Hillary Clinton’s ‘Pivot’ or ‘Spin’?

To stave off Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton became a born-again progressive, critical of trade deals and tough on fracking, but her preparations for a presidential transition presage a pro-corporate and hawkish administration, says Norman Solomon.

By Norman Solomon

Like other Bernie Sanders delegates in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, I kept hearing about the crucial need to close ranks behind Hillary Clinton. “Unity” was the watchword. But Clinton has reaffirmed her unity with corporate America.

Rhetoric aside, Clinton is showing her solidarity with the nemesis of the Sanders campaign — Wall Street. The trend continued last week with the announcement that Clinton has tapped former Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to chair her transition team.

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign logo.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign logo.

After many months of asserting that her support for the “gold standard” Trans-Pacific Partnership was a thing of the past — and after declaring that she wants restrictions on fracking so stringent that it could scarcely continue — Clinton has now selected a vehement advocate for the TPP and for fracking, to coordinate the process of staffing the top of her administration.

But wait, there’s more — much more than Salazar’s record — to tell us where the planning for the Hillary Clinton presidency is headed.

On the surface, it might seem like mere inside baseball to read about the transition team’s four co-chairs, described by Politico as “veteran Clinton aides Maggie Williams and Neera Tanden” along with “former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.” But the leaders of the transition team — including Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, who is also president of the Clinton-Kaine Transition Project — will wield enormous power.

“The transition team is one of the absolute most important things in the world for a new administration,” says William K. Black, who has held key positions at several major regulatory agencies such as the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. Along with “deciding what are we actually going to make our policy priorities,” the transition team will handle key questions: “Who will the top people be? Who are we going to vet, to hold all of the cabinet positions, and many non-cabinet positions, as well? The whole staffing of the senior leadership of the White House.”

Black’s assessment of Salazar, Podesta and the transition team’s four co-chairs is withering. “These aren’t just DNC regulars, Democratic National Committee regulars,” he said in an interview with The Real News Network. “What you’re seeing is complete domination by what used to be the Democratic Leadership Council.

“So this was a group we talked about in the past. Very, very, very right-wing on foreign policy, what they called a muscular foreign policy, which was a euphemism for invading places. And very, very tough on crime — this was that era of mass incarceration that Bill Clinton pushed, and it’s when Hillary was talking about black ‘superpredators,’ this myth, this so dangerous myth.”

Black added: “And on the economic side, they were all in favor of austerity. All in favor of privatization. Tried to do a deal with Newt Gingrich to privatize Social Security. And of course, were all in favor of things like NAFTA.”

A Calculated Pivot

As for Hillary Clinton’s widely heralded “move to the left” in recent months, Black said that it “was purely calculated for political purposes. And all of the team that’s going to hire all the key people and vet the key people for the most senior positions for at least the first several years of what increasingly looks likely to be a Clinton administration are going to be picked by these people, who are the opposite of progressive.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her vice presidential choice, Sen. Tim Kaine. (Photo credit: HillaryClinton.com)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her vice presidential choice, Sen. Tim Kaine. (Photo credit: HillaryClinton.com)

In that light, Salazar is a grotesquely perfect choice to chair the transition team. After all of Clinton’s efforts to present herself as a foe of the big-money doors that revolve between influence peddlers and government officials in Washington, her choice of Salazar — a partner at the lobbying powerhouse WilmerHale since 2013 — belies her smooth words. That choice means the oil and gas industry just hit a political gusher.

On both sides of the revolving doors, the industry has been ably served by Salazar, whose work included arguing for the Keystone XL pipeline. His support for fracking has been so ardent that it led him two years ago to make a notably fanciful claim: “We know that, from everything we’ve seen, there’s not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone.”

Salazar is part of a clear pattern. Clinton’s selection of Tim Kaine for vice president underscored why so many progressives distrust her. Kaine was among just one-quarter of Democrats in the Senate who voted last year to fast track the TPP. When he was Virginia’s governor, Kaine said that “I strongly support” a so-called right-to-work law that is anathema to organized labor. A few years ago he faulted fellow Democrats who sought to increase taxes for millionaires.

