Factcheck.org Debunks Conservative Smear Campaign Against Planned Parenthood

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The conservative attack on Planned Parenthood follows the pattern we have seen so many times in the past. Groups such as Breitbart put out edited tapes or videos to attack organizations which they disagree with based upon false claims. Now that fact checkers have had time to evaluate the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood, it is becoming clear that this is just one more example, and hardly comes as a surprise considering that most of the conservative reports on the issue which I’ve read quickly degenerate into a tirade against reproductive rights and legitimate scientific research.

Factcheck.org has evaluated the claims, and points out that, “it remains legal to donate tissue from a legally aborted fetus, and for that tissue to be used for research purposes.” They point ethical guidelines on the issue from the American Medical Association: “Fetal tissue is not provided in exchange for financial remuneration above that which is necessary to cover reasonable expenses.”

Reviewing the tapes, Factcheck.org found numerous examples which demonstrate that Planned Parenthood was operating within the law and established ethical guidelines:

Nucatola’s comment, though, isn’t evidence that Planned Parenthood or its affiliates are selling “body parts” or fetal tissue for profit. The full video shows that after Nucatola mentions the $30 to $100, she describes how those amounts would be reimbursement for expenses related to handling and transportation of the tissues. Nucatola talks about “space issues” and whether shipping would be involved…

Nucatola does make one statement in the unedited video that suggests to critics that some clinics would be comfortable with a payment that was slightly more than their expenses for providing the tissue. “I think for affiliates, at the end of the day, they’re a nonprofit, they just don’t want to — they want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that,” Nucatola says.

But immediately after this statement, Nucatola goes on to say: “Really their bottom line is, they want to break even. Every penny they save is just pennies they give to another patient. To provide a service the patient wouldn’t get.” Planned Parenthood told us that she may have been referring to more general operations of the clinics.

Nucatola repeatedly talks about affiliates only wanting to provide a service to their patients, who elect to donate the tissue for medical research, and not having that service impact their bottom lines. She says that it’s “not a new revenue stream the affiliates are looking at” and that “nobody should be ‘selling’ tissue. That’s just not the goal here.” She says some affiliates might donate the tissue for free.

Nucatola also discusses Planned Parenthood clinics’ interactions with a tissue procurement company called StemExpress. The company’s website says that partnering with StemExpress can be “financially profitable” for a clinic — a point that some conservativewebsites have singled out. But this also does not constitute evidence that Planned Parenthood is profiting in such a way…

Richards, the Planned Parenthood president, said in a video response to the controversy: “The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true.”

On July 21, the Center for Medical Progress released a second, similar video, again featuring a discussion with a Planned Parenthood official in a restaurant. The numbers mentioned in the edited video are similar to what Nucatola said. The official, Mary Gatter, quotes a rate of $75 per specimen, and says she was thinking of saying $50. The discussion only reaches $100 because the “buyers” in the video mention higher prices. At one point, Gatter says that “we’re not in this for the money,” and later she reiterates that “money is not the important thing.”

Though few studies of costs associated with fetal tissue acquisition are available, existing evidence does suggest the prices named in the video are in line with general practices. The National Institutes of Health conducts research with fetal tissue, and in the late 1990s, the Government Accountability Office (then known as the General Accounting Office) looked into the acquisition of such tissue, finding that the direct cost to researchers was “low.” GAO said payments primarily went to “central tissue suppliers,” as opposed to health clinics. In most cases, GAO found that clinics did not charge researchers, but when they did, the cost ranged from $2 to $75. The report did not address how much clinics might have received from central tissue suppliers, which is more analogous to the situation presented in the video.

PoltiFact has also reviewed the topic.

The New York Times has run an editorial on the subject. After summarizing the issue, the editorial concludes:

Anti-abortion groups have long pushed to defund Planned Parenthood, even though no federal money is used to provide abortions. But that hasn’t stopped their efforts to shut down the clinics, which provide services like contraception, cancer screening and other tests.

The Center for Medical Progress — which managed to get tax-exempt status in 2013 as a biomedicine charity, according to a report by The Huffington Post — appears to have done little beyond producing the undercover video. According to its registration form with the California attorney general, it has three officers: Mr. Daleiden; Albin Rhomberg, who has participated in anti-abortion protests; and Troy Newman, the president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

In a statement last week, Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that “our donation programs — like any other high-quality health care providers — follow all laws and ethical guidelines” and that “Planned Parenthood stands behind our work to help women and families donate tissue for medical research when they wish to.”

Researchers use fetal tissue to study and develop treatments for diseases and conditions like H.I.V., hepatitis, congenital heart defects, retinal degeneration and Parkinson’s. Last year, the National Institutes of Health gave $76 million in grants for fetal tissue research. Planned Parenthood is certainly not the only collector of fetal tissue — clinics associated with universities also supply tissue for research.

The Center for Medical Progress video campaign is a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and potentially lifesaving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal. Lawmakers responding by promoting their own anti-choice agenda are rewarding deception and putting women’s health and their constitutionally protected rights at risk.

Considering the potential health benefits, research on fetal tissue is the true “pro-life” position.

Update: The Department of Justice plans to investigate this matter.

