Turkey of the Day: Trump Ignoring Intelligence Briefings Since Election

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The Washington Post reports that Donald Trump has been “turning away intelligence briefers since election win.”

President-elect Donald Trump has received two classified intelligence briefings since his surprise election victory earlier this month, a frequency that is notably lower — at least so far — than that of his predecessors, current and former U.S. officials said.

A team of intelligence analysts has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats to Trump in the two weeks since he won. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, by contrast, has set aside time for intelligence briefings almost every day since the election, officials said.

Officials involved in the Trump transition team cautioned against assigning any significance to the briefing schedule that the president-elect has set so far, noting that he has been immersed in the work of forming his administration, and has made filling key national security posts his top priority.

But others have interpreted Trump’s limited engagement with his briefing team as an additional sign of indifference from a president-elect who has no meaningful experience on national security issues and was dismissive of U.S. intelligence agencies’ capabilities and findings during the campaign.

A senior U.S. official who receives the same briefing delivered to President Obama each day said that devoting time to such sessions would help Trump get up to speed on world events.

“Trump has a lot of catching up to do,” the official said.

In contrast, George Bush received daily briefings, although they were delayed until December 5 due to the recount. Bill Clinton first started receiving intelligence briefings ten days after being elected, and then received them most working days. Obama also received regular intelligence briefings:

After his election in 2008, President Obama took part not only in regular intelligence briefings but also scheduled “deep dives” on key subjects including Iran’s nuclear program and covert CIA operations, including the accelerating campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan.

“During the transition, President Obama was an avid consumer of intelligence,” said retired Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was CIA director when Obama was elected.

I guess Trump thinks he is so smart that he doesn’t need those briefings–or he plans to have Pence handle all this stuff.

Sanders And Warren Chosen For Democratic Party Leadership Positions

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at the California Democrats State Convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday, May 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Chuck Schumer, as expected, has been elected to succeed Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader.  The Democrats need to stop being a Republican-lite party if they are going to get more people to turn out to vote for them, and Schumer is not the person to bring about such a change in direction. At least there was some good news with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren being included in the Senate leadership. The Hill reports:

Sanders was named chairman of outreach during a closed-door Senate Democratic caucus meeting Wednesday morning.

In the role, Sanders will be in charge of reaching out to blue-collar voters who flocked to President-elect Donald Trump this year.

Sanders told reporters that he has a “heavy responsibility to help shape the priorities of the United States government.”

“I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class and not billionaires,” he said.

Elizabeth Warren was formerly a strategic policy adviser and has now been named vice chair of the conference.

The addition of Sanders and Warren to the leadership will give stronger voices to progressive economic views, but it is not clear how much influence they will actually have. I would also like to see signs that the Democratic Party planned to take a stand against military interventionism and mass surveillance, and in defense of civil liberties. Having Schumer as minority leader is not reassuring on these issues.  The Intercept recently described why Schumer is a poor choice for leader. Among the reasons:

  • He possesses the same impressive political acumen as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, sagely explaining “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”
  • Schumer’s done more than anyone except Bill and Hillary Clinton to intertwine Wall Street and the Democratic Party. He raises millions and millions of dollars from the finance industry, both for himself and for other Democrats. In return, he voted to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 and voted to bail out Wall Street in 2008. In between, he slashed fees paid by banks to the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay for regulatory enforcement, and eviscerated congressional efforts to crack down on rating agencies.
  • Schumer has long been the Democrats’ point man in efforts to craft a bipartisan deal to slash taxes on multinational corporations.
  • Schumer voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, and sponsored its predecessor, the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995. During a Senate hearing, Schumer explained that “it’s easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used. But when you’re in the foxhole, it’s a very different deal.” In certain cases, he said, “most senators” would say “do what you have to do.” Schumer also defended the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims across the region, which Trump has cited as a national model.
  • In October 2002, Schumer voted for the Iraq War by giving George W. Bush authority to invade. In a speech explaining his vote, Schumer warned of Iraq’s imaginary yet “vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.”
  • Schumer voted against Barack Obama’s deal to limit Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and potentially develop a nuclear weapons program.

