Bernie Sanders Speaks Out Against Interventionism And The War On Terror At Westminster College

On of my disappointments about the 2016 election (besides the nominees and the winner) was that there was relatively little talk of foreign policy. The general election had Hillary Clinton, one of the most hawkish candidates in history, running against Donald Trump, who was (and remains) totally incoherent on the topic. Bernie Sanders had a far better record, but preferred to run on economic policy as opposed to foreign policy. While he did criticize Clinton’s vote for the Iraq war and her support for regime change in Libya, these were not the main topics of the campaign. This week Sanders did deliver a foreign policy speech in Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri.

The Intercept says, This Is What  A Radical Foreign Policy Looks Like, and had the opportunity to interview him prior to the speech:

I ask him how such rhetoric differs from past statements in defense of the U.N. and of international cooperation offered by leading Democrats, such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.

“Excuse me.” Sanders doesn’t like to be interrupted. “Let me just talk a little bit about where I want to go.”

The senator makes clear that “unilateralism, the belief that we can simply overthrow governments that we don’t want, that has got to be re-examined.” After referencing the Iraq War — “one of the great foreign policy blunders in the history of this country” — the senator touches on another historic blunder which, to his credit, few of his fellow senators would be willing to discuss, let alone critique. “In 1953, the United States, with the British, overthrew [Mohammed] Mossadegh, the prime minister of Iran – and this was to benefit British oil interests,” he reminds me. “The result was the shah came into power, who was a very ruthless man, and the result of that was that we had the Iranian Revolution, which takes us to where we are right now.”

Does he regret not speaking with such passion, bluntness, and insight on international affairs during his failed primary campaign against Clinton? He shakes his head. “No, I think we ran the kind of campaign that we wanted to run.” There’s a pause. “But I think that foreign policy is clearly very, very important.”

Video above and the full text of the speech can be found here. After thanking Westminster College, Sanders began:

One of the reasons I accepted the invitation to speak here is that I strongly believe that not only do we need to begin a more vigorous debate about foreign policy, we also need to broaden our understanding of what foreign policy is.

So let me be clear: Foreign policy is directly related to military policy and has everything to do with almost seven thousand young Americans being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tens of thousands coming home wounded in body and spirit from a war we should never have started. That’s foreign policy. And foreign policy is about hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan dying in that same war.

Foreign policy is about U.S. government budget priorities. At a time when we already spend more on defense than the next 12 nations combined, foreign policy is about authorizing a defense budget of some $700 billion, including a $50 billion increase passed just last week.

Meanwhile, at the exact same time as the President and many of my Republican colleagues want to substantially increase military spending, they want to throw 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have because, supposedly, they are worried about the budget deficit. While greatly increasing military spending they also want to cut education, environmental protection and the needs of children and seniors.

Sanders tied foreign policy to his economic views, and to climate change:

Foreign policy is not just tied into military affairs, it is directly connected to economics. Foreign policy must take into account the outrageous income and wealth inequality that exists globally and in our own country. This planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much, and so many have so little – and when we advance day after day into an oligarchic form of society where a small number of extraordinarily powerful special interests exert enormous influence over the economic and political life of the world.

There is no moral or economic justification for the six wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population – 3.7 billion people. There is no justification for the incredible power and dominance that Wall Street, giant multi-national corporations and international financial institutions have over the affairs of sovereign countries throughout the world.

At a time when climate change is causing devastating problems here in America and around the world, foreign policy is about whether we work with the international community – with China, Russia, India and countries around the world – to transform our energy systems away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Sensible foreign policy understands that climate change is a real threat to every country on earth, that it is not a hoax, and that no country alone can effectively combat it. It is an issue for the entire international community, and an issue that the United States should be leading in, not ignoring or denying.

