Bernie Sanders Is Not Howard Dean, Or Any Other Previous Candidate

Bernie Sanders campaign

Why Sanders Can Win

It is always tempting to draw comparisons to something we know, and in politics we often see comparisons to past elections. Sometimes there is some truth to this, but we must consider how few contested nomination battles and elections we have actually had in modern times. Events of one election do not dictate what will happen in the current election. Today many Clinton supporters are citing this article at Vox by Ezra Klein as a reason that Sanders cannot win. It is based upon an interview with Joe Trippi. The problem is that Trippi is still fighting an old battle which does not really apply to today–and a battle he lost.

Klein concentrated on this line as Sanders’ biggest problem: “People get more pragmatic the closer they get to an actual vote.” There are two flaws with this argument–failing to recognize Sanders’ strengths and Dean’s weaknesses.

The argument that Sanders cannot win the general election is rapidly falling apart as more polls show Sanders beating the Republican candidates. Sanders draws in more independent support than Clinton, and is looking like he might be a better candidate in the battleground states as Clinton polls poorly there. Sanders is not bogged down with a serious scandal, which threatens to totally derail Clinton’s campaign. Voters will be more hesitant to support a candidate who is considered (for good reason) to be dishonest by a majority of the voters.

Sanders’ views are becoming more mainstream than Clinton’s. The problems created by concentration of wealth in a small oligarchy have become more apparent since Dean ran. The Democratic Party of Bill Clinton/Triangulation/The DLC has been replaced by the party of Elizabeth Warren, and now Bernie Sanders. Calling himself a Democratic Socialist might sound like a negative, but it has little impact after years of hearing from the right that Hillary Clinton is a politician from the far left and Barack Obama is a Marxist Socialist (neither of which are true). It took only a short time researching his record to reassure a capitalist business owner such as myself that Sanders would preserve small business and a market economy, reforming some of our current problems. Sanders was good for business as mayor of Burlington, with Inc. Magazine calling Burlington the best city in the Northeast for a growing business after his policies were instituted.

Howard Dean had serious flaws which I do not see in Sanders. While I do not want to revive old political battles from over a decade ago, I did support Dean for a while, but soon found flaws from the manner in which he mischaracterized the views of his opponents to how he distorted past decisions where he was wrong.

Last weekend The New York Times also had an article arguing that Similarities Aside, Bernie Sanders Isn’t Rerunning Howard Dean’s 2004 Race and hit on some additional differences, including Sanders’ years of experience, which should make him a more credible candidate, and Dean’s temperament:

Mr. Dean was, at 55, a kinetic live wire of a candidate, plunging into his first national campaign after 22 years in Vermont politics. Mr. Sanders, 73, is, at least in comparison, the measured if stern family uncle, an independent who for all his association with the progressive politics of Burlington shows the command of policy that comes with being a product of Washington, where he has served since 1991…

And in an age of unforgiving news and social media, Mr. Sanders has so far displayed a discipline on the campaign trail that often eluded Mr. Dean. The former governor was prone, in all his exuberance, to self-destructive missteps and bursts of anger. He had to apologize for asserting that Mr. Edwards had been deceptive about voting for the Iraq war resolution (he had not), then apologize again after coming under fire from his rivals for declaring that he wanted to be the “the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.”

Mr. Dean’s campaign was undone, as much as anything, by the release of videotapes of public television appearances in Vermont in which he had disparaged the Iowa caucuses.

“Their personalities are just so different,” said Deborah Marlin, 50, who showed up for Mr. Sanders’s rally here and recalled seeing Mr. Dean around Iowa in 2004, a year in which she ended up supporting George W. Bush. “I think Bernie is much more of a people person.”

Bernie Sanders is not Howard Dean. Similarly, while there are also analogies between him and Eugene McCarthy, the two are also different men. If pundits insist upon comparing Sanders to another candidacy, I would also suggest Barack Obama. While Sanders is certainly more liberal than Obama, Sanders just might do what Obama did eight years ago–beat Hillary Clinton and go on to become president.

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Sanders Has Huge Gain Over Clinton In New Hampshire As Email Scandal Gets Far Worse For Clinton

Sanders Takes Lead In New Hampshire

If Hillary Clinton fails to be elected president, there is a strong chance that books about the 2016 campaign will note today as a major day in the crumbling of Clinton’s previously “inevitable” path to victory. Prior to this week Sanders was behind but in a statistical tie with Clinton in New Hampshire. The latest poll shows Sanders with the lead. This represents tremendous momentum when compared with his eight percent support in March. National polls this early have virtually no predictive value in a nomination battle, and an early victory can have tremendous impact on subsequent states and the national polls.

