Presidential Campaign Raises Questions Of Détente With Russia And McCarthyism From Clinton Supporters

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It is a shame that Donald Trump is rather incoherent on policy as he actually has two ideas which a more intelligent candidate might pursue further–improving relations with Russia (as opposed to Clinton and the neocons taking us into a new Cold War), and questioning whether we can afford to be the world’s policeman. Hillary Clinton has a long history of both belligerence towards Russia, including trying to taper in their own politics against Putin, and it has been a neocon goal to bring regime change to Russia as they did in Iraq.

AP has reported on how Trump’s comments on Russia have disturbed many in the establishment. Buried in the article there is even an alternate viewpoint:

But Steven Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton and New York University, credits Trump for focusing on issues ripe for discussion. He said that while Trump talks “elliptically” and “just can’t wonk,” the GOP nominee “in his own way seems to be advocating detente,” which Cohen sees as an admirable goal.

Cohen said it’s time for critics to stop using “McCarthyite” language to demonize Trump and have a serious discussion about the issues he’s raising.

“It’s called a debate,” said Cohen. “You’re supposed to have them in a presidential campaign.”

Cohen has also criticized the McCarthyite tactics of  some Clinton supporters in The Nation:

Many liberals (and their publications) have recently branded Donald Trump as Putin’s “puppet” (Franklin Foer), “de facto agent” (Jeffrey Goldberg), “Kremlin client” (Timothy Snyder), and would-be “man in the White House.” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman spells out the implication that Trump “would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America’s allies and her own self-interest.” These disgraceful allegations are based on little more, Cohen argues, than a mistranslation of a casual Putin remark about Trump, Trump’s elliptical suggestions that he may favor détente with Moscow and tacit endorsement of Obama’s refusal to escalate the military conflict in Ukraine, and Russian business relations of Trump’s “associates” of the kind eagerly sought since the late 1980s by many American corporations, including Exxon Mobil and MacDonald’s

This is, of course, an ominous recapitulation of McCarthy’s accusations, which seriously damaged American democracy and ruined many lives. Still worse, this Putin-baiting of Trump is coming from the Clinton campaign, which most of the liberals involved evidently support, as reflected in a page-one New York Times story headlined “A Trump-Putin Alliance.” Clinton, it seems, intends to run against Trump-Putin. If so, the new Cold War can only become more dangerous, especially if she wins and if this McCarthyite tactic reflects her hawkish views on Russia, and the wildly demonized Putin in particular.

Nathan Robinson made the same argument in Current Affairs which warns that Democrats Are Redbaiting Like It’s 1956:

The suspect list was quickly reduced to one: the Russian government. The evidence for that was murky to begin with but has grown more solid over time. (“Anything’s possible” replied Barack Obama, when asked about possible Russian involvement.) Harvard law professor and cybersecurity expert Jack Goldsmith has cautioned that “there is no public evidence whatsoever tying Russia to the hack,” and that “attribution for cyberoperations of this sort is very tricky and tends to take some time.”

But even before the precise origins and motives for the hack have been sorted out, media figures have been conjuring progressively larger and larger conspiracy theories. U.S. intelligence officials are uncertain whether the hack “was intended as fairly routine cyberespionage… or as part of an effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.” Yet the hack is being treated by many as a Russian plot to elect Donald Trump, as part of a Trump-Putin alliance serving Vladimir Putin’s “plan for destroying the West.”

The theory is not confined to a small, deranged political fringe. It is being voiced by respected members of the media establishment. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has said there is “a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.” Former Enron adviser Paul Krugman has enthusiastically embraced the theories and has even implied that Trump may be a Manchurian Candidate. Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post has seconded the idea…

It should be noted, first, that all of these figures are supporters of the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, and that the hack of the DNC emails proved deeply embarrassing for the Clinton campaign. The shift from discussing the emails themselves to discussing who leaked them is tremendously helpful in taking negative attention away from the DNC and Clinton. As one BuzzFeed writer put it, “Now Russia is the story.” Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, declared: “Wasserman Schultz resigned. So now maybe we can focus on who was behind the leak.” By attempting to turn the email hack into a bigger scandal than Watergate, Democrats serve the twin goals of (1) not having to talk about internal problems with the DNC and (2) further pushing the unsubstantiated Trump-Putin alliance theory. (In fact, we know this was an explicit strategy and not just a stroke of good fortune. When the hacks occurred, Bloomberg reported that “If the Democrats can show the hidden hand of Russian intelligence agencies, they believe that voter outrage will probably outweigh any embarrassing revelations.”)