The Democrats have done poorly in recent elections in which they did not have Barack Obama on the ballot, including the 2010 and 2014 midterms elections. They faced further setbacks as a result of choosing Hillary Clinton to be the nominee as opposed to having a fair nomination fight.

I have often said that this was an unusual election between two terrible candidates, with the party which loses the presidency likely to do better in the long run–assuming they learn from their defeat. Ron Elving of NPR has made an argument similar to what I have been saying as to why the Democrats might be better off with Clinton losing. He began by describing how Clinton would not be able to get very much done with Republicans controlling at least the House. I would add that, as unpopular as Clinton is now, she would probably be even more unpopular during the 2018 and 2020 elections. Elving went on to argue:

So we are imagining an uphill struggle for a Clinton re-election, especially given the outlook for Congress and the races in the states. And a defeat in 2020 would be disastrously timed for Democrats, because 2020 is also the date of the next census. The national headcount will launch the next round of redistricting, as the last was launched in 2010. If triumphant in that decennial year, the GOP could look forward to another decade of running downhill in most congressional and legislative elections…

So stop and think about it. Democrats simply cannot expect to move legislation again until they can regain control of Congress. And all signs are that it will take a Republican president, and voter dissatisfaction with a Republican president, to make the Democrats truly competitive in congressional races again…

So that builds pressure on 2020, a fortuitously numbered year that could be the next hinge in our political history. That could be an advantageous case of timing for the Democrats, a great year for a comeback for all the reasons it would have been a disastrous time for a punishing rejection.

All of this is mere projection, and it may not ease the pain of a narrow loss in a presidential election. But it paints a realistic picture of what would have come next. And for Democrats, the prospect of losing the presidency in 2020 would clearly be worse.

What Democrats have to do is adjust their thinking and their time frame. They should stop trying to maintain what they won the last decade (mostly in 2006 and 2008 while George W. Bush was still in the White House) and start thinking about how a Republican president can help them rebuild. They need to go back to the base and raise a new pyramid from the ground up, with a new generation of candidates and activists and motivators. There need to be new approaches to issues, new messages to take to the disaffected.

Having Clinton in the White House would probably lead to bigger Republican gains in 2020, including in the state governments which are responsible for redistricting. A Trump presidency is likely to result in the Democrats doing better in 2018 than if Clinton was president. It is unlikely they can retake control of the Senate with more Democrats up for reelection, but they will be in a better position to potentially take control of Congress and the presidency in 2020. They also have a far better chance to win victories in state elections without Hillary Clinton dragging down the Democratic Party, with votes for state government often being based upon the voters’ view of the president.

The question is whether Democrats can take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Republicans having Donald Trump in the White House, and being  responsible for what happens in light of their complete control of government. Listening to Sanders and Warren is a start in the right direction. We will not be happy with what comes out of the government for the next four years, but if the Democrats had won with Hillary Clinton we would probably be faced with a turn to the right under Clinton, and a more sustained turn to the far right after the probable Democratic loses in 2018 and the crucial 2020 election.

The Democrats Screwed Up In Nominating Clinton, But Now Have An Opportunity To Rebuild

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The loss of an election thought to be a sure bet for the Democrats has inevitably led to questions as to the future direction and leadership of the party. The loss by Clinton provides the opportunity for the party to finally break free of the strangling influence of the Clintons. The system which was designed to move the party to the center may have helped Bill Clinton win in 1992, but left the party with a candidate too out of touch to win in the 21st century. The Clintons kept the party in the past ideologically, and the corruption of Bill and Hillary, who used their influence to build their own personal fortunes, made it suicidal for the party to nominate her against a candidate who, although himself very highly flawed, was running against the corrupt system.

It is far too early to predict who will lead the party in 2020, but Juan Williams has quoted the conventional wisdom at The Hill:

Democrats need a revived party with a strong leader, as well as a clear message that allows them to stand as the loyal opposition to Trump Republicans.

One way to find the leader is to consider the best Democrat to run against Trump in 2020. International Business Times last week listed six names for the job: Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio); Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)…

In a Facebook post last Wednesday, liberal filmmaker Michael Moore urged activists to “take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people,” because “they have failed us miserably.”

