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.

Reading “What Happened” So You Do Not Have To

Reading Hillary Clinton’s memoir, What Happened, is like reading a memoir from Jesse James which makes no admission that he ever robbed a bank. She talked about trivial matters from her life, repeated her excuses blaming everyone else for her loss, and gave virtually no recognition of her dishonest actions and lifelong opposition to liberal values behind the opposition to her. What Happened  was previously used as a book title by former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan. Maybe she reused this title because Jeff Flake beat her to reusing the philosophically more honest choice, Conscience of a Conservative. Of course that would assume that she has a conscience, but she showed no signs of having one.

It is hard to see the point in this book beyond finger pointing. Clinton wrote:

At first, I had intended to keep relatively quiet. Former Presidents and former nominees often try to keep a respectful distance from the front lines of politics, at least for a while. I always admired how both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush avoided criticizing Bill and Barack, and how Bill ended up working with George H. W. on tsunami relief in Asia and Katrina recovery on the Gulf Coast. And with George W. in Haiti after the earthquake in 2011. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

She should have ended the book right there.

In a rare moment of honesty, Clinton showed how clueless she is in writing, “in terms of fighting the previous war, I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t realize how quickly the ground was shifting under all our feet.” The only shifting Clinton has shown with the times has been to move on from blaming everything on the vast right wing conspiracy to blaming the vast left wing conspiracy against her.

She might briefly admit to a mistake, but it is quickly followed with a major but as she places the blame on Russia, James Comey, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, or others. If she did mention something she did wrong, it was passed over as a minor tactical error, ignoring the magnitude of her ethical lapses.

This week Bernie Sanders has been pushing for comprehensive, affordable health care for all Americans. Hillary Clinton is pushing a book which attacks the left and questions the validity of our electoral process (which she previously attacked Trump for threatening to do). She has opposed Medicare for All based upon false claims, continuing her long history of working to undermine liberal ideas.

While she launched numerous bogus attacks against others, she feels that her mistakes are too trivial to be considered. She wrote, “The truth is, everyone’s flawed. That’s the nature of human beings. But our mistakes alone shouldn’t define us. We should be judged by the totality of our work and life.”  Judging Clinton by the totality of her work and life, we must include her repeated push for neoconservative wars and regime change, her repeated advocacy of violating our First Amendment rights, her social conservatism, her support for the corrupting influence of money in politics, and her use of her position for personal financial gain–including violating the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State.

Hillary Clinton wrote about her concern for children. In the real world, Hillary Clinton has shown her concern for children in other countries by dropping bombs on them and defending the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. There are also those who suffered from Bill’s welfare reform at home. However, “It was a hard call. Bill and I lay awake at night talking it over.”

Clinton shows no understanding of liberal or progressive values. While she mischaracterized Bernie Sanders’ platform as offering everyone a pony, it is actually Clinton who sees liberalism as little more than government giving out ponies, even if smaller ones than she believes Bernie Sanders would. She has no understanding of how true liberal and progressives would change the status quo, no concept of the human rights we defend, and no concept of what is wrong with her interventionist views.

Her ignorance of liberal concepts of human rights would explain how she totally misunderstood the warnings of George Orwell. To an authoritarian such as Hillary Clinton the lesson of 1984 is that we should not question our political leaders, the press, or experts:

Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism. This is what the Soviets did when they erased political dissidents from historical photos. This is what happens in George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered. The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust toward exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves.

On the other hand, Clinton is quite skilled in using Orwellian techniques to attack her political enemies. She uses the same types of distortions against Bernie Sanders as she did during the campaign, and as she used against Barack Obama in 2008. I have already responded to some of the attacks against Sanders here, and also recommend this rebuttal of Clinton’s arguments by Les Leopold. While reading What Happened I came across another fallacious attack on Sanders. Clinton wrote, “After the election, Bernie suggested that Democrats should be open to nominating and supporting candidates who are anti-choice.”

