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.

Hillary Clinton Offers Continuity With Change (Plus More War & Flipping on TPP)

Continuity With Change

The second night of the Republican-Lite Convention featured fictitious story hour from the aspiring First Lady’s Man (to use Stephen Colbert’s title for him). It was good to see Rachel Maddow being critical of Bill Clinton’s speech, but the real problem was not talking about his courtship of Hillary, but his whitewashing of their political record and bogus claims that Hillary is a Change Maker.  Trying to hide the fact that Clinton is the candidate of the status quo in a year voters want change reminds me of Selena Meyer’s slogan of Continuity with Change on Veep. I imagine this is better than the two unofficial slogans of Clinton’s primary campaign: “It’s My Turn” and “No We Can’t.”

There was no mention of mass incarceration, welfare “reform,” and the consequence of his trade deals. A more honest assessment of the Clinton years from a liberal perspective can be found from Thomas Frank and Howard Zinn, who I have previously quoted here.

Despite having been debunked many times by the fact checkers, last night we again heard the exaggerations of Clinton’s role in the passing of CHIP. I imagine this comes from desperation in promoting a candidate who has accomplished so little during her career–unless you consider the devastation of Libya and increasing instability in the middle east to be an accomplishment.

Fact checkers have shown many other falsehoods during the speeches last  night, both on Clinton’s record and in distorting some of Donald Trump’s views. There is really no need to distort Trump’s views when his actual views are crazy enough. While it is no excuse, this was not out of the ordinary for political conventions, and there were far fewer falsehoods than in Donald Trump’s speech at the Republican Convention.

Not everybody in the convention hall went along with the falsehoods of the convention. Some Sanders supporter walked out, with the media generally ignoring this. Reportedly actors are being hired on craigslist to fill the empty seats. There was also an unexpected moment of honesty when Terry McAuliffe told reporters that Hillary Clinton will flip on TPP.

Hillary Clinton had a video appearance to mention little girls who might be inspired to become president some day. I wonder how many little girls have been injured or killed by Hillary Clinton’s bombs? The manner in which her supporters have turned revelations of corruption into the DNC into anti-Russian hysteria makes me wonder if this is the start of a new front in Hillary Clinton’s wars. After all, Clinton does have a long history of belligerence towards Russia, including attempting to interfere in their politics against Putin, and it has been a neocon goal to bring about regime change in Russia. Haven’t we learned anything from how the government lied us into wars in Vietnam and Iraq?

Stephen Colbert continued to air The Late Show live to mock the conventions. The first clip contains his monologue and the second features an interview with cartoon Hillary Clinton:

Trump Ghost Writer Exposes Him As An Ignorant, Dishonest Sociopath Who Threatens To Cause The End Of Civilization

Art of the Deal

After months debates and primaries, America is about to make official its choice of the two worst people in the country. This week Donald Trump will officially become the Republican nominee. Tony Schwartz has unusual insight into Donald Trump, being the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal. He spoke about Trump with The New Yorker:

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

So we are risking the end of civilization with Donald Trump. The alternative is neocon war monger Hillary Clinton, who supported going to war in Iraq based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, is responsible for the Libya policy which Obama has called a failure and the worst mistake of his administration, who made an argument for war in Syria which is as irrational as anything we hear from Trump, who threatened to obliterate Iran, and threatens to get us involved in another cold war (if not hot war) with Russia. What a choice. A sociopath who hypothetically might cause the end of civilization, versus one of the most reckless advocates of military interventionism in recent history.

Other comments from Schwartz reinforced what we have grown to believe about Trump, such as his ignorance of the facts, exacerbated by his short attention span and dislike of reading:

But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

Other journalists have noticed Trump’s apparent lack of interest in reading. In May, Megyn Kelly, of Fox News, asked him to name his favorite book, other than the Bible or “The Art of the Deal.” Trump picked the 1929 novel “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Evidently suspecting that many years had elapsed since he’d read it, Kelly asked Trump to talk about the most recent book he’d read. “I read passages, I read areas, I’ll read chapters—I don’t have the time,” Trump said. As The New Republic noted recently, this attitude is not shared by most U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama, a habitual consumer of current books, and George W. Bush, who reportedly engaged in a fiercely competitive book-reading contest with his political adviser Karl Rove.

