Democratic Elector States He Will Not Vote For Clinton In Electoral College

robert-satiacum

An elector in Washington has reminded us of another way in which this strange election year can become even stranger. AP reports that an elector (photo above), who had supported Bernie Sanders, states he will not vote for Hillary Clinton in the electoral college:

A Democratic elector in Washington state said Friday he won’t vote for Hillary Clinton even if she wins the popular vote in his state on Election Day, adding a degree of suspense when the Electoral College affirms the election results next month.

Robert Satiacum, a member of Washington’s Puyallup Tribe, supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. He said he believes Clinton is a “criminal” who doesn’t care enough about American Indians and “she’s done nothing but flip back and forth.”

He said he has wrestled with what to do, but feels that neither Clinton nor Republican Donald Trump can lead the country.

“She will not get my vote, period,” he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Unless Clinton should show a further drop in the polls, I doubt that the electoral college vote will come down to a single vote, but yesterday I did show a plausible scenario in which it was a near tie. This scenario showed a tie or Trump winning by a single vote, but if this is plausible then there are also possibilities in which Clinton wins exactly 270 electoral votes and the loss of one will prevent a victory. If one elector is saying this publically, there is also the possibility of other electors doing the same, in both parties.

Third party candidates also have a  small chance of winning a state, which could prevent a major party candidate from reaching 270 electoral votes. This has been the hope of both Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, who is very unlikely to win a state, and independent Evan McMullin, who has been polling well in Utah. Some Sanders supporters are also hoping that he can win Vermont on write-in votes, but chances of that are very remote with Sanders not even campaigning.

If no candidates obtain 270 electoral votes, the election will be decided by the House of Representatives, a scenario not seen in the United States since the last season of Veep, or in reality occurring only in the 1800 and 1824 elections. Members of the House can choose between the candidates with the top three number of electors. Supporters of third party candidates, along with some Sanders supporters, hope that members of the House will reject both Trump and Clinton and vote for their candidate, choosing the third place finisher. Someone who receives even a single electoral vote from an elector such as the one in Washington could come in third and be in contention. The vote is by state, coming down to which party dominates each state’s delegation. Republicans will win unless there is a Democratic sweep this year in Congress far beyond what anyone thinks is possible.

While any scenario involving anyone other than Clinton or Trump becoming president is highly unlikely, the most likely of the remote possibilities would be if Johnson or McMullin win a state, or if some Republican electors vote for an establishment Republican such as Mike Pence or Mitt Romney for president. Then there is a remote chance that House Republicans could wind up voting for someone other than Trump. If Republicans are divided, there is also the possibility that Democrats could join in support of a Republican other than Trump.

Update: Think Progress reports that a second elector from Washington has said they might not vote for Clinton. On the one hand, it is understandable that a pro-Clinton site such as this would be very upset by the prospect. On the other hand, Democrats should have thought through the ramifications of nominating a candidate as unfit to be president as Clinton.

Leaks Show Trump To Be Misogynistic And Clinton To Be A Dishonest Opportunist

Clinton v Trump Badges

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the subject of more leaks today. The leaks basically provided more confirmation of what we already knew about them: Donald Trump is misogynistic and abusive towards women, and Hillary Clinton is a dishonest opportunist. From The Washington Post on Donald Trump:

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

The video captures Trump talking with Billy Bush, then of “Access Hollywood,” on a bus with the show’s name written across the side. They were arriving on the set of “Days of Our Lives” to tape a segment about Trump’s cameo on the soap opera.

The report goes into considerable detail. People and groups from both the left and right were appalled:

Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which has endorsed Clinton, issued a statement from Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens saying: “What Trump described in these tapes amounts to sexual assault.”

Trump was also criticized by members of his own party, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), who is running for reelection, and has said she will vote for Trump. “His comments are totally inappropriate and offensive,” Ayotte said in a written statement.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has stood by Trump uncritically through numerous controversies, said in a statement: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Trump critic, said: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”

This is probably the most hypocritical response of all:

One of Trump’s most prominent social-conservative supporters, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, told BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray: “My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values.”

Trump’s response:

“This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close,” Trump said in a statement. “I apologize if anyone was offended.”