No, that is not what happened at all. On the other hand, the Democratic establishment has shown how they are willing to ignore reproductive rights. Clinton herself has also been to the right of Sanders on the issue, including her support for parental notification laws and expressing a willingness to compromise with Republicans. This is not surprising in light of her personal social conservatism on the issue and her mantra of keeping abortion”safe, legal, and rare,” stigmatizing women who have had an abortion.

Her attempts to falsely portray Sanders as being to the right of her on abortion are similar to her claims of being to the left of Sanders on gun control, despite having run in 2008 as a “pro-gun churchgoer.” Of course while attacking Sanders and blaming him for her loss she overlooked the degree to which Sanders campaigned for her after the primaries were over. Her antipathy towards a fair democratic process includes a visceral objection to being challenged for political office.

Clinton was no more honest in discussing the scandals which rightfully harmed her campaign. For example, she misquoted from the State Department Inspector General report to falsely make it look like the report supported her actions in the email scandal. In reality, the Inspector General report said exactly the opposite in showing how she violated policy. As we saw during the campaign, she keeps repeating the same lies about the scandal, including the statements from James Comey, regardless of how often the media fact checkers show that she is outright lying.

She attempted to open up personally, but even then wasn’t entirely honest. Among the more unbelievable lines, Clinton wrote, “For me, fund-raisers were a little more complicated than other campaign events. Even after all these years, it’s hard for me to ask for other people’s money.”

Among the other personal discussions in the book, Clinton wrote, “Bill and I bought our home in 1999 because we loved the bedroom.” Now try to get that image out of your mind.

Actually what she wrote after this was quite tame, including a description of the vaulted ceiling, windows, and photos. And then, “After waking up, I check my email and read my morning devotional from Reverend Bill Shillady, which is usually waiting in my inbox. I spend a few minutes in contemplation, organizing my thoughts and setting my priorities for the day.” The rest of us will not be able to see the writings of Bill Shillady as his publisher has pulled his planned book, entitled Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, due to plagiarism.

Of course, as was inevitable, I am seeing defenses of What Happened claiming that disagreements with Clinton’s book are based upon misogyny. What an intellectually and morally bankrupt viewpoint. Do such Clinton supporters have even a shred of integrity? I am just relieved that Hillary Clinton is not in the White House, leaving us to contend with claims that our objections to whatever war she wanted to start, or whatever violation of the First Amendment she was advocating, was based only on sexism.

Donald Trump Further Inflames Situation In North Korea

The conventional wisdom regarding North Korea has been that Kim Jong Un is crazy. While that very well may be the case, we are now in a strange situation where it is not clear which nation has the crazier leader. Trump made this threat: “He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” There has been received with universal criticism that it only inflames the situation. It also turns out that this was an improvised statement by Donald Trump. The New York Times reports:

President Trump delivered his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea on Tuesday with arms folded, jaw set and eyes flitting on what appeared to be a single page of talking points set before him on the conference table at his New Jersey golf resort.

The piece of paper, as it turned out, was a fact sheet on the opioid crisis he had come to talk about, and his ominous warning to Pyongyang was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded. In discussions with advisers beforehand, he had not run the specific language by them, though he had talked over possible responses in a general way.

The inflammatory words quickly escalated the confrontation with North Korea to a new, alarming level and were followed shortly by a new threat from North Korea to obliterate an American air base on Guam. In the hours since, the president’s advisers have sought to calm the situation, with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson assuring Americans that they “should sleep at night” without worrying about an imminent war.

USA Today summarizes some of the international reaction. In reviewing past crises, another report in The New York Times reports how there is little precedent for such a statement. Others in the government are now busy attempting damage control. Jonathan Chait wins best headline award on the topic with, Ignore Our Crazy President, U.S. Government Tells North Korea.

Of course not everyone is critical of Donald Trump. In perhaps the scariest headline on the topic, The Washington Post reports, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,’ evangelical adviser says:

Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers who preached the morning of his inauguration, has released a statement saying the president has the moral authority to “take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said. “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Trump’s statements most likely come from his lack of understanding of how to carry out the duties of the presidency. Kim Jong Un’s actions are in some ways more rational, if you look at his motivation based upon retaining absolute control over North Korea, regardless of how much suffering he causes.

