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.

Bill and Hillary Escalate Smear Campaign With Dishonest Attacks on Sanders

MILFORD, NH - FEBRUARY 07: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, during a campaign event at Milford Junior High School February 7, 2016 in Milford, New Hampshire. New Hampshire holds the "first in the nation" primary on February 9. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Clintons have escalated their dishonest smear campaign against Bernie Sanders, including attacks from Bill Clinton which are reminiscent of his racist attacks on Barack Obama eight years ago. Both Bill and Hillary have raised what Truthout calls The Most Disingenuous Attack on Bernie Yet over the vote for the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. Hillary Clinton raised this at the last Democratic debate.

But here’s the thing: Hillary Clinton isn’t telling a true story about Bernie Sanders and his vote for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, or CFMA.

As Robert Scheer has pointed out over at Truthdig, then-Congressman Sanders voted for the CFMA, not because he wanted to, but because he had to.

The CFMA had been shoved into an omnibus spending bill at the last minute as part of a deal between Republicans and President Bill Clinton, and because this was a time when, you know, Congress actually did its job, Sanders bit the bullet and voted for the whole package – CFMA included – to keep the government open.

Only four members of Congress ended up opposing the final spending bill that included the CFMA, and one of them was Ron Paul, who opposed pretty much every spending bill. But that’s just of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how dishonest Clinton was being when she called Bernie out for voting for the CFMA.

Even if Bernie had a good reason to vote for that omnibus spending bill – like preventing a government shutdown – Sanders was angry that he been forced into deregulating Wall Street.

Bill is also attacking Bernie over the data breach with an inaccurate account of the incident, calling it like stealing a car with the keys in the ignition. Bill left out important details such as that it was the Sanders campaign which both reported that the data breach and fired their staff member who was involved. In return, the DNC violated their contract with Sanders, only backing down in response to a lawsuit. Imagine the cover ups which we would be seeing if it was a Clinton staffer involved.

In what was probably his biggest strategic blunder, Bill Clinton jumped on highly exaggerated attacks on Bernie Bros. The attack line, which is reminiscent of the Obama boy attacks of eight years ago, is largely based upon myths spread by the Clinton campaign. While there is no doubt that some Sanders supporters have acted inappropriately on the internet, Sanders has already condemned such acts.

If bad behavior from supporters on the internet was a reason not to vote for a candidate, there are also plenty of cases coming from Clinton supporters, both on line and from more prominent supporters. While hardly a serious argument against Sanders, this resulted in an increase in discussion of Bill Clinton’s predatory behavior towards women. This will haunt the campaign through the general election should Hillary win the nomination. Reuters reports that one of the women who is accusing Clinton of sexual assault is planning to campaign against Clinton.

Meanwhile, Hillary continues to have problems with her speaking fees. At Huffington Post, Les Leopold writes Hillary Not Truthful About Wall Street Speaking Fees.

Hillary is veering from the truth when she suggests her $225,000 per speech fee, paid three times by Goldman Sachs, was “what they offered.”

It was not what they offered — it was what Team Hillary demanded.

A review of her 2014 tax return posted on her website shows that $225,000 was her minimum fee…

Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame and Hillary biographer, commented on CNN that the White House is “horrified that Clinton is blowing up her own campaign.” He said they can’t believe she took the money and didn’t see the ethical problems that would dog her.

It is not credible for her to argue that she took the money because she wasn’t sure she was going to run for president or that she was “dead broke.” She and Bill hauled in $139 million from 2007 to 2014…

The pundits point out that she has created a “perceived” conflict of interest, whether real or imagined. In essence they are saying that there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking the money. It’s not really tainted.

Hillary states that she never changed her vote due to campaign contributions. But evidence is mounting via previous accounts by Elizabeth Warren, that Hillary may have switched her position on bankruptcy laws to please her Wall Street contributors after becoming the Senator New York.

But these attacks miss the most basic question: Is money tainted? Is it blood-money?

Sanders believes it is by arguing that “the business model of Wall Street is fraud.”

There is considerable data to support him.

The most disturbing factor here is that Hillary Clinton really seems to believe that there is nothing unethical about the situation. How can she ever be trusted to work to get money out of politics if she does not recognize the problem and this is how she thinks?

Clinton makes matters worse by refusing to release the transcripts as she previously refused to release the email until forced to.  McClatchy points out that Clinton did require that transcripts be kept.

With all the chaos surrounding the Clinton campaign, as well as Clinton losing her lead in the latest national polls from Quinnipiac and Reuters/IPSOS (which may or may not be outliers at this point), Politico reported that Clinton is considering a shake up of her staff. Hillary denied this report, but there is no information as to whether her nose grew during the interview. Regardless, the staff is not the problem. As was also the case eight years ago, the problem is the candidate. Democrats are insane if they want to go into a general campaign with her on top of the ticket.

