Hillary Clinton Responds To DEA Decision On Marijuana But Continues To Back Prohibition

Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during her primary night gathering at the Philadelphia Convention Center on April 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton defeated her democratic rival Bernie Sanders in the Pennsylvania presidential primary.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has released a response to the decision of the FDA which I discussed yesterday to keep marijuana a Schedule I drug. From Think Progress:

In a statement published yesterday in the Cannabist, Maya Harris, a senior policy adviser to the Clinton campaign, applauded the DEA’s concurrent move to loosen restrictions on growing marijuana for research — and indicated Clinton will go even further to accomplish what Obama has failed to so far.

“We applaud the steps taken today by the Obama Administration to remove research barriers that have significantly limited the scientific study of marijuana,” Harris said. “Marijuana is already being used for medical purposes in states across the country, and it has the potential for even further medical use. As Hillary Clinton has said throughout this campaign, we should make it easier to study marijuana so that we can better understand its potential benefits, as well as its side effects.”

“As president, Hillary will build on the important steps announced today by rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance,” she continued. “She will also ensure Colorado, and other states that have enacted marijuana laws, can continue to serve as laboratories of democracy.”

As is common with Clinton, there is some benefit to her conservative approach, while she remains behind the times on the issue. With regards to medical marijuana, reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug would be a tremendous improvement over its current status as a Schedule I drug. While physicians cannot prescribe Schedule I drugs, Schedule II drugs can be prescribed. Presumably this would put an end to the federal government interfering with medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

On the other hand, Schedule II drugs are the most restricted class of drugs which are prescribed. The class includes drugs such as Morphine, OxyContin, Methadone, and Norco. Written prescriptions, or a highly secure electronic prescribing system, must be used, and refills cannot be included. One reason to support the medical use of marijuana is to reduce the use of the more addictive and dangerous medications now in use.

More importantly, while a Schedule II drug can be prescribed for medical purposes, it does not end prohibition of marijuana. Over the past several years there has been growing support for legalization, with sixty-one percent in favor as of last March. The change Clinton supports would do nothing to resolve the problem of mass incarceration and the disproportionate incarceration of minorities.

In contrast, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson both support an end to prohibition. As I also noted yesterday, the generally incoherent Republican nominee Donald Trump is for and against legalization of marijuana.

DEA Refuses To Reclassify Marijuana But Acts To Facilitate Research

Reefer Madnes

The DEA has rejected a request to reclassify marijuana and it will remain a Schedule 1 drug. NPR reported on the decision, and the questionable rational:

The Obama administration has denied a bid by two Democratic governors to reconsider how it treats marijuana under federal drug control laws, keeping the drug for now, at least, in the most restrictive category for U.S. law enforcement purposes.

Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg says the decision is rooted in science. Rosenberg gave “enormous weight” to conclusions by the Food and Drug Administration that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and by some measures, it remains highly vulnerable to abuse as the most commonly used illicit drug across the nation.

“This decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine,” he said, “and it’s not.”

Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, alongside heroin and LSD, while other, highly addictive substances including oxycodone and methamphetamine are regulated differently under Schedule II of the law. But marijuana’s designation has nothing to do with danger, Rosenberg said.

This conflicts with a growing body of evidence that marijuana does have medical benefits, along with being safer than opiates for treatment of chronic pain.

The DEA did include one item in its decision which could lead to an increase in research on medical benefits of marijuana:

DEA announced a policy change designed to foster research by expanding the number of DEA- registered marijuana manufacturers. This change should provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana. At present, there is only one entity authorized to produce marijuana to supply researchers in the United States: the University of Mississippi, operating under a contract with NIDA. Consistent with the CSA and U.S. treaty obligations, DEA’s new policy will allow additional entities to apply to become registered with DEA so that they may grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research purposes.

Of the presidential candidates this year, Hillary Clinton has been the most conservative on marijuana and drug policy, while Jill Stein and Gary Johnson support legalization. Donald Trump has spoken of legalization in the past, but is hardly consistent on this, or virtually anything else.

Lacking A Message, Clinton Again Relies On Misinformation In PBS Debate

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At the PBS Democratic Debate Hillary Clinton recycled some old lies about Sanders, and created some new ones. I’ll debunk some of each. The full transcript can be found here.

An early point of contention between the candidates was over health care, with Clinton falsely claiming that “before it was called Obamacare, it was called Hillarycare.” No, actually Hillarycare was a seriously flawed plan with major differences from Obamacare.  Making matters worse, Hillary got Bill to agree to veto any other health care proposals. The Republican counter proposal was far closer to Obamacare, although, not surprisingly, it was friendlier to the insurance industry. Clinton kept us from getting either something close to Obamacare, along with any other Democratic proposal. She was hardly a progressive who gets things done.

