system they’ve lost credibility with the voters who put them in office to fight the system. Once in the political stream that gives you access to the power as a politician, the corporations who run the world also control the political apparatus you need to get anything done. Thus instead of Barack Obama changing Washington it changed him, as it will anyone governing in the era of international globalization. It gets to the question of whether a person is strong enough to also exact their own pound of economic flesh so that the stacked deck for the wealthy against the middle class at some points starts evening out.
So we don’t talk about neoliberalism when it comes to Democrats, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, and a scorching investigation of Doug Band won’t change that fact, or that Hillary being married to Bill doesn’t tell us anything definitive about what she’d do if she ran for president and won.