Mainstream Media Gangs Up On Bernie With False Claims Of Botched Interview

Sanders Reason To Vote

Members of the establishment media, along with others who have opposed Sanders for the Democratic nomination, are pouncing on an interview at The New York Daily News to make a bogus argument that Sanders is not prepared to be president. Those who have looked more closely have come to a different conclusion.

Ryan Grim, who is not a huge fan of Sanders, looked at the questions objectively and found that Sanders did not really botch the interview. He cited examples of where those asking the questions were actually wrong on the facts and Sanders was right:

Take the exchange getting the most attention: Sanders’ supposed inability to describe exactly how he would break up the biggest banks. Sanders said that if the Treasury Department deemed it necessary to do so, the bank would go about unwinding itself as it best saw fit to get to a size that the administration considered no longer a systemic risk to the economy. Sanders said this could be done with new legislation, or through administrative authority under Dodd-Frank.

This is true, as economist Dean BakerPeter Eavis at The New York Times, and HuffPost’s Zach Carter in a Twitter rant have all pointed out. It’s also the position of Clinton herself. “We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk,” Clinton said at a February debate. No media outcry followed her assertion, because it was true.

As the interview went on, though, it began to appear that the Daily News editors didn’t understand the difference between the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. Follow in the transcript how Sanders kept referring to the authority of the administration and the Treasury Department through Dodd-Frank, known as Wall Street reform, while the Daily News editors shifted to the Fed.

Daily News: Okay. Well, let’s assume that you’re correct on that point. How do you go about doing it?

Sanders: How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail.

Daily News: But do you think that the Fed, now, has that authority?

Sanders: Well, I don’t know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.

Daily News: How? How does a president turn to JPMorgan Chase, or have the treasury turn to any of those banks and say, “Now you must do X, Y and Z?”

Sanders: Well, you do have authority under the Dodd-Frank legislation to do that, make that determination.

Daily News: You do, just by Federal Reserve fiat, you do?

This is simply a factual dispute between the Daily News and Sanders, not a matter of opinion. The Daily News was wrong.

Many of the questions were gotcha questions where there was no easy answer. For example:

On drones, the Daily News asked: “President Obama has taken the authority for drone attacks away from the CIA and given it to the U.S. military. Some say that that has caused difficulties in zeroing in on terrorists, their ISIS leaders. Do you believe that he’s got the right policy there?”

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Sanders said.

A nice gotcha, except that while Obama did announce publicly that at some point in the future authority would move from the CIA to the U.S. military, that decision was quietly reversed — so quietly that the news apparently didn’t make it to New York (though HuffPost did report on it).

Some questions are not easily answerable in an interview, but do not indicate ignorance of the topic:

Sanders has also taken a beating for saying he couldn’t cite a particular statute that may have been violated by Wall Street bankers during the financial crisis. But, quickly, without searching Google, can you name the particular statute that outlaws murder? Either way, here’s what Sanders actually said:

Daily News: What kind of fraudulent activity are you referring to when you say that?

Sanders: What kind of fraudulent activity? Fraudulent activity that brought this country into the worst economic decline in its history by selling packages of fraudulent, fraudulent, worthless subprime mortgages. How’s that for a start?

Selling products to people who you knew could not repay them. Lying to people without allowing them to know that in a year, their interest rates would be off the charts. They would not repay that. Bundling these things. Putting them into packages with good mortgages. That’s fraudulent activity.

Truthout posted a Democracy Now! interview which included Juan González, a columnist for the Daily News who did not think Sanders botched the interview:

Yeah, well, I certainly didn’t get that impression, tell you the truth. The editorial board is notorious, especially our editorial page editor, Arthur Browne, for his laser-like one question after another, and he bombarded, as several others of us also asked questions. I, overall, thought that Bernie Sanders handled the exchange very well. And I think that there were a few places where he stumbled, and — but I was amazed at his ability to parry the questions that were thrown at him and to, basically, for instance, bluntly say, when he was asked about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, that Israel needed to withdraw from the illegal settlements in Palestinian territory, which I was astounded that he was quite frank and clear on his position, while at the same time saying he would do everything possible as president to negotiate peace and security for Israel in an overall settlement. And I think there — he did stumble a little bit when he was pressed on how he would break up some of the too-big-to-fail banks. He clearly did not have that down pat.

Van Jones added:

You’re going to see the mainstream media go after him. Now there’s blood in the water on specifics. They’re going to go after him on specifics, you know, way beyond anything any candidate has had to address. And people are going to have to — I mean, he’s going to have to step up his game, because you can’t, you know, write excuses for people. He’s got to be able to answer those tough questions.

Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute was among those who argued that Sanders gave good answers, including on breaking up banks:

Bernie Sanders gave some fairly normal answers on financial reform to the New York Daily News editorial board. Someone sent it to me, and as I read it I thought “yes, these are answers I’d expect for how Sanders approaches financial reform.”

You wouldn’t know that from the coverage of it, which has argued that the answers were an embarrassing failure. Caitlin Cruz at TPM argues that Sanders “struggles to explain how he would break up the banks” and that’s relatively kind. Chris Cillizza says it was “pretty close to a disaster” and David Graham says the answers on his core financial focus is “tentative, unprepared, or unaware.” Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair writes that Sanders “admits he isn’t sure how to break up the big banks.”

This is not correct. Sanders has a clear path on how he wants to break up the banks which he described. Breaking up the banks doesn’t require, or even benefit from, describing the specifics on how the banks would end up, neither for his plans or the baby steps Dodd-Frank has already taken.

After further discussion, Konczal said, “If anything, Sanders is too wonky.” Dan Wright at  ShadowProof was even harsher on the media in a post entitled,  Was Corporate Media Too Dumb To Understand Sanders Bank Breakup Plan? He also pointed out that there is more detail at Sanders’ web site.

The Clinton campaign is using this interview to attack Sanders on guns, once gain ignoring his D- lifetime rating from the NRA, in contrast to Clinton who ran as a pro-gun chruchgoer in 2008. I understand Sanders’ having considered the position of gun owners having represented a rural state like Vermont. Clinton’s position appears to change based upon pure political pandering.

Hillary Clinton could probably answer questions of this type better than Sanders, but that does not mean she would make a better president. Repeating the establishment positions, showing no ability to think out of the box or to recognize the problems, makes her just part of the problem, and unable to come up with solutions. It will not be easy for an incoming president to deal with the corruptive role of money in government, and few, if anybody in Sanders’ position would be able to provide better answers until they are dealing with the problems in office. Sure, if Elizabeth Warren was running, there could be a strong case for voting for her instead of Sanders, but she is not on the ballot. What matter is that we have a president who recognizes the problems, and is on the right side of the issues.