Clinton continued to portray Medicare For All as eliminating other plans while ignoring all of its advantages. Although single payer is far less expensive than our current system, Clinton claims we would “actually be worse off than they are right now.” How could we possibly be worse off if we no longer have to pay towards the corporate profits of the health insurance industry, not to mention its huge infrastructure? How could we possibly be worse off than with the current high premiums on the individual market, which still leave us with astronomical deductibles? Clinton talks about this as starting over, but Medicare for All is actually just expansion of a highly successful program.

They next disagreed over expansion of Social Security as Sanders and most progressive Democrats advocate. Slate discussed this further in an article entitle Clinton’s Social Security Plan Is a Little Hazy. And Sanders Called Her Out on It.

Clinton tried to hide the major differences in how their campaigns are funded in claiming, “I’m very proud of the fact that we have more than 750 thousand donors, and the vast majority of them are giving small contributions.” That is probably why I keep getting emails from the Clinton campaign asking for a $1 donation. By asking for $1 they can pad the numbers. The real source of Clinton’s donations can be seen from how the DNC just rolled back their limitations from lobbyists. It is just one more way in which the DNC is acting to help Clinton, and smelling a lot more like the RNC.

Sanders pointed out the difference:

What we are talking about in reality is a corrupt campaign finance system, that’s what we’re talking about. We have to be honest about it. It is undermining American democracy.

When extraordinarily wealthy people make very large contributions to Super PACs, and in many cases in this campaign, Super PACs have raised more money than individual candidates have, OK? We had a decision to make early on, do we do a Super PAC? And, we said no. We don’t represent Wall Street, we don’t represent the billionaire class, so it ends up I’m the only candidate up here of the many candidates who has no Super PAC. But, what we did is we said to the working families of this country, look, we know things are tough, but if you want to help us go beyond establishment politics, and establishment economics, send us something. And, it turns out that up until — and this has blown me away, never in a million years would I have believed that I would be standing here tonight telling you that we have received three and a half million individual contributions from well over a million people.

Now, Secretary Clinton’s Super PAC, as I understand it, received $25 million dollars last reporting period, $15 million dollars from Wall Street. Our average contribution is $27 dollars, I’m very proud of that.

When Clinton tried to dodge the issue, Sanders went on:

SANDERS: The people aren’t dumb. Why in God’s name does Wall Street… (APPLAUSE) But let’s not — but let’s not — let’s not insult — let’s not insult the intelligence of the American people. People aren’t dumb.Why in God’s name does Wall Street make huge campaign contributions? I guess just for the fun of it; they want to throw money around.

Why does the pharmaceutical industry make huge campaign contributions? Any connection maybe to the fact that our people pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?

Why does the fossil fuel industry pay — spend huge amounts of money on campaign contributions? Any connection to the fact that not one Republican candidate for president thinks and agrees with the scientific community that climate change is real and that we have got to transform our energy system?

Factcheck.org also pointed out Clinton’s dishonesty in claiming that Sanders “took about $200,000 from Wall Street firms” through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. While Sanders did receive money from the DSCC, which hardly sounds like a crime, Factcheck.org pointed out that a relatively small percentage of the DSCC’s contributions came from Wall Street.

Sanders attacked Clinton regarding her views on regime change, including in Iraq and Libya. Clinton repeated her previous tactic of lying about Sanders’ record in bringing up resolutions he voted for which had nothing to do with overthrowing other governments by force in Iraq and Libya as Clinton advocated. As I discussed after the third debate, Politico fact-checked this and pointed out the resolution Clinton referred to was a nonbinding resolution “calling on Qaddafi to desist from further violence, recognize the Libyan people’s demand for democratic change, [and] resign his position.” This is far different from the promotion of the removal of Qaddafi by force which Clinton orchestrated, leading to catastrophic results. Similarly, the resolution regarding Iraq which Clinton keeps mentioning was to promote the move towards democracy in Iraq. Sanders supported economic sanctions and did not support the invasion of Iraq as Clinton did.

Clinton bragged about Obama hiring her to be Secretary of State but his was far more for political reasons than an endorsement of her judgment. Throughout her four years as Secretary of State, Clinton’s neoconservative advice was generally rejected (other for in Libya, where the policy was a failure). Clinton’s defense of her foreign policy views became even more bizarre when she embraced Henry Kissinger. As Sanders responded:

Where the secretary and I have a very profound difference, in the last debate — and I believe in her book — very good book, by the way — in her book and in this last debate, she talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger. Now, I find it rather amazing, because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.

I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. And in fact, Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. So count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.

Clinton once again tried to make herself look like a great supporter of Barack Obama and make Sanders look like a constant critic. She falsely claimed that Sanders wrote “a forward for a book that basically argued voters should have buyers’ remorse when it comes to President Obama’s leadership and legacy.” This refers to the book Buyer’s Remorse–How Obama Let Progressives Down by Bill Press. The book begins with:

I speak as a  proud liberal.

I speak as a strong supporter of President Obama.

From there it does criticize Obama for letting progressives down, discussing both the positives and negatives of the Obama administration. Sanders does not have a forward (at least on my copy of the book) but there is a brief blurb on the back cover from Sanders:

Bill Press makes the case why, long after taking the oath of office, the next president of the United States must keep rallying the people who elected him or her on behalf of progressive causes. That is the only way real change will happen. Read this book.

