Further Evidence From Congress Shows No Evidence That Clinton Lost Election Due To Russia

While Hillary Clinton is on a world-wide bitterness tour to continue to give excuses for her loss, further evidence released from the Congressional investigations continues to show that Russia did not cause Clinton to lose. This includes both a review of the Facebook ads from the Internet Research Agency and the testimony regarding the Trump Tower meeting. Democratic attempts to blame Clinton’s loss on Russia, as opposed to Clinton’s own serious flaws and poorly run campaign, again fail to hold up.

USA Today reviewed the Russian ads which were released last week:

The roughly 3,500 Facebook ads were created by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency, which is at the center of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s February indictment of 13 Russians and three companies seeking to influence the election.

While some ads focused on topics as banal as business promotion or Pokémon, the company consistently promoted ads designed to inflame race-related tensions. Some dealt with race directly; others dealt with issues fraught with racial and religious baggage such as ads focused on protests over policing, the debate over a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and relationships with the Muslim community.

The company continued to hammer racial themes even after the election.

USA TODAY NETWORK reporters reviewed each of the 3,517 ads, which were released to the public this week for the first time by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The analysis included not just the content of the ads, but also information that revealed the specific audience targeted, when the ad was posted, roughly how many views it received and how much the ad cost to post.

Among the findings:

  • Of the roughly 3,500 ads published this week, more than half — about 1,950 — made express references to race. Those accounted for 25 million ad impressions — a measure of how many times the spot was pulled from a server for transmission to a device.
  • At least 25% of the ads centered on issues involving crime and policing, often with a racial connotation. Separate ads, launched simultaneously, would stoke suspicion about how police treat black people in one ad, while another encouraged support for pro-police groups.
  • Divisive racial ad buys averaged about 44 per month from 2015 through the summer of 2016 before seeing a significant increase in the run-up to Election Day. Between September and November 2016, the number of race-related spots rose to 400. An additional 900 were posted after the November election through May 2017.
  • Only about 100 of the ads overtly mentioned support for Donald Trump or opposition to Hillary Clinton. A few dozen referenced questions about the U.S. election process and voting integrity, while a handful mentioned other candidates like Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush.

To repeat the key finding, out of approximately 3,500 ads, “Only about 100 of the ads overtly mentioned support for Donald Trump or opposition to Hillary Clinton.”

It is also to keep the impact of Facebook ads in perspective. While perhaps bombarding people’s newsfeeds with product ads might account for some sales, people are far less likely to change their views regarding political parties based upon a Facebook ad. As I noted previously, the Russian ads and other material accounted for a minuscule portion of overall Facebook content. Information previously released from the Congressional investigations found that this accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half of the ads were not seen until after the election and, as is confirmed with this new data, most had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton.

Earlier this year Philip Bump reviewed the data and noted that the ads did not target the swing states which affected the election, with larger numbers of ads being targeted to users in states such as New York and Texas. After reviewing the evidence, Bump concluded, “There’s still little evidence that Russia’s 2016 social media efforts did much of anything.” He also wrote, “As it stands, the public evidence doesn’t support the idea that the Russians executed a savvy electoral strategy on social media to ensure Trump’s victory. In fact, it seems less the case that they did so now than seemed might be possible back in July.”

Russia’s use of Facebook for propaganda appears to just be an updating of the propaganda methods used by both Russia and the United States against each other for decades. There is no evidence that this was a unique effort to attack Hillary Clinton or anything which impacted the election results. While it raises some concern that they are attempting to increase racial tensions, this is also nothing new. Actual racism in the United States, including American news footage of violence against minorities by police officers, is also likely to be far more damaging to race relations than anything coming from Russia.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also released 2,500 pages of congressional testimony today regarding the Trump Tower meeting. This confirms what we already knew that Donald Trump, Jr. attended the meeting hoping to receive dirt on Clinton. While his actions might be unethical, and possibly in violation of elections laws, again there is no evidence that this had any effect on the election results. As The Washington Post found in reviewing the testimony, “the meeting was a bust.” Trump failed to obtain the desired information on Clinton. There is evidence that at least some in the Trump family and campaign were willing to collude with Russia and even attempted to collude with Russia. There is no evidence of any actual collusion or any actions with Russia which affected the election results.

