Terrorist Attack In Paris To Impact Tonight’s Debate: Anti-War Candidate Sanders vs. Neocon Candidate Clinton

Paris Terrorist Attack

The terrorist attack in Paris, which ISIS has taken credit for, has led CBS to alter the emphasis of the second Democratic debate. When news was received of the attack, CBS decided to “focus more on issues of terrorism, national security and foreign relations.”

While the campaign this year has centered more around economic policy, this debate should emphasize another major difference between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This discussion is likely to bring out Clinton’s hawkish views and  how they differ from the views of Bernie Sanders.  The terrorist attack might help Clinton in appealing to those who respond to terrorist attacks with more fear and mistakingly respond with a desire for greater military force. NPR points out that, “Clinton has always been seen as more hawkish than President Obama, and that’s something that hurt her in 2008, especially in a state like Iowa, which has its caucus roots in the anti-war movement.”

USA Today also noted this could present a challenge to Clinton:

The debate creates a challenge for Clinton, as it magnifies her public split with Obama on his approach to Syria. Several weeks ago, she was critical of Obama by saying there should be a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors in Syria, something Obama’s rejected.

Clinton has long advocated for a more robust approach in the Middle East to thwart the Islamic State, including when she was a member of Obama’s administration. As a U.S. senator she voted to authorize the war in Iraq, though she has since called that decision a mistake.

Though Sanders voted for the war in Afghanistan, he opposed Iraq and has highlighted that difference with Clinton. Sanders, who believes the Islamic State must be defeated primarily by Muslim nations in the region, opposed Obama’s recent decision to put Special Operations boots on the ground in Syria while a Clinton spokesman said she “sees merit” in the approach.

The challenge for Sanders is to make it clear that he will do what is necessary to defend the country, but that it is the neoconservative views on foreign policy from both most Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton which are largely responsible for the problem.There is a growing consensus in the foreign policy community that the creation of ISIS was a direct response to the US invasion of Iraq.

In the run up to the Iraq war, Clinton was one of the strongest proponents of the invasion, going beyond most supporters in making false claims of an association between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s hawkishness extends beyond her support for the Iraq war. Besides Iraq, Clinton differed from Obama and most Democrats in her hard line approach to Iran (including opposing Obama’s plans for talks with Iran during the 2008 campaign), and in her support for greater intervention in Syria. Her approach to Libya, which unfortunately Obama did go along with, has been a disaster.

Rand Paul made a point of how both most of his Republican opponents and Hillary Clinton have had the same approach to Syria both in the last debate and on the campaign trail, with Truth-Out explaining why he was right. Discussion of Clinton holding neoconservative views is hardly new, with The Week asking in 2014, Will neocons ditch the GOP for Hillary Clinton? This was based upon a longer story in The New York Times on Clinton’s neoconservative views. Neoconservative Robert Kagan was a key Clinton adviser at the State Department. Clinton has also attacked Obama’s foreign policy after leaving the State Department, echoing (as The Nation pointed out) the far right and neocons. Steve Clemons, Washington editor of The Atlantic, described how Clinton gave “a very neoconservative sounding speech” at the Brookings Institute in September, showing a sharp contrast with Obama’s views. Joe Scarborough has said that Clinton will be “more of a Neocon” than the 2016 Republican nominee.

The debate will also present a challenge for Martin O’Malley to show that he is capable of responding to foreign policy issues.

The debate might also will touch on the vast differences of opinion between Clinton and Sanders on civil liberties as well as foreign policy. Sanders differers from Clinton in having opposed the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance. Beyond her supporting George Bush’s approach to terrorism,  Clinton’s poor record on civil liberties also 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.Having criticized George Bush in the previous sentence, it is only fair to point out that Bill Clinton also had a  poor record on civil liberties, with Hillary likely to continue this dubious part of his legacy if elected.

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Clinton Continues To Disagree With Sanders On Expanding Social Security Benefits & More Debunking Of DOMA Revisionism

Bernie Sanders Expand Social Security

There are some interesting items in the report from The Wall Street Journal on Clinton’s recent statements on capital punishment (previously discussed here) as the story extends to other statements made by Clinton in New Hampshire this week. This includes her continuing to oppose proposals from Bernie Sanders and others on the left to expand Social Security benefits, an being open to considering an increase in the retirement age:

Mrs. Clinton also broke from many liberals, including Mr. Sanders, in discussing the future of Social Security. The left wants to expand benefits for most or all recipients. Mrs. Clinton said Wednesday she wants to increase benefits to the poorest, most vulnerable recipients—but she stopped well short of endorsing an across-the-board benefit boost. She also didn’t rule out other benefit cuts…

She also laid out her views on the future of Social Security in more detail than she has in the past, and what she didn’t say was as important as what she did say. Mrs. Clinton spoke of increasing benefits for the poorest retirees, but said nothing about more benefits for others.

“I am concerned about those people on Social Security who are most vulnerable in terms of what their monthly pay out is—that is primarily divorced, widowed, single women who either never worked themselves or worked only a little bit so they have either just their own earnings to depend on, or they have a spouse who was also a low-wage worker,” she said. “The first and most important task, I think, is we make sure that we get the monthly payment for the poorest Social Security recipients up.”

