Hillary Clinton needs to stop bragging about Henry Kissinger’s endorsement

During the last Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton went out of her way to insist that she is very progressive and very not-establishment. However, later on in the debate, she claimed a rather odd endorsement for a progressive outsider. As she said of her past experience running a large government agency:

I have had the opportunity to run a big agency. I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better — better than anybody had run it in a long time. So I have an idea of what it’s going to take to make our government work more efficiently.

This turned quite a few heads, and made Clinton’s more progressive supporters cringe. In a Democratic primary, Henry Kissinger — a war criminal who personifies the worst excesses of American imperialism — is not someone with whom you want to associate.

Henry Kissinger introducing Hillary Clinton in 2013, screenshot via YouTube

Henry Kissinger introducing Hillary Clinton in 2013, screenshot via YouTube

In the wake of her comments, I heard two main defenses from Clinton supporters. First, that Kissinger was simply commenting on Clinton’s skills as a bureaucrat: He said she ran an effective department, but he didn’t necessarily say that he agreed with her foreign policy decisions or worldview. Second, other supporters have argued that Clinton simply didn’t mean it. It was just a gaffe, and she doesn’t think Kissinger is Actually Good. We should all let her line go and move on.

Apparently, no one told Clinton’s campaign.

For starters, Clinton’s embrace of Kissinger during the debate wasn’t a gaffe. She was reading a line from her campaign’s website. What’s more, in the spin room following the debate, Clinton strategist Joel Benenson doubled down on Clinton’s comments, saying that “People generally believe that Henry Kissinger was a good secretary of state.”

And then there’s this, from today:

Just so we’re clear, this is the same Henry Kissinger who, as Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, was responsible for the military coup that overthrew democratically-elected Salvador Allende and installed dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile. This is the same Henry Kissinger who green-lit Indonesian dictator Suharto’s invasion of East Timor in 1975, and then worked to block efforts by the international community to mitigate the resulting violence. This is the same Henry Kissinger who was directly involved in the United States’ atrocities in Southeast Asia — from our secret war in Cambodia to our enthusiastic embrace of chemical weapons such as Agent Orange in Vietnam and Laos. He is not someone whose endorsement should be considered “flattering,” and he should not be talked up as “a good secretary of state.” His approval certainly shouldn’t be an applause line.

So while I think the labels game is dumb — drawing arbitrary lines around words like “progressive” and “establishment” is usually pretty silly — come on. I think we can all agree that embracing Henry Kissinger as a “good secretary of state” whose endorsement should be taken as a badge of honor is safely outside the bounds of “progressive” and safely within the bounds of “establishment.”

Clinton needs to stop talking Henry Kissinger up on the trail. Her campaign needs to take his name off of her website. Her surrogates, including her husband, need to stop bragging about how awesome Kissinger thinks her time as Secretary of State went. This is a guy whose name, and all that it represents, should be toxic in Democratic politics. It’s time our party’s frontrunner acted accordingly.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • deckbose

    This was a very poor choice of words, and a horrible association to claim flattery over, but people trying to spin this as Clinton “being mentored” by Kissinger are liars on the scale of Donald Trump.

  • Jason Rule

    It is not a question of image. What you think of as making her look bad, in reality reflects WHO SHE REALLY IS!

    Don’t be afraid that she is not hiding the truth about her sufficiently. Be afraid that, with Kissinger as her GENUINE hero, she could actually acquire the Presidency.

  • Butch1

    Obama got caught lying about what we’ve been doing this past year against ISIS and how difficult it has been fighting them. Russian entered this conflict and within three weeks decimated them when we couldn’t do the same thing in over a year! So, what the hell were we doing? Bombing the desert and NOT anything to them, but why is my question? Something really stinks about this. I think the longer we prolong this conflict, the more the contractors can work in the region and the longer our own troops can stay there “advising” the other ground forces. By the way, we do have “boots on the ground” in many areas over there, but this president will not say that. Transparency has never been his fort. This is why we need Sanders in the White House to stop this nonsense.

