Discussion Of Saddam and Iraq Return To British And American Politics

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The Iraq war was the subject of news today both in the UK, with the release of the Chilcot inquiry, and in the US  with news reports of Donald Trump praising Saddam. David Weigel made a point that the media’s coverage of Trump’s statements appeared timed to help Hillary Clinton after the Clinton campaign used them to distract from James Comey’s statement which accused Clinton of being extremely careless with classified information, and demonstrated that she has lied to the public on several key points regarding the email controversy. Missing from the mainstream media coverage was Clinton’s support for the Iraq war based upon false claims.

A seven-year official inquiry in Great Britain on the Iraq war was finally released and repeats what many critics of the Iraq war were saying from the start, including that the reports of WMD were based upon faulty intelligence and non-military responses were not exhausted. CNN reports:

A  long-awaited official inquiry delivered a devastating indictment of Britain’s decision to invade Iraq Wednesday, finding that the war was based on flawed intelligence and had been launched before diplomatic options were exhausted.

The findings of the 2.6 million-word Iraq Inquiry — seven years in the making — were released following a statement by probe chairman John Chilcot in London.

The former civil servant said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” when the U.S-led invasion was launched in March 2003, and that while military action against him “might have been necessary at some point,” the “strategy of containment” could have continued for some time.

Chilcot said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned of the risks of regional instability and the rise of terrorism before the invasion of Iraq, but pressed on regardless.

BBC News sums up two key points:

Chairman Sir John Chilcot said the 2003 invasion was not the “last resort” action presented to MPs and the public.

There was no “imminent threat” from Saddam – and the intelligence case was “not justified”, he said.

The Guardian called the war an “appalling mistake” and began their editorial in looking at the victims:

As always in matters of military aggression, the humane perspective has to start with the victims. Since the US-led, UK-backed invasion of Iraq in 2003, estimates of the lives lost to violence vary from a quarter of a million to 600,000. The number of injured will surely be several times that, and the number of men, women and children displaced from their homes is put at between 3.5 and 5 million, somewhere between one in 10 and one in six of the population.

There is no disputing the vicious brutality of the regime that ran the country before, but there is no serious disputing, either, that the suffering captured in these statistics of war are of another order to anything that would be endured in even tyrannical times of peace. Thirteen years on, as the deadly blast in Baghdad last weekend illustrated afresh, the predicament of the Iraqi people remains misery without end. The topsy-turvy post-9/11 rationalisation for regime change from the chauvinist, parochial and sometimes proudly ignorant George W Bush White House produced predictably topsy-turvy results. Jihadi forces that Saddam Hussein had contained were not discouraged by his ousting, but greatly emboldened. In sum, failures do not come any more abject than Iraq, nor catastrophes any less pure.

George Bush’s communication director responded to BBC News with a rationalization based upon Saddam’s actions: “Despite the intelligence failures and other mistakes he has acknowledged previously, President Bush continues to believe the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.”

Donald Trump has expressed a different viewpoint on Saddam throughout the campaign. CNN reports:

While acknowledging that Saddam Hussein “was a bad guy,” Trump praised the former Iraqi dictator’s efficient killing of “terrorists” — despite the fact that Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism during Hussein’s time in power.

Trump, who supported the Iraq War before the invasion and in the early months of the war, said the U.S. “shouldn’t have destabilized” Iraq before pivoting to praising Hussein.

“He was a bad guy — really bad guy. But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism,” Trump said.

While Trump’s praise of Saddam is rather foolish (and debunked by The Guardian), David Weigel has a point that this is something which Trump has been saying on the stump throughout the campaign, with news media reports of Trump praising Saddam coming after the Clinton campaign made a point of it. Weigel wrote, “whaling on Trump gave the campaign a chance to pivot on a day when the director of the FBI held an unusual and damaging news conference saying that the Democratic candidate, whom most voters consider untrustworthy, had behaved recklessly with classified email. The media went along with this by noting the irony, and remarking that Trump stepped on what could have been a good news cycle.” Weigel further wrote:

The point is that Trump has been saying, for quite some time, that the United States should not have gone to war in Iraq, and that it should side with dictators as long as they “kill terrorists.” The Republican primary electorate endorsed that view. Clinton, as a senator and then as secretary of state, took another view, and backed the use of American power to remove both Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi. There’s video of Clinton gleefully saying “We came, we saw, he died” upon learning that Gaddafi had been torn apart by his own people. This has never been treated like a gaffe; but Trump’s “Saddam killed terrorists” riff suddenly is.

By consistently covering Trump’s argument over time, and by following up on it, media outlets did their job to inform voters. That was why Tuesday night’s collective Captain Renault moment was so strange, and so demonstrative of why many media consumers are skeptical of what they’re hearing. Instead of a debate on the facts — should Hussein have been removed? Did he “kill terrorists,” in a contradiction of what Americans were told before the war? — there was manufactured outrage, straight from a rival campaign.