Plus we need to look at matters such as integrity and judgment. Clinton fails on both counts. The email scandal, along with her dishonesty during the campaign, are just a couple of examples which demonstrate her lack of integrity. Despite her experience, she has demonstrated poor judgment throughout her career. Her support for the Panama Trade Deal, was just the latest example to hit the news. For the last few decades, Clinton was repeatedly wrong on the big questions, while Sanders was right, showing which one of them is really prepared to be president.

Sander Opposed And Clinton Supported Panama Trade Deal Which Led to Panama Papers Scandal

There is a long list of issues where Sanders got it right an Clinton got it wrong, from the Iraq war on foreign policy to the Defense of Marriage Act on social issues. Plus there are the trade deals which the two have disagreed on. Ben Norton points out that Sanders opposed the Panama trade deal which led to the abuses revealed in the Panama papers. In contrast, Clinton supported the deal :

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke up about the issue on Monday. His campaign posted to Facebook a video of an October 2011 speech in the U.S. Senate, in which Sanders condemned the Panama Free Trade Agreement that was being considered at the time.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama both supported the Bush administration-negotiated agreement, which ultimately made tax evasion an even larger problem. Progressive NGOs and watchdogs warned that this would happen at the time, but Clinton and Obama ignored them and strongly pushed for the deal.

Sanders, on the other hand, was one of the few voices to challenge the neoliberal trade deal.

Sanders began his statement on the Senate floor noting that Panama’s economy is incredibly small, with an economic output of just 0.2 percent of the U.S. economy’s. (Panama as a country, in fact, did not exist until the beginning of the 20th century, when the U.S. carved it off of Colombia and built an important canal there.)

“So I think no one is going to legitimately stand up here and say that trading with such a small country is going to significantly increase American jobs,” he explained.

Why, then, was the U.S. considering a free trade agreement with the country? He asked.

“Well, it turns out,” Sanders continued, “that Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade U.S. taxes by stashing their cash in offshore tax havens.”

The Panama Free Trade Agreement, the Vermont senator argued, would there “make this bad situation much worse.”

sanders-panama-2011-620x412

…The free trade agreement Clinton and Obama supported “would effectively bar the United States from cracking down on illegal and abusive offshore tax havens in Panama,” the Vermont senator pointed out.

“In fact, combating tax haven abuse in Panama would be a violation of this free trade agreement, exposing the U.S. to fines from international authorities,” he stressed.

Sanders also emphasized that the U.S. was losing up to $100 billion in taxes every year “as corporations stash their money in” tax havens like Panama, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.

“At a time when we have a $14 trillion plus national debt, and at a time when we are frantically figuring out ways to try to lower our deficit, some of us believe that it is a good idea to do away with all of these tax havens by which the wealthy and large corporations stash their money abroad and avoid paying U.S. taxes,” Sanders said.

The revelations have already led to the resignation of Iceland’s Prime Minister. At least 200 Americans were also named in the papers according to McClatchy.

Elizabeth Warren Cheers Bernie Sanders On As He Ties Clinton In Latest Poll

Bernie-Sanders-Jimmy-Kimmel

Elizabeth Warren is not willing to make an endorsement yet in the Democratic primary battle, but she is “cheering Bernie on” as she attacks Donald Trump. AP reports:

On Thursday, when asked if Bernie Sanders should drop out of the race, Warren praised the Democratic senator from Vermont.

Sanders has echoed Warren’s criticism of Wall Street and rising student load debt more than any other candidate.

‘‘He’s out there. He fights from the heart. This is who Bernie is,’’ Warren said. ‘‘He has put the right issues on the table both for the Democratic Party and for the country in general so I’m still cheering Bernie on.’’

Warren declined to say which candidate she voted for in the Massachusetts primary. She said she plans to make an endorsement, but not yet.

Perhaps the cheering is helping. Bloomberg has a new poll out showing Sanders tied with Clinton, and Sanders continues to be the stronger general election candidate in match-ups against Republicans:

Even after more than two dozen primaries and caucuses in which Clinton’s amassed a commanding lead in votes and in delegates needed to win the nomination, a Bloomberg Politics national poll found that Sanders is the first choice of 49 percent of those who have voted or plan to vote in this year’s Democratic contests, while the former secretary of state is preferred by 48 percent…

The survey also signaled some trouble for Clinton in holding on to Sanders supporters in November. In general-election match-ups, Sanders holds a 24-point edge over Donald Trump, a 12-point lead over Ted Cruz, and a 4-point advantage over John Kasich among likely general-election voters. Clinton, by contrast, trails Kasich by 4 percentage points. She would carry a sizable lead into a contest against Cruz, where she holds a 9-point advantage, and Trump, whom she beats by 18 points.

There are additional media reports which question if Sanders supporters will back Clinton. With Sanders campaigning out west, the Times of San Diego has run a story under the headline, San Diegans Rally for Bernie, Warn Hillary: Don’t Count on Us. It is also looking like topless women might be a new feature of Sanders rallies.

Sanders also made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. He discussed the terrorist attack in Brussels. He once again distinguished himself from Clinton, Trump, and Cruz in stressing the importance of respecting the  Constitution. He had this to say about Donald Trump:

At the end of the day, we cannot allow the Trumps of the world to use these incidents to attack all of the Muslim people in the world. It is unfair. To imply that because somebody is a Muslim, they are a terrorist, that is an outrageous statement. Equally so when he talks about Mexicans coming over the border as rapists and criminals. That is not what this country is about, and we don’t need, in my view, a candidate for president hurling these types of insults.

Sanders also talked more about Donald Trump, legalization of marijuana, Flint, and campaign finance reform in the segment above. Regarding climate change, Sanders said:

If you’re going to run for president, you need many, many hundreds of millions of dollars. I’m on the Senate environmental committee. I’ve talked to scientists all over the world. Climate change is real; it’s caused by human activity. And yet you don’t have one Republican candidate prepared to say that. The reason for it is that the day they say it, their campaign funding is cut by the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry.

What’s Wrong With Hillary? One Big Problem Is All Her Lying

Bush and Hillary Clinton

Jeff Greenfield has an article at Politico which asks the question, What’s Wrong With Hillary? It is subtitled, The GOP is fretting about Trump, but the Democrats’ likely standard-bearer could do just as much damage to her own party.

Problems include her conservative viewpoints on many issues, her changing of positions based upon political expediency, and her lying.

Greenfield discussed how Clinton is not trusted by the voters, including many Democrats. There is also a unique pattern to her shifts in position:

A look at Clinton’s political career provides a tougher explanation. Those younger voters who doubt her trustworthiness likely have no memory, or even casual acquaintance with, a 25-year history that includes cattle-futures trading, law firm billing records, muddled sniper fire recollections and the countless other charges of widely varying credibility aimed at her. They may even have suspended judgment about whether her e-mail use was a matter of bad judgment or worse.

But when you look at the positions she has taken on some of the most significant public policy questions of her time, you cannot escape noticing one key pattern: She has always embraced the politically popular stand—indeed, she has gone out of her way to reinforce that stand—and she has shifted her ground in a way that perfectly correlates with the shifts in public opinion.

