Clinton Foundation Donors And Weapons Deals At Clinton State Department, Plus How The Clintons Channel Their Inner Mitt Romney

Clinton apologists who fool themselves, or try to fool others, that the scandals do not matter might at some point need to reconsider whether it really makes sense for a political party to nominate a candidate with so much dirty laundry. These are not simply attacks from Fox or other right wing sources. This is news from The New York Times, AP, Reuters, McClatchy, ABC News, NBC News,  and other mainstream sources, as well as from many liberal publications, and is based upon clearly established unethical behavior on the part of Hillary Clinton. These stories will continue through election day. Republicans will take advantage of them and, in contrast to the attacks of the Swift Boat Liars against Kerry, the attacks are based upon facts (although conservatives do frequently stretch the facts even further than what there is evidence of). The court order to release Clinton’s email every thirty days will further keep this all in the news.

Some new items have hit the news this week. Award winning liberal independent journalist David Sirota reported on the relationship between weapons deals and contributions to the Clinton Foundation:

Even by the standards of arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East.

Israeli officials were agitated, reportedly complaining to the Obama administration that this substantial enhancement to Saudi air power risked disrupting the region’s fragile balance of power. The deal appeared to collide with the State Department’s documented concerns about the repressive policies of the Saudi royal family.

But now, in late 2011, Hillary Clinton’s State Department was formally clearing the sale, asserting that it was in the national interest. At a press conference in Washington to announce the department’s approval, an assistant secretary of state, Andrew Shapiro, declared that the deal had been “a top priority” for Clinton personally. Shapiro, a longtime aide to Clinton since her Senate days, added that the “U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army have excellent relationships in Saudi Arabia.”

These were not the only relationships bridging leaders of the two nations. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, the philanthropic enterprise she has overseen with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing — the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 — contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.

The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.

Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House.

American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012…

In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department records. The Clinton Foundation publishes only a rough range of individual contributors’ donations, making a more precise accounting impossible.

There is far more information in the entire article which should be read. He pointed out how Clinton had signed an agreement to disclose donors to the Foundation, and how this was a major issue before she was confirmed, but Hillary Clinton then ignored the agreement. He went on to look at the ethics of Clinton accepting donations from those she was making decisions about  as Secretary of State:

“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that seeks to tighten campaign finance disclosure rules. “This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.”

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

National security experts assert that the overlap between the list of Clinton Foundation donors and those with business before the the State Department presents a troubling conflict of interest.

I have further quoted Lawrence Lessig discussing Clinton’s unethical behavior in this post. Further in Sirota’s article (and again I recommend reading it in full):

During her Senate confirmation proceedings in 2009, Hillary Clinton declared that she and her husband were “committed to ensuring that his work does not present a conflict of interest with the duties of Secretary of State.” She pledged “to protect against even the appearance of a conflict of interest between his work and the duties of the Secretary of State” and said that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”

Even so, Bill Clinton took in speaking fees reaching $625,000 at events sponsored by entities that were dealing with Hillary Clinton’s State Department on weapons issues.

In 2011, for example, the former president was paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at its annual awards gala, which was held at the home of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Ben Affleck spoke at the event, which featured a musical performance by Grammy-award winner Michael Bolton. The gala was emceed by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. Boeing was listed as a sponsor of the event, as were the embassies of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar — the latter two of which had donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

The speaking fee from the Kuwait America Foundation to Bill Clinton was paid in the same time frame as a series of deals Hillary Clinton’s State Department was approving between the Kuwaiti government and Boeing. Months before the gala, the Department of Defense announced that Boeing would be the prime contractor on a $693 million deal, cleared by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, to provide the Kuwaiti government with military transport aircraft. A year later, a group sponsored in part by Boeing would pay Bill Clinton another $250,000 speaking fee.

Sirota also discussed the Foundation taking money from countries with a history of human rights abuses.

AP  reported on the pass-through or shell companies used by the Clintons to hide their finances, pointing out the similarity to actions by Mitt Romney, which Democrats objected to. First Read reported:

How the Clintons are getting turned into Mitt Romney

By itself, making money shouldn’t be an issue for Bill and Hillary Clinton; after all, so many of our past presidents have been wealthy. By itself, Bill Clinton having a shell LLC wouldn’t be an issue either. But when you add the two together, you see that the Clintons have a Mitt Romney problem on their hands — wealth and “otherness” that voters might not be able to relate to, especially when the likes of Bernie Sanders are campaigning against wealth. Of course, there’s one BIG difference between Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney: Romney wanted to cut taxes for the wealthy, while Hillary likely wants to raise them and eliminate tax loopholes benefitting the well-off. As the Clintons have said before, people like them should be paying more in taxes. And you probably won’t hear that rhetoric from the eventual GOP nominee. Still, Hillary Clinton could arguably be the wealthiest (or close to it) candidate in the 2016 field. And this shell LLC story is going to sound the drumbeats for her to release her taxes.

Not only her income taxes should be released. As Common Cause and other have argued, there should be a full audit of the Clinton Foundation.

While quite trivial compared to the other revelations, the Clinton Foundation has even been dragged peripherally into the FIFA scandal. This ties back to Sirota’s article as both involve how the Clinton Foundation took money from countries with human rights abuses.

