White House Threatens To Veto Bills Defunding Planned Parenthood; Huckabee Threatens To Send In Troops To Prevent Abortions

Planned Parenthood

There were two threats related to abortion in the news today. While Hillary Clinton looks willing to throw Planned Parenthood under the bus for political gain, the White House is showing why I backed Obama over Clinton in 2008. From The Hill:

The White House on Friday threatened a veto on any bill that defunds Planned Parenthood.

A budget measure that strips funding from the organization “is certainly something that would draw a presidential veto,” press secretary Josh Earnest said.

“We have routinely opposed the inclusion of ideologically driven riders” in budget bills, Earnest added.

The White House spokesman questioned the authenticity of the recordings and pointed to criticism they have received from media organizations.

“I haven’t seen the videos, but those who have taken a close look at them have raised some significant concerns about their authenticity and whether or not they actually convey the view of those particular officials or even the broader institution,” Earnest said.

On Thursday, Earnest said the “fraudulent way” the videos were released means there is “not a lot of evidence” that Planned Parenthood violated any laws.

Abortion opponents claim that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue obtained during abortions, which is illegal. Their illegally obtained tapes actually show negotiations over nominal fees for preservation and transportation of the tissue for biomedical research, which is totally different from selling the tissue, and which is legal. Fees for transportation of medical specimens is customary, such as when Medicare or private insurance companies pay me to place cervical cells in preservatives and transport the specimen after doing a pap smear on a patient.

An article at Slate describes the importance of using fetal cells in medical research. This is the real pro-life position.

An investigation of Planned Parenthood ordered by Republican Governor Mike Pence in Indiana cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing after the videos were released.

Mike Huckabee has taken opposition to abortion to a new level, threatening to not only disregard the Supreme Court, but possibly send in troops:

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee indicated Thursday that if elected, he wouldn’t rule out employing federal troops or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stop abortion from taking place in the United States.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against bans on abortion, Huckabee said past presidents have defied Supreme Court rulings.

Jesse Choper, professor emeritus of public law at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, said in a phone interview Friday that Huckabee’s statement was “way off-base,” adding, “it does rival Donald Trump.”

“I think he’d better more carefully examine what he’s saying, because it is totally unprecedented,” Choper said Friday.

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Hillary Clinton Avoids Taking A Stand On Keystone XL Pipeline & Once Again Undermines Fight For Reproductive Rights

Sanders on Clinton Keystone XL

“If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.” –Hillary Clinton

One reason why Hillary Clinton is dropping in the polls and Bernie Sanders is climbing is that voters prefer a more open and honest candidate such as Sanders. Hillary Clinton has practiced triangulation to avoid taking a stand on controversial issues throughout her career, and we saw it again this week on the Keystone XL  Pipeline and Planned Parenthood.

While at times Clinton appeared to support the pipeline in the past, since this has become a risky position in Democratic primaries she has avoided answering questions on the subject. We got a classic Hillaryism with her latest response to the question: “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.”

Chris Cillizza tore Clinton apart for this line:

When you are running for president — whether or not you served in the current administration — you are going to be asked to take positions on issues that the current president is dealing with. As long as we hold elections that begin two years (or more) before the current president is set to leave office, that’s going to be a thing candidates need to contend with. If Clinton’s position is that she can’t take a public stance on any issue that has some sort of pending business before this White House, then she’s not going to be able to take a position on, well, anything.

And she’s already shown that on some issues, she is willing to take a position. Clinton came out in favor of the Iran deal, for example, despite the fact that its fate remains up in the air in Congress.

Second, the whole point of a campaign is for voters to get to know the candidates and understand what their respective presidencies might look like. People and reporters and the candidates you are running against ask you questions. You answer them — most of the time. It’s what we do. It’s how voters can feel as though they are making an informed decision come Election Day.

Imagine if Jeb Bush, when asked about the immigration problem in the country, said only: “Look, it’s a complex issue. I am not going to say anything about it until I am in the White House.” There would be massive outrage — and rightly so. Bush would be accused of obfuscating for purely political reasons. Which, of course, would be what he was doing.

