Will Donald Trump’s Tactics Work Against Hillary Clinton?

Trumps and Clintons

Hillary Clinton currently is tied with Donald Trump in some polls and leads in others. The Democrats should have an advantage in the electoral college, although this is no longer clear with Clinton doing poorly in battleground states and independent voters. If the general election is between Clinton and Trump, the contest might come down to which of the two is disliked less, and whether Trump’s attacks on Clinton are as effective as they were against his Republican opponents.

The New York Times has a report on how Trump is expected to attack Clinton:

Donald J. Trump plans to throw Bill Clinton’s infidelities in Hillary Clinton’s face on live television during the presidential debates this fall, questioning whether she enabled his behavior and sought to discredit the women involved.

Mr. Trump will try to hold her accountable for security lapses at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and for the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens there.

And he intends to portray Mrs. Clinton as fundamentally corrupt, invoking everything from her cattle futures trades in the late 1970s to the federal investigation into her email practices as secretary of state.

Drawing on psychological warfare tactics that Mr. Trump used to defeat “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, “Little Marco” Rubio and “Low-Energy” Jeb Bush in the Republican primaries, the Trump campaign is mapping out character attacks on the Clintons to try to increase their negative poll ratings and bait them into making political mistakes, according to interviews with Mr. Trump and his advisers.

On the surface, I have my doubts as to whether this will really work but, on the other hand, who would have thought that Trump could have eliminated Jeb Bush from competition by calling him “low-energy?” Still, much of this looks like the typical overreach which has worked to the advantage of the Clintons in the past. Rather than attack the Clintons with factual criticism, Republicans tend to mix in a tremendous amount of fiction with their attacks, leading many to discount the large amount of legitimate criticism.

I really have my doubt that there is any benefit in bringing up ancient history. People already have their opinions about Bill’s affairs and the impeachment–with his popularity increasing tremendously in response to Republican over-reach with impeachment. Clinton has received criticism even from some feminists for the manner in which she treated women who have made accusations against Bill, but Trump is hardly going to benefit from feminist criticism of Clinton considering his record.

Trump could benefit from criticism based upon the fortune Bill and Hillary made from their political positions. The question here is whether voters will see the person who pays out money for political influence as being any better than those who receive money by influence peddling. Personally I see them as just two sides of the same bad coin, but Trump might be able to turn this to his advantage if he can be seen as someone exposing a dirty system.

There is plenty to work with regarding the email scandal. While mishandling of classified information is receiving the most talk these days, Trump might be better off concentrating on other aspects of the scandal. It is best to wait and see what happens with the FBI investigation. If there is any type of adverse report coming out of this, that will be more significant than anything Trump says. If nothing comes out of this, there is no point in making it an issue. I suspect that there will be no prosecution based upon Clinton’s position, even if others at lower levels have been prosecuted for less.

Trump should stick with criticism based upon violating government regulations regarding government transparency, influence peddling, and simply acting foolishly. Of course Trump has hardly been acting like an open-government advocate himself.

The email scandal could help Trump make the argument that Clinton is dishonest. Factcheckers have repeatedly demonstrated that Clinton has been lying on the facts, with Factcheck.org and Jake Tapper at CNN recently showing yet again that Clinton is lying when she claims that what she did was allowed (video above). Of course Trump will have the problem that the factcheckers consider him to be even more dishonest than Clinton.

Benghazi has been repeatedly investigated and there is little there. The major accusations don’t hold up at all. While systemic errors might have increased the risk, the various right wing conspiracy theories regarding the attack have been debunked.  There is no reason to think that the outcome would have been different if someone else had been Secretary of State at the time. This whole scandal has now been reduced to discrepancies between what Clinton told her family and others regarding the cause of the attack. Whether this was an attempt at pre-election spin versus errors made during the fog of war, this is hardly enough to justify further talk of Benghazi. Similarly, many of the other lines of attack coming from right wing sources do not hold up.

Rather than using Benghazi, Trump would be much smarter to campaign against Clinton’s policy on regime change in Libya, as well as her support of military interventionism in Syria and Iraq, along with her overly belligerent attitude towards Iran and Russia. A vote for Clinton is very likely a vote for wars, and for reigniting the Cold War with Russia. Clinton’s hawkishness could cost her the election if Trump could manage to sound coherent on foreign policy, bit it is questionable if he can handle this.

While these major lines of attack from Trump all have problems, Clinton’s strategy looks absolutely out of touch with reality. Greg Sargent interviewed Clinton’s chief strategist, Joel Benenson. He suggested that a major strategy of the campaign will be to argue that Trump has “been in it for himself.” The counter-attacks from Trump regarding the conduct of the Clintons are obvious considering the fortunes they made by capitalizing on their political positions. I’d suggest that Clinton obtain a new strategist, as a campaign based upon the lines outlined by Berenson would greatly increase the chances of a Trump victory in November.

In contrast, Bernie Sanders could easily campaign on the line that Berenson recommends for Clinton. Plus he would not have Clinton’s problems with dishonesty, money in politics, and foreign policy. Nominating Bernie Sanders would be the best way for Democrats to defeat Donald Trump.