Not good when you come out looking dumber than George W. Bush.

Plus Schwartz questioned Trumps actual business ability, and described how dishonest he is:

Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”

When challenged about the facts, Schwartz says, Trump would often double down, repeat himself, and grow belligerent. This quality was recently on display after Trump posted on Twitter a derogatory image of Hillary Clinton that contained a six-pointed star lifted from a white-supremacist Web site. Campaign staffers took the image down, but two days later Trump angrily defended it, insisting that there was no anti-Semitic implication. Whenever “the thin veneer of Trump’s vanity is challenged,” Schwartz says, he overreacts—not an ideal quality in a head of state.

Of course dishonesty is a trait also shared by Hillary Clinton, even if the two tend to tell a different type of lie as discussed back in November. The nomination process has succeeded in finding the two worst people in America, with the final event to occur in November. If only this was just a reality show.

The After Bern: Stein and Johnson Seek Support Of Sanders Voters

Sanders Stein

Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and presumptive Green Party nominee Jill Stein didn’t waste a moment trying to seek the support of those who voted for him. She has been very active on Twitter today. Politico reports:

“If you don’t want to vote for a war monger or racist billionaire, there are more options. The political revolution will keep going,” Stein tweeted in the hour preceding Sanders’ announcement alongside Clinton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

In another tweet, Stein wrote, “While Trump praises dictators, Hillary takes their money. Remind us again of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record?”

As Sanders began speaking, Stein offered her own hashtags to disaffected Bernie backers. “The revolution continues with those who will fight for a government that represents all of us–not just the 1%. #HillNo #JillYes,” Stein wrote.

Stein has suggested she would step aside as the Green Party’s standard bearer should Sanders wish to lead the ticket. “I’ve invited Bernie to sit down and explore collaboration,” she told The Guardian in an interview published last Friday. “Everything is on the table. If he saw that you can’t have a revolutionary campaign in a counter-revolutionary party, he’d be welcomed to the Green Party. He could lead the ticket and build a political movement.”

…While Sanders emphasized the importance of defeating Donald Trump, Stein remarked that the Vermont senator could propose a bill to introduce ranked-choice presidential voting.

It sounds like the only good thing Bernie can say about Hillary is that she’s not Donald,” Stein continued. “That’s what most of her supporters like about her.”

Stein also has an article at Counterpunch which begins:

I join millions of Americans who see Hillary Clinton’s campaign as the opposite of what they and Bernie Sanders have fought for. Despite her penchant for flip flopping rhetoric, Hillary Clinton has spent decades consistently serving the causes of Wall Street, war and the Walmart economy.

The policies she fought for – along with her husband and political partner, Bill Clinton – have been foundations of the economic disaster most Americans are still struggling with: the abuses of deregulated Wall Street, rigged corporate trade agreements, racist mass incarceration, and the destruction of the social safety net for poor women and children. The consistent efforts of the Democratic Party to minimize, sideline, and sabotage the Sanders campaign are a wake up call that we can’t have a revolutionary campaign inside a counter-revolutionary party.

Sadly, Sanders is one of a long line of true reformers that have been undermined by the Democratic Party. The eventual suppression of the Sanders campaign was virtually guaranteed from the beginning with super-delegates and super Tuesdays, that were created after George McGovern’s nomination to prevent grassroots campaigns from winning the nomination again.

Sanders, a life-long independent who has advocated for building an independent democratic socialist party similar to Canada’s New Democratic Party, has said that his decision to run as a Democrat was based on pragmatism, but there is nothing pragmatic about supporting a party that for decades has consistently sold out the progressive majority to the billionaire class. This false pragmatism is not the path to revolutionary change but rather an incrementalism that keeps us trapped, voting for lesser evil again and again…

Some Clinton supporters have made a fallacious comparison between Bernie Sanders and George McGovern, with Democratic rules since the 1972 loss being designed to promote more moderate candidates. Among the fallacies in their claim that Sanders would have lost badly as McGovern did, in June 2016 Bernie Sanders had a double digit lead over Donald Trump while Clinton was much closer. In June of 1972, Richard Nixon had a nineteen point lead over McGovern. Any comparison between the two is also fallacious as Nixon was running for reelection from a strong position, before being tainted by the Watergate scandal. The war in Vietnam was winding down, Nixon had gone to China, and had a recent summit to build on the developing détente with the Soviet Union. McGovern’s pledge to cut the defense budget in half also seemed far more radical than any of Sanders’ proposals. This year it is Hillary Clinton who is entangled in scandals, was on the wrong side of foreign policy decisions including Iraq and Libya, and has been foolishly belligerent towards Russia. Plus her lead over Donald Trump is down to three points.