Beyond the question of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Clinton has received criticism from environmentalists for her support for off-shore drilling and fracking. It is also doubtful that she would take effective action on climate change considering the amount of money she receives from the petroleum industry.

Clinton also tried to triangulate on the Planned Parenthood videos, leading to headlines such as Hillary Clinton Calls Planned Parenthood Videos ‘Disturbing’

Hillary Clinton has staunchly defended Planned Parenthood in the wake of recently released videos that an anti-abortion group claims to show employees with the organization discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue.

But, in a new interview, she calls the graphic videos “disturbing” and says there should be a national investigation into that practice.

“I have seen pictures from them and obviously find them disturbing,” the Democratic presidential candidate told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday in regards to the videos, which were released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. “Planned Parenthood is answering questions and will continue to answer questions.”

She did also defend Planned Parenthood in general, but undermined them in fighting off the right wing attacks with statements such as this. As I discussed previously, right wing organizations with a history of distorting the facts are used the tapes to present a false claim that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue. In reality, the tapes show that they were negotiating over fees for collection, preservation, and transport of fetal tissue which was donated for biomedical research.  This is both legal and conventional. It is no different than when I do a pap smear and Medicare or private insurance companies pay me for collecting and arranging transport of the specimen to a lab. This does not mean that I am “selling” cervical cells and  Planned Parenthood is not “selling” fetal tissue. With Republicans using this false attack to threaten to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, Clinton should be defending them on this point, not calling it “disturbing” and calling for a national investigation into a practice which is fully legal.

Clinton continued to undermine abortion rights in saying, “I have said for more than 22 years that abortion should be legal, safe and rare.” Reproductive rights advocates such as Katha Pollitt in her book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, have criticized this statement for reducing the status of abortion rights and  stigmatizing women who do have abortions. Jessica Valenti has written, “Agreeing with anti-choice activists on even that single word hurts women and the cause of reproductive rights.” Clinton has also upset defenders of womens’ rights in the past with her support for parental notification laws.  This is just a small part of Clinton’s tendency to compromise liberal principles, often siding with the religious right on social/cultural issues.

Update: The Hill reports, Clinton’s habit of dodging key issues draws Democrats’ fire:

Even Democrats who are not Sanders partisans are concerned about Clinton’s sometimes-opaque comments on the campaign trail.

“What people are looking for is to know what’s in her heart,” said strategist Jamal Simmons.

Further fueling concern are a number of recent polls that have shown Clinton performing very poorly when voters are asked about her honesty and trustworthiness. Last week, a Quinnipiac poll showed Coloradans asserting by an almost 2-1 margin that Clinton was not honest or trustworthy: 62 percent said she was not, whereas only 34 percent she was. Respondents in Iowa distrusted Clinton 59 percent to 33 percent, and those in Virginia distrusted her 55 percent to 39 percent.

Keystone is far from the only issue on which Clinton has bobbed and weaved.

On the minimum wage, a key issue for many liberals, she has backed a minimum of $15 an hour for fast food workers in New York but has not stipulated a nationally mandated figure.

She avoided taking an unequivocal position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) even as the related debate over fast-track trade authority roiled Congress last month — and her position remains unclear.

Additional examples of Clinton’s habit of trying to avoid taking positions on the issues were also noted in the article.

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Factcheck.org Debunks Conservative Smear Campaign Against Planned Parenthood

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The conservative attack on Planned Parenthood follows the pattern we have seen so many times in the past. Groups such as Breitbart put out edited tapes or videos to attack organizations which they disagree with based upon false claims. Now that fact checkers have had time to evaluate the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood, it is becoming clear that this is just one more example, and hardly comes as a surprise considering that most of the conservative reports on the issue which I’ve read quickly degenerate into a tirade against reproductive rights and legitimate scientific research.

