What The Democrats Were Doing While The Republicans Were Making Fools Of Themselves

Sanders Tweeting Debate

I’ve already discussed what the Republicans were doing Thursday night at the debate. We also know that since then the Republicans have been fighting about Donald Trump’s misogynistic comments about Megyn Kelly, with Trump being disinvited from the RedState Gathering. While the Republicans were debating, Bernie Sanders was tweeting in response. Sanders even had the most retweeted comment of the debate:

In contrast, Hillary Clinton was at a fund raiser, leaving staffers to tweet for her. The most talked about item from the evening was not the issues, as when Sanders tweeted, but Kim Kardasian getting this selfie with Hillary Clinton:

Kim_Kardashian_Hillary_Clinton selfie

If we are to match celebrity endorsements, I’m more impressed by the endorsement for Bernie from Sarah Silverman. She has previously tweeted, “I’m loving @SenSanders . He says what he means & he means what he says & he’s not for sale.” On the day of the debate, the Daily Caller had several pictures of Silverman in shirts promoting Bernie:

Sarah Silverman Bernie

This all raises the question as to why the Republicans are debating but the Democrats are not. The DNC did release their debate schedule late last week:

A total of six debates are scheduled, with six different sponsors: Oct. 13 in Nevada (hosted by CNN); Nov. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa (CBS/KCCI and The Des Moines Register); Dec. 19 in Manchester, New Hampshire (ABC/WMUR); Jan. 17 in Charleston, South Carolina (NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute); and two scheduled for either February or March in Miami, Florida, and Wisconsin, hosted by Univision/The Washington Post and PBS, respectively.

Limiting the debates to six, with threats to penalize candidates who participate in any other debates other than those sponsored by the DNC, is believed to have been designed to protect Hillary Clinton from opposition and has received protests from the other candidates and those who desire a more open nominating process.  Bernie Sanders has a petition on his web site calling for more debates. The O’Malley campaign has even threatened to organize debates outside of those sponsored by the DNC. Time reported:

The DNC rule “tramples over everything that is important about the democratic process,” said Jake Oeth, O’Malley’s state director in Iowa. “We welcome anyone who wants to participate and we hope to engage in open conversation with anyone.”

Oeth added that O’Malley staff are in discussions with other Democratic presidential campaigns about the possibility of expanding the number of debates. Deputy campaign manager Lis Smith on Thursday reiterated the point in a tweet.

A spokesman Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign did not immediately respond to questions about discussions with O’Malley’s campaign.

There were more than 20 debates in the Democratic primary in 2008, and 15 in 2004, including debates that were not sanctioned by the DNC…

O’Malley’s campaign is not alone in opposing the six-debate limit. Sanders, who is trailing in polls against Clinton by less than 10 points in Iowa, has started a petition to call for more debates.

“At a time when many Americans are demoralized about politics and have given up on the political process, I think it’s imperative that we have as many debates as possible—certainly more than six,” Sanders said in a statement Thursday. “I look forward to working with the DNC to see if we can significantly expand the proposed debate schedule.”

The DNC, which is staffed by a number of Clinton loyalists, has defended the debate schedule, saying it will allow for a robust discussion over the party’s platform. “These debates will highlight the Democratic Party’s policies, which will continue to strengthen the middle class, and we hope Americans across the political spectrum will tune in,” said party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

The threshold to qualify for the Democratic debate is to get 1% in three national polls, conducted by credible news organizations and polling organizations, in the six weeks prior to the debate. This would certainly let Sanders and O’Malley in, along with Biden if he decides to run. Jim Webb would also make it in at present–he is actually polling better than O’Malley nationally. Chaffee is at 0.9 in the RealClearPolitics average so there is a good chance he has at least 1% in three of the polls. It is necessary to have some qualifying threshold as there are actually far more candidates than you might realize, and presumably many more would enter the race if they had a chance at getting into the debates.

Major Gaffes From Clinton and Trump Campaigns; Al Gore To The Rescue?

Members of both parties have good reason to worry about the candidates now leading in the polls. Hillary Clinton, along with other Democratic candidates, appeared in Iowa Friday night. Instead of receiving favorable coverage for what she said, the story out of Iowa is how the Clinton campaign told supporters not to speak to reporters. It is bad enough when Clinton avoids answering questions from the press, but it makes no sense to try to gag supporters. She received criticism for this on MSNBC (video above) with quotes from the coverage in The Weekly Standard:

“Here’s what struck me,” said Susan Page of USA Today, “when I read the coverage in the Des Moines Register this morning. Jennifer Jacobs, who’s been on your show, was covering this last night. Big demonstrations outside of young people for O’Malley and Hillary Clinton. She went up to the Clinton supporters — these are protesters for Clinton — and they were told they were not allowed to [speak to] a reporter.”

Page continued, “Now, why in the world would the campaign tell their own supporters who came out to campaign in favor Hillary Clinton … these are the young people, college kids, for Hillary, and they’ve been told they can’t talk to reporters. Why in the world would you do that?

“This raises some warning flags for Hillary Clinton campaign that is trying to control their supporters.”

