Historian Analyzes The Many Problems With The Russiagate Narrative And Democratic Support For Interventionism

Many partisan Democrats have believed Clinton’s claims that she lost as a consequence of Russian interference in the election, as opposed to her own mistakes, despite the lack of evidence for such claims. Many of those viewing the matter more seriously have expressed skepticism, seeing the current hysteria as reminiscent of claims of WMD in Iraq. Jackson Lears, Professor of History at Rutgers University, has an essay on this at the London Review of Books. He looked at subjects including the lack of evidence that Russia was responsible for the DNC hack, along with how this narrative distracts from the evidence of corruption in the DNC which was revealed in their email. He noted, as I also provided examples of recently, that many of the claims in the media have been quickly shown to be incorrect. He also discussed how the Democratic Party’s fixation on Russiagate has led to them ignoring other issues, including the need to take a stand against the military interventionism advocated by Clinton. While I would recommend reading his full article, here are some excerpts:

American politics have rarely presented a more disheartening spectacle. The repellent and dangerous antics of Donald Trump are troubling enough, but so is the Democratic Party leadership’s failure to take in the significance of the 2016 election campaign. Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton, combined with Trump’s triumph, revealed the breadth of popular anger at politics as usual – the blend of neoliberal domestic policy and interventionist foreign policy that constitutes consensus in Washington…

A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind.

Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts – as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them – from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 US intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. In doing so they serve as mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, or at least for those ‘hand-picked’ analysts.

It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the long history of disinformation (a.k.a. ‘fake news’) as a tactic for advancing one administration or another’s political agenda. Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state. Clapper is among the most vigorous of these. He perjured himself before Congress in 2013, when he denied that the NSA had ‘wittingly’ spied on Americans – a lie for which he has never been held to account. In May 2017, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Russians were highly likely to have colluded with Trump’s campaign because they are ‘almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique’. The current orthodoxy exempts the Church Fathers from standards imposed on ordinary people, and condemns Russians – above all Putin – as uniquely, ‘almost genetically’ diabolical…

Meanwhile, there has been a blizzard of ancillary accusations, including much broader and vaguer charges of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. It remains possible that Robert Mueller, a former FBI director who has been appointed to investigate these allegations, may turn up some compelling evidence of contacts between Trump’s people and various Russians. It would be surprising if an experienced prosecutor empowered to cast a dragnet came up empty-handed, and the arrests have already begun. But what is striking about them is that the charges have nothing to do with Russian interference in the election. There has been much talk about the possibility that the accused may provide damaging evidence against Trump in exchange for lighter sentences, but this is merely speculation. Paul Manafort, at one point Trump’s campaign manager, has pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to register his public relations firm as a foreign agent for the Ukrainian government and concealing his millions of dollars in fees. But all this occurred before the 2016 campaign. George Papadopolous, a foreign policy adviser, has pleaded guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI about his bungling efforts to arrange a meeting between Trump’s people and the Russian government – an opportunity the Trump campaign declined. Mueller’s most recent arrestee, Michael Flynn, the unhinged Islamophobe who was briefly Trump’s national security adviser, has pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI about meeting the Russian ambassador in December – weeks after the election. This is the sort of backchannel diplomacy that routinely occurs during the interim between one administration and the next. It is not a sign of collusion.

So far, after months of ‘bombshells’ that turn out to be duds, there is still no actual evidence for the claim that the Kremlin ordered interference in the American election. Meanwhile serious doubts have surfaced about the technical basis for the hacking claims. Independent observers have argued it is more likely that the emails were leaked from inside, not hacked from outside. On this front, the most persuasive case was made by a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, former employees of the US intelligence agencies who distinguished themselves in 2003 by debunking Colin Powell’s claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, hours after Powell had presented his pseudo-evidence at the UN. (There are members of VIPS who dissent from the VIPS report’s conclusions, but their arguments are in turn contested by the authors of the report.) The VIPS findings received no attention in major media outlets, except Fox News – which from the centre-left perspective is worse than no attention at all. Mainstream media have dismissed the VIPS report as a conspiracy theory (apparently the Russian hacking story does not count as one). The crucial issue here and elsewhere is the exclusion from public discussion of any critical perspectives on the orthodox narrative, even the perspectives of people with professional credentials and a solid track record.

