The Democrats Screwed Up In Nominating Clinton, But Now Have An Opportunity To Rebuild

donkey

The loss of an election thought to be a sure bet for the Democrats has inevitably led to questions as to the future direction and leadership of the party. The loss by Clinton provides the opportunity for the party to finally break free of the strangling influence of the Clintons. The system which was designed to move the party to the center may have helped Bill Clinton win in 1992, but left the party with a candidate too out of touch to win in the 21st century. The Clintons kept the party in the past ideologically, and the corruption of Bill and Hillary, who used their influence to build their own personal fortunes, made it suicidal for the party to nominate her against a candidate who, although himself very highly flawed, was running against the corrupt system.

It is far too early to predict who will lead the party in 2020, but Juan Williams has quoted the conventional wisdom at The Hill:

Democrats need a revived party with a strong leader, as well as a clear message that allows them to stand as the loyal opposition to Trump Republicans.

One way to find the leader is to consider the best Democrat to run against Trump in 2020. International Business Times last week listed six names for the job: Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio); Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)…

In a Facebook post last Wednesday, liberal filmmaker Michael Moore urged activists to “take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people,” because “they have failed us miserably.”

“Any Democratic member of Congress who didn’t wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin,” Moore wrote.

The progressive populist wing of the Democratic Party, as currently led by Sanders and Warren, has a real opportunity in the coming months to execute a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party, just as Trump took over the Republicans last year.

Ben Kamisar has a longer list, with further information on some of the potential candidates for 2020. The more immediate question is over who will lead the Democratic National Committee. Keith Ellison has formally announced his candidacy, with support from Bernie Sanders as well as some party insiders including Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.

It is essential for Democrats to understand how huge a blunder it was to nominate Hillary Clinton, rather than blaming others as Clinton is, in order to avoid making the mistake of running Republican-lite candidates. You can’t blame James Comey for Clinton’s loss without recognizing that this ultimately comes back to show how serious a mistake it was to nominate a candidate who was involved in such a serious scandal. It was like nominating Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal broke, but many Democrats continue to pretend she has not done anything wrong.

While many Democrats are in denial, some pundits are trying to open their eyes. Thomas Frank (who has previously written about the conservative policies under Bill Clinton), pointed out why the nomination of Clinton brought about the election of Donald Trump:

Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton? Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment. An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.

She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Whether or not she would win was always a secondary matter, something that was taken for granted. Had winning been the party’s number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go. There was Joe Biden, with his powerful plainspoken style, and there was Bernie Sanders, an inspiring and largely scandal-free figure. Each of them would probably have beaten Trump, but neither of them would really have served the interests of the party insiders.

And so Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue – each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. They chose Hillary even though they knew about her private email server. They chose her even though some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation suspected it was a sketchy proposition.

To try to put over such a nominee while screaming that the Republican is a rightwing monster is to court disbelief. If Trump is a fascist, as liberals often said, Democrats should have put in their strongest player to stop him, not a party hack they’d chosen because it was her turn. Choosing her indicated either that Democrats didn’t mean what they said about Trump’s riskiness, that their opportunism took precedence over the country’s well-being, or maybe both.

Frank Bruni also wrote that The Democrats Screwed Up:

Democrats need to understand that, and they need to move past a complacency for which the Clintons bear considerable blame.

It’s hard to overestimate the couple’s stranglehold on the party — its think tanks, its operatives, its donors — for the last two decades. Most top Democrats had vested interests in the Clintons, and energy that went into supporting and defending them didn’t go into fresh ideas and fresh faces, who were shut out as the party cleared the decks anew for Hillary in 2016.

In thrall to the Clintons, Democrats ignored the copious, glaring signs of an electorate hankering for something new and different and instead took a next-in-line approach that stopped working awhile back. Just ask Mitt Romney and John McCain and John Kerry and Al Gore and Bob Dole. They’re the five major-party nominees before her who lost, and each was someone who, like her, was more due than dazzling.

After Election Day, one Clinton-weary Democratic insider told me: “I’m obviously not happy and I hate to admit this, but a part of me feels liberated. If she’d won, we’d already be talking about Chelsea’s first campaign. Now we can do what we really need to and start over.”

While he is right that nominating Clinton was a mistake, he still failed to understand the mood of the electorate, seeing Joe Biden as opposed to Bernie Sanders, as the best choice for the Democrats. While Biden would also have done better than Clinton, he was still not the ideal candidate for a change election.

Democratic Party Rules Should Clinton Leave The Race

David Shuster Tweets about Hillary Clinton following her collapse.