Update: Bernie Sanders Delivers Clinton A Crushing Loss In New Hampshire

Salon Article Advocates Writing In Bernie Sanders If Clinton Wins Democratic Nomination

No Clinton

An article at Salon (More like Reagan than FDR: I’m a millennial and I’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton) is receiving some attention for providing reasons why the author would not vote for Hillary Clinton. Walker Bragman began by suggesting that the usual course would be to utilize primaries to try to select the candidate most aligned with the change he wants, and then vote for the lesser of two evils in the general election if it came to this. He argues that this strategy doesn’t apply this year due to the manner in which the DNC is resisting the possibility of selecting a change candidate in rigging the rules for Clinton.

Bragman then went through the arguments as to why he does not want to vote for Clinton. He started with Hillary’s personality repels me (and many others). The section would be better labeled with her character as opposed to personality, as it deals with her dishonesty and double talk.

The next section is more accurately labeled with On foreign policy, Clinton is a neoconservative. This section primarily deals with her approach to handling ISIS, and I would add more regarding her neoconservative views on Iraq and Libya.

The next section is On domestic policy, Clinton is basically a moderate Republican. Many examples are listed to back this up, concentrating on economic policy. I would have included her conservative views on civil liberties and social/cultural issues. Of course an article would have to be quite long to include all the reasons why liberals should not vote for Clinton–and I have pointed out other posts elsewhere along these lines in the past.

The final section is Choosing Hillary threatens the future of the Democratic Party. The section notes the conservative background of New Democrats such as Bill Clinton. I would also take this a step further. Hillary Clinton supports many ideas which Democrats would never accept from a Republican, but many Democrats defend when it comes from Clinton. Similarly, Democrats would be very skeptical of a Republican who received such large contributions from Wall Street, or who benefited financially from parties they were making decisions about. Yet many Democrats ignore unethical conduct from Clinton they would never accept from a Republican. Maybe this wouldn’t hurt the future of the Democratic Party, but it would leave us with a Democratic Party which stands for even less than the party now stands for. That threaten the future of the nation.

The article gives many excellent reasons to vote for Sanders over Clinton in the primaries, along with reasons to be upset if the system gives the nomination to Clinton without a fair fight. However, should Clinton win the nomination, it does not address the fact that the Republican candidate will be even more conservative than Clinton on some issues. While Clinton is more like Reagan than FDR, and is in many ways a combination of George W. Bush and Richard Nixon, the Republican Party has moved much further to the right in recent years.

This leaves the question as to whether it will matter if Clinton or a Republican wins–which is more difficult to say without knowing which Republican will be the GOP nominee. It is definitely possible that there will be no meaningful difference with regards to foreign policy and civil liberties issues if Clinton or a Republican wins. There is the danger that the next president will be hostile to government transparency, and nobody has reached the level of the Clinton corruption in using the office of the presidency to enhance their personal worth. We will probably see a continuation of the surveillance state and of the drug war regardless of whether Clinton or a Republican wins.

The biggest danger in a Clinton presidency would be that many Democrats will support conservative policies, leaving a weak liberal opposition to her policies, while there would be greater unity in opposing what might even be the exact same policies coming from Republicans.

The biggest upside to Clinton winning over the Republicans might be that after campaigning as a progressive for the nomination, she will continue to govern as one. At very least Clinton would support a handful of liberal positions such as reproductive rights if elected. While this would be favorable, it is hardly enough to be happy with the prospect of her election considering her many conservative views. Unfortunately we have already seen her swing to the right on some issues and she has shown throughout her career that she cannot be trusted to stand up for liberal ideas. Much of the differences we now see between Clinton and the GOP candidates are far less differences on the issues and more a matter of which party’s voters they are currently trying to attract.

The biggest differences could be the veto pen and the Supreme Court. There is now the possibility of a bill reaching Obama’s desk to repeal Obamacare from the Republican Congress–and we can be certain it will not be replaced with a single payer system. If this happens, Obama will veto it. Clinton would also veto it, along with other conceivable damaging legislation the Republicans might get through Congress. Clinton would also choose Supreme Court justices from a far different pool than any Republican president would, and it is possible they would be more conventional Democrats as opposed to ones as conservative as she is.

I don’t mean this to argue either way as to whether Sanders supporters should vote for Clinton or write in Sanders should Clinton win the Democratic nomination. It is far too early to argue over this, especially considering that we don’t know who will win either party’s nomination at this point. It is also way too early, and far too annoying, for Clinton supporters to constantly interrupt discussion among Sanders or O’Malley supporters on Facebook, and elsewhere in social media, to ask if they will vote for Clinton in the general election. It certainly shows a degree of insecurity about their candidate that they are so fearful that many Democrats will not turn out to vote for their candidate in the general election.

Not living in a battle ground state also makes it far easier for me to consider what would amount to a protest vote should Clinton win the nomination, while I might vote differently if I anticipated a situation like Florida in 2000. Rather than writing in Sanders, as many now say they will do, I would first take a closer look at the Green Party, feeling that this might help build a more long term opposition force from the left than writing in Sanders would. This is about policy positions, not personalities. And as for the comparison to Gore in 2000, there is a major difference. It was unfortunate that Bush and not Gore won due to their different views on foreign policy, leading to the Iraq war. In this case, Clinton shares the neoconservative views which we would have been better off keeping out of office in 2000.