But liberals in the press have gone beyond simply questioning the source of the email leak. Firmly convinced that Trump’s candidacy is being advanced by the Kremlin, they have also turned against leftists, claiming that they are doing Putin’s bidding. A fellow at the Center for American Progress, for example, accusedIntercept journalist Glenn Greenwald of being a “Russia troll.” Josh Marshall pondered how many online “Sanders supporters” and “Trump supporters” were actually being run out of a Russian operation, while a writer at The Atlantic confronted a Bernie fan on Twitter about their suspicious interest in Ukraine. And the Democratic Blue Nation Review, run by longtime Clinton operative David Brock, warned that online “Bernie or Bust” supporters could instead be “sophisticated agitators” in the pay of the Russian government.

Jonathan Chait, a liberal writer for New York magazine, suggested that leftists are reflexive defenders and enablers of the Russian state…

Just as the movement against the Vietnam War was once accused of being run out of Moscow, and just as the Civil Rights movement was supposedly filled with Communist agitators, liberals have once again revived one of the nastiest traditions in the history of American political smear tactics: the McCarthyist innuendo…

This kind of thinking is disturbing, because of where it leads. First, it takes you further and further away from the land of sober-minded assessment and careful reasoning. Most of the Trump-Putin theories follow the precise same patterns of logic deployed by JFK conspirators and the 9/11 Truth movement. They don’t prove their assertions with direct evidence, but offer all sorts of “suspicious” facts that supposedly imply the conclusion. So we get a lot of “isn’t it interesting that Trump has business interests in Russia?” and “isn’t it convenient that the leaks helped Trump and Trump likes Putin?” Of course, the former is (slightly) interesting and the latter is convenient. But building theories this way turns you into a madman. Look at Foer’s own conclusion:

In the end, we only have circumstantial evidence about the Russian efforts to shape this election—a series of disparate data points and a history of past interference in similar contests. But the pattern is troubling, and so is the premise.

Troubling patterns and premises, rather than troubling facts, are what substantiate stories about black helicopters and chemtrails. When disparate data points will do, one becomes paranoid. But some of the conspiracy-minded liberals seem to embrace that. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you,” a BuzzFeed writer reminds us. Of course, it doesn’t mean they aren’t after you. But it does mean your judgment on the question is going to be irreparably compromised.

At this point, the accusations of a Trump/Putin alliance against Clinton sounds disturbingly like what we heard during the run up to the Iraq war, including Hillary Clinton’s false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Earlier in the year the Clinton campaign also used red-baiting against Bernie Sanders and tried to paint him as a communist sympathizer.

The Democratic Convention Concludes: War Is Peace, And Fears Of A Loss To Donald Trump

Clinton Acceptance Speech

The Democratic National Convention concluded with a rather conservative message,followed by platitudes and imitation progressivism from Hillary Clinton. The message of the evening seemed to be: I will throw a few bones your way like paid family leave, and in return forget about restoring the civil liberties which you have lost since 9/11, don’t think about curtailing the surveillance state, and don’t get in the way of my wars.

Hillary Clinton gave a great speech in support of compassionate conservatism, but no mention of her support for expansion of the warfare/surveillance state. Hillary Clinton also gave a revisionist history, as Bill did earlier in the week. She boasted about helping children while ignoring how she betrayed them as First Lady. She once again took credit for the work done by Ted Kennedy, exaggerating her role in the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. More fact checking of Clinton’s speech here,

Clinton spoke of service, leaving out how much money she has made off of “public service” and influence peddling. The Onion captured the spirit of her career and  campaign in mocking Clinton’s speech:

When I Was A Child, Most Special Interest Groups Wouldn’t Even Consider Donating Large Sums Of Money To A Woman

Delivering a historic and uplifting speech to the Democratic National Convention Thursday night, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton told the American electorate that when she was a little girl, most special interest groups would never even consider donating enormous sums of money to a woman. “It’s hard to fathom now, but back when I was growing up in the 1950s, Wall Street banks, major law firms, and every other special interest out there wouldn’t let a woman through the door, let alone funnel inordinate sums of money into her campaign as a means to advance their agendas,” said Clinton, adding that she personally had to work twice as hard as her male colleagues for decades just to be deemed qualified as a viable political conduit for hundreds of millions of dollars controlled by wealthy corporations and narrowly focused institutions. “In those days, it never even occurred to lobbyists that a woman was capable of accepting a gigantic check from a powerful entity in exchange for favorable policies several months later. My, how times have changed. We sure proved them wrong, didn’t we?” Clinton then assured the cheering crowd at the Wells Fargo Center that while she might be the first female presidential nominee of a major political party beholden to well-heeled influence peddlers, she would certainly not be the last.

Democrats are worried about Hillary Clinton’s inability to separate herself from Donald Trump in the polls, even after what they believe was a largely successful convention that represented a real step toward party unity.

Clinton is hoping for a big post-convention boost, but the reality right now is that she in behind Trump in the polls, and has been in a relatively tight race for weeks.

