Edward Snowden Continues To Bring Out Differences Between Civil Libertarians And Advocates Of The Surveillance State

Edward Snowden We The People

The recent vote by the European Parliament calling on member states to protect whistle blower Edward Snowden from extradition and  prosecution, while largely symbolic, demonstrates how the United States government is conservative by international standards. This was seen again in the past week when, with absolutely no evidence to back them, some in the intelligence community used the recent terrorist attack in Paris to make Snowden the scapegoat. Glenn Greenwald has debunked these arguments:

The CIA’s former acting director, Michael Morell, blamed the Paris attack on Internet companies “building encryption without keys,” which, he said, was caused by the debate over surveillance prompted by Snowden’s disclosures. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) blamed Silicon Valley’s privacy safeguards, claiming: “I have asked for help. And I haven’t gotten any help.”

Former CIA chief James Woolsey said Snowden “has blood on his hands” because, he asserted, the Paris attackers learned from his disclosures how to hide their communications behind encryption. Woolsey thus decreed on CNN that the NSA whistleblower should be “hanged by the neck until he’s dead, rather than merely electrocuted.”

The CIA’s blame-shifting game, aside from being self-serving, was deceitful in the extreme. To begin with, there still is no evidence that the perpetrators in Paris used the Internet to plot their attacks, let alone used encryption technology.

CIA officials simply made that up. It is at least equally likely that the attackers formulated their plans in face-to-face meetings. The central premise of the CIA’s campaign — encryption enabled the attackers to evade our detection — is baseless.

Even if they had used encryption, what would that prove? Are we ready to endorse the precept that no human communication can ever take place without the U.S. government being able to monitor it? To prevent the CIA and FBI from “going dark” on terrorism plots that are planned in person, should we put Orwellian surveillance monitors in every room of every home that can be activated whenever someone is suspected of plotting?

The claim that the Paris attackers learned to use encryption from Snowden is even more misleading. For many years before anyone heard of Snowden, the U.S. government repeatedly warned that terrorists were using highly advanced means of evading American surveillance…

Greenwald elaborated more on this, and concluded with a general warning about how the government uses terrorism as an excuse to infringe upon civil liberties:

What the Snowden disclosures actually revealed to the world was that the U.S. government is monitoring the Internet communications and activities of everyone else: hundreds of millions of innocent people under the largest program of suspicionless mass surveillance ever created, a program that multiple federal judges have ruled is illegal and unconstitutional.

That is why intelligence officials are so eager to demonize Snowden: rage that he exposed their secret, unconstitutional schemes.

But their ultimate goal is not to smear Snowden. That’s just a side benefit. The real objective is to depict Silicon Valley as terrorist-helpers for the crime of offering privacy protections to Internet users, in order to force those companies to give the U.S. government “backdoor” access into everyone’s communications. American intelligence agencies have been demanding “backdoor” access to encryption since the mid-1990s. They view exploitation of the outrage and fear resulting from the Paris attacks as their best opportunity yet to achieve this access.

The key lesson of the post-9/11 abuses — from Guantanamo to torture to the invasion of Iraq — is that we must not allow military and intelligence officials to exploit the fear of terrorism to manipulate public opinion. Rather than blindly believe their assertions, we must test those claims for accuracy. In the wake of the Paris attacks, that lesson is more urgent than ever.

The controversy over Edward Snowden’s actions has become apart of this year’s election debates. Hillary Clinton’s comments on Snowden in the first Democratic Debate were just one of many falsehoods from Clinton which went unchallenged during the debate. Nick Gillepsie and Amanda Winkler called Clinton’s comments on Snowden her biggest lie of the debate:

What was Hillary Clinton’s biggest lie during the first Democratic debate?

That NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden could have gone through official channels.

“He broke the laws,” said Clinton. “He could have been a whistleblower, he could have gotten all the protections of being a whistleblower.”

More important is the experience of NSA and intelligence whistleblowers who came before Snowden.

“Tom Drake, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis did go through the proper channels,” says Radack. “And all of them fell under criminal investigations for having done so.”

Hillary Clinton has a right her own opinion about the value and damage done by Snowden’s revelations, but she’s simply not credible when she argues he could have worked through official channels.

Martin O’Malley also took a hard line on Snowden during the debate. In contrast, Bernie Sanders has called for clemency or a plea agreement for Snowden. He took the most moderate approach towards Snowden during the first debate:

SANDERS: I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined.

COOPER: Is he a hero?

SANDERS: He did — he did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration before he is (inaudible)

Sanders also defended privacy rights against NSA surveillance during the debate:

Well, I would shut down — make — I’d shut down what exists right now is that virtually every telephone call in this country ends up in a file at the NSA. That is unacceptable to me. But it’s not just government surveillance. I think the government is involved in our e-mails; is involved in our websites. Corporate America is doing it as well. If we are a free country, we have the right to be free. Yes, we have to defend ourselves against terrorism, but there are ways to do that without impinging on our constitutional rights and our privacy rights.

Snowden has received support world wide from civil libertarians and activists against tyranny. The most recent example came from Chinese activist Ai Weiwei:

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has expressed alarm about the growth of state surveillance and praised US whistleblower ­Edward Snowden for speaking out about the “technology monster”.

Ai is due in Australia next month for a show at the ­National Gallery of Victoria, where he will share top billing with the late American pop artist Andy Warhol.

Speaking in Berlin, where he runs a studio in tandem with ­another in Beijing, Ai told The Weekend Australian that Snowden was “one of the great heroes” for sharing information about government control.

Ai carries two iPhones, and a picture of Snowden — the National­­ Security Agency contractor who revealed domestic spying in the US — is printed on the back of both.

“This guy should have a Nobel Peace Prize if anybody ­deserves that,” he said. “But, of course, he could not stop it. He just told the people that’s what’s happening.

“Of course, what happened then is a nightmare, this young guy just had to sacrifice everything for saying that.”

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Sanders Should Pay As Much Attention To Clinton’s Ties To The Military-Industrial Complex As To Wall Street


There’s been considerable concern, for good reason, about Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street ties, but I don’t think this is the biggest problem to be concerned about should she be elected. I am even more worried about her neoconservative foreign policy views, and being a lackey for the military-industrial complex.

