Why Clinton Can’t Pull Away From An Opponent As Awful As Donald Trump


Donald Trump has said one idiotic thing after another. He has been found to have bribed an attorney general to avoid prosecution for his scam university, among other scams he has been involved in. He clearly has no understanding of the issues. Yet he is now now in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, with many Democrats struggling to understand why. Will Democrats ever figure out that the nomination of someone as unfit to be president as Hillary Clinton was one of the biggest political blunders in history (ranking with the Republicans’ blunder in nominating Trump)?

Many Democrats have resorted to responses which do not help matters. They deny that she is corrupt and dishonest, despite overwhelming evidence that she is, and ignore the seriousness of her scandals. This only turns independents more against partisan Democrats who make such claims.

Clinton doesn’t help herself when she repeats the same lies over and over, even when the fact checkers repeatedly call her out on it. She didn’t help matters when she answered Anderson Cooper in a dishonest manner this week, claiming to have been transparent about her health and her email,  when he pressed her on her lack of transparency. pointed out:

…almost everything that Clinton has disclosed in this campaign has come under duress. The reason we have thousands of her emails is because she was forced by the State Department to turn them over. The reason we know about her pneumonia is because of her stumbling incident on Sunday in New York City. Forced transparency isn’t all that honorable

The most common argument from Clinton and her supporters is to argue how terrible Donald Trump is. While they are right, that does not help Clinton when they cannot provide positive arguments to support her. Many agree about Trump, but do not think Clinton is any better.

At least one Clinton supporter,

…her 4256 favorable/unfavorable split in national polling is truly, freakishly bad. Political junkies have probably heard the factoid that Clinton is the least-popular major party nominee of all time — except for Donald Trump. But conventional dialogue still underrates exactly how weird this situation is. John McCain, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bob Dole were all viewed favorably by a majority of Americans on the eve of presidential elections that they lost, and Mitt Romney was extremely close.

It is totally unheard of to win a presidential election while having deeply underwater favorable ratings, and it is actually quite common to lose one despite above water favorable ratings.

Since there are only two major party nominees in the race and they are both far underwater right now, it’s pretty likely that precedent will be shattered. But we are in a bit of an undiscovered country in terms of the underlying opinion dynamics.

RealClearPolitics’ four-way polling average shows Gary Johnson at 9.2 percent and Jill Stein at 2.7 percent.

If those numbers hold up (which of course they might not), they would make Johnson the strongest third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. That’s a big deal. Stein’s strength is, however, even more unusual. She is polling ahead of where Ralph Nader did in 2000 and is the strongest fourth-party candidate we’ve seen in a 100 years, besting both the Thurmond and Wallace tickets from the infamously four-sided election of 1948.

To find a fourth-place candidate polling higher than Stein’s current results, you need to dial all the way back to the 6 percent of the vote Eugene Debs earned in the bizarre 1912 election that saw the GOP nominee (the incumbent, no less!) finish in third place behind a third-party bid spearheaded by ex-president Teddy Roosevelt.

These two unusual quirks of the 2016 race seem to be linked.

Lambasting Trump while being unpopular herself would be a clear winning strategy in a zero-sum head-to-head race. But in a four-sided race, where the two lesser candidates aren’t receiving much scrutiny from the press or the campaigns, it tends to have the side consequence of pressing a lot of people to Johnson or Stein. The fact that there are two different third-party candidates in the race — one for people who think Clinton’s too left and one for people who think she’s not left enough — makes it really difficult to avoid bleeding voters…

It’s simply going to be very hard for Clinton to open up the kind of stable lead that her supporters think Trump’s awfulness deserves while she herself is so little-liked. September of a general election year is probably not a great time to turn that around.

But the fact remains that her basic problem in this race is almost painfully simple. Over the course of her winning primary campaign she became a deeply unpopular figure. And it’s hard — indeed, unprecedented — for such an unpopular person to win the presidency.

Both major parties have nominated candidates who are unfit to be president. There is little motivation for many voters to choose the lesser evil, as opposed to voting for a minor party candidate, when even the lesser evil is so evil this year. If the major party candidates were not both so awful, Johnson and Stein would be polling as low as minor party candidates usually do.

