Leader of Racist Group Which Radicalized Dylann Roof Contributed To Republicans

In an update to the recent post on Dylann Roof and the Republican problem with racism, The Guardian reports “The leader of a rightwing group that Dylann Roof allegedly credits with helping to radicalise him against black people before the Charleston church massacre has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans such as presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum.”

The three have said they will either be returning the donations or, in the case of Rand Paul (who may have learned a lesson from his father’s problems), donating it the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.

Meaningless But Hopeful News For Sanders And O’Malley

Favorability Fictional Characters And Politicians

This week has a lot of somewhat encouraging news, even if it all has zero predictive value. Bernie Sanders came unexpectedly close to Clinton in the Wisconsin straw poll. While straw polls are pretty much meaningless, as we saw with all those straw poll victories by fringe candidates like Ron Paul, it could be a sign of the enthusiasm for Sanders, which has also been seen elsewhere, and Sanders has far more upside potential than Paul ever had. The first Daily Kos Democratic Straw Poll shows Sanders leading Clinton by more than two to one at the time I am writing. Then there is the survey pictured above.

The data is based upon the favorability of politicians from the latest Quinnipiac poll along with Google Consumer Survey questions on famous movie villains. The Terminator, Darth Vader, and the Shark from Jaws beat all politicians. No surprise there. It is also not surprising that Donald Trump has the lowest favorability of all.

It is also interesting to look at the non-fictional candidates. Of the potential 2016 candidates, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio both beat Hillary Clinton,  and Martin O’Malley, who has barely started his campaign is not far behind Clinton. The latest polls show a sharp drop for Clinton and if this continues she might even wind up below Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Voldemort.

At the moment, it looks like Bernie Sanders is the most electable based upon this chart.

Of course the more meaningful numbers are in the recent polling results showing that support for Clinton is falling among Democrats.

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.

Clinton Resumes Fall In Polls And Having Problems With Liberal Donors

CNN Clinton Poll

Yesterday’s polling results out of Iowa were somewhat negative for Clinton with 66 percent of Democratic caucus goers concerned that the Clinton scandals could affect her in the general election. It gets far worse in two additional polls released today. After her temporary bounce after declaring her candidacy, Clinton’s favorability rating is again falling and more people consider her to be dishonest.

First the CNN/ORC Poll:

More people have an unfavorable view of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton now than at any time since 2001, according to a new CNN/ORC poll on the 2016 race.

While Clinton remains strikingly dominant in the Democratic field, the poll shows that her numbers have dropped significantly across several key indicators since she launched her campaign in April.

A growing number of people say she is not honest and trustworthy (57%, up from 49% in March), less than half feel she cares about people like them (47%, down from 53% last July) and more now feel she does not inspire confidence (50%, up from 42% last March).

In head-to-head match-ups against top Republicans, her margin is tighter than it has been at any point in CNN/ORC’s polling on the contest…

In general election match-ups, Clinton now runs about even with Rand Paul, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, while she continues to top Bush and Ted Cruz by a significant margin.

As noted above, those shifts stem largely from a change among independents, though Republicans appear to be solidifying their support for GOP candidates while Democrats are slightly less certain about Clinton.

One feature of the race that has held even as the numbers shifted: These match-ups prompt enormous gender gaps. According to the poll, the gender gaps remain over 20 points in each of the five match-ups tested, including a whopping 34-point gender gap in Clinton’s match-up with Scott Walker.

Her declining support in those general election match-ups, alongside falling favorability ratings and worsening impressions of her, suggests recent news about her actions as secretary of state may have taken a toll.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll finds similar bad news for the Clinton campaign:

Meanwhile, Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to dominate the Democratic nomination contest. But her personal attributes continue to erode in the wake of stories about fundraising practices at the Clinton Foundation and her use of a personal e-mail server while at the State Department.

Clinton’s favorability ratings are the lowest in a Post-ABC poll since April 2008, when she was running for president the first time. Today, 41 percent of Americans say she is honest and trustworthy, compared with 52 percent who say she is not — a 22-point swing in the past year…

Clinton’s favorability rating has fallen steadily since she left the Obama administration in early 2013. Today, 45 percent see her positively while 49 percent see her negatively. That compares with ratings of 49 percent and 46 percent two months ago. Just 24 percent have a strongly favorable impression of her — down six points in the past two months — while 39 percent have a strongly unfavorable impression, up four points.

The decline in Clinton’s ratings as a candidate who is honest and trustworthy highlights a likely vulnerability as a general-election candidate. Half of all Americans disapprove of the way she has handled questions about the Clinton Foundation, and 55 percent disapprove of how she has handled questions about her personal e-mails as secretary of state.

Meanwhile, half also disapprove of the way she has dealt with questions about the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Majorities see the issues of the Clinton Foundation and Benghazi as fair game in the presidential election, while almost half of Americans say the e-mail issue is a legitimate topic.

