Clinton Receiving Criticism On Economic And Foreign Policy From Two Potential Democratic Challengers

With Hillary Clinton’s formal announcement that she is running for the Democratic nomination imminent, we now have something resembling a political campaign. Unfortunately (especially considering how Clinton is slipping in the battle ground polls) the race is rather one sided. Politico points out that even many of those who do not support her for the nomination see her as an unstoppable train. The article did look at a few possible challenges to Clinton from the left:

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, former Virginia senator Jim Webb, and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders — the trio who have shown the greatest interest in mounting a challenge to Clinton — face a steep path, Democratic operatives say, while the two most famous names mentioned as potential challengers — Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren — seem increasingly far from running.

Lincoln Chafee, the former Rhode Island senator and governor, emerged in the last few days to stake a possible claim to be the Clinton alternative, raising Warren-like concerns about Clinton’s closeness to Wall Street. But he’s a maverick whose shift from Republican to independent to Democrat is unlikely to excite the progressive base.

…Clinton aides point to O’Malley as the most viable alternative candidate, believing he will eventually pick up support from many of the liberal activists currently urging Warren to run. The silver lining in his low name recognition is that he has an opportunity to introduce himself to the American people on his own terms.

Warren, meanwhile, repeatedly insists she will not throw her hat in the ring despite an organized campaign put together by progressive groups intended to draft the bank antagonist.

And even though the vice president has run for president twice before — including against Clinton and Obama in 2008 — he has no political operation to speak of. Biden’s supporters insist that he would need little preparation to jump in due to his existing networks and the goodwill generated by his trips to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina earlier this year. But he shows no signs of seriously considering a run.

MSNBC, which might be expected to be more willing than other media outlets to cover a challenge to Clinton from the left, reported on Martin O’Malley campaigning in Iowa:

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley says if he runs for president, he will try to pull the Democratic Party back to its populist roots.

“You know what it’s about? It’s really about calling our party back to its true self,” he said in a wide-ranging MSNBC interview airing Friday. “Our politics has been greatly impacted, for the worse, by big money and the concentration of big money.”

O’Malley, in Iowa this week for meetings and a local Democratic Party event, took a break to talk about his potential 2016 challenge to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Smokey Row Coffee, a bustling coffee shop on the West side of Des Moines. Clinton is expected to begin her presidential campaign as early as this weekend.

Widely known as number-crunching technocrat, O’Malley sounds pretty blunt when criticizing what he calls Wall Street’s growing dominance of campaigns and government – including some members of the Obama administration.

“For 30 years we’ve followed this trickle-down theory of economics that said, ‘Concentrate wealth at the very top, remove regulation and keep wages low so we can be competitive – whatever the hell that means,” O’Malley says.

“What it led to was the first time since the Second World War where wages have actually declined, rather than going up – where almost all of the new income earned in this recovery has gone to the top 1%,” he says, invoking the famous phrase from the Occupy Wall Street protests.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” he continues, arguing, “these things are not effects that blew in on a gulf stream or on a polar vortex – these are the products of the policy choices we made over these 30 years.”

O’Malley says the system is rigged “in many ways” – a concern pressed by the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of the Democratic Party – and contends middle class priorities should be “at the center of our economic theory.”

…O’Malley freely admits most Iowans he meets haven’t heard of him, but he believes they are receptive to his economic focus – and they aren’t all ready for Hillary.

Many Iowans want to literally “meet every candidate” before they decide, he says, and they don’t accept “the inevitability or the punditry or whatever the polls happen to say.”

O’Malley should know. He got started in politics working on Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign in Iowa, and he believes history shows there’s really no such thing as inevitable candidates.

“There is an ‘inevitable’ front-runner who remains ‘inevitable’ right up until he or she’s no longer inevitable,” he says. “And the person that emerges as the alternative is the person that usually no one in America had heard of before – until that person got into a van and went county to county to county.”

O’Malley is careful not to criticize Hillary Clinton by name, but her presence clearly looms over his possible candidacy.

While O’Malley has avoided criticizing Clinton by name, Lincoln Chafee has no such reservations. The New York Times interviewed Chafee about his intentions to run against Clinton:

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Chafee offered sharp criticism of Mrs. Clinton’s support for the war in Iraq and for accepting foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation.

“The donations to the Clinton Foundation are alarming to me,” Mr. Chafee said, arguing that decision making can be compromised when enormous amounts of money change hands.

The Clintons have defended the family foundation’s acceptance of donations from foreign governments, which was mostly suspended when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state and resumed after she left. Last month, former President Bill Clinton said taking money from foreign countries, including those in the Middle East, was crucial to keeping the foundation’s programs running

As Barack Obama did as a senator in 2007, Mr. Chafee argued that Mrs Clinton’s support for the war in Iraq should disqualify her from the White House.

“It’s still relevant,” Mr. Chafee said. “I would argue that the next president of the United States should not have voted for that war.”

Besides Clinton’s vote, Clinton has additional problems on foreign policy. These range from being one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq war, falsely claiming a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, to advocating a more hawkish viewpoint in the Obama administration.

Clinton Trailing Republicans In Battle Ground States Prior To Announcing Her Candidacy As Voters Consider Her To Be Dishonest

Hillary Clinton is going to announce her candidacy to be the best president money can buy with a video on Sunday. Then later that evening you can see more treacherous people seeking power on this season’s premier of  Game of Thrones. If after watching Clinton’s video you want to watch even more video in which you are constantly being deceived by a dishonest woman, I would recommend watching Gone Girl. 

With her announcement imminent, Clinton continues to drop in the swing state polls. The Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll shows Clinton trailing or tied in match-ups against Republicans in Iowa and Colorado while still holding a lead in Virginia:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lead is wilting against leading Republican presidential candidates in three critical swing states, Colorado, Iowa and Virginia, and she finds herself in a close race with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in each state, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today. In head-to-head matchups, every Republican candidate effectively ties her in Colorado and almost all Republicans effectively tie her in Iowa.

Secretary Clinton has lost ground in almost every matchup in Colorado and Iowa since a February 18 Swing State Poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. The Swing State Poll focuses on key states in the presidential election.

