While a dozen credible Republican presidential candidates continue a lively debate over a broad range of domestic and foreign policy issues, and have responded to the concerns of the American people to the rising threat from Islamic terrorists, the Democrat campaign was over before it began. The party’s presidential nomination has been conceded by default to Hillary Clinton, due to the absence of serious competitors, despite the self-inflicted injuries which hobbled her candidacy even before she formally announced it.
Clinton’s campaign started out with a long list of serious handicaps. These include the many failed foreign policy positions she backed as President Obama’s secretary of state, serious potential conflicts of interest arising from large foreign contributions to the Clinton family charitable foundation while she was running American foreign policy, and her lack of natural campaign skills. Her poor performance as a presidential candidate in 2008, allowed a relative unknown like Barack Obama to overtake her initial commanding lead and to deny her the nomination, which everybody had assumed would be hers from the outset.
To make sure that would not happen again in 2016, Democrat party leaders were careful to warn off any serious potential challengers to Clinton this time. In particular, they dissuaded Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren from even contemplating a presidential run. Warren was a favorite of the progressive community because of her steadfast opposition to the Wall Street and big banking establishment.
Vice President Joe Biden, who yearned to run for president again, was gently persuaded to wait on the sidelines as an emergency replacement as Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal unfolded. Biden was to serve as an emergency replacement if Clinton were to come under federal indictment for the mishandling her e-mails and be forced to drop out of the race. Once it became clear that was not going to happen, it was too late for Biden to launch his own campaign to challenge her.
That left a Democrat presidential field made up of obscure candidates, some of whom were formerly Republicans, as well as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist and isn’t even a registered member of the Democrat party.
No effort was made to block Sanders’ candidacy because Democrat party leaders understood they had to stage some semblance of a campaign to maintain the interest of the public and the mainstream media, even though it was clear that the process had been rigged to assure that Clinton would get the nomination.
HOPING FOR ANOTHER ROMNEY
Democrats hoped that the big Republican field, would battle it out in a long, messy campaign as it did in 2012. They expected Republicans to select another weak, mainstream politician like Mitt Romney, who was seriously wounded by the attacks of the other GOP candidates during the primaries, and was never able to gain any traction in the general election.
Nobody expected an outsider like Donald Trump to emerge and take over the GOP campaign. Trump’s domination of the polls and masterful manipulation of the mainstream media, enabled him to set the policy agenda for the campaign. He totally overshadowed Clinton and thwarted Democrat attempts to restrict the range of issues open for discussion in the campaign in order to prevent the Republican candidate from attacking Clinton’s obvious weaknesses.
CLINTON ADVOCATE PUT IN CHARGE
Democrats selected Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Florida, who was Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign co-chair, to serve as chairwoman of the Democrat National Committee (DNC) for the 2016 campaign cycle. As expected, Schultz has used that position to act as a campaign operative for Clinton rather than trying to foster an honest competition for the Democrat nomination.
Her bias became obvious when she penalized the Sanders campaign for a breach of confidential political data caused by a DNC computer services vendor. The breach briefly exposed Clinton campaign data to a Sanders staff member, who read it instead of immediately reporting the breach to party officials. The Sanders campaign did not use the data, and the offending staff member was fired, but Schultz decided to punish the campaign anyway by cutting off its access to its own data, which was stored on the DNC’s computer system. The Sanders campaign had to go to court to regain access to its own data.
Schultz also decided to limit the Democrat candidates to just six televised debates and deliberately scheduled them at times when their national audiences would be the smallest.
Both Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Clinton’s only remaining rivals for the Democrat nomination, have bitterly complained about the scheduling of the debates. It has limited their ability to address a national audience on an equal footing with Clinton, and to establish their credibility as viable alternatives to her to head the Democrat ticket.
DEBATES THAT NOBODY WAS SUPPOSED TO WATCH
Their criticism was well founded. Wasserman Schultz chose to schedule the debates on weekends, competing for an audience with popular national sporting events. She scheduled the most recent debate for December 19, which is within the traditional holiday period of the last two weeks of the year, when the size of TV audiences is further reduced.