Factcheck.org has evaluated the claims, and points out that, “it remains legal to donate tissue from a legally aborted fetus, and for that tissue to be used for research purposes.” They point ethical guidelines on the issue from the American Medical Association: “Fetal tissue is not provided in exchange for financial remuneration above that which is necessary to cover reasonable expenses.”

Reviewing the tapes, Factcheck.org found numerous examples which demonstrate that Planned Parenthood was operating within the law and established ethical guidelines:

Nucatola’s comment, though, isn’t evidence that Planned Parenthood or its affiliates are selling “body parts” or fetal tissue for profit. The full video shows that after Nucatola mentions the $30 to $100, she describes how those amounts would be reimbursement for expenses related to handling and transportation of the tissues. Nucatola talks about “space issues” and whether shipping would be involved…

Nucatola does make one statement in the unedited video that suggests to critics that some clinics would be comfortable with a payment that was slightly more than their expenses for providing the tissue. “I think for affiliates, at the end of the day, they’re a nonprofit, they just don’t want to — they want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that,” Nucatola says.

But immediately after this statement, Nucatola goes on to say: “Really their bottom line is, they want to break even. Every penny they save is just pennies they give to another patient. To provide a service the patient wouldn’t get.” Planned Parenthood told us that she may have been referring to more general operations of the clinics.

Nucatola repeatedly talks about affiliates only wanting to provide a service to their patients, who elect to donate the tissue for medical research, and not having that service impact their bottom lines. She says that it’s “not a new revenue stream the affiliates are looking at” and that “nobody should be ‘selling’ tissue. That’s just not the goal here.” She says some affiliates might donate the tissue for free.

Nucatola also discusses Planned Parenthood clinics’ interactions with a tissue procurement company called StemExpress. The company’s website says that partnering with StemExpress can be “financially profitable” for a clinic — a point that some conservativewebsites have singled out. But this also does not constitute evidence that Planned Parenthood is profiting in such a way…

Richards, the Planned Parenthood president, said in a video response to the controversy: “The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true.”

On July 21, the Center for Medical Progress released a second, similar video, again featuring a discussion with a Planned Parenthood official in a restaurant. The numbers mentioned in the edited video are similar to what Nucatola said. The official, Mary Gatter, quotes a rate of $75 per specimen, and says she was thinking of saying $50. The discussion only reaches $100 because the “buyers” in the video mention higher prices. At one point, Gatter says that “we’re not in this for the money,” and later she reiterates that “money is not the important thing.”

Though few studies of costs associated with fetal tissue acquisition are available, existing evidence does suggest the prices named in the video are in line with general practices. The National Institutes of Health conducts research with fetal tissue, and in the late 1990s, the Government Accountability Office (then known as the General Accounting Office) looked into the acquisition of such tissue, finding that the direct cost to researchers was “low.” GAO said payments primarily went to “central tissue suppliers,” as opposed to health clinics. In most cases, GAO found that clinics did not charge researchers, but when they did, the cost ranged from $2 to $75. The report did not address how much clinics might have received from central tissue suppliers, which is more analogous to the situation presented in the video.

PoltiFact has also reviewed the topic.

The New York Times has run an editorial on the subject. After summarizing the issue, the editorial concludes:

Anti-abortion groups have long pushed to defund Planned Parenthood, even though no federal money is used to provide abortions. But that hasn’t stopped their efforts to shut down the clinics, which provide services like contraception, cancer screening and other tests.

The Center for Medical Progress — which managed to get tax-exempt status in 2013 as a biomedicine charity, according to a report by The Huffington Post — appears to have done little beyond producing the undercover video. According to its registration form with the California attorney general, it has three officers: Mr. Daleiden; Albin Rhomberg, who has participated in anti-abortion protests; and Troy Newman, the president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

In a statement last week, Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that “our donation programs — like any other high-quality health care providers — follow all laws and ethical guidelines” and that “Planned Parenthood stands behind our work to help women and families donate tissue for medical research when they wish to.”

