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

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

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

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

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

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

“Making America great again” was the casual reply.

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

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

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

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

Ailes

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

White House Correspondents’ Association: Trump & Clinton Both Threaten Press Freedom

Trump Clinton Bobble Head

I have pointed out in the past how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have very similar views on restricting civil liberties. In a recent op-ed Carol Lee, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, argued that both Trump and Clinton are a threat to press freedom:

The White House Correspondents’ Association is alarmed by the treatment of the press in the 2016 presidential campaign.

There is no debate that a free press with broad access to our elected officials, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is through the work of a free press that Americans learn how their elected officials conduct the public’s business and are able to hold those officials accountable.

As the highest-ranking public official in the country, the president sets the tone. How he or she, or anyone seeking the White House, approaches the media will be observed by officials in federal, state and local offices across the country.

That is why the White House Correspondents’ Association is alarmed by the treatment of the press in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The public’s right to know is infringed if certain reporters are banned from a candidate’s events because the candidate doesn’t like a story they have written or broadcast, as Donald Trump has done.

Similarly, refusing to regularly answer questions from reporters in a press conference, as Hillary Clinton has, deprives the American people of hearing from their potential commander-in-chief in a format that is critical to ensuring he or she is accountable for policy positions and official acts.

We believe that whenever media access is restricted, the public’s right to know is restricted. Transparency is the key to a well-informed electorate, and without a well-informed electorate, our democracy is put in jeopardy.

With that goal in mind, we advocate day-in and day-out at the White House for greater access to the president. We will continue to advocate for more access during this presidential campaign.

The American people expect that anyone who seeks the highest office in the United States should be put under intense scrutiny. If he or she has an issue with that, Americans should take note.

The United States will not have a free press if its president gets to choose which journalists and which media organizations are allowed access to the executive branch. We will not have a truly free press and an informed electorate if the president doesn’t believe he or she should be held accountable to inquiries from the media.

It is a reporter’s job to cut through the rhetoric from candidates, scrutinize whether their policy proposals would benefit Americans in the way they claim and question the viability of their promises. If we cannot do our job, then the American people cannot do theirs.

That’s why we are concerned both with the rhetoric directed at the media in this campaign and the level of press access to the candidates. Both Clinton and Trump can do better.

Clinton’s avoidance of the press should also concern Democrats. We have already seen her tumble in the polls after the FBI statement which demonstrated that Clinton has been lying about the email scandal for the past year. If she has lied every time she spoke to the press in the past year, what will happen when she finally faces the press after the FBI and State Department Inspector General reports?

Tracking Poll Today Gives Trump Lead Over Clinton

Hillary Down

Yesterday I noted a report that Democrats were “freaked out” over Hillary Clinton’s decline in the polls. Today’s news looked potentially worse this morning with the headline in The Los Angles Times: As Clinton stumbles, Trump takes an apparent slim lead in new tracking poll. The polls showed Trump leading by three points, with the poll having a three point margin of error. The key question on this poll and others showing a decrease in Clinton’s support:

What isn’t known is whether the new surveys are capturing Clinton at a low that will prove temporary, as voters react to Comey’s criticism and the renewed attention to her use of a private email server, or whether they reflect a more lasting shift that could hobble the presumed Democratic nominee for the remainder of the campaign.

NBC News has released additional battleground state polls which are more favorable to Clinton than those reported yesterday. Both candidates are unpopular in these states, with Trump being slightly more unpopular. Also of interest is that they polled with Jill Stein and Gary Johnson included. The addition of the Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates did not change the outcome in these states.

It will also be interesting to see what type of convention bounce each candidate gets. Politics By The Numbers looked at bounces and found that, while candidates generally get a bounce, there has not been a good correlation between the size of the bounce and the eventual winner.

Democrats “Freaked Out” Over Clinton’s Drop In Polls

Clinton Trump Battleground States July

The Hill reports that Senate Democrats were “freaked out” over Clinton’s drop in the polls, fearing it could jeopardize their efforts to retake control of the Senate:

Nervous Senate Democrats raised concerns with Hillary Clinton during a private meeting in the Capitol Thursday over a recent poll showing Donald Trump leading or tied in several battleground states.

“Some people were freaked out, they were looking down at the polls on Real Clear Politics and asking why it was so close,” said a Democratic senator who attended the meeting, referring to a website lawmakers were checking out on their personal devices…

A second Democratic source in the meeting confirmed there was “a mention of the Florida poll.”