One bright spot for Clinton is Virginia, the largest of the three states, where she leads all Republicans, including 47 – 40 percent over Bush, compared to a 42 – 42 percent tie in February.

Voters in each state say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy. Her overall favorability has dropped significantly in Colorado and Iowa, while Virginia is unchanged. Favorability ratings for the Republicans are lackluster, at best.

The poll has her trailing Rand Paul in both Iowa and Colorado. She is even struggling against candidates such as Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee. Although she does better in head to head matches against the Republican candidates in Virginia, and the numbers aren’t as bad as in the other swing states, Clinton is still not trusted:

Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, Virginia voters say 52 – 40 percent. Her e-mail scandal is important to their vote, 51 percent of voters say, while 47 percent say it’s not so important or not important at all. The e-mail issue makes 39 percent less likely to voter for her, while 56 percent say it makes no difference.

Serious questions about the e-mail scandal remain, 54 percent of voters say, while 38 percent say Clinton has given satisfactory answers. Virginia voters say 51 – 46 percent a Congressional investigation into the e-mail scandal would be politically motivated.

The email scandal is more likely to hurt her as more voters are paying attention to the issue, but Clinton is likely to receive a favorable bounce after announcing her candidacy.

Some Democrats have been willing to ignore both Clinton’s ethical lapses and her conservative views due to the belief that she has the best chance to win the general election. Instead it is increasingly looking like Clinton might have a difficult time winning the 2016 election.

Report Claims Clinton Altered Position On Trade Deal And Human Rights In Return For Contributions To Clinton Foundation

Clinton Media

Despite claims of leaving the White House dead broke, the Clintons have made a fortune since Bill was president. The Clinton Foundation has been thought to be a front for selling political influence by watchdogs on both the right and left. While Republicans think that Hillary wiped the server containing her email to prevent revelations on Benghazi, it is far more likely that if she was covering anything up it related to financial contributions. Reuters has previously reported that Clinton has violated promises to disclose contributions to the Foundation when she was made Secretary of State. Now The Hill, The International Business Times, and Common Dreams are reporting that Hillary Clinton does appear to have altered her views in return for financial contributions to the Foundation from Columbia.

The Hill reports that “The Clinton Foundation reportedly accepted millions of dollars from a Colombian oil company head before then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to support a trade deal with Colombia despite worries of human rights violations.”

Common Dreams further summarizes the reports:

A new investigative look at the ties between big business interests in Colombia, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and her family’s charitable foundation are raising troubling questions about the role that corporate trade deals and big oil may have played in softening the powerful Democrat’s position on human rights in the South American country.

During her time heading the State Department, presumptive 2016 presidential nominee Clinton stayed silent on reports of violence and threats against labor activists in Colombia, even as her family’s “global philanthropic empire” was developing—and benefiting from—private business ties with a major oil corporation accused of worker-intimidation in the country, according to new reporting published Thursday by International Business Times.

In addition, the IBT investigation shows that after millions of dollars were pledged by the oil company to the Clinton Foundation, Clinton reversed her position on a U.S.-Colombia trade pact she had previously opposed on the grounds that it was bad for labor rights.

As IBT journalists Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Andrew Perez, and David Sirota report:

At the same time that Clinton’s State Department was lauding Colombia’s human rights record, her family was forging a financial relationship with Pacific Rubiales, the sprawling Canadian petroleum company at the center of Colombia’s labor strife. The Clintons were also developing commercial ties with the oil giant’s founder, Canadian financier Frank Giustra, who now occupies a seat on the board of the Clinton Foundation, the family’s global philanthropic empire.

“The details of these financial dealings remain murky,” the article states, “but this much is clear: After millions of dollars were pledged by the oil company to the Clinton Foundation—supplemented by millions more from Giustra himself—Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial U.S.-Colombia trade pact.”

What’s more, an IBT review of public State Department documents shows that “as the Giustra-Clinton foundation relationship deepened, Hillary Clinton and the State Department never criticized or took action against the Colombian government for alleged violations of labor rights at Pacific Rubiales.”

Quite the opposite, in fact: “Instead, Clinton’s State Department issued certifications in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 declaring that Colombia has been complying with human rights standards that are required under federal law for continued U.S. military aid to the country.”

It looks like when Hillary Clinton announces her campaign, she might promise to be the best president money can buy.

Meanwhile in other Clinton news today, Politico reports on both questionable contributions from Morocco along with  how “her husband’s presidential library here is spilling more secrets about her top advisers’ efforts to burnish her image during the eight years she spent as first lady.”

Tom Cotton Thinks War With Iran Would Be Quick And Easy

Tom Cotton

After the Cotton letter, which undermines the ability of any American president to negotiate on the behalf of the United States, was written and signed by 47 Republicans, the question raised was whether Republicans really want to see a war with Iran. The same question was raised again with Republicans opposing the deal reached with Iran. Tom Cotton now shows  how delusional he is on war with Iran:

Sen. Tom Cotton says bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would take several days and be nothing like Iraq War.

The Arkansas Republican, who earlier this year upset Democrats and the White House by sending a letter warning the Iranian government to think twice about entering into a deal on its nuclear program with President Obama, said President Obama offered a “false choice” by saying it was his deal with Iran or war…

Cotton said any military action against Iran would not be like the Iraq War and would instead be similar to 1999’s Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton.

“Even if military action were required — and we certainly should have kept the credible threat of military force on the table throughout which always improves diplomacy — the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case,” Cotton said.

“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. For interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we’re asking is that the president simply be as tough as in the protection of America’s national security interest as Bill Clinton was.”

It reminds me of the view held by those in the Bush administration who claimed that the Iraq war would be quick while we would be greeted as liberators.

Even some conservatives are horrified by Cotton’s remarks. Daniel Larison responded at The American Conservative:

One couldn’t ask for a more misleading presentation of the costs and dangers of military action against Iran. First, no one seriously believes that a bombing campaign against Iran would take only a few days. It would very likely take several weeks at least, and that probably underestimates the difficulty. Starting a war with Iran will last longer and cost more than anyone anticipates. That has been true of all other U.S. wars of choice over the last two decades, and there’s no reason to think that a war with Iran would be easier or less dangerous than any of those. Assuming that Iran retaliates, the conflict would escalate and go on much longer than Iran hawks are claiming.

