Majority Believe Clinton Should Be Prosecuted–And Still Dislike Trump Even More

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An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that a majority disagree with the FBI’s recommendation against prosecution of Hillary Clinton over her reckless mishandling of classified email on her private server:

A majority of Americans disapprove of the FBI’s recommendation not to charge Hillary Clinton with a crime over her handling of email while secretary of state, and a similar number in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say the issue leaves them worried about how she would handle her responsibilities as president if elected.

Most also say the email controversy won’t affect their vote in the presidential election. But 28 percent say it leaves them less likely to support her, versus 10 percent who say it makes them more likely to do so.

Reactions to the decision are highly political, with partisanship factoring heavily in people’s views. Yet Democrats don’t back Clinton up on the issue nearly as much as Republicans criticize her, and independents side more with Republicans.

Overall, 56 percent disapprove of FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation not to charge Clinton, while just 35 percent approve. Similarly, 57 percent say the incident makes them worried about how Clinton might act as president if she is elected, with most very worried about it. Just 39 percent feel the issue isn’t related to how she would perform as president.

Questions about Clinton’s character have been a key weakness of her candidacy. Americans by broad margins have said they don’t regard her as honest and trustworthy. She trailed Bernie Sanders on this attribute by about 20 percentage points consistently in the Democratic primaries. And in some polls she has trailed Donald Trump on it as well, albeit more closely.

Nearly 9 in 10 Republicans disagree with the FBI’s decision and say it worries them about what she would do if she became president.

Democrats see things very differently but with less unanimity. About two-thirds approve of the decision not to charge Clinton and think the issue is unrelated to what she would do as president. But 3 in 10 Democrats think she should have been charged.

Roughly 6 in 10 independents say the FBI was wrong and that the issue raises worries about Clinton as president.

One question I have about this result is what the ten percent who respond to the scandal by being more likely to support Clinton come to this decision. It is not surprising that some partisan Democrats will back Clinton despite the rather overwhelming evidence of her dishonesty and poor judgment in this matter, but what would possibly give some people a reason to be more likely to back her because of this? Are they thinking, “I really admire Hillary for breaking all those rules and then lying about it for over a year. Good for her.” Even if they are in denial over the facts, how could they see anything good in this? On the other hand, this does sound like we would expect from some of those people who keep trolling pro-Sanders groups on Facebook.

While I would hope the number would be even higher, it was encouraging to see that partisanship hasn’t eliminated all judgment on the part of voters  as the poll also found that “Over 4 in 10 liberals say the issue raises concerns about how Clinton might handle responsibilities as president.”

This lack of trust could cause problems for Clinton should she be elected. Making matters worse for her, The Hill reports on increased pressure over her top aides having security clearance:

Pressure is growing on the State Department to revoke the security clearances of several of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides, potentially jeopardizing her ability to name her own national security team should she become president.

The move could force Clinton to make an uncomfortable choice: abandon longtime advisers or face another political maelstrom by overriding the White House security agency.

It’s not clear if Clinton or longtime aides Huma Abedin and Jake Sullivan still hold active security clearances. The information is protected under the Privacy Act and absent permission from each person, the only way it can be made public is if State sees an overriding public interest in disclosing it — an unlikely scenario.

None of the aides implicated in the probe — Abedin, Sullivan and Cheryl Mills — are still employed at State. That makes it unlikely that they continue to hold security clearances, awarded on a need-to-know basis.

But department spokesman John Kirby said last week that former officials could still face “administrative sanctions” for past actions — sanctions that could in theory make it incredibly difficult to be approved for security clearance in the future.

Clinton, should she be elected president, would be functionally exempt from security vetting as a constitutional officer — it’s “the reason it was always indictment or bust” with Clinton, said Bradley Moss, a lawyer who specializes in classified information cases. The only circumstance in which she’s likely to become a “federal employee” again is if she’s elected president.

But for Abedin and Sullivan, the loss or rejection of their security credentials would be a career-ender in Washington.

And according to several lawyers who specialize in security clearances, anyone with the kind of documented track record that now dogs Abedin and Sullivan would struggle to retain their access to restricted information. Although no one was charged, FBI Director James Comey was unequivocal that Clinton and her aides acted “extremely carelessly.”

“If a client came to me with these kinds of allegations related to their prior use of classified information, I would say, ‘You have less than a 20 percent chance of surviving,’” Moss said.

Comey on Tuesday rejected criminal charges against Clinton or her aides, but he laid out a damning litany of violations, including the transmission of classified information through her private, unsecured email server.

The article points out that “in theory, a President Clinton could override any concerns that the OPM or the Office of Administration might have.” With Clinton’s long history of acting like the laws don’t apply to her, or her inner circle, it would not be surprising if Clinton does override any objections to them having security clearance, which would probably keep this scandal alive even longer.