Trump Brings Ultra-Warmonger Into Administration. How Much Should We Worry?

Donald Trump’s choice of John Bolton to be National Security Adviser greatly diminishes any hopes that Donald Trump actually meant it when he (sometimes) spoke out against war as a candidate. Perhaps it is possible that Trump just likes to bring in people from Fox and does not realize that Bolton’s views differ sharply from some of the views he has promoted. Considering how inconsistent and incoherent he was on foreign policy, it is also possible that his opposition to the Iraq war was primarily an attack on Jeb Bush via his family, and his criticism of regime change in Libya was also based more on a desire to attack Hillary Clinton than any real understanding of the situation.

With the range of views on Bolton ranging as to how much to panic, Andrew Sullivan predicts the worst case scenario:

This is the second phase of tyranny, after the more benign settling-in: the purge. Any constraints that had been in place to moderate the tyrant’s whims are set aside; no advice that counters his own gut impulses can be tolerated. And so, over the last couple of weeks, we have seen the president fire Rex Tillerson and Andrew McCabe, two individuals who simply couldn’t capitulate to the demand that they obey only Trump, rather than the country as well…

No one with these instincts for total domination over others is likely to moderate the longer he is in power. Au contraire. It always gets worse. And so Tillerson has been replaced by a fawning toady, Mike Pompeo, a man whose hatred of Islam is only matched by his sympathy for waterboarders. Pompeo has been replaced in turn by a war criminal, who authorized brutal torture and illegally destroyed the evidence, Gina Haspel. Whatever else we know about Haspel, we know she follows orders.

Gary Cohn has been replaced by Larry Kudlow — a sane person followed by a delusional maniac Trump sees on Fox, who instantly thought up ways for the president to cut taxes further without congressional approval. And the State Department, indeed the entire diplomatic apparatus, has, it seems, been replaced by Jared Kushner, a corrupt enthusiast for West Bank settlements who no longer has a security clearance.

Then the president’s legal team was shaken up — in order to purge those few who retain some appreciation for the rule of law in a constitutional republic and to replace them with conspiracy theorists, thugs, and the kind of combative, asshole lawyers Trump has always employed in his private capacity. Trump is self-evidently — obviously— preparing to fire Mueller, and the GOP’s complete acquiescence to the firing of McCabe is just a taste of the surrender to come. “Now I’m fucking doing it my own way!” was how he allegedly expressed his satisfaction at the purge, as his approval ratings from Republicans increase, and as the GOP’s evolution into a full-fledged cult gathers pace.

And then last night, we saw McMaster fall on his sword, replaced by John Bolton, an unrepentant architect of the most disastrous war since Vietnam, a fanatical advocate for regime change in Iran, an anti-Muslim extremist, and a believer in the use of military force as if it were a religion. And this, of course, is also part of the second phase for Plato’s tyrant: war. “As his first step, he is always setting some war in motion, so that people will be in need of a leader,” Plato explains. In fact, “it’s necessary for a tyrant always to be stirring up war.”

…I worry that the more Trump is opposed and even cornered — especially if he loses the House this fall — the more dangerous he will become. If Mueller really does have the goods, and if the Democrats storm back into congressional power, then Trump may well lash out to protect himself at all costs. We know he has no concern for the collateral damage his self-advancement has long caused in his private and public life. We know he has contempt for and boundless ignorance of liberal democracy. We know he is capable of anything — of immense cruelty and callousness, of petty revenge and reckless rhetoric, of sudden impulses and a quick temper. We also know he is commander-in-chief, who may soon need the greatest distraction of all.

War is coming. And there will be nothing and no one to stop him.

With establishment Democrats having also adopted neoconservativeism and abandoned standing up to warmongers (having even nominated one of the worst in 2016) I’ll turn to another conservative critic of Trump, and someone I rarely quote or agree with. Jennifer Rubin described the horrors of having Bolton in this position, but left more room for hope than Sullivan:

Bolton frequently advocates use of military power, specifically against Iran and North Korea. With regard to North Korea, he believes diplomacy is useless and the only “solution” is reunification of the Korean Peninsula — as a free and democratic country. If that is a short-term goal rather than a long-term aspiration, a massive war almost certainly would be necessary. On Iran, he has declared the deal unfixable and advocated for military strikes on Iran.

