Planned Parenthood Fighting Back Against Republicans

Planned Parenthood is fighting back–launching ads such as the one above against vulnerable Republicans. They are targeting Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) who are expected to be in tough reelection races next year. The ads concentrate on the problems which might be created if there is a government shutdown over funding Planned Parenthood, as some Republicans have threatened:

“First Pat Toomey voted to defund Planned Parenthood — risking healthcare for millions of women,” the Pennsylvania ad says. “Now Republicans want to shut down the government — to block funding for Planned Parenthood. What would a shutdown mean for Pennsylvania?”

The ad then shows a veteran wondering about getting benefits and a senior worrying about Social Security checks.

“Tell Senator Toomey: Stand up for Planned Parenthood healthcare — not a government shutdown,” the ad ends.

The threats to defund Planned Parenthood arose from false attacks on Planned Parenthood, claiming they were selling fetal tissue. The videos spread by anti-abortion groups actually showed negotiations over reimbursement for costs. Payments for collection, preservation, and transportation of biological specimens are customary and legal, and are quite different from selling specimens. The fetal tissue is donated for valuable research which can save lives, as opposed to discarding the tissue.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would also be counterproductive for opponents of abortion as this would lead to a greater number of abortions if women did not have access to contraception and counseling from Planned Parenthood. Both men and women also receive other services, such as cancer screening, from Planned Parenthood.


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Sanders Defends Planned Parenthood While Clinton Throws Them Under The Bus

Planned Parenthood Supporters

Bernie Sanders, as opposed to Hillary Clinton, has defended the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood as “part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies.” His full statement follows in response to Republican efforts to stop government spending on Planned Parenthood.

“The attempt by Senate Republicans to cut off support for Planned Parenthood is an attack on women’s health.  Stripping funding for Planned Parenthood would punish the 2.7 million Americans, especially low-income women, who rely on its clinics for affordable, quality health care services including cancer prevention, STI and HIV testing and general primary health care services.

“The current attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood is part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies.

“Let’s be clear: Federal funding for Planned Parenthood does not pay for abortions. The vast majority of government funding that Planned Parenthood receives is through Medicaid reimbursements.  Cutting that funding will be devastating to the health needs of millions of women who desperately need the quality services Planned Parenthood provides.”

In contrast, Clinton has once again played into the hands of the right wing by calling the videos “disturbing” and calling for a national investigation.

Abortion opponents  are using illegally obtained tapes to falsely claim that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue obtained during abortions, which would be illegal. Their  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 both legal and conventional in health care.

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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.

Please Share Debunks Conservative Smear Campaign Against Planned Parenthood


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. 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, 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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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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Another Call For A Science Debate

It is becoming a regular feature of elections that there is a call for a science debate. Despite lack of interest by politicians, there is another call for a science debate this election:

Science is changing everything, with major economic, environmental, health, legal, and moral implications. Sign the call for the candidates to debate:

“Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we call for public debates in which the U.S. presidential and congressional candidates share their views on the issues of science and technology policy, health and medicine, and the environment.”

We all know that conservatives frequently use pseudo-science to deny climate change and evolution. Conservative pseudo-science was seen when they ignored the biology to create unnecessary hysteria over Ebola. The repeated attempts to prohibit abortions after twenty-weeks are also based upon pseudo-science regarding embryology.

Of course Republican ignorance is not limited to science. They also ignore the facts regarding history and economics. For example, to mark Rick Perry entering the race, Think Progress posted a list of 9 Completely Bonkers Things The Newest GOP Presidential Candidate Believes About The Constitution. I’m sure comparable lists could be made for each Republican candidate. How about a look at their views on separation of church and state?