Clinton’s Unethical Behavior Has Already Been Well Established–And It Has Nothing To Do With The Right

Clinton Email

As I discussed once again yesterday, many Democrats are ignoring the serious ethical breaches which have been written about Hillary Clinton, both in the past couple of months and further back, from liberal as well as conservative sources. To a certain degree the right gives her cover as, in addition to the many proven accusations against her raised by the left, there are additional false accusations against her from the right, leading some to falsely conclude that all accusations against Clinton are as bogus as Benghazi. Clinton apologists are now using a rather irrelevant article  in The New York Times to justify ignoring the strong case against Clinton. The article cites actions from the past months by conservative groups, ignoring the fact that many on the left has felt that Clinton is both unethical and too conservative for many years.

A post at The Moderate Voice (where many of my posts are reposted) which cites this article takes on the surface might be called a moderate viewpoint but actually ignores the facts of the matter:

I will wait for the results of impartial, independent investigations on allegations such as “E-Mail Gate” and the Clinton Foundation.

And I will definitely not fall for what the extreme right, or the extreme left, allege about Hillary Clinton.

In actuality, while additional facts will likely continue to be found, all the information to prove Clinton’s ethical misconduct and violation of rules in effect when she was Secretary of State are already in. Criticism of Clinton comes from all parts of the political spectrum, not just the extreme right and left. There is no such thing as an “impartial, independent investigation” to occur on a public official out of office, especially those as powerful as the Clintons. There are no such “independent investigations” of candidates other than from the media. We must go by the well-established facts that we do have to judge whether she is fit to be president. Here is what we do know:

When Hillary Clinton was made Secretary of State there was tremendous concern, from members of both parties, about the conflicts of interest this entails. Two rules were established to attempt to prevent conflicts of interest. The first applied to all cabinet officials after the email scandals of the Bush years (which Clinton included in her attacks on the Bush administration for shredding the Constitution). To increase transparency, rules were established by the Obama administration in 2009 for all email to be archived on government servers. Clinton violated this, and used the private server  to keep information both from Congress and the media. The top Freedom of Information Act official at the Justice Department has stated that Clinton was in violation of the rules and the State Department’s top Freedom of Information Act officer has called her use of a private server unacceptable. An ambassador under Clinton was even fired with failure to abide by rules related to not using private email being cited as a reason by the Inspector General (pdf of report here). Buzzfeed recently obtained email showing that the  top lawyer for the National Archives also expressed concern over Clinton’s use of a private server.

After Clinton’s press conference about the email scandal, news media fact checkers showed ares in which she was lying, especially with her claim of not breaking the rules. AP subsequently also found that her claim about not wanting to use two devices out of convenience did not hold up as she was actually using two devices for email when Secretary of State.

Not only did Clinton fail to abide by the policies in effect, when this became publicly known she destroyed evidence in wiping the server.

The second rule which applied exclusively to Hillary Clinton’s situation was that the contributions to the Clinton Foundation be disclosed. Hillary Clinton agreed to this, but failed to abide by the agreement and did not disclose over a thousand donors. The Foundation also failed to disclose many of these on their tax forms and was  caught lying about this issue.

We also know that Bill Clinton saw an unprecedented increase in payments for giving speeches when Hillary became Secretary of State from organizations and countries which subsequently received favorable intervention from Clinton. His speaking fees jumped from 150,000 to typically 500,000, and as high as 750,000. Contributions to the Clinton Foundation raise similar ethical concerns. This week we also received evidence that Hillary Clinton personally benefited financially.Ezra Klein discussed how this was both unethical and showed poor judgment.

Clinton apologists have argued that there is not evidence of a quid pro quo, but to require this is a higher standard of proof which others are subjected to. Direct evidence of a Instead guilt is generally established based upon patterns of behavior, including failing to follow the rules in effect and such transfers of money to a politician from those who have received benefits. Destruction of evidence is typically interpreted to mean that the destroyed evidence is unfavorable to the accused.  Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, recently wrote:

Even if no deals are made, the influence of special-interest super PACs is a corrupting influence on American democracy. Even without a quid pro quo, the incredible concentration of direct contributions from a tiny fraction of the wealthiest 1 percent of the population is a corrupting ­influence.

Corruption is not just a contract. Corruption is also a kind of economy — an economy of influence that leads any sane soul to the fair belief that private influence has affected public policy. It is for this reason that practically every Democrat has insisted that the court’s Citizens United decision (and its progeny) needs to be reversed. It is this idea that has motivated millions to petition Congress to propose an amendment for that reversal…

That consensus among Democrats has now been shattered by a book by conservative writer Peter Schweizer. In “Clinton Cash,” Schweizer charges Bill and Hillary Clinton with corruption. Not because there is evidence of any particular bribe. Instead, their corruption, Schweizer says, comes from a pattern of behavior: a constant (and, by the end of the book, practically grotesque) story of cash passing from people seeking the government’s favor to either Bill Clinton (and hence Hillary Clinton) or the Clinton Foundation. The rapaciousness alone is enough to give one pause: Seriously, don’t we pay former presidents enough?

Yet all this, the Clintons and their defenders insist, is not corruption because Schweizer has provided no smoking gun. He has offered “no evidence” of a quid pro quo trade.