Hardly the sort of near-treason which Clinton suggests. The next blurb on the back cover is from Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor under her husband. Reich also recently wrote that, “Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.”

Clinton was also wrong when she said Sanders was “calling several times that he should have a primary opponent” in 2012, grossly exaggerated anything which Sanders did say on the subject. She totally ignored how she opposed Obama before she supported him. This not only includes th2 2008 primary battle, which included her campaign spreading the Reverend Wright smears, and other dirty tricks. Clinton was quite hostile towards Obama’s foreign policy views after she left office as Secretary of State, and was running against Obama’s policies earlier in the current campaign. She will turn on Obama’s legacy again should she find it politically expedient.

Clinton concluded in her closing remarks yet another smear, which Sanders could not respond to, that he was a single issue candidate. In this post alone there are multiple issues which separate them such as on the role of money in politics, their views on Medicare for All, Social Security reform, disagreement over embracing the legacy of Henry Kissinger, Clinton’s support for regime change in Libya as well as Iraq. Other issues which Sanders is running on also came up which I have not included here, such as ending the drug war and reforming marijuana laws. There are also many other differences on other issues which were not raised during the debate, such as substantial differences over climate change and on social/cultural issues.

While Sanders certainly concentrates on limited issues during the campaign for political reasons, he has demonstrated many reasons to support him on a variety of issues. In contrast, Clinton’s bright yellow jacket  (which I  think she borrowed from Curious George’s friend in the yellow hat) seemed to receive more attention than anything she had to say at the debate. Clinton’s problem is that she lacks any real message at all, failing to provide voters a reason to support her. Even many of  those who do support her are acknowledging this problem.

Update: Accusations Of Lying Dominate Republican Debate

Sanders Strong And Clinton Off Her Game In New Hampshire Town Hall

Bernie Sanders CNN Town Hall

Bernie Sanders had a strong night while Clinton had a terrible performance at the CNN Town Hall Wednesday night (video and transcript here). It was almost painful to see her stumbling to come up with answers to some of the questions.

Sanders criticized Clinton’s claims of being a progressive saying, “you can’t go and say you’re a moderate on one day and be a progressive on the other day. Some of my best friends are moderates. I love moderates. But you can’t be a moderate and a progressive. They are different.” He elaborated a later exchange:

But there are other issues, Anderson, where I think she is just not progressive. I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. That’s just not progressive.

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: As I mentioned earlier, the key foreign policy vote of modern American history was the war in Iraq. The progressive community was pretty united in saying don’t listen to Bush. Don’t go to war.

Secretary Clinton voted to go to war.

Virtually all of the trade unions and millions of working people understand that our trade policies — NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, etc. — have been written by corporate America and the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers… millions of working people understand that our trade policies, NAFTA, CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, et cetera, have been written by corporate America.

And the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers out on the street, move to China and other low-wage countries, and bring their products back into this country. And that’s one of the reasons why the middle class of this country and the working class is struggling so hard.

Secretary Clinton has been a supporter in the past of various trade policies, NAFTA and PNTR with China. Reluctantly, and after a lot of pressure on her, she came out against the TPP, and I’m glad that she did.

Every sensible person understands that climate change is real. It is caused by human activity. And we have got to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.

For a long time, Secretary Clinton was talking about the benefits of the Keystone pipeline. Well, there are no benefits to excavating and transporting some of the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world.

I was in the lead in opposition to the Keystone pipeline. I’m in opposition to the pipeline right here in New Hampshire and the pipeline in Vermont. I think we have got to move aggressively away from fossil fuel if we’re going to leave this planet in a way that’s healthy and habitable for our kids.

So those are just some of the areas…

CNN described how Clinton performed in their report on the event:

Clinton delivered an uneven performance at the event, sounding confident on policy answers and connecting with the audience when she shared moments from her personal life but stumbling on topics that have dogged her throughout the campaign, including her vote on the Iraq War and her relationship with Wall Street.

Her toughest moment of the night came when she was asked to address the paid speeches she gave at Goldman Sachs after leaving the State Department.

Clinton started to explain that Goldman wasn’t the only group that paid her for speeches. But when Cooper interjected and asked, “Did you have to be paid $675,000?” Clinton appeared caught off guard.

“Well, I don’t know. Um, that’s what they offered,” she said. Clinton went on to insist that at the time of the speeches, she was undecided on whether to seek the White House.

“I didn’t know, to be honest, I wasn’t — I wasn’t committed to running,” Clinton said, uncharacteristically tripping over her words. “I didn’t — I didn’t know whether I was running or not. I didn’t.”

And in one of the more revealing exchanges of the night, Cooper asked Clinton what would be wrong with the so-called “political revolution” that Sanders frequent calls for. Clinton paused before responding: “That’s for Sen. Sanders to explain.”