Polls can still change in either direction between now and February, and a victory in New Hampshire certainly is no guarantee of winning the nomination. What makes this election different from previous elections is the scandal surrounding the Clinton campaign, and the email scandal become much worse for her. Top secret emails were found on Clinton’s private server, contradicting her previous denials, and Clinton has agreed to surrender the server, now realizing that it would be subpoenaed if she refused this request from the Justice Department.

From an ethical standpoint, this is not the worst aspect of the email scandal. Ethically she did worse in violating principles of transparency, in destroying evidence, and in receiving financial rewards from parties she provided favorable decisions to as Secretary of State. I do not believe Clinton intended to violate laws regarding classified information, but his appears to have been a consequence of her foolish decision to use a private server, and this is what places her at serious risk of criminal prosecution.

Prior to this latest development, The New York Times reviewed the controversy to date and pointed out the legal ramifications. This was before the report that top secret information was present:

In the case of Mrs. Clinton’s email, the F.B.I. is conducting an investigation of just how the classified material was stored in Denver, as well as on a thumb drive kept by her lawyer, Mr. Kendall, and whether it might somehow have landed in the hands of adversaries. Officials say the bureau at this point has no target in mind and no evidence that a crime was committed.

But the investigation takes place in an administration that has taken an especially hard line on the handling of classified information.

Scott Gration, ambassador to Kenya, resigned after a 2012 inspector general’s report accused him of flouting government rules, including the requirement that he use State Department email. “He has willfully disregarded Department regulations on the use of commercial email for official government business,” the report said.

A New York firefighter and decorated combat veteran who served in the Marines in Afghanistan, Jason Brezler, is currently fighting dismissal from the Marine Corps for sending, via his personal account, an email attachment the government says was classified. His lawyer, Kevin Carroll, says he sent the message in response to an emergency request from a base in Afghanistan.

Mrs. Clinton and her aides have noted that the material the inspectors general call classified was not labeled as such in the emails. But in 2010, Thomas Drake, a former senior National Security Agency official, was indicted under the Espionage Act for keeping an agency email printout at home that was not marked as classified. (Mr. Drake pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.)

J. William Leonard, a former director of the government’s Information Security Oversight Office, said that in Mrs. Clinton’s case, criminal charges like those against Mr. Drake are highly unlikely. But as a former security official, he said, he was dismayed by her exclusive use of private email. The State Department has an obligation to monitor unclassified email for exactly this kind of classified spillage, he said, as well as to protect computer systems and provide emails to Congress or the public when required by law.

“The agency can’t fulfill those legal responsibilities if it doesn’t have control over the server,” Mr. Leonard said.

Besides these cases, there have been two high profile prosecutions regarding improper handling of classified information, David Petraeus and, as I discussed last week,  former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger. If the reports of classified information on Clinton’s private server are true, and if Clinton is treated like the others, she will be indicted. Possibly the “Clinton Rules” will apply here with others receiving the blame, and she will escape such a fate, but this would still seriously harm her in an election campaign. The Republicans might very well also destroy themselves and Clinton could still win, but nominating Clinton now looks like too great a risk for any political party to take. Those who deny the magnitude of this scandal are like those who tried to write off Watergate as a “two bit burglary“.

Chris Cillizza wrote that This e-mail story just keeps getting worse for Hillary Clinton. After pointing out how this is happening he noted:

Then there is the news reported by McClatchy News Service that two of the four classified e-mails discovered on her private server were “top secret” — the highest possible security classification.  Clinton has previously said that she never sent or received any classified material via her e-mail account; “I am confident that I never sent or received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received,” she said last month.

For someone who is already struggling to bridge a trust deficit with the public, the revelations about the classified e-mails on Clinton’s server hurt. If Clinton’s claim that nothing she sent or received was classified at the time are proven wrong, that does her even more damage…

There’s simply no way to see these latest development in the long-running e-mail story as anything but bad news for Clinton. The turning-over of her private server not only takes control of its contents out of her hands but also likely ensures this story will be in the news for far longer than she’d like.

He also speculated that now that the server is out of her hands, it might be possible to recover many of the 31,000 emails which she had deleted from the server. There is already evidence that some of the email involving Libya and terrorism was deleted and altered, contrary to her claim that it was all personal email. The New York Times article quoted above also pointed out:

In June, the State Department said that it had not been able to find in Mrs. Clinton’s emails some 15 messages from Sidney Blumenthal, an old friend and aide, who had independently turned them over to the House Benghazi committee. The messages involved Libya — Mr. Blumenthal was passing along analysis from a former C.I.A. officer — and they appeared to involve policy.

The Clinton campaign has not explained the discrepancy. In sorting through more than 60,000 emails, it is easy to imagine slip-ups. But this small window on the deletion process, carried out privately by Mrs. Clinton’s lawyers and aides, offered little assurance to skeptics that the work email collection was complete.