Hillary Clinton’s health scare yesterday has led to talk, probably premature, about what would happen if  a candidate was forced to leave the presidential race. It is quite likely that Clinton really does have pneumonia, and that she will soon recover. The manner in which the story was handled has led to continued speculation, such as by David Shuster on Twitter and  Cokie Roberts on Morning Edition, that the Democrats might be looking for a replacement candidate. Former DNC Chair Dan Fowler has also called for a contingency plan. While unlikely to happen, it is an intriguing question, and with the ages of both nominees it is not inconceivable that a candidate could be forced to leave the race. Politico did provide some information as to what would occur, with Fowler suggesting a more detailed process:

If Clinton could not physically continue her candidacy, she would have to voluntarily cede her nomination, creating a vacancy at the top of the national ticket. If she did, party procedures give the chair of the DNC authority to call a “special meeting” to vote on a replacement nominee. In this case, because chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned in July, her successor, Brazile, has that authority.

“The locus of activity for all of those political questions would then move to the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee,” said Elaine Kamarck, a two-decade veteran of the DNC Rules Committee. “And it’s wide open, and all of the political concern would work out in the context of discussions among the members of the DNC.”

Fowler argued that the party would be wise to immediately set up an even more detailed process for those who might seek to be Clinton’s successor — from a signature-gathering requirement to a process for receiving nominations during the DNC meeting. All of which, he said, would help ensure confidence in the process and lead toward a broad coalescing around a successor candidate.

There is more on the topic here, here, here, and here. The key facts are that Clinton would have to agree to give up the nomination. The Democratic National Committee would then chose her replacement. The later it occurs, the more chaotic matters would be because of missing deadlines to change the candidate in various states. This may or may not matter in different states as it is possible that in many states Clinton’s name would still remain on the ballot, but electors would then vote for the new Democratic nominee in the electoral college.

The DNC could conceivably choose Bernie Sanders as the second place candidate after the primaries, but I have my doubts that the Democratic establishment would do that. After all, if not for the  Democratic establishment tilting the race towards Clinton in the first place, it is very likely that Sanders would have won the nomination. Joe Biden is the most likely replacement due to his name recognition and popularity. Other plausible choices include John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren.

If Clinton were to leave the race, the timing could also make a huge difference in what occurs. At this point I doubt Tim Kaine would be the choice as so far the vice presidential candidates have not had that much exposure. However, if Clinton should leave the race after the Vice Presidential debates, and should Kaine have an outstanding performance, he might also be considered.

The timing could also have a tremendous impact on the election results. Under normal circumstances a party losing its nominee would be placed at a disadvantage. In this case, running against a Republican candidate as awful as Donald Trump, a late entry could still have an excellent chance.  A different candidate might actually do better than Clinton considering how unpopular she is.  The timing could also be important here. A different candidate would have a better chance if entering the race soon, when there is still time to campaign. Whether it occurs after the debates could also be crucial. Should Trump manage to appear credible in a debate against Clinton, it would be harder for someone entering the race late to compete.

Again, this is all pure speculation. It is unlikely that Clinton will leave the race, but the unprecedented situation of a late change in candidates does make for an interesting story.

Former Adviser to Bill Clinton Suggests Hillary Might Not Be Democratic Nominee

Never Hillary

Many people hope that Hillary Clinton will be prevented from receiving the Democratic nomination, but I would have taken this prediction much less seriously if it wasn’t from a former adviser to Bill Clinton. Douglas Schoen writes, Clinton Might Not Be the Nominee.

A Sanders win in California would powerfully underscore Mrs. Clinton’s weakness as a candidate in the general election. Democratic superdelegates—chosen by the party establishment and overwhelmingly backing Mrs. Clinton, 543-44—would seriously question whether they should continue to stand behind her candidacy…

Another problem: In recent weeks the perception that Mrs. Clinton would be the strongest candidate against Donald Trump has evaporated. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Mrs. Clinton in a statistical tie with Mr. Trump, and recent surveys from ABC News/Washington Post and Fox News show her two and three points behind him, respectively.

Then there is that other crack in the argument for Mrs. Clinton’s inevitability: Bernie Sanders consistently runs stronger than she does against Mr. Trump nationally, beating him by about 10 points in a number of recent surveys…

Mrs. Clinton also faces growing legal problems. The State Department inspector general’s recent report on Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state made it abundantly clear that she broke rules and has been far from forthright in her public statements. The damning findings buttressed concerns within the party that Mrs. Clinton and her aides may not get through the government’s investigation without a finding of culpability somewhere.

With Mrs. Clinton reportedly soon to be interviewed by the FBI, suggesting that the investigation is winding up, a definitive ruling by the attorney general could be issued before the July 25 Democratic convention in Philadelphia. Given the inspector general’s report, a clean bill of health from the Justice Department is unlikely.

