Mike Pence Wins VP Debate, But It Doesn’t Really Matter

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Mike Pence won the vice-presidential debate in terms of style points, but it is not likely to affect the election very much. At best it changes the conversation this news cycle away from the most recent round of stupid things said by Donald Trump to the debate, but it is a safe bet that Trump will soon dominate the news with new stupid comments. While Pence did a better job than Tim Kaine, it was not at the level of Joe Biden reviving the ticket after Barack Obama’s lackadaisical first debate against Mitt Romney four years ago. Of course Pence had a much harder job which would require going well beyond style points to make up for Donald Trump.

Both candidates had many factual errors which kept the fact checkers busy. Both candidates did the best when attacking the opposing presidential candidate, and ran into trouble trying to defend their own awful running mates. Rather than defending his statements, Pence denied that Trump made the statements Kaine confronted him with. In rare cases Kaine’s accusations weren’t entirely true, but for the most part they were.

Pence had the advantage with his previous professional career in radio, allowing him to win if looking purely at style, and ignoring his atrocious record. Pence gave the appearance of someone who could perhaps be a stabilizing figure in a Trump administration–or the 2020 Republican nominee. He very likely would be leading, as any sane candidate would, if he was the one now running against Hillary Clinton.

Kaine came off poorly, but certainly not at the depths of some past candidates such as Sarah Palin or Dan Quayle. It was amusing to see the hypocrisy after the debate as Clinton supporters who were appalled at how Trump would interrupt Clinton had no problems with how Kaine was constantly interrupting Pence.

While Pence wins on points, he could not get a victory which is likely to be significant enough to actually impact the election results. Actually defending, as opposed to ignoring, Trump’s faults is beyond the abilities of any mere mortal. Pence also had mixed results in trying to attack Hillary Clinton. He did get in some blows, but somewhat like Trump, he could not articulate a better alternative even when there were grounds to attack Clinton.

Pence raised Clinton’s scandals, but the Republicans have not been able to simply articulate grounds for why this really matters. Her mishandling of classified information is certainly worth mentioning, but the scandal was fundamentally about her failure to follow rules designed to increase government transparency and reduce corruption. Clinton violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State. That alone should disqualify her from further government positions.

Pence was also limited in valid grounds to attack on policy. It was bad enough that he opposed abortion rights, and made his case even weaker when bringing up the right wing’s nonsensical talking points on “partial birth abortions.” Pence had the usual Republican difficulty in attacking ObamaCare (even if Bill Clinton foolishly helped out the Republicans), as he has no better alternative to offer.

It was amusing to see that, for obvious reasons, Kaine did not disagree when Pence falsely tied the entire foreign policy of the Obama administration to Clinton. In reality, Clinton was a failed Secretary of State. She was a glorified diplomat, but actual policy was generally made in the White House, with the Obama administration almost always overriding her hawkish inclinations. While they did listen to her regarding Libya, Obama subsequently agreed it was a disaster and the worst mistake of his presidency.

If Trump and Pence were coherent on foreign policy, they could make a case that it is time for the United States to stop being the world’s policeman (while footing the bill), along with questioning the risk of war with Russia under Clinton. Neither Republican is capable of articulating such an argument, and Trump’s naivety towards Putin is almost as bad as Clinton’s belligerence. Both Pence and Kaine were clueless on dealing with terrorism, believing that we can someday kill them all. Neither realizes (or if they do realize it, will admit) that such policies only lead to creating more terrorists.

This was basically two conservative career politicians (one more conservative than the other) defending either the DLC/neocon status quo or the Republican fantasy worldview. Neither presented a true candidate of meaningful change, and liberal views remained absent, as has been the case since Bernie Sanders left the race. Green Party candidate Ajamu Baraka and Libertarian Party candidate William Weld (who appears to be giving up the third party fight to concentrate on taking down Trump) both used social media to respond, but their views are being kept out of the nationally televised debates.