The program faces a long-term funding gap, and for many years, there was a rough consensus that the solution would ultimately involve both tax increases and benefit reductions to bring the program into balance. [Note this is the view of The Wall Street Journal] But many on the left have united to oppose any cuts to benefits and to back across-the-board benefit increases, funding them with tax increases on upper-income workers.

Mrs. Clinton said she wouldn’t rule out raising the retirement age for people whose jobs allow them to work later in life, if that were possible, though she said she didn’t favor this.

Sometimes Clinton continues to promote more conservative views. Sometimes Clinton takes a more liberal stand, and then tries to cover up how conservative she had been in the past. There has been a lot of discussion this week backing up Sanders for accusing Clinton of practicing revisionist history to excuse her support for the Defense of Marriage Act. The Washington Post Fact Checker also debunked her statement.

In addition, the above video from 2004 has gone viral in which Clinton called marriage, “not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”

I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. I have had occasion in my life to defend marriage, to stand up for marriage, to believe in the hard work and challenge of marriage. So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they are to become adults.

BuzzFeed  has further debunked Clinton’s claims in an article entitled There’s No Evidence In Clinton White House Documents For Clintons’ Story On Anti-Gay Law

Over the past few years, some Democrats — including the Clintons — have offered a new explanation for why they supported the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

The threat of a federal constitutional amendment, these Democrats have argued, motivated them to support DOMA — a law that defined marriage for federal government purposes as between one man and one woman and said states could refuse to recognize same-sex couples’ marriages from others states.

“We were attempting at the time, in a very reactionary Congress,” Bill Clinton told an audience in 2009, “to head off an attempt to send a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the states.” Four former senators — including Tom Daschle, who made the claim in 2011 — raised the idea in a Supreme Court brief in 2013. Clinton later cited that brief when, in a Washington Post op-ed, he called for the law he signed to be struck down by the court. Hillary Clinton just last week called her husband’s decision to sign DOMA “a defensive action.”

There is no contemporaneous evidence, however, to support the claim that the Clinton White House considered a possible federal constitutional amendment to be a concern, based on a BuzzFeed News review of the thousands of documents released earlier this year by the Clinton Presidential Library about same-sex couples’ marriage rights and the Defense of Marriage Act. In the documents, which include correspondence from a wide array of White House and Justice Department officials, no one even hints that Bill Clinton’s thinking or actions regarding DOMA were animated by the threat of a federal constitutional amendment.

The claim has faced renewed scrutiny in recent days after Hillary Clinton made an extended argument in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that DOMA was a “line to be drawn” to prevent further action.

“I think what my husband believed — and there was certainly evidence to support it — is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that there had to be some way to stop that,” she told Maddow.

“I was in on some of those discussions, on both ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and on DOMA, where both the president, his advisers, and occasionally I would chime in and talk about, ‘You can’t be serious, you can’t be serious.’ But they were,” Hillary Clinton said. “And so, in a lot of ways, DOMA was a line that was drawn, that was to prevent going further.”

Maddow pressed here, asking, “It was a defensive action?”

“It was a defensive action,” she replied.

In the days since, many longtime LGBT advocates have called the comments inaccurate — and her leading opponent for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, who voted against the legislation as a congressman, criticized her implicitly but sharply, onstage at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Iowa…

Hit & Run summed up the significance of why Clinton has been lying about this (emphasis mine):

But that the Clintons had no reason to lie about this in the first place is what makes the lie so strange and worthy of paying attention to. The Clintons “evolved.” Obama “evolved.” A lot of Democrats and not a small number of Republicans “evolved” on gay marriage. As I said when I wrote about this lie earlier, Clinton seems to be trying to disprove accusations that the Clintons hold positions on the basis of shrewd political calculations and is doing so in a way that’s very obviously politically calculated. Apparently the Clintons have decided that it is important that they are seen as leaders and protectors on gay rights, even though they weren’t back then. The only logical explanation is that Hillary Clinton is really worried about Bernie Sanders. But getting caught out like this only highlights the Clintons’ well-established flaws to primary voters. Ironically enough, it shows that Clinton hasn’t “evolved” when it comes to her reputation for dishonesty. And she can’t blame this one on Trey Gowdy.

Under a Hillary Clinton administration, expect to hear such Orwellian double think along the lines that “Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.” This is likely to occur with regards to both justifications for military interventionism and on domestic policy.

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Press & Bloggers Show Sanders Was Right In Accusing Clinton Of Practicing Revisionist History On DOMA

The Clintons have never been very supportive of social liberalism, and now that the liberal views they often showed little regard for during Bill’s presidency have become mainstream in the Democratic Party (and much of the country), Hillary is trying to rewrite history. Bernie Sanders pointed this out at the Jefferson Jackson dinner last weekend. His statement is being backed up by the press, bloggers, and people on Twitter who remember the truth.

