Outrageous Statements From Donald Trump Distract From Serious Flaws In Other Conservative Candidates (Including Clinton)

Trumps and Clintons

One of the many problems with Donald Trump’s outrageous statements (undoubtedly made more to attract attention and support from a certain segment of the Republican Party than out of conviction) is that it might be making people fail to realize that many other candidates running also have positions which in a normal year might disqualify them from serious consideration. This is most clearly true within the Republican Party, but Hillary Clinton also benefits from the non-stop vulgar and sexist attacks on her from Trump. Donald Trump’s views make the flaws in the other candidates look far less significant in comparison, but there remains reasons why other candidates would be unacceptable as president.

Politico looked at The Wild Ideas You Missed While Donald Trump Was Talking, finding that many people are not noticing extreme views from other Republican candidates when Trump gets most of the attention:

The good news for Republicans, arguably, is that their rhetoric has been so consistently over-the-top that it has started to sound routine; academics call this “shifting the Overton window,” the range of what’s considered politically acceptable. I’ve watched all the debates as well as the undercards live, but when I reviewed the transcripts, I was amazed how many radical statements had slipped under my radar. Ted Cruz called for putting the United States back on the gold standard. Marco Rubio accused President Barack Obama of destroying the U.S. military. Huckabee said Bernie Madoff’s rip-offs weren’t as bad as what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare. Lindsey Graham said his administration would monitor all “Islamic websites,” not just jihadist ones. I had even forgotten Trump’s claim that vaccines caused autism in a 2-year-old girl he knew.

Vaccines do not cause autism. Goldbuggery is crackpot economics. The U.S. military is still by far the strongest in the world. And what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare is give them pensions and health care. But none of those statements drew any pushback from the other Republican candidates, or, for that matter, the media moderators. Neither did Ben Carson’s assertion that if the United States had set a goal of oil independence within a decade, moderate Arab states would have “turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks,” which is wackadoodle on multiple levels.

On the other hand, the Republican debates do present an extremely distorted view of Obama’s record, with nobody present to present the facts:

These are presumably winning messages in a Republican primary. It’s not clear whether they would be in a general election. The reality of the Obama era, for all its warts, is that unemployment has dropped to 5 percent, the deficit has shrunk by two thirds, illegal immigration has plateaued, far fewer U.S. soldiers are dying abroad and Americans are more likely to be killed by lightning than by terrorists at home. The question is whether the run-for-your-lives talking points will crash into statistical reality, or whether they will gradually help create a new political reality.

The Republicans do deserve some credit for being willing to display their views in public. The article does chastise the Democrats here in concluding that the Republicans are “acting like a confident party—perhaps an overconfident party—while the Democrats are acting like they’ve lost their feck.”

In reality, it is the Clinton campaign (which only wanted four debates) and the DNC, which expanded the number to six but hid most of them on nights when few would be watching, which are acting cowardly. Both Sanders and O’Malley have been pushing for more debates. I also think that Clinton has benefited from the exaggerated coverage paid to Trump. If not for his unexpected success in the Republican race, the big story of the year might be Sanders’ challenge to Clinton. After all, Sanders does beat Trump in head to head contests–and often by a larger margin than Clinton does.

Clinton benefits in other ways from Trump being in the race. The large number of lies from Trump dominated the year-end report from Factcheck.org. This led to a fairly long list of lies from Clinton being less obvious, posted further down in the story after Trump’s lies.

The concentration by the media on outrageous comments from Trump distracts from talk about the unethical conduct from Clinton, as well has the poor judgment she has shown throughout her career. Most importantly, it distracts from a more thorough look at Clinton’s views, including her neoconservative views on foreign policy, her conservative views on social/cultural issues, and her turn to the right on economic issues and health care. It also might be kept in mind that, with all his unacceptable statements and views, Donald Trump did oppose the Iraq war which Clinton pushed so hard for, and which turned out to be a disaster.

Debate Shows Why Republicans Cannot Be Trusted On Foreign Policy

Republican Debate Los Vegas

The Republican debate (transcript here) showed once again that most of the GOP candidates have not learned a thing from the mistakes made by George W. Bush. The debate did play towards Rand Paul’s areas of sanity in opposing military interventionism and infringements on civil liberties, and did not include the many other areas where Paul is no better than the others in his parties. Jeb Bush, whose candidacy was derailed partially due to attacks from Donald Trump of being low energy, did manage some good counter-attacks on Trump. Chris Christie, back from the kiddie table debate, showed moments of strength, for better or worse.

As Esquire pointed out, Rand Paul didn’t win the debate (primarily because most Republican voters would not go along with his views) but did raise the important questions.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, was getting rid of Saddam Hussein a pretty good deal?

PAUL: These are the fundamental questions of our time, these foreign policy questions, whether or not regime change is a good idea or a bad idea. I don’t think because I think the regime change was a bad idea it means that Hussein was necessarily a good idea.

There is often variations of evil on both sides of the war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want.