The question of the moment is whether the John Bolton we read in print and see on TV will be the same John Bolton who is charged with coordinating foreign policy. Advocating in print a position a Democratic president will never undertake is one thing; presenting to your boss a viable plan for military action that may result in mass casualties is quite another. In other words, we’re about to find out if Bolton is really serious about all his views or has simply enjoyed the role of gadfly…

Where Sullivan sees nobody who could stop him, Rubin has a suggestion which is more grounded in the Constitution than recent precedent:

The Bolton pick should be a wake-up call to Republicans who always assumed wise, calm advisers would be there to constrain Trump. It should motivate both Republicans and Democrats to start reclaiming Congress’s power, for example, by declaring that congressional authorization is required for a first strike on either Iran or North Korea. They cannot prevent Bolton from assuming his job, but together with Republican colleagues can begin to exercise more restraint on the use of force and, as Menendez suggested, to conduct robust oversight.

As for outside foreign policy gurus who have advocated high-stakes strategies (e.g., threatening to pull out of the JCPOA and use military force against Iran), they would do well to realize this is no academic exercise. In Bolton, the president has someone who may well encourage his most outlandish ideas.

It could be a favorable “legacy” of Donald Trump, even if not what he desires, if the outcome of his presidency is greater constraint on presidential power, as well as corruption.

Meanwhile Guardian editor David Shariatmadari, after writing of the risk of war, concluded with, “Help us Mad Dog Mattis, you’re our only hope.” It is scary that the most sane foreign policy voice left is someone called Mad Dog.

Democrats Again Show They Stand For Nothing Beyond Desperately Trying To Win Elections

The Democratic Party showed in 2016 that principles mean nothing to them. They overlooked Hillary Clinton’s rather blatant pay for play racket at the State Department, justified her violation of the rules Obama established to promote government transparency, and didn’t care that her policies violated pretty much everything liberal Democrat had previously said they believed in. By 2016 they were essentially running on the platform of George Bush and Dick Cheney, except that Clinton supposedly would be liberal on women’s issues. Now many of the same women who were willing to ignore all principles to support Clinton, such as Melissa McEwan, are shocked to see that the Democratic Party has no qualms about also throwing them under the bus with regards to reproductive rights.

The Hill reports, Dem campaign chief vows no litmus test on abortion:

Democrats will not withhold financial support for candidates who oppose abortion rights, the chairman of the party’s campaign arm in the House said in an interview with The Hill.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said there will be no litmus tests for candidates as Democrats seek to find a winning roster to regain the House majority in 2018.

“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” said Luján, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”

In taking the position, Luján and Democrats risk alienating liberals, as well as groups dedicated to promoting access to abortion and reproductive health services that represent the core of the party’s base.

“Throwing weight behind anti-choice candidates is bad politics that will lead to worse policy,” said Mitchell Stille, who oversees campaigns for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The idea that jettisoning this issue wins elections for Democrats is folly contradicted by all available data.”

Is anyone really surprised? The Democrats have tried to run as a Republican-lite Party in 2010, 2014, and in 2016 despite losing every time, even to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump. Their last presidential nominee supported the worst abuses under George Bush–neoconservative interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties, and increased government secrecy. Wikileaks also revealed that Clinton was perfectly happy with Jeb Bush’s economic message.

Those who backed Clinton seeing her as their champion on women’s issues would probably also have been disappointed if she had won and went on to triangulate on these issues, having already expressed a willingness to compromise with Republicans to keep abortion rare.

Democrats showed they learned nothing after losing in 2016, continuing to move to the right. The showed their lack of interest in principles in concentrating on coming up with a new slogan rather than policies. As Nancy Pelosi admitted this “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.” They have been trying to recruit blue dog Democrats to run. They have showed no interest in reforming the undemocratic nomination rules which make their nominations little different than picking the nominee in the old smoked filled rooms. Kamala Harris, seen as a major prospect to run in 2020, dismisses sticking up for principles as applying ideological purity tests.

Republicans stress their principles, no matter how crazy, and win. Democrats only alienate those who desire more liberal principles by moving to the right, but still do not pick off Republican voters.