Clinton announced the Kaine pick while surely knowing that many progressives would find it abhorrent. A week beforehand, the Bernie Delegates Network released the results of a survey of Sanders delegates showing that 88 percent said they would find selection of Kaine “unacceptable.” Only 3 percent of the several hundred respondents said it would be “acceptable.”

The first big post-election showdown will be over the TPP in the lame-duck session of Congress. Clinton’s spokesman Brian Fallon reiterated a week ago that “she is against the TPP before the election and after the election.”

But her choices for running mate and transition team have sent a very different message. And it’s likely that she is laying groundwork to convey anemic “opposition” that will be understood on Capitol Hill as a wink-and-nod from a president-elect who wouldn’t mind “aye” votes for the TPP.

Blessed with an unhinged and widely deplored Republican opponent, Hillary Clinton may be able to defeat him without doing much to mend fences with alienated Sanders voters. But Clinton’s smooth rhetoric should not change the fact that — on a vast array of issues — basic principles will require progressives to fight against her actual policy goals, every step of the way.

Norman Solomon, national coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network, is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

37 comments for “Hillary Clinton’s ‘Pivot’ or ‘Spin’?

  1. August 23, 2016 at 17:30

    i find it amazing….that DNC emails showed conclusively, that the DNC sabotaged Sanders’ campaign at every opportunity, and that the Democrats, especially the Progressives, are not up in arms about this level of criminality in our electoral system….We should be collectively outraged and seeking to prosecute the DNC and ALL involved parties, for blatantly criminal acts against the voting public.
    I cannot in good faith or conscience vote for Killary or Donald…i will vote Stein or Johnson…There is no lesser of evils with these “nominated” candidates.

  2. Don
    August 23, 2016 at 15:09

    Kudos to Gregory Herr. His question below about Clinton and her foreign policy could not be better expressed, and if she does as her usual, she will claim and do about the TPP just as he says.

    “From now on, every time I mention Hilligula, the qualifier “unhinged” should be attached. What is more “unhinged” than the barbaric foreign policy she is so enamoured of?

    As for the TPP, she’ll claim they “fixed it,” and will take credit for the “fix”. “

  3. wobblie
    August 23, 2016 at 08:58

    That anyone can believe that Clinton is anything remotely close to a progressive is in serious denial. Hillary is a neocon and to the right of The Donald on some things. Some good commentary on the fakesness of political parities.

    “The Oxymoron of “Progressive” Democrat’


    How Liberals and Conservatives Like Their “Democracy”


    • bobzz
      August 23, 2016 at 15:11

      Wobblie, this is funny. A friend of mine recently told me Hillary was a progressive Marxist. Kid you not.

  4. TexasGus
    August 23, 2016 at 06:54
  5. Brad Owen
    August 23, 2016 at 05:05

    Attention Progs/Libs/SocDems/DemSocs, the last paragraph truly says it all; DON’T worry about the despised Trump slipping into the White House, he doesn’t have the numbers, Hillary won the Republican vote, and will MOST CERTAINLY spit upon the Sandernista Dems. Now’s the time to vote Green without fear of a Trump take-over. Now’s the time (or perhaps immediately after the election) for all progressive Dems to split from their “New Republican Establishment” party of Wall Street/MIC/Nat’l Security Deep State, and wear the Green, changing party affiliation to the Greens while in office…THAT is how a new third Party is born. The broad Center-Left has an opportunity to UNIFY under the Green Banner, while the broad Center-Right is fracturing before our eyes (into fascists, racists, “no-such-thing-as-society” liberterianoids, country-club republicans, union-hating corporatistas, right-wing religious fanatics); their BS no longer mesmerizes the people, and the Peoples’ Party, the Greens, stands waiting to march forward to heal the Land.

    • Joe Tedesky
      August 23, 2016 at 08:33

      Brad, your comment reinvigorates my senses to want and vote, and vote for Jill & Ajamu!

