Politics & Policy

Hillary’s Empty Promises

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton holds copy of the book “Stronger Together” (Reuters Photo: Carlos Barria)
The Clinton campaign’s official manifesto is full of meaningless, focus-grouped pablum.

The official book of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Stronger Together, is having a rough time. Sales are slow, reviewers hate it even by the low standards of slap-dash campaign manifestos, and it is likely to be a fast-forgotten footnote to 2016.

The Trump campaign might want to buy a bunch of copies and send them to the serious policy wonks, however, because Stronger Together reinforces Trump’s simplest and best argument: that “nothing will change if you vote for her.” It is, simply put, 249 pages of empty, focus-grouped blather masquerading as policy detail, the political equivalent of every buzzword-happy consultant’s stock sales pitch.

With so few meaningful changes laid out in its pages, Stronger Together unwittingly reveals that Hillary Clinton’s governing approach would double down on the status quo.

Clinton envisions the country doing a lot of expanding under her administration. She’ll expand access to capital, access to new markets, “educational pathways,” Social Security, “investments in community health centers,” “access to evidence-based home visiting programs” for parents of small children, insurance coverage for autism services, utilization of HIV-prevention medications, and clean-energy production on public lands.

When she’s not expanding, Clinton is promoting. A Clinton administration would promote college completion, pay transparency so that women can more effectively negotiate, the rights of women and LGBT people around the globe, and “oversight and accountability in the use of controlled equipment” by the police.

When she’s not expanding or promoting, she’s revitalizing. President Hillary is going to “revitalize public schools in every zip code.” And then she’s going to “revitalize manufacturing.” And then she’s going to “revitalize the hardest-hit manufacturing communities with new investment.” Every other page, there is more revitalizing. Her presidency will be like a long weekend at a spa.

Perhaps the most maddeningly vague section covers Clinton’s approach to terror threats on American soil, a topic that is probably on a lot of voters’ minds at the moment. How would a new Clinton administration tackle this? “We know that intelligence gathered and shared by local law enforcement offices is absolutely critical to breaking up plots and preventing attacks,” the book says. “So they need all the resources and support we can give them.” Okay, what resources and support are they not getting that they should be getting? What’s missing?

Perhaps the most damning indictment of Clinton is that there’s not a single idea in here that doesn’t sound like one of President Obama’s promises from 2008.

“And our enemies are constantly adapting, so we have to do the same. We need an intelligence surge — and so do our allies — that includes technical assets, Arabic speakers with deep expertise in the Middle East, and an even closer partnership with regional intelligence services.” So she’s going to hire more people. Has the Obama administration been stingy?

Does a lack of manpower explain why nothing happened when Mohammad Rahami, the father of alleged Chelsea bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami, told the Federal Bureau of Investigation to watch his son because he might be a terrorist?

One of the reasons Donald Trump’s proposals for banning Muslim immigrants and profiling are polling so well is that the status quo stinks. Time and time and time again, the FBI comes in contact with future terrorists, investigates them, and deems them not to be a threat. The Bureau interviewed Omar Mateen three times in 2013 and 2014, and he had been on a terrorism watch list during that time. He was subsequently removed. The FBI interviewed Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011. Among the aspiring jihadists who opened fire at a Garland, Texas, “Draw Muhammad” contest was Elton Simpson, whom the FBI questioned for allegedly planning to join a terror group in 2010; he was sentenced to three years of probation for lying to investigators.

You would never know any of this from the Clinton book; the message again and again is that we just have to try harder and commit more resources to stopping terrorists.

“We must find a way to balance legitimate concerns about privacy with the need to combat ISIS and other terrorist groups. There’s no magic fix, but we can’t just throw up our hands.” This is a stinging rebuke to the Congressional “Let’s Just Throw Up Our Hands Because We Can’t Find a Magic Fix” Caucus.

“We should also be vigilant in screening any refugees from Syria, guided by the best judgment of our security professionals in close coordination with our allies and partners.”

No shinola, Sherlock. Any reader still awake will be left asking: How? How are you going to do this, Hillary and Tim? What are you going to change about the current approach, beyond throwing more manpower and money at the problem? Stronger Together does not provide an answer. Perhaps the most damning indictment of Clinton is that there’s not a single idea in here that doesn’t sound like one of President Obama’s promises from 2008, or a single one that he would disagree with . . . with one exception.

Clinton and Kaine declare that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would not create enough good jobs or raise wages enough to justify its costs. Of course, back in 2012, she was calling TPP “the gold standard.” Kaine was praising it as recently as mid-July

If the Democratic ticket is going to adjust all of its decisions based upon a focus group’s reactions, maybe we should just elect the focus group.

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