Republican Convention Day 2: Republican Party And Their Chief PR Outlet (Fox) Both Self-Destructing

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey speaks during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Tuesday, July 19, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

At the second night of the Republican Convention, low lights include Ben Carson comparing Clinton to Lucifer and Chris Christie holding a kangaroo court to convict Hillary Clinton. He was correct on some charges and incorrect on others. If Donald Trump wanted an attack dog as running mate, perhaps Christie should have been the choice. The New York Times has a different take on what Trump was looking for based upon when John Kasich was previously offered the job:

…according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“Making America great again” was the casual reply.

We don’t know how accurate this is or if the Trump camp made the same offer to Mike Pence, but it is consistent with how I think of Trump. I am not at all surprised that Trump would want to act out the role of President on television, and perhaps have the final say on some matters, but is not interested in the day to day hard work of the job. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. Presumably Pence would know better than to proceed with some of Trump’s strangest, and most unconstitutional, ideas. On the other hand, Pence is far more conservative in some areas where many question how conservative Trump really is, including social issues and foreign policy. It would be a good thing if Trump keeps Pence from meddling in matters such as abortion and gay rights, but there is no way to predict what will happen.

Trump’s convention entrance on Monday provided good material for the late night comics. Stephen Colbert used it inspire his entrance on the show last night.

Jimmy Fallon mocked the entrance, and then went on to give his version of Trump’s speech.

Stephen Colbert also had Melania Trump on to explain the plagiarism charges.

Ailes

As the Republican Party dies on national television, the head of the voice of the GOP, Roger Ailes, is also in serious trouble. Megyn Kelley has joined other women at Fox in accusing Ailes of sexual harassment, and the Murdoch family clearly appears to be siding with Kelley and the others making the accusations. I have long considered Ailes to be far more responsible than Rupert Murdoch for the extreme partisanship of Fox, and as Murdoch’s children are taking an increasingly more significant role in News Corp, we might be seeing the end of Fox as we know it. There is also speculation that some of Fox’s biggest names (i.e. idiots) might leave if Ailes leaves.

Discussion Of Saddam and Iraq Return To British And American Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC News sums up two key points:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mainstream Media Gangs Up On Bernie With False Claims Of Botched Interview

Sanders Reason To Vote

Members of the establishment media, along with others who have opposed Sanders for the Democratic nomination, are pouncing on an interview at The New York Daily News to make a bogus argument that Sanders is not prepared to be president. Those who have looked more closely have come to a different conclusion.

Ryan Grim, who is not a huge fan of Sanders, looked at the questions objectively and found that Sanders did not really botch the interview. He cited examples of where those asking the questions were actually wrong on the facts and Sanders was right:

Take the exchange getting the most attention: Sanders’ supposed inability to describe exactly how he would break up the biggest banks. Sanders said that if the Treasury Department deemed it necessary to do so, the bank would go about unwinding itself as it best saw fit to get to a size that the administration considered no longer a systemic risk to the economy. Sanders said this could be done with new legislation, or through administrative authority under Dodd-Frank.

This is true, as economist Dean BakerPeter Eavis at The New York Times, and HuffPost’s Zach Carter in a Twitter rant have all pointed out. It’s also the position of Clinton herself. “We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk,” Clinton said at a February debate. No media outcry followed her assertion, because it was true.

As the interview went on, though, it began to appear that the Daily News editors didn’t understand the difference between the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. Follow in the transcript how Sanders kept referring to the authority of the administration and the Treasury Department through Dodd-Frank, known as Wall Street reform, while the Daily News editors shifted to the Fed.

Daily News: Okay. Well, let’s assume that you’re correct on that point. How do you go about doing it?

Sanders: How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail.

Daily News: But do you think that the Fed, now, has that authority?

Sanders: Well, I don’t know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.

Daily News: How? How does a president turn to JPMorgan Chase, or have the treasury turn to any of those banks and say, “Now you must do X, Y and Z?”

Sanders: Well, you do have authority under the Dodd-Frank legislation to do that, make that determination.

Daily News: You do, just by Federal Reserve fiat, you do?

This is simply a factual dispute between the Daily News and Sanders, not a matter of opinion. The Daily News was wrong.

Many of the questions were gotcha questions where there was no easy answer. For example:

On drones, the Daily News asked: “President Obama has taken the authority for drone attacks away from the CIA and given it to the U.S. military. Some say that that has caused difficulties in zeroing in on terrorists, their ISIS leaders. Do you believe that he’s got the right policy there?”

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Sanders said.