      • Brad Owen
        August 23, 2016 at 11:44

        I’m sending $27.00 a month (the symbolic average the Sandernistas sent) until the election…then will still send some more after the election. I’ll think of it as paying monthly dues to a Citizens’ Political Union (a CPU). I’ve never been much of an activist, but I can put my money where my mouth is. They don’t take PAC money or corporate bribes, and they’re nation-wide…they’re the only game in town for the people, and we better send them some money to KEEP it that way. This is our big chance.

        • Brad Owen
          August 24, 2016 at 05:05

          If the 13 million Sandernista voters paid ten dollars a month membership dues to the Green Party U.S., that would be $1.56 BILLION a year, $6.24 BILLION every presidential cycle. With Ellen Brown as Green Party U.S. Treasurer (the Shadow Cabinet), she would know HOW to bank that money for the common good of the Party members, the people, the World. Some of this money could fund a theoretical “GPUS Technologies Research & Development” Dept. The Shadow President (Jill Stein) could approach Jeanne Manning and Joel Garbon (co-authors of “Breakthrough Power: How Quantum-Leap, ‘New-Energy’ Inventions can Transform Our World”) to head up the GPUS R&D Dept, to provide funds to these inventors, to rapidly advance the development of new Green technologies and bring them to market, to the people. A “Permaculture Dept. ” could be set up to research HOW to green the Earth, restore the soil, feed people sustainably, etc… so much could be done without having to wait for the Oligarchy to swing into action (they will NEVER swing into action, to promote the General Welfare/Common Good). If 50 million people became dues-paying members, that would raise $6 BILLION a year; $24 BILLION every presidential cycle.

  6. Zachary Smith
    August 22, 2016 at 20:43

    I read the essay twice and didn’t see a thing I disagree with.


    • Bart Gruzalski
      August 23, 2016 at 05:24

      Zachary Smith,
      You don’t disagree with anything in the essay. Does that mean you agree with the analysis–Hilluga will go back to her Republican ways–or you agree with her republican ways. More specifically, Hillary will drift into supporting the TPP… do you support the TPP too?

  7. delia ruhe
    August 22, 2016 at 19:51

    Bernie, you sold out for two new non-Right judges on the Supreme Court. How can you be so sure Hillary wouldn’t appoint two judges in keeping with her Right-wing views? I can never forget what Michael Moore wrote about her husband, “the best damn Republican president we’ve ever had.” She’ll be the second best.

  8. exiled off mainstreet
    August 22, 2016 at 17:47

    The record shows that she is a serial liar on the so-called “trade” pacts which give away sovereignty and the rule of law to corrupt corporate tribunals. Her record as a war criminal in Libya shows that she is the one who is “unhinged”, belying the politically correct disclaimer in the article. Meanwhile, the record of corruption confirmed by the Clinton foundation and the 10s of millions the Clintons have made in disguised bribes for speeches before corporate audiences should be enough to disqualify her, except that the lamestream press is acting as a sort of “ministry of truth” using the 1984 novel name for the propaganda ministry. Her record reveals that she is the biggest disgrace ever to achieve major party nominee status.

  9. Algirdas
    August 22, 2016 at 16:58

    Nobody could have foreseen this…Is there anyone who didn’t?

    • August 22, 2016 at 23:56

      They all saw it. They kept their eyes closed on purpose and stuck their fingers in their ears and made rude sounds with their tongues so it wouldn’t penetrate.

  10. Annie
    August 22, 2016 at 15:27

    I supported Bernie Sanders, but never again would I trust anyone who is pushing a progressive agenda while also running as a democrat. He sold out to Clinton plain and simple, knowing full well she would never support, or implement a progressive agenda. I am also sure that he will have little if any affect in producing a progressive movement among the young, or any other age group. I think most who supported him now see him as a sell out. I hope their votes go elsewhere, and not to Clinton. Her non-progressive transitional team should surprise no one, a former Goldwater girl, and a husband whose presidency pushed the democratic party significantly to the right, as well as a secretary of state who generated chaos in Libya, and Syria, and all on another lie. Both of them, Hillary and Bill, are a team whose political life has been used to enrich themselves, and those like them.
    What I object to, and find nonprofessional, objectionable really, in this article is the author’s last lines where he says that Hillary is blessed with an unhinged opponent which is one of those one liners thrown at Trump that automatically assumes this point is a given, and needs no explanation. I’m not a Trump supporter, but I’m sick of these kinds of comments which automatically treat this as a one party, one person race. There’s an electorate out there who will decide!