For instance: Many Democrats, including all of the major 2008 presidential candidates save for Barack Obama, stood with President George W. Bush and voted for the authorization to use force against Saddam Hussein. What was different about Clinton, however, was that in her October 2002 speech she said this about Saddam: “He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of Sept. 11, 2001.”

This assertion, in the words of reporters Don Van Natta Jr. and Jeff Gerth, was unsupported by the conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate “and other secret intelligence reports that were available to senators before the vote.” It made for a more muscular talking point; it just happened not to be true.

Or consider her “evolution” on gay marriage. Back in June 2014, Clinton got very testy with “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross, who kept pushing Clinton to explain why this shift was not a matter of political calculation. She repeatedly asked the former secretary of state whether her opinion on gay marriage had changed, or whether the political dynamics had shifted enough that she could express her opinion.

“I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand …” Gross began.

“No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify,” Clinton snapped back. “I think you’re trying to say I used to be opposed and now I’m in favor and I did it for political reasons, and that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record, I have a great commitment to this issue.”

Well, here’s what Clinton said on the Senate floor, speaking in opposition to a constitutional amendment that would have forbidden gay marriage, while making very clear where she stood on the issue.

“I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. … So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman, going back into the mists of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization.”

Again, plenty of Democrats were on record as opposing gay marriage in 2004—the year that voters in 11 states voted to ban the practice by significant margins. What’s striking about Clinton’s speech is the intensity of the language, the assertion that it is a “bedrock principle.” You might think that a conviction so strongly held would not be subject to “evolution,” much less shifting political winds. Not so, apparently—any more than a trade deal can be the “gold standard” one year and an unacceptable threat to American workers the next; or that a generation of potential “super predators” requires draconian crime laws one decade, while the next demands an end to such laws.

Clinton’s dishonesty on matters of public policy, especially questions of war or peace, is most troubling, but as we are in the midst of a political campaign, her dishonest attacks on Sanders are the ones which currently stand out. James Hohmann described many of her lies during the debate in Miami, when she tried to make it sound like Sanders simultaneously was aligned with both Castro and the Koch Brothers. He summed up her strategy:

There is a tactic in high school debate called “the spread.” It’s when you throw out so many arguments that your opponent cannot possibly respond to all of them, especially with the limited time they have to speak. It’s especially effective when your arguments are just off the wall enough that the other side has not prepared responses ahead of time. Then, when you get a chance to respond to their refutation, you zero in on whatever they “dropped” and hammer them for it, spinning the judges on why it is crucially important to the broader topic being debated. It felt like Clinton was trying to do just that last night. Alas, this is not a high school debate tournament and the winner is not determined by points or on what competitive debaters refer to as “the flow.”

Clinton was also exposed for what appears to be violating debate rules, as Donald Trump has also done, by meeting with staff during a break in the debates.

It doesn’t even appear to be working for Clinton to lie at the debates. Her false claims about Sanders’ record on the auto bailout backfired, possibly helping him win Michigan. The New York Times, which has endorsed Clinton for the Democratic nomination, chastised her for her dishonesty:

Even with a double-digit lead before the primary, she failed to avoid the type of negative tactics that could damage her in the long haul. A new Washington Post-ABC poll says that nationally, Mrs. Clinton’s margin over Bernie Sanders has shrunk: she polls at 49 percent compared with 42 percent for Mr. Sanders; in January her lead was more than double that. If she hopes to unify Democrats as the nominee, trying to tarnish Mr. Sanders as she did in Michigan this week is not the way to go.

Mrs. Clinton’s falsely parsing Mr. Sanders’s Senate vote on a 2008 recession-related bailout bill as abandoning the auto industry rescue hurt her credibility. As soon as she uttered it in Sunday’s debate, the Democratic strategist David Axelrod registered his dismay, tweeting that the Senate vote wasn’t explicitly a vote about saving the auto industry. Even as reporters challenged her claim, she doubled down in ads across the state. As The Washington Post noted, “it seems like she’s willing to take the gamble that fact-checkers may call her out for her tactic Sunday — but that voters won’t.”

…The Clinton machine should stop trying to tie Mr. Sanders to the National Rifle Association. Though Mr. Sanders has a D-minus from the N.R.A., in Michigan Mrs. Clinton’s operatives took to Twitter touting the N.R.A.’s tweets supporting Mr. Sanders’s statement that making manufacturers liable for gun violence would destroy gun manufacturing in America. On Tuesday, her campaign issued a news release saying that the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, two African-American shooting victims, “are speaking out about Senator Bernie Sanders’ comments on guns and African-Americans in Sunday’s Democratic primary debate.” Mr. Sanders, like Mrs. Clinton, has spent decades working against racial discrimination, poverty and gun violence. To suggest otherwise is wrong.

The question is whether both the negative impression of Clinton, and the support Sanders has received, will carry through to this week’s primaries. The latest polls show that Sanders can pull additional upsets like in Michigan. If Clinton winds up with a string of losses outside of the red states, even the super delegates from the party establishment might start to question the wisdom of nominating her.

No More Clintons: Thomas Frank & Howard Zinn Expose Bill Clinton’s Conservative Record

Bill Clinton

I have often pointed out many of the conservative views of Hillary Clinton, including on foreign policy, civil liberties, and social issues. In a new book, Listen Liberal, Thomas Frank points out how conservative Bill Clinton’s administration was. Salon has some excerpts:

What did Clinton actually do in his eight years on Pennsylvania Avenue? While writing this book, I would periodically ask my liberal friends if they could recall the progressive laws he got passed, the high-minded policies he fought for—you know, the good things Bill Clinton got done while he was president. Why was it, I wondered, that we were supposed to think so highly of him—apart from his obvious personal charm, I mean?

It proved difficult for my libs. People mentioned the obvious things: Clinton once raised the minimum wage and expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit. He balanced the budget. He secured a modest tax increase on the rich. And he did propose a national health program, although it didn’t get very far and was in fact so poorly designed it could be a model of how not to do big policy initiatives.

Other than that, not much. No one could think of any great but hopeless Clintonian stands on principle; after all, this is the guy who once took a poll to decide where to go on vacation. His presidency was all about campaign donations, not personal bravery—he basically rented out the Lincoln Bedroom, for chrissake, and at the end of his time in office he even appeared to sell a presidential pardon…

After the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the corporate scandals of the Enron period, and the collapse of the real estate racket, our view of the prosperous Nineties has changed quite a bit. Now we remember that it was Bill Clinton’s administration that deregulated derivatives, that deregulated telecom, and that put our country’s only strong banking laws in the grave. He’s the one who rammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress and who taught the world that the way you respond to a recession is by paying off the federal deficit. Mass incarceration and the repeal of welfare, two of Clinton’s other major achievements, are the pillars of the disciplinary state that has made life so miserable for Americans in the lower reaches of society. He would have put a huge dent in Social Security, too, had the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal not stopped him. If we take inequality as our measure, the Clinton administration looks not heroic but odious.

