Monday, February 05, 2007

Senator Clinton Blunders

Andy at Charlotte Capitalist notes a disturbing statement by Hillary Clinton. As an anonymous writer at Pajamas Media puts it,

Last week ExxonMobil posted record-breaking profits. This news provoked an immediate reaction from Senator Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Committee in Baltimore on Friday. “I want to take those profits,” Clinton said, “and put them into an alternative energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy alternatives that will actually begin to move us toward the direction of independence.”

Clinton’s remarks are the first time that a nationally known Democrat has openly called for the government seizure of an industry since President Harry Truman tried to nationalize the steel industry in 1952. The U.S. Supreme Court slapped back Truman’s takeover in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. et al. v. Sawyer. (Like Senator Clinton, Truman also championed a national health-care scheme.)

While other politicians have suggested establishing an alternative energy fund, Clinton is the first to advocate funding it by taking the earnings of a publicly held American company. ExxonMobil has some eight-hundred thousand shareholders, any of whom depend on these earnings to fund their retirements.
To be fair, Senator Clinton did not “openly call for the government seizure of an industry,” although that is a logical inference from her statement. How else can the government take an industry’s profits? It would be a refreshing change if today’s politicians did openly call for government seizure of industry, instead of leaving them nominally in private ownership, regulating them to death, forcing them to be little welfare states for the workers and then blaming them for problems in the economy.

Senator Clinton blundered by showing too much of the iron fist inside the velvet glove of the American mixed economy. This is remarkable because she learned from her husband and the DLC that the path to Democrat power is to be perceived as a moderate, not as a far leftist.

It is hard to pretend to be something one is not. Over time the truth has a way of slipping out.

Hillary Clinton is a radical New Leftist. She was a student of the Marxist Saul Alinsky, who wrote Rules For Radicals, a book that teaches leftists to use any means necessary to gain power. She has no understanding of capitalism or how the free market works. She actually thinks that our standard of living and our prosperity is due to government intervention in the economy:

You know, for the last 100 years, we have slowly and steadily constructed a social compact. Our nation has built the foundation for our prosperity on the basis of that compact. And the compact was, really, rooted in the principles of the American dream, you know, if you do work hard, you do play by the rules, you do get a good education, you do have willingness to get ahead and sacrifice today to make life better for the next generation, you will be rewarded with a decent paying job that provides a standard of living that gives you a better chance at the American dream. And that, at least in the past, provided health care benefits and some kind of pension retirement security in addition to Social Security.
Without government telling corporations what to do and redistributing wealth through "entitlements," America would not have prosperity. In Senator Clinton’s mind, if it were not for the noble and good altruists in government, cigar-smoking capitalists would oppress workers as “wage slaves.” Her understanding of economics is Marxist.

Bill Clinton would not have made this mistake. The last thing a Democrat running for President wants to do is say anything that makes people think, “Uh, that sounds communist.” This strategy does not win votes in America.

I believe she did not think through the logical inference of her statement. Her mind vaguely thought something like, “Oil companies are making record profits. We need an alternative energy fund. Why not use the profits for that fund?” The fact that the government is not supposed to dictate the use of profits in America did not occur to her. There are probably many politicians in both parties who agree with Senator Clinton, but they're smart enough to cloak their ideas in the vague, happy-fuzzy talk of our mixed economy. "Let's create incentives for the oil companies to explore alternative energy," and so on.

Does this mean Senator Clinton is too honest for the mixed economy? No, her scandals during the Clinton Presidency proved her willingness to lie. I think her blunder shows that she is not terribly intelligent. Her mind is nowhere near as agile as her husband’s. I think this is why she stays away from interviews. The notion that she is intelligent is a feminist myth. But her lack of intelligence hardly makes her exceptional in government. Look at George W. Bush, Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray Smith, Sheila Jackson Lee, Robert Byrd and so many others. An idiot can do quite well in American government. There is still hope that Hillary Clinton can make it to the top, but she needs to run everything past her husband before she goes public with a statement.

UPDATE: Slight revision.