Welcome to Wonderland: Were the alleged influencers the Koch brothers, with the same kind of pattern charged against them — their channeling support to Republican representatives, those representatives in turn acting in a way that reflected the desires of the Kochs — there would be no doubt that Democrats would rally to attack that influence as Exhibit No. 1 in the case against the corruption of Washington. But apparently now those loyal to the Democratic presidential front-runner will have to be more careful in their criticism. Apparently now the party line must be: Even if someone benefited personally, and enormously, and even if there is a repeated series of victories for those exercising their influence, there’s no corruption unless Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. would see it as corruption — meaning again, no corruption unless a quid pro quo.

Democrats need to think carefully about whether this is really a principle they want to defend — while they insist that we need to amend the Constitution to ban independent contributions and expenditures as corrupt even if no quid pro quo is shown.

Likewise, the Republicans now railing against the Clintons need to recognize just how easy it is for them to see corruption even where no one can show a quid pro quo.

We all should agree that the economy of influence that Washington has become is corrupt, the Supreme Court notwithstanding, and all finally move on to the only important question: What can we do to fix it?

On any fair reading, the pattern of behavior that Schweizer has charged is corruption. If the Clintons are going to defend against it, they need to do more than to cite Chief Justice Roberts. And soon.

David Sirota  has also recently written in Salon about the hypocrisy of Democrats who oppose the Citizens United ruling while giving Hillary Clinton a free pass.

Common Cause has called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation. Charity watch dog organizations such as Charity Navigator have placed the Foundation on their watchlist.

Clinton would be receiving this criticism even if conservative groups were not further publicizing her actions. The case against the Clintons is based upon what the Clintons have done–not actions by any conservative group the last couple of months.While we have more information, this is not anything new.  The Clintons have been criticized for similar ethical problems for many years by both liberal and nonpartisan organizations concerned with ethics and transparency in government.  For example, The Sunlight Foundation has archived an article from The New York Times criticizing Hillary Clinton for similar ethical violations in 2009.

Liberals have objected to Clinton’s conservative views, along with her ethical violations, during the 2008 campaign and earlier. Hillary Clinton is essentially a Joe Lieberman Democrat on foreign policy, civil liberties, and social issues, and many liberals have felt for a long time that she should be ostracized by Democrats as Lieberman ultimately was. I discussed how her hawkish foreign policy views were unacceptable to the left in this post from August 2014, along with past posts. I pointed out her long history of poor judgment on policy issues in this post from June 2014, citing an article from The National Journal. I recently cited an article from Mother Jones written in 2007 on Clinton’s cultural conservatism, including her poor record regarding separation of church and state. Clinton has received similar criticism from liberals, and those concerned about ethics in government, going back much longer. Criticism of Clinton from the left has nothing to do with actions from conservatives.

Martin O’Malley So Far The Only Liberal In Democratic Race For 2016

omalley-abc-this-week

The prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming the Democratic candidate has many liberals increasingly worried considering how out of step Clinton is with liberal views on foreign policy, social issues, government ethics, and the economy. If it comes to it, I believe most liberals will hold their nose and vote for Clinton as opposed to risking another Gore v. Bush campaign in which the Nader votes helped determine the result. However that would be a purely defensive vote for a candidate who does not share our values to prevent a greater evil from being elected. While we are still in the nominating process, many liberals do prefer to see the Democrats nominate a liberal candidate.

There has been considerable excitement around Elizabeth Warren, including recent calls from the Boston Globe, and just recently Lawrence Lessig, for Warren to run. There is even a draft Joe Biden web site. Martin O’Malley might not be as exciting to the grass roots as Warren but he does have one thing going for him. Unlike Warren, O’Malley is actually talking about running.

O’Malley appeared on ABC’s This Week. From MSNBC:

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley took a swipe at likely 2016 contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeb Bush on Sunday, saying that “the presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families.”

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” O’Malley, who is weighing a possible run against Clinton for the Democratic nomination, called the presidency “an awesome and sacred trust to be earned and exercised on behalf of the American people.”

O’Malley — who at times has been reluctant to take on Clinton directly — declined to say whether he thought the former secretary of state would stand up to Wall Street and other special interests. “I don’t know where she stands,” he told host George Stephanopoulos. “Will she represent a break with the failed policies of the past? Well, I don’t know.”

O’Malley is trying to position himself as a more liberal and forward-looking alternative to Clinton, who holds a commanding lead in early polls among Democratic voters and is expected to make her bid official next month.

Chris Cillizza is among the journalists who see O’Mallley as getting more aggressive against Clinton:

So, what’s changed? Well, for one, O’Malley and his team quite clearly see an opening — no matter how small — caused by Clinton’s unforced error on her e-mails. Ramping up the rhetoric is a probing attempt by O’Malley to see whether there really is a plausible path to beat — or at least seriously challenge — Clinton in a primary. Could a liberal’s liberal without a famous last name have a chance — if that person was willing to push (and push hard) the idea that Clinton represents an unnecessary compromise of ideals and an unnecessary continuation of the dynastic politics that people say they don’t like?