This poll looked more at Jeb Bush than the entire field but also showed Clinton’s support falling against Bush, especially among women:

Indeed, while Bush has lost ground in the contest for the GOP nomination, Clinton does less well against him in a head-to-head matchup. The gap between them has closed from 12 points to three – 47-44 percent, Clinton-Bush, among registered voters, vs. 53-41 percent two months ago…

The most striking change in the head-to-head matchup between Clinton and Bush is a decline in Clinton’s support among women, from 59-36 percent in March to 49-43 percent now. Men continue to split, now 44-46 percent, Clinton-Bush.

The shift among women is generational; it’s occurred almost exclusively among women younger than age 50 – from 72-22 percent two months ago to 48-43 percent now. It’s also happened to a lesser extent among college educated white women, a potentially important voting group: They supported Clinton 57-34 percent in March, but now divide evenly, 45-46 percent.

Among other groups, Clinton’s gone from a 61-point margin among nonwhites, 78-17 percent, to a 47-point split, 70-23 percent; whites still break for Bush. A 48-43 percent Clinton-Bush split among independents in March is now 46-40 percent Bush-Clinton. And while more moderates support Clinton than Bush, 51-42 percent, that gap has declined from 24 to 9 points.

Clinton continues to hold an enormous lead over Democratic challengers for the nomination, but there is still a long time until the Iowa caucus. With her favorability at a seven year low and Clinton no longer having a lead over the leading Republican candidates, it is looking increasingly foolish for Democrats to nominate a candidate who is both ethically unfit to be president and who is to the right of the party on most issues.

This all might be taking a toll on contributions for Clinton. Politco reports that efforts by David Brock, who has been campaigning for Clinton with his groups Media Matters and American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, are not going well among some liberals. Note again that Brock’s organization Media Matters is closely aligned with the Clinton campaign, which explains much of the false information they have been posting to defend Clinton from media reports. Some of the liberal donors are finding Brock’s organizations to be acting too much like the Koch Brothers.

Part of the reticence stems from liberal queasiness about the expanding role of big money in politics since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. But there’s also some discomfort with Hillary Clinton, the former New York Senator and Secretary of State, who is seen as too hawkish on foreign policy and insufficiently progressive on key issues like fighting climate change, income inequality and the role of big money in politics. Additionally, Democratic finance operatives say, efforts to rustle up seven-figure checks are suffering from a lack of a single, unifying enemy on the right.

It is certainly possible that David Brock could be successful in his attempts to win over more Democratic support for Clinton. His bogus talking points in response to the scandals have certainly been repeated by many Democrats, but fooling the big money donors might be more difficult than having his talking points spread on Facebook.

Polls can, and probably will, change a lot between now and November 2016. However Democrats should be alarmed by the magnitude of the downward trend for Clinton, along with the danger that Clinton’s unethical behavior will harm her more as more people start paying attention to the facts. Republicans have a number of negatives of their own, but there is the danger that whoever survives the Republican race will come out of it in a stronger position than they are in now, and today’s tie very well could mean a Republican lead over Clinton by next year. Gambling on winning with a candidate the voters do not trust is foolhardy.

It is time for Democrats who have been ignoring Clinton’s weaknesses and ethical transgressions to take their heads out of the sand if they want to prevent a President Rubio, Paul, or Walker from being inaugurated in 2017.

Update: The Hill looked at Hillary Clinton’s honesty problem:

Observers who follow every political twist and turn might imagine that opinions of Clinton would be hard to change, for good or bad, given that she has now been a top player on the national political stage for a quarter-century.

The polling figures do not bear that out, however.

In the past year, the former first lady’s polling numbers on the “honesty” question have flipped…

An April Quinnipiac poll in three swing states — Colorado, Iowa and Virginia — showed the same weakness for Clinton on the honesty question, most conspicuously in Colorado, where a startling 56 percent of voters viewed Clinton as dishonest versus only 38 percent who saw her as honest.

 

Martin O’Malley Makes It Official: Second Liberal Joins Bernie Sanders In Race Against The Mass Of Conservative Candidates

Martin O'Malley Facebook Cover

Until today the choice among those officially in the 2016 race consisted of Bernie Sanders and a ton of conservatives, including Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidates. Martin O’Malley has now officially announced his candidacy adding a second liberal choice:

In the populist speech, he called to mind the “scourge of hopelessness” in Baltimore during the riots, as well as the “conditions of extreme and growing poverty” across the country that he said have put the American dream out of reach for many.

He also called for a crackdown on Wall Street, saying that “recently, the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he’d be just fine with either [Jeb] Bush or Clinton. I bet he would.”

“Main Street struggles while Wall Street soars,” O’Malley said. “Tell me how it is that not a single Wall Street CEO was convicted of a crime related to the 2008 economic meltdown. Not. A. Single. One.”

Unlike Hillary Clinton who hides from the press and stands for nothing other than personal greed, Martin O’Malley is spending time with the media and talking about what he believes in. This includes this interview with Politico:

O’Malley says his record proves government can help, not hurt. He’s great at rattling off his “greatest hits”: “We passed the living wage [dramatic increases for employees of government contractors]. We raised the minimum wage to $10.10. We made college more affordable by freezing tuition. We made public schools the best in the country for five years in a row. We made it easier for people to vote and not harder.” The progressive list goes on: passing marriage equality, decriminalizing marijuana, repealing the death penalty.