They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They want it in Libya. It has not worked.

Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism and yet they’re the problem because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos.

Ted Cruz said he wanted to “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,” and to have”sand can glow in the dark.”When asked about killing civilians, Cruz replied, “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops.” But ISIS is in cities. does he think they are just sitting targets out in the desert, away from civilians, waiting to be bombed?

Ben Carson bragged about being tough enough to kill children:

HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian? It’s like…

CARSON: You got it. You got it.

Donald Trump both spoke of closing portions of the Internet and killing the families of terrorists. Rand Paul responded:

I’d like to also go back to, though, another question, which is, is Donald Trump a serious candidate? The reason I ask this is, if you’re going to close the Internet, realize, America, what that entails. That entails getting rid of the First amendment, OK? It’s no small feat.

If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there’s something called the Geneva Convention we’re going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America. So when you ask yourself, whoever you are, that think you’re going to support Donald Trump, think, do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?

Carly Fiorina pointed out that, “Hillary Clinton has gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong.” That is generally true, as she has the same neoconservative views as most of the Republicans, who are no better.

Chris Christie did sound strong when he mocked Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz when they argued.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I want to talk to the audience at home for a second. If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it’s like to be on the floor of the United States Senate. I mean, endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who’ve never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position.

But being tough does not necessarily mean being wise, and Christie showed a quite foolish attitude towards Russia. Again Rand Paul displayed a sense of reality lacking in both other Republican candidates, as well as Hillary Clinton, in their support of the no fly zone:

BLITZER: Governor Christie, if the U.S. imposed a no-fly zone over Syria and a Russian plane encroached, invaded that no-fly zone, would you be prepared to shoot down that Russian plane and risk war with Russia?

CHRISTIE: Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it. A no-fly zone means a no-fly zone, Wolf. That’s what it means.

See, maybe — maybe because I’m from New Jersey, I just have this kind of plain language hangup. But I would make very clear — I would not talk to Vladimir Putin. In fact, I would talk to Vladimir Putin a lot. But I’d say to him, “Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.” And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.

BLITZER: Senator Paul — Senator Paul, I want you to respond to what we just heard from Governor Christie. If there was a no-fly zone, you say that potentially could lead to World War III. Why?

PAUL: Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate. You know, here’s the thing. My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment, not someone who is so reckless as to stand on the stage and say, “Yes, I’m jumping up and down; I’m going to shoot down Russian planes.” Russia already flies in that airspace. It may not be something we’re in love with the fact that they’re there, but they were invited by Iraq and by Syria to fly in that airspace.

And so if we announce we’re going to have a no-fly zone, and others have said this. Hillary Clinton is also for it. It is a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for World War III. We need to confront Russia from a position of strength, but we don’t need to confront Russia from a point of recklessness that would lead to war.

This is something — this type of judgment, you know, it’s having that kind of judgment; who you would appoint and how you’re going to conduct affairs, that is incredibly important.

I mean, I think when we think about the judgment of someone who might want World War III, we might think about someone who might shut down a bridge because they don’t like their friends; they don’t want to — you know, they want to (inaudible) a Democrat.

So I think we need to be very careful.

Jeb Bush didn’t have much of consequence to say on policy, but he did do a good job of responding to Donald Trump’s antics. He told Trump, “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency. That’s not going to happen.” He summed up Trump here:

So Donald, you know, is great at — at the one-liners, but he’s a chaos candidate. And he’d be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.

He also questioned Trump’s source of information, referring back to a previous statement from Donald Trump that he obtained information on foreign policy from television shows:

HEWITT: Governor Bush, a commander-in-chief question. You’ve said that Mr. Trump is not qualified to be president because he’s not qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin. Why are you better qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin than Mr. Trump?

BUSH: Because I — first of all, I know what I don’t know. I know what I don’t know. I would seek out, as I have, the best advice that exists. I won’t get my information from the shows. I don’t know if that’s Saturday morning or Sunday morning. I don’t know which one.

None of the candidates was remotely qualified to be president. (While Rand Paul was generally right in this debate, his economic views and opposition to reproductive rights, which did not come up in this debate would disqualify him.) Unfortunately the Democratic front runner holds essentially the same views, even if Clinton uses different rhetoric in appealing to Democratic as opposed to Republican primary voters. Bernie Sanders represents our best hope to both have a president who has not made the errors which destabilized the region, and who can inspire voters to turn out to defeat the Republicans in a general election.

Ben Carson Doesn’t Know Any More About Health Care Policy Than He Knows About The Constitution Or Foreign Policy

Ben Carson Health Plan

You might know Ben Carson as the ignorant theocratic who does not understand the Constitution of the United States or understand separation of church and state. Or you might know him as the Republican who had been challenging Donald Trump for leadership in the GOP race until it became apparent that he didn’t know a thing about foreign policy. Today we were introduced to a new Ben Carson–a doctor who doesn’t have any idea how to formulate a health care plan.

