Republicans Consider Intervention Or Replacing Trump As Nominee

Real Presidential Candidates

While Donald Trump’s act worked better than most pundits predicted in the Republican nomination race, he is clearly not prepared for a general election campaign. He came out of his convention leading Clinton in some polls. If he had stuck to the message given at the convention (regardless of whether accurate) that he is a successful businessman who can get things done, and ran as an outsider against gridlock and against Hillary Clinton and her history of corruption, he might have won. Instead he has made blunder after blunder, leading to the point where Republicans are talking about an intervention, and possibly a change in candidate. NBC News reports:

Key Republicans close to Donald Trump’s orbit are plotting an intervention with the candidate after a disastrous 48 hours led some influential voices in the party to question whether Trump can stay at the top of the Republican ticket without catastrophic consequences for his campaign and the GOP at large.

Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, former Republican New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the Trump endorsers hoping to talk the real estate mogul into a dramatic reset of his campaign in the coming days, sources tell NBC News.

ABC News has looked at what it would take to replace Trump:

First, Trump would have to voluntarily exit the race. Officials say there is no mechanism for forcing him to withdraw his nomination. (Trump has not given any indications that he no longer wants to be his party’s nominee.)

Then it would be up to the 168 members of the Republican National Committee to choose a successor, though the process is complicated.

One Republican legal expert has advised party officials that, for practical reasons, Trump would have to drop out by early September to give the party enough time to choose his replacement and get the next nominee’s name on the ballot in enough states to win.

Even if they could get Trump to step down and get another name on enough ballots, this would leave the Republican Party in a very weak position. Anybody coming into the race this late would be far behind on organizing and fund raising. The party would be badly fractured, with some Trump supporters refusing to vote for anybody else. Replacing Trump might be more about preventing a loss of historic proportions and about preserving down ticket races as opposed to actually winning the general election.

It is really bad when the former president from your own party is speaking out against you as George W. Bush did on Tuesday. It is less surprising considering that Trump has (correctly) criticized Bush over the Iraq war and other policies.

Republicans are right to consider dumping Trump, or at least deny him their endorsement, and deserve some credit for this. I wish some Democrats would show some honor in also opposing the election of someone as unfit to be president as Hillary Clinton. CNBC has addressed the Democratic Party rules for replacing the candidate. Should there be more revelations which harm Clinton further (always possible) and Clinton steps down (extremely unlikely), the Democratic National Committee would chose the new candidate.

If Trump does manage to remain in the race and keep the election close, there is another twist which could affect predictions based upon the electoral college. An Republican elector from Georgia has said he would not vote for Trump. Twenty-one states legally allow electors to cast their vote different from the vote in their state, and it is questionable if laws in other states would really prevent electors from changing their vote.

In 1972 one elector voted for the Libertarian Party ticket rather than for Richard Nixon. The Libertarian Party, as well as the Green Party, could attract enough votes to affect the outcome this year with both candidates being so unpopular. There has even been speculation as to one long-shot route for Gary Johnson to become president. If he can win in some states, such as New Hampshire and western states, he might deny both Clinton and Trump a majority of electoral votes. The election would then be decided in the House of Representatives, with each state being able to vote for the top three candidates. Johnson’s hope is that Republicans who see Trump as unstable would vote for him, with Democrats also seeing the socially liberal Johnson as preferable to Trump. It is a real long shot, but so many strange things have happened this year that this cannot be entirely ruled out.

Republican-Lite Convention Opening With Trump In The Lead

Weaver DNC Emails

The Democratic (or more accurately these days, Republican-lite) Convention is beginning surrounded by controversy, with Clinton now trailing Donald Trump. While this might just be a post-convention bounce for Trump, there is no guarantee that Clinton will match this, and it should be alarming that Trump could take the lead considering how terrible a campaign he has been running. CNN reports:

Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, topping her 44% to 39% in a four-way matchup including Gary Johnson (9%) and Jill Stein (3%) and by three points in a two-way head-to-head, 48% to 45%. That latter finding represents a 6-point convention bounce for Trump, which are traditionally measured in two-way matchups.
There hasn’t been a significant post-convention bounce in CNN’s polling since 2000. That year Al Gore and George W. Bush both boosted their numbers by an identical 8 points post-convention before ultimately battling all the way to the Supreme Court.
Nate Silver now gives Trump a 57.5 percent chance of winning.  FiveThirtyEight has underestimated Trump’s chances throughout the campaign, basing their predictions on assumptions which are probably not valid in 2016. They have finally figured out that this year is different, and Clinton cannot count on getting the votes from Sanders’ supporters as those who have won thier party’s nomination in the past have:

Hillary Clinton is coming into her convention with a real problem. Even before WikiLeaks released thousands of Democratic National Committee emails, including some that suggested officials were actively working against Bernie Sanders, Clinton had about a third of Sanders supporters left to try to win over. The emails have exacerbated tensions with Sanders loyalists. And here’s some more bad news for the Clinton campaign about those loyalists: New data and analysis shared with FiveThirtyEight from Catalist and SurveyMonkey shows that, before the 2016 primaries, Sanders’s supporters voted less frequently than other 2016 voters, and they were less reliably Democratic than Clinton supporters.

