Peter Daou Shows A Strange Form Of Integrity In His Promotion Of Russia Conspiracy Theories

Peter Daou has often shown that no statement, regardless of how demonstrably false, is beyond him in his efforts to white wash Hillary Clinton. This one was good for a laugh. He starts out quoting Robert Mueller: “As the saying goes, if you have integrity, nothing else matters, and if you do not have integrity, nothing else matters.”

For some bizarre reason he used this to lead into another attempt to prop up the failed claims that Russia is responsible for Clinton’s loss. As Shattered revealed, Hillary Clinton latched onto the argument that others such as Russia were responsible within twenty-four hours of her loss to shift the blame elsewhere. Since then Clinton and her allies have been trying to find facts to support this claim, without success.

Daou claims, “The scale and scope of Russia’s efforts is staggering: Facebook ads, thousands of professional trolls, email hacking, weaponizing WikiLeaks, highly suspicious contact with the Trump campaign, and much more.”

It turns out that, unless more is uncovered in the future, Russia’s expenditures on Facebook ads has turned out to be rather trivial. It is questionable whether Russia had anywhere as many trolls as the Clinton campaign did (paid and volunteer). The source of the hacked email remains uncertain as claims that it was Russia have come under increased question. Wikileaks only served to show the dishonesty of Clinton and the DNC, and that the only rigged election in 2016 was the Democratic nomination. While there has been suspicious contact between members of the Trump family and campaign, this is increasingly looking like it was based upon financial crimes, with Russia having nothing to offer with regards to harming Clinton.

There has been agreement among investigators that there has been no evidence that Russia has altered a single vote by means such as altering voting machines. Investigations may or may not support Daou’s argument once concluded, but at present they certainly do not, and it is questionable the facts ever will.

With all the facts failing to back him up, Daou resorted to moving the goal post with his most absurd line of all: “To suggest that no votes were impacted by Russian intrusion is to defy common sense. If one mind was changed, if one voter was turned against Clinton, Russian interference altered the outcome.”

One mind, one voter. Many, many factors could have influenced a single vote, but that would not alter the outcome of the election. By only requiring one vote to have been changed, Daou makes it impossible by his absurd standard to deny the significance of Russian interference.

Of course nobody with integrity would make such an absurd claim.

Trump And Clinton Cannot Break Bad Habits, Repeating Past Mistakes

The 2016 presidential election featured two highly flawed candidates, with the mistakes made by Hillary Clinton leading to the fiasco of Donald Trump’s presidency. Both repeated the same types of mistakes this week which have already harmed their reputations.

Donald Trump’s presidency got off to a terrible start as he exaggerated the size of the crowd who turned out to his inauguration. With Hurricane Harvey changing the political winds, Trump tried to avoid the mistakes made by George Bush (not Barack Obama–who was not in office at the time of Katrina despite claims from some Trump supporters). Trump went to Houston after Harvey hit, and then promptly bragged about the size of the crowd who turned out to see him: “What a crowd, what a turnout.”

As Ari Fleischer, press secretary for George W. Bush, said, “There was something missing from what President Trump said ― I hope he’ll say it later today ― but that’s the empathy for the people who suffered. That, in my opinion, should have been the first thing he should have said was that his heart goes out to those people in Houston who are going through this and that the government is here to help them to recover from this.”

Just as Donald Trump cannot go beyond this type of tremendous egotism, Hillary Clinton cannot resist the opportunity to make a buck. She is pushing new limits in charges for those coming to her book signing, with a platinum VIP ticket selling for over $2000. She is handling her book tour like she did the position of Secretary of State in charging top dollar for access. She was further harmed by her greed as she postponed starting her campaign to fit in more paid speeches, was criticized for refusing to release the transcripts, and further embarrassed when Wikileaks revealed what she was said in those paid speeches. Now she is providing one answer to the question raised by her bookWhat Happened.

As Matt Taibbi wrote, after discussing how the Clintons cashed in on their political positions, “The Clintons probably should have left politics the moment they decided they didn’t care what the public thought about how they made their money.” In ignoring the likely reaction to how she is cashing in yet again, Hillary Clinton shows that she is no more capable than Donald Trump of changing.