Both the DNC hacking story and the one involving the emails of John Podesta, a Clinton campaign operative, involve a shadowy bunch of putatively Russian hackers called Fancy Bear – also known among the technically inclined as APT28. The name Fancy Bear was introduced by Dimitri Alperovitch, the chief technology officer of Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to investigate the theft of their emails. Alperovitch is also a fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian Washington think tank. In its report Crowdstrike puts forward close to zero evidence for its claim that those responsible were Russian, let alone for its assertion that they were affiliated with Russian military intelligence. And yet, from this point on, the assumption that this was a Russian cyber operation was unquestioned. When the FBI arrived on the scene, the Bureau either did not request or was refused access to the DNC servers; instead it depended entirely on the Crowdstrike analysis. Crowdstrike, meanwhile, was being forced to retract another claim, that the Russians had successfully hacked the guidance systems of the Ukrainian artillery. The Ukrainian military and the British International Institute for Strategic Studies both contradicted this claim, and Crowdstrike backed down. But its DNC analysis was allowed to stand and even become the basis for the January Intelligence Community Assessment…

Sceptical voices, such as those of the VIPS, have been drowned out by a din of disinformation. Flagrantly false stories, like the Washington Post report that the Russians had hacked into the Vermont electrical grid, are published, then retracted 24 hours later. Sometimes – like the stories about Russian interference in the French and German elections – they are not retracted even after they have been discredited. These stories have been thoroughly debunked by French and German intelligence services but continue to hover, poisoning the atmosphere, confusing debate. The claim that the Russians hacked local and state voting systems in the US was refuted by California and Wisconsin election officials, but their comments generated a mere whisper compared with the uproar created by the original story. The rush to publish without sufficient attention to accuracy has become the new normal in journalism. Retraction or correction is almost beside the point: the false accusation has done its work.

The most immediate consequence is that, by finding foreign demons who can be blamed for Trump’s ascendancy, the Democratic leadership have shifted the blame for their defeat away from their own policies without questioning any of their core assumptions. Amid the general recoil from Trump, they can even style themselves dissenters – ‘#the resistance’ was the label Clintonites appropriated within a few days of the election. Mainstream Democrats have begun to use the word ‘progressive’ to apply to a platform that amounts to little more than preserving Obamacare, gesturing towards greater income equality and protecting minorities. This agenda is timid. It has nothing to say about challenging the influence of concentrated capital on policy, reducing the inflated defence budget or withdrawing from overextended foreign commitments; yet without those initiatives, even the mildest egalitarian policies face insuperable obstacles. More genuine insurgencies are in the making, which confront corporate power and connect domestic with foreign policy, but they face an uphill battle against the entrenched money and power of the Democratic leadership – the likes of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, the Clintons and the DNC. Russiagate offers Democratic elites a way to promote party unity against Trump-Putin, while the DNC purges Sanders’s supporters.

For the DNC, the great value of the Russian hack story is that it focuses attention away from what was actually in their emails. The documents revealed a deeply corrupt organisation, whose pose of impartiality was a sham. Even the reliably pro-Clinton Washington Post has admitted that ‘many of the most damaging emails suggest the committee was actively trying to undermine Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.’ Further evidence of collusion between the Clinton machine and the DNC surfaced recently in a memoir by Donna Brazile, who became interim chair of the DNC after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned in the wake of the email revelations. Brazile describes discovering an agreement dated 26 August 2015, which specified (she writes)

that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics and mailings.

Before the primaries had even begun, the supposedly neutral DNC – which had been close to insolvency – had been bought by the Clinton campaign…

Francis Shen of the University of Minnesota and Douglas Kriner of Boston University analysed election results in three key states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – and found that ‘even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.’ Clinton’s record of uncritical commitment to military intervention allowed Trump to have it both ways, playing to jingoist resentment while posing as an opponent of protracted and pointless war. Kriner and Shen conclude that Democrats may want to ‘re-examine their foreign policy posture if they hope to erase Trump’s electoral gains among constituencies exhausted and alienated by 15 years of war’. If the insurgent movements within the Democratic Party begin to formulate an intelligent foreign policy critique, a re-examination may finally occur. And the world may come into sharper focus as a place where American power, like American virtue, is limited. For this Democrat, that is an outcome devoutly to be wished. It’s a long shot, but there is something happening out there.

