Questions On Clinton Foundation Contributions And Speaking Fees May Bring About Further Fall In Polls For Clinton

Recent coverage of the Clinton scandals will hopefully put an end to the conservative myth of a liberal media which will lie and twist the news to promote Democratic candidates at the expense of Republicans. Much of the “liberal” media is demonstrating that they are just as likely to cover evidence of unethical behavior among political leaders regardless of party. Today The New York Times looks at how Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.

The New York Times’s examination of the Uranium One deal is based on dozens of interviews, as well as a review of public records and securities filings in Canada, Russia and the United States. Some of the connections between Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation were unearthed by Peter Schweizer, a former fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution and author of the forthcoming book “Clinton Cash.” Mr. Schweizer provided a preview of material in the book to The Times, which scrutinized his information and built upon it with its own reporting.

Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.

There is certainly no smoking gun to absolutely prove that actions by the Clintons were in response to the money they received, but as just one part of a pattern is is unlikely that few beyond Clinton partisans will believe they were innocent of unethical behavior. This, and other similar stories, look far worse for the Clintons by the manner in which Hillary Clinton failed to abide by two Obama policies designed to reduce the risk of such corruption in his administration–increased transparency, including the use of government email, and an agreement, which Clinton violated, to disclose all contributions to the Foundation while Clinton was Secretary of State. While discussing The Disastrous Clinton Post-Presidency, Jonathan Chait wrote:

The Obama administration wanted Hillary Clinton to use official government email. She didn’t. The Obama administration also demanded that the Clinton Foundation disclose all its donors while she served as Secretary of State. It didn’t comply with that request, either.

The Clintons’ charitable initiatives were a kind of quasi-government run by themselves, which was staffed by their own loyalists and made up the rules as it went along. Their experience running the actual government, with its formal accountability and disclosure, went reasonably well. Their experience running their own privatized mini-state has been a fiasco.

It has been an unusual experience, limited to the Clinton and Bush families, for an ex-president to have the opportunity to continue to exert influence due to having other family members in major positions of power. ABC News looked at how Bill Clinton Cashed In When Hillary Became Secretary of State.

After his wife became Secretary of State, former President Bill Clinton began to collect speaking fees that often doubled or tripled what he had been charging earlier in his post White House years, bringing in millions of dollars from groups that included several with interests pending before the State Department, an ABC News review of financial disclosure records shows.

Where he once had drawn $150,000 for a typical address in the years following his presidency, Clinton saw a succession of staggering paydays for speeches in 2010 and 2011, including $500,000 paid by a Russian investment bank and $750,000 to address a telecom conference in China.

“It’s unusual to see a former president’s speaking fee go up over time,” said Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer in the White House Counsel’s office under President George W. Bush. “I must say I’m surprised that he raised his fees. There’s no prohibition on his raising it. But it does create some appearance problems if he raises his fee after she becomes Secretary of State.”

Public speaking became a natural and lucrative source of income for Clinton when he returned to private life in 2001. Records from disclosure forms filed by Hillary Clinton during her tenures in the U.S. Senate and then in the Obama Administration indicate he took in more than $105 million in speech fees during that 14 year period.

The article also noted that ABC News found some errors in an advanced copy of Peter Schweizer upcoming book Clinton Cash. This is why it is so important that reliable journalistic outlets such as The New York Times are evaluating his data, and that others, including liberal investigative journalists such as David Sirota, are uncovering the same issues while working independently.

While Schweizer has previously written conservative books, he is branching out to a Republican family which has the same ethics issues as the Clinton family. Bloomberg Business reports that Schweizer is targeting Jeb Bush next.

In related news, Reuters reports “Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors.” One question here is whether these were innocent errors or yet another attempt to prevent disclosure of foreign contributions.

Hilary Clinton continues to have a huge lead for the Democratic nomination but there was one development of interest earlier this week when one ex-Clinton backer has switched his support to Martin O’Malley.

Clinton’s lead in the national polls has grown increasingly narrow in recent weeks with the most recent Quinnipiac poll showing Clinton leading her closest Republican opponent, Marco Rubio, by only two points. Of particular concern, the poll found that “American voters say 54 – 38 percent that Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, a lower score than top Republicans.” These polling numbers, which have worsened since the start of the email scandal, very well might get even worse for Clinton as further information comes out over the course of the campaign. At some point those Democrats who are in denial of the seriousness of the accusations against Hillary Clinton may have to consider how their defense of Clinton may be serving to bring about the election of Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, or some other Republican as the next president.

Update: The New York Times noted this report from Reuters, along with Clinton’s failure to disclose relevant contributions per her agreement with Obama, in their editorial on this matter the following day:

The messiness of her connection with the foundation has been shown in a report by The Times on a complex business deal involving Canadian mining entrepreneurs who made donations to the foundation and were at the time selling their uranium company to the Russian state-owned nuclear energy company. That deal, which included uranium mining stakes in the United States, required approval by the federal government, including the State Department.

