Pre-Debate Political News: Sexism, Gennifer Flowers, and Perjury

Clinton Trump Clowns

The debate hasn’t even been held yet, and already Clinton is complaining of sexism. I have never seen a politician who does so much to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. As I’ve recently noted, the Clinton camp is willing to raise charges of sexism over anything, no matter how absurd. Not that I want Trump to win either, but one of the many reasons I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be president is so that we don’t have to put up with the inevitable charges of sexism for opposing Hillary’s likely wars and infringements on civil liberties.

Trump is also being rather tacky in talking about bringing Gennifer Flowers to the debate (and Flowers has accepted the invitation).

Bringing up Gennifer Flowers and Bill’s extramarital affairs leads to reminders of Bill’s impeachment based upon  perjury. Newsweek reveals that Donald Trump could face perjury charges of his own. Trump made a statement during one of the debates which contradicted what he said while testifying in 2007. Either he lied during the debate, which would be nothing new, or Trump committed perjury in 2007.

While I think that Bill’s impeachment was a ridiculous example of overreach, it did set a precedent that perjury is grounds for impeachment.

On the other hand, if we are looking back at actions prior to becoming president, there is a lot in Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State  which could be considered legitimate grounds for impeachment. Someone who violated ethics agreements they entered into before taking one position is hardly a suitable candidate for president.

With both parties having nominated candidates who are unethically unfit to be president, maybe we should plan for starting impeachment hearings in January regardless of who wins.

Quote Of The Day: Conan on Hillary’s Coughing Spell

Conan Photo

It’s come out that Hillary Clinton is having a hard time connecting with millennial voters. So now she’s saying that last week’s coughing spell was actually due to a massive bong hit.–Conan O’Brien

Related headline from McClatchy:

Young voters to Clinton: We can’t stand you

Former RFK Speech Writer Endorses Trump Citing Clinton’s Pro-War Record

It is disappointing that in such a brief time the Democratic Party has become the party the neoconservative policies of Bush/Cheney with the nomination of Hillary Clinton. Opposition to the Iraq war has led many people to vote Democratic in recent years. In a previous generation, even though the Vietnam war did begin under Democrats, the continuation of the war under Richard Nixon also led many to vote Democratic. While many Democratic voters appear to have no problem with a nominee wh0 has spent her career undermining liberal values and promoting war, there are some who are protesting.

Adam Walinsky, who worked in the Department of Justice during the Kennedy administration and later served as legislative assistant and speechwriter  Robert Kennedy, wrote that he plans to vote for Donald Trump:

I was a Democrat all my life. I came to Washington to serve President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. When the president was murdered and his brother struck off on his own, I joined his Senate campaign and staff as his legislative assistant and speechwriter, until his presidential campaign ended with his own assassination. I ran on a (losing) Democratic ticket in the New York state elections of 1970. When I was working to enact my own program of police reform in the 1980s and 1990s, then-Governor Bill Clinton was chairman of my National Committee for the Police Corps.

This year, I will vote to elect Donald Trump as president of the United States.

…John and Robert Kennedy devoted their greatest commitments and energies to the prevention of war and the preservation of peace. To them that was not an abstract formula but the necessary foundation of human life. But today’s Democrats have become the Party of War: a home for arms merchants, mercenaries, academic war planners, lobbyists for every foreign intervention, promoters of color revolutions, failed generals, exploiters of the natural resources of corrupt governments. We have American military bases in 80 countries, and there are now American military personnel on the ground in about 130 countries, a remarkable achievement since there are only 192 recognized countries. Generals and admirals announce our national policies. Theater commanders are our principal ambassadors. Our first answer to trouble or opposition of any kind seems always to be a military movement or action.

Nor has the Democratic Party candidate for president this year, Hillary Clinton, sought peace. Instead she has pushed America into successive invasions, successive efforts at “regime change.” She has sought to prevent Americans from seeking friendship or cooperation with President Vladimir Putin of Russia by characterizing him as “another Hitler.” She proclaims herself ready to invade Syria immediately after taking the oath of office. Her shadow War Cabinet brims with the architects of war and disaster for the past decades, the neocons who led us to our present pass, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, in Ukraine, unrepentant of all past errors, ready to resume it all with fresh trillions and fresh blood. And the Democrats she leads seem intent on worsening relations with Russia, for example by sending American warships into the Black Sea, or by introducing nuclear weapons ever closer to Russia itself.