Researchers use fetal tissue to study and develop treatments for diseases and conditions like H.I.V., hepatitis, congenital heart defects, retinal degeneration and Parkinson’s. Last year, the National Institutes of Health gave $76 million in grants for fetal tissue research. Planned Parenthood is certainly not the only collector of fetal tissue — clinics associated with universities also supply tissue for research.

The Center for Medical Progress video campaign is a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and potentially lifesaving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal. Lawmakers responding by promoting their own anti-choice agenda are rewarding deception and putting women’s health and their constitutionally protected rights at risk.

Considering the potential health benefits, research on fetal tissue is the true “pro-life” position.

Update: The Department of Justice plans to investigate this matter.

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Bernie Sanders, Guns, And A Respect For Individual Liberty

Bernie Sanders facebook

Clinton supporters have increasingly been trying to smear Bernie Sanders by claiming he is pro-guns and supports the NRA. Actually the NRA has in various years given him grades of F and D- on gun control measures which he has supported, including bans on assault weapons, restrictions on concealed weapons, ending the “gun-show loophole,” and expanded background checks, plus opposing shortening waiting periods. This is what he said when interviewed by Diane Rehm:

Well, I come from a state which has virtually no gun control. And in Vermont, guns are seen as something people use for hunting, target shooting, antique gun shows. But I realize, and Vermont has realized, that guns in Detroit and Los Angeles are used to shoot at police officers and to commit terrible crimes. So, I believe that we have to do everything we can to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them. Period.

More from that interview, where Sanders contrasted his views with those of Clinton on other issues, was previously posted here.

While there is legitimate room for disagreement on some of his votes, overall Sanders has not been against gun control as some are claiming. His concern for rights of those who desire to use guns in a legitimate manner is a plus in his favor, especially when contrasted with the nanny-state views and support for increased influence of religion in government held by Hillary Clinton.

This libertarian side of Sanders can be also be seen in his opposition to restrictions on same-sex marriage, abortion, and the drug war which was seen when he ran for Governor of Vermont back in the 1970’s. Sanders has not needed to evolve on the issues to oppose such intrusions of government on the private lives of individuals.

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Lie Of The Day: Clinton Tries to Win Over Sanders Supporters By Claiming To Be A Progressive

HANOVER, NH - JULY 3: Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton participates in a grassroots organizing event in College Park at Dartmouth College July 3, 2015 in Hanover, New Hampshire. Clinton is spending two days over the fourth of July in the first in the nation primary state. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton said, “I take a backseat to no one when you look at my record in standing up and fighting for progressive values.” Quite a lie, but not surprising coming from a candidate who the majority of voters agree is dishonest in recent polls.

Clinton believes she needs to make such false claims now that Bernie Sanders is posing a serious threat in Iowa and New Hampshire, but she will hardly convince Sanders supporters that she has ever been progressive. The former Goldwater Girl has maintained conservative values throughout her career, except that Barry Goldwater was more socially liberal than Clinton.

In February Truth-Out had a post on Five Reasons No Progressive Should Support Hillary Clinton, which is worth reading–and there are several more reasons besides what is in that article.

Besides the economic differences which have dominated the campaign so far, it was Sanders who, reviewing the same intelligence as Hillary Clinton, voted against the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton not only voted for the war, she went to the right of other Democrats who voted to authorize force in falsely claiming there was a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda. She showed she did not learn from her mistake when she continued to advocate for increased military intervention as Secretary of State.

In an era when the nation is becoming more liberal on social issues, Hillary Clinton’s long-standing conservatism on social/cultural issues also make her too conservative to be the Democratic nominee. This was seen when she was in the Senate when she was a member of The Fellowship, being influenced on social issues by religious conservatives such as Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback. Clinton’s affiliation with the religious right was seen in 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, along with her promotion of restrictions on video games and her introduction of a bill making flag burning a felony. Her social conservatism is also seen in her weak record on abortion rights, such as supporting parental notification laws and stigmatizing women who have abortions with the manner in which she calls for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.” Clinton was speaking out against same-sex as recently as 2013.