While the Electoral College may give her an advantage, party leaders and strategists say they remain concerned that Clinton is a tough sell when a majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track and want to shake up Washington.

“The most important thing is there is a bias for change and there’s an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll where people express that bias even when they don’t know what the change is going to be,” said Geoff Garin, a pollster who worked for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and now advises Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton super PAC.

That July survey showed a majority of voters, 56 percent, prefer someone who will bring major changes to government even if they don’t know what those changes will be. Only 46 percent wanted a candidate who would bring a steady approach to government.

The Democrats sure are looking foolish for rejecting Bernie Sanders, a candidate who both led Donald Trump by double digits in the polls while Clinton was losing her lead, and who would win the support of voters who desire real change.

Thomas Frank warned that the Democrats are being outflanked by Donald Trump from the left:

Donald Trump’s many overtures to supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were just the beginning. He also deliberately echoed the language of Franklin Roosevelt, he denounced “big business” (not once but several times), and certain of his less bloodthirsty foreign policy proposals almost remind one of George McGovern’s campaign theme: “Come home, America.”

Ivanka Trump promised something that sounded like universal day care. Peter Thiel denounced the culture wars as a fraud and a distraction. The Republican platform was altered to include a plank calling for the breakup of big banks via the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. I didn’t hear anyone talk about the need to bring “entitlements” under control. And most crucially, the party’s maximum leader has adopted the left critique of “free trade” almost in its entirety, a critique that I have spent much of my adult life making.

It boggles my simple liberal mind. The party of free trade and free markets now says it wants to break up Wall Street banks and toss Nafta to the winds. The party of family values has nominated a thrice-married vulgarian who doesn’t seem threatened by gay people or concerned about the war over bathrooms. The party of empire wants to withdraw from foreign entanglements.

He warned that another Clinton move to the right (as occurred under Bill) might not result in victory this time:

Let’s see: trade agreements, outreach to hawks, “bipartisanship”, Wall Street. All that’s missing is a “Grand Bargain” otherwise it’s the exact same game plan as last time, and the time before that, and the time before that. Democrats seem to be endlessly beguiled by the prospect of campaign of national unity, a coming-together of all the quality people and all the affluent people and all the right-thinking, credentialed, high-achieving people. The middle class is crumbling, the country is seething with anger, and Hillary Clinton wants to chair a meeting of the executive committee of the righteous.

When Democrats sold out their own rank and file in the past it constituted betrayal, but at least it sometimes got them elected. Specifically, the strategy succeeded back in the 1990s when Republicans were market purists and working people truly had “nowhere else to go”. As our modern Clintonists of 2016 move instinctively to dismiss the concerns of working people, however, they should keep this in mind: those people may have finally found somewhere else to go.

It is theoretically possible for the Democrats to be outflanked from the left as Clinton’s DLC Democratic Party is a party of the right. It is only the view that support for reproductive rights and any government at all is sufficient to be considered liberal by many in the United States (and forgetting that it wasn’t all that long ago that many Republicans were pro-abortion) that Clinton is not widely recognized to actually be a right-winger. On the other hand, Donald Trump is far too incoherent on policy to be given a clear ideological label. His racism and xenophobia will make it especially hard to challenge Clinton from the left.

Correction: Donald Trump’s acceptance speech had higher ratings than Clinton’s speech, while the Democratic convention had overall higher ratings.

Democratic Convention Night Three: Identifying The Worst Person In America

Trump Clinton Celebrity Death Match

The highlight of the third night of the Democratic Convention was Barack Obama speaking. It has become a rarity in modern times for an incumbent, or even recent president, to be seen as helpful to the nominee. Obama, like Bill Clinton the night before, provided a selective history. There was no discussion of Clinton’s Libya policy as Secretary of State, which Obama in recent interviews has said did not work, has turned Libya into a “shit show,” and was the worst mistake of his presidency. Nor did he discuss why he rejected Clinton’s advice to intervene in Syria.

Tim Kaine spoke earlier in the evening. Other than for his impression of Donald Trump, the line which comes to mind was “I trust Hillary Clinton with our son’s life.” Do we really want someone this foolish a heartbeat away from the presidency? Kaine’s opponent for the vice presidency, Mike Pence was not far from me this afternoon. Just as Mike Pence began a town hall nearby in Michigan, the sky became dark and rain came down from the heavens. Was it the wrath of an omnipotent invisible being in the sky, or just coincidence? We report, you decide.

