Pre-Debate Political News: Sexism, Gennifer Flowers, and Perjury

Clinton Trump Clowns

The debate hasn’t even been held yet, and already Clinton is complaining of sexism. I have never seen a politician who does so much to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. As I’ve recently noted, the Clinton camp is willing to raise charges of sexism over anything, no matter how absurd. Not that I want Trump to win either, but one of the many reasons I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be president is so that we don’t have to put up with the inevitable charges of sexism for opposing Hillary’s likely wars and infringements on civil liberties.

Trump is also being rather tacky in talking about bringing Gennifer Flowers to the debate (and Flowers has accepted the invitation).

Bringing up Gennifer Flowers and Bill’s extramarital affairs leads to reminders of Bill’s impeachment based upon  perjury. Newsweek reveals that Donald Trump could face perjury charges of his own. Trump made a statement during one of the debates which contradicted what he said while testifying in 2007. Either he lied during the debate, which would be nothing new, or Trump committed perjury in 2007.

While I think that Bill’s impeachment was a ridiculous example of overreach, it did set a precedent that perjury is grounds for impeachment.

On the other hand, if we are looking back at actions prior to becoming president, there is a lot in Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State  which could be considered legitimate grounds for impeachment. Someone who violated ethics agreements they entered into before taking one position is hardly a suitable candidate for president.

With both parties having nominated candidates who are unethically unfit to be president, maybe we should plan for starting impeachment hearings in January regardless of who wins.

Democrats Should Have Paid Attention To Warnings About Clinton Before Handing Her The Nomination

Hillary Down

I had been arguing for many months before the Democratic nomination that it was very risky for the Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton. In addition to her many other faults, I argued that the email and Foundation scandals would greatly impair the ability of the Democrats to win the presidency, and would also likely also greatly decrease their chances of winning control of the Senate. Clinton apologists both denied the significance of the scandals, and denied that it would have any bearing on the election. For a while it appeared that it didn’t matter. While Clinton would probably be well behind any other Republican, she had been able to lead Trump (and as of now I think she will still pull it off). However, while Clinton doesn’t understand why she isn’t far ahead, her lead is now precariously small. A single gaffe, an unexpectedly decent performance by Trump in the debates, another revelation from Wikileaks, or any number of other items could now shift the election to Trump. Plus the Democrats’ chances of taking control of the Senate have dropped tremendously.

There are multiple reasons for this, but an op-ed by Thomas Patterson in the The Los Angeles Times provides further evidence  that I was right with my warnings in largely blaming the email scandal should Clinton lose:

If Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election in November, we will know the reason. The email controversy did her candidacy in. But it needed a helping hand — and the news media readily supplied that.

My analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding both parties’ national conventions found that her use of a private email server while secretary of State and other alleged scandal references accounted for 11% of Clinton’s news coverage in the top five television networks and six major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Excluding neutral reports, 91% of the email-related news reports were negative in tone. Then, there were the references to her character and personal life, which accounted for 4% of the coverage; that was 92% negative.

The author underestimates the importance of the email and other scandals, and gives Clinton far too much credit for her record considering that she has been wrong on virtually every major decision of her career,only to admit she made a mistake years later. Between the email and Foundation scandals, Hillary Clinton has been found to have violated policy with regards to using a home server rather than a government email system, failed to turn over email for archiving which was sent over personal email, destroyed over half the email falsely claiming it was personal, and failed to disclose all donors to the Clinton Foundation as she agreed to prior to her confirmation.

The State Department Inspector General report showed that Clinton not only violated the rules in effect, but that she failed to cooperate with the investigation and tried to cover up her actions.  FBI Director James Comey further showed how she acted irresponsibly, and how many of the statements she has made in public and Congressional testimony over the past year have been false. Clinton unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. I’ve previously discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in greater detail, including here and here. I’ve recently noted how both fact checkers and ethicists viewed the scandals and Clinton’s violations of the ethics agreements which she entered into before becoming Secretary of State, while Common Cause called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation well before her nomination.