Battleground State Poll Shows Clinton Falling Behind Republicans & Not More Electable Than Sanders or Biden

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Hillary Clinton has been doing poorly in the swing state polls, and the latest Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll shows Clinton trailing Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. Previously she tended to have narrow leads or trail in the various swing state polls. She was not tested against current GOP front runner Donald Trump, but with Trump’s negatives I would assume she would beat him. This drop is support for Clinton in three key swing states is consistent with the declining support for Clinton seen in other recent polls.

“Hillary Clinton’s numbers have dropped among voters in the key swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. She has lost ground in the horserace and on key questions about her honesty and leadership,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “On being a strong leader, a key metric in presidential campaigns, she has dropped four to 10 points depending on the state and she is barely above 50 percent in each of the three states.”

“Against three Republicans, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Secretary Clinton trails in six matchups and is on the down side of too-close-to call in three,” Brown added.

“That’s compared to the April 9 Quinnipiac University poll in which she was clearly ahead in five of the matchups and too-close-to-call in the other four. One other key takeaway is that Vice President Joseph Biden, who is considering a 2016 run, does better than Clinton on honesty and on caring about voter needs, always a key Democratic strong point.”

“Hillary Clinton’s numbers have dropped among voters in the key swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. She has lost ground in the horserace and on key questions about her honesty and leadership,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “On being a strong leader, a key metric in presidential campaigns, she has dropped four to 10 points depending on the state and she is barely above 50 percent in each of the three states.”

Another remarkable result is that both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden had comparable results to Clinton against Republican opponents. Clinton typically did the same or was a couple of percentage points better, but she is on a downward trajectory. There is considerable risk that her support will fall further as more people understand the severity of her ethical misconduct as Secretary of State, and better understand her views. On the other hand, Sanders remains relatively unknown and Biden has not even entered the race. Both stand to improve with campaigning and in debating Clinton.

Polls at this stage have limited predictive value and this is not to say that Clinton cannot win these battleground states if she wins the nomination. What this does do is contradict the argument from many Clinton supporter that Democrats should back her, despite her ethical faults and conservative positions on many issues, because of feeling she has the best chance of beating the Republicans. Democrats would be much better off nominating a candidate whose campaign is not at great risk of being derailed by ethical charges, and there is no need to compromise on a candidate who is not all that much more liberal than Jeb Bush on many issues. As Common Dreams posted earlier this week, Hillary Clinton Is No Progressive.

Desperate Conservatives Calling Bernie Sanders A Nazi

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Bernie Sanders must be scaring the right wing as calling Sanders a socialist isn’t enough for them. An article from National Review practically calls him a Nazi, along with including some references to Stalin. The article outright claims he is a national socialist, which is just a more polite way to say Nazi:

In the Bernieverse, there’s a whole lot of nationalism mixed up in the socialism. He is, in fact, leading a national-socialist movement, which is a queasy and uncomfortable thing to write about a man who is the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and whose family was murdered in the Holocaust. But there is no other way to characterize his views and his politics.

The rest of the article isn’t any better. The article accuses Sanders of xenophobia, based upon twisting his views on the adverse effects of  outsourcing jobs overseas, which is especially absurd coming from a conservative movement which thrives on racism and xenophobia.

Later in the article are twisted claims that, “criminalizing things is very much on Bernie’s agenda, beginning with the criminalization of political dissent” and that he would get rid of the First Amendment. This is hardly consistent with Sanders’ actual record on civil liberties. It was also Bernie Sanders who was calling for the repeal of laws by which the government infringes upon the private lives of individuals, going back to his campaign for governor of Vermont in the 1970’s:

Bernie Sanders Letter

In this letter, Sanders complained about the erosion of freedoms under Richard Nixon and wrote: “…there are entirely too many laws which regulate human behavior. Let us oppose all laws which attempt to impose a particular brand of morality or ‘right’ on people. Let’s abolish all laws dealing with abortion, drugs, sexual behavior (adultrey, homosexuality, etc.).”

We know where the right wing stands on such issues. They are truly the ones who not only compromise First Amendment rights, but support “criminalizing things” which vary from their brand of morality.

I would think that just being a self-described democratic socialist would be enough to satisfy the paranoia of the right wing. Maybe they realize that once voters take a close look at Sanders’ economic policies, many Americans would be quite pleased. While the top one percent might object to losing the special favors from government which help them accumulate their wealth, the rest of the country would come out ahead, including those in the private sector. Creating a stronger middle class would be good for capitalism, and Sanders has made it clear he has no objection to the private sector. As I pointed out in May, there was no Red Dawn in Vermont when Sanders became mayor of Burlington. As Politco noted:

In 1988, toward the end of Sanders’ four-term tenure — long after a local Democratic leader predicted the movement that swept Sanders into office would be gone in a decade — the U.S. Conference of Mayors named Burlington the most livable city in the country with a population of under 100,000 (in a tie). Then Sanders’ director of community and economic development succeeded him in the mayor’s office and Inc. Magazine named Burlington the best city in the Northeast for a growing business.

Steve Benen also pointed out this bizarre criticism of Sanders from the right:

Sanders and his supporters will very likely find this criticism infuriating, and with good reason. But what’s striking to me is the fact that the criticism exists at all.
It wasn’t long ago that the Republican establishment and conservative media were content to ignore Sanders and his ideas. If his name came up at all, it was used as a punch-line – Sanders was a liberal caricature, not to be taken seriously.
That’s obviously changed. As Sanders’ crowds grow and his poll standing improves, the Vermonter has positioned himself as worthy of National Review condemnation. To be sure, it’s unpersuasive, needlessly provocative condemnation, but it’s also evidence of a prominent national figure whom the right is no longer inclined to discount as irrelevant.

