Hillary Clinton Gets Her Do-Over But Liberals Desire Someone Better

Bernie Sanders TV Clip

Hillary Clinton got her do-over yesterday, relaunching her campaign after the first launch went terribly. As I pointed out last week, she is falling in the polls. Her favorability and trust are damaged from serious scandals which cannot be ignored in choosing a general election candidate. She can’t handle questions from the news media. Many liberals are not buying her selective and limited attempts to try to sound like a progressive. As Bernie Sanders has said of her listening tour, “at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.”

The hard sell from Clinton supporters generally comes down to backing her because of how horrible the Republicans are. While it is true the Republicans are as horrible as they say, what the more conservative Democrats who back Clinton fail to realize is that to many principled liberals Hillary Clinton smells almost as badly as the Republicans. Sure she is left of center on economic matters, but what Molly Ball calls her fainthearted populism, and her failure to provide details, is not enough for many on the left. As Martin O’Malley recently said, “what we need new leadership to accomplish is to actually rein in excesses– on Wall Street. And when you have somebody that’s the CEO of one of the biggest repeat– offending investment banks in the country telling his employees that he’d be fine with either Bush or Clinton, that should tell all of us something.”

Plus there are issues beyond economics. Clinton remains conservative on cultural/social issues, even if not as far right as the Republicans. Her militaristic views on foreign policy and poor record on civil liberties issues also leaves her far closer to the Republicans than the type of candidate desired by liberals. We do not want a candidate who supported making flag burning a felony, censoring video games, parental notification laws, making abortion rare (a statement which stigmatizes women who have abortions), leaving gay marriage up to the states (a position she finally changed but lagged behind the country tremendously), the Patriot Act, the discriminatory Workplace Religious Freedom Act, increased intrusion of religion in the schools and hostility towards the principle of separation of church and state, opposition to needle exchange programs, a hard line on the drug war, opposition to programs to distribute free condoms to fight HIV, reduced government transparency, unethical conduct as Secretary of State, and the Iraq war based upon clearly false claims of a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda.

All those articles being spread by her supporters which cherry pick votes or statements from Clinton to claim that she is a liberal will not fool those of us who have seen Hillary Clinton undermining the principles we believe in throughout her entire career. While not as bad as the Republicans, she is far more Republican-lite than what we hope to see in a Democratic presidential nominee.

The desire from liberals to have an alternative to Hillary Clinton can be seen in the excitement generated by Bernie Sanders since he announced his candidacy. While his strong showing in the Wisconsin straw poll provided some encouragement, the actual poll results out of  New Hampshire look even better. With his campaign barely off the ground, after previously falling in single digits, Bernie Sanders is receiving the support of 32 percent, compared to 44 percent for Clinton.

Eleanor Clift wrote that Bernie Sanders Is Building an Army to Take D.C.

The reception he’s gotten in the four or five weeks since he announced his candidacy has persuaded him that maybe the country’s disgust with politics as usual has created an opening for somebody like him, a 73-year-old self-described “democratic socialist” who calls out the excesses of Wall Street and stands up for working families. “It is not a radical agenda,” he told reporters at a breakfast organized by The Christian Science Monitor.

He wants to expand Social Security, move away from Obamacare to Medicare for all, and make tuition free at public universities. He would pay for these expanded benefits with a tax on Wall Street speculative trading, and he would end the loopholes that allow corporations to store their profits tax-free offshore. He doesn’t expect support from the Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, or Wall Street, he says with delight, treating their opposition like a badge of honor…

The challenge for the Democratic nominee is to generate the kind of excitement that led to Obama’s election and reelection. Among the issues that get Sanders most exercised is the “massive alienation among the American people” that leads to low voter turnout. If 60 percent and more of eligible voters don’t vote, “nothing significant will change,” he says. He is not happy about the Democratic National Committee scheduling only six debates, beginning in the fall, and decreeing if candidates participate in other debates, they will not be allowed in the sanctioned ones. “It’s much too limited,” he said. “Debates are a means to get people interested and engaged.”

If it were up to him, candidates would debate across party lines. “Republicans have gotten away with murder because a lot of people don’t know what their agenda is,” he says. “Christie, Perry, Bush are all in favor of cutting Social Security. I want to expand it. Let’s have that debate,” he says. Sanders has never played party politics. He’s the great disrupter. He’s there to break the rules and regulations, and the voters are cheering him on.

Some say that a Jewish Democratic Socialist cannot win the general election. Of course many claimed nine years ago that an African American former community organizer with far less experience in the Senate than Sanders could not win. Plus for those who want a liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton, Sanders is not the only option, and there are still several months to go to see how the race develops.