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, described the problem, starting with discussion of John F. Kennedy. Perhaps Ted Kennedy even thought of the vast differences between Clinton and his brother when endorsing Obama over Clinton in 2008.

Sachs wrote that, in her speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton “doubled down on the existing, failed U.S. approach in the Middle East, the one she pursued as Secretary of State.”

In rare cases, great presidents learn to stand up to the CIA and the rest of the military-industrial-intelligence complex. JFK became one of the greatest presidents in American history when he came to realize the awful truth that his own military and CIA advisors had contributed to the onset of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The CIA-led Bay of Pigs fiasco and other CIA blunders had provoked a terrifying response from the Soviet Union. Recognizing that the U.S. approach had contributed to bringing the world to the brink, Kennedy bravely and successfully stood up to the warmongering pushed by so many of his advisors and pursued peace, both during and after the Cuban Missile Crisis. He thereby saved the world from nuclear annihilation and halted the unchecked proliferation of nuclear arms.

Clinton’s speech shows that she and her advisors are good loyalists of the military-industrial-intelligence complex. Her speech included an impressive number of tactical elements: who should do the bombing and who should be the foot soldiers. Yet all of this tactical precision is nothing more than business as usual. Would Clinton ever have the courage and vision to push back against the U.S. security establishment, as did JFK, and thereby restore global diplomacy and reverse the upward spiral of war and terror?

Just as the CIA contributed to the downward slide to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and just as many of JFK’s security chiefs urged war rather than negotiation during that crisis, so too today’s Middle East terrorism, wars, and refugee crises have been stoked by misguided CIA-led interventions. Starting in 1979, the CIA began to build the modern Sunni jihadist movement, then known as the Mujahedeen, to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA recruited young Sunni Muslim men to fight the Soviet infidel, and the CIA provided training, arms, and financing. Yet soon enough, this US-created jihadist army turned on the US, a classic and typical case of blowback.

The anti-U.S. and anti-Western blowback started with the first Gulf War in 1990, when the U.S. stationed troops throughout the region. It continued with the Second Gulf War, when the U.S. toppled a Sunni regime in Iraq and replaced it with a puppet Shia regime. In the process, it dismantled Saddam’s Sunni-led army, which then regrouped as a core part of ISIS in Iraq.

Next the U.S. teamed up with Saudi Arabia to harass, and then to try to topple Bashir al-Assad. His main crime from the perspective of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia: being too close to Iran. Once again, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia turned to Sunni jihadists with arms and financing, and part of that fighting force morphed into ISIS in Syria. The evidence is that the covert U.S. actions against Assad pre-date the overt U.S. calls for Assad’s overthrow in 2011 by at least a couple of years.

In a similar vein, the U.S. teamed up with France and the UK to bomb Libya and kill Muammar Qaddafi. The result has been an ongoing Libyan civil war, and the unleashing of violent jihadists across the African Sahel, including Mali, which suffered the terrorist blow last week at the hands of such marauders.

Thanks to America’s misguided policies, we now have wars and violence raging across a 5,000-mile stretch from Bamako, Mali to Kabul, Afghanistan, with a U.S. hand in starting and stoking the violence. Libya, Sudan, the Sinai, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are all cases where the U.S. has directly intervened with very adverse results. Mali, Chad, Central African Republic, Somalia are some of the many other countries indirectly caught up in turmoil unleashed by U.S. covert and overt operations…

An election between Clinton and any of the likely Republican candidates would offer no real choice. Clinton’s plan to handle ISIS is unlikely to work. We can only hope that Clinton can be defeated for the Democratic nomination. Sachs ended by contrasting Clinton’s views with those of Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders:

 O’Malley and Sanders wisely and correctly support an America that works with other countries and with the UN Security Council to build peace in the Middle East rather than an America that continues to indulge in endless and failed CIA adventures of regime change and war. While Clinton arrogantly demands that other countries such as Russia and Iran fall squarely behind the U.S., O’Malley and Sanders recognize that it is through compromise in the UN Security Council that we can defeat ISIS and find lasting solutions in the Middle East.

Whether Clinton could ever break free of the military-industrial complex remains to be seen. If she does become president, our very survival will depend on her capacity to learn.

O’Malley and Sanders did criticize Clinton’s foreign policy views in the second Democratic debate, but it is clear that Bernie’s heart is in attaching her Wall Street ties. I wish he would pay as much attention to her ties to the military-industrial complex and her overly hawkish foreign policy views. It could be hard running against those who pander to fear, but it is important to do if we are to avoid perpetual warfare under either Clinton or a Republican president. As the most popular Senator in America, Sanders might be able to pull this off. Iowa has long been a strong state for anti-war movements, and the Democratic primary voters should respond to this issue.

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Clinton’s Weaknesses With Independents & Young Voters Make Bernie A Better Bet In General Election

Sanders Clinton There Is A Difference

Recent posts have noted criticism of Clinton from the left for her attacks on Bernie Sanders and single payer health plans, along with repeating neoconservative talking points and citing 9/11 to justify both her hawkish foreign policy views and the level of her contributions from Wall Street. At times she  is campaigning as if she already won the nomination. It could be risky for Clinton if she continues to alienate the progressive vote in this era in which elections are often won by motivating the base to turn out. This strategy is made even riskier considering Clinton’s weaknesses with independents and in the battleground states.

Albert Hunt, former executive editor of Bloomberg News, looked at Clinton’s weaknesses in the general election:

To be sure, a number of women, especially middle-aged ones, are energized by the prospect of electing the first female U.S. president. That’s a strong asset.

But Clinton has a striking problem with young voters. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed a solid plurality of young voters has a negative view of Clinton. She did even worse in Bloomberg Politics national poll.

Here’s a result to unnerve her Brooklyn campaign headquarters. Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton get a 60 percent favorable rating with 18-to-29-year-olds. She gets 35 percent approval and 57 percent unfavorable.

In the last presidential election, 19 percent of the voters were in that age cohort, which Obama won, 60 percent to 37 percent, providing his overall margin. There was a substantial decline in the number of young voters in the off-year elections, probably costing Democrats a couple Senate seats; a similar drop-off in 2016 might be decisive in a close election.

Clinton also has big problems with independent voters. In the nomination contest, she’s running well ahead of her chief challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But she loses to him among Democratic-leaning independents. Over all, independents are negative about her by a margin of better than 3-to-2.