The goal of the various speakers was to paint Donald Trump as being such as awful person that nobody would consider voting for him. That was not hard to do. After all, he once spoke of obliterating Iran. What type of monster speaks of obliterating another country. Oh, wait, that was Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump fought against a ban on the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. Oops, again that was Hillary Clinton joining with the Republicans. If Trump is elected, we will see mass incarceration, deportations, and cuts in welfare for women and children. Again, Clintons, been there, done that. Donald Trump would ignore the Bill of Rights, for example by proposing to imprison people for burning the flag in protest. Yet again, it was Hillary Clinton who introduced such legislation. Donald Trump has mocked freedom of speech if it comes in the way of fighting terrorism. That one is true about Trump–but Hillary Clinton has taken the same position.

The nominating process really has been successful in finding the worst two people in America. Now they can fight it out to see which one really is the worst.

That is why there were protests, and chants of “Hell No DNC, We Won’t Vote For Hillary.” We need someone creative out there to be ready with an updated version of “Hey There LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?”

Stephen Colbert also gave a rundown of last night’s events:

Plus he mocked the attempts by Viacom to retain the rights to the Stephen Colbert character from his Comedy Central show, and used an entirely new segment, Werd, to look at voting for the lesser evil:

Hillary Clinton Offers Continuity With Change (Plus More War & Flipping on TPP)

Continuity With Change

The second night of the Republican-Lite Convention featured fictitious story hour from the aspiring First Lady’s Man (to use Stephen Colbert’s title for him). It was good to see Rachel Maddow being critical of Bill Clinton’s speech, but the real problem was not talking about his courtship of Hillary, but his whitewashing of their political record and bogus claims that Hillary is a Change Maker.  Trying to hide the fact that Clinton is the candidate of the status quo in a year voters want change reminds me of Selena Meyer’s slogan of Continuity with Change on Veep. I imagine this is better than the two unofficial slogans of Clinton’s primary campaign: “It’s My Turn” and “No We Can’t.”

There was no mention of mass incarceration, welfare “reform,” and the consequence of his trade deals. A more honest assessment of the Clinton years from a liberal perspective can be found from Thomas Frank and Howard Zinn, who I have previously quoted here.

Despite having been debunked many times by the fact checkers, last night we again heard the exaggerations of Clinton’s role in the passing of CHIP. I imagine this comes from desperation in promoting a candidate who has accomplished so little during her career–unless you consider the devastation of Libya and increasing instability in the middle east to be an accomplishment.

Fact checkers have shown many other falsehoods during the speeches last  night, both on Clinton’s record and in distorting some of Donald Trump’s views. There is really no need to distort Trump’s views when his actual views are crazy enough. While it is no excuse, this was not out of the ordinary for political conventions, and there were far fewer falsehoods than in Donald Trump’s speech at the Republican Convention.

Not everybody in the convention hall went along with the falsehoods of the convention. Some Sanders supporter walked out, with the media generally ignoring this. Reportedly actors are being hired on craigslist to fill the empty seats. There was also an unexpected moment of honesty when Terry McAuliffe told reporters that Hillary Clinton will flip on TPP.

Hillary Clinton had a video appearance to mention little girls who might be inspired to become president some day. I wonder how many little girls have been injured or killed by Hillary Clinton’s bombs? The manner in which her supporters have turned revelations of corruption into the DNC into anti-Russian hysteria makes me wonder if this is the start of a new front in Hillary Clinton’s wars. After all, Clinton does have a long history of belligerence towards Russia, including attempting to interfere in their politics against Putin, and it has been a neocon goal to bring about regime change in Russia. Haven’t we learned anything from how the government lied us into wars in Vietnam and Iraq?

Stephen Colbert continued to air The Late Show live to mock the conventions. The first clip contains his monologue and the second features an interview with cartoon Hillary Clinton:

Donald Trump’s Convention Speech And Jon Stewart’s Commentary

Trump Convention Speech

If for some reason you recorded the Republican National Convention last night with plans to watch later, watch Ivanka, and then just turn it off. Ivanka did a great job. Donald Trump tried to scare people into voting for him. (Full text here). I don’t understand how Republican politicians have spent the last few days saying how great their state is, and then Trump made the entire country sound like it is on the verge of disaster.

Trump did have a handful of good moments. He attempted to receive the support of all those who are unhappy with the status quo:

That is why Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change. My message is that things have to change – and they have to change right now. Every day I wake up determined to deliver for the people I have met all across this nation that have been neglected, ignored, and abandoned.

I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals. These are the forgotten men and women of our country. People who work hard but no longer have a voice.

I AM YOUR VOICE.

Trump criticized “15 years of wars in the Middle East,” which can be seen as not only criticism of what we will likely see continue under Hillary Clinton, but criticism of the last president from his own party. While he is likely to not be as interventionist as Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, which is also true of virtually anyone in the country, he has failed to outline any coherent foreign policy views of his own. He did attempt to appeal to Sanders supporters based upon trade policy, but his racism and xenophobia will greatly limit his ability to receive our support.