    It was the Russians who exposed the ISIS truck oil convoy driving to Turkey. Has our Media mentioned anything about this yet? I didn’t think so.

  • FLL

    I agree that arguing for no more Middle East wars would be popular. So far Bernie has concentrated on domestic issues like income inequality and healthcare, which are high priorities in and of themselves. People have criticized Bernie for shying away from any discussion of foreign policy. I think you put your finger on how Bernie could turn the race around. Instead of being a no-show on foreign policy and letting Hillary win on that issue by default, Bernie should offer an alternative to the “endless-Middle-East-war” syndrome. I’ll bet it would resonate with the electorate. I hope the people around Bernie push him to do it. He is a U.S. senator, after all.

  • Ol’ Hippy

    HRC is a neocon in sheep’s clothing. Henry was, or instigated mass murder on a grand scale but was never tried for his crimes against humanity. WE do need someone who won’t fill the Supreme Court with fools, but can Bernie win in the fall? I see dark time ahead and I thought I’d be dead long before the shit hit the fan, so to speak. I’m now not so sure as the winds of wars seem to be blowing again. I

    just hope I’m wrong.

  • Butch1

    I think he needs to start talking about a different direction this country needs to go in the Middle East to destroy the War Industrial Complex’es grip on our Pentagon and government. He needs a plan to show that there will NOT be “boots on the ground” any time soon and also, that we need to start evacuating our men and women from Afghanistan as well. There is absolutely no reason for us to be still in that country anymore. There is no game plan to our occupation and we are still losing lives in the process. The minute we are gone the Taliban will take our place. It is a given; we are just postponing it by staying there at a horrific cost to us taxpayers. It’s past time. I also think this “war on terrorism” will start to fade when we are out of there as well.

    With Clinton, she will continue the Bush-Obama war/game plan and the War-Industrial Complex will love it.

  • 2karmanot

    BINGO!

  • 2karmanot

    Dorian Hills is revealing her true self.

  • 2karmanot

    Last night Hills was whining to Maddow that Bermie was being a meanie…..wa !

  • Don Chandler

    He plays himself in the Opera, Nixon in China ;)

  • timncguy

    Hey, at least when Clinton says someone endorsed her, they actually did. On the Sanders side, he’s being threatened with legal action if he doesn’t stop making claims of endorsements that aren’t true. Of course, most people don’t know about this because it barely gets any media attention and everyone just trust his reputation for “authenticity” In Iowa, he sent out mailers with the logos of AARP and the League of Conservation Voters. They both complained about the use of their logos. AARP doesn’t endorse candidates EVER. And, the League of Conservation Voters endorsed Clinton. In NH he claimed two regional newspapers had endorsed him. Neither had and they have since said so. Over the weekend we found out that a veterans group has threatened Sanders with legal action. They asked him the last week of January to stop using their logo on his mailer. He didn’t stop. Now, they have sent him a “cease and desist” letter and threatened legal action against him. Previously we heard that in NV, his staff was posing as members of the culinary union in order to gain access to union spaces for electioneering. And, over the weekend CNN reported that even though Sanders rails against taking money from the “Big Banks” he has been fund raising for the DNC with the “Big Banks” for years.

    We all know if Clinton had done any of these things, she would be pilloried 24/7 over and over. But, when Sanders does it, it’s crickets…..

  • FLL

    Hillary seems to be flopping around incoherently, at least for the moment. I’m wondering if Bernie will pull off a victory in Nevada. Bernie has to prove that he can win somewhere—anywhere—outside New England. It would be interesting if he does. Yes, we know that Bernie is more popular than Hillary in northern New England (although Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island may not be white enough for Bernie to necessarily win). Bernie has northern New England sewn up. We get that, but that will not get him the nomination. He really should have won Iowa with no problem because the state is tailor-made for him (as is Wisconsin, where Hillary is still ahead of Bernie in polls).

    I think Bernie’s problem with African-American voters is that they bristle at any perceived slight aimed at Obama. Bernie is not running on Obama’s record, and sometimes distances himself from Obama’s record. In the eyes of African-Americans, that is a perceived slight. Hillary, on the other hand, served Obama loyally as secretary of state and touts Obama’s achievements, especially Obamacare, which Bernie doesn’t give too much credit.