I wish that when Clinton is stumbling over her answer on Iraq more people would move on to the key point that, while she admits she made a mistake on the Iraq vote, she continued to make the same type of mistake with her positions on Libya, Syria, and Iran. We are not looking at an isolated mistake. We are looking at a pattern of dangerously pushing the country towards more warfare.

Often the best part of town halls are when members of the audience ask questions entirely different from those of the news media. Clinton faced one such question:

This may come a little bit from right field, this may seem, but it’s very personal to me and resonates probably with many other people who are elderly dealing with health issues.

The question is coming to me as a person who is walking with colon cancer. And I’m walking with colon cancer with the word terminal very much in my vocabulary, comfortably and spiritually.

But I wonder what leadership you could offer within an executive role that might help advance the respectful conversation that is needed around this personal choice that people may make, as we age and deal with health issues or be the caregivers of those people, to help enhance and — their end of life with dignity.

As I have found Clinton to do so often during the years, she began to speak incoherently on the topic, unable to answer the question and demonstrating why, as a physician, I do not want to see Hillary Clinton anywhere near health care policy. Tonight she showed no understanding of end of life counseling or palliative care. In the past she messed up health care pretty badly with her awful attempt at health care reform, and she generally sounds ignorant when discussing health care issues.

The night was a success for Sanders and a disaster for Clinton. Unfortunately I do not think that this event received much attention. Hopefully she was thrown off her game by her difficulties in Iowa and will also perform poorly at Thursday’s debate.

Update: The MSNBC New Hampshire Democratic Debate

Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

Washington Post Logo

The Washington Post has carried op-eds both in support of Bernie Sanders and in opposition to him. I looked at a couple of them yesterday. The  Post followed this up with an editorial full of right wing attacks on Sanders which were out of touch with reality. Bernie Sanders has responded:

At a breakfast with reporters here Thursday that was hosted by Bloomberg Politics, Sanders fired back — again and again and again.

“That’s not a new argument. We’ve been hearing that months and months, and that’s in a sense what this campaign is about,” Sanders said in response to a request for his reaction to the editorial. “People are telling us, whether it’s the Washington Post editorial board or anybody else, our ideas are too ambitious — can’t happen. Too bold — really? Well, here’s something which is really bold. In the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and working families of this country. The middle class has become poorer and trillions of dollars have been transferred to the top one-tenth of 1 percent.”

“That’s pretty radical, isn’t it?” Sanders said. “Where was The Washington Post to express concern that the middle class was shrinking?”

…When he was asked about foreign policy, Sanders detoured: “Getting back to The Washington Post — check out where all the geniuses on the editorial page were with regard to the invasion of Iraq.” (They supported it.)

At another point: “I know The Washington Post may think I’m radical, but I’m not.”

More on Sanders’ response at Common Dreams.

Just as The Washington Post was wrong on the facts when they supported the Iraq war and in ignoring the economic meltdown, they totally botched the health care issue:

He admits that he would have to raise taxes on the middle class in order to pay for his universal, Medicare-for-all health-care plan, and he promises massive savings on health-care costs that would translate into generous benefits for ordinary people, putting them well ahead, on net. But he does not adequately explain where those massive savings would come from. Getting rid of corporate advertising and overhead would only yield so much. Savings would also have to come from slashing payments to doctors and hospitals and denying benefits that people want.

He would be a braver truth-teller if he explained how he would go about rationing health care like European countries do. His program would be more grounded in reality if he addressed the fact of chronic slow growth in Europe and explained how he would update the 20th-century model of social democracy to accomplish its goals more efficiently. Instead, he promises large benefits and few drawbacks.

Medicare for All is not a program which Sanders has pulled out of the air. Supporters of health care reform have discussed this for years. It is not difficult to see where the savings would come from. To begin with, Medicare is much more efficient in the use of health care dollars than the private insurance industry. This isn’t just about getting rid of corporate advertising and some overhead costs. This is about eliminating the vast amount of money spent on the health insurance industry and the huge profits they make. This is all money which would be better spent on health care for Americans.

Rationing? These days all health care payers have restrictions on what they will pay for. We already have rationing, and often it is the private payers which are more restrictive than the government Medicare program.

Some of the savings will come from the fact that Medicare often pays less than private insurance. Despite this, there is good reason why many of us doctors support the plan. The secret is that we believe we will come out ahead financially with Medicare for All. Here’s why–

Back in the old days, a medical practice would typically have one biller. Now things are much more complicated. Many practices need to pay additional people to handle the billing because of the complexity of handling different rules from each payer–and the billers are very likely the highest paid non-medical employee in any medical practice you step foot in. It gets even worse. We also have to have employees to handle getting prior authorizations from different payers for tests, procedures, and prescriptions, again dealing with multiple sets of rules. On top of all this, a growing amount of payment to physicians comes from incentive payments which come from not only practicing medicine as required, but having somebody enter all the data into the insurance company computer systems. Again, each payer has their own set of rules, often requiring more than one employee to handle them. Plus it is a headache to try to keep track of all the rules from each payer.