The Battle Is On Between Dangerous Donald & Crooked Hillary

Trump Clinton Celebrity Death Match

While I will not entirely give up hope of an upset in the Democratic race by Bernie Sanders, the media is getting set for the showdown between Dangerous Donald and Crooked Hillary. Those are the current nicknames each has chosen for other, and they are both right about the other. I had planned to call them greater evil and lesser evil, but found that too many readers disagree as to which is which, even if we agree both of them are too evil to be fit to be president, or hold any other elective office.

Dangerous Donald is trying hard to win over the Republicans. He already has the racist and xenophobic base of GOP voters, but reaction to him is mixed among the more ideological GOP leaders (who never figured out that the base doesn’t really care about their economic theories). Trump is backing away from one of his more dangerous and controversial ideas. He now says that banning Muslims from entering the country was “only a suggestion.”

It hardly sounded like only a suggestion when he first stated: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

By this logic, does Trump think that Hitler’s rants in Mein Kampf were only suggestions?

Will he let Clinton get away with saying her proposals for military intervention in Iraq, Libya, and Syria were only a suggestion?

Will the media continue to play softball with Trump, or will they start asking him the types of followup questions which he does not appear capable of answering?

But here’s another sign that Trump is getting more moderate. He has disavowed his butler after he called for the killing of Barack Obama. A month ago Trump would have probably backed the proposal at his rallies.

Meanwhile it hasn’t been a good week for Crooked Hillary. As I warned months ago, the moment the Republicans settled on a candidate, the winner would look more like a serious candidate and would get a bounce in the polls. As I noted Tuesday, the election has become a virtual tie based upon the polls. Since then, a Reuters/Ipsos survey released on Wednesday also shows Clinton leading by just one percent. While the news media has generally been biased towards Clinton, CNN has posted an article entitled Why Sanders is a better bet against Trump on Thursday.

We might be seeing a lot of additional information demonstrating why Crooked Hillary deserves her name. While Sanders didn’t use such scandals against Clinton, there is no doubt that Trump will. Today there were reports that Clinton Charity Aided Clinton Friends.

While I have been far more concerned about the violations of policies regarding government transparency and the influence peddling by Clinton, the FBI investigation has dominated talk in the media. Clinton has tried to downplay this, saying it is just a security inquiry. This week, FBI Director James Corney has contradicted Clinton’s statement. Security inquiry is not a thing. This is an investigation. Still, I continue to doubt that Clinton will be indicted considering her position, even if lower level people have been prosecuted for less. However, nobody knows for sure what will happen, and it makes no sense for a major political party to even consider nominating Clinton under the circumstances.

Clinton has also faced difficulties policy-wise too this week, with Huffington Post and Common Dreams chastising Clinton for refusing to Rule Out Any and All Benefit Cuts to Social Security. On the other side, I’m sure there are a lot of Republicans who are angry with Dangerous Donald for not promising to cut Social Security.

While Sanders remains Clinton’s major challenger for the Democratic nomination, there might be members of the party establishment who will not accept Sanders but realize that Clinton is a major liability for the party. There seems to be some who are out floating a Biden/Warren trial balloon.

Trump Clinches Control of GOP While Sanders Continues To Fight Clinton For Democratic Nomination

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Who would have predicted that Donald Trump would clinch the Republican nomination while Hillary Clinton still has an opponent in the race after the Indiana primary, even if Bernie has a huge uphill battle to pull it out? Sanders’ only hope is that something major happens which erodes support for Clinton among the remaining primary voters and/or the superdelegates. While many Republicans continue to oppose Trump, it is hard to see any way to stop him now that both Cruz and Kassich have left the race.

While I do not want to give up all hope of an acceptable presidential candidate emerging from a major party, the pundits are concentrating on a Clinton versus Trump race, as horrible as those options are. Clinton certainly starts out with the advantage when you consider both the advantages for any Democrat in the electoral college, along with how Trump as alienated so many groups, including women and some minorities. On the other hand, the decline in Clinton’s support must raise the question of whether she can survive a general election campaign.

Some Republicans are even talking about voting for Clinton over Trump. Perhaps this will be like the PUMAs of 2008 with the majority ultimately voting for Obama despite initial threats to vote for McCain in protest over Clinton’s defeat. Trump is at a greater risk of a real defection this year. While he is wrong on many, many issues, Trump’s views are vastly different from the GOP mainstream. A neoconservative, DLC Democrat like Clinton is  not very far ideologically from the faction of Republicans which are not outright bat-shit crazy, and the old Goldwater Girl would actually be a sensible choice for many Republican voters. Neocons have already been talking about supporting Clinton for quite a while, and she has received the endorsement of Robert Kagan.

It certainly makes sense for Clinton to try to attract Republican votes, and such votes might make up votes Clinton will lose from those on the left who will not vote for her out of principle. A small percentage of Sanders supporters might even prefer Trump over Clinton. On paper Trump is preferable on foreign policy, showing far less interest than the ultra-hawkish Clinton in military interventionism and regime change, but I would also fear that he would blunder us into a war. Many Sanders supporters  prefer Trump over Clinton issues such as trade and legalization of drugs. Many other issues will make it unlikely for Sanders supporters to vote for Trump.

Sanders showed that his campaign is very much alive with his upset victory in Indiana. Many Clinton supporters are now calling on Sanders to leave the race, but they miss the point. Sanders has been facing an uphill battle from the start, but there is a need for a candidate to present an alternative viewpoint to those of Clinton and Trump. Hillary Clinton still has major negatives leaving a long shot chance of her campaign still being stopped, and even if she cannot be prevented from winning the nomination, voters in remaining primaries deserve an acceptable choice. This is also a campaign over principles and the future direction of the Democratic Party, regardless of whether Clinton wins the current nomination.