In other words, it’s not a matter of Clinton simply coaxing Sanders supporters back into the fold — many were never in the fold to begin with. That could increase the difficulty of the task facing Clinton.

In other words, if Democratic partisans think it is as important as they have been saying to beat Donald Trump, they must remove Clinton as the nominee. There is no guarantee that Clinton can receive a bounce to match Trump’s with the Democratic convention opening amidst such controversy.

The WikiLeaks revelations, which I discussed over the weekend, further weakening the argument that Clinton is any better than Trump. The accusations of fascism leveled against Trump sound less convincing when it is Clinton’s party which has conspired to rig an election. You can’t get more undemocratic than that. Nominating Clinton with what we know now would be as if the Republicans had nominated Richard Nixon with full knowledge of Watergate. Debbie Wasserman Schultz leaving the Democratic Party leadership, to only move over to the Clinton campaign is not enough. The penalty for rigging an election process should be disqualification of the candidate.

Trump Ghost Writer Exposes Him As An Ignorant, Dishonest Sociopath Who Threatens To Cause The End Of Civilization

Art of the Deal

After months debates and primaries, America is about to make official its choice of the two worst people in the country. This week Donald Trump will officially become the Republican nominee. Tony Schwartz has unusual insight into Donald Trump, being the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal. He spoke about Trump with The New Yorker:

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

So we are risking the end of civilization with Donald Trump. The alternative is neocon war monger Hillary Clinton, who supported going to war in Iraq based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, is responsible for the Libya policy which Obama has called a failure and the worst mistake of his administration, who made an argument for war in Syria which is as irrational as anything we hear from Trump, who threatened to obliterate Iran, and threatens to get us involved in another cold war (if not hot war) with Russia. What a choice. A sociopath who hypothetically might cause the end of civilization, versus one of the most reckless advocates of military interventionism in recent history.

Other comments from Schwartz reinforced what we have grown to believe about Trump, such as his ignorance of the facts, exacerbated by his short attention span and dislike of reading:

But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

Other journalists have noticed Trump’s apparent lack of interest in reading. In May, Megyn Kelly, of Fox News, asked him to name his favorite book, other than the Bible or “The Art of the Deal.” Trump picked the 1929 novel “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Evidently suspecting that many years had elapsed since he’d read it, Kelly asked Trump to talk about the most recent book he’d read. “I read passages, I read areas, I’ll read chapters—I don’t have the time,” Trump said. As The New Republic noted recently, this attitude is not shared by most U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama, a habitual consumer of current books, and George W. Bush, who reportedly engaged in a fiercely competitive book-reading contest with his political adviser Karl Rove.

Not good when you come out looking dumber than George W. Bush.

Plus Schwartz questioned Trumps actual business ability, and described how dishonest he is:

Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”

When challenged about the facts, Schwartz says, Trump would often double down, repeat himself, and grow belligerent. This quality was recently on display after Trump posted on Twitter a derogatory image of Hillary Clinton that contained a six-pointed star lifted from a white-supremacist Web site. Campaign staffers took the image down, but two days later Trump angrily defended it, insisting that there was no anti-Semitic implication. Whenever “the thin veneer of Trump’s vanity is challenged,” Schwartz says, he overreacts—not an ideal quality in a head of state.

Of course dishonesty is a trait also shared by Hillary Clinton, even if the two tend to tell a different type of lie as discussed back in November. The nomination process has succeeded in finding the two worst people in America, with the final event to occur in November. If only this was just a reality show.

Discussion Of Saddam and Iraq Return To British And American Politics

John-Chilcot-the-Chairman-of-the-Iraq-Inquiry\

The Iraq war was the subject of news today both in the UK, with the release of the Chilcot inquiry, and in the US  with news reports of Donald Trump praising Saddam. David Weigel made a point that the media’s coverage of Trump’s statements appeared timed to help Hillary Clinton after the Clinton campaign used them to distract from James Comey’s statement which accused Clinton of being extremely careless with classified information, and demonstrated that she has lied to the public on several key points regarding the email controversy. Missing from the mainstream media coverage was Clinton’s support for the Iraq war based upon false claims.