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Clinton Announces: One More Quasi-Neocon Enters Presidential Race

Hillary Clinton has officially entered the race, adding one more neocon, and still leaving a large hole for a liberal candidate. There’s no doubt she is better than the Republicans in the race (a very low bar to beat) but I am still hoping a true Democrat gets in oppose her. He announcement is exactly the type of video expected although, unlike former Clinton adviser Bill Curry, I’m not sure that the announcement itself matters. Curry wrote, based upon media reports prior to the actual announcement, Hillary Clinton just doesn’t get it: She’s already running a losing campaign:

For months Clinton has run a front-porch campaign — if by porch you mean Boo Radley’s. Getting her outdoors is hard enough; when she does get out it’s often to give paid speeches to people who look just like her: educated, prosperous and privileged.  Needing desperately to connect with the broader public, she opts for the virtual reality of a pre-taped video delivered via social media. Go figure.

Her leakers say she’ll head out on a listening tour like the one that kicked off her first Senate race. They say listening to real people talk about real stuff will make her seem more real. This too may be a good idea, but it made more sense when she was a rookie candidate seeking a lesser office in a state she barely knew. Running for president is different. So are the times. Voters are more desperate now, and in a far worse mood. If you invite their questions, you’d better have some answers. I’ll return to this point shortly.

Her leakers say she’ll avoid big events, rallies, stadiums, that sort of thing. This is about 2008, when she and her tone-deaf team seemed to be planning a coronation. This time they say she doesn’t want to come off as quite so presumptuous. Yet next week she keynotes a ‘Global Women’s Summit’ cohosted by Tina Brown and the New York Times, at which “world leaders, industry icons, movie stars and CEOs convene with artists, rebels, peacemakers and activists to tell their stories and share their plans of action.” Orchestra seats go for $300.

Clinton personifies the meritocracy that to an angry middle class looks increasingly like just another privileged caste. It’s the anger captured best by the old ‘Die Yuppie Scum’ posters and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s on the rise. Republicans love to paint Democrats as elitists. It’s how the first two Bushes took out Dukakis, Gore and Kerry — and how Jeb plans to take out Hillary. When she says she and Bill were broke when they left the White House; when she sets her own email rules and says it was only for her own convenience; when she hangs out with the Davos, Wall Street or Hollywood crowds, she makes herself a more inviting target…

There are three problems that go far deeper than Hillary’s image or her campaign’s operations. Each is endemic to our current politics; all are so deeply connected as to be inseparable. You already know them. The first is how they raise their money. The second is how they craft their message. The third pertains to policy…

On Friday, Clinton’s campaign began the quick, quiet buildup to her Sunday announcement by placing a new epilogue to her last memoir in the Huffington Post. It’s mostly about how being a grandmother gives her new energy and insight. At the end of the piece she says it also inspires her to work hard so every child has as good a chance in life as her new granddaughter has. Her recent speeches, even those her leakers tout as campaign previews, say little more than that.

Barring a Jeremiah Wright-level crisis, a presidential candidate gets just two or three chances to make her case to a big audience. Her announcement is often her best shot. That Hillary passed on hers is unsettling. If she thinks she doesn’t have to make her case real soon she’s wrong. If she thinks she can get by on the sort of mush Democratic consultants push on clients she’s finished. On Thursday the Q poll released three surveys. In two states, she now trails Rand Paul. In all three a plurality or majority said she is ‘not honest or trustworthy.’ You can bet the leak about her $2.5 billion campaign will push those negatives up a notch.

Clinton seems as disconnected from the public mood now as she did in 2008.  I think it’s a crisis. If she doesn’t right the ship it will be a disaster. In politics it’s always later than you think. Advisors who told her voters would forget the email scandals probably say this too will pass. If so, she should fire them…

Like Bill Clinton’s 1992 race, this election is about the economy. But this one’s about how to reform the economy, not just jumpstart it. Our political system isn’t set up to debate whether or not our economic system needs real reform. It will take a very different kind of politics, and leader, to spark that debate. We’ll soon know whether anyone is ready, willing and able to fight.

I agree with much of his criticism, but not that the announcement is her best shot. That might apply to a lesser known candidate, but people already know Clinton, and most have opinions about her. What matters in her case is not any single statement, even her announcement, but what she says throughout her campaign, and she can never escape her record. Pundits expect her to continue to triangulate, compromise liberal principles, and try to avoid saying anything meaningful. In other words, she is playing not to lose–and we see how that often turns out, from football games to her 2008 campaign. At some point she will need to come out of her comfort zone, and hopefully at some point she will truly answers from the press.

Clinton began the invisible primary portion of the race with a huge lead, and it is now withering away. She still has the edge due to name recognition, but she is already slipping seriously in the polls. The most recent national poll available, from Public Policy Polling, shows her lead over Republican challengers down from 7-10 points in February to a 3-9 point lead at present over various Republican challengers. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul are all within four points of her, and Rand Paul leads Clinton among independents by 14 points. The latest battleground poll also shows her slipping in key states. Multiple polls show that voters do not find Clinton honest, trustworthy, or that she understands people like them. She probably will get a bounce after the announcement, but after that she cannot afford any further decrease in support.  She still looks most likely to win both the nomination and general election, but there is also a considerable risk that her campaign will be derailed by scandals along the way. Hopefully this will not happen in the fall of 2016, leaving us with a Republican president.

What Clinton can do at this stage of her career is somewhat limited. It is hard to overcome a career most notable for her poor judgment whenever facing the big issues. Stories about influence peddling are bound to continue. With all the connections between the two, it is worth remembering that the family business for the Clinton and Bush family is essentially the same. The email scandal would not by itself derail Clinton, but it will continue to hurt as it reinforces the view that the Clintons do not follow the rules, or tell the truth, along with her long-standing propensity towards secrecy.

There are many reasons why most Democrats want to see Clinton face a primary opponent, with a Bloomberg poll finding that the number of Democrats who say they would definitely vote for Clinton  down from 52 percent in June 2013  to 42 percent at present.  At this point, Martin O’Malley looks most likely to challenge Clinton from the left but there are many months to go before the first contests and other might still get in the race. Clinton should be challenged not only on her economic views, which O’Malley and others are now doing. This should include her foreign policy positions, from pushing for war with Iraq based upon non-existent connections between Saddam and al Qaeda, to advocating a more hawkish viewpoint in the Obama administration. (While Rand Paul initially was seen as a candidate opposing nonconservative foreign policy views, he has been quickly flip flopping to sound like every other Republican.) Environmentalists also question Clinton’s weak and vague record, along with her advocacy for fracking.  Many liberals are also dissatisfied with her record and views on civil liberties and on social issues, ranging from gay rights to feminism and reproductive rights. Clinton has entered the race as the lesser evil, but Democrats should be able to do better.

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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.

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New York Times Helps Outline Path To Defeating Clinton For Democratic Nomination

Clinton Defeating

Among many liberals the question with Clinton preparing to announce her candidacy is not whether it is desirable to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming the Democratic nomination but whether this is even possible. Last week The Boston Globe urged Elizabeth Warren to run, and many liberals are pushing for this despite Warren’s statements that she is not interested. Now a story at The New York Times looks at the general strategy of defeating Clinton.  Maggie Haberman, the presidential campaign correspondent for The New York Times, spoke with people she referred to as “three of the smartest Democratic strategists we know.” Their identities were not divulged “so as not to anger Mrs. Clinton.”

Even before getting to the strategy points, this raises the question as to whether this is an isolated article or if it is a sign that Clinton is losing The New York Times. The need to keep the identities of the strategists secret can be taken as both a sign of the reluctance of those who depend upon Democrats for their likelihood to anger Clinton and as a sign of what people feel about her.

There were three main strategic points in this article. The first was Populism:

Any Democrat who takes on Mrs. Clinton should be a truth-telling populist, challenging the party from within and tapping into the energy and aspirations of the Democratic base.

This is especially crucial given Mrs. Clinton’s popularity with African-Americans, a significant voting bloc in Democratic primaries. One suggestion for reaching those voters? Focus on improving policing, after a national debate and protests set off by the deaths of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York City.