A nice gotcha, except that while Obama did announce publicly that at some point in the future authority would move from the CIA to the U.S. military, that decision was quietly reversed — so quietly that the news apparently didn’t make it to New York (though HuffPost did report on it).

Some questions are not easily answerable in an interview, but do not indicate ignorance of the topic:

Sanders has also taken a beating for saying he couldn’t cite a particular statute that may have been violated by Wall Street bankers during the financial crisis. But, quickly, without searching Google, can you name the particular statute that outlaws murder? Either way, here’s what Sanders actually said:

Daily News: What kind of fraudulent activity are you referring to when you say that?

Sanders: What kind of fraudulent activity? Fraudulent activity that brought this country into the worst economic decline in its history by selling packages of fraudulent, fraudulent, worthless subprime mortgages. How’s that for a start?

Selling products to people who you knew could not repay them. Lying to people without allowing them to know that in a year, their interest rates would be off the charts. They would not repay that. Bundling these things. Putting them into packages with good mortgages. That’s fraudulent activity.

Truthout posted a Democracy Now! interview which included Juan González, a columnist for the Daily News who did not think Sanders botched the interview:

Yeah, well, I certainly didn’t get that impression, tell you the truth. The editorial board is notorious, especially our editorial page editor, Arthur Browne, for his laser-like one question after another, and he bombarded, as several others of us also asked questions. I, overall, thought that Bernie Sanders handled the exchange very well. And I think that there were a few places where he stumbled, and — but I was amazed at his ability to parry the questions that were thrown at him and to, basically, for instance, bluntly say, when he was asked about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, that Israel needed to withdraw from the illegal settlements in Palestinian territory, which I was astounded that he was quite frank and clear on his position, while at the same time saying he would do everything possible as president to negotiate peace and security for Israel in an overall settlement. And I think there — he did stumble a little bit when he was pressed on how he would break up some of the too-big-to-fail banks. He clearly did not have that down pat.

Van Jones added:

You’re going to see the mainstream media go after him. Now there’s blood in the water on specifics. They’re going to go after him on specifics, you know, way beyond anything any candidate has had to address. And people are going to have to — I mean, he’s going to have to step up his game, because you can’t, you know, write excuses for people. He’s got to be able to answer those tough questions.

Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute was among those who argued that Sanders gave good answers, including on breaking up banks:

Bernie Sanders gave some fairly normal answers on financial reform to the New York Daily News editorial board. Someone sent it to me, and as I read it I thought “yes, these are answers I’d expect for how Sanders approaches financial reform.”

You wouldn’t know that from the coverage of it, which has argued that the answers were an embarrassing failure. Caitlin Cruz at TPM argues that Sanders “struggles to explain how he would break up the banks” and that’s relatively kind. Chris Cillizza says it was “pretty close to a disaster” and David Graham says the answers on his core financial focus is “tentative, unprepared, or unaware.” Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair writes that Sanders “admits he isn’t sure how to break up the big banks.”

This is not correct. Sanders has a clear path on how he wants to break up the banks which he described. Breaking up the banks doesn’t require, or even benefit from, describing the specifics on how the banks would end up, neither for his plans or the baby steps Dodd-Frank has already taken.

After further discussion, Konczal said, “If anything, Sanders is too wonky.” Dan Wright at  ShadowProof was even harsher on the media in a post entitled,  Was Corporate Media Too Dumb To Understand Sanders Bank Breakup Plan? He also pointed out that there is more detail at Sanders’ web site.

The Clinton campaign is using this interview to attack Sanders on guns, once gain ignoring his D- lifetime rating from the NRA, in contrast to Clinton who ran as a pro-gun chruchgoer in 2008. I understand Sanders’ having considered the position of gun owners having represented a rural state like Vermont. Clinton’s position appears to change based upon pure political pandering.

Hillary Clinton could probably answer questions of this type better than Sanders, but that does not mean she would make a better president. Repeating the establishment positions, showing no ability to think out of the box or to recognize the problems, makes her just part of the problem, and unable to come up with solutions. It will not be easy for an incoming president to deal with the corruptive role of money in government, and few, if anybody in Sanders’ position would be able to provide better answers until they are dealing with the problems in office. Sure, if Elizabeth Warren was running, there could be a strong case for voting for her instead of Sanders, but she is not on the ballot. What matter is that we have a president who recognizes the problems, and is on the right side of the issues.