Steve Kornacki agreed, saying, “Nothing that those supporters could possibly say to the press than the story of telling them not to talk.”

Clinton’s repeated stumbling on the campaign trail, and concern, over her unethical behavior, have raised concerns among  some Democratic voters that nominating Hillary Clinton will lead to a Republican victory on election day. While Bernie Sanders has been stimulated a remarkable amount of excitement around his campaign, some also have concerns over whether he can beat Clinton for the nomination and win the general election. While Joe Biden’s name comes up the most among those who believe another well-known candidate with gravitas is needed to enter the race, Salon has repeated another name which would be worth considering if he is interested–Al Gore. The story is entitled, It’s time to draft Al Gore: If Democrats want to win, it’s clear neither Hillary nor Sanders is the way. The article gives ten reasons why:

Enter Al Gore: the one person on the left, apart from Clinton and Biden, with the cachet to bridge the establishment and progressive wings of the party. Here are 10 reasons why a Gore candidacy makes sense, both for the Democratic Party and the country.

1. Stature. Gore is a superstar with impeccable qualifications. The GOP will have a hard time marginalizing someone of his caliber and experience. His background speaks for itself: a former Congressman, U.S. Senator, and two-time Vice President. He’s even succeed wildly in the private sector as a businessman — something Republicans can’t help but praise. In short, Gore passes the credibility test by any measure, and that matters in a national election. Hillary Clinton is the only other Democratic candidate who can match Gore on this front.

2. Vulnerability. As the new AP poll shows, Clinton’s unfavorability ratings are rising among Americans overall and among Democratic voters in particular. Indeed, her positive marks have plummeted from 81% to 70% among Democrats since April. Worse, as the AP noted: “Just 39 percent of all Americans have a favorable view of Clinton, compared to nearly half who say they have a negative opinion of her.” Hard to win with numbers like that.

These numbers are consistent with another recent poll, which confirmed that Clinton’s lead over the Democratic field has shrunk considerably over the last several months. Some of this is the result of Clinton fatigue, but it’s also due to the rise of Bernie Sanders. The left wing of the party is flocking to Sanders, in part, because they don’t trust Clinton’s centrist record. Gore, on the other hand, who has become much more outspoken since leaving office, could embrace much of Sanders’ populist platform while also selling himself as a more appealing national candidate. That’s a strong case on his behalf, one many Democrats will find persuasive.

3. Besides Hillary Clinton, no one running as a Democrat is likely to challenge Republicans in a national election. Sanders is a regional candidate at best; he shouldn’t be, but he is, and that’s not changing next year. The other candidates scarcely warrant mentioning: Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee – these guys are political ornaments, running for reasons known only to their friends and families. Gore is a national figure, however. He can rival any GOP candidate in terms of fundraising prowess, party support, organizational acumen, experience, and name recognition. He’s also become something of a rock star post-politics, winning a Nobel, an Oscar, and an Emmy. Gore, in other words, is the perfect package, both politically and professionally.

4. Independents. Gore, justifiably or not, is less polarizing than Clinton, which means he can appeal to independents. Although they’re manufactured scandals, issues like the private emails at the State Department and the Benghazi fiasco will plague Clinton in the general election; Republicans (duplicitously, of course) will use these non-issues to bludgeon her month after month, debate after debate, ad after ad. This is pure nonsense, but it will be a distraction nevertheless. Gore, alternatively, brings less comparable baggage – that makes him a harder target for the GOP.

5. Foreign policy. Hillary Clinton is right about a lot of things, but foreign policy isn’t one of them. After our recent misadventures in the Middle East, this really matters. On all things foreign policy, Clinton has a habit of flopping with the political winds. Her maximalist, borderline neoconservative positions at both the Senate and the State Department are a particularly disturbing example of this. Indeed, she beat the war drums on Iraq, Syria, and Iran at one point. In short, Clinton is a hawk, and most of us have seen enough of that in the last decade or so. Gore’s absence from politics during this period gives him a distinct advantage: he wasn’t complicit in our recent geopolitical blunders. He also opposed the Iraq War, something Hillary and the GOP candidates can’t say.

6. The corruption of the political process by Wall Street is — and should be — a major issue in this election. Everyone knows already how much influence the financial industry has in Washington. Hillary Clinton, to her credit, has talked quite a bit about income inequality and political corruption, but the fact remains: Wall Street loves her. This ought to make Democrats uncomfortable. Gore, admittedly because he hasn’t run for office in years, has not relied on Wall Street for campaign funding — at least not in recent history. If nothing else, this is a mark in Gore’s favor, and another reason for Democrats to get behind his campaign.

7. Climate change. As Ezra Klein argued a few months ago in a column about Gore, “Income inequality is a serious problem…But climate change is an existential threat.” Gore, whatever you think of him, is an unimpeachable authority on climate change. As Klein wrote, “When it comes to climate change, there’s no one in the Democratic Party – or any other political party – with Gore’s combination of credibility and commitment.” Given the president’s unique ability to make a difference on an issue like this, it matters a great deal who wins this election. We can’t say definitively what Hillary Clinton would or would not do about climate change, but we can be fairly certain that Al Gore would do more than any other potential candidate for president.