“Any Democratic member of Congress who didn’t wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin,” Moore wrote.

The progressive populist wing of the Democratic Party, as currently led by Sanders and Warren, has a real opportunity in the coming months to execute a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party, just as Trump took over the Republicans last year.

Ben Kamisar has a longer list, with further information on some of the potential candidates for 2020. The more immediate question is over who will lead the Democratic National Committee. Keith Ellison has formally announced his candidacy, with support from Bernie Sanders as well as some party insiders including Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.

It is essential for Democrats to understand how huge a blunder it was to nominate Hillary Clinton, rather than blaming others as Clinton is, in order to avoid making the mistake of running Republican-lite candidates. You can’t blame James Comey for Clinton’s loss without recognizing that this ultimately comes back to show how serious a mistake it was to nominate a candidate who was involved in such a serious scandal. It was like nominating Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal broke, but many Democrats continue to pretend she has not done anything wrong.

While many Democrats are in denial, some pundits are trying to open their eyes. Thomas Frank (who has previously written about the conservative policies under Bill Clinton), pointed out why the nomination of Clinton brought about the election of Donald Trump:

Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton? Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment. An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.

She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Whether or not she would win was always a secondary matter, something that was taken for granted. Had winning been the party’s number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go. There was Joe Biden, with his powerful plainspoken style, and there was Bernie Sanders, an inspiring and largely scandal-free figure. Each of them would probably have beaten Trump, but neither of them would really have served the interests of the party insiders.

And so Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue – each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. They chose Hillary even though they knew about her private email server. They chose her even though some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation suspected it was a sketchy proposition.

To try to put over such a nominee while screaming that the Republican is a rightwing monster is to court disbelief. If Trump is a fascist, as liberals often said, Democrats should have put in their strongest player to stop him, not a party hack they’d chosen because it was her turn. Choosing her indicated either that Democrats didn’t mean what they said about Trump’s riskiness, that their opportunism took precedence over the country’s well-being, or maybe both.

Frank Bruni also wrote that The Democrats Screwed Up:

Democrats need to understand that, and they need to move past a complacency for which the Clintons bear considerable blame.

It’s hard to overestimate the couple’s stranglehold on the party — its think tanks, its operatives, its donors — for the last two decades. Most top Democrats had vested interests in the Clintons, and energy that went into supporting and defending them didn’t go into fresh ideas and fresh faces, who were shut out as the party cleared the decks anew for Hillary in 2016.

In thrall to the Clintons, Democrats ignored the copious, glaring signs of an electorate hankering for something new and different and instead took a next-in-line approach that stopped working awhile back. Just ask Mitt Romney and John McCain and John Kerry and Al Gore and Bob Dole. They’re the five major-party nominees before her who lost, and each was someone who, like her, was more due than dazzling.

After Election Day, one Clinton-weary Democratic insider told me: “I’m obviously not happy and I hate to admit this, but a part of me feels liberated. If she’d won, we’d already be talking about Chelsea’s first campaign. Now we can do what we really need to and start over.”

While he is right that nominating Clinton was a mistake, he still failed to understand the mood of the electorate, seeing Joe Biden as opposed to Bernie Sanders, as the best choice for the Democrats. While Biden would also have done better than Clinton, he was still not the ideal candidate for a change election.

Clintons Destroy Democratic Party (Again) Leaving Opening For New Leadership

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Bill Clinton lost a long-standing Democratic majority in Congress when he was president, and now Hillary Clinton has destroyed the Democratic party once again. Fortunately this does provide an opportunity we would not have had if Clinton had won. Under Clinton, the Democratic Party would be Republican-lite and hard core Republican/Neocon in further growing the warfare/surveillance state. Democrats have seen their power in both Congress and state governments dwindle over the past eight years as voters saw no reason to vote for their Republican-lite candidates as opposed to the actual Republicans. Seeing the voters reject Hillary Clinton, a consequence of choosing the wrong candidate, is finally leading to progressive Democrats fighting for control of the party. The Hill reports:

The Republican civil war was supposed to start this week.

Instead, a ferocious struggle has erupted on the left over the smoldering remains of the Democratic Party.