An updated version of this post which elaborates more on some of the issues raised has been posted at The Moderate Voice

Terrorist Attack In Paris To Impact Tonight’s Debate: Anti-War Candidate Sanders vs. Neocon Candidate Clinton

Paris Terrorist Attack

The terrorist attack in Paris, which ISIS has taken credit for, has led CBS to alter the emphasis of the second Democratic debate. When news was received of the attack, CBS decided to “focus more on issues of terrorism, national security and foreign relations.”

While the campaign this year has centered more around economic policy, this debate should emphasize another major difference between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This discussion is likely to bring out Clinton’s hawkish views and  how they differ from the views of Bernie Sanders.  The terrorist attack might help Clinton in appealing to those who respond to terrorist attacks with more fear and mistakingly respond with a desire for greater military force. NPR points out that, “Clinton has always been seen as more hawkish than President Obama, and that’s something that hurt her in 2008, especially in a state like Iowa, which has its caucus roots in the anti-war movement.”

USA Today also noted this could present a challenge to Clinton:

The debate creates a challenge for Clinton, as it magnifies her public split with Obama on his approach to Syria. Several weeks ago, she was critical of Obama by saying there should be a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors in Syria, something Obama’s rejected.

Clinton has long advocated for a more robust approach in the Middle East to thwart the Islamic State, including when she was a member of Obama’s administration. As a U.S. senator she voted to authorize the war in Iraq, though she has since called that decision a mistake.

Though Sanders voted for the war in Afghanistan, he opposed Iraq and has highlighted that difference with Clinton. Sanders, who believes the Islamic State must be defeated primarily by Muslim nations in the region, opposed Obama’s recent decision to put Special Operations boots on the ground in Syria while a Clinton spokesman said she “sees merit” in the approach.

The challenge for Sanders is to make it clear that he will do what is necessary to defend the country, but that it is the neoconservative views on foreign policy from both most Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton which are largely responsible for the problem.There is a growing consensus in the foreign policy community that the creation of ISIS was a direct response to the US invasion of Iraq.

In the run up to the Iraq war, Clinton was one of the strongest proponents of the invasion, going beyond most supporters in making false claims of an association between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s hawkishness extends beyond her support for the Iraq war. Besides Iraq, Clinton differed from Obama and most Democrats in her hard line approach to Iran (including opposing Obama’s plans for talks with Iran during the 2008 campaign), and in her support for greater intervention in Syria. Her approach to Libya, which unfortunately Obama did go along with, has been a disaster.

Rand Paul made a point of how both most of his Republican opponents and Hillary Clinton have had the same approach to Syria both in the last debate and on the campaign trail, with Truth-Out explaining why he was right. Discussion of Clinton holding neoconservative views is hardly new, with The Week asking in 2014, Will neocons ditch the GOP for Hillary Clinton? This was based upon a longer story in The New York Times on Clinton’s neoconservative views. Neoconservative Robert Kagan was a key Clinton adviser at the State Department. Clinton has also attacked Obama’s foreign policy after leaving the State Department, echoing (as The Nation pointed out) the far right and neocons. Steve Clemons, Washington editor of The Atlantic, described how Clinton gave “a very neoconservative sounding speech” at the Brookings Institute in September, showing a sharp contrast with Obama’s views. Joe Scarborough has said that Clinton will be “more of a Neocon” than the 2016 Republican nominee.

The debate will also present a challenge for Martin O’Malley to show that he is capable of responding to foreign policy issues.

The debate might also will touch on the vast differences of opinion between Clinton and Sanders on civil liberties as well as foreign policy. Sanders differers from Clinton in having opposed the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance. Beyond her supporting George Bush’s approach to terrorism,  Clinton’s poor record on civil liberties also includes her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act , a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, leading a campaign to censor video games and introducing a bill making flag burning a felony.Having criticized George Bush in the previous sentence, it is only fair to point out that Bill Clinton also had a  poor record on civil liberties, with Hillary likely to continue this dubious part of his legacy if elected.

Clinton Continues To Disagree With Sanders On Expanding Social Security Benefits & More Debunking Of DOMA Revisionism

Bernie Sanders Expand Social Security

There are some interesting items in the report from The Wall Street Journal on Clinton’s recent statements on capital punishment (previously discussed here) as the story extends to other statements made by Clinton in New Hampshire this week. This includes her continuing to oppose proposals from Bernie Sanders and others on the left to expand Social Security benefits, an being open to considering an increase in the retirement age:

Mrs. Clinton also broke from many liberals, including Mr. Sanders, in discussing the future of Social Security. The left wants to expand benefits for most or all recipients. Mrs. Clinton said Wednesday she wants to increase benefits to the poorest, most vulnerable recipients—but she stopped well short of endorsing an across-the-board benefit boost. She also didn’t rule out other benefit cuts…

She also laid out her views on the future of Social Security in more detail than she has in the past, and what she didn’t say was as important as what she did say. Mrs. Clinton spoke of increasing benefits for the poorest retirees, but said nothing about more benefits for others.