WikiLeaks has released what are allegedly portions of Hillary Clinton’s private paid speeches to Goldman Sachs and other financial firms. This included her view of governing in which “you need both a public and a private position.” In other words, as comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed Clinton’s career, what she says in public has no relationship to what she really thinks or will do. This included single payer health care, which she supported in a speech and later opposed when she thought it was politically expedient to attack Bernie Sanders’ position. She was really upset by all those ethics rules which limit the ability of people to make money–as going to Washington was portrayed as how to make a small fortune:

You go to Washington. Right. But, you know, part of the problem with the political situation, too, is that there is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives. You know, the divestment of assets, the stripping of all kinds of positions, the sale of stocks. It just becomes very onerous and unnecessary

Clinton also portrayed herself as a  moderate as opposed to a progressive, and was strongly in favor of free trade, in contrast to her new position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There is too much to quote it all here, but the excerpts have been divided under these topic headings:

  • CLINTON ADMITS SHE IS OUT OF TOUCH
  •  CLINTON SAYS YOU NEED TO HAVE A PRIVATE AND PUBLIC POSITION ON POLICY
  • CLINTON TALKS ABOUT HOLDING WALL STREET ACCOUNTABLE ONLY FOR POLITICAL REASONS
  • CLINTON SUGGESTS WALL STREET INSIDERS ARE WHAT IS NEEDED TO FIX WALL STREET
  • CLINTON ADMITS NEEDING WALL STREET FUNDING
  • CLINTON TOUTS HER RELATIONSHIP TO WALL STREET AS A SENATOR
  • CLINTON TALKS ABOUT THE CHALLENGES RUNNING FOR OFFICE
  • CLINTON SUGGESTS SHE IS A MODERATE
  • CLINTON IS AWARE OF SECURITY CONCERNS AROUND BLACKBERRIES
  • CLINTON REMARKS ARE PRO KEYSTONE AND PRO TRADE
  • CLINTON IS MORE FAVORABLE TO CANADIAN HEALTH CARE AND SINGLE PAYER

Update: Donald Trump And The Hypocrisy Of The Religious Right

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

vice-presidential-debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Times Magazine Looks At How Hillary Clinton Became A Warmonger

Liberals-Should-Not-Support-Hillary-Clinton-Shes-A-Neo-Con

The New York Times Magazine features an article on How Hillary Clinton became a warmonger, although they are a little gentler with her, just calling her a hawk. The article began by pointing out how Clinton supported more aggressive military intervention than Obama when she was Secretary of State. She often sided with Robert Gates where others in the Obama administration were less militaristic, surprising Gates as to how conservative she was on foreign policy:

The two quickly discovered that they shared a Midwestern upbringing, a taste for a stiff drink after a long day of work and a deep-seated skepticism about the intentions of America’s foes. Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence analyst who conducted Obama’s initial review on the Afghanistan war, says: “I think one of the surprises for Gates and the military was, here they come in expecting a very left-of-center administration, and they discover that they have a secretary of state who’s a little bit right of them on these issues — a little more eager than they are, to a certain extent.

While Clinton has probably flip-flopped on more issues out of political expediency than any politician other than Mitt Romney, that is not the case with her foreign policy views: “Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone.” The article ran through Clinton’s biography as related to military matters, including one embarrassing episode:

In March 1996, the first lady visited American troops stationed in Bosnia. The trip became notorious years later when she claimed, during the 2008 campaign, to have dodged sniper fire after her C-17 military plane landed at an American base in Tuzla. (Chris Hill, a diplomat who was onboard that day and later served as ambassador to Iraq under Clinton, didn’t remember snipers at all, and indeed recalled children handing her bouquets of spring flowers.)

The article makes it clear that in any discussion of foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is the most hawkish person in the room, and will be to the right of the GOP candidate should she win the Democratic nomination:

Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone — grounded in cold realism about human nature and what one aide calls “a textbook view of American exceptionalism.” It set her apart from her rival-turned-boss, Barack Obama, who avoided military entanglements and tried to reconcile Americans to a world in which the United States was no longer the undisputed hegemon. And it will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she meets in the general election. For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas have demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.

While there are other issues where Clinton is preferable to Trump and Cruz, the president has far more direct control over whether we go to war than matters such as reproductive rights. Clinton’s foreign policy views, along with her corrupting ties to big money in politics, could be the deciding factor which keeps many Sanders supporters from turning out to vote for Clinton in the general election if she is the nominee.

Kevin Drum, who I have often found to ignore other major faults in Clinton, was disturbed by her foreign policy views:

And Landler doesn’t even mention Libya, perhaps because the Times already investigated her role at length a couple of months ago. It’s hardly necessary, though. Taken as a whole, this is a portrait of a would-be president who (a) fundamentally believes in displays of force, (b) is eager to give the military everything they ask for, and (c) doesn’t believe that military intervention is a last resort, no matter what she might say in public.

