Donald Trump Is Right On This One: Hillary Clinton’s Syria Policy Could Lead Us Into World War III

Clinton bombs

When Donald Trump says something stupid, such as when he botched his comments on Obamacare today, or when he claimed that he is the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton, that is a “dog bites man” story. We have come to expect this from Donald Trump, who is  running the most inept campaign for president that I have ever seen. The more interesting “man bites dog” story, one of the rare times when Trump gets it right, was with Trump warning of the risk of Hillary Clinton getting us involved in World War III.

Donald Trump had this to say in an interview with Reuter’s:

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Democrat Hillary Clinton’s plan for Syria would “lead to World War Three,” because of the potential for conflict with military forces from nuclear-armed Russia.

In an interview focused largely on foreign policy, Trump said defeating Islamic State is a higher priority than persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, playing down a long-held goal of U.S. policy…

On Syria’s civil war, Trump said Clinton could drag the United States into a world war with a more aggressive posture toward resolving the conflict.

Clinton has called for the establishment of a no-fly zone and “safe zones” on the ground to protect non-combatants. Some analysts fear that protecting those zones could bring the United States into direct conflict with Russian warplanes.

“What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria,” said Trump as he dined on fried eggs and sausage links at his Trump National Doral golf resort. “You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton,” he said.

“You’re not fighting Syria any more, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right? Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk,” he said…

On Russia, Trump again knocked Clinton’s handling of U.S.-Russian relations while secretary of state and said her harsh criticism of Putin raised questions about “how she is going to go back and negotiate with this man who she has made to be so evil,” if she wins the presidency.

While I have also expressed concerns about Trump’s general incoherence on foreign policy, I have previously noted the same dangers as Trump discussed in Clinton’s history of belligerence towards Russia. As I discussed after Clinton repeated her support for a no-fly zone in Syria during the last debate, this is a very dangerous policy. Last  month Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before Congress that imposing a no-fly zone “would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia.” Clinton admitted that “you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians” in one of her leaked Goldman-Sachs speeches.

Spencer Ackerman also wrote in The Guardian Why Hillary Clinton’s plans for no-fly zones in Syria could provoke US-Russia conflict.

The proposal of no-fly zones has been fiercely debated in Washington for the past five years, but has never attracted significant enthusiasm from the military because of the risk to pilots from Syrian air defenses and the presence of Russian warplanes.

Many in US national security circles consider the risk of an aerial confrontation with the Russians to be severe.

“I wouldn’t put it past them to shoot down an American aircraft,” said James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, on Tuesday in response to a question from the Guardian at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Those who have patrolled no-fly zones over the relatively freer skies of Bosnia and Saddam-era Iraq fear that a President Clinton would oblige the US to what one retired US air force three-star general described as an indefinite “air occupation”. Such a move would risk the lives of US pilots – and dare confrontation with a Russian military which is more aggressive than it has been in years.

Critics of the plan also question how using US military power to establish and police a safe space for beleaguered Syrian civilians would contribute to the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad – the explicit goal of US policy in Syria.

“If she is not politically posturing, it’s going to be a disaster. I hope it’s political posturing,” said John Kuehn, a retired navy officer who flew no-fly zone missions over Bosnia and Iraq. Kuehn who called denying an adversary its airspace “the cocktail party military application of power of choice”.

David Deptula, a retired air force lieutenant general who commanded the no-fly zone operations over northern Iraq in 1998 and 1999, said the Russians were a “complicating factor” but considered the problems with a no-fly zone to be more fundamental…

The challenges for a no-fly zone over Syria outstrip those the US has faced over Libya, Bosnia and Iraq. Assad’s surface-to-air missiles, protecting the Mediterranean coast and southern regions the regime still controls, were formidable before the recent Russian addition of what Clapper, a former air force general, called “very advanced” S-300 and S-400 systems that can blanket the majority of Syrian airspace with missiles.

Staging a no-fly zone requires either the assent of regional allies – Turkey is the nearest potential partner to Syria, but it has concentrated in recent months on improving ties with Moscow after Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet in November 2015 – or an expensive, open-ended and risky deployment of aircraft carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean.

But the most distinguishing feature of a Syria no-fly zone in 2017 would be the aerial presence of another great-power air force with an objective which is diametrically opposed to Washington’s.

Even without the involvement of Russia, a no-fly zone is a major military undertaking, likely to drag us into a larger war in Syria. The added problem of Russia’s involvement very well could lead to World War III. There are many reasons not to vote for Donald Trump, but that does not mean that voting for Hillary Clinton is a wise choice either, as a vote for Hillary Clinton is essentially a vote for war.


