Why Obama, Or Sanders, Could Have Beaten Donald Trump

There has been a lot of playing “what if” after Donald Trump unexpectedly beat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Now Barack Obama has joined in, saying he could have beaten Donald Trump if he was able to run again:

“I am confident in this vision because I’m confident that if I — if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it,” Obama told his former senior adviser, David Axelrod, on the “Axe Files” podcast published Monday. “I know that in conversations that I’ve had with people around the country, even some people who disagreed with me, they would say the vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one.”

Full transcript of the interview is here.

I agree Obama would have probably won, but to say he would have won because of his vision alone is an over-simplification. There are many more specific reasons why I think Obama could have beaten Trump, even if Clinton could not.

While Clinton tried to run by winning the Obama coalition and running for Obama’s third term, she failed to understand that part of the Obama coalition came together in 2008 due to seeing Obama as the best shot at beating Hillary Clinton and keeping her out of the White House. We continued to oppose Clinton in 2016 for the same reasons we opposed Clinton in 2008, and opposed George W. Bush prior to that.

Clinton was about the worst possible candidate to put up against Donald Trump, and some of this could be seen in the differences between Clinton and Obama. While disappointed that we remain at war in Iraq and the region, at least Obama opposed the war from the start. He recognized that regime change in Libya, which Clinton was the primary proponent of, was the biggest mistake of his administration, while Clinton continued to defend her failed policy. Obama opposed escalating intervention in Syria which Clinton backed, often for rather absurd reasons.

Not only was listening to Clinton on  Libya the biggest foreign policy mistake of his administration, the domestic policy mistake which hurt Obama the most also involved accepting a Clinton policy position–accepting the individual mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act, after he had campaigned against Clinton on this point. While it would be necessary to make health care reform more complicated to avoid the free-rider problem, making the program mandatory in this manner was guaranteed to create considerable public opposition to the program.

Obama managed to keep his administration free of scandal–except for the actions by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. This made her a much weaker candidate than Obama, and eliminated what would have been an advantage for Democrats on the conflicts of interest Trump faced. Clinton’s dishonesty, emphasized by both her dishonest campaign against Sanders and her frequent lies in response to the email scandal, also negated Trump’s negatives for his dishonesty.

Obama would have also done a far better job of campaigning. He had an approval rating far stronger than either Clinton or Trump. He wouldn’t have hidden from the press as Clinton often did. People would have turned out to see him, as they did with Trump but not with Clinton. Clinton was weak in the traditional battle ground states, among independents, and among young voters. Obama could have kept most of these voters. He might have lost an occasional state such as possibly Ohio, but not multiple states as Clinton did.

Of course similar arguments would have applied to other potential candidates. While Obama could not legally run again, the Democrats did have a strong alternative in Bernie Sanders. He did much better than Clinton in head to head polls against Trump and other Republicans during the nomination battle.  Sanders also could have turned out the voters which Clinton could not. He could have won in the rust belt states which Trump picked up. There would have been no FBI investigations, and no revelations of a crooked process for Wiikleaks to release if Sanders was the nominee.

Julian Assange On The Election Of Donald Trump And Defeat Of Hillary Clinton

Julian Assange and Wikileaks had a significant impact on the Democratic Party. The revelations in the leaked email led to the removal of Debby Wasserman Schultz as chairperson of the Democratic National Committee and very likely had an effect on the results of the general election. La Republica interviewed Assange. This is what he had to say about the United States election:

WikiLeaks published documents on Hillary Clinton and the US Democrats. How do you reply to those who accuse you of having helped to elect Mr. Trump?
“What is the allegation here exactly? We published what the Democratic National Committee, John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, and Hillary Clinton herself were saying about their own campaign, which the American people read and were very interested to read, and assessed the elements and characters, and then they made a decision. That decision was based on Hillary Clinton’s own words, her campaign manager’s own words. That’s democracy”.

Do you agree with those who say that it was a hit job, because you hit Hillary Clinton when she was most vulnerable, during the final weeks of her campaign?
“No, we have been publishing about Hillary Clinton for many years, because of her position as Secretary of State. We have been publishing her cables since 2010 and her emails also. We are domain experts on Clinton and her post 2008 role in government. This is why it is natural for sources who have information on Hillary Clinton to come to us. They know we will understand its significance”.

So Clinton is gone, has WikiLeaks won?
“We were pleased to see how much of the American public interacted with the material we published. That interaction was on both sides of politics, including those to the left of Hillary Clinton those who supported Bernie Sanders, who were able to see the structure of power within the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and how the Clintons had placed Debbie Wasserman Schultz to head up the DNC and as a result the DNC had tilted the scales of the process against Bernie Sanders”.