Cleaning Up The Democratic Party Requires Removing More Than Franken and Conyers

Several female Democratic Senators have called on Al Franken to step down today. This comes shortly after John Conyers resigned from the House under pressure. Removing those who have engaged in sexual harassment makes sense. However, sexual harassment should not be the only sin which goes punished. After we clear out the perpetrators of sexual harassment I hope that this cleansing of the Democratic Party can continue:

Let’s get rid of those have been willing to put up with the graft and corruption of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Plus there should be a special circle of Hell for anyone who uses the “but her emails” line. To excuse Hillary Clinton over the email scandal means that you 1) support her total refusal to abide by rules put in place by Barack Obama to increase government transparency, 2) are willing to ignore repeated lies from her regarding the matter for months, ultimately being a major reason she lost the presidential election to Donald Trump, and 3) you don’t care that she destroyed potential evidence of her influence peddling at the State Department.

Let’s get rid of Democrats who have embraced neoconservative interventionism, including those who excuse Clinton’s views and policies on Iraq, Libya, and Syria, along with those backing the new Cold War type hysteria regarding Russia.

Let’s get rid of Democrats who are now engaging in McCarthyism, accusing those who question their unfounded claims about Russia of being pro-Putin. (Never mind that they are the ones who are really acting to undermine the liberal opposition to Putin in Russia).

Let’s get rid of Democrats who support a totally undemocratic nomination system for the presidency. This includes those who want to preserve measures in place since McGovern’s loss including superdelegates and front-loading of southern states. Even more so, get rid of those who backed the increased actions to rig the nomination in 2016 including restrictions on debates, changing of fund raising rules to help Clinton, voting restrictions, giving Clinton unprecedented control over the party during the primary campaign, changing how the results in Iowa were announced to help Clinton, and Harry Reid’s games in Nevada to help Clinton. Plus get rid of those backing a purge of the left in the DNC and making lobbyists superdelegates.

Excerpts From Hacks Contradict Claims From Clinton Apologists

Skimming through Donna Brazile’s book Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, I have so far found just a couple excerpts worth quoting to shed more light on the story. I previously discussed the initial media reports about the book here, and have follow up information information here. The second post includes information debunking false claims made by Clinton supporters.

Clinton supporters have often claimed that Clinton deserved the nomination more than Bernie Sanders because of she was raising money for other candidates. While this would not justify nominating a corrupt warmonger such as Clinton, Brazile’s book shows that this isn’t even factually true. This is seen in this excerpt from chapter 10 of Hacks:

Right around the time of the convention the leaked emails revealed Hillary’s campaign was grabbing money from the state parties for its own purposes, leaving the states with very little to support down-ballot races. A Politico story published on May 2, 2016, described the big fund-raising vehicle she had launched through the states the summer before, quoting a vow she had made to rebuild “the party from the ground up… when our state parties are strong, we win. That’s what will happen.”

Yet the states kept less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had amassed from the extravagant fund-raisers Hillary’s campaign was holding, just as Gary had described to me when he and I talked in August. When the Politico story described this arrangement as “essentially… money laundering” for the Clinton campaign, Hillary’s people were outraged at being accused of doing something shady. Bernie’s people were angry for their own reasons, saying this was part of a calculated strategy to throw the nomination to Hillary.

After the release of information from Brazile’s book, Clinton supporters made a number of false claims including that the funding agreement didn’t take effect until after the primaries were over and that Bernie Sanders was offered the same agreement. While this is debunked in my previous post, Hacks also showed that this was not the case:

The other campaigns—Martin O’Malley and Bernie—also signed victory fund agreements that kicked in should they secure the nomination, not seven months before. They also did not specify as much immediate control from the campaign as the one Hillary signed with the DNC.

While this line has been widely quoted for the past week, it is also worth repeating:

The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.

There is no doubt that it was unethical. It remains to be seen whether this attempt to evade federal campaign finance laws was legal.

As I noted in the previous post, Donna Brazile has been trying to walk back her accusations that the nomination was rigged, but while doing so said that the Clinton campaign was a cult.

Donna Brazile Says Clinton Campaign Was A Cult

During an interview on Morning Joe, Donna Brazile made another statement which will upset establishment Democrats, calling the Clinton campaign a cult:

“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough said during Brazile’s appearance on the MSNBC show on Wednesday that he thinks President Trump won the 2016 election because of mistakes the Clinton campaign made, former FBI director James Comey and the influence of Russia.

“I’ll put it all in there, but it should have never been a close race,” he said.

He then asked: “Why did they lose? Was it at the end of the day arrogance?”

“It was a cult,” Brazile said. “I felt like it was a cult. You could not penetrate them.”