Clinton has disappointed environmentalists in supporting fracking and off-shore drilling. Her views on the Keystone XL Pipeline is just one of many controversial issues where Clinton has refused to give her opinion. The vast amounts of money she has received from backers of the pipeline lead many environmentalists to doubt that Clinton can be counted on to oppose the pipeline, or take any positions contrary to the wishes of the petroleum industry.

Bernie Sanders voted against the Patriot Act while Clinton supported it. Sanders has spoken out against the illegal NSA surveillance while Clinton has remained quiet, and has an overall poor record on civil liberties. Clinton’s failures to archive her email as required when she was Secretary of State and disclose donations to the Clinton Foundation as she had agreed to are just the latest examples of her long-standing hostility towards government transparency.

Saying she is a progressive is not going to win over progressives after she has spent her career opposing liberal values.

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Two Liberal Decisions From A Conservative Court

Rainbow White House

It has been a good week for liberal decisions form a conservative court. Yesterday, as I was certain they would, they threw out the absurd case against the Affordable Care Act. I’m not sure that this really changes anything. Conservatives will continue to complain about the law, but lack any effective way to repeal it, and certainly have no alternative.

The case made no sense and if Roberts had wanted to destroy Obamacare he would have done so when they ruled on the individual mandate. In this case it isn’t so much that the Supreme Court has become more liberal, but that the Supreme Court is not willing to go along with every ridiculous case brought by conservatives. Earlier in the week, The New York Times showed that the court has made more liberal decisions this year. Brendan Nyhan followed this up discussing a reason why the court might appear more liberal when it is not:

In a 2009 article, the political scientists Kevin T. McGuire, Georg Vanberg, Charles E. Smith Jr. and Gregory A. Caldeira proposed a theory that provides an alternate explanation to liberal drift. They predicted that conservatives would press their luck to take advantage when they had a majority on the court, appealing more cases they lost in lower courts. (Conversely, liberals would be less likely to appeal cases because they were more likely to prefer lower-court decisions and to fear creating damaging precedents.) Mr. McGuire and his co-authors then showed empirically that this process increased the number of conservative reversals of lower-court rulings but also increased the number of cases in which a more liberal ruling was affirmed because litigants guessed wrong about how far the court was willing to go.

Their prediction seems to fit nicely with recent evidence. The court has reversed lower-court decisions and decided in favor of conservatives on high-profile cases concerning issues like campaign finance and voting rights. But Justice Kennedy and/or Chief Justice Roberts have joined the liberal wing to affirm more liberal lower-court rulings in cases like today’s decisions on health care and housing.

The case also did show a degree of sanity on the court in deciding against an argument which only bat-shit crazy conservatives(such as George Will) could accept. It also demonstrated that at least one justice was persuadable as it takes four justices to accept a case, and only three stuck with this argument in the end.

The decision in favor of same-sex marriage was also predictable but is far more significant. It really does change the status quo for those living in states where same-sex marriage has remained illegal. Andrew Sullivan returned to blogging to describe what this meant to him:

We are not disordered or sick or defective or evil – at least no more than our fellow humans in this vale of tears. We are born into family; we love; we marry; we take care of our children; we die. No civil institution is related to these deep human experiences more than civil marriage and the exclusion of gay people from this institution was a statement of our core inferiority not just as citizens but as human beings. It took courage to embrace this fact the way the Supreme Court did today…

I think of the gay kids in the future who, when they figure out they are different, will never know the deep psychic wound my generation – and every one before mine – lived through: the pain of knowing they could never be fully part of their own family, never be fully a citizen of their own country. I think, more acutely, of the decades and centuries of human shame and darkness and waste and terror that defined gay people’s lives for so long. And I think of all those who supported this movement who never lived to see this day, who died in the ashes from which this phoenix of a movement emerged. This momentous achievement is their victory too – for marriage, as Kennedy argued, endures past death.