Clinton and Trump Battle For Sanders Supporters

Susan Sarandon created a lot of controversy last month when she questioned whether Trump or Clinton would be worse. She did it again this week when interviewed by Stephen Colbert (video above). She criticized Clinton on her environmental record and on her hawkish foreign policy views: “I’m more afraid of, actually, Hillary Clinton’s war record and her hawkishness than I am of building a wall, but that doesn’t mean that I would vote for Trump.” She also questioned the possibility of Trump being elected: “Come on, who’s going to vote for Trump, seriously?”

With Donald Trump within three points of Clinton in one recent poll (compared to an eleven point lead for Bernie Sanders over Trump), there are apparently some people who would vote for Trump. Both Trump and Clinton are going after Sanders supporters.

As Sanders has said, his supporters will not automatically back Clinton if she wins the nomination, and many will not learn to like her. Clinton says she will go after Sanders supporters in a “very aggressive” manner. No matter how aggressively she goes after my support, nothing she can do can negate her utterly unacceptable record.

Trump will have even greater difficulty in his attempts to obtain the support of Sanders supporters. He could attract the support of some Sanders supporters on issues such as trade. While his foreign policy speech was seriously flawed, he is still to the left of Clinton on foreign policy (as is pretty much everyone). Trump is significantly to the left of Clinton on the drug war. As Sanders has warned, Trump will use the email and Foundation scandals which he has stayed away from, which could also wind up putting Trump to the left of Clinton on government transparency, where she is already extremely conservative, as well as on matters such as government corruption and reducing the influence of money in politics. It is also refreshing to see a Republican candidate who does not advocate the destruction of Medicare and Social Security.

Despite all of the negatives for Clinton, Trump has serious negatives of his own, including the manner in which he has pandered to racism, xenophobia, and mysogeny. Only thirteen percent of Sanders supporters have a favorable view of Trump, and currently only ten percent say they would vote for him. However, it could affect the election results if ten to thirteen percent of voters who otherwise might have voted Democratic should not vote Democratic due to opposition to Hillary Clinton. Many more who don’t like either Trump or Clinton are also likely to sit out the election or vote for a third party.

Susan Sarandon Stephen Colbert

Walker Bragman has raised the question of who is the greater evil at Salon and tried to make a liberal case for Trump. While I do not agree with all of his points, it is good that there are writers on the left who are not falling into the tribalistic support for Clinton and exaggeration of Trump’s faults (as big as they are) which has become common among many Democrats. Even if Trump is the greater evil, the real question is which candidate will do more harm in the White House.

It is very likely that Trump will do less harm out of a combination of having less interest in going to war than Clinton and not being able to get sixty votes for his agenda in the Senate. On the other hand, many Democrats who would oppose conservative policies from Trump would defend comparable compromises from Clinton.

Clinton has already indicated a willingness to compromise with Republicans on areas from Social Security to access to abortion. We have seen the damage from compromise with Republicans and triangulation by Bill Clinton. Similar compromises by Hillary Clinton with Republicans would be more likely to move the country to the right than policies from a Republican president who face opposition from Democrats. We would be more likely to see cuts in Social Security, and restrictions on access to abortion, if Clinton is elected compared to Trump or another Republicans. Plus we would be more likely to go to war under Clinton, more people will be incarcerated for drug crimes, and we will have a president more concerned with how she can profit monetarily from the presidency than working for the good of the country.

Bernie Won’t Back Off, And His Supporters Will Not Learn To Like Hillary

Sanders Pennsylvania

Bernie Sanders continues to attack Hillary Clinton while campaigning in Pennsylvania. I’m glad that he is not listening to party leaders who think he should back off. This is not a case of one Democrat with similar views running against another Democrat with similar views.  There is a large ideological difference between the candidates, and the fight should continue regardless of how difficult it might be for Sanders to win the nomination.

Former Obama speech writer Jon Favraeu has been writing articles lately about how he learned to like Hillary, and why we should too. Today he wrote, “Primaries are often a clash of personalities and magnified policy differences.” No this is not about personalities (other than Clinton’s dishonesty) and the policy differences are rather major. I have opposed Clinton this year for the same reasons I opposed her in 2008. More significantly, I oppose her for the reasons I opposed the reelection of George Bush in 2004. Her militaristic foreign policy views, conservative views on civil liberties, and opposition to government transparency are little different from the views of the Bush administration, and are unacceptable, regardless of party.

Rather than leading us to learn to like Hillary, we learned, as Conor Lynch discussed, how the Democratic Party does not represent our values. He pointed out areas where Obama has continued the policies of the Bush administration, and Hillary Clinton is significantly to the right of him. He concluded:

How much will partisan Democrats be willing to forgive a Hillary Clinton administration? Many neoconservatives have already admitted that they prefer Clinton over Trump. At this rate, Clinton could fulfill most of Trump’s reactionary platform and still find widespread support among the Democratic faithful.

Earlier this week, the Clinton campaign accused Sanders “of trying to convince the next generation of progressives that the Democratic party is corrupt.” But do progressives really need to be persuaded that the Democratic Party is part of a corrupt political system, or that it is more reactionary than progressive on many issues? This is self-evident, and the Democratic party has done an excellent job over the past few decades making that case itself. The question is: how long will Democratic voters remain blindly loyal to their party?