Many front runners have lost in the past, including Ed Muskie, Joe Lieberman, Gary Hart,  Rudy Giuliani, and Hillary Clinton in 2008. Clinton does have an unprecedented lead, but she is also in an unusual situation. Her support comes from a combination of her name and gender, but her views are to the right of the party base which turns out in primaries. She has been a poor campaigner, including stumbling in her book tour and response to the email controversy, in addition to the problems in her 2008 campaign. She remains the most likley winner, but not inevitable.

On the other hand, while O’Malley looks like an unlikely winner, the Democrats have often nominated governors who were not well-known nationally before the campaign. This includes ultimate general election winners such as Carter and Bill Clinton, and losers such as Dukakis. O’Malley has a long-shot, but not impossible, chance at winning just by showing up in the nomination race if more Democrats reconsider whether they really want to see the party move to the right, under a leader with a history of poor judgement and loose ethics.

Battles On The Left Over Kagan

While I’m not exactly excited by the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, I do not see this decision as worth the amount of controversy on the left as it has been receiving. The two major sources attacking the nomination have been Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald. After the health care debate I’ve given up reading anything coming from Hamsher after seeing how she engages in exactly the same type of distortions as Glenn Beck and other right wing pundits. Greenwald has done enough worthwhile work for me to continue to take him seriously, and much of his criticism of Obama is valid, even if he sometimes loses perspective. He does lose me when he breaks into nonsense comparing Obama to Bush. Both have some things in common, including both being featherless bipeds, but it is their major differences which are far more significant.

Glenn Greenwald and Lawrence Lessig are engaged in quite a dispute over the Kagan nomination and each other’s integrity. The links on each of their name presents their side of the dispute while McJoan at Daily Kos has a play by play analysis. Personally I think that the fine points of this debate will soon be forgotten as we are faced with the various arguments coming from the right wing noise machine as to why Kagan is the most liberal person to have ever been nominated to the Supreme Court. I agree with Steve M. on this:

Part of my frustration with Firebagging in general is that progressives simply lack the muscle to drag not just the administration but Congress and the country all that far to the left by sheer force of will, and Firebaggers don’t seem to understand that. Unlike the teabaggers, we don’t have a multimedia news organization at our disposal that’s endlessly fed money by hit Hollywood movies. We haven’t had a Wurlitzer in operation for thirty years persuading the mainstream press that attention must be paid to us because we’re the really really authentic Americans. Our propagandists don’t dominate AM radio on every square mile of U.S. territory. We haven’t even begun the work of persuading — not hectoring, but persuading — heartland swing voters that our ideas aren’t scary, aren’t hostile to American values, and in fact are in sync with their values. We certainly haven’t persuaded enough to heartland voters to make heartland members of the House and Senate sit up and take notice, the way they carefully notice whether they’re protecting their right flanks.

We’ve got a lot of work to do to get our message across. We’re not going to get there by regularly joining right-wingers in Obama pile-ons.

So yeah, regarding the administration, I’ll keep grumbling. But I’m not going to support any move that dilutes what little power we have (and I’m not joking when I say “little power,” because even with huge congressional majorities and the White House, too much of the country is still under a Reagan/Limbaugh/Murdoch spell, and too many congressional Democrats are cowardly as a result). If you know how to get big leftward shifts to happen, really, go for it. If all you know how to do is demand them, I might take your point, but I’m going to object that you don’t have a plan.

Why Is Peter Daou Empowering Rush Limbaugh?

As an aside to my previous post on the leadership role of Rush Limbaugh in the Republican Party, I must also note a dissenting view to the current Democratic strategy from Peter Daou. Many Democratic leaders, including the Obama administration,  have joined  bloggers in making Limbaugh the new face of the Republican Party. Daou asks, Why on Earth Are Democrats Legitimizing and Empowering Rush Limbaugh? I hardly think this is the case, and for reasons I’ll get to later it is really Peter who is empowering Limbaugh.

Peter writes, “Empowering Limbaugh in the hopes of a bank-shot against Republicans will yield the opposite result: Limbaugh will become more powerful, Republicans will relish his increased influence and allow him to do their dirty work.” Sure some Republicans will relish this, but having him do more of their dirty work is exactly what Obama’s people want. There are some more moderate Republicans out there who just might be able to shake free of the GOP’s current reputation and perhaps even challenge Obama in 2012, especially if the economy has not recovered yet. If voters think Republicans are like Rush Limbaugh, Obama has an easy reelection.

It looks like Obama’s political advisers are outsmarting Daou on this, just as they did when he was working for Hillary Clinton in the primary battle. It is no surprise that Peter would fail to understand the potential dynamics of the 2012 race when he shows he still does not get why his candidate lost in 2008. He wrote:

The reality was that the 2008 election was the age-old battle of character-building and character-destruction. Obama’s team won that battle against Hillary Clinton not just because of Obama’s abundant positive traits but because people like Rush Limbaugh gave him a 15-year head start against her.

No, Rush Limbaugh did not beat Hillary Clinton, and there is no reason to empower him in this manner. Sure, Limbaugh was able to get conservative Republicans to hate Hillary Clinton but these people were never going to vote for her anyways. These are certainly not the people who voted in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Hillary Clinton went into the 2008 nomination battle with all the advantages. Rush Limbaugh did not beat Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton beat Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton decided to run a campaign as dirty as that of any Republican. I’ve already went over multiple specifics throughout the primary campaign so rather than rehashing that battle I’ll refer anyone who wants more detail to the blog archives, or check out these arguments from Lawrence Lessig. Peter reveals their fundamental problem here. The campaign was not won based upon character-destruction. Obama won because so many voters were thoroughly disgusted with the politics of character-destruction, along with her many other dishonest tactics. Many voters rejected Clinton when they saw her engage in this.