8. Gore has nothing to lose. Having been out of politics for so long, Gore is liberated in ways no other candidate is. He’s got no recent voting record to scrutinize (read: distort); he’s independently wealthy and well-connected; and his private sector activism has allowed him to take authentic positions on issues that matter to him – and most Democrats. He’s beholden, in other words, to fewer constituencies than anyone else currently running. Perhaps most importantly, because he’s succeeded to such a degree in his post-political life, we’ve every reason to believe he’d feel empowered to take chances and risk failure. Isn’t that the candidate most people want?

9. Vengeance. If we’re stuck with a rerun election (Clinton vs. Bush), most would prefer to see Gore get his vengeance against another Bush. Gore, you may recall, was elected president in 2000 over George W. Bush. For reasons we won’t get into now, that victory was stolen from Gore in Florida, thanks in no small part to Jeb Bush, who was then governor of that state. With Jeb the likely Republican candidate next year, it would be a delightful bit of Karmic justice for him to lose to the man he robbed 16 years prior.

10. Democrats need a spark. Gore may not be new, but his candidacy would feel that way. His political life seems a distant memory at this point, but his activism and business savvy have kept him in the public consciousness. As with most politicians, moreover, the freedom of not having to run for office has done wonders for Gore’s image. His entrance and voice would only enliven the Democratic Party, which is exactly what it needs in an election decided, overwhelmingly, by voter turnout.

While I would like to give Sanders more time to see if he can continue to grow his support, Gore would also make an excellent alternative to Hillary Clinton. I doubt Gore would be interested, but it would also be satisfying to see him beat not only Hillary Clinton, but to beat a Bush should Jeb get the nomination.

The current Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, is far less likely than Clinton to actually win their party’s nomination, and there must be many Republicans who are terrified of the prospect of this front-runner actually winning. The Weekly Standard reports on the latest outrageous statement from Trump (video above):

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump, a Republican running for president, said of McCain. “I like people that weren’t captured. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

This statement is bad enough under any circumstance, but it comes off as even worse considering how Trump received several deferments to avoid serving in Viet Nam. While I don’t fault Trump for avoiding military service in Viet Nam, but to attack someone such as McCain who did serve is totally uncalled for.

Trump also refused to rule out running as a third party candidate. Hopefully he does so, as this would probably guarantee a Democratic victory.

You might not read about such gaffes from Trump in the future in the political section of The Huffington Post.

After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won’t report on Trump’s campaign as part of The Huffington Post’s political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump’s campaign is a sideshow. We won’t take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you’ll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette.

While they have a point, I cannot agree with this decision. Donald Trump, like it or not, is a major part of this campaign at the moment. If he was polling under five percent, then maybe this could be justified, but he is now leading the Republican field in the polls. As repugnant as his platform is, there unfortunately is a following for Trump’s brand of racism and xenophobia among the Republican base. It is a real part of this campaign.

Update: No apology from Donald Trump, leading to predictions that Trump is toast. That is fine, but why not even earlier? Apparently among many conservative politicians and media outlets, racist and xenophobic statements are not a campaign-killer.

Jim Webb Enters Race Plus Increased Speculation That Joe Biden Will Run

Ridin With Biden

While the number of Democratic candidates remains well below the number squeezed into the Republican clown car, the number is growing to the point where very soon they will no longer all fit under Donald Trump’s hair. Jim Webb has officially announced and there is increased speculation that Joe Biden plans to run.

Most of the Democratic candidates are challenging Clinton from the left. After all, there is not much room to the right of Clinton short of being a Republican. Perhaps a former Republican such as Webb can find a niche as former Republican Lincoln Chafee is running to the left of former Republican Hillary Clinton. It actually isn’t so simple as to  say Webb is running to the right of Clinton as he, along with every other declared candidate, is attacking Clinton’s support of the Iraq war, and her continued support of increased military intervention as Secretary of State in Libya.

Let me assure you, as President I would not have urged an invasion of Iraq, nor as a Senator would I have voted to authorize it. I warned in writing five months before that invasion that we do not belong as an occupying power in that part of the world, and that this invasion would be a strategic blunder of historic proportions, empowering Iran and in the long run China, unleashing sectarian violence inside Iraq and turning our troops into terrorist targets.

I would not have been the President who used military force in Libya during the Arab Spring. I warned repeatedly that this use of our military did not meet the test of a grave national security interest, that it would have negative implications for the entire region, and that no such action should take place without the approval of the Congress.

It is still hard to see a Webb have much of an impact in this race. If he ever had a chance, he probably ended it by being the only candidate to defend the use of the Confederate flag.

Joe Biden has said he will probably announce whether he plans to run in August and there are claims that he is signaling plans to run based upon statements from a Democratic fundraiser. He also says many Obama fund raisers are excited by the prospect:

“It was almost a diametrically opposed reaction than to Hillary. With Hillary, no excitement, they couldn’t get enthusiastic about her for whatever reason,” said Mr. Cooper. “But when I mentioned that maybe Biden was going to enter the race, there was palpable excitement.