Clinton Apologists Distort Poll Data To Make False Claim That Sanders Supporters Cost Clinton The Election

Hillary Clinton and her supporters have the irrational view that it makes sense to blame those who did not vote for her for her loss, failing to understand that this is how politics works. Any candidate can claim they would have won if enough people who did not vote for them had decided to vote for them, and it is the fault of the Democrats if they ran a candidate so terrible that she could not even beat Donald Trump. Clinton supporters are now twisting recently released polling data to blame supporters of Bernie Sanders for Clinton’s inability to beat Trump.

Some like Newsweek are running the data under the unsupported headline, Bernie Sanders Voter Helped Trump Win And Here’s Proof.  The Washington Post looks at the data more objectively under the title Did enough Bernie Sanders supporters vote for Trump to cost Clinton the election? They report that, “Two surveys estimate that 12 percent of Sanders voters voted for Trump. A third survey suggests it was 6 percent.”

The article further states, “the most important feature of Sanders-Trump voters is this: They weren’t really Democrats to begin with.” In other words, Bernie Sanders brought in non-Democratic voters, while Hillary Clinton could not win the support of these voters. This is a difference between Sanders and Clinton which we were well aware of during the primaries.

In looking at the voters who went from Sanders to Trump, also remember the PUMAs. This six to twelve percent of Sanders voters is rather small compared to the number of Clinton voters who voted for John McCain in the 2008 general election:

Another useful comparison is to 2008, when the question was whether Clinton supporters would vote for Barack Obama or John McCain (R-Ariz.) Based on data from the 2008 Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project, a YouGov survey that also interviewed respondents multiple times during the campaign, 24 percent of people who supported Clinton in the primary as of March 2008 then reported voting for McCain in the general election.

An analysis of a different 2008 survey by the political scientists Michael Henderson, Sunshine Hillygus and Trevor Thompson produced a similar estimate: 25 percent. (Unsurprisingly, Clinton voters who supported McCain were more likely to have negative views of African Americans, relative to those who supported Obama.)

Thus, the 6 percent or 12 percent of Sanders supporters who may have supported Trump does not look especially large in comparison with these other examples.

This certainly blows up the arguments of Clinton supporters based upon some expectation of party loyalty with more Clinton supporters than Sanders supporters going over to the Republicans.

I am actually not surprised by this. After all, Hillary Clinton’s views are far more in line with the Republicans than liberal/progressive Democrats. Many backed her based upon gender without any serious understanding of her views. Therefore a Republican ticket like McCain/Palin wouldn’t be very far from Clinton ideologically, and would allow them to vote for a female candidate. Core Sanders supporters are far more progressive than Clinton and those voting for a non-Democrat might  consider  candidates such as Jill Stein, but did not have a major party candidate who was similar to them ideologically as Clinton supporters did. This left a smaller number who would vote Republican in 2016.

On the other hand, the left/right political spectrum does not explain the choices of all voters. Again, this data shows that there were voters who Bernie Bernie Sanders could win away from the Republicans, but Hillary Clinton could not. This was one of the reasons Sanders would have made a better general election candidate.

The data in this poll alone does not prove that Sanders would have beaten Trump, but other data available does suggest this. Sanders typically polled about ten points better than Clinton in head to head polls against Republicans. Sanders did better in the rust belt states which cost Clinton the election in the electoral college. Sanders was not involved in scandals as Clinton was, and there were no emails which showed matters comparable to what was released about Clinton by Wikileaks. It makes no sense for Clinton supporters to blame James Comey, Wikileaks, and Russia for Clinton losing, but deny that not being affected by these matters would make Sanders a stronger general election candidate.

In an election this close, virtually any difference might have changed the election result–including perhaps Clinton not making the many mistakes she made throughout the campaign. If all the Sanders voters who voted for Trump had voted for Clinton she theoretically could have won. On the other hand, there  were even more people who voted for Obama in the previous election but voted for Trump.