A seven-year official inquiry in Great Britain on the Iraq war was finally released and repeats what many critics of the Iraq war were saying from the start, including that the reports of WMD were based upon faulty intelligence and non-military responses were not exhausted. CNN reports:

A  long-awaited official inquiry delivered a devastating indictment of Britain’s decision to invade Iraq Wednesday, finding that the war was based on flawed intelligence and had been launched before diplomatic options were exhausted.

The findings of the 2.6 million-word Iraq Inquiry — seven years in the making — were released following a statement by probe chairman John Chilcot in London.

The former civil servant said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” when the U.S-led invasion was launched in March 2003, and that while military action against him “might have been necessary at some point,” the “strategy of containment” could have continued for some time.

Chilcot said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned of the risks of regional instability and the rise of terrorism before the invasion of Iraq, but pressed on regardless.

BBC News sums up two key points:

Chairman Sir John Chilcot said the 2003 invasion was not the “last resort” action presented to MPs and the public.

There was no “imminent threat” from Saddam – and the intelligence case was “not justified”, he said.

The Guardian called the war an “appalling mistake” and began their editorial in looking at the victims:

As always in matters of military aggression, the humane perspective has to start with the victims. Since the US-led, UK-backed invasion of Iraq in 2003, estimates of the lives lost to violence vary from a quarter of a million to 600,000. The number of injured will surely be several times that, and the number of men, women and children displaced from their homes is put at between 3.5 and 5 million, somewhere between one in 10 and one in six of the population.

There is no disputing the vicious brutality of the regime that ran the country before, but there is no serious disputing, either, that the suffering captured in these statistics of war are of another order to anything that would be endured in even tyrannical times of peace. Thirteen years on, as the deadly blast in Baghdad last weekend illustrated afresh, the predicament of the Iraqi people remains misery without end. The topsy-turvy post-9/11 rationalisation for regime change from the chauvinist, parochial and sometimes proudly ignorant George W Bush White House produced predictably topsy-turvy results. Jihadi forces that Saddam Hussein had contained were not discouraged by his ousting, but greatly emboldened. In sum, failures do not come any more abject than Iraq, nor catastrophes any less pure.

George Bush’s communication director responded to BBC News with a rationalization based upon Saddam’s actions: “Despite the intelligence failures and other mistakes he has acknowledged previously, President Bush continues to believe the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.”

Donald Trump has expressed a different viewpoint on Saddam throughout the campaign. CNN reports:

While acknowledging that Saddam Hussein “was a bad guy,” Trump praised the former Iraqi dictator’s efficient killing of “terrorists” — despite the fact that Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism during Hussein’s time in power.

Trump, who supported the Iraq War before the invasion and in the early months of the war, said the U.S. “shouldn’t have destabilized” Iraq before pivoting to praising Hussein.

“He was a bad guy — really bad guy. But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism,” Trump said.

While Trump’s praise of Saddam is rather foolish (and debunked by The Guardian), David Weigel has a point that this is something which Trump has been saying on the stump throughout the campaign, with news media reports of Trump praising Saddam coming after the Clinton campaign made a point of it. Weigel wrote, “whaling on Trump gave the campaign a chance to pivot on a day when the director of the FBI held an unusual and damaging news conference saying that the Democratic candidate, whom most voters consider untrustworthy, had behaved recklessly with classified email. The media went along with this by noting the irony, and remarking that Trump stepped on what could have been a good news cycle.” Weigel further wrote:

The point is that Trump has been saying, for quite some time, that the United States should not have gone to war in Iraq, and that it should side with dictators as long as they “kill terrorists.” The Republican primary electorate endorsed that view. Clinton, as a senator and then as secretary of state, took another view, and backed the use of American power to remove both Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi. There’s video of Clinton gleefully saying “We came, we saw, he died” upon learning that Gaddafi had been torn apart by his own people. This has never been treated like a gaffe; but Trump’s “Saddam killed terrorists” riff suddenly is.

By consistently covering Trump’s argument over time, and by following up on it, media outlets did their job to inform voters. That was why Tuesday night’s collective Captain Renault moment was so strange, and so demonstrative of why many media consumers are skeptical of what they’re hearing. Instead of a debate on the facts — should Hussein have been removed? Did he “kill terrorists,” in a contradiction of what Americans were told before the war? — there was manufactured outrage, straight from a rival campaign.

The media coverage certainly has helped Clinton, in both stressing the worst aspects of Trump’s views and in totally ignoring how strong a supporter of the war Clinton was. Not only did Clinton support the war based upon the faulty intelligence cited in the report, she went beyond the claims of many supporters of the war in falsely claiming there were ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s support of neoconservative regime change has been a disaster. However Trump also has himself to blame. As on so many matters, even in criticizing Clinton where she deserves criticism, Trump has failed to make a consistent coherent argument against her, with the media further assisting Clinton.