“They are champing at the bit to raise money for Biden,” he said.

Of course Clinton has been doing a fine job of raising money despite this lack of enthusiasm, but that could change if she loses her position of looking like the most likely to win the nomination. The rapid rise in support for Bernie Sanders demonstrates the desire for a more liberal alternative to Clinton, and her current scandals make it far too risky for a major political party to hand Clinton the nomination. Even if she didn’t have these major negatives, she has shown that she is not up to a political campaign.

Jennifer Rubin gave ten reasons in favor of Biden running against Clinton. I don’t think I have ever agreed with Rubin on so many points before.

Ed Rogers discussed the advantages which Biden would have as a candidate in contrast to Clinton:

…the Hillary Clinton campaign is limping along as a synthetic, tired, manufactured exercise that appears to be — at best — winning by default.  I actually feel sorry for the Clinton surrogates I see on TV. They gamely tough it out as they recite the talking points, deny the obvious, defend the indefensible and pretend there is some energy within the campaign.”

In a lot of ways, Biden would be the true anti-Hillary. He is completely uninhibited, he is impossible to script — which makes him seem authentic — and he has a human appeal that everyone can relate to. Clinton, on the other hand, is running a surreal campaign that avoids crowds, media and spontaneity of any kind. She is protecting her lead in the most standard, unimaginative way possible. Compared with Clinton’s robotic, stiff approach, could having a reputation for occasionally saying the wrong thing and hugging too much work to Biden’s advantage in an era where voters want the real thing?

The Democrats appear to be yearning for an emotional connection with their candidate, which could explain the flurry of excitement surrounding the Bernie Sanders campaign. Sen. Sanders seems to have an outsize appeal, which could be a product of how his outside-the-box approach contrasts with the stale Clinton march. But whatever Bernie can do, can’t Biden do it better? Maybe Sanders’s candidacy has exposed the opening that exists for Biden in the Democratic primary. Maybe this is Biden’s moment.

Sanders Surge Surprises Clinton In South Carolina

Bernie Sanders facebook

While it is encouraging to see Bernie Sanders do better than expected in his neighbor state of New Hampshire, for his campaign to have any real chance he will have to also obtain support in other states. Backing from organized labor could help Sanders compete with Clinton nation-wide. Today Politico reports Bernie Sanders surge forms backdrop for Hillary Clinton S.C. visit

This humid Southern city just a few miles from the Atlantic coast is far from Bernie Sanders’ home turf.

But his shadow seemed to follow Hillary Clinton as she made her second visit to South Carolina since declaring her presidential candidacy.

Clinton’s Wednesday stop in the first-in-the-South primary state exposed her to an unwelcome dose of Bernie-mentum, giving the Democratic front-runner a first-hand look at the grass-roots fervor Sanders is generating on the left.

Over the weekend, the state chapter of the AFL-CIO jumped the gun and effectively backed the Vermont senator’s candidacy before being forced to walk back its message. Last night, on the eve of Clinton’s arrival, Sanders’ campaign said it had to change the venue for his upcoming swing through Charleston due to overwhelming local interest…

Clinton has declined to strongly weigh in as supporting or opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that she helped negotiate as secretary of state, or on granting Obama fast-track authority, but she said over the weekend that the White House should now work with House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to improve the deal.

Nonetheless, elements of organized labor have raised questions about her trade position — which the campaign insists is clear. Those questions formed the backdrop for the South Carolina’s AFL-CIO’s Saturday resolution urging its national group to support Sanders. The national organization later instructed the state group to walk back its statement — which didn’t mention the issue specifically — because it didn’t have the authority to deliver it.

Clinton continues to have a large lead in the primary battle, but what matters is not how a politician is doing in June, but what happens when people start to actually vote in February.

First Read commented on Bernie’s momentum:

Three things that ‘Bernie-mentum’ tell us

The biggest development in the presidential campaign so far this month? It’s not Jeb’s or Trump’s announcements, or Hillary Clinton’s re-announcement. Rather, it’s the faster-than-expected rise of Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton still has maybe the clearest path that any non-incumbent has had to win a party’s presidential nomination in modern times. But you also can’t ignore the momentum — Bernie-mentum! — that Bernie Sanders seems to have in the Democratic race right now. Sure, it’s just two polls (one phone survey, another that’s partially online) that show him within 10-12 points of Clinton. And sure, they’re both in New Hampshire, which is right next door to Sanders’ Vermont. But they could also be a canary in the progressive coal mine. And they tell us three things: One, the Elizabeth Warren supporters have seamlessly moved over into Sanders’ corner. Two, Sanders’ momentum suggests that there might not be breathing room for other Democratic challengers like Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb. And three, as political scientist Jonathan Bernstein points out, it’s also a reminder on the GOP side “that any candidate can benefit from a public opinion surge.” Make no mistake: Poll after poll shows Clinton in outstanding shape with Democratic voters. But Sanders’ rise — if it lasts — does put Team Clinton in a bit of a box. After all, punching down is not something that will make the candidate or campaign look good.