Liberals are seething over the election and talking about launching a Tea Party-style revolt. They say it’s the only way to keep Washington Democrats connected to the grassroots and to avoid a repeat of the 2016 electoral disaster, which blindsided party elites.

Progressives believe the Democratic establishment is responsible for inflicting Donald Trump upon the nation, blaming a staid corporate wing of the party for nominating Hillary Clinton and ignoring the Working Class voters that propelled Trump to victory.

Liberals interviewed by The Hill want to see establishment Democrats targeted in primaries, and the “Clinton-corporate wing” of the party rooted out for good.

The fight will begin over picking a new leader for the Democratic National Committee.

Progressives are itching to see the national apparatus reduced to rubble and rebuilt from scratch, with one of their own installed at the top.

Howard Dean is running for DNC Chair but anyone foolish enough to think that Hillary Clinton was an acceptable candidate for a major political party lacks the judgement for the position. Bernie Sanders is backing Keith Ellison. Many Clinton supporters are backing Jennifer Granholm. I might have accepted this in the past, but someone who has frequently defended Clinton’s unethical behavior would now be a poor choice.

Politico reports that the fight for control of the Democratic party extends to states with strong support for Bernie Sanders.

The revolution is back in business.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential bid are seizing on Democratic disarray at the national level to launch a wave of challenges to Democratic Party leaders in the states.

The goal is to replace party officials in states where Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton during the acrimonious Democratic primary with more progressive leadership. But the challenges also represent a reckoning for state party leaders who, in many cases, tacitly supported Clinton’s bid.

“I think the Bernie people feel very strongly that they were abused, somehow neglected during the primary process and the conventions,” said Severin Beliveau, a former Maine Democratic Party chairman who supported Sanders in the primary. “In Maine, for instance, where Bernie got 70 percent of the caucus vote, they are emboldened and in effect want to try to replace [Maine Democratic Party chairman] Phil Bartlett, who supported Clinton.”

Bernie Sanders wrote of his plans to continue to fight in The New York Times:

I will keep an open mind to see what ideas Mr. Trump offers and when and how we can work together. Having lost the nationwide popular vote, however, he would do well to heed the views of progressives. If the president-elect is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families, I’m going to present some very real opportunities for him to earn my support.

Let’s rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of well-paying jobs. Let’s raise the minimum wage to a living wage, help students afford to go to college, provide paid family and medical leave and expand Social Security. Let’s reform an economic system that enables billionaires like Mr. Trump not to pay a nickel in federal income taxes. And most important, let’s end the ability of wealthy campaign contributors to buy elections.

In the coming days, I will also provide a series of reforms to reinvigorate the Democratic Party. I believe strongly that the party must break loose from its corporate establishment ties and, once again, become a grass-roots party of working people, the elderly and the poor. We must open the doors of the party to welcome in the idealism and energy of young people and all Americans who are fighting for economic, social, racial and environmental justice. We must have the courage to take on the greed and power of Wall Street, the drug companies, the insurance companies and the fossil fuel industry.

I hope Sanders also addresses issues such as opposing interventionism, scaling back mass surveillance, and defending civil liberties. These are issues where Bernie is on our side, but which he does not emphasize as much as economic issues. Yesterday I did look at some who are continuing to fight for civil liberties should Donald Trump infringe upon them.

A loss in a general election does not have to be devastating for a political party. Republicans returned to power quickly after Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter. They also used their time in the wilderness after Barry Goldwater’s loss to build a new coalition based upon principles, although unfortunately the wrong principles. The Democratic Party now needs to do the same and rebuild as a party of principle to win back the presidency and state governments in 2020, in time for the next round of redistricting. The Democratic Party very well might become stronger, and at least more principled, in response to the defeat of Hillary Clinton.

The Five Percent Solution To This Year’s Awful Presidential Candidates

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This year we have had two dreadful candidates from the major political parties, giving us a choice of a corrupt warmonger and a racist buffoon. The major political parties failed to nominate acceptable candidates. Voting for Clinton is essentially a vote for war, while Trump has shown no coherent understanding of the issues and the results, of his election are quite unpredictable. Voting for one of them will only perpetuate the problem.