Finally, with Mrs. Clinton’s negative rating nearly as high as Donald Trump’s, and with voters not trusting her by a ratio of 4 to 1, Democrats face an unnerving possibility. Only a month or two ago, they were relishing the prospect of a chaotic Republican convention, with a floor fight and antiestablishment rebellion in the air. Now the messy, disastrous convention could be their own.

There are increasing rumblings within the party about how a new candidate could emerge at the convention. John Kerry, the 2004 nominee, is one possibility. But the most likely scenario is that Vice President Joe Biden—who has said that he regrets “every day” his decision not to run—enters the race.

Mr. Biden would be cast as the white knight rescuing the party, and the nation, from a possible Trump presidency. To win over Sanders supporters, he would likely choose as his running mate someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren who is respected by the party’s left wing.

It is unprecidented to have a party embrace a candidate such as Hillary Clinton who is involved in such major scandals. It is as if the Republicans had nominated Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal broke.

So far Democrats do not seem all that concerned about nominating Clinton. If there weren’t enough reasons for the party to keep Clinton from being the nominee, the State Department’s Inspector General report should have put an end to her campaign.

Yesterday I noted a poll showing that seventy-one percent of Democras think Clinton should remain in the race even if indicted. While exact numbers from Rasmussen have to  be taken with a grain of salt, I have found that many Democrats do continue to defend Clinton and have no doubt they would continue to do so if indicted, or even if she was videotaped kicking puppies and babies.

While the chances are low, the possibility of stopping Hillary is far greater than in 2008, when Clinton speculated that Obama might not receive the nomination due to assasination. Sanders should continue to fight for every possible delegate to maximizes the chances that if Clinton is stopped he can win the nomination. In making the argument to both voters and superdelegates as to why he should be the nominee instead of Clinton, he should also stop limiting his campaign by refraining from talknig about the scandals.

Chris Cillizza refers to Sanders’ decision to not talk about Clinton’s email as the biggest mistake of his campaign:

That’s not to say that if Sanders had aggressively raised questions about Clinton’s email practices, he would have beaten her for the nomination; he still might not have. But rather than trying to seize on a primary in Pennsylvania or New York — both of which he lost — as the game-changing moment in the race, Sanders might actually have been able to prosecute a longer-term case against Clinton in a spot where she was (and is) clearly vulnerable.

Large majorities of the public — including the oft-touted independent voter — believe that the words “honest” and “trustworthy” don’t describe Clinton. The email story — even with Sanders virtually ignoring it — has helped erode those numbers over the past 14 months. The email controversy plays directly into many of the things that people — including Democrats! — don’t like or are wary of when it comes to the Clintons. The sense that the rules don’t apply to them. That they believe the world is out to get them. That they only keep people close who slavishly repeat back to them what they want to hear.

Another Poll Confirms Trend Of Clinton Struggling Against Trump While Sanders Beats Him

NBC Survey Monkey

When the first poll showed Donald Trump pulling just behind Hillary Clinton there was a question as to whether it might be an outlier. Battleground state polls similarly showed a close race, with Sanders outperforming Clinton in Georgia along with the expected battleground states. Now another poll shows the same trend. The NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll shows Clinton’s lead falling from 5 percent last week to 3 percent this week. This includes independents supporting Trump over Clinton 44 percent to 36 percent.

While the media concentrates on Clinton and Trump, the internals of the poll show the same trend as in all the others. While Clinton is in a dead heat against Trump, Sanders leads Trump 53 to 41 percent. Sanders’ twelve point margin is down only one point from the previous week. Other numbers of interest include 59 percent having an unfavorable view of Clinton, compared to 46 percent for Sanders. Sixty-two percent have an unfavorable view of Donald Trump.

At this time I doubt that many superdelegates will change their votes based upon these numbers, but what happens in July if Trump should have a significant lead over Clinton while Sanders still beats Trump? Will they stick with Clinton, pay attention to the incredible support seen for Sanders, or will they turn to Joe Biden?

Of course, while the downward trajectory for Clinton should concern Democrats, there is a long way until November and these numbers should change. Part of this will depend upon the campaigns run by each candidate. I looked at the strategy for each campaign yesterday, although I would expect that both campaigns have plans which they are not discussing with the media. External events might also play a part. With Hillary Clinton clinging so close to Barack Obama as part of her strategy in the Democratic primaries, she will probably also be held accountable should there be any bad news on the economy, terrorism, or international affairs over the next several months.

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.

The Hill Warns Of Chaos Scenario For Democrats With Clinton Server Under FBI Investigation

Clilnton FBI Investigation

One astonishing characteristic about this presidential race is that Democrats who were justifiably outraged about every violation of the rules and acts to obstruct government transparency under George W. Bush are willing to defend actions which were often worse when committed by Hillary Clinton. Even if they are willing to excuse her actions on partisan/tribal grounds, it is a risky proposition to nominate a candidate whose activities are under FBI investigation. It would be like the Republicans nominating Nixon after the facts about Watergate were known. The Hill considers Clinton’s problems in discussing The Chaos Scenario for Democrats:

It’s the scenario that Republicans dream of and Democrats believe is all but impossible: Hillary Clinton being forced to drop out of the presidential race due to criminal charges over her email server.