What about Donald Trump? What is going to happen?
“If the question is how I personally feel about the situation, I am mixed: Hillary Clinton and the network around her imprisoned one of our alleged sources for 35 years, Chelsea Manning, tortured her according to the United Nations, in order to implicate me personally. According to our publications Hillary Clinton was the chief proponent and the architect of the war against Libya. It is clear that she pursued this war as a staging effort for her Presidential bid. It wasn’t even a war for an ideological purpose. This war ended up producing the refugee crisis in Europe, changing the political colour of Europe, killing more than 40,000 people within a year in Libya, while the arms from Libya went to Mali and other places, boosting or causing civil wars, including the Syrian catastrophe. If someone and their network behave like that, then there are consequences. Internal and external opponents are generated. Now there is a separate question on what Donald Trump means”.

What do you think he means?
“Hillary Clinton’s election would have been a consolidation of power in the existing ruling class of the United States. Donald Trump is not a DC insider, he is part of the wealthy ruling elite of the United States, and he is gathering around him a spectrum of other rich people and several idiosyncratic personalities. They do not by themselves form an existing structure, so it is a weak structure which is displacing and destabilising the pre-existing central power network within DC. It is a new patronage structure which will evolve rapidly, but at the moment its looseness means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better”.

In these ten years of WikiLeaks, you and your organisation have experienced all sorts of attacks. What have you learned from this warfare?
“Power is mostly the illusion of power. The Pentagon demanded we destroy our publications. We kept publishing. Clinton denounced us and said we were an attack on the entire “international community”. We kept publishing. I was put in prison and under house arrest. We kept publishing. We went head to head with the NSA getting Edward Snowden out of Hong Kong, we won and got him asylum. Clinton tried to destroy us and was herself destroyed. Elephants, it seems, can be brought down with string. Perhaps there are no elephants”.

While there is potential for significant harm under Donald Trump, bringing down such a tremendous force for evil on the world stage such as Hillary Clinton would be a great victory.  While the revelations from Wikileaks were damaging to Clinton, it is not clear how much they actually affected the election. They primarily acted to verify criticism already being made of Clinton by Sanders supporters and her opponents on the left.

Having Wikileaks as a major news story in October was probably harmful in that this centered much of the discussion in the final days of the election on Clinton’s flaws as opposed to Donald Trump’s flaws. The polls seemed to show signs of limited memory on the part of many voters as Clinton’s lead seemed to grow or diminish based upon which candidate was receiving the most coverage. With Donald Trump staying quieter in the final days of the campaign, it did probably hurt Clinton to have her flaws dominate the news between the Wikileaks revelations, along with further discussion of the FBI investigation of her email.

FiveThirtyEight.com tried to objectively measure the degree of damage done to Clinton by Wikileaks but the answer is not clear to them either:

There just isn’t a clean-cut story in the data. For instance, you might have expected a decline in the percentage of Americans who trusted Clinton after Wikileaks began its releases. As Politico’s Ken Vogel pointed out in mid-October, both Trump campaign officials and even progressives said the Wikileaks emails revealed that Clinton would be “compromised” if she became president. But the percentage of Americans who found Clinton to be honest or trustworthy stayed at around 30 percent in polling throughout October and into November.

The evidence that Wikileaks had an impact, therefore, is circumstantial. Trump, for instance, won among voters who decided who to vote for in October 51 percent to 37 percent, according to national exit polls. That’s Trump’s best time period. He carried voters who decided in the final week, when you might expect Comey’s letter to have had the largest impact, 45 percent to 42 percent. (Although, Trump’s margin among those who decided in the final week was wider in the exit polls in some crucial swing states.) And while Clinton’s lead was dropping in the FiveThirtyEight polls-only forecast before the Comey letter was released, the drop accelerated slightly afterward.

Of course, one thing didn’t sink Clinton. The evidence suggests Wikileaks is among the factors that might have contributed to her loss, but we really can’t say much more than that.

Julian Assange also discussed other topics. Among the most interesting was the status of opposition voices in Russia:

“In Russia, there are many vibrant publications, online blogs, and Kremlin critics such as [Alexey] Navalny are part of that spectrum. There are also newspapers like “Novaya Gazeta”, in which different parts of society in Moscow are permitted to critique each other and it is tolerated, generally, because it isn’t a big TV channel that might have a mass popular effect, its audience is educated people in Moscow. So my interpretation is that in Russia there are competitors to WikiLeaks, and no WikiLeaks staff speak Russian, so for a strong culture which has its own language, you have to be seen as a local player. WikiLeaks is a predominantly English-speaking organisation with a website predominantly in English. We have published more than 800,000 documents about or referencing Russia and president Putin, so we do have quite a bit of coverage, but the majority of our publications come from Western sources, though not always. For example, we have published more than 2 million documents from Syria, including Bashar al-Assad personally. Sometimes we make a publication about a country and they will see WikiLeaks as a player within that country, like with Timor East and Kenya. The real determinant is how distant that culture is from English. Chinese culture is quite far away”.