UPDATE II: One reason people mistake Hillary Clinton for intelligent is that she is not a happy woman. For whatever reason, people equate unhappiness with intelligence and happiness with stupidity. There was a scene in an old Woody Allen movie in which Woody, who is never happy, went up to a young couple to find out why they were happy. I forget what the young people said, but they were both airheads. Happy=stupid. Ignorance is bliss.


madmax said...


You wrote:

"In Senator Clinton’s mind, if it were not for the noble and good altruists in government, cigar-smoking capitalists would oppress workers as “wage slaves.” Her understanding of economics is Marxist."

I just watched the 1959 interview of Any Rand with (a very young) Mike Wallace. In that interview Wallace was making the same argument; that "government moderated capitalism" was necessary to prevent the "injustices" of "dog-eat-dog" capitalism. Ayn Rand of course rejected this. But its notable that so little has changed.

Link to the YouTube interviews is above.

Grant Jones said...

The looting of the tobacco companies is precedent for Hillary's future abominations if elected.

Mike N said...

The adage give'em enough rope and they'll hang themselves seems to be working out. I think Hillary bared her soul with that statement as did Sen Durbin with his our troops are like Nazis remark.

Myrhaf said...

Madmax, Hillary Clinton argued in the second speech I quoted that FDR "saved capitalism from itself," much like Wallace's argument. The left has no new arguments, which is why Leonard Peikoff argues that they are a spent force intellectually. Although, I must say that old arguments are new to young people who have never heard them. I know a 16-year girl who worships Al Gore and the rest of the Democrats and spouts socialist arguments like she just thought them up.

I agree with all three comments. Hillary made another very telling comment a few years ago, an explicit statement of collectivism, but I have forgotten it. Kennedy also made a remarkable statement attacking individualism.

Dismuke said...

Myrhaf wrote:

"Although, I must say that old arguments are new to young people who have never heard them."

That is such a great point.

I have a friend that I frequently discuss and debate politics and philosophy with. He has his college degree and is in his second year of law school.

A while back, before the elections, he was puzzled about comments that Leonard Peikoff has made and that I made as well about the Left being but a shadow of its former self. His impression was that the Left was doing very well - something which not a lot of people other than hard core Leftists really believed prior to the election.

Well, much of this had to do with his historical perspective. He was 12 years old when the Republican congress took over in 1994 and could not even remember a time when Democrats were in charge. The battle in which HillaryHealthCare thankfully went down in defeat took place when he was an 11 year old. How many 11 year olds pay attention to - let alone understand - such things? He was a 7 year old when the Berlin wall fell so he has no real memory of the Soviet Union or of East and West Germany. When Reagan took office he had not even been born - so the Cold War and the disaster which was the 1970s, to him, is history

Here is something scary: the high school students who will graduate this spring and enter college this fall were only 12 years old when 9-11 happened. Five years from now, most of the kids entering college will probably only have a dim memory of it, if any, as they were only 7 years old. For most of them, their knowledge of 9-11, what happened and its significance will come from what they have learned in public schools.

When it comes to a battle for ideas there will never be a stopping point - one must always be re-teaching the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of civilization to the the constant flow of youngsters growing up or else it will be lost.

Myrhaf said...

It never ends. Some of the arguments people have today go back to Ancient Greece. It's always astonishing and a little thrilling when you read a line in Euripides or Shakespeare and think, "Some things never change." But then, art and philosophy should be for all ages, not just for a time.

I do believe that Dr. Peikoff and the people on his side underplayed the vitality and strength (and danger) of the New Left. As we have discussed, culturally the left reigns supreme.

Dismuke said...

"I do believe that Dr. Peikoff and the people on his side underplayed the vitality and strength (and danger) of the New Left. As we have discussed, culturally the left reigns supreme."

I have yet to fully study Dr. Peikoff's position which I understand his DIM course is an important aspect of. I do need to find the time to listen to it while it is still available for free. I am also still thinking over Tracinski's position.

With that having been said - even at my present level of understanding, I actually have no doubt that Dr. Pekioff's views on the Left, as I understand them second hand from others, are correct.