Trump Goes Nuclear And Clinton Channels Pence In Second Presidential Debate

No, the above picture does not show Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton singing a duet of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart or I Got You Babe. The second presidential debate (transcript here) was a perfect display of how absurd this year’s election is. It was inevitable that Donald Trump would come out the loser once it became clear that it would center around the recently released videotape of Donald Trump talking about abusing women.There was no possible way Hillary Clinton could lose this one.

Trump was more forceful, beating expectations and perhaps preventing the total collapse of his support. As it stands, he does trail by double digits. While it is very doubtful it will be enough to change the race, many of Trump’s attacks on Clinton might help him get more Republicans out to vote, although attacks on Hillary Clinton based upon Bill’s sex life are likely to backfire.

Clinton benefited from so little being said about the other major leak of the past few days–the emails released by Wikileaks which provided further verification of everything opponents of Clinton on the left thought about her. Clinton evaded the single question on this, first bringing up Abe Lincoln, and then the Russians. By the time she got through with her word salad, the actual question was long forgotten.


Clinton also channeled the strategy of Mike Pence of denying the facts during the debate. This was most blatant when she repeated her false claim that the emails which were deleted were all personal.

Once again there were many falsehoods, probably far more from Trump. There were far too many to discuss. Trump getting the facts wrong is not news, but Trump getting it right is. He has been dinged by the fact checkers multiple times for his accusation that Hillary Clinton was behind the Birther movement. Some fact checkers even missed the fact that he corrected his account last night, and now got it right:

TRUMP: Well, you owe the president an apology, because as you know very well, your campaign, Sidney Blumenthal — he’s another real winner that you have — and he’s the one that got this started, along with your campaign manager, and they were on television just two weeks ago, she was, saying exactly that. So you really owe him an apology. You’re the one that sent the pictures around your campaign, sent the pictures around with President Obama in a certain garb. That was long before I was ever involved, so you actually owe an apology.


Clinton never explicitly claimed that Obama was not born in the United States or is a Muslim, but there were certainly rumors that her campaign was involved in spreading the smears which people in the Obama campaign believed were true. There is no question that the Clinton campaign did make a point of trying to suggest something foreign about Obama. As can be verified from The Guardian, the campaign did spread the above picture in 1988, which Trump referred to. The strategy memo from her campaign manager, Mark Penn, also made it clear in 2007 that it was part of their strategy to portray Obama as foreign. Besides what they would say about Obama, Clinton would routinely say in her speeches how she was “born in the middle of America to the middle class in the middle of the last century.”

The rare times that issues were brought up, the points went to Clinton. Trump repeated the standard GOP talking points about repealing Obamacare, but had no meaningful replacement plan. Clinton was also right about Trump’s tax plan primarily benefiting the wealthy, and in supporting background checks and closing the gun show loopholes (even if she did run as a pro-gun churchgoer in 2008).

Mike Pence Wins VP Debate, But It Doesn’t Really Matter


Mike Pence won the vice-presidential debate in terms of style points, but it is not likely to affect the election very much. At best it changes the conversation this news cycle away from the most recent round of stupid things said by Donald Trump to the debate, but it is a safe bet that Trump will soon dominate the news with new stupid comments. While Pence did a better job than Tim Kaine, it was not at the level of Joe Biden reviving the ticket after Barack Obama’s lackadaisical first debate against Mitt Romney four years ago. Of course Pence had a much harder job which would require going well beyond style points to make up for Donald Trump.

Both candidates had many factual errors which kept the fact checkers busy. Both candidates did the best when attacking the opposing presidential candidate, and ran into trouble trying to defend their own awful running mates. Rather than defending his statements, Pence denied that Trump made the statements Kaine confronted him with. In rare cases Kaine’s accusations weren’t entirely true, but for the most part they were.

Pence had the advantage with his previous professional career in radio, allowing him to win if looking purely at style, and ignoring his atrocious record. Pence gave the appearance of someone who could perhaps be a stabilizing figure in a Trump administration–or the 2020 Republican nominee. He very likely would be leading, as any sane candidate would, if he was the one now running against Hillary Clinton.

Kaine came off poorly, but certainly not at the depths of some past candidates such as Sarah Palin or Dan Quayle. It was amusing to see the hypocrisy after the debate as Clinton supporters who were appalled at how Trump would interrupt Clinton had no problems with how Kaine was constantly interrupting Pence.