Hillary Clinton probably could move the country much further to the right than Donald Trump or any Republican can. The same partisan Democrats who would loudly protest conservative actions from Republicans will defend the same actions if promoted by Hillary Clinton. We already saw how much Bill Clinton moved the country to the right when he was president.

Sanders recently warned that his supporters will not necessarily support Clinton. The Washington Post reports today that Sanders said he “would wait to see what Hillary Clinton includes in her platform before deciding how actively to campaign for her in the fall, if she is the party’s nominee.”

“I want to see the Democratic party have the courage to stand up to big money interests in a way that they have not in the past, take on the drug companies, take on Wall Street, take on the fossil-fuel industry, and I want to see them come up with ideas that really do excite working families and young people in this country,” Sanders said.

The problem is that, regardless of what the platform says, Clinton will probably do what she chooses if elected. When hearings were underway to confirm her as Secretary of State there were concerns about conflicts of interest. In response to such concerns, Clinton agreed to divulge the names of all contributors to the Foundation while she was in office. Clinton failed to provide this information, while making unethically making decisions regarding parties which were contributing to the Foundation, or paying Bill unprecedented amounts of money to give speeches. She has continued this pattern of unethical behavior after leaving office. In order to promote increased transparency after the Bush years, Obama instituted stricter rules to limit the use of private email, which Clinton then violated.

If Hillary Clinton failed to abide by rather limited agreements to act in an ethical fashion before she was confirmed as Secretary of State, why should anyone believe she will pay attention to any progressive planks she allows in the Democratic platform in order to obtain the support of Bernie Sanders? She has demonstrated too many times that she cannot be trusted–and certainly should not be trusted with the powers of the presidency.

New York Times Magazine Looks At How Hillary Clinton Became A Warmonger

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The New York Times Magazine features an article on How Hillary Clinton became a warmonger, although they are a little gentler with her, just calling her a hawk. The article began by pointing out how Clinton supported more aggressive military intervention than Obama when she was Secretary of State. She often sided with Robert Gates where others in the Obama administration were less militaristic, surprising Gates as to how conservative she was on foreign policy:

The two quickly discovered that they shared a Midwestern upbringing, a taste for a stiff drink after a long day of work and a deep-seated skepticism about the intentions of America’s foes. Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence analyst who conducted Obama’s initial review on the Afghanistan war, says: “I think one of the surprises for Gates and the military was, here they come in expecting a very left-of-center administration, and they discover that they have a secretary of state who’s a little bit right of them on these issues — a little more eager than they are, to a certain extent.

While Clinton has probably flip-flopped on more issues out of political expediency than any politician other than Mitt Romney, that is not the case with her foreign policy views: “Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone.” The article ran through Clinton’s biography as related to military matters, including one embarrassing episode:

In March 1996, the first lady visited American troops stationed in Bosnia. The trip became notorious years later when she claimed, during the 2008 campaign, to have dodged sniper fire after her C-17 military plane landed at an American base in Tuzla. (Chris Hill, a diplomat who was onboard that day and later served as ambassador to Iraq under Clinton, didn’t remember snipers at all, and indeed recalled children handing her bouquets of spring flowers.)

The article makes it clear that in any discussion of foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is the most hawkish person in the room, and will be to the right of the GOP candidate should she win the Democratic nomination:

Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone — grounded in cold realism about human nature and what one aide calls “a textbook view of American exceptionalism.” It set her apart from her rival-turned-boss, Barack Obama, who avoided military entanglements and tried to reconcile Americans to a world in which the United States was no longer the undisputed hegemon. And it will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she meets in the general election. For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas have demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.

While there are other issues where Clinton is preferable to Trump and Cruz, the president has far more direct control over whether we go to war than matters such as reproductive rights. Clinton’s foreign policy views, along with her corrupting ties to big money in politics, could be the deciding factor which keeps many Sanders supporters from turning out to vote for Clinton in the general election if she is the nominee.

Kevin Drum, who I have often found to ignore other major faults in Clinton, was disturbed by her foreign policy views:

And Landler doesn’t even mention Libya, perhaps because the Times already investigated her role at length a couple of months ago. It’s hardly necessary, though. Taken as a whole, this is a portrait of a would-be president who (a) fundamentally believes in displays of force, (b) is eager to give the military everything they ask for, and (c) doesn’t believe that military intervention is a last resort, no matter what she might say in public.

If anything worries me about Hillary Clinton, this is it. It’s not so much that she’s more hawkish than me, it’s the fact that events of the past 15 years don’t seem to have affected her views at all. How is that possible? And yet, our failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere apparently haven’t given her the slightest pause about the effectiveness of military force in the Middle East. Quite the opposite: the sense I get from Landler’s piece is that she continues to think all of these engagements would have turned out better if only we’d used more military power. I find it hard to understand how an intelligent, well-briefed person could continue to believe this, and that in turn makes me wonder just exactly what motivates Hillary’s worldview.