In the long run, I think the Left will consume itself and burn out. Dr. Peikoff also implied as much years ago in one of his other courses - I believe in his History of Philosophy course. He pointed out that nihilism is a dead end - once it has destroyed everything it seeks to destroy, there is no place else for it to go.

The only potential concern I have with his position in how it applies to current day, real world practical politics is this: in the long run we're all dead.

The achievement of a fully rational culture according to the Objectivist vision that blossoms a couple of hundred years from now - well, fat lot of good that does me. My spirit of benevolence certainly makes me happy for those who will be able to enjoy it. But, beyond mere benevolence, what goes on in the world beyond the lifespan of the youngest person I know and care about - well, what interest is it to me?

It is all very well and appropriate for a philosopher to sit back and see philosophical and historical trends across the ages. That is, after all, part of a decent philosopher's job description.

But, speaking entirely selfishly, my frame of reference and concern is MUCH shorter. Basically, I am concerned about the years and decades that I have left.

Look at it this way: I agree with Dr. Peikoff that communism is but a temporary blip on the radar screen of history. But what comfort is that if you are a 20 year old in Russia in 1930 and cannot escape? What good does it do you if you are in Hungary in 1952? If you live long enough, you will get to see the Iron Curtain fall when you are old and completely dependant on a government pension funded by a state which will no longer exist and too old and/or feeble to make much use of your new freedom.

Clearly, the timing of when events take place and when the Left finally does collapse and when the Right does become a bigger threat is of crucial importance to each individual.

Bob Tracinski has talked about "what went right" in response to certain beneficial trends in the world since 1980. I have seen others on the Internet dismiss the examples Tracinski gives by suggesting they are essentially a temporary uptick in an overall downward trend.

I am actually inclined to agree with such an assessment - I do think the long term trends are going downhill. But I also think that there HAS been an uptick in certain areas of our culture since the 1980s until at least recently. I was a child in the 1970s - but I saw enough to realize that that decade and the decade that came before it was HORRIBLE. If nothing else, a lot of the utterly gaudy ugliness that existed back then has gone away since. I remember my parents standing in gas lines and hearing adults talk about double digit inflation and double digit interest rates. I am profoundly GRATEFUL for that uptick. That uptick more or less coincided with my coming of age and my life to date as an adult. Even if it turns out to be only temporary, my life has been SIGNIFICANTLY richer and better than had that uptick not occurred.

If my choice at some election in the future is between that uptick continuing along or even staying at the same level economically and culturally for whatever number of decades I and the people I care about can reasonably expect to be here verses things getting much worse during that period but clearing the way for something much better to come along immediately afterwards - well, I would chose the former option without hesitation and let the youngsters of the future worry about how to deal with things in their time. (And, by the way, I am NOT suggesting that Dr. Peikoff is saying that one should make a sacrifice in the name of long term philosophical trends - he actually explicitly stated in his recommendations that he was concerned with how the trends he describes will play out in the short term)

That is the mindset that I had when I approached Dr. Peikoff's election recommendations - something I really did not start thinking about until after the election. I live in the most Republican county of a very Republican state - so any vote on my part would have been meaningless in terms of the outcome of how the Congress will look and, frankly, I didn't even bother with it. It also gives me the luxury to think about the issues involved on my own time frame without the distraction, emotion and deadline of an election.

Now that some time has passed since the election, Dr. Peikoff's recommendation makes more and more sense even from the short term perspective I just described. But even so, I still have some doubts. Socialized medicine scares the crap out of me - again, on grounds of how much time I have left. Call me an oddball - but I keep holding out hope that someone is going to come up with some wonderful medical advance which will enable me to live to be 150 or more. With Leftists who wish to socialize medicine and loot the pharmaceutical industry in charge - well, the prospect of that happening seems to be growing dimmer and dimmer. If we get to socialized medicine in 20 years with the Republicans and in 5 with the Democrats - well, again, that time table WILL have an impact on my life and the liklihood of someone coming up with that wonderful cure in time to mean something to me.

So, my real concern about Dr. Peikoff's position is not so much whether or not he is right but about the length of time it will take before everything plays out and what impact it will have on in the short run while I am still young enough to even care.