There was good reason for the media to cover this story. Clinton predictably made it worse for herself as she tried to coverup information, resulting in facts slowly coming out from news cycle to news cycle. She further made matters worse by lying about the matter, and then repeating the same lies when confronted by the fact checkers. This is what caused the story to remain dominant in the news. Plus, regardless of whether it is a good thing, we knew before Clinton was nominated that the media prefers to cover scandals as opposed to complicated matters of policy. As Patterson also wrote:

In today’s hypercompetitive media environment, journalists find it difficult to resist controversies. Political scientist W. Lance Bennett explored this phenomenon around Trump’s 2011 allegation that President Obama was not a native-born American. Trump’s “birther” statements were seized upon by cable outlets and stayed in the headlines and on newscasts for days. Veteran CNN correspondent Candy Crowley even interviewed Trump, who was then not a political figure at all. She justified it by saying on air: “There comes a point where you can’t ignore something, not because it’s entertaining …. The question was, ‘Is he driving the conversation?’ And he was.” In truth, the news media were driving the conversation, as they have with Clinton’s emails.

Nominating Hillary Clinton with all her baggage would be like the Republicans nominating Richard Nixon after  knowing about his role in Watergate. It was a remarkably foolish thing to do, and the Democrats now risk paying the price. In contrast, Bernie Sanders polled far better than Clinton did against Donald Trump and other potential Republican candidates. He very likely would also have won the Democratic nomination if not for a system heavily tilted towards helping Clinton and stopping insurgent candidates. Plus if Sanders were the nominee, there would be no scandals to dominate the campaign, and we would definitely be talking about issues.

New Information On Trump Foundation Added To Campaigns Dominated By Scandals

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Donald Trump is once again involved in a Foundation scandal of his own. There are already serious questions regarding his contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi before her office decided not to investigate Trump University in 2013. The Washington Post has looked further into his “charitable” Foundation. Among other issues, he used money from his Foundation to settle personal legal debts:

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses…

If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the New York attorney general’s office, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.

More broadly, these cases­ also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.

“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Washington Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in awhile,” Tenenbaum said.

The Post sent the Trump campaign a detailed list of questions about the four cases but received no response.

I can’t help but wonder how much more might be discovered if Trump were to release his tax returns, which before Trump had become the norm for politicians running for president.

I initially planned to end this post here, writing only about Trump. However, in looking at reactions elsewhere, I found many pro-Clinton blogs make similar arguments claiming that the only real Foundation scandal involves Trump, while totally ignoring, and denying, the more serious issues raised by the Clinton Foundation. While there is little question that Trump has acted unethically, and very likely illegally, the Clinton scandals are far more significant in terms of electoral politics as they involve the abuse of a government position.

I’ve already discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in great detail, including here and here. Common Cause has called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation. I’ve more recently noted how both fact checkers and ethicists viewed the scandals and Clinton’s violations of the ethics agreements which she entered into before becoming Secretary of State. Between the email and Foundation scandals, Hillary Clinton has been found to have violated policy with regards to using a home server rather than a government email system, failing to turn over any email for archiving which was sent over personal email, destroying over half the email and falsely claiming it was personal, and failed to disclose all donors to the Clinton Foundation as she agreed prior to her confirmation. She unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton.

Both Trump and Clinton have acted unethically. Neither is ethically fit for any government office. They are the same type of people, regardless of which letter is after their name. Is is a shame that partisan politics leads so many to look at the faults of one candidate while totally ignoring comparable faults from the candidate of their party. In order to clean up government, it is necessary to hold candidates of both major political parties to higher standards.

Clinton And Many Democrats Fail To Understand Importance Of Opposing Interventionism And Defending Civil Liberties

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The lack of concern for Hillary Clinton’s neocon record on foreign policy, and her far right record on First Amendment issues, by so many Democrats is really disappointing. It is as if they didn’t they learn anything from the horrors of the Bush years. Hillary Clinton appeared clueless when she campaigned for the millennial vote. As I discussed last week, and as David Weigel reported today, Clinton is losing a substantial amount of support to third party candidates.