All that Iran hawks promise is that the nuclear program would be set back by a few years. However, the attack would push Iran to acquire the weapons that the hawks don’t want them to have, and it would drive them to make the nuclear program less vulnerable to future attacks. If Iran hawks were intent on destroying Iran’s nuclear program permanently through military action, they probably would have to argue for an invasion of Iran at some point. When the time came, Cotton would probably be among the first to tell us how cheap, quick, and easy that would be, too.

Like most hawks, Cotton minimizes the costs and duration of military action, he ignores the likely consequences, and he treats an attack on Iran as cavalierly as possible. The comparison with Desert Fox is laughable. That operation took place years after the U.S. had already destroyed Iraqi defenses, which clearly isn’t the case with Iran. Cotton further misleads the public to think that the only thing that can qualify as war with Iran is a scenario involving “150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground.” It is the Iran hawks that want the public to think that a major ground invasion is the only thing that can be called war, which allows them to advocate for a different kind of war against Iran while pretending that they don’t favor war. They don’t want to face the potential political cost of warmongering, so they pretend that they are advocating for something that isn’t “really” war. But, of course, war is exactly what they’re demanding.

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

Rand Paul Conservative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Wiliams And The Problems At NBC News

Vanity Fair Brian Wilson

Vanity Fair has a fascinating article on Brian Williams and NBC News. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Much of the blame is placed on Comcast–an easy target to blame:

Since Comcast took control of NBC, the network’s news division—famously termed Comcast’s “crown jewel” by C.E.O. Brian Roberts—has endured one debacle after another. “When Comcast took over, they had the No. 1 morning show, the No. 1 Sunday show, and the No. 1 evening broadcast,” says a former top NBC executive. “That’s all completely fallen apart. I don’t know how you blame anyone but Comcast and the people it brought in. It’s been a nightmare.”

Behind the scenes much of the blame has been laid at the feet of three executives: Turness, a British-trained newcomer to U.S. television; Fili, who had virtually no experience in journalism; and Fili’s boss, the steely, driven C.E.O. Comcast installed to run NBCUniversal, Steve Burke. Under Burke the network has done well overall—its ratings have rebounded from last to first in the coveted 18–49 demographic, and NBCUniversal’s profits were up 18 percent last year—but he and his deputies, their critics charge, time and again proved unable to rein in the news division’s high-priced talent. “News is a very particular thing, NBC is a very particular beast, and Deborah, well, she really doesn’t have a fucking clue,” says a senior NBC executive involved in recent events. “She’s letting the inmates run the asylum. You have kids? Well, if you let them, they’ll have ice cream every night. Same thing in TV. If you let the people on air do what they want, whenever they want, this is what happens.”

The problem is also attributed to Brian Williams being more interested in corporate politics than national politics or foreign affairs:

One might expect that, in the wake of Williams’s suspension, his colleagues would be brimming with stories of other fanciful tales he told. That’s not the case. There are a few tales, it’s true, but when asked for the unvarnished truth about Williams, the two topics people at NBC News return to again and again are these: his prowess as a bureaucratic infighter and his limited interest in the kind of “heavy” news topics and investigative pieces that had long been championed by such NBC stalwarts as Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert.

“What always bothered Tim was Brian’s lack of interest in things that mattered most, that were front and center, like politics and world events,” says a person who knew both men well. “Brian has very little interest in politics. It’s not in his blood. What Brian cares about is logistics, the weather, and planes and trains and helicopters.”

“You know what interested Brian about politics?” marvels one longtime NBC correspondent, recently departed. “Brian was obsessed with whether Mitt Romney wore the Mormon underwear.” (A supporter says that this characterization is unfair and that Williams reads deeply and broadly, especially about history and politics.)

Williams took the anchor chair in December 2004, after a career handling the news at local stations and MSNBC; though he had worked as NBC’s chief White House correspondent for two years, he was never a foreign or war correspondent. He was deeply insecure about this, some of his friends believe. These people suggest that his storied broadcasts from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which proved a boon to his ratings, were in part an effort to overcome the perception that he was a journalistic lightweight. In his first years on Nightly News, several colleagues say, Williams’s weaknesses were kept in check by other strong figures at the network, from Brokaw and Russert to Capus and a Nightly News executive producer named John Reiss. With the departures of each of these men, especially Russert, who died in 2008, Williams slowly consolidated his power.

Plus Williams often appeared to be more interested in entertainment than hard news:

For a while, he was. In fact, as an excellent article by Gabriel Sherman in New York magazine recounted, Williams had long displayed an ambivalence with continuing in the anchor chair. With his abundant charisma and disarming wit, what he truly wanted, it appears, was his own talk show. According to New York, he talked to Steve Burke about succeeding Jay Leno. When Burke refused, Williams reportedly pitched Les Moonves, at CBS, to replace David Letterman, who was soon to retire. Moonves also allegedly declined. Though his appearances on shows such as 30 Rock and Jimmy Fallon successfully repositioned Williams as a good-humored Everyman—and thus expanded not only his own brand but that of Nightly News—they were not popular among many of his colleagues.

“He goes on Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon and all that, that’s where his heart was, and [at NBC] that’s seen as running away from the news division,” says a former NBC executive.

A Williams partisan disagrees. “The irony is that the very things people are criticizing Brian for now were the things they loved most about him at the time, the fact that by going on all these shows, with their young audiences, he was building bridges to the younger people who weren’t watching network news anymore,” this person says. “It was something the previous generation of anchormen, like Brokaw, hadn’t been able to do. Brian was doing it.”

After refusing Williams the Leno spot, Steve Burke offered him a consolation prize: his own magazine show, Rock Center, a bid to anchor what he hoped would be the second coming of 60 Minutes. It wasn’t. Rock Center debuted in 2011 to tepid reviews and worse ratings. Its journalistic efforts received less notice than its stunt hiring of Chelsea Clinton, whose signature contribution was the interview she did with the Geico Gecko that appeared on the show’s Web site.