Sanders Draws Record Crowds, O’Malley Addresses Issues and Engages The Press, and Hillary Clinton Answers Questions on Facebook

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Bernie Sanders continued to draw big crowds over the weekend. In Phoenix Sanders was once again forced to move to a larger venue, drawing twice the number originally anticipated:

Bernie Sanders drew more than 11,000 people to a rally Saturday night in downtown Phoenix — the largest crowd to date for a presidential candidate whose audiences have been swelling in recent months.

The Vermont senator, who has emerged as the leading alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, got a rock-star-like reception from supporters who streamed into a cavernous lower-level room of the city’s convention center.

Aides to the self-described democratic socialist had originally booked a Phoenix theater that could accommodate fewer than half the number of people who turned out. The crowd estimate of more than 11,000 people was provided by staff at the convention center, where Sanders also appeared Saturday at a convention of progressive activists.

“Somebody told me people are giving up on the political process,” Sanders said as he greeted the crowd Saturday night. “Not what I see here tonight.”

This exceeds his previous record in Wisconsin. The appearance in Phoenix was followed by thousands coming to see him in Texas.

While Sanders has so far received the bulk of the excitement, and media coverage, from liberal opposition to Hillary Clinton, BuzzFeed seems impressed with Martin O’Malley, calling him “the candidate who simply won’t go away: who will work harder and mingle longer, who will shake more hands, answer more questions, propose more policy, be the most progressive and most aggressive — the candidate who will always engage.”

While Clinton draws headlines about her “strained relations” with the press, O’Malley’s staff rarely turns a reporter away. (On Friday night, his super PAC invited members of the media to an afterparty with the sign-carrying field organizers. “It’s open-press and we promise no rope-lines,” an official said in an email, adding a smiling emoticon. The Clinton cheer-squad, meanwhile, said they weren’t allowed to talk to reporters.)

And while other Democrats in the race, including Sanders, don’t often go after Clinton, O’Malley makes a habit of it — indirectly, at least. (In his Iowa speech, he stressed his support for a $15 minimum wage, days after Clinton declined to endorse it, and suggested she was slow to oppose “bad trade deals” like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.)

With months to go until the Iowa caucus, this aggressive campaigning might pay off, and both O’Malley and Sanders might continue to reduce Clinton’s lead.

Hillary Clinton continues to limit access to the press but did answer some questions on Facebook. After Clinton previously received criticism for saying “All Lives Matter,” and Martin O’Malley failed to learn from this mistake, himself being attacked for saying, “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter,” Clinton finally got it right on Facebook.

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; San Diego Comic Con Highlights Including Doctor Who, Arrow, The Flash, SHIELD, Muppets, Star Wars, Orphan Black, Heroes Reborn, Superman v Batman, & More

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This week’s episode of Hannibal, Digestivo, involved a lesbian relationship between Margot and Alana, a pig-baby, and an escape from Muskrat Farms.  We learned that Mason’s plan was to cut Will’s face off, place it onto his face, which had been destroyed, and then eat Hannibal piece by piece with Will’s face. His butcher/surgeon, Cordero, is at least as sadistic as Mason, and planned to both cut off Will’s face without anesthetic (but paralyzed) and keep Hannibal alive while he is eaten piece by piece.  Mason’s best line of the episode, discussing another cannibalistic murder was, “you go to all that trouble to eat a friend, and you overcook his penis.” In telling this story, Mason did promise not to overcook Hannibal’s penis.

Alana and Margot, who became lovers, had major roles in this episode. Alana knew that Mason’s sadism would work to her advantage: “He’ll torture them and take the time to enjoy it: That gives us time.” Alana even warned Mason as to how this would all turn out: “Play with your food, Mason, and you give it the opportunity to bite back.”Alana and Margot set Hannibal free, while Chiyoh was nearby to shoot anyone pursuing them. Finally Chiyoh’s presence in the earlier episodes this season had a reason. Instead of getting Will’s face, Mason saw himself with Codero’s face lying on his own before he was killed in his eel tank. Hannibal gave up on his earlier desire to eat Will, possibly because of how intrigued  he was when Will took a bite out of Cordero’s face. Regardless of motivation, Hannibal kept a to promise he made to Alana to take Will to safety, but was shocked when Will realized he was all through with Hannibal–so shocked that Hannibal surrendered.

Now there is going to be a three-year time jump, and on to the events of Red Dragon.

Caroline Dhavernas and Katharine Isabelle discussed their characters’ romance in the episode post-mortem video above.

Bryan Fuller discussed the episode with TV Guide, answering the big question I had as to why Hannibal surrendered, and discussed future plans:

This episode felt like a finale, and particularly brought back many of the emotions I had watching the Season 2 finale.
Bryan Fuller:
This was the breakup that we had been driving toward. One of the benefits of having two distinct chapters in the season is you get two distinct climaxes. This one had to serve as a stopping place for the story before it can be launched again next week three years later. So, this is the breakup, and when we pick up in the second half of the season, it’s that awkward moment when you have to see your ex again.