I can see making exceptions as opposed to using absolute an litmus test for every issue, possibly backing a candidate who fails on abortion but otherwise has a strong record. Instead we have seen Democrats move so far to the right that they differ from Republicans on little other than reproductive rights. If they now ignore this, it leaves a party which stands for absolutely nothing other than trying to win elections. The pathetic thing about this is that moving to the right has never been a successful strategy for Democrats.

Andrew Cuomo Might Be The Hillary Clinton Of 2020

With the Democratic establishment moving to the right over the past several years, the primary battles such as the one seen between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton could be repeated. While some establishment Democrats have acknowledged that Bernie Sanders, or someone else from the left if he is too old to run, should be the front runner for the 2020, others have attempted to exclude Sanders, and some, such as Mark Penn, even think that the Democrats are too far to the left. Politico discussed Andrew Cuomo as a 2020 candidate, but noted the opposition to him from the left:

…if he runs, he’s got one big roadblock in his way first: The energy in the Democratic Party right now comes from a newly energized left. And the energized left, not to put too fine a point on it, hates Cuomo.

“The worst of the worst,” said Nomiki Konst, a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention and frequent cable TV defender of the candidate who now serves on the Democratic National Committee’s Unity Commission. “Andrew Cuomo is somehow the only politician in America who still thinks neoliberalism and triangulation work, who opens up the Blue Dog playbook and says, ‘How can I use this to run for president?’”

Ben Mathis-Lilley responded at Slate in an article entitled, We Need to Stop This “Andrew Cuomo 2020” Nonsense Immediately:

For the most part, we can dismiss this concept without even addressing the already tiresome idea that what a Democratic voting base that has spent the past six months getting jazzed up about aggressive resistance and unapologetically liberal policies is actually fixin’ to do in 2020 is nominate a moderate centrist triangulating triangulator who—as Politico points out itself!—lowered taxes on millionaires and has close ties to his state’s most powerful corporate executives. Let us simply look, in a nonideological fashion, at two of the most prominent things Andrew Cuomo has done in his time as governor of New York.

He also wrote that Cuomo, “would combine the worst qualities of Jeb Bush (being an dynastic insider) with Chris Christie (being unpopular and famous for an act of brazen corruption, in his own state).” He added another comparison in asking: “If Hillary Clinton, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Rahm Emanuel merged into a single person, would Politico declare that person a major contender for the 2020 nomination? (Yes, probably!)”

It looks likely that we will continue to see battles between the Democratic establishment and the left, especially with party rules continuing to favor more conservative nominees.

Today’s Deals: Leak Of The Month Club & Free Parody From The White House

Plans like the Book of the Month Club have become near obsolete with the ease of on line purchasing. From time to time offers such as a wine of the month club do come in handy when unable to decide upon a gift. Now we have a new variety for the modern era–the leak of month club. The Hill reports that hackers have really made this available:

A group of suspected National Security Agency (NSA) leakers known as the ShadowBrokers on Tuesday announced more details of its monthly subscription service to provide remaining documents from its NSA cache.

The group has been releasing files that appear to have been pilfered from the NSA in 2013 since last summer — most notably releasing a suite of Windows hacking tools that were subsequently used in the WannaCry ransomware that induced a global panic earlier this month.

The ShadowBrokers on Tuesday posted instructions on how to join a “Wine of the Month” club for new NSA leaks. In the post, the group said interested parties should send 100 ZCash coins — a digital currency akin to bitcoin — to sign up for the service. Enrollment will begin June 1 and end June 30.

In case you are interested in ordering, ZCash coins are worth over $230, making the cost of this over $23,000. Want to know what you will get for this:

Q: What is going to be in the next dump?

TheShadowBrokers is not deciding yet. Something of value to someone. See theshadowbrokers’ previous posts… Peoples is seeing what happenings when theshadowbrokers is showing theshadowbrokers’ first. This is being wrong question. Question to be asking ‘Can my organization afford not to be first to get access to theshadowbrokers dumps?’

At that price, yes many organizations will decide they can better afford to not be the first.

Besides, there are so any free things you can get. There’s always Wikileaks or Ed Snowden for government secrets. If you want humor, there are the White House releases. The Fix mocks this one as sounding more like a Saturday Night Live parody:

President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor … and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.