Early in the campaign, before he realized there was no longer any point in seeking my support, Peter would send me their campaign’s arguments against Obama. More than once I pointed out that they were dishonest attacks and such attacks would undoubtedly backfire. They never figured out how their Limbaugh-style campaign played right into Obama’s hands.

This is a second way in which Peter empowers and even legitimizes the politics of Rush Limbaugh. He empowers Limbaugh when he incorrectly credits Limbaugh for beating Clinton, and he empowers Limbaugh when he supports Limbaugh’s brand of politics of personal destruction, whether practiced by Rush Limbaugh, Republican candidates, or practiced by Hillary Clinton.

Other commentary:

Sean Quinn at FiveThirtyEight.com has a similar take, both with regards to Daou’s assessment of why Clinton lost as well as with regards to Limbaugh:

Today, veteran Democratic messaging strategist Peter Daou panned the Limbaugh strategy, arguing that while it may seem like a good idea today due to irrational Democratic exuberance in the afterglow of the election, in the long term elevating Limbaugh is a mistake because his toxic effect on political debate will ultimately hurt Democrats. Daou, who worked for Hillary Clinton, also mocks the idea of Obama’s powerful campaign as pure myth, instead suggesting that Obama beat Clinton because Limbaugh tore her down for 15 years.

Daou is completely wrong about why Obama won, but that’s incidental. He’s wrong about Limbaugh because Limbaugh is already a tested brand, and the verdict has been rendered. Muhammad Ali, he is not. Independents aren’t going to suddenly start listening to Rush somewhere down the road, just as they aren’t going to suddenly start appreciating Al Sharpton, who also has a brand.

Mike Pence writes:

The point is that Rush is entirely unpopular with the vast majority of the country, who don’t listen to his show. Limbaugh cost the Republicans the US Senate in 2006 when his Michael J. Fox bashing elevated Claire McCaskill. It’s a proven strategy, and Republicans talking about Limbaugh means they’re not talking about anything appealing to the country at large. I fully agree that Obama and the Democrats will be assessed on whether or not they can bring the country out of this economic death spiral; we’re always judged on cleaning up the mess, they’re never judged on making it. But there’s no reason that Republicans shouldn’t have to run in circles and be forced to reconcile the hateful extremism of their de facto leader in the meantime. “I hope he fails” is a great tombstone for these guys.

Matt Browner Hamlin writes:

I look at the Limbaugh question in a similar way to how I think about people like Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal. The Republican Party is hemorraging support now. It lacks ideological direction that appeals to people outside the geographic south, the super rich, or religious conservatives. It is moving quickly towards being a regional political party. They are without a rudder now and that gives Democrats and more specifically liberal bloggers and talking heads the opportunity to define the GOP for the public and for the media. In this case, picking an objectionable character, known for regularly and repeatedly offending vast swaths makes sense. Likewise picking inept liars like Jindal or clueless not ready for primte time players like Palin also makes sense.

Limbaugh is a cipher for how we can define the GOP. Coincidentally he actually is becoming their party’s biggest spokesman. I love a situation where the choice between Democrats and Republicans is between Barack Obama and Rush Limbaugh precisely because Limbaugh cannot play at Obama’s level. Does it give him more profile than he deserves? Yes, I would love to see him marginalized entirely, but I think elevating him in the short run may lead to that in the longer run.

Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog writes:

It’s simply bizarre that the guy who started Salon’s old Blog Report (which was once called the Daou Report) would say something like this. So much of what we bloggers were doing when Daou was aggregating our posts was to expose the toxic things being said by right-wingers, including Limbaugh and the others he names.

Why was this worth doing? Because, prior to the rise of lefty blogs and Media Matters and Think Progress and, eventually, Stewart and Colbert and then Olbermann and Maddow, hardly anyone was paying attention to the toxic things these people said except people who approved of them. The mainstream press wasn’t paying attention. Most non-right-wingers weren’t paying attention.

These people were saying vile things — but most of the people who would have thought the utterances were vile didn’t know that. Therefore, much of America just had a vague sense that Limbaugh et al. were “irreverent” and “politically correct” — not nasty and poisonous.

These assessments are correct from a strategic partisan Democratic point of view. Personally I would prefer that the Republicans repudiate Rush Limbaugh. This would give them a better shot of challenging the Democrats in future elections, but would also increase the chances of restoring a viable two party system in which both parties have something to offer. This is why my primary interest in Limbaugh controversy has been to encourage the rare conservatives such as  John Derbyshire and Rob Dreher who actually do realize how much damage Limbaugh is doing to the conservative movement. These two goals are actually compatible as exposing Limbaugh’s views does not empower him within the Republican Party. Only the Republicans can empower him in that manner, if they are so foolish.