Leaked Clinton Recording Reveals Her Views On Sanders Supporters And The Left

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Hillary Clinton has tried very hard to keep what she says to fundraisers secret, but leaks are inevitable. In a leaked recording, Clinton revealed a low opinion of Sanders’ supporters. “Clinton confesses to feeling ‘bewildered’ by those to her far-left and far-right in the election,” showing a lack of understanding of the issues which have led to opposition to her from many on the left. From Politico:

Hacked audio of a conversation between Hillary Clinton and donors during a February fundraising event shows the Democrat nominee describing Bernie Sanders supporters as “children of the Great Recession” who are “living in their parents’ basement.”

Speaking at a Virginia fundraiser hosted by former U.S. ambassador Beatrice Welters, Clinton says in a clip released by the Free Beacon that many of her former primary opponent’s supporters sought things like “free college, free health care,” saying that she preferred to occupy the space “from the center-left to the center-right” on the political spectrum.

Clinton failed to recognize that many of us not only do not live in our parents’ basement, but oppose her for being a warmonger, for being far right on civil liberties, for being too conservative on social/cultural issues, and for her unethical behavior, along with the economic issues stressed by Bernie Sanders.

As The Intercept pointed out, Clinton has been inconsistent in public statements as to where she falls on the ideological spectrum, having claimed to both be a progressive and a centrist at various times. In this recording she stated, “I am occupying from the center-left to the center-right.” Actually authoritarian right would be a more accurate classification. Her statement provides further confirmation that Clinton is the candidate of the neoconservative status-quo. As I discussed yesterdayfifteen years after the 9/11 attack we are in a state of never-ending war, with growth of the surveillance state and lack of respect for civil liberties and privacy. Hillary Clinton would further institutionalize the horrors of the Bush years. Her conservative mindset and lack of understanding of opposing viewpoints makes her unlikely to change. We are likely to see a further move to the right as occurred under Bill Clinton.

The Awful Choice Of Trump Or Clinton Making Third Parties More Acceptable, Even To Establishment Newspapers

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Both political major political parties nominated candidates who are unfit to be president, along with opposing many of the principles which supporters of each party had claimed to have supported. While many Democrats expressed objection to Clinton in the primaries, most appear to be falling in line, willing to ignore the fact that their nominee supports much of the agenda of George W. Bush which they had recently opposed. More Republicans are willing to stick up for principles in opposition to Donald Trump. Some, especially neoconservatives, are backing Clinton who, after all, is one of them. A growing number are showing a willingness to actually challenge the duopoly and back Gary Johnson.

Hillary Clinton has benefited from this in receiving the endorsements of multiple Republican as well as Democratic  newspapers. Once again, that it is no surprise that many Republicans have endorsed Clinton as she is essentially one of them in thought and behavior. A growing number of newspapers, realizing that neither Trump nor Clinton is ethically fit to be president, are endorsing Gary Johnson. Yesterday I mentioned The Detroit News, a newspaper so Republican that we called it The Nixon News in a previous era in the Detroit area. They wrote, “Donald Trump is unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous. He can not be president.” On Clinton they wrote, “character matters. Her career-long struggles with honesty and ethics and calculating, self-serving approach to politics trouble us deeply.” They defended supporting a third party candidate in writing, “We anticipate our decision not to support either of the major party candidates will bring charges that we are throwing away our endorsement. Our contention is that an endorsement based on conscience is never wasted.”

The Week also reported that Gary Johnson has received the endorsements of the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and The Caledonian-Record along with an additional one today. While he received some endorsements in the primaries, they note that no newspapers have endorsed Trump for the general election.

The Chicago Tribune  described Donald Trump as, “a man not fit to be president of the United States. ” They also reject Clinton, partially out policy disagreements (seeing her as more liberal than she actually is based upon how she campaigned against Bernie Sanders), along with “serious questions about honesty and trust.” They also defended the choice of a third party candidate:

We reject the cliche that a citizen who chooses a principled third-party candidate is squandering his or her vote. Look at the number of fed-up Americans telling pollsters they clamor for alternatives to Trump and Clinton. What we’re recommending will appeal less to people who think tactically than to conscientious Americans so infuriated that they want to send a message about the failings of the major parties and their candidates. Put short:

We offer this endorsement to encourage voters who want to feel comfortable with their choice. Who want to vote for someone they can admire.

