Clinton Campaign Targeting Johnson & Stein, Fearing Loss Of Millennial Votes

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The Democratic Party made a clear mistake in nominating a candidate as weak as Hillary Clinton when Bernie Sanders was polling much better against Trump and other potential Republican opponents. While matters are easier for Clinton with a candidate as awful as Trump, she does have a problem which the Democrats would not have with Bernie–motivating young voters to turn out to vote for her as opposed to staying home or voting for third party candidates.

In most elections, the major party candidates ignore the minor party candidates as they rarely have an impact on the election. With candidates as terrible as Clinton and Trump, there is increased interest in Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. The Hill reports that Democrats are targeting the Libertarian Party ticket:

Democrats panicked by third-party candidates drawing support away from Hillary Clinton are ramping up their attacks against Gary Johnson and warning that a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump.

Liberal groups are passing around embarrassing videos of Johnson and running ads against him warning about his positions on issues like climate change that are important to young voters and independents…

The Clinton campaign and its liberal allies are increasingly taking the threat from Johnson and Stein seriously, making direct appeals to young voters and punching down at the third-party candidates they view as potential spoilers.

“Young voters are suggesting that they’re uncomfortable with Clinton and are using Johnson and Stein as protest votes,” said Douglas Schoen, a former official in the Bill Clinton administration. “The campaign must make the case that unless young people vote for Clinton, they’re effectively voting for Trump.”

NextGen Climate, the group run by liberal billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, is on the ground in eight battleground states with a message that is almost exclusively aimed at reaching the millennial voters who are energized by the issue of climate change.

Last week, the group threw six figures behind digital ads mocking Johnson as a climate change denier and warning millennials that climate change will cost them trillions of dollars.

A source at NextGen told The Hill the group will be looking to turn out young voters for Hillary Clinton and down-ballot Democrats with a texting campaign in the battleground states and a carpooling service that will drive them to the polls.

The Libertarians have also attracted the ire of a group called ShareBlue, which is owned by longtime Clinton ally David Brock. The unabashedly pro-Clinton, for-profit media company has a strong following in the realm of progressive social media and has been using its platform in part to hammer Johnson as a flaky Republican.

ShareBlue CEO Peter Daou, a veteran of John Kerry’s and Clinton’s past presidential campaigns, told The Hill he’s targeting Johnson and Weld from the policy side and making the case for why their platform should be anathema to progressives.

Daou’s website is also targeting Stein, who is pulling support from the far left. A recent post argued that Johnson and Stein “are not serious candidates.”

Johnson and Weld hold liberal views on issues like marijuana legalization, abortion rights and non-interventionist foreign policy that have helped them gain traction among some young voters.

But both former Republican governors tend to hew closer to the conservative orthodoxy on issues like taxation, minimum wage, Social Security and Medicare, environmental regulation, and school choice.

While not true that Johnson is a climate denier as the pro-Clinton group claims, there are a number of problems with his views, including his views on environmental regulation. Even with these flaws, Johnson would be preferable to Clinton and Trump. All three have poor environmental records, making this a poor issue to determine who to vote for. Johnson is far preferable to Clinton on major issues such as opposing Clinton’s conservative views on military interventionism, civil liberties, and the drug war. Fortunately Jill Stein presents an alternative to Clinton, Trump, and Johnson who shares Johnson’s views on these issues without the major drawbacks in other areas.

While Peter Daou’s arguments for Clinton often are totally irrational, from ignoring the importance of avoiding unnecessary wars and defending First Amendment rights to attributing any criticism of Clinton to sexism, he does realize that Stein is a potential threat to Clinton. While the source of the attacks have not been positively identified, Clinton supporters have often been attacking Stein on line with fabricated attacks, falsely claiming this Harvard trained physician is anti-science and anti-vaccines.

If the Clinton campaign really wants to contrast their views with those of Johnson and Stein, how about allowing them in the debates rather than using arbitrary rules to keep them out? That would be a far more significant debate than the one we had this week.

Clinton is hoping that using Bernie Sanders as a surrogate will encourage millennial voters to turn out for her. It remains to be seen whether young voters concerned about ending the state of perpetual warfare will vote for Clinton even if Bernie is campaigning for her.

Clinton is even having problems with one group which she did not expect problems with–African American and Hispanic voters. Politico reports that the Clinton campaign is in “panic mode” over the loss of support from black voters in Florida:

To kill Donald Trump’s chances of capturing the White House, Hillary Clinton needs to win Florida. And to do that, she needs a big minority turnout.

But Democrats are beginning to worry that too many African-American voters are uninspired by Clinton’s candidacy, leading her campaign to hit the panic button this week and launch an all-out blitz to juice-up voter enthusiasm…

Clinton faces a similar potential problem with Hispanic voters. Though Florida Hispanics back her by double-digit margins similar to the level of support Obama enjoyed, activists fear their turnout rate will be lower. Hispanics account for more than 15 percent of the Florida voter rolls and African-Americans are more than 13 percent. About 65 percent of registered voters are non-Hispanic white, and they heavily favor Trump.

Pre-Debate Political News: Sexism, Gennifer Flowers, and Perjury

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The debate hasn’t even been held yet, and already Clinton is complaining of sexism. I have never seen a politician who does so much to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. As I’ve recently noted, the Clinton camp is willing to raise charges of sexism over anything, no matter how absurd. Not that I want Trump to win either, but one of the many reasons I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be president is so that we don’t have to put up with the inevitable charges of sexism for opposing Hillary’s likely wars and infringements on civil liberties.

Trump is also being rather tacky in talking about bringing Gennifer Flowers to the debate (and Flowers has accepted the invitation).

