Only a sadomasochist would consider it a genuine prospect. A failed presidential candidate, the louse in the locks of the Democratic Party, keen to make yet another vain tilt at the White House. But in the rogues’ gallery of the defective and disturbed, Hillary Clinton can count herself as pre-eminent, a historical creature who should be preserved as a warning for the party faithful. But she refuses to lie (and lie) quietly, and has given ventriloquised clues via her husband that she might be readying for a return to competition.
The way Clinton disturbs the news bubble is through complaint heavy with spite. She gazes at the mirror in self-loathing, and claims to spot the faults of others. (The loathing is understandable to some degree: it was Clinton and her circle who decided, disastrously, to elevate Donald Trump as electable material ahead of rival Bernie Sanders.) The story she bores her audience with lacks variation: The 2016 loss to Trump could never be put down to her, veteran political figure, establishment doyen. No, that would be inaccurate for a person with the credentials for office.
A person in such a state is bound to see any contender as dangerous. Heap upon them; dismiss them as lacking that scoundrel factor of patriotism. Hide behind some rich, over egged notion of fact checked veracity, while casting grave accusations of foreign control and veiled treason.
One of the Democratic fold has proven particularly troubling to Clinton (kudos to the candidate). Tulsi Gabbard’s views on US foreign policy and the imperium’s insatiable appetite for interference and meddling is particularly worrying for the former Secretary of State.
Gabbard, in her electoral platform, insists on bringing “about a bold change in our foreign policy that bends the arc of history away from war and towards peace. That stops wasting our resources, and our lives on regime change wars, and redirects our focus and energy towards peace and prosperity for all people.” The United States best be done with notions of “gun boat diplomacy” focusing, instead on “differences with communication, negotiations, and goodwill.”
Light-on-hill romanticism was bound to figure in the rhetoric, and Gabbard insists that the United States lead in ensuring “the survival of the human race”. Power should only be used for “good”; the sleepwalking towards nuclear war stopped in what she hopes to be “the turning point of human history, that era in which the world’s greatest powers chose to abandon the path to confrontation and war and agreed to pursue the path of cooperation, diplomacy, and peace.”
There is much in Gabbard’s words to question, and these should linger with persistent tenacity. But the scorn from Clinton towards such views was evident, coming out in the Campaign HQ podcast last month that made the rippling rounds. “I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be a third-party candidate. She’s a favourite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of support for her so far.”
While there was some doubt as to whether Clinton had intended Gabbard to be the subject of the barb, spokesman Nick Merrill’s remark on NBC news “if the nesting doll fits” suggested as much. (Merrill insisted, however, that the “grooming” reference was to Republicans, rather than Russians, but who, in this hyperventilating world of addled speculation can tell?)
To this resentment of slander, Gabbard was quick and sharp. On Twitter, she thanked Clinton with acid gratitude. “You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain.” A challenge was duly issued. “It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me. Don’t cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly.”
Another to receive the Clinton splash was Jill Stein, the Greens candidate for the White House in 2016. The Clinton set have had issues with Stein since she attended a media conference in Russia in 2015. To merely be in Russia was to be a Putin supporter; to have “Red Square as her backdrop” in a video that was attacked was sufficient to disqualify her from office.
Penning her defence in The Guardian, Stein saw dark clouds over US politics. The efforts by Clinton and her campaigners “to shift responsibility for their electoral failure to ‘Russian assets’ has fuelled a new era of McCarthyism – a toxic brew of warmongering, political repression and censorship now poisoning our public discourse.” In response to the Clinton wounded vanity machine, Stein issued a challenge similar to Gabbard’s. “It’s past time to give the American people the real debate they deserved in 2016, but were denied by the phony DNC/RNC-controlled Commission on Presidential Debates.”
As before, the Clinton ability to stir and invigorate Trump has no parallel. They provide the president a bounty of low lying fruit. In a cabinet meeting in October, Trump openly asserted that Gabbard was “not a Russian agent.” He considered the entire Clinton show to be “sick. There’s something wrong with them.” The common denominator remains, as ever, Russia.
Such adamant stirring leads to the question that refuses to leave the Democrats: will Hillary accept the challenge and run? Husband Bill is making sure his wife’s name blots the electoral news though, as ever, he can never avoid making an observation without referencing himself. “She may or may not run for anything, but I can’t legally run for president again.” The remark came during the course of an event at Georgetown University School of Law, one shared with Hillary and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Philippe Reines, an advisor who has earned his bread from advising Clinton over the years, has also added kindling to the prospects. In a discussion with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, Reines speculated that “there might be a reason that she’d be the best person, not only to beat Donald Trump, but to govern after Donald Trump, which is a part we don’t talk about much. And, look, you can make fun of her all you want, but 65 million people voted for her and that’s second more to anyone except Barack Obama.”
This is not an issue of making fun, let alone making light of matters. If there is one candidate who can issue an iron-clad guarantee for a Trump victory, it is the same person who did so in 2016. Should the Democrats entertain the notion seriously, their inability to win the White House will be assured and long lasting.