After more discussion of the scandal which led to Williams being taken off the air there is speculation on his future–including what might be a perfect solution:

Williams’s future, NBC insiders insist, remains up in the air. He and Andy Lack are close friends, leading to widespread speculation that Lack will reinstate him once his suspension is complete. But people close to Lack say nothing has yet been decided. Many NBC observers simply can’t imagine a network anchorman ever returning to his former position after being exposed as Williams has. The most Machiavellian scenario, floated by an NBC partisan, is that Jeff Zucker, whose distaste for Comcast executives is well known, has fanned the flames of controversy so that he can eventually snare Williams for CNN—not as a newsman but as the long-sought replacement for Larry King. “That’s the perfect solution,” a source says. “Zucker gets a star, and Brian gets the talk show he always wanted.”

Saturday Night Live Spoof of CNN, And Hillary Clinton Deleting Her Email

Saturday Night Live had a good parody of CNN this weekend, starting with their coverage of airline disasters. Check out their simulations, along with their coverage of the Iran nuclear talks, using puppets as the actual meeting was behind closed doors. Also check out their simulation of Hillary Clinton deleting her email, using a cat for the simulation, about four minutes in.

Gary Hart Tells Politico Billion-Dollar Clinton Campaign Should Frighten Americans

In an interview with Politico, Gary Hart warned that a billion-dollar Clinton campaign  “ought to frighten every American” and hoped for a competitive primary which forced Clinton to be specific on the issues. He had favorable comments on both Martin O’Malley and Elizabeth Warren. Here is a condensed version:

“I like Hillary Clinton. I really appreciate what she and her husband have done … but we need new leaders,” said Hart, a former Colorado senator who rose from the bottom of the polls and nearly took down Walter Mondale in the 1984 primaries.

The post-Citizens United campaign finance environment has sullied the presidential process, he said, benefiting establishment politicians who cater to financial backers. He pointed to his own experience, noting that he and his wife mortgaged their home for between $50,000 and $75,000 — an amount that made a significant difference in his first campaign in 1984.

“I’m now told the Clinton campaign intends to raise $1 billion. Now, that ought to frighten every American,” he said…

The role of money in elections, the 78-year-old Hart said, is a driving force behind the current “dynastic” nature of American politics.

“If you’ve got to have a billion dollars to run for president, how many people can do that? Only the Clintons and the Bushes and one or two others,” he said.

“This country is 330 million people, and we should not be down to two families who are qualified to govern. … When you create dynastic networks, you shut a lot of people out,” he added.

Hart, who finished second to Mondale in the 1984 Democratic primary, said he has no doubt Clinton will get a primary challenger. And he argued that the challenger — whether it’s O’Malley or anyone else — should force Clinton to clarify her stance on key issues, something he says would be “therapy” for the party.

“The job of a challenger is to force specificity: Here is my plan, now let’s see her plan,” he said. Asked whether Clinton has not been adequately specific — he used the words “specific” or “specificity” 10 times in a half-hour interview — the former senator said she hasn’t been “pressed.”

His advice to prospective challengers to Clinton, like O’Malley? Be specific on policy, play up the generational divide and aggressively court small-money Internet donors.

Time and again, Hart spoke to the notion of 50 percent — the rough number of Democrats he says are not yet supporting Clinton for president. “If the polls say she has 50, there are 50 that she doesn’t have. … Why isn’t she at 95 [percent]?”

…Hart said there’s a parallel between O’Malley’s situation and his in 1984, when he took on a former vice president and overwhelming establishment favorite in Mondale. Hart, who barely registered a blip on the polls in Iowa at the outset, pressed a generational contrast with the man eight years older than him. He won the New Hampshire primary and nearly defeated Mondale in part by galvanizing younger voters.

Hart anticipates that O’Malley — who can point to a progressive record and is more comfortable with retail politics than Clinton — will use similar themes against the front-runner more than 15 years his senior. “I think he’ll draw a generational distinction, just because it’s obvious. I think he will pursue this search-for-new-leadership theme,” Hart said.

To that effect, he pointed to Barack Obama — who harnessed energy from the liberal base in 2008 and became competitive through his online fundraising — as a potential model. “So, could a Martin O’Malley do that? Possibly. If he develops an identity and a persona that a number of those searching 50 percent can identify with,” Hart said, arguing that Obama “had a depth of feeling, understanding and thoughtfulness that very few political leaders had.”

Hart said he has not communicated with any potential Democratic hopefuls other than O’Malley, but he offered strong praise for Warren, a progressive favorite who has captured the imagination of the left.

“I think it would be interesting in that she is very courageous, not just on the financial industry,” Hart said of a possible run by the Massachusetts senator, noting that he takes her at her word that she isn’t going to jump into the race. “There is an obvious integrity to her that is very, very appealing. By the way she speaks and what she says and how she says it, you believe this is a fiercely independent political figure who is saying a lot of things that people want to hear about how the game is fixed and rigged for the powerful.”

SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD; Better Call Saul; Arrow; The Flash; The Americans; Outlander; 12 Monkeys; Orphan Black; Continuum; X-Files; Big Bang Theory; Good Riddance, Carrie Matheson

The Flash Rogue Time

It felt like almost every show I watched last week had major episodes. Agents of SHIELD went back to the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier and showed the origin of the other SHIELD. Will Nick Fury or Tony Stark settle this dispute? Better Call Saul revealed who was sabotaging Jimmy’s career all along. Arrow blew everything wide open with Lance arresting Oliver and Roy taking his place.  I’m undecided as to who I was more disappointed in, Captain Lance on Arrow or Chuck on Better Call Saul.