Bringing up Gennifer Flowers and Bill’s extramarital affairs leads to reminders of Bill’s impeachment based upon  perjury. Newsweek reveals that Donald Trump could face perjury charges of his own. Trump made a statement during one of the debates which contradicted what he said while testifying in 2007. Either he lied during the debate, which would be nothing new, or Trump committed perjury in 2007.

While I think that Bill’s impeachment was a ridiculous example of overreach, it did set a precedent that perjury is grounds for impeachment.

On the other hand, if we are looking back at actions prior to becoming president, there is a lot in Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State  which could be considered legitimate grounds for impeachment. Someone who violated ethics agreements they entered into before taking one position is hardly a suitable candidate for president.

With both parties having nominated candidates who are unethically unfit to be president, maybe we should plan for starting impeachment hearings in January regardless of who wins.

Former RFK Speech Writer Endorses Trump Citing Clinton’s Pro-War Record

It is disappointing that in such a brief time the Democratic Party has become the party the neoconservative policies of Bush/Cheney with the nomination of Hillary Clinton. Opposition to the Iraq war has led many people to vote Democratic in recent years. In a previous generation, even though the Vietnam war did begin under Democrats, the continuation of the war under Richard Nixon also led many to vote Democratic. While many Democratic voters appear to have no problem with a nominee wh0 has spent her career undermining liberal values and promoting war, there are some who are protesting.

Adam Walinsky, who worked in the Department of Justice during the Kennedy administration and later served as legislative assistant and speechwriter  Robert Kennedy, wrote that he plans to vote for Donald Trump:

I was a Democrat all my life. I came to Washington to serve President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. When the president was murdered and his brother struck off on his own, I joined his Senate campaign and staff as his legislative assistant and speechwriter, until his presidential campaign ended with his own assassination. I ran on a (losing) Democratic ticket in the New York state elections of 1970. When I was working to enact my own program of police reform in the 1980s and 1990s, then-Governor Bill Clinton was chairman of my National Committee for the Police Corps.

This year, I will vote to elect Donald Trump as president of the United States.

…John and Robert Kennedy devoted their greatest commitments and energies to the prevention of war and the preservation of peace. To them that was not an abstract formula but the necessary foundation of human life. But today’s Democrats have become the Party of War: a home for arms merchants, mercenaries, academic war planners, lobbyists for every foreign intervention, promoters of color revolutions, failed generals, exploiters of the natural resources of corrupt governments. We have American military bases in 80 countries, and there are now American military personnel on the ground in about 130 countries, a remarkable achievement since there are only 192 recognized countries. Generals and admirals announce our national policies. Theater commanders are our principal ambassadors. Our first answer to trouble or opposition of any kind seems always to be a military movement or action.

Nor has the Democratic Party candidate for president this year, Hillary Clinton, sought peace. Instead she has pushed America into successive invasions, successive efforts at “regime change.” She has sought to prevent Americans from seeking friendship or cooperation with President Vladimir Putin of Russia by characterizing him as “another Hitler.” She proclaims herself ready to invade Syria immediately after taking the oath of office. Her shadow War Cabinet brims with the architects of war and disaster for the past decades, the neocons who led us to our present pass, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, in Ukraine, unrepentant of all past errors, ready to resume it all with fresh trillions and fresh blood. And the Democrats she leads seem intent on worsening relations with Russia, for example by sending American warships into the Black Sea, or by introducing nuclear weapons ever closer to Russia itself.

In fact, in all the years of the so-called War on Terror, only one potential American president has had the intelligence, the vision, the sheer sanity to see that America cannot fight the entire world at once; who sees that America’s natural and necessary allies in this fight must include the advanced and civilized nations that are most exposed and experienced in their own terror wars, and have the requisite military power and willingness to use it. Only one American candidate has pointed out how senseless it is to seek confrontation with Russia and China, at the same time that we are trying to suppress the very jihadist movements that they also are attacking.

That candidate is Donald Trump. Throughout this campaign, he has said that as president, he would quickly sit down with President Putin and seek relaxation of tensions between our nations, and possible collaboration in the fight against terrorists. On this ground alone, he marks himself as greatly superior to all his competitors, earlier in the primaries and now in the general election.

It must also be said: Mr. Trump is an imperfect candidate, and he would surely be an imperfect president. He is crude, often vulgar. He has areas of great ignorance. He insults people and inflicts unnecessary harm. He would be twice the candidate he is if he used half the words. He is often intemperate; though it is not Trump but his opponent who is so intemperate as to compare Putin’s moves in Ukraine to what Hitler did—an insult that throughout all the Cold War and to this day, no American president has ever offered to any Soviet or Russian leader, not even the enormous butcher Josef Stalin, with whom in fact we joined to win the Second World War. And it is not Mr. Trump but Michael Morell, a former CIA director now high in the councils of the Democratic candidate, who has publicly suggested, without rebuke from anyone, that we should begin “killing Russians,” a doubly illegal act of war.

Moreover Trump marks himself as a man of singular political courage, willing to defy the hysteria of the Washington war hawks, the establishment and the mainstream media who daily describe him as virtually anti-American for daring to voice ideas and opinions at variance with their one-note devotion to war…

Scores of Democratic elected officials once spoke and worked tirelessly to end our disastrous war in Vietnam. Today there is only the voice of the marvelous Democratic member of Congress Tulsi Gabbard, a reservist who has twice deployed to Iraq and knows of what she speaks. And it is a Democratic president who sends an endless parade of drones to nations all over the world, flaunting for all to see America’s unique military technology, coupled with our seeming complete carelessness in how that technological prowess destroys people and nations…

So my hope for America is this. First, we must begin immediately to end our involvement in endless, unnecessary and therefore murderous wars. We need our best young people to help us here at home. We need to stop the reckless military spending on more destructive armaments. We need to breathe free again.