Schultz’s unstated goal was to limit the number of voters who would be directly exposed to Sanders and O’Malley, and might decide that they liked one of them better than Clinton. Instead, Schultz and the Clinton campaign relied on the mainstream media coverage of the debate to present the illusion of a real contest, while emphasizing Clinton’s talking points and her strong performance as a seasoned debater on a carefully selected range of issues.
FOLLOWING THE DEBATE SCRIPT
In addition, Sanders and O’Malley have followed Schultz’s debate script which limited them to a discussion of their differences on the details of their shared liberal policy agenda. They also agreed not to raise any embarrassing questions about Clinton’s competence and effectiveness as secretary of state, the national security implications of her use of a private e-mail server, or the potential conflicts of interest generated by her paid speaking engagements and large foreign donations to the Clinton family foundation.
Another topic declared off limits was the hypocrisy of Clinton’s claim to represent the interests of the exploited poor and the middle class After leaving the White House in 2001, she and her husband ruthlessly exploited their celebrity status to enrich themselves by catering to Wall Street and foreign firms and their multi-billionaire owners, including Donald Trump.
TRYING TO LIMIT THE CAMPAIGN AGENDA
By establishing those limits during the debates, the Clinton campaign hoped to discourage the ultimate Republican nominee from raising those issues against Clinton in the general election campaign. By forcing the Republican candidate to let Clinton use the media to set the issues agenda to her advantage, many of the most powerful GOP arguments against her would be eliminated from the outset.
That strategy still might work if one of the more mainstream GOP candidates, like Florida Senator Marco Rubio or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie emerges as the Republican nominee, but if Donald Trump or Texas Senator Ted Cruz becomes Clinton’s opponent, expect a “no-holds-barred” general election campaign, with the Clinton camp trying to destroy the credibility of the GOP nominee before he can remind American voters of the many mistakes, coverups and unanswered questions in Clinton’s past.
With the help of the mainstream media, the Democrats were able to do that to Mitt Romney in the early stages of the 2012 general election campaign, enabling an unpopular Obama to win re-election to a second term. But in Trump, the Democrats have met their match in manipulating the media. Cruz has also demonstrated a sophisticated ability to use his media exposure to maximum advantage in getting his message across to voters, as well as a willingness to selectively cross the media boundaries of political correctness in order to drive home his main points. If either one of them winds up being Clinton’s opponent for the White House, she can expect nothing to be off-limits in the campaign debate. She will be forced to defend the aspects of her record, actions and positions for which she is most vulnerable.
ENTHUSIASM FOR SANDERS CATCHES CLINTON BY SURPRISE
Despite Sanders’ obvious weaknesses as a presidential candidate, his spirited defense of his radical socialist economic beliefs and his pacifist and isolationist views on American foreign policy have struck a chord with the young progressive liberals who make up the core of the Democrat voter base and its most dedicated activists. A surprisingly large number of young Democrats are telling pollsters that they support Sanders rather than Clinton, due to their admiration for his open and honest enthusiasm for his extremely socialist positions.
Sanders has been liberated by the fact that even though he has no chance of winning the nomination, his status as Clinton’s closest approximation to a serious challenger has allowed him to set much of the policy agenda for the Democrat primary campaign, such as it is.
On the other hand, O’Malley’s campaign has generated no traction whatsoever with voters or the media, despite his national television exposure debating with Clinton and Sanders. His reputation as a competent former governor of Maryland and before that, mayor of Baltimore, has not been able to gain him enough credibility. As a result, O’Malley has attracted almost no support.
In national polls, Sanders trails Clinton by an average of 25 points. In Iowa, which caucuses on February 1, her lead over Sanders is only 16 points. In New Hampshire, which is next door to Sanders’ home state, and which holds its primary eight days after the Iowa caucuses, Sanders now leads Clinton by an average of 6 points.
BRINGING IN BILL TO AVOID DEFEAT IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
Clinton’s supporters are already trying to discount the significance of a possible loss to Sanders in New Hampshire. They claim that she would quickly recover by trouncing him in primaries in states with large numbers of black Democrat voters, winning enough convention delegates to rapidly wrap up the nomination. But a loss to Sanders in the New Hampshire primary and a narrower than expected victory in the Iowa caucuses would be taken as signs of Clinton’s vulnerability in the general election.