Brazile has also been trying to walk back her previous description of the nomination battle  between Clinton and Sanders as rigged, despite the evidence from Wikileaks, the class action suit against the DNC, the multiple rules used by the DNC to tilt the results, a previous confession from Tom Perez that it was rigged, and the evidence presented in her own book. Most likely by later this week Brazile will try to walk back her statement that the Clinton campaign was a cult, perhaps saying it was a religion instead.

In other news coming out about her book, The Washington Examiner reports that Brazile felt betrayed by Jake Tapper for criticism of her for providing debate questions to Hillary Clinton. While I remain grateful to Brazile for the information she did divulge which added to the massive amount of evidence that the nomination was rigged, she is certainly not presenting herself as a person of principle.

Update:

Excerpts From Hacks Contradict Claims From Clinton Apologists

The Democrats Did Well Tonight, But Don’t Take That As Approval Of The Party

Ralph Northam did better than expected in the Virginia Governor’s race, exciting Democrats. While they are right in seeing this as a favorable sign, which could foreshadow a Democratic wave next year, they should not take this to mean that the party is on the right course. A CNN poll found that Views of Democratic Party hit lowest mark in 25 years. Don’t get too excited over that if you are a Republican as the poll found even fewer Americans holding a favorable view of Republicans. Among the findings:

Favorable views of the Democratic Party have dropped to their lowest mark in more than a quarter century of polling, according to new numbers from a CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

Only 37% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Democrats, down from 44% in March of this year. A majority, 54%, have an unfavorable view, matching their highest mark in polls from CNN and SSRS, CNN/ORC and CNN/USA Today/Gallup stretching back to 1992.

The rating includes low favorable ratings from some core Democratic groups, including nonwhites (48%) and people under 35 years old (33%). The numbers come amid recent feuds and divisions in the Democratic Party, as former interim chair Donna Brazile’s new book has unveiled new questions about infighting during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But the Republican Party isn’t doing any better, with just 30% of Americans holding a favorable view. That’s essentially the same as September, when the rating hit its lowest point in polling back to 1992, but down from 42% in March. A broad 6 in 10, 61%, have an unfavorable opinion…

A substantial 33% of liberals and 41% of conservatives have unfavorable views of the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. Plus, 4 in 10 independents, 42%, say they have an unfavorable view of both parties vs. only 8% who say they have a favorable view of both.

Indeed, a bare majority of Americans, 51%, say it’s bad for the country that the Republican Party is in control of Congress. Only 38% say GOP control is good for the nation. That’s worse than at any point in CNN’s polling on the Democratic majority in Congress between 2007 and 2010.

And there are signs in the poll that more of next year’s vote may be driven by dislike of a party than affection for one.

Sweeping majorities of voters have unfavorable views of the party they won’t support in 2018: 87% of people who say they’d back a Democrat have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party, and 89% of those who say they’ll back the Republican have a negative view of the Democrats.

Still, a sizable number view the party they do plan to vote for unfavorably: A third of voters on both sides, 32%, say they have an unfavorable view of the party whose candidate they say they’ll support in 2018.

It sounds like the 2018 election could be like the 2016 election with voters unhappy about both choices. Sooner or later voters will wise up and reject the inevitable failure of voting for the lesser evil. Either one of major political parties will be forced to reform, or perhaps we will ultimately see a third party capable of challenging the major parties.

Update:

Non-Establishment Candidates Show They Can Achieve Victories For Democrats

Donna Brazile Considered Removing Clinton From Ticket And Replacing Her With Joe Biden

It was inexcusable for a major political party to give the nomination to someone as unfit for high office as Hillary Clinton. There were times in which news reports indicated that party leaders had reservations about her being the candidate, but they came down to only concern for whether she could win, not her suitability for the position. The second major revelation from Donna Brazile’s upcoming book is that she had actually contemplated removing Clinton from the ticket, although not for the right reason. From The Washington Post:

Former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile writes in a new book that she seriously contemplated replacing Hillary Clinton as the party’s 2016 presidential nominee with then-Vice President Biden in the aftermath of Clinton’s fainting spell, in part because Clinton’s campaign was “anemic” and had taken on “the odor of failure.”

In an explosive new memoir, Brazile details widespread dysfunction and dissension throughout the Democratic Party, including secret deliberations over using her powers as interim DNC chair to initiate the process of removing Clinton and running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) from the ticket after Clinton’s Sept. 11, 2016, collapse in New York City.