The media coverage certainly has helped Clinton, in both stressing the worst aspects of Trump’s views and in totally ignoring how strong a supporter of the war Clinton was. Not only did Clinton support the war based upon the faulty intelligence cited in the report, she went beyond the claims of many supporters of the war in falsely claiming there were ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s support of neoconservative regime change has been a disaster. However Trump also has himself to blame. As on so many matters, even in criticizing Clinton where she deserves criticism, Trump has failed to make a consistent coherent argument against her, with the media further assisting Clinton.

Donald Trump Playing Into The Hands of ISIS

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The conventional wisdom has been that Donald Trump would benefit in the presidential race were there were to be a terrorist attack or economic downturn. In the aftermath of the attack in Orlando, that will probably be revised. Trump might still benefit from economic problems, with a majority trusting Trump over Clinton on the economy. It is too soon to have any polling, but it is hard to see Trump benefiting from his post-Orlando comments, including his speech today, which sounds much better in the original German.

Trump was already doing poorly since he clinched the nomination, with his campaign limited to attacks on other Republicans and racist attacks on judges. His statements over the last couple of days might have doomed him to a landslide loss. I fear that when Trump said, “The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here” he really does see every Muslim immigrant as being a future terrorist.

Trump has tried to place the blame on both Obama and Clinton for the attack. He is correct in criticizing Clinton’s Libya policy for the spread of terrorism in the region, and her views on Syria were almost as insane as Trump’s foreign policy. However, Trump is being selective in looking at Libya and Syria, while ignoring Iraq, where both the Republicans and Clinton were wrong. While these policies did make matters worse in the middle east, it is premature to connect this to the lone terrorist in Orlando without clearer knowledge of his views and motivation.

More importantly, while again he is right to condemn Clinton’s Libya and Syria positions, he has hardly been consistent, and Trump’s position here is also quite dangerous. As David Ignatius and William Saleton have pointed out, Trump’s attack on Islam plays right into the hands of terrorists–as George Bush did when he attacked Iraq. From Saleton’s article:

Trump also reinforces ISIS’s message that the campaign against it is a war against Islam. His ban on entry to the United States would apply to all Muslims, not just to radicals or supporters of terrorism. Three months ago, Trump declared that “Islam hates us” and refused to distinguish radical Muslims from Muslims in general, arguing that “it’s very hard to separate because you don’t know who is who.” On Friday, just before the Orlando attack, he told an audience of conservative Christians that he would “defend Christian Americans” and clamp down on the influx of “Syrian refugees.”

n short, Trump would undercut everything that’s working against ISIS: Muslim governments that have joined our military campaign, clerics who are articulating moderate Islam, ministries and activists who are working online to discredit jihadism. He would help ISIS obtain the weapons it needs most: overseas recruits who are willing to kill people in their own countries. He would make another Orlando more likely.

Trump thinks his policy of “vigilance” against domestic Muslims would protect us. But that, too, serves the enemy’s agenda. In its Ramadan message, ISIS urged its sympathizers in the West to wage jihad in their own countries, “to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor.” That’s the purpose of the attacks in Fort Hood, Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando: to terrorize us, to polarize us, to make every neighbor fear his neighbor.

So far, the terrorists haven’t succeeded. But Trump might.

I continue to fear how a war monger like Hillary Clinton might respond to a terrorist attack as president. There is also the question of how significant it is that Hillary Clinton has taken another step to the right of Barack Obama, at least in her terminology. In other words, Hillary Clinton is the neocon in this race, and is the candidate representing the usual Republican view. Donald Trump is looking like something even scarier.

Bernie Sanders had a more sensible response, which also demonstrated the limitations to Chuck Todd’s world view. While not very likely, I am still holding out hope that both parties come to their senses at their conventions, as opposed to leaving us with what might be the worst election choice ever.

A Lanister Always Pays His Debts–But Not Donald Trump

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When we think of greedy and power hungry families, some of the first to come to mind are the Bushes, the Clintons, and the Lanisters. Donald Trump might not have a family history of seeking political power, but he has now joined these other power-hungry families. At least a Lanister always pays his debts. Donald Trump does not.

USA Today reports:

Donald Trump casts himself as a protector of workers and jobs, but a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation found hundreds of people – carpenters, dishwashers, painters, even his own lawyers – who say he didn’t pay them for their work…

At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.

Trump’s companies have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. That includes 21 citations against the defunct Trump Plaza in Atlantic City and three against the also out-of-business Trump Mortgage LLC in New York. Both cases were resolved by the companies agreeing to pay back wages…

The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.

The Wall Street Journal has similar stories.

Plus there is the big con job at Trump University.