If anything worries me about Hillary Clinton, this is it. It’s not so much that she’s more hawkish than me, it’s the fact that events of the past 15 years don’t seem to have affected her views at all. How is that possible? And yet, our failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere apparently haven’t given her the slightest pause about the effectiveness of military force in the Middle East. Quite the opposite: the sense I get from Landler’s piece is that she continues to think all of these engagements would have turned out better if only we’d used more military power. I find it hard to understand how an intelligent, well-briefed person could continue to believe this, and that in turn makes me wonder just exactly what motivates Hillary’s worldview.

On the right, Daniel Larison, whose foreign policy views are far preferable to what is commonly accepted by conservatives, adds:

In virtually every foreign policy debate, Clinton can be counted on to endorse the more aggressive option available, and she is the least likely to favor making significant changes to the way the U.S. acts overseas. Her judgment has been reliably bad because she buys into conventional, wrong assumptions about the U.S. role in the world and the ability of the U.S. to “shape” events in other countries, and when Obama has come around to her view he has made some of the worst mistakes of his presidency. One would be hard-pressed to find a single instance from her time as Secretary of State when Clinton was on the winning side of a major internal policy debate that didn’t produce poor or disastrous results. If Obama had always sided against Clinton’s preferred course of action, he would have had fewer foreign policy failures and embarrassments.

The article also goes into some depth about her relationship with Gen. Jack Keane. Among other things, it was a briefing from Keane on establishing a “no-fly zone” in Syria that won Clinton over to that reckless position. This is one of Clinton’s main weaknesses: she typically assumes that military options are more efficacious and capable of “solving” problems in foreign conflicts than they are, and it doesn’t seem to take much persuading to get her to endorse an aggressive policy. Clinton normally errs on the side of using force or threatening to use it, and because of that she repeatedly takes the wrong side in debates over whether the U.S. should intervene in another country.

Both assessments above are accurate. Another recent article provides an even scarier insight into how Hillary Clinton thinks about foreign policy. Although it was not Obama’s intention, his discussion of Clinton in an interview  in The Atlantic definitely shows that Clinton is unfit to be president and certainly does not consider war to be a last resort. While many thought it was a good thing when Obama was able to negotiate a way to avoid military intervention in Syria, Clinton was one of those who disagreed:

For some foreign-policy experts, even within his own administration, Obama’s about-face on enforcing the red line was a dispiriting moment in which he displayed irresolution and naïveté, and did lasting damage to America’s standing in the world. “Once the commander in chief draws that red line,” Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director and then as secretary of defense in Obama’s first term, told me recently, “then I think the credibility of the commander in chief and this nation is at stake if he doesn’t enforce it.” Right after Obama’s reversal, Hillary Clinton said privately, “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”

No Hillary, if you have a way to accomplish your goals without going to war, you should not go to war. And if you cannot accomplish your goals without going to war, it might be time to reexamine your goals.

Quote of the Day: Jimmy Kimmel & James Corden on Donald Trump

Jimmy Kimmel

Mitt Romney this morning made a televised speech in which he went all in after Donald Trump. He called him a phony and a fraud. He said he’s playing the American public for suckers. I haven’t seen Mitt this fired up since that time he dripped mayonnaise on a new pair of chambray Dockers.

If Mitt Romney is the big gun the Republicans sent in to stop Trump, they’re in a lot of trouble. It’s like sending a meter maid in to break up a prison riot.  –Jimmy Kimmel

Bonus Quote:

An analysis of Google shows that searches related to the phrase “How can I move to Canada” spiked last night about 350 percent. Americans always threaten to move to Canada when a reality show host endorsed by the KKK becomes the Republican nominee. –James Corden

Past History Of Polls Before Iowa Encouraging For Bernie Sanders & Donald Trump’s GOP Rivals

National Polls Before Iowa

I’ve noted many times that polls prior to primaries are of little predictive value. Polls in December 2007 showed that Clinton had 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. While Clinton is certainly in a strong position this year, her leads in the national polls do not guarantee victory. Similarly, while Donald Trump seems to have a significant lead in the Republican race, it is premature to assume he will win unless he actually performs well in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Alfred J. Tuchfarber has looked at the December polls and has also demonstrated how little predictive value they have. In polls from November 2007, taken two months before voting, Hillary Clinton was leading the Democratic race. Rudy Guiliani was leading the Republican race, with Fred Thompson also ahead of John McCain. In 2011 Herman Cain was leading the Republican race, and had left the race by the time of the Iowa caucuses.