Sanders expressed views which were far from isolationist, but which recognized the damage done by recent interventionism:

Some in Washington continue to argue that “benevolent global hegemony” should be the goal of our foreign policy, that the US, by virtue of its extraordinary military power, should stand astride the world and reshape it to its liking. I would argue that the events of the past two decades — particularly the disastrous Iraq war and the instability and destruction it has brought to the region — have utterly discredited that vision.

The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of “America First.” Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability, and better for facilitating the international cooperation necessary to meet shared challenges.

Here’s a truth that you don’t often hear about too often in the newspapers, on the television, or in the halls of Congress. But it’s a truth we must face. Far too often, American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm. Yes, it is reasonably easy to engineer the overthrow of a government. It is far harder, however, to know the long term impact that that action will have. Let me give you some examples:

In 1953 the United States, on behalf of Western oil interests, supported the overthrow of Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and the re-installation of the Shah of Iran, who led a corrupt, brutal and unpopular government. In 1979, the Shah was overthrown by revolutionaries led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was created. What would Iran look like today if their democratic government had not been overthrown? What impact did that American-led coup have on the entire region? What consequences are we still living with today?

In 1973, the United States supported the coup against the democratically elected president of Chile Salvador Allende which was led by General Augusto Pinochet. The result was almost 20 years of authoritarian military rule and the disappearance and torture of thousands of Chileans – and the intensification of anti-Americanism in Latin America.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the logic of the Cold War led the United States to support murderous regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, which resulted in brutal and long-lasting civil wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

In Vietnam, based on a discredited “domino theory,” the United States replaced the French in intervening in a civil war, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Vietnamese in support of a corrupt, repressive South Vietnamese government. We must never forget that over 58,000 thousand Americans also died in that war.

More recently, in Iraq, based on a similarly mistaken analysis of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, the United States invaded and occupied a country in the heart of the Middle East. In doing so, we upended the regional order of the Middle East and unleashed forces across the region and the world that we’ll be dealing with for decades to come.

He later described the global war on terror as a disaster:

But, I also want to be clear about something else: As an organizing framework, the Global War on Terror has been a disaster for the American people and for American leadership. Orienting US national security strategy around terrorism essentially allowed a few thousand violent extremists to dictate policy for the most powerful nation on earth. It responds to terrorists by giving them exactly what they want.

In addition to draining our resources and distorting our vision, the war on terror has caused us to undermine our own moral standards regarding torture, indefinite detention, and the use of force around the world, using drone strikes and other airstrikes that often result in high civilian casualties.

A heavy-handed military approach, with little transparency or accountability, doesn’t enhance our security. It makes the problem worse.

While highly critical of the policies of the Democratic Party establishment, as well as the policies of Donald Trump, the speech received very favorable coverage at The Nation. John Nichols wrote, Bernie Sanders Just Gave One of the Finest Speeches of His Career: Outlining a vision of an America on the side of peace and justice, the senator shredded Trump’s brutish foreign policies. Stephen Miles wrote, Bernie Sanders Just Gave the Progressive Foreign-Policy Speech We’ve Been Waiting For: The senator powerfully linked domestic and foreign policy in the context of massive global inequality.

Contrast this with what we are hearing from Hillary Clinton. As I recently wrote, reading Hillary Clinton’s memoirWhat Happened, is like reading a memoir from Jesse James which makes no admission that he ever robbed a bank. There was no mention of the wars she supported, her influence peddling, or her frequent support for policies which violate our First Amendment rights. Glenn Greenwald similarly wrote, The Clinton Book Tour Is Largely Ignoring the Vital Role of Endless War in the 2016 Election Result. Greenwald also noted “the broader Democratic Party desire to pretend that the foreign wars it has repeatedly prosecuted, and the endless killing of innocent people for which it is responsible, do not exist.” Both Greenwald and I have noted the recent study suggesting that this support for endless war has cost Democrats the support of many voters, contributing to their loss in 2016.

Reversing their support for perpetual warfare, as Sanders also advocates, is both the right thing to do, and would be a more sensible path towards reversing the serious losses faced by the Democratic Party over the past decade.