In other campaign news, The Boston Globe reports that Martin O’Malley has opened his first campaign office in New Hampshire. This is a reminder of how early we actually are in this campaign cycle.

Hillary Clinton Gets Her Do-Over But Liberals Desire Someone Better

Bernie Sanders TV Clip

Hillary Clinton got her do-over yesterday, relaunching her campaign after the first launch went terribly. As I pointed out last week, she is falling in the polls. Her favorability and trust are damaged from serious scandals which cannot be ignored in choosing a general election candidate. She can’t handle questions from the news media. Many liberals are not buying her selective and limited attempts to try to sound like a progressive. As Bernie Sanders has said of her listening tour, “at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.”

The hard sell from Clinton supporters generally comes down to backing her because of how horrible the Republicans are. While it is true the Republicans are as horrible as they say, what the more conservative Democrats who back Clinton fail to realize is that to many principled liberals Hillary Clinton smells almost as badly as the Republicans. Sure she is left of center on economic matters, but what Molly Ball calls her fainthearted populism, and her failure to provide details, is not enough for many on the left. As Martin O’Malley recently said, “what we need new leadership to accomplish is to actually rein in excesses– on Wall Street. And when you have somebody that’s the CEO of one of the biggest repeat– offending investment banks in the country telling his employees that he’d be fine with either Bush or Clinton, that should tell all of us something.”

Plus there are issues beyond economics. Clinton remains conservative on cultural/social issues, even if not as far right as the Republicans. Her militaristic views on foreign policy and poor record on civil liberties issues also leaves her far closer to the Republicans than the type of candidate desired by liberals. We do not want a candidate who supported making flag burning a felony, censoring video games, parental notification laws, making abortion rare (a statement which stigmatizes women who have abortions), leaving gay marriage up to the states (a position she finally changed but lagged behind the country tremendously), the Patriot Act, the discriminatory Workplace Religious Freedom Act, increased intrusion of religion in the schools and hostility towards the principle of separation of church and state, opposition to needle exchange programs, a hard line on the drug war, opposition to programs to distribute free condoms to fight HIV, reduced government transparency, unethical conduct as Secretary of State, and the Iraq war based upon clearly false claims of a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda.

All those articles being spread by her supporters which cherry pick votes or statements from Clinton to claim that she is a liberal will not fool those of us who have seen Hillary Clinton undermining the principles we believe in throughout her entire career. While not as bad as the Republicans, she is far more Republican-lite than what we hope to see in a Democratic presidential nominee.

The desire from liberals to have an alternative to Hillary Clinton can be seen in the excitement generated by Bernie Sanders since he announced his candidacy. While his strong showing in the Wisconsin straw poll provided some encouragement, the actual poll results out of  New Hampshire look even better. With his campaign barely off the ground, after previously falling in single digits, Bernie Sanders is receiving the support of 32 percent, compared to 44 percent for Clinton.

Eleanor Clift wrote that Bernie Sanders Is Building an Army to Take D.C.

The reception he’s gotten in the four or five weeks since he announced his candidacy has persuaded him that maybe the country’s disgust with politics as usual has created an opening for somebody like him, a 73-year-old self-described “democratic socialist” who calls out the excesses of Wall Street and stands up for working families. “It is not a radical agenda,” he told reporters at a breakfast organized by The Christian Science Monitor.

He wants to expand Social Security, move away from Obamacare to Medicare for all, and make tuition free at public universities. He would pay for these expanded benefits with a tax on Wall Street speculative trading, and he would end the loopholes that allow corporations to store their profits tax-free offshore. He doesn’t expect support from the Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, or Wall Street, he says with delight, treating their opposition like a badge of honor…

The challenge for the Democratic nominee is to generate the kind of excitement that led to Obama’s election and reelection. Among the issues that get Sanders most exercised is the “massive alienation among the American people” that leads to low voter turnout. If 60 percent and more of eligible voters don’t vote, “nothing significant will change,” he says. He is not happy about the Democratic National Committee scheduling only six debates, beginning in the fall, and decreeing if candidates participate in other debates, they will not be allowed in the sanctioned ones. “It’s much too limited,” he said. “Debates are a means to get people interested and engaged.”

If it were up to him, candidates would debate across party lines. “Republicans have gotten away with murder because a lot of people don’t know what their agenda is,” he says. “Christie, Perry, Bush are all in favor of cutting Social Security. I want to expand it. Let’s have that debate,” he says. Sanders has never played party politics. He’s the great disrupter. He’s there to break the rules and regulations, and the voters are cheering him on.

Some say that a Jewish Democratic Socialist cannot win the general election. Of course many claimed nine years ago that an African American former community organizer with far less experience in the Senate than Sanders could not win. Plus for those who want a liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton, Sanders is not the only option, and there are still several months to go to see how the race develops.

While Clinton currently maintains a strong lead, the word inevitable is certainly no longer being heard. Martin O’Malley, who announced his campaign a couple of weeks ago, is hoping that more voters will see him as the progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton. This could happen as voters start paying more attention, and really look at the differences between the records of Clinton and her more liberal opponents. The Boston Globe reported on O’Malley campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire:

Martin O’Malley makes his way to the back of a crowded pub on a rainy night. He grabs a chair and climbs up.