Will’s motivation has always been hard to read. Should we believe him when he says he wants Hannibal out of his life?
Fuller:
We come back to that moment in the final episode of the season and break it down between those two characters, and they address it themselves. Will is telling Hannibal, “I don’t need you anymore, I don’t want you anymore, I release you.” And Hannibal is saying, “No you don’t. You’re telling yourself that. You don’t want to know or think about where I am? I am going to give you the knowledge of exactly where I am and let that eat away at you for as long as it takes you to come back into my orbit, and I am patient enough to wait.”

Does Hannibal surrender to Jack out of spite towards Will or is he once again heartbroken? Does he no longer feel like playing this game without Will as a willing participant?
Fuller:
Will realizes that he can’t win and Hannibal can’t win. So, the only option for him at that moment is to stop playing. That, for Hannibal, is a huge rejection. It’s an even stranger rejection than the betrayal of Season 2 because Will has gone into Hannibal’s past and understands him better than ever. Will has realized that this is not an evil man, this is just a monster doing what he has always been designed to do essentially. So, he can’t give him any more energy. For Will, a magic door presented itself that he could step through and leave Hannibal and all of this behind him. But what Hannibal knows is going to come around again on the cannibal carousel is that that Will can’t live without him…

As Will predicted/suggested, Alana played an active role in Mason’s demise. What kind of impact will that have on her moving forward?
Fuller:
Once Alana made the devil’s bargain with Mason, it felt fated that she would play a role in bringing Mason down. In her mind, she always knew that she was going to stab him in the back one way or another. She put up with his ugliness inside and out for the purposes of capturing Hannibal, but she always intended to bring in the cavalry at the last moment. … We continue Alana’s shift into a less naïve, more hardened spirit in the Red Dragon arc. We see who she’s become three years later as a result of this pact and her relationship with Margot and this cabal against Mason. There’s a lot of bargains that were struck between various characters that, even though we’re picking up three years later, we still feel them resonating in the next arc of episodes.

And, of course, Hannibal reminded Alana that he always keeps his promises….
Fuller:
Yes, and that’s something we carry through into the Red Dragon arc. Alana is fully aware that if Hannibal gets away in any way, shape or form, he is absolutely intending to kill her.

Is this the last we’ll see of Chiyoh this season?
Fuller:
Yes. She told Hannibal that she was going to be his keeper. She was always going to be that angel in the bushes with the rifle making sure that no one further was killed by him. That’s the penance she’s willing to pay for 20 years of keeping a prisoner out of the interest of not taking a life. In essence, she’s saying to Hannibal, “I’m not going to cage you, but I’m going to serve as your jailer.” But as she’s watching the takedown of Hannibal, she realizes her job is done and she’s free, for the first time in her life, to go off and pursue her own life.

You mentioned that the next episode jumps ahead in time three years. How big of a reset should we expect?
Fuller:
It feels huge. We’ve leapt forward in all these people’s lives. Everyone is stained in their own way from the experiences of the first two and a half seasons, and yet everyone has a sobriety and they go into this new chapter with eyes open. But even so, they’re in for some horrible, horrible surprises.

Will it feel different tonally than the first half of the season?
Fuller:
It’s a slightly more grounded narrative than what we experienced in the first part of the season. So much of the first arc was all about the grieving process and also the trauma of what these people had experienced. I didn’t want to skip over what these characters were feeling, and that’s why so much of the first part of the season was contemplative and brooding and surreal. Everyone was in shock.

Red Dragonhas already been adapted into two different movies. How do you think your version will be different?
Fuller:
The version of Red Dragon that we are telling is very faithful to the literature with the exception of the relationship we’ve been building over the last two and a half seasons. Will and Hannibal’s relationship in the previous adaptations was nowhere near as wet and dark and sticky as what we’ve come to learn of the dynamic between the men in this version of the telling. So, to have Will and Hannibal truly possess a history together that informs their approach to the Red Dragon didn’t necessarily feel like an opportunity to change the story, but to provide many more layers of the tiramisu for the audience to enjoy.

(more…)

Major Gaffes From Clinton and Trump Campaigns; Al Gore To The Rescue?

Members of both parties have good reason to worry about the candidates now leading in the polls. Hillary Clinton, along with other Democratic candidates, appeared in Iowa Friday night. Instead of receiving favorable coverage for what she said, the story out of Iowa is how the Clinton campaign told supporters not to speak to reporters. It is bad enough when Clinton avoids answering questions from the press, but it makes no sense to try to gag supporters. She received criticism for this on MSNBC (video above) with quotes from the coverage in The Weekly Standard:

“Here’s what struck me,” said Susan Page of USA Today, “when I read the coverage in the Des Moines Register this morning. Jennifer Jacobs, who’s been on your show, was covering this last night. Big demonstrations outside of young people for O’Malley and Hillary Clinton. She went up to the Clinton supporters — these are protesters for Clinton — and they were told they were not allowed to [speak to] a reporter.”

Page continued, “Now, why in the world would the campaign tell their own supporters who came out to campaign in favor Hillary Clinton … these are the young people, college kids, for Hillary, and they’ve been told they can’t talk to reporters. Why in the world would you do that?

“This raises some warning flags for Hillary Clinton campaign that is trying to control their supporters.”

Steve Kornacki agreed, saying, “Nothing that those supporters could possibly say to the press than the story of telling them not to talk.”