Hit & Run recommends the above video from March in which Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson tried to appeal to Sanders supporters based upon civil liberties, drug policy, and foreign policy. They also referred to a blog post from June which states:

Gary Johnson keeps pitching his presidential campaign to Bernie Sanders’ disappointed supporters. Read any profile of the Libertarian nominee, and chances are you’ll get to a part where he points out that the ISideWith site says Sanders is the rival candidate he agrees with the most.

It’s not hard to see why he’s doing this. While there are big differences between Johnson’s and Sanders’ economic platforms, their views have more overlap when it comes to social and foreign policy. Presumably there are some Bernie backers out there who care more about the latter issues, and Johnson would like to reach them. And indeed, according to a recent Bloomberg poll, “barely half of those who favored Sanders—55 percent—plan to vote for Clinton. Instead, 22 percent say they’ll vote for Trump, while 18 percent favor Libertarian Gary Johnson.” Eighteen percent is a pretty big slice of the pie, especially for a third-party candidate.

Despite agreements on a handful of issues at the rally today, the statements from Stein and Johnson make it clear that there are many areas of disagreement between Sanders supporters and Hillary Clinton. I previously discussed the vast ideological difference.

Discussion Of Saddam and Iraq Return To British And American Politics

John-Chilcot-the-Chairman-of-the-Iraq-Inquiry\

The Iraq war was the subject of news today both in the UK, with the release of the Chilcot inquiry, and in the US  with news reports of Donald Trump praising Saddam. David Weigel made a point that the media’s coverage of Trump’s statements appeared timed to help Hillary Clinton after the Clinton campaign used them to distract from James Comey’s statement which accused Clinton of being extremely careless with classified information, and demonstrated that she has lied to the public on several key points regarding the email controversy. Missing from the mainstream media coverage was Clinton’s support for the Iraq war based upon false claims.

A seven-year official inquiry in Great Britain on the Iraq war was finally released and repeats what many critics of the Iraq war were saying from the start, including that the reports of WMD were based upon faulty intelligence and non-military responses were not exhausted. CNN reports:

A  long-awaited official inquiry delivered a devastating indictment of Britain’s decision to invade Iraq Wednesday, finding that the war was based on flawed intelligence and had been launched before diplomatic options were exhausted.

The findings of the 2.6 million-word Iraq Inquiry — seven years in the making — were released following a statement by probe chairman John Chilcot in London.

The former civil servant said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” when the U.S-led invasion was launched in March 2003, and that while military action against him “might have been necessary at some point,” the “strategy of containment” could have continued for some time.

Chilcot said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned of the risks of regional instability and the rise of terrorism before the invasion of Iraq, but pressed on regardless.

BBC News sums up two key points:

Chairman Sir John Chilcot said the 2003 invasion was not the “last resort” action presented to MPs and the public.

There was no “imminent threat” from Saddam – and the intelligence case was “not justified”, he said.

The Guardian called the war an “appalling mistake” and began their editorial in looking at the victims:

As always in matters of military aggression, the humane perspective has to start with the victims. Since the US-led, UK-backed invasion of Iraq in 2003, estimates of the lives lost to violence vary from a quarter of a million to 600,000. The number of injured will surely be several times that, and the number of men, women and children displaced from their homes is put at between 3.5 and 5 million, somewhere between one in 10 and one in six of the population.