Ron Fournier reviewed the latest developments in a story entitled The Queen of Paradox and Her Crumbling Stone Wall:

It’s safe to assume two things changed Clinton’s mind: political and legal pressure. First, the public’s trust and approval of the Democratic front-runner has plummeted amid revelations that she established an email system that violated federal policy, thwarted congressional oversight, and skirted the Freedom of Information Act.

Second, facing sharp questions and rebuke of a federal judge, Clinton just this weekend declared “under penalty of perjury” that she has turned over to the government all of the emails that were federal records.

The FBI is investigating the security of her email system, which she unequivocally declared to be ironclad in March. “There is no classified material,” she said.

The untruth revealed, Clinton changed her story in July to claim that no email was specifically marked as classified. Not that it matters. Clinton wants Americans to ignore the fact that federal rules put the onus on government officials like the secretary of State to protect classified material, even when it’s not marked as such.

Know this: Government officials have been convicted of mishandling unmarked classified material. And this: The fact is, any chain of events or excuses that led to the disclosure of these documents begins with Clinton’s decision to go rogue with government email.

This is her fault, all of it.

Including her no-win situation. If the FBI is able to recover deleted email from her server, it’s almost certain that more classified documents will be discovered (given what has already been found in the tiny sample size). That would raise more questions about her judgment.

Furthermore, a thorough autopsy of the deleted email might lead to details about other embarrassing topics, such as Benghazi (a GOP fetish), or the intersection of Clinton Foundation donors and State Department business (“Follow the money,” a Democrat close to Clinton told me in March). Though this is pure speculation, her closest allies worry about what might be found.

If the deleted emails can’t be recovered, Clinton will never be able to clear her name. Only the most blindly loyal and partisan voters will accept her word and ignore the serial deception. Even people like me who have known and respected Clinton for years will walk into the voting booth asking ourselves, “What is she hiding?”

Sure, she might win. Just look at the weak spots in the GOP line. But why win this ugly? Why commit Americans to another four years of a politics and government they can’t trust? Why run a grind-it-out, 20th-century campaign amid the rise of purpose-driven millennials?

Why not be an aspirational, transformational leader—the architect of a presidency that matches her potential.

The polling results out of New Hampshire suggest that Americans might turn to Bernie Sanders, rather than Hillary Clinton, to be that aspirational, transformational leader.

Update: Democrats are said to be in “near panic mode” with new talk about Biden or Gore running.

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Lawrence Lessig–Long Time Critic Of Clinton’s Ethics–May Run For Democratic Nomination

Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and prominent government reform activist, has stated he plans to run for the Democratic nomination, provided he can raise one million dollars by Labor Day. He says that if elected he would only remain in office long enough to enact government reforms, and then turn over the job to his vice president. He has suggested Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders as possible running mates:

“Until we find a way to fix the rigged system, none of the other things that people talk about doing are going to be possible,” Lessig said in an interview with The Washington Post, borrowing a phrase that has become Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s rallying cry. “We have this fantasy politics right now where people are talking about all the wonderful things they’re going to do while we know these things can’t happen inside the rigged system.”

In the interview, conducted by phone on Monday ahead of his announcement, Lessig said he would serve as president only as long as it takes to pass a package of government reforms and then resign the office and turn the reins over to his vice president. He said he would pick a vice president “who is really, clearly, strongly identified with the ideals of the Democratic Party right now,” offering Warren as one possibility. He said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whom he considers a friend and has drawn huge crowds in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, was another option…

The singular focus of Lessig’s campaign would be passing the Citizens Equality Act, a package of reforms that would guarantee the freedom to vote with automatic registration, end partisan gerrymandering and fund campaigns with a mix of small-dollar donations and public funds.

Lessig has noted that Bernie Sanders has many of the same goals, but objects that this is not his top priority.

In contrast, Lessig has often criticized the ethics of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. In 2008, in explaining his endorsement of Barack Obama, Lessig criticized Bill Clinton for his “consistent refusal to stand up for for what were strong principles, at least as he articulated them, in his campaign.” He expressed fears that with Hillary there “are things to make one suspect that she lets principle yield in the face of expedience.” He condemned Hillary for her “lack of moral character, moral courage” and criticized Hillary Clinton’s conduct during the 2008 campaign, accusing her of dishonesty and “swiftboating” Barack Obama.

More recently Lessig has been critical of Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State in accepting contributions to the Foundation and unusually high speaking fees for Bill Clinton from those with business before her as Secretary of State:

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

I quoted additional criticism by Lessig of Clinton’s conduct here.

It is hard to see this campaign really going anywhere. Those who have concerns about corruption in government are increasingly backing Bernie Sanders, and would not be likely to vote for Lessig over Sanders in the primaries. I think it would make more sense for Lessig to speak out on these issues while backing Sanders, and pushing Sanders to place greater emphasis on government reform in his campaign. There are many potential supporters of Sanders who are interested in issues beyond his economic platform, including government reform, support for civil liberties, and opposition to the greater military interventionism supported by Clinton.