Clinton’s repeated stumbling on the campaign trail, and concern, over her unethical behavior, have raised concerns among  some Democratic voters that nominating Hillary Clinton will lead to a Republican victory on election day. While Bernie Sanders has been stimulated a remarkable amount of excitement around his campaign, some also have concerns over whether he can beat Clinton for the nomination and win the general election. While Joe Biden’s name comes up the most among those who believe another well-known candidate with gravitas is needed to enter the race, Salon has repeated another name which would be worth considering if he is interested–Al Gore. The story is entitled, It’s time to draft Al Gore: If Democrats want to win, it’s clear neither Hillary nor Sanders is the way. The article gives ten reasons why:

Enter Al Gore: the one person on the left, apart from Clinton and Biden, with the cachet to bridge the establishment and progressive wings of the party. Here are 10 reasons why a Gore candidacy makes sense, both for the Democratic Party and the country.

1. Stature. Gore is a superstar with impeccable qualifications. The GOP will have a hard time marginalizing someone of his caliber and experience. His background speaks for itself: a former Congressman, U.S. Senator, and two-time Vice President. He’s even succeed wildly in the private sector as a businessman — something Republicans can’t help but praise. In short, Gore passes the credibility test by any measure, and that matters in a national election. Hillary Clinton is the only other Democratic candidate who can match Gore on this front.

2. Vulnerability. As the new AP poll shows, Clinton’s unfavorability ratings are rising among Americans overall and among Democratic voters in particular. Indeed, her positive marks have plummeted from 81% to 70% among Democrats since April. Worse, as the AP noted: “Just 39 percent of all Americans have a favorable view of Clinton, compared to nearly half who say they have a negative opinion of her.” Hard to win with numbers like that.

These numbers are consistent with another recent poll, which confirmed that Clinton’s lead over the Democratic field has shrunk considerably over the last several months. Some of this is the result of Clinton fatigue, but it’s also due to the rise of Bernie Sanders. The left wing of the party is flocking to Sanders, in part, because they don’t trust Clinton’s centrist record. Gore, on the other hand, who has become much more outspoken since leaving office, could embrace much of Sanders’ populist platform while also selling himself as a more appealing national candidate. That’s a strong case on his behalf, one many Democrats will find persuasive.

3. Besides Hillary Clinton, no one running as a Democrat is likely to challenge Republicans in a national election. Sanders is a regional candidate at best; he shouldn’t be, but he is, and that’s not changing next year. The other candidates scarcely warrant mentioning: Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee – these guys are political ornaments, running for reasons known only to their friends and families. Gore is a national figure, however. He can rival any GOP candidate in terms of fundraising prowess, party support, organizational acumen, experience, and name recognition. He’s also become something of a rock star post-politics, winning a Nobel, an Oscar, and an Emmy. Gore, in other words, is the perfect package, both politically and professionally.

4. Independents. Gore, justifiably or not, is less polarizing than Clinton, which means he can appeal to independents. Although they’re manufactured scandals, issues like the private emails at the State Department and the Benghazi fiasco will plague Clinton in the general election; Republicans (duplicitously, of course) will use these non-issues to bludgeon her month after month, debate after debate, ad after ad. This is pure nonsense, but it will be a distraction nevertheless. Gore, alternatively, brings less comparable baggage – that makes him a harder target for the GOP.

5. Foreign policy. Hillary Clinton is right about a lot of things, but foreign policy isn’t one of them. After our recent misadventures in the Middle East, this really matters. On all things foreign policy, Clinton has a habit of flopping with the political winds. Her maximalist, borderline neoconservative positions at both the Senate and the State Department are a particularly disturbing example of this. Indeed, she beat the war drums on Iraq, Syria, and Iran at one point. In short, Clinton is a hawk, and most of us have seen enough of that in the last decade or so. Gore’s absence from politics during this period gives him a distinct advantage: he wasn’t complicit in our recent geopolitical blunders. He also opposed the Iraq War, something Hillary and the GOP candidates can’t say.

6. The corruption of the political process by Wall Street is — and should be — a major issue in this election. Everyone knows already how much influence the financial industry has in Washington. Hillary Clinton, to her credit, has talked quite a bit about income inequality and political corruption, but the fact remains: Wall Street loves her. This ought to make Democrats uncomfortable. Gore, admittedly because he hasn’t run for office in years, has not relied on Wall Street for campaign funding — at least not in recent history. If nothing else, this is a mark in Gore’s favor, and another reason for Democrats to get behind his campaign.

7. Climate change. As Ezra Klein argued a few months ago in a column about Gore, “Income inequality is a serious problem…But climate change is an existential threat.” Gore, whatever you think of him, is an unimpeachable authority on climate change. As Klein wrote, “When it comes to climate change, there’s no one in the Democratic Party – or any other political party – with Gore’s combination of credibility and commitment.” Given the president’s unique ability to make a difference on an issue like this, it matters a great deal who wins this election. We can’t say definitively what Hillary Clinton would or would not do about climate change, but we can be fairly certain that Al Gore would do more than any other potential candidate for president.

8. Gore has nothing to lose. Having been out of politics for so long, Gore is liberated in ways no other candidate is. He’s got no recent voting record to scrutinize (read: distort); he’s independently wealthy and well-connected; and his private sector activism has allowed him to take authentic positions on issues that matter to him – and most Democrats. He’s beholden, in other words, to fewer constituencies than anyone else currently running. Perhaps most importantly, because he’s succeeded to such a degree in his post-political life, we’ve every reason to believe he’d feel empowered to take chances and risk failure. Isn’t that the candidate most people want?