In fact, in all the years of the so-called War on Terror, only one potential American president has had the intelligence, the vision, the sheer sanity to see that America cannot fight the entire world at once; who sees that America’s natural and necessary allies in this fight must include the advanced and civilized nations that are most exposed and experienced in their own terror wars, and have the requisite military power and willingness to use it. Only one American candidate has pointed out how senseless it is to seek confrontation with Russia and China, at the same time that we are trying to suppress the very jihadist movements that they also are attacking.

That candidate is Donald Trump. Throughout this campaign, he has said that as president, he would quickly sit down with President Putin and seek relaxation of tensions between our nations, and possible collaboration in the fight against terrorists. On this ground alone, he marks himself as greatly superior to all his competitors, earlier in the primaries and now in the general election.

It must also be said: Mr. Trump is an imperfect candidate, and he would surely be an imperfect president. He is crude, often vulgar. He has areas of great ignorance. He insults people and inflicts unnecessary harm. He would be twice the candidate he is if he used half the words. He is often intemperate; though it is not Trump but his opponent who is so intemperate as to compare Putin’s moves in Ukraine to what Hitler did—an insult that throughout all the Cold War and to this day, no American president has ever offered to any Soviet or Russian leader, not even the enormous butcher Josef Stalin, with whom in fact we joined to win the Second World War. And it is not Mr. Trump but Michael Morell, a former CIA director now high in the councils of the Democratic candidate, who has publicly suggested, without rebuke from anyone, that we should begin “killing Russians,” a doubly illegal act of war.

Moreover Trump marks himself as a man of singular political courage, willing to defy the hysteria of the Washington war hawks, the establishment and the mainstream media who daily describe him as virtually anti-American for daring to voice ideas and opinions at variance with their one-note devotion to war…

Scores of Democratic elected officials once spoke and worked tirelessly to end our disastrous war in Vietnam. Today there is only the voice of the marvelous Democratic member of Congress Tulsi Gabbard, a reservist who has twice deployed to Iraq and knows of what she speaks. And it is a Democratic president who sends an endless parade of drones to nations all over the world, flaunting for all to see America’s unique military technology, coupled with our seeming complete carelessness in how that technological prowess destroys people and nations…

So my hope for America is this. First, we must begin immediately to end our involvement in endless, unnecessary and therefore murderous wars. We need our best young people to help us here at home. We need to stop the reckless military spending on more destructive armaments. We need to breathe free again.

We must and will defend civilized order against its deadly enemies. ISIS and its brethren must be eliminated: no quarter, no hesitation. But we will need to engage all civilized peoples in our mutual defense. We must abandon foolish skirmishes and petty jealousies. We must end our reflexive efforts to dominate other developed nations, especially Russia and China.

Walinsky is right in opposing Hillary Clinton for her neoconservative policies and repeated mistakes in the middle east, and her views on increasing conflict with Russia. Unfortunately Trump has been incoherent on foreign policy, at times taking positions both to the left and right of Clinton. While his stated desire to avoid conflict with Russia is one of his few (perhaps only) admirable traits, this often appears to be out of a foolish admiration for Putin in response to compliments from him rather than a coherent anti-war world view. While we cannot afford to go to war against every despot around the world as many nonconservatives such as Clinton appear to desire, we also need leaders who do recognize the evil in their policies.

The tragedy of this election is that neither major party candidate is fit to be president.

Democrats Should Have Paid Attention To Warnings About Clinton Before Handing Her The Nomination

Hillary Down

I had been arguing for many months before the Democratic nomination that it was very risky for the Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton. In addition to her many other faults, I argued that the email and Foundation scandals would greatly impair the ability of the Democrats to win the presidency, and would also likely also greatly decrease their chances of winning control of the Senate. Clinton apologists both denied the significance of the scandals, and denied that it would have any bearing on the election. For a while it appeared that it didn’t matter. While Clinton would probably be well behind any other Republican, she had been able to lead Trump (and as of now I think she will still pull it off). However, while Clinton doesn’t understand why she isn’t far ahead, her lead is now precariously small. A single gaffe, an unexpectedly decent performance by Trump in the debates, another revelation from Wikileaks, or any number of other items could now shift the election to Trump. Plus the Democrats’ chances of taking control of the Senate have dropped tremendously.

There are multiple reasons for this, but an op-ed by Thomas Patterson in the The Los Angeles Times provides further evidence  that I was right with my warnings in largely blaming the email scandal should Clinton lose:

If Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election in November, we will know the reason. The email controversy did her candidacy in. But it needed a helping hand — and the news media readily supplied that.

My analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding both parties’ national conventions found that her use of a private email server while secretary of State and other alleged scandal references accounted for 11% of Clinton’s news coverage in the top five television networks and six major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Excluding neutral reports, 91% of the email-related news reports were negative in tone. Then, there were the references to her character and personal life, which accounted for 4% of the coverage; that was 92% negative.