This case also shows how the Republican Party has moved to the right while the nation has become more liberal on social issues. Compare the views of the Roberts Court with this year’s presidential candidates which are summarized at BuzzFeed. In 2004 Republicans successfully used proposals to ban same sex marriage to turn out the vote in their favor. While opposition might help some candidates in Republican primaries, it will also hurt them in the general election.

In 2013 I had posted a prediction from George Clooney which is far closer to coming true:

 

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Claire McCaskill Is Wrong–Bernie Sanders Is Not Too Liberal, Hillary Clinton Is Too Conservative

LANHAM, MD - MAY 5:  U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a town hall meeting at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 26 office May 5, 2015 in Lanham, Maryland. Sanders, who announced announced his candidacy for president on April 30, discussed a range of issues and took questions from the audience. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Claire McCaskil, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, claimed that Bernie Sanders is, “is too liberal to gather enough votes in this country to become president” on Morning Joe. Sanders replied in an interview with Bloomberg News:

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a colleague has attacked me,” said Sanders, a Vermont socialist who joined the presidential race about two months ago, in an interview with Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. “You’ll have to ask Senator McCaskill why.”

“Do I believe, in opposition to Senator McCaskill, that we need trade policies that are fair to the American worker, and not just benefit CEOs and large corporations?” Sanders said. “I plead guilty.”

Sanders said he “absolutely” believes in a single-payer health care system and opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

McCaskill is wrong in saying that Sanders is too liberal. The real problem is that Hillary Clinton is too conservative. As I discussed last week, Sanders’ views are becoming mainstream. Sanders contrasted his views with those of Hillary Clinton when interviewed by Diane Rehm two weeks ago, with excerpts posted here.

McCaskill also complained that the media has given Sanders a pass in not mentioning he is a socialist, but this has been constantly noted in media coverage. Actually he calls himself a Democratic Socialist, with views more similar to European Social Democrats than hard-core socialists. Sanders  has not only supported a role for the private enterprise, his policies in Burlington turned out to be quite favorable for business growth. He discussed his economic views with MSNBC last month:

I think there is obviously an enormously important role for the free market and for entrepreneurial activity. I worry how free the free market is. In sector after sector, you have a small number of companies controlling a large part of the sector.

Certainly, in my view, the major banks should be broken up. We want entrepreneurs and private businesses to create wealth. No problem. But what we’re living in now is what I would call—what Pope Francis calls—a casino-type capitalism, which is out of control, where the people on top have lost any sense of responsibility for the rest of the society. Where it’s just “It’s all me. It’s all me. And to heck with anybody else.” I want to see the result of that wealth go to the broad middle class of this country and not just to a handful of people.

No, Sanders is not too liberal. Clinton is too conservative. In February Truth-Out had a post on Five Reasons No Progressive Should Support Hillary Clinton, which is worth reading–and there are several more reasons besides what is in that article.

Besides the economic differences which have dominated the campaign so far, it was Sanders who, reviewing the same intelligence as Hillary Clinton, voted against the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton not only voted for the war, she went to the right of other Democrats who voted to authorize force in falsely claiming there was a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda. She showed she did not learn from her mistake when she continued to advocate for increased military intervention as Secretary of State. Voters deserve a real choice in the general election on the future direction of our foreign policy, which we will not have in a contest between Hillary Clinton and virtually any Republican.

In an era when the nation is becoming more liberal on social issues, Hillary Clinton’s long-standing conservatism on social/cultural issues also make her too conservative to be the Democratic nominee. This was seen when she was in the Senate when she was a member of The Fellowship, being influenced on social issues by religious conservatives such as Rick Santorum, Sam Brownback, and Joe Lieberman. Clinton’s affiliation with the religious right was seen in 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, along with her promotion of restrictions on video games and her introduction of a bill making flag burning a felony. Her social conservatism is also seen in her weak record on abortion rights, such as supporting parental notification laws and stigmatizing women who have abortions with the manner in which she calls for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.” Until last year she continued to argue that gay marriage should be up to the states, only recently recognizing it as a right.

