Election 2016

Trump-Clinton Spats over Schlonging, ISIS Recruitment, Illustrative of Bullshit Distractions 2016 Election is Centered Around

Who got schlonged in 2008? America. And it's been getting schlonged since.


Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said a stupid thing so mainstream media, and social media, followed a by-now familiar cycle that involves obsessing over the Trump comments mostly to the exclusion of substantive policy engagement.

Last week, Donald Trump said Demoratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton got "schlonged" in the 2008 democratic primary, which she entered as a prohibitive frontrunner and exited hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending later, in second place. Maybe the word Trump was searching for was shellacked? It could have been a spoonerism, as the Washington Post speculated when Michelle Obama flubbed the name of a candidate she was stumping for in 2014.

Regardless, Clinton spent millions of dollars on a highly touted strategist, Mark Penn, who incorrectly thought California was a winner-take-all primary and that that would propel Clinton to victory. Schlong is a Yiddish term for a penis. That Hillary Clinton got fucked in 2008 is a debatable point, and not one the facts permit to be dismissed out of hand. It's hardly gendered. More importantly, it's irrelevant. But Hillary Clinton got to call it sexist, and use it to talk about how bigoted and hateful Donald Trump is instead of having to talk about her own failures, or accomplishments for that matter.

And before the schlong comment sucked all the air out of the room, a different Trump-Clinton spat dominated. That one, over whether Donald Trump vids were being used as recruiting tools by ISIS, was just as stupid. Trump insisted Clinton produce an ISIS video featuring trump. When a Clinton spokesperson clarified that she meant Trump's rhetoric was being used as a recruiting tool, Trump called her a liar and demanded an apology. The ISIS comments, but especially the schlonging comments, gave people on social media another opportunity to signal how awful they believe Trump to be. But especially with liberals, that signalling is largely unconnected to the role the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations played in cultivating the sentiments Trump is exploiting.

This was a stupid argument too, one that played out in the media much more favorable for Clinton than it necessarily had to. It's not difficult to imagine the image of Donald Trump making into an ISIS recruitment video—the terrorist organization has displayed a millennial-level of media savvy. Yet the biggest recruiting tool for ISIS remains U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East—because the bloodshed and chaos it causes makes radicalization easier, because it can be interpreted within the framework of a war on Islam even if the Obama administration's particular rhetoric (mostly aimed to an English-speaking, domestic audience) can't be, and because it has opened up the physical space for organizations like ISIS to thrive.

In that last regard alone, Clinton has probably done more to support ISIS than Donald Trump's rhetoric ever could. As ISIS loses territory in Iraq and Syria to a U.S.-led coalition, they are reinforcing their hold on Sirte, a city on the Mediterranean coast of Libya. ISIS could be planning to fall back to Libya if its leadership is actually pushed out of Iraq and Syria. ISIS is reportedly already training pilots in Sirte with a possible eye toward aerial attacks on targets in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. Libya is also a hotbed for Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Weapons and fighters belonging to the Qaddafi regime, which Clinton boasted about toppling, made their way as far as Mali and Nigeria to the west and Syria and Iraq to the east.