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Friday, August 21, 2015


I return to my fantasy that Bernie Sanders becomes the next president of the United States.  Cut me some slack.  Life is very hard for a Tigger with my ideological preferences in today's world.  The only way to preserve my sanity is to retreat from time to time into the privacy of my own mind and wonder "What if?"

How could Sanders win the nomination against what still seems to be the Clinton juggernaut?  Well, suppose that the e-mail server problem [of which more anon] metastasizes, as increasingly it seems that it may.  This could certainly carry Bernie to victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, thereby at a minimum prolonging Clinton's seemingly inevitable victory.  Meanwhile, Donald Trump might sweep Iowa, New Hampshire, and the Nevada caucuses. creating the genuine possibility of a Trump nomination.

Once it looks as though Trump may win the Republican nomination, Democratic voters hesitant to see Sanders go up against Jeb Bush or Scott Walker or Marco Rubio will begin to follow their hearts to the Sanders campaign.

If Trump does in fact secure the nomination, there may be a full-scale revolt the following week at the Democratic Convention, with delegates pledged to Clinton, but unhappy with a weakened and scandal-ridden candidate, bolting to Sanders, thereby creating a genuine crisis in the Convention and resulting in the nomination of Sanders, who would then go up against the only Republican he could actually beat -- Donald Trump.

An alternative scenario calls for the Republicans, terrified of such a turn of events, driving Trump from the party into a third party bid, which once again would convince Sanders lovers that he could actually win, even against what passes for a rational Republican.

There is my midnight waking dream.  Call it my own personal exercise in Possible Worlds Political Philosophy.

Now to this business of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server.  Thus far, all discussion has focused on the question whether classified e-mails turned up on the server.  My personal uninformed guess is that when all the investigations are concluded, it will turn out that no significant classified e-mails were sent or received using that server.  But that, in my opinion, does not settle the matter at all.  Let me conjure for you an entirely fictional scenario -- what lawyers call a "hypothetical" and physicists call a "gedankenexperiment" and philosophers these days call "doing philosophy."

magine that shortly after her marriage in 2010, when Hillary Clinton was still Secretary of State, Chelsea Clinton had became pregnant.  Suppose that the pregnancy was medically complicated, and that there was a real danger that Chelsea would lose the baby and even perhaps die.  Suppose Chelsea's doctors had told her that since she had chosen to carry the baby to term, it was medically essential that she remove all threat of stress from her life and live very cautiously and protectively until the baby was born.  At this point, let us further suppose, Hillary Clinton receives, on her private non-State Department server, an e-mail message from a very close personal friend telling her that Chelsea's husband is having an affair.  Clinton and the friend exchange a series of e-mails discussing this problem and trying to figure out how to keep Chelsea from finding out at least until after the birth of her child.  None of this, notice, in any way concerns Clinton's official duties as Secretary of State.

Now suppose that a foreign government with whom Clinton is actively engaged in delicate negotiations hacks into her less secure private server and discovers these e-mails.  During one of those breaks at official high level negotiations during which the parties talk privately and try reach an accommodation, Clinton's opposite party takes her aside and tells her that he knows of Chelsea's situation and the affair.  He intimates that unless Clinton yields in the negotiations a little more than she might otherwise be prepared to do, the fact of the affair will find its way to Chelsea's ears, with possibly catastrophic medical consequences.

This is clearly an intolerable situation.  It, or something like it, is entirely possible for any person in a position as sensitive as that of Secretary of State.  As Francis Bacon observed [in a less gender-liberated time], "He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief."  One can perhaps understand why the Roman Catholic Church demands celibacy of its functionaries.

Rather more seriously, it strikes me as breathtakingly irresponsible and foolhardy for Hillary Clinton to have used a private server for her non-State Department e-mails.  [And please let us not be taken in by Clinton's girlish fluttery claim that she knows nothing about those complicated things called servers -- "I don't know nothin' about birthin' babies, Miz Scarlet."  She is  smart as a whip, superbly educated, and surrounded by experts of all sorts who could have advised her, had she chosen to ask.]

Clinton may win the nomination after all, and if she does, I will vote for her, because the alternative would be even more awful by a considerable measure.  But she really is a terrible candidate.





Unknown said...

I do not think that is really the problem. Her server was not less secure than the State Department servers -- a scandal of its own, but for another day. When she used a private server for government business it stopped being her private server. She had no business wiping it or removing emails.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I agree that she had no business wiping it, but was it really no less secure than the State Department server?m Good grief.

Jerry Fresia said...

Have you ever, or ever considered, writing fiction? perhaps historical fiction, alla Gore Vidal?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I think I would be simply awful at writing fiction. It seems to me that in order to write mfiction well, one must be able to give oneself up to one's characters and allow them to speak, as it were, omn their own, and I doubt that I could do that. I stand in awe of people who can write fiction, as I do of people who can create great art.

Unknown said...

I am very interested in your thoughts on the recent conflict between the Sander's campaign and some black activist groups. Today's Times characterised this as a difference between a race-based and class-based analysis of American society. As a Sanders fan, Marxist, and former head of an Afro-American studies department, you would seem to be uniquely well-placed to comment on this. What is your take?