“I am concerned about those people on Social Security who are most vulnerable in terms of what their monthly pay out is—that is primarily divorced, widowed, single women who either never worked themselves or worked only a little bit so they have either just their own earnings to depend on, or they have a spouse who was also a low-wage worker,” she said. “The first and most important task, I think, is we make sure that we get the monthly payment for the poorest Social Security recipients up.”

The program faces a long-term funding gap, and for many years, there was a rough consensus that the solution would ultimately involve both tax increases and benefit reductions to bring the program into balance. [Note this is the view of The Wall Street Journal] But many on the left have united to oppose any cuts to benefits and to back across-the-board benefit increases, funding them with tax increases on upper-income workers.

Mrs. Clinton said she wouldn’t rule out raising the retirement age for people whose jobs allow them to work later in life, if that were possible, though she said she didn’t favor this.

Sometimes Clinton continues to promote more conservative views. Sometimes Clinton takes a more liberal stand, and then tries to cover up how conservative she had been in the past. There has been a lot of discussion this week backing up Sanders for accusing Clinton of practicing revisionist history to excuse her support for the Defense of Marriage Act. The Washington Post Fact Checker also debunked her statement.

In addition, the above video from 2004 has gone viral in which Clinton called marriage, “not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”

I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. I have had occasion in my life to defend marriage, to stand up for marriage, to believe in the hard work and challenge of marriage. So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they are to become adults.

BuzzFeed  has further debunked Clinton’s claims in an article entitled There’s No Evidence In Clinton White House Documents For Clintons’ Story On Anti-Gay Law

Over the past few years, some Democrats — including the Clintons — have offered a new explanation for why they supported the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

The threat of a federal constitutional amendment, these Democrats have argued, motivated them to support DOMA — a law that defined marriage for federal government purposes as between one man and one woman and said states could refuse to recognize same-sex couples’ marriages from others states.

“We were attempting at the time, in a very reactionary Congress,” Bill Clinton told an audience in 2009, “to head off an attempt to send a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the states.” Four former senators — including Tom Daschle, who made the claim in 2011 — raised the idea in a Supreme Court brief in 2013. Clinton later cited that brief when, in a Washington Post op-ed, he called for the law he signed to be struck down by the court. Hillary Clinton just last week called her husband’s decision to sign DOMA “a defensive action.”

There is no contemporaneous evidence, however, to support the claim that the Clinton White House considered a possible federal constitutional amendment to be a concern, based on a BuzzFeed News review of the thousands of documents released earlier this year by the Clinton Presidential Library about same-sex couples’ marriage rights and the Defense of Marriage Act. In the documents, which include correspondence from a wide array of White House and Justice Department officials, no one even hints that Bill Clinton’s thinking or actions regarding DOMA were animated by the threat of a federal constitutional amendment.

The claim has faced renewed scrutiny in recent days after Hillary Clinton made an extended argument in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that DOMA was a “line to be drawn” to prevent further action.

“I think what my husband believed — and there was certainly evidence to support it — is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that there had to be some way to stop that,” she told Maddow.

“I was in on some of those discussions, on both ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and on DOMA, where both the president, his advisers, and occasionally I would chime in and talk about, ‘You can’t be serious, you can’t be serious.’ But they were,” Hillary Clinton said. “And so, in a lot of ways, DOMA was a line that was drawn, that was to prevent going further.”

Maddow pressed here, asking, “It was a defensive action?”

“It was a defensive action,” she replied.

In the days since, many longtime LGBT advocates have called the comments inaccurate — and her leading opponent for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, who voted against the legislation as a congressman, criticized her implicitly but sharply, onstage at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Iowa…

Hit & Run summed up the significance of why Clinton has been lying about this (emphasis mine):

But that the Clintons had no reason to lie about this in the first place is what makes the lie so strange and worthy of paying attention to. The Clintons “evolved.” Obama “evolved.” A lot of Democrats and not a small number of Republicans “evolved” on gay marriage. As I said when I wrote about this lie earlier, Clinton seems to be trying to disprove accusations that the Clintons hold positions on the basis of shrewd political calculations and is doing so in a way that’s very obviously politically calculated. Apparently the Clintons have decided that it is important that they are seen as leaders and protectors on gay rights, even though they weren’t back then. The only logical explanation is that Hillary Clinton is really worried about Bernie Sanders. But getting caught out like this only highlights the Clintons’ well-established flaws to primary voters. Ironically enough, it shows that Clinton hasn’t “evolved” when it comes to her reputation for dishonesty. And she can’t blame this one on Trey Gowdy.

Under a Hillary Clinton administration, expect to hear such Orwellian double think along the lines that “Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.” This is likely to occur with regards to both justifications for military interventionism and on domestic policy.

Press & Bloggers Show Sanders Was Right In Accusing Clinton Of Practicing Revisionist History On DOMA

The Clintons have never been very supportive of social liberalism, and now that the liberal views they often showed little regard for during Bill’s presidency have become mainstream in the Democratic Party (and much of the country), Hillary is trying to rewrite history. Bernie Sanders pointed this out at the Jefferson Jackson dinner last weekend. His statement is being backed up by the press, bloggers, and people on Twitter who remember the truth.