The Washington Blade wrote:

Sen. Bernard Sanders isn’t the only one taking Hillary Clinton to task over her recent assertion that the Defense of Marriage Act was a “defensive” measure to prevent worse discrimination against LGBT people.

A number of gay rights activists took to Twitter to say Clinton engaged in historic revisionism during her appearance Friday on “The Rachel Maddow Show” when she said DOMA was a means to stop the enactment of a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage entirely. Many of those activists also tempered their objections by saying Clinton is generally doing right on LGBT rights during her campaign…

The notion DOMA was passed to stop passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment has been disputed by Hillary Clinton supporter and former Human Rights Campaign chief Elizabeth Birch, who wrote an op-ed saying “there was no real threat” of a constitutional measure in 1996.

Bloomberg Politics also sees this as revisionist history:

Bill Clinton’s aides and confidants admitted to the New York Times in 2013 that he knew DOMA was wrong and discriminatory toward gays and lesbians. His former press secretary Mike McCurry said: “His posture was quite frankly driven by the political realities of an election year in 1996.” Democratic consultant and Clinton ally Hilary Rosen added: “In my conversations with him, he was personally embarrassed and remorseful.”

Neither said it was a strategic move to prevent something worse. And indeed, that might have been difficult. The Federal Marriage Amendment wasn’t introduced until 2002. It didn’t become part of the Republican Party platform until 2004…

Prominent figures in the LGBT community, meanwhile, rejected Clinton’s recollection of history.

“Hillary’s version of DADT and DOMA is so wrong. The only ‘defensive posture’ was for their personal politics not LGBT,” activist David Mixner said on Twitter. He added: “The LGBT community should NEVER allow any politician to revise our noble and courageous history for political purposes.”

Radio host and HuffPost Gay Voices editor-at-large Michelangelo Signorile called Hillary Clinton’s version “revisionism” and said on Twitter that it was “simply not true that DOMA was signed to stop something worse.” He continued, “Hillary doesn’t need to re-write Bill history to make her better. She’s fine, has promised a lot.”

Bill Clinton even resorted to using ads opposing gay marriage when running for reelection. While Hillary’s positions do sound much better today, we cannot count on positions she has taken for political expediency to persist if the next poll or focus group suggests she should take a different position.

AmericaBlog also showed that this is not the first time the Clintons have resorted to this type of historical revisionism, along with noting that, “Sanders is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, and has opposed anti-gay discrimination laws going back to his campaigns for mayor in the 1970s.” Last month PolitiFact ruled that a statement from Chuck Todd was true that Bernie Sanders was “there” on same sex marriage twenty years ago.

Hillary Clinton’s conservative social views, seen in her membership in religious right organization, The Fellowship (also known as The Family) while in the Senate, makes many liberals wary of trusting her on social issues (along with economic issues, civil liberties, and foreign policy). The American Humanist Association has noted how much she is like the Republicans in pandering to religion:

American Humanist Organization Religious Pandering

They also noted that Bernie Sanders has expressed views in line with theirs:

American Humanist Organization Sanders Humanism

It comes down to a difference in their philosophies which as led Sanders to take the correct fork in the road, while Clinton has so often been wrong, whenever there have been big decisions during their careers. We need a president who makes the right choices at the time, not one who will admit her mistakes and change her views years down the road.

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Pope Francis, President Obama, Multiple Politicians, & Celebrities Snub Clinton Foundation Due To Scandals

Clinton Foundation Scandals

The Clinton Foundation is being snubbed in response to the influence-peddling scandals. Politco reports:

The Clinton Foundation invited everyone from Pope Francis and Leonardo DiCaprio to Bill de Blasio and Janet Yellen to its showcase gathering starting Saturday in New York City, according to multiple sources familiar with the planning.

But those invitations were among the dozens turned down by all manner of celebrities, dignitaries and donors, according to the sources, who said the controversies swirling around the foundation and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign have made some bold-faced names and donors wary of the foundation.

The glitzy Clinton Global Initiative gathering in New York, which has the lofty title “The Future of Impact,” was supposed to have been a celebration of the accomplishments of the $2-billion Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation’s past work as it pivots towards a future with Chelsea Clinton at the helm.

Instead, it’s become emblematic of the foundation’s struggles to regain its luster, while scaling back some of its ambitions and restructuring amid heightened scrutiny of its internal workings, the diminished role of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the prospect that former president Bill Clinton also could be forced to step back.

“They’ve had a lot of rejections from people – both for membership renewals and speaking roles this year between the campaign, Hillary not being at CGI this year, bad press,” said one person who has worked on planning foundation events…

The documents, reviewed by POLITICO, also show that the foundation had hoped to land either Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen or French economist Thomas Piketty to deliver a presentation on income inequality. Both declined, as did Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Rock legend Elton John was invited to receive an award for his efforts to fight AIDS, but he’s not coming, and neither is New York City Mayor de Blasio. He had been invited as a guest rather than as a speaker and notably has refused to endorse Clinton, despite having managed her successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2000…

Likewise, a White House spokesman said President Barack Obama’s decision to skip CGI for the first time since taking office stemmed from his busy schedule ― not the fact that Vice President Joe Biden is actively weighing running against Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among the foreign heads of state who turned down invitations, according to sources, though they have not attended previous CGI meetings. Among those who are scheduled to appear are Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

To be sure, it’s not unusual for organizers of major conferences with dozens of speakers to be turned down by some invitees, but sources who have worked with CGI say the percentage of regrets seems higher this year. They attribute that to politically charged suggestions that foundation donors ― and particularly foreign donors ― sought or received favors from Hillary Clinton’s state department, as well as media scrutiny of the foundation’s finances and staff.