The author underestimates the importance of the email and other scandals, and gives Clinton far too much credit for her record considering that she has been wrong on virtually every major decision of her career,only to admit she made a mistake years later. Between the email and Foundation scandals, Hillary Clinton has been found to have violated policy with regards to using a home server rather than a government email system, failed to turn over email for archiving which was sent over personal email, destroyed over half the email falsely claiming it was personal, and failed to disclose all donors to the Clinton Foundation as she agreed to prior to her confirmation.

The State Department Inspector General report showed that Clinton not only violated the rules in effect, but that she failed to cooperate with the investigation and tried to cover up her actions.  FBI Director James Comey further showed how she acted irresponsibly, and how many of the statements she has made in public and Congressional testimony over the past year have been false. Clinton unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. I’ve previously discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in greater detail, including here and here. I’ve recently noted how both fact checkers and ethicists viewed the scandals and Clinton’s violations of the ethics agreements which she entered into before becoming Secretary of State, while Common Cause called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation well before her nomination.

There was good reason for the media to cover this story. Clinton predictably made it worse for herself as she tried to coverup information, resulting in facts slowly coming out from news cycle to news cycle. She further made matters worse by lying about the matter, and then repeating the same lies when confronted by the fact checkers. This is what caused the story to remain dominant in the news. Plus, regardless of whether it is a good thing, we knew before Clinton was nominated that the media prefers to cover scandals as opposed to complicated matters of policy. As Patterson also wrote:

In today’s hypercompetitive media environment, journalists find it difficult to resist controversies. Political scientist W. Lance Bennett explored this phenomenon around Trump’s 2011 allegation that President Obama was not a native-born American. Trump’s “birther” statements were seized upon by cable outlets and stayed in the headlines and on newscasts for days. Veteran CNN correspondent Candy Crowley even interviewed Trump, who was then not a political figure at all. She justified it by saying on air: “There comes a point where you can’t ignore something, not because it’s entertaining …. The question was, ‘Is he driving the conversation?’ And he was.” In truth, the news media were driving the conversation, as they have with Clinton’s emails.

Nominating Hillary Clinton with all her baggage would be like the Republicans nominating Richard Nixon after  knowing about his role in Watergate. It was a remarkably foolish thing to do, and the Democrats now risk paying the price. In contrast, Bernie Sanders polled far better than Clinton did against Donald Trump and other potential Republican candidates. He very likely would also have won the Democratic nomination if not for a system heavily tilted towards helping Clinton and stopping insurgent candidates. Plus if Sanders were the nominee, there would be no scandals to dominate the campaign, and we would definitely be talking about issues.

New Information On Trump Foundation Added To Campaigns Dominated By Scandals

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Donald Trump is once again involved in a Foundation scandal of his own. There are already serious questions regarding his contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi before her office decided not to investigate Trump University in 2013. The Washington Post has looked further into his “charitable” Foundation. Among other issues, he used money from his Foundation to settle personal legal debts:

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses…

If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the New York attorney general’s office, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.

More broadly, these cases­ also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.

“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Washington Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in awhile,” Tenenbaum said.

The Post sent the Trump campaign a detailed list of questions about the four cases but received no response.

I can’t help but wonder how much more might be discovered if Trump were to release his tax returns, which before Trump had become the norm for politicians running for president.

I initially planned to end this post here, writing only about Trump. However, in looking at reactions elsewhere, I found many pro-Clinton blogs make similar arguments claiming that the only real Foundation scandal involves Trump, while totally ignoring, and denying, the more serious issues raised by the Clinton Foundation. While there is little question that Trump has acted unethically, and very likely illegally, the Clinton scandals are far more significant in terms of electoral politics as they involve the abuse of a government position.

I’ve already discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in great detail, including here and here. Common Cause has called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation. I’ve more recently noted how both fact checkers and ethicists viewed the scandals and Clinton’s violations of the ethics agreements which she entered into before becoming Secretary of State. Between the email and Foundation scandals, Hillary Clinton has been found to have violated policy with regards to using a home server rather than a government email system, failing to turn over any email for archiving which was sent over personal email, destroying over half the email and falsely claiming it was personal, and failed to disclose all donors to the Clinton Foundation as she agreed prior to her confirmation. She unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton.

Both Trump and Clinton have acted unethically. Neither is ethically fit for any government office. They are the same type of people, regardless of which letter is after their name. Is is a shame that partisan politics leads so many to look at the faults of one candidate while totally ignoring comparable faults from the candidate of their party. In order to clean up government, it is necessary to hold candidates of both major political parties to higher standards.