Establishment Democrats Relying On New McCarthyism To Attack The Left As They Move To The Right

With the Democratic Party moving right, becoming increasingly like the Republican Party of circa 2002, while current Republicans have become even further detached from reality, they have also increasingly been attacking the left. We already have gone through the last election watching Hillary Clinton campaign against Medicare for All, promoting restrictions on civil liberties, and defending her failed history of neocon interventionism, while her supporters attributed criticism from the left to sexism, and have moved closer towards embracing neoconservativism. This may have just foreshadowed what to expect in the future.

Ryan Cooper recently discussed how the left questions establishment Democrats such as  Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick over their records. He predicted in The Week how the Democratic establishment will respond by continuing to play dirty against the left:

..if they just want to have a retread of the 2015-16 primary, the center could just try to win dirty. The left, they might say (working hand-in-glove with sympathetic columnists), just doesn’t like minority or female candidates because they are racist and sexist.

I would bet quite a lot of money the centrist Democratic establishment will opt for the latter strategy. Indeed, some are already doing so — like Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, elite Democrats’ in-house think tank.

That would be pretty rich coming from the crowd that shamelessly leveraged Islamophobia to keep Keith Ellison — probably the left’s second-most trusted politician, after Bernie Sanders — out of the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Of course that is what we are already seeing. Just today Shareblue has a defense of Kamala Harris which resorts to such dirty attacks, claiming that the objection to Harris from the left is that she “shares a gender with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Such attacks on the left based upon false claims of misogyny are especially absurd considering that many people who ultimately backed Sanders had previously supported Elizabeth Warren before she declined to run. Some wound up voting for Jill Stein. Many are now backing Tulsi Gabbard for the 2020 nomination. (Many of us are also excited about Jodie Whittaker breaking the glass ceiling in the TARDIS.)

Many of the most vile attacks on Bernie Sanders and the left have come from former Clinton staffer Peter Daou, who runs Shareblue. The Washington Free Beacon showed a recent tirade from Daou on Twitter within the past week. Conservative Democrats (often labeled centrists in light of how far right the middle has moved in American politics) have become the major opponents of liberal and progressive ideas, while turning to the tactics of the far right.

George Zornick responded to MyCarthy style attacks on Bernie Sanders from Peter Daou and Melissa McEwan in an article at The Nation entitled, Bernie Sanders Is a Russian Agent, and Other Things I Learned This Week: A case study in how fake news is attracting liberals. He pointed out how Peter Daou has started a string of accusations that Sanders is practically a Russian agent based upon false claims:

The jumping-off point seems to have been when Peter Daou, an avowed Hillary Clinton fan and major Twitter personality, quoted-tweeted my original post. Daou spends almost as much time energetically trashing Sanders as he does attacking Trump, and many of the respondents were followers of his. He certainly did not imply Sanders was a secret KGB asset, though, writing only: “Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the ONLY TWO VOTES **AGAINST** the Russia sanctions bill. Bernie was out of sync with every Dem senator.” (It was a Russia/Iran sanctions bill, and Sanders made it clear he objected only to the Iran part, but never mind.)

Sanders made his position quite clear, including on his web site, but such facts are irrelevant to anti-liberal hatchet men like Daou who are more interested in Swift Boating Sanders (even if Sanders’ concerns were also expressed by John Kerry). If anything, I think that Sanders has been too accepting of the Democratic party line on Russia, which goes far beyond the facts which have been established. Despite this, while Daou’s followers on social media have found it a sign of extremism that Sanders and Paul voted together, I see a view shared by two Senators who frequently differ from their party’s orthodoxy to be worthy of consideration.

Zornick went on:

So how did people jump to this conclusion that Bernie Sanders, by opposing Democrats, must ipso facto be working at the behest of Russia? It wasn’t entirely organic. And it points to how fake news can infect some of our brethren on the left.