Brazile writes that she considered a dozen combinations to replace the nominees and settled on Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), the duo she felt most certain would win over enough working-class voters to defeat Republican Donald Trump. But then, she writes, “I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.”

Brazile paints a scathing portrait of Clinton as a well-intentioned, historic candidate whose campaign was badly mismanaged, took minority constituencies for granted and made blunders with “stiff” and “stupid” messages. The campaign was so lacking in passion for the candidate, she writes, that its New York headquarters felt like a sterile hospital ward where “someone had died.”

There were many reasons to consider taking Clinton off the ticket, but her isolated fainting spell was among the more trivial. On the other hand, Brazile’s assessment of her campaign as being badly mismanaged is consistent with other reports.

Brazile’s intended replacement ticket of Biden and Booker would have been a much stronger ticket than Clinton/Kaine and probably could have beaten Donald Trump if they had won the nomination through the primary system. It is hard to say what would have happened if the replacement was made at the last minute. Sanders supporters would have questioned why the runner up in the nomination battle was not made the replacement, especially in light of how the party rigged the nomination for Clinton. They would probably have had even more difficulty keeping the votes of Clinton voters considering how twenty-five percent of Clinton supporters voted for McCain/Palin after Clinton lost the 2008 nomination to Barack Obama.

While there was plenty of previous evidence of the party violating its bylaws and rigging the nomination for Clinton, Donna Brazile’s confession of this in another excerpt from her book has again raised the issue. As expected, Clinton supporters have been trying to twist the facts again. They ignore the fact that there was already significant evidence that the party was violating its rules for remaining neutral. They claim that the agreement only affected the general election despite it beginning in 2015 and going through the primary season including multiple matters affecting the primary battle. They claim that Bernie Sanders had a similar agreement when the fund raising agreement offered Sanders was substantially different. They ignore how Clinton used this to starve down ticket candidates of money in a scheme which appears like money laundering and evasion of campaign finance laws.

The bottom line in 2016 was that Clinton was a terrible candidate who could not win a national election fairly. Hillary Clinton could not beat an unknown like Barack Obama in 2008. She could not beat someone as atrocious as Donald Trump in 2016. She could not beat an unlikely challenger like Bernie Sanders in 2016 without massive intervention by the party to rig the nomination for her. The consequence of the DNC rigging the nomination for a candidate who could not win the nomination on her own was having a weak candidate who could not even beat Donald Trump.

Update: Glenn Greenwald has subsequently posted, also debunking some of the false claims from Clinton supporters I mentioned above, along with some bogus attacks being made regarding Donna Brazile and the DNC email.

Donna Brazile Admits The Nomination Was Rigged For Hillary Clinton In 2015

As time goes on we get increasing evidence that the DNC rigged the Democratic nomination for Hillary Clinton while the evidence also increasingly casts doubt about her claims that Russia rigged the general election for Trump. Donna Brazile finally admitted to the unethical conduct at the DNC and rigging the nomination for Hillary Clinton in her new book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House. I had hoped to have a post up on this earlier but did not have time until now. There was a lively discussion on Facebook after I posted a comment on this earlier today. As I said then, I would have a higher opinion of her if she hadn’t leaked the debate questions to Clinton, and if she wasn’t pushing the bogus line that Russia cost Clinton the election.

Excerpts from her book were posted today at Politico. Brazile began by admitting that Debbie Wasserman Schultz had allowed the Clinton campaign to control the party writing, “Debbie was not a good manager. She hadn’t been very interested in controlling the party—she let Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn do as it desired so she didn’t have to inform the party officers how bad the situation was.”

Brazile described how the party was broke, with Hillary’s campaign “grabbing money.” On further investigation she uncovered unethical actions giving Clinton control of the party by 2015:

Right around the time of the convention, the leaked emails revealed Hillary’s campaign was grabbing money from the state parties for its own purposes, leaving the states with very little to support down-ballot races. A Politico story published on May 2, 2016, described the big fund-raising vehicle she had launched through the states the summer before, quoting a vow she had made to rebuild “the party from the ground up … when our state parties are strong, we win. That’s what will happen.”

Yet the states kept less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had amassed from the extravagant fund-raisers Hillary’s campaign was holding, just as Gary had described to me when he and I talked in August. When the Politico story described this arrangement as “essentially … money laundering” for the Clinton campaign, Hillary’s people were outraged at being accused of doing something shady. Bernie’s people were angry for their own reasons, saying this was part of a calculated strategy to throw the nomination to Hillary.