9. Vengeance. If we’re stuck with a rerun election (Clinton vs. Bush), most would prefer to see Gore get his vengeance against another Bush. Gore, you may recall, was elected president in 2000 over George W. Bush. For reasons we won’t get into now, that victory was stolen from Gore in Florida, thanks in no small part to Jeb Bush, who was then governor of that state. With Jeb the likely Republican candidate next year, it would be a delightful bit of Karmic justice for him to lose to the man he robbed 16 years prior.

10. Democrats need a spark. Gore may not be new, but his candidacy would feel that way. His political life seems a distant memory at this point, but his activism and business savvy have kept him in the public consciousness. As with most politicians, moreover, the freedom of not having to run for office has done wonders for Gore’s image. His entrance and voice would only enliven the Democratic Party, which is exactly what it needs in an election decided, overwhelmingly, by voter turnout.

While I would like to give Sanders more time to see if he can continue to grow his support, Gore would also make an excellent alternative to Hillary Clinton. I doubt Gore would be interested, but it would also be satisfying to see him beat not only Hillary Clinton, but to beat a Bush should Jeb get the nomination.

The current Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, is far less likely than Clinton to actually win their party’s nomination, and there must be many Republicans who are terrified of the prospect of this front-runner actually winning. The Weekly Standard reports on the latest outrageous statement from Trump (video above):

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump, a Republican running for president, said of McCain. “I like people that weren’t captured. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

This statement is bad enough under any circumstance, but it comes off as even worse considering how Trump received several deferments to avoid serving in Viet Nam. While I don’t fault Trump for avoiding military service in Viet Nam, but to attack someone such as McCain who did serve is totally uncalled for.

Trump also refused to rule out running as a third party candidate. Hopefully he does so, as this would probably guarantee a Democratic victory.

You might not read about such gaffes from Trump in the future in the political section of The Huffington Post.

After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won’t report on Trump’s campaign as part of The Huffington Post’s political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump’s campaign is a sideshow. We won’t take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you’ll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette.

While they have a point, I cannot agree with this decision. Donald Trump, like it or not, is a major part of this campaign at the moment. If he was polling under five percent, then maybe this could be justified, but he is now leading the Republican field in the polls. As repugnant as his platform is, there unfortunately is a following for Trump’s brand of racism and xenophobia among the Republican base. It is a real part of this campaign.

Update: No apology from Donald Trump, leading to predictions that Trump is toast. That is fine, but why not even earlier? Apparently among many conservative politicians and media outlets, racist and xenophobic statements are not a campaign-killer.

A Great Injustice Finally Reversed–Tatiana Maslany Nominated For Emmy Award

Tatiana Maslany Three Clones

Over the last couple of years we have seen a grave injustice as Tatiana Maslany was totally snubbed when the Emmy nominations came out. Finally, this year Maslany has been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The reaction from the clones can be seen here. Fans are celebrating on Twitter. Despite her Emmy snubs, Maslany won two Critics’ Choice Television Awards and a TCA Award for her performance in the series. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, losing out to Robin Wright of House of Cards. The Emmy nomination this year is an excellent start, but considering all the roles she plays in Orphan Black, she should also receive at least one additional nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Her roles even included one guy(actually one of her weaker characters) and the voice of a talking scorpion.

The nominees in the categories are below and the full list of nominations can be found here.

Hey, what is this??!!   You’re The Worst not nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series and Aya Cash not nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series?? At least many of the other shows which I regularly cover on this blog have made the list. I guess I better catch up on Bloodline, having only seen the first episode so far. Did I make a mistake in giving up on Ray Donovan after the first season?

Outstanding Drama Series

“Better Call Saul” (AMC)

“Downton Abbey” (PBS)

“Game Of Thrones” (HBO)

“Homeland” (Showtime)

“House Of Cards” (Netflix)

“Mad Men” (AMC)

“Orange Is The New Black” (Netflix)

Outstanding Comedy Series

“Louie” (FX)

“Modern Family” (ABC)

“Parks And Recreation” (NBC)

“Silicon Valley” (HBO)

“Transparent” (Amazon)

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)

“Veep” (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline”

Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”

Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”

Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”

Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Claire Danes, “Homeland”

Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”

Taraji P. Henson, “Empire”

Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”

Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”

Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”

Louis C.K., “Louie”

Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”

Will Forte, “Last Man on Earth”

Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”

William H. Macy, “Shameless”

Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”

Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”

Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”

Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

The Two Front Runners And Their Vulnerabilities

Graphic shows results of AP-GfK poll on Hillary Clinton; 2c x 5 inches; 96.3 mm x 127 mm;

Going by the polls, there are two apparent front-runners for their party’s nomination, but one has a far more meaningful lead than the other. While I will not totally dismiss the possibility of Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination as I discussed yesterday, it remains far more likley that we will see multiple candidates take leads for a period of time in the Republican race as we saw four years ago. Perhaps we will know when Republicans are truly scared of him when they start to bring up his previous statements, including on abortion rights, health care, and support for how Barack Obama handled the economy.

Hillary Clinton has a more significant lead in the Democratic race, and going by any conventional measures is most likley to win, but she is showing some signs of weakness which no longer make her nomination appear inevitable.

