President Lyndon Johnson, running for reelection in 1964 against Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, released perhaps the most famous political advertisement of all time. As Smithsonian Magazine describes it: "A 3-year-old girl in a simple dress counted as she plucked daisy petals in a sun-dappled field. Her words were supplanted by a mission-control countdown followed by a massive nuclear blast in a classic mushroom shape. The message was clear if only implicit: Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was a genocidal maniac who threatened the world's future."
Goldwater, we were supposed to think, was a crazy guy who'd get us into a stupid war. Except it turned out that LBJ, crazy or not, was the one who got us into a stupid war, escalating to the point where, at its peak, we had 538,000 soldiers in Vietnam. That led to a famous political joke: "They told me if I voted for Goldwater, we'd have half a million soldiers in Vietnam. And sure enough, I voted for Goldwater - and we've got half a million soldiers in Vietnam." By the time the war was over, more than 58,000 Americans were dead.
Now it's Hillary Clinton who's sounding LBJ's theme. Trump, she says, is crazy and will get us into a stupid war. And she's enlisted the Daisy ad girl, now all grown up, to make her point. Not everyone is buying it. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein says Clinton is more dangerous than Trump: "Under Hillary Clinton, we could slide into nuclear war very quickly following her declared policy in Syria."
The world today, which Clinton as Obama's secretary of state had a big hand in making, doesn't look very peaceful. In 2010, things in Iraq were so peaceful that Joe Biden was bragging that the administration's Iraq policy would be "one of the great achievements of this administration." In 2012, with Clinton still serving as secretary of State, President Obama bragged about "ending" the war in Iraq, which would be news to the thousands of U.S. troops fighting there today.
Then there's Libya. According to The New York Times, Clinton played a "critical" role in persuading Obama to topple Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. This led to what The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf calls her "failed war in Libya." Despite her pronouncement that "We came, we saw, he died" after Gadhafi's death, the Libya intervention has been a debacle, and one that Clinton has refused to acknowledge as such.
As Charles Kubic wrote in June, it's been a huge disaster:
Before the revolution, Libya was a secure, prospering, secular Islamic country and a critical ally providing intelligence on terrorist activity post-September 11, 2001. Gadhafi was no longer a threat to the United States. Yet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly advocated and succeeded in convincing the administration to support the Libyan rebels. . . . Secretary Clinton's war actually did make a difference. It led to a very real and very tragic humanitarian disaster. Her bad judgment and failed policy resulted in the arming of terrorists, months of war and tens of thousands of casualties.
If Clinton could do that much damage as secretary of State, how much might she do as president? You'd think that, with this record, she'd at least be embarrassed to position herself as the peace candidate, but that would require her to be capable of embarrassment, something that few politicians are.
When Clinton tweeted that Trump's temperament meant that he couldn't be trusted with nuclear weapons, Tennessee state senator Frank Niceley replied, "I wouldn't trust you with a Christmas card list."
Given her email track record, he may be right. But the question of whether she is trustworthy when it comes to avoiding stupid wars isn't nearly as clear as she, and her admakers, would like you to believe.