I imagine that the set of Republican opponents he destroyed during the primaries, such as low energy Jeb Bush, all appreciated Donald Trump’s great sense of humor and felt special. As Slate commented, “What a set of things to say about a president who’s consistently miserable, sarcastic, and angry!” But his tweets are always free.

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.

Stephen Colbert Mocks Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Stephen Colbert mocked how Hillary Clinton handled the question when Scott Pelley asked her about lying on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Friday. Colbert asked, “How can you be this bad at it?! Just say no! You’re running for President of the United States!” Of course that would have been a lie. Colbert further mocked Clinton by bringing out a kid with better lying skills.

Earlier in the week Colbert mocked Clinton by going after the youth vote “with an ad on the youth-friendly social network, America Online.” He then described “Her new campaign slogan,” with the types of sounds we used to hear on dial up. Colbert suggested she might next attempt to attract the youth vote on Bingo night, with a Murder She Wrote Marathon, or on AM radio.

Colbert also took a call from Donald Trump last week.

Saturday Night Live had this skit on Bernie Sanders’ support among younger voters, with Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Jeb Bush came turned out to be the biggest loser.

Accusations Of Lying Dominate Republican Debate

It was a difficult week in debates for the truth. I already discussed the dishonesty from Hillary Clinton at the PBS Democratic Debate. At the CBS Republican debate in South Carolina (transcript here) there were accusations during the debate of candidates telling lies nineteen times. This doesn’t include any lies which fact checkers  have found.

Donald Trump was in the rare position of being the one telling the truth when he pointed out that George W. Bush got us into the Iraq war based upon lies:

“Obviously, the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake, all right?” Trump thundered when asked about his call for then-President George W. Bush to be impeached. “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none, and they knew there were none.”

Trump added, “George Bush made the mistake. We can make mistakes, but that one was a beauty.”

Trump later pointed out that Jeb was wrong about his brother keeping us safe:

“The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe. That is not safe, Marco. That is not safe,” he continued. “The world Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton [didn’t] kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him. And George Bush– by the way, George Bush had the chance, also, and he didn’t listen to the advice of his C.I.A.”

“How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center…excuse me, I lost hundreds of friends!” Trump said as the crowd booed loudly.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how Bill Clinton could be blamed when the Republican Congress obstructed his attempts to fight al Qaeda, and they certainly did not give any credit to the president who did kill bin Laden.

Trump called Ted Cruz the biggest liar, probably a position he holds due to being his most serious challenger at the moment:

TRUMP: You probably are worse than Jeb Bush. You are single biggest liar. This guys lied – let me just tell you, this guy lied about Ben Carson when he took votes away from Ben Carson in Iowa and he just continues. Today, we had robo-calls saying. “Donald Trump is not going to run in South Carolina,” — where I’m leading by a lot.”

I’m not going to vote for Ted Cruz. This is the same thing he did to Ben Carson. This guy will say anything, nasty guy. Now I know why he doesn’t have one endorsement from any of his colleagues.

CRUZ: Don, I need to go on…

TRUMP: He’s a nasty guy.

CRUZ: I will say, it is fairly remarkable to see Donald defending Ben after he called, “pathological,” and compared him to a child molester. Both of which were offensive and wrong.

Cruz counterattacked with an attack on Donald Trump for supporting funding of Planned Parenthood. Trump then defended Planned Parenthood despite his current (but not past) opposition to abortion rights:

CRUZ: You said, “Planned Parenthood does wonderful things and we should not defund it.”

TRUMP: It does do wonderful things but not as it relates to abortion.

CRUZ: So I’ll tell you what…

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me, there are wonderful things having to do with women’s health.

CRUZ: You see you and I…

TRUMP: But not when it comes to abortion.

In yet another exchange which came down to honesty, Marco Rubio made this accusation against Ted Cruz:

I don’t know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn’t speak Spanish.

Cruz then responded in Spanish.

Debate Shows Why Republicans Cannot Be Trusted On Foreign Policy

Republican Debate Los Vegas

The Republican debate (transcript here) showed once again that most of the GOP candidates have not learned a thing from the mistakes made by George W. Bush. The debate did play towards Rand Paul’s areas of sanity in opposing military interventionism and infringements on civil liberties, and did not include the many other areas where Paul is no better than the others in his parties. Jeb Bush, whose candidacy was derailed partially due to attacks from Donald Trump of being low energy, did manage some good counter-attacks on Trump. Chris Christie, back from the kiddie table debate, showed moments of strength, for better or worse.