The Washington Blade wrote:

Sen. Bernard Sanders isn’t the only one taking Hillary Clinton to task over her recent assertion that the Defense of Marriage Act was a “defensive” measure to prevent worse discrimination against LGBT people.

A number of gay rights activists took to Twitter to say Clinton engaged in historic revisionism during her appearance Friday on “The Rachel Maddow Show” when she said DOMA was a means to stop the enactment of a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage entirely. Many of those activists also tempered their objections by saying Clinton is generally doing right on LGBT rights during her campaign…

The notion DOMA was passed to stop passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment has been disputed by Hillary Clinton supporter and former Human Rights Campaign chief Elizabeth Birch, who wrote an op-ed saying “there was no real threat” of a constitutional measure in 1996.

Bloomberg Politics also sees this as revisionist history:

Bill Clinton’s aides and confidants admitted to the New York Times in 2013 that he knew DOMA was wrong and discriminatory toward gays and lesbians. His former press secretary Mike McCurry said: “His posture was quite frankly driven by the political realities of an election year in 1996.” Democratic consultant and Clinton ally Hilary Rosen added: “In my conversations with him, he was personally embarrassed and remorseful.”

Neither said it was a strategic move to prevent something worse. And indeed, that might have been difficult. The Federal Marriage Amendment wasn’t introduced until 2002. It didn’t become part of the Republican Party platform until 2004…

Prominent figures in the LGBT community, meanwhile, rejected Clinton’s recollection of history.

“Hillary’s version of DADT and DOMA is so wrong. The only ‘defensive posture’ was for their personal politics not LGBT,” activist David Mixner said on Twitter. He added: “The LGBT community should NEVER allow any politician to revise our noble and courageous history for political purposes.”

Radio host and HuffPost Gay Voices editor-at-large Michelangelo Signorile called Hillary Clinton’s version “revisionism” and said on Twitter that it was “simply not true that DOMA was signed to stop something worse.” He continued, “Hillary doesn’t need to re-write Bill history to make her better. She’s fine, has promised a lot.”

Bill Clinton even resorted to using ads opposing gay marriage when running for reelection. While Hillary’s positions do sound much better today, we cannot count on positions she has taken for political expediency to persist if the next poll or focus group suggests she should take a different position.

AmericaBlog also showed that this is not the first time the Clintons have resorted to this type of historical revisionism, along with noting that, “Sanders is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, and has opposed anti-gay discrimination laws going back to his campaigns for mayor in the 1970s.” Last month PolitiFact ruled that a statement from Chuck Todd was true that Bernie Sanders was “there” on same sex marriage twenty years ago.

Hillary Clinton’s conservative social views, seen in her membership in religious right organization, The Fellowship (also known as The Family) while in the Senate, makes many liberals wary of trusting her on social issues (along with economic issues, civil liberties, and foreign policy). The American Humanist Association has noted how much she is like the Republicans in pandering to religion:

American Humanist Organization Religious Pandering

They also noted that Bernie Sanders has expressed views in line with theirs:

American Humanist Organization Sanders Humanism

It comes down to a difference in their philosophies which as led Sanders to take the correct fork in the road, while Clinton has so often been wrong, whenever there have been big decisions during their careers. We need a president who makes the right choices at the time, not one who will admit her mistakes and change her views years down the road.

Clinton Had A Good Joke, But Her Violations Of Government Policy Are No Laughing Matter

Clinton Email Cartoon Deleted

At least someone on Hillary Clinton’s writing staff has a sense of humor, and extra points to Clinton if she thought up this joke by herself:

“You may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account. I love it. I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves.”

The joke is funny, but the email scandal is no laughing matter. Back when George W. Bush was in office, we condemned his administration for actions such as this. Politicians and government officials should be held to the same standards, regardless of party. Hillary Clinton even accused those in the Bush administration of “shredding the Constitution.”

Government transparency is an important concept, and the change to email would result in the loss of a tremendous amount of documentation. This is even more important when a Secretary of State has outside conflicts of interest as Clinton did. Members of both parties had concerns when Hillary Clinton was made Secretary of State. The Obama administration instituted stricter rules regarding email in 2009, and made an agreement with Clinton to disclose all the donors to the Foundation when Secretary of State. There were two things which Clinton was supposed to do, and she ignored both. She then proceeded to unethically make decisions regarding parties which had made substantial contributions to the Foundation. In addition, Bill Clinton received extraordinarily high speaking fees from such parties.

This is especially foolish considering that she knew how much scrutiny she would be under, and presumably thought she might run for president again one day. If you are not doing something dishonest, it only makes sense to follow the rules and keep your nose clean in such a situation. Apparently she thought the money was worth the risk.

The New York Times also has more information available on the email classified as top secret which were found on Clinton’s private server, directly contradicting her previous statements on this topic:

This week, the inspector general of the nation’s intelligence agencies, I. Charles McCullough III, informed members of Congress that Mrs. Clinton had “top secret” information, the highest classification of government intelligence, in her account.

