Michael Sonne, Guest Contributor
As a teenager in History class, my teacher said the following sentiment about America: “when America sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold.” As a subject of the United Kingdom, one becomes aware of the ‘special relationship’ we share together with the United States: The Prime Minister Tony Blair joined George Bush Jr. in Afghanistan and Iraq; Nigel Farage, who was one of the leaders behind Brexit, joined the Donald Trump on stage in Mississippi. Needless to say, we are no strangers to one another on the global stage. However, it is the current American presidential race that seems to have caused the world to catch a cold.
It is in terms of political philosophies that this presidential race has thrown up some difficulties. Prima facie, the Democratic National Congress is a left wing party; the Republican National Congress is a right wing party. It is the Republican candidate Donald J. Trump who has received numerous criticism from those on the left and those on the right. People on the left typically critique his plans to ‘build a wall’, his plans to stop all Muslims from entering America, his lewd comments in regards to women and boasts regarding groping (something also condemned by republicans), his birther claims and his taxes, to name a few. People on the right typically make the following criticisms: they question his Conservative credentials, they question his ability to follow the legal philosophy of ‘originalism’ and his comments on slain soldier Humayun Khan.
However, it is particularly disconcerting to see the one sidedness of this criticism. The DNC’s candidate Hillary Clinton has quite frankly been given a blank slate. In regards to comments and actions relevant to the question of her suitability for the office of presidency there have been a few.
Foreign policy under Hillary Clinton seems to be in keeping with the maxim Si vis pacem para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war). Jill Stein, the Green party candidate for president, argues that Hillary Clinton wants to start an air war with Russia by imposing a no-fly zone over Syria. She concludes: “Hilary’s policies are much scarier than Donald trump’s.” Defense of such a view can be made by citing the anti-Russian rhetoric used by Clinton throughout the debates. Furthermore, one can cite Russia’s recent increased displays of military strength. Thus, one wonders why the Donald Trump question, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia and China and all these countries?” has not been more favourably received.
The Libya intervention has tarnished Clinton’s foreign policy credentials.
Hillary Clinton described her “deep regret” in regards to the lack of stability in Libya post intervention. However, the temperament of the intervention raises questions. The toppling of Muammar Gaddafi was summarised by Clinton as: “we came, we saw, he died!” However, as ex Greek finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis argues, “anyone who actually celebrates watching the mutilation even of an enemy, is in my mind a dangerous person”. Questions therefore arise as to how likely a Clinton administration would be prepared to go to war.
Julian Assange is the man behind WikiLeaks and is responsible for recent damning revelations concerning Hillary Clinton. However, her response as noted in the third and last presidential debate was to blame the Russians. This line of rebuttal ought to raise some alarm bells with most thinking individuals. Hillary Clinton had an unclassified email server while she was secretary of state. The FBI assessed that “hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account.” Furthermore, the FBI argues that “given that combination of factors [pertaining to the unclassified email server], we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.” Thus the irony of calling foul play on foreign actors whilst simultaneously arguing never to have mishandled classified information on an unclassified server seems to have been missed.
It has been revealed via WikiLeaks that whilst she was secretary of state, Clinton and the state department were under pressure to silence Assange and WikiLeaks. This was in the months before the whistleblowing site released a massive dump of 250,000 diplomatic cables from 1966 up to 2010, dubbed CableGate. In response to this pressure, Clinton asked “Can’t we just drone this guy?” according to unidentified state department sources. Thus, one wonders how it can argued that WikiLeaks aren’t to be trusted when the information pertains to Clinton. Surely, Mr Assange’s life would not be in danger if the emails did not contain truth in them?
On Her Opponent Bernie Sanders
Hillary's comments on Bernie Sanders and the DNC’s behaviour during the campaign for the nomination are illuminating. Leaked emails reveal that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, was found to have sent an email during the primary election saying Mr Sanders "would not be president.” Given the lack of impartiality, it is no surprise that Clinton won the nomination. However, it surely wasn’t wise to then call the supporters of your opponent “basement dwellers” and to hire the woman who was keen to say the least to prevent your opponent getting the nomination. There is suggestion that these actions may come to haunt Clinton; one poll states that 40 percent of Bernie Sanders’ supporters intended not to vote for Clinton on November 8.
Religious Liberty is a Freedom Protected in America
Clinton has condemned Donald Trump’s attacks on the right of Muslim Americans to practice their faith. However, the phrase ‘practice what you preach’ comes to mind. WikiLeaks has revealed that the chairman of Clinton’s campaign John Podesta received an email from Sandy Newman (president of the Voices for Progress) calling for “a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a Middle Ages dictatorship.” Another email appears to show Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri and Podesta co-author John Halpin mocking Catholics and evangelical Christians for their “backwards” views. The email makes the following comment: “Many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholic (many converts) from the SC and think tanks to the media and social groups. It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith.” Thus, a Catholic may wonder as to what extent Hilary may see herself fit to pontificate to the pontiff about matters pertaining to Christian doctrine. It can surely be agreed that such matters are not subject to the office of the presidency.
The Clinton Foundation
The Clinton Foundation also raises questions as to the ethical standing of the Clinton campaign. WikiLeaks has revealed that the internal audit commissioned by the Clinton foundation in 2011 may have mislead the IRS. The problem is that under penalty of perjury, the Clinton foundation claimed it was enforcing a policy against conflicts of interest. The auditors concluded with the following recommendation: “We recommend that the Foundation establish a gift acceptance policy and procedures to ensure that all donors are properly vetted and that no inappropriate quid pro quos are offered to donors in return for contributions.” A report compiled in August 2013 on the internal review, implies that the new gift acceptance policy and procedures had not yet been adopted. WikiLeaks has revealed more questions about the Clinton foundation. An email from Bill Clinton’s personal chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, informs Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman John Podesta that “all” donations from “foreign governments” were “in” under the subject line endowment.
The individual reading this piece can decide whether they are concerned as to the inner minutiae of the Clinton foundation. However, what is surely clear is that Hillary Clinton ought to answer the question, as to whether she believes she violated the memorandum she signed with the White House before becoming secretary of state.
All in all, the scandals and temperament of Hillary Clinton ought to raise questions for those who align Clinton with the left. In my opinion she is an establishment politician who has held every position conceivable. The goal for both candidates appears to be solely power. Ideally, one of the candidates would have the moral character required for president. It is resoundingly clear that both candidates lack the required character. It is also clear that the principle ‘the lesser of two evils’ is a weak criterion to judge by vis-à-vis this election. Yet it has been establishment Republicans who have disavowed Trump or have not shown such resolve in their candidate. It would be nice to see this on the Democratic Party’s side. I hope that the American people use their consciences wisely.
Michael Sonne is an alumnus of University of Liverpool. He has a keen interest in political philosophy and the philosophy of religion.