When George Bush was president, Democrats showed concern for matters such as avoiding unnecessary wars, civil liberties, and government transparency. Now that they have nominated a candidate who is far to the right on these matters, they no longer show any concern. For example, Paul Krugman made a pitch today for millennial voters who are voting for Gary Johnson, but ignored these issues. It makes absolutely no sense to seek the support of those considering Gary Johnson without addressing the main issues which are causing Clinton to lose support to Johnson, along with Jill Stein.

Krugman also resorted to the bogus Ralph Nader argument. If the 2000 election turned out badly (as it did) because of George Bush becoming president, it makes no sense to use this to support a neoconservative such as Hillary Clinton who supports the so many of the same policies as George Bush.

Just as bad is the manner in which Kevin Drum dismissed concerns over military interventionism and civil liberties: ” Unless you’re basically a single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force, it’s hard to see why any lefty of any stripe would even think of supporting Johnson.”

Drum is right in his post in arguing that it would make more sense for Bernie Sanders supporters to support Jill Stein than Gary Johnson, but he certainly diminishes the importance of several issues with the phrase, “single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force.”

These are two of the most important matters considering both the expansion of the warfare/surveillance state since 9/11, and considering which areas fall most directly under the control of the president. Plus these encompass multiple issues.

Civil liberties mattered to Democrats eight years ago. 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.  As I’ve discussed previously, Clinton’s poor record regarding civil liberties and separation of church and state includes her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act , a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, leading a campaign to censor video games and introducing a bill making flag burning a felony. Her views mocking freedom of speech when supposedly fighting terrorism sound alarmingly similar to those expressed by Donald Trump. Issues such as the drug war and opposition to the policy of mass incarceration she supported is yet a different issue which leads many to support Johnson and Stein over Clinton.

Similarly there are multiple foreign policy issues. These include her support for intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria. In other parts of the world, there are her views on Russia, and record in Honduras. There’s also her history of joining with the Republicans in opposing a ban on cluster bombs in civilian areas. There’s her threats to obliterate Iran. Her past statements on the use of nuclear force against terrorist groups sound similar to those expressed by Donald Trump.

While Drum has consistently ignored the facts regarding the email scandals, the State Department Inspector General report verified accusations that Clinton violated the rules put into effect to promote transparency, showed that she tried to cover up her actions, and that she failed to cooperate with the investigation. This is just one aspect of the scandals involving Clinton which give millennial voters, and others, reason to distrust Clinton and vote for a third party candidate.

The numerous issues involved here contradict Drum’s mischaracterization of Clinton’s opponents as a single-issue voter. By the same logic, many of the issues which he backs Clinton for could also be lumped together as a single issue. It is no surprise that Gary Johnson is taking votes away from Clinton when he is more liberal than her on military interventionism, civil liberties, the drug war, social issues, and government transparency. There are also several problems with Johnson’s views, making Jill Stein an even better choice for those on the left.

Why Clinton Can’t Pull Away From An Opponent As Awful As Donald Trump

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Donald Trump has said one idiotic thing after another. He has been found to have bribed an attorney general to avoid prosecution for his scam university, among other scams he has been involved in. He clearly has no understanding of the issues. Yet he is now now in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, with many Democrats struggling to understand why. Will Democrats ever figure out that the nomination of someone as unfit to be president as Hillary Clinton was one of the biggest political blunders in history (ranking with the Republicans’ blunder in nominating Trump)?

Many Democrats have resorted to responses which do not help matters. They deny that she is corrupt and dishonest, despite overwhelming evidence that she is, and ignore the seriousness of her scandals. This only turns independents more against partisan Democrats who make such claims.

Clinton doesn’t help herself when she repeats the same lies over and over, even when the fact checkers repeatedly call her out on it. She didn’t help matters when she answered Anderson Cooper in a dishonest manner this week, claiming to have been transparent about her health and her email,  when he pressed her on her lack of transparency. pointed out:

…almost everything that Clinton has disclosed in this campaign has come under duress. The reason we have thousands of her emails is because she was forced by the State Department to turn them over. The reason we know about her pneumonia is because of her stumbling incident on Sunday in New York City. Forced transparency isn’t all that honorable

The most common argument from Clinton and her supporters is to argue how terrible Donald Trump is. While they are right, that does not help Clinton when they cannot provide positive arguments to support her. Many agree about Trump, but do not think Clinton is any better.