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Hillary Clinton might consider calling him Deadbeat Donald in addition to Dangerous Donald. On the other hand, Ron Fournier has provided justification for Trump’s use of Lyin’ Hillary with some examples in an article entitled Hillary Clinton’s Truth Problem for The Atlantic

There are some Sanders supporters who might be hoping to see Trump win. I hardly see Trump as an acceptable alternative, but when both choices are so awful, I’m not going to dwell on how people plan to vote in November. The important thing is that we stick together to try to keep the country from sliding further into oligarchy, and oppose the extension of the warfare/surveillance state which we will probably see with either presumptive major party candidate. While in some ways Trump is probably worse than Clinton, at least there is the potential benefit if Trump is president that many Democrats will oppose his policies while justifying comparably odorous polices from Clinton. Quick medical fact: People who die in wars started by a Democrat are just as dead as people who die in wars started by a Republican.

Sanders Criticizes Conflict of Interest With Clinton Foundation & Clinton’s Interventionist Foreign Policy Views

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Bernie Sanders has tried to stick to the issues when campaigning, despite a dishonest Rovian-style campaign from Clinton. While there should be no place in a campaign for the types of lies used by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, discussing an opponents actual record is fair game if done honestly. Sanders decided against making use of the email and other scandals surrounding Hillary Clinton. Of course he also said that the investigations were being conducted and, while he did not use the scandals against Clinton in the campaign, he never exonerated Clinton for her actions (even if Clinton supporters cherry-pick quotes to give that impression). Sanders is finally changing course.

The Hill reports on Sanders making references to the Foundation scandals when interviewed on CNN.  While he has mentioned other conflicts of interest involving Clinton and her paid speeches, I am not aware of him discussing this until now.

Sanders hits Clinton Foundation over foreign donations

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders criticized the Clinton Foundation for accepting donations from foreign governments in an interview aired Sunday, calling it a conflict of interest.

“Do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of State and a foundation run by her husband collects many, many dollars from foreign governments — governments which are dictatorships?

“Yeah, I do have a problem with that. Yeah, I do,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

When host Jake Tapper asked if he thought it was a conflict of interest, Sanders said, “I do.”

CNN reports that Sanders also took his criticism of Clinton’s militaristic foreign policy views further than his previous criticism on her Iraq vote:
Bernie Sanders unleashed a sharp attack on Hillary Clinton over foreign policy on Sunday, casting her as too eager to use U.S. military force and saying her family charity’s acceptance of foreign countries’ contributions could be a conflict of interest.

The Vermont senator told CNN’s Jake Tapper the former secretary of state is too quick to “rush in” and remove dictators and he criticized Clinton’s approaches to Iraq, Libya and Syria.

“I worry about that, yeah, I do. I think her support for the war in Iraq was not just an aberration,” Sanders said of Clinton’s vote to authorize the Iraq War, in the interview that aired on “State of the Union.”

“I think that her willingness to kind of push President (Barack) Obama to overthrow (Libyan leader Moammar) Gaddafi and lead to the kind of instability that we’re seeing now in Libya — not inconsistent with her other views on Syria, where she wants a no-fly zone, which I think can suck us into never-ending conflict in that area,” he said.

I wonder whether he would have done better if he had criticized Clinton on these topics from the beginning of the race. Unless he can change the votes of those in the Democratic establishment who created a system which tilted the nomination towards Clinton from the start, Sanders cannot win enough delegates to win the nomination. Despite this, Sanders supporters remain firmly behind him, and nobody knows what he will do next. It should be tempting to remain in the race, both to push his views and to remain an alternative if Clinton’s scandals do force her from the race before the convention. While it is unlikely she will be forced out, it is still a possibility as she does remain under investigation by the FBI, in addition to having a very negative report on the email scandal from the State Department Inspector General.

Sanders might also feel more free to continue to criticize Clinton with Donald Trump looking less likely to win. Sanders repeated his criticism of Trump earlier today in California:

One day before the California primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called it “absolutely imperative” that voters turn out to defeat Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump on Tuesday and cast himself as the candidate best positioned to beat Trump.

“It is absolutely imperative that we defeat Donald Trump as a candidate for President of the United States. I believe I’m the stronger candidate,” Sanders told reporters in San Francisco, highlighting polls that shows him performing better than Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton against Trump.

“If the turnout is high tomorrow, we will win. If the turnout is very high, I think we will win by big numbers,” Sanders said.

He also called it “incomprehensible” that the presumptive nominee from a major political party is launching racially-charged attacks targeting a federal judge.

“[Trump] is essentially running his campaign on bigotry, on insulting Mexicans and Latinos, on insulting Muslims, on insulting African-Americans, on insulting women,” Sanders said. “It is clear to me that we have got to do everything that we can as a nation to make certain that Donald Trump does not become President of the United States.”

While Clinton has been doing poorly in the polls against Trump, she continues to have the Democratic advantage in the electoral college, and Trump is showing he has a lot to learn. He has very little campaign organization and continues to create controversy with racist and xenophobic remarks. He ignores facts and treats the campaign like a reality show, where “reality” can be altered to make the show more dramatic. If Clinton cannot move out to a large lead over Trump by the time of the convention, this would be another reason to question whether she should be the Democratic nominee.