As Esquire pointed out, Rand Paul didn’t win the debate (primarily because most Republican voters would not go along with his views) but did raise the important questions.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, was getting rid of Saddam Hussein a pretty good deal?

PAUL: These are the fundamental questions of our time, these foreign policy questions, whether or not regime change is a good idea or a bad idea. I don’t think because I think the regime change was a bad idea it means that Hussein was necessarily a good idea.

There is often variations of evil on both sides of the war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want.

They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They want it in Libya. It has not worked.

Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism and yet they’re the problem because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos.

Ted Cruz said he wanted to “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,” and to have”sand can glow in the dark.”When asked about killing civilians, Cruz replied, “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops.” But ISIS is in cities. does he think they are just sitting targets out in the desert, away from civilians, waiting to be bombed?

Ben Carson bragged about being tough enough to kill children:

HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian? It’s like…

CARSON: You got it. You got it.

Donald Trump both spoke of closing portions of the Internet and killing the families of terrorists. Rand Paul responded:

I’d like to also go back to, though, another question, which is, is Donald Trump a serious candidate? The reason I ask this is, if you’re going to close the Internet, realize, America, what that entails. That entails getting rid of the First amendment, OK? It’s no small feat.

If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there’s something called the Geneva Convention we’re going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America. So when you ask yourself, whoever you are, that think you’re going to support Donald Trump, think, do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?

Carly Fiorina pointed out that, “Hillary Clinton has gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong.” That is generally true, as she has the same neoconservative views as most of the Republicans, who are no better.

Chris Christie did sound strong when he mocked Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz when they argued.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I want to talk to the audience at home for a second. If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it’s like to be on the floor of the United States Senate. I mean, endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who’ve never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position.

But being tough does not necessarily mean being wise, and Christie showed a quite foolish attitude towards Russia. Again Rand Paul displayed a sense of reality lacking in both other Republican candidates, as well as Hillary Clinton, in their support of the no fly zone:

BLITZER: Governor Christie, if the U.S. imposed a no-fly zone over Syria and a Russian plane encroached, invaded that no-fly zone, would you be prepared to shoot down that Russian plane and risk war with Russia?

CHRISTIE: Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it. A no-fly zone means a no-fly zone, Wolf. That’s what it means.

See, maybe — maybe because I’m from New Jersey, I just have this kind of plain language hangup. But I would make very clear — I would not talk to Vladimir Putin. In fact, I would talk to Vladimir Putin a lot. But I’d say to him, “Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.” And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.

BLITZER: Senator Paul — Senator Paul, I want you to respond to what we just heard from Governor Christie. If there was a no-fly zone, you say that potentially could lead to World War III. Why?

PAUL: Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate. You know, here’s the thing. My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment, not someone who is so reckless as to stand on the stage and say, “Yes, I’m jumping up and down; I’m going to shoot down Russian planes.” Russia already flies in that airspace. It may not be something we’re in love with the fact that they’re there, but they were invited by Iraq and by Syria to fly in that airspace.

And so if we announce we’re going to have a no-fly zone, and others have said this. Hillary Clinton is also for it. It is a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for World War III. We need to confront Russia from a position of strength, but we don’t need to confront Russia from a point of recklessness that would lead to war.

This is something — this type of judgment, you know, it’s having that kind of judgment; who you would appoint and how you’re going to conduct affairs, that is incredibly important.

I mean, I think when we think about the judgment of someone who might want World War III, we might think about someone who might shut down a bridge because they don’t like their friends; they don’t want to — you know, they want to (inaudible) a Democrat.

So I think we need to be very careful.

Jeb Bush didn’t have much of consequence to say on policy, but he did do a good job of responding to Donald Trump’s antics. He told Trump, “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency. That’s not going to happen.” He summed up Trump here:

So Donald, you know, is great at — at the one-liners, but he’s a chaos candidate. And he’d be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.