We must and will defend civilized order against its deadly enemies. ISIS and its brethren must be eliminated: no quarter, no hesitation. But we will need to engage all civilized peoples in our mutual defense. We must abandon foolish skirmishes and petty jealousies. We must end our reflexive efforts to dominate other developed nations, especially Russia and China.

Walinsky is right in opposing Hillary Clinton for her neoconservative policies and repeated mistakes in the middle east, and her views on increasing conflict with Russia. Unfortunately Trump has been incoherent on foreign policy, at times taking positions both to the left and right of Clinton. While his stated desire to avoid conflict with Russia is one of his few (perhaps only) admirable traits, this often appears to be out of a foolish admiration for Putin in response to compliments from him rather than a coherent anti-war world view. While we cannot afford to go to war against every despot around the world as many nonconservatives such as Clinton appear to desire, we also need leaders who do recognize the evil in their policies.

The tragedy of this election is that neither major party candidate is fit to be president.

Clinton And Many Democrats Fail To Understand Importance Of Opposing Interventionism And Defending Civil Liberties

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The lack of concern for Hillary Clinton’s neocon record on foreign policy, and her far right record on First Amendment issues, by so many Democrats is really disappointing. It is as if they didn’t they learn anything from the horrors of the Bush years. Hillary Clinton appeared clueless when she campaigned for the millennial vote. As I discussed last week, and as David Weigel reported today, Clinton is losing a substantial amount of support to third party candidates.

When George Bush was president, Democrats showed concern for matters such as avoiding unnecessary wars, civil liberties, and government transparency. Now that they have nominated a candidate who is far to the right on these matters, they no longer show any concern. For example, Paul Krugman made a pitch today for millennial voters who are voting for Gary Johnson, but ignored these issues. It makes absolutely no sense to seek the support of those considering Gary Johnson without addressing the main issues which are causing Clinton to lose support to Johnson, along with Jill Stein.

Krugman also resorted to the bogus Ralph Nader argument. If the 2000 election turned out badly (as it did) because of George Bush becoming president, it makes no sense to use this to support a neoconservative such as Hillary Clinton who supports the so many of the same policies as George Bush.

Just as bad is the manner in which Kevin Drum dismissed concerns over military interventionism and civil liberties: ” Unless you’re basically a single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force, it’s hard to see why any lefty of any stripe would even think of supporting Johnson.”

Drum is right in his post in arguing that it would make more sense for Bernie Sanders supporters to support Jill Stein than Gary Johnson, but he certainly diminishes the importance of several issues with the phrase, “single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force.”

These are two of the most important matters considering both the expansion of the warfare/surveillance state since 9/11, and considering which areas fall most directly under the control of the president. Plus these encompass multiple issues.

Civil liberties mattered to Democrats eight years ago. During the 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties. All the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, also refused to sign.  As I’ve discussed previously, Clinton’s poor record regarding civil liberties and separation of church and state includes her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act , a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, leading a campaign to censor video games and introducing a bill making flag burning a felony. Her views mocking freedom of speech when supposedly fighting terrorism sound alarmingly similar to those expressed by Donald Trump. Issues such as the drug war and opposition to the policy of mass incarceration she supported is yet a different issue which leads many to support Johnson and Stein over Clinton.

Similarly there are multiple foreign policy issues. These include her support for intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria. In other parts of the world, there are her views on Russia, and record in Honduras. There’s also her history of joining with the Republicans in opposing a ban on cluster bombs in civilian areas. There’s her threats to obliterate Iran. Her past statements on the use of nuclear force against terrorist groups sound similar to those expressed by Donald Trump.

While Drum has consistently ignored the facts regarding the email scandals, the State Department Inspector General report verified accusations that Clinton violated the rules put into effect to promote transparency, showed that she tried to cover up her actions, and that she failed to cooperate with the investigation. This is just one aspect of the scandals involving Clinton which give millennial voters, and others, reason to distrust Clinton and vote for a third party candidate.

The numerous issues involved here contradict Drum’s mischaracterization of Clinton’s opponents as a single-issue voter. By the same logic, many of the issues which he backs Clinton for could also be lumped together as a single issue. It is no surprise that Gary Johnson is taking votes away from Clinton when he is more liberal than her on military interventionism, civil liberties, the drug war, social issues, and government transparency. There are also several problems with Johnson’s views, making Jill Stein an even better choice for those on the left.

Why Clinton Can’t Pull Away From An Opponent As Awful As Donald Trump

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Donald Trump has said one idiotic thing after another. He has been found to have bribed an attorney general to avoid prosecution for his scam university, among other scams he has been involved in. He clearly has no understanding of the issues. Yet he is now now in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, with many Democrats struggling to understand why. Will Democrats ever figure out that the nomination of someone as unfit to be president as Hillary Clinton was one of the biggest political blunders in history (ranking with the Republicans’ blunder in nominating Trump)?

Many Democrats have resorted to responses which do not help matters. They deny that she is corrupt and dishonest, despite overwhelming evidence that she is, and ignore the seriousness of her scandals. This only turns independents more against partisan Democrats who make such claims.