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Bernie Sanders Is The Future Of The Democratic Party–And Party Leaders Ignore This At Their Own Peril

Bernie Sanders Oregon

Bernie Sanders is creating a tremendous amount of excitement in the Democratic Party, but much of the media is trying to downplay this. Politico showed why it is frequently called Tiger Beat of the Potomac in an article which totally misses the big story of the year.  The authors ask, Can Bernie Sanders Win the Love of a Party He Scorns?  They miss the point that Sanders’ independence from the Democratic establishment is one of his strengths, not a weakness. This year both parties have a candidate who is outside the mainstream but, unlike Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders can win elections and can make an excellent president.

The support for Sanders can be seen in the crowds who come to see him, such as 28,000 in Portland last weekend. He is pulling in the biggest crowds of any candidate, from either party. Many in the media claim he is unelectable, as if his twenty-five years in Congress still leaves him too far outside the system to be taken seriously, Even the Politico article cited above notes that he was successful at passing amendments in a conservative Congress. National Nurses United recognized his track record in endorsing him on Monday.

Sanders is surging in the polls in some states, including the first contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. He has pulled into a statistical tie in New Hampshire, and we have seen in past elections that the winner of the early contests receives a major bounce in the national polls. General election polling shows him gaining in strength in the battleground states while support for Clinton is dropping.

While anecdotal findings have little predictive value, I cannot help but be impressed by the support for Sanders on social media. One of his comments on the Republican debate became the most retweeted comment of the night. I am amazed that one of my early posts on Sanders entitled Former Clinton Adviser Predicts Bernie Sanders Will Beat Hillary Clinton has received over 16,000 Facebook “Likes” as of this evening, and the number is continuing to grow. When my wife and I wore a Sanders t-shirt while traveling in New Hampshire and Maine last month numerous people came up to me to say how much they love Bernie. It was if I was a celebrity just by wearing the shirt.

Democrats have had a problem in recent years. Polls show a majority supporting Democratic positions but Democrats have been losing elections, except for the two years Barack Obama was on the ballot. Democrats having been losing badly in Congress and many state governments. Returning to the Politico article, the truth of the matter is that many of us who have voted Democratic also scorn the party, and many other potential voters stay home. While some partisan Democrats might oppose Sanders for being an independent, many Democrats, as well as independents, will be more likely to support Sanders because of his independence.

Democratic leaders base their strategy on getting people to vote against the Republicans, not necessarily for the Democrats. They ran Republican-lite candidates in 2014, and were slaughtered in the midterms as many Democratic voters saw no reason to vote. Now the party leadership is pushing the candidacy of another Republican-lite politician for president, hoping that things will be different in a general election than in a midterm. While certainly preferable to the Republicans, Hillary Clinton’s views are far too close to those of the Republicans for many Democratic voters to accept, no matter how much she now tries to copy ideas which Sanders promoted years ago.

Rather than embracing a candidate who is pulling in such popular support, the Democratic National Committee has been trying to rig the contest to favor Hillary Clinton. While Republicans have started debating, the DNC is limiting Democrats to six debates, starting in October, and forcing candidates to agree not to participate in any debates not sponsored by the party. How undemocratic can the Democratic Party be?

People are supporting Sanders because he is seen as honest, and outside the dirty politics we have experienced. Instead of embracing this opportunity, the Democratic leadership is pushing Hillary Clinton, who is involved in one of the biggest scandals since Watergate, placing not only the presidential ticket but all Democrats running in 2016 at an unnecessary risk of defeat. It makes no sense to push for a candidate who is rightly seen as dishonest by a majority of voters , and frequently shown to be dishonest by fact checkers, when there is a far better, and honest, alternative. Initially Clinton supporters claimed that it was necessary to support Clinton in order to avoid a Republican victory. Will they now back Sanders as the polls increasingly show that he would make the stronger candidate in the general election?

