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Listening to Hillary: The Military

September 1, 2016

Again I’ll begin with what to me is most important, because it’s the most real (if true) and most effective as content and communication. Late in this speech to the American legion (8-31-16), she again told a story about her father. Soon after Pearl Harbor he joined the Navy [at age 30] and became a trainer. She told of his accompanying his young trainees to the west coast to see them board their ships, knowing that some of them would not survive, but believing in their cause.

The image that she brought to my mind, and probably the mind’s eye of many in her audience, was of him standing on the dock, watching those vulnerable young sailors boarding those warships. It could have been Clytemnestra, Penelope, the women and children, and the old men, watching their warriors boarding the ships for Troy. It is the experience of millions of Americans during WWII, Vietnam, Afghanistan, watching heroic loved ones boarding ships or trains or planes to join their command. Our shared human experience has written that pattern into our subconscious perception and interpretation of our life together, however antagonistic we may be towards each other.

Asking for votes from the assembled American legionnaires, traditionally Republicans, is a tough spot for a woman Democrat running for Commander-in-Chief. After telling about her father she related his experience to her own, when she met young Americans in uniform abroad while she was Secretary of State, representing all Americans. I don’t know that the image totally transferred to her, but the story said to her audience—to use words that she frequently uses—I get that, I get it; and so it opened the possibility of a respectful two-way conversation, which she then requested.

And again, next most important, in my perspective, she asked for the Legion to join her in a partnership in the White House, declaring that she would never forget the courage and honor of men and women in uniform, and asking the members of her audience to make sure that she never does forget (i.e. hold me accountable).

Re. her policy proposals, I was happy to hear her declare, emphatically, that she would not allow the Veterans Administration to be owned privately and operated for personal profit, and that (within her newly published plan for better mental health treatment for all Americans) she would emphasize quality treatment for all wounds of war, including the psychological.

Early in her speech she affirmed that one of her “core” beliefs is of American Exceptionalism—perhaps obligatory with the Legion (Bernie also mentioned it, at least in one speech that I heard, with an explanation of what it means to him). She clearly means, that because we have the world’s wealthiest economy and strongest military we play an exceptional role in world affairs. We are “the indispensible nation.” If we don’t lead, we create a vacuum into which rushes chaos or other nations. Thus we have an exceptional leadership ability and responsibility. We are also exceptional because of the strength of our values and people. She didn’t really say much, concretely, about what our values are, or how they make us exceptional among nations such as those in Europe.

One thing that she had going for her, with this audience, is that she is thought of as a “hawk” when it comes to a strong military and use of military force; I thought she sounded like it. Some passages might have been provided by the Legion itself. Not much new, however, except increased attention to international cyber attacks, and the suggestion that Republicans should work with her Democratic administration, to adequately fund a very large military. Wait, that’s not new (nor will it help these veterans, except by increasing their membership, e.g. in the process of defending the interests of multi-national corporations).

She sharply criticized Trump on the military, and foreign policy, by contrast to herself and just about every sensible person, but of course he’s a sitting duck. It will be hard, even for these Republicans, to support him on those grounds.

So I think that in this speech to this audience Hillary presented herself honestly and accurately as a moderate to conservative Democrat, with some enlightened and compassionate ideas about war wounds and mental health.

I wonder if the Clintonite Dems are imagining their party permanently attracting moderate Republicans away from an increasingly alt-right Republican party.

If it’s true that millions start to pay attention to the election after Labor Day, there is still plenty of time for the legionnaires to realize that if they fought for American democracy, they had best fight against Trump.

[Previous pages of this episode:  economy, racists.]

[speeches on that same day, Aug 31, by Trump, by Kaine and Pence.]

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