Hillary Clinton’s recent “alt right” speech marks a new and dangerous low in what has become race to the bottom – and, should she be elected, it has ominous foreign policy implications as well.
Alarmed that Trump is reaching out to the African-American community, Mrs. Clinton tried to make the case that the GOP candidate is a apologist for such groups as the Ku Klux Klan (do they still exist?) and an obscure amalgam she dubbed the “alt right.” As she named this latter group, there was a significant silence, a pause in the cheering: perhaps her audience thought she was having a senior moment of the intestinal variety.
In any case, none of this is anything new: it’s a variation on the “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” theme that she has been dragging out ever since the 1990s. There is, however, a new dimension to this tired boilerplate, now that she’s running for President: the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy is being portrayed an international cabal with its headquarters in the Kremlin.
As her peroration on the “racist” sins of Trump reached a climax, she hauled out Nigel Farage, the former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), who was instrumental in leading the Brexit campaign to victory. Farage – who is, in her view, a “racist,” a “sexist,” and god knows what other unsavory “ists” – “has appeared regularly on Russian propaganda programs,” she yelled “Now he’s standing on the same stage as the Republican nominee.”
What is she talking about?
Apparently, Farage has allowed himself to be interviewed by “Russia Today,” the Kremlin’s answer to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. If this is proof of his perfect perfidy, then what is one to make of Larry King – who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton? Mr. King has a regular program on “Russia Today.” So does Ed Schultz, a partisan Democrat and former MSNBC commentator and host who has defended Mrs. Clinton.
Undeterred by facts, her voice rising to a veritable shriek, Hillary tied her conspiracy theory together by pointing to the sinister figure at the center of this vast worldwide web of subversion:
“The godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism is Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, Farage has appeared regularly on Russian propaganda programs. Now he’s standing on the same stage as the Republican nominee.
“Trump himself heaps praise on Putin and embrace[s] pro-Russian policies. He talks casually of abandoning our NATO allies, recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and of giving the Kremlin a free hand in Eastern Europe more generally.
“American presidents from Truman to Reagan have rejected the kind of approach Trump is taking on Russia. We should, too.
“All of this adds up to something we’ve never seen before. Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.”
All of this adds up to something we have seen before: from the anti-German hysteria of World War I when the teaching of the German language was forbidden and German composers banned from the concert halls, to the lunacy that saw Japanese-Americans trundled into internment camps during World War II, right up until the cold war era when anyone who opposed the Vietnam war and our foreign policy of supporting right-wing dictators was smeared as a “Kremlin agent.” It’s a tiresomely recurrent theme in the history of American politics, the tried and true method of the demagogues who want to end all debate by smearing their political opponents as agents of a foreign power.
Let’s be clear about what the Clinton campaign is saying here: they are accusing the Trump campaign of collaborating with the Kremlin in acts of espionage. Averring that it was the Russians who hacked both the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Foundation – assertions offered without evidence – they have explicitly accused the Kremlin of trying to put Trump in the White House as part of a sinister scheme to conquer eastern Europe. As Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook put it:
“’Real questions [are] being raised about whether Donald Trump himself is just a puppet for the Kremlin in this race’ …. Mook added, pointing to Trump’s criticisms of NATO. ‘We now need Donald Trump to explain to us the extent to which the hand of the Kremlin is at the core of his own campaign.’”
If Mrs. Clinton truly believes that Putin is “the godfather” of the Trump movement, and those who oppose her election, then what can we expect from her administration if and when she occupies the Oval Office?
If all these people are Kremlin pawns, if the tentacles of this pro-Russian underground really do reach into the GOP and the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy, then it’s reasonable to expect that President Hillary Clinton will do all in her power to quash this sinister cabal, which surely represents a threat to our national security. It is illegal for US citizens to act as unregistered agents of a foreign power: presumably this conspiracy will be investigated by the FBI, and its leaders brought to trial. Perhaps we’ll see the revival of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the banning of “subversive” “pro-Russian” organizations and media outlets, and a wholesale purge of this foreign conspiracy from American political life.
I might add that the same sort of smear campaign was launched by the Bush administration and its neoconservative allies in the run up to – and during – the Iraq war.“You’re either with us,” declared then President Bush, “or you’re with the terrorists.”Neocon enforcer David Frum declared that conservative and libertarian opponents of the war – including this writer – had “turned their backs on their country,” and were acting as agents of Saddam Hussein. That Frum is now echoing Mrs. Clinton – along with a growing contingent of his fellow neocons, who openly support her – comes as no surprise.
While the implications of Hillary’s smear campaign do not bode well for our civil liberties here on the home front, the international consequences promise to be even worse.
The borderline between domestic policy and international policy is nebulous to nonexistent. As I’ve explained at length in defining my theory of what I call “libertarian realism,” the latter is largely determined by the former. Political elites pursue a foreign policy that justifies the preservation and extension of their own privileges, perks, and power. If Hillary Clinton has to start Cold War II in order to win this election, then there is no doubt she is willing to do that. What this portends for her foreign policy should strike fear in us all.
For if she is positing a Vast Right-wing Pro-Russian Conspiracy as her enemy here at home, what measures is she likely to take against the Russians abroad? One could reasonably aver that her political rhetoric won’t necessarily translate into World War III, but surely she will have to follow up to some degree in order to maintain her credibility. And if she really believes her own hopped-up rhetoric, then can we really be sure her actions vis-à-vis the Russians won’t result in another Cuban missile crisis – one that will turn out quite differently than the last one?