Clinton has disappointed environmentalists in supporting fracking and off-shore drilling. Her views on the Keystone XL Pipeline is just one of many controversial issues where Clinton has refused to give her opinion. The vast amounts of money she has received from backers of the pipeline lead many environmentalists to doubt that Clinton can be counted on to oppose the pipeline, or take any positions contrary to the wishes of the petroleum industry.

Bernie Sanders voted against the Patriot Act while Clinton supported it. Sanders has spoken out against the illegal NSA surveillance while Clinton has remained quiet, and has an overall poor record on civil liberties. Clinton’s failures to archive her email as required when she was Secretary of State and disclose donations to the Clinton Foundation as she had agreed to are just the latest examples of her long-standing hostility towards government transparency.

Hillary Clinton personifies everything which has been wrong about the Democratic Party. This lack of standing up for principle by Democrats is also probably a major reason why the Republicans dominate in Congress and many state governments. When Democrats hide from liberal principles, they do not give potential Democratic voters a reason to turn out to vote.

Besides interviewing Sanders about McCaskill’s attack, Bloomberg also reported that Sanders is gaining on Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire. A WMUR/CNN poll shows the race to be even tighter in New Hampshire:

Less than two months ago, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a 21 percentage point lead over her nearest competitor in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary campaign. Now, her edge is down to 8 percentage points over Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Polls on primary races have historically changed considerably due to people not paying attention early and changes as the campaign progress. Primary voters are far more likely to be persuaded to change their support when choosing among members of their own party than people are likely to be persuaded to vote for candidates of the other party in a general election. Historically voters in Iowa have not made up their minds until just prior to voting, and even a poll from a week earlier is liable to change. An eight point, or even larger margin, can disappear overnight. Results in subsequent states tend to also change rapidly as results from earlier states are available. If Sanders, or another liberal challenger, can upset Clinton in Iowa, or perhaps only keep it close, they are likely to see a considerable bounce going into subsequent primary battles. Clinton still maintains a lead, but is no longer the inevitable candidate.

Related Posts:
Former Clinton Adviser Predicts Bernie Sanders Will Beat Hillary Clinton
Sanders’ Views Becoming More Mainstream Than Clinton’s Conservative Views
Bernie Sanders Contrasts His Views With Those Of Hillary Clinton
What Bernie Sanders Believes
Sanders Surge Surprises Clinton In South Carolina
Hillary Clinton Gets Her Do-Over But Liberals Desire Someone Better
Red Dawn In Vermont? The Real Results Of Bernie Sanders As Mayor
Bernie Sanders Answers Questions And NBC Advises Not To Count Him Out

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Sanders’ Views Becoming More Mainstream Than Clinton’s Conservative Views

With frontrunner Hillary Clinton having been found to have committed  major ethics violations as Secretary of State, showing a tremendous drop in favorability and trust in the polls, and having views significantly to the right of a Democratic Party which is becoming more liberal, it is time for Plan B. With the momentum being displayed by Bernie Sanders, Plan B just might be Plan Bernie.

While Hillary Clinton is a very poor choice to run in the general election, some fear that Bernie Sanders might have difficulty winning because of calling himself a Democratic Socialist (even if his views are closer to European-style social democrats than socialism). It is questionable if that matters considering that Barack Obama won the general election twice, despite being called a Marxist Socialist by the Republicans. As the Star-Ledger Editorial Board put it, Sanders’ socialism is mainstream:

He has made income inequality a central theme, and he wants to revamp the tax system so that the wealthy pay a larger share. Check and check: Gallup reports that 63 percent call wealth distribution unfair, and 52 percent favor heavier taxes on the rich.

He is scathing about how big money has corrupted politics, and 61 percent of agree that Citizens United should be overturned. That includes 71 percent of Republicans who want to limit campaign contributions.

He wants to reduce student debt, at a time when 79 percent believe that education is no longer affordable for everyone, and 82 percent support creating low-cost loans for education.