The same principle applies to those of us who plan to vote for Jill Stein as opposed to Trump or Clinton.

USA Today also had an editorial calling Donald Trump “unfit for the presidency.” It is a sign that they recognize that Clinton has flaws of her own that they could not actually take the step of endorsing her. While some on the editorial board were willing to support her, others felt differently, leaving open consideration of a third party candidate:

Other board members have serious reservations about Clinton’s sense of entitlement, her lack of candor and her extreme carelessness in handling classified information.

Where does that leave us? Our bottom-line advice for voters is this: Stay true to your convictions. That might mean a vote for Clinton, the most plausible alternative to keep Trump out of the White House. Or it might mean a third-party candidate. Or a write-in. Or a focus on down-ballot candidates who will serve the nation honestly, try to heal its divisions, and work to solve its problems.

Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump.

Voting for a major party candidate this year means either an unacceptable choice such as Trump or returning to the horrors of the Bush years. While some newspapers find that an acceptable alternative, I do not. Fifteen years after the 9/11 attack we are in a state of never-ending war, with growth of the surveillance state and lack of respect for civil liberties and privacy. Hillary Clinton would institutionalize the horrors of the Bush years, probably with the support of many Democrats who show a lack of concern for liberal principles, leaving few of us to protest. It is totally unpredictable as to what Donald Trump would do, but it seems as foolhardy to trust him with the powers of the presidency as it would be to trust Clinton based on her record. This leaves voting for a third party as the only ethical choice. Both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are preferable to Trump and Clinton regarding the warfare/surveillance state, with Stein being preferable to those on the left when comparisons are made on additional issues.

Clinton Campaign Targeting Johnson & Stein, Fearing Loss Of Millennial Votes

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The Democratic Party made a clear mistake in nominating a candidate as weak as Hillary Clinton when Bernie Sanders was polling much better against Trump and other potential Republican opponents. While matters are easier for Clinton with a candidate as awful as Trump, she does have a problem which the Democrats would not have with Bernie–motivating young voters to turn out to vote for her as opposed to staying home or voting for third party candidates.

In most elections, the major party candidates ignore the minor party candidates as they rarely have an impact on the election. With candidates as terrible as Clinton and Trump, there is increased interest in Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. The Hill reports that Democrats are targeting the Libertarian Party ticket:

Democrats panicked by third-party candidates drawing support away from Hillary Clinton are ramping up their attacks against Gary Johnson and warning that a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump.

Liberal groups are passing around embarrassing videos of Johnson and running ads against him warning about his positions on issues like climate change that are important to young voters and independents…

The Clinton campaign and its liberal allies are increasingly taking the threat from Johnson and Stein seriously, making direct appeals to young voters and punching down at the third-party candidates they view as potential spoilers.

“Young voters are suggesting that they’re uncomfortable with Clinton and are using Johnson and Stein as protest votes,” said Douglas Schoen, a former official in the Bill Clinton administration. “The campaign must make the case that unless young people vote for Clinton, they’re effectively voting for Trump.”

NextGen Climate, the group run by liberal billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, is on the ground in eight battleground states with a message that is almost exclusively aimed at reaching the millennial voters who are energized by the issue of climate change.

Last week, the group threw six figures behind digital ads mocking Johnson as a climate change denier and warning millennials that climate change will cost them trillions of dollars.

A source at NextGen told The Hill the group will be looking to turn out young voters for Hillary Clinton and down-ballot Democrats with a texting campaign in the battleground states and a carpooling service that will drive them to the polls.

The Libertarians have also attracted the ire of a group called ShareBlue, which is owned by longtime Clinton ally David Brock. The unabashedly pro-Clinton, for-profit media company has a strong following in the realm of progressive social media and has been using its platform in part to hammer Johnson as a flaky Republican.