There is no disputing the vicious brutality of the regime that ran the country before, but there is no serious disputing, either, that the suffering captured in these statistics of war are of another order to anything that would be endured in even tyrannical times of peace. Thirteen years on, as the deadly blast in Baghdad last weekend illustrated afresh, the predicament of the Iraqi people remains misery without end. The topsy-turvy post-9/11 rationalisation for regime change from the chauvinist, parochial and sometimes proudly ignorant George W Bush White House produced predictably topsy-turvy results. Jihadi forces that Saddam Hussein had contained were not discouraged by his ousting, but greatly emboldened. In sum, failures do not come any more abject than Iraq, nor catastrophes any less pure.

George Bush’s communication director responded to BBC News with a rationalization based upon Saddam’s actions: “Despite the intelligence failures and other mistakes he has acknowledged previously, President Bush continues to believe the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.”

Donald Trump has expressed a different viewpoint on Saddam throughout the campaign. CNN reports:

While acknowledging that Saddam Hussein “was a bad guy,” Trump praised the former Iraqi dictator’s efficient killing of “terrorists” — despite the fact that Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism during Hussein’s time in power.

Trump, who supported the Iraq War before the invasion and in the early months of the war, said the U.S. “shouldn’t have destabilized” Iraq before pivoting to praising Hussein.

“He was a bad guy — really bad guy. But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism,” Trump said.

While Trump’s praise of Saddam is rather foolish (and debunked by The Guardian), David Weigel has a point that this is something which Trump has been saying on the stump throughout the campaign, with news media reports of Trump praising Saddam coming after the Clinton campaign made a point of it. Weigel wrote, “whaling on Trump gave the campaign a chance to pivot on a day when the director of the FBI held an unusual and damaging news conference saying that the Democratic candidate, whom most voters consider untrustworthy, had behaved recklessly with classified email. The media went along with this by noting the irony, and remarking that Trump stepped on what could have been a good news cycle.” Weigel further wrote:

The point is that Trump has been saying, for quite some time, that the United States should not have gone to war in Iraq, and that it should side with dictators as long as they “kill terrorists.” The Republican primary electorate endorsed that view. Clinton, as a senator and then as secretary of state, took another view, and backed the use of American power to remove both Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi. There’s video of Clinton gleefully saying “We came, we saw, he died” upon learning that Gaddafi had been torn apart by his own people. This has never been treated like a gaffe; but Trump’s “Saddam killed terrorists” riff suddenly is.

By consistently covering Trump’s argument over time, and by following up on it, media outlets did their job to inform voters. That was why Tuesday night’s collective Captain Renault moment was so strange, and so demonstrative of why many media consumers are skeptical of what they’re hearing. Instead of a debate on the facts — should Hussein have been removed? Did he “kill terrorists,” in a contradiction of what Americans were told before the war? — there was manufactured outrage, straight from a rival campaign.

The media coverage certainly has helped Clinton, in both stressing the worst aspects of Trump’s views and in totally ignoring how strong a supporter of the war Clinton was. Not only did Clinton support the war based upon the faulty intelligence cited in the report, she went beyond the claims of many supporters of the war in falsely claiming there were ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s support of neoconservative regime change has been a disaster. However Trump also has himself to blame. As on so many matters, even in criticizing Clinton where she deserves criticism, Trump has failed to make a consistent coherent argument against her, with the media further assisting Clinton.

Donald Trump Playing Into The Hands of ISIS

maddow_trump

The conventional wisdom has been that Donald Trump would benefit in the presidential race were there were to be a terrorist attack or economic downturn. In the aftermath of the attack in Orlando, that will probably be revised. Trump might still benefit from economic problems, with a majority trusting Trump over Clinton on the economy. It is too soon to have any polling, but it is hard to see Trump benefiting from his post-Orlando comments, including his speech today, which sounds much better in the original German.

Trump was already doing poorly since he clinched the nomination, with his campaign limited to attacks on other Republicans and racist attacks on judges. His statements over the last couple of days might have doomed him to a landslide loss. I fear that when Trump said, “The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here” he really does see every Muslim immigrant as being a future terrorist.

Trump has tried to place the blame on both Obama and Clinton for the attack. He is correct in criticizing Clinton’s Libya policy for the spread of terrorism in the region, and her views on Syria were almost as insane as Trump’s foreign policy. However, Trump is being selective in looking at Libya and Syria, while ignoring Iraq, where both the Republicans and Clinton were wrong. While these policies did make matters worse in the middle east, it is premature to connect this to the lone terrorist in Orlando without clearer knowledge of his views and motivation.