He believes government should be proactive to reverse global warming, which is consistent with 71 percent of Americans, while 48 percent of Republicans say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who fights climate change.

He also endorses a $15 federal minimum wage and believes that Wall Street banks should be shrunk, two concepts that poll very well.

Even the term “socialism” doesn’t poll like it used to, because younger voters believe Sanders is espousing a broader social rights agenda. The 18-to-29 bloc even finds socialism (36 percent) almost as favorable as capitalism (39 percent).

Or perhaps they just know that socialist precepts, in large part, represent the civic and cultural foundation of our nation.

Consider: Many things we take for granted today were conceived by leftist coalitions that included Socialists and other Progressives, such as the eight-hour workday, women’s suffrage, Medicare, and Social Security. Some were used as the platform for Eugene Debs’ bid for the White House a century ago, though back then they called it “social insurance.”

Labor rights, decent work conditions, and paid maternity leave were in large part socialist ideas, too, some championed by a Socialist congressman from the lower East Side named Meyer London.

And civil liberty was an ironclad tenet throughout our history – as long as your skin wasn’t a tint darker than the majority – but when we interned Japanese Americans in 1942, one of the loudest objections was voiced by the prominent Socialist of the time, Norman Thomas.

Meanwhile the alternative is Hillary Clinton, who helped George Bush lie the country into the Iraq war with false claims that Saddam had connections to al Qaeda, continued to push for increased military intervention as Secretary of State, is weak on issues including civil liberties, government transparency, and the environment, and shows the influence of her association with the religious right in her positions on social issues. Bernie Sanders’ positions might be more mainstream than Clinton’s, despite her selective attempts to sound more liberal, and are definitely preferable for a Democratic candidate.

Related Posts:
Bernie Sanders Contrasts His Views With Those Of Hillary Clinton
What Bernie Sanders Believes

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Hillary Clinton vs. The Press

Hillary Clinton CSPAN Iowa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Number Of Self-Identified Social Liberals Ties Social Conservatives

Gallup Social Liberals

I tend to minimize the importance of Gallup polls on self-identification by label as they are largely influenced by the effects of the right to demonize the word liberal. Polls based on specific political positions have typically showed more people taking liberal positions than calling themselves liberal. It is of interest that a new Gallup poll shows that the number of those who call themselves liberal on social issues matches those who call themselves socially conservative, both tied at 31 percent. The trend can be seen in the graph above.

Gallup has this observation, which reinforces my greatest fears about the Democratic Party:

The newfound parity on social ideology is a result of changes in the way both Democrats and Republicans describe their social views. The May 6-10 Gallup poll finds a new high of 53% of Democrats, including Democratic-leaning independents, describing their views on social issues as liberal.

That might partially explain how someone as socially conservative as Hillary Clinton can have such a strong lead in the Democratic race. Of course it is likely that many Democrats are not even aware of what Salon recently called her bizarre alliance with the Christian right.

The Gallup poll continues to show more people identifying as conservative on economic issues although polls on specific economic issues tend to show Americans as more liberal despite how they self-identify themselves.

The results showing an increase in social liberals is consistent with another recent poll on same-sex marriage, which actually shows a far more liberal result. Gallup found that a record high of 60 percent support same-sex marriage. This leaves the Republican candidates out of the mainstream, but as Republicans tend to be less likely to support same-sex marriage this might remain the more politically expedient position for those seeking the GOP nomination. Hillary Clinton appears to have read the polls correctly as she dropped her position of last year favoring leaving the matter to the states.

The trend towards greater support of same-sex marriage is also present in much of the world with Ireland, one of the more socially conservative countries in Europe voting on the issue today. If the referendum passes, Ireland would be the first country in the western world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.

One liberal is doing better in the polls. Barack Obama’s favorability rating is up to the highest level since September 2013, increasing four points to 53 percent compared to last month.

Update: Both sides are now saying that the referendum to legalize same-sex marriage has passed in Ireland.

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