…Someday we will understand that the punitive hysteria of the mid-1990s was not an accident; it was essential to Clintonism. Taken as a whole with NAFTA, with welfare reform, with his plan for privatizing Social Security and, of course, with Clinton’s celebrated lifting of the rules governing banks and telecoms, it all fits perfectly within the new, class-based framework of liberalism. Clinton simply treated different groups of Americans in radically different ways—crushing some in the iron fist of the state, exposing others to ruinous corporate power, while showering the favored stratum with bailouts, deregulation, and a frolicking celebration of Think Different business innovation.

Some got bailouts, others got “zero tolerance.” There was really no contradiction between these things. Lenience and forgiveness and joyous creativity for Wall Street bankers while another group gets a biblical-style beatdown—these things actually fit together quite nicely. Indeed, the ascendance of the first group requires that the second be lowered gradually into hell. When you take Clintonism all together, it makes sense, and the sense it makes has to do with social class. What the poor get is discipline; what the professionals get is endless indulgence.

Of course this is not new information. Howard Zinn described many of the same problems in A People’s History Of The United States, Chapter 23: The Clinton Presidency and the Crisis of Democracy:

Clinton had become the Democratic Party candidate in 1992 with a formula not for social change but for electoral victory: Move the party closer to the center. This meant doing just enough for blacks, women, and working people to keep their support, while trying to win over white conservative voters with a program of toughness on crime and a strong military…

He showed the same timidity in the two appointments he made to the Supreme Court, making sure that Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer would be moderate enough to be acceptable to Republicans as well as to Democrats. He was not willing to fight for a strong liberal to follow in the footsteps of Thurgood Marshall or William Brennan, who had recently left the Court. Breyer and Ginsburg both defended the constitutionality of capital punishment, and upheld drastic restrictions on the use of habeas corpus. Both voted with the most conservative judges on the Court to uphold the “constitutional right” of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers to exclude gay marchers.

In choosing judges for the lower federal courts, Clinton showed himself no more likely to appoint liberals than the Republican Gerald Ford had in the seventies. According to a three-year study published in the Fordham Law Review in early 1996, Clinton’s appointments made “liberal” decisions in less than half their cases. The New York Times noted that, while Reagan and Bush had been willing to fight for judges who would reflect their philosophies, “Mr. Clinton, in contrast, has been quick to drop judicial candidates if there is even a hint of controversy.”

Clinton was eager to show he was “tough” on matters of “law and order.” Running for president in 1992 while still governor of Arkansas, he flew back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of a mentally retarded man on death row. And early in his administration, he and Attorney General Janet Reno approved an FBI attack on a group of religious zealots who were armed and ensconced in a building complex in Waco, Texas. The attack resulted in a fire that swept through the compound, killing at least 86 men, women, and children…

The “Crime Bill” of 1996, which both Republicans and Democrats in Congress voted for overwhelmingly, and which Clinton endorsed with enthusiasm, dealt with the problem of crime by emphasizing punishment, not prevention. It extended the death penalty to a whole range of criminal offenses, and provided $8 billion for the building of new prisons.

All this was to persuade voters that politicians were “tough on crime.” But, as criminologist Todd Clear wrote in the New York Times (“Tougher Is Dumber”) about the new crime bill, harsher sentencing since 1973 had added 1 million people to the prison population, giving the United States the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and yet violent crime continued to increase. “Why,” Clear asked, “do harsh penalties seem to have so little to do with crime?” A crucial reason is that “police and prisons have virtually no effect on the sources of criminal behavior.” He pointed to those sources: “About 70 percent of prisoners in New York State come from eight neighborhoods in New York City. These neighborhoods suffer profound poverty, exclusion, marginalization and despair. All these things nourish crime.”

Those holding political power—whether Clinton or his Republican predecessors—had something in common. They sought to keep their power by diverting the anger of citizens to groups without the resources to defend themselves. As H. L. Mencken, the acerbic social critic of the 1920s, put it: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

Criminals were among these hobgoblins. Also immigrants, people on “welfare,” and certain governments—Iraq, North Korea, Cuba. By turning attention to them, by inventing or exaggerating their dangers, the failures of the American system could be concealed…

Both major political parties joined to pass legislation, which Clinton then signed, to remove welfare benefits (food stamps, payments to elderly and disabled people) from not only illegal but legal immigrants. By early 1997, letters were going out to close to 1 million legal immigrants, who were poor, old, or disabled, warning them that their food stamps and cash payments would be cut off in a few months unless they became citizens…

The use of force was still central to U.S. foreign policy. Clinton had been in office barely six months when he sent the Air Force to drop bombs on Baghdad, presumably in retaliation for an assassination plot against George Bush on the occasion of the former president’s visit to Kuwait. The evidence for such a plot was very weak, coming as it did from the notoriously corrupt Kuwaiti police. Nevertheless, U.S. planes, claiming to target “Intelligence Headquarters” in the Iraqi capital, bombed a suburban neighborhood, killing at least six people, including a prominent artist and her husband.

New York Times Asks Clinton To Show Voters Those Transcripts

Clinton Transcripts

While I bet that Hillary Clinton will claim that this is just part of the vast right wing conspiracy against her, The New York Times called on her to release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, and debunked her excuses for failing to do so:

Mrs. Clinton, Show Voters Those Transcripts

“Everybody does it,” is an excuse expected from a mischievous child, not a presidential candidate. But that is Hillary Clinton’s latest defense for making closed-door, richly paid speeches to big banks, which many middle-class Americans still blame for their economic pain, and then refusing to release the transcripts.

A televised town hall on Tuesday was at least the fourth candidate forum in which Mrs. Clinton was asked about those speeches. Again, she gave a terrible answer, saying that she would release transcripts “if everybody does it, and that includes the Republicans.”

In November, she implied that her paid talks for the Wall Street firms were part of helping them rebuild after the 9/11 attacks, which “was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists.”

In a debate with Bernie Sanders on Feb. 4, Mrs. Clinton was asked if she would release transcripts, and she said she would “look into it.” Later in February, asked in a CNN town hall forum why she accepted $675,000 for speeches to Goldman Sachs, she got annoyed, shrugged, and said, “That’s what they offered,” adding that “every secretary of state that I know has done that.”

At another town hall, on Feb. 18, a man in the audience pleaded, “Please, just release those transcripts so that we know exactly where you stand.” Mrs. Clinton had told him, “I am happy to release anything I have when everybody else does the same, because every other candidate in this race has given speeches to private groups.”

On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton further complained, “Why is there one standard for me, and not for everybody else?”

The only different standard here is the one Mrs. Clinton set for herself, by personally earning $11 million in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 for 51 speeches to banks and other groups and industries.