“I’m running for president of the United States and I need your help,” he says, holding his right hand on his chest. He promises not to talk long. “We are going to do Q&A because that is the Iowa way.”

For O’Malley the Iowa way is the only way. The former Maryland governor’s narrow path to the Democratic nomination hinges on persuading people at this bar and in homes across the state to support him in the caucuses seven months from now, longtime advisers and donors agree. A strong second, or even an upset, is possible here in a way that isn’t in the cards anywhere else.

He knows it, too; that’s why he and a crew of staff piled into a white sport utility vehicle and drove at breakneck speeds past rain-soaked farms from event to event last week. Even though O’Malley’s name remains unfamiliar to many Iowans, and he still barely registers in that state’s polls, political elites have talked of an O’Malley presidential run since his early days as Baltimore’s mayor.

Joe Biden’s name has come up many times, with a Draft Biden movement setting up an early campaign structure should he decide to get in the race. His opposition to Clinton’s more militaristic views during the first four years of the Obama administration would give him an advantage among liberals over Clinton. It is also notable that it was Biden who pushed Obama to publicly support same-sex marriage, while Clinton continued for a while longer to believe it was a matter which should be left to the states. In addition, Lincoln Chafee has announced his candidacy, and Jim Webb is also expected to run.

Forget The Benghazi Nonsense–Clinton Finally Facing More Questions On Her Real Mistakes In Libya

Clinton Email

Republicans often turn out to inadvertently be Hillary Clinton’s best friend. They are never satisfied with criticizing Clinton’s real faults, and instead feel compelled to fabricate what sounds like far more serious crimes. Thus criticism of Clinton’s actual policy mistakes in Libya as Secretary of State have been largely ignored because Republicans think find that they can raise more money by attacking Clinton over conspiracy theories leading to the deaths in Benghazi.

Clinton’s push for intervention in Libya has often been criticized by Rand Paul, but he has too many problems with credibility. There has been some criticism from the anti-war left. The Nation recently ran a story critical of both Clinton’s rational for intervening and overthrowing Gaddafi and for her the execution. There is a sign that the issue might be entering more mainstream conversation with CNN reporting on the issue:

She’s already grappling with the political headaches from deleted emails and from the terror attack that left four Americans dead in Benghazi.

But she’ll face a broader challenge in what’s become of the North African country since, as secretary of state in 2011, she was the public face of the U.S. intervention to push out its longtime strongman, Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya’s lapse into the chaos of failed statehood has provided a breeding ground for terror and a haven for groups such as ISIS. Its plight is also creating an opening for Republican presidential candidates to question Clinton’s strategic acumen and to undermine her diplomatic credentials, which will be at the center of her pitch that only she has the global experience needed to be president in a turbulent time.

One person who is thinking of joining the Democratic primary battle does have a record of criticizing Clinton on this issue:

Democrats voice concern on Libya

Concern over what has become of Libya is not confined to the Republican Party.

Possible Democratic challenger Jim Webb, a former Virginia senator, complained in a recent appearance with CNN’s Jake Tapper that: “We blew the lid off of a series of tribal engagements. You can’t get to the Tripoli Airport right now, much less Benghazi.”

Though Webb did not criticize Clinton directly, his comments raise the possibility that the issue could surface in the Democratic primary race.

So Clinton must be ready to explain why she backed a military operation in a region laced with extremism without effective planning for the aftermath. It’s the kind of question that has long challenged Republicans in the wake of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Clinton’s campaign declined to comment for this story, so it is unclear whether what happened in Libya after Gadhafi fell has changed her thinking on military intervention.

It has been typical Clinton to refuse to answer questions from the press on controversial topics, making it difficult to take Clinton’s liberal rhetoric on limited issues seriously. This, along with other advocacy of military force as Secretary of State, suggests she has not changed her thinking sufficiently since when she pushed for war in Iraq based upon nonexistent claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s recommendations for Libya were often a repeat of the mistakes made in Iraq.

The article further discussed how things have gone wrong in Libya, and Clinton’s role in pushing for intervention:

Clinton has little choice but to own what happened in Libya. An email to Clinton in April 2012 from her former top adviser Jake Sullivan, released last month, appears to show that initially her aides were keen to trumpet her role in the intervention and saw it as legacy-enhancing.

Clinton ‘a critical voice on Libya’

“HRC has been a critical voice on Libya in administration deliberations, at NATO, and in contact group meetings — as well as the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya. She was instrumental in securing the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime,” Sullivan wrote.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates also describes her pivotal role in the decision making in his memoir.

Gates said the intervention, which he initially opposed, split the administration down the middle, with heavy hitters such as Vice President Joe Biden and national security adviser Tom Donilon also against.

On the other side were U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Council staffers including Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power.

If Joe Biden decides to enter the race, foreign policy could receive greater consideration. This was typical of the first four years of the Obama administration, with Biden opposing Clinton on foreign policy. Bernie Sanders has also had reservations over this intervention in Libya while Lincoln Chafee has made criticism of Clinton’s support for the Iraq war a key issue in his campaign.