BTW, I though Dr. Pekioff was NUTS in 1992 when he endorsed Clinton. He was dead right. I sure hope he was this time as well.

Myrhaf said...

The threat of theocracy from the Republicans still seems abstract and unlikely to me. The threat of a socialist dictatorship from the Democrats is VERY real. Just listen to the things they say every day.

If all the Democrats disappeared tomorrow and the Republicans could do whatever they wanted unopposed, what would happen? I seriously think it would be more of the same, and maybe things would even get better if the good Republicans did things such as abolishing the Departments of Energy and Education (which America survived without for 200 years until Jimmy Carter divined a need for them).

If the Republicans disappeared tomorrow and the Democrats could do whatever they wanted unopposed, what would happen? At best, we would become like Sweden or France. At worst, the elements of freedom we still have would disappear in about a month. However bad it would be for us, it would be worse for the rest of the world as the dictatorships seized their moment to attack.

Of course, Dr. Peikoff's argument is predicated on neither party completely disappearing. The scenarios above are just a thought experiment to show the nature of each party. With gridlock around to stifle a Dem president, I could see voting for Hillary Clinton if the Republican is some religious nightmare or John McCain.

Dismuke said...

Myrhaf wrote:

"The threat of theocracy from the Republicans still seems abstract and unlikely to me. The threat of a socialist dictatorship from the Democrats is VERY real. Just listen to the things they say every day."

I feel the same way. Indeed, what you described is much of the basis for my concern about short term and long term time frames.

I live in Texas where religious conservatives are very much part of the landscape - although, in Fort Worth/Dallas, where I live, it is very much less pronounced due to the fact that it is a very modern, economically vibrant urban area where a significant percentage of the population has moved here from someplace else. Nevertheless, it is not possible to live in Texas for the majority of one's life without having lots of contact with religious conservatives. Quite frankly, I don't see a theocracy coming along in my lifetime - and if it were likely, one would think I would see lots of signs of it here of all places.

I do agree, however, with Dr. Peikoff's comments on his website about why religion is more potent and the bigger danger in the long run compared with communism/Leftism. But as I mentioned, in the long run, we will all be dead.

As for the gridlock argument - my big concern there is that it does count on the Republicans being at least semi-effective as an opposition party. I am not sure anymore that they are capable of doing even that. It is pathetic how pathetic they are.

And the prospect of McCain vs Hillary sends chills down my spine. McCain is very bit as much of a power luster as Hillary is. The thought of either of them being able to issue Executive Orders - well, that will be the time to start preparing one's self for some seriously horrible years ahead.

madmax said...

"The achievement of a fully rational culture according to the Objectivist vision that blossoms a couple of hundred years from now - well, fat lot of good that does me."

I have thought about this so many times over the years. It is ironic that for all our activism, today's Objectivists (baring some miracle) will not benefit politically and culturally from some future Objectivist world. It may take 2,3,4 or more centuries for the takeover of the culture and all of us now will be quite dead. And the future utopians (if I may use that word) get to live in a glorious culture for extremely long lifespans.

If I didn't have a pervasive spirit of benevolence, I might be somewhate jelous and resentful. For I actually think that once Objectivism gets to be more popular, there will be violence directed against Objectivists especially if the culture worsens. So what I'm saying is that I think Objectivists will eventually die for their philosophy, especially if and when they directly confront Islam which it looks like they will have to.

Of course I understand what Ayn Rand meant when she said "Those who fight for tommorrow live in it today." But my main point is that I agree with Dismuke and believe that it is better to live in a relatively prosperous uptick in a downward trending culture than live a miserable life in a culture that is ascending from hell.

To Dismuke and Myrhaf, once again I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading your ideas and opinions.

Inspector said...

Wow, once again the post is just the tip of the iceberg that is the comments section! (no offense, Myrhaf!)

Very interesting stuff, thinking about political moves in terms of survival within our lifetimes. I've talked extensively with close friends about this sort of thing, mirroring your discussion pretty closely, but I'd never seen anyone else think those same thoughts.

Cool stuff, Myrhaf and Dismuke.

And Dismuke: I think it's too late. You're already blogging.