Traditionally presidential election campaigns are said to begin in earnest after Labor Day, but with the mutual rancor between the two parties and their candidates, things should heat up right away now that both conventions are over.
This became concrete today, when a reader brought to my attention an anti-Clinton TV ad, consisting of excerpts from a speech Clinton gave in India. There Clinton says trying to stop offshore outsourcing is a “dead end,” something we should not bother with. Pretty powerful stuff, quite an effective counter to the brief mentions Hillary made against offshoring in her speech tonight. So powerful, in fact, that the DNC is trying to get TV stations to pull the ad from the air.
Of course, the more DNC pushes, the more attention will be called to the ad. This is a rare stumble for the well-oiled DNC machine/Clinton campaign, but the implications of the ad are of great significance, in my view. Here’s why:
In my post last night, I referred again to a Computerworld article in which an IT worker took Clinton’s recent comments on the H-1B work visa as showing that, while she sympathizes with American workers harmed by the program, she considers them “collateral damage,” to be sacrificed by what she considers the greater good. After hearing her speech tonight, and the slick bio preceding it, to me the pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together.
I found the account of Hillary’s mother quite touching — virtually cast aside as a child, going to work as a housekeeper at age 13, and so on. (I wonder how many people know that Trump’s mother also started out life as a poor housekeeper.) No wonder Clinton has not just sympathy, but empathy, for the welfare of children, the issue on which her main accomplishments have been. Good for her.
But at the same time, it is clear where the Greater Good motivation comes from. Clinton wants to do good things for children, underclass families, and so on, and she sees that in order to be in a position to do so, she needs to make common cause with the tech industry, the Wall Street banks, and so on. The TV ad begins by saying that after she made that speech in India, she received a hefty donation from an Indian politician for the Clinton Foundation, whose major focus is on the very issues Hillary cares about, i.e. children and so on.
Given that, it would be easy for Hillary to rationalize the inherent contradictions. She railed this evening against the misery caused by the banks in the 2008 crash, but fails to mention that some of the major factors underlying that catastrophe were policies that her husband Bill put into place while president, under pressure by those same Wall Street banks.
In her remarks in that recent interview reported in the Computerworld article, Hillary conceded that both high-skilled and low-skilled immigration harm American workers. But in her speech tonight, she said that rather than fixing immigration policy, her approach would be to expand the economy so that there are enough jobs for everyone. This was not an original line at all; on the contrary, it is a standard go-to line in the Democratic Party. I recall, for instance, a staffer for Sen. Barbara Boxer dismissing the H-1B problem, because (this is close to verbatim) “Mobile apps will be booming in the coming years, so there will be enough jobs for both Americans and H-1Bs.” Of course, what happened was that those jobs went mostly to even more H-1Bs. For instance, one of the most strident firms pushing Congress to expand the H-1B cap is Qualcomm.
It is no accident either that the Party has embraced the writings of my UC Davis colleague Giovanni Peri, who sees immigration in general, and H-1B in particular, as job creators for natives. As even a pro-immigration Financial Times writer pointed out, the White House report on Obama’s executive actions on immigration cited Giovanni no less than 38 times, with just a passing mention about the contrary views of George Borjas, and even then in a derogatory manner, but again this rationalizes Clinton’s views, and of course those of the Democratic Party, which wants to use the H-1B issue to leverage amnesty for what comedian Jay Leno called “undocumented Democrats.” In the interview, Hillary had referred to the “economic argument” in favor of H-1B, presumably Peri’s (which has been countered by other research).
It’s clear that it will be a nasty, nasty campaign. The above-mentioned ad is quite reasonable (though predictably, the Race Card was played immediately), but the ads will get more and more personal, more and more in-the-other-candidate’s-face. After I heard about the outsourcing ad this afternoon, I wondered what would come next from the Trump campaign, and my mind wandered to the issue of which candidate would make a better commander-in-chief. The Democrats have been saying Trump is too impetuous for that role, and that reminded me of the famous photo of the White House Situation Room, in which they were watching the events that they would hope would lead to bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice.
When that picture came out in 2011, my thought was, “Oh, no, Hillary looks awful, with her hand over her mouth, a look of fear” — certainly not a trait we want in a commander-in-chief. Thus, today I thought this may show up in an anti-Hillary commercial. So, imagine my surprise this evening when the slick bio shown at the convention actually tried to put a positive spin on the situation, claiming Hillary had the look of leadership. Maybe this was a pre-emptive defense on the Democrat’s party.
In any case, there is no shortage of past public comments by both candidates that will come back to haunt them in biting commercials this campaign.