He’s also building what he describes as a “generational” argument—a euphemism for arguing that the Clintons and the Warrens represent old, tired ways, and he’s the new model for “entrepreneurial, data-driven governance.” “My candidacy would offer something very different than hers [Clinton’s],” he says. “One that is not only progressive but accomplished. … I think the Democratic Party can get very excited talking about the things we need to do, but there’s only one of us [in the race] so far that actually did these things, in city at a very tough time and in a state at a very tough time in our economy.” O’Malley has caught some pundit flak for talking up mayoral achievements like his “48-hour pothole guarantee.” (“This wonk is not about to fire up the party base,” Dana Milbank wrote in March, calling O’Malley the “Bruce Babbitt of 2016,” a guy who’s “campaigning as if he’s running to be Clinton’s EPA administrator or her OMB director.”) But on the other hand, Maryland did earn the highest median household income in the country during his tenure. Or as one of O’Malley’s aides puts it, “If no one is getting their potholes filled, how are we going to get the health care system fixed?

But does he have a chance?

A snapshot of past Democratic insurgencies might also give O’Malley some encouragement. “Look at Memorial Day in 2003, where Howard Dean was in the polls. Or Memorial Day 1991, where Bill Clinton was. Or Memorial Day 2007, look at where Barack Obama was,” says Steve McMahon, a political consultant who worked with Ted Kennedy and Dean. All were way back in the field at this stage, or unnoticed. “Voters are just now starting to tune in a little bit,” says McMahon.

There is also, among Democrats, a time-honored tradition of obscure, long-shot governors rising suddenly (sometimes preceded by dull convention speeches), if not always getting all the way to the White House: Jimmy Carter, Clinton, Dean. “Do you remember Howard Dean in 2001?” says Zephyr Teachout, another progressive firebrand who nearly upended the New York gubernatorial race last year by giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo a scare. “Of course you don’t. No one does. I worked for Howard Dean in 2001. He couldn’t excite a dog then. It wasn’t until he went national as a candidate that he became a rabble-rouser.” And Dean was from Vermont, an even smaller and possibly more liberal state than Maryland. Like many progressives, Teachout is eagerly looking for alternatives to Hillary Clinton and finds O’Malley “interesting.”

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks during an event to announce that he is entering the Democratic presidential race, on Saturday, May 30, 2015, in Baltimore. O'Malley has presented himself to voters as a next-generation leader for the party, pointing to his record as governor on issues such as gay marriage, immigration, economic issues and the death penalty. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

There is a difference in this insurgency campaign compared to many of the unsuccessful ones in the past. Hillary Clinton represents both the greatest obstacle and the greatest opening for an insurgency candidacy. On the one hand she has what appears like an overwhelming lead in the polls. On the other hand, we have never encountered a candidate who has so acted so unethically, violating so many of the principles which Democrats claim to hold. It will be a real test as to whether Democrats really mean what they say, or are willing to accept the same types of acts which they condemn from Republicans if  someone runs with a D after their name.

Even beyond her major ethical transgressions, Hillary Clinton is out of step with where the country, and the Democratic Party are moving, even beyond the economic issues which O’Malley and Sanders are concentrating on.  She has a long history of opposing transparency and attempting to govern in secrecy in an internet age where transparency is becoming the norm. She has aligned herself with the religious right in supporting a greater role for religion in government in a country which is becoming more secular. Her foreign policy views are difficult to differentiate from the neoconservatives. This ranges from being one of the strongest voices in support of the Iraq War, falsely claiming a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, to supporting greater foreign military intervention during the first four years of the Obama administration. Clinton’s support for the Patriot Act has been criticized by both supporters of Bernie Sanders to her left and Rand Paul to her right.

Martin O’Malley is not as well known nationally as Hillary Clinton, or even Bernie Sanders, but his accomplishments have been noted by liberals for some time. For example, Washington Monthly had an article two years ago entitled Should Martin O’Malley Be President?

As governor, he’s pushed a series of bills that are all but guaranteed to impress Democratic primary and caucus voters three years from now, on topics ranging from guns (against), gay marriage (for), the death penalty (against), medical marijuana (for), and implementing Dream Act-like policies at Maryland’s colleges and universities. Just as Bill Clinton did in the 1980s, when he too was a relative unknown, O’Malley has also sought positions in recent years that have allowed him to sidle into the national limelight. In both 2011 and 2012, he served as chair of the Democratic Governors Association, and he’s since stayed on as the finance chairman, which will allow him to continue to meet top donors. During the election last year, he was a regular fixture on the talk show circuit, often playing the role of President Barack Obama’s personal attack dog. In one interview with ABC’s This Week last summer, O’Malley managed to mention former Governor Mitt Romney’s “Swiss bank accounts” and “offshore” tax havens seventeen times in three minutes flat.