Clinton doesn’t help herself when she repeats the same lies over and over, even when the fact checkers repeatedly call her out on it. She didn’t help matters when she answered Anderson Cooper in a dishonest manner this week, claiming to have been transparent about her health and her email,  when he pressed her on her lack of transparency. pointed out:

…almost everything that Clinton has disclosed in this campaign has come under duress. The reason we have thousands of her emails is because she was forced by the State Department to turn them over. The reason we know about her pneumonia is because of her stumbling incident on Sunday in New York City. Forced transparency isn’t all that honorable

The most common argument from Clinton and her supporters is to argue how terrible Donald Trump is. While they are right, that does not help Clinton when they cannot provide positive arguments to support her. Many agree about Trump, but do not think Clinton is any better.

At least one Clinton supporter,

…her 4256 favorable/unfavorable split in national polling is truly, freakishly bad. Political junkies have probably heard the factoid that Clinton is the least-popular major party nominee of all time — except for Donald Trump. But conventional dialogue still underrates exactly how weird this situation is. John McCain, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bob Dole were all viewed favorably by a majority of Americans on the eve of presidential elections that they lost, and Mitt Romney was extremely close.

It is totally unheard of to win a presidential election while having deeply underwater favorable ratings, and it is actually quite common to lose one despite above water favorable ratings.

Since there are only two major party nominees in the race and they are both far underwater right now, it’s pretty likely that precedent will be shattered. But we are in a bit of an undiscovered country in terms of the underlying opinion dynamics.

RealClearPolitics’ four-way polling average shows Gary Johnson at 9.2 percent and Jill Stein at 2.7 percent.

If those numbers hold up (which of course they might not), they would make Johnson the strongest third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. That’s a big deal. Stein’s strength is, however, even more unusual. She is polling ahead of where Ralph Nader did in 2000 and is the strongest fourth-party candidate we’ve seen in a 100 years, besting both the Thurmond and Wallace tickets from the infamously four-sided election of 1948.

To find a fourth-place candidate polling higher than Stein’s current results, you need to dial all the way back to the 6 percent of the vote Eugene Debs earned in the bizarre 1912 election that saw the GOP nominee (the incumbent, no less!) finish in third place behind a third-party bid spearheaded by ex-president Teddy Roosevelt.

These two unusual quirks of the 2016 race seem to be linked.

Lambasting Trump while being unpopular herself would be a clear winning strategy in a zero-sum head-to-head race. But in a four-sided race, where the two lesser candidates aren’t receiving much scrutiny from the press or the campaigns, it tends to have the side consequence of pressing a lot of people to Johnson or Stein. The fact that there are two different third-party candidates in the race — one for people who think Clinton’s too left and one for people who think she’s not left enough — makes it really difficult to avoid bleeding voters…

It’s simply going to be very hard for Clinton to open up the kind of stable lead that her supporters think Trump’s awfulness deserves while she herself is so little-liked. September of a general election year is probably not a great time to turn that around.

But the fact remains that her basic problem in this race is almost painfully simple. Over the course of her winning primary campaign she became a deeply unpopular figure. And it’s hard — indeed, unprecedented — for such an unpopular person to win the presidency.

Both major parties have nominated candidates who are unfit to be president. There is little motivation for many voters to choose the lesser evil, as opposed to voting for a minor party candidate, when even the lesser evil is so evil this year. If the major party candidates were not both so awful, Johnson and Stein would be polling as low as minor party candidates usually do.

For Clinton, it is not only her lies. It is also her record, as Common Dreams recently discussed. In past elections, the Democratic Party received the support of many independents, as well as those on the left, due to the serious problems under George Bush. Instead of nominating a reform candidate such as Bernie Sanders (who consistently polled much better against Donald Trump), they went for the candidate most likely to institutionalize the horrors of the Bush administration. We need to end the state of perpetual warfare we have been in since 9/11. While Clinton admits that her vote for the Iraq war was a mistake (like her support for mass incarceration, various trade deals, and anti-gay legislation were mistakes), as described, support for interventionism was actually part of a pattern for her:

For years, Clinton has blamed Bush for misleading her into voting for the resolution. But an examination by The Washington Post found that her decision was based as much on advice from her husband’s advisers as from Bush administration officials. There were also significant gaps in her fact-gathering, most notably her apparent failure to read a classified analysis that other senators cited in voting against the resolution…

She continued that path when she advocated intervention in Libya as secretary of state…

Besides Clinton pushing for interventionism in Libya, Clinton repeated the same mistakes in Syria, advocating war based on logic as flawed as anything we have heard from Donald Trump. Her views on Russia place us at risk of an even more dangerous situation.

Kranish stressed how Clinton failed to read classified intelligence reports which were available, leading others to oppose the war. Unlike some Democrats who did initially vote for the war, Clinton also continued to support the war:

A year after the vote, Clinton defended it on CNN, citing “grave threats to the United States.”

As The Intercept pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisers Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State. The Iraq vote was not a fluke. It is what we can expect if Clinton is elected.

Clinton desires to replicate the horrors of the Bush years in other ways. Besides perpetuating the warfare state, Clinton desires to expand the surveillance state and has a terrible record on civil liberties with views (minus the Islamophobia) which are comparable to Trump’s. As occurred under Bush, Clinton also has a long history of supporting an increased role for religion in public policy. The reality is that, no matter how much the point out Donald Trump’s flaws, Hillary Clinton already has a record of doing much of what Trump is accused of.

The Democratic Party establishment made a horrible mistake in acting to ensure that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination. While Clinton still has the edge, they might have to face the consequences of their actions if it leads to defeat and the election of Donald Trump as president.