More importantly, while again he is right to condemn Clinton’s Libya and Syria positions, he has hardly been consistent, and Trump’s position here is also quite dangerous. As David Ignatius and William Saleton have pointed out, Trump’s attack on Islam plays right into the hands of terrorists–as George Bush did when he attacked Iraq. From Saleton’s article:

Trump also reinforces ISIS’s message that the campaign against it is a war against Islam. His ban on entry to the United States would apply to all Muslims, not just to radicals or supporters of terrorism. Three months ago, Trump declared that “Islam hates us” and refused to distinguish radical Muslims from Muslims in general, arguing that “it’s very hard to separate because you don’t know who is who.” On Friday, just before the Orlando attack, he told an audience of conservative Christians that he would “defend Christian Americans” and clamp down on the influx of “Syrian refugees.”

n short, Trump would undercut everything that’s working against ISIS: Muslim governments that have joined our military campaign, clerics who are articulating moderate Islam, ministries and activists who are working online to discredit jihadism. He would help ISIS obtain the weapons it needs most: overseas recruits who are willing to kill people in their own countries. He would make another Orlando more likely.

Trump thinks his policy of “vigilance” against domestic Muslims would protect us. But that, too, serves the enemy’s agenda. In its Ramadan message, ISIS urged its sympathizers in the West to wage jihad in their own countries, “to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor.” That’s the purpose of the attacks in Fort Hood, Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando: to terrorize us, to polarize us, to make every neighbor fear his neighbor.

So far, the terrorists haven’t succeeded. But Trump might.

I continue to fear how a war monger like Hillary Clinton might respond to a terrorist attack as president. There is also the question of how significant it is that Hillary Clinton has taken another step to the right of Barack Obama, at least in her terminology. In other words, Hillary Clinton is the neocon in this race, and is the candidate representing the usual Republican view. Donald Trump is looking like something even scarier.

Bernie Sanders had a more sensible response, which also demonstrated the limitations to Chuck Todd’s world view. While not very likely, I am still holding out hope that both parties come to their senses at their conventions, as opposed to leaving us with what might be the worst election choice ever.

A Lanister Always Pays His Debts–But Not Donald Trump

Game of Thrones 2016 Candidates

When we think of greedy and power hungry families, some of the first to come to mind are the Bushes, the Clintons, and the Lanisters. Donald Trump might not have a family history of seeking political power, but he has now joined these other power-hungry families. At least a Lanister always pays his debts. Donald Trump does not.

USA Today reports:

Donald Trump casts himself as a protector of workers and jobs, but a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation found hundreds of people – carpenters, dishwashers, painters, even his own lawyers – who say he didn’t pay them for their work…

At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.

Trump’s companies have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. That includes 21 citations against the defunct Trump Plaza in Atlantic City and three against the also out-of-business Trump Mortgage LLC in New York. Both cases were resolved by the companies agreeing to pay back wages…

The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.

The Wall Street Journal has similar stories.

Plus there is the big con job at Trump University.

Trump Game of Thrones

Hillary Clinton might consider calling him Deadbeat Donald in addition to Dangerous Donald. On the other hand, Ron Fournier has provided justification for Trump’s use of Lyin’ Hillary with some examples in an article entitled Hillary Clinton’s Truth Problem for The Atlantic

There are some Sanders supporters who might be hoping to see Trump win. I hardly see Trump as an acceptable alternative, but when both choices are so awful, I’m not going to dwell on how people plan to vote in November. The important thing is that we stick together to try to keep the country from sliding further into oligarchy, and oppose the extension of the warfare/surveillance state which we will probably see with either presumptive major party candidate. While in some ways Trump is probably worse than Clinton, at least there is the potential benefit if Trump is president that many Democrats will oppose his policies while justifying comparably odorous polices from Clinton. Quick medical fact: People who die in wars started by a Democrat are just as dead as people who die in wars started by a Republican.