Carson tried to distract from his ignorance about other matters by introducing his health care plan (copy here). There are far more pictures than detailed policy in the pdf. There is a lot of talk about hating Obamacare and of providing a market solution–two lines which Republicans love but which don’t hold up too well if you think about them. The whole reason for Obamacare was that the market was not able to handle providing health care coverage. We wound up with perverse profit motives which led insurance companies to try to profit by denying care and eliminating coverage from those who were sicker.

Carson’s plan relies on “health empowerment accounts,” which are essentially another name for health savings accounts–which people can already purchase with high deductible plans under Obamacare (which is exactly what I have done). Except if you get rid of Obamacare, you also get rid of the preventative care covered without out of pocket expenses, the subsidies to help people afford it, coverage for young adults on their parents’ plans, and the guarantee that nobody can be denied coverage.

The biggest folly in Carson’s plan is to gradually increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 70. We should be doing the reverse–gradually lowering the eligibility age. (Or better yet, go with Bernie Sanders’ plan and offer Medicare for All right now). Our traditional private health care insurance has generally worked for the young (unless they got really sick and became as expensive to care for as the elderly). The problem has been with covering people as they get into their 40’s and 50’s and start developing more medical problems which private insurance companies would rather not deal with.

Medicare handles the chronically ill much better. Originally this problem might have been dealt with under the Affordable Care Act with either a public option modeled on Medicare or a buy in for Medicare. For the benefit of those who have forgotten the details surrounding the fight to enact the Affordable Care Act, the two most conservative Senators voting with the Democrats, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, would only vote for Obamacare if these ideas were dropped, and there were no votes to spare with the Republicans one hundred percent united in voting against it.

Carson’s idea to increase the eligibility age of Medicare to 70 is awful, although that might not be the worst part of the plan. Carson also wants to replace the government Medicare plan with private insurance companies. Everyone would get a fixed contribution from the government towards purchasing a plan. Presumably if the fixed contribution is not enough to purchase an adequate plan they would be on their own (with their health empowerment plan, if there is enough there), but to conservatives that’s freedom. Medicare patient’s already have the option of a private plan instead of the government plan. We have found that it costs fourteen percent more to care for patients under the private plans than under the government plans–so much for greater efficiency in the private sector.

Brain surgery, along with rocket science, was once considered among the most difficult of intellectual pursuits. Now that America has become familiar with neurosurgeon Ben Carson, we will have to reconsider that idea.

Poll Suggests Epic Presidential Battle Between The Lesser Of Two Evils–Please Give Us Another Choice

Clinton Trump Sanders

The latest USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll shows problems for both major political parties. The bad news begins with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton maintaining the lead for the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. Trump could conceivably win the GOP nomination while being disliked by many in the Republican mainstream while Clinton could win the Democratic nomination with the support of the Democratic mainstream, but not many others.

…there is an almost even divide among those who have an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton: 45% say they dislike Clinton more; 42% dislike Trump more.

“Their mantra is ABCT— Anybody But Clinton or Trump,” says David Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center in Boston. More than one in five of those surveyed fall into this category. “If each is their party’s respective nominees, the poll tells us that the majority of the country does not see either candidate as acceptable, which means that the race for president may come down to which candidate voters view as the lesser of two evils.”

How things have changed from last summer, when the mantra was no more Bushes or Clintons. Now Jeb is hardly a factor, while Ted Cruz is this month’s leader as top challenger to Donald Trump.

The bad news for the Democrats is also that the poll shows that Clinton would have a tough time against the major Republican candidates: ” Clinton leads Trump by 4 percentage points, Cruz by 2 and Ben Carson by 1. Rubio leads Clinton by 3 points.” Battleground state polls, where Clinton has preformed poorly, suggest she would have an even tougher time in the electoral college.

The biggest news out of this poll is that 68 percent of Trump’s supporters say they would vote for Trump if he ran as an independent, while only 18 percent say they would not.  While I wouldn’t put it past Trump’s ego for him to run as an independent, it is hard to see how that actually comes about. Even if his current lead in the polls does not allow him to run away with the nomination, most likely he will be competitive for the next several months, probably dissuading him from going third party for quite a while. By the time the GOP nominee is determined, it could be too late to launch an independent bid.  In the event that Trump performs poorly in the early primaries, he would then be tarnished and look like a loser, making a third party run less likely to obtain support.

But maybe someone as unpredictable as Trump will run and perhaps even more candidates will get in the act. Jesse Ventura has been making noise about running, and possibly other candidates will arise. While unlikely, maybe 2016 will be the year which ends the dominance of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are showing that there is a significant number of voters who are unhappy with the establishment choices from both parties. Plus there is a large pool of potential voters among those who have not voted in recent elections should a candidate be able to motivate them to vote.