Debunking the Ralph Nader Scare Tactics For Supporting The Lesser Evil

Trump Clinton Illusion Free Choice

Many of us have principles and will not support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Many Clinton supporters have shown no understanding of the basic democratic principle that we have the right to support or not support whichever candidates we choose. They make bogus claims that not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump. If true, the opposite would also have to be true–our decision to not vote for Trump by their logic would be a vote for Hillary.

Clinton supporters raise Ralph Nader and the 2000 election, but this is wrong for so many reasons:

This assumes that the Democrats are entitled to our vote, and that if there weren’t third party candidates running, those on the left would automatically vote for the Democrat. Wrong. Many would stay home, or leave the presidential spot empty, if there was no other choice.

Most of us do not live in battleground states, leaving us free to vote our convictions without affecting the outcome. Plus Clinton is pulling away in the battleground states and Nate Silver reassures us that Clinton will win anyways. Considering what an inept campaign Trump has waged since clinching the nomination, he is probably right (although Quinnipiac does show them deadlocked).

Hillary Clinton is not Al Gore. She is far closer to George Bush. We were outraged by Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy, but Clinton is the neocon hawk running this year. We protested Bush’s assault on civil liberties, but Clinton also has a far right record on civil liberties issues, sounding much like Donald Trump on restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism. We objected to an increase in government secrecy under Bush, but Clinton has a long record of opposing government transparency. Bush’s administration was remarkable for expanding the influence of the religious right.  Clinton worked with The Fellowship to expand the influence of religion on public policy when in the Senate. Plus Clinton has been on the wrong side regarding the corrupting role of money in politics, on the environment and climate change, on the death penalty, on single-payer health care. She is even to the right of Donald Trump on drug policy and the drug war and on the wrong side of trade issues.

If you think having George Bush elected in 2000 was a terrible thing (and it was), it makes no sense to argue that Hillary Clinton should be president when she supports so much of what made Bush such a terrible president.

If anything, Nader has been proven right by the Democrats nominating a corrupt warmonger such as Clinton. This clearly shows the dangers of “lesser evilism.”

When does the “lesser evilism” stop? We are warned about what happened when Bush beat Gore and told me must support Clinton because of Trump, but Clinton has supported most of the evil done by Bush. Next election will the Democrats nominate someone like Trump and will we be told we must support him if the Republicans nominate someone even more evil?

Some Clinton supporters have been rather bad winners, attacking those who disagree with them on social media for expressing our opinions. Life is more than a binary choice between the limited options provided by the major parties. It even might be argued that a function of the major parties is to limit debate to the limited issues where their candidates disagree.

In reality, Clinton and Trump are both in the authoritarian right segment of the political spectrum, not differing by as much as supporters of either would admit. Those of us who hold opposing views are going to continue to express our views on the issue, regardless of whether we have a presidential candidate who is likely to win. We will continue to oppose oligarchy, neoconservative military interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism, the corrupting role of money in politics, destruction of the environment for profit, and an increased role of religion in public policy–even if the Democratic nominee is on the wrong side of each of these issues.

State Department Report Shows Clinton Violated Policy, Further Weakening Her Candidacy

Clinton Email Cartoon Deleted

An audit from the State Department Inspector found that Hillary Clinton did not comply with email policies. AP and CBS report:

A State Department audit has faulted Hillary Clinton and previous secretaries of state for poorly managing email and other computer information and slowly responding to new cybersecurity risks.

The Associated Press, which obtained the report, says that the audit cites “longstanding, systemic weaknesses” related to communications. These started before Clinton’s appointment as secretary of state, but her failures were singled out as more serious.

CBS News has also obtained a copy of the report, which singles out Clinton among her predecessors.

“At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report reads.

It goes on to say that Clinton produced 55,000 pages of emails to mitigate her failure to preserve the emails, but the inspector general “notes that Secretary Clinton’s production [of 55,000 pages of emails] was incomplete.” The report also says that the 55,000 pages included no emails from the first few months of her tenure as secretary for either received or sent messages.

The report also indicates that Clinton and her close advisers failed to cooperate with the investigation, and also suggests attempts at covering up their actions. This includes “how some technology staff said they were instructed to not talk of Clinton’s email set-up after they raised concerns about the unusual arrangement.” The report raised security concerns, along with the failure to report the incidents:

It states that a non-State adviser to Bill Clinton, who was the original user of the server later taken over by Hillary Clinton, shut down the server in early 2011 because of hacking concerns.