Liberal Defenses of Obama on FISA

While most on the left (including myself) have been critical of Obama for supporting the FISA compromise, there are some who do see this as a useful compromise. Before the vote Morton Halperin, executive director of the Open Society Policy Center and a former member of Richard Nixon’s enemies list, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times concluding that “it represents our best chance to protect both our national security and our civil liberties.” Lawrence Lessig has defended Obama against what he calls the immunity hysteria.

Lessig makes six points which are worth considering. He discusses a topic I discussed earlier in the day as he points out that Obama is not a 1970’s style liberal:

Obama is no (in the 1970s sense) “liberal”: There are many who are upset by this who believe this (and other recent moves) shows Obama “moving to the center.” People who make this argument signal they don’t know squat about which they speak. You can’t read Obama’s books, watch how he behaved in the Illinois Senate, and watched how he voted in the US Senate, and believe he is a Bernie Sanders liberal. He is not now, and nor has ever been. That’s not to say there aren’t issues on which he takes a liberal position. It is to say that the mix of views he actually has and has had doesn’t map on a 1970s spectrum of liberals to conservative. He is not, for example, “against the market,” as so many on the left still make it sound like they are. He is for same-sex civil unions. So if you’re upset with Obama because you see him shifting, you should actually be upset with yourself that you have been so careless in understanding the politics of this candidate.

With regards to immunity, Lessig reminds readers that, “He has promised to repeal the immunity as president.” Unfortunately once immunity is granted it is doubtful that it could be revoked. Lessig also writes that the vote “is a vote that reflects the judgment that securing the amendments to FISA was more important than denying immunity to telcos.” He writes that the amendments are good because, “getting a regime that requires the executive to obey the law is important.” While this is true, there were also many aspects of the law which still grant excessive authority to the Executive Branch and which infringe upon civil liberties.

While I disagree with aspects of the bill, there are some benefits as Lessig points out. Perhaps the bottom line is Lessig’s final point:

please, fellow liberals, or leftists, or progressives, get off your high horse(s). More on this with the next post but: it is not “compromising” to recognize that we are part of a democracy. We on the left may be right. We may be the position to which the country eventually gets. But we have not yet earned the status of a majority. And to start this chant of “principled rejection” of Obama because he is not as pure as we is, in a word, idiotic (read: Naderesque).

Personally I think that if the Democrats stood strong they could have demanded a bill which did more to respect civil liberties. I’ve previously discussed my objection to moving to the center on national security issues to avoid Republican accusations of being weak. With the Republicans being so unpopular, this is a time when the Democrats could have stuck to their principles. The Republicans certainly had no qualms about doing so when they were in power.The Democrats did manage to do this on the Medicare bill, but in that case they could frame it as being pro-doctor and pro-elderly, as opposed to being accused of being weak on national security on FISA.

The point is not really whether Obama and Lessig are right or wrong, but to consider that there is more than one side to this issue. This represented a compromise, not what Obama preferred. In such a compromise there were those who wanted more power for the Executive Branch and there were those, like Obama, who would have preferred a bill which showed greater respect for civil liberties. It is incorrect to claim that both parties to such a compromise are morally equivalent. While I disagree with both the strategy of the Democrats and Obama’s vote on the FISA compromise, I also agree with Lessig in opposing those who now reject Obama as impure. With the possible exception of Chris Dodd, who never really had a chance at the nomination, Obama was the strongest major party candidate on civil liberties issues to run this year. I’ve felt for months that the election of Barack Obama represents our best chance of strengthing civil liberties and, despite my disagreements on how Obama voted, this fact has not changed.

Sexism and the Clinton Campaign

With Hillary Clinton’s campaign collapsing there have been many articles published outlining the many flaws in their strategy and arguments. One Clinton meme which has come under considerable criticism is the claim that she lost due to sexism. Scott Lehigh writes in The Boston Globe:

LET’S SAY Hillary Clinton’s remaining primary rival were not Barack Obama but a white male. Suppose she were ahead in pledged delegates, led in the popular vote in DNC-approved contests, had raised the most money, and had attracted the most contributors.

Let’s further suppose that her rival had responded to her success by suggesting he might pick her as his vice-presidential nominee. And that, as she gained more momentum, he asserted that superdelegates should nevertheless make him the nominee because he could attract the working-class voters the party needed to win in the fall.

Clinton supporters would likely find those suggestions sexist.

And yet Clinton and her camp have made the same suggestions in this campaign. Clinton’s political arguments have found a broad acceptance among her backers – an acceptance that’s hard to imagine if a similar case were made by a lagging rival in a race Clinton led.

And even as those arguments are offered, some of Clinton’s backers, as well as some commentators, seem convinced that sexism and double standards are among the principal reasons she has fallen dauntingly behind Obama.

I doubt anyone would say that there is no sexism at all, but this is hardly the major factor why Clinton is losing. Clinton started out the race appearing to be the inevitable winner, leading by a considerable margin in all polls. She also had considerable success in early fund raising, and had a majority of superdelegates backing her until the past week. If Democrats were opposed to a woman president, they wouldn’t have given her this early support.