In 2012, almost three in 10 voters were independents and Obama came close to splitting that vote with Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate.

There is little doubt that Clinton easily would defeat any Republican among blacks and Hispanics. It’s far from certain, however, that these voters would be motivated to turn out in as large numbers as they did for Obama: In 2012, 13 percent of the electorate was black, and went more than 90 percent for Obama; 10 percent was Hispanics, who gave 71 percent of their vote to the president.

While Clinton might benefit politically from fear following the recent terrorist attack in Paris, this generally helps more with those who vote Republican, although a recent poll does show her beating Donald Trump on handling terrorism. (I would hope Clinton could beat a candidate such as Trump, who is relying on fear mongering with talk of resuming waterboarding and  debunked claims of Muslims in New Jersey cheering when the World Trade Center crumbled). I do not think that Clinton can count on beating the Republicans by creating more alarm over terrorism, along with promoting a plan which is not likely work.

It will be even harder for Clinton to win among voters who desire a reform agenda. Her defenses based upon a noun, a verb, a gender reference, and 9/11 will not alter the facts around her Wall Street connections, and view that she is too indebted to Wall Street to push reform. Any claims of supporting campaign finance reform are undermined by the manner in which she not only relies on Super PACS but violates the rules prohibiting campaigns from coordinating with them. She violated the transparency rules established when Obama took office, along with prior rules, in responses to the abuses under George Bush. While she might be preferable to whoever the Republican nominate, Clinton will be too much like the Republicans in supporting a hawkish and bellicose foreign policy,continuation of the drug war, continuation of the surveillance state, and showing a lack of respect for civil liberties and separation of church and state.

The Clinton strategy comes down to hoping to win because the Republicans are worse. It is one thing to get people to tell pollsters they prefer your candidate to the opposition. It is an entirely different matter to get people to turn out in big enough numbers to win by running as the lesser of two evils. We saw in 2014 that voters are less likely to turn out when Democrats are running as Republican-lite.

In the recent past we have seen Sanders embrace the principles of FDR while Clinton has been embracing the foreign policy views of George W. Bush and citing bogus attacks from the Wall Street Journal. This is not how to get Democratic-leaning voters to turn out to vote. A candidate such as Sanders, who excites crowds and is motivating more people to register to vote Democratic, is a far safer bet in the general election.

There is strong evidence that Sanders is electable in a general election. While it might turn out that the Republicans nominate a candidate anyone could beat, there are big question marks when looking at a Clinton candidacy. Plus the same views and history which make Clinton a weak candidate also make her a far less desirable president than Sanders, even if it turns out that either could win.

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Nation’s Largest Organization of Nurses Joins Liberal Writers In Protesting Hillary Clinton’s Attacks On Bernie Sanders

National Nurses Union Medicare For All

Hillary Clinton’s sharp move towards the right has many liberals questioning how much further right she will move in the general election, and if elected president. Her recent attacks on Bernie Sanders for his advocacy of a single payer health plan, which as I have noted she once supported, has resulted in considerable criticism from the left and a major nurses organization.

Jonathan Cohn, Senior National Correspondent at The Huffington Post asked, Why is she talking like a Republican? He also pointed out, “This is why Hillary Clinton makes so many progressives queasy.” Jim Newell at Slate wrote, Hillary Is Already Triangulating Against Liberals: Her new attack on Bernie Sanders’ single-payer health care plan shows her indifference to progressive voters. He pointed out that “she is a Clinton, and this is what they do.”

National Nurses United, which previously endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, has issued a press release to respond to Clinton’s attacks on Sanders over his support for a single payer plan:

National Nurses United, the largest U.S. organization of nurses, condemned the Hillary Clinton campaign today for its attack on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposal for healthcare for all, including its slanted use of data on the economics of Medicare for all.

“Any politician that refuses to finance guaranteed health care has abandoned my patients, and I will never abandon my patients. That’s why we support improved Medicare for all, and that’s why I support Bernie Sanders,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

“While the Affordable Care Act corrected some of the worst injustices in our insurance, profit-based healthcare system, the work of healthcare reform is far from done,” said Ross. “Today, 33 million Americans remain uninsured. Tens of millions more remain underinsured, facing bankruptcy due to unpayable medical bills or the choice of getting the care they need or paying for food or housing for their families.”

“The only fix for our broken system once and for all is the prescription Bernie Sanders has so eloquently presented – joining the rest of the world by expanding and updating Medicare to cover everyone,” Ross said.

NNU also criticized Clinton for citing a rightwing report first published in the Wall Street Journal on the inflated cost of $15 trillion to implement a Medicare for all system. The Journal report claimed as its source research by University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor Gerald Friedman.

But Friedman himself has criticized the Journal report, noting in a Huffington Post column that the “economic benefits from Senator Sanders’ proposal would create dynamic gains by freeing American businesses to compete without the burden of an inefficient and wasteful health insurance system.”

Those include a “productivity boost coming from a more efficient health care system and a healthier population, [that] would raise economic output and provide billions of dollars in additional tax revenues to offset some of the additional federal spending,” said Friedman.

Friedman estimates nearly $10 trillion in savings while still reducing national health care spending by over $5 trillion. “With these net savings, the additional $14.7 trillion in federal spending brings savings to the private sector (and state and local governments) of over $19.7 trillion,” Friedman wrote.

Clinton is “ignoring the enormous savings that would come by assuring people could get proper care where and when they need it,” Ross added.

For example, a report out just last week noted $6.4 billion in lost wages and productivity in low income communities through premature deaths due to colon cancer, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Dismissing the yearning of millions of Americans for a more humane healthcare system not based on ability to pay, and relying on a disputed data is disgraceful,” said Ross. “It’s a reminder again why nurses across the U.S. have been rallying and campaigning for a candidate who will never stop fighting for guaranteed healthcare for all.”

I further discussed Clinton’s fallacious attacks on Sanders here.

By attacking Sanders from the right on health care and economic policy, along with reminding the left how hawkish she is in her recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton risks seeing progressive voters refuse to vote for her.