ShareBlue CEO Peter Daou, a veteran of John Kerry’s and Clinton’s past presidential campaigns, told The Hill he’s targeting Johnson and Weld from the policy side and making the case for why their platform should be anathema to progressives.

Daou’s website is also targeting Stein, who is pulling support from the far left. A recent post argued that Johnson and Stein “are not serious candidates.”

Johnson and Weld hold liberal views on issues like marijuana legalization, abortion rights and non-interventionist foreign policy that have helped them gain traction among some young voters.

But both former Republican governors tend to hew closer to the conservative orthodoxy on issues like taxation, minimum wage, Social Security and Medicare, environmental regulation, and school choice.

While not true that Johnson is a climate denier as the pro-Clinton group claims, there are a number of problems with his views, including his views on environmental regulation. Even with these flaws, Johnson would be preferable to Clinton and Trump. All three have poor environmental records, making this a poor issue to determine who to vote for. Johnson is far preferable to Clinton on major issues such as opposing Clinton’s conservative views on military interventionism, civil liberties, and the drug war. Fortunately Jill Stein presents an alternative to Clinton, Trump, and Johnson who shares Johnson’s views on these issues without the major drawbacks in other areas.

While Peter Daou’s arguments for Clinton often are totally irrational, from ignoring the importance of avoiding unnecessary wars and defending First Amendment rights to attributing any criticism of Clinton to sexism, he does realize that Stein is a potential threat to Clinton. While the source of the attacks have not been positively identified, Clinton supporters have often been attacking Stein on line with fabricated attacks, falsely claiming this Harvard trained physician is anti-science and anti-vaccines.

If the Clinton campaign really wants to contrast their views with those of Johnson and Stein, how about allowing them in the debates rather than using arbitrary rules to keep them out? That would be a far more significant debate than the one we had this week.

Clinton is hoping that using Bernie Sanders as a surrogate will encourage millennial voters to turn out for her. It remains to be seen whether young voters concerned about ending the state of perpetual warfare will vote for Clinton even if Bernie is campaigning for her.

Clinton is even having problems with one group which she did not expect problems with–African American and Hispanic voters. Politico reports that the Clinton campaign is in “panic mode” over the loss of support from black voters in Florida:

To kill Donald Trump’s chances of capturing the White House, Hillary Clinton needs to win Florida. And to do that, she needs a big minority turnout.

But Democrats are beginning to worry that too many African-American voters are uninspired by Clinton’s candidacy, leading her campaign to hit the panic button this week and launch an all-out blitz to juice-up voter enthusiasm…

Clinton faces a similar potential problem with Hispanic voters. Though Florida Hispanics back her by double-digit margins similar to the level of support Obama enjoyed, activists fear their turnout rate will be lower. Hispanics account for more than 15 percent of the Florida voter rolls and African-Americans are more than 13 percent. About 65 percent of registered voters are non-Hispanic white, and they heavily favor Trump.

Pre-Debate Political News: Sexism, Gennifer Flowers, and Perjury

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The debate hasn’t even been held yet, and already Clinton is complaining of sexism. I have never seen a politician who does so much to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. As I’ve recently noted, the Clinton camp is willing to raise charges of sexism over anything, no matter how absurd. Not that I want Trump to win either, but one of the many reasons I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be president is so that we don’t have to put up with the inevitable charges of sexism for opposing Hillary’s likely wars and infringements on civil liberties.

Trump is also being rather tacky in talking about bringing Gennifer Flowers to the debate (and Flowers has accepted the invitation).

Bringing up Gennifer Flowers and Bill’s extramarital affairs leads to reminders of Bill’s impeachment based upon  perjury. Newsweek reveals that Donald Trump could face perjury charges of his own. Trump made a statement during one of the debates which contradicted what he said while testifying in 2007. Either he lied during the debate, which would be nothing new, or Trump committed perjury in 2007.