Hillary Clinton looks likely to win, leading in the polls, and showing an even stronger position in the electoral college. Clinton is only likely to win because the Republican alternative looks even worse to most voters. Despite leading in the polls, a majority of voters continue to have an unfavorable view of Clinton. There is no reason for the major political parties to offer better choices if they can win with the types of candidates they now offer.

Voting for a major party candidate this year means either returning to the horrors of the Bush years with Clinton, or the unacceptable choice of Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the neoconservative status quo. Fifteen years after the 9/11 attack we are in a state of never-ending war, with growth of the surveillance state and lack of respect for civil liberties and privacy. While Trump has entertained the idea of ending the drug war in the past, he has not raised this during the campaign. Clinton remains a hardliner on the drug war, and is probably too conservative on cultural issues to change. Bill Clinton moved the country to the right on many issues when president, and Hillary is probably more conservative than Bill.

The best solution is to vote third party. Historically third parties have been among the most effective ways to force the major parties to listen to outside views. In the twentieth century, Democrats often adopted progressive positions to avoid losing votes to third parties of the left.  Without that pressure, we are seeing the Democratic Party move steadily toward the right.

This year, only third party candidates such as Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party have shown any interest in issues such as reducing foreign interventionism, curtailing the surveillance state, or ending the drug war. Jill Stein also supports the progressive policies of Bernie Sanders, while Johnson has problems on numerous issues.

Voting third party is not about whether you can win. In most states it is clear only one candidate can win. Nobody would expect all voters to vote for Clinton in blue states and Trump in red. Democracy is about voting based about your principles, not based upon who is likely to win.

It is not even necessary to win the election for a vote to have meaning. For third parties, it is about reaching 5% this year so that they can get matching funds and help with future ballot access. Jill Stein has reached 4 percent in one recent poll, and could reach 5 percent if more Sanders supporters would turn out to vote for her. Gary Johnson has exceeded 5 percent in multiple polls, and has an even better chance of achieving 5 percent in the election. State laws differ, but better results this year can also provide ballot access in the next election. The third parties can more effectively raise issues if they both have more money and do not have to devote as much effort to simply getting on the ballot.

This isn’t about whether a third party candidate can win as there are huge benefits for a third party to reach 5 percent, which is possibly achievable even if victory is not this year. It isn’t even about whether you want Jill Stein or Gary Johnson specifically to be president. Neither will be, and the vote is really for their party platforms and to influence the direction of politics in the future.

FBI Twitter Feed Gone Rogue?

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Following the controversy regarding James Comey after last week’s announcement, there was a much stranger development as an FBI twitter feed started dumping links to a large amount of old material. This included material related to Donald Trump’s father and Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich, along with a large amount of other material. Many pro-Clinton sites posted misleading accounts making it appear that the feed was releasing links related to Clinton alone.

While there were legitimate reasons for Comey to have sent the letter to Congress regarding new evidence related to Hillary Clinton’s email, there would be no legitimate reason to release information related to Bill Clinton’s pardon of Rich at this particular time. This is old news and the release could have been kept separate from the election. The question is whether this is an intentional attempt to harm Hillary Clinton or some sort of misguided release of large amounts of information to the public at an inopportune time.

If intentional, this would also strengthen an argument I previously made that Comey could not have avoided discussion of the resumption of the investigation into Hillary Clinton as it was likely the information would have come out regardless of what Comey had done.

The FBI has responded to questions regarding the Twitter releases with a statement: “Per the standard procedure for FOIA, these materials became available for release and were posted automatically and electronically to the FBI’s public reading room in accordance with the law and established procedures.” However, that does not explain the timing.

Think Progress reports that the FBI is initiating an investigation, as it should. It would be improper, and very likely a crime, if someone did release this old information now with the intent to affect the election.

Besides coming during the debate over Comey’s announcement, there are also a number of questions being raised about inside disputes between the Department of Justice and the FBI, reportedly with disagreements between career and political appointees as to whether Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted. This infighting includes  questions surrounding the Clinton Foundation in addition to the email scandal. While Clinton clearly violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, it is a different question as to whether her actions, and actions of others at the Foundation, could be successfully prosecuted. Bret Baier of Fox News claims that “sources in the FBI have told him that indictment is likely in the case of pay-for-play at the Clinton Foundation” unless prevented by the Justice Department. This cannot be independently verified.