Just compare this to the overhead of a medical practice in Canada, which has a single payer plan similar to Medicare for All.

Plus if we have Medicare for All, we will no longer have to worry about bad debts from uninsured patients, and receiving payments significantly lower than from Medicare on patients with Medicaid. It is a win financially for many physicians, as well as for most Americans who will no longer have the large insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses they now face.

The Washington Post also questions whether Sanders  can pass his agenda. Whether or not he can is a fallacious reason not to support him. Sanders’ supporters see what Sanders speaks about as being a description of his long-term goals, not a set of promises to be completed his first hundred days in office. With our current grid lock in Washington, no candidate will be able to quickly get their goals through Congress, but I see Sanders has having a far better chance of bringing in members of Congress who will support him than Clinton. If Clinton is the nominee, my bet is that many people will split their ticket, wanting members of the other party to keep an eye on a president they know is untrustworthy.

Plus the important thing in voting for a president is over matters more directly under the control of the president. Sanders is far less likely to get us involved in unnecessary wars than Clinton or the Republican candidates. Sanders is more likely to reform the surveillance state and back away from the drug war. A Sanders Justice Department will treat those who violate the law on Wall Street far different than I would expect a Clinton Justice Department to respond.

It is The Washington Post, not Bernie Sanders, which is spreading fictions.

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

The Political Debates Of The Past Week: Wins For Bernie Sanders & SNL

Both major political parties had debates in the past week. The one similarity is that in each party the front runner (Clinton and Trump) is facing a serious challenge. Neither race is likely to change very much based upon these debates alone. The Republican Debate was not all that eventful, except for Donald Trump defending New York against the attack from Ted Cruz. The coverage from Saturday Night Live in the video above is sufficient.

The Democratic Debate was largely a replay of the Rovian-style campaign which Hillary Clinton has resorted to since Sanders started to catch up with her in the polls. Rather than honestly discuss the issues, Clinton attacked Sanders by misrepresenting his views. Her strategy was to scare Democratic voters into thinking that Bernie Sanders plans to take away their guns and Obamacare. She would have fit in much better with the Republicans.

As I noted last week, Clinton has also been far to the right of her current position on gun control in the past, such as when she debated Barack Obama in 2008. Clinton has taken multiple positions on gun control over the years, campaigning even further to the right at times in 2008 when she described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer.” Despite her major flip-flops on guns, Clinton also sent out a dishonest flier attacking Obama on guns, which is just one way she is repeating the same dishonest tactics employed in her unsuccessful 2008 campaign.

Sanders responded early in the debate to Clinton’s distortions of his record:

Well, I think Secretary Clinton knows that what she says is very disingenuous. I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA. I was in 1988, there were three candidates running for congress in the state of Vermont, I stood up to the gun lobby and came out and maintained the position that in this country we should not be selling military style assault weapons.

I have supported from day one and instant background check to make certain that people who should have guns do not have guns. And that includes people of criminal backgrounds, people who are mentally unstable. I support what President Obama is doing in terms of trying to close the gun show loop holes and I think it should be a federal crime if people act as dormant.

Clinton was confronted with her distortions of Sanders’ position on health care by Andrea Mitchell, who asked:

Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders favors what he calls “Medicare for all.” Now, you said that what he is proposing would tear up Obamacare and replace it.

Secretary Clinton, is it fair to say to say that Bernie Sanders wants to kill Obamacare?

Clinton evaded the question and Sanders responded:

SANDERS: Secretary — Secretary Clinton didn’t answer your question.

Because what her campaign was saying — Bernie Sanders, who has fought for universal health care for my entire life, he wants to end Medicare, end Medicaid, end the children’s health insurance program. That is nonsense.

What a Medicare-for-all program does is finally provide in this country health care for every man, woman and child as a right. Now, the truth is, that Frank Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, do you know what they believed in? They believed that health care should be available to all of our people.

I’m on the committee that wrote the Affordable Care Act. I made the Affordable Care Act along with Jim Clyburn a better piece of legislation. I voted for it, but right now, what we have to deal with is the fact that 29 million people still have no health insurance. We are paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, getting ripped off.

And here’s the important point, we are spending far more per person on health care than the people of any other country. My proposal, provide health care to all people, get private insurance out of health insurance, lower the cost of health care for middle class families by 5,000 bucks.

That’s the vision we need to take.

Sanders continued to discuss the limitations to Obamacare such as “the 29 million still have no health insurance, that even more are underinsured with huge copayments and deductibles.” He describing his plan as building upon Obamacare, not tearing it up.

In other highlights of the debate, Sanders had a strong response to abuse of police powers:

“I believe there’s a huge conflict of interest when local prosecutors investigate cases of police violence within their communities. Most recently, we saw this with a non- indictment of the officers involved in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. How would you presidency ensure incidents of police violence are investigated and prosecuted fairly?”

SANDERS: Absolutely. This is a responsibility for the U.S. Justice Department to get involved. Whenever anybody in this country is killed while in police custody, it should automatically trigger a U.S. attorney general’s investigation.