At least one Clinton supporter,

…her 4256 favorable/unfavorable split in national polling is truly, freakishly bad. Political junkies have probably heard the factoid that Clinton is the least-popular major party nominee of all time — except for Donald Trump. But conventional dialogue still underrates exactly how weird this situation is. John McCain, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bob Dole were all viewed favorably by a majority of Americans on the eve of presidential elections that they lost, and Mitt Romney was extremely close.

It is totally unheard of to win a presidential election while having deeply underwater favorable ratings, and it is actually quite common to lose one despite above water favorable ratings.

Since there are only two major party nominees in the race and they are both far underwater right now, it’s pretty likely that precedent will be shattered. But we are in a bit of an undiscovered country in terms of the underlying opinion dynamics.

RealClearPolitics’ four-way polling average shows Gary Johnson at 9.2 percent and Jill Stein at 2.7 percent.

If those numbers hold up (which of course they might not), they would make Johnson the strongest third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. That’s a big deal. Stein’s strength is, however, even more unusual. She is polling ahead of where Ralph Nader did in 2000 and is the strongest fourth-party candidate we’ve seen in a 100 years, besting both the Thurmond and Wallace tickets from the infamously four-sided election of 1948.

To find a fourth-place candidate polling higher than Stein’s current results, you need to dial all the way back to the 6 percent of the vote Eugene Debs earned in the bizarre 1912 election that saw the GOP nominee (the incumbent, no less!) finish in third place behind a third-party bid spearheaded by ex-president Teddy Roosevelt.

These two unusual quirks of the 2016 race seem to be linked.

Lambasting Trump while being unpopular herself would be a clear winning strategy in a zero-sum head-to-head race. But in a four-sided race, where the two lesser candidates aren’t receiving much scrutiny from the press or the campaigns, it tends to have the side consequence of pressing a lot of people to Johnson or Stein. The fact that there are two different third-party candidates in the race — one for people who think Clinton’s too left and one for people who think she’s not left enough — makes it really difficult to avoid bleeding voters…

It’s simply going to be very hard for Clinton to open up the kind of stable lead that her supporters think Trump’s awfulness deserves while she herself is so little-liked. September of a general election year is probably not a great time to turn that around.

But the fact remains that her basic problem in this race is almost painfully simple. Over the course of her winning primary campaign she became a deeply unpopular figure. And it’s hard — indeed, unprecedented — for such an unpopular person to win the presidency.

Both major parties have nominated candidates who are unfit to be president. There is little motivation for many voters to choose the lesser evil, as opposed to voting for a minor party candidate, when even the lesser evil is so evil this year. If the major party candidates were not both so awful, Johnson and Stein would be polling as low as minor party candidates usually do.

For Clinton, it is not only her lies. It is also her record, as Common Dreams recently discussed. In past elections, the Democratic Party received the support of many independents, as well as those on the left, due to the serious problems under George Bush. Instead of nominating a reform candidate such as Bernie Sanders (who consistently polled much better against Donald Trump), they went for the candidate most likely to institutionalize the horrors of the Bush administration. We need to end the state of perpetual warfare we have been in since 9/11. While Clinton admits that her vote for the Iraq war was a mistake (like her support for mass incarceration, various trade deals, and anti-gay legislation were mistakes), as described, support for interventionism was actually part of a pattern for her:

For years, Clinton has blamed Bush for misleading her into voting for the resolution. But an examination by The Washington Post found that her decision was based as much on advice from her husband’s advisers as from Bush administration officials. There were also significant gaps in her fact-gathering, most notably her apparent failure to read a classified analysis that other senators cited in voting against the resolution…

She continued that path when she advocated intervention in Libya as secretary of state…

Besides Clinton pushing for interventionism in Libya, Clinton repeated the same mistakes in Syria, advocating war based on logic as flawed as anything we have heard from Donald Trump. Her views on Russia place us at risk of an even more dangerous situation.