At least five major companies that sponsored the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative have backed out of sponsoring this year’s meeting.

Let’s hope that Democratic primary voters similarly snub the Clinton campaign. Otherwise there is considerable danger that Hillary Clinton will be similarly toxic among general election voters in 2016, greatly increasing the risk of having a Republican president. It just seems inconceivable that a major political party would consider nominating a candidate who has been exposed for such corruption while a cabinet official.

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Clinton Had A Good Joke, But Her Violations Of Government Policy Are No Laughing Matter

Clinton Email Cartoon Deleted

At least someone on Hillary Clinton’s writing staff has a sense of humor, and extra points to Clinton if she thought up this joke by herself:

“You may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account. I love it. I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves.”

The joke is funny, but the email scandal is no laughing matter. Back when George W. Bush was in office, we condemned his administration for actions such as this. Politicians and government officials should be held to the same standards, regardless of party. Hillary Clinton even accused those in the Bush administration of “shredding the Constitution.”

Government transparency is an important concept, and the change to email would result in the loss of a tremendous amount of documentation. This is even more important when a Secretary of State has outside conflicts of interest as Clinton did. Members of both parties had concerns when Hillary Clinton was made Secretary of State. The Obama administration instituted stricter rules regarding email in 2009, and made an agreement with Clinton to disclose all the donors to the Foundation when Secretary of State. There were two things which Clinton was supposed to do, and she ignored both. She then proceeded to unethically make decisions regarding parties which had made substantial contributions to the Foundation. In addition, Bill Clinton received extraordinarily high speaking fees from such parties.

This is especially foolish considering that she knew how much scrutiny she would be under, and presumably thought she might run for president again one day. If you are not doing something dishonest, it only makes sense to follow the rules and keep your nose clean in such a situation. Apparently she thought the money was worth the risk.

The New York Times also has more information available on the email classified as top secret which were found on Clinton’s private server, directly contradicting her previous statements on this topic:

This week, the inspector general of the nation’s intelligence agencies, I. Charles McCullough III, informed members of Congress that Mrs. Clinton had “top secret” information, the highest classification of government intelligence, in her account.

Some of that information, according to a memorandum the inspector general sent to the heads of the Senate and House intelligence and judiciary committees, may have come from a program called Talent Keyhole, which relies on satellite intercepts of conversations or imagery data. The program involves some of the most secure information in the intelligence agencies’ computer systems.

Specifically, the inspector general told members of Congress that two emails should have been classified as top secret, with one of them designated “TOP SECRET//SI//TK/NOFORN.” Officials familiar with the nomenclature said that “SI” stood for “special intelligence,” usually indicating an intercepted communication, and that “TK” was routinely used as an abbreviation for Talent Keyhole, showing that the communication or an image was obtained from a satellite…

The investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails has its roots in her decision to use only a private email account for her official business when she was secretary of state, an unorthodox decision that gave her some control over what was made public. She faced criticism when her use of the account became known this year, and after deleting what she said were more than 31,000 personal emails, she turned over more than 30,000 work-related emails for the State Department to make public.

We already know that some of the over 31,000 emails which she deleted turned out to relate to Libya and terrorism, and some of the email which was turned over appeared to be altered, contradicting her claims of the email being personal.

The classified email found so far in this sample of only forty emails were in email received by Clinton and not sent by her. This does not really alter the underlying issue of Clinton’s violation of government policy leading to classified email inappropriately being on her home server. As I have previously discussed, the Obama administration has been  hard on any violations of policy regarding classified information. Clinton was responsible for the information being on a private as opposed to secure government servers due to her failure to follow government policy, regardless of whether she had any intent for this to occur.

If Hillary Clinton were to be treated consistently as others have been treated who mishandled classified information (which I suspect will not be the case), she would be indicted. On the other hand, despite many conservative bloggers who dream of her going to prison, those indicted in situations comparable to her have been able to negotiate plea bargains which led to probation, fines, and loss of security clearance. It would create an awkward situation should Clinton be stripped of her security clearance and then be nominated by a major party as a candidate for president.

Update: The Washington Post reports on why the Clinton camp is getting nervous about this story:

The FBI’s interest in Clinton’s e-mail system arose after the intelligence community’s inspector general referred the issue to the Justice Department on July 6. Intelligence officials have expressed concern that some sensitive information was not in the government’s possession and that Clinton’s unusual e-mail system could have “compromised” secrets.