On the right, Daniel Larison, whose foreign policy views are far preferable to what is commonly accepted by conservatives, adds:

In virtually every foreign policy debate, Clinton can be counted on to endorse the more aggressive option available, and she is the least likely to favor making significant changes to the way the U.S. acts overseas. Her judgment has been reliably bad because she buys into conventional, wrong assumptions about the U.S. role in the world and the ability of the U.S. to “shape” events in other countries, and when Obama has come around to her view he has made some of the worst mistakes of his presidency. One would be hard-pressed to find a single instance from her time as Secretary of State when Clinton was on the winning side of a major internal policy debate that didn’t produce poor or disastrous results. If Obama had always sided against Clinton’s preferred course of action, he would have had fewer foreign policy failures and embarrassments.

The article also goes into some depth about her relationship with Gen. Jack Keane. Among other things, it was a briefing from Keane on establishing a “no-fly zone” in Syria that won Clinton over to that reckless position. This is one of Clinton’s main weaknesses: she typically assumes that military options are more efficacious and capable of “solving” problems in foreign conflicts than they are, and it doesn’t seem to take much persuading to get her to endorse an aggressive policy. Clinton normally errs on the side of using force or threatening to use it, and because of that she repeatedly takes the wrong side in debates over whether the U.S. should intervene in another country.

Both assessments above are accurate. Another recent article provides an even scarier insight into how Hillary Clinton thinks about foreign policy. Although it was not Obama’s intention, his discussion of Clinton in an interview  in The Atlantic definitely shows that Clinton is unfit to be president and certainly does not consider war to be a last resort. While many thought it was a good thing when Obama was able to negotiate a way to avoid military intervention in Syria, Clinton was one of those who disagreed:

For some foreign-policy experts, even within his own administration, Obama’s about-face on enforcing the red line was a dispiriting moment in which he displayed irresolution and naïveté, and did lasting damage to America’s standing in the world. “Once the commander in chief draws that red line,” Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director and then as secretary of defense in Obama’s first term, told me recently, “then I think the credibility of the commander in chief and this nation is at stake if he doesn’t enforce it.” Right after Obama’s reversal, Hillary Clinton said privately, “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”

No Hillary, if you have a way to accomplish your goals without going to war, you should not go to war. And if you cannot accomplish your goals without going to war, it might be time to reexamine your goals.

Clinton Repeats Old Lies In CNN Debate, Including On Guns And Libya

Last night’s Democratic debate included some of the topics I predicted yesterday, but there were no big new fabrications from Clinton. Instead she once again showed that she does not understand that fact-checkers exist, repeating some of her old lies which have already been debunked. Plus Clinton also showed that she does not understand that there is a permanent record of what she has said in the past as she pretended she has always supported a $15 minimum wage.I can just imagine her as president, going to war with Orwellian claims that We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

Guns came up once again despite fact-checkers having already debunked her distortions of Sanders’ position. As I pointed out on Wednesday, at least three  major fact-checkers showed that she was playing games with the math to blame guns violence in New York on guns purchased in Vermont.  The Washington Post Fact Checker gave her Three Pinocchios for this lie. Factcheck.org and PolitiFact also criticized her for her distortion with selected statistics, especially as guns from Vermont represent less than two percent of guns recovered and traced in New York. Clinton looks further dishonest when attacking Sanders on guns should voters recall that in 2008 Clinton ran as a self-described pro-gun chruchgoer.

PolitiFact also looked at Clinton’s claim that “Bernie Sanders ‘has been largely a very reliable supporter of the NRA'” yesterday and found it to be Mostly False. They even listed his grades from the NRA:

Year Grade
1992 D
1994 F
1996 F
1998 F
2000 F
2002 F
2004 D+
2006 C-
2012 D-

This hardly looks like a reliable supporter of the NRA.

Clinton also repeated her past distortions of Sanders’ position on Libya. This can turn into a major embarrassment or Clinton should more Democrats look at this issue. While Obama has often disagreed with Clinton on policy and ignored her recommendations, he did make the mistake of going along with her policy on Libya. Foreign Policy looked at how she continues to defend a failed policy in an article this week, also pointing out how she is more interventionist than Donald Trump and Ted Kruz. Making matters worse for Clinton, Obama has acknowledged how much a failure the actions were in an interview in The Atlantic, and called the failure to plan for after the intervention to be the worst mistake of his presidency in an interview with Fox.

Clinton’s strategy to reduce the harm from her mistakes in Libya is to falsely claim that Sanders voted for the policy. FactCheck.org debunked this:

The exchange was initiated by Sanders, who cited a New York Times story that identified Clinton as a key voice in convincing President Obama to topple Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. In an interview on Fox News on April 11, Obama said one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency was “probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.”

During the debate, Sanders said, “Regime change often has unintended consequences in Iraq and in Libya right now, where ISIS has a very dangerous foothold. And I think if you studied the whole history of American involvement in regime change, you see that quite often.”

We took a look at this when the exact same claims were made by both candidates during the sixth Democratic debate. Here are the facts: On March 1, 2011, Sanders cosponsored and voted in favor of Senate Resolution 85. The resolution, which was nonbinding and passed by unanimous consent, called on Gadhafi “to desist from further violence, recognize the Libyan people’s demand for democratic change, resign his position and permit a peaceful transition to democracy. …” So Sanders is correct that the resolution did not explicitly authorize or advocate for military action, though it did call for Gadhafi to resign his position.

In an interview with Fox News in March 2011, Sanders made clear that he was wary of military intervention. “Look, everybody understands Qaddafi is a thug and murderer,” Sanders said. “We want to see him go, but I think in the midst of two wars, I’m not quite sure we need a third war, and I hope the president tells us that our troops will be leaving there, that our military action in Libya will be ending very, very shortly.”