Any bombshell findings in the FBI’s investigation of Clinton could plunge the Democratic race into chaos…

In the event that Clinton stepped aside after winning the nomination at the convention, the Democratic National Committee could decide on the replacement on its own.

If an indictment came before the convention, the path would be more difficult.

Unlike the Republican Party, which binds most of its delegates to candidates regardless of delegates’ personal preferences, Democratic candidates have input on who represents them on the convention floor.

“There are no Clinton-bound delegates who would prefer voting for Sanders, for example,” delegate expert and University of Georgia professor Josh Putnam, told The Hill.

“Those folks are essentially hand-picked to be loyal. They are unlikely to stray.”

They discussed options including Sanders winning the nomination based upon his delegate strength, versus party leaders turning to a more establishment candidate:

“The superdelegates would flee first because they are politicians,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns.

“They are most likely to feel the pressure not to cast their ballots in favor of a nominee under indictment.”

If enough pledged Clinton delegates and superdelegates went to Sanders and delivered him 2,383 delegates, he would win the nomination.

But delegates could also coalesce around a new candidate not in the race. One likely fallback would be Vice President Biden, who came very close to running for president last year.

But denying Sanders the nomination could come with a heavy price, potentially alienating the millions of Democrats who cast ballots for him in the primary process…

Should the party be forced to leave Clinton, one thing that could work against Sanders is his late arrival to the Democratic Party. He’s spent his entire 30-year career in Congress as an Independent, and recently said he ran for president as a Democrat for media coverage.

“Most of these other politicians and political leaders in the community, they don’t really know Bernie Sanders because he’s never been a national Democrat,” the Democratic strategist said.

“They know Joe [Biden], they know John Kerry. It’s completely conceivable that they would turn from somebody they know and respect — Hillary — to somebody else they know and respect and bypass Sanders.”

This assumes a clear cut result should Clinton be indicted when there is time to chose another candidate. I suspect the outcome of the current investigations might not be so clear cut. The FBI could recommend indictment, but this does not mean that the Obama Justice Department would agree to prosecute. News of such an FBI recommendation would be huge if it were to come out. Is is quite possible that they might see Clinton as too big to prosecute, but she has three top aides in her campaign who also were involved in the handling of classified information under her at the State Department. Clinton might go on as the nominee if one or more of them were indicted, but it could greatly cripple her campaign.

It also must be kept in mind that, while the mishandling of classified information is the most dramatic complaint against her, with others prosecuted for doing less, this is only part of the entire scandal. Her 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.

Reportedly the FBI has extended its investigation to such conduct at the State Department. Congress is also investigating, and I bet the Republicans will time matters to use this to embarrass Clinton during the general election campaign. It will not be as easy for her to respond to these legitimate concerns as it was to blow off the Benghazi nonsense from Republicans. All of this will provide a tremendous amount of ammunition for the Republican candidate this fall. If Donald Trump could destroy Jeb Bush by calling him low energy, imagine what he might do with actual evidence of unethical behavior by Clinton.

Democrats might wind up wishing that one of the scenarios play out early to allow them to pick a different nominee. Voters in the remaining primaries should also keep in mind that Bernie Sanders does better than Clinton against potential Republican candidates in the polls, and he is not under FBI investigation.

Obama Undermines Clinton’s Ability To Be Commander In Chief In New Interview

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While probably inadvertent, Barack Obama has significantly undermined Hillary Clinton’s candidacy in an interview with Jeffery Goldberg being published this week in The Atlantic. Despite Goldberg’s own hawkish views, problems with Clinton’s policies can still be seen regardless of Goldberg’s spin on matters.

While Secretary of State, Clinton generally advocated a far more hawkish approach than Obama, supporting a continuation of the neoconservative policies of the Bush years. Despite the manner in which she now invokes Obama’s name in the same manner that Republicans speak of Ronald Reagan, she previously attacked Obama’s “Don’t do stupid stuff” approach to foreign policy.

Obama and Clinton had major differences of opinion over Syria, with Clinton proposing military intervention which would have probably made the situation far worse:

Hillary Clinton, when she was Obama’s secretary of state, argued for an early and assertive response to Assad’s violence. In 2014, after she left office, Clinton told me that “the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” When The Atlantic published this statement, and also published Clinton’s assessment that “great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Obama became “rip-shit angry,” according to one of his senior advisers. The president did not understand how “Don’t do stupid shit” could be considered a controversial slogan. Ben Rhodes recalls that “the questions we were asking in the White House were ‘Who exactly is in the stupid-shit caucus? Who is pro–stupid shit?’ ” The Iraq invasion, Obama believed, should have taught Democratic interventionists like Clinton, who had voted for its authorization, the dangers of doing stupid shit. (Clinton quickly apologized to Obama for her comments, and a Clinton spokesman announced that the two would “hug it out” on Martha’s Vineyard when they crossed paths there later.)