Clinton And Many Democrats Fail To Understand Importance Of Opposing Interventionism And Defending Civil Liberties

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The lack of concern for Hillary Clinton’s neocon record on foreign policy, and her far right record on First Amendment issues, by so many Democrats is really disappointing. It is as if they didn’t they learn anything from the horrors of the Bush years. Hillary Clinton appeared clueless when she campaigned for the millennial vote. As I discussed last week, and as David Weigel reported today, Clinton is losing a substantial amount of support to third party candidates.

When George Bush was president, Democrats showed concern for matters such as avoiding unnecessary wars, civil liberties, and government transparency. Now that they have nominated a candidate who is far to the right on these matters, they no longer show any concern. For example, Paul Krugman made a pitch today for millennial voters who are voting for Gary Johnson, but ignored these issues. It makes absolutely no sense to seek the support of those considering Gary Johnson without addressing the main issues which are causing Clinton to lose support to Johnson, along with Jill Stein.

Krugman also resorted to the bogus Ralph Nader argument. If the 2000 election turned out badly (as it did) because of George Bush becoming president, it makes no sense to use this to support a neoconservative such as Hillary Clinton who supports the so many of the same policies as George Bush.

Just as bad is the manner in which Kevin Drum dismissed concerns over military interventionism and civil liberties: ” Unless you’re basically a single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force, it’s hard to see why any lefty of any stripe would even think of supporting Johnson.”

Drum is right in his post in arguing that it would make more sense for Bernie Sanders supporters to support Jill Stein than Gary Johnson, but he certainly diminishes the importance of several issues with the phrase, “single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force.”

These are two of the most important matters considering both the expansion of the warfare/surveillance state since 9/11, and considering which areas fall most directly under the control of the president. Plus these encompass multiple issues.

Civil liberties mattered to Democrats eight years ago. During the 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties. All the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, also refused to sign.  As I’ve discussed previously, Clinton’s poor record regarding civil liberties and separation of church and state includes her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act , a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, leading a campaign to censor video games and introducing a bill making flag burning a felony. Her views mocking freedom of speech when supposedly fighting terrorism sound alarmingly similar to those expressed by Donald Trump. Issues such as the drug war and opposition to the policy of mass incarceration she supported is yet a different issue which leads many to support Johnson and Stein over Clinton.

Similarly there are multiple foreign policy issues. These include her support for intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria. In other parts of the world, there are her views on Russia, and record in Honduras. There’s also her history of joining with the Republicans in opposing a ban on cluster bombs in civilian areas. There’s her threats to obliterate Iran. Her past statements on the use of nuclear force against terrorist groups sound similar to those expressed by Donald Trump.

While Drum has consistently ignored the facts regarding the email scandals, the State Department Inspector General report verified accusations that Clinton violated the rules put into effect to promote transparency, showed that she tried to cover up her actions, and that she failed to cooperate with the investigation. This is just one aspect of the scandals involving Clinton which give millennial voters, and others, reason to distrust Clinton and vote for a third party candidate.

The numerous issues involved here contradict Drum’s mischaracterization of Clinton’s opponents as a single-issue voter. By the same logic, many of the issues which he backs Clinton for could also be lumped together as a single issue. It is no surprise that Gary Johnson is taking votes away from Clinton when he is more liberal than her on military interventionism, civil liberties, the drug war, social issues, and government transparency. There are also several problems with Johnson’s views, making Jill Stein an even better choice for those on the left.

Jill Stein and Gary Johnson Denied Participation In The First Presidential Debate Limiting Expression Of Alternative Opinions

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The two party system acts to restrict political discourse so only the very limited differences between the major parties are discussed during the campaign. This is particularly undesirable this year when both candidates are from the authoritarian right quadrant of the political spectrum. As I discussed yesterday, regardless of whether Clinton or Trump wins, we will see a continuation of the horrors of the Bush administration. We will see a strengthening of the warfare and surveillance state, increased restrictions on First Amendment rights, and increased government secrecy. The two candidates with alternative viewpoints, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, have now been officially declared ineligible for the first presidential debate.

Theoretically they can still qualify for subsequent debates, but it will be even harder after they are denied the free publicity provided to the major party candidates in the first debate.