For Clinton, it is not only her lies. It is also her record, as Common Dreams recently discussed. In past elections, the Democratic Party received the support of many independents, as well as those on the left, due to the serious problems under George Bush. Instead of nominating a reform candidate such as Bernie Sanders (who consistently polled much better against Donald Trump), they went for the candidate most likely to institutionalize the horrors of the Bush administration. We need to end the state of perpetual warfare we have been in since 9/11. While Clinton admits that her vote for the Iraq war was a mistake (like her support for mass incarceration, various trade deals, and anti-gay legislation were mistakes), as described, support for interventionism was actually part of a pattern for her:

For years, Clinton has blamed Bush for misleading her into voting for the resolution. But an examination by The Washington Post found that her decision was based as much on advice from her husband’s advisers as from Bush administration officials. There were also significant gaps in her fact-gathering, most notably her apparent failure to read a classified analysis that other senators cited in voting against the resolution…

She continued that path when she advocated intervention in Libya as secretary of state…

Besides Clinton pushing for interventionism in Libya, Clinton repeated the same mistakes in Syria, advocating war based on logic as flawed as anything we have heard from Donald Trump. Her views on Russia place us at risk of an even more dangerous situation.

Kranish stressed how Clinton failed to read classified intelligence reports which were available, leading others to oppose the war. Unlike some Democrats who did initially vote for the war, Clinton also continued to support the war:

A year after the vote, Clinton defended it on CNN, citing “grave threats to the United States.”

As The Intercept pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisers Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State. The Iraq vote was not a fluke. It is what we can expect if Clinton is elected.

Clinton desires to replicate the horrors of the Bush years in other ways. Besides perpetuating the warfare state, Clinton desires to expand the surveillance state and has a terrible record on civil liberties with views (minus the Islamophobia) which are comparable to Trump’s. As occurred under Bush, Clinton also has a long history of supporting an increased role for religion in public policy. The reality is that, no matter how much the point out Donald Trump’s flaws, Hillary Clinton already has a record of doing much of what Trump is accused of.

The Democratic Party establishment made a horrible mistake in acting to ensure that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination. While Clinton still has the edge, they might have to face the consequences of their actions if it leads to defeat and the election of Donald Trump as president.

Both Trump And Clinton Fail Commander-In-Chief Test


There appears to be near universal agreement that Matt Lauer’s performance as moderator at the Commander In Chief Forum was a disaster. Lauer certainly failed to fact check multiple false statements from Donald Trump, who was once again confused and incoherent when trying to discuss matters of policy. He also did a poor job in fact checking Hillary Clinton, or at holding her responsible for her long history of poor decisions on foreign policy.

Trump had so many false statements it is difficult to list them all. Perhaps that is his strategy–make it hard to stay focused on any particular falsehood or foolish statement. Factcheck.org and PolitiFact have lists of falsehoods by both candidates. This doesn’t include matters of poor judgment from each candidate. The full text of the forum can be found here.

Among the lowlights from Trump was once again claiming to have opposed the Iraq war before it started, his false claims to have opposed the intervention in Libya at the time, his threat to get rid of the top generals, and his distortion of Clinton’s statements about the problems at the VA. Plus there’s his secret plan to defeat ISIS.

Matt Lauer spent a lot of time on Clinton’s email but did so poorly. He brought up some of the problems but allowed Clinton to get away with the same distortions she has used in the past. This provided nothing new on the issue, and wasted time which would have been better spent on Clinton’s dreadful foreign policy record.

Clinton tends to make lawyerly statements which on the surface are nearly true, but which skirt the real issue. During the forum she said:

“Classified material has a header which says ‘top-secret, secret, confidential.’ Nothing, and I will repeat this and this is verified in the report by the Department of Justice, none of the emails sent or received by me had such a header.”

There were a few emails which were found to have a designation of c, but Lauer really should have pointed out the more important problem as stated by James Comey:

There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.

As Reuters explained, some types of information are “born classified” and are classified regardless of whether there is a classified header. Clinton is just distorting the issue when concentrating on how the email was labeled.

Another problem for Clinton’s claim is that she was found to have instructed an aide to remove the “identifying heading” and send information trough non-secure channels.