While Clinton currently maintains a strong lead, the word inevitable is certainly no longer being heard. Martin O’Malley, who announced his campaign a couple of weeks ago, is hoping that more voters will see him as the progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton. This could happen as voters start paying more attention, and really look at the differences between the records of Clinton and her more liberal opponents. The Boston Globe reported on O’Malley campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire:

Martin O’Malley makes his way to the back of a crowded pub on a rainy night. He grabs a chair and climbs up.

“I’m running for president of the United States and I need your help,” he says, holding his right hand on his chest. He promises not to talk long. “We are going to do Q&A because that is the Iowa way.”

For O’Malley the Iowa way is the only way. The former Maryland governor’s narrow path to the Democratic nomination hinges on persuading people at this bar and in homes across the state to support him in the caucuses seven months from now, longtime advisers and donors agree. A strong second, or even an upset, is possible here in a way that isn’t in the cards anywhere else.

He knows it, too; that’s why he and a crew of staff piled into a white sport utility vehicle and drove at breakneck speeds past rain-soaked farms from event to event last week. Even though O’Malley’s name remains unfamiliar to many Iowans, and he still barely registers in that state’s polls, political elites have talked of an O’Malley presidential run since his early days as Baltimore’s mayor.

Joe Biden’s name has come up many times, with a Draft Biden movement setting up an early campaign structure should he decide to get in the race. His opposition to Clinton’s more militaristic views during the first four years of the Obama administration would give him an advantage among liberals over Clinton. It is also notable that it was Biden who pushed Obama to publicly support same-sex marriage, while Clinton continued for a while longer to believe it was a matter which should be left to the states. In addition, Lincoln Chafee has announced his candidacy, and Jim Webb is also expected to run.

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Don’t Believe The Latest Round Of Scare Stories On Health Insurance Premiums

health care reform

There have been a number of scare stories recently predicting huge increases in health insurance premiums for 2016 due to Obamacare. This year premiums went up much less than predicted and most likely the current predictions of doom will not come about. Two recent stories from NPR’s Morning Edition and The Hill provide a more realistic outlook:

The average insurance premium under ObamaCare is probably not headed toward a double-digit hike next year, according to new data.

Premiums for silver plans on the federal insurance exchanges are slated to increase an average of 5.8 percent in the eight states where all data is available, according to an analysis by Avalere Health. For the lowest-cost silver plans, that increase will be 4.5 percent, or an average of $378 per year.

That data, which includes Maryland and Michigan, comes after a string of headlines predicting steep cost increases for health insurance plans in 2016.

“While recent public attention has focused on a subset of plans that filed for premium increases of 10 percent or more, these data reveal that most plans are proposing more modest increases,” said the group’s senior vice president, Caroline Pearson.

Health insurance companies were required to file their rate increases by June 1, though under law, most are only required to seek approval for hikes of 10 percent or more — resulting in a skewed portrait of the increases.

That is an important point that the news is coming from those plans which are requesting the largest increases while the plans which desire lower increases do not make news. Morning Edition had more to put this in perspective.

The numbers released last week came out of a June 1 deadline, under the Affordable Care Act, that requires insurance companies to tell government regulators when they’re requesting price hikes of more than 10 percent. Some officials opposed to the law, like Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, decried the increases.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield, which is Montana’s largest insurer, is asking for an average increase of 23 percent for Montanans enrolled in individual plans,” he told colleagues from the U.S. Senate floor last week.

While that sounds scary, it turns out that Blue Cross Blue Shield in Montana is actually asking for large price hikes on just two plans it wants to offers in the state. While it’s not yet public how many they’ll offer in 2016, they currently offer 50 plans.

Caroline Pearson, vice president for health reform at the consulting firm Avalere Health, has been digging into available numbers on insurance pricing across several states. She says such price hikes are not the norm. She’s not seeing anything like a 20 percent average increase in the price of monthly premiums.

“Those are not necessarily the plans that hold the bulk of enrollment,” she says. “So, while some of those plans may be going up a lot in price, that doesn’t mean a lot of enrollees are necessarily affected.”

In the handful of states where data is available (Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Virginia, Vermont, Washington state and Washington, D.C.), Pearson says the majority of people buying health coverage on exchanges won’t face serious sticker shock.

“We have seen that about 6 percent average rate increases are expected for 2016,” Pearson says.

As Avalere looks at the less expensive plans, she says, “We’re seeing anywhere from a 5 percent increase for the lowest-cost plan available, to a 1 percent increase for the second-lowest-cost plan available. So we’re really looking at very modest increases — very consistent with what we saw from 2014 to 2015.”

With some plans planning large increases while other plans, including some from the same company, are only likely to have modest premium increases, my suspicion is that insurance companies are counting on some customers sticking with the same plan without shopping around. They will receive higher profits from those who stick with plans which jump the most in price, while consumers who take advantage of the exchange can switch to plans without huge premium increases.

Also note that these increases making the news are only requests. Another change under the Affordable Care Act is that it is possible that these larger premium increases will be denied.