The problem is not that Democrats do not want a woman nominee. They just do not want this woman for reasons having nothing to do with her gender. Clinton is wrong for the party based both upon her political views and her personal conduct. Clinton has increasingly adopted both the views and tactics of her new friends in the vast right wing conspiracy. Clinton backed the Iraq war, despite her attempts to hide this fact. She has stronger ties to the religious right than the presumptive Republican candidate. She backs the same types of abuses of executive power practiced by George Bush. Her campaign is all about grabbing power for herself, while failing to respect and support liberal values.

Rather than building a big tent as Obama has, bringing in new voters, Clinton seeks a party which represents the views of only a minority of Democrats. Her party is increasingly limited to working class voters as her supporters reject the affluent, and those of us who hold liberal principles, as “elitists” whose views do not matter. For Democrats to win, the Democrats must broaden their support, not make it more narrow.

The real sexism in this race comes from women who support Hillary Clinton because she is a woman, even when she uses the same tactics they have been condemning when coming from George Bush. Clinton has sent out mailers which were totally misleading regarding Obama’s positions on issues such as Social Security, abortion rights, Iraq, and health care. Clinton’s distortions on abortion rights led Lorna Brett Howard, the former President of Chicago NOW, to drop her support for Clinton and back Obama. Clinton has also raised bogus charges such on plagiarism, distorted the meaning of voting present in the Illinois legislature, and distorting Obama’s references to Ronald Reagan in an interview. Lawrence Lessig made an excellent video summarizing the reasons to oppose Clinton due to her character. I have previously posted both the video and a transcript here. Bill Bradley has also commented on Clinton’s dishonesty as as noted here.

Despite Clinton’s adoption of both many political views and the tactics of the far right, Clinton apologists are willing to look the other way because she is a woman. Someday there will be a woman candidate who deserves to win the nomination. Hopefully it will be one who competes based upon her own qualifications, not based upon who she was married to. Despite all her claims of experience, Clinton actually has far less meaningful experience than Barack Obama, and certainly far poorer judgment in matters of policy. Perhaps most importantly, she rejects the liberal values which hopefully differentiate a Democrat from a Republican. There were many reasons for Democrats to reject Hillary Clinton regardless of how one feels about a woman president.

Update: A Future Woman President

Think Tanks, Clinton Spin, and the Minimum Wage

The previous post referred to one libertarian writer worth reading, David Friedman. Another worth reading is Megan McArdle. She certainly caught my attention as an honest thinker as opposed to ideologue with her comments on the Laffer Curve and the reaction from the right to criticism. Along a similar vein she writes this about think tanks:

You are not allowed to argue in favor of school choice if the only evidence you can come up with is two links from Cato. You are not allowed to argue against global warming if you are relying entirely on a report from CEI. You are not allowed to talk about the recording industry based only upon press releases from the Progress and Freedom Foundation. And you are definitely, definitely not allowed to talk to me about the minimum wage if the best evidence for your position comes from EPI. We can argue back and forth about whether think tanks buy scholars who agree with them, or pay scholars to agree with them; I’d argue for the former.

This certainly caught my attention considering the number of conservative and libertarian arguments I receive which are based entirely upon articles from Cato. I’m a tremendous supporter of the free market–far more than the Republicans who support corporate welfare and deficit spending. I also appreciate much of the work done by Cato. The problem is that libertarians and ideological conservatives have a view which they push and will ignore or deny any evidence which does not fit into their ideology, as Megan noted when a conservative publication once refused to publish a book review which criticized the Laffer Curve as “it violated their editorial line on taxation.” As essential the free market is to our prosperity, it does not always work perfectly.

An even worse variation of citing biased sources comes from supporters of a candidate who endlessly send the same talking points. I’ve probably heard every claim made at Hillary Clinton’s Orwellian named “Fact Hub.” No amount of links from there will disprove what we’ve all witnessed. The Clintons have resorted to race-baiting and have run a Rove-style dishonest campaign regardless of what the Clinton supporters link to. I’m no more impressed by their sets of links claiming that Obama is running a negative campaign. Often they are isolated comments from a supporter and not part of an overall trend as we’ve seen with the Clinton campaign. More often they are examples of Obama criticizing Clinton over policy differences, such as her support for the war or mandates in her health care plan. This is fair game, and is not at all comparable to the type of dishonest tactic from the Clinton campaign which I’ve discussed many times, and which Lawrence Lessig describes here.

The principle of considering the bias of ones sources applies to political campaigns and often to think tanks. While I used this for a mini-rant on the nonsense being spread by the Clinton supporters, Megan used this to lead into comments on the minimum wage. Liberal readers might not agree with her views but, unlike partisans on both sides of the issue, I think Megan essentially gets it right when she concludes:

The main thing to remember about the minimum wage is that it is trivial. If the minimum wage actually made a substantial improvement in worker’s conditions at the expense of employers, it would also almost certainly cause substantial disemployment. But it doesn’t, so it won’t. Anyone who tells you anything different, on either side of the debate, is trying to sell you something.

The Clinton Credibility Gap Widens

Hillary Clinton, who already has a serious credibility problem, has been caught telling yet another untrue story. The New York Times reports:

Over the last five weeks, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has featured in her campaign stump speeches the story of a health care horror: an uninsured pregnant woman who lost her baby and died herself after being denied care by an Ohio hospital because she could not come up with a $100 fee.

The woman, Trina Bachtel, did die last August, two weeks after her baby boy was stillborn at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio. But hospital administrators said Friday that Ms. Bachtel was under the care of an obstetrics practice affiliated with the hospital, that she was never refused treatment and that she was, in fact, insured.

“We implore the Clinton campaign to immediately desist from repeating this story,” said Rick Castrop, chief executive officer of the O’Bleness Health System.

Linda M. Weiss, a spokeswoman for the not-for-profit hospital, said the Clinton campaign had never contacted the hospital to check the accuracy of the story, which Mrs. Clinton had first heard from a Meigs County, Ohio, sheriff’s deputy in late February.

A Clinton spokesman, Mo Elleithee, said candidates would frequently retell stories relayed to them, vetting them when possible. “In this case, we did try but were not able to fully vet it,” Mr. Elleithee said. “If the hospital claims it did not happen that way, we respect that.”

This story furthers two problems for Clinton–both that she is running a poor campaign and that she cannot be trusted. Failing to vet the story is just another in the long list of errors made by a campaign which started out as being perceived as an invincible force. The number of errors made by her campaign raises questions as to her competence as a manager and of the type of administration she would run.

While many campaigns have been caught saying things which turn out to be untrue, few do so with the frequency of Hillary Clinton. This news will probably hurt her campaign coming so soon after she was exposed for falsely claiming she faced sniper fire in Bosnia. Clinton has also received criticism for the numerous lies she has told when campaigning, with some of them discussed in this video from Lawrence Lessig (with transcript also posted). Worst of all she has perpetuated the lies of the Bush administration in justifying the Iraq war based on the 9/11 attacks. She has continued  pandering to fear of terrorism while campaigning and in her recent ads.

Her husband’s administration is largely remembered for the lies told, including the claim that “I did not have sexual relations with that women.” Even before entering a general election campaign, Hillary Clinton has a serious problem with regards to dishonesty. If the media destroyed Al Gore with erroneous claims of dishonesty, imagine what they will do to Hillary Clinton, where there are many real examples, in a race against John McCain.

Clinton Campaign Continues War of Distortion in Blogosphere

Taylor Marsh says “this is a first” but it is not. The email sent to pro-Clinton bloggers by Peter Daou is just one more part of the Clinton campaign’s efforts to distort the record and attempt to distract attention from how dirty and dishonest their campaign has been.

The email makes a bogus argument that it has been the Obama campaign which has been attacking Clinton. As the Clinton campaign has done many times in the past, they make a false equivalence between dirty attacks from their campaign and responses from the Obama campaign. This has gone on for quite a while. Before Clinton’s campaign went way over the line, causing me to use this blog largely to oppose her candidacy, I often received email and invitations to conference calls from Peter. They were often based upon outright lies about Obama. More than once I pointed out to Peter that pursuing such a dirty campaign would only harm Clinton and play to Obama’s strengths. Time has proven me right.

There is a considerable difference between Clinton lying about Obama’s position and Obama criticizing Clinton over a policy disagreement. Peter’s email treats all these the same. To disagree with Clinton over matters of principle is dismissed as “Republican framing,” the implication being that disagreement is not allowed.

I’ve reviewed many of Clinton’s dishonest statements in multiple previous posts. For example, Clinton has sent out mailers which were totally misleading regarding Obama’s positions on issues such as Social Security, abortion rights, Iraq, and health care. Clinton’s distortions on abortion rights led Lorna Brett Howard, the former President of Chicago NOW, to drop her support for Clinton and back Obama. Clinton has also raised bogus charges such on plagiarism, distorted the meaning of voting present in the Illinois legislature, and distorting Obama’s references to Ronald Reagan in an interview. Lawrence Lessig made an excellent video summarizing the reasons to oppose Clinton due to her character. I have previously posted both the video and a transcript here. Bill Bradley has also commented on Clinton’s dishonesty recently as as noted here. A review of any of the sites which concentrate on fact checking the campaign should make it clear which candidate has been concentrating on the use of such distortions in their campaign, and I’ve linked to many such items in previous post.

Among the many bogus attacks has been the claim that Clinton is more prepared than Obama to be Commander-in-Chief. In reality, as I’ve noted many times before such as here, Clinton has no special qualifications on handling a foreign policy crisis. She did not have security clearance when her husband was president, she made no significant decisions, and her accounts of her role in foreign policy have been exposed as being greatly exaggerated. The major difference between the two is that on the most important foreign policy question of recent years, the war in Iraq, Obama got it right and Clinton got it wrong, despite all of the attempts of the Clinton campaign to distort this fact.

Peter even mentions Samantha Power referring to Clinton as a monster. He leaves out the important facts that she immediately attempted to retract the statement, she apologized for the statement, and she quickly left the campaign. The fact of the matter is that Clinton has run a dirty campaign and, while campaign aides should not say so in interviews, she has behaved like a monster.

There is nothing wrong with exposing Clinton’s dishonesty and Rove-style campaign tactics, and it is perfectly legitimate for the Obama campaign to point out these issues. Clinton cannot complain about people saying she will say anything to win when she has repeatedly demonstrated that this is the case. Liberal bloggers have repeatedly complained about such tactics coming from Republicans. Such tactics are no more excusable coming from a Democratic candidate.

Related Post: Hillary Clinton and the Liberal Blogosphere