While Pence wins on points, he could not get a victory which is likely to be significant enough to actually impact the election results. Actually defending, as opposed to ignoring, Trump’s faults is beyond the abilities of any mere mortal. Pence also had mixed results in trying to attack Hillary Clinton. He did get in some blows, but somewhat like Trump, he could not articulate a better alternative even when there were grounds to attack Clinton.

Pence raised Clinton’s scandals, but the Republicans have not been able to simply articulate grounds for why this really matters. Her mishandling of classified information is certainly worth mentioning, but the scandal was fundamentally about her failure to follow rules designed to increase government transparency and reduce corruption. Clinton violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State. That alone should disqualify her from further government positions.

Pence was also limited in valid grounds to attack on policy. It was bad enough that he opposed abortion rights, and made his case even weaker when bringing up the right wing’s nonsensical talking points on “partial birth abortions.” Pence had the usual Republican difficulty in attacking ObamaCare (even if Bill Clinton foolishly helped out the Republicans), as he has no better alternative to offer.

It was amusing to see that, for obvious reasons, Kaine did not disagree when Pence falsely tied the entire foreign policy of the Obama administration to Clinton. In reality, Clinton was a failed Secretary of State. She was a glorified diplomat, but actual policy was generally made in the White House, with the Obama administration almost always overriding her hawkish inclinations. While they did listen to her regarding Libya, Obama subsequently agreed it was a disaster and the worst mistake of his presidency.

If Trump and Pence were coherent on foreign policy, they could make a case that it is time for the United States to stop being the world’s policeman (while footing the bill), along with questioning the risk of war with Russia under Clinton. Neither Republican is capable of articulating such an argument, and Trump’s naivety towards Putin is almost as bad as Clinton’s belligerence. Both Pence and Kaine were clueless on dealing with terrorism, believing that we can someday kill them all. Neither realizes (or if they do realize it, will admit) that such policies only lead to creating more terrorists.

This was basically two conservative career politicians (one more conservative than the other) defending either the DLC/neocon status quo or the Republican fantasy worldview. Neither presented a true candidate of meaningful change, and liberal views remained absent, as has been the case since Bernie Sanders left the race. Green Party candidate Ajamu Baraka and Libertarian Party candidate William Weld (who appears to be giving up the third party fight to concentrate on taking down Trump) both used social media to respond, but their views are being kept out of the nationally televised debates.

Aetna Deals Blow To Obamacare Showing Sanders Was Right On Need For Single Payer Plan


Aetna has announced that they are going to greatly scale back the number of markets in which they will participate in on the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. This is very bad news for Obamacare. Last year it was looking like insurance companies were doing well and wanted to increase participation. The big question is what happened.

One possibility is that Aetna is telling the truth that the plans were not profitable as sicker people than they anticipated were joining, leading to greater costs.

Another possibility is that Aetna is doing this to retaliate against the Obama administration for fighting their desire to merge with Humana.

Consumers are screwed either way. Having less competition in the exchanges due to fewer companies offering plans will likely lead to higher premiums. On the other hand. allowing further consolidation of the insurance industry will also lead to less competition and higher costs.

During the fight over the Affordable Care Act there were proposals for a public option modeled on Medicare or for an option for older individuals (who are probably the most responsible for the higher costs Aetna complains about) to buy into Medicare. Both were blocked because the two most conservative Senators voting with the Democrats, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, opposed these plans. With no Republicans voting for Obamacare, they could effectively block either idea. It is unknown if things would have been any different if the White House had pushed more forcibly for these plans.

Of course Bernie Sanders had the right idea in taking these concerns over profit out of the equation in proposing Medicare for All, which Hillary Clinton opposed during the campaign. It is also unknown if Sanders could have brought enough liberal Democrats into Congress with him over the next few elections if he was the nominee. It is probably a safe bet that a DLC based Democratic Party under Hillary Clinton will not move the country to the left in such a manner.

Implications Of The Death Of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead at a Texas ranch where he was staying while on a hunting trip at age 79. He was appointed to the Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986. His conservative rulings have had a profound, and negative, effect on the country during that time.

The legal and political ramifications are likely to be enormous. The next several months could be dominated by a fight over confirmation of Obama’s appointment, likely expanding the range of issues which the presidential candidates must discuss over the next several months. Voters might think more about issues such as reproductive rights and voting rights, which could be greatly influenced by the balance of the court, during the election year.