As with the vast majority of election analyses I have read, they did not even look at the degree to which being a neoconservative war monger might have affected the actions of voters, with one study earlier this summer suggesting that it was her support for endless war which cost her the election. Despite his many faults, Trump did outflank Clinton on the left on both trade and foreign policy (although Trump was far too incoherent on foreign policy for many of us to consider backing him based upon this, even if we could have overlooked his racism and xenophobia).

The key factor in any analysis is not that something different might have allowed Clinton to win, but that running against a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, Clinton was so close that these factors allowed her to lose. If Clinton was running ten points better against Trump (as Sanders had), then Russia, James Comey, and even the loss of some votes to Trump would not have cost her the election. Barack Obama was able to win despite losing far more Clinton voters to Republicans because he was a stronger candidate to begin with.

Donald Trump is president because the Democrats picked a horrible candidate who then went on to run a terrible campaign. No amount of spinning poll results will change this.

DNC Paying A Price For Its Actions In 2016 As Contributions Fall

With all the hysteria about Russia, whose alleged meddling in the last election appears to be of little consequence, the media is ignoring the more serious case of rigging an election. The DNC used rules since the McGovern era, and then further altered the rules, to essentially clear the field for Hillary Clinton and try to prevent a successful challenge to her coronation. While there are no signs of serious reform at the DNC, it does look like they are paying for their actions when it comes to fund raising.

The New Republic has a story entitled Yes, Democrats Have a Fundraising Problem. Taking this further, Aaron Blake compared their situation to that of the RNC:

After a strong $12.2 million raised in March — the first full month of Perez’s chairmanship — fundraising has dried up considerably. The $4.7 million it raised in April was the lowest for that particular month since 2009. The $4.3 million raised in May was the worst for that month since 2003. And now the $3.8 million raised in July is the worst for any month since January 2009.

Notably, the DNC is also bleeding money rather than building up a war chest with which to fight the 2018 election. The DNC’s cash on hand has dropped from more than $10 million when Perez took over to less than $7 million today. The committee has also seen its debts rise to $3.4 million. Combining its cash on hand with its debt, the DNC was $7.4 million in the black shortly after Perez took over at the end of February and is now just $3.4 million in the black. [See chart above]

For comparison’s sake, here’s what the Republican National Committee’s balance sheet looks like this year. It has raised at least $9.5 million each month and carries no debt. Its cash on hand has risen from about $37 million in January to $47.1 million today — more than 13 times the net money that the DNC has available.

NBC News points out that, while the DNC is struggling to raise money, other Democratic groups are doing better–as would be expected in light of Donald Trump’s unpopularity:

But the DNC’s fundraising struggles make it the exception, not the norm, of Democratic groups in the Trump era, many of which have been inundated by donations from the energized liberal base.

On one hand, that’s grounds for relief among Democrats, who survey the big picture and conclude their causes and candidates — if not their official national party — will have plenty of money heading into the 2018 midterm elections and beyond. But on the other hand, it underscores that the challenges facing the DNC are endemic to the national party and severe enough to prevent its boat from being lifted in the rising tide of cash…

Several Democratic donors, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly, said they’re staying away from the national party, at least for now, because they’re not confident Perez has brought the organization back up to speed and think their money can have a bigger impact elsewhere…

The DNC has acknowledged they have rebuilding to do and that the party’s brand has been damaged after years of neglect and controversies, including its hacked emails — which led to top donor’s personal information being posted online — and its handling of the presidential primary process last year. Staffing had reached an all-time low when Perez took over about six months ago, and a new finance director and CEO didn’t start until earlier this summer.

It is hardly surprising that after the catastrophes of 2016, including how the DNC essentially rigged the nomination for a candidate so terrible that she could not even beat Donald Trump, people would be reluctant to donate to them. While opposition to Donald Trump will help the party short run, they also need to stand for something other than opposing whatever Republicans are in office if they are to truly rebuild. After all, during the Bush years they raised money by campaigning against George Bush, and then backed a neocon war monger in 2016 with essentially the same agenda which they previously opposed. They are further showing how they stand for little beyond trying to win elections as they argue over whether they should support anti-abortion candidates.