While Clinton retains a significant lead among Democrats, the AP-Gfk poll does show some softening of her support:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s standing is falling among Democrats, and voters view her as less decisive and inspiring than when she launched her presidential campaign just three months ago, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

The survey offers a series of warning signs for the leading Democratic candidate. Most troubling, perhaps, for her prospects are questions about her compassion for average Americans, a quality that fueled President Barack Obama’s two White House victories.

Just 39 percent of all Americans have a favorable view of Clinton, compared to nearly half who say they have a negative opinion of her. That’s an eight-point increase in her unfavorable rating from an AP-GfK poll conducted at the end of April.

The drop in Clinton’s numbers extends into the Democratic Party. Seven in 10 Democrats gave Clinton positive marks, an 11-point drop from the April survey. Nearly a quarter of Democrats now say they see Clinton in an unfavorable light.

“I used to like her, but I don’t trust her,” said Donald Walters of Louisville, Kentucky. “Ever since she’s announced her candidacy for the presidency I just haven’t liked the way she’s handled things. She doesn’t answer questions directly.”

While Clinton’s favorability rating fell, Obama’s stayed constant at 46 percent since April. More than 8 in 10 Democrats have a positive view of the president.

This follows another poll this week from Morning Consult showing even greater problems with trust:

Few voters say they trust former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but a majority say she has a vision for the future of the country, according to a new survey that highlights the challenges ahead for the Democratic front-runner’s campaign.

The Morning Consult poll of 2,019 registered voters shows just 19 percent say Clinton is honest and trustworthy, and only 35 percent say she has the average American’s best interests at heart.

Democrats and liberals are far more likely to credit Clinton with positive attributes, as are Hispanic and African American voters. But just 30 percent of all voters — and only 24 percent of independents — say Clinton “cares about issues important to me.”

Should Clinton win the nomination, trust issues are likely to be a greater factor in the general election. Democrats are quicker than the full electorate to ignore the scandals, and many are not paying attention to the details. Republicans are likley to bring them up far more in the general election, similar to how the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry surfaced prior to his winning the nomination, but the major attacks were held until shortly after the Democratic convention. The scandals involving Hillary Clinton’s email and contributions to the Foundation also threaten to be more damaging as, in contrast to the Swift Boat Liars, the accusations against Clinton are supported by the facts (including newspaper fact-check sites).

Distrust of Hillary Clinton may or may not play a role in the general election considering the significant faults in all the Republican candidates. Charlie Cook also pointed out that one previous candidate won a presidential election despite not being trusted–Bill Clinton:

But after a flurry of unflattering stories regarding her email practices during her tenure at the State Department and questions about possible conflicts of interest with donors to Clinton-related foundations and groups that paid her husband, former President Clinton, speech honoraria, the share of Americans who picked “is honest” dropped from the mid-70s to just 42 percent in the May CNN/ORC poll, with “not honest” jumping from the 20s to 57 percent. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also recorded an honesty drop, albeit a less precipitous one. When asked if Clinton is “honest and trustworthy” in March, Americans were evenly split—46 percent answered yes, 46 percent responded no. By May, those numbers had stretched to 41 percent yes and 52 percent no.

So will these doubts about Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness cost her the election? There is no doubt that voters want to be able to trust a president, but it should be remembered that Bill Clinton won an election in 1992 with large deficits in the honesty department. Polling by CBS News and The New York Times in April 1992 found that, when asked if Clinton has “more honesty and integrity than most people in public life,” just 16 percent of respondents said yes, while 48 percent answered no. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also reflected concern about Bill Clinton’s integrity. In June, when ABC/Washington Post polled the statement “Clinton is honest,” 39 percent agreed and 49 percent disagreed. In October, the numbers were virtually even, at 31 percent yes, 32 percent no, hardly a rousing endorsement of his integrity, yet he beat the incumbent President George H.W. Bush anyway.

Still it would make sense to chose a candidate who is trusted by the voters going into a general election campaign.

Looking at other factors, Hillary Clinton is doing extremely well with fund raising in terms of dollars brought in but lags behind Sanders with regards to donations from the grass roots:

Of the $47.5 million that Mrs. Clinton has raised, less than one-fifth has come from donations of $200 or less. That is a far smaller proportion than that of her Democratic and Republican rivals who have excited grass-roots donors on the left and right, such as Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Ted Cruz of Texas. While Mr. Sanders raised far less than Mrs. Clinton over all — about $15 million, including money transferred from his Senate account — about four-fifths of that amount came from smaller donors.

Total contributions is probably the more important factor with regards to winning elections, but this gap might also indicate that those who support Clinton in the polls are also less enthusiastic about turning out to vote in primaries and caucuses. Despite the idea that corporations are people, it takes real voters and not corporate donors turning out to win primary elections.

Clinton also got the first major union endorsement, but there has also been grass roots opposition to the recent decision by the American Federation of Teachers to endorse Clinton.

While Clinton has a tremendous lead for the Democratic nomination at this time, she also has significant weaknesses which could still influence the outcome. The contrasting campaign styles of Clinton compared to Sanders and O’Malley, along with other potential candidates entering the race, could impact the opinions of those who now state they support Clinton, largely based upon a combination of name recognition, nostalgia, and gender. The increased disqualification we are seeing with the status quo could lead to unanticipated results.