Republicans might try to prevent any Obama appointee from being confirmed hoping that a Republican could be elected an make the next choice. Such obstructionism might also backfire against the Republicans, along with demonstrating how many of their views are not accepted by a majority of Americans. It is also possible that Democratic Senators will block right wing choices should there be a Republican president in 2017.

For the current year (and possibly beyond) this means one less conservative vote on matters the Supreme Court is now considering, including  abortion rights,  affirmative action, and another challenge to Obamacare. I also wonder to what degree Scalia was able to influence any swing justices to side with the conservatives. There is also the possibility of some matters coming down to a four to four tie.

The Washington Post had an article in December suggesting that  tie votes on the court, due to a vacancy, will favor liberals, even if the author doesn’t seem happy with that prospect:

Thanks to a wealth of recent Democratic appointments on the lower courts, letting the Supreme Court go down to eight justices would favor liberals. Conservatives wouldn’t like the regime of liberal rulings that would govern in most of the nation without Supreme Court oversight. And the prospect of liberal dominance may actually stiffen the spine of the historically more accommodating Senate Democrats…

A Supreme Court vacancy would favor liberals, because an eight-member court would often divide 4 to 4, affirming the decisions of the predominantly liberal lower courts.

Ties would be most common if the vacant seat belonged to swing voter Kennedy. If Scalia were the one to leave, Kennedy’s conservative tilt would sometimes generate the ties, barring the occasional walkabout from Chief Justice John Roberts. And if Ginsburg or Breyer left, Kennedy would side with the three remaining liberals often enough to sometimes tie the court in important cases. In addition to his much-touted vote for same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, Kennedy has voted with the liberals in civil rights and environmental cases, to rein in partisan redistricting and to grant Guantanamo prisoners the right to challenge their detention.

A tied Supreme Court traditionally issues a per curiam, or unsigned, decision affirming the ruling of the lower court. So under an eight-member court that regularly produced split decisions, each circuit would be like a little Supreme Court of its own. Obama has overseen a significant transformation of the federal courts, with nine circuits now dominated by Democratic appointments and only four by Republicans. On really important cases, the circuit courts are likely to meet en banc, with most or all of the judges sitting, meaning raw numerical dominance will always matter.

The 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th circuits, where conservative decisions would stand in the case of Supreme Court ties, mostly cover red states in the South and Midwest. Only some of the Great Lakes states are caught offsides. Meanwhile, the blue states on the coasts, along with purple Western states such as Colorado, are in liberal circuits. But here’s the kicker: Since most of the circuits are controlled by liberals, much of the conservative heartland is marooned in blue circuits. Arizona, Idaho and Montana are in the much-reversed liberal 9th Circuit. The entire Southeast, from Virginia to Florida, is covered by two circuits liberalized by Obama appointees. One liberal circuit, the 10th, has just one reliably blue state, New Mexico.

Update: Mitch McConnel says that a new justice should not be chosen until after the election.  SCOTUSbLog has more on cases currently under consideration. President Obama is about to speak as I am typing this, and is expected to say he will be nominating someone despite GOP objections.

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).

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.

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

No Clinton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fox Republican Debate Dominated By The Donald

Fox Debate August 2015

Fox brought in a record 24 million viewers for the first Republican debate on Thursday night , and nobody doubts it was because of Donald Trump. CNN explained what this number means:

For perspective, the first GOP primary debate four years ago, also on Fox, attracted 3.2 million viewers.

The most-watched primary debate that year, broadcast by ABC, reached 7.6 million.

Thursday’s debate audience more than tripled that one.

The audience easily exceeded pretty much everything that’s been on American television this year, from the finale of “The Walking Dead” to the final episode of David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

The debate was bigger than all of this year’s NBA Finals and MLB World Series games, and most of the year’s NFL match-ups.

It also trumped Jon Stewart’s Thursday night’s sign-off from “The Daily Show,” which averaged 3.5 million viewers.

Trump is a known ratings magnet. His reality show “The Celebrity Apprentice” used to reach 20 million viewers a week. But it has slipped over the years, averaging 6 to 8 million viewers for recent seasons.

The debate, as well as most of the talk afterwards, was about Donald Trump. They might as well have named it Presidential Apprentice. By the end, many viewers might have been expecting to go to the boardroom to see who Trump would fire. Hint–it might not have been one of the candidates considering what he has been saying about Megyn Kelley and the other Fox correspondents. Among the most crude:

Trump was the center of attention from the start when the very first question was a show of hands  as to “who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person.” Only Donald Trump raised his hand. (Full transcript of the debate can be found here).