The donations, which included $2.35 million from a principal in the deal, were not publicly disclosed by the foundation, even though Mrs. Clinton had signed an agreement with the Obama administration requiring the foundation to disclose all donors as a condition of her becoming secretary of state. This failure is an inexcusable violation of her pledge. The donations were discovered through Canadian tax records by Times reporters. Media scrutiny is continuing, with Reuters reporting that the foundation is refiling some returns found to be erroneous.

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David Letterman’s Take On Hillary Clinton’s Announcement Video

There have already been many comments about the vacuousness of Hillary Clintons’s announcement video (along with her entire campaign so far). Ruth Marcus called it “a Verizon commercial without the substance.” David Letterman had a unique take on it last Friday–video above and transcript below:

Hillary Clinton made her long-awaited announcement earlier this week to run for President. You’ve probably seen her website announcement, and this part was a bit of a surprise. We take a look at the announcement.
PERSON 1: “I’m getting ready for a lot of things.
PERSON 2: “It’s Spring, so we’re getting to get the gardens ready.”
PERSON 3: “I’m getting ready to retire soon.”
HILLARY: “I’m getting ready to do something, too. I’m joining Scientology. Learn how to unlock your inner power at Scientology.org.”

Letterman also had two jokes about Hillary Clinton in his opening monologue the same night besides this video:

“Hillary’s traveling through Iowa on a listening tour, to listen to the Iowa constituents. It’s a listening tour because if you want her to speak it’ll cost you $200,000.”

“Hillary’s in a van with a bumper sticker that reads, ‘If the van’s a rockin;, I’m deleting e-mails.”

I’m going to miss Dave.

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New Book Questions Donations To Clinton Foundation

clinton-cash-cover

Donations to the Clinton Foundation has long been a source of concern to critics of the Clintons on both the left and right. A new book by a conservative author, but which is claimed to be well-sourced, is likley to create further problems for the Clinton campaign, especially in light of an unusual deal in which both The New York Times and Fox have exclusive agreements to use the research for the book for further investigations. The New York Times reports:

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer — a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities — is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes.

His examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department.

In the long lead up to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announcement, aides proved adept in swatting down critical books as conservative propaganda, including Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud,” about tensions between the Clintons and the Obamas, and Daniel Halper’s “Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.”

But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author  to pursue the story lines found in the book.

Other media reports state that only The New York Times and Fox have such agreements, and that The Washington Post does not.

Vox has further background information on the controversies surrounding the Clinton Foundation, noting how the controversy harms the Clinton campaign:

  1. It reinforces a series of powerful memes against Hillary Clinton: Republicans say she’s unwilling to play by the same rules as everyone else, and her populist turn on the campaign trail is at odds with her big-dollar fundraising, much of it from foreign governments and individuals.
  2. Perhaps more important — since most Republicans aren’t inclined to vote for her — it reminds Democrats of two toxic perceptions about Clinton within the Democratic Party: she’s too cozy with, perhaps even co-opted by, the very Wall Street and corporate titans who are most reviled on the left (Barclays, Citi, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil, and Walmart are all foundation supporters), and she exercises poor judgment around both the money she raises and the company she keeps.”It fuels a narrative that’s not positive,” one House Democrat who supports Clinton’s presidential bid said in an interview Thursday on Capitol Hill. “They [the Clintons] show a real tin ear when it comes to their own behavior.”

Barack Obama was among the first Democrats to show concern over this and insisted that Clinton agree to release the name of donors to the Foundation while Secretary of State. Reuters reported last month that Clinton failed to comply with the terms of this agreement. Frank Rich and Ron Fournier have both written recently on this conflict of interest:

“Follow the money.” That apocryphal phrase, attributed to Watergate whistle-blower “Deep Throat,” explains why the biggest threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential dreams is not her emails. It’s her family foundation. That’s where the money is: corporate money, foreign money, gobs of money sloshing around a vanity charity that could be renamed “Clinton Conflicts of Interest Foundation.”

Conor Friedersdorf described how hard  the Clintons have made it to follow the money in an article in The Atlantic. Earlier this month three investigative journalists, Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Andrew Perez, and David Sirota, reported that Clinton had altered her position to support a Colombian trade deal in return for contributions.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to prove that favors provided by Clinton after a contribution were definitely in return for the contribution, but a damaging pattern can be found. This is certain to be used by Republicans in the general election race. While Democratic primary voters might believe her denials, voters in the general election are less likley to. Clinton’s credibility, already low among many voters, is further damaged by her actions including failure to divulge contributors as agreed when Secretary of State, her violation of the rules in effect in 2009 regarding maintenance of email, and her decision to wipe the server.

We won’t know for sure how much there is to this book until the legitimate journalists have had more time to go through the data. The important thing is how the information in this particular book pans out, not the history of the author. The National Enquirer is also generally a poor source, but their story on John Edwards turned out to be true. It is unusual for a book from a conservative that the author is willing to let The New York Times see his research. So far they seem to be confident there is something to this–and there is a good chance considering the reporting along these lines elsewhere.