Voters have every right to know what Mrs. Clinton told these groups. In July, her spokesman Nick Merrill said that though most speeches were private, the Clinton operation “always opened speeches when asked to.” Transcripts of speeches that have been leaked have been pretty innocuous. By refusing to release them all, especially the bank speeches, Mrs. Clinton fuels speculation about why she’s stonewalling.

Her conditioning her releases on what the Republicans might or might not do is mystifying. Republicans make no bones about their commitment to Wall Street deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Mrs. Clinton is laboring to convince struggling Americans that she will rein in big banks, despite taking their money.

Besides, Mrs. Clinton is not running against a Republican in the Democratic primaries. She is running against Bernie Sanders, a decades-long critic of Wall Street excess who is hardly a hot ticket on the industry speaking circuit. The Sanders campaign, asked if Mr. Sanders also received fees for closed-door speeches, came up with two from two decades ago that were not transcribed: one to a hospital trade association, and one to a college, each for less than $1,000. Royalties from a book called “The Speech,” Mr. Sanders’s eight-hour Senate floor diatribe against President Obama’s continuation of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, were donated to the nonprofit Addison County Parent/Child Center in Vermont.

The hazards of Mrs. Clinton, a presidential hopeful, earning more than $200,000 each for dozens of speeches to industry groups were clear from the start. Mrs. Clinton was making paid speeches when she hired consultants to vet her own background in preparation for a run. If they didn’t flag this, they weren’t doing their jobs.

Public interest in these speeches is legitimate, and it is the public — not the candidate — who decides how much disclosure is enough. By stonewalling on these transcripts Mrs. Clinton plays into the hands of those who say she’s not trustworthy and makes her own rules. Most important, she is damaging her credibility among Democrats who are begging her to show them that she’d run an accountable and transparent White House.

It is a repeat of Clinton’s refusal to release her email as Secretary of State until she had no choice (minus the over fifty percent which she destroyed).

Anecdotal reports from those who have been at her speeches in various news reports suggest that she did express a level of support for the big banks which would be very embarrassing if they came out during her primary battle with Bernie Sanders, amplifying the differences between the two. We an only imagine the specifics. Counterpunch has posted the transcript of  a “leaked” speech (actually satire). Here are some excerpts:

Previous generations of Americans built this economy and a middle class on a collective illusion: that they do productive work, this creates wealth, and that this builds the economy. We all know how misguided that is. We know that it’s really due to your investing, credit, and economic stewardship, that they have been able to work at all, that they are able to put food on their tables. It’s due to you and other banking, trading, investment houses that we have an economy that works at all. You are why we are a truly 21st century economic power.

… I—contrary to populist, hysterical demonizing–firmly believe that what you do is essential and critical: you help allocate our investment, direct our economic development, hedge risks, and create power, policies, and alliances in ways that make our country stronger, richer, more powerful, more innovative, competitive, and yes, more “democratic”. You underwrite our elections and our political process—taking on the huge cost of enabling democratic dialogue at its biggest, broadest capacity. Your tireless work adds true value, and without you, we would still be struggling helplessly against industrial powerhouses in Asia and across the world trying to compete with them on the level of industry, technology, innovation, and hard work, at which they would beat us hands down. It’s your financial innovation, your speculative tools, which allow us new ways of creating value without sweat or struggle, that gives us the competitive advantage. It’s this vision, this technological innovation, this financial wizardry, this is what makes America great and powerful.

We must lower incomes for low-value working schmucks, so they give up on any notions of a middle-class life. But more than that, we must reduce the slick, unsustainable bigotry of expectation: the profit-sucking cage of entitlement, expectation, and imagination. We must drive income down steadily and siphon that surplus wealth to you, the captains of finance, so that we can build a strong economy that is innovative, powerful, that acknowledges and rewards your acumen…

And that will be my mission, from the first day I am president to the last. I…

I will get up every day thinking about you, the hard-working Wizards of Finance, Lords of Capital, Economic Giants of Innovation, Noble Titans that make us strong and powerful!

..Government has to be smarter, smaller, more focused on supporting speculative investments than the convenient politics of justice, and be a better servant of the private sector. Washington has to be a better steward—servant–of your power!  The media has to respect you! Please, let’s get back to making decisions that pay due deference to power and money!

That’s what I’ll do as president. I will seek out and welcome any good idea that is accompanied by a large check!

We can be certain that Clinton did not use these exact words in her actual speeches, but it might capture what she was thinking. We will not know what she actually said unless she releases the transcripts.

Misguided Fear of Bernie Sanders From The Center

Thomas Friedman NY Times

Thomas Friedman is again upset that everyone is not firmly in the middle of the road and does not understand why so many voters are opposing the establishment of both parties:

I find this election bizarre for many reasons but none more than this: If I were given a blank sheet of paper and told to write down America’s three greatest sources of strength, they would be “a culture of entrepreneurship,” “an ethic of pluralism” and the “quality of our governing institutions.” And yet I look at the campaign so far and I hear leading candidates trashing all of them.

Donald Trump is running against pluralism. Bernie Sanders shows zero interest in entrepreneurship and says the Wall Street banks that provide capital to risk-takers are involved in “fraud,” and Ted Cruz speaks of our government in the same way as the anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, who says we should shrink government “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” (Am I a bad person if I hope that when Norquist slips in that bathtub and has to call 911, no one answers?)

Simon Maloy responded to his column:

Thomas Friedman is terribly perplexed. The New York Times columnist asks “Who Are We?” this morning, a question prompted by his chilling realization that some of this year’s presidential candidates are doing quite well despite not believing in the same things as Thomas Friedman. This disturbing rebuke of Friedmanism has left the man unnerved and unsure, grasping for any sort of anchor as the world he observes from inside taxi cabs and airports stops making sense…

The rap on Sanders, per Friedman is that he’s too hard Wall Street “fraud” and insufficiently celebratory of entrepreneurship. Bernie is “right that Wall Street excesses helped tank the economy in 2008,” Friedman allows, but “thanks to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, that can’t easily happen again.” Oh, well, if it’s more difficult now for the engine of wealth inequality to nearly destroy the global economy with its “excesses,” then what is Bernie’s problem? As for entrepreneurship, Friedman thinks Bernie needs to talk it up more because “we’re not socialists.” (If you’d like to read Sanders extolling the virtues of entrepreneurs and small businesses and explaining the threat Wall Street poses to both, I’d direct you to this interview and this debate.)

Yes, if Friedman had wanted to write about how those angry on the right are misguided in supporting either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz I would agree. Unfortunately Friedman himself is misguided in his evaluation of Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ goal, despite the Democratic Socialist label, is to reform and repair our capitalist system, not replace it with Socialism, following years of abuse by Republicans (along with DLC neoliberals or New Democrats such as Bill Clinton).