Blame starts with the people with megaphones that peddle this nonsense. Eric Garland, who became a Twitter celebrity with his bizarre “game theory” thread, has explicitly tied Sanders to Russia in his threads. So has Melissa McEwan on her Shakesville blog. “Bernie Sanders, who has visited Russia, has not been, to my knowledge, suspected of being vulnerable by Russian kompromat cultivated on his visits, unlike Donald Trump. But, as I said above, if I intend to say something, I will state it plainly, and here I am plainly stating that I do believe these connections warrant more scrutiny,” she wrote. The Palmer Report, which churns out Russia-related fake news by the pixel load, wrote a post in April: “Bernie Sanders must disclose what he knows about his campaign adviser Tad Devine and Russia.” And of course, uber-grifter Louise Mensch has joined the conspiracy theorists.

We have a long way to go until the 2020 primary battles and can expect to see far more of such dirty tactics from conservative Democrats who place victory for someone with a D after their name over principle, failing to understand that their abandonment of principle is a major reason why Democrats have been on such a losing streak and could not even beat Donald Trump.

Update: 

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

Investigations Of Trump Expand Along With Speculation That He Will Repeat Saturday Night Massacre

News reports discussed two avenues of investigation being pursued regarding Donald Trump. One of them, his business ties, appears to be of value. The other is of more questionable value–fake news on Facebook.

Bloomberg is reporting that Robert Mueller is expanding the investigation into Trump’s business ties:

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Wall Street Journal has further information related to the investigation of Paul Manafort:

Mr. Manafort, a Republican political consultant, spent years working for a pro-Russia party in Ukraine. He served as Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign manager for roughly three months in 2016 before resigning.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. also are investigating Mr. Manafort’s real-estate transactions, The Wall Street Journal has reported, with both offices examining his dealings for possible money-laundering and fraud. Messrs. Schneiderman and Vance are Democrats.

Mr. Manafort has spent and borrowed tens of millions of dollars in connection with properties in the U.S. over the past decade, including a Brooklyn, N.Y., townhouse and California properties being developed by his son-in-law, the Journal has reported.

The nature of the investigation, along with the contempt for law enforcement expressed by Donald Trump in an interview with The New York Times, has many predicting that Trump will wind up firing Paul Manafort in a scenario reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Periodically I receive comments that such criticism of Trump comes from out of touch left wingers, so I will note that the conservative National Review also predicts, Yeah, Trump Is Probably Going to Fire Robert Mueller.

While I hope to see Manafort pursue investigations into the business dealings of Donald Trump and his associates, I question whether Congressional investigators will really find out much of value in an investigation of fake news and Facebook. CNN reports:

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, met with Facebook officials in California more than a month ago as part of his committee’s investigation into potential collusion or election interference, and he’s convinced the company can explain whether anyone from the Trump campaign helped Russians boost fake news articles targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Warner is testing the theory popular among Democratic operatives that Russia was behind spikes in fake news that were anti-Clinton and that Russia had help targeting those articles from US political operatives…

At the core of Warner’s questioning is a theory among Democratic operatives and former top-level Clinton campaign staff that Russia had help from domestic political operatives to micro-target fake news articles. No evidence has been uncovered to prove that theory.

Last month, Senate intelligence staff interviewed Brett Horvath, a social media technology expert who argues it’s possible that Russian operatives got political data that could then be used for successfully micro-targeting swing voters on Facebook.

“Facebook has all the data that could prove this is happening or not happening, that’s the starting point,” Horvath, a veteran Democratic political operative, told CNN.

The key line above is, “No evidence has been uncovered to prove that theory.”