While Donald Trump has said many absurd things, he is right on at least one point:

“What she did was so wrong,” Trump said, adding that people who did “far less” were “paying a tremendous price right now.”

Presumably the knowledge that Clinton would have been prosecuted if not for her position is one reason so many people now think she deserved to be prosecuted.

Despite all the questions voters have about Clinton’s honesty, she currently has a significant lead over Trump in the polls, with many voters having even more reservations over him becoming president than Clinton. This includes Republican donors, as discussed by The Wall Street Journal today.

Republicans now face a situation in which they should be able to win the presidency due to facing a candidate as weak as Hillary Clinton, but most likely will not due to nominating a candidate as awful as Donald Trump. However, nothing is certain. The Daily Wire reports on claims that there are enough votes in the rules committee to send a minority report unbinding the delegates to the full convention, which theoretically could allow them to chose a different nominee.

Third Party Candidates Polling Competitively Against Trump (Should Bernie Run Third Party?)

Trump Tie Young Voters

Polling during the primary battle made it very clear that if the Democratic nomination was determined by voters under the age of forty-five, Bernie Sanders would have won by a considerable margin. Republicans are facing a generation gap of their own–one which might even affect them this year. The Washington Post points out that Trump could even wind up behind Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson:

An interesting nugget from the big new Pew Research Center poll of the 2016 election: Among voters under age 30, Donald Trump is at 21 percent … and Gary Johnson is at 22 percent.

Yes, Trump is in danger of finishing third among young voters — at least according to this one poll. But it’s not the only one showing him struggling with them.

Similarly, a Quinnipiac University poll last week showed Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, and Jill Stein, the presumptive Green Party nominee, combining to take slightly more millennials (defined as ages 18 to 34 in this case) than Trump.

They combined for 22 percent, while Trump was again at 21. (Stein wasn’t an option in the Pew poll.)

Suffolk University also showed Johnson carving off a significant portion of young voters (18 to 34), at 15 percent, to Trump’s 27 percent.

(The Washington Post also had a recent article describing Gary Johnson’s views.)

On the one hand, third party candidates often do better in polls than in the final election results, but on the other hand we have not had candidates this terrible before, and support for the major political parties is at a record low. While the above polls show Trump losing support to third party candidates, overall it appears that the third party candidates might hurt Clinton slightly more than Trump:

FiveThirtyEight has a good breakdown of just where Johnson’s support is drawn from — and how it might actually come more from Clinton. Harry Enten writes:

“The majority of pollsters (12) have Clinton’s margin over Trump shrinking when at least one third-party candidate is included. The difference in margins, however, varies among pollsters, and a few, such as Ipsos, have Clinton’s lead rising by the tiniest of bits when at least Johnson is included. Overall, including third-party candidates takes about 1 percentage point away from Clinton’s margin, on average.”

But it’s also true that young people are a much friendlier demographic for third-party candidates. They are more likely to identify as independents and supporters of third parties, and it’s no coincidence that they have led the way for politicians like Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders in recent years.

Young people also happen to be among the most resistant to both Trump and Clinton. Post-ABC polling shows about 6 in 10 don’t like Clinton and 75 percent don’t like Trump. Both are the highest among any age group.

All of this makes me wonder how Bernie Sanders might do if he were to accept the offer from Jill Stein to replace her as the Green Party candidate.

In a related story, The Washington Post also noted the effects of race and demographics will have over the next four decades. Donald Trump’s racism and xenophobia is not doing the Republican Party any favors. Between these demographic changes and the lack of support among young voters, it is possible that either the major parties will change, or we will see the emergence of a new political party which counters the authoritarian right views of both Clinton and Trump. Sanders, Stein, and Johnson all differ substantially from Clinton and Trump on issues including foreign policy, civil liberties, and the drug war.

Among the young voters who oppose Trump are the students at Wharton, which Trump attended. Here is the beginning of an open letter from students, alumni, and faculty at Wharton:

Dear Mr. Trump:

At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, students are taught to represent the highest levels of respect and integrity. We are taught to embrace humility and diversity. We can understand why, in seeking America’s highest office, you have used your degree from Wharton to promote and lend legitimacy to your candidacy.

As a candidate for President, and now as the presumptive GOP nominee, you have been afforded a transformative opportunity to be a leader on national and international stages and to make the Wharton community even prouder of our school and values.

However, we have been deeply disappointed in your candidacy.