That investigation, still preliminary, is focusing on how to contain any damage from classified information that might have been put at risk. Officials have said that Clinton is not a target. But, according to legal experts, this type of security review can turn into a criminal investigation if there is evidence that someone intentionally mishandled government secrets…

The issues around Clinton’s e-mails have also intensified as it has become clear that a number of her statements defending her actions now appear to be false.

As she did that Sunday in Iowa, Clinton has said multiple times that she never sent or received any e-mails containing information that was classified at the time.

But the intelligence community’s inspector general, reviewing a small sample of Clinton’s private e-mails, has contradicted that claim. While the e-mails may not have been marked that way, they contained classified information. The IG said this week that he had discovered information in two e-mails that intelligence agencies considered to be top secret, the highest category of classification…

The controversy highlights one of the problems with Clinton’s decision to use her own e-mail system during her four years running the State Department.

At many agencies that handle sensitive information, discussions of classified material and sharing of classified documents must take place on specially secure classified computers. The government protections don’t extend to private accounts.

Other Cabinet secretaries have been known to use private accounts, including one of Clinton’s predecessors, Colin Powell.

State Department rules require employees to “use, hold, process, or store classified material in data and word processing systems . . . only under conditions that will prevent unauthorized persons from gaining access,” according to the agency’s Foreign Affairs Manual. A 2009 executive order also specifies that classified information “may not be removed from official premises without proper authorization.”

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Lawrence Lessig–Long Time Critic Of Clinton’s Ethics–May Run For Democratic Nomination

Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and prominent government reform activist, has stated he plans to run for the Democratic nomination, provided he can raise one million dollars by Labor Day. He says that if elected he would only remain in office long enough to enact government reforms, and then turn over the job to his vice president. He has suggested Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders as possible running mates:

“Until we find a way to fix the rigged system, none of the other things that people talk about doing are going to be possible,” Lessig said in an interview with The Washington Post, borrowing a phrase that has become Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s rallying cry. “We have this fantasy politics right now where people are talking about all the wonderful things they’re going to do while we know these things can’t happen inside the rigged system.”

In the interview, conducted by phone on Monday ahead of his announcement, Lessig said he would serve as president only as long as it takes to pass a package of government reforms and then resign the office and turn the reins over to his vice president. He said he would pick a vice president “who is really, clearly, strongly identified with the ideals of the Democratic Party right now,” offering Warren as one possibility. He said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whom he considers a friend and has drawn huge crowds in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, was another option…

The singular focus of Lessig’s campaign would be passing the Citizens Equality Act, a package of reforms that would guarantee the freedom to vote with automatic registration, end partisan gerrymandering and fund campaigns with a mix of small-dollar donations and public funds.

Lessig has noted that Bernie Sanders has many of the same goals, but objects that this is not his top priority.

In contrast, Lessig has often criticized the ethics of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. In 2008, in explaining his endorsement of Barack Obama, Lessig criticized Bill Clinton for his “consistent refusal to stand up for for what were strong principles, at least as he articulated them, in his campaign.” He expressed fears that with Hillary there “are things to make one suspect that she lets principle yield in the face of expedience.” He condemned Hillary for her “lack of moral character, moral courage” and criticized Hillary Clinton’s conduct during the 2008 campaign, accusing her of dishonesty and “swiftboating” Barack Obama.

More recently Lessig has been critical of Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State in accepting contributions to the Foundation and unusually high speaking fees for Bill Clinton from those with business before her as Secretary of State:

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

I quoted additional criticism by Lessig of Clinton’s conduct here.

It is hard to see this campaign really going anywhere. Those who have concerns about corruption in government are increasingly backing Bernie Sanders, and would not be likely to vote for Lessig over Sanders in the primaries. I think it would make more sense for Lessig to speak out on these issues while backing Sanders, and pushing Sanders to place greater emphasis on government reform in his campaign. There are many potential supporters of Sanders who are interested in issues beyond his economic platform, including government reform, support for civil liberties, and opposition to the greater military interventionism supported by Clinton.

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Endorsements For Bernie Sanders & Speculation About Joe Biden

Sanders Endorsement Ben Cohen

Bernie Sanders has landed a huge endorsement–from Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s. ABC News reports:

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has landed the sweetest food endorsement so far of the 2016 election cycle: Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s.

The ice cream magnate spoke Sunday to a gymnasium of supporters in Franklin, New Hampshire, telling them “as a person who has been his constituent for the last 30 years, I can tell you: this guy is the real thing.”

In an interview with ABC News, Cohen explained his involvement.

“Finally, there’s a politician worth working for,” he said with a grin. “So I’m working for him.”

Bernie Sanders Ben & Jerrys Ice Cream

Friends of the Earth Action also endorsed Sanders on Saturday:

“He has proven himself a bold and fearless voice for the planet,” said Friends of the Earth Action President Erich Pica. “Sen. Sanders’ bold ideas and real solutions to addressing climate change, inequality and promoting a transformative economy that prioritizes public health and the environment over corporate profits, have earned him an enthusiastic endorsement from Friends of the Earth Action.”