Second of all, and I speak as a mayor who worked very closely and well with police officers, the vast majority of whom are honest, hard- working people trying to do a difficult job, but let us be clear.

If a police officer breaks the law, like any public official, that officer must be held accountable.

And thirdly, we have got to de-militarize our police departments so they don’t look like occupying armies. We’ve got to move toward community policing.

And fourthly, we have got to make our police departments look like the communities they serve in their diversity.

In another of her distortions of Sanders’ record Clinton claimed, “He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama.” Sanders had entertained in principle having a primary challenge to Obama from the left in response to questions, but he never sought to have someone run, and he campaigned for Obama when he ran for reelection. Sanders responded by highlighting one of Clinton’s major weaknesses:

SANDERS: Set the record right. In 2006 when I ran for the Senate, Senator Barack Obama was kind enough to campaign for me, 2008, I did my best to see that he was elected and in 2012, I worked as hard as I could to see that he was reelected. He and I are friends. We’ve worked together on many issues. We have some differences of opinion.

But here is the issue, Secretary touched on it, can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaker fees to individuals? So it’s easy to say, well, I’m going to do this and do that, but I have doubts when people receive huge amounts of money from Wall Street. I am very proud, I do not have a super PAC. I do not want Wall Street’s money. I’ll rely on the middle class and working families…

Throughout the debate Clinton also tried to present herself as the next Barack Obama, speaking of him as Republicans speak of Ronald Reagan. Of course Clinton is far to the right of Obama on issues including foreign policy, civil liberties, and separation of church and state. She is also counting on viewers failing to recall how often she has attacked Obama from the right on foreign policy since she left the State Department.

Sanders was once again declared the winner of the debate by large majorities in the non-scientific on line polls. Pundits differed but most seemed to agree that Sanders beat Clinton. Examples include Chris Cillizza and John Podhoretz.

The debate received more attention than the previous ones, and there was a lot of interest in the candidates as measured by Google searches. Google even listed the top trending questions for each candidate, and the results were fascinating:

Top Trending Questions on Hillary Clinton
1 Will Hillary Clinton get prosecuted?
2 Will Hillary Clinton win the nomination?
3 What did Hillary Clinton do that is illegal?
4 Where did Hillary Clinton grow up?
5 Is Hillary Clinton a Democrat?
The first and third should serve as a warning of what is to come should Clinton be the nominee. Some background information on those can be found here. The FBI is still investigating and we do not know if Clinton will be prosecuted, but she did commit enough ethical violations and violations of government policy that it is a disgrace that the Democratic Party would consider nominating her for President. The fifth depends upon whether you really consider a DLC type Democrat who has spent her career undermining liberal values to truly be a Democrat.
The questions on the other candidates:
Top Trending Questions on Bernie Sanders
1 Why is Bernie Sanders so popular?
2 Can Bernie Sanders win?
3 How old is Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders?
4 What religion is Bernie Sanders?
5 What are Bernie Sanders’ positions on the issues?
Top Trending Questions on Martin O’Malley
1 Why is Martin O’Malley running for President?
2 Martin O’Malley was Governor of which state?
3 Is Martin O’Malley still running for President?
4 What does Martin O’Malley think about Obamacare?
5 What does Martin O’Malley do?
The questions about Sanders are far more typical of questions about a candidate people are thinking of voting for.

Clinton Shows Desperation With Dishonest Attacks Against Sanders On Health Care & Guns

Clinton Attacks Sanders

A common characteristic of a Hillary Clinton campaign is to distort the views of her opponent and lie about the facts as opposed to engaging in an honest exchange of ideas. We saw this when she ran against Barack Obama eight years ago, and have repeatedly seen this in the past several months. She appears to have stepped up her smear campaign now that she is losing her lead in the polls.

Democracy For America has also issued a response to what they refer to as Clinton’s “bald-faced lies” on Sanders’s gun record and “right-wing attacks” on healthcare. Their response can be found here.

The Clinton campaign has been attacking Sanders with distortions of his views on health care and gun control this week, having Chelsea deliver some of the attacks on health care:

“Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance,” she said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we’ll go back to an era – before we had the Affordable Care Act – that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”

This attack, similar to the attacks from Hillary Clinton during the last Democratic Debate, greatly distorts Sanders’ proposal for Medicare For All. Rather than dismantle Medicare, Sanders proposes providing Medicare for everyone as it provides better coverage at a lower cost than any other system we currently have. It would further expand the number of people covered, and not take away health coverage from millions.

The Week also responded to what they call Hillary Clinton’s dirty attack on Bernie Sanders:

Hillary Clinton took aim at Bernie Sanders’ single-payer health care plan on Monday, characterizing it as “turning over your and my health insurance to governors,” specifically naming Republican Terry Branstad. It’s a pretty clear reference to the many conservative states that have refused ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion — implying that Sanders would allow conservative states to opt out of his plan, and hence partially destroy all federal health insurance programs.