While Clinton supported early military intervention, Obama deserves credit for stepping back from the brink of war. Clinton opposed this decision:

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.”

This is a classic example of Clinton’s poor judgment. We should go to war only based upon security considerations, and only as a last resort when diplomacy will not work.  To make someone who thinks we had no choice in such a situation Commander In Chief is a terrifying prospect.

One of Obama’s biggest mistakes as president was to take Clinton’s advice on Libya. He admits it was a mistake:

But what sealed Obama’s fatalistic view was the failure of his administration’s intervention in Libya, in 2011. That intervention was meant to prevent the country’s then-dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, from slaughtering the people of Benghazi, as he was threatening to do. Obama did not want to join the fight; he was counseled by Joe Biden and his first-term secretary of defense Robert Gates, among others, to steer clear. But a strong faction within the national-security team—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, who was then the ambassador to the United Nations, along with Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Antony Blinken, who was then Biden’s national-security adviser—lobbied hard to protect Benghazi, and prevailed. (Biden, who is acerbic about Clinton’s foreign-policy judgment, has said privately, “Hillary just wants to be Golda Meir.”) American bombs fell, the people of Benghazi were spared from what may or may not have been a massacre, and Qaddafi was captured and executed.

But Obama says today of the intervention, “It didn’t work.” The U.S., he believes, planned the Libya operation carefully—and yet the country is still a disaster.

Obama also calls Libya a “shit show” ” in part because it’s subsequently become an ISIS haven.”

While Obama admits “It didn’t work,” Clinton continues to defend the policy. She has not learned from her mistakes in Iraq or Libya.

The neoconservative policies advocated by Hillary Clinton have been a disaster. A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for war.

Smoking Gun In Latest Email Release Could Potentially End Hillary Clinton’s Political Career

Clinton Email

Email released during the middle of the night might bring about the end of Hillary Clinton’s political career, and possibly result in  felony charges against her. One of the emails shows Clinton instructing an aide to remove the “identifying heading” and send information trough non-secure channels when they were having difficulty sending over secure fax.  The Hill reports:

In order to speed up the transmission of a set of talking points, Hillary Clinton asked an aide to send information to her through a “nonsecure” channel.

In an email marked June 17, 2011, that was released by the State Department on Friday, Clinton informs aide Jake Sullivan that she has not yet received a set of talking points.

“They say they’ve had issues sending secure fax,” Sullivan says. “They’re working on it.”

“If they can’t, turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure,” Clinton responds.

It is not clear what the contents of the email were, whether information sent was classified or secure or whether the order was carried out.

The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the email “disturbing.”

“The State Department’s latest Freedom of Information Act release contains a disturbing email that appears to show the former Secretary of State instructing a subordinate to remove the headings from a classified document and send it to her in an unsecure manner,” he said in a statement on Friday.

“It raises a host of serious questions and underscores the importance of the various inquiries into the transmittal of classified information through her non-government email server,” he added.

If Hillary Clinton did instruct someone to remove the markings on classified information and send it over her private email system, this would be a felony, violating laws such as such as U.S. Code 793. The question remains whether the information was classified, but from the context it is hard to accept any other explanation. If the information wasn’t classified, it wouldn’t have been an issue that they were having difficulty with the secure fax.  Ed Morrissey’s thoughts on this are hard to argue with:

  • Unclassified material doesn’t need to be transmitted by secure fax; if the material wasn’t classified, Sullivan would have had them faxed normally.
  • Ordering aides to remove headers to facilitate the transmission over unsecured means strongly suggests that the information was not unclassified. On top of that, removing headers to avoid transmission security would be a violation of 18 USC 793 anyway, which does not require material to be classified — only sensitive to national security.

Contrary to Clinton’s previous claims that she did not send or receive classified email on her private server, by McClatchy’s count there were at least 1,340 emails contained classified material, including sixty-six in the latest release. While not marked as classified, “intelligence officials say some material was clearly classified at the time. Her aides also sent and received classified information.” As Reuters explained in August, when a smaller amount of classified information had already been discovered in Clinton’s email, this information could have been “born classified” and be considered classified regardless of whether the State Department had labeled it classified:

In the small fraction of emails made public so far, Reuters has found at least 30 email threads from 2009, representing scores of individual emails, that include what the State Department’s own “Classified” stamps now identify as so-called ‘foreign government information.’ The U.S. government defines this as any information, written or spoken, provided in confidence to U.S. officials by their foreign counterparts.