Hillary Clinton received a ton of endorsements from party regulars who have a poor memory for eight years ago back when her nomination was considered to be inevitable. There is talk that some are now questioning their decision after seeing how poor a job Clinton is doing as a campaigner, how she is being damaged by scandals, and how support for her is rapidly falling. This includes polls showing that a majority do not find her trustworthy, and that she is doing poorly in the battleground states.

Hillary Clinton is rapidly becoming out of place in a Democratic Party which is becoming far more an Elizabeth Warren party than the old Bill Clinton/Triangulation/DLC Party. Being an outsider from the Democratic establishment is one of Bernie Sanders’ greatest strengths as a general election candidate, but such an outsider will have a real uphill battle for the nomination.

Maureen Dowd reminded readers in Sunday’s column that Beau Biden urged his father to run for president before dying. This got many people all excited, as those who are starting to panic about the prospects of a tainted Hillary Clinton running in the general election realized that there is an establishment candidate available.

Biden would be yet another candidate running to the left of Hillary Clinton. While this means he might divide the liberal vote and help Clinton, there is also a strong likelihood he could divide the establishment vote and help Sanders. I see this as win-win.

It would be great if his entry helps Sanders win. On the other hand, if it turns out that the Democratic establishment is too powerful to allow this, Biden would be far preferable to Clinton. Besides being a stronger campaigner and far more fit ethically to be president than Clinton, there are issues which do separate them. While both were wrong to vote to authorize force in Iraq, Clinton pushed for war far more strongly, including making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Biden often opposed Clinton’s push for greater military intervention when Secretary of State. Plus Biden is far more liberal on social issues. Biden did not join up with the religious right as Clinton did in the Senate, and it was Biden who pushed Obama to “evolve” on same-sex marriage.

Howard Fineman has a list of seven reasons why Biden might run. The most interesting is the second:

2. The Clintons

The vice president had a mostly cordial relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and his longtime role as a champion of women’s rights amplifies his appreciation for the former first lady.

But, privately, he looks down on what he regards as a political/money-making machine. He sees the Clintons as far more interested in cash and clout than in doing good. “They’re everything he hates about the way politics operates today,” said one friend.

Biden may conclude that he is the only person in the party who can stop a Clinton return to the White House. If he enters the race, he will at least further complicate Hillary’s already dreary slog towards the Democratic nomination.

Sanders was asked by ABC News what he thought of Biden entering the race:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said he’s “very fond” of Vice President Joe Biden, but that “the American people… want to go beyond conventional establishment politics.”

We are seeing a desire for someone outside of the conventional establishment in both parties as support soars for Bernie Sanders among the Democrats and Donald Trump among the Republicans. Of course only one of these two men would make an acceptable president.

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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.

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Hillary Clinton Going For A Do-Over

Clinton Announcement Video Screen Grab

Hillary Clinton is reportedly launching her campaign tomorrow. I thought she had already done this. I guess that the last launch went so badly that she wants a do-over. Sure can’t blame her. She is falling in the polls. Her favorability and trust are damaged from serious scandals. She can’t handle questions from the news media. Many liberals are not buying her selective and limited attempts to try to sound like a progressive. As Bernie Sanders has said of her listening tour, “at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” Martin O’Malley has often pointed out that it is not necessary to pull him to the left like it is with Hillary Clinton. A speech will not change Clinton’s fundamentally conservative views on Wall Street, use of military force, civil liberties, the environment, and social issues.

Most likley Clinton will have a good sounding speech tomorrow, regardless of whether it lacks substance. The Note has some information on what to expect:

CLINTON TO UNVEIL TALK-ABOUT-HER-MOM STRATEGY AT FIRST CAMPAIGN RALLY: Hillary Clinton spent the opening weeks of her campaign addressing policy issues like criminal justice reform, voting rights, and equal pay for women. But as Clinton transitions to a new, more intense phase of her campaign, expect her to get personal. At Clinton’s first official campaign rally this Saturday in New York City, aides say the Democratic presidential candidate will make her most extensive pitch yet on why she should be president. And her late mother, Dorothy Rodham, will play a central role. “No one had a bigger influence on my life or did more to shape the person I became,” Clinton wrote of her mother in her most recent memoir, “Hard Choices.” According to ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ, at Clinton’s rally this weekend, where Bill and Chelsea Clinton are expected to make their first official campaign appearances, Clinton will explain how her mother’s story has motivated her to run for president. http://abcn.ws/1Iy11oL

–BACKSTORY: Over the years Clinton has often shared her mother’s life story, which was full of trauma and abuse. In Clinton’s telling, Dorothy Rodham was abandoned by her parents as a young girl and sent to live with her unloving paternal grandparents in California. At the age of 14 she left home and found work as a housekeeper.

–WHAT TEAM CLINTON IS SAYING: “She is a well-known figure but when you’re asking the American people to support you as president, even if it is for the second time, there is no skipping of steps,” Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri said in a statement. “If you want to understand Hillary Clinton, and what has motivated her career of fighting for kids and families, her mother is a big part of the story. The example she learned from her mother’s story is critical to knowing what motivated Hillary Clinton to first get involved in public service, and why people can count on her to fight for them and their families now.”