However, as Clinton said, the resolution Sanders cosponsored also urged the United Nations Security Council “to take such further action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory.” Indeed, a couple weeks later, the Security Council did approve a resolution calling for a no-fly zone and calling on members “to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country.”

This is hardly the same as supporting the type of overthrow of a government by force and regime change which was supported by Clinton. Like with Clinton’s support for the war in Iraq and increased US intervention in Syria, Clinton’s policy in Libya was quite different from Sanders’ foreign policy views. Clinton should defend her own views and record, not pretend that Sanders either had the same position (as in Libya) or distort Sanders’ position (as on guns).

Susan Sarandon Shows The Risk Of Nominating Clinton And Winding Up With Trump As President

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There are many celebrities supporting Bernie Sanders (along with celebrities supporting other candidates). Celebrities might not be experts on public policy, and their recommendations as to who to vote for might not mean very much, but comments from them often result in a tremendous amount of publicity. Susan Sarandon’s comments that Donald Trump might be better than Hillary Clinton would not mean very much if not for the fact that this highlights a problem Clinton will have in the general election. Many on the left will never vote for Hillary Clinton, for a variety of reasons.

While I agree with Sarandon’s criticism of Clinton and the status quo, I don’t agree with her particular argument that electing Trump would be better. Sarandon said:

“…some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in, things will really explode.” Asked if she thinks that’s “dangerous,” she replied, “It’s dangerous to think that we can continue the way we are with the militarized police force, with privatized prisons, with the death penalty, with the low minimum wage, threats to women’s rights and think you can’t do something huge to turn that around.”

The problem for Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party, is that, for several different  reasons, some on the left do question if Clinton would do more harm than Trump, even if they agree that Trump is the greater evil. I’ve seen a handful give arguments like Sarandon’s based upon bringing about the destruction of the current system. Other arguments are less radical. I’m not saying I agree with all of these, but here are other arguments commonly made:

Some actually prefer Trump over Clinton. These are primarily those who stress trade deals, finding Trump preferable here. Plus Trump has been less hawkish than Clinton in supporting military intervention and nation building (not that I’d trust him at all on foreign policy).

Others see Clinton as being more likely to move the country to the right than Trump or a Republican. Policies from Trump would be opposed by Democrats, often being enough to block them from being passed. Clinton has already indicated a willingness to compromise with Republicans on areas from Social Security to access to abortion. We have already seen the downside of compromise with Republicans and triangulation by Bill Clinton. Such compromises by Clinton with Republicans would be more likely to move the country to the right than policies from a Republican president who would not have bipartisan support. We would be more likely to see cuts in Social Security, and restrictions on access to abortion, if Clinton is elected compared to Trump or another Republicans.

There is the question of what happens in 2018 and 2020. There is the fear that the election of Clinton would be highly damaging to the Democratic brand, leading to bigger GOP pick ups in 2018, and further state governments falling under Republican control in 2020, leading to more Congressional districts being redrawn to help Republicans.

Plus there is the effect on the Democratic Party. At what point is supporting the lesser of two evils counterproductive? Will Democrats continue to move to the right if they find that there is no political cost? If Clinton wins in 2016 she will probably be the nominee in 2020, leaving us stuck with eight years of a conservative Democrat. Or there is the danger that she lose in 2000, leaving a damaged Democratic brand, leading to a longer stretch of Republican presidents, and even more Republican court appointees.

Some prefer a loss in 2016, feeling that there is a better chance of having a liberal Democrat in 2020. A Clinton loss might be the final straw to kill off the remains of the DLC. Plus  another candidate as opposed to Clinton might increase the chances of Democratic pick ups in state governments, as opposed to having a party led by Clinton running for reelection in 2020.

The Nader/Gore argument from 2000 does not have much traction with many who do not plan to vote for Clinton because Clinton has many of the same problems which led the left to be so strongly opposed to Bush. Clinton supports the same neoconservative foreign policy. She has a conservative record on civil liberties, falling to the right of Antonin Scalia and even sounding far too much like Donald Trump on suppression of freedom of speech. Her opposition to open-government and government transparency is even worse than what we saw under Bush. She certainly is the last candidate to consider when looking at the role of money in government. If the election of George W. Bush was such a terrible thing in 2000, then voting for a candidate who supports so many of the same policies hardly seems acceptable.

The bottom line is that you may agree or disagree with the arguments above but the thing about democracy is that everyone makes their own decision. You can argue all you want, but you cannot make anyone vote for Clinton, even if she is the lesser of two evils. Some will ultimately vote for her, while others will either not show up to vote for a candidate they disagree with, or will vote for another choice. The polls have been quite clear that there is a significant drop-off in Democratic votes in general election match-ups when Clinton, as compared to Sanders, is the candidate. We already saw what happens to Democratic turnout in 2014 when Democrats run as Republican-lite.

It doesn’t matter if they are wrong and you are right. It doesn’t matter if Susan Sarandon is insane. If Democrats nominate a candidate as flawed as Hillary Clinton, many people will not turn out to vote for her, no matter how logical your arguments are that they should.