On The Flash, Rogue Time made changes in the timeline and had some major revelations, including  how Eobard Thawne took over Wells’s body. Andrew Kreisberg spoke with IGN about these revelations:

The father and son Trickster team proved themselves capable of wreaking havoc, and we likely haven’t seen the last of them, When asked whether the Trickster will be hanging out with the rest of the Rogues’ Gallery in the future, Kreisberg said, “Yes, that is the plan. When I sit down and I think about Wentworth Miller [Captain Cold] and Mark in a scene together and watching the dichotomy of them… I think sometimes there’s a tendency to spit out the same villain week in and week out on these shows, and for us, having people who are so different, and having people who have powers, and having people who are slightly unhinged but geniuses [keeps it interesting]. The other reason we really wanted to do the Trickster is because you have so many villains who have these amazing abilities, either because they’re meta-humans or they have this incredible weaponry, and what was always cool about the Trickster on both series is that he was smart. No matter how crazy he was, he was so smart, and he thought like four steps ahead. Watching The Flash and our team go up against somebody brilliant — a lot of times our shows are about how to figure out how to [stop villains] chemically or scientifically or how The Flash can use his powers to stop somebody, but in this one, they really had to out think him [Trickster]. And Wells had to give Barry something he probably didn’t want to let him know that he could do.”

Kreisberg also mentioned it’s a challenge to find and include adversaries who are worthy of fighting The Flash. “If The Flash can move at super speed, he can’t just be fighting bank robbers. Or if he is fighting bank robbers, they have to be able to do something pretty special. And again one of the reasons The Trickster — both in the comics and the old show, and hopefully people will think on our show — is so cool is because he doesn’t have any of that. He’s just really, really smart. And he’s able to use that smartness to out think the gang.”

Wells, or Eobard Thawne, is out thinking everyone. Barry is finally suspicious of Wells but has no idea about what we learned. Thawne used future tech to take Wells’s body. Kreisberg explained, “It’s what we’re calling genetic camouflage, where he basically stole his body. He basically took his body, he rewrote his DNA to match Wells’s. But what happened to Harrison Wells’s real body and what happened that night — all of these things are going to start coming out. And I know people were concerned that the events of Episode 15 were erased in 16, but what happened in Episode 15, not all of it went away, as people are going to find out soon.”

And as far as whether any part of Wells was left after Thawne swiped his body, Kreisberg said, “That’s actually something we’re just writing the other day. He’s had a lot of times when he’s talked about Tess and I think that one of the things that kind of bled through was Wells’s love for Tess, that Thawne absorbed when he absorbed his body. So that’s sort of a fun thing that that’s come through.” Kreisberg said they wanted Matt Letscher for the role of Thawne and that we haven’t seen the last of him…

Other changes include both Eddy and Snart, now knowing Barry’s secret, but after he went back in time the scene in which Iris learned it no longer happens. Some have been disappointed that two major events, Wells killing Cisco and Iris admitting her love for Barry, have been erased due to time travel, feeling it was a cheat. I did not mind because it was easy to predict this would happen once we say Barry going  back in time at the end of last week’s episode. The two scenes still told us more about both Wells and Iris. What we learned about Wells helped prepare for the events of Rogue Time, even if it is now Barry as opposed to Cisco who is likely to investigate Wells.  While it was hardly a surprise, the scene between Barry and Iris was a good way to make clear how Iris feels deep down. Barry should have realized that Iris would not feel the same when meeting for coffee as when it appeared the city would be destroyed before he changed the timeline.

It was also meaningful to show that Barry can make changes by going back in time, but that changes have consequences, with Barry thinking about going back in time to try to save his mother. One question is whether it is this time travel which actually leads to her death. The nature of time travel was also unclear on these episodes. When Barry went back in time and there were momentarily two versions of The Flash, what happened to the other version?

The Americans Stinger

Last week’s episode of The Americans,started early with a tease when Paige came to the travel agency:

Philip: “We were headed home in about an hour. If you help with the stack of ticket requisition forms, we’ll all get home a little sooner.”

Paige:  “Are you trying to turn me into a travel agent?

If only she knew the truth. After a wide range of dramatic scenes this season, the big scene of the season turned out to be a conversation around the dinner table later in the episode. During what Vox calls “one of the best runs of episodes in TV drama history” the inevitable moment came on Stingers. Paige, who was obviously realizing that there was more to her parents than being travel agents, finally asked the big question: “Do you love me? Then tell me the truth.  What — are you in the witness protection program? Did you kill somebody? Are you guys drug dealers like your friend Gregory? Am I adopted? Are we aliens? What?”

This left Elizabeth and Philip little room but to tell her the truth, although I’m sure that for a moment they considered going for alien drug dealers in the witness protection program. “We were born in a different country” We’re here to help our people. Most of what you hear about the Soviet Union isn’t true…We work for our country getting information. Information they couldn’t get in other ways.” Plus the obvious warning: “Just in case you’re not thinking quite clearly enough, we’re going to have to say this: If you do tell anyone … we will go to jail. For good.”

Phillip took the phone off the hook the first night, but beyond that all they can do is hold their breath and hope, even when Paige sees how easy it would be to say something to their neighbor Stan, the FBI agent. Instead it was Henry who bonded with Stan, over a pirated copy of Tron which Stan recovered and an old video game. Plus there is the other connection Stan does not know about–the picture of Stan’s estranged wife in Henry’s porn collection.

Of course a lot more happened in the episode. Oleg was called upon to obtain photos, having no idea how he was helping Nina back in the Soviet Union. Arkady assumed that the person who threatened Zinaida, who we finally saw is really is a faking her defection, was a KGB agent who had no idea what was going on, and had no reason to suspect Oleg. Over at the FBI, where the investigation regarding the bug in Gaad’s office is still underway, Stan was asked if he has any suspicions about who may have done it. He hesitated, and the first thing he asked after leaving was where Martha was.  Kimmy returned, partially to give Phillip reason to think about his relationship with Paige.

We will have plenty of time to see how all these story lines play out over time. FX has renewed The Americans for a fourth season.

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Outlander returned with a controversial episode, The Reckoning, in which Jaime saved Claire from Black Jack Randall but also punished her for being captured. This led to an eventual renegotiation of their relationship, including threats to cut out balls and hearts. More on the spanking scene here and here:

Executive producerRon Moore noted that although they had Diana Gabaldon’s book to work from, their focus was on “digging in to the scenes themselves, and the page, and working with the actors, and really wanting it to be as raw and emotional as it was. It’s the culmination of a lot of things that they just haven’t been sharing because [they were] in that magical ‘get to know you’ kind of phase. And then here [we thought], let’s have a real problem and really see them go at each other. It was a great opportunity.”