Conor Lynch at Salon warns that Hillary Clinton is playing a dangerous game: How her anti-Bernie talking points could cost her — and America — big time. He began, “Hillary Clinton is starting to remind progressives why the name Clinton brings up such a mixed bag of emotions, and why it’s so hard to believe Clinton’s pivot to the left this campaign season.”He concluded:

But Clinton is making it harder for progressives to support her. With a history of hawkish foreign policy and Wall Street backing, she truly is the lesser to two evils. (A neoliberal is better than a fascist, after all [referring to Donald Trump]) But many on the left tend to vote with their conscience, and going after single-payer healthcare and hurling dishonest attacks on Sanders will only alienate progressives further.

Her problem is also not likely to be limited to progressive voters. When Clinton campaigns as a Republican-lite, many potential Democratic voters are not going to see very much reason to turn out to vote, risking the same fate for Democrats as they suffered in 2014.

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In Major Economic Speech Sanders Explains That He Supports Principles Of FDR & LBJ, Not Communism As Donald Trump Claims

Bernie Sanders Georgetown Speech

In a speech at Georgetown University, Bernie Sanders explained his economic views, showing that Democratic Socialism is not a form of socialism which opposes free enterprise, and that he is definitely not a Communist as Donald Trump claimed. Full transcript here.

Sanders showed how his economic principles are along the lines of those of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson as opposed to Karl Marx, explaining how Roosevelt’s economic programs were called socialist:

Against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our country. He combatted cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country.

And that is what we have to do today.

And, by the way, almost everything he proposed was called “socialist.” Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was “socialist.” The concept of the “minimum wage” was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as “socialist.” Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as “socialist.” Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.

Thirty years later, in the 1960s, President Johnson passed Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to millions of senior citizens and families with children, persons with disabilities and some of the most vulnerable people in this county. Once again these vitally important programs were derided by the right wing as socialist programs that were a threat to our American way of life.

Sanders described the economic challenges we face today:

But, here is a very hard truth that we must acknowledge and address. Despite a huge increase in technology and productivity, despite major growth in the U.S. and global economy, tens of millions of American families continue to lack the basic necessities of life, while millions more struggle every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families. The reality is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country has been in decline and faith in our political system is now extremely low.

The rich get much richer. Almost everyone else gets poorer. Super PACs funded by billionaires buy elections. Ordinary people don’t vote. We have an economic and political crisis in this country and the same old, same old establishment politics and economics will not effectively address it.

Sanders continued to provide considerable detail as to the economic problems we face. For the sake of brevity, and as these are arguments he has repeated multiple times, I advise reading the full speech but will not quote more on this portion of the speech here.

He next explained what he means by democratic socialism:

So let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me. It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that; “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.

Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.

Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt.

He explained further, but I thought that the portion which might best clear up misconceptions was when he said what democratic socialism is not:

So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this:

I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.

I believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas.

I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes – if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally pay the taxes they should.

I don’t believe in special treatment for the top 1%, but I do believe in equal treatment for African-Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.

I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice, and I do believe in immigration reform that gives Hispanics and others a pathway to citizenship and a better life.

I don’t believe in some foreign “ism”, but I believe deeply in American idealism.

I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.

No one understood better than FDR the connection between American strength at home and our ability to defend America at home and across the world. That is why he proposed a second Bill of Rights in 1944, and said in that State of the Union:

“America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

I’m not running to pursue reckless adventures abroad, but to rebuild America’s strength at home. I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will never send our sons and daughters to war under false pretense or pretenses or into dubious battles with no end in sight.

In other words, despite the scare tactics employed by his opponents, including Clinton surrogates and some supporters, we are no more in danger of a Red Dawn in America than in Vermont when he was a mayor who was friendly to small business development. Sanders seeks to reform capitalism, not to replace it with true socialism.

Sanders also discussed his principles for handling ISIS after the terrorist attacks in Paris. While Hillary Clinton was calling for more military intervention in a speech the same day, Sanders pointed out that we must also avoid the mistakes of the past–the types of mistakes advocated by hawks such as Hillary Clinton:

Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for decades. It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past – rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973. These are the sorts of policies do not work, do not make us safer, and must not be repeated.

Sanders called for more international cooperation, including from countries in the region. After considerably more discussion on this topic, Sanders concluded:

The bottom line is that ISIS must be destroyed, but it cannot be defeated by the United States alone. A new and effective coalition must be formed with the Muslim nations leading the effort on the ground, while the United States and other major forces provide the support they need.

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John Kasich Proposes New Government Agency To Spread Judeo-Christian Values Around The World

John Kasich

John Kasich is supposedly the saner sounding Republican, but he isn’t sounding like that today. His response to the terrorist attacks in Paris is to establish a new government agency to promote Judeo-Christian values. From an interview with NBC News:

As part of a broad national security plan to defeat ISIS, Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich proposed creating a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values around the world.

The new agency, which he hasn’t yet named, would promote a Jewish- and Christian-based belief system to four regions of the world: China, Iran, Russia and the Middle East.

“We need to beam messages around the world” about the freedoms Americans enjoy, Kasich said in an interview with NBC News Tuesday. “It means freedom, it means opportunity, it means respect for women, it means freedom to gather, it means so many things.”

He defended creating a new government agency at a time when fellow Republican presidential candidates discuss eliminating government agencies to making the government smaller.

If he wants to spread American values such as freedom and respect, the United States already has the Voice of America for this. It is a different matter if he wants to spread religious values.

The main problem addressed in most media reports is of establishing a new government agency, in violation of Republican dogma. There are bigger problems. First this violates the First Amendment, although Republicans are generally only concerned with the Second Amendment and have never shown any respect for separation of church and state.

There is also the question of how this will be received in other countries and how they will respond. Trying to spread Judeo-Christian values in  Muslim dominated regions would provide yet another recruitment tool for ISIS.

This would be a surprising proposal if coming from a moderate Republican, but Kasich has never really been all that moderate.

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Sanders and O’Malley Challenge Clinton On Foreign Policy And Economics In Second Democratic Debate

Democratic Debate 2

After failing to challenge Hillary Clinton in the first Democratic Debate, both Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley put Clinton on the defensive in the second (transcript here). The added focus placed on the terrorist attacks might have played to the candidate who tries to sound the toughest on terrorism, but instead highlighted how (as I discussed  prior to the debate) it was Clinton’s neoconservative foreign policy views, which are essentially the same as George Bush’s, which led to the destabilization of the region and creation of ISIS. While Clinton admits that her vote for the Iraq war was a mistake, this does not get her off the hook for being one of the strongest advocates of going to war. She also demonstrated that she did not learn from her mistake in advocating greater military involvement in Syria and Libya.