We, proud students, alumni, and faculty of Wharton, are outraged that an affiliation with our school is being used to legitimize prejudice and intolerance. Although we do not aim to make any political endorsements with this letter, we do express our unequivocal stance against the xenophobia, sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry that you have actively and implicitly endorsed in your campaign…

High Voter Dissatisfaction With Major Party Candidates Could Make Sanders A Strong Third Party Choice

Sanders Stein

With the major political parties likely to nominate two candidates who are both unfit to be president and opposed by more voters than in previous elections, there is increased attention being paid to the third party candidates. I recently wrote about the Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson. While Johnson and Bernie Sanders do agree on many issues, Jill Stein, the presumptive nominee of the Green Party, has views which are much closer to those of Sanders. The Guardian reports on an offer from Stein which could really alter the election–inviting Sanders to replace her as the Green Party nominee:

Bernie Sanders has been invited to continue his underdog bid for the White House by the Green party’s probable presidential candidate, who has offered to step aside to let him run.

Jill Stein, who is expected to be endorsed at the party’s August convention in Houston, told Guardian US that “overwhelming” numbers of Sanders supporters are flocking to the Greens rather than Hillary Clinton.

Stein insisted that her presidential bid has a viable “near term goal” of reaching 15% in national polling, which would enable her to stand alongside presumptive nominees Clinton and Donald Trump in televised election debates.

But in a potentially destabilising move for the Democratic party, and an exciting one for Sanders’ supporters, the Green party candidate said she was willing to stand aside for Sanders.

“I’ve invited Bernie to sit down explore collaboration – everything is on the table,” she said. “If he saw that you can’t have a revolutionary campaign in a counter-revolutionary party, he’d be welcomed to the Green party. He could lead the ticket and build a political movement,” she said.

Common Dreams points out that Stein had made this offer previously:

After the New York primary, which took place April 16, Stein wrote to Sanders: “At a time when the American electorate is rejecting politics as usual in vast numbers, I invite you to join me in pushing the boundaries of that system to a place where revolution can truly take root.”

“In this hour of unprecedented crisis—with human rights, civilization, and life on the planet teetering on the brink—can we explore an historic collaboration to keep building the revolution beyond the reach of corporate party clutches, where the movement can take root and flourish, in the 2016 election and beyond?” she wrote.

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A Pew Research Center Poll shows a definite opening for a strong third party choice:

Overall satisfaction with the choice of candidates is at its lowest point in two decades. Currently, fewer than half of registered voters in both parties – 43% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans – say they are satisfied with their choices for president.

Roughly four-in-ten voters (41%) say it is difficult to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton because neither would make a good president – as high as at any point since 2000. And just 11% say the choice is difficult because either would make a good chief executive, the lowest percentage during this period.

With the two major political parties making bad choices of this magnitude, it is possible we could see a realignment in political parties. The divisions of the Bush years have become obscured with the Democrats nominating a candidate who shares many of the faults which Democrats have opposed for the last decade. As I wrote in another recent post comparing Clinton to both George Bush and Richard Nixon,we were outraged by Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy, but Clinton is the neocon hawk running this year. We protested Bush’s assault on civil liberties, but Clinton also has a far right record on civil liberties issues, sounding much like Donald Trump on restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism. We objected to an increase in government secrecy under Bush, but Clinton has a long record of opposing government transparency. Bush’s administration was remarkable for expanding the influence of the religious right.  Clinton worked with The Fellowship to expand the influence of religion on public policy when in the Senate. Plus Clinton has been on the wrong side regarding the corrupting role of money in politics, on the environment and climate change, on the death penalty, on single-payer health care. She is even to the right of Donald Trump on drug policy and the drug war and on the wrong side of trade issues.

The reports from the State Department Inspector General and the FBI on Clinton’s email scandal also make it quite clear that Democrats can no longer get away with attacking the culture of corruption in the Republican Party. With the Republicans nominating Donald Trump, we could finally see the end of them as a serious major national party, with the Democrats under Clinton replacing the Republicans as the conservative party. A Green Party led by Sanders could be the start of the formation of a new liberal/progressive party with greater consistency and integrity than we have seen from the Democratic Party.

While such a choice would be welcomed, I think it is very unlikely Sanders will accept Stein’s offer, with Sanders reportedly planning to endorse Hillary Clinton next week. While legitimate polls (excluding online polls) typically show that from twenty percent to near half of Sanders supporters will not support Clinton, those active in many on-line Sanders groups show an even higher intensity in opposing Clinton. It is unknown how many will hold their nose in the end and vote for Clinton, primarily motivated by stopping Donald Trump. If Trump’s campaign since clinching the Republican nomination is any indication of what we will see this fall, Clinton is likely to have enough of a lead to allow Sanders supporters to vote their conscience without fear of a Trump victory. Plus there is a small contingent of Sanders supporters who are supporting Trump over Clinton.