Sanders Criticizes Conflict of Interest With Clinton Foundation & Clinton’s Interventionist Foreign Policy Views

sanders-raises-new-critique-agai

Bernie Sanders has tried to stick to the issues when campaigning, despite a dishonest Rovian-style campaign from Clinton. While there should be no place in a campaign for the types of lies used by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, discussing an opponents actual record is fair game if done honestly. Sanders decided against making use of the email and other scandals surrounding Hillary Clinton. Of course he also said that the investigations were being conducted and, while he did not use the scandals against Clinton in the campaign, he never exonerated Clinton for her actions (even if Clinton supporters cherry-pick quotes to give that impression). Sanders is finally changing course.

The Hill reports on Sanders making references to the Foundation scandals when interviewed on CNN.  While he has mentioned other conflicts of interest involving Clinton and her paid speeches, I am not aware of him discussing this until now.

Sanders hits Clinton Foundation over foreign donations

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders criticized the Clinton Foundation for accepting donations from foreign governments in an interview aired Sunday, calling it a conflict of interest.

“Do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of State and a foundation run by her husband collects many, many dollars from foreign governments — governments which are dictatorships?

“Yeah, I do have a problem with that. Yeah, I do,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

When host Jake Tapper asked if he thought it was a conflict of interest, Sanders said, “I do.”

CNN reports that Sanders also took his criticism of Clinton’s militaristic foreign policy views further than his previous criticism on her Iraq vote:
Bernie Sanders unleashed a sharp attack on Hillary Clinton over foreign policy on Sunday, casting her as too eager to use U.S. military force and saying her family charity’s acceptance of foreign countries’ contributions could be a conflict of interest.

The Vermont senator told CNN’s Jake Tapper the former secretary of state is too quick to “rush in” and remove dictators and he criticized Clinton’s approaches to Iraq, Libya and Syria.

“I worry about that, yeah, I do. I think her support for the war in Iraq was not just an aberration,” Sanders said of Clinton’s vote to authorize the Iraq War, in the interview that aired on “State of the Union.”

“I think that her willingness to kind of push President (Barack) Obama to overthrow (Libyan leader Moammar) Gaddafi and lead to the kind of instability that we’re seeing now in Libya — not inconsistent with her other views on Syria, where she wants a no-fly zone, which I think can suck us into never-ending conflict in that area,” he said.

I wonder whether he would have done better if he had criticized Clinton on these topics from the beginning of the race. Unless he can change the votes of those in the Democratic establishment who created a system which tilted the nomination towards Clinton from the start, Sanders cannot win enough delegates to win the nomination. Despite this, Sanders supporters remain firmly behind him, and nobody knows what he will do next. It should be tempting to remain in the race, both to push his views and to remain an alternative if Clinton’s scandals do force her from the race before the convention. While it is unlikely she will be forced out, it is still a possibility as she does remain under investigation by the FBI, in addition to having a very negative report on the email scandal from the State Department Inspector General.

Sanders might also feel more free to continue to criticize Clinton with Donald Trump looking less likely to win. Sanders repeated his criticism of Trump earlier today in California:

One day before the California primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called it “absolutely imperative” that voters turn out to defeat Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump on Tuesday and cast himself as the candidate best positioned to beat Trump.

“It is absolutely imperative that we defeat Donald Trump as a candidate for President of the United States. I believe I’m the stronger candidate,” Sanders told reporters in San Francisco, highlighting polls that shows him performing better than Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton against Trump.

“If the turnout is high tomorrow, we will win. If the turnout is very high, I think we will win by big numbers,” Sanders said.

He also called it “incomprehensible” that the presumptive nominee from a major political party is launching racially-charged attacks targeting a federal judge.

“[Trump] is essentially running his campaign on bigotry, on insulting Mexicans and Latinos, on insulting Muslims, on insulting African-Americans, on insulting women,” Sanders said. “It is clear to me that we have got to do everything that we can as a nation to make certain that Donald Trump does not become President of the United States.”

While Clinton has been doing poorly in the polls against Trump, she continues to have the Democratic advantage in the electoral college, and Trump is showing he has a lot to learn. He has very little campaign organization and continues to create controversy with racist and xenophobic remarks. He ignores facts and treats the campaign like a reality show, where “reality” can be altered to make the show more dramatic. If Clinton cannot move out to a large lead over Trump by the time of the convention, this would be another reason to question whether she should be the Democratic nominee.