There are multiple reasons which originally motivated North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, including both witnessing the effects of nuclear weapons in nearby Japan and the devastation their country suffered in the Korean War. However these events happened before the current leadership was born, and more recent events appear to be motivating them to further develop the nuclear weapons and refuse to compromise. North Korea has claimed that they need to preserve their nuclear program because of the example of how Saddam was overthrown after he gave up his weapons of mass destruction and Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed after he surrendered his nuclear weapons. Such examples make it unlikely that Kim Jong Un will back down in the face of sanctions.

It is now well known how George Bush lied us into the war in Iraq. The regime change in Libya orchestrated by Hillary Clinton has been a similar disaster, with Barack Obama calling it one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency. A report by the U.K. Parliament showed that this war, like Iraq, was also started based upon lies. The situation we now face in North Korea is yet another of the consequences we face for the reckless interventionism of neocons like Bush and Clinton. On top of this, the crisis must be dealt with by a president who appears to be clueless as to how to respond.

Update: The Washington Post points out one of Ronald Reagan’s contributions to the problem with the invasion of Grenada:

In October 1983, the United States invaded Grenada. The Kim family regime that controls North Korea saw this invasion as an early warning sign: If the United States could perceive even a small spice island as a threat, so too could it eventually train its sights on North Korea. Without an effective deterrent, any regime perceived as a threat would be little match for American military might.

It wasn’t just Grenada’s size that caught the Kim family’s attention. Grenada, a country of only 110,000 people that is known primarily for producing nutmeg, had significance for the North Korean leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Kim Il Sung, grandfather of North Korea’s present-day leader Kim Jong Un, viewed the new Grenadian socialist government headed by Maurice Bishop as brave revolutionaries directly fighting U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean. Kim Il Sung also sought the help of recently decolonized nations like Grenada in international forums, as a way to undermine South Korea’s legitimacy abroad and garner support for a North Korean-led reunification of the two Koreas…

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

The Democratic Leadership Has Failed To Give A Good Reason Why Their Party Should Continue To Exist

In followup of yesterday’s post on the struggle of the Democratic leadership to revamp their party by coming up with a new slogan, Chuck Schumer has an op-ed in The New York Times on The Better Deal. As I quoted Nancy Pelosi in saying yesterday, this “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.” Democrats who turned out to willingly vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 will be pleased, but only a major course direction will satisfy those of us who did not. This offers little to win back the votes of those of us who did not vote Democratic in 2016. That includes those of us who voted third party, and the even larger numbers who crossed over and voted for Trump over Clinton or stayed home.

These proposals leave the Democrats as a party which stands for nothing. At least they didn’t mention Russia. Unfortunately this also didn’t really discuss  health care. It is like trying to steal Bernie Sanders’ agenda while ignoring Medicare-for-all or actually getting big money influence out of politics.

Beyond this, the problem comes down to thinking they can substitute a new slogan for real policies or ideas. They hardly inspire confidence when the principles of one election, to the limited degree they express any, are ignored in the next. Running on social issues alone was not enough (especially when led by a socially conservative presidential candidate), but that does not mean they should ignore liberal social issues now.

Those of us who voted Democratic because of outrage over policies of George W. Bush are hardly going to be enthusiastic about a party which nominated a candidate who supported the worst abuses under Bush–neoconservative interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties, and increased government secrecy.  Nor is there any offer to reform the undemocratic nomination rules which make the mockery out of the primary process, making it little different than picking the nominee in the old smoked filled rooms.

The new slogan has been received with considerable derision. Jonathan Allen compares the new Democratic slogan, “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages” to the pitch from Papa John’s, “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” Except the Democrats failed to add better ingredients.

First Read has a more serious but equally devastating criticism of Schumer and Pelosi in asking, “Can Democrats promise a ‘Better Deal’ with the same leaders in charge?”

The one thing that Democrats do have going for them in 2018 is that Donald Trump will (probably) be sitting in the White House, and Hillary Clinton will not be on the ballot. Hillary Clinton’s popularity has fallen even more than Donald Trump’s. FiveThirtyEight showed how the nomination of Hillary Clinton cost the Democrats not only the White House, but Congress:

Clinton’s unpopularity turned out to be a key factor in 2016 congressional races. Unsurprisingly, people who had a favorable view of Clinton primarily voted for Democrats in House races, while people with a favorable view of Trump primarily voted for Republican candidates. But among the 19 percent of voters who had an unfavorable view of both presidential candidates, House Republican candidates won by a margin of 30 percentage points. (Some voters may have cast a ballot for a Republican House candidate in the belief that a House controlled by the GOP would balance Clinton’s power after what most Americans thought would be a Clinton win.)

Not having Clinton on the ballot should help Democrats pick up seats in 2018, but it is likely to be a dead cat bounce, and perhaps more limited than Democrats hope, if the Democrats do not come up with more of a reason to attract voters than opposing Trump. It might be best if the Democrats could get out of the way and allow a new party to take over as a the true opposition and resistance.

The Democrats Are Hopelessly Lost

After terrible showings in the 2010, 2014, and 2016 elections, the Democratic establishment is looking for a solution. The Washington Post reports that they are going to announce a new slogan:

Completely sapped of power in Washington, top leaders of the Democratic Party now believe that the best way to fight a president who penned “The Art of the Deal” is with an economic agenda that they plan to call “A Better Deal.”

The campaign-style motto, panned by some liberal activists as details began to trickle out ahead of the Monday rollout, is designed to revive a party desperate to win back at least some control next year. The push comes months earlier than most campaign-year sales pitches begin — an acknowledgment of the need to shore up public opinion of the Democratic Party in the faster pace of modern politics.

Nancy Pelosi remains one of the captains of the sinking ship, saying this “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.” No, the Democrats need a full fledged course correction. The Democratic Party’s answer for the Titanic would be to find a better way to talk about the iceberg before hitting it.

At least there was one bit of sense in the article:

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview previewing the new plan. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Unfortunately the new slogan still sounds like they are against Trump but otherwise stand for nothing. As Mahablog says, “The Democratic Party is like your unhip parents trying to be cool, and failing.”

The Democrats took the wrong lesson out of their loss. The conventional wisdom is that they lost because they concentrated on social issues as opposed to economics, but that is a misreading of their problem. They compromised so much on social issues with a socially conservative candidate such as Hillary Clinton that they had no chance to build a winning coalition on social issues. That does not mean that they should abandon liberal social issues entirely.

Just as they now look to abandoning social issues, they gave up on opposing neocon interventionism and support for civil liberties in 2016 with a candidate who was far right wing on both, throwing out their previous advantages over the agenda of George W. Bush. Democrats need to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Instead they focus on one voter group while giving others no reason to support them, and don’t even do a good job with the group they are focusing on.

The new slogan sounds like a watered-down copy of Bernie Sanders’ agenda. The Hill points out that Bernie Sanders is keeping the door open for 2020. Unfortunately the article points out that establishment Democrats oppose him, both because of Sanders being an independent, and as he is on their long list of people to blame for Hillary Clinton losing an election she should have been able to win. Establishment Democrats complain that Bernie Sanders is an independent and not a Democrat. In contrast, Sanders supporters complain about far more consequential matters, such as the Democratic establishment picking their nominees with an undemocratic process, the Democratic establishment choosing a neocon warmonger as their last nominee, and the Democratic establishment being in the pocket of corporate money.

Update:  The Democratic Leadership Has Failed To Give A Good Reason Why Their Party Should Continue To Exist

Lessons From The Failed War On Terror

The United States has been at war in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but has only been partially successful with regime change in Iraq, and far less successful in reducing terrorism. The United States has become the aggressor nation, with its actions only result in increasing anti-American sentiment and creating more “terrorists.” The “war on terror” started as a Republican mistake based upon lies under George W. Bush. Both major political parties now own this failure, with the Democrats nominating an ultra-hawkish candidate for president in 2016.