“On January 9, 2011, the non-Departmental advisor to President Clinton who provided technical support to the Clinton email system notified the Secretary’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations that he had to shut down the server because he believed ‘someone was trying to hack us and while they did not get in i didnt [sic] want to let them have the chance to,’” the report says. “Later that day, the advisor again wrote to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, ‘We were attacked again so I shut [the server] down for a few min.’”

The report goes on to detail another incident in May and says that Clinton and her staff did not appropriate report the matters.

“Notification is required when a user suspects compromise of, among other things, a personally owned device containing personally identifiable information,” it says. “However, OIG found no evidence that the Secretary or her staff reported these incidents to computer security personnel or anyone else within the Department.”

Since the scandal broke, Clinton has claimed she was allowed to do use her email system. Factcheckers have repeatedly demonstrated that this was untrue. Clinton supporters have been falsely claiming that the State Department cleared her for months based upon twisting statements from spokesmen which in no way cleared her. This should put an end to that claim.

Clinton apologists are already trying to spin this as favorable to Clinton, including that it is helpful that this report came out now as opposed to in the fall. However, there is no doubt that Donald Trump will be raising this and multiple other scandals throughout the campaign. There are also other investigations and court cases in progress which can provide further unfavorable news, making it risky for Democrats to go into a general election campaign with Clinton the nominee

Clinton apologists are also stressing that the report also criticized the actions of Colin Powell. This is a poor defense. New rules were put into place following this and other abuses under George W. Bush. Hillary Clinton was well aware of this, and even accused the Bush administration of shredding the Constitution over their use of private email and other matters in 2007. Stricter rules were initiated by the Obama administration in 2009 in response, and it is inexcusable that Clinton ignored them. It is hardly a defense of Clinton that someone else violated the rules, especially when a major criticism of Clinton from the left is that both her behavior and her policies are far too close to what we rejected under Bush.

This scandal demonstrates Clinton’s hostility towards government transparency, her view that she is above the rules, her dishonesty, and her poor judgment. All of these attributes will make her a weak general election candidate if nominated, and a poor president if elected. Clinton is already struggling in the polls against Trump, while Sanders maintains a strong lead. With the deterioration in Clinton’s support, which is likely to continue, the superdelegates should remedy the situation by throwing their support to Bernie Sanders.

White House Denies Claims That Obama Backed Clinton At Private Fundraiser

Trumps and Clintons

A report in The New York Times claiming that Obama Privately Tells Donors That Time Is Coming to Unite Behind Hillary Clinton was not received well by Sanders supporters today. The White House promptly walked back this claim. Multiple media outlets, including Reuters and Bloomberg, report that Obama Didn’t Back Clinton at Private Fundraiser.

Among items which Josh Earnest told reporters:

  • “I was there for the fundraiser, and I was there when the comments occurred”: Earnest
  • Obama said “that as Democrats move through this competitive primary process, we need to be mindful that our success in November in electing a Democratic president will depend on the commitment and ability of the Democratic Party to come together behind our nominee”: Earnest
  • Earnest declined to say whom Obama voted for in the Ill. primary

(As an aside, if anyone gets a chance to pose questions to Obama or Earnest, ask whether Obama would pardon Clinton and/or her top aides if indicted.)

Clinton is all set to claim will give us the third term of Barack Obama. Looking at her policy views, it would more likely be a third term for the neoconservative foreign policy of George W. Bush, and would be no better on civil liberties. Or in terms of ethics, it would be the third term of Richard Nixon, including a restoration of the views of Henry Kissinger.

Of course it is possible that Obama said one thing in private, but does not want to admit to this. Should Clinton get elected, he might some day also regret tying his legacy to her. Ironically, in a recent interview, he made statements which greatly undermined Clinton’s ability to be Commander In Chief based upon her mistakes on Libya and Syria.

Clinton also made a gaffe which will probably be repeated in GOP commercials this fall in saying “We didn’t lose a single person”is Libya. Her statement was technically true in the context she intended, ignoring all the bloodshed which her policy led to, and the death of four Americans. This is as foolish as Republicans claiming that George Bush kept us safe from terrorism, if you ignore 9/11.

We are also seeing plenty of arguments that Democrats must unite behind Clinton to stop Donald Trump. First of all, we also do not know for certain whether Trump will be the Republican nominee. Secondly, if stopping Trump is so important, we should all unite behind Bernie Sanders, who has a better chance than Clinton of beating Trump in a  general election. Besides, if Trump is so terrible, why support the conservative Democratic candidate who is far closer to Trump ideologically, even if she is the lesser evil?