Of course we should not be surprised when people have a misleading view of Sanders’ views in light of the distortions from the Clinton campaign and red-baiting by her surrogates. The reality is that Sanders has repeatedly expressed support for the role of entrepreneurship while criticizing the “casino capitalism” we now have. As I have discussed previously, there was no Red Dawn in Vermont when Sanders was mayor of Burlington. Inc, Magazine even found the Burlington to be the best city in the Northeast for a growing business when Sanders’ director of community and economic development succeeded him as mayor.

There has been a lot of similar expressions of shock by centrists since Sanders’ victory in the New Hampshire primary, where, incidentally Sanders’ margin of victory among moderates was almost identical as it was among liberals. Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, had this to say about the of misinterpretation of the primary results:

You will hear pundits analyze the New Hampshire primaries and conclude that the political “extremes” are now gaining in American politics – that the Democrats have moved to the left and the Republicans have moved to the right, and the “center” will not hold.

Baloney. The truth is that the putative “center” – where the Democratic Leadership Council and Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” of the 1990s found refuge, where George W. Bush and his corporate buddies and neoconservative advisers held sway, and where Barack Obama’s Treasury Department granted Wall Street banks huge bailouts but didn’t rescue desperate homeowners – did a job on the rest of America, and is now facing a reckoning.

The “extremes” are not gaining ground. The anti-establishment ground forces of the American people are gaining. Some are so fed up they’re following an authoritarian bigot. Others, more wisely, are signing up for a “political revolution” to take back America from the moneyed interests.

That’s the real choice ahead.

Reich also recently wrote that, “Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.” Unfortunately some centrists such as Friedman fear change, no matter how badly it is needed.

Lacking A Message, Clinton Again Relies On Misinformation In PBS Debate

PBS_Dem_Debate_2

At the PBS Democratic Debate Hillary Clinton recycled some old lies about Sanders, and created some new ones. I’ll debunk some of each. The full transcript can be found here.

An early point of contention between the candidates was over health care, with Clinton falsely claiming that “before it was called Obamacare, it was called Hillarycare.” No, actually Hillarycare was a seriously flawed plan with major differences from Obamacare.  Making matters worse, Hillary got Bill to agree to veto any other health care proposals. The Republican counter proposal was far closer to Obamacare, although, not surprisingly, it was friendlier to the insurance industry. Clinton kept us from getting either something close to Obamacare, along with any other Democratic proposal. She was hardly a progressive who gets things done.

Clinton continued to portray Medicare For All as eliminating other plans while ignoring all of its advantages. Although single payer is far less expensive than our current system, Clinton claims we would “actually be worse off than they are right now.” How could we possibly be worse off if we no longer have to pay towards the corporate profits of the health insurance industry, not to mention its huge infrastructure? How could we possibly be worse off than with the current high premiums on the individual market, which still leave us with astronomical deductibles? Clinton talks about this as starting over, but Medicare for All is actually just expansion of a highly successful program.

They next disagreed over expansion of Social Security as Sanders and most progressive Democrats advocate. Slate discussed this further in an article entitle Clinton’s Social Security Plan Is a Little Hazy. And Sanders Called Her Out on It.

Clinton tried to hide the major differences in how their campaigns are funded in claiming, “I’m very proud of the fact that we have more than 750 thousand donors, and the vast majority of them are giving small contributions.” That is probably why I keep getting emails from the Clinton campaign asking for a $1 donation. By asking for $1 they can pad the numbers. The real source of Clinton’s donations can be seen from how the DNC just rolled back their limitations from lobbyists. It is just one more way in which the DNC is acting to help Clinton, and smelling a lot more like the RNC.

Sanders pointed out the difference:

What we are talking about in reality is a corrupt campaign finance system, that’s what we’re talking about. We have to be honest about it. It is undermining American democracy.

When extraordinarily wealthy people make very large contributions to Super PACs, and in many cases in this campaign, Super PACs have raised more money than individual candidates have, OK? We had a decision to make early on, do we do a Super PAC? And, we said no. We don’t represent Wall Street, we don’t represent the billionaire class, so it ends up I’m the only candidate up here of the many candidates who has no Super PAC. But, what we did is we said to the working families of this country, look, we know things are tough, but if you want to help us go beyond establishment politics, and establishment economics, send us something. And, it turns out that up until — and this has blown me away, never in a million years would I have believed that I would be standing here tonight telling you that we have received three and a half million individual contributions from well over a million people.

Now, Secretary Clinton’s Super PAC, as I understand it, received $25 million dollars last reporting period, $15 million dollars from Wall Street. Our average contribution is $27 dollars, I’m very proud of that.

When Clinton tried to dodge the issue, Sanders went on:

SANDERS: The people aren’t dumb. Why in God’s name does Wall Street… (APPLAUSE) But let’s not — but let’s not — let’s not insult — let’s not insult the intelligence of the American people. People aren’t dumb.Why in God’s name does Wall Street make huge campaign contributions? I guess just for the fun of it; they want to throw money around.

Why does the pharmaceutical industry make huge campaign contributions? Any connection maybe to the fact that our people pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?

Why does the fossil fuel industry pay — spend huge amounts of money on campaign contributions? Any connection to the fact that not one Republican candidate for president thinks and agrees with the scientific community that climate change is real and that we have got to transform our energy system?

Factcheck.org also pointed out Clinton’s dishonesty in claiming that Sanders “took about $200,000 from Wall Street firms” through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. While Sanders did receive money from the DSCC, which hardly sounds like a crime, Factcheck.org pointed out that a relatively small percentage of the DSCC’s contributions came from Wall Street.

Sanders attacked Clinton regarding her views on regime change, including in Iraq and Libya. Clinton repeated her previous tactic of lying about Sanders’ record in bringing up resolutions he voted for which had nothing to do with overthrowing other governments by force in Iraq and Libya as Clinton advocated. As I discussed after the third debate, Politico fact-checked this and pointed out the resolution Clinton referred to was a nonbinding resolution “calling on Qaddafi to desist from further violence, recognize the Libyan people’s demand for democratic change, [and] resign his position.” This is far different from the promotion of the removal of Qaddafi by force which Clinton orchestrated, leading to catastrophic results. Similarly, the resolution regarding Iraq which Clinton keeps mentioning was to promote the move towards democracy in Iraq. Sanders supported economic sanctions and did not support the invasion of Iraq as Clinton did.

Clinton bragged about Obama hiring her to be Secretary of State but his was far more for political reasons than an endorsement of her judgment. Throughout her four years as Secretary of State, Clinton’s neoconservative advice was generally rejected (other for in Libya, where the policy was a failure). Clinton’s defense of her foreign policy views became even more bizarre when she embraced Henry Kissinger. As Sanders responded:

Where the secretary and I have a very profound difference, in the last debate — and I believe in her book — very good book, by the way — in her book and in this last debate, she talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger. Now, I find it rather amazing, because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.

I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. And in fact, Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. So count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.