Clinton’s failed policies in Libya might also tie into the email and Clinton Foundation scandals since it was revealed that she was receiving advice on Libya from Sydney Blumenthal, who was both receiving $10,000 per month from the Foundation and was involved with Libyan companies, suggesting further conflicts of interest. The bigger issue is Clinton’s history of both poor decisions and hawkish views on foreign policy, which risk getting the country involved in further needless wars should she be elected.

Wisconsin Straw Poll: Clinton 49% Sanders 41%

Bernie Sanders facebook

A straw poll is far from conclusive, and Wisconsin might not be a typical state, but the results of the Wisconsin straw poll are certainly interesting after months of hearing that Hillary Clinton is unbeatable:

Hillary Clinton 252
Bernie Sanders 208
Joe Biden 16
Martin O’Malley 16
Jim Webb 8
Lincoln Chafee 5
No vote 1

(Write-ins:)
Elizabeth Warren 4
Tom Vilsack 1

Sanders has spent a lot of time in Wisconsin, making we wonder if other candidates might also do take votes from Clinton after they campaign against her in Wisconsin, and possibly elsewhere. Along with the national polls last week showing a considerable reduction in Clinton’s support, it is increasingly looking like it is premature to just assume Clinton will be the nominee. She continues to have a significant lead, but with many Democrats questioning both her honesty and her conservative positions, it just might be possible that someone will repeat what Obama did and win the nomination despite the belief that her victor is inevitable.

Lincoln Chafee Enters Race For Democratic Nomination–Attacks Clinton On Iraq

Chafee Facebook Image

Lincoln Chafee has become the fourth candidate for the Democratic nomination, becoming the third liberal to enter the race along with front-runner Hillary Clinton. Bloomberg reported earlier in the day:

Chafee, 62, left the governor’s mansion in January and announced in April he had formed an exploratory committee. He has said he would focus a presidential campaign on growing the middle class by raising the minimum wage and supporting social programs such as Head Start. He has also indicated he will target primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton on her vote to authorize the Iraq War when they both served in the Senate. The vote, which hurt Clinton in her 2008 bid, raises questions about her judgment, Chafee has said.

“I don’t think anybody should be president of the United States that made that mistake,” Chafee told the Washington Post in April. “It’s a huge mistake, and we live with broad, broad ramifications today—of instability not only in the Middle East but far beyond and the loss of American credibility. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”

Environmental stewardship and “protection of personal liberties,” such as freedom from phone searches and the right to an abortion, are other priorities of Chafee’s, according to his exploratory committee website.

I will put aside the horse race matters for now, with us all knowing he is a long shot, and give him a chance to make the case for his candidacy. Clinton’s poor showing in the recent polls certainly does leave her looking far less inevitable.

It would be good to have a candidate challenging Clinton on her foreign policy issues. I do hope that he goes beyond just her support for the Iraq War and looks at her overall hawkish world view which is virtually indistinguishable from the neocons. In looking at her position on Iraq, I would also suggest that Chafee go beyond just her vote to authorize force. While any Democrat who voted for the war was wrong at the time, there was a considerable variation in views among those who did vote to authorize force. Some, such as John Kerry, looked at the evidence, and in the lead up to the war argued many times that there was no justification to use the authorization and go to war. On the other extreme were Democrats such as Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton, who strongly supported going to war. Clinton went far beyond most Democratic supporters of the war in making false claims of a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Chafee is having some trouble being taken seriously as a Democratic candidate due to only joining the Democratic Party two years ago. Bernie Sanders has also been an independent, but he has also been consistently liberal and was never a Republican. Chafee points out that, “Jim Webb was a Republican and Senator Clinton was a Goldwater Girl.” In many ways Hillary Clinton’s views have not changed very much from when she was a Goldwater Girl, except that Barry Goldwater was more liberal on social liberal than Clinton and would probably condemn Clinton’s association with the religious right. Clinton is even using a variation of Goldwater’s old campaign logo as her current campaign logo.

Major Party Debate Plans Do Not Sound Conducive To A Full Airing Of Issues

Democratic Debate

Both major political parties have announced plans for their debates, and some people are going to be unhappy. The Democrats will only have six debates, down significantly from 2008. Fewer debates make it more difficult for challengers to upset the presumptive frontrunner. There is also an exclusivity agreement this year preventing other organizations from hosting additional debates, as has occurred in the past. The proposed plans are seen as helping to protect Clinton from competition.

Martin O’Malley’s campaign has indicated displeasure with this plan:

“If Governor O’Malley decides to run, we will expect a full, robust, and inclusive set of debates — both nationally and in early primary and caucus states,” O’Malley spokesperson Lis Smith said Tuesday. “This has been customary in previous primary seasons. In a year as critical as 2016, exclusivity does no one any favors.”

There has been no comment yet from Bernie Sanders.