Obviously it is an uphill battle for Sanders to win the nomination and Clinton has a substantial lead. If it was two near identical Democratic candidates, then perhaps it would make sense to unite behind one. However we have two candidates with vastly different ideologies, a true liberal running against a Republican-lite DLC style Democrat. The stakes are too high to give up now, regardless of the odds.

Accusations Of Lying Dominate Republican Debate

It was a difficult week in debates for the truth. I already discussed the dishonesty from Hillary Clinton at the PBS Democratic Debate. At the CBS Republican debate in South Carolina (transcript here) there were accusations during the debate of candidates telling lies nineteen times. This doesn’t include any lies which fact checkers  have found.

Donald Trump was in the rare position of being the one telling the truth when he pointed out that George W. Bush got us into the Iraq war based upon lies:

“Obviously, the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake, all right?” Trump thundered when asked about his call for then-President George W. Bush to be impeached. “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none, and they knew there were none.”

Trump added, “George Bush made the mistake. We can make mistakes, but that one was a beauty.”

Trump later pointed out that Jeb was wrong about his brother keeping us safe:

“The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe. That is not safe, Marco. That is not safe,” he continued. “The world Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton [didn’t] kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him. And George Bush– by the way, George Bush had the chance, also, and he didn’t listen to the advice of his C.I.A.”

“How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center…excuse me, I lost hundreds of friends!” Trump said as the crowd booed loudly.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how Bill Clinton could be blamed when the Republican Congress obstructed his attempts to fight al Qaeda, and they certainly did not give any credit to the president who did kill bin Laden.

Trump called Ted Cruz the biggest liar, probably a position he holds due to being his most serious challenger at the moment:

TRUMP: You probably are worse than Jeb Bush. You are single biggest liar. This guys lied – let me just tell you, this guy lied about Ben Carson when he took votes away from Ben Carson in Iowa and he just continues. Today, we had robo-calls saying. “Donald Trump is not going to run in South Carolina,” — where I’m leading by a lot.”

I’m not going to vote for Ted Cruz. This is the same thing he did to Ben Carson. This guy will say anything, nasty guy. Now I know why he doesn’t have one endorsement from any of his colleagues.

CRUZ: Don, I need to go on…

TRUMP: He’s a nasty guy.

CRUZ: I will say, it is fairly remarkable to see Donald defending Ben after he called, “pathological,” and compared him to a child molester. Both of which were offensive and wrong.

Cruz counterattacked with an attack on Donald Trump for supporting funding of Planned Parenthood. Trump then defended Planned Parenthood despite his current (but not past) opposition to abortion rights:

CRUZ: You said, “Planned Parenthood does wonderful things and we should not defund it.”

TRUMP: It does do wonderful things but not as it relates to abortion.

CRUZ: So I’ll tell you what…

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me, there are wonderful things having to do with women’s health.

CRUZ: You see you and I…

TRUMP: But not when it comes to abortion.

In yet another exchange which came down to honesty, Marco Rubio made this accusation against Ted Cruz:

I don’t know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn’t speak Spanish.

Cruz then responded in Spanish.

The Vast Ideological Gap Between Hillary Clinton and Supporters of Bernie Sanders

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

Politico looks at Hillary Clinton’s 43 percent problem:

Mitt Romney had a 47 percent problem. Hillary Clinton’s problem is 43 percent.

That’s the share of Democratic caucus goers in Iowa who identify themselves as “socialists,” according to a recent Des Moines Register poll. It’s a percentage that has turned a once-easy line of attack – painting Bernie Sanders as too far left to be electable — into a trickier endeavor for Clinton in the last days before the Iowa caucuses.

This gives one explanation of why the polls in Iowa are now so close, but it over-simplifies the situation. It is not really about socialists versus capitalists. Sanders’ views are far closer to those of European Social Democrats. He is not a socialist, and I certainly am not.  The ideological divide, and the reasons I support Sanders over Clinton, are more complex.

Using the flawed left/right ideological spectrum also creates more serious misunderstandings and feeds the Clinton camp’s false claims that she is more electable than Sanders. The left/right spectrum misses the fact that independents and voters in battle ground states are often hostile towards Clinton and that Sanders has a much better chance with such voters. Part of this is because of voters looking at character as opposed to ideology. Another factor is that Sanders is closer to the ideological center where voters who would consider voting Democratic fall.