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

In follow up of my post yesterday on the McCarthyism we are seeing from many in the Democratic establishment in their attacks on the left, it is worth mentioning some signs of sanity from some Democrats. While it only applies to some, Politico has written that Democrats fear Russia probe blowback:

Democrats are increasingly conflicted about how forcefully to press the issue of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Fearful of alienating voters who appear more concerned about the economy and health care, Democrats campaigning in districts across the country are de-emphasizing Russia in their rhetoric — and some are warning that a persistent focus on the Russia investigation could backfire.

“In the races where I’m working, I think voters think that Russia is important and that the questions need to get answered,” Bill Burton, a veteran Democratic consultant, said at a political convention this past weekend. “But they’re mostly sick of hearing about it, and they want to hear politicians talk about things that are more directly important in their lives.”

…California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor, was even more direct in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The Russia investigation, he said, “doesn’t do anything for Democrats at all … It’s a loser.”

The problem for Democrats goes beyond this. While we do not know the final results or everything which Mueller has uncovered, based upon what has been released it increasingly looks like the Democrats have gone far beyond the facts in making this a political issue. While the Russians may have meddled to some degree in the election, the fact is that the Russians have attempted to meddle in our elections for decades–just as we have meddled in their elections and the elections of many other countries.

The arguments from Democrats fall apart when they try to blame Russia for Clinton’s loss. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes made by Clinton which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others. Russia did not force Clinton to ignore the rust belt states, or do a terrible job of campaigning there when she realized she was in trouble. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the rules in setting up her private server, and then repeatedly lie about it for months. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, and use her career in politics for personal financial gain. Russia did not force Clinton to take extreme pro-war positions and other conservative views which alienated many potential Democratic voters. 

While Donald Trump along with members of his family and campaign have had many suspicious actions involving Russia, there has been no evidence of successful collusion between them to impact the election. I have long believed that Trump’s actions were based more upon possible financial crimes and covering up activities of his family and associates. Last spring week former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in his Congressional testimony: “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results.” We have not seen anything to alter this.

While Donald Trump, Jr. showed he was not above meeting with Russians to attempt to affect the election, it turned out that Russia had nothing to offer. The closet thing we have to evidence that Russia might have attempted to hack the election showed that they were not successful. The stories of Jared Kushner seeking a back channel to communicate with Russia both suggests that this was over financial dealings, and raises the question as to why he would need to set up a back channel after the election if they had already been colluding with Russia.

There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia was responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if the investigations should show that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. The undemocratic manner in which a major political party picks its nominees is a far more serious threat to democracy than anything actually achieved by Russia.

Blaming Clinton’s loss on Russian propaganda on social media ignores the strong opposition to Clinton from many segments of the political spectrum and the large amount of anti-Clinton material which would be present independent of Russia. People on the left have opposed DLC Democrats like the Clintons since the 1990’s, and have opposed Clinton’s neoconservative interventionism since the Bush years, independent of any Russian influence. Russia certainly cannot be blamed for similar Democratic loses in 2010 and 2016 when they also performed poorly by running as a Republican-lite party. The real problem is that by copying the policies of Republicans, Democrats turn off many potential voters while failing to win over Republicans.

Politico is right that Democrats run the risk that they will not win elections based upon their anti-Russia hysteria because this is not the major concern of voters. Democrats face a greater risk that their initial claims might be shown to be unsubstantiated partisan claims, further damaging their credibility. In October, Hillary Clinton claimed that Donald Trump would be threatening democracy by not accepting the results of the election. Democrats now risk being held to Hillary Clinton’s own standards.

Clinton Plans On Doubling Down On Blaming Others For Her Loss In Upcoming Book

Republicans who hope to keep control of the House have received great news. They will still have Hillary Clinton to kick around. The Hill reports that Clinton is doubling down on her claims that she lost due to James Comey, Russia, and sexism rather than being  a terrible candidate who ran a terrible campaign:

Hillary Clinton’s new memoir will blame her 2016 presidential election loss on Russian interference and former FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that he was reopening the investigation into her emails.

Sources familiar with the memoir told the Hill that Clinton made the two scenarios cornerstones of her book, which will be released in September.

“She really believes that’s why she lost,” said a longtime Clinton ally. “She wants the whole story out there from her own perspective. I think a lot of people are going to be really surprised by how much she reveals.”