To avoid that possibility, Clinton announced that she is bringing in her husband, the former president, to campaign on her behalf in New Hampshire in the final month before the primary. Calling Bill her “not so secret weapon,” Mrs. Clinton said, “We’re going to cover as much ground in New Hampshire as we possibly can, see as many people, thank everyone who’s going to turn out and vote for me to try to get some more to join them.”
To this point, the former president has satisfied himself with a behind the scenes role in his wife’s campaign, helping it to raise money and offering political and campaign advice.
A MIXED BLESSING
Bill Clinton is still one of this country’s most gifted government policy experts and political communicators. He is also, by far, the most popular former president. He enjoys tremendous support among Democrat voters, especially in the black community, but because of his natural political talents, he outshines his wife when they appear together.
During Hillary’s failed 2008 presidential bid, some of her husband’s comments about Obama got him and her campaign into hot water. He was criticized for suggesting that Obama’s victory over Mrs. Clinton in the South Carolina primary was less significant than it might otherwise seem because most of those who voted in that primary were black.
That situation is likely to be reversed this time around. The Clinton campaign will be relying heavily on Bill’s popularity with the black community to encourage more blacks to go to the polls to vote for Hillary in the primaries, as they did for Obama four and eight years ago. Nevertheless, a certain amount of drop off is expected in the number of black Democrats going to the polls, both in the primaries and the general election, because Obama’s name will not be on the ballot.
TRUMP WARNS HE IS READY TO GO AFTER BILL CLINTON
Donald Trump reacted to the news that Bill Clinton will be actively campaigning for his wife by issuing a warning that this will make the past accusations of misconduct by the former president fair game for criticism.
While Mrs. Clinton was not directly responsible for her husband’s actions, it is well known that she took an active role in covering them up. Similar accusations were involved in the failed Republican effort to remove Bill Clinton as president through impeachment in 1998.
Trump is one of the few figures in political life today who is not intimidated by the Clinton political machine, which has long been notorious for its willingness to destroy the reputation of its enemies.
Firing a shot across the bow of the Clinton campaign, Trump told Fox News that because Hillary Clinton was playing the “woman’s card” against him, her husband is now “fair game because his presidency was really considered to be very troubled because of all the things that she’s talking to me about.” It was a warning that Trump will not accept any criticism from the former president which Trump feels is out-of-bounds, and that he is ready to respond in kind.
TRUMP THRIVES ON ATTACKS BY HIS ENEMIES
The warning also distinguishes Trump from the rest of the GOP candidates. It signals that if he is the Republican nominee, we will be in for the roughest presidential election campaign in living memory. Trump offered a sample Monday, accusing Mrs. Clinton of having committed a “criminal” act by manipulating her e-mails.
The Democrats and the liberal media establishment have already launched the most extreme public accusations at Trump, calling him a racist bigot, a male supremacist, an egotist, a bully and even a latter day Nazi. Trump has reacted by rejecting the accusations as inaccurate or irrelevant, and by belittling and demeaning his accusers even more effectively than they attacked him.
So far, he has won every encounter during the campaign. He has bested not only the GOP candidates who criticized and disagreed with him, but also members of the media who called Trump a liar and then complained about the way he treated them.
Despite the intense criticism, Trump has remained on top of the GOP race since he entered it and has further extended his lead in most of the recent national polls. Of all the GOP candidates, Trump is best prepared to do the same to Hillary Clinton in the general election.
HILLARY’S APPEAL FADES WITH YOUNG FEMALE VOTERS
Another source of worry for the Clinton campaign are polls which show that Hillary does not have as much support from younger female voters as from older women who were inspired by her during her years as First Lady and then as a US Senator from New York.
The problem came to light a few months ago in polls which showed that Bernie Sanders was most popular against Clinton in surveys of younger voters, both male and female, who have been inspired by the strong ideological component of his underdog campaign. Most recently, a Harvard Institute of Politics poll of likely female Democrat primary voters aged 18-29 shows Sanders in the lead over Clinton by 40-38 percent. By contrast, overall, another recent Quinnipiac poll finds that 52% of all women have a favorable opinion of Clinton while only 32% of all men approve of her.