Plus we need to look at matters such as integrity and judgment. Clinton fails on both counts. The email scandal, along with her dishonesty during the campaign, are just a couple of examples which demonstrate her lack of integrity. Despite her experience, she has demonstrated poor judgment throughout her career. Her support for the Panama Trade Deal, was just the latest example to hit the news. For the last few decades, Clinton was repeatedly wrong on the big questions, while Sanders was right, showing which one of them is really prepared to be president.

Politico Looks At The Different Types Of Dishonesty From Clinton, Trump, & Carson

Pinoccio

Many politicians find ways to benefit from lying, and it might not be coincidental that the three front runners from the two major parties are candidates who have spread a lot of misinformation this year. Politico has looked at the lies from Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson, finding differences in the types of lies they tell:

Not all lies are created equal. When Hillary Clinton lies, she generally does so with legalistic care. You get the sense that she knows what the exact truth is. But you also get the sense that she knows she’ll suffer if she provides the whole truth, so she shades the facts with interpretations and embellishments that flatter or favor her. She presents an incomplete timeline for her email account. She claims that her email practices were “permitted.” She overstates her cases and fibs with the numbers. Clinton has been doing it so long and so well that by 1996, New York Times columnist William Safire had already diagnosed her as a “congenital liar.”

Trump’s and Carson’s lies, on the other hand, come from the land of bullshit, that wonderful place where loose facts and wishful thinking mate to produce a quotable soundbite. They’re not trying to deceive you in a Clintonian fashion. They’re indifferent to the truth, content to say the first things that pop into their brains. You can see this strategy at work in Trump’s story about the American Muslims celebrating the fall of the twin towers, or his bogus assertion that the federal government is steering refugees to states that have Republican governors, or his claim that “61 percent of our bridges are in trouble.” He’s just winging it. If something gets broken in the telling of one of his stories, he doesn’t think it’s his fault.

Ben Carson brings the quality of moonshine to his lies. Whenever he goes on, he voices the sort of stuff you hear mumbled from the sozzled end of a dive bar. Take, for example, his claim that Mahmoud Abbas, Ali Khamenei and Vladimir Putin were classmates at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, or his idea that “a lot of people who go into prison straight” come out gay. Carson is much better at spotting other candidate’s lies than he is his own. Originally, he backed Trump’s claim about celebrating American Muslims. Yesterday, he said that the film he saw was shot in the Middle East, not New Jersey.

This summary only touches the surface of the many lies told by all three of these candidates.  Ben Carson has been exposed for other lies about his biography. I recently noted some of the questionable claims made by Donald Trump as to what he observed on 9/11. While it doesn’t mean she lies any more that her Republican opponents, I have pointed out far more lies by Hillary Clinton in this election cycle alone due to concentrating coverage on the Democratic race.

I recently noted how Clinton has been accused of lying about Edward Snowden in the second Democratic debate, although this might have been a mistake based upon her conservative mind set as opposed to an intentional lie. Her false claims about Sanders’ support for Medicare for All was more likely an outright lie considering how she has flip-flopped on single payer health plans. She was also exposed by the fact checkers for dishonesty during the first debate. Clinton has similarly been dishonest in her other smears against Sanders, reminiscent of the campaign she ran against Barack Obama eight years ago, during which many think she crossed the line, even considering our usual standards for a political campaign.

Politico also looked at why these candidates get away with such frequent lying:

We generally dislike liars, so why do we tolerate well-documented political lies? For one thing, findings by the fact-checkers aren’t evenly distributed within the culture. Nobody but political fanatics pay much mind to them. To injure a politician, documentation of his lie must puddle out to television and the Web, where the sizable audiences reside. But even then, the politician has the advantage. He can level a countercharge, saying that he’s telling the truth and the press—the scheming, oily, wicked, privacy-invading press—has it in for him and is doing all the lying.

As trust in the press (and other institutions) has fallen in recent decades, the counterattack gambit has worked for many politicians. This has been Trump’s path. He complicates the fact-checkers’ job by lying with effortlessness and rapidity, making it become difficult to keep up with his bullplucky. After getting caught in a lie, Trump tends to retweet or repeat it, writes Tufts University’s Daniel W. Drezner today. Next, he bullies the media for reporting on his statement. (Today, for example, Trump demanded an apology from the Post for pinning Pinocchios to his 9/11 tale.) If Trump ever deigns to backtrack on a brazen lie, it’s to claim that he’s been misinterpreted.

I think another factor is also important–partisanship. Many people will defend members of their party, while criticizing members of the opposing party of dishonesty. We have seen comparable acceptance of dishonesty among Republicans  for years, including the manner in which many still believe George Bush was telling the truth, and even that there was WMD in Iraq long after the government admitted this was not true. Many Republicans will repeat the lies spread by scientists on the payroll of the petroleum industry to promote their agenda on climate change, even after  it has been revealed that Exxon’s own scientists knew the truth about global warming forty years ago.