This sort of information, which the department says Clinton both sent and received in her emails, is the only kind that must be “presumed” classified, in part to protect national security and the integrity of diplomatic interactions, according to U.S. regulations examined by Reuters.

“It’s born classified,” said J. William Leonard, a former director of the U.S. government’s Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO). Leonard was director of ISOO, part of the White House’s National Archives and Records Administration, from 2002 until 2008, and worked for both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

“If a foreign minister just told the secretary of state something in confidence, by U.S. rules that is classified at the moment it’s in U.S. channels and U.S. possession,” he said in a telephone interview, adding that for the State Department to say otherwise was “blowing smoke.”

Reuters’ findings may add to questions that Clinton has been facing over her adherence to rules concerning sensitive government information. Spokesmen for Clinton declined to answer questions, but Clinton and her staff maintain she did not mishandle any information.

“I did not send classified material, and I did not receive any material that was marked or designated classified,” Clinton told reporters at a campaign event in Nevada on Tuesday.

Although it appears to be true for Clinton to say none of her emails included classification markings, a point she and her staff have emphasized, the government’s standard nondisclosure agreement warns people authorized to handle classified information that it may not be marked that way and that it may come in oral form.

Two of the emails were previously “top secret” with one later downgraded to “secret.”

Previously there were questions as to whether Clinton’s actions were intentional or if she understood enough about the computer systems to understand what was occurring. This email statement, “If they can’t, turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure” should end the possibility of any defense along these lines.

The email also displayed further evidence of Clinton’s attitude that the rules which apply to others do not apply to her. The latest batch of emails include one where Clinton was surprised that a staffer was using private email. As I noted in this summary of the email scandal from July, an ambassador under Clinton was fired with failure to abide by rules against using private email being cited as a reason by the Inspector General (pdf of report here).

With the FBI investigating Clinton’s email practices at the State Department, there has been growing speculation in recent weeks that she will be facing criminal charges. While this tends to be more in the conservative media, it does appear that the FBI had already stepped up its probe late in 2015, and this latest “smoking gun” should increase the chances.

At this point nobody outside of the FBI knows were their probe is headed, but regardless of whether Clinton is indicted, her violations of Obama’s stricter standards for government transparency initiated in 2009, along with previous regulations, unethically receiving money (in the form of donations to the Foundation and extraordinarily high speaking fees to Bill, as well as questions of improperly handling classified information will be a major impediment to running in a general election, should Clinton fight off a challenge from Bernie Sanders which is looking much like Obama’s challenge eight years ago in terms of generating support, including a thirteen point lead today in New Hampshire.

Joe Biden said this week that he regrets his decision not to run “every day.” With many Democratic Party insiders appearing determined to keep Sanders from winning the nomination, it is just possible that they might offer Biden a second chance should they recognize how damaging the latest emails could be to Clinton’s election chances, or should she be indicted.

Hillary Clinton Resorts To Dirty Politics & Bernie Sanders Responds By Showing Differences On The Issues

Sanders Jefferson Jackson

Hillary Clinton has had a very good month, especially with Joe Biden deciding not to run, which is starting to solidify her support among the Democratic mainstream. Therefore it is puzzling that she would decide to take the low road in the campaign, playing the sex card much like she played the race card against Barack Obama eight years ago. She not only continued her campaign strategy of distorting Sanders’ record on gun control, but twisted a statement to falsely accuse him of sexism. While some of  Clinton’s supporters have frequently accused anyone who disagrees with Clinton’s views, or objects to her low ethical standards, of sexism, as far as I am aware this is the first time Hillary Clinton has stooped this low during this campaign.

During the recent Democratic debate, Sanders repeated a line he frequently uses in  his stump speech, criticizing the shouting from both sides on the issue. Democrats who are seen as opposing the private ownership of guns under any circumstance do not have the credibility which Sanders has, having supported both sensible gun control and the rights of hunters to own guns, to bridge this issue. When talking about shouting on the issue, Sanders is talking about all parties. Clinton twisted this in her response: “I’m not shouting. It’s just that when women talk, some people think we’re shouting.”

Clinton is foolish to play dirty in the campaign when she has the lead as she already faced a challenge, should she go on to win the nomination, to get those independents who support Sanders but do not normally vote Democratic to turn out to vote for her in the general election. This will only make it harder. It is also foolish for Clinton to dwell on a single issue to make a bogus case of being more consistently liberal than Sanders when she has spent much of her career triangulating and undermining liberal principles.

Bernie Sanders responded to Clinton by bringing up just a small number of the many issues where Clinton has not been consistently liberal at the Democratic Jefferson-Jackson dinner. While he has mentioned some of these in the past, he was much more forceful in showing the differences between himself and Clinton, as I suggested he should do after the first debate. Sanders raised Clinton’s inconsistent views on trade, the Keystone XL Pipeline, campaign finance reform, the Iraq war, and gay rights. NBC News reported:

Without mentioning her by name, Sanders fired off a series of back-to-back jabs clearly aimed at the weakest parts of Clinton’s resume as he portrayed himself as the true progressive in the race who “will govern based on principle not poll numbers.”

His section of supporters roared at this key party event, which has a history of dislodging frontrunners — including Clinton in 2008 — in the state that holds the nation’s first nominating contest.

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Clinton recently opposed, Sanders said he was there first.

“I did not support it yesterday. I do not support it today. And I will not support it tomorrow,” he said. “It is not now, nor has it ever been, the gold standard of trade agreements.”

Clinton once called the TPP the “gold standard” of trade deals as she helped negotiate it as President Obama’s secretary of state.

On the Keystone XL pipeline, which Clinton seemed to favor as secretary of state but recently opposed, Sanders said he was there first too.

“If you agree with me about the urgent need to address the issue of climate change, then you would know immediately what to do about the Keystone pipeline. Honestly, it wasn’t that complicated,” he said. “To me, that was a no-brainer and that is why I have opposed the Keystone Pipeline from the beginning.”

On the Iraq War vote, where Clinton now says her “yes” vote was a mistake, Sanders said he was there first as well. “Let me tell you that I listened to what Bush had to say, to what Cheney had to say, to what Rumsfeld had to say. I didn’t believe them and I voted no,” he said.

And on the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law signed by Bill Clinton that banned the federal government from recognizing gay marriages — which Hillary Clinton now opposes — Sanders said he was there first once again.

“Today, some are trying to rewrite history by saying they voted for one anti-gay law to stop something worse. Let us be clear. That’s just not true,” he said. “There was a small minority opposed to discriminating against our gay brothers and sisters. Not everybody held that position in 1996.”

Clinton told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Friday that her husband supported DOMA as a “defensive action,” since something worse would have been passed in its stead.

On every issue, Sanders said he faced a “fork in the road.”

“I am proud to tell you when I came to that fork in the road I took the right road even though it was not the popular road at the time,” he said.

And one of his biggest applause lines, ostensibly on campaign finance, was also a veiled shot at Clinton. “I am the only Democratic candidate for president who does not have a Super PAC and we are going to prove them wrong,” he said. Clinton has two super PACs.

Sanders sought to position himself as the rightful heir to Obama, who stunned observers at this very event in 2007 by delivering an inspiring speech that drew clear contrasts with Clinton.

“Eight years ago the experts talked about how another Democratic candidate for president, Barack Obama, couldn’t win. How he was unelectable. Well Iowa, I think we’re going to prove the pundits wrong again. I believe we will make history,” he said.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

In order to prove the pundits wrong, make history, and to win, Bernie Sanders will need to continue to draw a contrast between himself and Hillary Clinton on the issues, showing Democratic voters that he, and not Clinton, better represents Democratic values. Of course the Democratic Party is a big tent and Clinton’s generally center-right positions will appeal to many of those who vote in Democratic primaries. To win Sanders will also need to turn the independent support he is achieving into primary votes.

Many of  his supporters are young voters who do not traditionally turn out in hight numbers. Sanders just might change this with positions which attract the young, including  his more left-libertarian views on social/cultural issues, including legalization of marijuana, along with his proposal to make public college education free. His support for expanding Social Security also represents a policy difference with Hillary Clinton which could help Sanders make inroads at the other end of the age range.

Sanders repeated his criticism of Clinton on CNN Sunday Morning, this time mentioning Clinton by name:

“I have consistently been a critic of what is going on on Wall Street, the greed, the recklessness, the illegal behavior. I helped lead the effort to — against the deregulation of Wall Street. I believe that we should bring back Glass-Steagall legislation so that you do not have the absurd situation of commercial banks and investment banks and large insurance companies being together,” Sanders told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“You do not have six financial institutions having assets equivalent to 60 percent of the GDP,” he continued. “With all the economic and political power that these banks have, I think you’ve got to break them up. That has always — that has been my view for a very, very long time. That is not Hillary Clinton’s view.”

ABC News began their report of the Jefferson-Jackson dinner which an example which seems to represent the philosophical difference between Clinton and Sanders supporters:

On one half of the space, the Clinton fans looked organized and polished. They wore matching, glow-in-the-dark, blue t-shirts that read, “I’m fighting for her.” They held battery-operated foam lights that shone brightly when the lights dimmed and doubled as noise-makers.

Sanders’ fans had glow sticks, too, the kind that glow after being snapped. While many of his fans wore Bernie 2016 t-shirts, they were mismatched and different colors. His section also included several homemade signs.