With that iron message discipline, plus his standing as one of the Democrats’ most successful governors (with thirty statehouses in GOP hands, the Dems’ roster is slim), O’Malley won a coveted primetime speaking slot for the second time (he spoke in 2004, too) at the Democratic National Convention last September. He whiffed it—again, just as Clinton did in 1988—but spent the remaining time juggling a packed schedule of schmooze, addressing swing state delegates by day and jamming with his Irish rock band, O’Malley’s March, by night. In recent years, the governor has also made public forays into Iowa and New Hampshire and launched a political action committee, the O’Say Can You See PAC, to raise money that he will be at liberty to distribute, one of his critics groused, “like favor-doing fairy dust,” to fellow Democrats before the midterm races in 2014…

The truth is, what makes O’Malley stand out is not his experience, his gravitas, nor his familiarity to voters (Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden crush him in those regards). Nor is it exactly his policies or speeches (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, both rumored presidential aspirants, have cultivated similar CVs). Nor is it that he plays in a band. Nor is it even the Atlantic’s breathless claim last year that he has “the best abs” in politics. (Beneath a photo of the fit governor participating in the Maryland Special Olympics’ annual Polar Bear Plunge, the author gushed, “What are they putting in the water in Maryland?”) Instead, what makes O’Malley unique as a politician is precisely the skill that was on display in that windowless conference room in downtown Annapolis: he is arguably the best manager working in government today.

That may not seem like a very flashy title—at first blush, “Best Manager” sounds more like a booby prize than a claim a politician might ride to the White House. But in an era where the very idea of government is under assault, a politician’s capacity to deliver on his or her promises, to actually make the bureaucracy work, is an underappreciated skill.

Of course, it was a conservative president who most recently demonstrated his woeful lack of such expertise (see George W. Bush, administration of), but it is the liberal and progressive bloc that stakes its identity on a belief in government, and therefore has a higher stake in getting government management right.

A writer at The Hill suggested in March that he might be able to pull a Carter and come from nowhere to win the presidency. H.A. Goodman wrote at The Huffington Post Why Martin O’Malley and Elizabeth Warren Can Beat Any Republican, Including Walker, Bush, Paul and Cruz. In April The Guardian asked, Martin O’Malley: If not Hillary Clinton, then how about this guy?  H.A Goodman wrote at The Hill Why Americans should consider O’Malley for president pointing out how  he is not guilty of the types of ethical violations seen in both Clinton and Jeb Bush:

Compared to ethical scandals by both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, O’Malley was able to move Maryland towards the top of rankings for education, economic mobility, and entrepreneurship. Also, Maryland was one of only seven states to maintain its AAA bond rating during the recession.

As for innovation, O’Malley found ways to utilize data more efficiently than his predecessors. According to a recent Washington Post article, Maryland’s governor found innovative ways to harness data..

Furthermore, he can type an email without controversy. Unlike Hillary Clinton, O’Malley has used technology to help his state, not own a server for some bizarre reason. O’Malley has also made wealth inequality an issue, wants to expand Social Security, enacted Maryland’s version of the Dream Act, raised the minimum wage, and oversaw the passage of marriage equality. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, just recently changed views on marriage equality and has remained quiet on a number of other issues that O’Malley championed in Maryland.

According to The Washington Post in 2007, Jeb Bush’s tenure in Florida was “marred by frequent ethics scandals,” so O’Malley’s track record in Maryland beats (at least in terms of scandal) Bush’s years in Florida. For these reasons and more, O’Malley should be considered by Americans throughout the country as a potential pick for president. Unlike Hillary or Jeb, O’Malley hasn’t been linked to a major controversy and his track record can’t be correlated to any major failure. Martin O’Malley, not Hillary Clinton, should be towards the top of any Democrat’s wish list for president and Americans throughout the nation should pay attention to the former Maryland governor.

While he is officially starting his campaign this weekend, O’Malley has already spent a considerable amount of time in Iowa receiving favorable coverage, including being compared to John F. Kennedy:

O’Malley has the ability to captivate the nation and rise from a relatively unknown to a political juggernaut as John F. Kennedy did in the 1960s, more than 50 interviews with The Daily Iowan show.

“He’s a new breed of Democrats,” Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, an Obama supporter, said following a private lunch with O’Malley on March 21…

He made a big splash here during his first return to Iowa in 2015, logging nearly 400 miles of travel and appearing at more than a half-dozen events, the Scott County Democrats’s Red, White, and Blue dinner, a Davenport Irish pub, a small town drop-in at Tipton, a visit to Des Moines, and a trendy Council Bluffs eatery.

Presidential historian and political pundit Tom Whalen, who specializes in the tenure and assassination of JFK, said the two have the same charisma, particularly in relation to domestic policies such as income equality.

O’Malley has worked to establish himself as a crisis manager while governor and mayor, as JFK did during the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis, Whalen said.

Whalen said O’Malley leads JFK’s early presidential career in at least one definitive area: speech delivery.

“JFK wasn’t really JFK until he gave that famous inaugural speech,” he said.