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Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb Faced The Media But Hillary Clinton Continues To Avoid The Press

O'Malley Face The Nation

Martin O’Malley appeared on Face the Nation today, telling Bob Schieffer that he plans to decide by the end of May as to whether he plans to run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Schieffer asked him why he plans to run:

O’MALLEY: Because I believe that our country faces big challenges.

And I know that leadership is important, if we’re going to turn these challenges into opportunities. I have 15 years of executive experience as a big city mayor and as a governor bringing people together to get things done. And I believe that I have the ideas that will help our country move forward to a time when our economy is actually working for all of us again, instead of wages declining.

There has been repeated mention in the media as to how Clinton has taken the unusual course of not meeting with the press (see here and here).  O’Malley did not take advantage of this opportunity to criticize Clinton:

SCHIEFFER: What do you think of way she launched her campaign? All these Republicans are up there making speeches, kind of doing it the old-fashioned way. She gets in this little van and drives all the way out there. She’s given no interviews, as far as I can tell. She hasn’t had a news conference. Can you get the nomination that way? And how will you do it?

O’MALLEY: Well, look, I will let others talk — second-guess her strategies and tactics. And she can certainly defend herself. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Secretary Clinton.

I believe that the best way to campaign is one-on-one with people. You can’t forge a new sort of consensus, you can’t forge public opinion by following public opinion. And you have to engage with people in living room after living room, in luncheonettes and lunch counters. I think that is the best type of campaign is the one- on-one contact, where we actually talk about the better choices we need to make to get earnings to rise again.

So far Clinton has only received gentle criticism for the manner in which she has avoided the press, but if she keeps this up I would expect the press to discuss this more, as back in 2008 when Sarah Palin was hiding from the press. The Washington Post noted that O’Malley and James Webb appeared on the Sunday interview shows but Clinton was only represented by stand-ins.

The full transcript of Face the Nation is available here.

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SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Outlander; Roy Leaving Arrow; Oliva Munn, Super Hero; Gotham; Veep; Daredevil; The Americans; Sopranos Ending Explained; Jon Stewart On Why He Is Leaving The Daily Show

Orphan Black Helena Dream The Weight Of The Combination

Orphan Black returned on Saturday, beginning with a fun scene for the fans. It was another scene with Tatiana Maslany playing multiple seestas at once in Helena’s dream of perfect baby shower, reminiscent of  the clone dance party scene last season. The theme for the season is girl clones vs. boy clones, which sort of sounds like a season of Survivor. So far I have far less interest in the male clones. They didn’t get the chance to be introduced gradually as the girl clones were and, as most were raised in the military, there also probably is not as much difference these clones. One does have a mustache and one does have a scar to help tell them apart.

The conspiracy aspect continues to grow as once we learn about one group another turns out to be above them. Now we are dealing with Topside, who sent a “cleaner” named Ferdinand, who was secretly plotting with Rachel in a plan called Helsinki to kill all the female Project Leda clones.  After finding out about this I didn’t feel sorry at all for Rachel, who wasn’t recovering very well after Sarah poked a pencil through her eye and into her brain. She was also at the Mercy of Delphine, who is the new Rachel at Dyad, and can also be rather evil when necessary. Ferdinand’s arrival set up scenes where Sarah pretended to be Rachel, requiring Alison to pretend to be Sarah.

The New York Times Magazine looked at the filming of Orphan Black recently.

Outlander Devils Mark

The Devil’s Mark had major revelations on Outlander. Geillis revealed that she is a time traveler and this was the third show recently (besides The Americans and Game of Thrones) where someone apparently died by burning to death, although her death was not actually shown. I fear that this is an exception to the television rule that if you don’t see the body the character most likely didn’t really die, but maybe we will see her again. Hopefully Geillis’s confession won’t come back to harm Claire, and any other time travelers who might show up from the 20th century, after she claimed that her smallpox vaccine is the Devil’s mark.

Claire was saved by a combination of Jaime showing up and Gellis claiming to be true witch, followed by her telling Jaime. Surprisingly Jaime accepted it all, and even took her to the stones to make the decision as to which husband to be with. It appears she chose Jaime, although I imagine it is possible she tried to return home and failed. The possibility didn’t seem to come up that if she did travel in time again by touching the stones, there was no guarantee she would return to her original time. (It would have really been awesome if she turned up in the splinter facility on 12 Monkeys.)

Arrow Broken Arrow

On Arrow we learned that Roy’s sacrifice to save Oliver was part of a plan which left everyone alive and out of prison, but left with Roy needing to leave town to keep anyone else from realizing he is still alive.  While this leaves Oliver free, I still wonder how they are going to get the Arrow back openly in action. The moment the Arrow is spotted Detective Lance has new justification for following up on his knowledge that Oliver is really the Arrow.

