Canadian Politics (Federal), Opinion, Published Articles, U.S. Politics

Beware of those who cry “fake news”

Originally published in the Whitecourt Star

Since last year’s U.S. Election, the term ‘fake news’ has entered our political discourse like a ton of bricks.

Although intended to signal an actual phenomenon — web articles that appear to be actual news but are entirely fabricated to serve a political agenda — the term has taken on a life of its own.

It seems that those who are most quick to label reporting they dislike “fake news” are its truest purveyors.

As George Orwell wrote in his masterful 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language,” “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies something not desirable.” What he said then of the ‘fascist’ label could be said of the ‘fake news’ epithet today.

The most prominent practitioner of calling undesirable news fake is, of course, U.S. President Donald Trump, who refused to allow CNN reporter Jim Acosta to ask a question at one of his first presidential press briefings, because, “You’re fake news.”

The question of whether fake news — like an article that baselessly claimed that Pope Francis had endorsed The Donald — helped propel Trump to victory in the U.S. Electoral College is entirely debatable.

That Trump himself used blatant falsehoods to stir up emotion amongst his supporters, however, both on the campaign trail and in office, is beyond dispute.

Some of his most egregious claims, for those in need of a refresher, include the allegation that three million people voted illegally in the election where he lost the popular vote by three million, that he personally witnessed thousands of Muslims celebrating on the streets of New Jersey after the September 11 terrorist attacks and, my personal favourite, his insinuation that “Lyin’” Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination.

Clearly, when Trump cries “fake news,” he’s projecting his insecurities onto the American news media, which although not without its flaws and frailties, is largely in the business of reporting facts.

This psychological projection is by no means exclusive to the pro-Trump crowd, or even the U.S.

Here in Canada, there are those who criticize “the media” for its apparent coziness with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, citing the soft news surrounding our media savvy prime minister, such as his Star Wars socks that inexplicably got international media coverage.

It’s rather disingenuous to claim that the Canadian media hasn’t covered Trudeau’s ethical lapses, such as his cash-for-access fundraisers that are increasingly being outlawed provincially.

Sure, the media as a whole could do better reporting hard news rather than fluff, but this has little to do with ideological bent.

It’s more about how revenues are generated in the digital world. Traditional newspapers and news media outlets need content that generates clicks, which generate advertising revenue, which allows them to chase important stories.

There is no such singular entity as the media — different media organizations have distinct ideological bents, and that’s as it should be.

With that said, there’s certainly a credibility gap in news reporting.

The New York Times, which in many ways is the gold standard of news reporting, has yet to fully recover its credibility after it presented allegations of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, based on the claims of anonymous sources within the Bush administration, as objective fact.

This significantly weakens the paper’s clout when it goes after fake news sources, whether it’s the president of the United States or Russian bots.

Skeptics can point to its role in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion and ask how the Times is any different.

This is a misguided criticism, as most newspapers, though they all have an ideological slant, don’t generally fabricate news for ideological purposes.

When we lump the news media, for all its flaws, together with the malicious intentions of fake news, we do a disservice to the journalists who put all they’ve got into holding the powerful to account, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum.

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Environment, Global Affairs, U.S. Politics

Last thoughts on Election 2016

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.

The political neophyte businessman Donald Trump, who kicked off his campaign by descending from a golden escalator at one of his luxury hotels to call illegal Mexican immigrants “rapists” and criminals has defeated former secretary of state, New York senator and first lady Hillary Clinton to become the 45th U.S. president.

Though Clinton won the popular vote 60,828,358 to 60,261,924, which comes to half a percentage point, it was not spread evenly enough amongst the states to give her an advantage in the Electoral College, which Trump won handily with 290 votes to Clinton’s 232. 

Clinton had a compelling narrative set up for her victory: the first female president who set herself apart from her ex-president husband, who she stood behind through all his sex scandals, by starting her own career in politics. But it was all for naught.

What the hell happened?

As has been written many times by now, Trump successfully tapped into the anger and resentment of the rural white working class who felt the benefits of the economic globalization championed by Hillary’s husband during his presidency had passed them by.

Trump gave outlet to their frustrations, blaming their woes not only on unfair trade deals, which is quite reasonable, but fear of the Other – illegal immigrants, Muslims, the Chinese and a “global economic elite” that often sounded like a metonym for “Jews.”