Of course such hypocrisy can be seen in both parties, as many Democrats are willing to ignore Hillary’s Clinton’s long career which has been characterized by dishonesty, corruption, and undermining liberal principles whenever it was politically expedient. Some simply ignore the facts, while other see it as a good thing that someone on their side is matching the Republicans in their tactics. Partisan Democrats who back Clinton certainly cannot claim any moral superiority to Republican voters–which is one reason that so many independents who consider her to be dishonest  are expressing a lack of interest in voting Democratic–possibly paving the way for dishonest Republican politicians such as Trump or Carson to get  elected in 2016. Bernie Sanders’ campaign against Hillary Clinton is differentiating those Democrats who support principles as opposed to those practice blind partisanship.

Polling Shows Bernie Sanders Is Electable, And Possibly A Stronger Candidate Than Clinton

Bernie Sanders

During the 2008 primary battles, Hillary Clinton argued that she should be the Democratic nominee because Barack Obama was not electable and she was. We saw how that turned out. This year Clinton supporters are trying the same strategy, claiming Bernie Sanders is not electable. As Matt Taibbi discussed in Rolling Stone, the media has also been complicit in spreading this false narrative, often failing to take Sanders seriously as a candidate.

Polling data has consistently shown that the argument that Sanders is unelectable is false, and further data this week also demonstrates that he is electable.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton and Ben Carson tied, with Clinton beating the other Republican candidates she was matched with.The tie with Carson was largely due to greater support for Carson among independents. They did not poll a head to head race between Carson and Sanders but did find that when polled Sanders did slightly better than Clinton against other Republicans:

Sanders leads Trump by nine points, 50 percent to 41 percent (versus Clinton’s eight-point advantage), and he’s ahead of Rubio by five points, 46 percent to 41 percent (versus Clinton’s three-point lead).

Another poll this week, a Quinnipiac University survey, also showed Sanders and Clinton do comparable against Republicans.

National polls such as this long before an election have limited meaning, but seeing Sanders consistently doing as well as or better than Clinton against Republicans does suggest that there is no truth to the argument that Clinton is more electable.

There are additional reasons to speculate that Sanders can do better than Clinton a year from now. Sanders is much less well known and on an upward trajectory while Clinton is already well known and has far less upside potential.Clinton had been on a downward trajectory until some fortuitous events for her in October. She came out of the first Democratic debate looking strong, but this was largely because she was more skillful at dodging questions and her opponents barely confronted her for poor answers. Republicans will not let her off the hook so easily, and hopefully Sanders and O’Malley will confront her more in subsequent debates.

Clinton does poorly in the battleground state polls and among independents, while Sanders has shown greater potential among these voters.Clinton has stronger support among partisan Democrats, giving her the edge for the nomination, but it will not help her to run up large margins of victory in deep blue states if she cannot win the battleground states in a general election.

Sanders is not involved in a major scandal, but there is danger for a further drop in support for Clinton as more voters become aware of the specifics of the scandals. While Democrats do not seem to be dissuaded by the scandals, polling has shown that independent voters are concerned, and have an unfavorable view of Clinton. Republicans will probably make considerable use out of the scandals in a general election campaign.

Elections often come down to turn out, and Sanders is showing far greater ability to get people to turn out to his events. Hopefully this enthusiasm for him will extend to turning out to vote. On the other hand, many voters are likely to stay home instead of turning out for a candidate which a majority considers to be dishonest and they have an unfavorable view of.

[Due to technical glitches involving links to the post, it was necessary to post this twice]

Polling Shows Bernie Sanders Is Electable, And Possibly A Stronger Candidate Than Clinton

Sander Clinton v Republicans

During the 2008 primary battles, Hillary Clinton argued that she should be the Democratic nominee because Barack Obama was not electable and she was. We saw how that turned out. This year Clinton supporters are trying the same strategy, claiming Bernie Sanders is not electable. As Matt Taibbi discussed in Rolling Stone, the media has also been complicit in spreading this false narrative, often failing to take Sanders seriously as a candidate.

Polling data has consistently shown that the argument that Sanders is unelectable is false, and further data this week also demonstrates that he is electable.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton and Ben Carson tied, with Clinton beating the other Republican candidates she was matched with.The tie with Carson was largely due to greater support for Carson among independents. They did not poll a head to head race between Carson and Sanders but did find that when polled Sanders did slightly better than Clinton against other Republicans:

Sanders leads Trump by nine points, 50 percent to 41 percent (versus Clinton’s eight-point advantage), and he’s ahead of Rubio by five points, 46 percent to 41 percent (versus Clinton’s three-point lead).