A Quinnipiac University poll released this week showed the presumptive GOP presidential nominee up 42 percent to 39 percent in swing-state Florida. Clinton had an 8-point lead in Quinnipiac’s poll of the state last month.

The same survey showed Trump ahead 2 points in Pennsylvania, another big swing state, and tied in Ohio. The three states have been pivotal in the last four presidential elections.

First Read summarized yesterday’s poll results:

Yesterday brought us a whopping 10 battleground state polls, and four more NBC/WSJ/Marist polls (!!!) are set to be released first thing tomorrow morning. The good news for Donald Trump? He’s narrowed the gap: Ohio is tied; Florida is no longer trending in Hillary Clinton’s direction; and this all makes it much harder for rebellious GOP delegates to dump Trump at the convention.

But here’s the bad news for him: These polls — which mostly show Clinton either ahead or tied in these battlegrounds — were all taken during or after Clinton’s roughest week of the general election, with FBI Director James Comey’s rebuke over her emails. So you could view these battleground numbers as a floor for Clinton, while Trump is still unable to break 40% in many of these states. (Indeed, look at the high undecided numbers; voters moved away from Clinton, but they didn’t move toward Trump.) And what should ring alarm bells for the GOP is the polling in Colorado and Virginia, where Clinton is up in high single digits/double digits.

On the other hand, these polls also come as Team Clinton has been outspending Team Trump over the battleground airwaves by a 40-to-1 margin. So it’s possible that Trump could improve his numbers if/when he starts airing TV ads. But here’s the bottom line: The email story alone isn’t going to win the presidential race for Trump. He’s got to deliver on his VP pick and convention to overtake Clinton. Here are yesterday’s polls:

The news got worse today when The New York Times reported that Clinton and Trump are now both tied–with voters unhappy with both candidates:

On the eve of the major party conventions, voters are grudgingly rallying around the nominees while expressing broad misgivings about the candidates, the campaign and the direction of the country, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

More than a third of Republicans say they are disappointed or upset that Donald J. Trump, who crashed the party’s nominating process, will represent them in the fall campaign; an equal number say he does not represent the values the party should stand for.

Democrats are only marginally happier with Hillary Clinton as their party’s candidate. A quarter of Democratic voters say they are disappointed in her as the nominee; an additional seven percent say they are upset. More promisingly for her, three-quarters say Mrs. Clinton stands for the core values and principles of the Democratic Party.

The broad discontent is reflected in the head-to-head contest, which has Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton tied at 40 percent. Mr. Trump’s standing has held steady for weeks at around 40 percentage points, while Mrs. Clinton has polled in the mid-40s in most public surveys.

While this could represent a floor for Clinton, it is possible that she could have further bad news. Possible additional problems related to the email scandal include investigations of perjury before Congress, which at very least will highlight how she has also been lying to the American people about the matter for over a year. Her dishonesty has become undeniable, despite the frequent efforts by her supporters, following the reports from the State Department Inspector General and the FBI.

Clinton could also face problems with investigations of the Clinton Foundation. Because of concerns over conflicts of interest before Clinton was confirmed as 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 went on to unethically make 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.

Clinton has avoided taking questions from the media on these topics, but she cannot hide from the press forever. She could suffer further in the polls if unable to handle questions on these manners.

Plus there is also the risk that Clinton could fall further in the polls based upon bad news beyond the scandals, or if Trump starts spending more money and begins to campaign in a more effective manner. While odds still favor Clinton being elected, the Democratic Party is taking quite a risk in nominating a candidate with all her baggage. Of course it is still not too late for the party to nominate Bernie Sanders instead, with Sanders having none of this baggage, and having shown far larger leads over Trump than Clinton could achieve even before her fall in the polls.

Update: Tracking Poll Today Gives Trump Lead Over Clinton

The After Bern: Stein and Johnson Seek Support Of Sanders Voters

Sanders Stein

Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and presumptive Green Party nominee Jill Stein didn’t waste a moment trying to seek the support of those who voted for him. She has been very active on Twitter today. Politico reports:

“If you don’t want to vote for a war monger or racist billionaire, there are more options. The political revolution will keep going,” Stein tweeted in the hour preceding Sanders’ announcement alongside Clinton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

In another tweet, Stein wrote, “While Trump praises dictators, Hillary takes their money. Remind us again of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record?”

As Sanders began speaking, Stein offered her own hashtags to disaffected Bernie backers. “The revolution continues with those who will fight for a government that represents all of us–not just the 1%. #HillNo #JillYes,” Stein wrote.