By contrast, Clinton didn’t inspire enough enthusiasm to motivate the Latinos and African-Americans who voted in droves for Obama to come out for her on Election Day. Their lot hadn’t improved significantly under the first black president, so, many of them reasoned, what would another Clinton do for them?

In swings states that Trump won– Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, for example – Clinton won drastically in the cities but was shellacked, or “shlonged” as Trump would say, in rural areas.

It’s worth noting that Trump actually increased his share of the black and Latino vote about two percentage points each compared to Mitt Romney in 2012.

Trump won outright amongst white men and women. The latter is considerably shocking, given the multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him and the “grab ’em by the pussy” recording that came out prior to them.

Like Rob Ford in Toronto’s 2010 election and the Brexiters in this year’s referendum in the U.K., Trump seized upon the chasm that opened between a core of city-dwelling “elites” and the peripheral rest of the country, motivating many disenchanted people to go out and vote for a brash outsider who promised to improve their lot, defying pollsters in the process.

Clinton came to embody everything that Trump said he opposed – a corrupt elite so entrenched in its own sense of entitlement that it was blind to the plight of the country’s downtrodden, those left behind by the closure of factories and mines.

In this regard, it didn’t matter that Trump is an elite by any measurement. After all, he started his business career with a “small loan of a million dollars” from his millionaire father.

While Clinton spoke of specific policy proposals tailor-made to appeal to a large cross section of the educated public, Trump spoke in platitudes that appealed to rural America, who were dismissed by Clinton as a “basket of deplorables.”

True, few if any Trump supporters would have voted for her in any event, but it’s generally a bad idea to insult your opponent’s supporters, as Romney learned in 2012.

When faced with a choice between the status quo that Clinton represented and “making America great again,” many Americans opted for the latter. One can strongly disagree with this decision, as I do, but it’s perfectly understandable, especially for those who feel excluded from the modern political economy.

Wikileaks and the FBI

At times, it seemed like Wikileaks and its leader Julian Assange was in the tank for Trump, leaking speeches, documents and private e-mails that cast the Democratic nominee and her inner circle in a negative light. Assange strongly denies that this was intended to help Trump, insisting that he simply publishes whatever secret documents are given to him in the name of radical transparency.

Perhaps the most damaging release was a paid speech Clinton gave to the National Multi-Housing Council where she admitted to having a “private” and “public” positions on issues like trade. For instance, Clinton told an audience of Italian bankers that she was fully in favour of “open trade and open borders,” despite her publicly stated opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership she helped negotiate as secretary of state, putting the sincerity of her other token progressive positions – $15 minimum wage, opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and increasing taxes on the wealthy, to name a few – into question.

To blame Wikileaks, or the Russians for allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) server and passing the information on to Assange is to shoot the messenger.

These leaks, whatever their source, fueled Clinton’s image as a manipulative member of the ruling class concerned with nothing but her own advancement.

And the e-mails she sent from a private account as secretary of state – those “damn e-mails” as Bernie Sanders foolishly dismissed them in a Democratic primary debate – came back to haunt her in the campaign’s latter days, as FBI Director James Comey, a Republican Obama appointee, announced they were being re-investigated and then a week later said nothing noteworthy was found.

Still, the damage was done. The Clintons were correctly viewed as part of a crooked aristocracy to whom the rules need not apply.

Interestingly, the FBI, who formally accused Wikileaks of hacking the DNC and interfering in the election, was also involved in leveling the playing field for Trump.

Would Bernie have fared better?

Hypotheticals are always difficult, but it’s quite clear that Sanders tapped into the same populist rage as Trump. This is why he was able to give Clinton a far tougher primary challenge than anticipated.

Whereas Trump channeled this mass angst towards immigrants and minorities, Sanders’s focus was primarily economic, with a little bit of racial justice thrown into the mix under pressure from Black Lives Matter activists.

As we know thanks to Wikileaks, the DNC conspired against Sanders from day one. He was regarded, particularly by former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as a mere obstacle on Clinton’s inevitable path to the presidency and not a serious challenge. Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign her position as a result of the revelation, being replaced by yet another Clinton surrogate, Donna Brazile.

Had Sanders been the nominee, I suspect Trump would have gone into full red-baiting mode. It’s doubtful that the white rural voters who voted overwhelmingly for the KKK’s candidate of choice would vote for a Jewish socialist senator from Vermont.

It seems, unfortunately, that it was Trump’s time.

What will a Trump presidency actually look like? 

Anyone’s guess is as good as mine, but Trump released a list of policy proposals for his first 100 days in office that is mostly frightening.

It does not bode well that that the Republicans now have control of the White House, both Houses of Congress and soon the judiciary. They’re already intent upon working with Trump to roll back Obama’s modest environmental, health care and taxation regulations.

His reported cabinet choices reads like a rogue’s gallery of right-wing ideologues: former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, George W. Bush’s UN ambassador John Bolton, Mr. 9/11 Rudy Guiliani and Sarah Palin, whose stupidity needs no introduction, are just a few.

I suspect and hope that some of Trump’s more outrageous proposals – banning Muslims, deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, prosecuting Clinton and bringing back “a hell of a lot worse than water boarding” – were just to get the rural masses riled up and set him apart from the other candidates.

If true, Trump will govern like any other modern Republican president, which is bad but could conceivably be worse.

He’s already toned down his rhetoric considerably, giving an uncharacteristically gracious acceptance speech and mysteriously removing his proposed Muslim ban from his website before restoring it.

One of his signature proposals, building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, seems particularly unlikely, given his repeated insistence that Mexico will pay for it. That appears to be a trap door – if the wall doesn’t get built he can blame it on the Mexicans and move on.

And as a businessman, he must be aware of the economic havoc his plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, many of whom work low-wage jobs U.S. citizens won’t do, would wreak.

Still, his environmental policies – scrapping the Paris climate agreement, building pipelines and categorically rejecting any form of carbon pricing – are cause for immense concern, because they’re entirely plausible from an economistic standpoint.

An erratic foreign policy

In terms of foreign relations, the big question is whether he will make good on his promise to thaw out relations with Russia, one issue where he ran as an unambiguous dove.

Intimately connected is the fate of NATO, whose other members Trump has insisted must pay up to continue as part of the alliance that was founded to counter Russian foreign policy. NATO requests that its members spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence. Canada, for instance, spends half that.

The former, mending ties with Russia, seems much more doable than the latter and could assist in solving the Syria’s bloody civil war, where Russia and Iran support the government and the U.S. and its allies back rebel forces.

Of course, Trump’s vow to renege on Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, a promise likely made under the pressure of the powerful right-wing pro-Israel lobby, would have the opposite effect on Syria.

Combined with his dismissal of man-made climate change, it’s especially scary that the incoming U.S. commander-in-chief, with control over a vast nuclear arsenal, has such a contradictory array of global policies.

The Democrats: What’s next?

This election, as horrible a result it was for Democrats, was a vindication of the party’s progressive wing.

Notably, there’s currently a push to make Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), the first Muslim congressman and a key Sanders supporter, the new DNC chair.

But for much of the party establishment and its apologists, blame falls on everything and everyone but themselves for the electoral upset: racism, sexism, the media, Wikileaks, the Russians, the FBI and Green leader Jill Stein for having the temerity to run to the left of the anointed one.

To New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman, a Clinton devotee who did all he could to sandbag Sanders during the primaries, it’s inconceivable that Clinton lost because she was a weak candidate who ran a poor campaign.

“The Democratic Party has mastered lying to itself and its core constituencies,” wrote New York Daily News columnist Shaun King. He added:

It claims a progressive identity, but is as moderate and lukewarm as it has ever been on so many issues that matter to everyday people. It claims to be tough on Wall Street, financial corruption and white collar crime, but is awash in donations from lobbyists and executives in the industry. Democrats claim to be the party of working people, but so often seem to be deeply out of touch with their problems and needs.

This is precisely the form of elite corruption and hypocrisy that Sanders and Trump railed against.

Sanders will likely be too old to run again in 2020, but someone will undoubtedly take up the mantle of democratic socialism in the Democratic Party. It’s just a matter of whether the current DNC establishment and its allies will allow them to win.

The Democrats elected some young progressive women of colour to the Senate: Kamala Harris (Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii). Any of them, and others like popular Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, could become the first female president.

If the Democrats can take back the Senate in 2018, there’s the potential for even more young progressives to get elected and stand up to Trump.

But the mass movement that propelled Sanders in the primary needs to continue causing trouble for the establishment and exerting pressure on progressive members of Congress to ensure they stay on the right track.

Yes, Trump’s presidency does have the possibility to be a catastrophe of historical proportions, but it also serves as an opportunity for progressives to unite and offer meaningful, fundamental change of the sort Clinton didn’t offer.

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Global Affairs, U.S. Politics

Clinton, Trump spar in bizarre second debate

The absurdity of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s town hall-style debate Sunday is difficult to do justice.

Coming off the heels of embarrassing leaks for both candidates – Trump boasting of his sexual improprieties and long-awaited transcripts from some of Clinton’s paid speeches to banks – and considering how belligerent the campaign’s tone has already been, it was clear this was not going to be a serious, policy-focused exchange.

The day of the debate Trump held a press conference with Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones, three of the many women who have accused President Clinton of sexual assault, and Kathy Shelton, a woman whose alleged rapist was defended pro-bono by Hillary Clinton. The four of them were also brought to the debate by the Trump campaign. Clearly, this had a triple purpose – to throw his opponent off balance, deflect from Trump’s own history of sexual aggression and make him appear compassionate.

There was no ritual handshake at the beginning, which although repeated ad naseum on social media, was another harbinger of the debate’s tone.

The first question, as most viewers probably anticipated, asked how each candidate would serve as a role model for Americans, a clear allusion to the Trump tape. The Republican nominee reiterated his apology immediately before dismissing his recorded remarks as mere “locker room talk” that provides no evidence he engaged in sexual assault. He then added a non-sequiter (there were a lot of those) about the need to keep the nation safe from ISIS.

Clinton was put on the defensive herself when co-moderator Martha Radatz asked about the recent Wikileak of a paid speech to a bank where she distinguished between her “public and private positions on certain issues,” which the presidential candidate called “principled and strategic.” Clinton said she had just seen Spielberg’s Lincoln and was inspired by his “great display of presidential leadership” in using different arguments in front of different crowds.

She then switched gear to blaming Russia for the leak, insisting they’re attempt to embarrass her and make Trump president because he would go easier on them, to which Trump responded, “I know nothing about Russia,” which is eerily similar to what he said last year after receiving former KKK grand wizard David Duke’s endorsement.

On foreign policy, Trump and Clinton alternated as hawks and doves, with Clinton coming off the slightly more hawkish candidate on some issues and Trump on others. Clinton defended the merits of Obama’s Iran nuclear deal she helped negotiate, which Trump called the “dumbest deal perhaps I’ve seen in the history of deal-making.”

On Russia and Syria, the roles were reversed, as Trump disagreed with running mate Mike Pence and Clinton on the need for a more forceful intervention against the Assad regime. “I don’t like Assad at all but Assad is killing ISIS, Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS,” he said shortly after denouncing the Iran deal.

“Russia hasn’t paid any attention to ISIS,” argued Clinton. “They’re interested in keeping Assad in power, so when I was secretary of state advocated, as I do today, a no-fly-zone.” She proceeded to link the Assad regime’s brutality to the “ambitions and aggressiveness of Russia,” who have gone “all-in in Syria.” Yet she said she was willing to co-operate with Russia on issues of common interest, like nuclear disarmament.

Trump reiterated his demand that Clinton refer explicitly to “radical Islamic terror,” as if further alienating and stigmatizing Muslims were a step in the right direction. “Before you solve it, you have to say the name,” said Trump.

Clinton seized the opportunity to present herself as the inclusive candidate, pointing out that there have always been Muslim-Americans, “from the time of George Washington” to Muhammad Ali. These comforting words stand in stark contrast to her record – as senator she voted for the Iraq War and agitated as secretary of state for attacking Libya and Syria.

“The Muslim ban has somehow morphed into extreme vetting,” said Trump in defence of his policy of banning Muslims form the United States, which was deservedly subject to much ridicule on social media.

Much fuss was made by the punditry of Trump’s quip that if he were president, Clinton “would be in jail,” but it wasn’t at all surprising hearing that from the man whose supporters have been chanting “lock her up” for months.

Towards the town hall’s conclusion, Trump called Clinton evil for her remark calling half of his supporters a “basket of deplorables,” for which she had previously apologized.

Shortly afterwards, they finally shook hands.

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Entertainment, U.S. Politics

Donald Trump’s woman-hating is old news

We’ve seen this act before.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says something outrageous, GOP leaders rush to condemn and distance themselves from him and then nothing happens.

This time, a private 2005 conversation Trump had with television host Billy Bush was leaked where he essentially boasted of his proclivity for sexual harassment.

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women] – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” he said in the leaked audio. “And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

“Grab them by the pussy,” was one such example.

Some pretty awful remarks, certainly, but is it really any worse than other comments Trump’s made about women, including his own daughter, in the past?

As Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of Counterpunch, observed, what Trump said in his conversation with Bush is probably no worse than private discussions had by Presidents Kennedy and Clinton, two other notorious objectifiers of women. They were just never recorded.

According to Politico, unnamed Republican National Committee lawyers are looking for ways to deny Trump the party’s nomination – one month before the election. It’s not going happen, as “the lawyers have concluded that Trump would have to cooperate in any attempt to replace him,” the article noted, based on another anonymous GOP insider.

The hopelessness of their cause aside, the reaction from the party establishment – the very leaders who Trump won the nomination by attacking – was swift.

Here are some tweets:

Trump endorsed Romney in 2012 and after the former Massachusetts governor refused to turn the favour this year, was dubbed “irrelevant” and a “choke artist.”

Rubio was the scion of the party establishment before his campaign collapsed and was trounced by Trump in his own state, Florida.

I’m not sure whether Mitt Romney, “Little” Marco Rubio or “Low Energy” Jeb Bush’s denunciations will hurt so much as help Trump’s campaign, as they feed into the narrative that the establishment is out to get The Donald.

But when your own running mate denounces you, after spending an entire debate denying your more controversial positions, you’re in trouble.

Mike Pence went so far as to issue a formal statement, expressing his remorse at Trump’s comments, which he emphasized are from 11 years ago.

Trump’s non-apology

The Donald was naturally on the defensive when he released a video statement last night, which looks like it was filmed on the set of a late night television show.

“I said it. I was wrong and I apologize,” he said shortly before implying that it’s not too big a deal. “This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today,” citing job losses, government corruption and national security.

He then almost immediately pivots to Bill Clinton’s own history of misogyny, which is certainly deplorable in its own right.

“I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims,” said Trump.

Trump, too, has been accused of sexual assault on at least three separate occasions, including once by his ex-wife, Ivana.

“See you at the debate on Sunday,” he concludes. Looks like it’s going to be a nasty one.

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Global Affairs, U.S. Politics

VP Debate: Kaine, Pence argue over whose running mate is more belligerent

Tonight’s vice presidential debate between Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) was fairly drab for the most part.

Besides the usual partisan shots about which “charitable” foundation is shadier, Clinton’s or Trump’s, Clinton’s private e-mail server and Trump’s never-ending string of insults, the debate’s portion on foreign policy stood out.

This was because of Pence’s repeated disavowal and denial of Trump’s positions and, more importantly, the candidates’ shared support for ramping up war in the Middle East and confrontation with Russia.

Pence’s denials

Here are just a few of the Trump positions Pence claimed were distortions by his political opponent:

  • His remark that Putin was a “stronger leader” than President Obama, a claim which was Pence defended less than a month ago.
  • Pence thought Kaine’s assertion that Trump belittled NATO was laughable, but this is a position Trump has taken repeatedly .
  • Pence supports a no-fly-zone over Syria, which the Washington Post says “goes far, far beyond Trump,” who has been generally coy about his strategies for the region.
  • He called for the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” which strongly contrasts with Trump’s entertaining the nuclearization of Japan and South Korea to counter North Korea.
  • Near the debate’s beginning, Trump’s running mate called the Clinton-Kaine campaign an “avalanche of insults.” Trump has referred to his opponents as “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted,” and “Little Marco” against countless other petty insults.

A consensus of hawkishness, at home and abroad

When Pence called for the aforementioned no-fly-zone against Syria to demonstrate “American strength” against Russia, Kaine couldn’t agree more, demanding a “safe zone” from which the U.S. could bomb Assad and the Russian army with presumed impunity.

Kaine also boasted of Clinton going “toe-to-toe with Russia” as Secretary of State, in an apparent attempt to paint her as promoting a more aggressive foreign policy than Trump-Pence.

“Everyone wants war. So many choices,” observed independent journalist Rania Khalek on Twitter.

In terms of domestic policy, both candidates agreed on the necessity of “community policing,” which as Alice Speri of The Intercept observed, has a nice ring but is a completely vacuous term that does nothing to change the fundamental relationship between cops and communities of colour.

“True community policing is one that puts the community first, and not just in the occasional town hall meeting: giving civilians oversight over their police departments, including a say over legislation regulating law enforcement and access to serious accountability processes,” writes Speri. It goes without saying that this was not on the table during the debate.

There was an awkward moment when the debate’s penultimate question was regarding abortion. Pence is passionately opposed to female reproductive rights. Kaine is too, but believes women should be convinced not to get abortions, rather than compelled by law.

Like all Veep debates, this one is unlikely to change anyone’s minds. Trump supporters will think Pence won and Clinton supporters will believe Kaine was victorious. I’d say it was a draw, but I doubt anyone cares.

Stay tuned for the next presidential debate, which will be the second of three, on Sunday at 9 p.m.

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Global Affairs, U.S. Politics

Hillary Clinton: Assessing the “Queen of Chaos”

Jeremy Appel
Originally published in the Monitor (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)

Progressives hoping for a Democratic victory in the upcoming U.S. election should be sorely disappointed by the party’s presidential nominee. So argues Diana Johnstone, journalist, author and staunch critic of U.S. foreign policy, in her book Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (CounterPunch, November 2015). I spoke to Johnstone on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in late July about Clinton, Trump, Sanders, gender politics and the cage of the two-party system.

Jeremy Appel: Your first two books, Fool’s Crusade and the Politics of Euromissiles focus on the projection of unilateral U.S. power abroad. How would Hillary Clinton differ from Donald Trump on foreign policy?

Diana Johnstone: Clinton adheres to the notion that American military power is capable of achieving just about whatever U.S. leaders want it to do. All that is needed to get our way is “resolve.” Thus she and her foreign policy clique seem confident that U.S. air strikes could counter Russian influence in Syria. Such overconfidence leads to taking grave risks without weighing the possible outcomes.So far, Trump’s foreign policy statements are somewhat ambiguous. In competition with Hillary for support from the influential pro-Israel lobby, Trump’s aggressive condemnation of the Iran nuclear deal competes with Clinton’s bellicose threats to “obliterate” Iran.

However, by promising to “make America great again,” Trump implies the U.S. is not so all-powerful. Considering that he set out to win the nomination from the Republican Party, which is not exactly a peace movement, Trump may have been using aggressive rhetoric precisely in order to sell a policy of withdrawal from worldwide battlefields. Blaming free-rider allies sets a nationalist tone to such withdrawal. His focus on wiping out Islamic terrorism is consistent with normalizing relations with Russia and reversal of Hillary Clinton’s “regime change” policy. Sounding “crazy” could be a symptom of realism.

How effective do you think Bernie Sanders has been in challenging Clinton’s foreign policy positions?

Unfortunately, he was not effective at all. By resigning from the Democratic National Committee to oppose Hillary Clinton’s warlike “regime change” policy, Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard gave Sanders a great opportunity to use his campaign to strengthen an anti-war constituency. Sanders failed to follow her lead, sticking to domestic policy issues without relating his social reforms to the need to challenge the military-industrial complex. His opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq was principled and foresighted, but that was a Republican war. He has shown much more tolerance for “humanitarian” wars waged by Democrats. Bernie failed to reply to charges that he “lacked experience” by aggressively exposing the deadly nature of Hillary’s “experience.”

Whatever his flaws, Sanders galvanized the support of many progressives fed up with the Democratic establishment. What do you think these supporters should do now that he surrendered the nomination to Clinton?

Since it appears hopeless either to reform the Democratic Party from within (apparently Sanders’ project), or to build the Green Party into a real national challenge, I think splitting the Democratic Party would be the best strategy. It might be easier to build a third party by splitting one of the two than by starting from scratch. The Bernie campaign made it clear how much popular support exists for a return to the social outlook associated with the New Deal, which many people continue to associate with the Democratic Party. In reality, the progressive left is now deprived of effective political representation.Honestly, it is hard to see how to escape from the two party trap.

Clinton’s gender has played an oversized role in discussions of her candidacy, but your book urges voters to look past the idea of America’s first female president.

That gives people a reason to vote for her. That and her “experience.” In reality, after being the wife of a president (Bill Clinton), that “experience” was carefully crafted to prepare her to run for president: first senator, then Secretary of State. A suitable curriculum vitae for the job. I find it amusing that the candidacy is not a result of her experience, but rather that the experience is the result of her (carefully programmed) candidacy. She has cast herself in the role. Being a woman tends to protect her from more critical examination of that record.

Still, there is no doubt that because she is a woman she has been subjected to particularly vicious personal attacks. By the same token, Obama aroused unjustified animosity for being African-American. Just as having a black president failed to eliminate racism, a woman president is not going to end the war between the sexes in America—on the contrary. My problem with all this is that “the right of a woman to be President” is actually a very provincial domestic issue in the United States at a time when so much else is at stake, including the danger of World War III. This is just not the moment to focus on gender. Some other time, some other woman.

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