Clinton once again tried to make herself look like a great supporter of Barack Obama and make Sanders look like a constant critic. She falsely claimed that Sanders wrote “a forward for a book that basically argued voters should have buyers’ remorse when it comes to President Obama’s leadership and legacy.” This refers to the book Buyer’s Remorse–How Obama Let Progressives Down by Bill Press. The book begins with:

I speak as a  proud liberal.

I speak as a strong supporter of President Obama.

From there it does criticize Obama for letting progressives down, discussing both the positives and negatives of the Obama administration. Sanders does not have a forward (at least on my copy of the book) but there is a brief blurb on the back cover from Sanders:

Bill Press makes the case why, long after taking the oath of office, the next president of the United States must keep rallying the people who elected him or her on behalf of progressive causes. That is the only way real change will happen. Read this book.

Hardly the sort of near-treason which Clinton suggests. The next blurb on the back cover is from Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor under her husband. Reich also recently wrote that, “Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.”

Clinton was also wrong when she said Sanders was “calling several times that he should have a primary opponent” in 2012, grossly exaggerated anything which Sanders did say on the subject. She totally ignored how she opposed Obama before she supported him. This not only includes th2 2008 primary battle, which included her campaign spreading the Reverend Wright smears, and other dirty tricks. Clinton was quite hostile towards Obama’s foreign policy views after she left office as Secretary of State, and was running against Obama’s policies earlier in the current campaign. She will turn on Obama’s legacy again should she find it politically expedient.

Clinton concluded in her closing remarks yet another smear, which Sanders could not respond to, that he was a single issue candidate. In this post alone there are multiple issues which separate them such as on the role of money in politics, their views on Medicare for All, Social Security reform, disagreement over embracing the legacy of Henry Kissinger, Clinton’s support for regime change in Libya as well as Iraq. Other issues which Sanders is running on also came up which I have not included here, such as ending the drug war and reforming marijuana laws. There are also many other differences on other issues which were not raised during the debate, such as substantial differences over climate change and on social/cultural issues.

While Sanders certainly concentrates on limited issues during the campaign for political reasons, he has demonstrated many reasons to support him on a variety of issues. In contrast, Clinton’s bright yellow jacket  (which I  think she borrowed from Curious George’s friend in the yellow hat) seemed to receive more attention than anything she had to say at the debate. Clinton’s problem is that she lacks any real message at all, failing to provide voters a reason to support her. Even many of  those who do support her are acknowledging this problem.

Update: Accusations Of Lying Dominate Republican Debate

Clinton Attacks Sanders With Series Of Bogus Sound Bites At MSNBC Democratic Debate

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2016 photo, Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt,  stand together before the start of the NBC, YouTube Democratic presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C.  The Democratic presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders reached an agreement in principle on Saturday to hold another presidential debate next week in New Hampshire and three more later this spring.  (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Wednesday’s one-on-one debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (transcript here) was probably the best debate yet, and unfortunately the lowest rated. Unlike the CNN Town Hall the previous day, Clinton did not struggle to come up with answers. Instead she repeated a serious of prepared sound bites which made her seem ingenuous.

Clinton, an old DLC Democrat, is making a huge mistake in getting into a debate she cannot win when she claims to be a progressive. She has already admitted to being a centrist, and she just shows her propensity for changing her views based upon political expediency when she claims otherwise. She also opens herself up for mocking by actual progressives, such as at Common Dreams, when she claims to be a progressive. As I recently pointed out with this graph, Clinton is much closer to the Republicans ideologically than Sanders and his supporters:

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

If Sanders made any mistake on this line of attack, it was to give the impression that holding certain views are a litmus test of whether one is a progressive. Certain individual progressives might disagree on one or more positions. It is the overall world view which counts, with Clinton opposing progressive viewpoints on a wide range of issues.

Clinton is also fighting a losing battle when claiming not to be part of the establishment because she is a woman. By that logic do we vote for Carly Fiorina? Citing support from Howard Dean does not also help her considering how Dean has sold out to be a lobbyist for they pharmaceutical industry.

Clinton’s sound bites on so many issues are total nonsense. Despite what she claimed, HillaryCare was not ObamaCare. HillaryCare was a highly flawed plan which failed both due to its flaws and her unwillingness to compromise on the details.  Her bungling of health care reform was the first sign that she is a progressive who gets things done. She also got far less done in the Senate compared to Sanders who was influential on passing many amendments.

Clinton repeated her nonsensical attack on Sanders’ proposal for free public universities in saying, “What I want to do is make sure middle class kids, not Donald Trump’s kids, get to be able to afford college.” Donald Trump’s kids are not going to go to free public universities.

In attacking Medicare for All, she falsely claimed, “Senator Sanders wants us to start all over again.” Expanding Medicare, a highly successful program we have now, is not starting all over again. And, in any event, Sanders is not going to take away ObamaCare before Medicare for All is available as the Clinton camp has suggested. Meanwhile, Clinton has no serious proposals to handle the high costs of health care which persist under ObamaCare, despite its improvements to the system, while Medicare for All would provide a solution.

Clinton continued to distort Bernie Sanders’ record on guns, despite his D- lifetime rating from the NRA. She now claims to be more liberal, despite having described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer” in 2008.

Clinton was put on the defensive regarding her ties to Wall Street and the speaking fees she received from Goldman Sachs. Back when it was seen as a race between Clinton and Jeb Bush, leaders of Goldman Sachs made it clear that they saw Clinton as being on their side. She evaded a question as to whether the transcripts of her highly-paid speeches to them will be released to the public.

Clinton denied that payouts from Wall Street affect her views. Elizabeth Warren has disagreed.

I would also caution Clinton from repeating the phrase, “I have a record” while the FBI investigation of her email is in progress. She also repeated one of her dishonest sound bites here in claiming, “They are retroactively classifying it.” As Reuters described months ago, some of the email was “born classified” and as Secretary of State Clinton should have known the material was classified at the time. Further email releases have only made matters look worse for Clinton since this article was posted.

Clinton tried to excuse her actions by bringing up Colin Powell and Condalisa Rice. What they did does not excuse any violations of the law by Clinton.  Plus stricter rules were put into place in 2009 in response to the abuses under the Bush administration which Clinton violated.

Clinton brags that Obama made her Secretary of State, but that was a political decision. He had rejected Clinton’s views, such as her talk of obliterating Iran, during the campaign. Obama ran foreign policy from the White House, and the Obama administration usually rejected Clinton’s more hawkish, neoconservative advice. Sanders pointed out how he was right on the Iraq war, and warned of the perpetual warfare we are likely to see if Clinton is elected. Unfortunately Clinton’s hawkish views on Libya and Syria were not discussed during the debate. Sometimes I wish Sanders would also move further beyond his usual sound bites.

The issue of electability came up with Sanders pointing out how well he does in head to head match-ups against republicans. Old left versus right arguments re electability no longer apply. These days elections are won by getting out the base. Bernie can do that better than Clinton. Plus Sanders does better with independents while Clinton does poorly in the battleground states. Voters are looking for a candidate with integrity, and a reformer who who fix the system Clinton is too close to, not where a candidate falls on the flawed right to left spectrum.