Update: Sanders had a crowd of 27,500 in Los Angeles

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What The Democrats Were Doing While The Republicans Were Making Fools Of Themselves

Sanders Tweeting Debate

I’ve already discussed what the Republicans were doing Thursday night at the debate. We also know that since then the Republicans have been fighting about Donald Trump’s misogynistic comments about Megyn Kelly, with Trump being disinvited from the RedState Gathering. While the Republicans were debating, Bernie Sanders was tweeting in response. Sanders even had the most retweeted comment of the debate:

In contrast, Hillary Clinton was at a fund raiser, leaving staffers to tweet for her. The most talked about item from the evening was not the issues, as when Sanders tweeted, but Kim Kardasian getting this selfie with Hillary Clinton:

Kim_Kardashian_Hillary_Clinton selfie

If we are to match celebrity endorsements, I’m more impressed by the endorsement for Bernie from Sarah Silverman. She has previously tweeted, “I’m loving @SenSanders . He says what he means & he means what he says & he’s not for sale.” On the day of the debate, the Daily Caller had several pictures of Silverman in shirts promoting Bernie:

Sarah Silverman Bernie

This all raises the question as to why the Republicans are debating but the Democrats are not. The DNC did release their debate schedule late last week:

A total of six debates are scheduled, with six different sponsors: Oct. 13 in Nevada (hosted by CNN); Nov. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa (CBS/KCCI and The Des Moines Register); Dec. 19 in Manchester, New Hampshire (ABC/WMUR); Jan. 17 in Charleston, South Carolina (NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute); and two scheduled for either February or March in Miami, Florida, and Wisconsin, hosted by Univision/The Washington Post and PBS, respectively.

Limiting the debates to six, with threats to penalize candidates who participate in any other debates other than those sponsored by the DNC, is believed to have been designed to protect Hillary Clinton from opposition and has received protests from the other candidates and those who desire a more open nominating process.  Bernie Sanders has a petition on his web site calling for more debates. The O’Malley campaign has even threatened to organize debates outside of those sponsored by the DNC. Time reported:

The DNC rule “tramples over everything that is important about the democratic process,” said Jake Oeth, O’Malley’s state director in Iowa. “We welcome anyone who wants to participate and we hope to engage in open conversation with anyone.”

Oeth added that O’Malley staff are in discussions with other Democratic presidential campaigns about the possibility of expanding the number of debates. Deputy campaign manager Lis Smith on Thursday reiterated the point in a tweet.

A spokesman Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign did not immediately respond to questions about discussions with O’Malley’s campaign.

There were more than 20 debates in the Democratic primary in 2008, and 15 in 2004, including debates that were not sanctioned by the DNC…

O’Malley’s campaign is not alone in opposing the six-debate limit. Sanders, who is trailing in polls against Clinton by less than 10 points in Iowa, has started a petition to call for more debates.

“At a time when many Americans are demoralized about politics and have given up on the political process, I think it’s imperative that we have as many debates as possible—certainly more than six,” Sanders said in a statement Thursday. “I look forward to working with the DNC to see if we can significantly expand the proposed debate schedule.”

The DNC, which is staffed by a number of Clinton loyalists, has defended the debate schedule, saying it will allow for a robust discussion over the party’s platform. “These debates will highlight the Democratic Party’s policies, which will continue to strengthen the middle class, and we hope Americans across the political spectrum will tune in,” said party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

The threshold to qualify for the Democratic debate is to get 1% in three national polls, conducted by credible news organizations and polling organizations, in the six weeks prior to the debate. This would certainly let Sanders and O’Malley in, along with Biden if he decides to run. Jim Webb would also make it in at present–he is actually polling better than O’Malley nationally. Chaffee is at 0.9 in the RealClearPolitics average so there is a good chance he has at least 1% in three of the polls. It is necessary to have some qualifying threshold as there are actually far more candidates than you might realize, and presumably many more would enter the race if they had a chance at getting into the debates.

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Fox Republican Debate Dominated By The Donald

Fox Debate August 2015

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

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

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

Thursday’s debate audience more than tripled that one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And do you know what?

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

QUESTION: So what did you get?

TRUMP: And that’s a broken system.

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

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

You know why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mat Bai on Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders

Clinton Biden Sanders

“Siri sounds more spontaneous when she’s finding me a gas station.” –Matt Bai on Hillary Clinton in an article at Yahoo! Politics entitled, Whether or not Biden runs, Clinton has a problem

He also wrote in comparing Clinton to Biden:

What Biden is, even to those who dismiss him as slightly doddering and in over his head, is as real and authentic as they come. The toll of tragedies etched into his face, the well of emotion he keeps so close to the surface, the once celebrated hair plugs — all of it makes him unusually and compellingly human.

With Biden, you get the politically incorrect verbal lapses, the “Veep”-like comedic value. But you also get warmth and authenticity and a handshake that means something.

Clinton’s pitch is pretty much the polar opposite. If there was any doubt about that, it was dispelled when Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s senior communications aide, told my Yahoo colleague Michael Isikoff this week that honesty and trustworthiness were, in Isikoff’s words, “beside the point.”

There followed this pretty remarkable quote from Palmieri: “That’s not the question voters have in their heads when they decide who to vote for. It’s who is fighting for me, and who has the solutions for the American people. She’s still the person who is most likely to be the next president.”

In other words, Clinton’s argument is, at its core, like Richard Nixon’s in 1968: You’re not hiring a friend or a babysitter. You just have to believe that I get what’s wrong, and I’m the only one with the competence to fix it.