Deadline spoke with  co-creators/executive producers Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim on Colton Haynes leaving the show as a regular (but will already be returning for an episode later this season).

DEADLINE: When did you know that Colton Haynes was leaving after Season 3?
BERLANTI: When we made the deal. We made a two-season deal that had a clock on it, we always knew that. When he was coming off Teen Wolf, we described the role to him, and we agreed to do it for a couple of years. At that particular moment, he had a lot of opportunities to do things, and we’re lucky he chose us. He brought a lot of notoriety and viewership to Arrow when we were growing, and the show wouldn’t be the show it is without him. He is such a talent and such a nice guy, everybody from the crew to the writers were so enthusiastic to have him for the time we had him. We are sad to see him go but excited to see what he does next.

DEADLINE: How and when did Roy’s Season 3 storyline came about?
BERLANTI: We knew based on what had happened last season. Roy has struggled with guilt after killing a policeman. In saving Oliver, he sees a chance to absolve himself. Hopefully it was surprising for the audience as some thought for a moment that he might die.
GUGGENHEIM: We were able to deign his arc for the season with the end point in mind. We always knew he would take a heroic stance and redeem himself for his actions. It’s always a blessing when you know where exactly you are going to end up.

DEADLINE: Did you consider killing off Roy?
BERLANTI: We wanted to do something different. These characters are so young, they represent the next generation of superheroes, and we love the idea of having them just out there. And as a person we like Colton so much, we all would love to see him back. Such a talented, great guy.
GUGGENHEIM: The hope is that he’ll continue to be part of the universe we are building. We love working with his so much. We’ve talked to him about returning to one of the three shows, and if available, he has expressed interest. He is gone but definitely not forever.

DEADLINE: What will the impact of Roy’s departure be on Team Arrow?
BERLANTI: It’s always affecting the show when one character is moving on to the great beyond. That allows the show to grow and change, with the state of loss providing high stakes. The end of this season is very much a punctuation mark on the first three seasons. Third season will feel like the end of a trilogy, with elements and pieces coming together. We are heading into a big, epic, climactic battle, and I’m not not going to give away who is going to make it. Everything will be changed after this season.
GUGGENHEIM: The third season finale is among our best episodes, with each twist more shocking and surprising than the next.

Olivia Munn Suck It Wonder Woman

Geek Olivia Munn finally gets to become a super hero character. She will play Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse

Jada Pinkett Smith’s charter, Fish Mooney, was a good addition to the Batman back story on Gotham, but they don’t seem to know what to do with her since Oswald Cobblepot got control of her nightclub. I am glad that they seem to have ended her recent storyline on the island, which seems pointless as it was totally unconnected to anything else going on. It doesn’t help matters that she escaped so easily (once setting up a distraction) thanks to a helicopter being unguarded and ready to go. Jada Pinkett Smith has said she will be leaving the show after her contract runs out this season but the producers have hinted that they might find reason to keep her around. It better be a better story line if they do.

HBO has renewed Veep and Silicon Valley just after their current seasons began and Netflix has renewed Orange Is The New Black for a fourth season before the third season has become available. Selina Meyer in now President on Veep and Hugh Laurie will be guest staring later this season. The Hollywood Reporter has interviewed Veep series creator Armando Iannucci about the current season.

There were complaints previously that blind people could not appreciate Daredevil, a show with a blind hero, because Netflix did not use audio description as some networks do. Netflix has  remedied the problem to make the show more accessible to the visually impaired.

The-Americans-I-Am-Abassin-Zadran-Season-3-Episode-12-08

The penultimate episode of The Americans, I Am Abassin Zadran, may have concluded one story line but leaves many story lines open. The producers have said they plan to carry some over to next season. The situation with Paige is pretty obviously ongoing. It is hard to believe they will wrap up Nina’s storyline in Russia. There has been very little of Kimmy recently and, while this conceivably could be wrapped up in the final episode, I suspect they are intentionally moving slowly on this to wait until next season.

Of course the big cliff hanger of the episode occurred when Phillip slowly removed his wig and revealed how he really looks to Martha, who was sitting on the bed with a suitcase, on the verge of leaving town. At least two quite different interpretations for this come to mind. Maybe he is revealing himself to her prior to giving her the Annelise treatment and packing her up in her own suitcase. Maybe he is thinking of how he came clean with Paige, and is also planning to tell Martha a variation of the truth in a last attempt to get her to trust him. This could be either to continue spying for him, or to get her to safety before the FBI figures out that she was the one to plant the bug. If that is his plan, he is taking a bigger risk. Previously if she was arrested she might have given the FBI a description of Phillip in disguise. Now there is the risk she will give a description of how he really looks, and just maybe Stan will recognize him.

It was also good to see Margo Martindale return in her scene in the diner with Gabriel as they discussed background information going back to last season when Jared killed his parents, along with how Americans have too many choices for their tastes. I was surprised to see that Gabriel was so sympathetic to Phillip’s desire to protect Paige.