Sanders did make a mistake in his opening statement, insisting on sticking with his planned concentration on economic matters rather than shifting to say more about the Paris terrorist  attacks as Clinton and O’Malley did. From there, both Sanders and O’Malley criticized Clinton’s policies, but sometimes appeared to pull back, failing to give the knock out punch before a partisan crowd invited by Clinton ally Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Sanders’ first major criticism of Clinton was blunted by John Dickerson asking him about his statement at the previous debate that “the greatest threat to national security was climate change.” This forced Sanders to defend his previous statement before getting to the more relevant point:

Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say you’re gonna see countries all over the world– this is what the C.I.A. says, they’re gonna be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops. And you’re gonna see all kinds of international conflict.

But of course international terrorism is a major issue that we’ve got to address today. And I agree with much of what– the secretary and– and the governor have said. Only have one area of– of disagreement with the secretary. I think she said something like, “The bulk of the responsibility is not ours.”

Well, in fact, I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely. And led to the rise of Al Qaeda– and to– ISIS. Now, in fact, what we have got to do– and I think there is widespread agreement here– ’cause the United States cannot do it alone. What we need to do is lead an international coalition which includes– very significantly– (UNINTEL) nations in that region are gonna have to fight and defend their way of life.

In response to follow up questions, which made it clear that Sanders had opposed the invasion of Iraq and Clinton had been in favor of it, Sanders also said, “I don’t think any sensible person would disagree that the invasion of Iraq led to the massive level of instability we are seeing right now. I think that was one of the worst foreign policy plunders in the modern history of United States.” He also discussed other attempts at regime change, concluding, “And that I am not a great fan of regime changes.” Meanwhile Hillary Clinton didn’t help her cause by quoting George W. Bush along with justifying her polices with neocon talking points.

John Heer at The New Republic summed up the danger Clinton is in with her conservative foreign policy views:

…for the first time in this election season, she’s being challenged by Democrats on foreign policy. That’s a very different dynamic than the Benghazi hearing, where the Republican focus on esoteric conspiracy theories made her look good. Against Sanders and O’Malley, she’s having to to defend something larger: her foreign policy vision, which led her to support the Iraq War and later made her a strong advocate for intervention in Libya and Syria. Sanders made a palpable hit by noting the problem with regime change as a policy goal. There are strong echoes here of Obama’s successful challenge of Hillary Clinton in 2008, where sharp differences in foreign policy visions defined the characters.

Clinton was doing so poorly on foreign policy that she had me wondering if she would next say that as president she would tell ISIS to cut it out, as she has said about Wall Street. Matters went from bad to worse for Clinton when the debate turned to her Wall Street ties. Sanders dismissed Clinton’s plans as “Not good enough.” He took a hard line against Wall Street with lines such as, “The business model of Wall Street is fraud.”

Martin O’Malley also put up a strong argument here, saying, “I believe that we actually need some new economic thinking in the White House.” He differentiated himself from Clinton in saying, “I won’t be taking my orders from Wall Street” and dismissing Clinton’s policies as “weak tea.”

Clinton 911 and gender cards

Clinton totally fell apart in trying to respond, relying on both the 9/11 and gender cards, even if these made no sense in this context. Chris Cillizza called this one of “a few verbal and/or policy mistakes that will likely haunt her in the days to come.” Glenn Thrush wrote that, “Wall Street is Hillary Clinton’s golden albatross” and further described her off the wall defenses:

Hillary said something really cray-cray. The pressure of the dual Sanders-O’Malley attack on Clinton’s Wall Street connections prompted her to say one of the craziest things she’s uttered in public during this campaign or any other. When Sanders acidly pointed out that Clinton has raked in millions from the wealthy executives at Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, she riposted with a clever reference to gender politics: “You know, not only do I have hundreds of thousands of donors, most of them small, and I’m very proud that for the first time a majority of my donors are women, 60%.”

Cool. But things got weird. Even though Bill Clinton had close ties to Wall Street (his Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin would go on to become head of Citigroup) and financial sector’s donors ponied up plenty of cash for her 2000 New York Senate run, she claimed that the main reason bankers have flocked to her cause is – wait for it – because of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. “So I— I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked,” she said, as the moderators from CBS gaped, gob-smacked. “Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”

Needless to say, the remark – delivered in her emphatic shout-voice — raised eyebrows 24 hours after the terror attacks in Paris killed more than 120 people. And it’s not likely to go away…

Alexandra Petri pointed out that she didn’t even play the gender and 9/11 cards all that well:

The only trouble with the Card Playing answer that you have to be a little bit subtle when you deliver this answer or else people will notice what you are doing and their sympathy will evaporate like morning dew and they will say things like “The woman card AND the 9/11 card, wow!”

In fact, later in the evening, a follow-up — from Twitter, no less — (out of the mouths of eggs!) commented: “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now.”

Clinton was widely criticized on Facebook and Twitter for these comments, with many women being offended over Clinton’s use of the gender card, and many Democrats objecting to her use of 9/11. Some of the Twitter responses on her use of the 9/11 card were listed here. Clinton is not likely to live down this moment, with a Clinton response when in trouble now likely to be defined as a noun, a verb, a gender reference, and 9/11.

Sanders also had one of the better lines of the evening when he pointed out how we have had much higher marginal tax rates in the past. He said, “I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower.” In reality we are not seeing more affluent Democrats avoiding Sanders out of fear of higher tax rates with a recent poll showing Sanders doing the best among Democrats earning over $100,000 per year.

John Dickerson, who did an excellent job as moderator, challenged the manner in which Clinton has been attacking Sanders’ record on guns by distorting their records. He asked, “Secretary Clinton, you’ve said that Senator Sanders is not tough enough on guns. But basically he now supports roughly the same things you do. So can you tell us some of the exact differences going forward between the two of you on the issue of gun control?” He challenged the idea of attacking Sanders based upon a single vote:


Secretary Clinton just a quick follow up, you say that– Senator Sanders took a vote that– on immunity that you don’t like. So if he can be tattooed by a single vote and that ruins all future– opinions by him on this issue, why then is he right when he says you’re wrong vote on Iraq tattoos you for offering your judgment?