Susan Sarandon has just highlighted a point which has already been clear. If you are worried that many liberal and progressive Democrats will stay home or vote third party if Clinton is the nominee, letting Donald Trump become president, you are right. This could happen. Many people will not be able to vote for a corrupt warmonger like Clinton, so to ensure that Donald Trump does not get elected, the safest course would be to nominate Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic candidate. It is the obvious solution as he would not only make the better president, but he would also be the stronger general election candidate.

Why Millennials, And Older Liberals, Support Sanders Over Clinton

Clinton Progressive

The endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Rolling Stone was a surprise considering how this conflicts with the views of millennials, whom I assume make up a substantial portion of its readership. Matt Taibbi responded by writing, Why Young People Are Right About Hillary Clinton. Taibbi made many good points but only provided a broad outline. While this is not the article to give to try to convince them not to vote for Clinton, the points made are worth repeating, and expanding upon.

Taibbi correctly traces the problem with the Democratic Party, and disconnect with the views of millennials to living in the past, not getting past the defeat of George McGovern back in 1972. Never mind how much the country has changed or the unique specifics of 1972, with McGovern running against an incumbent president when there was a reaction against the 1960’s counterculture in this country. (Besides, Richard Nixon had the best campaign slogan ever: Don’t Change Dicks In The Middle Of A Screw, Reelect Nixon in ’72.) The Democratic establishment saw southern politicians like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton win and McGovern lose and they built the nomination process around that. As Taibbi put it, “it would be a shame if we disqualified every honest politician, or forever disavowed the judgment of young people, just because George McGovern lost an election four decades ago.”

Even besides the manner in which the DNC has rigged the nomination process for Hillary Clinton this year, preexisting rules favor a moderate southern candidate, or at least one who can win in southern Democratic primaries. We have a political process, from the nomination process through the general election, makes it difficult to achieve change.

The Democratic nomination system both super delegates, who are in place to keep insurgent candidates like McGovern or Sanders from winning, and front loading the primary process with southern primaries. The party has not taken into account the fact that a current Democratic candidate, no matter how moderate, will not win in the south, but they do risk depressing Democratic turnout in the battleground states with their current choices of candidates. They risk a repeat of 2014 when Democratic voters stayed home with a candidate such as Clinton who performs poorly among independents and in the battleground states.

The results this year could easily be quite different with fairer rules. Imagine if Iowa announced the popular vote, as they did eight years ago, which Bernie Sanders probably won. If he started out with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then we had a mix of other states besides multiple southern states, Sanders and not Clinton would probably be the front runner now.

Taibbi described the transformation of the Democratic Party at the hands of the DLC and the Clintons:

That ’72 loss hovered like a raincloud over the Democrats until Bill Clinton came along. He took the White House using a formula engineered by a think tank, the Democratic Leadership Council, that was created in response to losses by McGovern and Walter Mondale.

The new strategy was a party that was socially liberal but fiscally conservative. It counterattacked Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, a racially themed appeal to disaffected whites Nixon tabbed the “Silent Majority,” by subtly taking positions against the Democrats’ own left flank.

In 1992 and in 1996, Clinton recaptured some of Nixon’s territory through a mix of populist positions (like a middle-class tax cut) and the “triangulating” technique of pushing back against the Democrats’ own liberal legacy on issues like welfare, crime and trade.

And that was the point. No more McGoverns. The chief moral argument of the Clinton revolution was not about striving for an end to the war or poverty or racism or inequality, but keeping the far worse Republicans out of power.

Taibbi was relatively mild in his criticism of the DLC Democrats. Two weeks ago I cited two more detailed accounts of the era from Thomas Frank and Howard Zinn.

Taibbi tied this into the present with a look at Hillary Clinton and other recent Democratic policies:

For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others.

And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues.

Hillary not only voted for the Iraq War, but offered a succession of ridiculous excuses for her vote. Remember, this was one of the easiest calls ever. A child could see that the Bush administration’s fairy tales about WMDs and Iraqi drones spraying poison over the capital (where were they going to launch from, Martha’s Vineyard?) were just that, fairy tales.

Yet Hillary voted for the invasion for the same reason many other mainstream Democrats did: They didn’t want to be tagged as McGovernite peaceniks. The new Democratic Party refused to be seen as being too antiwar, even at the cost of supporting a wrong one.

It was a classic “we can’t be too pure” moment. Hillary gambled that Democrats would understand that she’d outraged conscience and common sense for the sake of the Democrats’ electoral viability going forward. As a mock-Hillary in a 2007 Saturday Night Live episode put it, “Democrats know me…. They know my support for the Iraq War has always been insincere.”

This pattern, of modern Democrats bending so far back to preserve what they believe is their claim on the middle that they end up plainly in the wrong, has continually repeated itself.

Take the mass incarceration phenomenon. This was pioneered in Mario Cuomo’s New York and furthered under Bill Clinton’s presidency, which authorized more than $16 billion for new prisons and more police in a crime bill.

As The New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander noted, America when Bill Clinton left office had the world’s highest incarceration rate, with a prison admission rate for black drug inmates that was 23 times 1983 levels. Hillary stumped for that crime bill, adding the Reaganesque observation that inner-city criminals were “super-predators” who needed to be “brought to heel.”

You can go on down the line of all these issues. Trade? From NAFTA to the TPP, Hillary and her party cohorts have consistently supported these anti-union free trade agreements, until it became politically inexpedient. Debt? Hillary infamously voted for regressive bankruptcy reform just a few years after privately meeting with Elizabeth Warren and agreeing that such industry-driven efforts to choke off debt relief needed to be stopped.