Tony Soprano Finale

David Chase gave a fascinating description of what he planned scene by scene in the finale of The Soprano’s. Here are the descriptions of the final scene, but check out the full article for his description of the scenes leading up to this:

This is the last shot of the family, or the three of them anyway. Framing is extremely important. I think it makes you feel so much below the level of verbiage and words. What they’re talking about is how good those onion rings are. For me, food is always central to a feeling of family and to a feeling of security and happiness. A.J. had remembered a moment at the end of the final show of the first season when they were all sitting down, eating in Vesuvio’s Italian restaurant and Tony said, ‘Just remember … value the good times,’ the moments, there really aren’t that many of them. And this is one of the very good times. And yet there’s something wrong with it because Meadow is not there. So the family isn’t really together. I think on some subliminal level that raises the tension. We know the family should be together and they’re not.

I said to Gandolfini, the bell rings and you look up. That last shot of Tony ends on ‘don’t stop,’ it’s mid-song. I’m not going to go into [if that’s Tony’s POV]. I thought the possibility would go through a lot of people’s minds or maybe everybody’s mind that he was killed. He might have gotten shot three years ago in that situation. But he didn’t. Whether this is the end here, or not, it’s going to come at some point for the rest of us. Hopefully we’re not going to get shot by some rival gang mob or anything like that. I’m not saying that [happened]. But obviously he stood more of a chance of getting shot by a rival gang mob than you or I do because he put himself in that situation. All I know is the end is coming for all of us.

I thought the ending would be somewhat jarring, sure. But not to the extent it was, and not a subject of such discussion. I really had no idea about that. I never considered the black a shot. I just thought what we see is black. The ceiling I was going for at that point, the biggest feeling I was going for, honestly, was don’t stop believing. It was very simple and much more on the nose than people think. That’s what I wanted people to believe. That life ends and death comes, but don’t stop believing. There are attachments we make in life, even though it’s all going to come to an end, that are worth so much, and we’re so lucky to have been able to experience them. Life is short. Either it ends here for Tony or some other time. But in spite of that, it’s really worth it. So don’t stop believing.

So apparently when Chase has said in some interviews that the final scene had a definite meaning, the meaning was more along the lines of “don’t stop believing” than whether Tony was killed here or at some other time.

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart spoke with The Guardian about why he is leaving The Daily Show:

“Honestly, it was a combination of the limitations of my brain and a format that is geared towards following an increasingly redundant process, which is our political process. I was just thinking, ‘Are there other ways to skin this cat?’ And, beyond that, it would be nice to be home when my little elves get home from school, occasionally.”

He has a 10-year-old son, Nathan, and a nine-year-old daughter, Maggie; Stewart and his wife, Tracey, have been married for almost as long as he’s been doing the show, after Stewart proposed to her via a crossword puzzle.

If anything, it was the prospect of the upcoming US election that pushed him to leave the show. “I’d covered an election four times, and it didn’t appear that there was going to be anything wildly different about this one,” he says.

Ah, but who could have anticipated the excitement over Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails?

“Anyone could, because that story is absolutely everything that it’s supposed to be about,” he says, with a groan; as a revelation, it managed to be at once depressing and completely unsurprising. “I also felt that, for the show, you don’t want to leave when the cupboard’s bare. So I think it’s a better introduction when you have something providing you with assisted fuel, like a presidential campaign. But really, the value of this show is so much deeper than my contribution,” he says.

This means he will no longer have to watch Fox, but he did answer a hypothetical question as to a situation in which he might watch again:

Now that he is leaving The Daily Show, is there any circumstance in which he would watch Fox News again? He takes a few seconds to ponder the question. “Umm… All right, let’s say that it’s a nuclear winter, and I have been wandering, and there appears to be a flickering light through what appears to be a radioactive cloud and I think that light might be a food source that could help my family. I might glance at it for a moment until I realise, that’s Fox News, and then I shut it off. That’s the circumstance.”

Dan Aykroyd told The Huffington Post that “America is flat-out gun crazy.”

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Marijuana, Needle Exchange Programs, And Clinton’s Cultural Conservatism

Clinton Marijuana

Following recent posts about Lincoln Chafee talking about running for the Democratic nomination I began looking to see if there are any other issues where the two have major differences besides Clinton’s support for the Iraq war, which he has been attacking Hillary Clinton on. which he has been attacking Hillary Clinton on. I was pleased to see that back in 2011 Chaffee called for a reclassification of medical marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substances, which puts states which have legalized medical marijuana at odds with federal laws.

Three years later, Martin O’Malley took this a step even further, signing a bill decriminalizing marijuana, while opposing outright legalization. Hillary Clinton, as would be expected from her overall cultural conservatism, has lagged behind the country, and the Democratic Party, on both legalization of marijuana and medical marijuana.