Both Trump And Clinton Fail Commander-In-Chief Test

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There appears to be near universal agreement that Matt Lauer’s performance as moderator at the Commander In Chief Forum was a disaster. Lauer certainly failed to fact check multiple false statements from Donald Trump, who was once again confused and incoherent when trying to discuss matters of policy. He also did a poor job in fact checking Hillary Clinton, or at holding her responsible for her long history of poor decisions on foreign policy.

Trump had so many false statements it is difficult to list them all. Perhaps that is his strategy–make it hard to stay focused on any particular falsehood or foolish statement. Factcheck.org and PolitiFact have lists of falsehoods by both candidates. This doesn’t include matters of poor judgment from each candidate. The full text of the forum can be found here.

Among the lowlights from Trump was once again claiming to have opposed the Iraq war before it started, his false claims to have opposed the intervention in Libya at the time, his threat to get rid of the top generals, and his distortion of Clinton’s statements about the problems at the VA. Plus there’s his secret plan to defeat ISIS.

Matt Lauer spent a lot of time on Clinton’s email but did so poorly. He brought up some of the problems but allowed Clinton to get away with the same distortions she has used in the past. This provided nothing new on the issue, and wasted time which would have been better spent on Clinton’s dreadful foreign policy record.

Clinton tends to make lawyerly statements which on the surface are nearly true, but which skirt the real issue. During the forum she said:

“Classified material has a header which says ‘top-secret, secret, confidential.’ Nothing, and I will repeat this and this is verified in the report by the Department of Justice, none of the emails sent or received by me had such a header.”

There were a few emails which were found to have a designation of c, but Lauer really should have pointed out the more important problem as stated by James Comey:

There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.

As Reuters explained, some types of information are “born classified” and are classified regardless of whether there is a classified header. Clinton is just distorting the issue when concentrating on how the email was labeled.

Another problem for Clinton’s claim is that she was found to have instructed an aide to remove the “identifying heading” and send information trough non-secure channels.

Other falsehoods from Clinton include falsely claiming that Trump wants to privatize the VA when he has actually advocated allowing patient’s in the VA system to obtain care from physicians outside the VA system when necessary–an idea which even some Democrats have supported.

The bigger problem was the limited discussion of actual policy. As Alex Emmons has also pointed out, NBC’s Military Forum Was a Master Class on How Not to Hold Candidates Accountable. For example:

When Hillary Clinton explained her anti-ISIS plan by saying “we are not going to have ground troops in Iraq,” he failed to point out that we already do have those troops. When Donald Trump claimed to have opposed the wars in Iraq and Libya from the beginning, Lauer failed to correct him and tell the audience that wasn’t true…

Lauer chose to ask Trump about his preparedness and past remarks, rather than question his actual plans. “I’d like you to tell our veterans and our people at home why you are prepared for the role of commander in chief,” said Lauer. Lauer would go on to further question Trump about his “preparedness,” his “temperament,” and his receptiveness to intelligence briefings…

Lauer failed to raise many of the most controversial national security issues in the post-9/11 world. For Lauer, the issue was whether Clinton’s emails contained information on the covert drone program, not whether the covert drone program was legal or ethical. He never to pressed her about the surveillance implications of her “intelligence surge,” or what “working with experts in Silicon Valley” meant. Trump was never asked to defend his proposals to infiltrate American mosques and spy on predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. At no point was either candidate pressed for their stance on the drone war, torture, Guantánamo Bay, or mass surveillance.

Clinton avoided true accountability regarding her support for the Iraq war, even twisting this into a reason to support her over Trump, with some rather dubious logic and distortions of the facts:

CLINTON: Now, my opponent was for the war in Iraq. He says he wasn’t. You can go back and look at the record. He supported it. He told Howard Stern he supported it. So he supported it before it happened, he supported it as it was happening, and he is on record as supporting it after it happened. I have taken responsibility for my decision.

LAUER: Let me go to another…

CLINTON: He refuses to take responsibility for his support. That is a judgment issue.

While Trump’s claims of opposing the war before it started do not hold up, there is a huge difference between Trump sounding rather unsure and going along when asked about it, as opposed to Clinton actively promoting going to war based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. She was incorrect about Trump continuing to support the war.

While she admits Iraq was a mistake, she made the same mistakes on both Libya and Syria. That is the real judgment issue. Plus, on Libya, while both originally supported regime change, Clinton continues to defend that disastrous decision, while Trump has come out in opposition. To take Clinton’s own words, it was Clinton who supported it before it happened, supported it as it was happening, and is on record as supporting it after it happened.

Trump was again incoherent with regards to his man-crush on Putin, but I also wish that Lauer had asked Clinton about the danger that her belligerent views towards Russia risks getting us into a war with them. He might have also asked her about her threats to obliterate Iran, her past refusal to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against terrorists (a view similar to the view Trump has rightly been criticized for), her unwillingness to accept a diplomatic solution over war in Syria, and her siding with Republicans to oppose a ban on the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas.

While it was partially due to the candidates only wanting to face questions for a half hour, Lauer does deserve criticism for not taking advantage of the time to further probe the failings of both candidates on foreign policy. The real loser, however, is not Matt Lauer. It is the American people who will be stuck with one of these candidates as president. Neither has the judgment to be Commander In Chief, and both have serious difficulties with telling the truth.

Update: Late night comics on the forum.

Creating A State Of Perpetual Warfare

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The Orwellian aspects of our foreign policy have been apparent to its opponents for quite a while. Former CIA officer Barry Eisler did not mention Orwell in an article on perpetual warfare at Boing Boing but either he was considering several aspects of warfare in 1984 or came to similar views as Orwell independently. Some excerpts:

If you were the government and wanted to maintain a state of perpetual war, how would you go about it?