Some of that information, according to a memorandum the inspector general sent to the heads of the Senate and House intelligence and judiciary committees, may have come from a program called Talent Keyhole, which relies on satellite intercepts of conversations or imagery data. The program involves some of the most secure information in the intelligence agencies’ computer systems.

Specifically, the inspector general told members of Congress that two emails should have been classified as top secret, with one of them designated “TOP SECRET//SI//TK/NOFORN.” Officials familiar with the nomenclature said that “SI” stood for “special intelligence,” usually indicating an intercepted communication, and that “TK” was routinely used as an abbreviation for Talent Keyhole, showing that the communication or an image was obtained from a satellite…

The investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails has its roots in her decision to use only a private email account for her official business when she was secretary of state, an unorthodox decision that gave her some control over what was made public. She faced criticism when her use of the account became known this year, and after deleting what she said were more than 31,000 personal emails, she turned over more than 30,000 work-related emails for the State Department to make public.

We already know that some of the over 31,000 emails which she deleted turned out to relate to Libya and terrorism, and some of the email which was turned over appeared to be altered, contradicting her claims of the email being personal.

The classified email found so far in this sample of only forty emails were in email received by Clinton and not sent by her. This does not really alter the underlying issue of Clinton’s violation of government policy leading to classified email inappropriately being on her home server. As I have previously discussed, the Obama administration has been  hard on any violations of policy regarding classified information. Clinton was responsible for the information being on a private as opposed to secure government servers due to her failure to follow government policy, regardless of whether she had any intent for this to occur.

If Hillary Clinton were to be treated consistently as others have been treated who mishandled classified information (which I suspect will not be the case), she would be indicted. On the other hand, despite many conservative bloggers who dream of her going to prison, those indicted in situations comparable to her have been able to negotiate plea bargains which led to probation, fines, and loss of security clearance. It would create an awkward situation should Clinton be stripped of her security clearance and then be nominated by a major party as a candidate for president.

Update: The Washington Post reports on why the Clinton camp is getting nervous about this story:

The FBI’s interest in Clinton’s e-mail system arose after the intelligence community’s inspector general referred the issue to the Justice Department on July 6. Intelligence officials have expressed concern that some sensitive information was not in the government’s possession and that Clinton’s unusual e-mail system could have “compromised” secrets.

That investigation, still preliminary, is focusing on how to contain any damage from classified information that might have been put at risk. Officials have said that Clinton is not a target. But, according to legal experts, this type of security review can turn into a criminal investigation if there is evidence that someone intentionally mishandled government secrets…

The issues around Clinton’s e-mails have also intensified as it has become clear that a number of her statements defending her actions now appear to be false.

As she did that Sunday in Iowa, Clinton has said multiple times that she never sent or received any e-mails containing information that was classified at the time.

But the intelligence community’s inspector general, reviewing a small sample of Clinton’s private e-mails, has contradicted that claim. While the e-mails may not have been marked that way, they contained classified information. The IG said this week that he had discovered information in two e-mails that intelligence agencies considered to be top secret, the highest category of classification…

The controversy highlights one of the problems with Clinton’s decision to use her own e-mail system during her four years running the State Department.

At many agencies that handle sensitive information, discussions of classified material and sharing of classified documents must take place on specially secure classified computers. The government protections don’t extend to private accounts.

Other Cabinet secretaries have been known to use private accounts, including one of Clinton’s predecessors, Colin Powell.

State Department rules require employees to “use, hold, process, or store classified material in data and word processing systems . . . only under conditions that will prevent unauthorized persons from gaining access,” according to the agency’s Foreign Affairs Manual. A 2009 executive order also specifies that classified information “may not be removed from official premises without proper authorization.”

Lawrence Lessig–Long Time Critic Of Clinton’s Ethics–May Run For Democratic Nomination

Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and prominent government reform activist, has stated he plans to run for the Democratic nomination, provided he can raise one million dollars by Labor Day. He says that if elected he would only remain in office long enough to enact government reforms, and then turn over the job to his vice president. He has suggested Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders as possible running mates:

“Until we find a way to fix the rigged system, none of the other things that people talk about doing are going to be possible,” Lessig said in an interview with The Washington Post, borrowing a phrase that has become Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s rallying cry. “We have this fantasy politics right now where people are talking about all the wonderful things they’re going to do while we know these things can’t happen inside the rigged system.”

In the interview, conducted by phone on Monday ahead of his announcement, Lessig said he would serve as president only as long as it takes to pass a package of government reforms and then resign the office and turn the reins over to his vice president. He said he would pick a vice president “who is really, clearly, strongly identified with the ideals of the Democratic Party right now,” offering Warren as one possibility. He said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whom he considers a friend and has drawn huge crowds in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, was another option…

The singular focus of Lessig’s campaign would be passing the Citizens Equality Act, a package of reforms that would guarantee the freedom to vote with automatic registration, end partisan gerrymandering and fund campaigns with a mix of small-dollar donations and public funds.

Lessig has noted that Bernie Sanders has many of the same goals, but objects that this is not his top priority.