While I think that Bill’s impeachment was a ridiculous example of overreach, it did set a precedent that perjury is grounds for impeachment.

On the other hand, if we are looking back at actions prior to becoming president, there is a lot in Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State  which could be considered legitimate grounds for impeachment. Someone who violated ethics agreements they entered into before taking one position is hardly a suitable candidate for president.

With both parties having nominated candidates who are unethically unfit to be president, maybe we should plan for starting impeachment hearings in January regardless of who wins.

Former RFK Speech Writer Endorses Trump Citing Clinton’s Pro-War Record

It is disappointing that in such a brief time the Democratic Party has become the party the neoconservative policies of Bush/Cheney with the nomination of Hillary Clinton. Opposition to the Iraq war has led many people to vote Democratic in recent years. In a previous generation, even though the Vietnam war did begin under Democrats, the continuation of the war under Richard Nixon also led many to vote Democratic. While many Democratic voters appear to have no problem with a nominee wh0 has spent her career undermining liberal values and promoting war, there are some who are protesting.

Adam Walinsky, who worked in the Department of Justice during the Kennedy administration and later served as legislative assistant and speechwriter  Robert Kennedy, wrote that he plans to vote for Donald Trump:

I was a Democrat all my life. I came to Washington to serve President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. When the president was murdered and his brother struck off on his own, I joined his Senate campaign and staff as his legislative assistant and speechwriter, until his presidential campaign ended with his own assassination. I ran on a (losing) Democratic ticket in the New York state elections of 1970. When I was working to enact my own program of police reform in the 1980s and 1990s, then-Governor Bill Clinton was chairman of my National Committee for the Police Corps.

This year, I will vote to elect Donald Trump as president of the United States.

…John and Robert Kennedy devoted their greatest commitments and energies to the prevention of war and the preservation of peace. To them that was not an abstract formula but the necessary foundation of human life. But today’s Democrats have become the Party of War: a home for arms merchants, mercenaries, academic war planners, lobbyists for every foreign intervention, promoters of color revolutions, failed generals, exploiters of the natural resources of corrupt governments. We have American military bases in 80 countries, and there are now American military personnel on the ground in about 130 countries, a remarkable achievement since there are only 192 recognized countries. Generals and admirals announce our national policies. Theater commanders are our principal ambassadors. Our first answer to trouble or opposition of any kind seems always to be a military movement or action.

Nor has the Democratic Party candidate for president this year, Hillary Clinton, sought peace. Instead she has pushed America into successive invasions, successive efforts at “regime change.” She has sought to prevent Americans from seeking friendship or cooperation with President Vladimir Putin of Russia by characterizing him as “another Hitler.” She proclaims herself ready to invade Syria immediately after taking the oath of office. Her shadow War Cabinet brims with the architects of war and disaster for the past decades, the neocons who led us to our present pass, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, in Ukraine, unrepentant of all past errors, ready to resume it all with fresh trillions and fresh blood. And the Democrats she leads seem intent on worsening relations with Russia, for example by sending American warships into the Black Sea, or by introducing nuclear weapons ever closer to Russia itself.

In fact, in all the years of the so-called War on Terror, only one potential American president has had the intelligence, the vision, the sheer sanity to see that America cannot fight the entire world at once; who sees that America’s natural and necessary allies in this fight must include the advanced and civilized nations that are most exposed and experienced in their own terror wars, and have the requisite military power and willingness to use it. Only one American candidate has pointed out how senseless it is to seek confrontation with Russia and China, at the same time that we are trying to suppress the very jihadist movements that they also are attacking.

That candidate is Donald Trump. Throughout this campaign, he has said that as president, he would quickly sit down with President Putin and seek relaxation of tensions between our nations, and possible collaboration in the fight against terrorists. On this ground alone, he marks himself as greatly superior to all his competitors, earlier in the primaries and now in the general election.