On a related issue, Clinton’s opposition to needle exchange programs, while certainly not a major issue, was also an early issue in the 2008 nomination battle which differentiated the political philosophies of Clinton from the more liberal Barack Obama. Martin O’Malley, who is also moving well to the left on economic issues, signed a bill allowing needle exchange in Maryland. Clinton and Obama also differed in 2008 on reforming sentencing for violation of drug laws. While Obama’s record on the drug war has certainly been mixed, I would hate to see a move further to the right under Clinton.

Clinton’s cultural conservatism and promotion of conservative causes has often been traced to her membership in The Fellowship while in the Senate. From Mother Jones in 2007:

Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection…

That’s how it works: The Fellowship isn’t out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward…These days, Clinton has graduated from the political wives’ group into what may be Coe’s most elite cell, the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast. Though weighted Republican, the breakfast—regularly attended by about 40 members—is a bipartisan opportunity for politicians to burnish their reputations, giving Clinton the chance to profess her faith with men such as Brownback as well as the twin terrors of Oklahoma, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and, until recently, former Senator George Allen (R-Va.). Democrats in the group include Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who told us that the separation of church and state has gone too far; Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is also a regular.

Unlikely partnerships have become a Clinton trademark. Some are symbolic, such as her support for a ban on flag burning with Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and funding for research on the dangers of video games with Brownback and Santorum. But Clinton has also joined the gop on legislation that redefines social justice issues in terms of conservative morality, such as an anti-human-trafficking law that withheld funding from groups working on the sex trade if they didn’t condemn prostitution in the proper terms. With Santorum, Clinton co-sponsored the Workplace Religious Freedom Act; she didn’t back off even after Republican senators such as Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter pulled their names from the bill citing concerns that the measure would protect those refusing to perform key aspects of their jobs—say, pharmacists who won’t fill birth control prescriptions, or police officers who won’t guard abortion clinics.

Clinton has championed federal funding of faith-based social services, which she embraced years before George W. Bush did; Marci Hamilton, author of God vs. the Gavel, says that the Clintons’ approach to faith-based initiatives “set the stage for Bush.” Clinton has also long supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure that has become a purity test for any candidate wishing to avoid war with the Christian right…

The libertarian Cato Institute recently observed that Clinton is “adding the paternalistic agenda of the religious right to her old-fashioned liberal paternalism.” Clinton suggests as much herself in her 1996 book, It Takes a Village, where she writes approvingly of religious groups’ access to schools, lessons in Scripture, and “virtue” making a return to the classroom.

As noted in the above excerpt, Clinton’s affiliation with the religious right was seen in 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, along with her promotion of restrictions on video games and her introduction of a bill making flag burning a felony. Her social conservatism is also seen in her weak record on abortion rights, such as supporting parental notification laws and stigmatizing women who have abortions with the manner in which she calls for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.”

(Links to additional material added on April 19)

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Report Clinton To Oppose Iran Deal & The Politics Of Tipping

Clinton Iran

The Hill is running a story that major Clinton contributor Haim Saban is hinting that Hillary Clinton will come out against the Iran deal. Clinton was often more hawkish than others in the Obama administration, and had criticized Obama for his plans to negotiate with Iran during the 2008 campaign. She had claimed that the United States could “totally obliterate” Iran.

Clinton’s views on Iran have remained unclear. Clinton’s 2014 book, Hard Choices, claimed that she helped initiate the negotiations, but this was a ghost written campaign book and might not be a very reliable account. Obama has said that Clinton was wary of the negotiations, but interested. Since the agreement was announced, Clinton has been supportive, but has left herself some wiggle room.

With all the mixed signals about her position on Iran, it would be helpful if Clinton faced press interviews to clarify her views–ideally with follow-up questions allowed. Instead Clinton has avoided the press since announcing her candidacy, rather than allowing interviews and having the press along on a campaign trip, as is generally seen in such a political campaign. Her campaign aides have instead held off-the-record dinners to attempt to woo the press which Clinton did not attend. She held a single press conference about a week after the email scandal broke in which she took limited questions, and fact-checkers found her to be lying on multiple points.

The other campaign controversy today was far less serious than this matter of war and peace. Clinton has come under criticism for failing to leave a tip when she ate at Chipotle. I see no fault in Clinton’s actual actions. While it is customary to leave a tip for servers, it is far less usual to leave a tip for counter service. The bigger issue is one of understanding how campaigns work. Politicians generally understand that every act is scrutinized, and know it is better to always tip, and tip generously. For example, The Hill contrasted Clinton and Obama:

President Obama has gained a reputation as a big tipper dating back to his first presidential campaign in 2008.

One month before Clinton conceded the nomination to Obama, he stopped at The Raleigh Times Bar in North Carolina, where he reportedly left an $18 tip on a $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Obama and Vice President Biden lunched at Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Va. in 2009, and the president left $5 in the tip jar.

And during the government shutdown in Oct. 2013, Obama and Biden walked to the Taylor Gourmet sandwich shop on Pennsylvania Ave., which was giving a 10 percent discount to furloughed government workers.

The president paid a $21.56 lunch tab and left a tip of $18.44.