I wanted to believe Hillary, who made campaign finance reform part of her platform, but I had made this pledge to Bernie and did not want to disappoint him. I kept asking the party lawyers and the DNC staff to show me the agreements that the party had made for sharing the money they raised, but there was a lot of shuffling of feet and looking the other way.

When I got back from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.

I had been wondering why it was that I couldn’t write a press release without passing it by Brooklyn. Well, here was the answer.

When the party chooses the nominee, the custom is that the candidate’s team starts to exercise more control over the party. If the party has an incumbent candidate, as was the case with Clinton in 1996 or Obama in 2012, this kind of arrangement is seamless because the party already is under the control of the president. When you have an open contest without an incumbent and competitive primaries, the party comes under the candidate’s control only after the nominee is certain. When I was manager of Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, we started inserting our people into the DNC in June. This victory fund agreement, however, had been signed in August 2015, just four months after Hillary announced her candidacy and nearly a year before she officially had the nomination.

I had tried to search out any other evidence of internal corruption that would show that the DNC was rigging the system to throw the primary to Hillary, but I could not find any in party affairs or among the staff. I had gone department by department, investigating individual conduct for evidence of skewed decisions, and I was happy to see that I had found none. Then I found this agreement.

The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.

Donna Brazile’s confession that the nomination was rigged is hardly the first evidence of this. Their actions were actually quite obvious considering how the rules were used to help Clinton, including both long standing rules to allow the DNC to influence the process, along with changes initiated in 2016 specifically to help Clinton. DNC email released by Wikileaks provided further confirmation. Tom Perez previously admitted this before trying to walk this back. Elizabeth Warren agreed today that the nomination was rigged for Clinton.

If the Democratic Party is going to have a chance to restore its integrity and bring back those who are now reluctant or unwilling to vote for a Democrat again, major reforms will be necessary. This includes eliminating Superdelegates, eliminating front loading of primaries in the south, eliminating restrictions on debates, making primaries open, and ideally removing those from DNC leadership positions who were involved in either giving Hillary Clinton the 2016 nomination or the recent purge of progressives. Tulsi Gabbard has also recommended many of these reforms.

I would also hope that the party move away from Clinton’s right wing views, including curtailing perpetual warfare and the surveillance state, along with the influence of corporations and lobbyists on public policy. (I also suggested on Facebook that putting Peter Daou in front of a firing squad is not a nonnegotiable demand but would be a sign of good faith on their part.)

Update: Donna Brazile Considered Removing Clinton From Ticket And Replacing Her With Joe Biden. Links also in post debunking false claims from Clinton supporters about the excerpt discussed here.

Democratic Party Having Serious Problems Raising Money After 2016 Loss

The Democratic Party continues to struggle to raise money after its string of losses, as they continue to alienate liberals and progressives, including  the DNC’s recent purge. Politico reports:

The Democratic National Committee is reeling, facing a turnaround that’s proving a much bigger lift than anyone expected as it struggles to raise enough money to cover its basic promises.

Many donors are refusing to write checks. And on-the-ground operatives worry they won’t have the resources to build the infrastructure they need to compete effectively in next year’s midterms and in the run-up to 2020…

“Donors, small and large, are so over the party,” said Nebraska party chair Jane Kleeb, summing up the problem facing DNC chairman Tom Perez and his counterparts in the states. Kleeb, who is working on grass-roots fundraising efforts for the committee, said she believes the money will come eventually.

“Everybody thinks that some magic three-page document and some magic tagline is going to turn everything around for us,” she added. “But this is very typical work.”

…So with 2018’s midterms presenting a clear opportunity for Democrats to leap forward, the worry is that they simply may not be prepared in time. While the House and Senate Democratic campaign arms — and individual candidates — are having no problem raising funds, the comparatively anemic cash flow at the central committee and state branches could affect organizing efforts on the ground across the country.

The Hill described how bleak the picture is:

The Republican National Committee (RNC) outraised the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by more than $6 million last month, according to federal filings.

Recently released numbers show the DNC raised around $4 million during the month of September, while the RNC raised about $10 million.

The data also showed that the RNC has roughly $44 million in cash on hand, while the DNC has roughly $7 million.

The Democrats have been failing for the past decade with their strategy of moving right to be just slightly less crazy than the Republicans. This has alienated voters on the left while failing to attract voters on the right, who will vote for the true Republican Party rather than the Republican-lite Democratic Party.