Kranish stressed how Clinton failed to read classified intelligence reports which were available, leading others to oppose the war. Unlike some Democrats who did initially vote for the war, Clinton also continued to support the war:

A year after the vote, Clinton defended it on CNN, citing “grave threats to the United States.”

As The Intercept pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisers Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State. The Iraq vote was not a fluke. It is what we can expect if Clinton is elected.

Clinton desires to replicate the horrors of the Bush years in other ways. Besides perpetuating the warfare state, Clinton desires to expand the surveillance state and has a terrible record on civil liberties with views (minus the Islamophobia) which are comparable to Trump’s. As occurred under Bush, Clinton also has a long history of supporting an increased role for religion in public policy. The reality is that, no matter how much the point out Donald Trump’s flaws, Hillary Clinton already has a record of doing much of what Trump is accused of.

The Democratic Party establishment made a horrible mistake in acting to ensure that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination. While Clinton still has the edge, they might have to face the consequences of their actions if it leads to defeat and the election of Donald Trump as president.

Colin Powell Calls Trump A National Disgrace And Says Clinton Comes Across As Sleazy For Good Reason

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Colin Powell’s leaked emails include criticism of Trump, Clinton, and the right wing. In June he called Donald Trump “a national disgrace” and an “international pariah.” He has considered how Trump should be handled. He has suggested that Trump “is in the process of destroying himself, no need for Dems to attack him.” He also has warned about attacking Trump, pointing out that, “To go on and call him an idiot just emboldens him.”

Powell objected to how Clinton was handling the email scandal. The Intercept reports:  “Sad thing,” Powell wrote to one confidant, “HRC could have killed this two years ago by merely telling everyone honestly what she had done and not tie me to it.” He described her well in writing, ” Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris.” Despite her hubris, she was also dumb:

“Dumb. She should have done a ‘Full Monty’ at the beginning,” Powell wrote. He added: “I warned her staff three times over the past two years not to try to connect it to me. I am not sure HRC even knew or understood what was going on in the basement.”

The Washington Post has more about Powell on Clinton’s email along with some fact-checking of Clinton’s claims:

“I have told Hilleary’s [sic] minions repeatedly that they are making a mistake trying to drag me in, yet they still try,” he wrote in May to Democratic consultant Vernon Jordan. “The media isn’t fooled and she is getting crucified. The differences are profound and they know it.”

The two situations aren’t completely analogous, as The Post’s Fact Checker has written, but Clinton has used Powell to suggest that her private email server was not totally novel.

Powell was reluctant to endorse Clinton: “Hillary has not been covering here [sic] self with glory,” Powell writes. “For good reason she comes across as sleazy.” He also wrote:

“I would rather not have to vote for her, although she is a friend I respect,” Powell writes to Democratic megadonor Jeffrey Leeds. “A 70-year-old person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational, with a husband still dicking bimbos at home (according to the NYP).

Emails from Democratic donor Jeffrey Leads  showed how little Obama and Clinton each actually thought of the other. One email said that Clinton hated Obama. Obama might not be as oblivious to Clinton’s faults as it appears when he campaigns for her:

In one Leeds/Powell email conversation going back to March 6, 2016 over a Politico article about Clinton’s primary loss in Maine, Leeds tells Powell that “no one like her and the criminal thing ain’t over. I don’t think the president would week if she found herself in real legal trouble. She’ll pummel his legacy if she gets a chance and he knows it.”

Powell also questioned Clinton’s health before Sunday’s events. In 2015 he wrote, “I think there is something to it. On HD tv she doesn’t look good. She is working herself to death.” Of course there is a big difference between overworking herself, along with her current pneumonia, and many of the unsubstantiated theories floating around on the internet about her health.

In other comments, Powell is right about the Birther movement: “Yup, the whole birther movement was racist.” Powell called Benghazi a “stupid witch hunt.”