Sanders is working towards improving his support among minorities (with news coming out earlier in the day that a former NAACP head is planning to endorse Sanders.) He was smart to bring up the impact on minorities when opposing the death penalty. He pointed out that, “too many innocent people, including minorities, African Americans, have been executed when they were not guilty. That’s number one. We have to be very careful about making sure about that.”

Sanders also discussed the water situation in Flint, Michigan. When he spoke of the children being poisoned, an issue where both Democratic candidates agree, I quipped on Facebook that Republicans do not agree–they think that the poisoning of children is an issue which should be left up to the states. (My blow by blow account of the debate on Facebook has been left public for now.)

Besides the issue of whether Clinton is a progressive and a member of the establishment, another topic which came up during the debate was a faux complaint from Clinton that Sanders was waging a negative campaign on her.

The Clinton machine is probably the dirtiest machine in all of politics, yet when someone presents an accurate criticism of Clinton’s record she cries about how she is being smeared. The Clinton machine spread the Reverend Wright and Birther smears against Obama eight years ago. This year we have seen twisting of Sanders’ words to claim sexism, a distortion of his position on guns, and claims that Sanders is going to take Medicare, Medicaid, and even ObamaCare away from people.

Slate called Sanders the winner but did have some criticism of his performance, while others called it for Clinton. David Graham at The Atlantic called Sanders the winner but was reluctant to call Clinton a loser. He highlighted Sanders’ concentration on limited issues, which I think is largely part of his strategy to take on Clinton and build a winning general election coalition. Google showed that there was more interest in Sanders than Clinton during the debate. More importantly, the types of search queries look more like those who are looking to become engaged with the campaign:

Hillary Clinton

  1. How old is Hillary Clinton?
  2. Who can beat Hillary?
  3. Where is Hillary Clinton today?
  4. Will Hillary win?
  5. How much is Hillary Clinton worth?

Bernie Sanders

  1. Where will Bernie Sanders be speaking?
  2. Why Bernie Sanders?
  3. Who would be Bernie Sanders’ VP?
  4. How to donate to Bernie Sanders
  5. Where can I see Bernie Sanders in NH?

Sanders Strong And Clinton Off Her Game In New Hampshire Town Hall

Bernie Sanders CNN Town Hall

Bernie Sanders had a strong night while Clinton had a terrible performance at the CNN Town Hall Wednesday night (video and transcript here). It was almost painful to see her stumbling to come up with answers to some of the questions.

Sanders criticized Clinton’s claims of being a progressive saying, “you can’t go and say you’re a moderate on one day and be a progressive on the other day. Some of my best friends are moderates. I love moderates. But you can’t be a moderate and a progressive. They are different.” He elaborated a later exchange:

But there are other issues, Anderson, where I think she is just not progressive. I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. That’s just not progressive.

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: As I mentioned earlier, the key foreign policy vote of modern American history was the war in Iraq. The progressive community was pretty united in saying don’t listen to Bush. Don’t go to war.

Secretary Clinton voted to go to war.

Virtually all of the trade unions and millions of working people understand that our trade policies — NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, etc. — have been written by corporate America and the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers… millions of working people understand that our trade policies, NAFTA, CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, et cetera, have been written by corporate America.

And the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers out on the street, move to China and other low-wage countries, and bring their products back into this country. And that’s one of the reasons why the middle class of this country and the working class is struggling so hard.

Secretary Clinton has been a supporter in the past of various trade policies, NAFTA and PNTR with China. Reluctantly, and after a lot of pressure on her, she came out against the TPP, and I’m glad that she did.

Every sensible person understands that climate change is real. It is caused by human activity. And we have got to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.

For a long time, Secretary Clinton was talking about the benefits of the Keystone pipeline. Well, there are no benefits to excavating and transporting some of the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world.

I was in the lead in opposition to the Keystone pipeline. I’m in opposition to the pipeline right here in New Hampshire and the pipeline in Vermont. I think we have got to move aggressively away from fossil fuel if we’re going to leave this planet in a way that’s healthy and habitable for our kids.

So those are just some of the areas…

CNN described how Clinton performed in their report on the event:

Clinton delivered an uneven performance at the event, sounding confident on policy answers and connecting with the audience when she shared moments from her personal life but stumbling on topics that have dogged her throughout the campaign, including her vote on the Iraq War and her relationship with Wall Street.

Her toughest moment of the night came when she was asked to address the paid speeches she gave at Goldman Sachs after leaving the State Department.

Clinton started to explain that Goldman wasn’t the only group that paid her for speeches. But when Cooper interjected and asked, “Did you have to be paid $675,000?” Clinton appeared caught off guard.

“Well, I don’t know. Um, that’s what they offered,” she said. Clinton went on to insist that at the time of the speeches, she was undecided on whether to seek the White House.

“I didn’t know, to be honest, I wasn’t — I wasn’t committed to running,” Clinton said, uncharacteristically tripping over her words. “I didn’t — I didn’t know whether I was running or not. I didn’t.”

And in one of the more revealing exchanges of the night, Cooper asked Clinton what would be wrong with the so-called “political revolution” that Sanders frequent calls for. Clinton paused before responding: “That’s for Sen. Sanders to explain.”

I wish that when Clinton is stumbling over her answer on Iraq more people would move on to the key point that, while she admits she made a mistake on the Iraq vote, she continued to make the same type of mistake with her positions on Libya, Syria, and Iran. We are not looking at an isolated mistake. We are looking at a pattern of dangerously pushing the country towards more warfare.

Often the best part of town halls are when members of the audience ask questions entirely different from those of the news media. Clinton faced one such question:

This may come a little bit from right field, this may seem, but it’s very personal to me and resonates probably with many other people who are elderly dealing with health issues.

The question is coming to me as a person who is walking with colon cancer. And I’m walking with colon cancer with the word terminal very much in my vocabulary, comfortably and spiritually.

But I wonder what leadership you could offer within an executive role that might help advance the respectful conversation that is needed around this personal choice that people may make, as we age and deal with health issues or be the caregivers of those people, to help enhance and — their end of life with dignity.

As I have found Clinton to do so often during the years, she began to speak incoherently on the topic, unable to answer the question and demonstrating why, as a physician, I do not want to see Hillary Clinton anywhere near health care policy. Tonight she showed no understanding of end of life counseling or palliative care. In the past she messed up health care pretty badly with her awful attempt at health care reform, and she generally sounds ignorant when discussing health care issues.

The night was a success for Sanders and a disaster for Clinton. Unfortunately I do not think that this event received much attention. Hopefully she was thrown off her game by her difficulties in Iowa and will also perform poorly at Thursday’s debate.

Update: The MSNBC New Hampshire Democratic Debate