It must also be said: Mr. Trump is an imperfect candidate, and he would surely be an imperfect president. He is crude, often vulgar. He has areas of great ignorance. He insults people and inflicts unnecessary harm. He would be twice the candidate he is if he used half the words. He is often intemperate; though it is not Trump but his opponent who is so intemperate as to compare Putin’s moves in Ukraine to what Hitler did—an insult that throughout all the Cold War and to this day, no American president has ever offered to any Soviet or Russian leader, not even the enormous butcher Josef Stalin, with whom in fact we joined to win the Second World War. And it is not Mr. Trump but Michael Morell, a former CIA director now high in the councils of the Democratic candidate, who has publicly suggested, without rebuke from anyone, that we should begin “killing Russians,” a doubly illegal act of war.

Moreover Trump marks himself as a man of singular political courage, willing to defy the hysteria of the Washington war hawks, the establishment and the mainstream media who daily describe him as virtually anti-American for daring to voice ideas and opinions at variance with their one-note devotion to war…

Scores of Democratic elected officials once spoke and worked tirelessly to end our disastrous war in Vietnam. Today there is only the voice of the marvelous Democratic member of Congress Tulsi Gabbard, a reservist who has twice deployed to Iraq and knows of what she speaks. And it is a Democratic president who sends an endless parade of drones to nations all over the world, flaunting for all to see America’s unique military technology, coupled with our seeming complete carelessness in how that technological prowess destroys people and nations…

So my hope for America is this. First, we must begin immediately to end our involvement in endless, unnecessary and therefore murderous wars. We need our best young people to help us here at home. We need to stop the reckless military spending on more destructive armaments. We need to breathe free again.

We must and will defend civilized order against its deadly enemies. ISIS and its brethren must be eliminated: no quarter, no hesitation. But we will need to engage all civilized peoples in our mutual defense. We must abandon foolish skirmishes and petty jealousies. We must end our reflexive efforts to dominate other developed nations, especially Russia and China.

Walinsky is right in opposing Hillary Clinton for her neoconservative policies and repeated mistakes in the middle east, and her views on increasing conflict with Russia. Unfortunately Trump has been incoherent on foreign policy, at times taking positions both to the left and right of Clinton. While his stated desire to avoid conflict with Russia is one of his few (perhaps only) admirable traits, this often appears to be out of a foolish admiration for Putin in response to compliments from him rather than a coherent anti-war world view. While we cannot afford to go to war against every despot around the world as many nonconservatives such as Clinton appear to desire, we also need leaders who do recognize the evil in their policies.

The tragedy of this election is that neither major party candidate is fit to be president.

Clinton And Many Democrats Fail To Understand Importance Of Opposing Interventionism And Defending Civil Liberties

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The lack of concern for Hillary Clinton’s neocon record on foreign policy, and her far right record on First Amendment issues, by so many Democrats is really disappointing. It is as if they didn’t they learn anything from the horrors of the Bush years. Hillary Clinton appeared clueless when she campaigned for the millennial vote. As I discussed last week, and as David Weigel reported today, Clinton is losing a substantial amount of support to third party candidates.

When George Bush was president, Democrats showed concern for matters such as avoiding unnecessary wars, civil liberties, and government transparency. Now that they have nominated a candidate who is far to the right on these matters, they no longer show any concern. For example, Paul Krugman made a pitch today for millennial voters who are voting for Gary Johnson, but ignored these issues. It makes absolutely no sense to seek the support of those considering Gary Johnson without addressing the main issues which are causing Clinton to lose support to Johnson, along with Jill Stein.

Krugman also resorted to the bogus Ralph Nader argument. If the 2000 election turned out badly (as it did) because of George Bush becoming president, it makes no sense to use this to support a neoconservative such as Hillary Clinton who supports the so many of the same policies as George Bush.

Just as bad is the manner in which Kevin Drum dismissed concerns over military interventionism and civil liberties: ” Unless you’re basically a single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force, it’s hard to see why any lefty of any stripe would even think of supporting Johnson.”