One area in which Powell has sympathy for Clinton is on Benghazi, the GOP reaction to which he labeled a “stupid witch hunt,” as BuzzFeed first reported. And fellow former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice appeared to agree.

“Benghazi is a stupid witch hunt. Basic fault falls on a courageous ambassador who thoughts [sic] Libyans now love me and I am ok in this very vulnerable place,” Powell wrote to Rice in December 2015, referring to former ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the attack.

Powell added, though, that Clinton bore some blame: “But blame also rests on his leaders and supports back here. Pat Kennedy, Intel community, [State Department] and yes HRC,” referring to Clinton.

“Completely agree,” Rice responded.

In a year in which both major political parties nominated candidates who are unfit to be president, Powell gets it right in his criticism of both Trump and Clinton. With so many people falling into the partisan trap of backing one candidate and overlooking their faults, Powell deserves credit for seeing the faults in both.

Both Trump And Clinton Fail Commander-In-Chief Test

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There appears to be near universal agreement that Matt Lauer’s performance as moderator at the Commander In Chief Forum was a disaster. Lauer certainly failed to fact check multiple false statements from Donald Trump, who was once again confused and incoherent when trying to discuss matters of policy. He also did a poor job in fact checking Hillary Clinton, or at holding her responsible for her long history of poor decisions on foreign policy.

Trump had so many false statements it is difficult to list them all. Perhaps that is his strategy–make it hard to stay focused on any particular falsehood or foolish statement. Factcheck.org and PolitiFact have lists of falsehoods by both candidates. This doesn’t include matters of poor judgment from each candidate. The full text of the forum can be found here.

Among the lowlights from Trump was once again claiming to have opposed the Iraq war before it started, his false claims to have opposed the intervention in Libya at the time, his threat to get rid of the top generals, and his distortion of Clinton’s statements about the problems at the VA. Plus there’s his secret plan to defeat ISIS.

Matt Lauer spent a lot of time on Clinton’s email but did so poorly. He brought up some of the problems but allowed Clinton to get away with the same distortions she has used in the past. This provided nothing new on the issue, and wasted time which would have been better spent on Clinton’s dreadful foreign policy record.

Clinton tends to make lawyerly statements which on the surface are nearly true, but which skirt the real issue. During the forum she said:

“Classified material has a header which says ‘top-secret, secret, confidential.’ Nothing, and I will repeat this and this is verified in the report by the Department of Justice, none of the emails sent or received by me had such a header.”

There were a few emails which were found to have a designation of c, but Lauer really should have pointed out the more important problem as stated by James Comey:

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.

As Reuters explained, some types of information are “born classified” and are classified regardless of whether there is a classified header. Clinton is just distorting the issue when concentrating on how the email was labeled.

Another problem for Clinton’s claim is that she was found to have instructed an aide to remove the “identifying heading” and send information trough non-secure channels.

Other falsehoods from Clinton include falsely claiming that Trump wants to privatize the VA when he has actually advocated allowing patient’s in the VA system to obtain care from physicians outside the VA system when necessary–an idea which even some Democrats have supported.

The bigger problem was the limited discussion of actual policy. As Alex Emmons has also pointed out, NBC’s Military Forum Was a Master Class on How Not to Hold Candidates Accountable. For example:

When Hillary Clinton explained her anti-ISIS plan by saying “we are not going to have ground troops in Iraq,” he failed to point out that we already do have those troops. When Donald Trump claimed to have opposed the wars in Iraq and Libya from the beginning, Lauer failed to correct him and tell the audience that wasn’t true…

Lauer chose to ask Trump about his preparedness and past remarks, rather than question his actual plans. “I’d like you to tell our veterans and our people at home why you are prepared for the role of commander in chief,” said Lauer. Lauer would go on to further question Trump about his “preparedness,” his “temperament,” and his receptiveness to intelligence briefings…

Lauer failed to raise many of the most controversial national security issues in the post-9/11 world. For Lauer, the issue was whether Clinton’s emails contained information on the covert drone program, not whether the covert drone program was legal or ethical. He never to pressed her about the surveillance implications of her “intelligence surge,” or what “working with experts in Silicon Valley” meant. Trump was never asked to defend his proposals to infiltrate American mosques and spy on predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. At no point was either candidate pressed for their stance on the drone war, torture, Guantánamo Bay, or mass surveillance.