Hillary Clinton’s Nixonian Attacks On The Rule Of Law

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There have been many disturbing things to come out of this election, from both sides. This includes the racism, xenophobia, and misogyny from Donald Trump, and the McCarthyism from Hillary Clinton in her attempts to distract from her own transgressions and attacks on opponents by raising Russia. The latest outrage of the campaign has been the attacks on James Comey from Clinton and her supporters after last week’s announcement.

The Clinton attacks on Comey are a direct attack on the rule of law. They remind me of the Saturday Night Massacre when Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox, attempting to block the Watergate investigation. The attacks are purely politically motivated. There is no doubt that if Comey had made a statement regarding an investigation into Donald Trump, the same Democrats would be applauding Comey, and would have been appalled if Trump had criticized Comey. The Clintons had no objection when a Republican was indicted four days before the election in 1992, in what was seen by some as an attempt to sway the election in Bill Clinton’s favor.

The partisan nature of how Comey’s announcement is being interpreted is verified in a Morning Consult poll. The New York Times reports:

In an online Morning Consult poll of approximately 3,200 registered voters, only 19 percent agreed with the statement that prosecutors should wait until after Election Day to make announcements about investigations concerning political figures or elected officials. Instead, 60 percent agreed that prosecutors should be able to make announcements about investigations concerning political figures or elected officials close to Election Day even if it might affect the election. (Another 21 percent said they don’t know or had no opinion.)

Not surprisingly, these results differ along partisan lines. Democrats were five times more likely than Republicans to say prosecutors should wait to make announcements about political figures (33 percent versus 6 percent). Conversely, people who identified as Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to endorse the idea of announcing cases before elections (79 percent versus 47 percent).

To understand the extent to which partisanship affects people’s opinions on the issue, Morning Consult asked the same question to three randomly selected groups. The first group saw a generic statement without reference to Mrs. Clinton or Donald J. Trump, which yielded the results described above. Other groups were prompted with either a statement about the F.B.I. inquiry into Mrs. Clinton or one about the New York attorney general’s investigation into the practices of Mr. Trump’s foundation.

When the investigation into Mrs. Clinton was mentioned before the question, partisans differed by almost 50 percentage points in their attitude toward pre-election disclosures, which were endorsed by 83 percent of Republicans but just 34 percent of Democrats — an even larger gap than observed with the generic prompt. By contrast, mentioning Mr. Trump’s foundation eliminated the gap between the parties in support for publicizing investigations, which was backed by 57 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of Republicans.

The lesson from these findings is clear: The public wants to know everything it can about the candidates in advance, especially if they are from the other party.

***

In related news, Jon Stewart attacked Donald Trump at a charity event over the matters I mentioned in the opening paragraph.

In follow-up of a post yesterday, Foreign Policy columnist James Bamford, provides further reason to cast doubt on the Clinton conspiracy theories linking Donald Trump and Russia.

Walker Bragman  looks at the reaction to Comey’s statement for Paste Magazine and wrote, If Trump Wins Due to the FBI’s October Surprise, Hillary Clinton Has Nobody to Blame But Herself. He pointed out how Clinton did this to herself by using the private server (violating rules then in effect), the DNC made matters worse in how they tilted the election towards Clinton (in violation of party rules), that Comey had no better options than to handle this as he did, and that Clinton is setting a dangerous precedent in her attacks on Comey. He concluded:

Put another way, an embattled candidate for public office who happens to be under criminal investigation by the FBI for mistakes she made is using the court of public opinion to intimidate the agency’s director. If Clinton succeeds, and the agency is in any way influenced in its investigation, she will have truly damaged American democracy, establishing different rules for public figures. The whole point of our justice system is its impartiality, and it will be utterly compromised.

Even if Comey’s actions turn out to be politically motivated—in which case he will have committed an egregious offense—Clinton’s actions are troubling.

