The relentless drumbeat against Donald Trump continues. The Washington Post on October 14 endorsed Hillary Clinton for president while also including in the print edition nine articles, three op-eds, and three letters blasting the GOP candidate, including pieces in the Style and Metro sections of the paper. On the following day there were five articles, a lead editorial, three letters, two op-eds, and two cartoons. And the Post is not alone, with the New York Times doing its bit in running news articles on Trump’s alleged sexual proclivities while the television media continue to run with the stories relating to earlier revelations. When Trump raised the possibility that all of this activity is being coordinated and possibly in part fabricated by the Clinton campaign, he was castigated for even suggesting such a thing.
More disturbing, in my opinion, is the role the White House has been playing in the drama. President Barack Obama has been active in speaking for Hillary and damning Trump, describing the GOP candidate as both unfit for office and lacking in the experience necessary to become head of state. There is a certain irony in Obama’s assertions, as he himself entered office as probably the least experienced president of the past hundred years, but it is the White House’s taking the lead in an electoral campaign that is at a minimum troubling. Traditionally, the president as head of state should be above the fray, as he is paid and empowered by the people to run the country, not to campaign for his successor. It is to be presumed that the Democratic National Committee foots the bill when Obama engages in campaign whistle-stops, but one has to wonder if that includes all the infrastructure costs involved in moving the president from place to place. And, undoubtedly, it would be difficult to winnow out costs when Obama combines campaigning and his official duties.
Michelle Obama holds no official office, so it is less problematic when she hits the campaign trail. Nevertheless, I think it somewhat unseemly that the wife of the president is so heavily engaged in the Hillary Clinton campaign. In recent stops clearly designed to appeal to women, she has denigrated Trump, saying that his comments had shaken her “to her core.” Such criticism is reasonable enough given some of the Trumpean bon mots that have surfaced of late, but there is a touch of hypocrisy in it all given Bill Clinton’s record as a sexual predator, which was certainly in part enabled by Hillary to preserve their political viability.
While the self-immolating Donald Trump certainly deserves much of the criticism hurled at him, the nearly hysterical promotion of Hillary Clinton as a moderate and reasonable alternative by the combined forces of the White House and media does the voter no favors. Pillorying Trump for his ignorance and insensitivity ignores how awful Hillary Clinton is in her own way. Hillaryland promises to be an evolutionary place where Democratic strategists work to bring together a permanent electoral advantage through shrewd appeals to unite segments of the population that see themselves as victimized. And it will also bring with it a likelihood of more war, not only against various players in the Middle East, but also against Russia in Europe, as well as Syria and China in the Pacific.
American voters should wake up to the issue of war versus peace. Daniel Larison and other contributors here at TAC have demonstrated how Hillary Clinton would be a highly aggressive president, with a particular animus directed against Russia. Unfortunately, she would find little opposition in Congress and the media for an extremely risky foreign policy, and would benefit from the Washington groupthink that prevails over the alleged threats emanating from Russia, Iran, and China. James Stavridis, a retired admiral who was once vetted by Clinton as a possible vice president, recently warned of “the need to use deadly force against the Iranians. I think it’s coming. It’s going to be maritime confrontation and if it doesn’t happen immediately, I’ll bet you a dollar it’s going to be happening after the presidential election, whoever is elected.”
Another glimpse of where we might be heading with Hillary in charge was provided last week by Carl Gershman in a Washington Post op-ed, “Remembering a journalist who was killed for standing up to Putin,” that received curiously little additional coverage in the media. Gershman is the head of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which means that he is a powerful figure in Washington’s foreign-policy establishment. For those unfamiliar with NED, it is a self-described non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to spreading democracy worldwide. It has been heavily engaged in the various pastel revolutions in Eastern Europe as well as in the Arab Spring. It is funded by the United States government to the tune of $100 million-plus a year, which suggests that its NGO status is somewhat of a convenience, enabling it to carry out projects that the White House would like to distance itself from. Some critics of NED recall that the organization was founded in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey, and was intended to be another element in fighting Soviet influence during the Cold War. Currently, it has plausibly been described as doing the sorts of things that the CIA used to do.
NED has a Democratic Party wing called the National Democratic Institute for Foreign Affairs, which is headed by Madeleine Albright, and a Republican Party wing called International Republican Institute, which is led by Sen. John McCain, so support for it is bipartisan. Gershman, who has been plausibly described as a neoconservative and is certainly an interventionist, has been president of the overall NED organization since its founding 33 years ago.
Gershman’s op-ed recalls the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politovskaya ten years ago, blaming it on Russian President Vladimir Putin even though there is no evidence to connect him to it and the actual killers were caught, confessed, and were convicted and imprisoned. He then goes on to trot out the usual crimes being committed by the Russian regime: “today, Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s territory. It has annexed Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine and threatened its Baltic and Nordic neighbors. It uses email hackers, information trolls and open funding of political parties to sow discord in Europe, weaken the European Union and NATO, and undermine confidence in Western institutions. In league with the Iranian and Syrian regimes, it is expanding its influence in the Middle East, and it is even intervening in the U.S. presidential election.”
Many of Gershman’s bumper-sticker claims are either partially true or unproven, while some of them are ridiculous, completely unsupported by evidence, but Gershman nevertheless concludes that “the United States has the power to contain and defeat this danger. The issue is whether we can summon the will to do so.” It is basically a call for the next administration to remove Putin from power—as foolish a suggestion as has ever been seen in a leading newspaper, as it implies that the risk of nuclear war is completely acceptable to bring about regime change in a country whose very popular, democratically elected leadership we disapprove of.
The comments from the Post readership on the article were largely critical of the author and also of NED itself. One critic wrote that NED should be renamed the “National Endowment for Permanently Boosting Raytheon’s Stock Prices.” Another observed that “No one elected Carl Gershman, the NED, the Council on Foreign Affairs, the Project for the New American Century. No one in the USA elected these people. No Americans elected the owners and editors of the Washington Post and the NY Times. Every poll shows Americans don’t want the USA to intervene in Syria, no actions against the Syrian government.” Still another comment noted that “I only wish I had the time and column space to refute all the lies and misinformation in this article.”
The point to be considered is that the fog created by the trashing of Trump obscures the very real danger posed by a possible President Hillary Rodham Clinton. She is wedded to the Washington foreign-policy consensus about how best to employ America’s vast military resources and is not reluctant to take aggressive action against adversaries who do not conform to Washington’s standards for good behavior. Such posturing might be considered acceptable to the American public when confronting a third-world country, but the stakes become dramatically higher when one is dealing with a country with nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them on target. The possibility that hardlining overseas might escalate into such an encounter should be a very serious consideration when Americans go to the polls in two and a half weeks’ time.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.