Clinton avoided true accountability regarding her support for the Iraq war, even twisting this into a reason to support her over Trump, with some rather dubious logic and distortions of the facts:

CLINTON: Now, my opponent was for the war in Iraq. He says he wasn’t. You can go back and look at the record. He supported it. He told Howard Stern he supported it. So he supported it before it happened, he supported it as it was happening, and he is on record as supporting it after it happened. I have taken responsibility for my decision.

LAUER: Let me go to another…

CLINTON: He refuses to take responsibility for his support. That is a judgment issue.

While Trump’s claims of opposing the war before it started do not hold up, there is a huge difference between Trump sounding rather unsure and going along when asked about it, as opposed to Clinton actively promoting going to war based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. She was incorrect about Trump continuing to support the war.

While she admits Iraq was a mistake, she made the same mistakes on both Libya and Syria. That is the real judgment issue. Plus, on Libya, while both originally supported regime change, Clinton continues to defend that disastrous decision, while Trump has come out in opposition. To take Clinton’s own words, it was Clinton who supported it before it happened, supported it as it was happening, and is on record as supporting it after it happened.

Trump was again incoherent with regards to his man-crush on Putin, but I also wish that Lauer had asked Clinton about the danger that her belligerent views towards Russia risks getting us into a war with them. He might have also asked her about her threats to obliterate Iran, her past refusal to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against terrorists (a view similar to the view Trump has rightly been criticized for), her unwillingness to accept a diplomatic solution over war in Syria, and her siding with Republicans to oppose a ban on the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas.

While it was partially due to the candidates only wanting to face questions for a half hour, Lauer does deserve criticism for not taking advantage of the time to further probe the failings of both candidates on foreign policy. The real loser, however, is not Matt Lauer. It is the American people who will be stuck with one of these candidates as president. Neither has the judgment to be Commander In Chief, and both have serious difficulties with telling the truth.

Update: Late night comics on the forum.

The Choice We Face In 2016

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Having reached Labor Day the presidential election has now officially started. I wish I could say that the months we have already gone through has just been a bad dream and we don’t really have this race between the two worst people in America. There is at least one clear difference between the two, but first the similarity–both have a Foundation scandal.

I’ve already discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in great detail, including here and here. Between the email and Foundation scandals, Hillary Clinton has been found to have violated policy with regards to using a home server rather than a government email system, failing to turn over any email for archiving which was sent over personal email, destroying over half the email and falsely claiming it was personal, and failed to disclose all donors to the Clinton Foundation as she agreed prior to her confirmation. She unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton.

Donald Trump has a Foundation scandal of his own. There are far less stories regarding this as there wasn’t the clear conflict of interest of Donald Trump being in a position to sell influence as he was not in the government. Here’s where we have the difference between the two. Instead of selling influence, Donald Trump used his money to buy influence. As The Atlantic points out, he has even admitted it in the past:

“As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal in July 2015. “As a businessman, I need that.”

Beyond this difference, selling versus buying influence, Clinton and Trump are very much alike. I’ve cited multiple articles from fact checkers showing Clinton lying about her scandals. Trump is sounding a lot like Clinton when he denies any impropriety in a contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi before her office decided not to investigate Trump University in 2013.

Which do you prefer–the crook who sells influence or the scoundrel who buys influence? That’s the choice we face this year.

Clinton’s Strategy Failing As Trump Moves Into Tie In Reuters Poll

Hillary Down

Hillary Clinton looked like a sure winner a week or two ago, and at this point I still believe will probably win, but that has become far less certain. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday shows Clinton leading by only one point at 40 to 39 percent. The poll has a three point margin of error. By comparison, “In last week’s poll, Clinton was up by 5 points, and the week before she had a 12-point lead.” The Real Clear Politics average has her lead down to under four percent.