As of March O’Malley had been interviewed by The Daily Iowan alone fifty times, granting far more interviews than the number of questions answered by Hillary Clinton this year. He speaks to actual Iowans, not hand picked supporters for staged events like Clinton. These things could matter in states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Sure O’Malley is far behind in the polls, but the contrast between Hillary Clinton and far more honest and open opponents such as O’Malley and Sanders could change the race over time–and there is still a long way to go until the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

 

The Clinton Clown Car Is Back

Clinton Blumenthal Email2

While it is easy to mock the Republican candidates with their extreme views which show them to be out of touch with reality as a clown car, Democrats have a clown car of their own. The email from Sydney Blumenthal released last week (some of which had actually leaked out in 2013), shows that the Clinton Clown Car will be returning should Hillary Clinton return to the White House. We will once again have to deal with her cronies and conflicts of interest. On Saturday I looked at the conflicts of interest raised in Clinton’s email which show how she blurred the lines between the Foundation, her old friends and their business interests, and her work as Secretary of State. Errol Lewis, political commentator has more. After discussing the background, including the contents of the email and how Sydney Blumenthal was barred by the Obama administration from working in the State Department, Lewis wrote:

The cozy arrangement raises big red flags. For starters, why was a non-government official — one apparently barred from working for the State Department — sending sensitive information to Clinton that hadn’t been vetted by government officials?

And how did Blumenthal get to be an expert on Libyan politics? That’s where the emails go from interesting to infuriating.

“From time to time, as a private citizen and friend, I provided Secretary Clinton with material on a variety of topics that I thought she might find interesting or helpful,” he recently said through an attorney, according to Politico. “The reports I sent her came from sources I considered reliable. I have informed the House Select Committee on Benghazi that I will cooperate with its inquiry and look forward to answering the Committee’s questions.”

That’s not quite accurate. In addition to being “a private citizen and friend,” Blumenthal, it turns out, was on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation, according to the New York Times, with duties including research, “message guidance” and the planning of commemorative events.

The Foundation has been vague about exactly when Blumenthal left; he has rebuffed press questions about the exact timeline. Blumenthal may also have received Libya information from Tyler Drumheller, an ex-CIA official who formerly ran the agency’s undercover operations in Europe, according to the investigative news organization Pro Publica.

It also turns out that Blumenthal was working with — and likely getting his Libya information from — a pair of companies, the Constellations Group and Osprey Global, that were trying to land contracts to do business in post-Gadhafi Libya.

The exact nature of Blumenthal’s work with the businessmen trying to get work remains unclear; he isn’t answering press inquiries about it, although it’s likely that the Congressional panel looking into the Benghazi debacle will soon call him in for a grilling.

Was Blumenthal trying to personally profit from his relationship with Clinton? We don’t know. Did the secretary of state know about his business interests, and whether or not they overlapped and/or conflicted with his work at the Clinton Foundation? Once again, more questions than answers.

Clinton hasn’t answered any of these questions, although she recently made a point of defending Blumenthal. “I have many, many old friends, and I always think that it’s important when you get into politics to have friends you had before you were in politics, and to understand what’s on their minds,” she said. “He’s been a friend of mine for a long time.”

That doesn’t sound like a candidate concerned about the obvious conflicts of interest and possible improprieties surrounding her. And Clinton’s seeming nonchalance could come back to haunt her: a recent national poll of registered voters showed that 54% don’t consider her honest and trustworthy, and that number goes up to 61% among independents not registered as Democrat or Republican.

There’s only one cure for being seen as less than honest: Clinton should come clean with the public, and inform even her most loyal political soldiers that the days of triangulation, ethical conflicts and constant spin are over. If Team Clinton wants to present its candidate as fresh and untainted, they should realize that persuading her to walk the straight and narrow — something she has resisted doing — might turn out to be the most direct path to the White House.

This is certainly not the worst news to come out about Clinton, whose unethical behavior has been summarized here, but it is still a matter which should be of concern, It is also one of many matters which Clinton should respond to media questions about but refuses to.

Clinton is often inadvertently saved by the right wing which doesn’t settle for the real faults in Clinton which have been established by facts, but feels compelled to embellish their criticism with added conspiracy theories, including most of what they say about Benghazi. From that perspective I did find this post at Power Line to be of interest, moving beyond the conspiracy theories to question her entire Libya policy and management style. The post concludes, “It is that poor judgment that disqualifies her as a candidate for the presidency.”

I certainly agree that Clinton has shown throughout her career that she lacks the judgment to make a good president, but the same could be said of the Republican candidates which Power Line will most likely support. Besides, the problems with her views on foreign intervention, which underly her Libya policy, apply at least as much, and possibly more so, to the views of most of the Republican contenders. (The one exception might be Rand Paul, but he is flip-flopping to sound like the other Republicans on foreign policy.) At least it would be good if conservatives would drop their Benghazi conspiracy theories and discuss the real issues such as the perils of foolish foreign intervention, but I doubt that will be the case.

Russ Feingold Needed Back In The Senate

Russ Feingold has announced plans to attempt to win back the Senate seat he lost six years ago in the video above.

“People tell me all the time that our politics and Washington are broken. And that multi-millionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling the shots,” Feingold says in the video. “They especially say this about the U.S. Senate, and it’s hard not to agree. But what are we going to do? Get rid of the Senate?

“Actually, no one I’ve listened to says we should throw in the towel and give up — and I don’t think that either,” he adds. “Instead, let’s fight together for change. That means helping to bring back to the U.S. Senate strong independence, bipartisanship and honesty.”

