Yet the article in question isn’t a takedown of Clinton. It is a strange endorsement of the presidential candidate. The tendencies described above demonstrate “exactly the mentality any Democrat would need to move the needle on policy in 2017,” he writes.
He urges Democrats to support a corrupt Washington insider with an ends-justify-the-means attitude because he believes she’ll advance his preferred domestic agenda. “Committed Democrats and liberal-leaning interest groups are facing a reality in which any policy gains they achieve are going to come through the profligate use of executive authority, and Clinton is almost uniquely suited to deliver the goods,” he writes. “More than almost anyone else around, she knows where the levers of power lie, and she is comfortable pulling them, procedural niceties be damned.”
That sounds a lot like Dick Cheney, another longtime Washington insider who spent lots of time in the White House, learned how to manipulate the levers of power in unusual ways, and was comfortable doing so, procedural niceties be damned. Of course, Hillary Clinton has big policy disagreements with Dick Cheney. But as a United States senator, she joined him in favoring an Authorization for Use of Military Force that significantly expanded executive power; an outside-the-U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay; a preemptive war against Iraq; the Patriot Act, with its many civil-liberties abrogations; an expansive program of extra-legal, warrantless surveillance on tens of millions of innocent Americans; and the use of lethal drone strikes over civilian populations in Pakistan and Yemen.
Hillary Clinton would almost certainly pull the levers of power in some of the same ways as Dick Cheney, perhaps relying on the same John Yoo and David Addington memos. She believes in “asking what she can get away with rather than what would look best,” Yglesias writes. Her Office of Legal Counsel will surely oblige.
Yglesias’s opportunistic support for extraordinary, legally questionable uses of executive power and his dubious claim that “liberals need an iron fist in the White House to make progress” is a naked embrace of the process-be-damned logic that has been contributed to horrific government abuses in both recent memory and U.S. history. Against all that, Yglesias posits that aggressive, norms-violating uses of executive power can bring marginal gains to the domestic agenda of technocratic progressives.
“On many issues she'll push executive power in somewhat unorthodox ways in pursuit of an agenda conservatives hate,” he writes. “On a handful of issues—likely those most directly connected to foreign policy—she'll push executive power harder than Obama in pursuit of an agenda that liberals will find much less congenial...”
Why does he think that progressives should embrace that tradeoff? Perhaps his judgement is clouded by his status as a movement wonk: He is far more likely to be invited to a Clinton White House to share his policy views than to have its occupant bomb his ancestral village, surveil the place of worship of his family members, or send him to die in a foreign conflict where the U.S. does not achieve its objectives.