Sunday 15 May 2016

Hillary prepares for war with Trump (Sunday Guardian)

Donald Trump’s character, business deals key to Clinton’s strategy.
According to close backers from New York, San Francisco and Chicago, former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is confident of becoming the 45th President of the United States, stepping into the job held for eight years by the 42nd, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton. They described in some detail the “war plans” of a campaign that has been “running with military efficiency for over two years”, in contrast to the rival (within the Democratic Party) Bernie Sanders’ campaign, “which is organised more as an NGO and shows it” and the Donald Trump effort at getting the Republican nomination and thereafter the Presidency. This, they claim, is run “more as an insurgency than as a presidential campaign”, with the candidate himself having to compensate for the shortcomings of his hastily put-together staff. They claim that “six years of research into voter perceptions and expectations” have been conducted, although “detailed studies of possible rivals have all had to go into the shredder”, as “none” within the Clinton machine was able to predict the rise of two outsiders to their own parties, Bernie Sanders within the Democratic Party and Donald J. Trump on the Republican side. According to them, it was only in September 2015 that “intense effort was put in (by the Clinton campaign) towards getting a fix on the two men and their vulnerabilities”. However, “a two-year long effort at winning over super (i.e. unelected in the party primaries) delegates was super successful”, with more than 90% of them now backing Clinton over Sanders.

The sources, who are wary of their names getting revealed “as both Clintons place a heavy premium on secrecy”, say that “a soft approach has been adopted towards Bernie (Sanders)”, with the attack taking place “mostly through word of mouth and under the radar of the media”. Given the huge rolodex of names available with the Clinton campaign, such a tactic must be on an industrial scale. In such “under media radar” moves, emphasis was placed on (Sanders’) “lack of loyalty to the party and to his refusal to caucus with the Democratic side”. Such behaviour was in contrast to the Clintons, “who never strayed from the Democratic (Party) base and who ensured that their backers were promoted and detractors dealt with” each year since 1991, the year when “Bill Clinton decided that he had it in him to be President of the United States” and began the process of revitalising the Democratic Party by “throwing away useless ideas and boldly adopting Republican ideas which the electorate liked, such as being tough on crime and balancing budgets”. Hillary Clinton backers say that this approach holds to this day, “especially a determined effort to privately reach out to Republican donors and key players to convince them that Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump would best safeguard their core interests”. Their pitch is that “electing Trump will lead to civil war in the streets and chaos in the markets”, whereas Hillary would have the skills to “ensure that low income groups were looked after enough to avoid a strain on the budget while keeping them off protest pickets”. Off the record briefings by Clinton staff and surrogates (numbered in the hundreds by these sources) to Democratic Party fundraisers and key office-bearers stress a similar message about Bernie Sanders, that “the Senator from Vermont would (once elected) ignite a popular firestorm in cities and raise expectations to a level that would bankrupt the country if sought to be met”. In other words, the choice before voters will be presented as “Either Hillary or Chaos”.

These sources say that “every event of the Secretary (Mrs Clinton) is carefully rehearsed”, and usually, “a prominent African-American lady activist will be among the first to greet the candidate after a speech”, as this is a voting segment that is overwhelmingly in favour of another Clinton making it to the Oval Office. At the same time, “there will be a sprinkling of minority faces, including women, placed behind the candidate, so that television cameras document the rainbow quality of her support (base)”. The calculation is that “if 85% of African-Americans prefer the Secretary to Trump”, as also “70% of Latinos and 60% of women voters”, then “only 20% of the white male vote is needed” to win the Presidency, given the large proportion of minority voters in populous states such as New York and California. This strategy explains the effort to show that Donald Trump is anti-minority and anti-women, as large majorities in both constituencies is crucial to the objective of defeating Donald Trump. These sources laughed off suggestions that Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades may impede his wife, pointing out that “such facts are well known and discounted by now, and can be matched by still more colourful stories about Trump, who after all (unlike Bill Clinton) is a candidate”. They also claimed that the Clinton campaign “has privately been told that the email investigation will wrap up by early June” and that “nothing that is politically toxic has been found”. They say that “character-wise, Hillary Clinton is miles ahead of Donald Trump”, also affirming that character would be an issue in the campaign. About the Monica Lewinsky episode, the response was that “Hillary loves her husband and forgave him”. Interestingly, these sources claimed that Hillary Clinton has a lot of regard for Sonia Gandhi not only as woman but is “awed by the fact that she (Sonia) settled down in an entirely different culture and country and yet could emerge as the leader of her party and (for a decade) the country”. They claim that the two have “kept in touch on a regular basis”. About Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the response was that “the Secretary recognises the popularity of the Prime Minister and hopes to work closely with him in future”.

According to these sources, the Clinton campaign expects Senator Sanders to end his campaign “within six weeks” and not carry the battle to the Philadelphia convention floor as threatened by some of the supporters of the idealistic politician born of poor parents in New York. The reason? “By that time (including super delegates), the Secretary would have crossed the 2,388 of the 4,765 delegates needed for nomination”. They said that it was “unlikely” that Senator Sanders would be Hillary Clinton’s running mate, as she was looking more “towards the centre rather than to the left” to choose an individual who may himself or herself become President someday. According to them, an intense effort is on to repeat what took place in 2008, when Barack Obama was backed publicly by both Hillary Clinton and Bill at the Democratic Party convention and nominated by acclaim. They were confident that the Chair and other members of the Democratic National Committee would succeed in persuading Senator Sanders not to take his battle to the convention floor in Philadelphia. 

Overall, the mood within Team Hillary is that “Donald Trump will be toast in November as more details about the man come out during the preceding two months”. The sources also say that in debates, the Secretary, who has spent years preparing for this test, will “floor Donald Trump on issues and on foreign and economic policy in particular”. They also say that “records of some of his deals and transactions, especially in New York City”, are being collected and would be “quietly spread through the internet” in the weeks before the election. 

It is going to be a consequential election. Since the 2008 Wall Street meltdown that was reversed only after a trillion-dollar rescue effort by the US Government (USG), the confidence of the citizen in the form of governance that has been practised in the country since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 has faded. From that time onwards, the emphasis, overt or concealed, has been to take care of the interests of the wealthy in the expressed belief that this small segment of the population would then lift the fortunes of the rest. Instead, the lower and middle classes have given ground to the wealthy, with more of the middle slipping to the status of the lower economic classes. It was this perception of an unfair deal that ensured the election of Barack Obama to the White House on 20 January 2009. However, from the start, Obama continued the policy of rescuing the elite from the consequences of their own depredations, although in his second term, efforts have been made to repair a tattered social security net enough to prevent large-scale social unrest in the cities, an effort that thus far has had limited success because of the conservative majority (within both parties) in the US Congress. More than to the voters, those elected to the Senate and the House of Representatives are loyal to their financial backers, and these are averse to tax dollars getting expended on any other than themselves. As the US Supreme Court has decreed that a candidate can, through “Super PACs” (Political Action Committees), spend as much as she or he can mobilise, those who are wealthy or who are close to the wealthy have an immense advantage over the rest, among the few exceptions being Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. This has given an advantage to Hillary Clinton as it will to Trump. Unlike Sanders, who would bring genuine change, Hillary is comfortable with a status quo that has served her well. As for the result, it is not likely to be as easy for their candidate as the Hillary backers expect. Trump is a doughty fighter, as of course is Hillary Clinton, and US voters are in a sullen mood, not a comforting circumstance for a candidate who is the poster girl of the Establishment. While Bernie Sanders would be certain to defeat Donald Trump, the jury is out on whether there will be a First Gentleman for the first time in the White House.

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