Feingold lost his seat in the Republican sweep of 2010, and is considered to have a better than even chance of winning it back in a presidential election year. It would be unusual in recent years for this to occur:

While Feingold is seen as a very strong candidate with perhaps better than even odds to pick up the seat he lost to Ron Johnson during the 2010 Republican tsunami, his return to the chamber would certainly be a rarity in the modern political era.

Smart Politics first reported in February that only two U.S. Senators have returned to the chamber after losing their seat at the ballot box since 1956.

The last U.S. Senator to be defeated at the ballot box and then later win an election back to the chamber was Washington Republican Slade Gorton

From the beginning of direct elections in 1913 until the mid-1950s, such comebacks were much more common, with 14 defeated ex-U.S. Senators winning back a seat in the chamber…

Feingold’s return to the Senate is very important for those of us who vote Democratic based upon issues such as civil liberties, opposition to unnecessary wars, campaign finance reform, and transparency in government. If Hillary Clinton should win the Democratic nomination as most expect, this would leave us with a choice of both a Democrat and most likely also a Republican who is very conservative on all of these issues. (The lone exception on these issues might be Ron Paul, but he has been flip-flopping to sound like a more conventional Republican).

Russ Feingold has battled with Clinton in the past, and he will hopefully be a strong voice in the Senate for liberalism as opposed to Clintonian conservatism. Feingold would also make a far better presidential candidate than Clinton, but it is understandable he would concentrate on winning back his Senate seat as opposed to an uphill battle for the presidential nomination.

Clinton Scandals vs Deflategate, And Other Thoughts Of The Day

If we as a country were as concerned with political leaders following the rules as much as football teams, Hillary Clinton would be suspended for one-fourth of the primaries and the Clinton Foundation would face a hefty fine. To complete the analogy I’d throw in Clinton losing two Supreme Court picks, but the Supreme Court is the main reason I’d hold my nose and vote for Clinton over a Republican in the general election and hope that she doesn’t choose someone as conservative on civil liberties and social issues as she is.

Jeb Bush has previously been known as George’s younger, smarter brother. In light of his defense of the Iraq War with all we’ve learned, from now on the two will be known as Dumb and Dumber.

Verizon is buying AOL, which will make them a major force in the internet in 1987.

Rand Paul is threatening to filibuster the Patriot Act. Why is this coming from a Republican (even if one the rest of his party disagrees with) as opposed from Democrats? Ron Wyden is also talking about filibustering. I wish he would also challenge Clinton for the nomination.

Hillary Clinton’s Insufficient Repudiation Of Her Previous Right Wing Views On Crime And The Drug War

Hillary Clinton Crime Speech

The recent events in Baltimore, leading to the indictment of six police officers, have demonstrated the failure of the war on drugs and overly-aggressive police action. Hillary Clinton gave one of her typical speeches based upon the direction the wind is blowing, lacking details or any real sense of conviction, and failing to go far enough. It is a good thing that to some degree she her repudiated previous views, but for most opponents of the war on drugs and the Clinton’s right-wing approach to crime, this was too little and too late.  Jacob Sullum, who covers “the war on drugs from a conscientious objector’s perspective,” wrote Why Hillary Clinton Lacks Credibility On Criminal Justice Reform.

For critics who have long argued that our criminal justice system puts too many people behind bars for too long, Clinton’s words of outrage were welcome. But they were also hard to take seriously given her history on this issue. While condemning overincarceration, she glided over her own role in promoting it and exaggerated her efforts to correct it. She referred only obliquely to the war on drugs, which has played an important role in sending nonviolent offenders to prison. And three decades after the prison population began the dramatic climb that she now considers shameful, Clinton offered almost no specific ideas for reversing it, which makes her look like a dilettante compared to politicians in both major parties who have given the issue serious thought.

As first lady in the 1990s, Clinton was a cheerleader for the “tough on crime” policies that produced the “era of mass incarceration” she now condemns. “We need more police,” she said in a 1994 speech. “We need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. The ‘three strikes and you’re out’ for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.” The Clinton administration gave us all that and more, bragging about building more prisons, locking up more people (including nonviolent offenders) for longer stretches, opposing parole, expanding the death penalty, putting more cops on the street, and implementing a “comprehensive anti-drug strategy.”

In a 2001 report, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) noted that Bill Clinton “stole the ‘get tough on crime’ show” from Republicans by “consistently support[ing] increased penalties and additional prison construction.” The highlight of his efforts was the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which subsidized cops and prisons, restricted gun ownership, expanded the use of the death penalty, created new mandatory minimum sentences, and added to the list of federal crimes, which were already too numerous to count. Looking at the results of the crackdown that Clinton led at the federal level and encouraged at the state level, JPI dubbed him “the incarceration president.” The total prison population grew by 673,000 during Clinton’s eight years in office, compared to 448,000 during Ronald Reagan’s two terms. The number of federal prisoners doubled under Clinton, rising more than it did during the previous 12 years under his two Republican predecessors.