Drum is right in his post in arguing that it would make more sense for Bernie Sanders supporters to support Jill Stein than Gary Johnson, but he certainly diminishes the importance of several issues with the phrase, “single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force.”

These are two of the most important matters considering both the expansion of the warfare/surveillance state since 9/11, and considering which areas fall most directly under the control of the president. Plus these encompass multiple issues.

Civil liberties mattered to Democrats eight years ago. During the 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties. All the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, also refused to sign.  As I’ve discussed previously, Clinton’s poor record regarding civil liberties and separation of church and state includes her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act , a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, leading a campaign to censor video games and introducing a bill making flag burning a felony. Her views mocking freedom of speech when supposedly fighting terrorism sound alarmingly similar to those expressed by Donald Trump. Issues such as the drug war and opposition to the policy of mass incarceration she supported is yet a different issue which leads many to support Johnson and Stein over Clinton.

Similarly there are multiple foreign policy issues. These include her support for intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria. In other parts of the world, there are her views on Russia, and record in Honduras. There’s also her history of joining with the Republicans in opposing a ban on cluster bombs in civilian areas. There’s her threats to obliterate Iran. Her past statements on the use of nuclear force against terrorist groups sound similar to those expressed by Donald Trump.

While Drum has consistently ignored the facts regarding the email scandals, the State Department Inspector General report verified accusations that Clinton violated the rules put into effect to promote transparency, showed that she tried to cover up her actions, and that she failed to cooperate with the investigation. This is just one aspect of the scandals involving Clinton which give millennial voters, and others, reason to distrust Clinton and vote for a third party candidate.

The numerous issues involved here contradict Drum’s mischaracterization of Clinton’s opponents as a single-issue voter. By the same logic, many of the issues which he backs Clinton for could also be lumped together as a single issue. It is no surprise that Gary Johnson is taking votes away from Clinton when he is more liberal than her on military interventionism, civil liberties, the drug war, social issues, and government transparency. There are also several problems with Johnson’s views, making Jill Stein an even better choice for those on the left.

Jill Stein and Gary Johnson Denied Participation In The First Presidential Debate Limiting Expression Of Alternative Opinions

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The two party system acts to restrict political discourse so only the very limited differences between the major parties are discussed during the campaign. This is particularly undesirable this year when both candidates are from the authoritarian right quadrant of the political spectrum. As I discussed yesterday, regardless of whether Clinton or Trump wins, we will see a continuation of the horrors of the Bush administration. We will see a strengthening of the warfare and surveillance state, increased restrictions on First Amendment rights, and increased government secrecy. The two candidates with alternative viewpoints, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, have now been officially declared ineligible for the first presidential debate.

Theoretically they can still qualify for subsequent debates, but it will be even harder after they are denied the free publicity provided to the major party candidates in the first debate.

The rules which determine who qualifies are arbitrary rules which were written to limit access to the debates. Doug Mataconis described how the Commission on Presidential Debates is not truly “bipartisan” but is an organization jointly run by the two major parties:

…the commission is an organization controlled equally by the Republican and Democratic parties. Its two co-Chairman are Frank Farenkopf, a top Republican who once served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, a top Democratic Party alumnus who once served as Press Secretary for former President Bill Clinton. The Board Of Directors includes top GOP officials such as former Senators John Danforth and Alan Simpson and top Democrats such as Caroline Kennedy and Kennedy ally and former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Newton Minor.

Doug also made a strong argument as to why Johnson should be included in the debates:

The Libertarian ticket has officially qualified for the ballot in all fifty states, an accomplishment that isn’t exactly easy for non-establishment political parties. The ticket is also polling better far better than any Libertarian nominee ever has, hitting an average of 9,2% according to RealClearPolitics and according to Pollster. Among younger voters, the Johnson/Weld ticket has been consistently polling competitively, with a new Quinnipiac poll showing them just two points behind Clinton/Kaine among voters aged 18 to 34. The two former Governors have also picked up endorsements from newspapers such as the traditionally Republican Richmond Times Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and, just dropping overnight, the New Hampshire Union-Leader.