I– I said I made a mistake on Iraq. And I would love to see Senator Sanders join with some of my colleagues– in the senate that I– see in the audience, let’s reverse the immunity. Let’s let’s go to the gun makers and tell– on notice that they’re not gonna get away with it.

In reality Sanders had more than a single vote which gun control advocates could disagree with, but far more votes in favor of gun control than his opponents give him credit for. However, Clinton’s support for the Iraq war, along with her continued support for increased military action, is hardly comparable. Sanders has a record of generally supporting gun control, while Clinton has a record of generally supporting military intervention. As I asked during my comments on the debate on Facebook, “If Hillary Clinton hates guns so much, why does she want to send people off to more wars with guns?”

Martin O’Malley pointed out how many times Clinton has flip-flopped on the gun issue:

But Secretary Clinton, you’ve been on three sides of this. When you ran in 2000 you said that we needed federal robust regulations. Then in 2008 you were portraying yourself as Annie Oakley and saying that we don’t need those regulation on the federal level. And now you’re coming back around here. So John, there’s a big difference between leading by polls and leading with principle.

Clinton’s flip-flopping on gun control can be seen in an excerpt from a debate back in 2008 which I quoted extensively here.

Sanders and O’Malley did fail to contradict other statements where Clinton dodged and distorted the truth. They let her get away with using her Benghazi testimony as evidence she can withstand further damage from the FBI inquiry into her personal email server. However Benghazi and the alleged mishandling of classified information under investigation by the FBI are two different matters. Her violations of new transparency requirements instituted under Obama in 2009 is yet another issue independent of Benghazi, and something which Sanders and O’Malley should hold Clinton accountable for.

Sanders also let Clinton get away with totally distorting what a single payer plan is. When she expressed regrets that everything would not be run from the federal government, she had me wondering if she even understands how Medicare is currently run by several intermediaries which typically are responsible for a handful of states, or how Medicaid is currently run by the states.  While Sanders didn’t correct Clinton’s distortions, he did make his principles on universal health care clear in saying, “I want to end the international embarrassment of the United States of America being the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right and not a privilege.”

Clinton also had a rather absurd response to Sanders’ plan for paying for college tuition in saying, “I disagree with free college for everybody. I don’t think taxpayers should be paying to send Donald Trump’s kids to college.” That makes no more sense than saying we should not provide free education for kindergarten through twelfth grade so that we don’t send Donald Trump’s kids to school. Plus, as Karoli pointed out at Crooks’s And Liars:

Honestly, I don’t want to pay for Donald Trump’s kids to go to school either, but I also doubt any of them would go to school at a public university anyway, so we won’t have to worry about that…So let’s not worry about Donald Trump’s kids and just focus on the majority of kids and parents out there who are going way too far into debt to get educated. There must be a better way.

Sanders and O’Malley further criticized Clinton in their closing comments. Sanders once again called for “a political revolution” and O’Malley echoed the same idea in saying, “will not solve our nation’s problems by resorting to the divisive ideologies of our past or by returning to polarizing figures from our past.” Earlier O’Malley accused Clinton of supporting crony capitalism and I wonder when he will run an ad quoting Clinton as saying “I come from the ’60s, a long time ago.” We are also likely to see this line repeated (if she wins the nomination) should a younger Republican, such as Marco Rubio, be her opponent.

O’Malley did quit well during the debate but Sanders once again dominated the on line buzz on Facebook and Twitter, along with winning the non-scientific online polls. The bigger question is whether showing the stark contrasts between his views and Clinton’s will remind Democratic voters that the same reasons Obama challenged Clinton in 2008 still hold. Mark Halparin pointed out in discussing Sanders,  “If he improves this much again by the next debate, Clinton could have a real problem.” Unfortunately far too few people watched a debate which Debbie Wasserman Schultz scheduled on a Saturday night to minimize viewership. The scheduling of the next debate is even worse (unless the goal is to protect Hillary Clinton from criticism), occurring on the Saturday night before Christmas.

Update: The New York Times has an op-ed entitled Hillary Clinton Botches Wall Street Questions

Middle-class Americans associate Wall Street with the 2008 meltdown of the economy that cost so many their homes and savings. In the debate Mrs. Clinton repeatedly referred to her plan for reining in banks, but offered precious few specifics. This is what happens when Hillary Clinton the candidate gets complacent. The debate moderator, Mr. Dickerson, had even tipped her off before a commercial break that the next topic was Wall Street.

Her effort to tug on Americans’ heartstrings instead of explaining her Wall Street ties — on a day that the scars of 9/11 were exposed anew — was at best botched rhetoric. At worst it was the type of cynical move that Mrs. Clinton would have condemned in Republicans.

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Terrorist Attack In Paris To Impact Tonight’s Debate: Anti-War Candidate Sanders vs. Neocon Candidate Clinton

Paris Terrorist Attack

The terrorist attack in Paris, which ISIS has taken credit for, has led CBS to alter the emphasis of the second Democratic debate. When news was received of the attack, CBS decided to “focus more on issues of terrorism, national security and foreign relations.”

While the campaign this year has centered more around economic policy, this debate should emphasize another major difference between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This discussion is likely to bring out Clinton’s hawkish views and  how they differ from the views of Bernie Sanders.  The terrorist attack might help Clinton in appealing to those who respond to terrorist attacks with more fear and mistakingly respond with a desire for greater military force. NPR points out that, “Clinton has always been seen as more hawkish than President Obama, and that’s something that hurt her in 2008, especially in a state like Iowa, which has its caucus roots in the anti-war movement.”

USA Today also noted this could present a challenge to Clinton:

The debate creates a challenge for Clinton, as it magnifies her public split with Obama on his approach to Syria. Several weeks ago, she was critical of Obama by saying there should be a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors in Syria, something Obama’s rejected.

Clinton has long advocated for a more robust approach in the Middle East to thwart the Islamic State, including when she was a member of Obama’s administration. As a U.S. senator she voted to authorize the war in Iraq, though she has since called that decision a mistake.

Though Sanders voted for the war in Afghanistan, he opposed Iraq and has highlighted that difference with Clinton. Sanders, who believes the Islamic State must be defeated primarily by Muslim nations in the region, opposed Obama’s recent decision to put Special Operations boots on the ground in Syria while a Clinton spokesman said she “sees merit” in the approach.