Other falsehoods from Clinton include falsely claiming that Trump wants to privatize the VA when he has actually advocated allowing patient’s in the VA system to obtain care from physicians outside the VA system when necessary–an idea which even some Democrats have supported.

The bigger problem was the limited discussion of actual policy. As Alex Emmons has also pointed out, NBC’s Military Forum Was a Master Class on How Not to Hold Candidates Accountable. For example:

When Hillary Clinton explained her anti-ISIS plan by saying “we are not going to have ground troops in Iraq,” he failed to point out that we already do have those troops. When Donald Trump claimed to have opposed the wars in Iraq and Libya from the beginning, Lauer failed to correct him and tell the audience that wasn’t true…

Lauer chose to ask Trump about his preparedness and past remarks, rather than question his actual plans. “I’d like you to tell our veterans and our people at home why you are prepared for the role of commander in chief,” said Lauer. Lauer would go on to further question Trump about his “preparedness,” his “temperament,” and his receptiveness to intelligence briefings…

Lauer failed to raise many of the most controversial national security issues in the post-9/11 world. For Lauer, the issue was whether Clinton’s emails contained information on the covert drone program, not whether the covert drone program was legal or ethical. He never to pressed her about the surveillance implications of her “intelligence surge,” or what “working with experts in Silicon Valley” meant. Trump was never asked to defend his proposals to infiltrate American mosques and spy on predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. At no point was either candidate pressed for their stance on the drone war, torture, Guantánamo Bay, or mass surveillance.

Clinton avoided true accountability regarding her support for the Iraq war, even twisting this into a reason to support her over Trump, with some rather dubious logic and distortions of the facts:

CLINTON: Now, my opponent was for the war in Iraq. He says he wasn’t. You can go back and look at the record. He supported it. He told Howard Stern he supported it. So he supported it before it happened, he supported it as it was happening, and he is on record as supporting it after it happened. I have taken responsibility for my decision.

LAUER: Let me go to another…

CLINTON: He refuses to take responsibility for his support. That is a judgment issue.

While Trump’s claims of opposing the war before it started do not hold up, there is a huge difference between Trump sounding rather unsure and going along when asked about it, as opposed to Clinton actively promoting going to war based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. She was incorrect about Trump continuing to support the war.

While she admits Iraq was a mistake, she made the same mistakes on both Libya and Syria. That is the real judgment issue. Plus, on Libya, while both originally supported regime change, Clinton continues to defend that disastrous decision, while Trump has come out in opposition. To take Clinton’s own words, it was Clinton who supported it before it happened, supported it as it was happening, and is on record as supporting it after it happened.

Trump was again incoherent with regards to his man-crush on Putin, but I also wish that Lauer had asked Clinton about the danger that her belligerent views towards Russia risks getting us into a war with them. He might have also asked her about her threats to obliterate Iran, her past refusal to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against terrorists (a view similar to the view Trump has rightly been criticized for), her unwillingness to accept a diplomatic solution over war in Syria, and her siding with Republicans to oppose a ban on the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas.

While it was partially due to the candidates only wanting to face questions for a half hour, Lauer does deserve criticism for not taking advantage of the time to further probe the failings of both candidates on foreign policy. The real loser, however, is not Matt Lauer. It is the American people who will be stuck with one of these candidates as president. Neither has the judgment to be Commander In Chief, and both have serious difficulties with telling the truth.

Update: Late night comics on the forum.

Creating A State Of Perpetual Warfare

Orwell Continuous War

The Orwellian aspects of our foreign policy have been apparent to its opponents for quite a while. Former CIA officer Barry Eisler did not mention Orwell in an article on perpetual warfare at Boing Boing but either he was considering several aspects of warfare in 1984 or came to similar views as Orwell independently. Some excerpts:

If you were the government and wanted to maintain a state of perpetual war, how would you go about it?

First, you’d need an enemy, of course, but that part would be pretty straightforward. After all, if the US government could convince the citizenry that Iraq was the 9/11 enemy but that Saudi Arabia was our friend when nineteen out of the twenty 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, it’s fair to say that just about anything is possible.