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Wikileaks Exposes Clinton, Inc

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Defenders of the Clintons and the shady operations surrounding the Clinton Foundation have often defended their actions with claims that the Clintons did not profit personally from money raised by the Foundation. Such arguments were always questionable considering the vast fortune accumulated from speaking fees, but now Wikileaks has provided evidence of even more direct financial benefits for the Clintons. The Note reports:

–A PEEK INSIDE ‘CLINTON, INC.’: A 12-page memo attached to an email released on Wikileaks Wednesday from a longtime aide to President Bill Clinton seems to provide a step-by-step road-map to how advisers raised millions of dollars for the Clinton Foundation, former President Clinton, and the Clinton family after he left the White House, ABC’s MARYALICE PARKS notes. The purported memo from Doug Band details how he and his team locked in lucrative speaking deals for Bill Clinton and how he leveraged his work at his global consulting firm, Teneo Strategies, to persuade clients to also contribute to the Clinton Foundation. Band describes his work lining up for-profit business and in-kind services for Clinton as essentially running “Bill Clinton, Inc.” “We also have solicited and obtained, as appropriate, in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like,” Band purportedly wrote in the document.

–BACKSTORY: Previously released emails, dated just days prior to this memo, seem to show Band expressing concern over the conflated, tangled and confused web of personnel roles and money in the Clinton world, citing, for example, his opinion that Chelsea Clinton was running a business out of the family foundation office. He seems to urge more clearly defined roles and conflict of interest documents.

–ANALYSIS –ABC’s RICK KLEIN: John Podesta’s hacked emails have provided enough raw material to fill a bookshelf with campaign retrospectives. We now have a picture of fierce internal debates over how to handle Hillary Clinton’s paid-speech transcripts, emerging primary challenges from the left, and of course how to handle the matter of her email server. (“There Is Just No Good Answer,” Philippe Reines wrote to Podesta and several other top aides, with dramatic spacing for effect.) But the peek behind the curtain is perhaps nowhere more revealing than in the warfare revealed between Chelsea Clinton and top Bill Clinton aide Doug Band over the Clinton Foundation and the web of personal and business connections that grew around it. A memo out this week via Wikileaks has Band describing what he labeled “Bill Clinton Inc.,” describing his work to secure “in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like,” in addition to highly paid speeches to private enterprises. This is the kind of operation the Clintons’ critics have long warned about – with revolving doors, intersecting public and private interests, and opportunities for lined pockets all around. Donald Trump this week was criticized for taking a break from his campaign to attend to and hype business matters. Inside Clinton Inc., that doesn’t look so out of the ordinary.

It was probably not illegal to solicit gifts in exchange for access to Bill Clinton when he was a private citizen, but it was a different matter when he was married to the Secretary of State and receiving payments from parties which Hillary Clinton was making decisions regarding. Many also made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. It was also rather shady to be soliciting gifts when his wife was planning to run for president.

Final Presidential Debate Shows Neither Candidate Is Acceptable

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The final presidential debate (transcript here, with fact checking) provided further confirmation that neither major party candidate is fit to be president, but Hillary Clinton is a far better debater than Donald Trump. Even when Trump had a valid point against Clinton, he lacked the ability to stay on target, drifting into irrelevances and lacking a sufficient command of the pertinent facts. On the other hand, I wish the debate included a split screen–one showing Clinton delivering her public policy, and the other revealing her private policy.

It was fitting that the final debate took place in Sin City. Donald Trump reportedly invited the woman who accused Bill Clinton of groping her to the debate. He dwells too much on things that don’t matter. Who is going to vote against Hillary (that otherwise would vote for her) based upon Bill’s sexual indiscretions? It just is not relevant.

Chris Wallace, who might have done the best job of the debate moderators, did start out with real issues. Clinton was far better than Trump on abortion and guns. Trump apparently has no idea how rare late term abortions are, or the reasons they usually occur. Like many Republicans, he does not appear to realize that the Bill of Rights includes anything beyond the Second Amendment, although Clinton also has a rather poor record on civil liberties. Trump was also his usual atrocious self when the debate turned to immigration. When Trump complained about Justice Ginsberg  making  “statements that should have never, ever been made,” I only thought that Donald Trump is the last person to be able to complain about “statements that should have never, ever been made.”