This does not necessarily mean that Obama is a better person than Clinton or even more generous. It does show that Obama was better at campaigning, at least in this type of situation:

The majority of Democrats do favor a primary opponent, whether because of opposition to Clinton or believing it will make her a better candidate in the general election. Personally I think that if Clinton doesn’t have this down by now, she probably never will. The Democratic National Committee aims to please. Debbie Wasserman Schultz says this will be a contested primary and has scheduled a series of debates. She named the same potential candidates who have often been mentioned:

Wasserman Schultz said she has been talking about the planned debate series with both official candidates (so far, there’s only one) and potential entrants. She mentioned Vice President Joe Biden, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, former Senator (and Governor) Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Senator Bernie Sanders—although she noted that Sanders, a Vermont independent, would have to change parties to qualify for a Democratic primary.

 

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O’Malley Scores Point Against Clinton On Same-Sex Marriage

 Martin O'Malley Marriage-Bill-Signing-440px

“History celebrates profiles in courage, not profiles in convenience.”

Martin O’Malley has demonstrated the benefits of having a liberal in the race to compete with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. He has been jabbing Clinton while campaigning in Iowa over her position that same-sex marriage should be decided by the states. O’Malley has been arguing in Iowa that “the right to marry is not a state right, it is a human right.” Clinton ultimately responded by expressing support for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage nation-wide. Without mentioning her by name, O’Malley responded with a video stating, “History celebrates profiles in courage, not profiles in convenience.” Clinton has often lagged behind liberal thought on this issue.

News coverage has been using terms such as O’Malley jabbing, pinging, taking a shot, and taking a swing at Clinton on the abortion issue. There has been excitement among O’Malley supporters over the favorable publicity. While I do think that O’Malley would make a much better president than Clinton I am not terribly optimistic that this will make any difference in the nomination race–unless it is the start of a succession of O’Malley taking domination on the issues and forcing Clinton to respond. It is a point for O’Malley in terms of both both principle and obtaining favorable media coverage.

Making matters worse for Clinton, her campaign made the announcement through a spokesperson as opposed to directly talking to the press:

The process by which this major story was announced drew little attention elsewhere, but it was that decision to sneak this out via a spokesperson, rather than have it come from the candidate herself, that gave O’Malley an opening to grab all the ink he’s getting over it. If they had, instead, made Hillary available to one or more of these reporters, it would have been much bigger news, and that clip would be all over the news now instead of O’Malley’s.

Making that statement directly to a reporter with a background in reporting on LGBT rights would also have had the added benefit of strengthening Hillary’s relationship with that important constituency, rather than seeming like a down-low slight.

So far Clinton has only received gentle criticism for avoiding the press, but I bet this will intensify if this pattern continues. At this point I cannot recall a major party candidate who has avoided the press to this degree other than Sarah Palin.

O’Malley received additional favorable coverage with a column in The Hill looking at possible challenges to Clinton from Elizabeth Warren, Jim Webb, and Martin O’Malley:

…Team Hillary’s ascent to the Democratic nomination and White House isn’t a certainty and challengers like former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.), former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and (perhaps one day soon) Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) could eventually overtake the former secretary of State. While Clinton has done great things for America over the years, she’s unfortunately become a liability to the Democratic Party. The citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire and Democrats everywhere can save all of us from a Clinton campaign that says one thing when it’s politically expedient, but does another (at the expense of cherished progressive values) when poll numbers aren’t behind a certain issue.

After all, Clinton was against same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization until recently. There’s a reason that many feel she has an “authenticity problem,” and it’s the same reason Clinton differs only slightly on issues like war from her GOP counterparts. Democrats in Iowa and around the country should evaluate the Clinton campaign by its actions, not words.

…Martin O’Malley has shown superior leadership skills, compared to Clinton’s, during his tenure as Maryland’s governor. As a mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, O’Malley’s leadership led to a No. 1 ranking for his state in schools, entrepreneurship and women-owned businesses. In contrast, Clinton and the Democratic Party must now deal with “emailgate.” According to Dan Metcalfe in his piece in Politico, “Hillary’s Email Defense is Laughable”:

So yes, Secretary Clinton’s suggestion that federal officials can unilaterally determine which of their records are “personal” and which are “official,” even in the face of a FOIA request, is laughable. …

One cannot help but wonder how Secretary Clinton’s departure process was handled.

While The Daily Iowan has compared O’Malley to President Kennedy, Clinton will no doubt have her credibility and leadership questioned by future issues related to her email scandal.

In another column at The Hill, A.B. Stoddard discussed Clinton’s need to improve support among millennial voters.

Clinton had another problem when her stories of all four grandparents being immigrants was found to be untrue by BuzzFeed News–unless you consider Scranton and Illinois to be foreign countries. It is hard to see this gaffe by itself causing Clinton any harm, and it is certainly possible she was mistaken with no intent to deceive, but this might exacerbate her problem of being viewed by voters as dishonest.