Hillary Clinton was not only one of the strongest proponents of the war in Iraq, making false claims of cooperation between Saddam and al Qaeda, but also was the major architect of the failed attempt at regime change in Libya, which was also based upon false claims. She also has pushed for greater intervention in Syria, including imposing a no-fly zone, which would have resulted in greater casualties, required U.S. troops on the ground to support, and would have put the United States into direct conflict with Russia. The revival of Cold War style anti-Russia hysteria and McCarthyism by establishment Democrats is also of great concern.

The Republican candidate, while less interested in interventionism, has been utterly incoherent on foreign policy. It is quite clear that Donald Trump’s claims of a secret plan to defeat ISIS were as imaginary as Richard Nixon’s secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. His only plan is more of the same type of counterproductive military attacks. At this point there are only signs of continued expansion of the warfare/surveillance state with no end in sight.

With both major political parties now becoming advocates of neoconservative interventionism, only third parties such as the Libertarian Party and the Green Party had a rational foreign policy position in 2016 opposing continued interventionism. In late June, the libertarian Cato Institute issued a policy paper entitled Step Back: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy from the Failed War on Terror. The full paper, along with an audio version, are available here.

Following is from the Executive Summary:

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States launched an international war on terrorism defined by military intervention, nation building, and efforts to reshape the politics of the Middle East. As of 2017, however, it has become clear that the American strategy has destabilized the Middle East while doing little to protect the United States from terrorism.

After 15 years of considerable strategic consistency during the presidencies of George Bush and Barack Obama, Donald Trump now takes the reins having promised to “bomb the sh—” out of ISIS and “defeat them fast.” At the same time, however, Trump broke sharply in his campaign rhetoric from Republican orthodoxy on Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever President Trump decides to do, an evaluation of the War on Terror should inform his policies.

We argue that the War on Terror failed. This failure has two fundamental—and related—sources. The first is the inflated assessment of the terror threat facing the United States, which led to an expansive counterterrorism campaign that did not protect Americans from terrorist attacks. The second source of failure is the adoption of an aggressive strategy of military intervention.

The lessons from the War on Terror indicate that it is time for the United States to take a different approach. Policymakers need to acknowledge that although terrorism is a serious concern, it represents only a modest security threat to the American homeland. Further, the United States should abandon the use of military intervention and nation building in the War on Terror. Instead, the United States should push regional partners to confront terrorist groups abroad, while the U.S. returns to an emphasis on the intelligence and law enforcement paradigm for combating the threat against the American homeland.

Did Clinton Lose Because Of Being A Warmonger?

There are many theories as to why Hillary Clinton lost the election. The most likely involve her being the most conservative, insider candidate conceivable in a year in which voters wanted a change, promises from Donald Trump (regardless of  whether he could keep them) of jobs, contrasted to Clinton’s views on trade deals, the terrible campaign run by Clinton which failed to give any good reasons to vote for Clinton beyond her gender and the view that it was her turn, and Clinton’s dishonesty canceling out Donald Trump’s negatives. The Clinton camp is sticking to their fallacious claims that she lost due to factors such as Russia, James Comey, and misogyny.

While economic issues do appear to have been more important, Reason has found a paper which suggests an another issue was responsible for Clinton’s loss in a post entitled, Did Endless War Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency?  

A new study attributes Donald Trump’s victory last year to communities hit hardest by military casualties and angry about being ignored. These voters, the authors suggest, saw Trump as an “opportunity to express that anger at both political parties.”

The paper—written by Douglas Kriner, a political scientist at Boston University, and Francis Shen, a law professor at the University of Minnesota—provides powerful lessons about the electoral viability of principled non-intervention, a stance that Trump was able to emulate somewhat on the campaign trail but so far has been incapable of putting into practice.

The study, available at SSRN, found a “significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” The statistical model it used suggested that if Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had suffered “even a modestly lower casualty rate,” all three could have flipped to Hillary Clinton, making her the president. The study controlled for party identification, comparing Trump’s performance in the communities selected to Mitt Romney’s performance in 2012. It also controlled for other relevant factors, including median family income, college education, race, the percentage of a community that is rural, and even how many veterans there were.

“Even after including all of these demographic control variables, the relationship between a county’s casualty rate and Trump’s electoral performance remains positive and statistically significant,” the paper noted. “Trump significantly outperformed Romney in counties that shouldered a disproportionate share of the war burden in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

For myself, opposition to the warfare/surveillance state was a major criteria in voting. This is an area where my views overlap with those of the libertarians at Reason and was an issue in which they were closer to the views of the candidates from the left as opposed to Republican candidates. While Bernie Sanders stressed economic issues in the campaign, a major reason I voted for him was his opposition to both the Iraq war and the Patriot Act. Unfortunately the Democratic Party used McGovern era rules, and then further changed the rules in 2016, to basically rig the nomination for Hillary Clinton, who is both one of the most hawkish politicians on the political scene, and has a far right-wing record on civil liberties.

The post from Reason concluded by saying, “The paper by Kriner and Shen should be ample evidence that there will be space in the 2020 election cycle for a principled non-interventionist not just to run, but to win.” While I personally would like to see a candidate win based upon finally ending the wars begun under Bush, I am not so optimistic that this will be sufficient for a candidate to win.

On the other hand, I do prefer their attitude of encouraging candidates based upon principle as opposed to an effort described by Recode by Mark Pincus and Reid Hoffman to “hack” the Democratic Party. Their project, entitled  Win the Future (yes, shortened to WTF) plans to adopt planks based upon an internet vote:

To start, the group will query supporters on two campaigns: Whether or not they believe engineering degrees should be free to all Americans, and if they oppose lawmakers who don’t call for Trump’s immediate impeachment.

A group which seeks to reform the Democratic Party but currently doesn’t know what it stands for sounds too much like the Democratic Party of today.

Donald Trump, Kiss My Covfefe

It is rather sad that the most memorable thing Donald Trump has said came from a typo on Twitter, but he has bragged about having the best words. Trump’s tweet, “Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” had a lot of people pouring a cup of covfefe to stay up late to mock him. Rachel Madow probably thought covfefe is a coded message to his Russian masters. It already has an entry in the Urban Dictionary:

(n.) When you want to say “coverage” but your hands are too small to hit all the letters on your keyboard.
Despite constant negative press covfefe.

Here are some of my Tweets and Facebook comments and theories as to what this meant:

The sad thing is that Trump’s Covfefe tweet with a made up word makes just as much sense as all his other tweets.

My theory is that Covfefe is either the name of Trump’s childhood sled (think Rosebud) or his pet name for his latest mistress.

I think Covfefe is Bazinga in Russian

Hillary Clinton would never have given us as many laughs. #Covfefe

Donald Trump broke the first rule of Covfefe: Don’t talk about Covfefe

Donald Trump might be an idiot on most matters, but he was right when he tried to tweet that it was a huge mistake for Clinton to oust Muammar Covfefe and throw Libya into chaos.

Donald Trump loves to drop names and brag about how he knew important people like former Secretary-General of the United Nations Covfefe Annan.

 

Democratic Party Stronger Without The Clintons

The 2016 election was unique in which, while their partisans might not realize it, each party would be better off if their candidate lost the presidential election. Both parties had horrible candidates, and each party would pay a price if their candidate was president. The damage to the Republican brand since Trump has been elected has been obvious. This distracts from noticing the benefits to Democrats from not being dragged further to the right by DLC Democrats such as the Clintons.

Democrats have misread recent politics in seeing Bill Clinton’s victory as evidence that the path of the Democratic Leadership Conference was the way to win. In reality, Bill Clinton won due to his own personal political skills, not by his desire to turn the Democratic Party into a Republican-Lite Party. The Clinton/DLC philosophy too conservative and out of date in the 1990’s, and it is even less relevant to the 21st century. Democrats lost off year elections in 2010 and 2014 by running as Republican-Lite and refusing to stand for anything. This culminated in nominating Hillary Clinton, who managed to lose to Donald Trump.