One reason for the poor predictive value of national polls is that whoever wins in Iowa and/or New Hampshire generally gets a huge boost in subsequent states. That doesn’t mean that the polls in Iowa are all that more meaningful as voters there typically don’t make up their minds until the last minute. Hillary Clinton was leading in the polls in Iowa and came in third place in 2008. In late 2007 Mitt Romney was leading the polls in Iowa, and came in second to Mike Huckabee. Herman Cain was leading in Iowa as well as the national polls two months before the Iowa caucus.

Polls also have limited predictive value as the pollsters do not know who will actually turn out to vote. If the Democratic caucus in Iowa is dominated by long time Democratic voters, then the polls are showing the race as very close. If those who haven’t previously voted but are showing enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders turn out to vote, there could be a big victory for Sanders. The much stronger degree of support seen for Sanders in social media is very encouraging, but no guarantee of votes. It might also be helpful for Sanders that the Iowa caucuses are later this year than in the 2008 cycle, when many college students were off on vacation. Even more might turn out for Sanders in this year than had turned out for Obama.

Similarly we will not know whether Donald Trump will easily win the nomination, or if a party regular will challenge him, until we see how the voters act.

Sanders Gaining On Clinton As Her Popularity Drops; In Statistical Tie In New Hampshire

WSJ NBC Poll July

Hillary Clinton continues to be considered the front runner for the Democratic nomination months before any votes have been cast, but her popularity continues to drop. The latest poll to show this came from NBC News/The Wall Street Journal:

The bad news for Hillary Clinton in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll: More Americans view her negatively than they did a month ago, revealing potential vulnerabilities for a general-election presidential contest more than a year away.

The good news for her in the poll: Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field by more than 30 points, and the favorability numbers for two of the top Republicans are even worse than hers.

Just 37 percent of all Americans have a positive view of Clinton, versus 48 percent who have a negative view (-11).

That’s a sharp drop since June, when the NBC/WSJ poll showed her with a 44 percent positive, 40 negative rating (+4) – so an overall 15-point swing…

Despite Clinton’s sinking favorability rating, she continues to lead the Democratic horserace by a wide margin.

She’s the top choice of 59 percent of national Democratic primary voters, while 25 percent pick Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. They’re followed by former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who are tied at 3 percent each.

That margin, however, is smaller than her 60-point national advantage over Sanders a month ago, 75 percent to 15 percent.

If these poll findings persist (and they can change dramatically in over a year), they could indicate problems for Clinton in the general election. Democrats have hoped that any loss in support Clinton receives from the Obama coalition will be made up by more women voters backing Clinton. Now this poll shows a drop in Clinton’s support among white women.

In June, 44% of white women had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, compared to 43% who didn’t. In July, those numbers moved in the wrong direction for Mrs. Clinton: Only 34% of white women saw her in a positive light, compared to 53% who had a negative impression of her, the poll found.

Mr. Obama fared poorly with white women voters in the 2012 election, losing them to Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 14 points.

For Team Clinton, the latest poll numbers are a worrisome development. Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to match the African-American turnout that propelled Mr. Obama to two presidential victories, so she has to make up the difference somewhere else. Women eager to see a woman in the White House is a logical group to target. 

Support for Bernie Sanders has increased as support for Clinton has dropped, but some Democrats are searching for another alternative, with multiple stories about Joe Biden possibly running the last few days. Other names also come up occasionally, such as Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz:

The 62-year-old CEO has been urged by supporters to join the Democratic primary, with friends “thinking the time is right for someone who’s not a political lifer,” according to Maureen Dowd’s latest New York Times column. The idea, Dowd postulates, could “be a tempting proposition” for Schultz, and offers a worthy party back-up to Clinton should something unforeseen happen to her candidacy…

It would mark a shift for Schultz if he does enter the presidential ring. In an interview with Time in February, Schultz was adamant that he would not run for President in 2016: “I don’t think that is a solution. I don’t think it ends well,” he said in the story. He threw a cautious endorsement of Clinton, saying he was content to “see what Hillary does.”