But the next part would be harder. On the one hand, you’d have to claim progress in the war so that the citizenry would maintain its support for the war. On the other hand, you couldn’t actually defeat the enemy, lest the war end.

Eisler here was referring to the latest in a long string of news reports on a significant victory, such as killing a key member of ISIS, while nothing actually changes.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that according to the Pentagon, we’ve achieved yet another concrete War on Terror victory, while according to American officials and counterterrorism specialists, outright victory is still intangible and elusive. Maybe it’s a coincidence that this narrative is precisely the one a team of social scientists would devise if tasked to come up with something that would maintain indefinite support for a never-ending war.

But it would be foolish not to at least wonder. War is awful for almost everyone. But for a few narrow factions, there’s a lot of money to be made and power to be accrued. You could even go out on a limb and argue that war is a racket.

While in 1984,”We‘ve always been at war with Eastasia” the enemy does periodically change. Eisler points out that this could be happening with our perpetual war:

If you were really clever, you’d probably want a backup enemy–a Plan B in case the current enemy du jour were ever somehow actually defeated. In which regard, maybe it’s a coincidence that we are now being told we are now in a new cold war with a resurgent Russia and that Vladimir Putin is behind everything bad in the world. But once again, it would be foolish not to at least wonder.

In 2008, Barack Obama was the peace candidate, yet the war continues and the use of drones has increased. The choices in 2016 appear even worse. Hillary Clinton is probably the most hawkish war monger to run for president in recent memory. Besides pushing for the Iraq war based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, she is the architect of our disastrous policy in Libya, and wanted to repeat the same mistakes in Syria based on absurd arguments. She has also been pushing to extend the conflict to Russia, with a new Cold War, if not an outright hot war.

Her opponent, Donald Trump, has at times spoken out against Clinton’s interventionism, but has been far too incoherent on foreign policy (and everything else) to be seen as a serious alternative. While Clinton appears most likely to win, with Clinton’s favorability at records lows Trump has been cutting into Clinton’s lead, including pulling into a tie in the latest Reuter’s poll.

Third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson might provide a real difference but are marginalized by our system, not even being allowed in the presidential debates, despite widespread dislike for the major party candidates. Just today, Bernie Sanders did say that the threshold for minor parties participating in the debates should be lowered. It is unlikely we will see any real change, or an end to our perpetual war, unless other voices are heard.

Clinton Threatens War With Russia

Clinton bombs

Hillary Clinton’s speech to the American Legion this week raised eyebrows among some one the left with her jingoism and praise for American exceptionalism. One segment was particularly disturbing as she sounds like she is threatening military action against Russia:

We’ll invest in the next frontier of military engagement, protecting U.S. interests in outer space and cyberspace. You’ve seen reports. Russia’s hacked into a lot of things. China’s hacked into a lot of things. Russia even hacked into the Democratic National Committee, maybe even some state election systems. So, we’ve got to step up our game. Make sure we are well defended and able to take the fight to those who go after us.

As President, I will make it clear, that the United States will treat cyber attacks just like any other attack. We will be ready with serious political, economic and military responses. And we’re going to invest in protecting our governmental networks and our national infrastructure. I want us to lead the world in setting the rules of cyberspace.

Justin Raimondo responded at Antiwar.com:

If that isn’t a veiled threat to attack Russia in retaliation for their alleged “cyber-attacks” on the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Foundation, then what is she trying to say?

This should scare the bejesus out of “liberals” and others on the left who have been scammed into jumping on the Clinton bandwagon in the name of stopping Trump. Are we really going to start World War III in order to avenge the honor of Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Given how problematic attribution is in the case of cyber-attacks, this threat of “military action” makes Dr. Strangelove look sane.

For all the yelping and screeching in the media about how Trump is “unstable,” and even crazy, this threat shows that Hillary in quite simply unhinged. Her major theme these days resembles something out of Joe McCarthy’s playbook: her campaign has come right out and said Trump is “Putin’s puppet.” And since she so clearly believes the Russians are actively disrupting her efforts to take the White House, it’s reasonable to assume her policy toward Russia will reflect this in a vindictive campaign of revenge.

And they tell us Trump is “scary”!

If Hillary Clinton doesn’t scare you, then you aren’t paying attention.