The rules which determine who qualifies are arbitrary rules which were written to limit access to the debates. Doug Mataconis described how the Commission on Presidential Debates is not truly “bipartisan” but is an organization jointly run by the two major parties:

…the commission is an organization controlled equally by the Republican and Democratic parties. Its two co-Chairman are Frank Farenkopf, a top Republican who once served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, a top Democratic Party alumnus who once served as Press Secretary for former President Bill Clinton. The Board Of Directors includes top GOP officials such as former Senators John Danforth and Alan Simpson and top Democrats such as Caroline Kennedy and Kennedy ally and former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Newton Minor.

Doug also made a strong argument as to why Johnson should be included in the debates:

The Libertarian ticket has officially qualified for the ballot in all fifty states, an accomplishment that isn’t exactly easy for non-establishment political parties. The ticket is also polling better far better than any Libertarian nominee ever has, hitting an average of 9,2% according to RealClearPolitics and according to Pollster. Among younger voters, the Johnson/Weld ticket has been consistently polling competitively, with a new Quinnipiac poll showing them just two points behind Clinton/Kaine among voters aged 18 to 34. The two former Governors have also picked up endorsements from newspapers such as the traditionally Republican Richmond Times Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and, just dropping overnight, the New Hampshire Union-Leader.

While Stein has not achieved this level of success, she does present yet a different viewpoint, and is already polling better than Ralph Nader’s results in 2000. Either candidate could have even more of an impact if more people heard their views.

Hillary Clinton has a strong interest in limiting the expression of alternative viewpoints as she is already losing support to third party candidates, especially among younger voters. The Atlantic points out:

In the last day, two major polls have found that more than one-third of voters under the age of 30 plan to vote for either Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein instead of either Clinton or Trump in November.

A defection by millennials of that size could be devastating for Clinton; in 2012, President Obama won 60 percent of voters under the age of 30, and the bloc provided a crucial advantage in his four-point victory over Mitt Romney. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, Clinton earned support from just 31 percent of voters under the age of 35 in a four-way race. It’s not like millennials are suddenly flocking to Trump. They plainly loathe him. Three in five have a “strongly unfavorable” view of him, three in four say he would divide rather than unite the country, and four in five millennials say Trump is not a candidate they can relate to. So yes, younger voters clearly prefer Clinton to Trump, but what they really want is someone else. Clinton carries that bloc by more than 20 points in a head-to-head matchup, but her support peels away when younger voters are given the option of supporting Johnson or Stein.

So, Clinton is having difficulties because many young voters don’t want to vote for her and will vote for third party candidates or stay home. If only the Democrats could have nominated a candidate who excited young voters…

We know they had that option with Bernie Sanders–who also has polled better than Clinton against Donald Trump. Young voters are more willing to consider alternatives, not having a strong connection to either major party–and often seeing both as rotten. On the other hand, the Democratic Party might have gained the loyalty of younger voters for years to come if they had nominated Sanders.

The conventional wisdom was that Stein would take votes from Clinton and Johnson would take votes from Trump. This has turned out to not be the case, with Johnson running to the left of Clinton on foreign policy, social issues, civil liberties, and drug policy. As a consequence of Clinton’s conservative views in these areas, Johnson is taking votes from her along with Trump. Politico reports:

She leads by five points among likely voters in a two-way national race, 48 percent to 43 percent. But when Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are included, Clinton’s lead shrinks to two: she’s at 41 points, with Trump at 39, Johnson at 13, and Stein at 4. Democrats assume that all of Stein’s support comes from the Clinton column, meaning Johnson’s is split roughly evenly between Clinton and Trump.

John Fund has also analyzed the effect of third party candidates in recent polls:

In the New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday this week, Trump and Clinton are tied at 42 percent each among likely voters. Johnson captures 8 percent of the vote and Stein 4 percent. But among voters younger than 30, Clinton has 48 percent, Trump 29 percent, and 21 percent plan to vote for Johnson or Stein or not vote at all. That level of non-support for the Democratic candidate among young people is a warning signal for Clinton. By comparison, Barack Obama won 60 percent of their votes in 2012.

Some polls show Johnson doing far better with young voters than he does in the NYT/CBS poll. A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed that among Millennials, Hillary is winning 31 percent, 29 percent favor Johnson, 26 percent pick Trump, and 15 percent choose Stein…

The strength that Johnson shows in Western states is also impressive, and it confirms that his presence in the race is more harmful to Hillary than to Trump. Earlier this month, the Washington Post conducted in-depth individual polls in all 50 states. Their polls were revealing in contested Western states. In a two-way contest, Hillary leads in Arizona by one point, in Colorado by two points, and in Nevada by five points. In a four-way race that includes Johnson and Stein, Trump leads by two points in Arizona, ties in Colorado, and is down three points in Nevada. Even New Mexico, Johnson’s home state, is much more competitive in a four-way race: Hillary leads by 14 in a two-way race and only eight in a four-way race.