While Clinton partisans will never agree, polling data and the election results presents a pretty strong case that if the Democrats had nominate Bernie Sanders instead of Clinton they could have won the White House, and probably taken control of the Senate. The Democratic establishment has totally misread the mood of the country and were misled by an out-dated left/right linear political spectrum, failing to see that many independents would vote for Sanders, but not for Clinton.

While the Democratic establishment still desires to exclude Sanders, others are giving him credit for revitalizing the Democratic Party. Buzz Feed editor Ben Smith writes, While You Were Watching Trump, The Democratic Party Changed: Bernie Sanders lost the primary but reshaped his party.

“What happened in the presidential campaign is that Bernie ran explicitly in support of a Medicare-for-all approach” — a simple framework for single-payer — “and what the politicians saw is that voters were fine with that,” said Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a longtime advocate of single payer.

“It’s inclusive and it doesn’t get us into the identity politics divisions that are problematic,” he said. “It gets us into inclusive politics.”

And if Sanders made single-payer safe for Democrats, Trump’s extremely unpopular foray into health care policy with the American Health Care Act has created a new landscape. Democrats’ blend of private-sector structures with government money and incentives, Obamacare, never became truly popular. A Republican version of that hybrid system, tilted toward the markets and away from guarantees, isn’t popular either.

“Then the default becomes, well the private market doesn’t work, the next thing is single-payer,” said an insurance industry executive close to the politics of the issue, who noted that the CEO of Aetna recently shocked the industry by calling for a serious debate about what single-payer would look like. (To the insurance industry, it could look like a new sluice of predictable revenue.)

“This is probably going to be like what happened with Republicans on immigration,” the insurance industry official said. “You may even have a bigger swath of Democrats who are not for single-payer but the single-payer group is becoming so outspoken that other voices are muted.”

It remains to be seen whether the Democratic Party will really change for the better, but there was little or no hope if a politician as conservative as Hillary Clinton had won and had the opportunity to shape the party. While she claims at times to be a progressive, she is a “progressive” who fights for conservative results. Clinton was hardly progressive when she supported making flag burning a felony, censoring video games, supported restricting freedom of speech to fight terrorism, defended the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas, supported parental notification laws, making abortion rare (a statement which stigmatizes women who have abortions and plays into GOP attempts to restrict abortions), leaving gay marriage up to the states (a position she finally changed but lagging behind the country tremendously), the Patriot Act, the discriminatory Workplace Religious Freedom Act, working with the Fellowship in the Senate to increase the role of religion in public policy and undermine the principle of separation of church and state, opposed single payer health care, opposed needle exchange programs, supported a hard line on the drug war, promoted increased government secrecy, supported going to war in Iraq war based upon false claims of a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda (without even bothering to read the intelligence material made available for members of the Senate), pushed for military intervention in Libya and Syria, and resuming the Cold War with Russia.

If Clinton was president, far too many Democrats would be rationalizing and defending Clinton’s views and actions. Instead, the defeat of Clinton opens the door for a more liberal Democratic Party. It also increases the chances of Democratic gains in 2018. If Clinton had been elected, we would probably see a continuation of Democratic loses in Congress and state governments. Instead there is talk of a possible Democratic wave in 2018. For many matters, the state government has more day to day impact on our lives than the federal government. For those of us who saw our state governments get taken over by Republicans since 2010, the defeat of Clinton gives hope of throwing the Republicans out.

With Trump in the White House, we have terrible policies, but also massive opposition to him. Plus with Trump in the White House, we have the added benefit of seeing the Republican president being the subject of scandals and possible impeachment, instead of the inevitable scandals to be seen under Hillary Clinton. The manner in which she spent the last couple of years repeatedly lying about the email and Foundations scandals should provide additional warnings about what could be expected with Clinton in the White House.

Donald Trump has been a terrible president, but it would have been a disaster regardless of who won. At least there is now  hope for a better future.