By the end of his second term, Clinton seemed to be having second thoughts about this incarceration binge. “We really need a reexamination of our entire policy on imprisonment,” he told Rolling Stone in October 2000. “There are tons of people in prison who are nonviolent offenders.” Seven years later, while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton’s wife expressed similar qualms. “Mandatory sentences for certain violent crimes may be appropriate,” she said during a debate in June 2007, “but it has been too widely used.”

During another debate that December, Clinton was asked whether she regretted how “your husband’s crime bill…has affected the black community, or do you stand by that?” Both, apparently:

I think that the results not only at the federal level but at the state level have been an unacceptable increase in incarceration across the board, and now we have to address that….There were reasons why the Congress wanted to push through a certain set of penalties and increase prison construction, and there was a lot of support for that across a lot of communities because…the crime rate in the early ’90s was very high. And people were being victimized by crime in their homes, in their neighborhoods and their business. But we’ve got to take stock now of the consequences, so that’s why…I want to have a thorough review of all of the penalties.

As Dara Lind notes at Vox, Clinton nevertheless attacked her rival Barack Obama as soft on crime because he thought some of those penalties were too harsh. A month after Clinton decried “an unacceptable increase in incarceration,” her campaign tried to undermine Obama by citing his criticism of mandatory minimums.

Clinton’s position on her husband’s crime policies—that they were appropriate back then but maybe went a little overboard—rankles activists who were resisting the war on drugs when Bill Clinton was escalating it. Here is how Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, put it in a Huffington Post essay on Wednesday:

“Even as I rejoice at this outbreak of bipartisanship on a cause to which I’ve devoted my life, I must admit it also brings up feelings of anger and disappointment at the failure of Hillary Clinton, and other candidates, and so many other ostensible leaders to acknowledge that they were willing and even eager proponents of the very policies that produced America’s records-breaking rates of incarceration. The laws and policies we embraced back in the 1980s and 1990s, they’re all saying in one way or another, were the right thing at the time—but now we just need to roll them back now that times have changed.

“But the drug war policies of that era were never justifiable, and the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that they did far greater harm than good. No policy that results in the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and the highest in the history of democratic nations, is justifiable. And no policy that generated such devastating consequences for African American citizens and communities can or should ever be excused as a necessary response to the drug and crime problems a generation ago.”

Sullum noted Clinton’s lack of interest in reform as a Senator. I’d add that she was too busy collaborating with Rick Santorum, Sam Brownback, and others in The Fellowship. Instead of calling for reform of the criminal justice system, she was busy backing both the war in Iraq and the war  on drugs, and busy pushing to make flag burning a penalty and for censorship of video games. Of course it is not rare for Clinton, after years of being on the wrong side of an issue, to finally come around. Quite often she as learned from her mistakes, but not until long after the damage was done. While it is common for Clinton to be to the right of the Democratic Party, on this issue she is even to the right of some Republicans:

Clinton is late to this party, and endorsing reforms backed by Republicans such as Paul, Cruz, and Lee would highlight that fact. Paul’s office responded to her speech by noting that “Hillary Clinton [is] trying to undo some of the harm inflicted by the Clinton administration” and “is now emulating proposals introduced by Senator Rand Paul over the last several years.” The press release cited five criminal justice bills Paul already has introduced this session, addressing mandatory minimum sentencesasset forfeiturerestoration of felons’ voting rightsexpungement of criminal records, and police body cameras. “We welcome her to the fight,” it said.

Clinton Announces: One More Quasi-Neocon Enters Presidential Race

Hillary Clinton has officially entered the race, adding one more neocon, and still leaving a large hole for a liberal candidate. There’s no doubt she is better than the Republicans in the race (a very low bar to beat) but I am still hoping a true Democrat gets in oppose her. He announcement is exactly the type of video expected although, unlike former Clinton adviser Bill Curry, I’m not sure that the announcement itself matters. Curry wrote, based upon media reports prior to the actual announcement, Hillary Clinton just doesn’t get it: She’s already running a losing campaign:

For months Clinton has run a front-porch campaign — if by porch you mean Boo Radley’s. Getting her outdoors is hard enough; when she does get out it’s often to give paid speeches to people who look just like her: educated, prosperous and privileged.  Needing desperately to connect with the broader public, she opts for the virtual reality of a pre-taped video delivered via social media. Go figure.

Her leakers say she’ll head out on a listening tour like the one that kicked off her first Senate race. They say listening to real people talk about real stuff will make her seem more real. This too may be a good idea, but it made more sense when she was a rookie candidate seeking a lesser office in a state she barely knew. Running for president is different. So are the times. Voters are more desperate now, and in a far worse mood. If you invite their questions, you’d better have some answers. I’ll return to this point shortly.

Her leakers say she’ll avoid big events, rallies, stadiums, that sort of thing. This is about 2008, when she and her tone-deaf team seemed to be planning a coronation. This time they say she doesn’t want to come off as quite so presumptuous. Yet next week she keynotes a ‘Global Women’s Summit’ cohosted by Tina Brown and the New York Times, at which “world leaders, industry icons, movie stars and CEOs convene with artists, rebels, peacemakers and activists to tell their stories and share their plans of action.” Orchestra seats go for $300.