Another poll this week, a Quinnipiac University survey, also showed Sanders and Clinton do comparable against Republicans.

National polls such as this long before an election have limited meaning, but seeing Sanders consistently doing as well as or better than Clinton against Republicans does suggest that there is no truth to the argument that Clinton is more electable.

There are additional reasons to speculate that Sanders can do better than Clinton a year from now. Sanders is much less well known and on an upward trajectory while Clinton is already well known and has far less upside potential.Clinton had been on a downward trajectory until some fortuitous events for her in October. She came out of the first Democratic debate looking strong, but this was largely because she was more skillful at dodging questions and her opponents barely confronted her for poor answers. Republicans will not let her off the hook so easily, and hopefully Sanders and O’Malley will confront her more in subsequent debates.

Clinton does poorly in the battleground state polls and among independents, while Sanders has shown greater potential among these voters.Clinton has stronger support among partisan Democrats, giving her the edge for the nomination, but it will not help her to run up large margins of victory in deep blue states if she cannot win the battleground states in a general election.

Sanders is not involved in a major scandal, but there is danger for a further drop in support for Clinton as more voters become aware of the specifics of the scandals. While Democrats do not seem to be dissuaded by the scandals, polling has shown that independent voters are concerned, and have an unfavorable view of Clinton. Republicans will probably make considerable use out of the scandals in a general election campaign.

Elections often come down to turn out, and Sanders is showing far greater ability to get people to turn out to his events. Hopefully this enthusiasm for him will extend to turning out to vote. On the other hand, many voters are likely to stay home instead of turning out for a candidate which a majority considers to be dishonest and they have an unfavorable view of.

[Due to technical glitches involving links to the post, it was necessary to post this twice]

Bernie Sanders Again Shows That The Pundits Are Wrong–Improving In The Polls After First Debate

CNN Debate Sanders Clinton

The pundits who have been downplaying Bernie Sanders’ campaign form the start declared that Hillary Clinton was the winner of the first Democratic debate, despite the focus groups who considered Sanders to be the winner. As usually occurs, polls showed that after the fact the majority went with the pundits as to the winner (with many probably not having seen the debate). However the pundits did not predict what has actually happened. Voters are telling pollsters that Clinton won, but an increasing number want Sanders to win the nomination.

CNN reports Hillary Clinton wins debate, but Bernie Sanders rises:

With the first Democratic debate in the books, a new CNN/ORC poll finds most who watched think Hillary Clinton had the best performance of the night, but her strong showing hasn’t boosted her standing in the race for the party’s nomination…

Compared with pre-debate polling, Sanders’ support is up five points since mid-September, but no other candidate showed significant change.

Gravis Marketing similarly found that a majority thought Clinton won the debate, but also that Sanders pulled within eight points of Clinton nationally–overall a favorable outcome for Sanders. Clinton is welcome to accumulate debate points if Sanders is picking up voters.

One item of concern was that the Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll did show Clinton pulling even with Sanders in New Hampshire, but now the Franklin Pierce-Herald poll shows Sanders maintaining his lead:

Sanders holds a 38-30 percent lead over Clinton in the first-in-the-nation primary state, while Biden draws 19 percent in the poll of 403 likely Democratic primary voters conducted immediately after last week’s debate.

Sanders’ 8-point lead is essentially unchanged from the 44-37 percent advantage the Vermont senator held in a stunning Franklin Pierce-Herald poll in August — the first to show the former Secretary of State behind in New Hampshire.

The new poll also has Sanders holding an even bigger 10-point lead over Clinton if Biden isn’t in the presidential field.

The results suggest Clinton will have a tough time overcoming the deficit, as more than half of notoriously finicky Granite State voters now say they have made up their minds.

Seven in 10 Sanders supporters say they’ve made a “firm choice” to vote for him, a 26 percent increase from the last Franklin Pierce-Herald poll in August. And 62 percent of Clinton backers now report they’re firmly in her column, compared to just 40 percent in August.

This does show that the pundits who claimed that Clinton was once again unbeatable after the first debate got it wrong. Beyond that, I wouldn’t believe any predictions that the polls today will accurately predict what will happen when people turn out to vote. If you need an example of that, check out this report  from December 2007 describing how Clinton has a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

Polls in a primary battle mean very little, and a single debate will not decide the nomination. Nothing is even close to getting settled until people start to vote, and ignore those pundits who tell you otherwise. A lead in the national polls is especially meaningless as these often change dramatically afte the results of the first contests are known. Strong performances by Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire can totally redefine the race.