There certainly was fake news spread during the campaign, as there also was against Barack Obama and John Kerry in their presidential campaigns. Only the Clinton campaign has gone so far as to blame Russia for this, with reporters covering the campaign to write the book Shattered reporting that Clinton developed the strategy of blaming Russia and others for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing, failing to take responsibility for her own mistakes. Whether or not the fake stories being spread came from Russia, they did far less harm to Clinton than the damage caused by her violation of State Department rules (as verified by the State Department Inspector General), and then repeatedly being caught lying about the matter. The truth was far more damaging than fiction.

The questionable business ties involving Donald Trump and others in his family and campaign appears to be worth investigating, but I bet it will be a mistake to divert resources from the more important issues to pursue partisan fantasies. If Democrats rely upon such weak attacks they risk allowing the Republicans to survive the actual Trump scandals.

Nikki Haley Says Trump Does Believe In Climate Change; John Kerry Blasts Trump’s “Craven Ignorance” Leading To Decision

As I discussed yesterday, Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Accord was all about politics and appealing to his right wing base, with his other statements regarding the agreement having little bearing on the decision. This left the question of whether Trump believes the scientific consensus on climate change, or still considers climate change to be a hoax. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley revealed Trump’s opinion, at least until he contradicts it on Twitter:

“President Trump believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation,” Haley said Saturday, answering a central question in the wake of his decision to withdraw the country from the Paris climate accord.

Trump “knows that it’s changing and that the US has to be responsible for it and that’s what we’re going to do,” she continued, adding that withdrawing from the Paris agreement won’t change the country’s commitment to curbing climate change.

“Just because the US got out of a club doesn’t mean we aren’t going to care about the environment,” she said.

When asked why the US pulled out of the climate agreement, Haley blamed former President Barack Obama for agreeing to regulations that were “too onerous,” too strict and ultimately unachievable.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry has a different view of Donald Trump’s decision:

“It was a day of craven ignorance and cynicism that moved the presidency of the United States away from global leadership into a narrow little niche of ideological, political self-preservation,’’ Kerry said in an interview with the Globe on Friday. “It’s tragic for the consequences. It’s also built on an enormous lie that the economy is somehow hurt by the steps that were being taken.”

“I think it will be recorded as one of the most self-destructive days in presidencies ever,” he added…

Kerry argues that the pieces for a transformation of energy production are moving into place. The solar power and wind turbine sectors are booming, he said. At least 2.6 million clean-energy jobs have been created, he added, half of which are in states carried by Trump.

“Trump tried to make a fake economic argument. He delved into fake news throughout his comments. They don’t stand up to scrutiny at all,” Kerry said. “He’s tried to make the argument that somehow the forgotten man in America is getting screwed by this agreement. But the truth is the forgotten man in America is getting screwed by Donald Trump and his choices. And slowly that truth is going to sink into people when they see what happens.”

John Kerry Delivers Needed Message To Netanyahu

John Kerry worked hard to seek peace in the Middle East but was thwarted by obstacles including an Israeli government which did not appear to want peace on reasonable terms. Like Kerry, I support the continued existence and security of Israel. Just as opposing neoconservative policies of George Bush did not make one opposed to the United States, opposing the human rights violations under Netanyahu does not make one anti-Israel.

Kerry reportedly wanted to speak out on this two years ago but the White House would not allow it. I am glad he made these points today, as reported by The New York Times:

With only 23 days left as secretary of state, Mr. Kerry, the former presidential candidate who made the search for peace in the Middle East one of the driving missions of his four years as secretary, spoke with clear frustration about Mr. Netanyahu’s continued support of settlements “strategically placed in locations that make two states impossible.” But he spoke knowing that the incoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump may well abandon the key principles that the United States has used for decades of Middle East negotiations.

“The status quo is leading toward one state, or perpetual occupation,” Mr. Kerry said, his voice animated. He argued that Israel, with a growing Arab population, could not survive as both a Jewish state and a democratic state unless it embraced the two-state approach that a succession of American presidents have advocated…

With only 23 days left as secretary of state, Mr. Kerry, the former presidential candidate who made the search for peace in the Middle East one of the driving missions of his four years as secretary, spoke with clear frustration about Mr. Netanyahu’s continued support of settlements “strategically placed in locations that make two states impossible.” But he spoke knowing that the incoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump may well abandon the key principles that the United States has used for decades of Middle East negotiations.