    • Gregory Herr
      August 22, 2016 at 18:45

      As with other politicians, what they say and what they do are often not in tandem. Clinton’s politician tongue should be wagged out by now with all the cheap bullshit that has passed her lips. I’m not a Trump supporter either, but these “unhinged” comments are getting to me also. It’s like a talking point memo that just keeps going round and round. From now on, every time I mention Hilligula, the qualifier “unhinged” should be attached. What is more “unhinged” than the barbaric foreign policy she is so enamoured of?

      As for the TPP, she’ll claim they “fixed it,” and will take credit for the “fix”.

      • Gregory Herr
        August 22, 2016 at 18:55

        And her rhetoric is not “smooth,” as the author states. It is “shady,” condescending, and lightweight.

    • b.grand
      August 22, 2016 at 19:34

      Annie, you were warned.
      We were all warned, on 05/06/2015 , if not before, by Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report.

      I heeded the warning, but I had other dissatisfactions with Bernie. He may, at the end, have said Palestinians are human beings, but he’s still an Israel-firster. For a long, long time he said next to nothing about foreign policy, and when he finally did, it was only marginally better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Turns out he’s a No-Fly Zone type of guy.

      Trump is an unappealing option, but the horrible things he says he wants to do are not necessarily fatal. On the other hand, Hilligula (thanks, Gregory Herr, that’s the best sobriquet yet!) is a one-way ticket, if not straight to nuclear winter, at least to a D.U. contaminated cancerous slouch into Hell for complicity in her evil.

      • Annie
        August 23, 2016 at 01:23

        I don’t know that he was a sheepdog for Hillary, but I did know he was a long shot. I contributed to his campaign and thought maybe people would wake up and recognize they needed a more progressive candidate, and certainly didn’t need a hawk like Killary in the White House. And as to his remark about the Palestinians, well, he did break some ground there, and when you consider all presidential candidates must grovel before AIPAC-He didn’t go. Kudos for that one!

        • b.grand
          August 23, 2016 at 12:39

          Of course, there were no good options. If Bernie didn’t run as a *Demoncrat, he wouldn’t have been in the Primary debates, so he wouldn’t have gotten that national exposure. etc. BUT, he didn’t have to lie down and roll over BEFORE the CONVENTION!!! He didn’t have to soft-pedal her emails. He didn’t have to suck up to the Party in every speech, right from the beginning. How about clinging to his cash-cow F-35 MIC plant outside Burlington?

          DWS fixed the DNC for Hillary. Now the Bernie progressives are pushing Israel-firster Canova for DNC chair. If they want to capture Bernie’s momentum for down-ticket races, this is NOT the way to do it.

          *That was a typo, but it fits.

    • August 23, 2016 at 00:01

      The main reason I threw myself into Bernie’s campaign at the outset was because he said he wouldn’t split the party if he lost. He kept his word. I don’t know why you call him a sellout. Just imagine what would happen if he was running at the head of a 3rd party ticket. That for sure would have thrown it to whoever the Republicant nominee was. I live in California so I can still write him in, but people in swing states don’t have that option.

      • Annie
        August 23, 2016 at 00:55

        Your’re right he did say he wouldn’t split the party, but when he’s running you believe, or want to believe, he’s going to win. You believe he really doesn’t mean he will give her is total backing if he loses. However when he concedes and he stands there talking up Hillary, knowing she has no intention of following an agenda that is in the least bit progressive, and no doubt knows she was complicit in undermining his campaign with the rest of the DNC, and the Mook cries the Russians did it, well, with all that why doesn’t he have the nerve to forgo his initial statement about not splitting the party and do the right thing by all the people who supported him. No he does what he promised, but he gets no kudos from me because he kept his word.