Another area that the right candidate could seize upon: immigration. Pound away at Democratic leaders for not passing a comprehensive overhaul when there was a chance to do so in 2014.

Another strategist said the challenger should focus on a few big-ticket ideas, like a transaction tax on Wall Street that would finance renewable energy, and hammer the utilities for harming energy independence.

“I wouldn’t give Hillary hell, I’d tell the truth and make her think it’s hell,” the strategist said, echoing former President Harry S. Truman. “I’d try to build my own momentum, not blunt hers.”

Eating into Clinton’s support among blacks is important from the standpoint of primary votes, but the legendary Clinton support from blacks has been diminished by her attacks on Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries, which many feel went over the line f or what is acceptable in a primary battle.  Her Wall Street connections have been mentioned frequently in criticism of Clinton, with this issue being raised by open challenger Martin O’Malley and non-challenger Elizabeth Warren. A successful challenge on her economic views could also help cut into Clinton’s blue collar support.

Foreign Policy was listed second:

“She’s to the right of where the party is on a lot of these issues,” one of the strategists said. Mrs. Clinton has traditionally favored a more muscular response in places like Syria, the source of one of her biggest policy disagreements with President Obama while she was secretary of state.

Clinton was on the far Joe Lieberman right win of the Democratic Party on Iraq, pushing for war based upon non-existent ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. She was generally the strongest supporter of military action in the Obama administration (often countered by Joe Biden). The degree to which this matters from a political perspective will depend upon how war weary the country is a year from now.

The third factor was Authenticity:

For more than a decade, Mrs. Clinton has tried to swat away a persistent concern about her ability to connect with voters. “Saturday Night Live” recently captured that problem in a sketch featuring an actress playing Mrs. Clinton, who said of herself at one point, “What a relatable laugh!”

Years of security-infused Bubble Wrap around her travels and a wealthy lifestyle have done little to pull Mrs. Clinton closer to voters.

The best hope for someone running against her, all three strategists said, was to be real. And the best environment to showcase that genuineness may be Iowa. A challenger could camp out there, have a lot of up-close voter interactions, build a relationship with activists in the state and hope to catch fire.

Mrs. Clinton has always had trouble in Iowa, and she never totally connected with voters there. One of the strategists advocated saving as much money as possible to spend in Iowa for a late media push.

Clinton’s authenticity and integrity have been further challenged by her claims of  being dead broke after leaving the White House and with the recent email scandal. While few people will vote based upon her having a private email server, this scandal does demonstrate what critics have often said about Clinton. It verifies the suspicions of her dishonesty. Her two main defenses, convenience due to not wanting to carry two devices (even though she actually did), and claims that she did not break the rules, were both shown to be false.

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, are consistent with the view that the Clintons believe that the rules do not apply to them.  This also ties into Clinton’s long-standing propensity towards secrecy, both in her political life and in policy matters. Her contributions from foreign donors raises further suspicions, but Clinton has made it quite difficult to follow the money.

Much of the criticism raised of Clinton by these Democratic strategists are similar to questions raised in the past about the poor judgment she has shown throughout her career.

While strategies discussed above include means for cutting into Clinton’s support among black and working class voters, some liberal feminists are also coming out to criticize Clinton’s history on feminist issues. While this is beyond the scope of this post, I will briefly note the main points which are generally raised:

  1. Clinton undermines the case for abortion rights with calls for abortion to be safe, legal, and rare, stigmatizing women who do seek abortions
  2. Clinton’s history of undermining women who have been subjects of sexual harassment
  3. Anti-feminist actions as an attorney including her attacks on a rape victim
  4. A relative lackluster record on women’s issues and taking contributions from counties with a pitiful record on women’s rights such as Saudi Arabia

Clinton is similarly weak on other social issues such as gay marriage which might have some impact in primaries among the Democratic base.

Despite these thoughts from the Democratic strategists, defeating Clinton for the Democratic nomination will not be easy. While difficult, the attempt should be made in order to have a liberal choice in the 2016 election.

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