First, you’d need an enemy, of course, but that part would be pretty straightforward. After all, if the US government could convince the citizenry that Iraq was the 9/11 enemy but that Saudi Arabia was our friend when nineteen out of the twenty 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, it’s fair to say that just about anything is possible.

But the next part would be harder. On the one hand, you’d have to claim progress in the war so that the citizenry would maintain its support for the war. On the other hand, you couldn’t actually defeat the enemy, lest the war end.

Eisler here was referring to the latest in a long string of news reports on a significant victory, such as killing a key member of ISIS, while nothing actually changes.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that according to the Pentagon, we’ve achieved yet another concrete War on Terror victory, while according to American officials and counterterrorism specialists, outright victory is still intangible and elusive. Maybe it’s a coincidence that this narrative is precisely the one a team of social scientists would devise if tasked to come up with something that would maintain indefinite support for a never-ending war.

But it would be foolish not to at least wonder. War is awful for almost everyone. But for a few narrow factions, there’s a lot of money to be made and power to be accrued. You could even go out on a limb and argue that war is a racket.

While in 1984,”We‘ve always been at war with Eastasia” the enemy does periodically change. Eisler points out that this could be happening with our perpetual war:

If you were really clever, you’d probably want a backup enemy–a Plan B in case the current enemy du jour were ever somehow actually defeated. In which regard, maybe it’s a coincidence that we are now being told we are now in a new cold war with a resurgent Russia and that Vladimir Putin is behind everything bad in the world. But once again, it would be foolish not to at least wonder.

In 2008, Barack Obama was the peace candidate, yet the war continues and the use of drones has increased. The choices in 2016 appear even worse. Hillary Clinton is probably the most hawkish war monger to run for president in recent memory. Besides pushing for the Iraq war based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, she is the architect of our disastrous policy in Libya, and wanted to repeat the same mistakes in Syria based on absurd arguments. She has also been pushing to extend the conflict to Russia, with a new Cold War, if not an outright hot war.

Her opponent, Donald Trump, has at times spoken out against Clinton’s interventionism, but has been far too incoherent on foreign policy (and everything else) to be seen as a serious alternative. While Clinton appears most likely to win, with Clinton’s favorability at records lows Trump has been cutting into Clinton’s lead, including pulling into a tie in the latest Reuter’s poll.

Third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson might provide a real difference but are marginalized by our system, not even being allowed in the presidential debates, despite widespread dislike for the major party candidates. Just today, Bernie Sanders did say that the threshold for minor parties participating in the debates should be lowered. It is unlikely we will see any real change, or an end to our perpetual war, unless other voices are heard.

Republicans Consider Intervention Or Replacing Trump As Nominee

Real Presidential Candidates

While Donald Trump’s act worked better than most pundits predicted in the Republican nomination race, he is clearly not prepared for a general election campaign. He came out of his convention leading Clinton in some polls. If he had stuck to the message given at the convention (regardless of whether accurate) that he is a successful businessman who can get things done, and ran as an outsider against gridlock and against Hillary Clinton and her history of corruption, he might have won. Instead he has made blunder after blunder, leading to the point where Republicans are talking about an intervention, and possibly a change in candidate. NBC News reports:

Key Republicans close to Donald Trump’s orbit are plotting an intervention with the candidate after a disastrous 48 hours led some influential voices in the party to question whether Trump can stay at the top of the Republican ticket without catastrophic consequences for his campaign and the GOP at large.

Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, former Republican New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the Trump endorsers hoping to talk the real estate mogul into a dramatic reset of his campaign in the coming days, sources tell NBC News.

ABC News has looked at what it would take to replace Trump:

First, Trump would have to voluntarily exit the race. Officials say there is no mechanism for forcing him to withdraw his nomination. (Trump has not given any indications that he no longer wants to be his party’s nominee.)

Then it would be up to the 168 members of the Republican National Committee to choose a successor, though the process is complicated.

One Republican legal expert has advised party officials that, for practical reasons, Trump would have to drop out by early September to give the party enough time to choose his replacement and get the next nominee’s name on the ballot in enough states to win.

Even if they could get Trump to step down and get another name on enough ballots, this would leave the Republican Party in a very weak position. Anybody coming into the race this late would be far behind on organizing and fund raising. The party would be badly fractured, with some Trump supporters refusing to vote for anybody else. Replacing Trump might be more about preventing a loss of historic proportions and about preserving down ticket races as opposed to actually winning the general election.

It is really bad when the former president from your own party is speaking out against you as George W. Bush did on Tuesday. It is less surprising considering that Trump has (correctly) criticized Bush over the Iraq war and other policies.

Republicans are right to consider dumping Trump, or at least deny him their endorsement, and deserve some credit for this. I wish some Democrats would show some honor in also opposing the election of someone as unfit to be president as Hillary Clinton. CNBC has addressed the Democratic Party rules for replacing the candidate. Should there be more revelations which harm Clinton further (always possible) and Clinton steps down (extremely unlikely), the Democratic National Committee would chose the new candidate.

If Trump does manage to remain in the race and keep the election close, there is another twist which could affect predictions based upon the electoral college. An Republican elector from Georgia has said he would not vote for Trump. Twenty-one states legally allow electors to cast their vote different from the vote in their state, and it is questionable if laws in other states would really prevent electors from changing their vote.

In 1972 one elector voted for the Libertarian Party ticket rather than for Richard Nixon. The Libertarian Party, as well as the Green Party, could attract enough votes to affect the outcome this year with both candidates being so unpopular. There has even been speculation as to one long-shot route for Gary Johnson to become president. If he can win in some states, such as New Hampshire and western states, he might deny both Clinton and Trump a majority of electoral votes. The election would then be decided in the House of Representatives, with each state being able to vote for the top three candidates. Johnson’s hope is that Republicans who see Trump as unstable would vote for him, with Democrats also seeing the socially liberal Johnson as preferable to Trump. It is a real long shot, but so many strange things have happened this year that this cannot be entirely ruled out.