The pundits also said after the debate that Clinton’s performance meant that Joe Biden was not going to enter the race. That argument never made much sense. Biden had said his decision was based upon personal matters. Even if he was watching the debate to decide, a strong debate performance by Hillary Clinton would not suddenly erase Clinton’s major flaws and weaknesses. If she could beat the other candidates in the debate, that might even be seen by Biden as meaning there is room in the race for him to challenge her.

Despite all the predicti0ns from pundits that the debate would keep Joe Biden out, the headlines on Monday were full of predictions that Biden might be announcing that he is running imminently. Whether or not he runs, the debate did not settle the matter.

The pundits are probably right about one thing–Jim Webb has no chance at winning the Democratic nomination. Now there is speculation that he might be planning to run as an independent. If he does, I’m not sure if he will take more votes from Democrats or Republicans, and if he can pick up enough votes to matter. Maybe he has a shot at receiving some votes, however few, if he is seen as a rational Republican, in contrast to those who are currently running.

Clinton Denies Sending Classified Information From Private Server

Clinton Email Classified

Following reports that two Inspectors General have requested an investigation regarding the possibility of Hillary Clinton having sent classified email from her private server, Clinton has denied the accusations. Politico reports:

Hillary Clinton said she is confident none of the emails she sent or received using her private email server while secretary of state contained information that was classified when she sent them.

Clinton, speaking to reporters Saturday after a presidential campaign event here, said she has “no idea” which are the four emails an inspector general review has determined were classified “secret” at the time.

“I am confident I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received,” Clinton said. “What I think you’re seeing is a very typical kind of discussion to some extent, disagreement among various parts of the government over what should or what should not be publicly released.”

Having followed this scandal closely, I believe Clinton might be telling the truth on this one point, but the current reports do raise serious concerns. Whether or not Clinton was telling the truth on this point, her subsequent statements  were misleading when she discussed the entire issue. Whether or not she did knowingly send classified email, this does not change the fact that Clinton violated the rules in effect in 2009. It does not change the fact that she destroyed around 30,000 email messages and edited others, which includes email related to Libya and Terrorism and was not personal email as she previously claimed

The fact checking sites have repeatedly stated that Clinton’s statements have been false regarding the email on many other points. The Washington Post Fact Checker has given Clinton and her defenders Three Pinocchios for their claims on at least two separate occasions (here and here). The top Freedom of Information Act official at the Justice Department has stated that Clinton was in violation of the rules and the State Department’s top Freedom of Information Act officer has called her use of a private server unacceptable.

Clinton has also been criticized for being deceptive when she said at her press conference that none of the email was classified. This very well might technically be true, however the statement was considered deceptive as the email she sent did include sensitive email.

We do know that some of the email was reclassified as classified when reviewed by the State Department after she turned it over. This by itself does not indicate any wrong-doing by Clinton. The question is whether she was careless and sent email which she should have known should be classified. The reports that at least four email messages which were classified at the time were sent by Clinton raises further questions. An investigation of this is complicated by the fact that she has destroyed so much of the email. If it is verified that she did send four or more emails which were classified at the time we may have a much more serious situation.

As I said, my gut feeling is that, while Clinton did many things wrong related to her exclusive use of a private server, she very well might not have knowingly sent classified email. However, while I have discounted criticism of Clinton for sending classified email in the past when raised by Republicans, the most recent reports do raise new concerns.

Regardless of whether Clinton actually did knowingly send classified email, this issue will remain alive through the election (if Clinton wins the nomination) due to Clinton having destroyed thousands of email messages and edited others. This very well might make it impossible to ever answer this question. Clinton certainly deserves no presumption of innocence on this after deleting and editing email. If I went into a malpractice suit having deleted some progress notes and editing others, this would lead to a strong presumption of guilt. Only under the Clinton Rules could Hillary delete the email, after having violated the rules, and expect people to take her word for it that she is innocent.

As a minor sidelight to this issue, some Clinton supporters are greatly exaggerating the issue of The New York Times making corrections to its original story. It is common in the internet age, when everyone is in a rush to get their stories on-line first, for some stories to later receive corrections. The initial errors in the first story, which have been corrected, have no real bearing on the overall email scandal. This in no way means that either this aspect of the story, or the larger story of the scandal, have been “debunked” as many Clinton supporter are claiming.

