Pareene nails why Hillary Clinton citing Henry Kissinger is a problem–she just doesn’t understand the Democratic primary voter very well.
The point I’m making here is not, [Glenn Greenwald voice] HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTS A WAR CRIMINAL. (Trust me, I know Kissinger isn’t moving many votes in New Hampshire.) It’s that Hillary Clinton exists in a world where “Henry Kissinger is a war criminal” is a silly opinion held by unserious people. Her problem? Lots of those silly and unserious people want to wrest control of the Democratic Party away from its current leadership, which is exemplified by people like Hillary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders’ critique of Clinton is not that she’s cartoonishly corrupt in the Tammany Hall style, capable of being fully bought with a couple well-compensated speeches, but that she’s a creature of a fundamentally corrupt system, who comfortably operates within that system and accepts it as legitimate. Clinton has had trouble countering that critique because, well, it’s true. It’s not that she’s been bought, it’s that she bought in.
This isn’t some damning revelation of the secret “true” Clinton beneath the surface. Hillary Clinton is a liberal. (One problem afflicting our online discourse is that many of her dimmer fellow liberals in the press keep being baffled at Clinton opposition from leftists who extensively criticize the institutions of American liberalism. This is also why the Sanders-started semantic argument over the term “progressive” was so deeply stupid.) But she’s also plainly a member of a Democratic Party establishment that a large—and, I think, growing—number of would-be Democratic voters reject as unrepresentative of the principles and interests of non-wealthy Americans.
These people may indeed be “unserious,” in the sense that Clinton’s theory of “progressive change” is more realistic—that it, it has a better chance of leading to policy changes that have tangible positive outcomes for large groups of people—than Sanders’ theory of bottom-up “revolution,” at least in our current political climate. But no one is satisfied with the current political climate, and lots of people are looking for leaders who seek to fundamentally reshape it, not work within it.
Such a trajectory for her is hardly surprising. Between coming out of the DLC of the 80s and 90s that sought to isolate the McGovernite hippies in the Democratic Party after the disasters not only in 1972 but also 1984 and 1988 in order to appeal to business and centrist Americans, as well as the fact that she’s simply been in a global leadership class for a very long time, her being unable to adjust well to her left flank seems almost inevitable. This doomed her in 2008 and it may very well doom her with an even more cranky left in 2016. She does exist in a world where Henry Kissinger is a respected figure. That obviously is unacceptable to the left. The problem for her is that the left is a pretty big part of the Democratic Party these days. Combined with her lack of good answers on the economic troubles of the American working and middle classes, it just adds to her troubles.