In trying to explain the age differential in Clinton’s female support, one Democrat strategist suggested that women of her age viewed originally Clinton as the only person of their generation who was likely to become president, and that view of her persists, while to younger women, “it seems obvious and indisputable that if Clinton doesn’t win, some other woman will, and soon.” He added that younger Democrat women also view Clinton as “too old, too moderate and too caught up in another time.”
“YOUR MOM’S CANDIDATE”
Katherine Jellison, a professor of women’s history at Ohio University, says that to younger women, “She’s your mom’s candidate. She and the Clinton machine seem like old news to a lot of millennials.” She adds that younger women today are more concerned with economic class issues rather than the fight for women’s rights, which most believe has already been won in American society.
Mary Shanley, a political science professor at Vassar College who studies gender issues explained that women born after 1980, “haven’t experienced the kind of barriers that their mothers and grandmothers did, the kind of exclusions from areas of accomplishment.” As a result, they are not as impressed with what Mrs. Clinton has achieved in public life.
Clinton has responded by adjusting the themes of her campaign, emphasizing issues which are of greater concern to younger women, such as equal pay in the workplace, relief from student debt and making college education more affordable. But so far the effort hasn’t succeeded in winning a larger share of the young female vote.
CLINTON MOVING TO THE LEFT
Clinton has also cautiously moved her positions to the left during this campaign in an effort to attract more enthusiastic support from Democrat party activists.
While Democrats have generally agreed to give her a pass on her e-mail server, following the lead set by Sanders at the start of the first Democrat debate, the American people as a whole do not regard her to be honest and trustworthy. As a result, her early lead in the polls over each of the likely GOP presidential candidates has been reduced sharply and in some cases eliminated entirely, undermining one of the strongest original arguments for Democrats to choose her as their 2016 presidential nominee.
Going into the 2016 presidential election cycle, Democrats were cautiously optimistic about their chances of retaining their hold on the White House, despite the heavy losses nationwide they suffered in the 2014 midterm elections. Those hopes were based on the expectation that the coalition of young, female and minority groups voters who elected Obama president in 2008 by a wide margin, and re-elected him by a smaller margin in 2012, would turn out again to support a candidate who adopts Obama’s progressive agenda and promises to maintain his accomplishments. These include support for Obamacare, renewable energy initiatives and other measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and income redistribution through higher taxes on the wealthy to fund the expansion of federal entitlements.
WHY THE PARTY WILL RALLY AROUND CLINTON
Whether they are Clinton supporters or not, most committed Democrats understand that the election of a Republican president to go with continued Republican-controlled House and Senate in the 2016 election will result in the rapid undoing of much of Obama’s domestic policy initiatives since he took office in 2009.
As a result, all three Democrat presidential candidates have come out in favor of the majority of Obama’s domestic programs and declared their intention to continue pursuit of his liberal policy goals.
COMPARING CLINTON, SANDERS AND O’MALLEY ON THE ISSUES
In general, all three Democrat presidential candidates support a further expansion of the federal government and its power to intrude in the daily lives of American citizens and increased regulation of private enterprise.
Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley call for the establishment of new or expanded federal entitlements, financed by more tax increases ostensibly aimed at the wealthy and the business community. But eventually they will impact the middle class by limiting the investment necessary for the private sector to create new jobs and for American products to remain competitive in the international marketplace. In addition, punitive new energy taxes and regulatory costs which the Democrats intend to impose on American businesses will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. The domestic policy disagreements between Clinton and her Democrat opponents lie mostly in obscure policy details of little significance to most voters.
For example, while Bernie Sanders supports the progressive goal of raising of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, Clinton would limit the raise to $12 an hour, except “in certain cities” like New York. All three support universal paid family and medical leave, financed by increased taxes, and oppose any measures other than payroll tax increases to keep the Social Security retirement fund solvent as more baby-boomers collect benefits.
BIG BANKS AND GLOBAL WARMING
Sanders and O’Malley recommend the re-imposition of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall banking regulations, which would force a breakup the nation’s largest financial institutions which have integrated their banking and investment operations.