There are just so many comparisons between Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon, and that is not a good thing. The real characteristic Clinton shares with Nixon is dishonesty, not competence. Clinton has showed poor judgment and a lack of competence many times during her career. This includes how she botched heath car reform as First Lady. This includes her time in the Senate, when she made errors ranging from pushing for the Iraq war based upon false claims of a tie between Saddam and al Qaeda to pushing for measures such as making flag burning a felony and censoring video games. This also includes her time as Secretary of State when she pushed for greater military involvement abroad, and failed to follow rules designed to preserve transparency at home.

He concluded:

I don’t know what Clinton is supposed to do about this. I doubt there’s an easy way to recast the personality of a candidate who’s been in public life for 30-plus years, and who’s learned by this point to be guarded and calculating around anyone who isn’t an old friend or loyalist.

But I do know that, sooner or later, Clinton and her advisers are going to have to confront this trust issue head-on, rather than trying to change the subject with a bunch of jargon and vague policy goals. If Biden’s flirtation serves only to make that clear, he will have done her a favor.

I agree with much of what he said about Clinton but question his view on Bernie Sanders: “Sanders’s brand of leftist populism has a modest ceiling in a Democratic primary contest, and he’s not far from hitting it.” I would have believed that a few months ago, but looking at both Sanders and Trump suggests that the old conventional wisdom no longer holds. Voters do not want candidates of the status quo or party insiders.

Sanders transcends the old ideas of the linear left/right political spectrum. People care more about his authenticity than where he is placed on this spectrum. Perhaps his twenty-five years in Congress gives him more legitimacy than the mainstream media gives him credit for. Regardless of this, being viewed as an outsider is a plus for Sanders in the current political atmosphere.

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FBI Probe Provides Further Details On Private Server In Clinton’s Chappaqua Home

Clinton Email

The call by two Inspectors General for an investigation into the presence of classified information on Hillary Clinton’s private server has led to further information being obtained now that the FBI is investigating the matter. The Washington Post reports:

The inquiries are bringing to light new information about Clinton’s use of the system and the lengths to which she went to install a private channel of communication outside government control — a setup that has emerged as a major issue in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

For instance, the server installed in her Chappaqua, N.Y., home as she was preparing to take office as secretary of state was originally used by her first campaign for the presidency, in 2008, according to two people briefed on the setup. A staffer who was on the payroll of her political action committee set it up in her home, replacing a server that Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton, had been using in the house.

The inquiries by the FBI follow concerns from government officials that potentially hundreds of e-mails that passed through Clinton’s private server contained classified or sensitive information. At this point, the probe is preliminary and is focused on ensuring the proper handling of classified material…

Critics say Clinton’s private server arrangement put her discussions with some aides outside the reach of government investigators, congressional committees and courts seeking public records from the State Department.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote a letter to FBI Director James B. Comey on July 24 asking him what steps his office had taken to ensure that classified information held on Kendall’s thumb drive, and once kept on Clinton’s server, was being properly secured. A State Department official said that once the agency identified classified material in the e-mails in May, it instructed Clinton’s lawyers on “appropriate measures for physically securing” the e-mails.

Even after Clinton’s use of a private server was confirmed there had been questions as to the actual physical location, as Clinton had been vague on this matter. Thus there have been many media accounts of the scandal referring to a “home-brew” server in Clinton’s basement, along with other stories speculating on locations ranging from New York City to other states. This story verifies the presence in Clinton’s home, along with further discussion of support and security for the server.

The presence of classified information on the server in her private home, along with on a thumb drive held by her attorney, raise further questions as to whether federal law is being complied with regarding handling of classified information. Contrary to initial reports in The New York Times, which were subsequently corrected, this is not currently a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton. However this does raise speculation as to whether Clinton could be subject to criminal penalties after any investigation is completed. An op-ed at The Washington Post compared this to the classified information which was illegally poses sed by former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger:

A Justice Department investigation ensued and in 2005 Berger reached a plea agreement in which he was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material instead of a felony. He was sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service and was stripped of his security clearance for three years. Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed on a $10,000 fine, but the judge raised it to $50,000. In 2007, in order to shut down a disbarment investigation by the District of Columbia bar, he relinquished his license to practice law.

That was for unlawfully removing and retaining just five classified documents.

Clinton has apparently been caught removing at least five e-mails containing what we now know to be classified information and retaining them on her personal server in her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., after she left office. And in the weeks ahead, that number will probably grow to the hundreds, if not thousands.