The Guardian, in its coverage of this interview, did point out how bleak the situation is in Russia:

Dozens of journalists have been killed in Russia in the past two decades, and Freedom House considers the Russian press to be “not free” and notes: “The main national news agenda is firmly controlled by the Kremlin. The government sets editorial policy at state-owned television stations, which dominate the media landscape and generate propagandistic content.”

Clintons Continue To Blame Others For Their Loss But Democrats Must Face The Facts To Recover

Normally when someone loses an election they keep relatively quiet. I thought that the horror of seeing Donald Trump being elected president would at least be balanced by being through with the Clintons. That has not been the case. Since losing the election Hillary Clinton, who has never had a very good record on First Amendment issues, has essentially been promoting censorship when calling on Congress to take action against the “fake news” which has been negative towards her, along with fueling the recent surge in anti-Russia hysteria. The Clintons are also keeping Democrats from taking an honest look at why they lost with their constant claims that they lost because of Russia, James Comey, angry white men, Bernie voters, Stein voters, and the media, never taking any responsibility for the terrible campaign Clinton ran and her flaws which kept people from wanting to vote for her.

Michael Daly commented on this at The Daily Beast:

Former President Bill Clinton is quick to apportion blame for his wife’s defeat.
“James Comey cost her the election,” Clinton was quoted telling a group of holiday shoppers during an impromptu chat in a Westchester County bookshop last week.

But he has yet to place any blame at all on an otherwise great man with a great fault who bears considerably more responsibility for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

That man is Bill Clinton himself. His great fault is one he shares with his wife; they too often act as if rules that apply to you or me do not apply to them.

Clinton apologists totally ignore the fact that there would have not been a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton if Clinton had not violated the rules regarding handling email, as documented in the State Department Inspector General report, and then go on to repeatedly lie about the situation.

Similarly, Clinton would not have been harmed by the hacking of John Podesta’s email (regardless of whether they were Wikileaks source–which has not been proven), if the email did not contain such incriminating information about the actions of Clinton and the DNC.

It would have also been better if Clinton had come clean on everything months earlier when the scandals broke, rather than engaging in a coverup, putting herself at risk of all hell breaking loose in the final days of the campaign.

None of this might have mattered if Clinton hadn’t run such a terrible campaign. This includes the mistakes made in states such as Michigan, and ignoring the advice of Sanders supporters. Asawin Suebsaeng wrote:

Ever since election night—when Hillary Clinton tanked and Donald Trump became the next leader of the free world—the most prominent allies and alumni of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign have maintained a succinct message for Team Hillary: We. Told. You. So.

In the final months of the brutal and chaotic 2016 campaign, there were plenty of Democratic activists freaking out about Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (the three states that ultimately cost the Democrats the White House) and Clinton’s fatal shortcomings there. Many of them were envoys of the Sanders camp who wanted to help fix those problems, including Clinton’s difficulties with the block of the mythical “white-working-class,” economically anxious voters who Sanders had championed during the primaries.

“They fucking ignored us on all these [three] battleground states [while] we were sounding the alarm for months,” Nomiki Konst, a progressive activist and former Sanders surrogate who served on the 2016 Democratic National Committee platform committee, told The Daily Beast. “We kept saying to each other like, ‘What the fuck, why are they just blowing us off? They need these voters more than anybody.’”

Later in the article:

“The Clinton campaign believed they had the strongest and brightest people in the room… and they had no concept of why people would choose Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton,” Kleeb continued. “They mocked us, they made fun of us. They always had a… model that was supposed to save the day. We were street activists and they don’t get that. And that’s a fundamental divide. They ran a check-the-box, sanitized campaign. And voters don’t think like that. You don’t win elections that way.”

Clinton failed to take advantage of what the Sanders campaign had already figured out about the electorate in 2016, and ignored the voters who backed Sanders over her in the primaries. Dave Lindorff discussed how It Wasn’t the Russians: Hillary Lost Because She Blew Off Sanders and His Voters:

The truth is that it was Clinton’s own actions that lost her the support of Sanders voters. Her repeating lying about Sanders during the campaign, and her gratuitous dissing of Sanders and his supporters even after it was becoming clearer that she would win the primary because of the corrupt support she had lined up from the party’s unelected so-called “super delegates,” and her decision in the fall, after winning the nomination, to ignore the 13 million Sanders voters from the primary and instead to pursue the support of what she hoped were disenchanted Republican voters upset that Donald Trump had won the Republican nomination, all doomed her in the general election.