When this many young voters are thinking of voting for a third party, this can no longer be called just a spoiler or protest vote. It is a vote towards attempting a long term change in the system–which is necessary when both major parties have nominated candidates which are unfit to be president.

Why Clinton Can’t Pull Away From An Opponent As Awful As Donald Trump

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Donald Trump has said one idiotic thing after another. He has been found to have bribed an attorney general to avoid prosecution for his scam university, among other scams he has been involved in. He clearly has no understanding of the issues. Yet he is now now in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, with many Democrats struggling to understand why. Will Democrats ever figure out that the nomination of someone as unfit to be president as Hillary Clinton was one of the biggest political blunders in history (ranking with the Republicans’ blunder in nominating Trump)?

Many Democrats have resorted to responses which do not help matters. They deny that she is corrupt and dishonest, despite overwhelming evidence that she is, and ignore the seriousness of her scandals. This only turns independents more against partisan Democrats who make such claims.

Clinton doesn’t help herself when she repeats the same lies over and over, even when the fact checkers repeatedly call her out on it. She didn’t help matters when she answered Anderson Cooper in a dishonest manner this week, claiming to have been transparent about her health and her email,  when he pressed her on her lack of transparency. pointed out:

…almost everything that Clinton has disclosed in this campaign has come under duress. The reason we have thousands of her emails is because she was forced by the State Department to turn them over. The reason we know about her pneumonia is because of her stumbling incident on Sunday in New York City. Forced transparency isn’t all that honorable

The most common argument from Clinton and her supporters is to argue how terrible Donald Trump is. While they are right, that does not help Clinton when they cannot provide positive arguments to support her. Many agree about Trump, but do not think Clinton is any better.

At least one Clinton supporter,

…her 4256 favorable/unfavorable split in national polling is truly, freakishly bad. Political junkies have probably heard the factoid that Clinton is the least-popular major party nominee of all time — except for Donald Trump. But conventional dialogue still underrates exactly how weird this situation is. John McCain, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bob Dole were all viewed favorably by a majority of Americans on the eve of presidential elections that they lost, and Mitt Romney was extremely close.

It is totally unheard of to win a presidential election while having deeply underwater favorable ratings, and it is actually quite common to lose one despite above water favorable ratings.

Since there are only two major party nominees in the race and they are both far underwater right now, it’s pretty likely that precedent will be shattered. But we are in a bit of an undiscovered country in terms of the underlying opinion dynamics.

RealClearPolitics’ four-way polling average shows Gary Johnson at 9.2 percent and Jill Stein at 2.7 percent.

If those numbers hold up (which of course they might not), they would make Johnson the strongest third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. That’s a big deal. Stein’s strength is, however, even more unusual. She is polling ahead of where Ralph Nader did in 2000 and is the strongest fourth-party candidate we’ve seen in a 100 years, besting both the Thurmond and Wallace tickets from the infamously four-sided election of 1948.

To find a fourth-place candidate polling higher than Stein’s current results, you need to dial all the way back to the 6 percent of the vote Eugene Debs earned in the bizarre 1912 election that saw the GOP nominee (the incumbent, no less!) finish in third place behind a third-party bid spearheaded by ex-president Teddy Roosevelt.

These two unusual quirks of the 2016 race seem to be linked.

Lambasting Trump while being unpopular herself would be a clear winning strategy in a zero-sum head-to-head race. But in a four-sided race, where the two lesser candidates aren’t receiving much scrutiny from the press or the campaigns, it tends to have the side consequence of pressing a lot of people to Johnson or Stein. The fact that there are two different third-party candidates in the race — one for people who think Clinton’s too left and one for people who think she’s not left enough — makes it really difficult to avoid bleeding voters…

It’s simply going to be very hard for Clinton to open up the kind of stable lead that her supporters think Trump’s awfulness deserves while she herself is so little-liked. September of a general election year is probably not a great time to turn that around.

But the fact remains that her basic problem in this race is almost painfully simple. Over the course of her winning primary campaign she became a deeply unpopular figure. And it’s hard — indeed, unprecedented — for such an unpopular person to win the presidency.

Both major parties have nominated candidates who are unfit to be president. There is little motivation for many voters to choose the lesser evil, as opposed to voting for a minor party candidate, when even the lesser evil is so evil this year. If the major party candidates were not both so awful, Johnson and Stein would be polling as low as minor party candidates usually do.