The challenge for Sanders is to make it clear that he will do what is necessary to defend the country, but that it is the neoconservative views on foreign policy from both most Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton which are largely responsible for the problem.There is a growing consensus in the foreign policy community that the creation of ISIS was a direct response to the US invasion of Iraq.

In the run up to the Iraq war, Clinton was one of the strongest proponents of the invasion, going beyond most supporters in making false claims of an association between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s hawkishness extends beyond her support for the Iraq war. Besides Iraq, Clinton differed from Obama and most Democrats in her hard line approach to Iran (including opposing Obama’s plans for talks with Iran during the 2008 campaign), and in her support for greater intervention in Syria. Her approach to Libya, which unfortunately Obama did go along with, has been a disaster.

Rand Paul made a point of how both most of his Republican opponents and Hillary Clinton have had the same approach to Syria both in the last debate and on the campaign trail, with Truth-Out explaining why he was right. Discussion of Clinton holding neoconservative views is hardly new, with The Week asking in 2014, Will neocons ditch the GOP for Hillary Clinton? This was based upon a longer story in The New York Times on Clinton’s neoconservative views. Neoconservative Robert Kagan was a key Clinton adviser at the State Department. Clinton has also attacked Obama’s foreign policy after leaving the State Department, echoing (as The Nation pointed out) the far right and neocons. Steve Clemons, Washington editor of The Atlantic, described how Clinton gave “a very neoconservative sounding speech” at the Brookings Institute in September, showing a sharp contrast with Obama’s views. Joe Scarborough has said that Clinton will be “more of a Neocon” than the 2016 Republican nominee.

The debate will also present a challenge for Martin O’Malley to show that he is capable of responding to foreign policy issues.

The debate might also will touch on the vast differences of opinion between Clinton and Sanders on civil liberties as well as foreign policy. Sanders differers from Clinton in having opposed the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance. Beyond her supporting George Bush’s approach to terrorism,  Clinton’s poor record on civil liberties also 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.Having criticized George Bush in the previous sentence, it is only fair to point out that Bill Clinton also had a  poor record on civil liberties, with Hillary likely to continue this dubious part of his legacy if elected.

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Sanders and O’Malley Express Reservations On Troops On Syria While Clinton Flip Flops On Another Issue

Clinton Flip Flop

Barack Obama’s decision to send limited troops into Syria has shown the predictable divisions in the Democratic field. Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have expressed strong reservations, while Hillary Clinton has taken only seventeen days to flip flop on her position regarding troops on the ground.

The Washington Post reported on Sanders’ reservations:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders voiced concerns Friday about President Obama’s decision to dispatch a small number of Special Operations troops to northern Syria, saying through a spokesman that he fears the United States could be drawn into “the quagmire of the Syrian civil war.”

The independent senator from Vermont “believes that the crisis in Syria will be solved diplomatically, not militarily,” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement.

Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the White House, was asked about the issue later Friday by an audience member at a town hall in Derry. He said that he agrees with Obama’s overall objective to provide support to groups and countries battling the Islamic State in the region.

But Sanders added: “You have a quagmire in a quagmire. . . . My nightmare is that we get sucked into a never-ending war in that part of the world.”

Stars and Stripes also note his “concern about the United States being drawn into the quagmire of the Syrian civil war which could lead to perpetual warfare in that region.

Martin O’Malley also expressed concerns while campaigning in Iowa. The Souix City Journal reported:

ISIS must be stopped, and the U.S. should support the coalition to defeat the Syria-based Islamic militant group, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley said Friday.

But the Democratic presidential candidate hesitated to support a move that would place U.S. troops on the ground, pointing to past examples of U.S. interference in Middle Eastern affairs.

“We have to stay involved, but we also have to be very, very cautious because it’s hard to point to an example where putting American boots on the ground gave us the desired result in the last 15 years,” O’Malley s

O’Malley’s comments came hours after the White House announced that Democratic President Barack Obama had authorized the deployment of fewer than 50 special operations U.S. troops in the Kurdish-controlled region of Syria.

If elected, O’Malley said he’d like to find ways to cut off ISIS’ finances and stop its propaganda.

Hillary Clinton has previously advocated a no-fly zone in Syria, with Sanders disagreeing. On October 13 at the first Democratic Debate, Hillary Clinton said, “We don’t want American troops on the ground in Syria.”  It only took Clinton seventeen days to flip-flop on this position. On October 30 Clinton’s campaign released this statement:

Hillary Rodham Clinton supports the decision by President Barack Obama to deploy a small number of special operations forces to northern Syria to work with local ground forces in the fight against Islamic State militants. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement that Clinton “sees merit in the targeted use of special operations personnel.’ He added that Clinton also strongly ‘supports ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.’

Clinton’s quick reversal on this issue reinforces the view that her more progressive statements while campaigning for the Democratic nomination provide no guarantee that she will not return to her more conservative views if elected.

Republican candidates also took the expected positions.  Rand Paul opposed sending in ground troops. The Des Moines Register reports:

 Sen. Rand Paul said Saturday he is not ready to “send our sons and daughters back to a war in Iraq,” but is “not completely for doing nothing” to fight the Islamic State.

The Kentucky senator spoke to members of the Jasper County Farm Bureau in Newton before taking a tour of a pipeline farm in Reasnor. Paul touched on a variety of rural issues in front of the small group, but was firm on his stance on Syria following the news that the Obama administration will send 50 special operations soldiers to consult with rebel groups fighting ISIS.

“The fighting on the ground needs to be done by the people who live there,” he said. “The Sunnis will have to rise up and say ‘enough is enough.'”

Paul said while the radical group needs to be fought, it should not be by the United States military. He said he “would help the Kurds fight” but is against putting troops in Syria because the first Iraq War was bad for foreign relations and the national debt.

In contrast, Chris Christie took the more conventional Republican line, stating he believes the military should go “whole hog.”

The New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate addressed the issue during a town hall in response to news that the Obama administration approved up to 50 special operations soldiers to enter Syria and work as military advisers with rebel groups fighting the group known as ISIS.

“For me, this is too little. too late from the president, and if you’re going to involve American troops, you’d better go whole hog,” he said.

The U.S. should deploy boots on the ground only if the strategy of arming U.S. allies in the region fails to defeat ISIS, Christie added.