Lincoln Chafee has also spoken again about running, maybe, primarily criticizing Clinton for her support for the Iraq war.

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Left And Right Agree On Why Hillary Clinton’s Views Are To The Right Of The Democratic Mainstream

Timothy Carney, a columnist at The Washington Examiner, has a conservative attack on Democrats of the very worst kind–an attack in which he is correct. Cerney criticizes Democrats for supporting Hillary Clinton, pointing out that Clinton represents everything Democrats say they oppose. He looked at Clinton’s foreign policy record, her relationship with K-Street and lobbyists, and her resistance to government transparency. She is guilty on all three counts, and it is disappointing to see so many Democrats fall in line to hand her the nomination.

Of course such hypocrisy does not apply to every Democrat. I have criticized Clinton for her conservative record on these points, and in other areas,  in previous posts. At some point would like to get together a post outlining them all in the same post. In the meantime, I came across a link to an article on Facebook which does a good job of bringing up many of the points I would make in such a post. From Truth-Out in February, Five Reasons No Progressive Should Support Hillary Clinton. The post is divided into sections on Foreign Policy, Economy, Environment, Civil Liberties, and Culture Wars.

It is not a complete list, but a good compilation and I recommend reading it in full. Additional areas where liberals have disagreed with Clinton include her hard line on the drug war, including opposition to needle exchange programs and support for strict sentencing, her opposition to government transparency,  and Clinton’s opposition to liberal calls for an increase in Social Security.

The question is how many liberals are unaware of how conservative Clinton is, or if they just don’t care about promoting liberal principles.

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Clinton Failed To Answer Questions About Use Of Private Server Two Years Ago

The cover-up continues to look bad for Hillary Clinton. The New York Times (not Fox for those Clinton-apologists who try to pretend this is a right wing attack) reports that Hillary Clinton Was Asked About Email 2 Years Ago and failed to give an honest answer:

Hillary Rodham Clinton was directly asked by congressional investigators in a December 2012 letter whether she had used a private email account while serving as secretary of state, according to letters obtained by The New York Times.

But Mrs. Clinton did not reply to the letter. And when the State Department answered in March 2013, nearly two months after she left office, it ignored the question and provided no response.

The query was posed to Mrs. Clinton in a Dec. 13, 2012, letter from Representative Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Mr. Issa was leading an investigation into how the Obama administration handled its officials’ use of personal email.

“Have you or any senior agency official ever used a personal email account to conduct official business?” Mr. Issa wrote to Mrs. Clinton. “If so, please identify the account used.”

A State Department spokesman declined to answer questions from The New York Times as to why they did not respond to this question but a letter from the State Department noted their guidelines:

In the State Department’s letter back to Mr. Issa, Thomas B. Gibbons, the acting assistant secretary for legislative affairs, described the department’s records management policies and guidelines.

He said “employees may use personal email on personal time for matters not directly related to official business, and any employee using personal email ‘should make it clear that his or her personal email is not being used for official business.’ ”

The statement also noted that training was being offered on records management to the department’s employees. Under Clinton, the ambassador to Kenya was fired, with failure to use government as opposed to private email being cited as one of the reasons for the firing. (pdf of Inspector General report here.)

While Clinton has claimed she did not violate the rules, the top Freedom of Information Act official has confirmed that Clinton did violate the rules put in effect in 2009. Her claim of using private email to avoid using two devices was also contradicted by evidence that Clinton actually did carry two different devices.

Chris Cillizza points out how the scandal is not going away, and can hurt Clinton in the general election:

As I have written since the start of the story of Clinton’s handling of e-mail as secretary of state, the problem that exists here for her is that it reinforces many of the negative things that people either believe or are ready to believe about her. One of the biggest (and most negative) of those is that the Clintons don’t think the rules apply to them.  And could there be any better example of the rules not applying than what Schmidt’s story alleges — that Clinton and her team refused to answer a direct question about her use of a private e-mail at state until she left the job?

Again, I am not saying that Clinton’s camp isn’t telling the truth in their statement above about the timing and logistics of the response. But I am saying that it looks really bad — particularly given the perception of secrecy and above-the-law-ness that already swirls around the Clintons.

Close your eyes for a second and imagine it’s next October: An ad appears on your TV screen (or smartphone or tablet or laptop) that notes — in a dark and ominous voice-over — that Hillary Clinton kept her own e-mail server when she was secretary of state and that she deleted tens of thousands of e-mails from that server.  Then the narrator says: “The worst part? Clinton refused to answer questions from Congress about her e-mail address when she was in office. What’s Hillary Clinton hiding?”

In other campaign news, Clinton, like many Democrats, has called for a Constitutional amendment to address campaign finance reform. This is necessary to make serious changes in light of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. As is often the case when Clinton does take a liberal position, her position does fall short of what many on the left are pushing for, as discussed in this article at The Nation: Hillary Clinton Is Still Too Cautious on Campaign Finance Reform.

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