While Stein has not achieved this level of success, she does present yet a different viewpoint, and is already polling better than Ralph Nader’s results in 2000. Either candidate could have even more of an impact if more people heard their views.

Hillary Clinton has a strong interest in limiting the expression of alternative viewpoints as she is already losing support to third party candidates, especially among younger voters. The Atlantic points out:

In the last day, two major polls have found that more than one-third of voters under the age of 30 plan to vote for either Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein instead of either Clinton or Trump in November.

A defection by millennials of that size could be devastating for Clinton; in 2012, President Obama won 60 percent of voters under the age of 30, and the bloc provided a crucial advantage in his four-point victory over Mitt Romney. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, Clinton earned support from just 31 percent of voters under the age of 35 in a four-way race. It’s not like millennials are suddenly flocking to Trump. They plainly loathe him. Three in five have a “strongly unfavorable” view of him, three in four say he would divide rather than unite the country, and four in five millennials say Trump is not a candidate they can relate to. So yes, younger voters clearly prefer Clinton to Trump, but what they really want is someone else. Clinton carries that bloc by more than 20 points in a head-to-head matchup, but her support peels away when younger voters are given the option of supporting Johnson or Stein.

So, Clinton is having difficulties because many young voters don’t want to vote for her and will vote for third party candidates or stay home. If only the Democrats could have nominated a candidate who excited young voters…

We know they had that option with Bernie Sanders–who also has polled better than Clinton against Donald Trump. Young voters are more willing to consider alternatives, not having a strong connection to either major party–and often seeing both as rotten. On the other hand, the Democratic Party might have gained the loyalty of younger voters for years to come if they had nominated Sanders.

The conventional wisdom was that Stein would take votes from Clinton and Johnson would take votes from Trump. This has turned out to not be the case, with Johnson running to the left of Clinton on foreign policy, social issues, civil liberties, and drug policy. As a consequence of Clinton’s conservative views in these areas, Johnson is taking votes from her along with Trump. Politico reports:

She leads by five points among likely voters in a two-way national race, 48 percent to 43 percent. But when Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are included, Clinton’s lead shrinks to two: she’s at 41 points, with Trump at 39, Johnson at 13, and Stein at 4. Democrats assume that all of Stein’s support comes from the Clinton column, meaning Johnson’s is split roughly evenly between Clinton and Trump.

John Fund has also analyzed the effect of third party candidates in recent polls:

In the New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday this week, Trump and Clinton are tied at 42 percent each among likely voters. Johnson captures 8 percent of the vote and Stein 4 percent. But among voters younger than 30, Clinton has 48 percent, Trump 29 percent, and 21 percent plan to vote for Johnson or Stein or not vote at all. That level of non-support for the Democratic candidate among young people is a warning signal for Clinton. By comparison, Barack Obama won 60 percent of their votes in 2012.

Some polls show Johnson doing far better with young voters than he does in the NYT/CBS poll. A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed that among Millennials, Hillary is winning 31 percent, 29 percent favor Johnson, 26 percent pick Trump, and 15 percent choose Stein…

The strength that Johnson shows in Western states is also impressive, and it confirms that his presence in the race is more harmful to Hillary than to Trump. Earlier this month, the Washington Post conducted in-depth individual polls in all 50 states. Their polls were revealing in contested Western states. In a two-way contest, Hillary leads in Arizona by one point, in Colorado by two points, and in Nevada by five points. In a four-way race that includes Johnson and Stein, Trump leads by two points in Arizona, ties in Colorado, and is down three points in Nevada. Even New Mexico, Johnson’s home state, is much more competitive in a four-way race: Hillary leads by 14 in a two-way race and only eight in a four-way race.

When this many young voters are thinking of voting for a third party, this can no longer be called just a spoiler or protest vote. It is a vote towards attempting a long term change in the system–which is necessary when both major parties have nominated candidates which are unfit to be president.

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

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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

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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.