Clinton and Trump Battle For Sanders Supporters

Susan Sarandon created a lot of controversy last month when she questioned whether Trump or Clinton would be worse. She did it again this week when interviewed by Stephen Colbert (video above). She criticized Clinton on her environmental record and on her hawkish foreign policy views: “I’m more afraid of, actually, Hillary Clinton’s war record and her hawkishness than I am of building a wall, but that doesn’t mean that I would vote for Trump.” She also questioned the possibility of Trump being elected: “Come on, who’s going to vote for Trump, seriously?”

With Donald Trump within three points of Clinton in one recent poll (compared to an eleven point lead for Bernie Sanders over Trump), there are apparently some people who would vote for Trump. Both Trump and Clinton are going after Sanders supporters.

As Sanders has said, his supporters will not automatically back Clinton if she wins the nomination, and many will not learn to like her. Clinton says she will go after Sanders supporters in a “very aggressive” manner. No matter how aggressively she goes after my support, nothing she can do can negate her utterly unacceptable record.

Trump will have even greater difficulty in his attempts to obtain the support of Sanders supporters. He could attract the support of some Sanders supporters on issues such as trade. While his foreign policy speech was seriously flawed, he is still to the left of Clinton on foreign policy (as is pretty much everyone). Trump is significantly to the left of Clinton on the drug war. As Sanders has warned, Trump will use the email and Foundation scandals which he has stayed away from, which could also wind up putting Trump to the left of Clinton on government transparency, where she is already extremely conservative, as well as on matters such as government corruption and reducing the influence of money in politics. It is also refreshing to see a Republican candidate who does not advocate the destruction of Medicare and Social Security.

Despite all of the negatives for Clinton, Trump has serious negatives of his own, including the manner in which he has pandered to racism, xenophobia, and mysogeny. Only thirteen percent of Sanders supporters have a favorable view of Trump, and currently only ten percent say they would vote for him. However, it could affect the election results if ten to thirteen percent of voters who otherwise might have voted Democratic should not vote Democratic due to opposition to Hillary Clinton. Many more who don’t like either Trump or Clinton are also likely to sit out the election or vote for a third party.

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Walker Bragman has raised the question of who is the greater evil at Salon and tried to make a liberal case for Trump. While I do not agree with all of his points, it is good that there are writers on the left who are not falling into the tribalistic support for Clinton and exaggeration of Trump’s faults (as big as they are) which has become common among many Democrats. Even if Trump is the greater evil, the real question is which candidate will do more harm in the White House.

It is very likely that Trump will do less harm out of a combination of having less interest in going to war than Clinton and not being able to get sixty votes for his agenda in the Senate. On the other hand, many Democrats who would oppose conservative policies from Trump would defend comparable compromises from Clinton.

Clinton has already indicated a willingness to compromise with Republicans on areas from Social Security to access to abortion. We have seen the damage from compromise with Republicans and triangulation by Bill Clinton. Similar compromises by Hillary Clinton with Republicans would be more likely to move the country to the right than policies from a Republican president who face opposition from Democrats. We would be more likely to see cuts in Social Security, and restrictions on access to abortion, if Clinton is elected compared to Trump or another Republicans. Plus we would be more likely to go to war under Clinton, more people will be incarcerated for drug crimes, and we will have a president more concerned with how she can profit monetarily from the presidency than working for the good of the country.

New York Times Magazine Looks At How Hillary Clinton Became A Warmonger

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The New York Times Magazine features an article on How Hillary Clinton became a warmonger, although they are a little gentler with her, just calling her a hawk. The article began by pointing out how Clinton supported more aggressive military intervention than Obama when she was Secretary of State. She often sided with Robert Gates where others in the Obama administration were less militaristic, surprising Gates as to how conservative she was on foreign policy:

The two quickly discovered that they shared a Midwestern upbringing, a taste for a stiff drink after a long day of work and a deep-seated skepticism about the intentions of America’s foes. Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence analyst who conducted Obama’s initial review on the Afghanistan war, says: “I think one of the surprises for Gates and the military was, here they come in expecting a very left-of-center administration, and they discover that they have a secretary of state who’s a little bit right of them on these issues — a little more eager than they are, to a certain extent.

While Clinton has probably flip-flopped on more issues out of political expediency than any politician other than Mitt Romney, that is not the case with her foreign policy views: “Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone.” The article ran through Clinton’s biography as related to military matters, including one embarrassing episode:

In March 1996, the first lady visited American troops stationed in Bosnia. The trip became notorious years later when she claimed, during the 2008 campaign, to have dodged sniper fire after her C-17 military plane landed at an American base in Tuzla. (Chris Hill, a diplomat who was onboard that day and later served as ambassador to Iraq under Clinton, didn’t remember snipers at all, and indeed recalled children handing her bouquets of spring flowers.)