Clinton would not break up the big banks, but says she would agree to strengthen the Dodd-Frank regulations to keep the big banks from getting much bigger. Clinton also denies that her extensive, long-term support from major campaign donors in the Wall Street community would influence her decisions on financial policy as president.
All three support reigning in Wall Street speculation by imposing a new tax on each financial transaction. It is aimed at reducing the appeal of the practice known as high-frequency trading. The extremely rapid stock trades are triggered automatically by sophisticated computer programs. High-frequency trading has been accused of distorting share prices and putting retail investors at a serious disadvantage during periods of market instability.
All three Democrat candidates accept the global warming theory and the urgent need for the US to drastically reduce the domestic generation of greenhouse gasses caused by burning fossil fuels as a progressive article of faith. As a result, they all oppose the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and any drilling for gas and oil on public lands using fracking technology. They also oppose any further oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic wilderness, support imposing cap and trade rules on industry for burning fossil fuels, end all tax breaks for oil companies and would invest billions more taxpayer dollars to expand electrical generation using solar and wind energy. O’Malley and Sanders differ with Clinton only by calling for further increases in mandatory car fuel efficiency standards and the banning of all offshore drilling.
GUN CONTROL, GLOBAL WARMING, EDUCATION AND IMMIGRATION
The three Democrat candidates are advocates of increased federal gun control regulations, and would continue Obama’s efforts to chip away at the Second Amendment’s guarantee of a “right to bear arms” for all Americans. They agree on a ban on the sale of so-called “assault rifles” and high capacity ammunition magazines, and would require background checks on all purchases at gun shows. Clinton has been highly critical of Bernie Sanders’ record defending the right of citizens living in his home state of Vermont to own other types of guns which are part of their rural lifestyle.
To implement one of Obama’s unrealized policy goals, all three would provide more federal money to increase subsidies for state-run universities, and give graduates a break on the repayment of their student loans. Sanders proposes a new tax on Wall Street speculators to pay for making tuition free at all public colleges.
All three generally support Obamacare, but Clinton and O’Malley support improvements in the way it handles prescription drug costs, while Sanders would like to see Obamacare evolve into a single payer system similar to the socialized medicine program in Canada.
All three support immigration law reform, opposed by Republicans, which would permit those here illegally to stay and give them a path to American citizenship. They also support Obama’s efforts to suspend enforcement of the current law requiring the deportation of millions of illegals who have lived here for many years without committing any crimes.
None of these policy differences are significant. While Sanders is eager to talk openly about his extreme socialist economic goals, the progressive economic rhetoric which Clinton has now adopted differs mainly only by degree. She is making it clear that if elected she would preside over the policy equivalent of a third Obama term.
MIXED PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF CLINTON
Given her government service resume since 1992, it is not surprising that, according to a December 22 Quinnipiac Poll, American voters believe (63%-35%) that she has “the right kind of experience to be president.” They also believe (58%-40%) that she has “strong leadership qualities.” But that does not necessarily mean that most Americans would support her for president. On the contrary, half or more believe that “she is not honest and trustworthy (59%-35%), she does not care about their needs and problems (50%-46%) [and] that she does not share their values (55%-42%).
The public perception of her dishonesty is the direct result of Clinton’s painfully unbelievable explanations for her use of a private e-mail server, ignoring the clear national security risks, and her decision to delete thousands of e-mails before they could be turned over to a congressional committee that subpoenaed them, suggesting that she had something to hide.
The fact that the State Department and the White House covered up and then sought to dismiss the significance of her actions, which were similar to those for which other senior government officials were severely punished for breaching national security, only adds to the perception that the Clintons are above the law. That is especially true now that she and her husband have joined the ranks of the super-rich and famous by ruthlessly exploiting their post-White House celebrity status.
TRUMP THE COUNTER-PUNCHER
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump comes across as a strong leader, but, according to the same polls, suffers from negative public perceptions due to his outspoken bluster and self confidence, which critics see as signs of ego and conceit.
Trump’s Republican opponents have pointed to national polls which said that he loses in head to head matchups with Clinton. But in the latest Rasmussen Poll, Trump has closed the gap to 37%-36%, and is in a virtual tie with Clinton, despite increasingly extreme Democrat accusations intended to discredit him and his policy proposals.
Unlike Clinton, Trump is unafraid of criticism. To borrow a sports metaphor, he is an effective counter-puncher. He has the ability to turn criticism from his opponents to his advantage in the court of public opinion. As a political candidate, Trump has inflicted far more damage upon those who have attacked him first. That is why his more prudent GOP competitors for the nomination, such as Senator Ted Cruz, have been careful to keep their public disagreements and criticisms of Trump to a minimum.
CLINTON’S LIMITATIONS AS A CANDIDATE
As a super-rich celebrity, Mrs. Clinton is more isolated from the world that ordinary people live in than ever before. She is cold, calculating and extremely risk averse. She demands total control over her surroundings, and almost never admits to making a mistake, two faults which contributed to the extent of the damage inflicted on her public image by the e-mail server scandal.
As a political candidate, she is effective at delivering a prepared speech, and is sharp in formal debates, but she lacks her husband’s ability to empathize with the feelings of ordinary people, or to convince them of her sincerity.
During live campaign appearances, Clinton’s demeanor often seems wooden, and she finds it difficult to relate to ordinary voters on a personal and emotional level. That is why her campaign has tried to limit her to tightly scripted public appearances, carefully stage-managed down to the smallest detail. Ever since she announced her 2016 candidacy, and even before that, Clinton avoided live, spontaneous media interviewers for the same reasons.
In the 2008 campaign, when it became clear that she was losing ground to Obama in the early primaries, out of desperation, Clinton started taking a much more personal approach to campaigning. She immediately started doing much better in the polls and the primaries. It came too late for her to catch up to Obama in the convention delegate count, but for a while, Mrs. Clinton was campaigning effectively. Over the past seven years, she has forgotten how to do that.
TRUMP AS A CROWD-PLEASER
By contrast, Trump is a showman and a natural crowd-pleaser. He has also more than held his own in five televised debates with the other GOP candidates. Despite intense scrutiny, he has avoided any serious gaffes, answered nasty questions from moderators, responded to the criticism of his rivals and made his major campaign points effectively to the audience. Some of those points include sharp criticisms of Clinton’s record as secretary of state and senator, the liberal policies she is likely pursue if elected, and her respondes to the demands of those who have funded her previous political campaigns.
Clinton recently accused Trump of providing material for ISIS recruiting videos with his call for a temporary suspension of visas for foreign Muslims who want to visit the US. The charge was promptly refuted by media fact checkers. Clinton’s spokesman later admitted that she had made up the charge, but still rejected Trump’s demand for an apology.
The fact that Trump came out on top in his first direct confrontation with Clinton should not be surprising. Trump is a highly successful media personality who has spent years burnishing his bombastic persona and crowd-pleasing style. If he wins the GOP nomination, he will hold a clear advantage over the Clinton in the presidential debates.
CLINTON’S LATEST APPEAL FOR JEWISH SUPPORT
Clinton expects to win strong support including campaign contributions from activist Jewish Democrats. To burnish her appeal to the Jewish community, she made a strongly pro-Israel presentation at the annual Saban Forum hosted by the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute in Washington, DC on December 6.
She declared that if elected president, from her first day in the White House, she will “extend an invitation to the Israeli prime minister to come to the United States to work towards very much strengthening and intensifying our relationship on military matters.”
She also promised to repair damaged US-Israeli relations and to take them “to the next level,” and restore the tradition of bipartisan support for Israel. She called for a “common strategic vision” with Israel and for deepened “cooperation and consultation across the board.”
She promised to boost Israel’s air defense systems, to help in developing new tunnel detection technology and to increase consultations with Israel on the enforcement of the Iran nuclear deal.
DISTANCING HERSELF FROM OBAMA
Delicately separating herself from Obama, Clinton said she supported the nuclear agreement with Iran even though she views it as imperfect. In other forums, Clinton has claimed part of the credit for the agreement for her part starting the secret negotiations with Iran which led to the interim nuclear agreement before she stepped down as Secretary of State.
At the Saban Forum, she promised “there will be consequences for even small violations if we see any indication,” that Iran is violating its obligations under the agreement while she is president.