The inspector general reviewed only a small sample of 40 e-mails Clinton turned over to the State Department. Yet in that tiny sample, he found that five e-mails contained classified information. Five classified e-mails in a sample of just 40 is a rate of one out of eight e-mails that contained classified information. Clinton has handed over some 30,000 official e-mails to the State Department that she had been keeping on her private server. That means there could be some 3,750 classified e-mails that she removed and retained…

Worse still, Clinton’s apparent violation of the law is ongoing. Her lawyer, David Kendall, reportedly has a thumb drive containing all her official e-mails, including hundreds if not thousands containing classified information. That means that to this day, she apparently continues to unlawfully possess unsecured classified documents and has taken no action to return that thumb drive to the federal government, much less the server on which they were originally unlawfully stored.

Clinton claims that she “did not send nor receive anything that was classified at the time.” But the inspector general found classified intelligence from five separate intelligence agencies — the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — in Clinton’s e-mails. Taking intelligence from classified documents and putting it in unclassified e-mails does not make the information unclassified. Indeed, that is arguably an additional offense. There is a separate classified e-mail system — called the SIPRNet — for classified communications. Clinton was required by law to use that system for any e-mails containing classified information.

Clinton supporters are trying to write off these stories as right-wing attacks, but the fact is that Clinton knowingly violated the rules in effect as of 2009 regarding use of private email and in failing to turn over any email sent on private systems while still in office. The fact checking sites have repeatedly stated that Clinton’s statements have been false regarding the email on many  points. The Washington Post Fact Checker has given Clinton and her defenders Three Pinocchios for their claims on at least two separate occasions (here and here). The top Freedom of Information Act official at the Justice Department has stated that Clinton was in violation of the rules and the State Department’s top Freedom of Information Act officer has called her use of a private server unacceptable. Not only did she violate rules regarding use of private email, she also destroyed around 30,000 email messages and edited others, which includes email related to Libya and Terrorism and was not personal email as she previously claimed. This is a scandal created by Hillary Clinton’s own actions, not by her opponents, and can have serious political repercussions should Clinton be the Democratic nominee.

Update: The New York Post is reporting that this is actually a criminal investigation but they base their report on anonymous sources, casting doubt on the accuracy.

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Sanders Gaining On Clinton As Her Popularity Drops; In Statistical Tie In New Hampshire

WSJ NBC Poll July

Hillary Clinton continues to be considered the front runner for the Democratic nomination months before any votes have been cast, but her popularity continues to drop. The latest poll to show this came from NBC News/The Wall Street Journal:

The bad news for Hillary Clinton in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll: More Americans view her negatively than they did a month ago, revealing potential vulnerabilities for a general-election presidential contest more than a year away.

The good news for her in the poll: Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field by more than 30 points, and the favorability numbers for two of the top Republicans are even worse than hers.

Just 37 percent of all Americans have a positive view of Clinton, versus 48 percent who have a negative view (-11).

That’s a sharp drop since June, when the NBC/WSJ poll showed her with a 44 percent positive, 40 negative rating (+4) – so an overall 15-point swing…

Despite Clinton’s sinking favorability rating, she continues to lead the Democratic horserace by a wide margin.

She’s the top choice of 59 percent of national Democratic primary voters, while 25 percent pick Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. They’re followed by former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who are tied at 3 percent each.

That margin, however, is smaller than her 60-point national advantage over Sanders a month ago, 75 percent to 15 percent.

If these poll findings persist (and they can change dramatically in over a year), they could indicate problems for Clinton in the general election. Democrats have hoped that any loss in support Clinton receives from the Obama coalition will be made up by more women voters backing Clinton. Now this poll shows a drop in Clinton’s support among white women.

In June, 44% of white women had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, compared to 43% who didn’t. In July, those numbers moved in the wrong direction for Mrs. Clinton: Only 34% of white women saw her in a positive light, compared to 53% who had a negative impression of her, the poll found.

Mr. Obama fared poorly with white women voters in the 2012 election, losing them to Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 14 points.

For Team Clinton, the latest poll numbers are a worrisome development. Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to match the African-American turnout that propelled Mr. Obama to two presidential victories, so she has to make up the difference somewhere else. Women eager to see a woman in the White House is a logical group to target. 

Support for Bernie Sanders has increased as support for Clinton has dropped, but some Democrats are searching for another alternative, with multiple stories about Joe Biden possibly running the last few days. Other names also come up occasionally, such as Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz:

The 62-year-old CEO has been urged by supporters to join the Democratic primary, with friends “thinking the time is right for someone who’s not a political lifer,” according to Maureen Dowd’s latest New York Times column. The idea, Dowd postulates, could “be a tempting proposition” for Schultz, and offers a worthy party back-up to Clinton should something unforeseen happen to her candidacy…

It would mark a shift for Schultz if he does enter the presidential ring. In an interview with Time in February, Schultz was adamant that he would not run for President in 2016: “I don’t think that is a solution. I don’t think it ends well,” he said in the story. He threw a cautious endorsement of Clinton, saying he was content to “see what Hillary does.”