Clinton not only voted for the war, she went beyond most supporters in making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. While she later claimed this was a mistake, she showed no signs of learning from her  mistakes with her hawkish views on Libya and Syria.

Taibbi only managed to mention a portion of the issues where Clinton is out of touch with millennial voters, along with older liberal voters such as myself. While millennial voters tend to be more libertarian on social and civil liberties issues, Clinton is conservative on both. She spent her time in the Senate working with the religious right as a member of The Fellowship, and her social conservatism can be seen in many of her views. She is far right win in her views on civil liberties, falling to the right of Antonin Scalia and not far from Donald Trump in her view of freedom of speech.

Taibbi concluded with matters of corruption, but again was very limited in this discussion of a very large topic. He did write:

Then of course there is the matter of the great gobs of money Hillary has taken to give speeches to Goldman Sachs and God knows whom else. Her answer about that — “That’s what they offered” — gets right to the heart of what young people find so repugnant about this brand of politics.

One can talk about having the strength to get things done, given the political reality of the times. But one also can become too easily convinced of certain political realities, particularly when they’re paying you hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour.

Is Hillary really doing the most good that she can do, fighting for the best deal that’s there to get for ordinary people?

Or is she just doing something that satisfies her own definition of that, while taking tens of millions of dollars from some of the world’s biggest jerks?

Plus he pointed out, “her shifting explanations and flippant attitude about the email scandal” along with the “faulty thinking” of her defenders: “My worry is that Democrats like Hillary have been saying, ‘The Republicans are worse!’ for so long that they’ve begun to believe it excuses everything.”

Her defenders ignore how Clinton’s actions included serious breaches of rules to promote government transparency, including new rules instituted under Obama in 2009 in response to the abuses under George W. Bush. Her claims, such as that what she did was allowed, have been repeatedly debunked by the fact checkers. She acted highly unethically in making decisions regarding parties who were either donating to the Foundation or paying unprecedented speaking fees to Bill. She also failed to abide by an agreement to divulge all donors while she was Secretary of State.

While his article was limited in specifics, he hit the key argument against her:

Young people don’t see the Sanders-Clinton race as a choice between idealism and incremental progress. The choice they see is between an honest politician, and one who is so profoundly a part of the problem that she can’t even see it anymore.

A platform of “the Republicans are worse” might work if the problem was simply that (as her defenders often frame it) Clinton was not progressive enough for her critics on the left. However, that is not the case at all. The problem is that Clinton is not progressive at all. If anything, throughout her career she has been a “progressive” who gets conservative results. She has been on the wrong side of most issues, and not all that terribly far from the Republican viewpoint.

White House Denies Claims That Obama Backed Clinton At Private Fundraiser

Trumps and Clintons

A report in The New York Times claiming that Obama Privately Tells Donors That Time Is Coming to Unite Behind Hillary Clinton was not received well by Sanders supporters today. The White House promptly walked back this claim. Multiple media outlets, including Reuters and Bloomberg, report that Obama Didn’t Back Clinton at Private Fundraiser.

Among items which Josh Earnest told reporters:

  • “I was there for the fundraiser, and I was there when the comments occurred”: Earnest
  • Obama said “that as Democrats move through this competitive primary process, we need to be mindful that our success in November in electing a Democratic president will depend on the commitment and ability of the Democratic Party to come together behind our nominee”: Earnest
  • Earnest declined to say whom Obama voted for in the Ill. primary

(As an aside, if anyone gets a chance to pose questions to Obama or Earnest, ask whether Obama would pardon Clinton and/or her top aides if indicted.)

Clinton is all set to claim will give us the third term of Barack Obama. Looking at her policy views, it would more likely be a third term for the neoconservative foreign policy of George W. Bush, and would be no better on civil liberties. Or in terms of ethics, it would be the third term of Richard Nixon, including a restoration of the views of Henry Kissinger.

Of course it is possible that Obama said one thing in private, but does not want to admit to this. Should Clinton get elected, he might some day also regret tying his legacy to her. Ironically, in a recent interview, he made statements which greatly undermined Clinton’s ability to be Commander In Chief based upon her mistakes on Libya and Syria.

Clinton also made a gaffe which will probably be repeated in GOP commercials this fall in saying “We didn’t lose a single person”is Libya. Her statement was technically true in the context she intended, ignoring all the bloodshed which her policy led to, and the death of four Americans. This is as foolish as Republicans claiming that George Bush kept us safe from terrorism, if you ignore 9/11.

We are also seeing plenty of arguments that Democrats must unite behind Clinton to stop Donald Trump. First of all, we also do not know for certain whether Trump will be the Republican nominee. Secondly, if stopping Trump is so important, we should all unite behind Bernie Sanders, who has a better chance than Clinton of beating Trump in a  general election. Besides, if Trump is so terrible, why support the conservative Democratic candidate who is far closer to Trump ideologically, even if she is the lesser evil?

Obviously it is an uphill battle for Sanders to win the nomination and Clinton has a substantial lead. If it was two near identical Democratic candidates, then perhaps it would make sense to unite behind one. However we have two candidates with vastly different ideologies, a true liberal running against a Republican-lite DLC style Democrat. The stakes are too high to give up now, regardless of the odds.