It is no surprise that the arms industry has been donating so much money to Hillary Clinton. There is a long history of bad blood between Clinton and  Putin, and neocons have long desired to try regime change in Russia. We saw how well that worked out in Iraq. Donald Trump’s naive man-crush on Putin in response to a compliment from Putin is also disturbing, but Clinton’s long history of belligerence towards Russia really should scare us.

The facts behind the DNC hack remain unclear, with the anti-Russia hysteria raised by the Clinton camp sounding remarkably like the both Cold War red-baiting and like the anti-Iraq hysteria during the run-up to that war (with Hillary Clinton falsely claiming that their were ties between Saddam and al Qaeda). While I would not exclude the possibility of Russian involvement, Putin has again denied responsibility.

The lack of a credible opponent this year is allowing Hillary Clinton to get a pass on her rather alarming views on foreign policy and military interventionism. Voters have forgotten that eight years ago Clinton was rejected by Democrats and found by many to be the scary one. This included alarm raised by many Democrats when Hillary Clinton criticized Barack Obama for ruling out the use of nuclear weapons against terrorists and for being willing to speak with our adversaries. From The Washington Post nine years ago:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton drew another distinction between herself and Sen. Barack Obama yesterday, refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Osama bin Laden or other terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Clinton’s comments came in response to Obama’s remarks earlier in the day that nuclear weapons are “not on the table” in dealing with ungoverned territories in the two countries, and they continued a steady tug of war among the Democratic presidential candidates over foreign policy…

“Presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear deterrents to keep the peace, and I don’t believe any president should make blanket statements with the regard to use or nonuse,” Clinton said.

At a debate last week in South Carolina, Clinton directly criticized Obama for saying he would meet with leaders traditionally hostile to the United States. Obama responded, and the sniping went on most of the week…

U.S. officials rarely rule out nuclear attacks as a matter of diplomacy, preferring to keep the threat as a deterrent. Yet several foreign policy experts said Obama was essentially right: It would be unwise to target an individual or a small group with nuclear weapons that could kill civilians and worsen the United States’ image around the world.

Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution scholar, said Obama “clearly gave the right answer.”

This year Donald Trump has been criticized for not taking nuclear weapons off the table in fighting ISIS. While he was wrong, his position was essentially the same as the position promoted by Hillary Clinton.

Clinton Precedent Cited In Sailor’s Case To Request Leniency


The Obama administration has an overly hard line record on prosecuting minor security breaches. Hillary Clinton, who has never had a very good record with regards to either government transparency or civil liberties, might inadvertently wind up reversing this trend. While the FBI did not recommend prosecution of Hillary Clinton despite her reckless handling of classified information, people lower down have commonly been prosecuted for less. The handling of Clinton’s case is now likely to be cited in subsequent cases. Politico reported on one such case:

Citing Clinton, sailor seeks leniency in submarine photos case

A Navy sailor facing the possibility of years in prison for taking a handful of classified photos inside a nuclear submarine is making a bid for leniency by citing the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton over classified information authorities say was found in her private email account.

Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier, 29, is set to be sentenced Friday on a single felony charge of retaining national defense information without permission. In May, Saucier pleaded guilty in federal court in Bridgeport, Conn., admitting that while working on the U.S.S. Alexandria in 2009 he took and kept six photos showing parts of the sub’s propulsion system he knew to be classified.

The defense and prosecutors agree that sentencing guidelines in the case call for a prison term of 63 to 78 months, but defense attorney Derrick Hogan cited the treatment of Clinton as he argued in a filing last week that Saucier should get probation instead.

“Democratic Presidential Candidate and former Secretary of State Hilary [sic] Clinton…has come under scrutiny for engaging in acts similar to Mr. Saucier,” Hogan wrote. He noted that FBI Director James Comey said 110 emails in 52 email chains in Clinton’s account contained information deemed classified at the time, including eight chains with “top secret” information and 36 with “secret” information.

“In our case, Mr. Saucier possessed six (6) photographs classified as ‘confidential/restricted,’ far less than Clinton’s 110 emails,” Hogan wrote. “It will be unjust and unfair for Mr. Saucier to receive any sentence other than probation for a crime those more powerful than him will likely avoid.”