The article makes it clear that in any discussion of foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is the most hawkish person in the room, and will be to the right of the GOP candidate should she win the Democratic nomination:

Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone — grounded in cold realism about human nature and what one aide calls “a textbook view of American exceptionalism.” It set her apart from her rival-turned-boss, Barack Obama, who avoided military entanglements and tried to reconcile Americans to a world in which the United States was no longer the undisputed hegemon. And it will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she meets in the general election. For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas have demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.

While there are other issues where Clinton is preferable to Trump and Cruz, the president has far more direct control over whether we go to war than matters such as reproductive rights. Clinton’s foreign policy views, along with her corrupting ties to big money in politics, could be the deciding factor which keeps many Sanders supporters from turning out to vote for Clinton in the general election if she is the nominee.

Kevin Drum, who I have often found to ignore other major faults in Clinton, was disturbed by her foreign policy views:

And Landler doesn’t even mention Libya, perhaps because the Times already investigated her role at length a couple of months ago. It’s hardly necessary, though. Taken as a whole, this is a portrait of a would-be president who (a) fundamentally believes in displays of force, (b) is eager to give the military everything they ask for, and (c) doesn’t believe that military intervention is a last resort, no matter what she might say in public.

If anything worries me about Hillary Clinton, this is it. It’s not so much that she’s more hawkish than me, it’s the fact that events of the past 15 years don’t seem to have affected her views at all. How is that possible? And yet, our failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere apparently haven’t given her the slightest pause about the effectiveness of military force in the Middle East. Quite the opposite: the sense I get from Landler’s piece is that she continues to think all of these engagements would have turned out better if only we’d used more military power. I find it hard to understand how an intelligent, well-briefed person could continue to believe this, and that in turn makes me wonder just exactly what motivates Hillary’s worldview.

On the right, Daniel Larison, whose foreign policy views are far preferable to what is commonly accepted by conservatives, adds:

In virtually every foreign policy debate, Clinton can be counted on to endorse the more aggressive option available, and she is the least likely to favor making significant changes to the way the U.S. acts overseas. Her judgment has been reliably bad because she buys into conventional, wrong assumptions about the U.S. role in the world and the ability of the U.S. to “shape” events in other countries, and when Obama has come around to her view he has made some of the worst mistakes of his presidency. One would be hard-pressed to find a single instance from her time as Secretary of State when Clinton was on the winning side of a major internal policy debate that didn’t produce poor or disastrous results. If Obama had always sided against Clinton’s preferred course of action, he would have had fewer foreign policy failures and embarrassments.

The article also goes into some depth about her relationship with Gen. Jack Keane. Among other things, it was a briefing from Keane on establishing a “no-fly zone” in Syria that won Clinton over to that reckless position. This is one of Clinton’s main weaknesses: she typically assumes that military options are more efficacious and capable of “solving” problems in foreign conflicts than they are, and it doesn’t seem to take much persuading to get her to endorse an aggressive policy. Clinton normally errs on the side of using force or threatening to use it, and because of that she repeatedly takes the wrong side in debates over whether the U.S. should intervene in another country.

Both assessments above are accurate. Another recent article provides an even scarier insight into how Hillary Clinton thinks about foreign policy. Although it was not Obama’s intention, his discussion of Clinton in an interview  in The Atlantic definitely shows that Clinton is unfit to be president and certainly does not consider war to be a last resort. While many thought it was a good thing when Obama was able to negotiate a way to avoid military intervention in Syria, Clinton was one of those who disagreed:

For some foreign-policy experts, even within his own administration, Obama’s about-face on enforcing the red line was a dispiriting moment in which he displayed irresolution and naïveté, and did lasting damage to America’s standing in the world. “Once the commander in chief draws that red line,” Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director and then as secretary of defense in Obama’s first term, told me recently, “then I think the credibility of the commander in chief and this nation is at stake if he doesn’t enforce it.” Right after Obama’s reversal, Hillary Clinton said privately, “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”

No Hillary, if you have a way to accomplish your goals without going to war, you should not go to war. And if you cannot accomplish your goals without going to war, it might be time to reexamine your goals.

Susan Sarandon Shows The Risk Of Nominating Clinton And Winding Up With Trump As President

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There are many celebrities supporting Bernie Sanders (along with celebrities supporting other candidates). Celebrities might not be experts on public policy, and their recommendations as to who to vote for might not mean very much, but comments from them often result in a tremendous amount of publicity. Susan Sarandon’s comments that Donald Trump might be better than Hillary Clinton would not mean very much if not for the fact that this highlights a problem Clinton will have in the general election. Many on the left will never vote for Hillary Clinton, for a variety of reasons.