Three More Ousted Following Wikleaks Email Release Showed DNC Favored Clinton & Displayed Religious Intolerance

Leaked emails

More heads are rolling at the DNC following the release of hacked email by WikiLeaks, which previously led to the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz (and her subsequently being hired by the Clinton campaign). Politico reports:

With just three months until Election Day and the Democrats’ official party apparatus struggling to right itself from months of dysfunction and the scandal caused by the WikiLeaks email hack, interim Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile cleaned house Tuesday with the ouster of three top officials.

CEO Amy Dacey, communications director Luis Miranda and chief financial officer Brad Marshall are all leaving the organization, the DNC announced Tuesday afternoon, shortly after staffers were informed of the changes in a meeting. The announcement praised all three outgoing officials, but people familiar say the departures were heavily encouraged.

Brad Marshall was the one who sent the email suggesting using Sanders’ religion against him. In addition to being offensive to Jews, this has led some Humanists and atheists to leave the Democratic Party. Luis Granados, director of Humanist Press, wrote:

The Democratic National Committee’s Insult to Atheists

Goodbye, Democratic Party. Unless there is a major, credible act of contrition, right now, I’m outta here—for good.

On Friday, a batch of leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) included a little missive from a Brad Marshall. Marshall is not some clueless underling—he is the chief financial officer of the party and has been for six years now. The gist of the message is to recommend that some unnamed individual, probably Bernie Sanders, be publicly reviled for being an atheist.

Marshall’s first response when this came to light was that the email, which does not mention Sanders by name, was not about him at all, but about a surrogate. “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate.”

So in DNC-land, smearing a big shot like Bernie Sanders as an atheist is a no-no, but smearing a mere “surrogate” as an atheist is a cool thing to do.

It didn’t stop there. Marshall’s boss, Amy Dacey, is the chief executive officer of the entire DNC operation. She gave a one-word response: “AMEN.”

As the chattering class erupted over all this, Marshall finally issued a backhanded apology: “I deeply regret that my insensitive, emotional emails would cause embarrassment to the DNC, the Chairwoman, and all of the staffers who worked hard to make the primary a fair and open process. The comments expressed do not reflect my beliefs nor do they reflect the beliefs of the DNC and its employees. I apologize to those I offended.”

In other words, he’s sorry he got caught, even though he didn’t do anything wrong because it was the devil who moved his fingers on the keyboard, not his true self. In fact, the only thing even the devil may have done wrong was to make the primary less of a “fair and open process.” Condemning those who hold certain religious beliefs? Stepping on the neck of the already most disdained group in America? It doesn’t even dawn on Marshall that there’s anything wrong with that…

The Mussolini-wannabe the Republicans just nominated is loathed by most humanists. But there are other options. If you’re a fiscal conservative, Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party may be appealing. If you’re a fiscal liberal, Jill Stein and the Green Party may be appealing. As far as I know, neither of these parties tries to win friends and influence people by snidely insinuating that so-and-so is a filthy little atheist. Like the Democrats do, with impunity. Until now.

Amanda Scott wrote a similar article entitled Democrats Should Know that Religion Is Not a Litmus Test for Public Office. The Humanist.com also noted that even Ted Cruz has recently expressed support for religious freedom for atheists, although he has not always expressed such tolerance. I’d also add that for politicians on the religious right, religious freedom often means the right of the Christian majority to impose their religious views on others.

The removal of Brad Marshall was a step in the right direction, but this does nothing to remedy the real problem–the undermining of Bernie Sanders campaign and the nomination of a candidate as unfit for public office as Hillary Clinton. Clinton actually has found a way to benefit from this in raising anti-Russian hysteria and connecting it to Donald Trump. While Russia may or may not have been involved in hacking the email, at this point nothing has been proven and this is reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq war based upon false claims.

Presidential Campaign Raises Questions Of Détente With Russia And McCarthyism From Clinton Supporters

HillCarthy-640x400

It is a shame that Donald Trump is rather incoherent on policy as he actually has two ideas which a more intelligent candidate might pursue further–improving relations with Russia (as opposed to Clinton and the neocons taking us into a new Cold War), and questioning whether we can afford to be the world’s policeman. Hillary Clinton has a long history of both belligerence towards Russia, including trying to taper in their own politics against Putin, and it has been a neocon goal to bring regime change to Russia as they did in Iraq.

AP has reported on how Trump’s comments on Russia have disturbed many in the establishment. Buried in the article there is even an alternate viewpoint:

But Steven Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton and New York University, credits Trump for focusing on issues ripe for discussion. He said that while Trump talks “elliptically” and “just can’t wonk,” the GOP nominee “in his own way seems to be advocating detente,” which Cohen sees as an admirable goal.

Cohen said it’s time for critics to stop using “McCarthyite” language to demonize Trump and have a serious discussion about the issues he’s raising.

“It’s called a debate,” said Cohen. “You’re supposed to have them in a presidential campaign.”