Donald Trump did make a great case for campaign finance reform:

I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give.

And do you know what?

When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.

QUESTION: So what did you get?

TRUMP: And that’s a broken system.

QUESTION: What did you get from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?

TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding.

You know why?

She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world. It was.

Trump also restated his opposition to the Iraq war but flip-flopped on his previous support for a single payer system. Trump could have been the best candidate in the room if he hadn’t turned into a Tea Party clown.

There were some other moments when Republican candidates deserved credit. This includes Rand Paul criticizing both his fellow Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton for their policies which on sending more arms to middle east:

I’ve been fighting amidst a lot of opposition from both Hillary Clinton, as well as some Republicans who wanted to send arms to the allies of ISIS. ISIS rides around in a billion dollars worth of U.S. Humvees. It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop — we shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sakes.

This was followed by John Kasich defending taking funds for the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare:

First of all, Megyn, you should know that — that President Reagan expanded Medicaid three or four times.

Secondly, I had an opportunity to bring resources back to Ohio to do what?

To treat the mentally ill. Ten thousand of them sit in our prisons. It costs $22,500 a year to keep them in prison. I’d rather get them their medication so they could lead a decent life.

Rand Paul made a another good point when he argued with Chris Christie over NSA surveillance:

The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over! John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence, and I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights.

Beyond this, we primarily learned from the debates that Republicans hate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Obamacare, and Planned Parenthood.

I am looking forward to seeing Bernie Sanders debate Hillary Clinton on foreign military intervention and suppression of civil liberties. Clinton’s record on these topics does fit well in the GOP mainstream.

I am hesitant to write about winners because we have learned that the winner of a debate is not based upon the debate itself, but the perception of the candidates after people have listened to the talking heads in the days following the debate. This is further complicated with the Republican Party as most of their voters receive their thoughts from Fox. Criticism from the Fox commentators could make Donald Trump look like a loser, but so far he has managed to survive better than the pundits have predicted, and it is not looking like Fox will be successful against him.

From my perspective, which could be quite different from that of Fox, the winners were John Kasich and Marco Rubio. Kasich barely squeaked into the prime time debate, and the two debates did show that Kasich really did deserve to be there more than Rick Perry, who was excluded, possibly by fudging the results of the polls. Kasich and Jeb Bush looked the most stable in the group. Bush already has his position as top contender after Trump, but now Kasich might replace Scott Walker as the leading challenger to Bush and move into the top tier.

I also downgraded Bush for his discussion of his brother’s policies. It wasn’t faulty intelligence which got us in Iraq as he claimed, but his brother twisting the intelligence to justify the war he wanted to start. Jeb! also seemed oblivious to the fact that ISIS and the other problems now occurring in Iraq are due to his brother destabilizing the region. They all seemed oblivious, when talking about the deficit, to the fact that the deficit is a consequence of George W. Bush both fighting the war on credit and cutting taxes on the wealthy.

The other Republican who looked good, if you ignore his actual views, was Marco Rubio. He could make a good candidate in a television-based campaign. The entry of Trump into the race made it hard for candidates like Rubio to get attention, but he did get a shot at being noticed Thursday.

On the other hand, it seemed a battle throughout the evening between Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz to be the most bat-shit candidate on stage, which was impressive considering that Donald Trump was on the same stage. I was edging towards awarding this to Huckabee, with lines such as, “The purpose of the military is kill people and break things,” until Cruz gave his closing statement, and clinched the title:

If I’m elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama.

The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into these videos and to prosecute Planned Parenthood for any criminal violations.

The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice and the IRS to start (sic) persecuting religious liberty, and then intend to cancel the Iran deal, and finally move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

I will keep my word. My father fled Cuba, and I will fight to defend liberty because my family knows what it’s like to lose it.

In contrast, Huckabee went for the laugh as opposed to Cruz’s tirade:

It seems like this election has been a whole lot about a person who’s very high in the polls, that doesn’t have a clue about how to govern.

A person who has been filled with scandals, and who could not lead, and, of course, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.

So, in conclusion, Trump wins for continuing to totally dominate the discussion, Kasich and Rubio had smaller victories which might improve their position if the race should return to be about the more conventional candidates, and Cruz edged Huckabee for the scariest Republican in the room. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders must really have felt happy seeing this debate and the caliber of candidate they might come up against in the general election.