Stein has suggested she would step aside as the Green Party’s standard bearer should Sanders wish to lead the ticket. “I’ve invited Bernie to sit down and explore collaboration,” she told The Guardian in an interview published last Friday. “Everything is on the table. 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.”

…While Sanders emphasized the importance of defeating Donald Trump, Stein remarked that the Vermont senator could propose a bill to introduce ranked-choice presidential voting.

It sounds like the only good thing Bernie can say about Hillary is that she’s not Donald,” Stein continued. “That’s what most of her supporters like about her.”

Stein also has an article at Counterpunch which begins:

I join millions of Americans who see Hillary Clinton’s campaign as the opposite of what they and Bernie Sanders have fought for. Despite her penchant for flip flopping rhetoric, Hillary Clinton has spent decades consistently serving the causes of Wall Street, war and the Walmart economy.

The policies she fought for – along with her husband and political partner, Bill Clinton – have been foundations of the economic disaster most Americans are still struggling with: the abuses of deregulated Wall Street, rigged corporate trade agreements, racist mass incarceration, and the destruction of the social safety net for poor women and children. The consistent efforts of the Democratic Party to minimize, sideline, and sabotage the Sanders campaign are a wake up call that we can’t have a revolutionary campaign inside a counter-revolutionary party.

Sadly, Sanders is one of a long line of true reformers that have been undermined by the Democratic Party. The eventual suppression of the Sanders campaign was virtually guaranteed from the beginning with super-delegates and super Tuesdays, that were created after George McGovern’s nomination to prevent grassroots campaigns from winning the nomination again.

Sanders, a life-long independent who has advocated for building an independent democratic socialist party similar to Canada’s New Democratic Party, has said that his decision to run as a Democrat was based on pragmatism, but there is nothing pragmatic about supporting a party that for decades has consistently sold out the progressive majority to the billionaire class. This false pragmatism is not the path to revolutionary change but rather an incrementalism that keeps us trapped, voting for lesser evil again and again…

Some Clinton supporters have made a fallacious comparison between Bernie Sanders and George McGovern, with Democratic rules since the 1972 loss being designed to promote more moderate candidates. Among the fallacies in their claim that Sanders would have lost badly as McGovern did, in June 2016 Bernie Sanders had a double digit lead over Donald Trump while Clinton was much closer. In June of 1972, Richard Nixon had a nineteen point lead over McGovern. Any comparison between the two is also fallacious as Nixon was running for reelection from a strong position, before being tainted by the Watergate scandal. The war in Vietnam was winding down, Nixon had gone to China, and had a recent summit to build on the developing détente with the Soviet Union. McGovern’s pledge to cut the defense budget in half also seemed far more radical than any of Sanders’ proposals. This year it is Hillary Clinton who is entangled in scandals, was on the wrong side of foreign policy decisions including Iraq and Libya, and has been foolishly belligerent towards Russia. Plus her lead over Donald Trump is down to three points.

Hit & Run recommends the above video from March in which Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson tried to appeal to Sanders supporters based upon civil liberties, drug policy, and foreign policy. They also referred to a blog post from June which states:

Gary Johnson keeps pitching his presidential campaign to Bernie Sanders’ disappointed supporters. Read any profile of the Libertarian nominee, and chances are you’ll get to a part where he points out that the ISideWith site says Sanders is the rival candidate he agrees with the most.

It’s not hard to see why he’s doing this. While there are big differences between Johnson’s and Sanders’ economic platforms, their views have more overlap when it comes to social and foreign policy. Presumably there are some Bernie backers out there who care more about the latter issues, and Johnson would like to reach them. And indeed, according to a recent Bloomberg poll, “barely half of those who favored Sanders—55 percent—plan to vote for Clinton. Instead, 22 percent say they’ll vote for Trump, while 18 percent favor Libertarian Gary Johnson.” Eighteen percent is a pretty big slice of the pie, especially for a third-party candidate.

Despite agreements on a handful of issues at the rally today, the statements from Stein and Johnson make it clear that there are many areas of disagreement between Sanders supporters and Hillary Clinton. I previously discussed the vast ideological difference.

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

ABC_Clinton_Emails_v02

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.

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.

PP_16.07.07_JuneVoterAttitudes_lede

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?)

Quote of the Day: Conan on Clinton

Conan Photo

Although Hillary Clinton was cleared of charges in the investigation of her deleted emails, her actions were described by the FBI as “extremely reckless.” However in her defense, the report pointed out that she was Hillary reckless, not Bill reckless. –Conan O’Brien

Discussion Of Saddam and Iraq Return To British And American Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC News sums up two key points:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.