  • Black Women 4 Bernie

    Good one!

  • Especially during the primaries. In October this might help with a few older moderates? But right now this is a negative. Why doesn’t she or at least someone around her get that?

  • I don’t understand why her campaign is being run so badly. I didn’t understand why similar mistakes were made 8 years ago but her lack of ability to learn from those mistakes is troubling.

    I am leaning towards voting for her in a few weeks only because I think she’s more realistic about the world situation and more experienced in terms of policy. Yes, she’s a hawk which bothers me but I also find a lot of Bernie’s positions dangerously naive. On domestic policy I don’t think either of them can get any of their proposals through Congress so it doesn’t really matter whether it would be Plan A or Plan B that dies in committee in a GOP-controlled House. But this attack mode her entire team defaults to at any criticism bothers me greatly. They could fix this but I don’t think they see a problem. This is what happens when you’ve been surrounded by political hacks for far too long. Too bad. She’s very smart and experienced but I fear that in office I’d get most of what I am voting for a Democrat to avoid.

  • Hell won’t have him? That’s what we used to say about mean old people who somehow were still alive.

  • I don’t understand why the people around Hillary Clinton don’t understand how badly this sort of thing makes her look. Also the high fees the big banks paid her to speak. It plays into the narrative that our politicians are bought and paid for by the 1%. Are they all really that tone deaf? Do they not get that the main reason both Trump and Sanders are doing so well is that Americans (across the spectrum) are tired of politicians that pander to them and then only care about the big donors once in office? Can someone have the “come to Jesus” talk with Clinton before she goes down in flames?

  • SL Abrin

    How is this disgusting piece of dhrek still alive? Like his twin, Darth Cheney, these vampires never die.

    I was operating under the assumption that Sec. Clinton’s tenure as SOS was alright. Having heard an endorsement of her work from the Evil One himself, I am fully confident that she fucked things up big time.

  • Lisa

    Hillary has a lot of problematic associations including in the military industrial complex, wall street, private prison industry and TPP players. Hillary likes to portray herself as a woman who has fought for the middle class and poor her entire life but her naked ambition has led her into the dark side long ago. She is has justified the loss of her integrity so much she believes it herself and calls Bernie naive for not having compromised his.

  • The_Fixer

    How tone-deaf does one have to be to brag about an endorsement from Kissinger in an election year where people are starting to take progressive values seriously?

    This is stupefying. Just when you think that Hillary is smart (in a crafty way), she wipes that all away with one absolutely ridiculous maneuver.

    I lived through the Vietnam war, and remember what went on. No way was Henry Kissinger anything but a war criminal.

  • nicho

    Hillary is flailing. She has stupid, sexist endorsement from Albright and Steinem. She’s bragging about Henry K. Chelsea is out there lying uo a storm. Bill, of all people, is talking about Bernie being dishonest. She’s managing to piss off legions of people who she needs to win the general, assuming she gets the nomination. Her campaign is a disaster, and even some of her backers are getting buyer’s remorse. She could end up costing the Democrats the White House. If the GOP wasn’t polluted with the Tea Party, they could conceivably run someone who could clean her clock.

  • Knottwhole

    She can’t help it. Warmongers tend to gather.

  • Sad to say it, but only a 100% “establishment” candidate would think an endorsement from the fossilized war criminal and blood-gargling Republican troglodyte known as Henry Kissinger is a good thing.

  • Butch1

    Perhaps Kissinger’s history needs to be addressed or “revisited” so that those who are younger and do not know his history are acquainted with it. Those of us from the Vietnam era know him well and even his name upsets my stomach.

    As a Vietnam vet this quote from this sociopath has always bothered me especially when he was supposed to be negotiating peace with the North Vietnamese in France.

    “Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”

    Because of his “foreign policy” we lost 58,000+ of them in this conflict. This scoundrel has a lot of blood on his hands just for our losses and this doesn’t count Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

  • Bill_Perdue

    More proof that the twin parties of war and aggression have the same politics.

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