As long as health care remains based upon private insurance companies we will continue to see premium increases. After all, double digit increases in premiums were extremely common before the Affordable Care Act was passed. While the ACA has expanded health care coverage and has resulted in some lower costs, the bulk of the proposed cost-containing provisions were stripped form the bill in order to achieve sixty votes to pass in the Senate. Some of the remaining provisions to lower costs are based more on long term changes in health care.

If cost control was the goal, then it would have made more sense to go for a single-payer plan as opposed to the far more modest bill which passed. Ironically Bill Kristol recently suggested, in an interview with Ezra Klein, that this is what the Democrats should have done:

Kristol’s perspective on this will be of some comfort to liberals. “I was never convinced that single-payer wouldn’t be more attractive than Obamacare,” he says. “I think there was some truth to the left-wing critique of Obamacare. You’re building this giant contraption, making people worried about disruption, but you’re helping a rather limited number of people. In a funny way, if you’re doing a middle-class entitlement, you should do a big middle-class entitlement.”

The problem is that there would have never been sixty votes to pass a single-payer plan. If ideas such as the public option and a buy-in to Medicare had to be dropped because of the opposition from Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, there is no way that sixty votes could have been obtained for a single-payer plan. The same article points out how Obamacare passed while Hillary Clinton’s more extensive plan from the 1990’s, which “would have upended the health insurance of most Americans” was easier for Republicans to defeat.

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Hillary Clinton Going For A Do-Over

Clinton Announcement Video Screen Grab

Hillary Clinton is reportedly launching her campaign tomorrow. I thought she had already done this. I guess that the last launch went so badly that she wants a do-over. Sure can’t blame her. She is falling in the polls. Her favorability and trust are damaged from serious scandals. She can’t handle questions from the news media. Many liberals are not buying her selective and limited attempts to try to sound like a progressive. As Bernie Sanders has said of her listening tour, “at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” Martin O’Malley has often pointed out that it is not necessary to pull him to the left like it is with Hillary Clinton. A speech will not change Clinton’s fundamentally conservative views on Wall Street, use of military force, civil liberties, the environment, and social issues.

Most likley Clinton will have a good sounding speech tomorrow, regardless of whether it lacks substance. The Note has some information on what to expect:

CLINTON TO UNVEIL TALK-ABOUT-HER-MOM STRATEGY AT FIRST CAMPAIGN RALLY: Hillary Clinton spent the opening weeks of her campaign addressing policy issues like criminal justice reform, voting rights, and equal pay for women. But as Clinton transitions to a new, more intense phase of her campaign, expect her to get personal. At Clinton’s first official campaign rally this Saturday in New York City, aides say the Democratic presidential candidate will make her most extensive pitch yet on why she should be president. And her late mother, Dorothy Rodham, will play a central role. “No one had a bigger influence on my life or did more to shape the person I became,” Clinton wrote of her mother in her most recent memoir, “Hard Choices.” According to ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ, at Clinton’s rally this weekend, where Bill and Chelsea Clinton are expected to make their first official campaign appearances, Clinton will explain how her mother’s story has motivated her to run for president. http://abcn.ws/1Iy11oL

–BACKSTORY: Over the years Clinton has often shared her mother’s life story, which was full of trauma and abuse. In Clinton’s telling, Dorothy Rodham was abandoned by her parents as a young girl and sent to live with her unloving paternal grandparents in California. At the age of 14 she left home and found work as a housekeeper.

–WHAT TEAM CLINTON IS SAYING: “She is a well-known figure but when you’re asking the American people to support you as president, even if it is for the second time, there is no skipping of steps,” Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri said in a statement. “If you want to understand Hillary Clinton, and what has motivated her career of fighting for kids and families, her mother is a big part of the story. The example she learned from her mother’s story is critical to knowing what motivated Hillary Clinton to first get involved in public service, and why people can count on her to fight for them and their families now.”

Wait a minute! Her campaign says, “there is no skipping of steps?” What about answering questions from the press? Isn’t that usually a step, as opposed to a campaign full of scripted performances with selected supporters? And what about speaking out on the big issues of the day? Isn’t that normally a step for a presidential candidate? What does she think of NSA surveillance, the situation in Iraq, or the trade agreements in the news, not to mention lots of other issues I and others have questions about? Rick Klein did reflect on this in the same post:

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: As the House votes, probably but finally, on President Obama’s trade agenda, it’s useful to take stock of what the fight has done to the Democratic Party and its 2016 debate. For starters, as Sen. Bernie Sanders pointed out Thursday, the trade issue has not divided the progressive community so much as it has cleaved it from more moderate, pro-business Democrats — including, of course, the White House. Howard Dean‘s brother, Jim, speaking on behalf of Democracy for America, warned Democrats who vote for fast-track negotiating authority or Trade Adjustment Assistance that “we will encourage our progressive allies to join us in leaving you to rot.” Yes, rot. It’s going to take more than a presidential trip to a baseball game to unwind comments like that. As for 2016, Hillary Clinton’s decision to not engage — and not even take a firm position — is itself a policy stance that has frustrated liberals along the way. But they don’t seem to have penetrated the debate in a way that’s made the Clinton campaign reconsider. The fact that a debate that’s torn Democrats apart to the point that they’re threatening to let each other “rot” has played out without the participation of the overwhelming frontrunner for president is nothing short of remarkable.