Wait a minute! Her campaign says, “there is no skipping of steps?” What about answering questions from the press? Isn’t that usually a step, as opposed to a campaign full of scripted performances with selected supporters? And what about speaking out on the big issues of the day? Isn’t that normally a step for a presidential candidate? What does she think of NSA surveillance, the situation in Iraq, or the trade agreements in the news, not to mention lots of other issues I and others have questions about? Rick Klein did reflect on this in the same post:

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: As the House votes, probably but finally, on President Obama’s trade agenda, it’s useful to take stock of what the fight has done to the Democratic Party and its 2016 debate. For starters, as Sen. Bernie Sanders pointed out Thursday, the trade issue has not divided the progressive community so much as it has cleaved it from more moderate, pro-business Democrats — including, of course, the White House. Howard Dean‘s brother, Jim, speaking on behalf of Democracy for America, warned Democrats who vote for fast-track negotiating authority or Trade Adjustment Assistance that “we will encourage our progressive allies to join us in leaving you to rot.” Yes, rot. It’s going to take more than a presidential trip to a baseball game to unwind comments like that. As for 2016, Hillary Clinton’s decision to not engage — and not even take a firm position — is itself a policy stance that has frustrated liberals along the way. But they don’t seem to have penetrated the debate in a way that’s made the Clinton campaign reconsider. The fact that a debate that’s torn Democrats apart to the point that they’re threatening to let each other “rot” has played out without the participation of the overwhelming frontrunner for president is nothing short of remarkable.

Yes, Hillary Clinton has learned to out-Nixon Richard Nixon. If Nixon’s downfall was his tapes, the lesson Clinton learned while working on Watergate was not “do not be a crook” but was to burn the tapes, or wipe the server. While Richard Nixon ran on a secret plan to end the Viet Nam war, Clinton just refuses to speak about the issues where she has problems.

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Clinton Criticized For Remaining Silent On Major Issues & Giving False Illusion Of A Move To The Left

Clinton wink

“at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” –Bernie Sanders on Hillary Clinton’s listening tour

While Clinton’s opponents such as Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders meeting with the press and are willing to answer questions as to what they believe (including Bernie Sanders in his interview on NPR this week), Hillary Clinton is receiving increased skepticism and criticism from some liberals for evading questions and avoiding the press. She has made a show of speaking out on selected topics, but often leaves out key details and refuses to answer questions on other key subjects. At Vox, Jonathan Allen makes some of the same points I made in this recent post in an article entitled The selective liberalism of Hillary Clinton:

There’s a term for the way Hillary Clinton has handled policy in the early stages of her campaign: Clintonian. That is, on the issues that most divide the Democratic base from its centrist wing, she refuses to box herself into a position. She’d rather wait to see how things play out — a tendency that reinforces the often asserted (but sometimes unfair) criticism that she doesn’t have core convictions. She’s thrilled that fast-food workers are fighting for a $15 minimum wage, but she won’t say whether she’ll fight for it — or even whether she thinks that’s the right level.

She’s decidedly undecided on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, even though she called it “the gold standard in trade agreements” when she was secretary of state.

And her campaign has completely dodged the question of whether she thinks her husband’s welfare reform law was the right policy.It’s true that Clinton has rolled out a string of positions that please constituencies on the left, from support for LGBT rights and voting rights to repudiating the results of her husband’s 1994 anti-crime law and vowing to enhance President Obama’s executive action on immigration. These are important issues, perhaps more important than the exact level of a wage increase that surely won’t be $15 an hour as long as Republicans control either the House or 41 seats in the Senate. But Clinton has been very selective about how she’s courted her party’s progressive base, speaking as much to identity politics as to actual policy. On some of the more controversial policy questions, she’s taking a pass. As Ruth Marcus put it in the Washington Post Wednesday morning, “The left-leaning positions she isn’t taking are as significant as the ones she has endorsed.”

The full post discussed Clinton’s honesty problem and contrasted her with Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. It concluded:

It’s tempting to think that Clinton has plenty of time because it’s early in the presidential election cycle or because her Democratic rivals probably don’t have what it takes to beat her in a primary. But by sidestepping important policy questions, she’s giving oxygen to doubts about her sincerity. That’s a character question that should be familiar to Clinton fans who watched Barack Obama turn honesty into a weapon against her in 2008, and it’s one that crosses party lines. Ultimately, Clinton is going to have to choose a side on these issues. The longer she takes, the more it looks like she’s afraid of commitment.

In the op-ed mentioned above, Ruth Marcus described Clinton’s leftward illusion. A.B. Stoddard has similar comments at The Hill, noting that on multiple current issues, “Clinton has been silent.”

This week in particular, the president Clinton hopes to replace — if she can break the historical trend that has allowed a party to win a third consecutive term in the White House only once since 1948 — is on edge. President Obama is simultaneously awaiting the outcome of a House vote on trade promotion authority, negotiations on a nuclear deal and a Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act that could potentially dismantle the country’s healthcare system. On all of these issues Clinton has been silent.