For Clinton, it is not only her lies. It is also her record, as Common Dreams recently discussed. In past elections, the Democratic Party received the support of many independents, as well as those on the left, due to the serious problems under George Bush. Instead of nominating a reform candidate such as Bernie Sanders (who consistently polled much better against Donald Trump), they went for the candidate most likely to institutionalize the horrors of the Bush administration. We need to end the state of perpetual warfare we have been in since 9/11. While Clinton admits that her vote for the Iraq war was a mistake (like her support for mass incarceration, various trade deals, and anti-gay legislation were mistakes), as described, support for interventionism was actually part of a pattern for her:

For years, Clinton has blamed Bush for misleading her into voting for the resolution. But an examination by The Washington Post found that her decision was based as much on advice from her husband’s advisers as from Bush administration officials. There were also significant gaps in her fact-gathering, most notably her apparent failure to read a classified analysis that other senators cited in voting against the resolution…

She continued that path when she advocated intervention in Libya as secretary of state…

Besides Clinton pushing for interventionism in Libya, Clinton repeated the same mistakes in Syria, advocating war based on logic as flawed as anything we have heard from Donald Trump. Her views on Russia place us at risk of an even more dangerous situation.

Kranish stressed how Clinton failed to read classified intelligence reports which were available, leading others to oppose the war. Unlike some Democrats who did initially vote for the war, Clinton also continued to support the war:

A year after the vote, Clinton defended it on CNN, citing “grave threats to the United States.”

As The Intercept pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisers Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State. The Iraq vote was not a fluke. It is what we can expect if Clinton is elected.

Clinton desires to replicate the horrors of the Bush years in other ways. Besides perpetuating the warfare state, Clinton desires to expand the surveillance state and has a terrible record on civil liberties with views (minus the Islamophobia) which are comparable to Trump’s. As occurred under Bush, Clinton also has a long history of supporting an increased role for religion in public policy. The reality is that, no matter how much the point out Donald Trump’s flaws, Hillary Clinton already has a record of doing much of what Trump is accused of.

The Democratic Party establishment made a horrible mistake in acting to ensure that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination. While Clinton still has the edge, they might have to face the consequences of their actions if it leads to defeat and the election of Donald Trump as president.

Colin Powell Calls Trump A National Disgrace And Says Clinton Comes Across As Sleazy For Good Reason

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Colin Powell’s leaked emails include criticism of Trump, Clinton, and the right wing. In June he called Donald Trump “a national disgrace” and an “international pariah.” He has considered how Trump should be handled. He has suggested that Trump “is in the process of destroying himself, no need for Dems to attack him.” He also has warned about attacking Trump, pointing out that, “To go on and call him an idiot just emboldens him.”

Powell objected to how Clinton was handling the email scandal. The Intercept reports:  “Sad thing,” Powell wrote to one confidant, “HRC could have killed this two years ago by merely telling everyone honestly what she had done and not tie me to it.” He described her well in writing, ” Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris.” Despite her hubris, she was also dumb:

“Dumb. She should have done a ‘Full Monty’ at the beginning,” Powell wrote. He added: “I warned her staff three times over the past two years not to try to connect it to me. I am not sure HRC even knew or understood what was going on in the basement.”

The Washington Post has more about Powell on Clinton’s email along with some fact-checking of Clinton’s claims:

“I have told Hilleary’s [sic] minions repeatedly that they are making a mistake trying to drag me in, yet they still try,” he wrote in May to Democratic consultant Vernon Jordan. “The media isn’t fooled and she is getting crucified. The differences are profound and they know it.”

The two situations aren’t completely analogous, as The Post’s Fact Checker has written, but Clinton has used Powell to suggest that her private email server was not totally novel.

Powell was reluctant to endorse Clinton: “Hillary has not been covering here [sic] self with glory,” Powell writes. “For good reason she comes across as sleazy.” He also wrote:

“I would rather not have to vote for her, although she is a friend I respect,” Powell writes to Democratic megadonor Jeffrey Leeds. “A 70-year-old person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational, with a husband still dicking bimbos at home (according to the NYP).

Emails from Democratic donor Jeffrey Leads  showed how little Obama and Clinton each actually thought of the other. One email said that Clinton hated Obama. Obama might not be as oblivious to Clinton’s faults as it appears when he campaigns for her:

In one Leeds/Powell email conversation going back to March 6, 2016 over a Politico article about Clinton’s primary loss in Maine, Leeds tells Powell that “no one like her and the criminal thing ain’t over. I don’t think the president would week if she found herself in real legal trouble. She’ll pummel his legacy if she gets a chance and he knows it.”