Her statement stands in contrast to the attitude of the Obama administration, which has overlooked deliberate Iranian provocations and its failures to comply with some of the terms of the nuclear deal. Nevertheless, the Obama administration is eager to implement the agreement and lift the sanctions on Iran, possibly within the next few weeks.
Clinton said that Iran’s “fingerprints” are on every conflict in the Middle East, and that its “ambitious” agenda and “provocative behavior” is a challenge for the US and Israel alike.
She also had harsh words for the liberal boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which she said was driven by anti-Semitism.
HELPING OBAMA EMBARRASS NETANYAHU
Clinton remains a strong advocate for the “two-state solution” with the Palestinians. As Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton took an active role in an Obama administration effort to embarrass Israeli Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu. On March 9, 2010, Vice President Joe Biden, who was visiting Israel, was angered by a media report that the Israeli government had given its approval to building a 1,600 unit Jewish housing project in Ramat Shlomo in East Yerushalayim. Netanyahu apologized for the incident and assured Biden that he had been unaware of the announcement by a low level municipal planning board. He also explained to Biden that the proposed housing project was still years away from final approval and construction.
Biden flew back to Washington on March 11, and Netanyahu thought that the incident had been settled. But instead, Obama seized upon it as an opportunity to stir up the West Bank settlement issue, even though the housing project in East Yerushalayim was not included in Netanyahu’s voluntary 10-month freeze on new West Bank construction.
After consulting with Obama over the specific language she would use, Clinton called Netanyahu to deliver what was described as a 45-minute tongue lashing over the housing announcement that had upset Biden. Adding insult to injury, Clinton’s spokesman then shared the contents and tone of Clinton’s tongue lashing with Washington reporters, along with a demand by Clinton that Israel prove that it is serious about reaching a piece agreement with the Palestinians.
The incident marked a new low point in US-Israeli relations during the Obama’s presidency to that point, and led to a rare warning by Senator Charles Schumer to the White House that its insulting treatment of Netanyahu had gone too far and was alienating American Jewish support for Obama’s policies.
CLINTON’S ANTI-ISRAEL ADVISORS
We now know that Clinton’s harsh words to Netanyahu about Israel’s policies in Yerushalayim and the West Bank reflect her true opinions on those issues.
Some of her e-mails which have come to light, reveal that her thinking had been strongly influenced by anti-Israel advisors such as Sidney Blumenthal, who sent her anti-Israel writings just prior to her appearance at the 2010 AIPAC convention in Washington. Blumenthal urged her to “hold Bibi’s feet to the fire” and to warn AIPAC that “it does not have a monopoly over American Jewish opinion,” and then told her to mention the J Street lobby as a liberal alternative.
While Clinton did not take his advice in her speech to AIPAC, she did give it serious consideration.
Clinton also was influenced by the anti-Israel opinions of former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who later became Kerry’s right hand man in the Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations which collapsed in April, 2014. In 2010, when Israeli naval commandos intercepted the Turkish ship Marmara while it was trying to run the Israeli blockade of Gaza, Indyk wrote Clinton berating Netanyahu’s negotiating tactics as self-defeating.
Blumenthal also criticized the Marmara raid in an e-mail to Clinton at the same time. He called it “Bibi’s Entebbe in reverse. . . The raid on the ship to Gaza resembles the raid on Entebbe, except that there are no hostages, no guns, it’s not in Africa, and it’s a fiasco.” Clinton forwarded Blumenthal’s e-mail to her deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan with a note indicating that she agreed with his conclusions.
CLINTON’S LIKELY PRICE FOR HELPING ISRAEL
This helps explain Clinton’s recent warning at the Saban Forum to right wing Israeli leaders who look forward to the end of Mahmoud Abbas’ reign as PA president. She said the only ones “standing in the wings” to replace him are terrorists. “Let’s be honest here,” she said. “The alternative [to Abbas] is the black flag of ISIS.”
The statement was a clear warning that while Clinton, as president, might be willing to be generous in providing money and arms for Israel’s military defense, the price for her help is likely to be fresh demands upon Israel’s government for a return to the pre-67 borders, regardless of the increased dangers to Israel’s security such a withdrawal would entail in today’s much more volatile Middle East.