Politico reports that the Clinton campaign is wooing Condoleezza Rice, James Baker, George Shultz, and Kissinger, the granddaddy of them all. This is in keeping with the strategy the Clinton campaign unveiled at the DNC: It really, really wants to win over Republicans who are disgusted with their party’s nomination of Donald Trump.
In the abstract, there is some merit to this strategy. The only path Donald Trump has to victory is by winning an overwhelming margin of the white vote. To make up for an expected loss of non-college-educated white voters, the Clinton campaign has set its sights on college-educated suburban Republicans—the last two days of the DNC were all about these voters. Winning over Republicans, who are by definition white, creates a firewall, especially in the key swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
But what does Kissinger, a veritable war criminal, do to help win over these voters? Are there pockets of Main Line Philadelphia waiting to hear what Kissinger thinks about the election? In truth, he represents no single constituency besides foreign policy elites based in Washington, D.C. And, while there can be no doubt that Clinton is a hawk, the decision to chase after Kissinger, who is anathema to the party’s left-wing and any person with a sense of morality, further alienates progressives. (Sanders voters, who are also quite white, could also serve as a firewall, but many are reluctant to vote for Clinton because of shit like this.)
Another, more troubling way of thinking about this outreach, however, is that it’s earnest. There has always been something insecure about the hawkishness of the Clintons—a willingness to prove to the country and the world that the Democratic Party is no longer the party of draft-dodgers and hippies. The wooing of bomb-happy right-wingers is in keeping with that insecurity: The Clinton campaign knows it has a negligible electoral benefit, but seeks the endorsement of a discredited status quo to seem respected and important. Of course, for Clinton, Kissinger has never been discredited—instead, he’s been her mentor for years.