Clinton personifies the meritocracy that to an angry middle class looks increasingly like just another privileged caste. It’s the anger captured best by the old ‘Die Yuppie Scum’ posters and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s on the rise. Republicans love to paint Democrats as elitists. It’s how the first two Bushes took out Dukakis, Gore and Kerry — and how Jeb plans to take out Hillary. When she says she and Bill were broke when they left the White House; when she sets her own email rules and says it was only for her own convenience; when she hangs out with the Davos, Wall Street or Hollywood crowds, she makes herself a more inviting target…

There are three problems that go far deeper than Hillary’s image or her campaign’s operations. Each is endemic to our current politics; all are so deeply connected as to be inseparable. You already know them. The first is how they raise their money. The second is how they craft their message. The third pertains to policy…

On Friday, Clinton’s campaign began the quick, quiet buildup to her Sunday announcement by placing a new epilogue to her last memoir in the Huffington Post. It’s mostly about how being a grandmother gives her new energy and insight. At the end of the piece she says it also inspires her to work hard so every child has as good a chance in life as her new granddaughter has. Her recent speeches, even those her leakers tout as campaign previews, say little more than that.

Barring a Jeremiah Wright-level crisis, a presidential candidate gets just two or three chances to make her case to a big audience. Her announcement is often her best shot. That Hillary passed on hers is unsettling. If she thinks she doesn’t have to make her case real soon she’s wrong. If she thinks she can get by on the sort of mush Democratic consultants push on clients she’s finished. On Thursday the Q poll released three surveys. In two states, she now trails Rand Paul. In all three a plurality or majority said she is ‘not honest or trustworthy.’ You can bet the leak about her $2.5 billion campaign will push those negatives up a notch.

Clinton seems as disconnected from the public mood now as she did in 2008.  I think it’s a crisis. If she doesn’t right the ship it will be a disaster. In politics it’s always later than you think. Advisors who told her voters would forget the email scandals probably say this too will pass. If so, she should fire them…

Like Bill Clinton’s 1992 race, this election is about the economy. But this one’s about how to reform the economy, not just jumpstart it. Our political system isn’t set up to debate whether or not our economic system needs real reform. It will take a very different kind of politics, and leader, to spark that debate. We’ll soon know whether anyone is ready, willing and able to fight.

I agree with much of his criticism, but not that the announcement is her best shot. That might apply to a lesser known candidate, but people already know Clinton, and most have opinions about her. What matters in her case is not any single statement, even her announcement, but what she says throughout her campaign, and she can never escape her record. Pundits expect her to continue to triangulate, compromise liberal principles, and try to avoid saying anything meaningful. In other words, she is playing not to lose–and we see how that often turns out, from football games to her 2008 campaign. At some point she will need to come out of her comfort zone, and hopefully at some point she will truly answers from the press.

Clinton began the invisible primary portion of the race with a huge lead, and it is now withering away. She still has the edge due to name recognition, but she is already slipping seriously in the polls. The most recent national poll available, from Public Policy Polling, shows her lead over Republican challengers down from 7-10 points in February to a 3-9 point lead at present over various Republican challengers. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul are all within four points of her, and Rand Paul leads Clinton among independents by 14 points. The latest battleground poll also shows her slipping in key states. Multiple polls show that voters do not find Clinton honest, trustworthy, or that she understands people like them. She probably will get a bounce after the announcement, but after that she cannot afford any further decrease in support.  She still looks most likely to win both the nomination and general election, but there is also a considerable risk that her campaign will be derailed by scandals along the way. Hopefully this will not happen in the fall of 2016, leaving us with a Republican president.

What Clinton can do at this stage of her career is somewhat limited. It is hard to overcome a career most notable for her poor judgment whenever facing the big issues. Stories about influence peddling are bound to continue. With all the connections between the two, it is worth remembering that the family business for the Clinton and Bush family is essentially the same. The email scandal would not by itself derail Clinton, but it will continue to hurt as it reinforces the view that the Clintons do not follow the rules, or tell the truth, along with her long-standing propensity towards secrecy.

There are many reasons why most Democrats want to see Clinton face a primary opponent, with a Bloomberg poll finding that the number of Democrats who say they would definitely vote for Clinton  down from 52 percent in June 2013  to 42 percent at present.  At this point, Martin O’Malley looks most likely to challenge Clinton from the left but there are many months to go before the first contests and other might still get in the race. Clinton should be challenged not only on her economic views, which O’Malley and others are now doing. This should include her foreign policy positions, from pushing for war with Iraq based upon non-existent connections between Saddam and al Qaeda, to advocating a more hawkish viewpoint in the Obama administration. (While Rand Paul initially was seen as a candidate opposing nonconservative foreign policy views, he has been quickly flip flopping to sound like every other Republican.) Environmentalists also question Clinton’s weak and vague record, along with her advocacy for fracking.  Many liberals are also dissatisfied with her record and views on civil liberties and on social issues, ranging from gay rights to feminism and reproductive rights. Clinton has entered the race as the lesser evil, but Democrats should be able to do better.