Clinton and Trump Battle For Sanders Supporters

Susan Sarandon created a lot of controversy last month when she questioned whether Trump or Clinton would be worse. She did it again this week when interviewed by Stephen Colbert (video above). She criticized Clinton on her environmental record and on her hawkish foreign policy views: “I’m more afraid of, actually, Hillary Clinton’s war record and her hawkishness than I am of building a wall, but that doesn’t mean that I would vote for Trump.” She also questioned the possibility of Trump being elected: “Come on, who’s going to vote for Trump, seriously?”

With Donald Trump within three points of Clinton in one recent poll (compared to an eleven point lead for Bernie Sanders over Trump), there are apparently some people who would vote for Trump. Both Trump and Clinton are going after Sanders supporters.

As Sanders has said, his supporters will not automatically back Clinton if she wins the nomination, and many will not learn to like her. Clinton says she will go after Sanders supporters in a “very aggressive” manner. No matter how aggressively she goes after my support, nothing she can do can negate her utterly unacceptable record.

Trump will have even greater difficulty in his attempts to obtain the support of Sanders supporters. He could attract the support of some Sanders supporters on issues such as trade. While his foreign policy speech was seriously flawed, he is still to the left of Clinton on foreign policy (as is pretty much everyone). Trump is significantly to the left of Clinton on the drug war. As Sanders has warned, Trump will use the email and Foundation scandals which he has stayed away from, which could also wind up putting Trump to the left of Clinton on government transparency, where she is already extremely conservative, as well as on matters such as government corruption and reducing the influence of money in politics. It is also refreshing to see a Republican candidate who does not advocate the destruction of Medicare and Social Security.

Despite all of the negatives for Clinton, Trump has serious negatives of his own, including the manner in which he has pandered to racism, xenophobia, and mysogeny. Only thirteen percent of Sanders supporters have a favorable view of Trump, and currently only ten percent say they would vote for him. However, it could affect the election results if ten to thirteen percent of voters who otherwise might have voted Democratic should not vote Democratic due to opposition to Hillary Clinton. Many more who don’t like either Trump or Clinton are also likely to sit out the election or vote for a third party.

Susan Sarandon Stephen Colbert

Walker Bragman has raised the question of who is the greater evil at Salon and tried to make a liberal case for Trump. While I do not agree with all of his points, it is good that there are writers on the left who are not falling into the tribalistic support for Clinton and exaggeration of Trump’s faults (as big as they are) which has become common among many Democrats. Even if Trump is the greater evil, the real question is which candidate will do more harm in the White House.

It is very likely that Trump will do less harm out of a combination of having less interest in going to war than Clinton and not being able to get sixty votes for his agenda in the Senate. On the other hand, many Democrats who would oppose conservative policies from Trump would defend comparable compromises from Clinton.

Clinton has already indicated a willingness to compromise with Republicans on areas from Social Security to access to abortion. We have seen the damage from compromise with Republicans and triangulation by Bill Clinton. Similar compromises by Hillary Clinton with Republicans would be more likely to move the country to the right than policies from a Republican president who face opposition from Democrats. We would be more likely to see cuts in Social Security, and restrictions on access to abortion, if Clinton is elected compared to Trump or another Republicans. Plus we would be more likely to go to war under Clinton, more people will be incarcerated for drug crimes, and we will have a president more concerned with how she can profit monetarily from the presidency than working for the good of the country.

Bernie Won’t Back Off, And His Supporters Will Not Learn To Like Hillary

Sanders Pennsylvania

Bernie Sanders continues to attack Hillary Clinton while campaigning in Pennsylvania. I’m glad that he is not listening to party leaders who think he should back off. This is not a case of one Democrat with similar views running against another Democrat with similar views.  There is a large ideological difference between the candidates, and the fight should continue regardless of how difficult it might be for Sanders to win the nomination.

Former Obama speech writer Jon Favraeu has been writing articles lately about how he learned to like Hillary, and why we should too. Today he wrote, “Primaries are often a clash of personalities and magnified policy differences.” No this is not about personalities (other than Clinton’s dishonesty) and the policy differences are rather major. I have opposed Clinton this year for the same reasons I opposed her in 2008. More significantly, I oppose her for the reasons I opposed the reelection of George Bush in 2004. Her militaristic foreign policy views, conservative views on civil liberties, and opposition to government transparency are little different from the views of the Bush administration, and are unacceptable, regardless of party.

Rather than leading us to learn to like Hillary, we learned, as Conor Lynch discussed, how the Democratic Party does not represent our values. He pointed out areas where Obama has continued the policies of the Bush administration, and Hillary Clinton is significantly to the right of him. He concluded:

How much will partisan Democrats be willing to forgive a Hillary Clinton administration? Many neoconservatives have already admitted that they prefer Clinton over Trump. At this rate, Clinton could fulfill most of Trump’s reactionary platform and still find widespread support among the Democratic faithful.

Earlier this week, the Clinton campaign accused Sanders “of trying to convince the next generation of progressives that the Democratic party is corrupt.” But do progressives really need to be persuaded that the Democratic Party is part of a corrupt political system, or that it is more reactionary than progressive on many issues? This is self-evident, and the Democratic party has done an excellent job over the past few decades making that case itself. The question is: how long will Democratic voters remain blindly loyal to their party?

Hillary Clinton probably could move the country much further to the right than Donald Trump or any Republican can. The same partisan Democrats who would loudly protest conservative actions from Republicans will defend the same actions if promoted by Hillary Clinton. We already saw how much Bill Clinton moved the country to the right when he was president.

Sanders recently warned that his supporters will not necessarily support Clinton. The Washington Post reports today that Sanders said he “would wait to see what Hillary Clinton includes in her platform before deciding how actively to campaign for her in the fall, if she is the party’s nominee.”

“I want to see the Democratic party have the courage to stand up to big money interests in a way that they have not in the past, take on the drug companies, take on Wall Street, take on the fossil-fuel industry, and I want to see them come up with ideas that really do excite working families and young people in this country,” Sanders said.

The problem is that, regardless of what the platform says, Clinton will probably do what she chooses if elected. When hearings were underway to confirm her as Secretary of State there were concerns about conflicts of interest. In response to such concerns, Clinton agreed to divulge the names of all contributors to the Foundation while she was in office. Clinton failed to provide this information, while making unethically making decisions regarding parties which were contributing to the Foundation, or paying Bill unprecedented amounts of money to give speeches. She has continued this pattern of unethical behavior after leaving office. In order to promote increased transparency after the Bush years, Obama instituted stricter rules to limit the use of private email, which Clinton then violated.

If Hillary Clinton failed to abide by rather limited agreements to act in an ethical fashion before she was confirmed as Secretary of State, why should anyone believe she will pay attention to any progressive planks she allows in the Democratic platform in order to obtain the support of Bernie Sanders? She has demonstrated too many times that she cannot be trusted–and certainly should not be trusted with the powers of the presidency.

Clinton Email Scandal Threatens To Weaken Her Campaign

Clinton Email

While the primaries have dominated the political coverage, Hillary Clinton has more to fear than Bernie Sanders’ sweep in the caucuses on Saturday. Both The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times had articles which show that Clinton risks paying a political, if not legal, price for her conduct as Secretary of State. The scandal risks weakening her in a general election campaign.

The Washington Post went back to the start to explain How Clinton’s email scandal took root. Some excerpts:

The vulnerability of Clinton’s basement server is one of the key unanswered questions at the heart of a scandal that has dogged her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Since Clinton’s private email account was brought to light a year ago in a New York Times report — followed by an Associated Press report revealing the existence of the server — the matter has been a source of nonstop national news. Private groups have filed lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act. Investigations were begun by congressional committees and inspector general’s offices in the State Department and the U.S. Intelligence Community, which referred the case to the FBI in July for “counterintelligence purposes” after determining that the server carried classified material…

One hundred forty-seven FBI agents have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. The FBI has accelerated the investigation because officials want to avoid the possibility of announcing any action too close to the election…

Politico subsequently posted a story claiming that the reports of 147 FBI agents being assigned to investigate is an exaggerated number.

The Washington Post continued:

From the earliest days, Clinton aides and senior officials focused intently on accommodating the secretary’s desire to use her private email account, documents and interviews show.

Throughout, they paid insufficient attention to laws and regulations governing the handling of classified material and the preservation of government records, interviews and documents show. They also neglected repeated warnings about the security of the BlackBerry while Clinton and her closest aides took obvious security risks in using the basement server…

The State Department security officials were distressed about the possibility that Clinton’s BlackBerry could be compromised and used for eavesdropping, documents and interviews show.

After the meeting on Feb. 17 with Mills, security officials in the department crafted a memo about the risks. And among themselves, they expressed concern that other department employees would follow the “bad example” and seek to use insecure BlackBerrys themselves, emails show…

In early March, Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell delivered a memo with the subject line “Use of Blackberries in Mahogany Row.”

“Our review reaffirms our belief that the vulnerabilities and risks associated with the use of Blackberries in the Mahogany Row [redacted] considerably outweigh the convenience their use can add,” the memo said.

He emphasized: “Any unclassified Blackberry is highly vulnerable in any setting to remotely and covertly monitoring conversations, retrieving e-mails, and exploiting calendars.”

Nine days later, Clinton told Boswell that she had read his memo and “gets it,” according to an email sent by a senior diplomatic security official. “Her attention was drawn to the sentence that indicates (Diplomatic Security) have intelligence concerning this vulnerability during her recent trip to Asia,” the email said.

But Clinton kept using her private BlackBerry — and the basement server…

The article described the incident in which there were problems sending material which was on the classified network. Clinton instructed Jacob Sullivan to remove the headings:

“They say they’ve had issues sending secure fax. They’re working on it,” Sullivan wrote his boss.

Clinton told him to take a shortcut.

“If they can’t, turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure,” she said.

The article went on to describe how Colin Powell’s handling of email and classified information was significantly different from Clinton’s, debunking one of the common defenses of Clinton’s actions. (This is also a poor defense for Clinton as repeating improper actions committed under Bush would hardly justify her actions.)

The article also debunked Clinton’s claims that the classified material in the email was classified retroactively:

…Her statement appears to conflict with a report to Congress last year by inspectors general from the State Department and the group of spy agencies known as the Intelligence Community. They made their report after the discovery that four emails, from a sample of 40 that went through her server, contained classified information.

“These emails were not retro­actively classified by the State Department,” the report said. “Rather these emails contained classified information when they were generated and, according to IC classification officials, that information remains classified today. This classified information should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.”

…Twenty-two emails discovered later were deemed so highly classified that they were withheld in their entirety from public release. “They are on their face sensitive and obviously classified,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Post. “This information should have been maintained in the most secure, classified, top-secret servers.”

Reuters had also explained last summer how classified information is “born classified” based upon its content, regardless of whether it is labeled as classified.

Clinton’s arguments that she did not do anything wrong were next debunked in The Washington Post story:

Specialists interviewed by The Post said her practices fell short of what laws and regulations mandated. Some of those obligations were spelled out a few months before Clinton took office in National Archives and Records Administration Bulletin 2008-05, which said every email system was supposed to “permit easy and timely retrieval” of the records.

The secretary of state’s work emails are supposed to be preserved permanently. In addition, rules also mandated that permanent records are to be sent to the department’s Records Service Center “at the end of the Secretary’s tenure or sooner if necessary” for safekeeping.

Under Title 18, Section 2071, it is a misdemeanor to take federal records without authorization, something that is sometimes referred to as the “alienation” of records. The law is rarely enforced, but a conviction can carry a fine or imprisonment.

Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year he believed that Clinton’s server ran afoul of the rules. In a memo to the committee, Baron wrote that “the setting up of and maintaining a private email network as the sole means to conduct official business by email, coupled with the failure to timely return email records into government custody, amounts to actions plainly inconsistent with the federal recordkeeping laws.”

The article concludes with concerns about how the email was used to sidestep requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act:

Last month, in a hearing about a Judicial Watch lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Sullivan cited that email as part of the reason he ordered the State Department produce records related to its initial failures in the FOIA searches for Clinton’s records.

Speaking in open court, Sullivan said legitimate questions have been raised about whether Clinton’s staff was trying to help her to sidestep FOIA.

“We’re talking about a Cabinet-level official who was accommodated by the government for reasons unknown to the public. And I think that’s a fair statement: For reasons heretofore unknown to the public. And all the public can do is speculate,” he said, adding: “This is all about the public’s right to know.”

Bringing matters to the present, The Los Angeles Times reports that the review is entering a new phase:

Federal prosecutors investigating the possible mishandling of classified materials on Hillary Clinton’s private email server have begun the process of setting up formal interviews with some of her longtime and closest aides, according to two people familiar with the probe, an indication that the inquiry is moving into its final phases.

Those interviews and the final review of the case, however, could still take many weeks, all but guaranteeing that the investigation will continue to dog Clinton’s presidential campaign through most, if not all, of the remaining presidential primaries.

Reuters had a story last week on Bryan Pagliano, the Clinton staffer who set up the private server and has received immunity:

The technician, Bryan Pagliano, was running the off-grid email server that Clinton had him set up in her New York home for her work as secretary of state. But even as years passed, Pagliano’s supervisors never learned of his most sensitive task, according to the department and one of his former colleagues.

Pagliano’s immediate supervisors did not know the private server even existed until it was revealed in news reports last year, the colleague said, requesting anonymity because of a department ban on unauthorized interviews.

These articles do cast doubt on whether Clinton will be prosecuted for her actions. In reviewing the arguments, it is notable that higher level officials do appear to be held to quite different standards than lower level officials, who have been prosecuted for doing less than Clinton, and not necessarily with any evidence of intent.

It should also be kept in mind that the mishandling of classified information is only one part of the scandal. There are also serious questions regarding violations of government policies to promote transparency, including new policies initiated in the Obama administration in response to the abuses under George W. Bush. While criminal penalties were not initiated for such violations of the regulations until after Clinton left office, the matter should be of considerable concern for anyone interested in open government.

Regardless of whether Clinton is prosecuted, this will cast considerable doubt on her integrity during a political campaign. The fact checking sites have repeatedly stated that Clinton’s statements have been false regarding the email on many  points. The Washington Post Fact Checker has given Clinton and her defenders Three Pinocchios for their claims on at least two separate occasions (here and here). The top Freedom of Information Act official at the Justice Department has stated that Clinton was in violation of the rules and the State Department’s top Freedom of Information Act officer has called her use of a private server unacceptable. Not only did she violate rules regarding use of private email, she also destroyed around 30,000 email messages and edited others, which includes email related to Libya and Terrorism and was not personal email as she previously claimed.

The political, and potential legal, problems, are not limited to the email. Further ethical concerns regarding Clinton are raised by her failure to comply with an agreement that contributions to the Clinton Foundation be disclosed when she was Secretary of State. Clinton failed to disclose over a thousand donors, including contributions from parties with business before the State Department. The Foundation also failed to disclose many of these on their tax forms and was  caught lying about this issue.

We also know that Bill Clinton saw an unprecedented increase in payments for giving speeches when Hillary became Secretary of State from organizations and countries which subsequently received favorable intervention from Clinton. His speaking fees jumped from 150,000 to typically 500,000, and as high as 750,000.

Bernie Sanders has avoided these matters in his campaign for the nomination. It is a safe bet that if Clinton is the nominee, any Republican opponent will bring up these scandals. In addition, the Congressional committees investigating these matters will time their actions for maximum political impact during the general election.

Why Millennials, And Older Liberals, Support Sanders Over Clinton

Clinton Progressive

The endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Rolling Stone was a surprise considering how this conflicts with the views of millennials, whom I assume make up a substantial portion of its readership. Matt Taibbi responded by writing, Why Young People Are Right About Hillary Clinton. Taibbi made many good points but only provided a broad outline. While this is not the article to give to try to convince them not to vote for Clinton, the points made are worth repeating, and expanding upon.

Taibbi correctly traces the problem with the Democratic Party, and disconnect with the views of millennials to living in the past, not getting past the defeat of George McGovern back in 1972. Never mind how much the country has changed or the unique specifics of 1972, with McGovern running against an incumbent president when there was a reaction against the 1960’s counterculture in this country. (Besides, Richard Nixon had the best campaign slogan ever: Don’t Change Dicks In The Middle Of A Screw, Reelect Nixon in ’72.) The Democratic establishment saw southern politicians like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton win and McGovern lose and they built the nomination process around that. As Taibbi put it, “it would be a shame if we disqualified every honest politician, or forever disavowed the judgment of young people, just because George McGovern lost an election four decades ago.”

Even besides the manner in which the DNC has rigged the nomination process for Hillary Clinton this year, preexisting rules favor a moderate southern candidate, or at least one who can win in southern Democratic primaries. We have a political process, from the nomination process through the general election, makes it difficult to achieve change.

The Democratic nomination system both super delegates, who are in place to keep insurgent candidates like McGovern or Sanders from winning, and front loading the primary process with southern primaries. The party has not taken into account the fact that a current Democratic candidate, no matter how moderate, will not win in the south, but they do risk depressing Democratic turnout in the battleground states with their current choices of candidates. They risk a repeat of 2014 when Democratic voters stayed home with a candidate such as Clinton who performs poorly among independents and in the battleground states.

The results this year could easily be quite different with fairer rules. Imagine if Iowa announced the popular vote, as they did eight years ago, which Bernie Sanders probably won. If he started out with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then we had a mix of other states besides multiple southern states, Sanders and not Clinton would probably be the front runner now.

Taibbi described the transformation of the Democratic Party at the hands of the DLC and the Clintons:

That ’72 loss hovered like a raincloud over the Democrats until Bill Clinton came along. He took the White House using a formula engineered by a think tank, the Democratic Leadership Council, that was created in response to losses by McGovern and Walter Mondale.

The new strategy was a party that was socially liberal but fiscally conservative. It counterattacked Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, a racially themed appeal to disaffected whites Nixon tabbed the “Silent Majority,” by subtly taking positions against the Democrats’ own left flank.

In 1992 and in 1996, Clinton recaptured some of Nixon’s territory through a mix of populist positions (like a middle-class tax cut) and the “triangulating” technique of pushing back against the Democrats’ own liberal legacy on issues like welfare, crime and trade.

And that was the point. No more McGoverns. The chief moral argument of the Clinton revolution was not about striving for an end to the war or poverty or racism or inequality, but keeping the far worse Republicans out of power.

Taibbi was relatively mild in his criticism of the DLC Democrats. Two weeks ago I cited two more detailed accounts of the era from Thomas Frank and Howard Zinn.

Taibbi tied this into the present with a look at Hillary Clinton and other recent Democratic policies:

For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others.

And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues.

Hillary not only voted for the Iraq War, but offered a succession of ridiculous excuses for her vote. Remember, this was one of the easiest calls ever. A child could see that the Bush administration’s fairy tales about WMDs and Iraqi drones spraying poison over the capital (where were they going to launch from, Martha’s Vineyard?) were just that, fairy tales.

Yet Hillary voted for the invasion for the same reason many other mainstream Democrats did: They didn’t want to be tagged as McGovernite peaceniks. The new Democratic Party refused to be seen as being too antiwar, even at the cost of supporting a wrong one.

It was a classic “we can’t be too pure” moment. Hillary gambled that Democrats would understand that she’d outraged conscience and common sense for the sake of the Democrats’ electoral viability going forward. As a mock-Hillary in a 2007 Saturday Night Live episode put it, “Democrats know me…. They know my support for the Iraq War has always been insincere.”

This pattern, of modern Democrats bending so far back to preserve what they believe is their claim on the middle that they end up plainly in the wrong, has continually repeated itself.

Take the mass incarceration phenomenon. This was pioneered in Mario Cuomo’s New York and furthered under Bill Clinton’s presidency, which authorized more than $16 billion for new prisons and more police in a crime bill.

As The New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander noted, America when Bill Clinton left office had the world’s highest incarceration rate, with a prison admission rate for black drug inmates that was 23 times 1983 levels. Hillary stumped for that crime bill, adding the Reaganesque observation that inner-city criminals were “super-predators” who needed to be “brought to heel.”

You can go on down the line of all these issues. Trade? From NAFTA to the TPP, Hillary and her party cohorts have consistently supported these anti-union free trade agreements, until it became politically inexpedient. Debt? Hillary infamously voted for regressive bankruptcy reform just a few years after privately meeting with Elizabeth Warren and agreeing that such industry-driven efforts to choke off debt relief needed to be stopped.

Clinton not only voted for the war, she went beyond most supporters in making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. While she later claimed this was a mistake, she showed no signs of learning from her  mistakes with her hawkish views on Libya and Syria.

Taibbi only managed to mention a portion of the issues where Clinton is out of touch with millennial voters, along with older liberal voters such as myself. While millennial voters tend to be more libertarian on social and civil liberties issues, Clinton is conservative on both. She spent her time in the Senate working with the religious right as a member of The Fellowship, and her social conservatism can be seen in many of her views. She is far right win in her views on civil liberties, falling to the right of Antonin Scalia and not far from Donald Trump in her view of freedom of speech.

Taibbi concluded with matters of corruption, but again was very limited in this discussion of a very large topic. He did write:

Then of course there is the matter of the great gobs of money Hillary has taken to give speeches to Goldman Sachs and God knows whom else. Her answer about that — “That’s what they offered” — gets right to the heart of what young people find so repugnant about this brand of politics.

One can talk about having the strength to get things done, given the political reality of the times. But one also can become too easily convinced of certain political realities, particularly when they’re paying you hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour.

Is Hillary really doing the most good that she can do, fighting for the best deal that’s there to get for ordinary people?

Or is she just doing something that satisfies her own definition of that, while taking tens of millions of dollars from some of the world’s biggest jerks?

Plus he pointed out, “her shifting explanations and flippant attitude about the email scandal” along with the “faulty thinking” of her defenders: “My worry is that Democrats like Hillary have been saying, ‘The Republicans are worse!’ for so long that they’ve begun to believe it excuses everything.”

Her defenders ignore how Clinton’s actions included serious breaches of rules to promote government transparency, including new rules instituted under Obama in 2009 in response to the abuses under George W. Bush. Her claims, such as that what she did was allowed, have been repeatedly debunked by the fact checkers. She acted highly unethically in making decisions regarding parties who were either donating to the Foundation or paying unprecedented speaking fees to Bill. She also failed to abide by an agreement to divulge all donors while she was Secretary of State.

While his article was limited in specifics, he hit the key argument against her:

Young people don’t see the Sanders-Clinton race as a choice between idealism and incremental progress. The choice they see is between an honest politician, and one who is so profoundly a part of the problem that she can’t even see it anymore.

A platform of “the Republicans are worse” might work if the problem was simply that (as her defenders often frame it) Clinton was not progressive enough for her critics on the left. However, that is not the case at all. The problem is that Clinton is not progressive at all. If anything, throughout her career she has been a “progressive” who gets conservative results. She has been on the wrong side of most issues, and not all that terribly far from the Republican viewpoint.

No More Clintons: Thomas Frank & Howard Zinn Expose Bill Clinton’s Conservative Record

Bill Clinton

I have often pointed out many of the conservative views of Hillary Clinton, including on foreign policy, civil liberties, and social issues. In a new book, Listen Liberal, Thomas Frank points out how conservative Bill Clinton’s administration was. Salon has some excerpts:

What did Clinton actually do in his eight years on Pennsylvania Avenue? While writing this book, I would periodically ask my liberal friends if they could recall the progressive laws he got passed, the high-minded policies he fought for—you know, the good things Bill Clinton got done while he was president. Why was it, I wondered, that we were supposed to think so highly of him—apart from his obvious personal charm, I mean?

It proved difficult for my libs. People mentioned the obvious things: Clinton once raised the minimum wage and expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit. He balanced the budget. He secured a modest tax increase on the rich. And he did propose a national health program, although it didn’t get very far and was in fact so poorly designed it could be a model of how not to do big policy initiatives.

Other than that, not much. No one could think of any great but hopeless Clintonian stands on principle; after all, this is the guy who once took a poll to decide where to go on vacation. His presidency was all about campaign donations, not personal bravery—he basically rented out the Lincoln Bedroom, for chrissake, and at the end of his time in office he even appeared to sell a presidential pardon…

After the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the corporate scandals of the Enron period, and the collapse of the real estate racket, our view of the prosperous Nineties has changed quite a bit. Now we remember that it was Bill Clinton’s administration that deregulated derivatives, that deregulated telecom, and that put our country’s only strong banking laws in the grave. He’s the one who rammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress and who taught the world that the way you respond to a recession is by paying off the federal deficit. Mass incarceration and the repeal of welfare, two of Clinton’s other major achievements, are the pillars of the disciplinary state that has made life so miserable for Americans in the lower reaches of society. He would have put a huge dent in Social Security, too, had the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal not stopped him. If we take inequality as our measure, the Clinton administration looks not heroic but odious.

…Someday we will understand that the punitive hysteria of the mid-1990s was not an accident; it was essential to Clintonism. Taken as a whole with NAFTA, with welfare reform, with his plan for privatizing Social Security and, of course, with Clinton’s celebrated lifting of the rules governing banks and telecoms, it all fits perfectly within the new, class-based framework of liberalism. Clinton simply treated different groups of Americans in radically different ways—crushing some in the iron fist of the state, exposing others to ruinous corporate power, while showering the favored stratum with bailouts, deregulation, and a frolicking celebration of Think Different business innovation.

Some got bailouts, others got “zero tolerance.” There was really no contradiction between these things. Lenience and forgiveness and joyous creativity for Wall Street bankers while another group gets a biblical-style beatdown—these things actually fit together quite nicely. Indeed, the ascendance of the first group requires that the second be lowered gradually into hell. When you take Clintonism all together, it makes sense, and the sense it makes has to do with social class. What the poor get is discipline; what the professionals get is endless indulgence.

Of course this is not new information. Howard Zinn described many of the same problems in A People’s History Of The United States, Chapter 23: The Clinton Presidency and the Crisis of Democracy:

Clinton had become the Democratic Party candidate in 1992 with a formula not for social change but for electoral victory: Move the party closer to the center. This meant doing just enough for blacks, women, and working people to keep their support, while trying to win over white conservative voters with a program of toughness on crime and a strong military…

He showed the same timidity in the two appointments he made to the Supreme Court, making sure that Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer would be moderate enough to be acceptable to Republicans as well as to Democrats. He was not willing to fight for a strong liberal to follow in the footsteps of Thurgood Marshall or William Brennan, who had recently left the Court. Breyer and Ginsburg both defended the constitutionality of capital punishment, and upheld drastic restrictions on the use of habeas corpus. Both voted with the most conservative judges on the Court to uphold the “constitutional right” of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers to exclude gay marchers.

In choosing judges for the lower federal courts, Clinton showed himself no more likely to appoint liberals than the Republican Gerald Ford had in the seventies. According to a three-year study published in the Fordham Law Review in early 1996, Clinton’s appointments made “liberal” decisions in less than half their cases. The New York Times noted that, while Reagan and Bush had been willing to fight for judges who would reflect their philosophies, “Mr. Clinton, in contrast, has been quick to drop judicial candidates if there is even a hint of controversy.”

Clinton was eager to show he was “tough” on matters of “law and order.” Running for president in 1992 while still governor of Arkansas, he flew back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of a mentally retarded man on death row. And early in his administration, he and Attorney General Janet Reno approved an FBI attack on a group of religious zealots who were armed and ensconced in a building complex in Waco, Texas. The attack resulted in a fire that swept through the compound, killing at least 86 men, women, and children…

The “Crime Bill” of 1996, which both Republicans and Democrats in Congress voted for overwhelmingly, and which Clinton endorsed with enthusiasm, dealt with the problem of crime by emphasizing punishment, not prevention. It extended the death penalty to a whole range of criminal offenses, and provided $8 billion for the building of new prisons.

All this was to persuade voters that politicians were “tough on crime.” But, as criminologist Todd Clear wrote in the New York Times (“Tougher Is Dumber”) about the new crime bill, harsher sentencing since 1973 had added 1 million people to the prison population, giving the United States the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and yet violent crime continued to increase. “Why,” Clear asked, “do harsh penalties seem to have so little to do with crime?” A crucial reason is that “police and prisons have virtually no effect on the sources of criminal behavior.” He pointed to those sources: “About 70 percent of prisoners in New York State come from eight neighborhoods in New York City. These neighborhoods suffer profound poverty, exclusion, marginalization and despair. All these things nourish crime.”

Those holding political power—whether Clinton or his Republican predecessors—had something in common. They sought to keep their power by diverting the anger of citizens to groups without the resources to defend themselves. As H. L. Mencken, the acerbic social critic of the 1920s, put it: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

Criminals were among these hobgoblins. Also immigrants, people on “welfare,” and certain governments—Iraq, North Korea, Cuba. By turning attention to them, by inventing or exaggerating their dangers, the failures of the American system could be concealed…

Both major political parties joined to pass legislation, which Clinton then signed, to remove welfare benefits (food stamps, payments to elderly and disabled people) from not only illegal but legal immigrants. By early 1997, letters were going out to close to 1 million legal immigrants, who were poor, old, or disabled, warning them that their food stamps and cash payments would be cut off in a few months unless they became citizens…

The use of force was still central to U.S. foreign policy. Clinton had been in office barely six months when he sent the Air Force to drop bombs on Baghdad, presumably in retaliation for an assassination plot against George Bush on the occasion of the former president’s visit to Kuwait. The evidence for such a plot was very weak, coming as it did from the notoriously corrupt Kuwaiti police. Nevertheless, U.S. planes, claiming to target “Intelligence Headquarters” in the Iraqi capital, bombed a suburban neighborhood, killing at least six people, including a prominent artist and her husband.

Quote of the Day: James Corden On Democratic Dating Websites

James Croden

There is a new website for Bernie supporters who are looking for love. It’s called Berniesingles.com. In fairness, it makes sense that Bernie would have a dating website because he looks just like the eHarmony guy.

On Bernie’s website you have two choices. You can swipe left or swipe far left.

The Clintons also have their own dating website. It’s called Ashley Madison.

–James Corden

Robert Reich Endorses Bernie Sanders As He Endorsed Obama Eight Years Ago

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president:

I endorse Bernie Sanders for President of the United States. He’s leading a movement to reclaim America for the many, not the few. And such a political mobilization – a “political revolution,” as he puts it — is the only means by which we can get the nation back from the moneyed interests that now control so much of our economy and democracy.

This extraordinary concentration of income, wealth, and political power at the very top imperils all else – our economy, our democracy, the revival of the American middle class, the prospects for the poor and for people of color, the necessity of slowing and reversing climate change, and a sensible foreign policy not influenced by the “military-industrial complex,” as President Dwight Eisenhower once called it. It is the fundamental prerequisite: We have little hope of achieving positive change on any front unless the American people are once again in control.

I have the deepest respect and admiration for Hillary Clinton, and if she wins the Democratic primary I’ll work my heart out to help her become president. But I believe Bernie Sanders is the agent of change this nation so desperately needs.

This is really no surprise considering both his views and his previous writings about the nomination battle, some of which I’ve quoted here. Reich also endorsed Obama over Clinton in 2008. He also criticized the smear tactics used by Bill Clinton against Obama in 2008

I write this more out of sadness than anger. Bill Clinton’s ill-tempered and ill-founded attacks on Barack Obama are doing no credit to the former President, his legacy, or his wife’s campaign. Nor are they helping the Democratic party. While it may be that all is fair in love, war, and politics, it’s not fair – indeed, it’s demeaning – for a former President to say things that are patently untrue (such as Obama’s anti-war position is a “fairy tale”) or to insinuate that Obama is injecting race into the race when the former President is himself doing it. Meanwhile, the attack ads being run in South Carolina by the Clinton camp which quote Obama as saying Republicans had all the ideas under Reagan, is disingenuous. For years, Bill Clinton and many other leading Democrats have made precisely the same point – that starting in the Reagan administration, Republicans put forth a range of new ideas while the Democrats sat on their hands. Many of these ideas were wrong-headed and dangerous, such as supply-side economics. But for too long Democrats failed counter with new ideas of their own; they wrongly assumed that the old Democratic positions and visions would be enough. Clinton’s 1992 campaign – indeed, the entire “New Democratic” message of the 1990s – was premised on the importance of taking back the initiative from the Republicans and offering Americans a new set of ideas and principles. Now, sadly, we’re witnessing a smear campaign against Obama that employs some of the worst aspects of the old politics.

Update: Tulsi Gabbard Endorses Sanders For His Foresight And Good Judgment On Foreign Policy. In contrast, Clinton receives major neocon endorsement.

Fighting The Machine, Including Adverse Consequences Of Clinton Policies On Minorities

Sanders Marijuana Racism

Camille Paglia captures the feelings of many of us who back Sanders, and would like to see virtually anyone other than Hillary Clinton be the Democratic candidate. I’ll ignore her attack on ” upper-middle-class professionals” and try not to take it personally. Otherwise she captures the mood:

Democrats face a stark choice this year.  A vote for the scandal-plagued Hillary is a resounding ratification of business as usual–the corrupt marriage of big money and machine politics, practiced by the Clintons with the zest of Boss Tweed, the gluttonous czar of New York’s ruthless Tammany Hall in the 1870s.  What you also get with Hillary is a confused hawkish interventionism that has already dangerously destabilized North Africa and the Mideast.  This is someone who declared her candidacy on April 12, 2015 via an email and slick video and then dragged her feet on making a formal statement of her presidential policies and goals until her pollsters had slapped together a crib list of what would push the right buttons.  This isn’t leadership; it’s pandering.

Thanks to several years of the Democratic party establishment strong-arming younger candidates off the field for Hillary, the only agent for fundamental change remains Bernie Sanders, an honest and vanity-free man who has been faithful to his core progressive principles for his entire career.  It is absolutely phenomenal that Sanders has made such progress nationally against his near total blackout over the past year by the major media, including the New York Times.  That he has inspired the hope and enthusiasm of an immense number of millennial women is very encouraging.  Feminists who support Hillary for provincial gender reasons are guilty of a reactionary, reflex sexism, betraying that larger vision required for the ballot so hard-won by the suffrage movement.

The Democratic National Committee, as chaired since 2011 by Clinton sycophant Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has become a tyranny that must be checked and overthrown.  Shock the system!  Here are the flaming words of one of my heroes, Mario Savio, leader of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley.  In 1964, he declared from the steps of Sproul Hall to a crowd of 4,000 protesters:  “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part!  And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!”

A vote for Bernie Sanders is a vote against the machine, the obscenely money-mad and soulless juggernaut that the Democratic Party has become.  Perhaps there was a time, during the Hubert Humphrey era, when Democrats could claim to be populists, alive to the needs and concerns of working-class people.  But the party has become the playground of white, upper-middle-class professionals with elite-school degrees and me-first values.  These liberal poseurs mouth racial and ethnic platitudes, acquired like trophy kills at their p.c. campuses, but every word rings hollow, because it is based on condescension, a patronizing projection of victimhood onto those outside their privileged circle.  There is no better example of this arrogant class bias than Wellesley grad Hillary Clinton lapsing into her mush-mouthed, Southern-fried dialect when addressing African-American audiences.

It does make no sense for either feminists or minorities to support Clinton considering her conservative world view and propensity to throw political allies under the bus at the moment it becomes politically expedient. Apparently some African Americans do have their doubts about her, as seen in the interruption of a recent campaign event by Black Lives Matters activists:

Youth activist Ashley Williams demanded that the Democratic presidential candidate account for inconsistencies in her record on race, specifically around comments she made about crime in 1996.

Williams said she and a colleague, whom she did not identify, contributed $500 to attend the Clinton event, which was held at a private residence and was attended by around 100 guests…

As Clinton spoke to the crowd, Williams stood to her side and held a sign quoting controversial statements Clinton made in 1996 in reference to at-risk youth, when she said “we have to bring them to heel.”

…Williams, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina, said she was motivated to protest because policies during President Bill Clinton’s administration led to an increase in mass incarceration that mostly affected black communities. She pointed to three-strike federal sentencing laws, the elimination of rehabilitative programs for drug abuse and an emphasis on prison construction as part of the destructive Clinton legacy on crime.

Clinton has distanced herself from these policies and recently issued a detailed agenda on racial justice. But Williams wants more.

“Hillary Clinton has a pattern of throwing the Black community under the bus when it serves her politically,” Williams said in a statement before the event. “She called our boys ‘super-predators’ in ’96, then she race-baited when running against Obama in ‘08, now she’s a lifelong civil rights activist. I just want to know which Hillary is running for President, the one from ’96, ’08, or the new Hillary?”

Bernie Sanders has been discussing the effects of welfare reform under Bill Clinton, which Hillary has supported, on minorities:

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont began his day of campaigning Wednesday by criticizing Hillary Clinton’s support of welfare reform in 1996, accusing her of backing legislation that ultimately increased poverty levels and led more Americans to face economic anxiety.

Mr. Sanders said Mrs. Clinton helped round up votes to pass the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, the welfare reform legislation that President Bill Clinton signed into law. The senator said the bill hurt Americans by punishing poor people rather than helping them. He added that if elected he would work especially hard to lower the poverty rate of the United States, increase wages, and provide health care for all people.

“What welfare reform did, in my view, was to go after some of the weakest and most vulnerable people in this country,” Mr. Sanders said. “And, during that period. I spoke out against so-called welfare reform because I thought it was scapegoating people who were helpless, people who were very, very vulnerable. Secretary Clinton at that time had a very different position on welfare reform — strongly supported it and worked hard to round up votes for its passage.”

Mr. Sanders said that since the legislation was signed into law, the number of families living in extreme poverty has more than doubled. He said that if elected, he would work to reverse that trend.

“What we are going to do in this country if I have anything to say about it is to say if somebody works 40 hours a week, that person is not going to live in poverty,” Mr. Sanders said , adding that he would raise the federal minimum wage to $15. “Today the minimum wage of $7.25 is nothing less than a starvation wage.”

At other times Sanders has also discussed the devastation created in minority neighborhoods by the policies supported by the Clintons on crime and drug laws.

Misguided Fear of Bernie Sanders From The Center

Thomas Friedman NY Times

Thomas Friedman is again upset that everyone is not firmly in the middle of the road and does not understand why so many voters are opposing the establishment of both parties:

I find this election bizarre for many reasons but none more than this: If I were given a blank sheet of paper and told to write down America’s three greatest sources of strength, they would be “a culture of entrepreneurship,” “an ethic of pluralism” and the “quality of our governing institutions.” And yet I look at the campaign so far and I hear leading candidates trashing all of them.

Donald Trump is running against pluralism. Bernie Sanders shows zero interest in entrepreneurship and says the Wall Street banks that provide capital to risk-takers are involved in “fraud,” and Ted Cruz speaks of our government in the same way as the anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, who says we should shrink government “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” (Am I a bad person if I hope that when Norquist slips in that bathtub and has to call 911, no one answers?)

Simon Maloy responded to his column:

Thomas Friedman is terribly perplexed. The New York Times columnist asks “Who Are We?” this morning, a question prompted by his chilling realization that some of this year’s presidential candidates are doing quite well despite not believing in the same things as Thomas Friedman. This disturbing rebuke of Friedmanism has left the man unnerved and unsure, grasping for any sort of anchor as the world he observes from inside taxi cabs and airports stops making sense…

The rap on Sanders, per Friedman is that he’s too hard Wall Street “fraud” and insufficiently celebratory of entrepreneurship. Bernie is “right that Wall Street excesses helped tank the economy in 2008,” Friedman allows, but “thanks to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, that can’t easily happen again.” Oh, well, if it’s more difficult now for the engine of wealth inequality to nearly destroy the global economy with its “excesses,” then what is Bernie’s problem? As for entrepreneurship, Friedman thinks Bernie needs to talk it up more because “we’re not socialists.” (If you’d like to read Sanders extolling the virtues of entrepreneurs and small businesses and explaining the threat Wall Street poses to both, I’d direct you to this interview and this debate.)

Yes, if Friedman had wanted to write about how those angry on the right are misguided in supporting either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz I would agree. Unfortunately Friedman himself is misguided in his evaluation of Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ goal, despite the Democratic Socialist label, is to reform and repair our capitalist system, not replace it with Socialism, following years of abuse by Republicans (along with DLC neoliberals or New Democrats such as Bill Clinton).

Of course we should not be surprised when people have a misleading view of Sanders’ views in light of the distortions from the Clinton campaign and red-baiting by her surrogates. The reality is that Sanders has repeatedly expressed support for the role of entrepreneurship while criticizing the “casino capitalism” we now have. As I have discussed previously, there was no Red Dawn in Vermont when Sanders was mayor of Burlington. Inc, Magazine even found the Burlington to be the best city in the Northeast for a growing business when Sanders’ director of community and economic development succeeded him as mayor.

There has been a lot of similar expressions of shock by centrists since Sanders’ victory in the New Hampshire primary, where, incidentally Sanders’ margin of victory among moderates was almost identical as it was among liberals. Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, had this to say about the of misinterpretation of the primary results:

You will hear pundits analyze the New Hampshire primaries and conclude that the political “extremes” are now gaining in American politics – that the Democrats have moved to the left and the Republicans have moved to the right, and the “center” will not hold.

Baloney. The truth is that the putative “center” – where the Democratic Leadership Council and Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” of the 1990s found refuge, where George W. Bush and his corporate buddies and neoconservative advisers held sway, and where Barack Obama’s Treasury Department granted Wall Street banks huge bailouts but didn’t rescue desperate homeowners – did a job on the rest of America, and is now facing a reckoning.

The “extremes” are not gaining ground. The anti-establishment ground forces of the American people are gaining. Some are so fed up they’re following an authoritarian bigot. Others, more wisely, are signing up for a “political revolution” to take back America from the moneyed interests.

That’s the real choice ahead.

Reich also recently wrote that, “Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.” Unfortunately some centrists such as Friedman fear change, no matter how badly it is needed.

Scalia, Trump, and Clinton on Civil Liberties

Scalia Clinton

The recent death of Antonin Scalia (which I discussed here when the news first broke) has led to a lot of well-deserved criticism of his record. While his conservative votes have been damaging in some areas, it should be kept in mind when evaluating the candidates that, on civil liberties issues, Hillary Clinton is to the right of Scalia.

I have previously discussed Clinton’s conservative record on civil liberties issues in posts such as here and here during this election cycle.Civil liberties were a bigger election issue eight years ago during the conclusion of George Bush’s presidency. This was discussed in a post here, which also notes the expansion of police powers under Bill Clinton. During the 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties. All the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, also refused to sign. The Nation wrote:

The effort to get presidential contenders to sign on the American Freedom Pledge has been promoted by organizations ranging from the Center for Constitutional Rights to Human Rights Watch, MoveOn.org , Amnesty International USA, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and True Majority.

The pledge is anything but radical. It simply asks candidates to affirm a statement that reads: “We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal remedy, we do not tap people’s phones and emails without a court order, and above all we do not give any President unchecked power. I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from attack by any President.”

Truth-Out had an article in December which looked at Hillary Clinton’s legacy of moving the Democratic Party to the right as she promoted the policies of the Democratic Leadership Council, and included her record on civil liberties while in the Senate:

More importantly, Clinton adopted the DLC strategy in the way she governed. She tried to portray herself as a crusader for family values when she introduced legislation to ban violent video games and flag burning in 2005.

While generally extremely conservative, Antonin Scalia was often liberal on civil liberties issues. Slate has reviewed the occasions in which Scalia did side with liberals. This includes opposition to laws against both flag burning and restrictions on video games. Both were discussed in further detail, with the conclusions below:

In the end, Scalia’s vote was decisive: A bare five-justice majority ruled that the First Amendment protected the right to burn the American flag. An incensed Congress quickly passed a federal statute banning flag burning nationwide—a law which the same five justices struck down the very next term…

Once again, Scalia’s vote here proved decisive: He wrote a lively majority opinion for just five justices, holding that a state could not constitutionally forbid children from accessing violent expression. Two justices held that states could sometimes censor violent video games; two justices held that states always could. But Scalia’s spirited pro-speech opinion garnered the necessary votes to become the law of the land.

Clinton not only comes out unfavorably when compared to Scalia on civil liberties. Techdirt compared recent statements from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in which both showed their lack of respect for freedom of speech. Here is a quote from each, starting with Donald Trump:

We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet. We have to do something. We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people. We have a lot foolish people.

The speaking style was a little different, but the views expressed by Hillary Clinton were no different:

You’re going to hear all of the usual complaints, you know, freedom of speech, et cetera. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating. It’s more complicated with some of what they do on encrypted apps, and I’m well aware of that, and that requires even more thinking about how to do it.

Of course Donald Trump has made many other statements which are abhorrent on civil liberties issues, but it remains disturbing that on an issue as fundamental as freedom of speech there is so little difference between Trump and Clinton.

Often followers of a candidate demonstrate the same values as the candidate. I have found this to be the case with many followers of Hillary Clinton. I have received a lot of arguments from conservatives who disagree, and sometimes get quite upset, when I criticize Republican politicians. However I find the response from Clinton supporters to be even worse. They not only get upset about criticism of Clinton, but beyond disagreeing their arguments quite often center around claims that it is wrong to criticize Hillary Clinton. At least conservatives understand that criticism of their candidates is part of living in a democracy. Far too many Clinton supporters do not have this rudimentary understanding of freedom of expression.