        • Bart Gruzalski
          August 23, 2016 at 05:40

          Once again it is delightful for this over-educated Prof. Emeritus to read your comment. Do you remember Bernie sitting in the crowd, watching Clinton speak, no smile on his face, nothing but bland realization that he’d voluntary been taken for the ride….

          that was THE picture as the “adoring” crowds applauded Ms. Dynasty.

      • Paul G.
        August 23, 2016 at 17:55

        Yes, however he didn’t need to stand next to her and genuflect …” I am proud to be standing here next to Hillary Clinton”….. He said this knowing they had sabotaged his campaign, and before the platform was enacted throwing away any leverage he may have had. At that point he lost his integrity, and lent credence to the “sheepdog” theory. He could have just honestly said, ” OK, we lost ,but lets get along and beat Trump”.

        I was always suspicious of him, as his promises were pie in the sky; ideas to get every progressive excited, but would go no where in the political reality of the DC bubble. He was also way to easy on the MIC, which absorbs the financial resources that would be necessary to enact his good but otherwise unaffordable ideas. As well, he was abysmally ignorant of foreign policy issues, i.e. not realizing the Saudi’s were the major support behind Islamic fundamentalism.

        Obama made a lot of wonderful promises too, look where they went- to the exact opposite.

        • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
          August 27, 2016 at 13:40

          He wasn’t ignorant on that. True, Saudi arms and money meant for the secular rebels always fall into the hands of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, but he presumably knew that. He just meant that they should act like an ally and send troops to fight the Islamic State, instead of doing little to help.

    • Stephen Sivonda
      August 25, 2016 at 01:31

      Annie, astute observations and you covered it all. I was a Bernie supporter, and felt that he just gave it to her even though by the time the convention was held he surely knew because of the DNC hack that he got screwed. How on earth could he believe ,for an instant, that she would carry through on his proposals ? Those platform items while all worthy….pale when compared to the distinct possibility of war escalation . especially the strong possibility of a nuke war.

    • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
      August 27, 2016 at 13:36

      Did you actually listen to Bernie Sanders? He always said he would support the Democratic candidate. I wish he didn’t support Hillary, but he didn’t sell out.

    • fizzed
      August 28, 2016 at 00:21

      You “supported Sanders”, but clearly never listened to him. He’s said from day one that he will support the Democratic nominee if he loses. No matter how much you whine, there are only two people with any chance of becoming POTUS. If you prefer Trump over Hillary, then vote for Trump. A third party vote, say for Jill Stein, can reflect your morals, but it’s effect in the election is the same as one half of a vote for Trump. That’s reality in America.

      If the Green Party gets enough dedicated support, it might grow into a real political Party in a decade. Anyone committed enough to spend a decade rebuilding this deteriated Party could improve society then, and I wish you the best. A mere vote is a worthless protest.

      Hillary has been campaigning on the promises she made, free college for 85% of our population, free primary healthcare, rebuilding our infrastructure, distributed rooftop solar that fits with a new smart grid, and higher taxes on extreme wealth. It’s rare for a POTUS to abandon issues they campaigned strongly on. After numerous blocked attempts, Obama thinks he can still close Quantonimo before he leaves (for ex.). Meeting his promise is important to him. Hillary has not abandoned any promise yet, the article is speculation. With her trust levels low, numerous movements are prepared to make Hillary’s life Hell if she veers right. We trusted Obama and were unprepared to confront him when he disappointed us. We’re ready for Hillary (betrayal). Bernie will be one of the most powerfull Senators if Dems retake the House. If you supported Sanders, wait until his inside / outside plan starts before you judge.

  11. Bill Bodden
    August 22, 2016 at 15:10

    Anyone surprised that Hillary is now showing her anti-progressive, corporate and hawkish positions has to be too naive for words. November 8th Hillary gets the naive, tribal and anti-Trump vote and The Donald gets the bigots and the anti-Hillary vote.