This is absolutely false.

After showing how Clinton is lying about Sanders’ plan, the article concluded with what is obviously happening: “In any case, it’s obvious what’s happening here. Clinton has been flagging in the polls of late, and as usual she’s turned to fighting dirty.”

Clinton’s use of such dirty attacks on Sanders’ support for a true universal health care plan is quite a flip-flop considering that in 2008, while also launching dishonest attacks on Obama’s health care plan, Clinton equated any disagreement with her plan with the tactics of Karl Rove. The Sanders campaign issued this response (with the video above):

Hillary Clinton once said it “undermined core Democratic values” and gives “aid and comfort” to the special interests and “their allies in the Republican Party” for Democrats to attack each other’s health care plans. Today, in another flip-flop, she’s doing exactly what she once decried.

In the wake of new polls showing that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign is gaining ground or leading in the Iowa caucuses, Clinton’s campaign has stepped up attacks on Sanders and his health care proposal. The most recent volley is an attack on Sanders’ plan to create a Medicare-for-all health care system for all Americans.

Clinton’s attacks on a Democratic Party rival over universal health care marks a very public flip flop by her and her campaign. She is now using the same Karl Rove tactics she once decried in this video.

Clinton is also repeating her dishonest attacks on Bernie Sander’s record on guns. She is basing this on votes from several years ago, ignoring the fact that bills have a lot of components and Sanders’ votes based upon some aspects of a bill does not indicate an opposition to gun control.

In reality, Sanders has received a lifetime grade of D- from the NRA (along with at least one F) due to gun control measures which he has supported, including bans on assault weapons, restrictions on concealed weapons, ending the “gun-show loophole,” and expanded background checks, plus opposing shortening waiting periods. Democracy for America has dismissed Clinton’s attacks on Sanders’ gun record by saying “talk like that is so absurdly false it’s almost funny.”

Clinton has also been far to the right of her current position on gun control in the past, such as when she debated Barack Obama in 2008. Clinton has taken multiple positions on gun control over the years, campaigning even further to the right at times in 2008 when she described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer.” Despite her major flip-flops on guns, Clinton also sent out a dishonest flier attacking Obama on guns, just one way she is repeating the same dishonest tactics employed in her unsuccessful 2008 campaign.

Clinton’s dishonest attacks on Sanders so far appear to be backfiring, as donations to Sanders have increased in response to these attacks, which is not the first time Sanders has raised money off dishonest attacks from the Clinton campaign. Plus opposition to the nomination of Hillary Clinton appears to be getting stronger among liberals. Charles Chamberlain, the Executive Director of Democracy for America, concluded his response to Clinton’s lies on Sanders record with this:

“…regardless of who wins our nomination, the goal of Democrats holding on to the White House in 2016 is being made more difficult every second the Clinton campaign continues to distort the facts on Bernie Sanders’s strong record against gun violence and attack a core progressive idea like universal healthcare.

“Bernie Sanders and any Democrat can beat right-wing attacks when they’re leveled by Republicans, but Democrats taking those same swings only hurts our ability to unite the Democratic coalition we need to win in November.

Update: Clinton’s lead down to two points in Des Moines Register poll (withing margin of error).

Outrageous Statements From Donald Trump Distract From Serious Flaws In Other Conservative Candidates (Including Clinton)

Trumps and Clintons

One of the many problems with Donald Trump’s outrageous statements (undoubtedly made more to attract attention and support from a certain segment of the Republican Party than out of conviction) is that it might be making people fail to realize that many other candidates running also have positions which in a normal year might disqualify them from serious consideration. This is most clearly true within the Republican Party, but Hillary Clinton also benefits from the non-stop vulgar and sexist attacks on her from Trump. Donald Trump’s views make the flaws in the other candidates look far less significant in comparison, but there remains reasons why other candidates would be unacceptable as president.

Politico looked at The Wild Ideas You Missed While Donald Trump Was Talking, finding that many people are not noticing extreme views from other Republican candidates when Trump gets most of the attention:

The good news for Republicans, arguably, is that their rhetoric has been so consistently over-the-top that it has started to sound routine; academics call this “shifting the Overton window,” the range of what’s considered politically acceptable. I’ve watched all the debates as well as the undercards live, but when I reviewed the transcripts, I was amazed how many radical statements had slipped under my radar. Ted Cruz called for putting the United States back on the gold standard. Marco Rubio accused President Barack Obama of destroying the U.S. military. Huckabee said Bernie Madoff’s rip-offs weren’t as bad as what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare. Lindsey Graham said his administration would monitor all “Islamic websites,” not just jihadist ones. I had even forgotten Trump’s claim that vaccines caused autism in a 2-year-old girl he knew.

Vaccines do not cause autism. Goldbuggery is crackpot economics. The U.S. military is still by far the strongest in the world. And what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare is give them pensions and health care. But none of those statements drew any pushback from the other Republican candidates, or, for that matter, the media moderators. Neither did Ben Carson’s assertion that if the United States had set a goal of oil independence within a decade, moderate Arab states would have “turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks,” which is wackadoodle on multiple levels.