In contrast, Lessig has often criticized the ethics of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. In 2008, in explaining his endorsement of Barack Obama, Lessig criticized Bill Clinton for his “consistent refusal to stand up for for what were strong principles, at least as he articulated them, in his campaign.” He expressed fears that with Hillary there “are things to make one suspect that she lets principle yield in the face of expedience.” He condemned Hillary for her “lack of moral character, moral courage” and criticized Hillary Clinton’s conduct during the 2008 campaign, accusing her of dishonesty and “swiftboating” Barack Obama.

More recently Lessig has been critical of Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State in accepting contributions to the Foundation and unusually high speaking fees for Bill Clinton from those with business before her as Secretary of State:

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

I quoted additional criticism by Lessig of Clinton’s conduct here.

It is hard to see this campaign really going anywhere. Those who have concerns about corruption in government are increasingly backing Bernie Sanders, and would not be likely to vote for Lessig over Sanders in the primaries. I think it would make more sense for Lessig to speak out on these issues while backing Sanders, and pushing Sanders to place greater emphasis on government reform in his campaign. There are many potential supporters of Sanders who are interested in issues beyond his economic platform, including government reform, support for civil liberties, and opposition to the greater military interventionism supported by Clinton.

The Two Front Runners And Their Vulnerabilities

Graphic shows results of AP-GfK poll on Hillary Clinton; 2c x 5 inches; 96.3 mm x 127 mm;

Going by the polls, there are two apparent front-runners for their party’s nomination, but one has a far more meaningful lead than the other. While I will not totally dismiss the possibility of Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination as I discussed yesterday, it remains far more likley that we will see multiple candidates take leads for a period of time in the Republican race as we saw four years ago. Perhaps we will know when Republicans are truly scared of him when they start to bring up his previous statements, including on abortion rights, health care, and support for how Barack Obama handled the economy.

Hillary Clinton has a more significant lead in the Democratic race, and going by any conventional measures is most likley to win, but she is showing some signs of weakness which no longer make her nomination appear inevitable.

While Clinton retains a significant lead among Democrats, the AP-Gfk poll does show some softening of her support:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s standing is falling among Democrats, and voters view her as less decisive and inspiring than when she launched her presidential campaign just three months ago, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

The survey offers a series of warning signs for the leading Democratic candidate. Most troubling, perhaps, for her prospects are questions about her compassion for average Americans, a quality that fueled President Barack Obama’s two White House victories.

Just 39 percent of all Americans have a favorable view of Clinton, compared to nearly half who say they have a negative opinion of her. That’s an eight-point increase in her unfavorable rating from an AP-GfK poll conducted at the end of April.

The drop in Clinton’s numbers extends into the Democratic Party. Seven in 10 Democrats gave Clinton positive marks, an 11-point drop from the April survey. Nearly a quarter of Democrats now say they see Clinton in an unfavorable light.

“I used to like her, but I don’t trust her,” said Donald Walters of Louisville, Kentucky. “Ever since she’s announced her candidacy for the presidency I just haven’t liked the way she’s handled things. She doesn’t answer questions directly.”

While Clinton’s favorability rating fell, Obama’s stayed constant at 46 percent since April. More than 8 in 10 Democrats have a positive view of the president.

This follows another poll this week from Morning Consult showing even greater problems with trust:

Few voters say they trust former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but a majority say she has a vision for the future of the country, according to a new survey that highlights the challenges ahead for the Democratic front-runner’s campaign.

The Morning Consult poll of 2,019 registered voters shows just 19 percent say Clinton is honest and trustworthy, and only 35 percent say she has the average American’s best interests at heart.

Democrats and liberals are far more likely to credit Clinton with positive attributes, as are Hispanic and African American voters. But just 30 percent of all voters — and only 24 percent of independents — say Clinton “cares about issues important to me.”

Should Clinton win the nomination, trust issues are likely to be a greater factor in the general election. Democrats are quicker than the full electorate to ignore the scandals, and many are not paying attention to the details. Republicans are likley to bring them up far more in the general election, similar to how the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry surfaced prior to his winning the nomination, but the major attacks were held until shortly after the Democratic convention. The scandals involving Hillary Clinton’s email and contributions to the Foundation also threaten to be more damaging as, in contrast to the Swift Boat Liars, the accusations against Clinton are supported by the facts (including newspaper fact-check sites).

Distrust of Hillary Clinton may or may not play a role in the general election considering the significant faults in all the Republican candidates. Charlie Cook also pointed out that one previous candidate won a presidential election despite not being trusted–Bill Clinton:

But after a flurry of unflattering stories regarding her email practices during her tenure at the State Department and questions about possible conflicts of interest with donors to Clinton-related foundations and groups that paid her husband, former President Clinton, speech honoraria, the share of Americans who picked “is honest” dropped from the mid-70s to just 42 percent in the May CNN/ORC poll, with “not honest” jumping from the 20s to 57 percent. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also recorded an honesty drop, albeit a less precipitous one. When asked if Clinton is “honest and trustworthy” in March, Americans were evenly split—46 percent answered yes, 46 percent responded no. By May, those numbers had stretched to 41 percent yes and 52 percent no.