Update: Ron Fournier writes, Parsing Clinton: What Is She Hiding? Her slippery defense of the email scandal requires a Clintonologist.

Hillary Clinton vs. The Press

Hillary Clinton CSPAN Iowa

With Clinton only taking rare questions from reporters, and generally only providing evasive answers, an increasing amount of the campaign coverage has turned to Hillary Clinton avoiding the press. McClatchy, one of the country’s better news services, has joined in:

Here’s how Hillary Clinton campaigned for president this week: She took a private 15-minute tour of a bike shop that had closed for her visit. She spoke to four small business owners chosen by her staff in front of an audience of 20, also chosen by her staff. She answered a few questions from the media following weeks of silence.

And after a little more than an hour, Clinton was off, whisked away by aides and Secret Service agents, into a minivan and on to the next event.

Members of the public who wanted to go inside the building to support her, oppose her or merely ask a question of her were left outside on an unseasonably cool Iowa day. Most didn’t bother showing up.

“I am troubled that so far in this caucus cycle she hasn’t had any public town halls,” said Chris Schwartz, a liberal activist from Waterloo, as he stood outside the bike store hoping to talk to Clinton about trade. “If she had a public town hall then we wouldn’t be out here. We would much rather be in there engaging with her.”

Welcome to Hillary Clinton 2.0. Mindful of her defeat by Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton has embraced a new strategy – one that so far does not include town-hall meetings and campaign rallies, media interviews, even public events.

Instead, she holds small controlled events with a handful of potential voters in homes, businesses and schools. She repeats many of the same lines (“I want to be your champion” is a favorite), participants are handpicked by her staff or the event host, and topics are dictated by her campaign.

Clinton might be able to get away with this politically but the question is not whether Clinton campaign needs the press but whether the country needs coverage from good campaign reporters. Sure the media posts a lot of garbage, but there is also valuable reporting which tells the country more about a candidate than we will ever get from their staged events and web sites. For example, when Clinton talked about immigration, I wish that somebody could have asked her the question suggested by Amy Chozick of The New York Times:

“President Obama said his executive action on immigration went as far as the law will allow. You say you would go beyond what he did. How could you stretch the law further than the president of your own party and his Justice Department says it can go?”

Without such questions, candidate claims of what they support mean very little. When Clinton excused her vote for the Iraq War, and subsequent actions to push to go to war when even some Democrats who also voted yes were opposing such action, by saying she was fooled by Dick Cheney that Saddam had WMD, there are so many obvious follow up questions. Did she review the intelligence herself? Why is someone who was so easily fooled when many of us following the news realized at the time it was a lie qualified to be president? Even if she was fooled by Cheney, why did she go beyond what most who voted for the war were saying in also falsely claiming there was a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda?

John Cassidy points out  further questions raised by Clinton’s (along with Jeb Bush’s) answer on Iraq in The New Yorker, starting out with a listing of all her various answers to date:

Clinton’s public statements, like Bush’s, have gone through several iterations. In September, 2007, she argued that she hadn’t, in fact, voted for a preëmptive war, and said, “Obviously, if I had known then what I know now about what the President would do with the authority that was given him, I would not have voted the way that I did.” Since many people regarded the resolution, at the time it passed, in October, 2002, as a blank check (twenty-one Democratic senators voted against it), this explanation didn’t do Clinton much good, but she stuck with it throughout her 2008 Presidential campaign, refusing to describe her vote as a mistake. In her 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices,” Clinton changed tack, fessing up and saying that she had relied heavily on prewar intelligence about Saddam’s programs to build weapons of mass destruction. “I should have stated my regret sooner and in the plainest, most direct language possible,” she wrote. She went on, “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

…Clinton, for her part, still has work to do to explain what she learned from the Iraq disaster. Clearly, it didn’t turn her against the concept of overseas military intervention. In 2011, as Secretary of State, she helped orchestrate air attacks on Libya that aided in bringing down Muammar Qaddafi, unleashing a civil war that is still raging. In 2013, after she left office, she supported U.S. military action against the Syrian regime, a course that President Obama eventually backed away from. In “Hard Choices,” however, she struck a cautious note. “As much as I have wanted to, I could never change my vote on Iraq,” she wrote. “But I could try to help us learn the right lessons from that war … I was determined to do exactly that when facing future hard choices, with more experience, wisdom, skepticism, and humility.”