But the verbal confrontation wasn’t the end of the argument, as Claire discovered after the Highlanders began to shun her for putting them in danger and disobeying her husband.

While Heughan understood why the spanking scene might’ve been shocking or repellent to modern audiences, he was able to rationalize Jamie’s decision, given the time period and surroundings the Highlander was raised in. “He has to punish her, whether or not he believes in it. He says he doesn’t, but he has to because otherwise the Highlanders won’t protect her. She’s in danger. There’s a moral code, and it’s the way he’s been brought up, and he’s now got responsibility, and he’s trying to do everything that’s right. He’s trying to play that role and be responsible, and she keeps bloody messing with it,” he laughed. “And obviously, out of that, he learns a very valuable lesson, and she does, and their relationship is yet again developed and moved forward. And if he hadn’t, if he’d said, ‘I won’t punish you, it’s okay — it’s not the right thing to do, but you’re very naughty,’ then they wouldn’t have learned anything. And I think it’s interesting, because this relationship is just developing, and it’s like any marriage — it’s taking on different forms. It’s going to keep doing that. God knows where it’s going to be in a year’s time.”

Moore admitted that the producers and writers “talked about a lot” before the scene finally arrived. “I always knew we were going to do it because it was a key moment in the book and we wanted to do it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s really about justice and that’s what Jamie says in the scene: it’s a scene about justice; it’s not a scene about domestic abuse; it’s not a scene about anger. These were the mores of the time. As he says to Claire, if she was a man, she would’ve had her ears cropped, or something worse. And so there was a sense of righting the scales of justice. To her mind and to ours, as 21st century people, we kind of recoil from it like ‘oh my god,’ but I think we also understand the context of the time and why he’s doing it and what it’s about.”

“We knew it was going to be a controversial scene that people were going to ask a lot of questions about,” Balfe conceded. “We really had a lot of conversations about it. We went back and forth with the writers about how they wanted to do it and what we felt comfortable with, but we had the blueprint of the book, which was great. But we really wanted to give it the respect that it deserved, because it’s not something that can be taken lightly. And the thing we always came back to is that we have to understand that, no matter how we as modern people perceive it, this has to be taken in the context of 1743, and this was a perfectly acceptable justice in that time.”

While the scene itself is memorable, it’s the aftermath that truly redefines Claire and Jamie’s relationship. “What happens after is very important because here we see two people figuring out how to make their marriage work, because not only has Claire suffered physical wounds from this, but there’s been a great psychic wound,” Balfe observed. “And I think that the betrayal she feels — that this man she’s fallen for with heart and soul has now betrayed her, in a sense — that’s a big thing for her to get over. But I think the thing they’re learning within the confines of their marriage is that you don’t always have to accept what the person does, but if you can understand where they’re coming from, then you can build a bridge to forgive and move forward. And he also realizes, ‘okay, I can’t treat you as everyone else treats everyone else in this time, and I’m willing to change, and to grow, and to meet you halfway.’”

Claire doesn’t forgive or forget easily, however — banishing Jamie from their bed and giving him the cold shoulder even once they’re back at Castle Leoch, until they finally confront their feelings and reconnect physically — allowing Claire to pick up Jamie’s blade mid-coitus and warn her husband that if he ever raises a hand to her again, she’ll cut out his heart.

12 Monkeys Paradox

While one weekend time travel show has just returned, 12 Monkeys is nearing the end of its first season (and has been renewed for a second). It is probably best not to think too much as to why a transfusion from young Cole caused the Paradox which saved his life, and appears to have permanently teathered him to 2015. I imagine we also shouldn’t ask Cassie why she felt she should threaten the 2015 version of Dr. Jones with a gun as opposed to showing her evidence which was bound to catch her attention.

As with most episodes of 12 Monkeys, this episode raised more questions than it answers. Apparently Jones knew about meeting Cole in 2015 all along. It appears that the events of this episode were events which always happened, as opposed to a change in the time line, such as with the now orphaned Cole meeting young Ramse. (What if Cole had just killed the kid?) This might suggest that things cannot be changed. Or maybe not everything is playing out the same for everyone. As Jones pointed out, “Your always and my always are not the same.”

While it appears that Cole will not be traveling in time in the foreseeable future, there are still events in 2043 to be sorted out. I have no idea what the red leaves mean, but they must mean something. Jones might still send someone back in time from 2043, or perhaps the time travel machine will fall under the control of those mysterious people seen at the end of the episode. We know Jessica is still around. Does that other woman know so much because she comes from the future. She looks like she might be Jessica’s mother– or with time travel involved, maybe her daughter, like River Song and Amy Pond. Any chance Ramse is still alive in 2043 as a very old man after his travel back in time?

There is still much to do in 2015 if Cole and Cassie are going to stop the plague from occurring in 2017, with Aaron out of that triangle for the moment. The connection between Cole’s mother and the Army of the 12 Monkeys will probably be significant.

Of course any comments on Paradox must mention Jennifer Goines’ hilarious hostile takeover of Markridge. How idiotic were those people who actually raised their hands when Jessica said, “Raise your hand if you want to be the new him!”

Orphan Black returns April 18 and new previews have been released. More clones to come.

The fourth and final season of Continuum has started filming and will start airing on Showcase on July 26th. No word as to when Syfy will run it in the United States.

Mitch Pileggi (Assistant FBI Director Skinner ) and William B. Davis (Cigarette Smoking Man, aka Old Alec for Continuum fans) will both be returning to the six-episode X-Files revival.

Big Bang Theory TARDIS

This week was also a genre-heavy episode of The Big Bang Theory. One storyline dealt with Sheldon and Leonard taking a detour to attempt to visit the Skywalker Ranch while on their way to Berkley to give a talk about their paper. In the other storyline, the Wolowitz garage is being emptied for a sale, and Howard resists Bernadette’s efforts to sell his TARDIS. They decided to leave the fate of the TARDIS to a Game of Thrones-style contest on the battlefield of the Transformers and the Thunder-cats. I’m afraid you will just have to watch the episode to make any sense out of that last sentence, or to learn how Amy just didn’t think things through.

