January 22, 2019

Who knew? I’m in for Hillary

There was no way I would vote for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming US presidential election. True, Hillary and I have a past: My synagogue office remains, well, almost festooned with Hillary buttons and mugs from her 2008 Democratic Party candidacy when, initially anyway, I was in her corner; and true, too, I had voted twice for Bill Clinton in the 1990's, and once charmed by him…

But Hillary in 2016?  Not a chance.

I grew disillusioned with her as U.S. Secretary of State (2009-2013), when she assisted President Obama in sidelining the United States from taking a pivotal role in the world’s rough neighbourhoods — especially when American presence and power was most needed. Syria? Libya? Ukraine? These are stains on Hillary Clinton's record almost as much as they are on Barak Obama's. And, when Hillary joined the administration's demonization (sorry, that's not too strong a word) of Benjamin Netanyahu, she showed herself the opportunist many have long claimed. Let's not even talk about the Russian “reset”, and where that has left the precarious Middle East.

Beginning with the onset of the Second Intifada in the fall of 2000, Israel's vulnerability became the paramount issue for me. Since then, I've voted based almost entirely on a given candidate's desire to protect Israel's vulnerable flank and to ensure her future. In that regard, in 2008, I had some hope for Senator Clinton. By the end of Clinton's first year at Foggy Bottom, however, she was all in with the White House, and all out with me. Though, for some reason, I never tossed those campaign buttons and mugs.

Then came this presidential year.

Most of the Republicans, underwhelming as they were, met my criteria better than did the two leading Democrats. I had already counted Hillary out, and no way would I opt for Bernie Sanders. Sure, Sanders has the allure of authenticity — he actually says what he thinks — but I detest the demagoguery he (like Hillary) stirs up against Wall Street. Grow up already: Social progress is driven by the engine of capitalism; by all means, reign in the excesses of Wall Street, but don't destroy the economic system which, faults and all, lifts all boats. And Bernie knows exactly what about the rest of the world, Israel included?

Meanwhile, it wasn't so rosy with the Republicans — even as most of their candidates understood America's necessary role in the world, including standing tall for Israel. But what was supposed to be a stellar GOP field soon amounted to not much more than the neighborhood bully beating up an easily cowed crowd. 

By early this year, I was down to three candidates, only one of whom — Marco Rubio — was actually running. Senator Rubio met my criteria, as did two others, more or less: Mike Bloomberg, long appealing as a no nonsense centrist, strong both abroad (I think) and Stateside; and, Joe Biden, who for years now has struck me as a political prisoner within the administration he serves.  

Seriously, Rubio or Biden?! Yes — I don't vote by party and I live with the contradictions. Put differently and more precisely: Believing capitalist as I am, I'm mildly left on economic matters, I'm largely libertarian on social matters — and I care most passionately that America be a powerful player in the world, especially in Israel's rocky region. I voted for McCain (2008) and Romney (2012) exactly on this basis — and would do so again. And (some of you should now best get yourselves seated), I loved it when Carly Fiorina lit it up before she got knocked out by those threatened. Really, now: Did anyone else stand up to Trump, early on especially, as Carly did?

Were it to come down to Hillary Clinton vs. Ted Cruz, I assumed I'd sit it out. Ditto Hillary against Donald Trump. But in the past month or two, Marco has withered, Biden has dithered (awaiting as he is further word about those HRC emails), and Bloomberg is, well, Bloomberg. And meanwhile, the neighbourhood bully has become a behemoth, King Kong gone wild and wacky — and surprisingly successful. An anti-immigrant phony populist attempting to insult and bully his way to power makes you reconsider your options.

I can't tell whether Trump is more despicable than dangerous; more unqualified than ill-equipped. Or, that he's just one big rolling reality show on steroids. Probably all and more. All of a sudden, Trump makes Hillary Clinton look just about palatable — far, far better a President Clinton than a President Trump!  As the stakes have grown high, those of us previously turned off Hillary are now quickly reconsidering her — and, thinking a second time about what we should do. If once I thought I'd sit out a Hillary/Donald contest, no longer — I'm in, not out. Maybe there was a reason I'd left those buttons and mugs in my office. So, count me in for HRC now. A holding my nose kind of in — true; but in, nonetheless! 

As they say, who knew?

John Moscowitz, rabbi emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto, is the author of “Evolution of An Unorthodox Rabbi” (Dundurn Press, 2015)