Donald Trump is apparently jealous of all the comparisons between Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon and made his own attempt at imitating Nixon. At best Trump channeled Richard Nixon in his calls for law and order, which is scary enough. At worst it was seen as “nightmarish authoritarianism.” Trump repeatedly brought up shootings of police officers, which is fine to protest, but totally ignored the serious problem of some police officers shooting unarmed minorities.

The fact checkers once again had a field day, which is true whenever Trump opens his mouth.

A catastrophe of this magnitude called for one thing–the return of Jon Stewart to mock it. And he did return as Stephen Colbert allowed him to take over his desk:

The Republican National Convention has now concluded. Next week we will see the Republican-Lite Convention from Philadelphia.

GOP Convention Update: Seth Meyers On Mike Pence; Mark Cuban On Trump; Male Prostitutes Doing Better Than Females At Convention; Donald Trump Is Voldemort; Plus Carpool Karaoke With Michelle Obama

trumpvoldemort

The third night of the Republican Convention was supposed to feature vice presidential nominee (and possible future acting president) Mike Pence. Instead Ted Cruz stole the show by refusing to endorse Donald Trump. Cruz advised people to vote their conscience, which had become the the slogan of those at the convention who wanted to open up the nomination to vote for others. He was booed last night, but if Trump loses badly, he might also be in a position to look like the smart one in the party by November, in contrast to those who backed Trump.

Allowing Cruz to do this prior to Pence’s acceptance speech looks like another act of poor convention planning on Trump’s part–although he did turn the situation to his advantage in the convention hall by entering before Cruz finished speaking. If he was going to have Cruz speak, it might have made more sense to do it the first night (when Clinton is allowing Sanders to speak), or perhaps the second night when all sorts of wacko speeches were already being given.

Cruz also spoke a lot about freedom. Unfortunately he primarily supports the right of conservative Christians to impose their religious views on others.

All the noise following Cruz’s speech distracted from Mike Pence’s speech (fact checking here) and as a result, even after last night not very many people know who Mike Pence is. Seth Meyers took a closer look at Pence in the video above.

Despite the social conservatism from Ted Cruz and Mike Pence, The New York Post reports, Male escorts are making crazy money at the RNC:

It’s been a great week for gay escorts in Cleveland.

Male prostitutes contacted by The Post said business is booming and Republican National Convention attendees — most of them married — are clamoring for their services…

The clientele has included mostly married white men between the ages of 40 and 50, said another escort who’s seen eight johns so far…

“The Republicans have a lot of delegates in the closet, let’s put it that way.”

But ladies of the night weren’t reaping the same benefits.

When contacted by The Post, females for hire said they’re making much less money than normal.

Mark Cuban was initially pro-Trump, but has changes is mind. He joined Stephen Colbert in taking the gloves off to bash Donald Trump last night.

If Hillary Clinton is like Lucifer, at least per Ben Carson, Donald Trump is Voldemort. A study has showed that reading Harry Potter books leads to people being more opposed to Donald Trump:

A new study to be published in a special 2016 election issue of PS: Political Science and Politics finds that reading Harry Potter books leads Americans to take a lower opinion of Donald Trump. In fact, the more books the participants read, the greater the effect…

“Because Trump’s political views are widely viewed as opposed to the values espoused in the Harry Potter series,” Mutz writes in the study, “exposure to the Potter series may play an influential role in influencing how Americans respond to Donald Trump.”

To test that explanation for the Harry Potter effect, Mutz focused on three core themes from Harry Potter: The value of tolerance and respect for difference; opposition to violence and punitiveness; and opposition to authoritarianism.

In each case, Mutz points out, Donald Trump’s messages are opposed to the lessons conveyed in Harry Potter and closer to that of his enemy, Lord Voldemort. Examples abound throughout the series:

Harry and his friends advocate for oppressed house-elves and oppose Lord Voldemort’s quest for blood purity among wizards. Harry himself is of mixed wizard/muggle (non-wizard) ancestry. Trump, by contrast, has called for a temporary moratorium on Muslim immigration and made offensive comments about outgroups of all kinds, including women, Mexicans, Asians, and those with disabilities.

The Harry Potter series promotes non-violent means of conflict resolution; while Voldemort is willing to kill many times, the books’ protagonists consistently avoid unnecessary curses for killing, torture, or controlling others. Harry even saves the life of his Voldemort-aligned nemesis, Draco Malfoy. Trump, by contrast, has spoken widely about his fondness for waterboarding, and advocates the killing of terrorists’ families as a means of deterrence. He has praised his followers’ acts of violence against protesters at his rallies.

The Harry Potter protagonists work against authoritarian characters in the books.  “As does Voldemort,” Mutz writes, “Trump portrays himself as a strongman who can bend others to his will, be they the Chinese government or terrorists.”