Schultz has long been vocal about the role of government and its failure in addressing the nation’s pressing issues. In 2013, Schultz started a Starbucks-led petition to end the government shutdown, and delivered more than 2 million signatures to the White House in their “Come Together” campaign. While promoting his book For Love of Country, Schultz talked about the lack of leadership from the U.S. government and politicians: “The country is longing for leadership and for truth with a capital T,” he told Dowd in a New York Times story.

The current success of Donald Trump in the Republican race raises the questions if an outsider such as Schultz could receive comparable support in the Democratic race. On the other hand, the Democrats might already have a potentially successful outsider in Bernie Sanders. Sanders has many of the benefits of an outsider, while also could be seen as a credible candidate for president after having served in Congress for twenty-five years, with a record including opposition to the Iraq war and the Patriot Act. Despite Clinton’s (diminishing) lead nationally,  Sanders is now in a statistical tie with Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire might quickly put an end to Clinton’s lead in the national polls.

Clinton Foundation Donors And Weapons Deals At Clinton State Department, Plus How The Clintons Channel Their Inner Mitt Romney

Clinton apologists who fool themselves, or try to fool others, that the scandals do not matter might at some point need to reconsider whether it really makes sense for a political party to nominate a candidate with so much dirty laundry. These are not simply attacks from Fox or other right wing sources. This is news from The New York Times, AP, Reuters, McClatchy, ABC News, NBC News,  and other mainstream sources, as well as from many liberal publications, and is based upon clearly established unethical behavior on the part of Hillary Clinton. These stories will continue through election day. Republicans will take advantage of them and, in contrast to the attacks of the Swift Boat Liars against Kerry, the attacks are based upon facts (although conservatives do frequently stretch the facts even further than what there is evidence of). The court order to release Clinton’s email every thirty days will further keep this all in the news.

Some new items have hit the news this week. Award winning liberal independent journalist David Sirota reported on the relationship between weapons deals and contributions to the Clinton Foundation:

Even by the standards of arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East.

Israeli officials were agitated, reportedly complaining to the Obama administration that this substantial enhancement to Saudi air power risked disrupting the region’s fragile balance of power. The deal appeared to collide with the State Department’s documented concerns about the repressive policies of the Saudi royal family.

But now, in late 2011, Hillary Clinton’s State Department was formally clearing the sale, asserting that it was in the national interest. At a press conference in Washington to announce the department’s approval, an assistant secretary of state, Andrew Shapiro, declared that the deal had been “a top priority” for Clinton personally. Shapiro, a longtime aide to Clinton since her Senate days, added that the “U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army have excellent relationships in Saudi Arabia.”

These were not the only relationships bridging leaders of the two nations. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, the philanthropic enterprise she has overseen with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing — the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 — contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.

The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.

Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House.

American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012…

In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department records. The Clinton Foundation publishes only a rough range of individual contributors’ donations, making a more precise accounting impossible.

There is far more information in the entire article which should be read. He pointed out how Clinton had signed an agreement to disclose donors to the Foundation, and how this was a major issue before she was confirmed, but Hillary Clinton then ignored the agreement. He went on to look at the ethics of Clinton accepting donations from those she was making decisions about  as Secretary of State:

“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that seeks to tighten campaign finance disclosure rules. “This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.”

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

National security experts assert that the overlap between the list of Clinton Foundation donors and those with business before the the State Department presents a troubling conflict of interest.

I have further quoted Lawrence Lessig discussing Clinton’s unethical behavior in this post. Further in Sirota’s article (and again I recommend reading it in full):

During her Senate confirmation proceedings in 2009, Hillary Clinton declared that she and her husband were “committed to ensuring that his work does not present a conflict of interest with the duties of Secretary of State.” She pledged “to protect against even the appearance of a conflict of interest between his work and the duties of the Secretary of State” and said that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”

Even so, Bill Clinton took in speaking fees reaching $625,000 at events sponsored by entities that were dealing with Hillary Clinton’s State Department on weapons issues.

In 2011, for example, the former president was paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at its annual awards gala, which was held at the home of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Ben Affleck spoke at the event, which featured a musical performance by Grammy-award winner Michael Bolton. The gala was emceed by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. Boeing was listed as a sponsor of the event, as were the embassies of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar — the latter two of which had donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

The speaking fee from the Kuwait America Foundation to Bill Clinton was paid in the same time frame as a series of deals Hillary Clinton’s State Department was approving between the Kuwaiti government and Boeing. Months before the gala, the Department of Defense announced that Boeing would be the prime contractor on a $693 million deal, cleared by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, to provide the Kuwaiti government with military transport aircraft. A year later, a group sponsored in part by Boeing would pay Bill Clinton another $250,000 speaking fee.