“I think we have to keep American troops as an option on the table, but to me it is a later option, not a first option, and the president should have been doing all these other things first,” he said.

Quick tip for Chris Christie: Think twice before using terms like “whole hog” as the listener might conjure up a different image when  you say this than  you desire.

Update:  Donald Trump expressed opposition to Obama’s plan, but he hardly expressed an anti-war viewpoint. He opposed limiting to fifty people, telling CNN, “You either do it or you don’t do it. Fifty people. He puts 50 people.” Trump also supports returning ground troops to Iraq.

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The Second Republican Debate: Faux Controversies, Lies, And One Candidate Was Even Right Twice

CNN Republican Debate

The second Republican debate (transcript here), this time hosted by CNN, didn’t raise as much controversy as the first. Donald Trump was still a dominant force, but whenever the talk got to policy, Trump didn’t know what to say and was quieter. CNN did try to liven things up with having the candidates respond to comments about them from other candidates. This included both comments during the debates and often insults made to the media before the debates. While at times it was a good idea to have the candidates interact, often it was over matters far to trivial to really belong in the debate.

This did allow Carly Fiorina to have one of the better moments of the debate, and she was obviously ready to comment on this insult from Donald Trump:

TRAPPER: In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you. Quote, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.

FIORINA: You know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

While candidates often exceeded their time, Fiorina responded perfectly with this brief comment.

It was overall a good night for Fiorina, who might have done more than anyone else to improve her position in the GOP race with her debate performance. Unfortunately doing well in a Republican race does not require telling the truth. She repeated previously debunked claims about her record at HP. While she sounded more forceful than Donald Trump in saying how she would deal with Russia and Syria, Ezra Klein pointed out how she got the facts wrong. Klein, along with Sarah Kliff also pointed out how she was wrong about the Planned Parenthood tapes. There was no scene such as the one she described:

FIORINA: I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

Of course most, if not all, of the candidates were also lying about Planned Parenthood during the debate. Even if they didn’t make a claim as blatantly false as Fiorina did, they repeated the debunked claims that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.

The biggest whopper came from Jeb Bush when he responded to criticism of his brother from Donald Trump:

TRUMP: Your brother — and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster, those last three months, that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected.

BUSH: You know what? As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe.

Both Trump and Jeb Bush were wrong about Obama and George Bush in the above exchange, but it is Jeb’s comments which were the most absurd. The most destructive terrorist attack on the United States occurred on George Bush’s watch, with Bush ignoring intelligence reports which might have enabled the United States to prevent the attack. Bush then followed up the attack by foolishly getting us into the quagmire in Iraq.

Rand Paul is one of the candidates who was nearly forgotten. Donald Trump, who insulted so many of the other candidates that I thought he was preparing to fire one, even said:

TRUMP: Well, first of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s number 11, he’s got 1 percent in the polls, and how he got up here, there’s far too many people anyway.

While Paul is certainly wrong on many, many things, I noted he was right on two points during the debate.  For this group, just being right twice makes him stand out.

First he pointed out that military intervention is not always the best idea:

PAUL: I think this gets to the point of wisdom on when to intervene and when we shouldn’t. Had we bombed Assad at the time, like President Obama wanted, and like Hillary Clinton wanted and many Republicans wanted, I think ISIS would be in Damascus today. I think ISIS would be in charge of Syria had we bombed Assad.

Sometimes both sides of the civil war are evil, and sometimes intervention sometimes makes us less safe. This is real the debate we have to have in the Middle East.

Every time we have toppled a secular dictator, we have gotten chaos, the rise of radical Islam, and we’re more at risk. So, I think we need to think before we act, and know most interventions, if not a lot of them in the Middle East, have actually backfired on us.

Paul missed the point Obama successfully stepped back from the brink, but his overall point is correct about thinking before engaging in senseless military intervention.

Paul also also criticized the drug war during the debate:

TAPPER: Many people on social media wanted us to ask about marijuana legalization. Senator Paul, Governor Christie recently said, quote, “if you’re getting high in Colorado today,” where marijuana has been legalized, “enjoy it until January 2017, because I will enforce the federal laws against marijuana.” Will you?

PAUL: I think one of the great problems, and what American people don’t like about politics, is hypocrisy. People have one standard for others and not for them — for themselves.

There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to — to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.

I personally think that this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual, and I think that America has to take a different attitude. I would like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration. I’m a fan of the drug courts which try to direct you back towards work and less time in jail.

But the bottom line is the states. We say we like the 10th Amendment, until we start talking about this. And I think the federal government has gone too far, I think that the war on drugs has had a racial outcome, and really has been something that has really damaged our inner cities.

Not only do the drugs damage them, we damage them again by incarcerating them and then preventing them from getting employment over time.

So I don’t think that the federal government should override the states. I believe in the 10th Amendment and I really will say that the states are left to themselves.

Paul was generally right on two points, but neither are going to help him in a Republican primary battle. It is also rather sad that the Democratic front-runner has been wrong on both issues, with Clinton supporting both greater military intervention and being a hard-liner on drug laws.

Paul was more mixed on vaccines. He didn’t go along with Donald Trump’s claims about a connection between vaccines and autism, but also wasn’t consistent with the science:

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, as president, you would be in charge of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, both of which say you are wrong. How would you handle this as president?

TRUMP: Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.

I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Because you take a baby in — and I’ve seen it — and I’ve seen it, and I had my children taken care of over a long period of time, over a two or three year period of time.

Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me.

Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.

Paul later responded:

One of the greatest — one of the greatest medical discoveries of all times was — were the vaccines, particularly for smallpox. And if you want to read a story, it’s called The Speckled Monster, it’s an amazing story, it was all done voluntary.

But people came in by the droves. George Washington wouldn’t let his wife visit until she got vaccinated. So I’m all for vaccines. But I’m also for freedom.

I’m also a little concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all of their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to have the right to spread out my vaccines out a little bit at the very least.

The debate will probably not change the race very much but it is a good thing that the candidates were provided this opportunity to present their views to a national audience on a repeated basis. If only the Democratic National Committee would do the same this year and allow more than six debates total.

Update: The New York Times reviewed  Crazy Talk at the Republican Debate with Paul Krugman adding additional Fantasies and Fictions at G.O.P. Debate

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