CarrieMathison_2571

Maureen Dowd says that real women working at the CIA are ready to say good riddance to Carrie Matheson:

THE co-creator of “Homeland” on Showtime revealed recently that when the new season starts, Claire Danes’s Carrie Mathison will no longer work at the C.I.A.

Her real-life counterparts can’t wait for her to clean out her desk.

The C.I.A. sisterhood is fed up with the flock of fictional C.I.A. women in movies and on TV who guzzle alcohol as they bed hop and drone drop, acting crazed and emotional, sleeping with terrorists and seducing assets.

“The problem is that they portray most women in such a one-dimensional way; whatever the character flaw is, that’s all they are,” said Gina Bennett, a slender, thoughtful mother of five who has been an analyst in the Counterterrorism Center over the course of 25 years and who first began sounding the alarm about Osama bin Laden back in 1993.

“It can leave a very distinct understanding of women at the agency — how we function, how we relate to men, how we engage in national security — that is pretty off,” Bennett said. She was sitting in a conference room at Langley decorated with photos of a memorial for the seven C.I.A. officers — including Bennett’s close friend Jennifer Matthews — who were blown up in 2009 by a Jordanian double agent in Khost, Afghanistan.

Agreed Sandra Grimes, a perky 69-year-old blonde who helped unmask her C.I.A. colleague Aldrich Ames as a double agent for the Russians after noticing that he had traded up from a battered Volvo to a Jaguar: “I wish they wouldn’t use centerfold models in tight clothes. We don’t look that way. And we don’t act that way.”

Clinton’s Electability Now Being Questioned

Projected 2016 electoral map

While it is far too early to make many meaningful predictions about the 2016 election, there is one safe bet–the media will concentrate on the horse race, as opposed to the issues, even at this early state. Eric Ham argues at The Hill that Jeb Bush as the edge in the electoral college over Clinton. David Atkins disagrees at The Political Animal blog, arguing that even if the Republican candidate picks up Florida and Ohio (map above) this still leaves them two votes short of victory. Adam C. Smith, the political editor of The Tampa Bay Times, argues that Florida is not a lock for either Bush or Rubio:

Part of what makes Florida such a challenging state politically is its fast-changing and ever-growing nature. Statewide candidates must constantly introduce themselves. Bush, for instance, won his two gubernatorial races by huge margins — nearly 11 percentage points in 1998 and 13 points in 2002 — but Florida is vastly different now.

The Florida Democratic Party still has the voter files from those Bush elections and can pinpoint which voters are still around and which aren’t. Only 28 percent of currently active Florida voters participated in either of Bush’s past two elections and only 13 percent of today’s registered voters are Republicans who voted in those 2002 or 1998 gubernatorial races.

“There has been so much growth in Florida, that 13 years since his name was last on the ballot, only around 18 percent of registered voters in Florida ever could have voted for Jeb,” Joshua Karp of the Florida Democratic party extrapolated.

Nor have Bush or Rubio ever run in a presidential election year, when Democratic turnout is far higher than in off-year elections.

Barack Obama narrowly won Florida in 2008 and in 2012 after mounting the largest and best-funded campaigns ever seen in the state. That Obama barely eked out a win against Mitt Romney, who had antagonized many Hispanic voters with his clumsy talk of self-deportation, might suggest Bush or Rubio at the top of the ticket would all but ensure Florida’s 29 electoral votes for the GOP.

“Nothing in life is a lock. But Jeb Bush beats Hillary Clinton in Florida hands down. I don’t care what the polls say today,” said former House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, suggesting Rubio would be formidable, too, but has less broad appeal.

What the polls say today is that Clinton vs. Bush is a toss-up. A Quinnipiac University poll released this week showed Clinton leading 45 percent to 42 percent, while a Public Policy Polling survey released last week found Clinton leading 47 percent to 44 percent. She led Rubio by 2 percentage points in both polls.

The problem for the Democrats is that beyond inevitability Clinton has little else going for her, and like in 2008 once her inevitability becomes questioned there is the risk of her campaign self-destructing. If nothing else, this is making Republicans such as Joe Scarborough more optimistic:

 I think she has a glass jaw, and I’ll be really blunt. I don’t think she’s going to be the next president of the United States. Everybody acts like she’s inevitable. But I know a lot of people very close to Hillary Clinton that are very worried right now that she has what it takes to win a general election. They think she’s going to win a primary, the Democratic primary, but they’re very worried. And think about it, Hugh. Everybody’s been talking for four years about how the Democrats are stacked against the Republican Party, there’s no way we’re going to win nationally again. All we need is somebody to win all the states Mitt Romney won, which is a pretty low bar for the Republican Party. And then you win Florida, Virginia and Ohio, which I think any of these major candidates can beat Hillary, and then you just have to pick up four electoral votes. And there are about ten states that Republicans can win there. I’m actually feeling very bullish on 2016 right now if we nominate the right guy or woman.

Jeffry Frank discusses the key fact of the Democratic race so far at The New Yorker–Clinton is essentially running alone:

Democrats, meanwhile, seem ready to cede the whole thing to Clinton, who, for all her experience and intelligence, may be a less-than-ideal candidate. Even her e-mail problems, which polls at first suggested could be shrugged off, aren’t going away. It didn’t help when her lawyer, David Kendall, in response to a subpoena from a congressional committee looking into the 2012 attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi, told the Times, “There are no hdr22@clintonemail.com emails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized.” That her personal e-mail server has been wiped clean of any records from her years at the State Department erases the chance of anyone ever making an independent study of their contents and is bound to encourage the suspicion that there was something worth hiding. The investigation community is like a perpetual scandal-seeking machine, quick to seize on any hint of inconsistency, and both Clintons, understandably, are weary of being pursued by those who don’t wish them well. But the public may be getting weary of seeing the words “Clinton” and “lawyers” juxtaposed yet again with any sort of frequency, which could explain her slippage in the polls in three battleground states.