If the Democrats are to recover, they must learn from the mistakes they made in nominating a flawed candidate such as Hillary Clinton,  along with also suffering loses when running as a Republican-lite party in 2010 and 2014. It does no good to claim Clinton did nothing wrong in the email/Foundation scandals as many Clinton supporters still argue, or to place the blame on others for losing the election.

Trump Sons Selling Access To President-Elect In Exchange For Donations

Under the best of circumstances there will be major conflicts of interest and ethical problems when someone with business interests as vast as those held by Donald Trump becomes president. One argument often given for supporting Trump was that he was so wealthy that he would not need to take advantage of using his government position to make money. This assumes a type of ultra-moral human which Trump has given no indication of being. It remains to be seen how Trump will act as president but there are already questions raised by the actions of his kids. The Center For Public Integrity reports that Donald Trump’ sons are selling access to their father:

A new Texas nonprofit led by Donald Trump’s grown sons is offering access to the freshly-minted president during inauguration weekend — all in exchange for million-dollar donations to unnamed “conservation” charities, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.

And the donors’ identities may never be known.

Prospective million-dollar donors to the “Opening Day 2017” event — slated for Jan. 21, the day after inauguration, at Washington, D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center — receive a “private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump,” a “multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team,” as well as tickets to other events and “autographed guitars by an Opening Day 2017 performer.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Trump team is disputing the connection between Trump’s sons and the event. A spokesperson stated, “Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid outdoorsman and supporters of conservation efforts, which align with the goals of this event, however they are not involved in any capacity.” The Wall Street Journal disputes this:

The filing with the Texas secretary of state shows the Trumps were registered as directors for the nonprofit on Dec. 14. The registered agent for the group is Gentry Beach, a longtime friend of Donald Jr. whom the president-elect last month appointed to his inaugural committee…

In addition to Mr. Trump’s sons, two top fundraisers for Mr. Trump registered with the Texas secretary of state as directors of the nonprofit: Mr. Beach, an investor, and Tom Hicks Jr., son of a Dallas billionaire. Both are listed as co-chairmen for the fundraiser, and last month Mr. Trump appointed them to serve as finance vice-chairmen for his inaugural committee.

This sounds like the same type of influence peddling by the Clintons which Trump criticized during the campaign. Rather than draining the swamp, the Trump family appears to be swimming in it.

Beyond this, there are serious questions raised by Trump’s children being on the transition team while also planning to take control of the family’s business when Trump becomes president.

Record Number Of Electors Refuse To Vote For This Year’s Dreadful Choices

The bad new first is that Donald Trump has received enough electoral votes to become president. The good news is that Hillary Clinton lost again. As expected, the attempts to deny Trump a majority in the electoral college were totally unsuccessful.

In a year with two of the worst candidates imaginable, a new record has been set for electors who failed to vote with their state’s votes, with more likely to have switched their votes if not for state laws interfering, along with the realization that it was a futile effort. While it is unprecedented to have this number of “unfaithful” electors, there weren’t enough to change the result:

Ultimately, Kasich earned one vote from an elector in Texas. So did former representative Ron Paul (R-Tex.). In Washington state, three electors cast votes for former secretary of state Colin Powell, while another voted for Faith Spotted Eagle, a member of the Sioux Native American tribe from South Dakota who opposes the Dakota Access Pipeline. Pence earned the requisite electoral votes to serve as vice president, but in Washington state, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also earned some votes.

Politico points out that some of those who attempted to vote for other candidates were replaced by other electors under laws in their states:

Seven Democratic electors attempted to vote against Clinton — four in Washington state and one each in Minnesota, Maine and Colorado. But three of the seven who attempted to buck Clinton were replaced by state election officials, raising questions about whether their “faithless” votes will be counted. In Colorado, a leader of the anti-Trump Democratic electors, Micheal Baca, was replaced by Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams for his attempted faithless vote.

The majority of the electors who voted for someone other than the winner in their state were Clinton electors, therefore barely impacting Trump’s total. Some Democratic electors had the goal of voting for a moderate Republican in the hopes that there would be anti-Trump Republican electors willing to do the same. An additional elector in Maine initially voted for Bernie Sanders, but a second ballot was held after his vote was declared out of order. He gave his reasons in a Facebook post.

Having the popular vote winner fail to win in the electoral college, along with the attempts to alter the results in the electoral college, has raised questions once again as to whether the electoral college should be abolished. Of course Republicans will never go along with abolishing it as long as the situation benefits them, having won two elections in recent years despite losing the popular vote.

Sparsely populated red states receive more electoral votes per voter than many of the larger blue states, although this year the demographics of the swing states were more important in determining the outcome in favor the the Republican candidate.

It should be kept in mind that there is no way to know who would have won if the election was based upon the popular vote. The candidates would have used a different strategy than they used in 2016. Donald Trump might have won the popular vote if this determined the winner by campaigning for votes in large safely Democratic states which he ignored. He also might have achieved higher turnout in red states if the number mattered.

While the electoral college is in need of reform, we also need to look at the nominating process which failed miserably this year in providing Trump and Clinton as the major party candidates.

Update: Electors in Colorado and Minnesota also tried to vote for Sanders but were prevented from doing so.

The Search For Excuses For Clinton’s Loss Continues, Dividing Clintonland

Hillary Clinton and her supporters continue to blame others for her loss to Donald Trump, despite a poorly run campaign with an unpopular candidate. James Comey was a hero to Hillary Clinton and her supporters when Comey announced his recommendation against prosecution, but now, along with Vladimir Putin, he is receiving the blame in Clintonland for Hillary Clinton’s loss. Attacks on the FBI by John  Podesta have now prompted Loretta Lynch, generally seen as an ally of the Clintons, to break rank and defend Comey over both the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the election and the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. CNN reports:

Attorney General Loretta Lynch defended the FBI’s handling of investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, swatting away criticism from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman as uninformed…

Much of the trashing happened in The Washington Post, where Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta lambasted the agency as slow to respond.

“He’s not involved in the ongoing investigation so he wouldn’t be privy to everything that would have been done or said to that. But as I said, he’s entitled to his opinion,” Lynch said of Podesta. “I can tell you that this investigation was taken seriously from the beginning.”

Lynch repeatedly declined to address Podesta’s specific allegations, saying she could not comment on an ongoing investigation. But she suggested that the longtime Democratic power-broker was tainted by his political connections and was not an unbiased observer.

“I know also because of his involvement with the campaign, he’s going to have a certain interest in this and a certain view of that,” she said. “Everyone has a great deal of respect for him. So I allow him that opinion, but I disagree with that.”

Lynch also declined to say whether the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server earned more attention from law enforcement than the Russian hackings, saying it would not “be helpful to try and draw equivalencies to any investigations.” But she broadly defended the government’s handling of cyberthreats as “extremely high quality.”

Even back when James Comey was a hero to Clintonistas, there was selective hearing of  his statement which pointed out both carelessness and dishonesty on the part of Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton frequently lied about this initial FBI report. Clinton’s statement that, “Director Comey said my answers were truthful” was the first lie listed by Glenn Kessler (listed in no particular order) in his listing of The biggest Pinocchios of 2016. Hillary Clinton’s frequent lies during the campaign negated any advantage she might have had over Donald Trump, who has shown very little regard for facts or reality.

Julian Assange continues to deny that Russia was the source of the leaked email.  Regardless of the source, the media coverage continues to downplay the fact that Hillary Clinton lost for many reasons unrelated to the Wikileaks email, and that she deserves any negative impact from the information revealed about her campaign regardless of its source.

Sam Kriss has made comments in Slate regarding the question of Russian interference in the election which are similar to my previous posts on this topic:

It’s possible that the Democratic National Committee leaks were caused by Russian hackers—but given that the hack took place thanks to John Podesta clicking on a link in a phishing email, displaying all the technological savvy of someone’s aunt extremely excited by the new iPhone she thinks she’s won, it could have been anyone. The “leaked” CIA concerns over Russian meddling were quite clearly leaked deliberately by the CIA itself, an organization not exactly famed for its commitment to the truth; they’re the conclusions of an investigation that hasn’t even happened yet and on which there’s no consensus even among the gang of petty Caligulas that calls itself the intelligence community. Still, it’s possible. Countries sometimes try to exert influence in each other’s internal affairs; it’s part of great-power politics, and it’s been happening for a very long time. When Americans meddled in Russia’s elections, it was by securing victory for Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s very own Donald Trump, a man who had sent in tanks to shell his own parliament. Leaked cables suggest that Hillary Clinton’s own State Department interfered with the political process in Haiti by suppressing a rise in the minimum wage. And American involvement in the politics of Chile, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Iran was mostly through military coups, sponsored by none other than the CIA. There was no question of these countries repeating their elections; anyone the generals didn’t like was tortured to death. Next to the mountain of corpses produced by America’s history of fixing foreign elections, a few hacked emails are entirely insignificant.

Whatever Russia did or didn’t do, the idea that its interference is what cost Hillary Clinton the election is utterly ludicrous and absolutely false. What cost Hillary Clinton the election can be summed up by a single line from Sen. Chuck Schumer, soon to be the country’s highest-ranking Democrat: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” As it turned out, he was fatally wrong. It wasn’t the Russians who told the Democratic Party to abandon the working-class people of all races who used to form its electoral base. It wasn’t the Russians who decided to run a presidential campaign that offered people nothing but blackmail—“vote for us or Dangerous Donald wins.” The Russians didn’t come up with awful tin-eared catchphrases like “I’m with her” or “America is already great.” The Russians never ordered the DNC to run one of the most widely despised people in the country, simply because she thought it was her turn. The Democrats did that all by themselves.

What the Russia obsession represents is a massive ethical failure on the part of American liberals. People really will suffer under President Trump—women, queer people, Muslims, poor people of every stripe. But so many in the centrist establishment don’t seem to care. They’re far too busy weaving themselves into intricate geopolitical power plays that don’t really exist, searching for a narrative that exonerates them from having let this happen, to do anything like real political work.

Quote Of The Day: Jimmy Fallon On The DNC Hack

“The Democratic National Committee was actually hacked because one of its directors clicked on a fake email to change his password, which gave Russia access to his account.

Then Hillary said, ‘I can’t believe you’d be so careless with your email!'” –Jimmy Fallon

Now Democrats Take A Stand Against Government Corruption


Donald Trump had previously announced a press conference to explain how he would avoid conflicts of interest as president. He subsequently canceled the press conference. A group of Democratic Senators including Elizabeth Warren, Ben Cardin, Chris Coons, Dick Durbin, and Jeff Merkley are introducing legislation to force Donald Trump to shed financial holdings which will pose a conflict of interest. The Hill reports:

A group of Senate Democrats will introduce legislation requiring President-elect Donald Trump to divest any financial assets that pose a conflict of interest and place the money into a blind trust

The bill would also consider any violation by Trump of conflict of interest or ethics laws a “high crime or misdemeanor under the impeachment clause of the U.S. constitution,” according to a fact sheet on the forthcoming bill from Sen. Elizabeth Warren‘s office.

“The American people deserve to know that the President of the United States is working to do what’s best for the country — not using his office to do what’s best for himself and his businesses,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.

The bill would also block appointees from engaging in matters that are directly linked to Trump’s financial interests or business that are controlled by his family.

While I am all for eliminating corruption in government (even if this is an impossible goal to achieve), there is little chance the bill will pass. Presumably it is primarily a political stunt to force Republicans to appear to take the pro-corruption side in the vote. I also wonder if  it would be constitutional for Congress to pass such a law regarding another branch of government.

The motives of the sponsors would appear more pure if they hadn’t been so willing to look the other way when the corruption of Bill and Hillary Clinton was involved. There are certainly many legitimate concerns that Donald Trump’s business interests can lead to abuses of government power to further increase his wealth. On the other hand, the business of the Clintons since Bill left office, including (or I should say especially) when Hillary was Secretary of State, has been to use their government influence to increase their personal wealth.

Working to oppose government corruption is a noble goal, but it should not be used to advance a partisan agenda, and the same standards should be applied to politicians regardless of party.

Clinton Mistakes In Michigan Show Why She Lost, And Would Have Made A Poor President

Hindsight is easy, but in retrospect there were plenty of clues that Clinton would lose Michigan, and the general election. Before the primaries, I noticed an unusual amount of enthusiasm about Bernie Sanders, including from people who are not normally very vocal about politics. Sanders went on to upset Clinton. I saw no signs of enthusiasm for her campaign. I saw a lot of Sanders bumper stickers, a fair number of old Obama bumper stickers, and even a few old Kerry bumper stickers into November. I saw exactly one for Clinton, and that wasn’t until later in November after the election. I know of a street, and I mean one single street, which had a number of pro-Clinton yard signs around where I live. While I had signs up for Kerry and Obama in the past three elections, my yard sign from this election can be seen in the picture above.

My antipathy for both major party candidates was shared by others. An unusual number of patients started talking to me about voting for third party candidates (without first hearing of my plans). It was notable to see Clinton rush to Michigan in the final week of the campaign after she earlier had a double digit lead. I questioned her strategy when I saw her ads. Those which I saw solely concentrated on personal attacks (even if valid) against Donald Trump, in contrast to the ads from Trump making promises (regardless of their credibility) of jobs and a brighter future. If someone was already on the fence despite weeks of news about the vile things Trump had said, it was clear which ads had a better chance of sealing the deal.

Such anecdotal experiences are not enough to safely predict an election, but Politico reports on multiple errors by the Clinton campaign in Michigan. I fear that the same attitude seen by the campaign would have been reflected in the type of presidency we would have seen if Clinton had been elected. These included failing to listen to the views of others, and to utilize volunteers from the SEIU:

Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.

Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on-the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end.

“They believed they were more experienced, which they were. They believed they were smarter, which they weren’t,” said Donnie Fowler, who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee during the final months of the campaign. “They believed they had better information, which they didn’t.”

The SEIU was not the only union which the Clinton campaign ignored. While the strength of labor in Michigan might have declined in recent years, to ignore the UAW in Michigan sounds like an inexcusable mistake:

Clinton never even stopped by a United Auto Workers union hall in Michigan, though a person involved with the campaign noted bitterly that the UAW flaked on GOTV commitments in the final days, and that AFSCME never even made any, despite months of appeals.

The anecdotes are different but the narrative is the same across battlegrounds, where Democratic operatives lament a one-size-fits-all approach drawn entirely from pre-selected data — operatives spit out “the model, the model,” as they complain about it — guiding Mook’s decisions on field, television, everything else. That’s the same data operation, of course, that predicted Clinton would win the Iowa caucuses by 6 percentage points (she scraped by with two-tenths of a point), and that predicted she’d beat Bernie Sanders in Michigan (he won by 1.5 points)…

Michigan operatives relay stories like one about an older woman in Flint who showed up at a Clinton campaign office, asking for a lawn sign and offering to canvass, being told these were not “scientifically” significant ways of increasing the vote, and leaving, never to return. A crew of building trade workers showed up at another office looking to canvass, but, confused after being told there was no literature to hand out like in most campaigns, also left and never looked back.

“There’s this illusion that the Clinton campaign had a ground game. The deal is that the Clinton campaign could have had a ground game,” said a former Obama operative in Michigan. “They had people in the states who were willing to do stuff. But they didn’t provide people anything to do until GOTV.”

The only metric that people involved in the operations say they ever heard headquarters interested in was how many volunteer shifts had been signed up — though the volunteers were never given the now-standard handheld devices to input the responses they got in the field, and Brooklyn mandated that they not worry about data entry. Operatives watched packets of real-time voter information piled up in bins at the coordinated campaign headquarters. The sheets were updated only when they got ripped, or soaked with coffee. Existing packets with notes from the volunteers, including highlighting how much Trump inclination there was among some of the white male union members the Clinton campaign was sure would be with her, were tossed in the garbage…

Most importantly, multiple operatives said, the Clinton campaign dismissed what’s known as in-person “persuasion” — no one was knocking on doors trying to drum up support for the Democratic nominee, which also meant no one was hearing directly from voters aside from voters they’d already assumed were likely Clinton voters, no one tracking how feelings about the race and the candidates were evolving. This left no information to check the polling models against — which might have, for example, showed the campaign that some of the white male union members they had expected to be likely Clinton voters actually veering toward Trump — and no early warning system that the race was turning against them in ways that their daily tracking polls weren’t picking up.

People involved in the Michigan campaign still can’t understand why Brooklyn stayed so sure of the numbers in a state that it also had projected Clinton would win in the primary.

“Especially given what happened in the primary,” said Michigan Democratic Party chairman Brandon Dillon. “We knew that there was going to have to be more attention.”

With Clinton’s team ignoring or rejecting requests, Democratic operatives in Michigan and other battleground states might have turned to the DNC. But they couldn’t; they weren’t allowed to ask for help.

State officials were banned from speaking directly to anyone at the DNC in Washington. (“Welcome to DNC HQ,” read a blue and white sign behind the reception desk in Brooklyn that appeared after the ouster of Debbie Wasserman Schultz just before the July convention)…

Nor did Brooklyn ask for help from some people who’d been expecting the call. Sanders threw himself into campaign appearances for Clinton throughout the fall, but familiar sources say the campaign never asked the Vermont senator’s campaign aides for help thinking through Michigan, Wisconsin or anywhere else where he had run strong. It was already November when the campaign finally reached out to the White House to get President Barack Obama into Michigan, a state that he’d worked hard and won by large margins in 2008 and 2012. On the Monday before Election Day, Obama added a stop in Ann Arbor, but that final weekend, the president had played golf on Saturday and made one stop in Orlando on Sunday, not having been asked to do anything else. Michigan senior adviser Steve Neuman had been asking for months to get Obama and the first lady on the ground there. People who asked for Vice President Joe Biden to come in were told that top Clinton aides weren’t clearing those trips…

“I think it’s true, they executed well. I think it’s true that the plan was accomplished,” said a former labor leader in the state. “But the plan was not the right plan.”