There are distinctions between the cases. Saucier admitted as part of a plea bargain that he “knew from his training and his specialized work upon the submarine” that the photos contained classified information and he wasn’t authorized to take them. He also admitted that after being confronted by law enforcement in 2012 he destroyed a laptop, camera and memory card.

Clinton has said she didn’t know any information on her server was classified, although Comey has said anyone in Clinton’s position “should have known that an unclassified system was no place” for some of the subjects being discussed. While Clinton had tens of thousands of emails erased from her system in 2014, she did so with the advice of lawyers and before the FBI investigation was underway.

Regardless of whether people such as this sailor receive more lenient handling, I also wonder if Clinton will be as hard on such matters as the Obama administration has been if elected (which looks likely based upon current polls and Donald Trump’s continuing incoherence while campaigning). While her natural conservative inclination might be to be a hard liner, she might also be dissuaded by the inevitable comparisons to her case.

In related news, two Republicans have laid out their arguments for the Justice Department to investigate Clinton for perjury in her testimony before Congress. This includes lying over whether she sent or received classified information on her private server, the claim that her lawyers had gone through each email individually before deleting them, her  claim that all work related email was turned over to the State Department, and her claim that she used only one server while Secretary of State. The FBI report contradicts each of these claims made when she testified before Congress.

Trump and Clinton Continue To Give Voters Reason To Choose None Of The Above

Trump Constitution for Dummies

Baring a miracle, one of the two most unpopular candidates to run for president in recent memory will be elected president in November. The New York Times points out that during the primaries,  “Just 14 percent of eligible adults — 9 percent of the whole nation — voted for either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton.” The past few days have given us even more reasons to not want to go along with the wishes of this foolish 9 percent who voted for Trump or Clinton.

The biggest fiasco for Donald Trump has been his attacks on Khizr Khan and his family following his speech at the Democratic convention. Besides the criticism from Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, this has resulted in well-deserved criticism of Trump from Gold Star families, the VFW, and multiple Republicans. Trump has survived saying many outrageous things, but maybe this one will the the one he cannot recover from. In addition to being among the most inexcusable things he has said, it is likely to be viewed differently in the context of a general election campaign as opposed to a Republican primary battle where insanity is expected. If Trump was ever to have a chance of winning the general election, it is well beyond the point where he had to start showing some sanity. Instead it appears he is continuing to sink lower.

The attacks on Khan overshadowed Trump’s blunder on Ukraine over the weekend. I believe that this was actually an inarticulate attempt at repeating a view held by people ranging from Noam Chomsky to Henry Kissinger. It is a far more realistic view than Hillary Clinton’s initial reaction, comparing the annexation of Crimea to the Nazi invasion of Europe. We could certainly use someone to counter the red-baiting seen from many Clinton supporters, but Trump remains too lazy to do his homework to present a coherent opposing view.

Despite all the unfavorable news for Trump, it has not been a perfect week for Hillary Clinton either. Clinton couldn’t help herself but continue to lie about the email scandal, receiving four more Pinocchio’s from the Washington Post Fact Checker. This led Ron Fournier to ask Why Can’t Hillary Clinton Stop Lying at The Atlantic:

Her dishonesty could push an unknown number of independent and undecided voters into Trump’s camp or toward a non-major-party candidate. If too many swing voters walk away from Clinton because she destroyed her credibility or because they don’t want to condone her behavior, the nuclear codes go to Trump.

That is why Clinton’s advisers, senior Democrats, and members of the liberal media need to stop covering for Clinton. Stop repeating her spin. Stop spreading her lies. Stop enabling her worse angels. It’s too late for Clinton to come clean, but honorable Democrats should at least insist that she stop muddying the water.

Please, for the sake of the country, tell her: Stop lying.

Of course there are alternatives for independent and undecided voters, and everyone else in the 91 percent of the country who have not voted for Trump or Clinton. Not only are Jill Stein (Green Party) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) more honest than both Trump and Clinton, they also present a true foreign policy alternative to the perpetual warfare and expansion of the surveillance state we are likely to see if Hillary Clinton becomes the next president.

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


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: