Ethical Violations At Clinton Foundation Tarnishing Clinton Brand And May Cripple Campaign

Following yesterday’s lengthy update on news regarding scandals involving the Clinton Foundation, there are three more items in the news today. As noted yesterday, Hillary Clinton failed to disclose over 1000 contributions made to the Foundation despite a written agreement with the Obama administration to disclose this information. The Boston Globe reports that a Clinton charity never provided foreign donor data.

An unprecedented ethics promise that played a pivotal role in helping Hillary Rodham Clinton win confirmation as secretary of state, soothing senators’ concerns about conflicts of interests with Clinton family charities, was uniformly bypassed by the biggest of the philanthropies involved.

The Clinton Health Access Initiative never submitted information on any foreign donations to State Department lawyers for review during Clinton’s tenure from 2009 to 2013, Maura Daley, the organization’s spokeswoman, acknowledged to the Globe this week. She said the charity deemed it unnecessary, except in one case that she described as an “oversight.”

During that time, grants from foreign governments increased by tens of millions of dollars to the Boston-based organization…

In 2009, the incoming Obama administration, Clinton, and then-Senator John F. Kerry all publicly touted the Clinton charities’ “memorandum of understanding’’ as a guarantee that transparency and public scrutiny would be brought to bear on activities that posed any potential conflicts of interest with State Department business…

Over the past several months, various news organizations have reported that individual parts of the memo were disregarded by the Boston charity. However, it has never before been clear that the memo was bypassed entirely.

Reuters reported in March that the organization didn’t disclose any donors to the public while Clinton was secretary of state. The Washington Post reported that a donation from Switzerland to the Clinton Health Access Initiative was not reviewed.

In Time, Joe Klein wrote about The Clinton Blind Spot: The former President’s fundraising—for his family and foundation—could cripple his wife’s campaign.

The charges leveled against the Clintons by Peter Schweizer in his book Clinton Cash, and confirmed by a raft of mainstream publications in recent weeks, cannot be dismissed as a right-wing hack attack. They are serious, though probably not criminal. The Clintons are too clever for smoking guns. The bottom line is that the Clinton Global Initiative was used not only to do great works around the world but also to enrich the Clintons. No doubt, there was a lot of self-delusion going on. Let’s take the case of Haiti, reported by Fox News. Bill Clinton was co-chair of a board to give out reconstruction contracts after the 2010 earthquake in that country. Some of the contracts went to Clinton Global Initiative donors, most of which were reputable and competent. A cell-phone contract went to an Irish businessman who had been a CGI donor; he asked Bill Clinton to make four speeches. The Clinton Foundation says several of the speeches were unpaid but acknowledges that contributions were made. No doubt, the lad was chuffed to be in the presence of Bill Clinton; no doubt, he made his contributions to the CGI in recognition of its excellent work. It is entirely possible that both men thought they were doing the Lord’s work. But their relationship also contained a friendly whiff of pay-for-play.

One of the most damning charges, if it turns out to be true—and I’ve not seen it disputed—is that since he left the presidency, Bill Clinton gave 13 speeches for $500,000 or more. He gave 11 of them while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. He was, and is, her closest adviser. You would have to assume a high-mindedness that surpasses all understanding to argue that these speeches, and the generosity of their funders, had not even a subliminal impact on the mind of the Secretary. Perhaps the most egregious, confirmed by the New York Times, was sponsored by Russian oligarchs—Schweizer claims some of them had KGB ties—for $500,000 as Clinton Global Initiative donors were selling their uranium-mining company, including U.S. assets, to the Russians. I believe that the Obama Administration’s “reset” with Russia was more than a shell game to enrich the Clintons, but you have to ask: What on earth was Bill Clinton thinking when he took the $500,000 from the friends of Vladimir Putin? What was he thinking when he accepted the “honorary” chancellorship and untold amounts of money from Laureate International Universities, whose affiliate was receiving ever increasing millions of dollars in aid from the State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary?

There is more than the appearance of impropriety here. There is the appearance of plutocracy. There is the reality of platinum–level membership in the society of the rich and self-righteous, whose predatory business practices can be forgiven because they “give back” gazillions—call them the egregiously charitable.

In recent days, I’ve spoken with a bunch of Democrats about the Clinton mess. Inevitably, their first reaction is political. The Clintons were “sloppy” but probably didn’t do anything illegal. It’s “good” that this came out early, they argue; it’ll be forgotten by the time the election rolls around. She’s still a lock for the Democratic nomination and probably the presidency, it is said. And how much worse is this than the parade of Republicans crawling to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of the loathsome Sheldon Adelson, in return for $100 million in campaign -contributions—or the Koch brothers’ auditions? Isn’t this what American politics is all about now?

There is a moral distinction, however, between campaign-related moneygrubbing and the appearance of influence peddling. And in practical political terms, while the Clinton Foundation crisis may not prove damaging during the primary campaign, it may come back to haunt Hillary in the general election—just as Bain Capital did Mitt Romney in 2012. True enough, my Democratic interlocutors say, but there’s a lot of real enthusiasm out there for Hillary. She’s historic. She’s smart and moderate and experienced. She’s probably better prepared for the presidency than any of her rivals. Then I ask them: Let’s leave the politics aside; how do you feel about the way the Clintons ran their foundation? “Nauseated,” said one. “Atrocious,” said another. “It’s no surprise,” said a third.

And I suppose that you do have to assume the worst about the Clintons—“to be cynical” about them, as the young reporter told me. How sad. Their behavior nudges up against the precise reason Americans, in both parties, have grown sick of politicians. It’s near impossible for Hillary Clinton to go around saying, with a straight face, much less a sense of outrage, that the “deck is stacked against” everyday Americans when Bill’s partying with the deck stackers. Even if the appearances of impropriety were for good causes, shouldn’t the arrant naiveté of it all disqualify her from the presidency?

Politico reports Clinton Foundation in campaign tailspin: Donors are having second thoughts about big giving as accusations fly about Hillary Clinton’s role.

A handful of deep-pocketed donors are reconsidering their gifts to the $2 billion Clinton Foundation amid mounting questions about how it’s spending their money and suggestions of influence peddling, according to donors and others familiar with the foundation’s fundraising.

One major donor who contributed at least $500,000 to the foundation last year said a 2015 donation is less likely because of revelations about sloppy record-keeping and huge payments for travel and administrative costs.

“There are a lot of factors and the reputational is among them,” said the donor, who did not want to be identified discussing philanthropic plans that have not been finalized. “We had some questions about how the money was being spent — and that was long before the problems were in the press.”

At least three other major donors also are re-evaluating whether to continue giving large donations to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, according to people familiar with its fundraising.

Update: Ron Fournier writes Hillary Clinton: Congenital Rule-Breaker.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t play by the rules.

That’s not a partisan attack. It’s not a talking point. It’s not a fantasy. It’s a fact—an agonizing truth to people like me who admire Clinton and her husband, who remember how Bill Clinton rose from a backwater governorship to the presidency on a simple promise: He would fight for people who “work hard and play by the rules.”

The evidence is overwhelming and metastasizing: To co-opt a William Safire line, Hillary Clinton is a congenital rule-breaker…

Technically a word such as habitual would have been more accurate than congenital, but that is hardly the point. Fournier cited recent headlines, including failure to disclose donors, before proceeding:

Just like that, the Clintons deemed an ethics rule unnecessary.

This was not an insignificant mandate. It was part of a “memorandum of understanding” between the White House and Clinton to soothe senators’ concerns about known conflicts of interest within the Clinton family charities.

“Transparency is critically important here, obviously, because it allows the American people, the media, and those of us here in Congress … to be able to judge for ourselves that no conflicts—real or apparent—exist,” John Kerry said during a Senate floor speech on January 21, 2009, according to the Globe.

Kerry replaced Clinton as secretary of State. Clinton is now the likely Democratic presidential nominee. She spoke with great passion Wednesday about the importance of institutional integrity in the wake of Baltimore’s riots.

We must urgently begin to rebuild the bonds of trust and respect among Americans—between police and citizens, yes, but also across society. Restoring trust in our politics, our press, our markets,” she said. “Between and among neighbors and even people with whom we disagree politically.”

Restoring trust in our politics? Let’s remember who and what’s behind this controversy:

Hillary Clinton seized all emails pertaining to her job as secretary of State and deleted an unknown number of messages from her private server. Her family charity accepted foreign and corporate donations from people doing business with the State Department—people who hoped to curry favor.

She violated government rules designed to protect against corruption and perceptions of corruption that erode the public’s trust in government. She has not apologized. She has not made amends: She withholds the email server and continues to accept foreign donations.

It’s past time Clinton come clean. Return the foreign donations. Hand over the email server. Embrace an independent investigation that answers the questions and tempers the doubts caused by her actions. Repeat: Her actions.

This is not the fault of a vast right-wing conspiracy, sexism, or unfair media coverage. It’s the result of actions taken by an experienced and important public servant whose better angels are often outrun by her demons—paranoia, greed, entitlement, and an ends-justify-the-means sense of righteousness.

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Clinton Failed To Report 1100 Foreign Contributions Despite Her Disclosure Agreement; Fact Checker Gives Three Pinocchios To Clinton Foundation Response

Clinton Global Iniative

Hillary Clinton continues to receive criticism from the mainstream and liberal media, along with fact checkers, for major ethical violations  and the dishonest responses from her supporters. When Clinton became Secretary of State there were essentially two requirements placed upon her by the Obama administration to avoid the breaches which we are now seeing: disclose all the donors to the Clinton Foundation and archive her email on government servers. She failed to do comply with each of these. Bloomberg reports that the Clinton Foundation failed to report 1100 foreign donations:

The reason this is a politically explosive revelation is because the Clinton Foundation promised to disclose its donors as a condition of Hillary Clinton becoming secretary of state. Shortly after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the Clinton Foundation signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Obama White House agreeing to reveal its contributors every year. The agreement stipulates that the “Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative” (as the charity was then known) is part of the Clinton Foundation and must follow “the same protocols.”

It hasn’t.

The Washington Post has more on this story.  Elsewhere in The Washington Post, Karen Tumulty asked, Are the Clintons too cozy with the people who give them money? She is one of many journalists who have pointed out the irony of Clinton’s empty talk on campaign finance reform. Not only do the current revelations make a mockery out of any attempts at campaign finance reform, but it should be recalled that the laws now on the books came about as a result of previous actions by the Clintons:

Nonpartisan advocates of limiting money in politics say the problem is, in no small measure, one of the Clintons’ own making. “It would be in everyone’s best interest if the Clinton Foundation adopted a policy of accepting no money whatsoever from any foreign countries, foreign corporations and foreign individuals,” said Fred Wertheimer, a veteran of the fights over campaign finance who is now president of the watchdog group Democracy 21.

There is indeed an echo of the furor that was generated in the 1990s when the Clintons wooed big Democratic Party donors with overnight sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom and intimate coffees in the Map Room, where they could rub elbows with the government officials who regulated their industries…

The controversies of the 1990s paved the way for passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — also known as the ­McCain-Feingold Act for its sponsors, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and then-Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). A key feature of the law was a ban on the unregulated “soft money” that the Clinton White House had been so adept at raising with its many overtures to deep-pocketed donors.

She proceeded to clash with Russell Feingold over campaign finance reform.

In light of the recent revelations, several non-partisan watchdog organizations, including some mentioned in Tumulty’s article, are questioning the ethics of the actions by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Common Cause has called for an independent audit of contributions to the Clinton Foundation.

The Clinton Foundation made insufficient responses recently and their excuses for failing to disclose some of the contributions have failed to hold up. The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Three Pinocchios for one recent misleading excuse.

This his hardly the only dishonest response from Clinton’s supporters regarding her recent ethical violations. Ron Fournier noted “the predictable, paint-by-numbers response from the Bill and Hillary Clinton political operation.”

1. Deny: Salient questions are dodged, and evidence goes missing. The stone wall is built.

2. Deflect: Blame is shifted, usually to Republicans and the media.

3. Demean: People who question or criticize the Clintons get tarred as right-wing extremists, hacks, nuts, or sluts.

This is essentially the same as what David Corn described in Mother Jones last month.

Clinton supporters have concentrated on trying to make it appear that they are dealing with attacks from the right. In reality, Clinton does not currently have a Fox problem as much as she has a problem with The New York Times, Reuters, AP, The Guardian, media Fact Checker sites, and some liberal magazines. They have concentrated on claiming to debunk Peter Schwitzer’s book Clinton Cash by screaming that there is no smoking gun in the book. The reality is that Schwitzer’s book is only a small part of the evidence against Clinton, with other reports doing more to demonstrate her guilt than Schwitzer, who never claimed to prove the case in his book. Clinton supporters felt so threatened by the fact that Schwitzer has also been working a similar book on Jeb Bush, diminishing their claims of a right wing attack, that they have been repeating a false claim from a pro-Clinton blog that he is not writing the book on Bush. Their “evidence” consists of a statement that the conservative publisher of Clinton Cash is not publishing the book on Bush, but Schwitzer had said he is seeking a different publisher for that book.

While failing to respond to the real questions, Clinton supporters also demand deflect from the facts in demanding that a quid pro quo be demonstrated, but such evidence is rarely preserved in such cases. Nor is it considered necessary for proof, at least when people other than the Clintons are involved.  The standards in such a case are that the Clintons failed to abide by the regulations.  That is the key fact, but beyond this there is demonstrated transfers of unusual amounts of money, both in the form of contributions to the Foundation and unprecedented speaking fees paid to Bill. This was followed by those who made the payments receiving favors, sometimes including changes in position on the part of Hillary Clinton. Analogous cases in matters such as insider trading are based upon establishing such violations of rules and in patterns of the transfer of money, not in proving a quid pro quo.

On top of this, by her own admission, Hillary Clinton has destroyed evidence. She admits to wiping the server. The usual standard in a criminal case would be to assume that any evidence which has been destroyed would be detrimental to the person who destroyed the evidence. This should certainly be sufficient to raise serious doubts in a matter of ethics as opposed to criminal prosecution.

Amy Davidson has a set of five questions on the uranium mining deal which are well worth reading in The New Yorker.The first deals with the question of a quid pro quo:

Was there a quid pro quo? Based on the Times reporting, there was certainly a lot of quid (millions in donations that made it to a Clinton charity; a half-million-dollar speaker’s fee) and multiple quos (American diplomatic intervention with the Russians; approvals when the Russian firm offered a very “generous” price for Uranium One). The Clinton perspective is that, although the approvals were delivered by the State Department when Clinton led it, there is no evidence that she personally delivered them, or of the “pro” in the equation. The Clinton campaign, in its response to the Times, noted that other agencies also had a voice in the approval process, and gave the Times a statement from someone on the approvals committee saying that Clinton hadn’t “intervened.” The Clinton spokesman wouldn’t comment on whether Clinton was briefed about the matter. She was cc’d on a cable that mentioned the request for diplomatic help, but if there is a note in which she follows up with a directive—an e-mail, say—the Times doesn’t seem to have it.

This speaks to some larger questions about political corruption. How do you prove it? Maybe the uranium people simply cared deeply about the undeniably good work the foundation is doing, and would have received the help and approvals anyway. In cases like this, though, how does the public maintain its trust? Doing so becomes harder when the money is less visible, which leads to the second question:

That led a discussion of the failure to meet disclosure requirements, and then three further difficult questions for the Clintons.

So far it looks like Schwitzer has provided valuable information in his book for legitimate, non-partisan journalists to investigate, and from media reports he has also made some mistakes. That is why it is so important that he has allowed journalists to evaluate his research. This conservative writer is certainly not the only one with ideological connections investigating this topic. David Sirota and other liberal investigative journalists have also dug up problems in the recent past, and reported earlier this week on another situation in which payments were made to the Clintons prior to receiving favors, along with millions in additional payments to Bill Clinton “just before or just after firms lobbied his wife’s State Department.”

While the more serious issue is that Clinton failed to disclose over one thousand donors, Vox reviewed those which have been disclosed and even there found a serious problem:

The size and scope of the symbiotic relationship between the Clintons and their donors is striking. At least 181 companies, individuals, and foreign governments that have given to the Clinton Foundation also lobbied the State Department when Hillary Clinton ran the place, according to a Vox analysis of foundation records and federal lobbying disclosures.

After presenting the data the article states, “That’s not illegal, but it is scandalous” and concluded:

Ultimately, it is impossible to tell where one end of the two-headed Clinton political and philanthropic operation ends and where the other begins. The “trust us” model is insufficient for the public. It’s also an ongoing political liability for Hillary Clinton. Both she and the public would benefit from greater controls. She’s not the first politician forced to defend contributions to her charity. Tom DeLay, the legendary former House majority leader and whip, was hammered by the left for taking donations for his children’s charity from corporations and lobbyists with business before Congress.

On one level, there’s little difference between special interests donating money to politicians’ campaigns and donating to their charities. The nature of the objections raised by the Clintons taking money from interested parties also applies to their solicitation of contributions to her presidential campaign — and to similar asks made by every other politician. On another level, though, a politician’s charity is a special avenue of access.

Politicians’ charities are an attractive place for special interests to funnel money. They can give much larger sums to charities than they can in hard campaign dollars. Because the charities are, by definition, nonpartisan, the contributions look less political. The politician who runs the charity usually has a pretty strong emotional tie to its sustainability and often benefits from payment in the form of travel and accommodations in conjunction with the charity’s activities. Last but not least, donations to the charity are tax-deductible, in contrast to campaign contributions.

Candidates for office should seek to set the bar for their own conduct higher than the level required by current law. More important, at a time when the American public has rightly lost confidence that politicians serve the public first, foremost, and exclusively, Hillary Clinton has fallen short of that standard.

Update: Ethical Violations At Clinton Foundation Tarnishing Clinton Brand And May Cripple Campaign

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New Book Questions Donations To Clinton Foundation

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Donations to the Clinton Foundation has long been a source of concern to critics of the Clintons on both the left and right. A new book by a conservative author, but which is claimed to be well-sourced, is likley to create further problems for the Clinton campaign, especially in light of an unusual deal in which both The New York Times and Fox have exclusive agreements to use the research for the book for further investigations. The New York Times reports:

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer — a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities — is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes.

His examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department.

In the long lead up to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announcement, aides proved adept in swatting down critical books as conservative propaganda, including Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud,” about tensions between the Clintons and the Obamas, and Daniel Halper’s “Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.”

But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author  to pursue the story lines found in the book.

Other media reports state that only The New York Times and Fox have such agreements, and that The Washington Post does not.

Vox has further background information on the controversies surrounding the Clinton Foundation, noting how the controversy harms the Clinton campaign:

  1. It reinforces a series of powerful memes against Hillary Clinton: Republicans say she’s unwilling to play by the same rules as everyone else, and her populist turn on the campaign trail is at odds with her big-dollar fundraising, much of it from foreign governments and individuals.
  2. Perhaps more important — since most Republicans aren’t inclined to vote for her — it reminds Democrats of two toxic perceptions about Clinton within the Democratic Party: she’s too cozy with, perhaps even co-opted by, the very Wall Street and corporate titans who are most reviled on the left (Barclays, Citi, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil, and Walmart are all foundation supporters), and she exercises poor judgment around both the money she raises and the company she keeps.”It fuels a narrative that’s not positive,” one House Democrat who supports Clinton’s presidential bid said in an interview Thursday on Capitol Hill. “They [the Clintons] show a real tin ear when it comes to their own behavior.”

Barack Obama was among the first Democrats to show concern over this and insisted that Clinton agree to release the name of donors to the Foundation while Secretary of State. Reuters reported last month that Clinton failed to comply with the terms of this agreement. Frank Rich and Ron Fournier have both written recently on this conflict of interest:

“Follow the money.” That apocryphal phrase, attributed to Watergate whistle-blower “Deep Throat,” explains why the biggest threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential dreams is not her emails. It’s her family foundation. That’s where the money is: corporate money, foreign money, gobs of money sloshing around a vanity charity that could be renamed “Clinton Conflicts of Interest Foundation.”

Conor Friedersdorf described how hard  the Clintons have made it to follow the money in an article in The Atlantic. Earlier this month three investigative journalists, Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Andrew Perez, and David Sirota, reported that Clinton had altered her position to support a Colombian trade deal in return for contributions.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to prove that favors provided by Clinton after a contribution were definitely in return for the contribution, but a damaging pattern can be found. This is certain to be used by Republicans in the general election race. While Democratic primary voters might believe her denials, voters in the general election are less likley to. Clinton’s credibility, already low among many voters, is further damaged by her actions including failure to divulge contributors as agreed when Secretary of State, her violation of the rules in effect in 2009 regarding maintenance of email, and her decision to wipe the server.

We won’t know for sure how much there is to this book until the legitimate journalists have had more time to go through the data. The important thing is how the information in this particular book pans out, not the history of the author. The National Enquirer is also generally a poor source, but their story on John Edwards turned out to be true. It is unusual for a book from a conservative that the author is willing to let The New York Times see his research. So far they seem to be confident there is something to this–and there is a good chance considering the reporting along these lines elsewhere.

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Clinton Announces: One More Quasi-Neocon Enters Presidential Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday Night Live On Hillary Clinton’s Announcement

Saturday Night Live gave their impression of Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she is running for the Democratic nomination in the video above. She did not come across very well in her first attempt at filming a video on her phone: “Citizens: You will elect me. I will be your leader.”

Other attempts were interrupted by Darrell  Hammond, who returned to play Bill Clinton, with lines such as, “Hillary, isn’t it crazy that phones can take videos now? I mean, if they could have done that in the 90s, I’d be in jail.”

Of course the answer to attempts they did not like was to delete them from Hillary’s phone, leading to a reference to the recent email scandal: “I know a thing of two about that, right?”

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Martin O’Malley So Far The Only Liberal In Democratic Race For 2016

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The prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming the Democratic candidate has many liberals increasingly worried considering how out of step Clinton is with liberal views on foreign policy, social issues, government ethics, and the economy. If it comes to it, I believe most liberals will hold their nose and vote for Clinton as opposed to risking another Gore v. Bush campaign in which the Nader votes helped determine the result. However that would be a purely defensive vote for a candidate who does not share our values to prevent a greater evil from being elected. While we are still in the nominating process, many liberals do prefer to see the Democrats nominate a liberal candidate.

There has been considerable excitement around Elizabeth Warren, including recent calls from the Boston Globe, and just recently Lawrence Lessig, for Warren to run. There is even a draft Joe Biden web site. Martin O’Malley might not be as exciting to the grass roots as Warren but he does have one thing going for him. Unlike Warren, O’Malley is actually talking about running.

O’Malley appeared on ABC’s This Week. From MSNBC:

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley took a swipe at likely 2016 contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeb Bush on Sunday, saying that “the presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families.”

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” O’Malley, who is weighing a possible run against Clinton for the Democratic nomination, called the presidency “an awesome and sacred trust to be earned and exercised on behalf of the American people.”

O’Malley — who at times has been reluctant to take on Clinton directly — declined to say whether he thought the former secretary of state would stand up to Wall Street and other special interests. “I don’t know where she stands,” he told host George Stephanopoulos. “Will she represent a break with the failed policies of the past? Well, I don’t know.”

O’Malley is trying to position himself as a more liberal and forward-looking alternative to Clinton, who holds a commanding lead in early polls among Democratic voters and is expected to make her bid official next month.

Chris Cillizza is among the journalists who see O’Mallley as getting more aggressive against Clinton:

So, what’s changed? Well, for one, O’Malley and his team quite clearly see an opening — no matter how small — caused by Clinton’s unforced error on her e-mails. Ramping up the rhetoric is a probing attempt by O’Malley to see whether there really is a plausible path to beat — or at least seriously challenge — Clinton in a primary. Could a liberal’s liberal without a famous last name have a chance — if that person was willing to push (and push hard) the idea that Clinton represents an unnecessary compromise of ideals and an unnecessary continuation of the dynastic politics that people say they don’t like?

Many front runners have lost in the past, including Ed Muskie, Joe Lieberman, Gary Hart,  Rudy Giuliani, and Hillary Clinton in 2008. Clinton does have an unprecedented lead, but she is also in an unusual situation. Her support comes from a combination of her name and gender, but her views are to the right of the party base which turns out in primaries. She has been a poor campaigner, including stumbling in her book tour and response to the email controversy, in addition to the problems in her 2008 campaign. She remains the most likley winner, but not inevitable.

On the other hand, while O’Malley looks like an unlikely winner, the Democrats have often nominated governors who were not well-known nationally before the campaign. This includes ultimate general election winners such as Carter and Bill Clinton, and losers such as Dukakis. O’Malley has a long-shot, but not impossible, chance at winning just by showing up in the nomination race if more Democrats reconsider whether they really want to see the party move to the right, under a leader with a history of poor judgement and loose ethics.

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Obama White House & Top Freedom Of Information Official Worried About “The Clinton Way”

Time The Clinton Way

Hillary Clinton’s response to reports that she has violated the Federal Records Act at her recent press conference have been throughly debunked by media fact-checkers. The Canadian Press has also discussed this with Daniel Metcalf. He is described as, “The senior-most freedom-of-information official in the executive branch of the United States government for over a quarter-century, whose job it was to help four administrations — including the Clinton White House — interpret the Freedom of Information Act, offer advice, and testify before Congress on their behalf.”

Daniel Metcalfe doesn’t buy her explanation. In fact, he calls it laughable.

“What she did was contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the law,” says Metcalfe, the founding director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy, which advised the rest of the administration on how to comply with the law. Metcalfe ran the office from 1981 to 2007.

“There is no doubt that the scheme she established was a blatant circumvention of the Freedom of Information Act, atop the Federal Records Act.”

Metcalfe says he doesn’t have any partisan axe to grind. He’s a registered Democrat, though steadfastly non-partisan. He says he was embarrassed to work for George W. Bush and his attorney general, and left government for American University, where he now teaches government information law and policy…

Metcalfe examined a transcript of her press conference, provided by The Canadian Press.

And he dissected it Wednesday, point by point, annotating it in 23 places where he called her statements “deceptive,” “grossly misleading” and impossible to verify.

His overall conclusion from her public appearance: “Her suggestion that government employees can unilaterally determine which of their records are personal and which are official, even in the face of a FOIA request, is laughable.”

Time calls this The Clinton Way in an upcoming cover story with a subtitle, “They write their own rules. Will it work this time?” Some excerpts, trying to limit to current news and leave out the past history discussed in the full article:

The Clintons play by their own set of rules. And in this case, the former Secretary of State explained, those rules bless her decision to erase some 30,000 emails from the family server despite knowing that the emails had become a subject of intense interest to congressional investigators. These were merely “private personal emails,” Clinton averred, “emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.” After she finished taking questions, Clinton’s staff disclosed that no one actually read through those 30,000-odd documents before she “chose not to keep” them…

Still, Clinton’s failure to defuse the email issue, along with a growing list of questions about the family’s relentless fundraising and her husband’s choice of companions, has revived hopes among erstwhile rivals in the Democratic Party that the Hillary dreadnought might actually be sinkable. Backbiting inside the Clinton campaign–a hallmark of her failed 2008 presidential effort–has begun to leak into the political press. Republicans who were morose over their presidential chances mere months ago have a spring in their step…

In her press conference, Hillary Clinton described the private email account on the server inside their New York home as a matter of convenience only. “I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two,” she said. “Looking back, it would’ve been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn’t seem like an issue.”

That explanation was not exactly robust. The Q&A had hardly ended before Clinton’s critics unearthed an interview Hillary had given a few weeks earlier with Re/code co-founder Kara Swisher. “I have an iPad, a mini iPad, an iPhone and a BlackBerry,” Clinton said. So much for simplicity. Others remarked on a matter of timing: Clinton did not carry out her business on an existing personal email account. She specifically set up a new private address–hdr22@clintonemail.com–instead of using a government account. This happened on the very day the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held its first hearing on her nomination as Secretary of State.

As for why this might “seem like an issue,” the answer is not complicated. All federal employees have a legal obligation to preserve their work-related email–and the White House advises appointees to accomplish this by using official government addresses. Email sent to and from .gov accounts is generally archived. In this way, a consistent level of security is maintained. The nation’s history is preserved. Open-records laws are honored. And transparency gets a leg up on “Trust me.”

All this once made sense to Clinton. As a candidate for President in 2008, she included “secret White House email accounts” as part of her critique of the Bush Administration’s “stunning record of secrecy and corruption.” Now, however, Clinton is leaning heavily on “Trust me.” For more than a year after she left office in 2013, she did not transfer work-related email from her private account to the State Department. She commissioned a review of the 62,320 messages in her account only after the department–spurred by the congressional investigation–asked her to do so. And this review did not involve opening and reading each email; instead, Clinton’s lawyers created a list of names and keywords related to her work and searched for those. Slightly more than half the total cache–31,830 emails–did not contain any of the search terms, according to Clinton’s staff, so they were deemed to be “private, personal records.”

This strikes experts as a haphazard way of analyzing documents. Jason R. Baron, a former lawyer at the National Archives and Records Administration who is now an attorney in the Washington office of Drinker Biddle & Reath, says, “I would question why lawyers for Secretary Clinton would use keyword searching, a method known to be fraught with limitations, to determine which of the emails with a non-.gov address pertained to government business. Any and all State Department activities–not just communications involving the keywords Benghazi or Libya–would potentially make an email a federal record. Given the high stakes involved, I would have imagined staff could have simply conducted a manual review of every document. Using keywords as a shortcut unfortunately leaves the process open to being second-guessed.”

Politico reports that the White House frets return of ‘Clinton Way’

They thought she’d changed. They thought maybe she’d picked up a little bit from them about how people respond to awkward secret arrangements and contrived ways of not telling the full story.

This has been a surprising two weeks for aides in President Barack Obama’s orbit as they’ve watched Hillary Clinton’s email mess unfold…

With so much on the line, with so much time to prepare, she’s back to classic Clinton? She’s flubbing a campaign kickoff eight years in the making because she somehow thought that no one would ever care that she set up a secret email server? That anyone would then accept her word that it was OK that she deleted 30,000 emails even though the State Department had been asking for some of them? And then go silent again?

After all, 2008’s “Change you can believe in” campaign slogan wasn’t just a reference to George W. Bush. It was also about her, and the uneasy feeling many people had that with Clinton, something else was always going on.

Obama aides had had that feeling themselves, even after she joined the administration and their staffs tried following Obama’s and Clinton’s leads in building mutual trust, almost to the point of suspension of disbelief.

“You never feel like you’re quite getting the full story, because everyone’s got some side deal or some complicating factor,” said one former Obama aide, reflecting on dealing with Clinton and her circle. “I don’t think there was a conscious effort to watch out for scams. It was more just, you know who you’re dealing with.”

Obama put the priority on keeping clear records when he issued guidelines about using official email accounts, one White House aide noted after Clinton’s news conference, while obviously the former secretary of state determined her priority was something else…

A lot of this has to do with what Obama aides refer to as a culture clash. The Clintons look for loopholes, they say, while Obama takes a special pride, particularly on transparency issues, in sticking to the letter of the law: a combination of cockiness that he’s right, so why not let everyone see how he got there, as well as a background awareness that any scandal would be a scandal for the first African-American president.

“The president has been willing to say and implement provocative policies to shake up Washington,” said one current White House aide. “Willingness to send those signals is a good way to make clear to people that this is the way we’re going to do business: differently.”

…What’s confusing to them is how she didn’t acknowledge that herself, or care. They don’t like to admit it around the West Wing, but as a former first lady and Obama’s main opponent in 2008, Clinton did get more latitude than other Cabinet secretaries in all sorts of decisions, from staffing on down. They’re just hoping that this email server — “the president 100 percent would not have done it this way,” the former aide said, “this is such a clearly nontransparent way of going about it” — is the extent of the latitude she took that they didn’t know about.

Then again, the White House didn’t know she deleted 30,000 emails until they watched her announce it at her news conference on Tuesday. And aides acknowledge that they don’t know how much more they don’t know.

It is a legitimate fear that “the extent of the latitude she took” when Secretary of State exceeds what we know about. My bigger fear is the latitude she would take as president.

Frank Rich compared this to an episode of Veep in which the vice-president announced plans to release her correspondence, and points out that Clinton’s explanation “didn’t pass the smell test.”

That it took Clinton as long as it did to respond to the rising chorus of these questions, and that she did so as defensively and unconvincingly as she did, is yet more evidence that she’s not ready for the brutality of a presidential campaign. This hastily called, abruptly truncated press conference was reminiscent of the mistakes she made last year in her ill-fated book tour. She didn’t schedule yesterday’s appearance until after the most senior of Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein, essentially demanded that she speak up.

Some of what Clinton said didn’t pass the smell test. It reminded me of an episode in the first season of Veep where the vice-president announces she will release all her internal office correspondence to quell a controversy and then instructs her staff to make sure it’s “Modified Full Disclosure Lite.” That’s what we got here. Why, for instance, would Clinton say that she “didn’t see any reason to keep” her personal emails? Those are precisely the emails that every American keeps.

If she doesn’t become more forthright and less defensive when she’s under fire, this is going to be a very long campaign for her. Though we keep being told that she and those around her are determined not to repeat the mistakes of 2008, so far there’s no evidence of that. And the much tougher questions — starting with those about the donors to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation — are yet to come.

While a growing number of Democrats are starting to worry about her ability to run a presidential campaign, she maintains the front runner due to lack of serious opposition. For example, Dana Milbank writes that Hillary Clinton has little to fear from Martin O’Malley. I don’t think that the speculation on Al Gore entering the race, which I discussed yesterday, is very likely.

I agree with Jonathan Bernstein, who debunks the claim that the Democrats have no bench. The problem is that so far Hillary Clinton has taken all of the air out of the Democratic nomination battle. If we had an open and competitive primary, more people might run, and some would ultimately look like viable presidential candidates. We would be in a situation comparable to 1992 when several candidates ran until one (in that case Bill Clinton) emerged. A candidate who is victorious in such a primary battle will be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. Democrats do not need to settle for a candidate as flawed by Hillary Clinton due to thinking she is the only choice. Nominating someone lacking so lacking in judgment and ethical character as Hillary Clinton will greatly increase the risk of a Republican being elected president in 2016.

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Techies Join Other Liberals Who Are Not Ready For Hillary

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Hillary Clinton continues to look like a strong favorite to win the 2016 Democratic nomination, but there continues to be many Democrats who hope that the party decides upon a liberal nominee. This includes the techies who helped Obama to beat her in 2008. Politico reports:

Scores of the Democratic techies who helped Barack Obama defeat Hillary Clinton for the 2008 presidential nomination are now seeking alternatives to Clinton in 2016. Some are even promising the same kind of digital throw-down to sink her presumptive front-runner campaign as they did in 2008.

Clinton is still expected to be able to field a formidable tech team. But her troubles in grabbing many of the party’s young campaign innovators have a good deal to do with Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who insists she’s not running for president but who has quickly become an appealing pick for Obama alumni who built his two campaigns’ data and digital infrastructure. Earlier this month, more than 300 of Obama’s former campaign staffers, including his chief information officer and senior aides who handled email, online fundraising and field efforts, released a letter begging Warren to jump into the race.

“What we were trying to do is send a signal to the larger country but also to Sen. Warren herself to say a lot of this institutional knowledge and power that’s been built up over the last couple of years actually is with you,” Christopher Hass, an Obama 2008 and 2012 digital campaign aide, said in an interview.

“We’re not robots,” added Catherine Bracy, who led Obama’s San Francisco field office in 2012. “I think people are going to choose the candidate who inspires them the most. And for many of us that’s Elizabeth Warren.”

While Clinton’s other potential 2016 rivals will be widely outmatched on the financial front, they are hardly tech neophytes and each brings his own digital skill sets to compete on the social media battlefield and for critical early votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. After all, Bernie Sanders is arguably Congress’ biggest social media powerhouse; Martin O’Malley has governed both Baltimore and Maryland with an obsessive eye on statistics; and Jim Webb has a proven track record as a candidate willing to use progressive bloggers and viral videos to exploit his opponents’ weaknesses for advantage.

“I’d not be surprised if [Sanders] or one of the others get several bumps over the next six months,” said a senior Democratic source, noting the Vermont senator’s ability to make waves on Facebook and Twitter while Clinton at the same time would be working to define her own new narrative. “I think she’s got an enormous challenge reintroducing a brand that’s been around this long and getting people excited about it. It’s going to be tricky.”

Despite this “enormous challenge,” I doubt that very many Democrats who oppose her nomination doubt that she also has enormous advantages going into the primary race (as she did in 2008).

There have been other expressions of opposition to Clinton winning the nomination. The November issue of Harper’s ran a cover story entitled, Stop Hillary! Vote no to a Clinton dynasty. As I received it just before the 2014 primaries, I decided to hold off on discussion of the 2016 election, but it is worth quoting some portions of this article. Doug Henwood began:

What is the case for Hillary (whose quasi-official website identifies her, in bold blue letters, by her first name only, as do millions upon millions of voters)? It boils down to this: She has experience, she’s a woman, and it’s her turn. It’s hard to find any substantive political argument in her favor. She has, in the past, been associated with women’s issues, with children’s issues — but she also encouraged her husband to sign the 1996 bill that put an end to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC), which had been in effect since 1935. Indeed, longtime Clinton adviser Dick Morris, who has now morphed into a right-wing pundit, credits Hillary for backing both of Bill’s most important moves to the center: the balanced budget and welfare reform. And during her subsequent career as New York’s junior senator and as secretary of state, she has scarcely budged from the centrist sweet spot, and has become increasingly hawkish on foreign policy.

The purpose of the article was a response to those who see her as a liberal by looking at her career.  Henwood wrote, “despite the widespread liberal fantasy of her as a progressive paragon, who will follow through exactly as Barack Obama did not. In fact, a close look at her life and career is perhaps the best antidote to all these great expectations.” He has considerable detail on her career. He wrote this on health care:

Hillary was given responsibility for running the health-care reform agenda. It was very much a New Democrat scheme. Rejecting a Canadian-style single-payer system, Hillary and her team came up with an impossibly complex arrangement called “managed competition.” Employers would be encouraged to provide health care to their workers, individuals would be assembled into cooperatives with some bargaining power, and competition among providers would keep costs down. But it was done in total secrecy, with no attempt to cultivate support in Congress or among the public for what would be a massive piece of legislation — and one vehemently opposed by the medical-industrial complex.

At a meeting with Democratic leaders in April 1993, Senator Bill Bradley suggested that she might need to compromise to get a bill passed. Hillary would have none of it: the White House would “demonize” any legislators who stood in her way. Bradley was stunned. Years later, he told Bernstein:

That was it for me in terms of Hillary Clinton. You don’t tell members of the Senate you are going to demonize them. It was obviously so basic to who she is. The arrogance. . . . The disdain.

Health-care reform was a conspicuous failure, and most of the blame has to fall on Hillary.

Hillary got Bill to agree to veto any compromise as opposed to HillaryCare in full. The result was forcing us to wait another generation before we had health care reform.

Henwood discussed the scandals which surrounded Clinton, pointing out how she responded “with lies, half-truths, and secrecy.” He described aspects of her Senate career, including her prayer breakfasts with Republicans and her support for the Iraq war:

She buddied up to John McCain and attended prayer breakfasts with right-wingers like Sam Brownback of Kansas. She befriended Republicans who had served as floor managers of her husband’s impeachment. Even Newt Gingrich has good things to say about her.

Oh, and she voted for the Iraq war, and continued to defend it long after others had thrown in the towel. She cast that vote without having read the full National Intelligence Estimate, which was far more skeptical about Iraq’s armaments than the bowdlerized version that was made public — strange behavior for someone as disciplined and thorough as Hillary. She also accused Saddam Hussein of having ties to Al Qaeda, which was closer to the Bush line than even many pro-war Democrats were willing to go. Alas, of all her senatorial accomplishments, this one arguably had the biggest impact. The rest were the legislative equivalent of being against breast cancer.

Her tenure as Secretary of State was just as hawkish:

For her own part, Hillary was less of a diplomat and more of a hawk, who had made a campaign-trail promise in 2008 to “totally obliterate” Iran in the event of an attack on Israel. Part of this may have been pure temperament, or an impulse to prove that she was tougher than a man. But she may also have been reacting against public perception of the job itself. As the feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe, who specializes in gender and militarism, told me in a 2004 interview, there’s a “long history of trying to feminize the State Department in American inner circles.” Diplomats are caricatured as upper-class pansies instead of manly warriors. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld even attempted to feminize Colin Powell, she argued, “which is pretty hard to do with somebody who has been a general.”

But the problem becomes particularly acute with a female secretary of state — and Hillary countered it with a macho eagerness to call in the U.S. Cavalry. She backed an escalation of the Afghanistan war, lobbied on behalf of a continuing military presence in Iraq, urged Obama to bomb Syria, and supported the intervention in Libya. As Michael Crowley wrote in Time, “On at least three crucial issues — Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid — Clinton took a more aggressive line than [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.”

Fortunately, as one diplomat put it, Obama “brought her into the administration, put her in a bubble, and ignored her.” That would also be good advice for Democrats as we go into the battle for the 2016 nomination.

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Why Stock Market Investors Vote Against Their Self Interest

When I saw that James Carville had written an op-ed for The Hill entitled Why do people vote against their interests? I thought it was going to be another article along the lines of What’s The Matter With Kansas? by Thomas Franks. We have seen plenty of material on how lower income people vote against their economic interests in voting Republican. This includes people in places like Kansas, and the white working class voters across the country.  The answer comes down to a combination of 1) people voting on interests beyond economics, along with 2) voters being deceived by right wing propaganda. In this article, Carville actually looked at a different group, stock market investors:

I have no earthly idea why a stock market investor would vote Republican — all you have do is look at the numbers. The numbers are staggering, breathtaking and unimaginable. How anyone with even a penny in the market would vote for their interests and choose a Republican is unexplainable.

Well, let me put this in terms for those savvy stock investors: it is like having a discussion about Apple stock versus Lehman Brothers stock.

Before we begin, I would like to be clear that I am not even going to mention the president who presided over the greatest economic boom since World War II, whose brilliant strategy was a combination of tax increases on the wealthy, family and medical leave for working families, an increase in the minimum wage and adherence to Keynesian policies. While I would love to include my friend and former client Bill Clinton’s record in this piece, it really wouldn’t be fair. I don’t like watching my Louisiana State University Tigers play Sam Houston State and I don’t think you would like to read about such a staggering disparity — it would be a blowout. So, let’s focus on President Obama and former President Reagan.

Since Obama was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009, Standard & Poor’s 500 index has gone up approximately 115 percent, the Dow Jones industrial average has experienced a growth rate of 146 percent and, perhaps most impressively, Nasdaq has grown in size by 188 percent. Two thousand days into his presidency, the major stock indexes under Obama have had average gains of 142 percent — compare that to the record under Reagan, who saw gains at 88 percent during that same time period.

Russ Britt of MarketWatch notes, “the average stock-market gain under four post-Depression Democrats through each one’s 2,000th day in office has outpaced the average gain of the four Republicans in the era by a factor of nearly 4 to 1. Democratic gains have averaged 133%, while Republican market advances have had a mean of 33%.”

Stock market investors are not uniform in their beliefs and some might vote Republican based upon social issues, but if the affluent voters I know are any indication, economic views are by far the dominant factor in influencing the political action of most. This leads to an exclusion of the first factor I mentioned above for the majority of them but the second still holds.

Of course this does not apply to all stock market investors. An increasing number of affluent voters are backing Democrats, often due to a combination of opposition to the social positions of Republicans, their hostility to science and reason, and the recognition that the economy does do better under Democrats.

The reasons that many stock market investors continued to be fooled by Republicans can be further broken down. One problem is that while Republicans are unable to govern, they certainly play politics far better than Democrats. They have been successful in spreading misconceptions that they are more pro-markets and better for the economy, while Democrats have done a poor job of pointing out that Republican support for plutocracy is harmful to a market economy. Some have tried with cries against income inequality, but using such words is counter-productive. We will always have income inequality in the sense that some will do better than others, and this is not the real issue. The real problem is the rigging of the system Republicans to benefit the ultra-wealthy at the expense of everyone else, including most stock market investors.

The specifics of policy are also greatly exaggerated by the right wing noise machine. Many affluent voters believe that they are better off voting for Republicans because Democrats support higher tax rates as they look to maximize their wealth by every dollar possible. The reality is that the increased marginal tax rates proposed by Democrats will still leave them with historically low tax rates. Most of us will make far more money, both due to a stronger economy and increased stock market gains, than will be taxed with a few point increase in the top tax bracket.