Even when Bernie Sanders did show the Democrats that he could both bring in new voters and raise money the DNC chose to essentially hand the nomination to someone as unfit to be president as Hillary Clinton. This cost the Democrats both the White House and an excellent chance at winning the Senate, as many people voted for Republicans down ticket in response to the conventional wisdom that Clinton would be the next president.

The Democratic Party needs to open themselves up to liberal and progressive principles and bring in new leadership. It does not help matters when they make Donna Brazile a member of the rules committee after she cheated in the 2016 primary battle by slipping debate questions to Hillary Clinton, or when Nancy Pelosi says she should remain Speaker of the House because of her gender.

Update: While the party is having fund raising problems, Politico subsequently reported that some Democratic candidates are raising large amounts of money, fueled by opposition to Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee Discussed The Election

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The Guardian features a conversation between Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee about the election. Spike Lee started out by describing what Sanders was up against in running for the Democratic nomination:

SL I want to thank you, though. Because what you did is great. And reading this stuff that’s coming out – the revelations about Wasserman [Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, who during the campaign leaked emails shown to be biased against Sanders in favour of Clinton] and Donna Brazile [interim DNC chair, who gave Clinton a heads-up on questions in advance of a CNN debate], whom I know. Cheating goes both ways, huh? [Laughs.]

BS Well, you know. We took on the entire establishment and that’s what happens. But we have some enormously difficult times now. We gotta go forward, and I look forward to working with you to make that happen.

They discussed how some people voted for Obama and then voted for Trump this year:

BS Well, I think a number of people who voted for Obama once, or twice, voted for Trump. And I think the issue is that there are millions of people in this country who voted for Trump but do not accept… I’m not going to deny for a second that there’s a lot of racism and xenophobia and sexism out there; there certainly is. But there are a whole lot of other people who are just really, really hurting. They’re working two or three jobs, they’re worried about their kids, they can’t afford to send them to childcare or to college. And Trump comes along and says, “I’m a champion of the working class.” And he’s a good showman and a good entertainer, and people believed him.

But our job now, it seems to me, is in three areas. Number one: to fight him tooth and nail in any movement toward racism, xenophobia, sexism, trying to divide our country up. And number two: if he is at all sincere – and we will see if he is – in developing programmes to create jobs and raise wages, I think we should work with him. But I’ll tell you what also concerns me, not just for this country but the planet, is this guy thinks that climate change is a hoax. Well, let me tell you, it ain’t a hoax. Climate change is real, and if we don’t transform our energy system, the planet we leave for our kids and grandchildren may not be a pretty place.

This led into how Clinton managed to lose the election. It came down to Clinton’s attitude of entitlement, and a failure to present a case as to why she should be president–or as Mark McKinnon put it at The Daily Beast, she failed to tell a story. She thought the election was hers, and tried to run out the clock:

SL Excuse me, if I may, sir; you know I love sports. I’ve seen it too many times, when a team thinks they’ve got it all won, just wrapped up, and you see players go down the sideline and start celebrating, and then they reach the goal line and fumble. The Clintons – and I’m not asking you for a comment; this is my opinion – thought they had it won. And what do the great coaches always say? Keep playing until there is no time on the clock! And it seems to me the Clintons were celebrating before the day was up.

BS [Mirthlessly.] Ha.

SL It was not Hillary Clinton’s birthright to be president of the United States of America! And Trump, he played it like he was going to keep going at this until the whistle blows, until time has run out.

BS Right. You’re right. Now, no one can deny that Trump was holding three or four rallies a day, he was running all over this country, working 20 hours a day. And that’s the truth. But I think that speaks to, Spike, something that goes beyond Hillary Clinton. It really goes to the very nature of the Democratic party.

SL The DNC!

BS That’s right. And it calls for the transformation of the Democratic party, and making it clear it’s going to be a party that brings together blacks and whites and Latinos and women and gays, and everyone else. But it’s also going to be a party…

SL Would you say that it’s a shambles, now, Senator – the DNC?

BS Yes. Yes. And I am supporting…

BS Yes. I think we need a house-cleaning. I think the DNC needs an entirely new direction. I think it needs leadership, and I think it needs to be very clear about the fact that it stands with working families and is prepared to take on the billionaire class and Wall Street, and corporate America, and the drug companies and the insurance companies. People are hurting. And we need a programme that stands with working families and brings people together.

SL Were you ever offered the VP position, sir?

BS No. Absolutely not.

SL Would you have taken it?

BS Er. Probably, yes. But that’s again looking through the rear-view mirror.