There is a tendency of some Clinton supporters to see opposition to Clinton’s nomination from the left as being based upon being pro-Bernie. It is much more based upon opposition to Clinton’s views and character. Even an endorsement by Sanders will not change these views. I do not identify myself as primarily a Sanders supporter, a Stein supporter, an Obama supporter, or the supporter of any particular candidate. I choose candidates based upon the issues.

I supported Obama over Clinton in 2008 and Sanders over Clinton this year over many of the same issues (with Obama more moderate than Sanders but still preferable to Clinton). I cannot support Clinton for the same reasons I opposed her for the nomination twice, and for the same reasons I opposed George Bush. As I supported Obama and Sanders in their nomination battles, I will most likely support Stein as the best choice as opposed to Trump or Clinton, assuming Sanders will not be on the general election ballot. Of course it is a long way until November and I will be watching all the candidates closely.

Update: Third Party Candidates Polling Competitively Against Trump (Should Bernie Run Third Party?)

Discussion Of Saddam and Iraq Return To British And American Politics

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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.

FBI Shows Clinton Was Careless With Classified Information And Lied On Multiple Points; Does Not Recommend Indictment

Clinton Email

The good news for Hillary Clinton is that FBI Director James B. Comey is not recommending a criminal indictment. This comes as little surprise to me, or to Clinton if she was being honest in her predictions. The bad news is that the FBI investigation confirmed that Clinton has been lying on several key points and, as Chris Cillizza wrote, Hillary Clinton’s email problems might be even worse than we thought.

It’s hard to read Comey’s statement as anything other than a wholesale rebuke of the story Clinton and her campaign team have been telling ever since the existence of her private email server came to light in spring 2015. She did send and receive classified emails. The setup did leave her — and the classified information on the server — subject to a possible foreign hack. She and her team did delete emails as personal that contained professional information…

For a candidate already badly struggling on questions of whether she is honest and trustworthy enough to hold the office to which she aspires, Comey’s comments are devastating. Watching them, I could close my eyes and imagine them spliced into a bevy of 30-second ads — all of which end with the FBI director rebuking Clinton as “extremely careless.”

…Still, all things considered, this is a very bad day for the Clinton campaign. It’s not the worst outcome (indictment), but it badly disrupts her attempts to move beyond the email server story as she seeks to unite the party in advance of the Democratic convention later this month. And it suggests the email issue will haunt her all the way through Election Day on Nov. 8.

Comey stated that Clinton and her colleagues were  “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” He went on to say:

For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).

None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.

His statement contradicted previous statements from Clinton that there was no classified email on her system and that she had only destroyed email which was not work-related:

From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were “up-classified” to make them Confidential; the information in those had not been classified at the time the e-mails were sent.

The FBI also discovered several thousand work-related e-mails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014. We found those additional e-mails in a variety of ways. Some had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them on devices that supported or were connected to the private e-mail domain. Others we found by reviewing the archived government e-mail accounts of people who had been government employees at the same time as Secretary Clinton, including high-ranking officials at other agencies, people with whom a Secretary of State might naturally correspond.

Comey also stated that Clinton “used several different servers” and “used numerous mobile devices to view and send email,” contradicting her claims to have used one device for convenience.

An AP Factcheck noted that the report showed that the FBI investigation contradicts several past statements from Clinton:

“I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.” News conference, March 2015.
“I never received nor sent any material that was marked classified.” NBC interview, July 2016.
“I responded right away and provided all my emails that could possibly be work related” to the State Department. News conference, March 2015
“I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for personal emails instead of two.” News conference, March 2015.”It was on property guarded by the Secret Service, and there were no security breaches. … The use of that server, which started with my husband, certainly proved to be effective and secure.” News conference, March 2015.
CLINTON campaign website: “There is no evidence there was ever a breach.”
“I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department.” News conference, March 2015.

The mishandling of classified information has always been a sidelight of the overall scandal based upon Clinton’s violation of rules regarding government transparency. The Sunlight Foundation noted, As FBI concludes Clinton email investigation, larger questions linger. Here is the first of five question they raise:

Can the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) be protected from intentional obfuscation, especially by those with the most power?

The available evidence suggests that Clinton intentionally tried to control whether email was exposed to discovery under FOIA. Today’s recommendations from the FBI reinforce a sense that trying to evade FOIA is wrong but isn’t illegal, weakening the idea that records should be managed in a way that upholds public access. More recent legal reforms requiring official email use are important, but ultimately incidental to the more fundamental question: Do we expect public officials to conduct their work in a manner that is generally accessible to the FOIA and to congressional oversight? How can such an expectation be enforced?

The FBI report comes shortly after a report from the State Department Inspector General which showed that Clinton knowingly violated the rules in effect, failed to cooperate with the investigation, and tried to cover-up her actions.