A race between a DLC Democrat such as Hillary Clinton and an establishment Republican would not differ significantly on policy, even if their primary rhetoric is different to attract two different partisan bases. Theoretically a third party candidate could go far if they could convince voters that both Clinton and the Republican establishment not only offer essentially the same thing, but that their policies are the policies which have been screwing up America.

Of course that will never happen. The voters from both parties are a bunch of suckers. Republicans have convinced their base, including the Tea Party, to express their rage against government by voting for the Republicans–the party which has dominated both the federal and most state governments. The Democratic base is looking just as delusional, supporting a candidate who opposes so much of what Democrats claim to support and has spent her career undermining liberal principles.

Perhaps a third party candidate can come along and convince voters of the folly of voting a Republican, or a Republican-lite candidate such as Clinton. Donald Trump might have the showmanship to pull this off, but he is also bat-shit crazy.

Our best hope remains that Clinton can be defeated in the Democratic race, with Bernie Sanders building a new coalition to change the status quo.

Politico Looks At The Different Types Of Dishonesty From Clinton, Trump, & Carson

Pinoccio

Many politicians find ways to benefit from lying, and it might not be coincidental that the three front runners from the two major parties are candidates who have spread a lot of misinformation this year. Politico has looked at the lies from Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson, finding differences in the types of lies they tell:

Not all lies are created equal. When Hillary Clinton lies, she generally does so with legalistic care. You get the sense that she knows what the exact truth is. But you also get the sense that she knows she’ll suffer if she provides the whole truth, so she shades the facts with interpretations and embellishments that flatter or favor her. She presents an incomplete timeline for her email account. She claims that her email practices were “permitted.” She overstates her cases and fibs with the numbers. Clinton has been doing it so long and so well that by 1996, New York Times columnist William Safire had already diagnosed her as a “congenital liar.”

Trump’s and Carson’s lies, on the other hand, come from the land of bullshit, that wonderful place where loose facts and wishful thinking mate to produce a quotable soundbite. They’re not trying to deceive you in a Clintonian fashion. They’re indifferent to the truth, content to say the first things that pop into their brains. You can see this strategy at work in Trump’s story about the American Muslims celebrating the fall of the twin towers, or his bogus assertion that the federal government is steering refugees to states that have Republican governors, or his claim that “61 percent of our bridges are in trouble.” He’s just winging it. If something gets broken in the telling of one of his stories, he doesn’t think it’s his fault.

Ben Carson brings the quality of moonshine to his lies. Whenever he goes on, he voices the sort of stuff you hear mumbled from the sozzled end of a dive bar. Take, for example, his claim that Mahmoud Abbas, Ali Khamenei and Vladimir Putin were classmates at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, or his idea that “a lot of people who go into prison straight” come out gay. Carson is much better at spotting other candidate’s lies than he is his own. Originally, he backed Trump’s claim about celebrating American Muslims. Yesterday, he said that the film he saw was shot in the Middle East, not New Jersey.

This summary only touches the surface of the many lies told by all three of these candidates.  Ben Carson has been exposed for other lies about his biography. I recently noted some of the questionable claims made by Donald Trump as to what he observed on 9/11. While it doesn’t mean she lies any more that her Republican opponents, I have pointed out far more lies by Hillary Clinton in this election cycle alone due to concentrating coverage on the Democratic race.

I recently noted how Clinton has been accused of lying about Edward Snowden in the second Democratic debate, although this might have been a mistake based upon her conservative mind set as opposed to an intentional lie. Her false claims about Sanders’ support for Medicare for All was more likely an outright lie considering how she has flip-flopped on single payer health plans. She was also exposed by the fact checkers for dishonesty during the first debate. Clinton has similarly been dishonest in her other smears against Sanders, reminiscent of the campaign she ran against Barack Obama eight years ago, during which many think she crossed the line, even considering our usual standards for a political campaign.

Politico also looked at why these candidates get away with such frequent lying:

We generally dislike liars, so why do we tolerate well-documented political lies? For one thing, findings by the fact-checkers aren’t evenly distributed within the culture. Nobody but political fanatics pay much mind to them. To injure a politician, documentation of his lie must puddle out to television and the Web, where the sizable audiences reside. But even then, the politician has the advantage. He can level a countercharge, saying that he’s telling the truth and the press—the scheming, oily, wicked, privacy-invading press—has it in for him and is doing all the lying.

As trust in the press (and other institutions) has fallen in recent decades, the counterattack gambit has worked for many politicians. This has been Trump’s path. He complicates the fact-checkers’ job by lying with effortlessness and rapidity, making it become difficult to keep up with his bullplucky. After getting caught in a lie, Trump tends to retweet or repeat it, writes Tufts University’s Daniel W. Drezner today. Next, he bullies the media for reporting on his statement. (Today, for example, Trump demanded an apology from the Post for pinning Pinocchios to his 9/11 tale.) If Trump ever deigns to backtrack on a brazen lie, it’s to claim that he’s been misinterpreted.

I think another factor is also important–partisanship. Many people will defend members of their party, while criticizing members of the opposing party of dishonesty. We have seen comparable acceptance of dishonesty among Republicans  for years, including the manner in which many still believe George Bush was telling the truth, and even that there was WMD in Iraq long after the government admitted this was not true. Many Republicans will repeat the lies spread by scientists on the payroll of the petroleum industry to promote their agenda on climate change, even after  it has been revealed that Exxon’s own scientists knew the truth about global warming forty years ago.

Of course such hypocrisy can be seen in both parties, as many Democrats are willing to ignore Hillary’s Clinton’s long career which has been characterized by dishonesty, corruption, and undermining liberal principles whenever it was politically expedient. Some simply ignore the facts, while other see it as a good thing that someone on their side is matching the Republicans in their tactics. Partisan Democrats who back Clinton certainly cannot claim any moral superiority to Republican voters–which is one reason that so many independents who consider her to be dishonest  are expressing a lack of interest in voting Democratic–possibly paving the way for dishonest Republican politicians such as Trump or Carson to get  elected in 2016. Bernie Sanders’ campaign against Hillary Clinton is differentiating those Democrats who support principles as opposed to those practice blind partisanship.

Clinton Might Have Won October, But Sanders Is On Track To Win November

Sanders Aggressive vs. Clinton

The conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton had an extraordinary month in October, with some pundits going as far to claim she virtually wrapped up the nomination. Yet now we are in November and Bernie Sanders has hardly been knocked out of the race. He is even looking like he is on track to win the month of November.

While polls this long before primaries have limited predictive value, they tend to show Sanders gaining slightly on Clinton with no signs of Clinton opening a wider lead over Sanders. Instead of the Biden supporters all falling in line behind Clinton as the pundits predicted, Biden’s support is dividing fairly equally between the two.

Take the latest New York Times/CBS News survey. The spin favors Clinton, but look at the actual numbers. Seeing Sanders close the gap, even if slightly, is a plus for him after all favorable publicity for Clinton in October. The key line, however, is, “Half of Democratic primary voters said it was still too early to say for sure who they would support.” As I have discussed previously, polls before the primaries have little predictive value, largely because so many people do not make up their mind until the last minute. Plus should Sanders hold on to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, polls in subsequent states, as well as the national polls, will change dramatically.

The Clinton camp claims that Sanders cannot win a general election, as they claimed with Obama eight years ago, but the polls certainly contradict them there. Sanders does as well as Clinton or better in head to head match-ups against Republicans, while Clinton struggles to get the support of independents and voters in battle ground states. The latest McClatchy-Marist poll has Sanders beating Trump and Bush by a landslide. The poll also shows that 68 percent believe that what Clinton did related to her private email server was wrong.

While Clinton would have people believe that her success at the Benghazi hearing somehow provides protection against the email scandals, these are two separate issues. It certainly helps her should she ever be prosecuted that the government has backed away from claims that two emails were top secret, but we recently learned that the FBI investigation not only is still going on, but there are news reports that the FBI is stepping up the investigation.

Plus the investigation of alleged mishandling of classified information is only one small part of the scandal. The more important issues are Clinton violating the stricter rules for government transparency which Obama initiated in 2009 in response to the abuses of the Bush administration, and her making decisions on matters as Secretary of State involving parties which were making huge payments to her Foundation and to her husband. It also does not help matters that the fact checkers have demonstrated that Clinton has repeatedly lied about the matter.

The recent charges that Ben Carson has been dishonest about his biography has led to others pointing out that Hillary Clinton has additional honesty issues of her own. Clinton’s claims that she once tried to join the marines is being questioned. It doesn’t help her case that the Washington Post Fact Checker, while noting some ambiguity, has given Clinton Two Pinocchios on this story, along with reminding readers of past problems in her biography such as  “landing under sniper fire in Bosnia or getting the date wrong for hearing a speech by Martin Luther King Jr.”

As the establishment candidate, it is no surprise that Clinton has received more endorsements, although Al Gore has declined to offer his support. Sanders has been receiving some key endorsements, including the American Postal Workers’ Union.

Sanders did well in the Democratic Forum last week, and has another chance to advance his campaign in the second Democratic debate–even if scheduled on a Saturday to minimize viewership. He has been more aggressive in showing the many differences of opinion he has with Clinton on the issues and will probably do the same in the debate (as I have argued he must), as opposed to allowing Clinton to get away with false statements in the first debate and even giving her a lifeline on her email.

Fourth Republican Debate Primarily Economic Fantasy With Moments Of Sense On Foreign Policy From Rand Paul

republican-debate-wsj-fox

This week’s Republican debate (transcript here) was largely a display of the standard Republican misconceptions about the economy, plus Bush and Kasich arguing with Donald Trump about whether you could just deport large numbers of people currently living in the United States. While, once again, he has received the least attention, I found Rand Paul to have the most sensible contribution to a Republican debate, this time arguing with hawkish views which are shared by most of the Republican candidates, along with Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton:

CAVUTO: Senator Paul, you have already said, sir, that that would be a mistake in not talking to Vladimir Putin, or to rule it out. You’ve argued that it’s never a good idea to close down communication. With that in mind, do you think the same applies to administration efforts right now to include the Iranians in talks on Syria?

PAUL: I’d like first to respond to the acquisition, we should — I think it’s particularly naive, particularly foolish to think that we’re not going to talk to Russia. The idea of a no fly zone, realize that this is also something that Hillary Clinton agrees with several on our side with, you’re asking for a no fly zone in an area in which Russia already flies.

Russia flies in that zone at the invitation of Iraq. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but you better know at least what we’re getting into. So, when you think it’s going to be a good idea to have a no fly zone over Iraq, realize that means you are saying we are going to shoot down Russian planes. If you’re ready for that, be ready to send your sons and daughters to another war in Iraq.

I don’t want to see that happen. I think the first war in Iraq was a mistake. You can be strong without being involved in every civil war around the world.

This won’t go over well in a Republican primary battle, but Paul did give shot at trying to reconcile his views with more traditional conservative Republican positions in his closing statement.

PAUL: We’re the richest, freest, most humanitarian nation in the history of mankind. But we also borrow a million dollars a minute. And the question I have for all Americans is, think about it, can you be a fiscal conservative if you don’t conserve all of the money? If you’re a profligate spender, you spend money in an unlimited fashion for the military, is that a conservative notion? We have to be conservative with all spending, domestic spending and welfare spending. I’m the only fiscal conservative on the stage.

The current Republican front runners, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, meanwhile seemed totally clueless on foreign policy, as they frequently appear to be whenever the debates turn to issues.

This also does not mean that Paul made any sense consistently. Earlier in the debate he called for “government really, really small, so small you can barely see it.” How does that reconcile with wanting the government to interfere with the personal decisions of a woman regarding her own body? CNN also debunked Paul’s claim that Democrats are presiding over income inequality.

The rampant misconceptions which dominate Republican thought have already been discussed in many places. Jonathan Chait both debunked some of their false claims and pointed out that these candidates will never satisfy the desire for change, and certainly not reform which I discussed earlier in the week. ” He noted that, “All the candidates prefer to live in a world in which big government is crushing the American dream, and all of them lack even moderately credible specifics with which to flesh out this harrowing portrait.” Later he concluded:

In a debate where chastened moderators avoided interruptions or follow-ups, the candidates were free to inhabit any alternate reality of their choosing, unperturbed by inconvenient facts. Presumably, the general election will intrude, and the nominee will be forced to make a stronger case against what looks, at the moment, like peace and prosperity.

Factcheck.org listed multiple false statements during both the prime time and undercard debates, with further detail in the full post:

  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said that “welders make more money than philosophers.” Actually, those with undergraduate degrees in philosophy earn a higher median income than welders.
  • Businessman Donald Trump said that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had forced out 1.5 million immigrants who were in the country illegally. The federal government claimed it was 1.3 million, but historians say that’s exaggerated.
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the Tax Foundation calculated that his tax plan “costs less than virtually every other plan people have put up here, and yet it produces more growth.” But the foundation said Bobby Jindal’s and Rubio’s plans both would lead to higher gross domestic product growth over a decade.
  • Cruz also repeated the years-long falsehood that there’s a “congressional exemption” from Obamacare. Members of Congress and their staffs face additional requirements than other Americans, not fewer.
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that his state has had “eight credit upgrades,” but two credit rating agencies moved the state to a “negative” outlook in February. And it faces a $117 million deficit in its most recent budget.
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he had cut his state budget by 11 percent during the 2001-2003 recession. Over his entire tenure, however, spending went up by 50 percent.
  • Jindal claimed that there were “more people working in Louisiana than ever before.” That’s wrong. There were fewer Louisianans working in September than there were in December 2014.
  • Huckabee said that Syrians make up only 20 percent of the refugees arriving in Europe. The figure is actually 52 percent for 2015.

Further fact-checking and analysis at The New York Times, CNN, AP, and NPR.

Sanders Wins Mock Election In Landslide But Can We Believe This, Or Even The Conventional Polls?

Sanders Mock Election

The above electoral map prediction from Western Illinois University has received a lot of attention, especially among supporters of Bernie Sanders, for showing Sanders winning in a landslide. Some argue that we should take this seriously because the mock election model has been right in every election it was used in since 1975. The catch is that it was only used three times since 1975. They deserve some credit for correctly predicting victories for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford before many people had heard of Carter, and for predicting the election of Obama when many were (as with Sanders now) claiming he was unelectable.

While I would love for this to be true, it is also very hard to accept the results in specific states, such as Sanders winning Mississippi and Georgia but losing in Hawaii and Maryland. Of course the claims of being right are limited to the final results and not accuracy of state by state predictions. A victory for Sanders, even if closer and involving a different set of states, would still be welcome.

It is easy to dismiss this prediction, and I could not blame either Clinton or the Republicans for denying any meaning to it beyond the enthusiasm of college students for Sanders. The bigger question this year is whether we can believe the conventional polls, especially when they are being used to determine who qualifies for the debates, which can potentially influence the outcome. Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie have been eliminated from Tuesday’s main debate, along with George Pataki and Lindsay Graham being excluded from the undercard debate. Even some pollsters have argued that the polls should not be used in this manner.

One problem is that the Republican candidates are too close together to use the polls to separate them. Then there is the question of whether the polls are all that accurate in predicting a primary election well before the vote. I’ve followed the Democratic primaries far more closely, and have noted many times how little predictive value the polls have. This polling report from December 2007 described how Clinton had a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

Among the problems with these polls, many voters in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire do not decide until the last minute. People are far more likely to switch between relatively similar members of their own party than they are to switch from a liberal Democrat to a conservative Republican in a general election. Pollsters also adjust the raw results based upon projections as to who will actually vote, but that is difficult to predict. Some polls this year are basing their prediction upon whether someone voted in previous Democratic primaries, but this excludes the people are who, at least from discussions on line, are saying they have just recently registered to vote Democratic in order to vote for Sanders. There is no good way to determine how many of these people, or how many who are turning out in huge numbers for Sanders events, will really vote. The results out of Iowa and New Hampshire could radically alter the results in subsequent states when the media covers the winners more favorably and voters see them in a new light.

Pollsters are having an even more difficult time. An article at The New Yorker described how much fewer people are even responding to polls:

The participation rate—the number of people who take a survey as a percentage of the population—is far lower. Election pollsters sample only a minuscule portion of the electorate, not uncommonly something on the order of a couple of thousand people out of the more than two hundred million Americans who are eligible to vote. The promise of this work is that the sample is exquisitely representative. But the lower the response rate the harder and more expensive it becomes to realize that promise, which requires both calling many more people and trying to correct for “non-response bias” by giving greater weight to the answers of people from demographic groups that are less likely to respond. Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal has recalled how, in the nineteen-eighties, when the response rate at the firm where he was working had fallen to about sixty per cent, people in his office said, “What will happen when it’s only twenty? We won’t be able to be in business!” A typical response rate is now in the single digits.

Another problem is that fewer people have landlines:

Even if more people could be persuaded to answer the phone, polling would still be teetering on the edge of disaster. More than forty per cent of America’s adults no longer have landlines, and the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act bans autodialling to cell phones. (The law applies both to public-opinion polling, a billion-dollar-a-year industry, and to market research, a twenty-billion-dollar-a-year industry.) This summer, Gallup Inc agreed to pay twelve million dollars to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of everyone in the United States who, between 2009 and 2013, received an unbidden cell-phone call from the company seeking an opinion about politics. (Gallup denies any wrongdoing.) In June, the F.C.C. issued a ruling reaffirming and strengthening the prohibition on random autodialling to cell phones. During congressional hearings, Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, who is the chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, asked F.C.C. chairman Tom Wheeler if the ruling meant that pollsters would go “the way of blacksmiths.” “Well,” he said, “they have been, right?”

Difficulties in polling people over a cell phone will also bias the poll toward older voters, as opposed to younger voters who do not have a landline.

With the accuracy of polls in question, perhaps it should not come as a surprise that so few candidates have dropped out. Any conventional Republican candidate can have hopes that outsiders like Donald Trump and Ben Carson will lose in Iowa and New Hampshire, and that their chances are as good as any other candidate’s of being at or near the top.

Both Sanders or Clinton have reasonable hopes for winning the first two states. There is also the possibility that the Democratic electorate might turn more towards Sanders as he gets his message out due to a desire, as Greg Sargent has written in describing the research of Stan Greeenberg, “a reform agenda geared to reducing the influence of the wealthy, the lobbyists, and the special interests.” While Hillary Clinton can sound more liberal by copying ideas from Sanders and O’Malley during the nomination battle, voters should wonder about what happens if she is elected. Where will she get ideas from, how will she know how to respond to new issues, and what will keep her from expressing her naturally conservative inclinations?

While currently far behind in the polls, even Martin O’Malley, who has spent a lot of time in Iowa, might have a chance of doing far better that he currently polls in a state where organization is often what counts and upsets are common.

Polling Shows Bernie Sanders Is Electable, And Possibly A Stronger Candidate Than Clinton

Bernie Sanders

During the 2008 primary battles, Hillary Clinton argued that she should be the Democratic nominee because Barack Obama was not electable and she was. We saw how that turned out. This year Clinton supporters are trying the same strategy, claiming Bernie Sanders is not electable. As Matt Taibbi discussed in Rolling Stone, the media has also been complicit in spreading this false narrative, often failing to take Sanders seriously as a candidate.

Polling data has consistently shown that the argument that Sanders is unelectable is false, and further data this week also demonstrates that he is electable.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton and Ben Carson tied, with Clinton beating the other Republican candidates she was matched with.The tie with Carson was largely due to greater support for Carson among independents. They did not poll a head to head race between Carson and Sanders but did find that when polled Sanders did slightly better than Clinton against other Republicans:

Sanders leads Trump by nine points, 50 percent to 41 percent (versus Clinton’s eight-point advantage), and he’s ahead of Rubio by five points, 46 percent to 41 percent (versus Clinton’s three-point lead).

Another poll this week, a Quinnipiac University survey, also showed Sanders and Clinton do comparable against Republicans.

National polls such as this long before an election have limited meaning, but seeing Sanders consistently doing as well as or better than Clinton against Republicans does suggest that there is no truth to the argument that Clinton is more electable.

There are additional reasons to speculate that Sanders can do better than Clinton a year from now. Sanders is much less well known and on an upward trajectory while Clinton is already well known and has far less upside potential.Clinton had been on a downward trajectory until some fortuitous events for her in October. She came out of the first Democratic debate looking strong, but this was largely because she was more skillful at dodging questions and her opponents barely confronted her for poor answers. Republicans will not let her off the hook so easily, and hopefully Sanders and O’Malley will confront her more in subsequent debates.

Clinton does poorly in the battleground state polls and among independents, while Sanders has shown greater potential among these voters.Clinton has stronger support among partisan Democrats, giving her the edge for the nomination, but it will not help her to run up large margins of victory in deep blue states if she cannot win the battleground states in a general election.

Sanders is not involved in a major scandal, but there is danger for a further drop in support for Clinton as more voters become aware of the specifics of the scandals. While Democrats do not seem to be dissuaded by the scandals, polling has shown that independent voters are concerned, and have an unfavorable view of Clinton. Republicans will probably make considerable use out of the scandals in a general election campaign.

Elections often come down to turn out, and Sanders is showing far greater ability to get people to turn out to his events. Hopefully this enthusiasm for him will extend to turning out to vote. On the other hand, many voters are likely to stay home instead of turning out for a candidate which a majority considers to be dishonest and they have an unfavorable view of.

[Due to technical glitches involving links to the post, it was necessary to post this twice]

Polling Shows Bernie Sanders Is Electable, And Possibly A Stronger Candidate Than Clinton

Sander Clinton v Republicans

During the 2008 primary battles, Hillary Clinton argued that she should be the Democratic nominee because Barack Obama was not electable and she was. We saw how that turned out. This year Clinton supporters are trying the same strategy, claiming Bernie Sanders is not electable. As Matt Taibbi discussed in Rolling Stone, the media has also been complicit in spreading this false narrative, often failing to take Sanders seriously as a candidate.

Polling data has consistently shown that the argument that Sanders is unelectable is false, and further data this week also demonstrates that he is electable.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton and Ben Carson tied, with Clinton beating the other Republican candidates she was matched with.The tie with Carson was largely due to greater support for Carson among independents. They did not poll a head to head race between Carson and Sanders but did find that when polled Sanders did slightly better than Clinton against other Republicans:

Sanders leads Trump by nine points, 50 percent to 41 percent (versus Clinton’s eight-point advantage), and he’s ahead of Rubio by five points, 46 percent to 41 percent (versus Clinton’s three-point lead).

Another poll this week, a Quinnipiac University survey, also showed Sanders and Clinton do comparable against Republicans.

National polls such as this long before an election have limited meaning, but seeing Sanders consistently doing as well as or better than Clinton against Republicans does suggest that there is no truth to the argument that Clinton is more electable.

There are additional reasons to speculate that Sanders can do better than Clinton a year from now. Sanders is much less well known and on an upward trajectory while Clinton is already well known and has far less upside potential.Clinton had been on a downward trajectory until some fortuitous events for her in October. She came out of the first Democratic debate looking strong, but this was largely because she was more skillful at dodging questions and her opponents barely confronted her for poor answers. Republicans will not let her off the hook so easily, and hopefully Sanders and O’Malley will confront her more in subsequent debates.

Clinton does poorly in the battleground state polls and among independents, while Sanders has shown greater potential among these voters.Clinton has stronger support among partisan Democrats, giving her the edge for the nomination, but it will not help her to run up large margins of victory in deep blue states if she cannot win the battleground states in a general election.

Sanders is not involved in a major scandal, but there is danger for a further drop in support for Clinton as more voters become aware of the specifics of the scandals. While Democrats do not seem to be dissuaded by the scandals, polling has shown that independent voters are concerned, and have an unfavorable view of Clinton. Republicans will probably make considerable use out of the scandals in a general election campaign.

Elections often come down to turn out, and Sanders is showing far greater ability to get people to turn out to his events. Hopefully this enthusiasm for him will extend to turning out to vote. On the other hand, many voters are likely to stay home instead of turning out for a candidate which a majority considers to be dishonest and they have an unfavorable view of.

[Due to technical glitches involving links to the post, it was necessary to post this twice]