…Mutz’s data also shows that each Harry Potter book read also raised a person’s evaluations of Muslims and homosexuals, two groups chosen to gauge the respondent’s tolerance and respect for difference. Harry Potter also appeared to encourage opposition to punitive policies — gauged by responses to questions about the use of torture, killing terrorists, and support for the death penalty — though the effect size was small.

But reading Harry Potter also engendered opposition to Trump in ways that surpassed the effect of these two themes.

“It may simply be too difficult for Harry Potter readers to ignore the similarities between Trump and the power-hungry Voldemort,” she writes.

Going into the final night of the convention, Donald Trump has also received a lot of criticism for his comments on foreign policy in an interview with The New York Times in which, once again, he shows how little interest he has in facts or details.

I other news, Michelle Obama played Carpool Karaoke with James Corden and, in followup of yesterday’s post, Roger Ailes has left Fox following the charges of sexual harassment. Apparently at News Corp you can get away with trying to screw American democracy, but not Megyn Kelley.

Trump Ghost Writer Exposes Him As An Ignorant, Dishonest Sociopath Who Threatens To Cause The End Of Civilization

Art of the Deal

After months debates and primaries, America is about to make official its choice of the two worst people in the country. This week Donald Trump will officially become the Republican nominee. Tony Schwartz has unusual insight into Donald Trump, being the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal. He spoke about Trump with The New Yorker:

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

So we are risking the end of civilization with Donald Trump. The alternative is neocon war monger Hillary Clinton, who supported going to war in Iraq based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, is responsible for the Libya policy which Obama has called a failure and the worst mistake of his administration, who made an argument for war in Syria which is as irrational as anything we hear from Trump, who threatened to obliterate Iran, and threatens to get us involved in another cold war (if not hot war) with Russia. What a choice. A sociopath who hypothetically might cause the end of civilization, versus one of the most reckless advocates of military interventionism in recent history.

Other comments from Schwartz reinforced what we have grown to believe about Trump, such as his ignorance of the facts, exacerbated by his short attention span and dislike of reading:

But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

Other journalists have noticed Trump’s apparent lack of interest in reading. In May, Megyn Kelly, of Fox News, asked him to name his favorite book, other than the Bible or “The Art of the Deal.” Trump picked the 1929 novel “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Evidently suspecting that many years had elapsed since he’d read it, Kelly asked Trump to talk about the most recent book he’d read. “I read passages, I read areas, I’ll read chapters—I don’t have the time,” Trump said. As The New Republic noted recently, this attitude is not shared by most U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama, a habitual consumer of current books, and George W. Bush, who reportedly engaged in a fiercely competitive book-reading contest with his political adviser Karl Rove.

Not good when you come out looking dumber than George W. Bush.

Plus Schwartz questioned Trumps actual business ability, and described how dishonest he is:

Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”

When challenged about the facts, Schwartz says, Trump would often double down, repeat himself, and grow belligerent. This quality was recently on display after Trump posted on Twitter a derogatory image of Hillary Clinton that contained a six-pointed star lifted from a white-supremacist Web site. Campaign staffers took the image down, but two days later Trump angrily defended it, insisting that there was no anti-Semitic implication. Whenever “the thin veneer of Trump’s vanity is challenged,” Schwartz says, he overreacts—not an ideal quality in a head of state.

Of course dishonesty is a trait also shared by Hillary Clinton, even if the two tend to tell a different type of lie as discussed back in November. The nomination process has succeeded in finding the two worst people in America, with the final event to occur in November. If only this was just a reality show.

The After Bern: Stein and Johnson Seek Support Of Sanders Voters

Sanders Stein

Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and presumptive Green Party nominee Jill Stein didn’t waste a moment trying to seek the support of those who voted for him. She has been very active on Twitter today. Politico reports:

“If you don’t want to vote for a war monger or racist billionaire, there are more options. The political revolution will keep going,” Stein tweeted in the hour preceding Sanders’ announcement alongside Clinton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

In another tweet, Stein wrote, “While Trump praises dictators, Hillary takes their money. Remind us again of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record?”

As Sanders began speaking, Stein offered her own hashtags to disaffected Bernie backers. “The revolution continues with those who will fight for a government that represents all of us–not just the 1%. #HillNo #JillYes,” Stein wrote.

Stein has suggested she would step aside as the Green Party’s standard bearer should Sanders wish to lead the ticket. “I’ve invited Bernie to sit down and explore collaboration,” she told The Guardian in an interview published last Friday. “Everything is on the table. If he saw that you can’t have a revolutionary campaign in a counter-revolutionary party, he’d be welcomed to the Green Party. He could lead the ticket and build a political movement.”

…While Sanders emphasized the importance of defeating Donald Trump, Stein remarked that the Vermont senator could propose a bill to introduce ranked-choice presidential voting.