On Wednesday Obama announced a shift in his strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), sending 450 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to bolster the training of defense forces there. Since announcing her plans to run for president, Clinton has said little of the burgeoning wars in Iraq and Syria, except that she was wrong to support the 2003 war in Iraq and that, in the face of ISIS gaining strength and territory, it will be up to the Iraqis to protect their own country.

On trade, Democrats supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal are being slammed by the AFL-CIO and other labor groups for backing Obama on the measure. Meanwhile Clinton, who helped negotiate the agreement and promoted it during her tenure as secretary of State as “the gold standard” of trade deals, has taken little heat from Big Labor. Though it is clear she has access to every detail and Obama could use her help to pass the TPP, she continues to insist she can’t pass judgment until she sees the final product.

Clinton has worked hard to avoid the press since announcing her candidacy. And because of this, her ramp-up has been mostly defined by critical news stories about: the Clinton Foundation and the connection between its donors, both Clintons’ speaking gigs and lack of disclosure of donations; her violation of an agreement limiting those donations while she worked as secretary of State; who lobbied the department during her tenure after giving to the foundation; how Bill Clinton hid some money to avoid disclosure; and how Hillary Clinton placed most of her government work at the State Department on a private email server she has now destroyed. Her favorability ratings are now below 50 percent, 57 percent of voters don’t believe she is trustworthy, and the huge leads she held over potential GOP presidential candidates have shrunk to just a few points.

Clinton doesn’t like answering questions, so she likes to say the campaign isn’t about her, it’s all about the voters. That might be fine this year because she believes no one can defeat her for the Democratic nomination, but next year in the general election it will actually be about her. Support for same-sex marriage, debt-free college, campaign finance reform and more access to early voting may be appealing to her base, but they aren’t the most urgent issues. She should find the guts to confront them soon if she really wants to be president.

As Bernie Sanders said about Clinton this week, “at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” Besides these policy matters (and many others I’ve brought up from time to time which are not in the headlines), there remain many unanswered questions about the recent scandals, including those involving the Clinton Foundation. Chris Cillizia looked at Bill Clinton’s latest comments defending his actions and points out that Clinton still does not get it:

This is the latest in a string of statements by the former president that suggest he still doesn’t grasp why the Clinton Foundation questions continue to swirl and, because of that lack of understanding, remains unable to effectively parry them. Let’s go through the problems with Clinton’s answer.

First, there’s little doubt that some of the donations accepted by the Clinton Foundation have been viewed as objectionable by lots and lots of people. To cite one example: Allowing the Qatar Supreme 2022 Committee, organized to lure the World Cup to the nation, to serve as the main sponsor for a 2013 Clinton Global Initiative event. Qatar has been tied to not only allegations of wide-scale bribery of FIFA to acquire the games but is also the subject of widespread humanitarian concerns regarding the number of deaths related to the construction of the soccer stadiums to host the World Cup in 2022.

So, on its face, the claim that no one has come forward to object to certain donations/donors is just not right.

Then there is the fact that Clinton’s answer on the foundation seems to be based on the idea that he and his wife are operating in a legal sphere for the next two years. They’re not. They’re living in the world of politics — and the rules of that world are far different than those of a court of law.

Clinton’s argument boils down to the idea of a burden of proof. As in, if there’s something truly objectionable in what the foundation has done, then someone should prove it.  Legally speaking, Clinton’s right.  If you think he or the foundation broke some sort of law, then you should need to provide conclusive evidence of when, where, why, what and how.

But  of course, what we are mostly talking about when it comes to the Clinton Foundation is the gray area between contributions made by donors and decisions made by the foundation that benefited those people.  Proving that sort of quid pro quo in a legal setting is virtually impossible barring a smoking gun — like an e-mail that says: “Mr. X gave $300,000.  Let’s fund his project now.”

In politics, however, gray areas can be exploited to great advantage by your political opponents. Raising questions about the timing between donations to the Clinton Foundation and decisions made that lined the pockets of those donors is totally within the bounds of acceptable — and effective — negative messaging.  Republicans don’t need to prove that the Clinton Foundation did anything untoward. The burden of proof that there was no wrongdoing lies with the Clinton Foundation.

That reality clearly annoys Bill Clinton, and somewhat understandably. After all, the Clinton Foundation is a massive operation and, as Bill likes to point out, does lots and lots of work that has nothing to do with politics. “Do I have the most comprehensive disclosure of any presidential foundation? Yes,” Clinton said in that same Bloomberg interview. “Is our — our disclosures more extensive than most private foundations? Yes, they are, having nothing to do with politics.” (Sidebar: It’s not clear that Clinton’s claim about the foundation’s disclosure policies is totally accurate.)

Here’s the problem for Bill: No other foundation in the world is run by a former president and a former secretary of state who also happens to be the de facto Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. That fact means that the Clinton Foundation isn’t like any other foundation in the world — and  therefore, how all of those other foundations treat disclosure is sort of immaterial.

It also remains significant that Hillary Clinton had agreed to disclose donors to the Foundation when she was Secretary of State, and then failed to do so.

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