The Nation opposed this idea:

Wasserman Schultz and the Democrats should leave that sort of “control freakery” to Priebus and the Republicans. If several candidates decide to debate, particularly in a state that might not otherwise host a session, that’s to the good. If civil-rights or labor groups want to schedule forums and invite candidates, the contenders should not be able to use the excuse that they do not want to violate party rules.

The American political process features too few debates. And the ones that do take place are too controlled. The Democratic National Committee ought not be in the business of restricting options for additional debates. It should be encouraging more of them.

The big question are whether the format of the debates will protect Clinton from any serious challenge, and whether she will agree to answer questions at all. She has been mocked by the press recently for only taking seven questions since starting her campaign–and has avoided answering almost every one of them. If she had her way, she would probably have staged events with hand-picked “opponents” comparable to her staged events when campaigning in Iowa.

So far only Bernie Sanders has officially announced plans to run against Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb have indicated that they are considering runs. Joe Biden has said he will delay a decision until summer. Elizabeth Warren, who many Democrats are urging to enter the race, says she does not plan to run.

The Republicans have a unique problem in organizing their debates. It is estimated that there will be about sixteen or seventeen candidates, making it difficult for individual candidates to receive any meaningful amount of speaking time. It could be difficult to determine which candidates qualify for the debates, or limit the number, as with a field this large many candidates might only poll in single digits. Lacking much time for each candidate to speak. they might have to resort to a show of hands, as has sometimes been done as a part of  past debates. They could indicate by raising their hands whether they believe in evolution, climate change, and whether the earth is flat.

Marijuana, Needle Exchange Programs, And Clinton’s Cultural Conservatism

Clinton Marijuana

Following recent posts about Lincoln Chafee talking about running for the Democratic nomination I began looking to see if there are any other issues where the two have major differences besides Clinton’s support for the Iraq war, which he has been attacking Hillary Clinton on. which he has been attacking Hillary Clinton on. I was pleased to see that back in 2011 Chaffee called for a reclassification of medical marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substances, which puts states which have legalized medical marijuana at odds with federal laws.

Three years later, Martin O’Malley took this a step even further, signing a bill decriminalizing marijuana, while opposing outright legalization. Hillary Clinton, as would be expected from her overall cultural conservatism, has lagged behind the country, and the Democratic Party, on both legalization of marijuana and medical marijuana.

On a related issue, Clinton’s opposition to needle exchange programs, while certainly not a major issue, was also an early issue in the 2008 nomination battle which differentiated the political philosophies of Clinton from the more liberal Barack Obama. Martin O’Malley, who is also moving well to the left on economic issues, signed a bill allowing needle exchange in Maryland. Clinton and Obama also differed in 2008 on reforming sentencing for violation of drug laws. While Obama’s record on the drug war has certainly been mixed, I would hate to see a move further to the right under Clinton.

Clinton’s cultural conservatism and promotion of conservative causes has often been traced to her membership in The Fellowship while in the Senate. From Mother Jones in 2007:

Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection…

That’s how it works: The Fellowship isn’t out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward…These days, Clinton has graduated from the political wives’ group into what may be Coe’s most elite cell, the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast. Though weighted Republican, the breakfast—regularly attended by about 40 members—is a bipartisan opportunity for politicians to burnish their reputations, giving Clinton the chance to profess her faith with men such as Brownback as well as the twin terrors of Oklahoma, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and, until recently, former Senator George Allen (R-Va.). Democrats in the group include Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who told us that the separation of church and state has gone too far; Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is also a regular.

Unlikely partnerships have become a Clinton trademark. Some are symbolic, such as her support for a ban on flag burning with Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and funding for research on the dangers of video games with Brownback and Santorum. But Clinton has also joined the gop on legislation that redefines social justice issues in terms of conservative morality, such as an anti-human-trafficking law that withheld funding from groups working on the sex trade if they didn’t condemn prostitution in the proper terms. With Santorum, Clinton co-sponsored the Workplace Religious Freedom Act; she didn’t back off even after Republican senators such as Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter pulled their names from the bill citing concerns that the measure would protect those refusing to perform key aspects of their jobs—say, pharmacists who won’t fill birth control prescriptions, or police officers who won’t guard abortion clinics.

Clinton has championed federal funding of faith-based social services, which she embraced years before George W. Bush did; Marci Hamilton, author of God vs. the Gavel, says that the Clintons’ approach to faith-based initiatives “set the stage for Bush.” Clinton has also long supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure that has become a purity test for any candidate wishing to avoid war with the Christian right…

The libertarian Cato Institute recently observed that Clinton is “adding the paternalistic agenda of the religious right to her old-fashioned liberal paternalism.” Clinton suggests as much herself in her 1996 book, It Takes a Village, where she writes approvingly of religious groups’ access to schools, lessons in Scripture, and “virtue” making a return to the classroom.

As noted in the above excerpt, Clinton’s affiliation with the religious right was seen in her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, along with her promotion of restrictions on video games and her introduction of a bill making flag burning a felony. Her social conservatism is also seen in her weak record on abortion rights, such as supporting parental notification laws and stigmatizing women who have abortions with the manner in which she calls for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.”

(Links to additional material added on April 19)