As I have discussed previously, polls at this stage have very limited predictive value with regards to the ultimate election results. Patrick Egan looked at various polling data and found only one which appears meaningful in predicting election results–presidential approval. While this is based upon a limited number of elections, and other factors certainly could impact the final election results, Obama’s improving popularity in some (but not all) polls should be encouraging for Democrats going into the general election.

Update:  The Clinton campaign is right to be happy with their lead in the polls and the money they brought in. It is also not surprising that they are ignoring the polls showing that people do not trust Clinton and do not care about where the money is coming from or who Clinton is indebted to.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders Generating Unexpected Excitement, But For Different Reasons

In this photo taken May 20, 2015, Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., poses for a portrait before an interview with The Associated Press in Washington. For Democrats who had hoped to lure Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into a presidential campaign, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders might be the next best thing. Sanders, who is opening his official presidential campaign Tuesday in Burlington, Vermont, aims to ignite a grassroots fire among left-leaning Democrats wary of Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is laying out an agenda in step with the party's progressive wing and compatible with Warren's platform _ reining in Wall Street banks, tackling college debt and creating a government-financed infrastructure jobs program. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are generating  greater excitement than anticipated in their party’s nomination battles. Maybe I wrote off Donald Trump’s chances for winning the Republican nomination too quickly in my post on him yesterday. His popularity is increasing dramatically among Republicans:

Donald Trump’s popularity has surged among Republicans after dominating several news cycles with his anti-illegal immigration rhetoric, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Nearly six in 10 — 57 percent — Republicans now have a favorable view of Trump, compared to 40 percent who have an unfavorable one. That marks a complete reversal from a late-May Post-ABC poll, in which 65 percent of Republicans saw Trump unfavorably.

Trump continues to be unpopular among the public at large, with negative marks outpacing positive ones 61-33. “Strongly unfavorable” views outnumber strongly positive ratings by a 3-1 ratio.

I initially figured that Trump’s recent lead among Republicans was due to name recognition, but he was just as well known before he entered the race. The difference between current polls and May appears to be more from his actual actions between now and then. Never underestimate the ability of racism and xenophobia to energize Republican voters.

Some in the media have been comparing the support received by Donald Trump among Republicans to the support received by Bernie Sanders among Democrats. This makes a simplistic story line for the press, but is misleading. Donald Trump is surging because he is saying what the Republican voters believe deep down. Republicans have been using the southern strategy to drive support, but generally avoid being as blatantly racist as Trump. In contrast, Bernie Sanders is receiving his support from liberals who are dissatisfied with the Democratic establishment and the conservative policies supported by Hillary Clinton.

So far Clinton has benefited from name recognition, gender, and nostalgia, but few are paying close attention to the issues. I doubt that most Democratic voters even realize how conservative Clinton has been on issues including foreign policy, civil liberties, and social issues, along with the economic issues which have so far framed this campaign. If Sander, or another challenger from the left, is to succeed against Clinton, they will have to demonstrate how different their views really are. I am hoping that such contrasts will come out in the debates, and disappointed that there will be so few.

Donald Trump Praising Barack Obama (2009-10) And David Letterman Mocking Trump

DONALD-TRUMP

“I would hire him. He’s handled the tremendous mess he walked into very well. He still has a daunting task ahead of him but he appears to be equal to the challenge. He has kept his eye on both national and international issues and his visits to foreign countries have shown him to be warmly received, which is certainly a change from the last Administration.” –Donald Trump in 2009

Plus Trump in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, 2010:

BLITZER: His economic policies, President Obama says, have saved us from another depression, is he right?

TRUMP: Well, I do agree, and this did start prior to him getting there, but he also kept it going. You had to do something to sure up the banks, because the psychology of the banks and you would have had a run on every banks, the strongest and the weakest. So, you have to do something. And I hated the ultraconservative view on that. And ultraconservative is nothing should ever happen. If they go out of business, everybody said, that’s fine.

Via BuzzFeed News

Trump now simultaneously leads the Republican field and is the weakest competitor among the top seven Republican candidates against Hillary Clinton in the USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll. Republicans can at least take some comfort in the fact that polls at this point have near zero predictive value. It is hard to believe even the current Republican Party would nominate him.

In related news, David Letterman came out of retirement last week in response to Trump’s candidacy saying, “I have made the biggest mistake of my life, ladies and gentlemen.” He then presented a Top Ten List of Interesting facts about Donald Trump. The Washington Post has the full list, with some edits:

No. 10: That thing on his head was the gopher in “Caddyshack.”

No. 9: During sex, Donald Trump calls out his own name.

No. 8: Donald Trump looks like the guy on the lifeboat with the women and children.

No. 7: He wants to build a wall. How about building a wall around that thing on his head?

No. 6: Trump walked away from a moderately successful television show for some delusional bulls— … oh wait, that’s me.

No. 5: Donald Trump weighs 240 pounds — 250 with cologne.

No. 4: Trump would like all Americans to know that that thing on his head is free-range.

Letterman declared No. 3 “a tie.”

No. 3: If president, instead of pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving, plans to evict a family on Thanksgiving./That’s not a hairdo, it’s a wind advisory. 

No. 2: Donald Trump has pissed off so many Mexicans, he’s starring in a new movie entitled “No Amigos.” 

No. 1: Thanks to Donald Trump, the Republican mascot is also an ass.

The video is below: