Hillary Clinton has stepped in it again. Just recently she told an interviewer with The Guardian that European leaders must stop offering “refuge and hope” to migrants if they want to slow the spread of right-wing populism. She urged them to “send a very clear message – ‘we are not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support’ – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”
Mrs. Clinton said further, “I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame.”
You could almost hear Democrats groaning.
After all, if opening your borders in Europe to asylum-seekers is a bad idea, how can it be the right thing to do in the U.S.?
The problem with Hillary Clinton is that she occasionally says what she thinks, which rarely turns out well. When she called Trump supporters “deplorables” she meant it. When she wailed, “What difference at this point does it make?” during the Benghazi hearings, she showed the world her disdain for the inquiry into why four Americans died under her watch and how she lied about the cause of that tragedy for political reasons.
Here she is challenging one of the Democrats’ core tenets: that we should open our doors to migrants, no matter the economic impact or security risk, because that is the noble thing to do.
Hillary is correct, of course. Angela Merkel’s decision to welcome one million migrants from Syria and other countries became wildly unpopular in Germany, especially as some studies confirmed that the surge in newcomers had caused an increase in crime and violence. The Christmas market terror attack in Berlin in 2016 and other episodes hardened opinion against Merkel’s open door policy, undermining her coalition and eventually putting her on the path to resignation.
In countries like Greece and Italy, on the front lines of the surge of migrants into Europe, and in Poland and Hungary, resistance to EU-mandated immigration policies have bolstered populist leaders. In Britain, disapproval of open borders was an important contributor to the Brexit vote.
Liberals in the U.S., however, do not acknowledge the strains caused by the EU’s autocratic diktats on immigration. To do so might suggest that President Trump’s aversion to open borders is not only reasonable, but broadly popular around the world. It might strengthen arguments that favor restricting who gets into our country – arguments made repeatedly by the Trump administration.
The problem with Hillary Clinton is that she occasionally says what she thinks, which rarely turns out well.
Writers at the New York Times doubtless reflected their own horror when they reported Clinton’s remarks, saying they brought a “dose of surprise from an array of scholars, pro-immigration advocates…some of whom were so perplexed by the comments that they wondered aloud whether Mrs. Clinton had perhaps misspoken.”
After all, Hillary has heretofore voiced unwavering support for generous immigration policies. In a 2013 paid speech to a Brazilian bank she went further, saying, "My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders…,” a comment that Trump used as a cudgel during the 2016 campaign.
In the aftermath of the much-criticized Guardian interview, Hillary is playing defense, recently tweeting, “I have always been and remain a staunch advocate of comprehensive immigration reform…”
But the damage has been done, reminding Democrats how very much they wish the Clintons would simply go away, and how desperately the power couple is trying to hold onto the spotlight, even launching a speaking tour to do so.
Hillary spent the days leading up to Thanksgiving tweeting about voter suppression, pie, and exhorting her followers to “Spend an evening with Bill and me.” The latter message linked people to a site at which they could buy tickets for upcoming forums in the U.S. and Canada which will feature the former president and the former Secretary of State in conversation. The ad promises “remarkable insight into where we go from here.”
That’s a tall order, considering that Mrs. Clinton had until recently revealed almost no insight at all as to how we got to where we are today. Maybe that’s why there are still plenty of tickets available, including for a gathering in Toronto this week. Though ticket prices are modest, ranging from $53 to $174, the arena appears to be barely half sold out.
We wonder why on earth Hillary would subject herself and her husband to hustling from one city to the next and confronting the inevitable hecklers (some of whom have been vocal on Twitter, raising unpleasant topics like Bill’s alleged sexual abuse of women). What’s it all for?
The answer is: it’s for the money, and for the attention. Hillary wants to be relevant, and to be an important power broker for her party. Though the Clintons are wealthy, they can no longer count on the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation to fund their political infrastructure. Donations to the Foundation plummeted 58 percent after her 2016 loss, signaling the real intent of gifts made to that organization. Support for their advisors and their public appearances will have to come from elsewhere.
Hillary and Bill have been central Democrat figures for decades; she is loathe to retire, even as so many have urged her to do just that. Bill’s alleged transgressions, and her erstwhile support of him, have embarrassed Democrats hugging the #MeToo movement. How can they rail about President Trump’s supposed misdeeds against women if they cling to the Clintons’ coattails?
Hillary may even want to run for president again, an ambition given new life recently by an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal by her long-time pollster and campaign strategist Mark Penn and Democrat politician Andrew Stein. They argue she’s determined to give it one more go, and that the third time might be the charm; they fail to note her miserable political instincts, her increasing rejection by others in her party, and her tendency to say things that get her into hot water.
The speaking tour is almost sure to be a bust, only adding to the consensus that the Clintons are old news. Unless, of course, she decides to say what she actually thinks, as she did in The Guardian interview. That could sell tickets, but will surely doom her shot at another run.