Sure, But What About the Important People Who Matter?

[Content Note: Misogyny; war; drones; rape in war zones.]

In the Washington Post, Greg Sargent takes on the question of [CN: video autoplays] that video of Senator Elizabeth Warren asserting that Hillary Clinton's voting history on bankruptcy bills proves that she is a corporate shill who has been influenced by donations.

It somewhat mirrors what I wrote in comments the other day about that very video:
I have an enormous amount of respect for Senator Elizabeth Warren and the work she does. Truly. Just last weekend, I recommended Iain watch "Maxed Out," and my primary argument for watching it is because Warren is awesome in it.

But, for reasons I don't totally understand, Warren is substituting her own explanation for Clinton's turnaround on the bankruptcy bill, despite the fact that Clinton has publicly explained it.

The two bankruptcy bills Warren references were not the same. And do you know why they weren't the same? Because of Hillary Clinton -- who negotiated protections for women and children who depend on alimony and child support payments.

Here is Hillary Clinton, in her own words:
Mrs. Clinton said that the bill was pending when she arrived in the Senate in 2001 and wanted some changes to protect alimony and child support payments.

"So I negotiated those changes and then the people who had been handling the bill said, 'Well if we take your changes you have to support it.' That's the way the Senate works," Mrs. Clinton said. "And so I said 'It's really important to me that we don't hurt women and children, so I will support it even though there are other things I don't like in it.'"
That bill, by the way, did not pass. And when another bankruptcy bill came up in 2005, and was eventually passed, Clinton was not present in the Senate on the day of the vote, because Bill Clinton was in the hospital with heart problems, but she opposed it and said she would have voted against it.

Clinton being passionate enough about the bankruptcy bill that she convinced her husband's entire administration, as Warren credits her with doing, to oppose it, and then completely doing a 180 just because of campaign donations doesn't pass the smell test. Because if campaign donations were a major consideration, they would have been a consideration back when the bill came up during Bill Clinton's administration, too.

It does, however, pass the smell test that a freshman senator whose entire career has centered women and children would make a compromise in order to protect them, because she fears the bill will pass anyway without those protections.

Of course, if one is primed already to believe that Hillary Clinton is a liar and an opportunist who will stop at nothing to get what she wants and is beholden to corporations, then I don't guess these facts will convince them.

Which goes back to the point I made earlier in the thread: A lot of these smears only work because they exist in the context of decades of garbage designed to cast Clinton as a monster.

It's a lot less exciting for people who hate her to hear that the special interests to whom she's actually beholden are women and children.
The difference between Sargent's piece and my commentary is that he doesn't seem particularly interested in highlighting that categorizing Clinton as a "shill" is dependent on ignoring her own words about why she voted the way she did, nor particularly interested in underlining that this line of attack is only effective when it conceals Clinton's perspective and relies on decades of shadowy rumor and misogynist double-standards.

Instead, he pivots to suggesting "Both Clinton and Sanders make good arguments." And, in the sense that Sanders argues that half-measures aren't enough, and Clinton argues that incrementalism is the only way to get shit done in a dysfunctional Congress, they both make compelling arguments on behalf of their distinct approaches.

But in the sense that Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, or anyone else, would ignore context that suggests the opposite in order to claim this "proves" that Clinton is a corporate shill who's compromised by corporate donations, no, they are not making good arguments. They are making mendacious arguments that trade on narratives created about Hillary Clinton by the rightwing.

And what bothers me the most about this is something that consistently bothers me about much of the policy-related criticism of Hillary Clinton: It fundamentally ignores that Clinton makes decisions on behalf of women and children.

(For the record: No, I am not arguing that Clinton has always made choices that have been universally good for women and/or children.)

When Clinton was Secretary of State, there were a number of pieces accusing her of lacking a unifying vision, and following her tenure, there were a number of pieces suggesting she didn't have a "big idea" that justified a run for the presidency, despite the fact that anyone who bothered to connect the dots would see a pretty clear picture of a person who advocacates for women and children.

Similarly, reducing her foreign policy decisions to her single, regrettable vote on Iraq necessitates ignoring that spent her tenure as Secretary of State doggedly advocating on behalf of women and children who are victimized by rape as a weapon of war; speaking about violence against women as a security issue; and repeatedly talking about how women are key to peacekeeping.

The thing is, there are legitimate criticisms to be made about Clinton's support for President Obama's drone program, for example, which harms women and children. And reducing her foreign policy to one vote, for which she's apologized, actually serves to distract from criticisms of contemporary policy.

But is also conceals the things she's done right on behalf of women and children in war zones and destabilized nations, and her highlighting of how oppression of women foments the instability from which armed conflicts emerge, in order to prevent them—an observation unique among the current field of presidential candidates.

It's incredibly important specialized foreign policy work. Of course, she's done it on behalf of women and children, so it's pretty easy for lots of Very Important People Who Care About Serious Issues to ignore, because who gives a fuck about women and kids.

When one really deep-dives into the policy criticisms of Clinton, a pattern emerges of what work and what motivations are concealed in order to make those criticisms. (Despite the fact it is eminently possible to criticize Clinton for policies that harm women and children on one hand, while also recognizing her work on behalf of women and children on the other, as I have done here.) It doesn't take anything away from valid criticisms to acknowledge her successes. But concealing them functions quite niftily to underwrite the narrative of the HILLARYMONSTER.

And in the process, it once again suggests that women and children aren't people who matter.

I believe that they are.

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