“The status quo is leading toward one state, or perpetual occupation,” Mr. Kerry said, his voice animated. He argued that Israel, with a growing Arab population, could not survive as both a Jewish state and a democratic state unless it embraced the two-state approach that a succession of American presidents have advocated.

Many liberal Israelis, as well as American supporters of Israel, have long recognized what Kerry is saying. Continuing the settlements, and even worse, expanding them, makes Israel an apartheid state in which the system can only be perpetuated by suppressing the rights of one group. Israel must abandon this policy to both be free, and in the long run, to be safe.

Clinton Mistakes In Michigan Show Why She Lost, And Would Have Made A Poor President

Hindsight is easy, but in retrospect there were plenty of clues that Clinton would lose Michigan, and the general election. Before the primaries, I noticed an unusual amount of enthusiasm about Bernie Sanders, including from people who are not normally very vocal about politics. Sanders went on to upset Clinton. I saw no signs of enthusiasm for her campaign. I saw a lot of Sanders bumper stickers, a fair number of old Obama bumper stickers, and even a few old Kerry bumper stickers into November. I saw exactly one for Clinton, and that wasn’t until later in November after the election. I know of a street, and I mean one single street, which had a number of pro-Clinton yard signs around where I live. While I had signs up for Kerry and Obama in the past three elections, my yard sign from this election can be seen in the picture above.

My antipathy for both major party candidates was shared by others. An unusual number of patients started talking to me about voting for third party candidates (without first hearing of my plans). It was notable to see Clinton rush to Michigan in the final week of the campaign after she earlier had a double digit lead. I questioned her strategy when I saw her ads. Those which I saw solely concentrated on personal attacks (even if valid) against Donald Trump, in contrast to the ads from Trump making promises (regardless of their credibility) of jobs and a brighter future. If someone was already on the fence despite weeks of news about the vile things Trump had said, it was clear which ads had a better chance of sealing the deal.

Such anecdotal experiences are not enough to safely predict an election, but Politico reports on multiple errors by the Clinton campaign in Michigan. I fear that the same attitude seen by the campaign would have been reflected in the type of presidency we would have seen if Clinton had been elected. These included failing to listen to the views of others, and to utilize volunteers from the SEIU:

Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.

Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on-the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end.

“They believed they were more experienced, which they were. They believed they were smarter, which they weren’t,” said Donnie Fowler, who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee during the final months of the campaign. “They believed they had better information, which they didn’t.”

The SEIU was not the only union which the Clinton campaign ignored. While the strength of labor in Michigan might have declined in recent years, to ignore the UAW in Michigan sounds like an inexcusable mistake:

Clinton never even stopped by a United Auto Workers union hall in Michigan, though a person involved with the campaign noted bitterly that the UAW flaked on GOTV commitments in the final days, and that AFSCME never even made any, despite months of appeals.

The anecdotes are different but the narrative is the same across battlegrounds, where Democratic operatives lament a one-size-fits-all approach drawn entirely from pre-selected data — operatives spit out “the model, the model,” as they complain about it — guiding Mook’s decisions on field, television, everything else. That’s the same data operation, of course, that predicted Clinton would win the Iowa caucuses by 6 percentage points (she scraped by with two-tenths of a point), and that predicted she’d beat Bernie Sanders in Michigan (he won by 1.5 points)…

Michigan operatives relay stories like one about an older woman in Flint who showed up at a Clinton campaign office, asking for a lawn sign and offering to canvass, being told these were not “scientifically” significant ways of increasing the vote, and leaving, never to return. A crew of building trade workers showed up at another office looking to canvass, but, confused after being told there was no literature to hand out like in most campaigns, also left and never looked back.