It sounds like the only good thing Bernie can say about Hillary is that she’s not Donald,” Stein continued. “That’s what most of her supporters like about her.”

Stein also has an article at Counterpunch which begins:

I join millions of Americans who see Hillary Clinton’s campaign as the opposite of what they and Bernie Sanders have fought for. Despite her penchant for flip flopping rhetoric, Hillary Clinton has spent decades consistently serving the causes of Wall Street, war and the Walmart economy.

The policies she fought for – along with her husband and political partner, Bill Clinton – have been foundations of the economic disaster most Americans are still struggling with: the abuses of deregulated Wall Street, rigged corporate trade agreements, racist mass incarceration, and the destruction of the social safety net for poor women and children. The consistent efforts of the Democratic Party to minimize, sideline, and sabotage the Sanders campaign are a wake up call that we can’t have a revolutionary campaign inside a counter-revolutionary party.

Sadly, Sanders is one of a long line of true reformers that have been undermined by the Democratic Party. The eventual suppression of the Sanders campaign was virtually guaranteed from the beginning with super-delegates and super Tuesdays, that were created after George McGovern’s nomination to prevent grassroots campaigns from winning the nomination again.

Sanders, a life-long independent who has advocated for building an independent democratic socialist party similar to Canada’s New Democratic Party, has said that his decision to run as a Democrat was based on pragmatism, but there is nothing pragmatic about supporting a party that for decades has consistently sold out the progressive majority to the billionaire class. This false pragmatism is not the path to revolutionary change but rather an incrementalism that keeps us trapped, voting for lesser evil again and again…

Some Clinton supporters have made a fallacious comparison between Bernie Sanders and George McGovern, with Democratic rules since the 1972 loss being designed to promote more moderate candidates. Among the fallacies in their claim that Sanders would have lost badly as McGovern did, in June 2016 Bernie Sanders had a double digit lead over Donald Trump while Clinton was much closer. In June of 1972, Richard Nixon had a nineteen point lead over McGovern. Any comparison between the two is also fallacious as Nixon was running for reelection from a strong position, before being tainted by the Watergate scandal. The war in Vietnam was winding down, Nixon had gone to China, and had a recent summit to build on the developing détente with the Soviet Union. McGovern’s pledge to cut the defense budget in half also seemed far more radical than any of Sanders’ proposals. This year it is Hillary Clinton who is entangled in scandals, was on the wrong side of foreign policy decisions including Iraq and Libya, and has been foolishly belligerent towards Russia. Plus her lead over Donald Trump is down to three points.

Hit & Run recommends the above video from March in which Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson tried to appeal to Sanders supporters based upon civil liberties, drug policy, and foreign policy. They also referred to a blog post from June which states:

Gary Johnson keeps pitching his presidential campaign to Bernie Sanders’ disappointed supporters. Read any profile of the Libertarian nominee, and chances are you’ll get to a part where he points out that the ISideWith site says Sanders is the rival candidate he agrees with the most.

It’s not hard to see why he’s doing this. While there are big differences between Johnson’s and Sanders’ economic platforms, their views have more overlap when it comes to social and foreign policy. Presumably there are some Bernie backers out there who care more about the latter issues, and Johnson would like to reach them. And indeed, according to a recent Bloomberg poll, “barely half of those who favored Sanders—55 percent—plan to vote for Clinton. Instead, 22 percent say they’ll vote for Trump, while 18 percent favor Libertarian Gary Johnson.” Eighteen percent is a pretty big slice of the pie, especially for a third-party candidate.

Despite agreements on a handful of issues at the rally today, the statements from Stein and Johnson make it clear that there are many areas of disagreement between Sanders supporters and Hillary Clinton. I previously discussed the vast ideological difference.

High Voter Dissatisfaction With Major Party Candidates Could Make Sanders A Strong Third Party Choice

Sanders Stein

With the major political parties likely to nominate two candidates who are both unfit to be president and opposed by more voters than in previous elections, there is increased attention being paid to the third party candidates. I recently wrote about the Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson. While Johnson and Bernie Sanders do agree on many issues, Jill Stein, the presumptive nominee of the Green Party, has views which are much closer to those of Sanders. The Guardian reports on an offer from Stein which could really alter the election–inviting Sanders to replace her as the Green Party nominee:

Bernie Sanders has been invited to continue his underdog bid for the White House by the Green party’s probable presidential candidate, who has offered to step aside to let him run.

Jill Stein, who is expected to be endorsed at the party’s August convention in Houston, told Guardian US that “overwhelming” numbers of Sanders supporters are flocking to the Greens rather than Hillary Clinton.

Stein insisted that her presidential bid has a viable “near term goal” of reaching 15% in national polling, which would enable her to stand alongside presumptive nominees Clinton and Donald Trump in televised election debates.