Political Compass is one of many sites which measure political views along two or more axes. While no system is perfect, they do a good job of capturing the approximate relative positions of the primary candidates. This shows, as I have often argued during this primary battle, that Hillary Clinton is far closer to the Republican candidates than she is to Bernie Sanders (or to my position). Their graphing of the primary candidates is above and the following is from their description of the candidates:

Style more than substance separates Trump from Hillary Clinton. After all, Trump was a generous donor to Clinton’s senate campaigns, and also to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary is nevertheless disingenuously promoting herself as the centrist between an extreme right-winger (Trump) and an ‘extreme left-winger’ (Sanders). Abortion and gay marriage place her on a more liberal position on the social scale than all of the Republicans but, when it comes to economics, Clinton’s unswerving attachment to neoliberalism and big money is a mutual love affair.

Quite why Sanders is describing himself to the American electorate — of all electorates — as a ‘socialist’ or ‘democratic socialist’ isn’t clear. His economics are Keynesian or Galbraithian, in common with mainstream parties of the left in the rest of the west — the Labour or Social Democrat parties. Surely ‘Social Democrat’ would be a more accurate and appealing label for the Sanders campaign to adopt.

I don’t totally agree with the placement of the candidates. I think they rank Clinton a little more liberal on social issues than she falls, ignoring her past position on gay marriage until politically expedient to change, and her association with members of the religious right in The Fellowship while in the Senate. I would also put a greater distance between them on foreign policy than described in the full post linked above.

Despite these disagreements, the overall pattern is right. Clinton is a bit more moderate than the Republican candidates, but ideologically in the same authoritarian right area. Sanders falls closer to the libertarian than the authoritarian end where the other candidates fall, but not all that much left of center economically.

Personally I fall much further in the left-libertarian section, falling much more towards the libertarian end than Sanders (although I also question if he shouldn’t fall somewhat further along the libertarian axis than shown here). It is no surprise that left-libertarians have been heavily in support of Sanders this year.

This is the divide the Democrats now face. It isn’t that many Democratic voters are socialists, but we do differ considerably from Hillary Clinton in ideology, and do not see much of a difference between her and the Republicans.  Obviously this will not apply to all Sanders supporters, and some could even manage to vote for Hillary Clinton in a general election without having to hold their noses, but it does apply to many of us.

Many young voters share socially libertarian and secular views which put them closer to the left-libertarian portion of the political spectrum. Many of us older voters got more active in politics in response to the abuses of the Bush years. As I wrote earlier in the week, we are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has also been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

Hillary Clinton is just a slightly more moderate version of George Bush. Yes, the Republicans have moved even further towards the authoritarian right corner of the spectrum, but that still does not leave Clinton as a desirable choice.

Dana Milbank Is Wrong–Nominating Sanders Is The Rational Choice For Democrats

Bernie Sanders Large Crowd

Dana Milbank repeated the establishment line in a column fallaciously entitled, Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders.

I adore Bernie Sanders.

I agree with his message of fairness and I share his outrage over inequality and corporate abuses. I think his righteous populism has captured the moment perfectly. I respect the uplifting campaign he has run. I admire his authenticity.

And I am convinced Democrats would be insane to nominate him.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony.

And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton.

Milbank dismissed the evidence that Sander would do better against the Republicans than Clinton:

Sanders and his supporters boast of polls showing him, on average, matching up slightly better against Trump than Clinton does. But those matchups are misleading: Opponents have been attacking and defining Clinton for a quarter- century, but nobody has really gone to work yet on demonizing Sanders.

Milbank ignores how Clinton and her surrogates have already been launching right-wing sounding attacks against Sanders. Despite this, Sanders does better than Clinton against Republicans in national polls. More significantly in terms of winning the general election, Clinton does poorly with independents and in the battle ground states.

Right wing attacks on Sanders won’t be any different from right wing attacks on Obama, who they already claim is a Marxist Socialist, and a foreign-born Muslim, who will be sending the black helicopters out any minute now to take away their guns and put them in FEMA concentration camps.

Milbank also ignores the importance of turn out. Republican attacks on Sanders will primarily appeal to Republican voters–not people who would ever vote for Sanders. However both Sanders own campaigning and Republican attacks will motivate Democratic leaning voters to turn out. It is Sanders, not Clinton, who has been exciting voters for the past several months, and inspiring many new voters to get involved.

There are traditionally two ways to win an election–motivate your base to turn out in high numbers or win over independents. Sanders can do better than Clinton at both. Plus he can get votes from people who have not voted for the major political parties in the past.

Plus as a general rule of thumb, it is best not to nominate the candidate whose practices are the subject of an active FBI investigation. A Clinton candidacy, assuming she is not indicted, will be dominated by talk of scandal, most likely suppressing the Democratic vote and energizing the Republicans.

Milbanks admits that voters must be willing to hold their nose to vote for Clinton, but what makes him so sure that they will do so as opposed to staying home? Running on the argument that “my candidate is bad, but yours is even worse” is not how to win an election. Voters want to vote for something, not just vote for the lesser of two evils.