While they clearly failed to use the right plan to win in 2016, Clinton supporters are ignoring their mistakes and placing the blame on external factors such as James Comey and Russia. In a race which turned out so close, many factors could have change the result, but it makes far more sense to place the blame both having a flawed candidate and the many mistakes made during the campaign. The same close minded thought processes seen in the campaign could be seen in Hillary Clinton throughout her life, leading Clinton to having been wrong on virtually every major decision of her career. While his appointees and many statements from Donald Trump make me fear a very poor outcome from his presidency, this is still an open matter. Hopefully Bill Gates is right in his optimistic prediction. Clinton’s history of poor judgement, both on campaign strategy and public policy, makes it very doubtful she could have been a competent president.

Office of the Director of National Intelligence Casts Further Doubt On Theories Blaming Clinton Loss On Russia

While many Clinton supporters are already making unsubstantiated claims of a conspiracy between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin to rig the presidential election for Trump to excuse Clinton’s loss, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has joined those which are questioning this view. Reuters reports:

The overseers of the U.S. intelligence community have not embraced a CIA assessment that Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Republican President-elect Donald Trump win the 2016 election, three American officials said on Monday.

While the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) does not dispute the CIA’s analysis of Russian hacking operations, it has not endorsed their assessment because of a lack of conclusive evidence that Moscow intended to boost Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, said the officials, who declined to be named.

The position of the ODNI, which oversees the 17 agency-strong U.S. intelligence community, could give Trump fresh ammunition to dispute the CIA assessment, which he rejected as “ridiculous” in weekend remarks, and press his assertion that no evidence implicates Russia in the cyber attacks.

Of course this does not mean that Donald Trump is right either in opposing an investigation. There is no proof of the conspiracy accusations, but there is good reason for a full investigation to determine exactly what did happen.

At this point there are arguments both that the Russians were or were not involved in the hacking of the email later released by Wikileaks. The FBI had previously reported that they found no clear link between Donald Trump and Russia. For whatever it is worth, Julian Assange has also denied that Russia fed the leaked email to Wikileaks.

Regardless of who was responsible, it now appears that the DNC became susceptible to the hack due to a typo in an email exchange between Clinton campaign aides.

Despite contradictory information, it has become the conventional wisdom that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC–much like it was once conventional wisdom that Saddam was hoarding weapons of mass destruction. Even if it should be demonstrated Russia was involved in the hack, this does not demonstrate either what their actual intent was or prove any involvement by the Trump campaign.

It must also be kept in mind that spying on other governments, and even tampering in elections, are commonplace activities conducted by many governments, including the United States. Hillary Clinton has a history of supporting meddling in past Russian and Palestinian elections, not to mention backing outright regime change in Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

It is also possible that Russia wanted to prevent Clinton from being elected, or possibly just embarrass her, as opposed to specifically backing Trump, with Donald Trump then benefiting from this desire. Reasons for this include Clinton’s desire for a return to a Cold War atmosphere with Russia, the support for regime change in Russia among many of Clinton’s neoconservative allies, and because of Clinton’s past acts to try to rig the Russian election against Putin. The later view is supported by a former ambassador to Russia:

Michael McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, said he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to help Donald Trump win the presidency to hurt Clinton.

“Let’s remember that Vladimir Putin thinks [Clinton] interfered in his election — the parliamentary election in December 2011 — and has said as much publicly, and I’ve heard him talk about it privately,” McFaul said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The goal might not necessarily have been for Trump to win. Many observers of Putin and Russian behavior believe that the motive was not to specifically support Donald Trump but to cause disruptions in the election process and cast doubt as to the validity of the election, possibly believing that Clinton was going to be the inevitable winner. If the goal was to create questions as to the validity of the election result, I must say that it was a success.

If Russia was responsible for the leaks, it is also a stretch to say that this was the cause of Clinton’s loss considering the many serious faults in both the candidate and how the campaign was conducted. There would not have even been a question of whether the leaks affected the election if not for the dishonest behavior exposed, leaving Clinton and Democratic leaders at fault regardless of any foreign involvement. National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers has also expressed the opinion that the leaked email did not impact the election results.

There are many possibilities here and so far we have limited information. Before developing conspiracy theories of a rigged election, we need a full investigation to find out what actually did happen. Picking and choosing a theory based upon its political usefulness is a poor way to arrive at the truth.