The Urgency of a Progressive Challenge to Hillary

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Hillary Clinton
We need to hear Hillary Clinton state some policy positions.

What If Democrats didn’t just anoint Hillary Clinton for 2016, and she had to work for the nomination?

Hillary Clinton
We need to hear Hillary Clinton
state some policy positions.

Imagine this question in a debate: President Obama, as you know, has what is known as the “kill list,” from which he personally selects targets for assassination. The targets include American citizens, and no criminal charge is deemed necessary before the killing commences. Do you think he is the first president to do this sort of thing, or is he just the first one we know about? Do you condone it, and would you continue to have such a list as president?

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Following are some more questions for Secretary Clinton that need not be asked in a debate with a Republican. If she already had the nomination, she would no longer have to worry about progressives in her party’s base, so she would not have to answer the questions, let alone make any commitments. In a primary campaign against a genuine progressive, though, she would need to make herself clear.

* In 2008, your plan for healthcare reform differed from that of Mr. Obama. Now that his, with some modification, is law, what do you think should happen next? Should we live with the law and strive to improve it, or go back to a version of your plan, or try for Medicare for everybody? Something else?

* During your husband’s first campaign for the presidency, he promised to “end welfare as we know it.” He did that, with a lot of help from the Newt Gingrich Republicans. The law has been under attack from progressive Democrats for two decades, now, and the number of indigent families with dependent children who receive no benefits has hit a record high. Do you think it’s time to revisit the topic, and if so, how?

* In both your husband’s administration and the Obama administration in which you served, the chief economic advisors included Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Gene Sperling, all known to be exceptionally friendly to Wall Street interests. Would you rely on these same people?

* Your husband signed the repeal of key portions of the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that separated commercial and investment banking. Your former colleague, Sen. John McCain, has joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren in an attempt to restore Glass-Steagall. Bankers have responded pretty angrily, claiming that most of the old law is still in place. Mr. Obama, so far, has sided with the bankers. What do you think of the Warren-McCain bill?

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* Thousands of people have died overseas in U.S. drone strikes over the last six years. Different organizations come up with different counts and cannot agree, either on the total or on the numbers of so-called militants who were targeted versus the civilian victims as collateral damage, but the total apparently approaches 5,000. The administration, of which you were a prominent part, maintains the public doesn’t need to know the numbers or the nature of the targets. Did you help form that policy? If not, do you agree with it? If so, why?

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Whistleblower Edward Snowden
Whistleblower Edward Snowden

* Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, revealed that the agency collects information on all telephone calls by Americans. He also exposed abuses of foreign intelligence practices, including the bugging of the German chancellor’s private cell phone. Would you curtail the NSA’s collection practices, and if so, how? Would you welcome Snowden back home?

* President Obama opened thousands of square miles of ocean off the East Coast of the United States to oil drilling, over the stringent opposition of environmental groups and well after the Deepwater Horizon leak. Do you agree with that decision, and if not, would you reverse it?

* When you headed the State Department, you were widely believed to support the Keystone XL pipeline to transport tar-sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Is that true? What is your position on it now?

* You rather famously criticized President Obama for not supporting Syrian rebels early enough and strongly enough, which led, in your judgment, to jihadists filling the vacuum there. How would you have identified rebels to whom the U.S. might successfully have given assistance? Is there now a duty to fight ISIL, and what are the American interests and the American capabilities in the matter?

* You voted for the George W. Bush war in Iraq, and Rand Paul is hardly the first to call you a war hawk. During your time in the Obama administration, was there any point at which you stood against other administration figures to oppose a U.S. military intervention that had been proposed anywhere on the planet?

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* You have accepted speaking honoraria reported to be $200,000 per appearance from Wall Street groups including Fidelity, Goldman Sachs and Ameriprise Financial. Is it plausible to believe you think you owe those people nothing?

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* The financial institutions that were bailed out in 2008 and 2009 because they were deemed to big to fail are now far bigger than they were at that time. Will you support a forced break-up of those banks?

We do not know what Secretary Clinton’s answer to any of these questions would be. It will not be helpful to wait until after she is nominated – if she is – to ask them. That’s because we know the Republican answers to almost all the questions, so, in a general-election campaign, all she has to do is say, well, I’ll study the matter. Then we can only hope she acts like a Democrat.

When people say they want Bernie Sanders or Sen. Warren or someone generally supposed to be on Clinton’s left to run and “at least move her to the left,” they mean they want her to have to answer questions like these. It’s important. It is very important that she not be allowed to run without first having to answer to the progressive wing of her party.

If campaign promises were unbreakable, Gitmo would be gone. But a commitment at least provides leverage for a bit of pressure.

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