On the other hand, the Republican debates do present an extremely distorted view of Obama’s record, with nobody present to present the facts:

These are presumably winning messages in a Republican primary. It’s not clear whether they would be in a general election. The reality of the Obama era, for all its warts, is that unemployment has dropped to 5 percent, the deficit has shrunk by two thirds, illegal immigration has plateaued, far fewer U.S. soldiers are dying abroad and Americans are more likely to be killed by lightning than by terrorists at home. The question is whether the run-for-your-lives talking points will crash into statistical reality, or whether they will gradually help create a new political reality.

The Republicans do deserve some credit for being willing to display their views in public. The article does chastise the Democrats here in concluding that the Republicans are “acting like a confident party—perhaps an overconfident party—while the Democrats are acting like they’ve lost their feck.”

In reality, it is the Clinton campaign (which only wanted four debates) and the DNC, which expanded the number to six but hid most of them on nights when few would be watching, which are acting cowardly. Both Sanders and O’Malley have been pushing for more debates. I also think that Clinton has benefited from the exaggerated coverage paid to Trump. If not for his unexpected success in the Republican race, the big story of the year might be Sanders’ challenge to Clinton. After all, Sanders does beat Trump in head to head contests–and often by a larger margin than Clinton does.

Clinton benefits in other ways from Trump being in the race. The large number of lies from Trump dominated the year-end report from Factcheck.org. This led to a fairly long list of lies from Clinton being less obvious, posted further down in the story after Trump’s lies.

The concentration by the media on outrageous comments from Trump distracts from talk about the unethical conduct from Clinton, as well has the poor judgment she has shown throughout her career. Most importantly, it distracts from a more thorough look at Clinton’s views, including her neoconservative views on foreign policy, her conservative views on social/cultural issues, and her turn to the right on economic issues and health care. It also might be kept in mind that, with all his unacceptable statements and views, Donald Trump did oppose the Iraq war which Clinton pushed so hard for, and which turned out to be a disaster.

Ben Carson Doesn’t Know Any More About Health Care Policy Than He Knows About The Constitution Or Foreign Policy

Ben Carson Health Plan

You might know Ben Carson as the ignorant theocratic who does not understand the Constitution of the United States or understand separation of church and state. Or you might know him as the Republican who had been challenging Donald Trump for leadership in the GOP race until it became apparent that he didn’t know a thing about foreign policy. Today we were introduced to a new Ben Carson–a doctor who doesn’t have any idea how to formulate a health care plan.

Carson tried to distract from his ignorance about other matters by introducing his health care plan (copy here). There are far more pictures than detailed policy in the pdf. There is a lot of talk about hating Obamacare and of providing a market solution–two lines which Republicans love but which don’t hold up too well if you think about them. The whole reason for Obamacare was that the market was not able to handle providing health care coverage. We wound up with perverse profit motives which led insurance companies to try to profit by denying care and eliminating coverage from those who were sicker.

Carson’s plan relies on “health empowerment accounts,” which are essentially another name for health savings accounts–which people can already purchase with high deductible plans under Obamacare (which is exactly what I have done). Except if you get rid of Obamacare, you also get rid of the preventative care covered without out of pocket expenses, the subsidies to help people afford it, coverage for young adults on their parents’ plans, and the guarantee that nobody can be denied coverage.

The biggest folly in Carson’s plan is to gradually increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 70. We should be doing the reverse–gradually lowering the eligibility age. (Or better yet, go with Bernie Sanders’ plan and offer Medicare for All right now). Our traditional private health care insurance has generally worked for the young (unless they got really sick and became as expensive to care for as the elderly). The problem has been with covering people as they get into their 40’s and 50’s and start developing more medical problems which private insurance companies would rather not deal with.

Medicare handles the chronically ill much better. Originally this problem might have been dealt with under the Affordable Care Act with either a public option modeled on Medicare or a buy in for Medicare. For the benefit of those who have forgotten the details surrounding the fight to enact the Affordable Care Act, the two most conservative Senators voting with the Democrats, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, would only vote for Obamacare if these ideas were dropped, and there were no votes to spare with the Republicans one hundred percent united in voting against it.

Carson’s idea to increase the eligibility age of Medicare to 70 is awful, although that might not be the worst part of the plan. Carson also wants to replace the government Medicare plan with private insurance companies. Everyone would get a fixed contribution from the government towards purchasing a plan. Presumably if the fixed contribution is not enough to purchase an adequate plan they would be on their own (with their health empowerment plan, if there is enough there), but to conservatives that’s freedom. Medicare patient’s already have the option of a private plan instead of the government plan. We have found that it costs fourteen percent more to care for patients under the private plans than under the government plans–so much for greater efficiency in the private sector.

Brain surgery, along with rocket science, was once considered among the most difficult of intellectual pursuits. Now that America has become familiar with neurosurgeon Ben Carson, we will have to reconsider that idea.