No Smoking Gun
by Jonah Raskin, June 1, 2016
I’ve never really liked Hillary, whom I still think of as Bill’s wife, and, while I would rejoice if a genuine feminist finally moved into the White House, I don’t cotton to the idea of yet another Clinton as the chief executive. Doug Henwood’s book My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency (OR Books; $15) didn’t persuade me to dislike her any the less, but that wasn’t the author’s intention. You might call My Turn a hatchet job. Indeed, Henwood aims to show that Hillary Clinton is a hawk, a friend of Wall Street, and a foe of poor and working people, though to hear her speak over the last few weeks you might conclude that she was a long time advocate for the downtrodden, the persecuted and the oppressed. Bernie has pushed her to the left, but for how long? That’s the question. Henwood, a political economist who writes for The Nation, suggests that she’ll do almost anything, and say most anything, too, to win the 2016 election. She’ll even contradict herself. But as Henwood knows, that’s nothing new for a politician. Hillary is cut from much the same cloth as the guys she has been running against ever since she and Bill made their marks in Arkansas ages ago.
My Turn offers plenty of grist for the anti-Hillary mill. Ambitious, opportunistic, compulsively secretive and a front woman for American corporations, the Hillary that Henwood depicts is a relentless campaigner. In fact, as he sees her, she’s always running for office, whether it’s the senate or the presidency, or to clean up and polish her own image. She’s the permanent candidate. On June 7, 2016, the day of the California primary, we’ll all know a lot better than we do now where she stands with voters in the Golden State, and whether or not she’s running neck-to-neck with Bernie Sanders, Henwood’s personal choice — and clearly the peoples’ choice as well.
“Hillary understand how power works, even if she’s systematically on the wrong side of it,” the author writes in one of his most hard-hitting sentences.
For all its feistiness, the book is a disappointment, though it’s fun to learn that Hillary’s emails show that “she suffered serious status anxiety." There are no new, dazzling facts that might turn the undecided American electorate against Hillary and no new, shocking disclosures about her connections to Wall Street and the Pentagon. At one point, Henwood offers a long quotation from Peter Schweizer, the author of Clinton Cash, who wrote of Bill and Hillary, “We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately prove the links between the money they took in and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends and their associates.”
Henwood adds, “In other words, a mere journalist can’t uncover the smoking gun. You need someone with subpoena power to get to the bottom of it all.” And, at another crucial juncture in his book, when he might have gone for the kill, Henwood pulls back. First he offers a long quotation from Hillary herself who said in August 2015, “I don’t believe you change hearts, you change allocations of resources, you change the way systems operate.”
Henwood adds, “It’s hard for me to write, but this is a rare occasion where Hillary is absolutely right.” What he might have gone on to say explicitly, then and there, and that he doesn’t, is that no matter what she has said, she’s never aimed to change the fundamental ways in which the American system operates, unless it’s to make the rich richer and the poor poorer and at the expense of the poor and the powerless.
Henwood ends his book on a note of tentative hope. Indeed, the author wonders if the “wave of activism that began with Occupy Wall Street” and that “manifested itself most recently in Black Lives Matter” might be “taking this electoral form now” and if “the future could eventually hold the possibility of something better than merely a second Clinton presidency.”
Now, eight months after Henwood wrapped up his book, it seems more likely than ever before that Hillary will be the first woman in the White House, and that the United States as a nation will be more deeply divided than ever before. With Obama we’ve had a black man in charge of the empire. With Hillary we’ll have a woman in charge. Hip, hip hurray and two cheers for imperial democracy.
“Based on her time in the senate,” Henwood writes, a Hillary administration“ would be more likely to bomb and invade abroad” than the current administration. No matter what the gender or the ethnicity of the president, it seems inevitable that the empire will continue to decline slowly and that as it declines it will become more sinister and more corrupt, with perhaps an occasional rebellion from the slaves inside and outside, and now and then a handout and a speech meant to uplift the downtrodden — an Obama specialty.
Finally, a word about the graphic cover of the book. According to Henwood, it has generated a great deal of hostile comment. That’s because it depicts Hillary with a gun in her hand, as she takes aim at the reader. Indeed, Hillary supporters have called it misogynist. Maybe it is. But the cover would have been far more controversial, and far more provocative, if it had depicted Hillary pointing the gun at herself. And it would have been downright subversive if it showed her on the ground, a gun in her hand, a pool of blood around her. Wisely, the artist, Sarah Sole, and the publisher OR Books didn’t go there. If they had, they all would be in "deep doo-doo," as Bush I called it.