“There’s this illusion that the Clinton campaign had a ground game. The deal is that the Clinton campaign could have had a ground game,” said a former Obama operative in Michigan. “They had people in the states who were willing to do stuff. But they didn’t provide people anything to do until GOTV.”

The only metric that people involved in the operations say they ever heard headquarters interested in was how many volunteer shifts had been signed up — though the volunteers were never given the now-standard handheld devices to input the responses they got in the field, and Brooklyn mandated that they not worry about data entry. Operatives watched packets of real-time voter information piled up in bins at the coordinated campaign headquarters. The sheets were updated only when they got ripped, or soaked with coffee. Existing packets with notes from the volunteers, including highlighting how much Trump inclination there was among some of the white male union members the Clinton campaign was sure would be with her, were tossed in the garbage…

Most importantly, multiple operatives said, the Clinton campaign dismissed what’s known as in-person “persuasion” — no one was knocking on doors trying to drum up support for the Democratic nominee, which also meant no one was hearing directly from voters aside from voters they’d already assumed were likely Clinton voters, no one tracking how feelings about the race and the candidates were evolving. This left no information to check the polling models against — which might have, for example, showed the campaign that some of the white male union members they had expected to be likely Clinton voters actually veering toward Trump — and no early warning system that the race was turning against them in ways that their daily tracking polls weren’t picking up.

People involved in the Michigan campaign still can’t understand why Brooklyn stayed so sure of the numbers in a state that it also had projected Clinton would win in the primary.

“Especially given what happened in the primary,” said Michigan Democratic Party chairman Brandon Dillon. “We knew that there was going to have to be more attention.”

With Clinton’s team ignoring or rejecting requests, Democratic operatives in Michigan and other battleground states might have turned to the DNC. But they couldn’t; they weren’t allowed to ask for help.

State officials were banned from speaking directly to anyone at the DNC in Washington. (“Welcome to DNC HQ,” read a blue and white sign behind the reception desk in Brooklyn that appeared after the ouster of Debbie Wasserman Schultz just before the July convention)…

Nor did Brooklyn ask for help from some people who’d been expecting the call. Sanders threw himself into campaign appearances for Clinton throughout the fall, but familiar sources say the campaign never asked the Vermont senator’s campaign aides for help thinking through Michigan, Wisconsin or anywhere else where he had run strong. It was already November when the campaign finally reached out to the White House to get President Barack Obama into Michigan, a state that he’d worked hard and won by large margins in 2008 and 2012. On the Monday before Election Day, Obama added a stop in Ann Arbor, but that final weekend, the president had played golf on Saturday and made one stop in Orlando on Sunday, not having been asked to do anything else. Michigan senior adviser Steve Neuman had been asking for months to get Obama and the first lady on the ground there. People who asked for Vice President Joe Biden to come in were told that top Clinton aides weren’t clearing those trips…

“I think it’s true, they executed well. I think it’s true that the plan was accomplished,” said a former labor leader in the state. “But the plan was not the right plan.”

While they clearly failed to use the right plan to win in 2016, Clinton supporters are ignoring their mistakes and placing the blame on external factors such as James Comey and Russia. In a race which turned out so close, many factors could have change the result, but it makes far more sense to place the blame both having a flawed candidate and the many mistakes made during the campaign. The same close minded thought processes seen in the campaign could be seen in Hillary Clinton throughout her life, leading Clinton to having been wrong on virtually every major decision of her career. While his appointees and many statements from Donald Trump make me fear a very poor outcome from his presidency, this is still an open matter. Hopefully Bill Gates is right in his optimistic prediction. Clinton’s history of poor judgement, both on campaign strategy and public policy, makes it very doubtful she could have been a competent president.

