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"I don't take a backseat to anyone when it comes to progressive experience and progressive commitment," former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the Democratic debate in October. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

"I don't take a backseat to anyone when it comes to progressive experience and progressive commitment," former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the Democratic debate in October. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Clinton Sheds Progressive Façade with Bold Rightward Lurch

From her call for a major air and ground war against ISIS to her attack on single-payer, Clinton appears to be sprinting full-speed to the right

Sarah Lazare

From her call for a major air and ground war against ISIS to her attack on single-payer, observers note that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is rapidly shedding her "progressive" façade as she grows increasingly confident she has the Democratic nomination locked down (an assumption which, evidence shows, is debatable).

This trend comes despite her declaration during the first Democratic debate in October, after being pressed by the CNN moderator: "I don't take a backseat to anyone when it comes to progressive experience and progressive commitment."

Growing more hawkish by the day

In case there was any doubt, Clinton's much-anticipated foreign policy speech on Thursday makes it clear she plans to run on her hawkish credentials.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Clinton called for a "new phase" in the fight against the Islamic State (referred to as ISIS or IS), including a major intensification in a bombing campaign; "ground forces actually taking back more territory;" an "intelligence surge;" and no-fly zones over Syria. "Our goal is not to deter or contain ISIS, but to defeat and destroy ISIS," she said, in an implicit criticism of President Barack Obama as being too tepid on military intervention—and a signal that she intends to tack far to his right.

Since working under Obama's White House—hardly the image of restraint—that's exactly what Clinton has been doing. As Bob and Barbara Dreyfuss pointed out last year, Clinton used her secretary of state role to consistently advocate escalation of military force, from Afghanistan to Libya to Syria, making her the pro-war wing of the Obama administration.

Clinton has only moved further in the militarist direction after exiting the administration, expressing skepticism of the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, escalating her rhetoric towards Russia, and proclaiming an "unbreakable bond" with the widely-reviled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Clinton has stated publicly that she believes that her vote in favor of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was wrong and has been pressed on this issue during the campaign, including during Saturday's Democratic debate, where she admitted: "I don't think any sensible person would disagree that the invasion of Iraq led to the massive level of instability we are seeing right now."

But as many others have pointed out, in the years since Clinton cast her vote in favor of the Iraq War, she appears to have learned nothing. "If Hillary Clinton wins her party's nomination," Vox's Zack Beauchamp warned in April, "she'll be the most hawkish Democratic nominee since the Iraq War began."

Attacking Bernie Sanders on Single-Payer Healthcare

Speaking in Dallas on Tuesday, Clinton launched an unbridled attack on Bernie Sanders' plan for a single-payer, publicly-funded, universal healthcare program. "I don’t see how you can be serious about raising working and middle class families' incomes if you also want to slap new taxes on them—no matter what the taxes will pay for," she said.

Her statements were followed up by those of top Clinton aides speaking to media outlets. "If you are truly concerned about raising incomes for middle-class families, the last thing you should do is cut their take-home pay right off the bat by raising their taxes," spokesperson Brian Fallon told Politico.

The push captured the ire of single-payer advocates, including National Nurses United. "Any politician that refuses to finance guaranteed healthcare has abandoned my patients, and I will never abandon my patients," said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

According to Slate staff writer Jim Newell, Clinton is "essentially red-baiting about Bernie Sanders’ Wacky Taxes in her dismissal of a policy that, on paper, draws plenty of support among Democratic voters."

Newell argued that Clinton, in fact, is going further than many in her own party by "appropriating one of the right’s central talking points against government-funded universal health insurance: Think of the taxes! She’s not just saying that a single-payer system is a political nonstarter with conservatives. She’s reciting the actual conservative talking point that would make a single-payer system a political nonstarter."

Huffington Post correspondent Jonathan Cohn recently noted that Clinton appears to have intensified her tactic of attacking Sanders at the Democratic debate on Saturday. However, Cohn argued, "when Clinton and her aides talk about the Sanders agenda, they always leave out some critical context. The proposals on healthcare, college tuition and the like would yield benefits that, in many cases, would flow to the middle class and offset the impact of those new taxes."

"In short," Cohn added, "the Clinton campaign has made a conscious decision here. It is not merely criticizing Sanders for suspicious math. It is suggesting the test for any proposed initiative is what taxes it imposes, regardless of what benefits it might bring."

Going to bat for Wall Street, not workers

Also on Saturday, Clinton—despite her vows to tackle Wall Street—reiterated her opposition to the Glass Steagall Act, which was repealed by her husband in 1999 and would break up big banks by splitting investment and commercial banking. Her position, in fact, is popular with Wall Street, but increasingly unpopular with those demanding economic equality and accountability for the financial institutions behind the 2008 financial crisis.

"The big six banks in this country have 43 percent more deposits, 81 percent more assets and three times the amount of cash they had before the financial crisis," author and Demos fellow Nomi Prins said last month. "A major reason America has such an inequality problem is that it has a highly concentrated, establishment-supported casino banking system that disperses capital toward more risky endeavors than infrastructure building and small and mid-size business support."

Meanwhile, Walmart workers on Wednesday took their demands for $15 an hour to the Brooklyn headquarters of Clinton, who refused their request for all candidates to address their demands at last week's debates.

"I was recently fired for my activism after working at Walmart for five years but I am fasting to try and improve the working conditions and wages for all of my friends still working at the store," declared Tyfani Faulkner, a former Walmart customer service manager in Sacramento, CA. "I am going to Hillary Clinton’s office to demand that she speak up for me, for my daughter and for the tens of thousands of Walmart workers across this country working and living in poverty."


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