Schultz has long been vocal about the role of government and its failure in addressing the nation’s pressing issues. In 2013, Schultz started a Starbucks-led petition to end the government shutdown, and delivered more than 2 million signatures to the White House in their “Come Together” campaign. While promoting his book For Love of Country, Schultz talked about the lack of leadership from the U.S. government and politicians: “The country is longing for leadership and for truth with a capital T,” he told Dowd in a New York Times story.

The current success of Donald Trump in the Republican race raises the questions if an outsider such as Schultz could receive comparable support in the Democratic race. On the other hand, the Democrats might already have a potentially successful outsider in Bernie Sanders. Sanders has many of the benefits of an outsider, while also could be seen as a credible candidate for president after having served in Congress for twenty-five years, with a record including opposition to the Iraq war and the Patriot Act. Despite Clinton’s (diminishing) lead nationally,  Sanders is now in a statistical tie with Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire might quickly put an end to Clinton’s lead in the national polls.

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Endorsements For Bernie Sanders & Speculation About Joe Biden

Sanders Endorsement Ben Cohen

Bernie Sanders has landed a huge endorsement–from Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s. ABC News reports:

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has landed the sweetest food endorsement so far of the 2016 election cycle: Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s.

The ice cream magnate spoke Sunday to a gymnasium of supporters in Franklin, New Hampshire, telling them “as a person who has been his constituent for the last 30 years, I can tell you: this guy is the real thing.”

In an interview with ABC News, Cohen explained his involvement.

“Finally, there’s a politician worth working for,” he said with a grin. “So I’m working for him.”

Bernie Sanders Ben & Jerrys Ice Cream

Friends of the Earth Action also endorsed Sanders on Saturday:

“He has proven himself a bold and fearless voice for the planet,” said Friends of the Earth Action President Erich Pica. “Sen. Sanders’ bold ideas and real solutions to addressing climate change, inequality and promoting a transformative economy that prioritizes public health and the environment over corporate profits, have earned him an enthusiastic endorsement from Friends of the Earth Action.”

Hillary Clinton received a ton of endorsements from party regulars who have a poor memory for eight years ago back when her nomination was considered to be inevitable. There is talk that some are now questioning their decision after seeing how poor a job Clinton is doing as a campaigner, how she is being damaged by scandals, and how support for her is rapidly falling. This includes polls showing that a majority do not find her trustworthy, and that she is doing poorly in the battleground states.

Hillary Clinton is rapidly becoming out of place in a Democratic Party which is becoming far more an Elizabeth Warren party than the old Bill Clinton/Triangulation/DLC Party. Being an outsider from the Democratic establishment is one of Bernie Sanders’ greatest strengths as a general election candidate, but such an outsider will have a real uphill battle for the nomination.

Maureen Dowd reminded readers in Sunday’s column that Beau Biden urged his father to run for president before dying. This got many people all excited, as those who are starting to panic about the prospects of a tainted Hillary Clinton running in the general election realized that there is an establishment candidate available.

Biden would be yet another candidate running to the left of Hillary Clinton. While this means he might divide the liberal vote and help Clinton, there is also a strong likelihood he could divide the establishment vote and help Sanders. I see this as win-win.

It would be great if his entry helps Sanders win. On the other hand, if it turns out that the Democratic establishment is too powerful to allow this, Biden would be far preferable to Clinton. Besides being a stronger campaigner and far more fit ethically to be president than Clinton, there are issues which do separate them. While both were wrong to vote to authorize force in Iraq, Clinton pushed for war far more strongly, including making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Biden often opposed Clinton’s push for greater military intervention when Secretary of State. Plus Biden is far more liberal on social issues. Biden did not join up with the religious right as Clinton did in the Senate, and it was Biden who pushed Obama to “evolve” on same-sex marriage.

Howard Fineman has a list of seven reasons why Biden might run. The most interesting is the second:

2. The Clintons

The vice president had a mostly cordial relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and his longtime role as a champion of women’s rights amplifies his appreciation for the former first lady.

But, privately, he looks down on what he regards as a political/money-making machine. He sees the Clintons as far more interested in cash and clout than in doing good. “They’re everything he hates about the way politics operates today,” said one friend.

Biden may conclude that he is the only person in the party who can stop a Clinton return to the White House. If he enters the race, he will at least further complicate Hillary’s already dreary slog towards the Democratic nomination.

Sanders was asked by ABC News what he thought of Biden entering the race:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said he’s “very fond” of Vice President Joe Biden, but that “the American people… want to go beyond conventional establishment politics.”

We are seeing a desire for someone outside of the conventional establishment in both parties as support soars for Bernie Sanders among the Democrats and Donald Trump among the Republicans. Of course only one of these two men would make an acceptable president.

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