2016 elections, Bill Clinton, border security, bridge to the 21st century, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Im-Politic, Immigration, Islam, Islamic fundamentalism, Islamic terrorism, Jobs, reeducation, retraining, San Bernardino, Saudi Arabia, Tashfeen Malik, terrorism, Trade, white working class
If I were Hillary Clinton, I’d be having big second thoughts about how extensively I’d want to use husband Bill Clinton as a surrogate in her presidential campaign. For the former president keeps – I assume unwittingly – laying all sorts of traps for the still likely Democratic nominee on the super-sensitive and explosive issues of the economy and immigration-related threats of terrorism. This report of a an appearance Bill Clinton made yesterday in New Jersey shows why his stumping is so problematic for Ms. Clinton.
Take the economy. Although at the 2012 Democratic convention, Bill Clinton made a politically brilliant case for the Obama administration’s economic record, he sure sounded more downbeat at Union College: “All over the world there is stagnant economic growth, stagnant incomes, rising inequality and deep arguments over what to do about our increasing diversity,” he contended. Since the United States remains part of that world, this indictment sounds an awful lot like it includes President Obama’s second term – which former Obama Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in no position to condemn.
Bill Clinton also claimed to recognize a major component of America’s economic failings – the worsening plight of the white, working class that has helped foster the rise of presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump. In Mr. Clinton’s words, “We all need to recognize that white, non-college-educated Americans have seen great drops in their income, have seen great increases in their unemployment rate, have seen drops in their life expectancy….”
Trouble is, his credibility on these issues lies in tatters. In part, he’s a fatally flawed messenger on this score because the job- and wage-killing trade deals he spearheaded as president starting with NAFTA deserve such blame for white plight (along with undercutting minorities’ progress). Similarly the former president’s vague call that Trump supporters and the like “be brought along to the future” echoes his utopian presidential promise to help Americans harmed by trade liberalization by building a “bridge to the twenty-first century” constructed of retraining and reeducation programs.
Nor did Bill Clinton help his wife’s cause by insisting (in the reporter’s words) “that fortified borders and immigration bans can’t prevent terrorism.”
According to the former president, “The last serious terrorist incident in the United States occurred in San Bernardino, Calif. Those people were converted over the internet.” But although that seems clear for Syed Rizwan Farook, it’s anything but for his wife, Tashfeen Malik. While still living in her native Pakistan, Malik reportedly “attended the Al-Huda Institute in Multan, part of a chain of women-only religious schools in Pakistan.” Al-Huda says it aims to promote a peaceful message, but it’s “known for its puritanical interpretation of Islam” – an interpretation that’s played a decisive role in fostering terrorism both theologically (by promoting intolerance) and institutionally (through activities sponsored by the Saudi theocracy that champions such reactionary values).
Indeed, Malik also reportedly changed dramatically following a trip to Saudi Arabia several years before immigrating to the United States. And speaking of her entry into America, Republican Members of Congress have charged that Malik’s visa application was never properly vetted by U.S. immigration authorities.
Mr. Bill Clinton’s other comments on immigration and terrorism issues ranged from the ignorant to the inane. Apparently the former president thought he could definitively establish Trump as a kook by noting, “You can build all the walls you want. You can build them all across Canada; they got a bunch of foreigners in Canada.” But even under President Obama – no immigration hard-liner – “The US-Canadian border [has] increasingly [become] a national security hotspot watched over by drones, surveillance towers, and agents of the Department of Homeland Security.”
And kooky is the only apt description for President Clinton’s suggestion that such border security measures are pathetically irrelevant because “You could not keep out the social media.” In other words, because all dangers can’t be prevented, all prevention efforts are pointless.
President Clinton could well find his campaign mojo again before the November elections. No politician who has won the presidency twice should ever be underestimated, much less counted out. But time keeps getting shorter, and unless Mr. Clinton ups his game soon, his new boss might soon have to send him the Trump-ian message, “You’re fired.”