So will these doubts about Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness cost her the election? There is no doubt that voters want to be able to trust a president, but it should be remembered that Bill Clinton won an election in 1992 with large deficits in the honesty department. Polling by CBS News and The New York Times in April 1992 found that, when asked if Clinton has “more honesty and integrity than most people in public life,” just 16 percent of respondents said yes, while 48 percent answered no. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also reflected concern about Bill Clinton’s integrity. In June, when ABC/Washington Post polled the statement “Clinton is honest,” 39 percent agreed and 49 percent disagreed. In October, the numbers were virtually even, at 31 percent yes, 32 percent no, hardly a rousing endorsement of his integrity, yet he beat the incumbent President George H.W. Bush anyway.

Still it would make sense to chose a candidate who is trusted by the voters going into a general election campaign.

Looking at other factors, Hillary Clinton is doing extremely well with fund raising in terms of dollars brought in but lags behind Sanders with regards to donations from the grass roots:

Of the $47.5 million that Mrs. Clinton has raised, less than one-fifth has come from donations of $200 or less. That is a far smaller proportion than that of her Democratic and Republican rivals who have excited grass-roots donors on the left and right, such as Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Ted Cruz of Texas. While Mr. Sanders raised far less than Mrs. Clinton over all — about $15 million, including money transferred from his Senate account — about four-fifths of that amount came from smaller donors.

Total contributions is probably the more important factor with regards to winning elections, but this gap might also indicate that those who support Clinton in the polls are also less enthusiastic about turning out to vote in primaries and caucuses. Despite the idea that corporations are people, it takes real voters and not corporate donors turning out to win primary elections.

Clinton also got the first major union endorsement, but there has also been grass roots opposition to the recent decision by the American Federation of Teachers to endorse Clinton.

While Clinton has a tremendous lead for the Democratic nomination at this time, she also has significant weaknesses which could still influence the outcome. The contrasting campaign styles of Clinton compared to Sanders and O’Malley, along with other potential candidates entering the race, could impact the opinions of those who now state they support Clinton, largely based upon a combination of name recognition, nostalgia, and gender. The increased disqualification we are seeing with the status quo could lead to unanticipated results.

As I have discussed previously, polls at this stage have very limited predictive value with regards to the ultimate election results. Patrick Egan looked at various polling data and found only one which appears meaningful in predicting election results–presidential approval. While this is based upon a limited number of elections, and other factors certainly could impact the final election results, Obama’s improving popularity in some (but not all) polls should be encouraging for Democrats going into the general election.

Update:  The Clinton campaign is right to be happy with their lead in the polls and the money they brought in. It is also not surprising that they are ignoring the polls showing that people do not trust Clinton and do not care about where the money is coming from or who Clinton is indebted to.

Jeb Bush’s Questionable Business Deals

jeb-bush

The Washington Post described many of Jeb Bush’s past business dealings in an article entitled, Jeb Bush dogged by decades of questions about business deals

In early 1989, seven weeks after his father moved into the White House, Jeb Bush took a trip to Nigeria.

Nearly 100,000 Nigerians turned out to see him over four days as he accompanied the executives of a Florida company called Moving Water Industries, which had just retained Bush to market the firm’s pumps. Escorted by the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, Bush met with the nation’s political and religious leaders as part of an MWI effort to land a deal that would be worth $80 million…

Today, as he works toward his run at the White House, Bush touts his business experience as a strength that gives him the skills and savvy to serve as the nation’s chief executive. He has said he “worked my tail off” to succeed. As an announced candidate, Bush soon will be making financial disclosures that will reveal recent business successes and show a substantial increase in his wealth since he left office as Florida governor in 2007, individuals close to the candidate told The Post.

But records, lawsuits, interviews and newspaper accounts stretching back more than three decades present a picture of a man who, before he was elected Florida governor in 1998, often benefited from his family connections and repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk.

Years after Bush’s visit to Nigeria, MWI was found to have made dozens of false claims to the U.S. government about its dealings in Nigeria, according to a civil jury verdict in a case brought by the Justice Department. MWI has denied the allegations and appealed the verdict. Bush was not a party to the lawsuit.

Five of his business associates have been convicted of crimes; one remains an international fugitive on fraud charges. In each case, Bush said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing and said some of the people he met as a businessman in Florida took advantage of his naiveté…

Bush’s business activities and missteps have been widely covered over the years, by the Miami Herald, the St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times, the Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones magazine and other publications, along with books by political scientists and journalists…

There is nothing as flagrant as the actions of Bill and Hillary Clinton when Hillary was Secretary of State, but plenty to wonder about. If nothing else, don’t pay any attention if Jeb claims his skills as a businessman qualifies him to be president. The only “skill” Jeb has shown has been in picking which family to be born into.

In other political news today, H. A. Goodman wrote at The Huffington Post,Why Bernie Sanders Will Become the Democratic Nominee and Defeat Any Republican in 2016. It might be optimistic to predict at this point that Sanders will become the Democratic nominee, but I would far rather see this scenario than to risk going into the general election with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, which places us at a far greater risk of winding up with someone like Jeb Bush or another Republican as the next president.