Yes, Hillary Clinton has learned to out-Nixon Richard Nixon. If Nixon’s downfall was his tapes, the lesson Clinton learned while working on Watergate was not “do not be a crook” but was to burn the tapes, or wipe the server. While Richard Nixon ran on a secret plan to end the Viet Nam war, Clinton just refuses to speak about the issues where she has problems.

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Clinton Criticized For Remaining Silent On Major Issues & Giving False Illusion Of A Move To The Left

Clinton wink

“at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” –Bernie Sanders on Hillary Clinton’s listening tour

While Clinton’s opponents such as Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders meeting with the press and are willing to answer questions as to what they believe (including Bernie Sanders in his interview on NPR this week), Hillary Clinton is receiving increased skepticism and criticism from some liberals for evading questions and avoiding the press. She has made a show of speaking out on selected topics, but often leaves out key details and refuses to answer questions on other key subjects. At Vox, Jonathan Allen makes some of the same points I made in this recent post in an article entitled The selective liberalism of Hillary Clinton:

There’s a term for the way Hillary Clinton has handled policy in the early stages of her campaign: Clintonian. That is, on the issues that most divide the Democratic base from its centrist wing, she refuses to box herself into a position. She’d rather wait to see how things play out — a tendency that reinforces the often asserted (but sometimes unfair) criticism that she doesn’t have core convictions. She’s thrilled that fast-food workers are fighting for a $15 minimum wage, but she won’t say whether she’ll fight for it — or even whether she thinks that’s the right level.

She’s decidedly undecided on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, even though she called it “the gold standard in trade agreements” when she was secretary of state.

And her campaign has completely dodged the question of whether she thinks her husband’s welfare reform law was the right policy.It’s true that Clinton has rolled out a string of positions that please constituencies on the left, from support for LGBT rights and voting rights to repudiating the results of her husband’s 1994 anti-crime law and vowing to enhance President Obama’s executive action on immigration. These are important issues, perhaps more important than the exact level of a wage increase that surely won’t be $15 an hour as long as Republicans control either the House or 41 seats in the Senate. But Clinton has been very selective about how she’s courted her party’s progressive base, speaking as much to identity politics as to actual policy. On some of the more controversial policy questions, she’s taking a pass. As Ruth Marcus put it in the Washington Post Wednesday morning, “The left-leaning positions she isn’t taking are as significant as the ones she has endorsed.”

The full post discussed Clinton’s honesty problem and contrasted her with Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. It concluded:

It’s tempting to think that Clinton has plenty of time because it’s early in the presidential election cycle or because her Democratic rivals probably don’t have what it takes to beat her in a primary. But by sidestepping important policy questions, she’s giving oxygen to doubts about her sincerity. That’s a character question that should be familiar to Clinton fans who watched Barack Obama turn honesty into a weapon against her in 2008, and it’s one that crosses party lines. Ultimately, Clinton is going to have to choose a side on these issues. The longer she takes, the more it looks like she’s afraid of commitment.

In the op-ed mentioned above, Ruth Marcus described Clinton’s leftward illusion. A.B. Stoddard has similar comments at The Hill, noting that on multiple current issues, “Clinton has been silent.”

This week in particular, the president Clinton hopes to replace — if she can break the historical trend that has allowed a party to win a third consecutive term in the White House only once since 1948 — is on edge. President Obama is simultaneously awaiting the outcome of a House vote on trade promotion authority, negotiations on a nuclear deal and a Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act that could potentially dismantle the country’s healthcare system. On all of these issues Clinton has been silent.

On Wednesday Obama announced a shift in his strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), sending 450 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to bolster the training of defense forces there. Since announcing her plans to run for president, Clinton has said little of the burgeoning wars in Iraq and Syria, except that she was wrong to support the 2003 war in Iraq and that, in the face of ISIS gaining strength and territory, it will be up to the Iraqis to protect their own country.

On trade, Democrats supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal are being slammed by the AFL-CIO and other labor groups for backing Obama on the measure. Meanwhile Clinton, who helped negotiate the agreement and promoted it during her tenure as secretary of State as “the gold standard” of trade deals, has taken little heat from Big Labor. Though it is clear she has access to every detail and Obama could use her help to pass the TPP, she continues to insist she can’t pass judgment until she sees the final product.

Clinton has worked hard to avoid the press since announcing her candidacy. And because of this, her ramp-up has been mostly defined by critical news stories about: the Clinton Foundation and the connection between its donors, both Clintons’ speaking gigs and lack of disclosure of donations; her violation of an agreement limiting those donations while she worked as secretary of State; who lobbied the department during her tenure after giving to the foundation; how Bill Clinton hid some money to avoid disclosure; and how Hillary Clinton placed most of her government work at the State Department on a private email server she has now destroyed. Her favorability ratings are now below 50 percent, 57 percent of voters don’t believe she is trustworthy, and the huge leads she held over potential GOP presidential candidates have shrunk to just a few points.

Clinton doesn’t like answering questions, so she likes to say the campaign isn’t about her, it’s all about the voters. That might be fine this year because she believes no one can defeat her for the Democratic nomination, but next year in the general election it will actually be about her. Support for same-sex marriage, debt-free college, campaign finance reform and more access to early voting may be appealing to her base, but they aren’t the most urgent issues. She should find the guts to confront them soon if she really wants to be president.

As Bernie Sanders said about Clinton this week, “at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” Besides these policy matters (and many others I’ve brought up from time to time which are not in the headlines), there remain many unanswered questions about the recent scandals, including those involving the Clinton Foundation. Chris Cillizia looked at Bill Clinton’s latest comments defending his actions and points out that Clinton still does not get it:

This is the latest in a string of statements by the former president that suggest he still doesn’t grasp why the Clinton Foundation questions continue to swirl and, because of that lack of understanding, remains unable to effectively parry them. Let’s go through the problems with Clinton’s answer.

First, there’s little doubt that some of the donations accepted by the Clinton Foundation have been viewed as objectionable by lots and lots of people. To cite one example: Allowing the Qatar Supreme 2022 Committee, organized to lure the World Cup to the nation, to serve as the main sponsor for a 2013 Clinton Global Initiative event. Qatar has been tied to not only allegations of wide-scale bribery of FIFA to acquire the games but is also the subject of widespread humanitarian concerns regarding the number of deaths related to the construction of the soccer stadiums to host the World Cup in 2022.

So, on its face, the claim that no one has come forward to object to certain donations/donors is just not right.

Then there is the fact that Clinton’s answer on the foundation seems to be based on the idea that he and his wife are operating in a legal sphere for the next two years. They’re not. They’re living in the world of politics — and the rules of that world are far different than those of a court of law.

Clinton’s argument boils down to the idea of a burden of proof. As in, if there’s something truly objectionable in what the foundation has done, then someone should prove it.  Legally speaking, Clinton’s right.  If you think he or the foundation broke some sort of law, then you should need to provide conclusive evidence of when, where, why, what and how.

But  of course, what we are mostly talking about when it comes to the Clinton Foundation is the gray area between contributions made by donors and decisions made by the foundation that benefited those people.  Proving that sort of quid pro quo in a legal setting is virtually impossible barring a smoking gun — like an e-mail that says: “Mr. X gave $300,000.  Let’s fund his project now.”

In politics, however, gray areas can be exploited to great advantage by your political opponents. Raising questions about the timing between donations to the Clinton Foundation and decisions made that lined the pockets of those donors is totally within the bounds of acceptable — and effective — negative messaging.  Republicans don’t need to prove that the Clinton Foundation did anything untoward. The burden of proof that there was no wrongdoing lies with the Clinton Foundation.

That reality clearly annoys Bill Clinton, and somewhat understandably. After all, the Clinton Foundation is a massive operation and, as Bill likes to point out, does lots and lots of work that has nothing to do with politics. “Do I have the most comprehensive disclosure of any presidential foundation? Yes,” Clinton said in that same Bloomberg interview. “Is our — our disclosures more extensive than most private foundations? Yes, they are, having nothing to do with politics.” (Sidebar: It’s not clear that Clinton’s claim about the foundation’s disclosure policies is totally accurate.)

Here’s the problem for Bill: No other foundation in the world is run by a former president and a former secretary of state who also happens to be the de facto Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. That fact means that the Clinton Foundation isn’t like any other foundation in the world — and  therefore, how all of those other foundations treat disclosure is sort of immaterial.

It also remains significant that Hillary Clinton had agreed to disclose donors to the Foundation when she was Secretary of State, and then failed to do so.

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Bernie Sanders Contrasts His Views With Those Of Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders facebook

“I voted against the war in Iraq. I had the same information as Hillary Clinton did, but I understood the enormous destabilization that would take place.” –Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders was interviewed by Diane Rehm on Wednesday. The full audio and transcript is available here. Early in the interview Rehm asked Sanders how he differs from Hillary Clinton. Here is his response:

REHM And where do you think you differ most from frontrunner Hillary Clinton?

SANDERS I was the first member of Congress to take people over the Canadian border to get lower cost prescription drugs and have taken on the pharmaceutical industry. That is my record and the voters will have to decide whether, in fact, Hillary Clinton’s record is one in which she has prepared to stand up to powerful special interests. An example, I happen to believe that our series of trade policies, from NAFTA, CAFTA to permanent normal trade relations with China have been a disaster, resulted in the loss of millions of decent paying jobs as corporations in this country shut down and moved to low wage countries.

SANDERS I am firmly opposed to the TTP, helping to lead the effort against it. Hillary Clinton has not yet voiced her opinion on it. I voted against the war in Iraq. I had the same information as Hillary Clinton did, but I understood the enormous destabilization that would take place. In fact, if you go to YouTube and look at a speech that I gave in opposition to that war, sadly enough, much of what I said turned out to be true. I am one of the leaders in the Congress in fighting to transform our energy system because I believe that climate change is the great planetary crisis that we face.

SANDERS I believe in what the scientists are telling us. I lead the effort against the Keystone Pipeline. Hillary Clinton has not yet voiced an opinion on that. I voted against the USA Patriot Act because while I understand that terrorism is serious and a real threat, I believe that we can protect the American people without undermining our constitutional rights or our privacy rights.

REHM And, of course, Hillary Clinton is doing a lot more listening than talking these days. Why do you think that is?

SANDERS Well, it’s, obviously good to listen and I’ve been out on the campaign trail and listening to many, many thousands of people who’ve come out to our meetings. But at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America. We, as a nation, have got to address the reality that for 40 years, the great middle class of this country is disappearing and that today almost all new income and new wealth is going to the top 1 percent…

Sanders had a lot more to say about his views during the interview. The interview also received media coverage due to Diane Rehm asking a question based upon false rumors that Sanders has duel citizenship with Israel. This was corrected during the interview and on the her web site:

An Apology From Diane

On today’s show, I made a mistake. Rather than asking Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders whether he had dual U.S./Israeli citizenship, as I had read in a comment on Facebook, I stated it as fact.

He corrected me, saying he did not know where the question came from. I apologized immediately.

I want to apologize as well to all our listeners for having made an erroneous statement. I am sorry for the mistake. However, I am glad to play a role in putting this rumor to rest.

— Diane

In contrast to Sanders, Hillary Clinton has refused to grant media interviews and has rarely responded to questions from the press since announcing her candidacy.

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Meaningless But Hopeful News For Sanders And O’Malley

Favorability Fictional Characters And Politicians

This week has a lot of somewhat encouraging news, even if it all has zero predictive value. Bernie Sanders came unexpectedly close to Clinton in the Wisconsin straw poll. While straw polls are pretty much meaningless, as we saw with all those straw poll victories by fringe candidates like Ron Paul, it could be a sign of the enthusiasm for Sanders, which has also been seen elsewhere, and Sanders has far more upside potential than Paul ever had. The first Daily Kos Democratic Straw Poll shows Sanders leading Clinton by more than two to one at the time I am writing. Then there is the survey pictured above.

The data is based upon the favorability of politicians from the latest Quinnipiac poll along with Google Consumer Survey questions on famous movie villains. The Terminator, Darth Vader, and the Shark from Jaws beat all politicians. No surprise there. It is also not surprising that Donald Trump has the lowest favorability of all.

It is also interesting to look at the non-fictional candidates. Of the potential 2016 candidates, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio both beat Hillary Clinton,  and Martin O’Malley, who has barely started his campaign is not far behind Clinton. The latest polls show a sharp drop for Clinton and if this continues she might even wind up below Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Voldemort.

At the moment, it looks like Bernie Sanders is the most electable based upon this chart.

Of course the more meaningful numbers are in the recent polling results showing that support for Clinton is falling among Democrats.

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Forget The Benghazi Nonsense–Clinton Finally Facing More Questions On Her Real Mistakes In Libya

Clinton Email

Republicans often turn out to inadvertently be Hillary Clinton’s best friend. They are never satisfied with criticizing Clinton’s real faults, and instead feel compelled to fabricate what sounds like far more serious crimes. Thus criticism of Clinton’s actual policy mistakes in Libya as Secretary of State have been largely ignored because Republicans think find that they can raise more money by attacking Clinton over conspiracy theories leading to the deaths in Benghazi.

Clinton’s push for intervention in Libya has often been criticized by Rand Paul, but he has too many problems with credibility. There has been some criticism from the anti-war left. The Nation recently ran a story critical of both Clinton’s rational for intervening and overthrowing Gaddafi and for her the execution. There is a sign that the issue might be entering more mainstream conversation with CNN reporting on the issue:

She’s already grappling with the political headaches from deleted emails and from the terror attack that left four Americans dead in Benghazi.

But she’ll face a broader challenge in what’s become of the North African country since, as secretary of state in 2011, she was the public face of the U.S. intervention to push out its longtime strongman, Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya’s lapse into the chaos of failed statehood has provided a breeding ground for terror and a haven for groups such as ISIS. Its plight is also creating an opening for Republican presidential candidates to question Clinton’s strategic acumen and to undermine her diplomatic credentials, which will be at the center of her pitch that only she has the global experience needed to be president in a turbulent time.

One person who is thinking of joining the Democratic primary battle does have a record of criticizing Clinton on this issue:

Democrats voice concern on Libya

Concern over what has become of Libya is not confined to the Republican Party.

Possible Democratic challenger Jim Webb, a former Virginia senator, complained in a recent appearance with CNN’s Jake Tapper that: “We blew the lid off of a series of tribal engagements. You can’t get to the Tripoli Airport right now, much less Benghazi.”

Though Webb did not criticize Clinton directly, his comments raise the possibility that the issue could surface in the Democratic primary race.

So Clinton must be ready to explain why she backed a military operation in a region laced with extremism without effective planning for the aftermath. It’s the kind of question that has long challenged Republicans in the wake of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Clinton’s campaign declined to comment for this story, so it is unclear whether what happened in Libya after Gadhafi fell has changed her thinking on military intervention.

It has been typical Clinton to refuse to answer questions from the press on controversial topics, making it difficult to take Clinton’s liberal rhetoric on limited issues seriously. This, along with other advocacy of military force as Secretary of State, suggests she has not changed her thinking sufficiently since when she pushed for war in Iraq based upon nonexistent claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s recommendations for Libya were often a repeat of the mistakes made in Iraq.

The article further discussed how things have gone wrong in Libya, and Clinton’s role in pushing for intervention:

Clinton has little choice but to own what happened in Libya. An email to Clinton in April 2012 from her former top adviser Jake Sullivan, released last month, appears to show that initially her aides were keen to trumpet her role in the intervention and saw it as legacy-enhancing.

Clinton ‘a critical voice on Libya’

“HRC has been a critical voice on Libya in administration deliberations, at NATO, and in contact group meetings — as well as the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya. She was instrumental in securing the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime,” Sullivan wrote.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates also describes her pivotal role in the decision making in his memoir.

Gates said the intervention, which he initially opposed, split the administration down the middle, with heavy hitters such as Vice President Joe Biden and national security adviser Tom Donilon also against.

On the other side were U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Council staffers including Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power.

If Joe Biden decides to enter the race, foreign policy could receive greater consideration. This was typical of the first four years of the Obama administration, with Biden opposing Clinton on foreign policy. Bernie Sanders has also had reservations over this intervention in Libya while Lincoln Chafee has made criticism of Clinton’s support for the Iraq war a key issue in his campaign.

Clinton’s failed policies in Libya might also tie into the email and Clinton Foundation scandals since it was revealed that she was receiving advice on Libya from Sydney Blumenthal, who was both receiving $10,000 per month from the Foundation and was involved with Libyan companies, suggesting further conflicts of interest. The bigger issue is Clinton’s history of both poor decisions and hawkish views on foreign policy, which risk getting the country involved in further needless wars should she be elected.

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Wisconsin Straw Poll: Clinton 49% Sanders 41%

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A straw poll is far from conclusive, and Wisconsin might not be a typical state, but the results of the Wisconsin straw poll are certainly interesting after months of hearing that Hillary Clinton is unbeatable:

Hillary Clinton 252
Bernie Sanders 208
Joe Biden 16
Martin O’Malley 16
Jim Webb 8
Lincoln Chafee 5
No vote 1

(Write-ins:)
Elizabeth Warren 4
Tom Vilsack 1

Sanders has spent a lot of time in Wisconsin, making we wonder if other candidates might also do take votes from Clinton after they campaign against her in Wisconsin, and possibly elsewhere. Along with the national polls last week showing a considerable reduction in Clinton’s support, it is increasingly looking like it is premature to just assume Clinton will be the nominee. She continues to have a significant lead, but with many Democrats questioning both her honesty and her conservative positions, it just might be possible that someone will repeat what Obama did and win the nomination despite the belief that her victor is inevitable.

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Hillary Clinton Is Correct On Voting Rights But Cannot Get Away With Cherry Picking Her Fights Forever

Clinton Voting Rights

Sometimes the Clintons are masterful politicians. Staking out a strong position in favor of protection of voting rights was an excellent move by Hillary Clinton for many reasons. It contrasts her with her Republican opponents on the right–as opposed to where she is weak on the issues against her Democratic opponents on the left. It helps expose the Republicans who oppose her as opposing voting rights, leaving them with weak arguments such as raising claims of virtually non-existent voting fraud. Republicans are not in a good position when they whine that allowing more people to vote will mean more people will vote for Democrats. Unlike many liberal positions which go against the grain of Clinton’s cultural conservatism, this is an issue where she undoubtedly does feel comfortable taking the liberal side, as it is not only the right position, but the one which helps her in the election.

This very likely will be Clinton’s strategy. Take liberal positions which will receive popular support (but avoid taking questions so she still has plenty of wiggle room to move to the right), stay quiet on other controversial issues, and stonewall on her personal strategies.

It remains questionable as to how long this will work. She certainly should manage to continue to find some liberal positions to try to shore up Democratic support, even if she leaves some liberals unsatisfied in the cases where she leaves out all important specifics and refuses to answer questions. At this early stage she might get away with avoiding talk about issues where she is to the right of the Democratic Party, from trade to NSA surveillance, but sooner or later voters might start to wonder why she is keeping quiet on so many issues.

The biggest problem might turn out to be the major ethical violations which she refuses to honestly answer questions about. Initially the conventional wisdom was that people already had their minds made up about the Clintons and a couple more scandal wouldn’t matter. That was until the latest polls, showing Clinton losing leads over the top Republican candidates, and falling tremendously on measures such as favorability and honesty. As long as Clinton remains unable to provide any honest answers the scandals will probably continue to hurt her. Some old Clinton hands, along with groups such as Media Matters which are closely aligned with the Clinton campaign. will continue to spin and distort the facts in her favor, but there might be a growing number who abandon her in favor of the truth. For example, when ABC News asked Robert Reich about the latest polls his response was not at all supportive:

The number of people, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll, who see Hillary Clinton as trustworthy has dropped in recent months. Why do you think this is?

RR: She hasn’t yet given a convincing explanation for why she used a private email account when she was secretary of state, and why she and her husband have made so many speeches for hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop from special interests that presumably want something in return. In other words, she needs to be more open and transparent about everything.

Yes. about everything. But that is never how Hillary Clinton has operated, showing a long history of opposition to both personal and government transparency.

While I disagree with much of what Megan McArdle wrote (especially her mischaracterization of Martin O’Malley’s record), she very will might be right that Clinton Support Has Nowhere to Go But Down. Clinton might  improve in the polls from time to time, but she is looking like a progressively weaker candidate for a general election campaign. Fred Barnes is also right that “Stonewalls can work, but not forever and not in the midst of a presidential campaign. A minimal requirement of candidates is that they converse with the press. It looks bad when they don’t. It looks like they’re hiding something.”

The sad thing is that, while Clinton takes the high road on voting rights, her overall conduct leaves her so wide upon to such valid criticism from the right. She is going to have to do better for Democrats to avoid a repeat of 2014 when running Republican-lite candidates led to Democratic voters staying home.

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Lincoln Chafee Enters Race For Democratic Nomination–Attacks Clinton On Iraq

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Lincoln Chafee has become the fourth candidate for the Democratic nomination, becoming the third liberal to enter the race along with front-runner Hillary Clinton. Bloomberg reported earlier in the day:

Chafee, 62, left the governor’s mansion in January and announced in April he had formed an exploratory committee. He has said he would focus a presidential campaign on growing the middle class by raising the minimum wage and supporting social programs such as Head Start. He has also indicated he will target primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton on her vote to authorize the Iraq War when they both served in the Senate. The vote, which hurt Clinton in her 2008 bid, raises questions about her judgment, Chafee has said.

“I don’t think anybody should be president of the United States that made that mistake,” Chafee told the Washington Post in April. “It’s a huge mistake, and we live with broad, broad ramifications today—of instability not only in the Middle East but far beyond and the loss of American credibility. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”

Environmental stewardship and “protection of personal liberties,” such as freedom from phone searches and the right to an abortion, are other priorities of Chafee’s, according to his exploratory committee website.

I will put aside the horse race matters for now, with us all knowing he is a long shot, and give him a chance to make the case for his candidacy. Clinton’s poor showing in the recent polls certainly does leave her looking far less inevitable.

It would be good to have a candidate challenging Clinton on her foreign policy issues. I do hope that he goes beyond just her support for the Iraq War and looks at her overall hawkish world view which is virtually indistinguishable from the neocons. In looking at her position on Iraq, I would also suggest that Chafee go beyond just her vote to authorize force. While any Democrat who voted for the war was wrong at the time, there was a considerable variation in views among those who did vote to authorize force. Some, such as John Kerry, looked at the evidence, and in the lead up to the war argued many times that there was no justification to use the authorization and go to war. On the other extreme were Democrats such as Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton, who strongly supported going to war. Clinton went far beyond most Democratic supporters of the war in making false claims of a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Chafee is having some trouble being taken seriously as a Democratic candidate due to only joining the Democratic Party two years ago. Bernie Sanders has also been an independent, but he has also been consistently liberal and was never a Republican. Chafee points out that, “Jim Webb was a Republican and Senator Clinton was a Goldwater Girl.” In many ways Hillary Clinton’s views have not changed very much from when she was a Goldwater Girl, except that Barry Goldwater was more liberal on social liberal than Clinton and would probably condemn Clinton’s association with the religious right. Clinton is even using a variation of Goldwater’s old campaign logo as her current campaign logo.

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