While there were previously rumors that the FBI was also investigating apparent influence-peddling while at the State Department, Comey’s report did not give any indication that this was a subject of their investigation. I discussed this subject yesterday.

All this might not matter with Clinton probably running against a candidate as weak as Donald Trump. A NBC News/Survey Monkey poll showed that Clinton would have a much more difficult time if running against a different candidate. Regardless of the the political impact of these reports, it is hardly reassuring to find that the front runner to be the next president was careless in handling classified information and has been lying to the American people regarding this for over a year.

Celebrate American Independence and Liberty–Reject Trump and Clinton

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Happy Independence Day. It is a great day to reflect upon what this means, and reject the two candidates who violate the spirit of American independence and liberty.

Donald Trump’s disdain for the American traditions have been obvious throughout his campaign. This week there is the controversy over how he used the star of David in an attack on Hillary Clinton. In the remote chance that anyone has missed the previous examples, Matthew Rozsa presented a summary at Salon. Here is just one excerpt:

When Trump was told that the military would be obliged to disobey his orders if he told them to kill terrorists’ families (which violates international law), he ominously replied that “if I say do it, they’re gonna do it.” Like his comments about Judge Curiel, Trump’s response here belies a belief that upon being elected president, he would quite literally be the end-all of political power in this country. Bear in mind, this answer came from the same man who admitted that he might have supported interning Japanese-Americans during World War II. Although Trump’s supporters may be voting for an authoritarian, our government was formed in large part to prevent tyrants from using the armed forces to actively violate civil authority and civil rights.

Trump appears to think he is above the law, but in many ways so does Hillary Clinton. She has given the impression that the rules which apply to others do not apply to her throughout her career, with the email and Foundation scandals highlighting this. In a democracy we have rules to attempt to prevent corruption. In addition to other rules already in place, there were two new rules when Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State. Because of abuses of email in the Bush administration, which Clinton called an example of shredding the Constitution  in 2007, stricter rules were put into place in 2009. The State Department Inspector General report showed that Clinton knowingly and  intentionally violated the rules in effect, and acted to cover this up.

Because of concerns over conflicts of interest when Clinton was Secretary of State, an agreement was reached in which Clinton agreed to disclose the identities of all donors to the Foundation while she was in office. Clinton failed to abide by this agreement. Clinton unethically made decisions regarding parties which were making donations to the Foundation and making unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton, whose speaking fees jumped from 150,000 to typically 500,000, and as high as 750,000 when dealing with those with requests before Hillary.

Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, discussed the ethics of the matter (with more here).

Even if no deals are made, the influence of special-interest super PACs is a corrupting influence on American democracy. Even without a quid pro quo, the incredible concentration of direct contributions from a tiny fraction of the wealthiest 1 percent of the population is a corrupting ­influence.

Corruption is not just a contract. Corruption is also a kind of economy — an economy of influence that leads any sane soul to the fair belief that private influence has affected public policy. It is for this reason that practically every Democrat has insisted that the court’s Citizens United decision (and its progeny) needs to be reversed. It is this idea that has motivated millions to petition Congress to propose an amendment for that reversal…

Besides failing to disclose the donors, Clinton has violated convention in destroying data regarding her meetings while Secretary of State. In June, AP reported that meetings with “longtime political donors, Clinton Foundation contributors and corporate and other outside interests” were not recorded on Clinton’s official calendar. Today there are reports that Huma Abedin  testified during her recent deposition to the FBI that Clinton (who also destroyed business-related email, falsely claiming they were personal) also destroyed her schedules.

The Clintons have tried to game the system and showed a lack of respect for the independent investigations by the Inspector General and the Justice Department. Besides failing to cooperate and trying to cover up information, the Clinton campaign has engaged in attacks on the Inspector General (after keeping the office vacant while she was Secretary of State, avoiding such oversight). More recently there is the scandal over Bill Clinton unethically speaking with Loretta Lynch while his wife, and his Foundation, are under investigation by the FBI.

There has been considerable, and justifiable, concern, over Donald Trump’s disregard for civil liberties. Hillary Clinton’s record and views on civil liberties are not much better. During the 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties. All the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, also refused to sign. Truth-Out had an article in December which looked at Hillary Clinton’s legacy of moving the Democratic Party to the right as she promoted the policies of the Democratic Leadership Council, and included her record on civil liberties while in the Senate:

More importantly, Clinton adopted the DLC strategy in the way she governed. She tried to portray herself as a crusader for family values when she introduced legislation to ban violent video games and flag burning in 2005.

Techdirt compared statements from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in which both showed their lack of respect for freedom of speech. Here is a quote from each, starting with Donald Trump:

We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet. We have to do something. We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people. We have a lot foolish people.

The speaking style was a little different, but the views expressed by Hillary Clinton were no different:

You’re going to hear all of the usual complaints, you know, freedom of speech, et cetera. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating. It’s more complicated with some of what they do on encrypted apps, and I’m well aware of that, and that requires even more thinking about how to do it.

There are also considerable concerns about the increased risk of war should either Clinton or Trump be elected. Looking at their histories and statements, the election of Hillary Clinton places us at a far greater risk of war with Russia, or at least another extended Cold War. However, while perhaps a slight exaggeration, the election of Donald Trump risks getting us involved in wars with Mexico, England, China, and whichever other countries bruise his ego.

Both are the candidates of American oligarchy. Trump is the crude and direct voice coming from them directly, as opposed to their usual middlemen like the Clintons.

For the 4th of July, we should reject both Trump and Clinton.

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Gary Johnson Has Great Ad, Plus Interviews With Stephen Colbert & Samantha Bee

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While the two major parties won’t be choosing their nominees until later this month, after spending months on a primary process to find the two worst people in America, the Libertarian Party chose its nominee, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, last month. Johnson, and his running mate, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, have come up with a catchy new ad:

They are also out on the talk shows. Stephen Colbert interviewed Johnson and Weld last month:

As did Samantha Bee, who agreed with ever other one of his positions:

Samantha Bee also showed how he won the Libertarian Party nomination despite heretic views such as supporting the Civil Rights Act and requiring drivers to have a license to prove competency to drive:

By their own admission, they are fringe candidates. They are not racists like Donald Trump or warmongers like Hillary Clinton, which makes them worth looking at. While I also disagree with many of their positions, they certainly look like more credible candidates than a dishonest buffoon with a totally dysfunctional campaign like Donald Trump, and they didn’t spend three hours talking to the FBI as the target of a criminal investigation as Clinton did today–something which in normal years might also be disqualifying.

Jill Stein still seems to be the favorite of Sanders supporters assuming Clinton is the Democratic nominee and Sanders ends his campaign. Nationally, Johnson is the strongest of the minor party candidates, polling at ten percent–taking away support from both Clinton and Trump. Polling at ten percent in two recent polls gives hope that they might reach the fifteen percent threshold which is required to participate in the presidential debates. In a normal year I would predict that voters would eventually fall in line with their party, and support for Johnson and Stein would diminish. However, this is no ordinary election year. With candidates as awful as Clinton and Trump, it remains possible that more voters will seek out an alternative. After all, Johnson or Stein would be preferable to a giant meteor hitting the earth, and many voters think that would not be as bad as Clinton or Trump being president:

More than 1 in 10 voters say they’d prefer a giant meteor hitting earth over supporting Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

The left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) offered the hypothetical “Giant Meteor” option in its latest survey. Forty-three percent picked Clinton, 38 percent picked Trump and 13 percent picked the Giant Meteor hitting earth. Another 7 percent were unsure.

The Giant Meteor has support across the ideological spectrum, with 23 percent support among somewhat or very liberal voters, 16 percent among moderate voters and 21 percent among somewhat or very conservative voters.

It will be interesting to see if, after seeing the nominees at the conventions, more or less people prefer the giant meteor hitting the earth.

Hillary Clinton Is The Richard Nixon Of Our Era

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I’ve often compared Hillary Clinton to Richard Nixon, at least with regards to ethics. She is far closer to George W. Bush ideologically. Walker Bragman has an article at Paste on Clinton and Nixon. Walker mentions some (but not all) of the comparisons I’ve made in the past, and comes up with at least one I had not thought of before.

There are many similarities between Nixon and Clinton, but I think the biggest is their views on secrecy to the point of paranoia. There’s also the comparison between the gap in Nixon’s tapes and Clinton’s destroyed email. Plus both are admirers of Henry Kissinger.

I did like Nixon’s campaign unofficial campaign slogan better, at least when running for reelection: Don’t Change Dicks In The Middle Of A Screw–Reelect Nixon in ’72. That beats Clinton’s campaign de facto slogans: It’s My Turn and No We Can’t.

Walker’s most interesting addition is to show an analogy between Nixon’s silent majority and how Clinton campaigned against Sanders and the left, even if the comparison isn’t exact:

In a way, Clinton claimed to speak for her own “Silent Majority”—older, more “responsible” (economically conservative) Democrats who don’t necessarily turn up at rallies, or want sweeping changes to the status quo, but who vote. Like her, these older voters remembered Nixon, and the decades in which liberal candidates and their ‘radical’ movements driven by young, naive voters, lost to older, more experienced, ‘pragmatic’ conservatism. Clinton and her allies did their best to tie Sanders’ progressives into that long tradition by drawing a contrast between their platform and his lofty goals and most radical fringe supporters—mostly online fringe…

This is why, throughout the primary, Clinton provoked Sanders’ movement by implying they were merely naive and lazy, and why her surrogates like Sen. Barbara Boxer, played up the aggressive, sexist “Bernie Bro” meme. It is also why former President Bill Clinton accused Sanders progressives of wanting to shoot “every third person on Wall Street.”

The dismissive and incendiary rhetoric was designed to generate exactly the outrage (or even violence) needed to sell these narratives, and ultimately distract from the staggering economic and political inequality that Clinton herself played a role in creating. In other words, use familiar tropes to social liberals to sell a candidate whose record would make her right at home in the ‘80s or ‘90s GOP.

Even after she became the presumptive nominee, Clinton’s camp has been continued to alienate Sanders’ supporters. Rather than make peace, Clinton’s appointees to the Democratic Platform Committee (who, as I’ve mentioned in previous pieces, but bears repeating now, include “influence peddlers”) have voted down basic progressive proposals like supporting a ban on fracking, opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and pushing for single-payer health care. In defense of her position, one Clinton appointee accused Sanders’ side of having a “litmus test” for caring about the environment.

Not an exact comparison, but I see his point.

Most significantly, while Richard Nixon could never escape his nickname of Tricky Dick, no matter how awful Donald Trump is, his nickname of Crooked Hillary will also likely stick to her.

It has been over a year since the email scandal broke, with no end in sight. Last week we had the revelations of additional examples of  non-personal email having been destroyed. Both this email, and the testimony from Huma Abedin, debunk her claims of acting out of convenience–demonstrating she used the private server in a deliberate effort to keep her email secret. The State Department Inspector General report also demonstrated her efforts to cover-up her actions. It is impossible to hear the term cover-up without thinking of Nixon.

This week there is more adverse news for Hillary Milhouse Clinton following the rather inappropriate meeting between her husband and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which has resulted in bipartisan disapproval, even if Democrats are more trusting of Bill’s motives:

Clinton’s denials on her email, which have been throughly debunked both by fact checkers and the Inspector General report, have a ring of “I am not a crook” to them. I’m still waiting to hear Hillary slip and promise that Chelsea will be allowed to keep Checkers.

Debunking the Ralph Nader Scare Tactics For Supporting The Lesser Evil

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Many of us have principles and will not support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Many Clinton supporters have shown no understanding of the basic democratic principle that we have the right to support or not support whichever candidates we choose. They make bogus claims that not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump. If true, the opposite would also have to be true–our decision to not vote for Trump by their logic would be a vote for Hillary.

Clinton supporters raise Ralph Nader and the 2000 election, but this is wrong for so many reasons:

This assumes that the Democrats are entitled to our vote, and that if there weren’t third party candidates running, those on the left would automatically vote for the Democrat. Wrong. Many would stay home, or leave the presidential spot empty, if there was no other choice.

Most of us do not live in battleground states, leaving us free to vote our convictions without affecting the outcome. Plus Clinton is pulling away in the battleground states and Nate Silver reassures us that Clinton will win anyways. Considering what an inept campaign Trump has waged since clinching the nomination, he is probably right (although Quinnipiac does show them deadlocked).

Hillary Clinton is not Al Gore. She is far closer to George Bush. We were outraged by Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy, but Clinton is the neocon hawk running this year. We protested Bush’s assault on civil liberties, but Clinton also has a far right record on civil liberties issues, sounding much like Donald Trump on restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism. We objected to an increase in government secrecy under Bush, but Clinton has a long record of opposing government transparency. Bush’s administration was remarkable for expanding the influence of the religious right.  Clinton worked with The Fellowship to expand the influence of religion on public policy when in the Senate. Plus Clinton has been on the wrong side regarding the corrupting role of money in politics, on the environment and climate change, on the death penalty, on single-payer health care. She is even to the right of Donald Trump on drug policy and the drug war and on the wrong side of trade issues.

If you think having George Bush elected in 2000 was a terrible thing (and it was), it makes no sense to argue that Hillary Clinton should be president when she supports so much of what made Bush such a terrible president.

If anything, Nader has been proven right by the Democrats nominating a corrupt warmonger such as Clinton. This clearly shows the dangers of “lesser evilism.”

When does the “lesser evilism” stop? We are warned about what happened when Bush beat Gore and told me must support Clinton because of Trump, but Clinton has supported most of the evil done by Bush. Next election will the Democrats nominate someone like Trump and will we be told we must support him if the Republicans nominate someone even more evil?

Some Clinton supporters have been rather bad winners, attacking those who disagree with them on social media for expressing our opinions. Life is more than a binary choice between the limited options provided by the major parties. It even might be argued that a function of the major parties is to limit debate to the limited issues where their candidates disagree.

In reality, Clinton and Trump are both in the authoritarian right segment of the political spectrum, not differing by as much as supporters of either would admit. Those of us who hold opposing views are going to continue to express our views on the issue, regardless of whether we have a presidential candidate who is likely to win. We will continue to oppose oligarchy, neoconservative military interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism, the corrupting role of money in politics, destruction of the environment for profit, and an increased role of religion in public policy–even if the Democratic nominee is on the wrong side of each of these issues.

Warnings For Democrats If Clinton Is Nominee

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Bernie Sanders has an op-ed in The New York Times warning that Democrats Need to Wake Up after the Brexit vote in Great Britain:

The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States. Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class.

In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind. We must create national and global economies that work for all, and not a handful of billionaires.

As an aside, if Sanders is going to lecture the Democrats on policiy, I’d also mention the argument in Truthout that “the Sanders “Revolution” Must Take on the Permanent War State.”

Of course Sanders prefers to deal with the economic issues and, despite the importance of responding the warfare state, economics and trade will probably have more of an impact in this year’s election, possibly hurting the Democrats. As Matthew Yglasias warns, “Clinton is personally and politically tied to Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s and to Barack Obama’s administration more recently, both of which sought to advance a free trade agenda.” He points out that one problem Clinton has is that nobody believes her:

Clinton’s problem: Does anyone believe this?

The problem with Clinton’s preferred line of attack is it fails to pass the basic “does anyone actually believe this?” test.

The stated reasons for Clinton’s opposition to the TPP didn’t make any sense and were immediately panned by observers such as Vox editor in chief Ezra Klein as smacking of opportunism. Having come out against it, Clinton will in all likelihood follow through and scuttle the agreement.

There’s no question that her position is based upon opportunism. It is far from certain that she will actually scuttle the agreement if elected.

While things can change between now and November, and neither major party nominee is yet official, Clinton has a considerable advantage over Trump. Trump already is far behind Clinton in organization, fund raising and, most importantly, public support. Plus Clinton starts out with the Democratic edge in the electoral college She will probably win if scandals and legal action don’t stop her. Democrats should be concerned.

With the most recent revelations (here and here), Chris Cillizza writes that, Hillary Clinton’s email story continues to get harder and harder to believe.

The latest batch of emails suggest that Clinton’s filter to decide between the personal and the professional was far from foolproof. That these emails never saw the light of day before Monday — or before a conservative legal advocacy group petitioned for their release — opens up the possibility that there are plenty more like them that Clinton chose to delete but shouldn’t have. And it provides more fodder for the Republican argument that Clinton appointing herself as judge, jury and executioner for her emails was, at best, a very, very bad decision and, at worst, something more nefarious than just bad judgment.

…this email to Abedin — which came at the start of her four-year term in office — suggests a bit more active agency than Clinton has previously let on. “I think we need to get on this asap to be sure we know and design the system we want,” doesn’t strike me as Clinton simply wanting convenience and following the instructions of her IT people on how to make that happen. It reads to me as though Clinton is both far more aware of the email setup and far more engaged in how it should look than she generally lets on publicly…

For a candidate already struggling to convince voters she is honest and trustworthy enough to be president, stories like this one are deeply problematic.

While I generally agree with his assessment, I would also point out in response to the title that Clinton’s story was already quite obviously a bunch of lies from the time of her first response to the scandal.

Even if Clinton can sustain her rather impressive lead over Trump, this does not mean everything is fine for he Democrats.  Taegan Goddard warns that Clinton Is a Drag on Congressional Candidates:

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal confirms what we observed earlier this month: Despite the tremendous unpopularity of Donald Trump and of congressional Republicans, there doesn’t appear to be a wave forming which would give Democrats a chance to take control of the House.

The generic congressional ballot actually shows voters deadlocked over which party they would prefer to control Congress, 46% to 46%. The RealClearPolitics average shows Democrats ahead by just one point on the generic ballot.

This indicates the problem for Democrats goes beyond gerrymandered congressional districts and poor recruitment efforts. The problem is that Hillary Clinton is nearly as unpopular as Trump. While she may be favored in the presidential race, she’s also weighing down congressional candidates…

I wonder how many voters will split their ticket this year, having qualms about whichever candidate they vote for in the presidential race. Many might want to see the other party control Congress to place checks on the president. Far more might vote against this year’s winner in two years.

Bernie Sanders has continued his campaign based upon the argument that he does better than Clinton in the head to head polls against Trump. As Clinton has an excellent chance of winning despite her narrower margin, Sanders might have a stronger argument that having him head the ticket would be better for all the down ticket candidates. Sanders can expand the Democratic Party, while Clinton could do long term damage to it.