Insight Into Two Top Trump Advisers: Jared Kushner & Steve Bannon

jared-kushner-forbes

While we approach Donald Trump’s presidency with some dread, at least this stage is more interesting than it would be if Clinton had been elected. Rather than what would be a fairly predictable list of old Clinton cronies, Wall Street insiders, and the interventionist foreign policy establishment, we are seeing people new to politics. While Donald Trump is new to politics, he has a long public record. Perhaps the key member of the next administration that we know the least about is his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Kushner out-smarted the old Clinton political experts, and pulled off a victory in the electoral college with both less money and no political experience. Forbes has interviewed Kushner. The full article is worth reading, but here is an excerpt to show how Kushner changed how political campaigns are run to take advantage of social media and ideas from Silicon Valley:

“I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley, some of the best digital marketers in the world, and asked how you scale this stuff,” Kushner says. “They gave me their subcontractors.”

At first Kushner dabbled, engaging in what amounted to a beta test using Trump merchandise. “I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner says. Synched with Trump’s blunt, simple messaging, it worked. The Trump campaign went from selling $8,000 worth of hats and other items a day to $80,000, generating revenue, expanding the number of human billboards–and proving a concept. In another test, Kushner spent $160,000 to promote a series of low-tech policy videos of Trump talking straight into the camera that collectively generated more than 74 million views.

By June the GOP nomination secured, Kushner took over all data-driven efforts. Within three weeks, in a nondescript building outside San Antonio, he had built what would become a 100-person data hub designed to unify fundraising, messaging and targeting. Run by Brad Parscale, who had previously built small websites for the Trump Organization, this secret back office would drive every strategic decision during the final months of the campaign. “Our best people were mostly the ones who volunteered for me pro bono,” Kushner says. “People from the business world, people from nontraditional backgrounds.”

Kushner structured the operation with a focus on maximizing the return for every dollar spent. “We played Moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI for the electoral vote,” Kushner says. “I asked, How can we get Trump’s message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?” FEC filings through mid-October indicate the Trump campaign spent roughly half as much as the Clinton campaign did.

Just as Trump’s unorthodox style allowed him to win the Republican nomination while spending far less than his more traditional opponents, Kushner’s lack of political experience became an advantage. Unschooled in traditional campaigning, he was able to look at the business of politics the way so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have sized up other bloated industries.

I wonder who will get the movie rights to this story.

While Kushner’s political views are not clear, he does not appear to be a doctrinaire conservative. The anti-nepotism laws written after JFK made Bobby Kennedy his Attorney General might prevent Kushner from having a formal role in the Trump administration. I think we are better off with Trump continuing to listen to Kushner and hope this can be circumvented. Even if he cannot have an actual position, Trump will probably continue to receive advice from him.

During the interview Kushner defended Steve Bannon from accusations of being anti-Semitic based upon the hate speech often found at Breitbart. While this is hardly enough to make Bannon look acceptable, there was another sign today that Bannon might be more complex than he is portrayed. IndieWire reports that previously Bannon had been involved in the distribution of independent films which differ from the world view he is now involved with:

Ten years ago, Bannon oversaw the distribution of independent films released by Wellspring Media, a company that supported a wide range of international cinema as well as gay-themed and other “transgressive” titles. Movies acquired and released under his tenure include the experimental LGBT documentary “Tarnation” and “Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry,” a pro-Kerry documentary that opened during the 2004 election. According to one insider who dealt with Bannon at this time, he directly approved and often supported several of these films with great enthusiasm.

It’s a history that raises fascinating questions about the newly minted White House staffer’s motives: Did Bannon, whose alt-right allegiances have turned him into a leading proponent of nationalism, shelve his personal beliefs for the sake of perceived business opportunities? Did those beliefs — and a tolerance for the hate groups drawn to the alt-right movement — come later? Or does he, as so many have theorized about the president-elect, only believe in himself?P

Hopefully we will see a new version of Bannon in the White House, but this will not negate all of the hate speech he has spread in more recent years. The same can be said of President Trump as compared to candidate Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least one Clinton supporter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.