If Clinton had chosen Sanders to be her running mate she probably would have won as many of those who voted for Obama in the past but had stayed home, voted for Trump, or voted third party would have voted for a Clinton/Sanders ticket in the midwest states which Clinton narrowly lost. Instead, many saw the choice of Tim Kaine as further evidence that Clinton was sticking with the centrist/conservative DLC philosophy and was ignoring the left. Now that we do have Trump coming into the White House, the next question was about where we go next:

SL [Long silence.] Hmmm. This is a rhetorical question, but I just want readers to understand this, very clearly. Where do we go? Where is the hope?

BS OK, here is where the hope is. The hope is to understand that the Democratic party has stumbled very significantly in the last number of decades. It’s not just this election, Spike, as disastrous as it has been. It is the fact that the Republican party controls the Senate, controls the US House, controls something like two-thirds of the governor seats in this country, and that the Democrats have lost over 900 state legislature seats in the last eight years. What that tells me is that the Democratic party has got to very fundamentally rethink who it is and where it goes. It has to shed the current situation where it’s a party of the liberal elite, a party of wealthy people who give substantial sums – we can use that money, that’s fine, but it must reidentify itself as a party of working people. Whether you’re black, white, Latino, there are millions of people today who are working longer hours for lower wages, and they’re seeing almost all new income and wealth going to the top 1%. The Democratic party has got to say we are on the side of the 99%. Our party is not about having fancy fundraisers, it’s about going into union halls, veterans’ halls, farm communities, the inner cities. It has to bring people together around the progressive agenda and make government work for all of us and not the 1%. That’s why I’m supporting Keith Ellison [as prospective chair of the DNC].

SL Who?

BSKeith Ellison. Of Minnesota.

SL Oh, yes. He’s the Muslim brother, right?

BS Yes. He’s a very good guy, and he’s the co-chair of the house progressive caucus. Very progressive guy. And I think Keith understands that the future of the Democratic party is a grassroots party. So I’m going to be supporting him and shaking up the Democratic party.

SL Let me ask you another question. The coalition that Obama got, that put him in office – did the Clinton campaign think it would automatically win [those people] without having to work? I don’t understand it. Because I did not feel the energy there was for Obama – even for you – for Hillary Clinton. I respect the woman, but the enthusiasm wasn’t there.

BS I think nobody would argue with you on that. What we have seen is that in 2008 Obama ran a historical campaign where the turnout was extraordinarily high: enthusiasm in the minority community, strong support in the white working class, and that carried over in 2012. But in 2016, what we saw – I think your point is quite right – it would be hard to suggest that the people of this country were enthusiastic about the Clinton campaign. There was not the energy we have seen in the Obama campaign, and what ended up happening was voter turnout was low. She won the black community overwhelmingly, but turnout was low. She lost a lot of white, working-class people. That’s just the fact.

The Democrats have lost badly in 2010, 2014, and now in 2016 when they ran as Republican-lite. They will need to rebuild at the grassroots, and they will need to stand for something.

More Revelations On Clinton From Wikileaks

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The latest round of email released by Wikileaks does not have the rumored bombshell which might end Clinton’s campaign (especially in light of Donald Trump’s recent problems), but does show her to be a typical dishonest politician who will say anything to get elected, with no real interest in progressive goals. Following is a summary of some of the recent reports on the latest email release. (Information on the previous release here).

Democratic National Committee official Donna Brazile sometimes received questions to be posed to Clinton at events such a town hall, and passed the questions on to Clinton.

The manner in which the Clinton campaign “stage-managed” her shift the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrates how her positions are often based upon political expediency. There was also information on her reluctance to admit she was wrong on the Defense of Marriage Act.

The State Department appeared to give preference to Bill Clinton’s friends after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, providing another example of the blurred line between Clinton’s role as Secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation, and other Clinton interests.

There was an admission that Hillary’s economic message isn’t all that different from that of Jeb Bush.

The Clinton campaign desired to “elevate” candidates such as Donald Trump who they thought would be easier to beat.

There was collusion between the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department during the email investigation. There was also close contact with the Obama White House, which attempted to assist Clinton regarding the scandal.

There was yet more religious bigotry. Just as the first release of email showed negative views of atheists and secular Jews, the recent release was offensive to Catholics.

There was also additional information on the view of Bernie Sanders by the Clinton camp and their cozy relationship with the media. More here. A conservative perspective, including an admission of how Clinton says things which are untrue, can be found here.