Sirota also discussed the Foundation taking money from countries with a history of human rights abuses.

AP  reported on the pass-through or shell companies used by the Clintons to hide their finances, pointing out the similarity to actions by Mitt Romney, which Democrats objected to. First Read reported:

How the Clintons are getting turned into Mitt Romney

By itself, making money shouldn’t be an issue for Bill and Hillary Clinton; after all, so many of our past presidents have been wealthy. By itself, Bill Clinton having a shell LLC wouldn’t be an issue either. But when you add the two together, you see that the Clintons have a Mitt Romney problem on their hands — wealth and “otherness” that voters might not be able to relate to, especially when the likes of Bernie Sanders are campaigning against wealth. Of course, there’s one BIG difference between Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney: Romney wanted to cut taxes for the wealthy, while Hillary likely wants to raise them and eliminate tax loopholes benefitting the well-off. As the Clintons have said before, people like them should be paying more in taxes. And you probably won’t hear that rhetoric from the eventual GOP nominee. Still, Hillary Clinton could arguably be the wealthiest (or close to it) candidate in the 2016 field. And this shell LLC story is going to sound the drumbeats for her to release her taxes.

Not only her income taxes should be released. As Common Cause and other have argued, there should be a full audit of the Clinton Foundation.

While quite trivial compared to the other revelations, the Clinton Foundation has even been dragged peripherally into the FIFA scandal. This ties back to Sirota’s article as both involve how the Clinton Foundation took money from countries with human rights abuses.

More Responses To Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy

Clinton Announcement Video Screen Grab

Here is more commentary on Hillary Clinton’s entry into the race for the Democratic nomination since my post on this yesterday. First a couple of opinions in American publications:

Ruth Marcus called the video announcing her campaign insultingly vapid, but is otherwise kinder to the idea of a Clinton candidacy:

For one, the video was relentlessly, insultingly vapid — a Verizon commercial without the substance. “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” Clinton said in what passed for a meaty message. “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”

Seriously, this makes Ronald Reagan’s gauzy “It’s Morning Again in America” commercial look like a Brookings Institution seminar on economic policy. Understood — an announcement video isn’t the moment for a detailed policy platform, but it is, or should be, a venue for at least nodding to specific goals…

Adding insult to vacuousness was the demographic box-checking nature of the video, however beautifully filmed. Working mom, check. Hispanic entrepreneur, check. Retiring grandma, check. Gay couple, check. African-American family, check. Hardworking small-businessman, check. South Asian, inter-racial, lesbian, check, check, check. If your demographic was not featured, you should write the campaign and it will probably splice you in.

Conor Friedersdorf was even harder on her at The Atlantic:

Adding insult to vacuousness was the demographic box-checking nature of the video, however beautifully filmed. Working mom, check. Hispanic entrepreneur, check. Retiring grandma, check. Gay couple, check. African-American family, check. Hardworking small-businessman, check. South Asian, inter-racial, lesbian, check, check, check. If your demographic was not featured, you should write the campaign and it will probably splice you in…

As I’ve noted with regard to other candidates, an official campaign announcement is only a beginning. Hillary will likely give voters a lot more substance. At the same time, her cozy ties to Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs, the enormous wealth of her family, the donors on whom she will rely to fund her campaign, and the Clinton Foundation’s ties to the global moneyed elite make it unlikely that she’ll ever reshuffle a deck stacked to favor those at the top. Absent specific, credible proposals, the rational voter should ignore that pledge. Thus the launch video’s most glaring flaw: When the candidate finally addressed a single matter of substance, she did so in a way that wasn’t yet believable.

Here is an interesting commentary on the race from a Polish author Mariusz Zawadzki  (found via The Moderate Voice):

“The presidency is not some crown to be passed between two families!,” former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said recently. He meant, of course, the Bushes and the Clintons who, as seems a really possibility, have governed and will govern the United States from the year 1989 until 2025, excluding an eight-year interruption by Barack Obama.

On Sunday that dark scenario moved a bit closer when Hillary Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, officially announced her candidacy in 2016 presidential election. In her steps will soon follow Jeb Bush, brother and son of two former Republican presidents.

