Speaking to a doting Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times at the 2017 Women in the World Summit in New York on Thursday, defeated Hillary Clinton offered up her explanations for why she lost the seemingly-unlosable 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump: sexism, Comey, Putin, Russia, trolls, etc. It was not until the conversation turned to Syria, however, that Clinton (unintentionally) gave viewers real insight.
“I really believe we should have and still should take out his air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them,” she told Kristof, bemoaning the Obama administration's approach to dealing with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Like many of her statements during the primary, this remark would prove polarizing when, just hours later, the Trump administration launched 50 cruise missiles at Shayrat Airfield in western Syria in response to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons on his own people earlier this week.
The incident instantly generated a Twitter feud between progressives and her most die-hard supporters, which resulted in “World War 3” trending until the early hours Friday morning.
In the face of the sheer devastation in Syria (and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa), voters in the first group felt that Clinton was too hasty to resort to the truncheon in delicate, complex diplomatic matters. Now that her hawkish recommendation was carried into action by a Republican administration—the Trump administration, no less—progressives felt vindicated because the incident highlighted and reinforced this central grievance:
Meanwhile, Clinton's most ardent defenders found themselves in an awkward position, defending their candidate's idea while opposing Trump's apparent implementation of it. This led to some absurd results and impressive mental gymnastics as the “Blame Bernie/Rusia/Putin/Comey” crowd sought to reconcile the two contradictory positions:
If this situation proves anything—besides the absurd hypocrisy of neoliberal Democratic partisans—it’s that Hillary Clinton did not stay in the woods long enough. Democrats are at their weakest point in generations in terms of representation at the state and national level, and in order to fix that they’re going to need to move beyond 2016 and Clintonism.