As the 2016 campaign unfolds, Clinton might want to say more about how her views have changed, and how, as President, she would reconcile her urge to exercise American power—both to protect U.S. interests and to do some good in the world—with the harsh realities of experience. Such a discussion would help shift attention away from her 2002 vote and allow her to draw a contrast with the Republicans’ empty rhetoric. More importantly, it would focus the campaign debate on the question that, ever since March, 2003, has been hovering over practically everything: Whither America after Iraq?

The problem is that Clinton cannot easily face the press, and allow follow-up questions, for multiple reasons. She has told far too many lies about her unethical behavior in personally profiting from money from companies and countries which had business in front of her when she was Secretary of State. She even managed to botch what should have been an easy book tour, well before the current scandals were dominating the news. Clinton  has difficulties talking about her policy views when they are driven by polls and political expediency as opposed to conviction, as was made clear in her interview last year with Terry Gross. If a Democrat cannot handle an interview with Terry Gross on NPR, they are in serious trouble. Clinton could not answer questions about her views on same-sex marriage, which have varied so many times over the years, as these changes were most likely based upon political calculations rather than conviction. Now she has moved from believing that the question should be left to the states last year to supporting same-sex marriage as that is the expected viewpoint in the Democratic race.

There are many other questions which she should be asked about her views on same-sex marriage and other social issues, especially in light of how much conservative religious views have influenced her policy decisions. So far this campaign cycle I’m only aware of a single article at Salon which got into her ties with the religious right. I discussed this far more in a post last month which included selections from a must-read article from Mother Jones from 2007.

When Clinton won’t talk about policy, except for canned statements which leave many questions which she will not answer, the email scandal will continue to dominate the news. The first of many releases to come came on Friday. As expected, they do nothing to support the conservative conspiracy theories on Benghazi. It does reinforce what we already know about the blurring of the lines between the Foundation, Clinton’s old friends, and her work as Secretary of State. Karen Tumulty wrote:

For those who have worried that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign would be a repeat of the chaotic operation she ran eight years ago, her advisers have often pointed to her time in between at the State Department — which by comparison was an archetype of crisp managerial efficiency.

But a trove of newly released e-mails suggests that one of Clinton’s tendencies persisted during her time as secretary of state — an inability to separate her longtime loyalties from the business at hand.

The e-mails from her private account reveal that she passed along no fewer than 25 memos about Libya from friend and political ally Sidney Blumenthal. Blumenthal had business interests in Libya but no diplomatic expertise there.

Moreover, she did so after the White House had blocked her from hiring Blumenthal at the State Department. The president’s team considered him untrustworthy and prone to starting rumors…

In the memos, Blumenthal — who was identified to lower-level State Department officials only as “HRC friend” — said the information was “intel,” gathered from sources he described in such breathless terms as “an extremely sensitive source” or “an extremely well-placed individual.”

In many cases, it was met with skepticism by government officials who were experts in the region.

One official who received some of the missives said “the secret source” was known to be close to the secretary and “seemed to have some knowledge” of North Africa “but not much.”

Yet one more topic for reporters to question Hillary Clinton about if she ever gives them a chance, as opposed to her vague and empty answer on this subject.

Obama Took On The Right At White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Obama White House Correspondents Dinner

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner has turned into a major event in recent years, and Barack Obama did a fine job. Among his jokes:

“For many Americans, this is still a time of deep uncertainty. I have one friend, just weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year, and she’s now living out of a van in Iowa.”

“Michele Bachmann predicted I would bring about the biblical end of days. Now that’s big. … Lincoln, Washington — they didn’t do that.”

On Bernie Sanders: “Apparently people really want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.”

On Dick Cheney: “He thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime, which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime.”

Cecily Strong, while not as good a comedian, as Barack Obama, did better in this situation than as anchor on SNL’s Weekend Update. She had a number of jokes about the media, from the number of prison documentaries on MSNBC to the nature of Fox’s audience: “Fox News has been losing a lot of viewers lately, and may they rest in peace.”

She was clearly backing Hillary Clinton but she did mention the email scandal: “Hillary Clinton said that she used her private email because she didn’t want to use more than two devices. Now if that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also one of the rules of the sex contract of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.'”

Obama’s expression of political views has received far more attention than Strong’s. On climate change: “Look at what’s happening right now. Every serious scientist says we need to act. The Pentagon says it’s a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day, and instead of doing anything about it, we’ve got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate! It is crazy! What about our kids?! What kind of stupid, short-sighted, irresponsible…”

Both conservative liberal blogs agreed that Obama was expressing liberal views in such jokes, but the spin was quite different. Power Line’s headline was Our Mean-Spirited President Cuts Loose. Ezra Klein put it differently (and more accurately): The joke was that Obama wasn’t joking.