While I agree with Sarandon’s criticism of Clinton and the status quo, I don’t agree with her particular argument that electing Trump would be better. Sarandon said:

“…some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in, things will really explode.” Asked if she thinks that’s “dangerous,” she replied, “It’s dangerous to think that we can continue the way we are with the militarized police force, with privatized prisons, with the death penalty, with the low minimum wage, threats to women’s rights and think you can’t do something huge to turn that around.”

The problem for Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party, is that, for several different  reasons, some on the left do question if Clinton would do more harm than Trump, even if they agree that Trump is the greater evil. I’ve seen a handful give arguments like Sarandon’s based upon bringing about the destruction of the current system. Other arguments are less radical. I’m not saying I agree with all of these, but here are other arguments commonly made:

Some actually prefer Trump over Clinton. These are primarily those who stress trade deals, finding Trump preferable here. Plus Trump has been less hawkish than Clinton in supporting military intervention and nation building (not that I’d trust him at all on foreign policy).

Others see Clinton as being more likely to move the country to the right than Trump or a Republican. Policies from Trump would be opposed by Democrats, often being enough to block them from being passed. Clinton has already indicated a willingness to compromise with Republicans on areas from Social Security to access to abortion. We have already seen the downside of compromise with Republicans and triangulation by Bill Clinton. Such compromises by Clinton with Republicans would be more likely to move the country to the right than policies from a Republican president who would not have bipartisan support. We would be more likely to see cuts in Social Security, and restrictions on access to abortion, if Clinton is elected compared to Trump or another Republicans.

There is the question of what happens in 2018 and 2020. There is the fear that the election of Clinton would be highly damaging to the Democratic brand, leading to bigger GOP pick ups in 2018, and further state governments falling under Republican control in 2020, leading to more Congressional districts being redrawn to help Republicans.

Plus there is the effect on the Democratic Party. At what point is supporting the lesser of two evils counterproductive? Will Democrats continue to move to the right if they find that there is no political cost? If Clinton wins in 2016 she will probably be the nominee in 2020, leaving us stuck with eight years of a conservative Democrat. Or there is the danger that she lose in 2000, leaving a damaged Democratic brand, leading to a longer stretch of Republican presidents, and even more Republican court appointees.

Some prefer a loss in 2016, feeling that there is a better chance of having a liberal Democrat in 2020. A Clinton loss might be the final straw to kill off the remains of the DLC. Plus  another candidate as opposed to Clinton might increase the chances of Democratic pick ups in state governments, as opposed to having a party led by Clinton running for reelection in 2020.

The Nader/Gore argument from 2000 does not have much traction with many who do not plan to vote for Clinton because Clinton has many of the same problems which led the left to be so strongly opposed to Bush. Clinton supports the same neoconservative foreign policy. She has a conservative record on civil liberties, falling to the right of Antonin Scalia and even sounding far too much like Donald Trump on suppression of freedom of speech. Her opposition to open-government and government transparency is even worse than what we saw under Bush. She certainly is the last candidate to consider when looking at the role of money in government. If the election of George W. Bush was such a terrible thing in 2000, then voting for a candidate who supports so many of the same policies hardly seems acceptable.

The bottom line is that you may agree or disagree with the arguments above but the thing about democracy is that everyone makes their own decision. You can argue all you want, but you cannot make anyone vote for Clinton, even if she is the lesser of two evils. Some will ultimately vote for her, while others will either not show up to vote for a candidate they disagree with, or will vote for another choice. The polls have been quite clear that there is a significant drop-off in Democratic votes in general election match-ups when Clinton, as compared to Sanders, is the candidate. We already saw what happens to Democratic turnout in 2014 when Democrats run as Republican-lite.

It doesn’t matter if they are wrong and you are right. It doesn’t matter if Susan Sarandon is insane. If Democrats nominate a candidate as flawed as Hillary Clinton, many people will not turn out to vote for her, no matter how logical your arguments are that they should.

Susan Sarandon has just highlighted a point which has already been clear. If you are worried that many liberal and progressive Democrats will stay home or vote third party if Clinton is the nominee, letting Donald Trump become president, you are right. This could happen. Many people will not be able to vote for a corrupt warmonger like Clinton, so to ensure that Donald Trump does not get elected, the safest course would be to nominate Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic candidate. It is the obvious solution as he would not only make the better president, but he would also be the stronger general election candidate.

Why Millennials, And Older Liberals, Support Sanders Over Clinton

Clinton Progressive

The endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Rolling Stone was a surprise considering how this conflicts with the views of millennials, whom I assume make up a substantial portion of its readership. Matt Taibbi responded by writing, Why Young People Are Right About Hillary Clinton. Taibbi made many good points but only provided a broad outline. While this is not the article to give to try to convince them not to vote for Clinton, the points made are worth repeating, and expanding upon.