Carville concludes by saying, “With such glaring facts and evidence, I ask stock investors to reexamine, reconsider and reinvest their confidence in the Democratic Party.” I would suggest that he first concentrate on getting Democratic candidates to do a better job at explaining the record of their party and the economic implications of their policies. I hope that he is doing this when talking with Democrats.

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Hillary Clinton And The Left

Hillary Clinton and the Left

The Hill has an article on Hillary Clinton which, as is the case with many of their articles, recites the conventional wisdom with little real insight or new information. Most of their five points are trivial, such as that anything Hillary says, or doesn’t say (as in the case of Ferguson) makes the news. The only point in the article which I think is worthy of any discussion is the second, their claim that “The left doesn’t really hate her after all.”

In recent weeks, critics and even some Democratic allies have worried that Clinton has failed to satisfy some on the left.

On Vox.com earlier this month, Ezra Klein wrote that “liberals walk away unnerved” after almost every interview Clinton had done around her recent book tour.

“She bumbled through a discussion of gay marriage with [NPR’s] Terry Gross. She dodged questions about the Keystone XL pipeline. She’s had a lot of trouble discussing income inequality,” Klein asserted.

Other progressives have expressed a desire to see a candidate rooted within the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), challenge Clinton.

But poll numbers provide succor to Clinton supporters.

A CNN poll conducted in late July showed that there was essentially no difference in the backing Clinton received from self-identified liberal Democrats over Democrats as a whole. Sixty-six percent of liberal Democrats supported her, as did 67 percent of all party supporters.

Clinton allies object to the notion that the former secretary of State is in trouble with the left.

“She is progressive and has support from the vast majority of progressives, which I would argue spans from the left to the middle, including some conservative Democrats along the way, too,” said one longtime aide.

Another ally who has worked for Clinton took it a step further, insisting that the he idea of widespread unease about her on the left was a “fictional plot that people want to believe is true.”

For all practical purposes this might as well be true, but it is an over-simplification. I certainly would not consider Clinton to be a liberal, but the right has moved to so such extremes that she could not be classified as a conservative today either. She may be a former Goldwater girl, but the Republicans have moved far to the right of Barry Goldwater. One significant factor is that while the Republican Party is pulled to the right by a strong conservative movement, the Democratic Party is a centrist party which often ignores liberal influence. Many liberals I discuss politics with  are very concerned about Clinton’s relatively conservative views, but we also make up a tiny percentage of the centrist-dominated voters for the Democrats.

Clinton also benefits from the widespread realization that there is not much choice other than to support her. The faction of the left which would vote for the Green Party or a Ralph Nader like challenge from the left is even smaller than those of us who feel Clinton is too conservative. Most of us anti-Clinton Democrats realize that whatever faults Clinton has, the Republicans will be as bad on foreign policy and far worse on domestic policy.

Clinton also probably benefits from factors such as a favorable view among Democrats of electing the first female president. Plus there is nostalgia for the period of peace and prosperity when Bill Clinton was president. However the times have changed and electing a Clinton will not mean returning to the Clinton economy.

I suspect that these factors also blind many Democratic voters to how conservative Clinton is on many issues, even if given warnings in recent interviews. She is likely to be seen as more socially liberal than she actually is do her position on “women’s issues” but being even Republican women are more liberal than the Republican establishment in this area. While Clinton has received criticism for appearing dishonest and calculating for naming the Bible as the book with the greatest influence on her thinking, that might not really be out of character considering her past participation with the religiously conservative Fellowship while in Congress.

I also suspect that many liberals fail to realize how conservative she is on foreign policy issues. Being Obama’s Secretary of State blurs the distinctions between Clinton and the rest of the Obama administration, but during her tenure as Secretary of State the common pattern was for Clinton to push for a more hawkish position which was countered by others in the administration.

Clinton’s hawkish views on Iraq are also obscured by the fact that many Democrats voted for the Iraq war resolution. However, while all who voted yes were terribly mistaken, there were still significant differences in views within that group. On the left was John Kerry, who voted yes but clearly laid out the conditions under which war would be justified, and then spent the next several months pushing Bush not to go to war. On the extreme right of the Democratic Party there was Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton, being unique among Democrats in pushing to go to war based upon the fictitious arguments connecting Saddam to al Qaeda:

Indeed, in Clinton’s October 10, 2002, speech about her vote she said of Saddam: LINK

“He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.”

As Don van Natta and Jeff Gerth have written in their book about Clinton and the New York Times, Clinton’s linkage of Saddam and al Qaeda was unique among Democrats and “was unsupported by the conclusions of the N.I.E. and other secret intelligence reports that were available to senators before the vote.” LINK

Former Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, said it was a spurious claim: “I don’t think any agency pretended to make a case that there was a strong linkage between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. It wasn’t in the N.I.E.”

“Nevertheless,” van Natta and Gerth write, “on the sensitive issue of collaboration between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Senator Clinton found herself adopting the same argument that was being aggressively pushed by the administration. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials had repeated their claim frequently, and by early October 2002, two out of three Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was connected to the Sept. 11 attacks. By contrast, most of the other Senate Democrats, even those who voted for the war authorization, did not make the Qaeda connection in their remarks on the Senate floor.”

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., “actively assailed the reports of Al Qaeda in Iraq, calling them ‘much exaggerated.’ Senator Dianne Feinstein of California described any link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda as ‘tenuous.’ The Democratic senator who came closest to echoing Clinton’s remarks about Hussein’s supposed assistance to Al Qaeda was Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Yet even Lieberman noted that ‘the relationship between Al Qaeda and Saddam’s regime is a subject of intense debate within the intelligence community.’”

How could Clinton get this key point so wrong?

“My vote was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances that I had at the time,” she said in February.

But what facts and assurances?

If someone were to mount a serious primary challenge to Clinton I suspect that opposition to Clinton would increase on the left, based upon foreign policy, economics, and social issues, along with questions about her competence and judgment. The 2008 race showed that deep down many Democrats do have reservations about Clinton and would support a viable challenge. Unfortunately, at least so far, I do not see such a challenge emerging. Many liberals who are concerned about Clinton’s Wall Street connections would love to see Elizabeth Warren run, but this is highly unlikely to happen. Bernie Sanders is talking about possibly running.  Joe Biden is traveling to New Hampshire, leading to speculation about him running. While he is far from the ideal candidate, and I never really thought of backing him, as I read about how Biden was a strong voice against Clinton’s hawkish views in the Obama administration, Biden increasingly looks like a far more favorable alternative if he can mount a viable campaign and no better options arise.

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