Clinton was not as bad in terms of evading the questions as she was during the second debate, but that is largely due to the types of questions asked. When she was asked about the emails released by Wikileaks, she pivoted to attack Russia. The leaks may or may not have been due to Russia, but her attacks on Russia remind me all too much of the attacks on Saddam for imaginary WMD by Bush, and false claims by Hillary Clinton of connections between Saddam and al Qaeda. What is important is the content of the leaks, and the dishonesty they revealed about Clinton. Besides, the United States is certainly not above comparable spying and interference in other countries, and I fear Clinton is misusing this matter as part of the overall neocon view on Russia.

Clinton’s belligerence towards Russia, and the increased threat of war, should be one of the major issues of the campaign. Trump would be preferable in his desire for cooperation with Russia if he wasn’t completely incoherent on foreign policy. Instead of rationally debating Clinton on this issue, his argument consisted of  “No puppet. You’re the puppet.”

Trump was right on pointing out how Clinton avoided the question of the content of the Wikileaks email, but rather than push the issue, he resorted to his usual nonsense of how Clinton refers to “radical Islamic terrorism,” as if saying the right magic words are needed to defeat them.

As the debate went on, Clinton called for equal pay for equal work, with no explanation for the huge pay gap at the Clinton Foundation which was exposed by Wikileaks. Trump was right in calling out Clinton for her flip-flops on TPP which were exposed by the fact checkers. When Trump was confronted by all the women who have accused him of assaulting them, he was the one to evade and pivot, returning to Clinton’s email.

Both candidates attacked the integrity of the other, and both were right here.  Clinton violated the ethics agreements she entered into when she was confirmed as Secretary of State, while Trump appears to have used his far shadier for bribes. Clinton again ignored the significance of the FBI report showing considerable dishonesty on her part when this was raised, and either Wallace or Trump should have brought up the State Department Inspector General report which showed she violated the rules, failed to cooperate with the investigation, and tried to cover-up her actions.

Clinton said she was going to “continue to push for a no-fly zone” in Syria, but there was no discussion of the large number of deaths this would result in, or the risk of a direct confrontation with Russia.  Initiating a no-fly zone would be a tremendous military undertaking. Just last month, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before Congress that imposing a no-fly zone “would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia.” Clinton admitted that “you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians” in one of her leaked Goldman-Sachs speeches.

The sad thing about the debate, and the entire campaign, is that such major issues of war and peace are being ignored, while the media dwells on the latest stupid thing said by Donald Trump–such as whether Donald Trump will accept the election result. This statement, while imprudent and potentially ominous, is hardly unprecedented. The real story of the election is not sexual misconduct, as reprehensible as Trump’s actions were, but the fact that our democracy has devolved to a point where we are given a choice of an ignorant buffoon like Trump or a corrupt war-monger like Clinton–with alternative viewpoints not welcome.

Presidential Campaign Gets Even Sleazier

hillary-clinton-lesbian-sex-claims

It is bad enough that the election campaign has become dominated by stories of Donald Trump sexually assaulting women. Now the National Enquirer is preparing to run a story on Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton is a secret sex freak who paid fixers to set up illicit romps with both men AND women!

That’s the blockbuster revelation from a former Clinton family operative who is sensationally breaking ranks with his one-time bosses to speak to The National ENQUIRER in a bombshell 9-page cover story — on newsstands Wednesday.

The big question is whether they have any evidence of this. Before entirely dismissing the story, we have to keep in mind that they turned out to be right about John Edwards.

Even if the story turns out to be true, there are two key differences between this story and the stories on Donald Trump. First, we have multiple reports regarding Donald Trump, with some people corroborating the stories, and with Trump’s own statements lending credibility to them. Secondly, as far as we know, any actions Clinton is going to be accused of are consensual, in contrast to some of the stories about Trump.

There have been claims that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian from conservatives for quite a long time, without evidence. If the Enquirer does provide evidence to confirm this, it is not all that terribly significant as long as the story is only about consensual sex. We certainly can’t blame Hillary for cheating on Bill. However, it would be an interesting footnote to Clinton’s history of opposition to same-sex marriage until it became politically more convenient to change her view, and Bill’s history of running an anti-gay ad when politically convenient, but this type of hypocrisy is hardly unique from politicians.