Taibbi correctly traces the problem with the Democratic Party, and disconnect with the views of millennials to living in the past, not getting past the defeat of George McGovern back in 1972. Never mind how much the country has changed or the unique specifics of 1972, with McGovern running against an incumbent president when there was a reaction against the 1960’s counterculture in this country. (Besides, Richard Nixon had the best campaign slogan ever: Don’t Change Dicks In The Middle Of A Screw, Reelect Nixon in ’72.) The Democratic establishment saw southern politicians like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton win and McGovern lose and they built the nomination process around that. As Taibbi put it, “it would be a shame if we disqualified every honest politician, or forever disavowed the judgment of young people, just because George McGovern lost an election four decades ago.”

Even besides the manner in which the DNC has rigged the nomination process for Hillary Clinton this year, preexisting rules favor a moderate southern candidate, or at least one who can win in southern Democratic primaries. We have a political process, from the nomination process through the general election, makes it difficult to achieve change.

The Democratic nomination system both super delegates, who are in place to keep insurgent candidates like McGovern or Sanders from winning, and front loading the primary process with southern primaries. The party has not taken into account the fact that a current Democratic candidate, no matter how moderate, will not win in the south, but they do risk depressing Democratic turnout in the battleground states with their current choices of candidates. They risk a repeat of 2014 when Democratic voters stayed home with a candidate such as Clinton who performs poorly among independents and in the battleground states.

The results this year could easily be quite different with fairer rules. Imagine if Iowa announced the popular vote, as they did eight years ago, which Bernie Sanders probably won. If he started out with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then we had a mix of other states besides multiple southern states, Sanders and not Clinton would probably be the front runner now.

Taibbi described the transformation of the Democratic Party at the hands of the DLC and the Clintons:

That ’72 loss hovered like a raincloud over the Democrats until Bill Clinton came along. He took the White House using a formula engineered by a think tank, the Democratic Leadership Council, that was created in response to losses by McGovern and Walter Mondale.

The new strategy was a party that was socially liberal but fiscally conservative. It counterattacked Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, a racially themed appeal to disaffected whites Nixon tabbed the “Silent Majority,” by subtly taking positions against the Democrats’ own left flank.

In 1992 and in 1996, Clinton recaptured some of Nixon’s territory through a mix of populist positions (like a middle-class tax cut) and the “triangulating” technique of pushing back against the Democrats’ own liberal legacy on issues like welfare, crime and trade.

And that was the point. No more McGoverns. The chief moral argument of the Clinton revolution was not about striving for an end to the war or poverty or racism or inequality, but keeping the far worse Republicans out of power.

Taibbi was relatively mild in his criticism of the DLC Democrats. Two weeks ago I cited two more detailed accounts of the era from Thomas Frank and Howard Zinn.

Taibbi tied this into the present with a look at Hillary Clinton and other recent Democratic policies:

For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others.

And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues.

Hillary not only voted for the Iraq War, but offered a succession of ridiculous excuses for her vote. Remember, this was one of the easiest calls ever. A child could see that the Bush administration’s fairy tales about WMDs and Iraqi drones spraying poison over the capital (where were they going to launch from, Martha’s Vineyard?) were just that, fairy tales.

Yet Hillary voted for the invasion for the same reason many other mainstream Democrats did: They didn’t want to be tagged as McGovernite peaceniks. The new Democratic Party refused to be seen as being too antiwar, even at the cost of supporting a wrong one.

It was a classic “we can’t be too pure” moment. Hillary gambled that Democrats would understand that she’d outraged conscience and common sense for the sake of the Democrats’ electoral viability going forward. As a mock-Hillary in a 2007 Saturday Night Live episode put it, “Democrats know me…. They know my support for the Iraq War has always been insincere.”

This pattern, of modern Democrats bending so far back to preserve what they believe is their claim on the middle that they end up plainly in the wrong, has continually repeated itself.

Take the mass incarceration phenomenon. This was pioneered in Mario Cuomo’s New York and furthered under Bill Clinton’s presidency, which authorized more than $16 billion for new prisons and more police in a crime bill.

As The New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander noted, America when Bill Clinton left office had the world’s highest incarceration rate, with a prison admission rate for black drug inmates that was 23 times 1983 levels. Hillary stumped for that crime bill, adding the Reaganesque observation that inner-city criminals were “super-predators” who needed to be “brought to heel.”

You can go on down the line of all these issues. Trade? From NAFTA to the TPP, Hillary and her party cohorts have consistently supported these anti-union free trade agreements, until it became politically inexpedient. Debt? Hillary infamously voted for regressive bankruptcy reform just a few years after privately meeting with Elizabeth Warren and agreeing that such industry-driven efforts to choke off debt relief needed to be stopped.

Clinton not only voted for the war, she went beyond most supporters in making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. While she later claimed this was a mistake, she showed no signs of learning from her  mistakes with her hawkish views on Libya and Syria.