Powell also questioned Clinton’s health before Sunday’s events. In 2015 he wrote, “I think there is something to it. On HD tv she doesn’t look good. She is working herself to death.” Of course there is a big difference between overworking herself, along with her current pneumonia, and many of the unsubstantiated theories floating around on the internet about her health.

In other comments, Powell is right about the Birther movement: “Yup, the whole birther movement was racist.” Powell called Benghazi a “stupid witch hunt.”

One area in which Powell has sympathy for Clinton is on Benghazi, the GOP reaction to which he labeled a “stupid witch hunt,” as BuzzFeed first reported. And fellow former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice appeared to agree.

“Benghazi is a stupid witch hunt. Basic fault falls on a courageous ambassador who thoughts [sic] Libyans now love me and I am ok in this very vulnerable place,” Powell wrote to Rice in December 2015, referring to former ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the attack.

Powell added, though, that Clinton bore some blame: “But blame also rests on his leaders and supports back here. Pat Kennedy, Intel community, [State Department] and yes HRC,” referring to Clinton.

“Completely agree,” Rice responded.

In a year in which both major political parties nominated candidates who are unfit to be president, Powell gets it right in his criticism of both Trump and Clinton. With so many people falling into the partisan trap of backing one candidate and overlooking their faults, Powell deserves credit for seeing the faults in both.

Edward Snowden Calls On Obama To Pardon Him; Jill Stein Supports Request

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Edward Snowden expressed hope that Obama would pardon him before leaving office in an interview with The Guardian:

Speaking on Monday via a video link from Moscow, where he is in exile, Snowden said any evaluation of the consequences of his leak of tens of thousands of National Security Agency and GCHQ documents in 2013 would show clearly that people had benefited.

“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists – for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things,” he said.

“I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The [US] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.”

Although US presidents have granted some surprising pardons when leaving office, the chances of Obama doing so seem remote, even though before he entered the White House he was a constitutional lawyer who often made the case for privacy and had warned about the dangers of mass surveillance.

Obama’s former attorney general Eric Holder, however, gave an unexpected boost to the campaign for a pardon in May when he said Snowden had performed a public service.

The campaign could receive a further lift from Oliver Stone’s film, Snowden, scheduled for release in the US on Friday. Over the weekend the director said he hoped the film would help shift opinion behind the whistleblower, and added his voice to the plea for a pardon.

His chances are  not very good, with the Obama administration having a very strict policy towards prosecution in whistle blowing cases. This includes using the Espionage Act more than all previous administrations combined to prosecute those who have leaked information to the press.

Of course the Obama administration’s zeal with regards to protecting classified information did not apply to Hillary Clinton being “extremely careless” with classified information as Secretary of State.

While it is not very likely that Obame will pardon Snowden, his chances are dramatically lower once the next president takes office. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are extremely conservative on civil liberties and are not likely to pardon him. John Cassidy of The New Yorker pointed out that, “From a civil-liberties perspective—and a factual perspective—Clinton’s answers were disturbing” when she was asked about Snowden in a Democratic debate last October. PoltiFact also called her statements about Snowden Mostly False.  Donald Trump has referred to Snowden as a traitor.

Snowden’s chances would be much better if one of the third party candidates had a chance to win. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson was equivocal on applying libertarianism here, having said he would consider pardoning him. Green Party Jill Stein has been calling for a pardon for Snowden for quite a while, and has an op-ed in The Guardian repeating this view. She concluded:

Federal judges ruled that such massive collection of citizens’ metadata without any connection to a particular investigation was patently illegal, essentially vindicating Snowden. His goal was to tell the truth about the government spying on all of us, and to create public and judicial pressure on the government to create real changes in the way things are done and to stop the trajectory towards a surveillance state.

Snowden’s whistleblowing was among the most important in US history. It showed us that the relationship between the people of the United States and the government has gone off track and needs a major course correction.

The fourth amendment of the constitution provides that a court must find probable cause that an individual has committed a crime before issuing a warrant, and forbids systematic spying on the American people. The requirement of individualized suspicion should prohibit this type of dragnet surveillance. Spying on whole populations is not necessary, and is actually counterproductive.

If elected president I will immediately pardon Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou for their important work in exposing the massive, systematic violation of our constitutional rights. I would invite them to the White House to publicly acknowledge their heroism, and create a role for them in the Stein-Baraka Green party administration to help us create a modern framework that protects personal privacy while still conducting effective investigations where warranted.

The American people have a right to privacy. My hope is that Obama uses his power to pardon Snowden now. The debate he began must be continued so we find a resolution that protects the freedom of press, association, religion and speech as well as the privacy of people in the United States and around the world.