    • Joe Tedesky
      August 22, 2016 at 22:59

      Bringing the email scandal to light, while the 2016 presidential election is in progress, may possibly turn out to be Hillary’s best moment to get away with these security crimes. If you want reference to why I say this, then go to HuffPo, and read the comment sections related to this story. Hillary’s diehard supporters are fluffing these email investigations off as being trivial mistakes, that everyone makes. Although Colin Powell is describing his advice he gave Hillary in a much different way than Hillary seems to account for, Powell is still a Republican, and in the eyes of a Hillary voter that of course means the Bush Secretay of State can’t be trusted. The mere mention of the scandalous Clinton Foundations pay for play will get you put in the same box as was the case with the Bernie supporters, when the Clintonites deemed then as being ‘BernieBro’s’. The BernieBro name calling, was a way of injecting the male female competitive meme, and to some extent it worked. The drop dead deal that is pushing many liberals to hold their noses, and pull the lever for Hillary is the Supreme Court appointments, which these misinformed liberals are relying on to be progressive judicial appointments if Hillary takes the presidency. If money means anything to winning a presidential,election, well this past weekend the Rockefeller’s threw a fund drive dinner for $100,000 a pop. There is so much more to go on about, but I see the exposing of the Clinton misgivings as there being no better time than this present election, because the Hillary Clinton crowd will come out to vote no matter what. Besides that the vote that goes to Hillary, will be a vote to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. Lastly, to a Clinton voter the only foreign policy that matters, is that Assasd, Putin, and the Ayatollah are bad people, and Hillary’s greatest strength is that she is just that pragmatic enough to do something about it. It’s delusional time in America, so get ready for President Hillary Clinton.

  12. J'hon Doe II
    August 22, 2016 at 14:42

    To Whom It May Concern—

    C-Span will air

    3:00PM (Eastern) American Enterprise Institute Hosts Discussion on the 1996 Welfare Law

    9:00PM (Eastern) 20th Anniversary of the 1996 Welfare Law

    The AEI, with Newt Gingrich (and O.J.Simpson), paved the way for this law as well as the Clinton Crime Bill. Both laws had little opposition from Congress and were a DIRECT RESULT of Simpson’s murder trial acquittal, which shocked and greatly offended the American majority. How will we ever forget that court house scene after the verdict. Blacks on one side of the room and Whites across the room reacted in horrid disbelief on the one side and with joyous glee on the other. This set the stage for the gargantuan “white backlash” – and the tsunami of legal retribution against the entire black nation in America.

    Bill & Hill marched with the tide of payback is a dog, and opened doors of “forgiveness” for Ol Boy Bill… .

    • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
      August 27, 2016 at 13:33

      No, there is no white backlash because of that. Instead, the O.J acquittal was caused by the Rodney King beating, which was an example of mistreatment of black people by the mostly-white police, an example of institutional racism. The white backlash is due to the belief that American jobs have been stolen by poor Mexican immigrants, not as racism per se. Also, support for Trump comes from white supremacists who aren’t part of this backlash, but simply want to return things to Jim Crow.

      • J'hon Doe II
        August 28, 2016 at 08:27

        Anguish over the Rodney King episode was dissipated in the several shameful days of looting and burning and smashing of LAPD vehicles, and the subsequent dismissal of police chief Darrel Gates, an avowed bigot.

        Black exuberance in the OJ acquittal harkened back to the days when white men who beat, robbed and murdered blacks at their fancy — walked away laughing after being found ‘not guilty’ by all white juries.

        The Gingrich CONTRACT WITH AMERICA rode the jet stream of anger in the nation over the OJ Simpson trial and acquittal. It was The daily topic of discussion for months… !

  13. Chris Chuba
    August 22, 2016 at 14:28

    Change you can Xerox.

  14. F. G. Sanford
    August 22, 2016 at 13:36

    I rest my case.

Comments are closed.