O’Malley, though far from objective as he himself is considering becoming a candidate, is undoubtedly correct for many reasons. In recent years much has been said about the growing inequality of the American economy, and how a child from a poor family has less of a chance at social advancement. America increasingly belongs to the millionaires and billionaires. A quasi-feudal system has formed in which the fate of a man and his future position in life are determined at birth. A Bush-Clinton relay would confirm that this unhealthy process is occurring not only in finance but politics as well.

To my surprise, Americans, at least those supporting the Democrats, don’t seem to mind. It would be quite a sensation if someone else won the party nomination (things look completely different on the Republican side, where Bush will have a much harder path, with his most dangerous rival apparently Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker)…

She claims to be a spokesperson for women’s rights, but, as investigated by the right-wing portal Washington Free Beacon, during her tenure as a senator the women in her office were paid 72 percent of men in equivalent positions! That’s far worse than the Washington average (in the U.S. capitol, women earn approximately 90 percent of men in the same positions)…

Her biggest drawback, and again this is my personal opinion – is not even the fact that she is privileged, but that she considers herself to be. Certain rules that apply to “ordinary people” do not apply because her name is Hillary Clinton.

A perfect example is the so called e-mail scandal that broke a few weeks ago. It turned out that when Hillary was secretary of state she used her personal e-mail account. All correspondence was saved on a server that the Clintons had installed in their home in New York. Last year she forwarded to governmental archives thousands of “business” e-mails, but she deleted 30,000 “private” ones – and she was the one who decided which were which.

Republicans raised a fuss, suggesting Hillary was hiding something. Jeb Bush brags that he had a business e-mail account and that its contents were revealed on his Web site. Yet that isn’t the root of the matter! After all, Bush had a private account in addition to a business account, and if he wanted to conceal his business matters he could have kept such correspondence in his private account – and he probably did as all politicians do.

The point is that internal State Department procedures prohibit the use of private e-mail accounts for business matters. In 2011, when Mrs. Clinton was head of the Department, all employees were given a reminder of that ban. Apparently because she feels privileged, Hillary Clinton concluded that the ban didn’t apply to her…

This all plays into the Republican strategy to portray Clinton as an out-of-touch plutocrat like Mitt Romney. It will be strange to see the Republicans running against the top one percent.

The problem is not so much that candidates are members of a family with previous presidents but the two particular families involved. The family business for each has become seeking power and influence peddling. Both the activities of the Bush family and Clinton Foundation create similar concerns.

On the one hand this could raise the question of whether keeping the presidency in a single family invites such abuses, but on the other hand it is also possible to have political families who do not engage in the practices of the Bush and Clinton families.

Rand Paul Flip Flopping Away From Libertarianism As He Enters Republican Race

Rand Paul Conservative

Rand Paul has a problem much like Mitt Romney did, even though the details are different. Mitt Romney took many liberal positions when a politician in Massachusetts, and then had to flip flop on them to claim to be have been severely conservative to win the Republican nomination in 2012. Rand Paul has developed his base as sort of being a libertarian, and now is trying to fit more into the Republican mold to campaign for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Much of Rand Paul’s support has come from his opposition to foreign intervention, but he has been sounding more and more like a traditional Republican over the past  several months. and wrote:

…Paul is a candidate who has turned fuzzy, having trimmed his positions and rhetoric so much that it’s unclear what kind of Republican he will present himself as when he takes the stage….

There are at least two areas where Paul has moved more in line with the conservative Republican base, somewhat to the consternation of the purists in the libertarian movement: adopting a more muscular posture on defense and foreign policy, and courting the religious right.

Where he once pledged to sharply cut the Pentagon’s budget, for instance, Paul late last month proposed a $190 billion increase over the next two years — albeit one that would be paid for by cutting foreign aid and other government programs. His tour following the announcement of his candidacy will include an event at Patriots Point in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor, with the World War II-era aircraft carrier USS Yorktown as a backdrop.

BuzzFeed News describes this as Rand Paul’s Bid To Be Everything To Every Republican Voter Politico reported on Paul being confronted on his changing views in a Today Show interview. Time recently described Paul’s new views on defense spending:

Just weeks before announcing his 2016 presidential bid, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is completing an about-face on a longstanding pledge to curb the growth in defense spending…

The move completes a stunning reversal for Paul, who in May 2011, after just five months in office, released his own budget that would have eliminated four agencies—Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Energy and Education—while slashing the Pentagon, a sacred cow for many Republicans. Under Paul’s original proposal, defense spending would have dropped from $553 billion in the 2011 fiscal year to $542 billion in 2016. War funding would have plummeted from $159 billion to zero. He called it the “draw-down and restructuring of the Department of Defense.”