Cohen has also criticized the McCarthyite tactics of  some Clinton supporters in The Nation:

Many liberals (and their publications) have recently branded Donald Trump as Putin’s “puppet” (Franklin Foer), “de facto agent” (Jeffrey Goldberg), “Kremlin client” (Timothy Snyder), and would-be “man in the White House.” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman spells out the implication that Trump “would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America’s allies and her own self-interest.” These disgraceful allegations are based on little more, Cohen argues, than a mistranslation of a casual Putin remark about Trump, Trump’s elliptical suggestions that he may favor détente with Moscow and tacit endorsement of Obama’s refusal to escalate the military conflict in Ukraine, and Russian business relations of Trump’s “associates” of the kind eagerly sought since the late 1980s by many American corporations, including Exxon Mobil and MacDonald’s

This is, of course, an ominous recapitulation of McCarthy’s accusations, which seriously damaged American democracy and ruined many lives. Still worse, this Putin-baiting of Trump is coming from the Clinton campaign, which most of the liberals involved evidently support, as reflected in a page-one New York Times story headlined “A Trump-Putin Alliance.” Clinton, it seems, intends to run against Trump-Putin. If so, the new Cold War can only become more dangerous, especially if she wins and if this McCarthyite tactic reflects her hawkish views on Russia, and the wildly demonized Putin in particular.

Nathan Robinson made the same argument in Current Affairs which warns that Democrats Are Redbaiting Like It’s 1956:

The suspect list was quickly reduced to one: the Russian government. The evidence for that was murky to begin with but has grown more solid over time. (“Anything’s possible” replied Barack Obama, when asked about possible Russian involvement.) Harvard law professor and cybersecurity expert Jack Goldsmith has cautioned that “there is no public evidence whatsoever tying Russia to the hack,” and that “attribution for cyberoperations of this sort is very tricky and tends to take some time.”

But even before the precise origins and motives for the hack have been sorted out, media figures have been conjuring progressively larger and larger conspiracy theories. U.S. intelligence officials are uncertain whether the hack “was intended as fairly routine cyberespionage… or as part of an effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.” Yet the hack is being treated by many as a Russian plot to elect Donald Trump, as part of a Trump-Putin alliance serving Vladimir Putin’s “plan for destroying the West.”

The theory is not confined to a small, deranged political fringe. It is being voiced by respected members of the media establishment. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has said there is “a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.” Former Enron adviser Paul Krugman has enthusiastically embraced the theories and has even implied that Trump may be a Manchurian Candidate. Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post has seconded the idea…

It should be noted, first, that all of these figures are supporters of the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, and that the hack of the DNC emails proved deeply embarrassing for the Clinton campaign. The shift from discussing the emails themselves to discussing who leaked them is tremendously helpful in taking negative attention away from the DNC and Clinton. As one BuzzFeed writer put it, “Now Russia is the story.” Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, declared: “Wasserman Schultz resigned. So now maybe we can focus on who was behind the leak.” By attempting to turn the email hack into a bigger scandal than Watergate, Democrats serve the twin goals of (1) not having to talk about internal problems with the DNC and (2) further pushing the unsubstantiated Trump-Putin alliance theory. (In fact, we know this was an explicit strategy and not just a stroke of good fortune. When the hacks occurred, Bloomberg reported that “If the Democrats can show the hidden hand of Russian intelligence agencies, they believe that voter outrage will probably outweigh any embarrassing revelations.”)

But liberals in the press have gone beyond simply questioning the source of the email leak. Firmly convinced that Trump’s candidacy is being advanced by the Kremlin, they have also turned against leftists, claiming that they are doing Putin’s bidding. A fellow at the Center for American Progress, for example, accusedIntercept journalist Glenn Greenwald of being a “Russia troll.” Josh Marshall pondered how many online “Sanders supporters” and “Trump supporters” were actually being run out of a Russian operation, while a writer at The Atlantic confronted a Bernie fan on Twitter about their suspicious interest in Ukraine. And the Democratic Blue Nation Review, run by longtime Clinton operative David Brock, warned that online “Bernie or Bust” supporters could instead be “sophisticated agitators” in the pay of the Russian government.

Jonathan Chait, a liberal writer for New York magazine, suggested that leftists are reflexive defenders and enablers of the Russian state…

Just as the movement against the Vietnam War was once accused of being run out of Moscow, and just as the Civil Rights movement was supposedly filled with Communist agitators, liberals have once again revived one of the nastiest traditions in the history of American political smear tactics: the McCarthyist innuendo…

This kind of thinking is disturbing, because of where it leads. First, it takes you further and further away from the land of sober-minded assessment and careful reasoning. Most of the Trump-Putin theories follow the precise same patterns of logic deployed by JFK conspirators and the 9/11 Truth movement. They don’t prove their assertions with direct evidence, but offer all sorts of “suspicious” facts that supposedly imply the conclusion. So we get a lot of “isn’t it interesting that Trump has business interests in Russia?” and “isn’t it convenient that the leaks helped Trump and Trump likes Putin?” Of course, the former is (slightly) interesting and the latter is convenient. But building theories this way turns you into a madman. Look at Foer’s own conclusion:

In the end, we only have circumstantial evidence about the Russian efforts to shape this election—a series of disparate data points and a history of past interference in similar contests. But the pattern is troubling, and so is the premise.

Troubling patterns and premises, rather than troubling facts, are what substantiate stories about black helicopters and chemtrails. When disparate data points will do, one becomes paranoid. But some of the conspiracy-minded liberals seem to embrace that. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you,” a BuzzFeed writer reminds us. Of course, it doesn’t mean they aren’t after you. But it does mean your judgment on the question is going to be irreparably compromised.

At this point, the accusations of a Trump/Putin alliance against Clinton sounds disturbingly like what we heard during the run up to the Iraq war, including Hillary Clinton’s false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Earlier in the year the Clinton campaign also used red-baiting against Bernie Sanders and tried to paint him as a communist sympathizer.