Not long ago, Ryan Lizza wrote about Clinton’s aura of inevitability and the historic failure of most challenges to strong front-runners. At this point, though, any insurgencies are more notional than real. Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, has been gently critical of her as he shyly contemplates getting into the race. The former Virginia Senator James Webb, who began exploring a run last November, is still hinting that he intends to run. But when you look for signs of the Webb campaign, which promised a fresh view of income inequality, military commitments abroad, and the terrible waste of lives—mainly black lives—caused by mass incarceration, what you’re likely to find is the status of the James Webb space telescope, which will replace the Hubble. (That Webb ran NASA in the years of the Apollo program.) Clinton, meanwhile, has not exactly announced her intentions, but her campaign, without coyness, has reportedly leased two floors of office space in Brooklyn Heights, and that, as Politico notes, may be regarded by the Federal Election Commission as the beginning of a campaign.

Four years ago, Democrats were amused by the Republicans battling through the primaries, and by debates that even Republicans considered a “clown show.” This year, Republicans may be cheered by the absence of battle on the other side, by the sight of a major political party diminished by timidity and the uncertain candidacy of a single contender.

We are still months away from the first primary. Clinton has not even announced her candidacy yet but, now that she has signed the lease on election offices in Brooklyn, campaign finance laws require  her to announce, or at least open an exploratory committee, in the next two weeks. Democrats should be concerned about the major errors she has committed during her book tour and in response to the revelations about her email, and her fall in the polls,

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush scrapes past Clinton with a three-point lead, still within the margin of error, in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in Florida, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. Clinton had a one-point edge in the Florida dead heat Quinnipiac reported in early February.

The last two months have also erased Clinton’s previously double-digit lead over every other potential GOP contender for the presidency in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Sen. Rand Paul, the libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky, is now the man to beat in Ohio after he narrowed his margin against Clinton to just a five-point deficit, according to Tuesday’s poll. Paul, who is expected to announce his bid for the presidency next week, trailed Clinton by 12 points in Quinnipiac’s early February poll.

Every potential 2016 Republican contender included in the February survey has since gained on Clinton in Ohio — even if by just two points, like in Bush’s case.

Paul is also winning over Pennsylvanians, trimming his 9-point deficit to a virtual tie, landing 45% of support to Clinton’s 44% in the state.

Clinton remains a strong favorite — especially so early on — against virtually every other potential Republican contender for president in the three battleground states.

But it’s clear Clinton’s email scandal — first that she exclusively used private email housed on a private server as secretary of state, and then that she deleted all the emails on that server — has leveled a hit to Clinton’s public image and trustworthiness, according to the Quinnipiac poll.

About half of voters in all three states say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy — by a 5-to-4 margin in Florida and Pennsylvania, with a closer split in Pennsylvania.

And Clinton’s favorability rating has also slipped in Florida — to 49% from 53% — and Pennsylvania — now at 48% from 55% — though she still gets more favorable reviews than all of her would-be Republican opponents, except for Bush and Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio in that state.

Despite denials over the significance of the email scandal by Clinton supporters , the poll found that, “Clinton has provided satisfactory answers on the e-mail issue, 38 percent of voters say, while 55 percent say serious questions remain.” This is also the sort of matter which most people are not currently paying attention to at this stage,  and could be much more harmful in 2016. Despite the attempts of Clinton supporters to claim this is a trivial matter, this is actually an important matter which gets to the heart of Obama’s efforts to improve transparency in government in response to the abuses during the Bush years. With so much communication now being by email rather than written memos, it is also important to the historical record that these records be maintained. Hillary Clinton’s integrity is tarnished by her failure to follow the rules placed in effect in 2009, her false claims at her press conference of following the rules, and her debunked claims of having failed to use government servers in order to avoid needing to carry two email devices, even though she actually did use two different devices. Clinton’s attacks on Republicans for shredding the Constitution when they used a server from the Republican National Committee, and the citing of use of personal email as one reason for the firing of an ambassador under her, strengthen the view that the Clintons believe that the rules do not apply to them. How many voters are really going to believe that Clinton was not hiding something after she not only violated the rules but wiped the servers?

While many Democrats have been willing to back Clinton, despite being out of step with liberals on the issues, because of the feeling she had the best chance to win. Now that she is looking like a weaker candidate there has been increased discussion of the possibility of other candidates taking on Clinton for the Democratic nomination, but so far there has been little action by other Democrats. Martin O’Malley is currently the only one making serious moves towards a candidacy. While the Clintonistas have begun their inevitable campaign against  him, he is starting to get favorable coverage. Some Clinton supporters deny how Clinton is to the right of O’Malley and most other Democrats, using flawed rating systems which do not mean very much when most Senate votes are along party lines. (Republicans used such bogus arguments to claim in 2004 and 2008 that John Kerry and Barack Obama were the most liberal Democrats.) Clintonistas have an even more difficult task when pitting O’Malley against Clinton based upon competence. A. H. Goodman argues at The Huffington Post that O’Malley or Elizabeth Warren, along with other possible Democratic candidates, can beat the Republicans. In Iowa, which has not been a strong state for the Clintons, some are seeing O’Malley as the nation’s new JFK.

Joe Biden has the advantage over other potential challengers in terms of name recognition against other potential candidate, but  has made only very preliminary moves. While he has not taken any actions towards organizing a campaign, a Draft Joe Biden site has started. If Biden plans to run I think he bypassed an opportunity this week. Biden was often the voice of reason, in contrast to Clinton’s hawkishness, in the first four years of the Obama administration. If he was interested in taking on Clinton, I would think he should have reminded voters of Clinton’s opposition to Obama’s desire to engage in diplomacy with Iran. This issue might still come up, being yet another example of how long it often takes for Clinton to learn from her mistakes.

With many months to go before the first primary, there remains hope that other candidates will emerge once it no longer looks like resistance to Clinton is futile. Sources from Salon to The Christian Science Monitor have offered suggestions as to alternate candidates for the Democratic nomination.