I think this says a lot about the types of people who support Sanders as opposed to Clinton. Most importantly, Democratic voters need to keep in mind that, to paraphrase Sanders, when there has been a fork in the road on policy, throughout their careers Sanders has taken the right fork while Clinton has made the wrong decision. We need a president who makes the right choices at the time, not one who will admit her mistakes and change her views years down the road.

Update: Video posted here.

Update II: Press & Bloggers Show Sanders Was Right In Accusing Clinton Of Practicing Revisionist History On DOMA

Joe Biden Announces He Is Not Running, While Continuing To Criticize Hillary Clinton And Having Praised Bernie Sanders

Joe Biden has announced he will not run for president, saying he no longer has the time to mount a campaign, and then proceeded to give what sounded like his campaign speech. I wonder if he wrote this speech before deciding, figuring he could use most of it regardless of his decision.

It is notable that he continued to take a few jabs at Hillary Clinton, as he has in recent days. The New York Times reports:

Without mentioning her by name, Mr. Biden criticized Mrs. Clinton’s assertion in last week’s Democratic debate that the Republicans are her enemies. “They are our opposition; they’re not our enemies,” he said, repeating a point he has made several times in the last 48 hours. “And for the sake of the country, we have to work together.”

Reading from a prepared text flashed on flat screens in the Rose Garden, Mr. Biden argued against the sort of hawkish interventionism Mrs. Clinton has championed in the Middle East and elsewhere. “The argument that we just have to do something when bad people do bad things isn’t good enough,” he said. “It’s not a good enough reason for American intervention and to put our sons’ and daughters’ lives on the line, put them at risk.”

Mr. Biden seemed to chide Mrs. Clinton for distancing herself from Mr. Obama lately, as she has done on trade, Syria, Arctic drilling and other issues. “Democrats should not only defend this record and protect this record, they should run on the record,” he said.

While Biden declined to run in the primaries, it was clear he would like to have run if the situation were different, and he would like to be president. By criticizing Clinton and speaking like a candidate, Biden made it clear that if Clinton’s campaign should implode, which remains quite possible, he is ready to serve. With multiple investigations in progress regarding Clinton’s unethical behavior as Secretary of State, it is certainly a possibility that Democrats will wake up before the convention and realize how dangerous it could be running with her heading the ticket in the general election. If Sanders is unable to defeat her, it is easy to see the math play out where the Sanders delegates and the super delegates could outnumber committed Clinton delegates and create an open convention. If the news were bad enough, it is even conceivable that some of Clinton’s delegates would rethink their support.

Unfortunately the Democrats should probably change their symbol to the ostrich instead of the donkey as, other than for Sanders (until recently an independent), they seem oblivious to the trouble the party is in nation-wide. They might also take a few lessons from Justin Trudeau, as John Nichols discussed in The Nation.

Most likely Biden continued to express his reservations about Clinton in order to influence her behavior and to keep himself in a position to be the nominee if conditions change. There is another thought which also comes to mind. Is it possible that Biden does prefer Sanders? Biden would clearly support Sanders over Clinton in terms of ethical character of the candidate, but even the types of issues which Biden discussed sounded far more like Sanders than Clinton. (There are also certainly positions which Biden has taken in the past which are quite different, but today does not seem the day to discuss the negatives in Biden’s record.) While Biden has repeatedly criticized Clinton in recent weeks, he has also praised Bernie Sanders, saying, “he’s doing a helluva job.”

Seeing Biden continue to criticize Clinton today raises the question of whether he will continue to knock Clinton, hoping to increase the chances of her being forced from the race. Plus if he does prefer Sanders, would he ever openly support him over Clinton?

I don’t think it is very likely Biden would openly endorse Sanders, but if he did it would be a move comparable to when Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama. Both Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy endorsed Obama in 2008, citing the same types of faults we continue to see in Hillary Clinton. Such a move from Biden, this time endorsing Sanders, would provide a tremendous boost to Sanders’ campaign.

For now, the same media which has downplayed Sanders prospects from the start will promote the idea that Clinton is the inevitable winner. We must keep in mind that such media predictions have frequently been wrong in the past. While there is no doubt Clinton is the front runner, her nomination cannot be said to be inevitable months before a single vote has been cast. As I noted earlier in the week, the polls are not at all predictive in a nomination battle.This polling report from December 2007 described how Clinton had a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

This race is far from over. While the media is dwelling on the Benghazi hearings this week, and this could have a bearing at how she is perceived, the real scandals which will harm Clinton in an election campaign are not based upon this Republican witch hunt, and are not going to go away. Bernie Sanders could pull an upset, like Obama in 2008 or Kerry in 2004, or the party might yet still call on Joe Biden.

Biden Drop Out