He also questioned Trump’s source of information, referring back to a previous statement from Donald Trump that he obtained information on foreign policy from television shows:

HEWITT: Governor Bush, a commander-in-chief question. You’ve said that Mr. Trump is not qualified to be president because he’s not qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin. Why are you better qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin than Mr. Trump?

BUSH: Because I — first of all, I know what I don’t know. I know what I don’t know. I would seek out, as I have, the best advice that exists. I won’t get my information from the shows. I don’t know if that’s Saturday morning or Sunday morning. I don’t know which one.

None of the candidates was remotely qualified to be president. (While Rand Paul was generally right in this debate, his economic views and opposition to reproductive rights, which did not come up in this debate would disqualify him.) Unfortunately the Democratic front runner holds essentially the same views, even if Clinton uses different rhetoric in appealing to Democratic as opposed to Republican primary voters. Bernie Sanders represents our best hope to both have a president who has not made the errors which destabilized the region, and who can inspire voters to turn out to defeat the Republicans in a general election.

Poll Suggests Epic Presidential Battle Between The Lesser Of Two Evils–Please Give Us Another Choice

Clinton Trump Sanders

The latest USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll shows problems for both major political parties. The bad news begins with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton maintaining the lead for the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. Trump could conceivably win the GOP nomination while being disliked by many in the Republican mainstream while Clinton could win the Democratic nomination with the support of the Democratic mainstream, but not many others.

…there is an almost even divide among those who have an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton: 45% say they dislike Clinton more; 42% dislike Trump more.

“Their mantra is ABCT— Anybody But Clinton or Trump,” says David Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center in Boston. More than one in five of those surveyed fall into this category. “If each is their party’s respective nominees, the poll tells us that the majority of the country does not see either candidate as acceptable, which means that the race for president may come down to which candidate voters view as the lesser of two evils.”

How things have changed from last summer, when the mantra was no more Bushes or Clintons. Now Jeb is hardly a factor, while Ted Cruz is this month’s leader as top challenger to Donald Trump.

The bad news for the Democrats is also that the poll shows that Clinton would have a tough time against the major Republican candidates: ” Clinton leads Trump by 4 percentage points, Cruz by 2 and Ben Carson by 1. Rubio leads Clinton by 3 points.” Battleground state polls, where Clinton has preformed poorly, suggest she would have an even tougher time in the electoral college.

The biggest news out of this poll is that 68 percent of Trump’s supporters say they would vote for Trump if he ran as an independent, while only 18 percent say they would not.  While I wouldn’t put it past Trump’s ego for him to run as an independent, it is hard to see how that actually comes about. Even if his current lead in the polls does not allow him to run away with the nomination, most likely he will be competitive for the next several months, probably dissuading him from going third party for quite a while. By the time the GOP nominee is determined, it could be too late to launch an independent bid.  In the event that Trump performs poorly in the early primaries, he would then be tarnished and look like a loser, making a third party run less likely to obtain support.

But maybe someone as unpredictable as Trump will run and perhaps even more candidates will get in the act. Jesse Ventura has been making noise about running, and possibly other candidates will arise. While unlikely, maybe 2016 will be the year which ends the dominance of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are showing that there is a significant number of voters who are unhappy with the establishment choices from both parties. Plus there is a large pool of potential voters among those who have not voted in recent elections should a candidate be able to motivate them to vote.

A race between a DLC Democrat such as Hillary Clinton and an establishment Republican would not differ significantly on policy, even if their primary rhetoric is different to attract two different partisan bases. Theoretically a third party candidate could go far if they could convince voters that both Clinton and the Republican establishment not only offer essentially the same thing, but that their policies are the policies which have been screwing up America.

Of course that will never happen. The voters from both parties are a bunch of suckers. Republicans have convinced their base, including the Tea Party, to express their rage against government by voting for the Republicans–the party which has dominated both the federal and most state governments. The Democratic base is looking just as delusional, supporting a candidate who opposes so much of what Democrats claim to support and has spent her career undermining liberal principles.

Perhaps a third party candidate can come along and convince voters of the folly of voting a Republican, or a Republican-lite candidate such as Clinton. Donald Trump might have the showmanship to pull this off, but he is also bat-shit crazy.

Our best hope remains that Clinton can be defeated in the Democratic race, with Bernie Sanders building a new coalition to change the status quo.