But in a potentially destabilising move for the Democratic party, and an exciting one for Sanders’ supporters, the Green party candidate said she was willing to stand aside for Sanders.

“I’ve invited Bernie to sit down explore collaboration – everything is on the table,” she said. “If he saw that you can’t have a revolutionary campaign in a counter-revolutionary party, he’d be welcomed to the Green party. He could lead the ticket and build a political movement,” she said.

Common Dreams points out that Stein had made this offer previously:

After the New York primary, which took place April 16, Stein wrote to Sanders: “At a time when the American electorate is rejecting politics as usual in vast numbers, I invite you to join me in pushing the boundaries of that system to a place where revolution can truly take root.”

“In this hour of unprecedented crisis—with human rights, civilization, and life on the planet teetering on the brink—can we explore an historic collaboration to keep building the revolution beyond the reach of corporate party clutches, where the movement can take root and flourish, in the 2016 election and beyond?” she wrote.

PP_16.07.07_JuneVoterAttitudes_lede

A Pew Research Center Poll shows a definite opening for a strong third party choice:

Overall satisfaction with the choice of candidates is at its lowest point in two decades. Currently, fewer than half of registered voters in both parties – 43% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans – say they are satisfied with their choices for president.

Roughly four-in-ten voters (41%) say it is difficult to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton because neither would make a good president – as high as at any point since 2000. And just 11% say the choice is difficult because either would make a good chief executive, the lowest percentage during this period.

With the two major political parties making bad choices of this magnitude, it is possible we could see a realignment in political parties. The divisions of the Bush years have become obscured with the Democrats nominating a candidate who shares many of the faults which Democrats have opposed for the last decade. As I wrote in another recent post comparing Clinton to both George Bush and Richard Nixon,we were outraged by Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy, but Clinton is the neocon hawk running this year. We protested Bush’s assault on civil liberties, but Clinton also has a far right record on civil liberties issues, sounding much like Donald Trump on restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism. We objected to an increase in government secrecy under Bush, but Clinton has a long record of opposing government transparency. Bush’s administration was remarkable for expanding the influence of the religious right.  Clinton worked with The Fellowship to expand the influence of religion on public policy when in the Senate. Plus Clinton has been on the wrong side regarding the corrupting role of money in politics, on the environment and climate change, on the death penalty, on single-payer health care. She is even to the right of Donald Trump on drug policy and the drug war and on the wrong side of trade issues.

The reports from the State Department Inspector General and the FBI on Clinton’s email scandal also make it quite clear that Democrats can no longer get away with attacking the culture of corruption in the Republican Party. With the Republicans nominating Donald Trump, we could finally see the end of them as a serious major national party, with the Democrats under Clinton replacing the Republicans as the conservative party. A Green Party led by Sanders could be the start of the formation of a new liberal/progressive party with greater consistency and integrity than we have seen from the Democratic Party.

While such a choice would be welcomed, I think it is very unlikely Sanders will accept Stein’s offer, with Sanders reportedly planning to endorse Hillary Clinton next week. While legitimate polls (excluding online polls) typically show that from twenty percent to near half of Sanders supporters will not support Clinton, those active in many on-line Sanders groups show an even higher intensity in opposing Clinton. It is unknown how many will hold their nose in the end and vote for Clinton, primarily motivated by stopping Donald Trump. If Trump’s campaign since clinching the Republican nomination is any indication of what we will see this fall, Clinton is likely to have enough of a lead to allow Sanders supporters to vote their conscience without fear of a Trump victory. Plus there is a small contingent of Sanders supporters who are supporting Trump over Clinton.

There is a tendency of some Clinton supporters to see opposition to Clinton’s nomination from the left as being based upon being pro-Bernie. It is much more based upon opposition to Clinton’s views and character. Even an endorsement by Sanders will not change these views. I do not identify myself as primarily a Sanders supporter, a Stein supporter, an Obama supporter, or the supporter of any particular candidate. I choose candidates based upon the issues.

I supported Obama over Clinton in 2008 and Sanders over Clinton this year over many of the same issues (with Obama more moderate than Sanders but still preferable to Clinton). I cannot support Clinton for the same reasons I opposed her for the nomination twice, and for the same reasons I opposed George Bush. As I supported Obama and Sanders in their nomination battles, I will most likely support Stein as the best choice as opposed to Trump or Clinton, assuming Sanders will not be on the general election ballot. Of course it is a long way until November and I will be watching all the candidates closely.

Update: Third Party Candidates Polling Competitively Against Trump (Should Bernie Run Third Party?)

Discussion Of Saddam and Iraq Return To British And American Politics

John-Chilcot-the-Chairman-of-the-Iraq-Inquiry\

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.