The change is probably a combination of Donald Trump avoiding major blunders, a string of negative news regarding the Clinton scandals, and Clinton failing to take any positive action to capitalize on her lead. Her one recent speech was particularly alarming, including a threat of war against Russia.

Last week Nate Silver wrote that it was too soon for Clinton to try to run out the clock. The Hill reports today that some are starting to worry about her run-out-the-clock strategy:

Hillary Clinton is facing questions about her campaign strategy as Donald Trump laps her on the trail and tightening polls show an increasingly competitive presidential race.

The Democratic nominee nearly vanished from the campaign trail in August to attend high-end private fundraisers and to prepare for the first presidential debate on Sept. 26.

At times it has appeared that Clinton believes she can run out the clock against Trump, who fell in the polls after a disastrous stretch following the Democratic convention.

But while Clinton remains the heavy favorite, Trump has rebounded in some national and battleground polls taken in late August.

In that time, controversy has exploded over Clinton Foundation ties to the State Department. A steady drip of developments surrounding Clinton’s use of a private email server also persists, punctuated by Friday’s release by the FBI of documents pertaining to its investigation into her email set-up.

Those controversies have dragged Clinton’s already-dismal approval rating to new lows and have kept her from slamming the door shut on Trump…

Clinton has gone days between events in some cases and hasn’t given a press conference in more than 270 days, a fact that Republicans have been eager to highlight.

The article concludes with a surrogate saying, “She’ll be driving the suitability question which is an important metric for a lot of undecided voters.”

The problem for Clinton this week has been that major questions have been raised over her own suitability to be president, in terms of both her honesty and judgement, with Clinton’s unfavorable ratings now almost as high as Trump’s. The papers released by the FBI on Friday add  further evidence that Clinton is unfit to be president. A defense based upon not remembering anything, not understanding how classified information is to be handled, and not understanding modern technology, are hardly attributes which make one suitable to be president. It is unlikely that Hillary Clinton could be hired into any significant position in the government or be confirmed to any appointed position. She only maintains the possibility of being elected president because of having an opponent as dreadful as Donald Trump.

Clinton Unfavorability At Highest Level Ever–Nearly Tying Trump

Hillary_Clinton_Popularity

The primary process certainly seems to have been a success if the goal was to find the two worst people in America. Hillary Clinton’s unfavorability ratings have worsened over the past month with Clinton losing support among groups including women, Hispanics, college graduates, and liberals. Her favorability is now almost as low as Donald Trump’s. An ABC News/Washington Post poll found:

Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity reached a new high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, putting her on par with Donald Trump among registered voters.

The latest findings solidify their positions as the two most unpopular presidential candidates in polling dating back more than 30 years.

Among all adults, 56 percent now view Clinton unfavorably, up 6 percentage points in three weeks, compared with 63 percent who say the same about Trump.

Among registered voters, the two candidates have nearly identical unfavorable ratings: 59 percent for Clinton versus 60 percent for Trump.

See PDF with full results here.

Before the 2016 election, George H.W. Bush had the highest unfavorable rating for any major-party candidate for president in ABC/Post polls, in July 1992, on his way to losing his re-election bid.

Clinton’s rise in unpopularity follows renewed focus on her use of a private email server and alleged conflicts of interest regarding her connections to the Clinton Foundation while she served as secretary of state. This metric rose among some of her core support groups, including women, postgraduates, Hispanics and liberals.

The change in recent weeks could be because Donald Trump has not made mistakes as serious as those he made around the time of the conventions, such as attacking a gold star family. By softening his language and avoiding negative statements which dominate the headlines, Trump has allowed the media to concentrate more on new revelations related to Clinton’s email and Foundation scandals. Trump’s trip to Mexico today will probably be seen as a positive, while Clinton gains no points in attacking Trump for the trip.

Although Clinton has lost much of her bounce since the conventions, she still maintains a significant lead in many of the battleground state polls, and Trump is far behind in establishing a ground game.