With all their faults, at least Republicans are willing to stand for something, even if the wrong things. Republicans don’t worry if their candidates are too extreme, and they reject those who they consider to be Republicans In Name Only.

Many Sanders supporters back him primarily because of the economic issues which have dominated the campaign. Many of us became active in the blogosphere in response to the abuses of the Bush administration. We are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

This is hardly a record to get people who vote based upon principle, as opposed to party affiliation, to get out to vote for Hillary Clinton. No wonder Milbank realizes we would have to hold our noses.

Democrats, and some of their supporters in the media, think Democrats need to hide from principles and run candidates who are Republican-lite. They never get the lesson, no matter how often that results in the Democrats losing.

Fortunately not everyone agrees. The Nation gave one of their rare endorsements to Sanders and The Washington Post also ran a recent op-ed by arguing that Bernie Sanders is the realist we should elect.

Many of the pundits agree — this is a choice between head and heart. If Democrats think with their heads, they will go with Hillary; with their hearts, with Bernie.

But this conventional wisdom clashes with the reality that this country has suffered serial devastations from choices supported by the establishment’s “responsible” candidates. On fundamental issue after issue, it is the candidate “of the heart” who is in fact grounded in common sense. It wasn’t Sanders’s emotional appeal, but his clearsightedness that led the Nation magazine, which I edit, to make only its third presidential endorsement in a primary in its 150-year history.

For example, foreign policy is considered Clinton’s strength. When terrorism hits the headlines, she gains in the polls. Yet the worst calamity in U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam surely was George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Clinton voted for that war; Sanders got it right and voted against. Clinton has since admitted her vote was a “mistake” but seems to have learned little from that grievous misjudgment. As secretary of state, she championed regime change in Libya that left behind another failed state rapidly becoming a backup base for the Islamic State. She pushed for toppling Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and lobbied for arming the Syrian opposition, a program that ended up supplying more weapons to the Islamic State than to anyone else. Now she touts a “no fly zone” in Syria, an idea that has been dismissed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as requiring some 70,000 troops to enforce, and by President Obama as well. People thinking with their heads rather than their hearts might well prefer Sanders’s skepticism about regime change to Clinton’s hawkishness.

The worst economic calamity since the Great Depression came when the excesses of Wall Street created the housing bubble and financial crisis that blew up the economy. Clinton touts her husband economic record, but he championed the deregulation that helped unleash the Wall Street wilding. The banks, bailed out by taxpayers, are bigger and more concentrated than they were before the crash. Someone using their head — not their heart — would want to make certain that the next president is independent of Wall Street and committed to breaking up the big banks and shutting down the casino. But Clinton opposes key elements of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) rational reform agenda for the banks, and her money ties to Wall Street lead any rational observer to conclude she’s an uncertain trumpet for reform.

Americans continue to suffer from a broken heath-care system that costs nearly twice per capita as those in the rest of the industrialized world — with worse results. Obama’s health reforms have helped millions get health care — particularly through the expansion of Medicaid and by forcing coverage of pre-existing conditions. But millions continue to go without care, millions more are underinsured and unable to afford decent coverage, and even more are gouged by drug companies and insurance companies that game the system’s complexities. Eventually the United States will join every other industrial nation with some form of simplified universal care. Sanders champions moving to “Medicare for all.” Clinton has mischaracterized his proposal, erroneously claiming it would “basically end all kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the Chip Program. It would take all that and hand it over to the states.” She says she would build on Obamacare but has yet to detail significant reforms that would take us closer to a rational health-care system. Sanders supported Obamacare but understands we can’t get to a rational health-care plan without leaders willing to take on the entrenched interests that stand in the way. It isn’t romantic to think that it is long past time for the United States to join every other industrial country and guarantee affordable health care for all…

In the face of the Sanders surge, Clinton supporters have resorted to the “electability argument”: that Sanders can’t be elected because he’s too far left. Put aside the irony of Clinton dismissing the electoral viability of someone she might lose to. Clinton has inevitable baggage of her own that raises doubts about her electoral prospects. And Clinton’s decision to present herself as the candidate of continuity in a time of change is problematic.

Clinton’s closing ad before Iowa makes her central argument clear: Trust her. She’s experienced and committed. She’ll keep Republicans from taking away the progress we’ve made. Sanders’s ad makes his argument clear: Trust yourself. Come together, take back the country and make this nation better. The first appeals to the head; the latter to the heart. But even the most hard-headed pragmatist might think the latter has as good a chance at getting elected and a better chance of forcing change than the former.

Update: Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders