Hillary Clinton not the best bet

Faced with the possibility of losing the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008, her campaign leaked a photo of Barack Obama wearing a turban while visiting Kenya. In a televised debate a few days later, she urged then-Sen. Obama to not only reject a non-endorsement from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, but to repudiate him. The optics of the situation were apparently lost on her.

Secretary Clinton’s instinct to jump into bizarre attacks perhaps comes from her apparent lack of any sort of concrete positions. After months of playing nice with Sen. Bernie Sanders, who most mainstream pundits gave little chance to win the nomination, she again employed a puzzling strategy as he pulled closer in Iowa: she began to tell voters that universal healthcare will never happen.

It was a baffling move from someone who calls herself a progressive. Not only has universal healthcare long been at least a long-term goal for Democrats, a candidate for office generally aims to energize voters with their ideas, not hamper their spirit with banal pessimism.

She also went after Sen. Sanders’ plan for government-funded college, hedging her bets on a less universal plan with more requirements for potential students. At one rally, a young Iowan asked Clinton how she would make college affordable for his generation.

“I’m not going to take care of rich people, OK, I don’t want to give them free college,” the New York Times reported her saying. “My opponent’s plan is to give free education to everybody.”

“That’s good with me,” the boy said.

Clinton, always terrified of not relating to young people, went to her go-to line.

“Want a selfie?”

Clinton has tried on many different policy positions over her lifetime, beginning by campaigning for the Ted Cruz of the Sixties, Barry Goldwater. As First Lady, she actively promoted the 1994 crime bill, which led to skyrocketing incarceration rates, in the name of being “tough on crime.”  In one speech, she spoke of children and teens in gangs:

“They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way but first we have to bring them to heel…”

This is the low language of wartime propaganda. In addition to the disastrous crime bill, Clinton also supported the Defense of Marriage Act – a Federal ban on gay marriage that was only repealed in 2013 – and the gutting of Federal welfare programs, which had a particularly brutal effect on women.

Of course, this was before she was elected to the Senate, where she did very little besides voting for the Iraq war, of which she now says, “Oops.” She doesn’t let setbacks like these get in her way though: she was the lead proponent in the Obama administration of the NATO invasion of Libya, which has similarly been a disaster. If she’s been consistent on any one position, it’s been her enthusiasm for dropping bombs and putting boots on the ground.

This election, she has campaigned on the premise that she’s Not As Bad As The Republicans. Which is true in many ways, but in a field including Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, it’s not exactly morally brave.

After a week of campaigning hard against Sanders’ universal healthcare and college plans, Clinton won Iowa by 0.3%. She gave her victory speech to an excited crowd.

“I know that we can finish the job of universal healthcare coverage for every single man, woman and child,” she said. Applause.