But under Paul’s new plan, the Pentagon will see its budget authority swell by $76.5 billion to $696,776,000,000 in fiscal year 2016.

The boost would be offset by a two-year combined $212 billion cut to funding for aid to foreign governments, climate change research and crippling reductions in to the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce and Education.

Paul’s endorsement of increased defense spending represents a change in direction for the first-term lawmaker, who rose to prominence with his critiques of the size of the defense budget and foreign aid, drawing charges of advocating isolationism. Under pressure from fellow lawmakers and well-heeled donors, Paul in recent months has appeared to embrace the hawkish rhetoric that has defined the GOP in recent decades. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February Paul warned of the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). “Without question, we must now defend ourselves and American interests,” he said. Asked about federal spending, he added, “for me, the priority is always national defense.”

While Paul is sounding more like a Republican on defense spending and foreign policy, like many Republican “libertarians,” Paul has never been all that libertarian on social issues. While Rand Paul might not share all the faults of Ron Paul, I have discussed at length in the past how this brand of “libertarianism” does not promote individual liberty. The New York Times found that libertarian Republicans are 1) rare, and 2) not all that libertarian:

In one sense, you could argue that the libertarian wing of the Republican Party barely exists at all. According to a large Pew Research survey in 2014 of 10,000 respondents, 11 percent of Americans and 12 percent of self-identified Republicans considered themselves libertarian. They met a basic threshold for knowing what the term meant. But there wasn’t much “libertarian” about these voters; over all, their views were startlingly similar to those of the public as a whole.

The likeliest explanation is that “libertarianism” has become a catchall phrase for iconoclasts of all political stripes. “Libertarian” seems to have become an adjective for the liberal millennials who are more skeptical of regulations and assistance for the poor than their Democratic contemporaries. The same holds for the deeply conservative college students who may want to, for example, signal socially acceptable views about homosexuality. These “libertarians” have little resemblance to the true believers who might scare everyone else out of the room with their views on a flat tax, the Civil Rights Act and a return to the gold standard.

If we take a different tack and use issue positions, rather than self-identification, to identify libertarian voters, we still find only a small number of Republicans who consistently agree with Mr. Paul’s libertarian views. Only 8 percent of self-identified Republican-leaners in the Pew data take the libertarian position on four issues that he emphasizes: disapproval of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program; support for a more restrained American role in the world; skepticism of the efficacy of military intervention; and a relaxation on drug sentencing.

Paul has been especially conservative as opposed to libertarian on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. He has been repeating a common line of right wing revisionist historians who deny the establishment of separation of church and state:

Paul also has been trying to find common cause with evangelical Christian voters, who have been skeptical of and even hostile toward the energized libertarian element of the GOP.

“The First Amendment says keep government out of religion. It doesn’t say keep religion out of government,” he told a group of pastors at a private breakfast on Capitol Hill on March 26.

Many contemporary writers, such as here and here, have already taken Paul to task for botching the meaning of the First Amendment. For further explanation, I’ll turn to someone who not only was around at the time the First Amendment was written, but is also a hero to many libertarians–Thomas Jefferson:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” —Thomas Jefferson, January 1, 1802

Paul has recently been having difficulty answering questions as to whether he would permit any exceptions in laws he supports prohibiting abortion rights. He tried to throw back the question to the Democratic National Committee, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz quickly responded:

“Here’s an answer,” said Schultz. “I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story. Now your turn, Senator Paul. We know you want to allow government officials like yourself to make this decision for women — but do you stand by your opposition to any exceptions, even when it comes to rape, incest, or life of the mother? Or do we just have different definitions of ‘personal liberty’? And I’d appreciate it if you could respond without ’shushing’ me.”

That is a far better response than what we have been accustomed to from Hillary Clinton, who has repeatedly undermined liberal proponents of  abortion rights with calls for abortion to be safe, legal, and rare, stigmatizing women who do seek abortions. Still, while many liberals are unhappy with the prospect that the Democrats will nominate someone as conservative as Hillary Clinton, her views (and the likely views of any Supreme Court justices she would appoint) are far preferable to Paul’s views on social issues, while Paul’s views on national security issues are rapidly moving to be as far right as the views of both Clinton and the other Republican candidates. On the other hand, I do welcome seeing Paul challenge Clinton on other civil liberties issues, such as NSA surveillance–assuming he doesn’t also flip flop on this.