Taibbi only managed to mention a portion of the issues where Clinton is out of touch with millennial voters, along with older liberal voters such as myself. While millennial voters tend to be more libertarian on social and civil liberties issues, Clinton is conservative on both. She spent her time in the Senate working with the religious right as a member of The Fellowship, and her social conservatism can be seen in many of her views. She is far right win in her views on civil liberties, falling to the right of Antonin Scalia and not far from Donald Trump in her view of freedom of speech.

Taibbi concluded with matters of corruption, but again was very limited in this discussion of a very large topic. He did write:

Then of course there is the matter of the great gobs of money Hillary has taken to give speeches to Goldman Sachs and God knows whom else. Her answer about that — “That’s what they offered” — gets right to the heart of what young people find so repugnant about this brand of politics.

One can talk about having the strength to get things done, given the political reality of the times. But one also can become too easily convinced of certain political realities, particularly when they’re paying you hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour.

Is Hillary really doing the most good that she can do, fighting for the best deal that’s there to get for ordinary people?

Or is she just doing something that satisfies her own definition of that, while taking tens of millions of dollars from some of the world’s biggest jerks?

Plus he pointed out, “her shifting explanations and flippant attitude about the email scandal” along with the “faulty thinking” of her defenders: “My worry is that Democrats like Hillary have been saying, ‘The Republicans are worse!’ for so long that they’ve begun to believe it excuses everything.”

Her defenders ignore how Clinton’s actions included serious breaches of rules to promote government transparency, including new rules instituted under Obama in 2009 in response to the abuses under George W. Bush. Her claims, such as that what she did was allowed, have been repeatedly debunked by the fact checkers. She acted highly unethically in making decisions regarding parties who were either donating to the Foundation or paying unprecedented speaking fees to Bill. She also failed to abide by an agreement to divulge all donors while she was Secretary of State.

While his article was limited in specifics, he hit the key argument against her:

Young people don’t see the Sanders-Clinton race as a choice between idealism and incremental progress. The choice they see is between an honest politician, and one who is so profoundly a part of the problem that she can’t even see it anymore.

A platform of “the Republicans are worse” might work if the problem was simply that (as her defenders often frame it) Clinton was not progressive enough for her critics on the left. However, that is not the case at all. The problem is that Clinton is not progressive at all. If anything, throughout her career she has been a “progressive” who gets conservative results. She has been on the wrong side of most issues, and not all that terribly far from the Republican viewpoint.

White House Denies Claims That Obama Backed Clinton At Private Fundraiser

Trumps and Clintons

A report in The New York Times claiming that Obama Privately Tells Donors That Time Is Coming to Unite Behind Hillary Clinton was not received well by Sanders supporters today. The White House promptly walked back this claim. Multiple media outlets, including Reuters and Bloomberg, report that Obama Didn’t Back Clinton at Private Fundraiser.

Among items which Josh Earnest told reporters:

  • “I was there for the fundraiser, and I was there when the comments occurred”: Earnest
  • Obama said “that as Democrats move through this competitive primary process, we need to be mindful that our success in November in electing a Democratic president will depend on the commitment and ability of the Democratic Party to come together behind our nominee”: Earnest
  • Earnest declined to say whom Obama voted for in the Ill. primary

(As an aside, if anyone gets a chance to pose questions to Obama or Earnest, ask whether Obama would pardon Clinton and/or her top aides if indicted.)

Clinton is all set to claim will give us the third term of Barack Obama. Looking at her policy views, it would more likely be a third term for the neoconservative foreign policy of George W. Bush, and would be no better on civil liberties. Or in terms of ethics, it would be the third term of Richard Nixon, including a restoration of the views of Henry Kissinger.

Of course it is possible that Obama said one thing in private, but does not want to admit to this. Should Clinton get elected, he might some day also regret tying his legacy to her. Ironically, in a recent interview, he made statements which greatly undermined Clinton’s ability to be Commander In Chief based upon her mistakes on Libya and Syria.

Clinton also made a gaffe which will probably be repeated in GOP commercials this fall in saying “We didn’t lose a single person”is Libya. Her statement was technically true in the context she intended, ignoring all the bloodshed which her policy led to, and the death of four Americans. This is as foolish as Republicans claiming that George Bush kept us safe from terrorism, if you ignore 9/11.

We are also seeing plenty of arguments that Democrats must unite behind Clinton to stop Donald Trump. First of all, we also do not know for certain whether Trump will be the Republican nominee. Secondly, if stopping Trump is so important, we should all unite behind Bernie Sanders, who has a better chance than Clinton of beating Trump in a  general election. Besides, if Trump is so terrible, why support the conservative Democratic candidate who is far closer to Trump ideologically, even if she is the lesser evil?

Obviously it is an uphill battle for Sanders to win the nomination and Clinton has a substantial lead. If it was two near identical Democratic candidates, then perhaps it would make sense to unite behind one. However we have two candidates with vastly different ideologies, a true liberal running against a Republican-lite DLC style Democrat. The stakes are too high to give up now, regardless of the odds.

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.