SOPHIE’S CHOICE

Why Hillary Clinton Should Thank God for Donald Trump

He is potentially the worst president ever, but she’s got a proven record of failures and flip-flops on economics, foreign policy, and civil liberties.

12.11.15 6:00 AM ET

Forget the fake facts, the Mexicans-are-rapists racism, the stupefying ignorance of international trade, and the unambiguous and unapologetic anti-Muslim bigotry. Forget even the fact that he’s just a gold-plated Billy Mays who has pitched every goddamned crap product from frozen steaks to a failed namesake university to mattresses.

Perhaps the very worst thing about Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy is that it’s keeping us all—Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike—from examining just what a god-awful and terrible president Hillary Clinton will be. Less than a year out from the 2016 election, that’s the horror we all need to be confronting.

Clinton isn’t just cruising to the Democratic nomination—she’s far and away the most likely winner in next year’s general race. At PredictWise, for instance, she’s got a 58 percent chance compared to the next closest, Marco Rubio, who’s at 17 percent; Trump limps into third place with a weak—weak!—9 percent.

Let’s forget for the moment the bizarre but disturbing character flaws such as Clinton’s unwillingness to acknowledge that she used a ghostwriter while writing best-sellers and weekly newspaper columns that were published everywhere for years but read by exactly nobody. Or her lying about being shot at in Bosnia. Or her WTF bringing up Bobby Kennedy’s assasination while discussing scenarios where she could beat Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary. We all have bad days, after all, and who hasn’t embroidered a little bit about who we were named after, how broke we were after leaving the White House, and whether our daughter was jogging near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001?

Instead, let’s turn to her record and her proposals. When it comes to economic policy, Clinton manages to disappoint everyone. For libertarians and progressives alike, her embrace as a senator from New York of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the auto bailouts, ethanol subsidies, and her self-professed role of representing Wall Street are enough to poison the well. Progs and even most liberals still take umbrage at votes that made it harder to discharge credit card debt during bankruptcy and her constant efforts to soften the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), while free-market types are appalled by her openly political flip-flopping on free-trade agreements and her proposal to slap an “exit tax” on U.S. companies that try to pay less in taxes.

And don’t mistake her ability to frustrate everyone with hard-headed centrism. When it comes to the economy, she’s just a hot mess. The through-line for her economic thinking isn’t ideology per se, it’s maintaining and increasing the ability to bestow gifts and presents to her favored friends and punish those she finds offensive. Little wonder, then, that one of her bold new plans for the economy is dropping $250 billion on infrastructure and creating a federal “infrastructure bank” (because shovel-ready projects worked so well the last time, right?). She hasn’t bothered to say where the money to pay for these projects will come from, but that’s because the important thing is where the money is going.

Clinton has even more explaining to do when it comes to foreign policy. As a senator in the early Aughts, she was a super-hawk, who even, as author Doug Henwood notes, “accused Saddam of having ties to Al Qaeda—essentially siding with Bush and Cheney to a degree that no other Democrat, even Joe Lieberman, approached…After the war went sour, Hillary argued that the Bush administration hadn’t pursued diplomatic approaches fervently enough—even though she voted against an amendment that would have required the president to do just that before any invasion.”

Her inability to own her mistakes carried through her disastrous run as Secretary of State, including her comically inept Russian “reset button” misstep and, more disturbingly, her insistence that the reset in fact “worked.” Shit, if it had worked just a little better, Putin might even be in Kiev by now.

Then there’s Libya, of course. Not Benghazi, though that was a clusterfuck, to be sure. By her own account, as Secretary of State, she was the leading voice in the Obama administration for U.S. intervention in Libya and after Moammar Gaddafi was deposed, she laughed while crowing, “We came, we saw, he died.”

Nowadays, ISIS is reportedly training pilots in that less-stable-than-ever hellhole but Clinton still considers the U.S. intervention a winning example of “smart power.”

For all that, it may be her truly awful record on civil liberties, broadly defined, that is most unsettling. In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, she joined the chorus of Democrats seeking to use the government’s “no-fly” list to limit gun purchases. The problem is that, as the ACLU will tell you, that list is a shining example of how the war on terror has eviscerated basic due process for citizens. Nobody knows quite how you get on the list (despite a record number of people being on it) and nobody knows how you get off it, either.

Oddly, and despite her many years in Washington, Clinton actually seems to have only a vague idea how the national security state actually functions. For instance, she continues to insist that Edward Snowden, whom she wants to prosecute, “could have been a whistleblower, he could have gotten all the protections of being a whistleblower.” That’s simply wrong, Snowden’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, told me in an interview, because employees in national security and intelligence positions are almost categorically denied such “proper channels.” Clinton also doesn’t regret voting for The Patriot Act, which is at least consistent with her lack of interest in due-process concerns.

When it comes to other issues related to individual freedom, Clinton is reflexively oppressive. Hence, she is steadfastly against legalizing recreational marijuana, arguing stupidly “that there is just too much money in it,” apparently unaware that outsized profits are a feature and not a bug of prohibition and black markets. To her credit, she has changed her reactionary positions opposing gay marriage and supporting harsh treatment of illegal immigrants, but these reversals stink to high heaven of political opportunism.

And when it comes to free speech, she hasn’t even gotten that far. Whether it’s scapegoating YouTube videos for attacks on U.S. consulates or saying that we need to change the Constitution to limit what she considers “unaccountable” political speech, Clinton is positively censorious.

In fact, even before Donald Trump promised to talk to Bill Gates about “closing that internet up” to screw ISIS, Clinton had beat him to the punch. A longtime proponent of forcing tech companies to provide “backdoors” through which law enforcement can access encrypted communicatons, Clinton believes that Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites need to do the government’s bidding in blocking and monitoring communications that might be used for terrorist recruitment. In a literal and figurative moment of handwaving, Clinton actually told an audience at the Brookings Institution this week, “You’re going to hear all of the usual complaints, you know, freedom of speech, et cetera.” It really can’t turn out well to have a president who essentially yadda-yaddas away free speech.

It’s true that Donald Trump has been a uniquely stupid and reprehensible candidate. But a candidate despised by so much of the electorate can’t possibly win. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, can, and probably will, so for the love of god, can we not forget about her unique brand of awfulness as we all bash The Donald?

Yes, yes, politics is the art of the possible and the “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Deez Nuts” T-shirts aren’t going to get us very far. But if South Park has taught us anything over the years, it’s that the choice between a giant douche and a turd sandwich isn’t the sort of choice for which we should settle. If we want to get serious about just how awful the 2016 election is going to be and start demanding better choices, we’ve got to start looking past the candidate who wants Bill Gates (of all people) to close up the Internet and look at the candidate who wants actual Internet companies to start doing the government’s bidding.