…While the book will zero in on Russia and Comey — which Clinton has said are the two biggest contributing factors to her loss — it will also examine other factors she blames for a role in her defeat, including sexism and misogyny.

Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book will double down on Russia’s interference and James Comey’s involvement in her stunning election defeat, according to sources familiar with the memoir.

Earlier this week I cited the opinion from FiveThirtyEight that having Clinton on the ballot hurt the Democrats in down ticket races. FiveThirtyEight expressed the view that not having Clinton on the ballot will  help Democrats in 2018. On the other hand, having her on a speaking tour promoting her book and her excuses for losing could be harmful to Democrats running. Clinton’s popularity has fallen even more than Trump’s since the election, and I suspect that Clinton’s blame tour to date has been part of the reason.

Some Democratic leaders are recognizing the problem:

Some Democrats are worried that their party’s goal of rebuilding and rebranding itself will be undermined by Clinton’s book.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) has publicly stated that Clinton should not blame anyone but herself and lack of messaging.

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things—Comey, Russia—you blame yourself,” Schumer told the Washington Post. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden has also criticized Clinton for her campaign.

“I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate,” he said in May.

“What happened was that this was the first campaign that I can recall where my party did not talk about what it always stood for—and that was how to maintain a burgeoning middle class,” Biden said in March.

“You didn’t hear a single solitary sentence in the last campaign about the guy working on the assembly line making $60,000 a year and a wife making $32,000 as a hostess,” he said.

Of course pushing Clinton’s candidacy on the country, which ultimately led to the election of Donald Trump, was the last stray in destroying the credibility of the Democratic establishment. As an op-ed in The New York Times notes, the real civil war in the Democratic party is “is between those willing to trust the existing establishment and those who want entirely new leadership.” (While Lee Drutman’s op-ed does make some good points here, he does underestimate how great an ideological gap also exists.)

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes on Clinton’s fault which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others

Clinton’s excuses are all very weak. In blaming James Comey, Clinton ignores the fact that James Comey would not have been investigating her in the first place if she had not grossly violated the rules regarding email and  hadn’t handled classified information in a careless manner. The investigation further hurt Clinton as Comey’s report demonstrated that she had repeatedly lied in her public statements about the matter. This gave further credence to her reputation of both seeing herself above the  law and of being dishonest. She further hurt herself when she repeatedly lied about what James Comey had reported.  Clinton’s violation of the rules regarding her use of the private server was confirmed to be in violation of the rules in effect in 2009 by the Obama administration State Department Inspector General Report. Fact checkers repeatedly showed that Clinton was lying about the email and Foundation scandals. Clinton’s credibility was also seriously harmed by the manner in which she grossly violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State.

Placing the blame on Russia does not hold up either. The evidence released so far has shown that Russia was not able to hack into the voting machines or change a single vote. There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia is responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if we accept the view that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. Again it comes down to Clinton losing due to her own major flaws.

Some of those who blame Russia have moved on to claims that Clinton was hurt by fake news spread from Russia. This ignores the vast amount of criticism of Clinton going back for years–including both factually accurate criticism along with bogus criticism from the right wing. The left has opposed the policies of the Clintons and DLC since the 1990’s. Views of Clinton were already set well before her nomination, and if any fake news did come from Russia, it would have been lost in the vast amount of noise already present on the internet.

While some undoubtedly would not vote for Clinton due to misogyny, these were primarily people who would never vote for any Democrat. Clinton was probably helped more than hurt by her gender among Democratic-leaning voters. A male candidate with Clinton’s repeated failures during her career, along with holding views more conservative than the Democratic base, would probably have only been a third-tier candidate with no chance of winning the nomination. Far too many Democrats overlooked Clinton’s serious flaws because of her gender.

Vox, A Voice Of The Democratic Establishment, Now Realizes That Bernie Sanders Is The Democrats’ Real 2020 Frontrunner

During the 2016 campaign, Matthew Yglesias and Vox were often seen as a voice for Hillary Clinton and “Neoliberal Corporatism.” It is with this background that I find it significant that Yglesias now proclaims that Bernie Sanders is the Democrats’ real 2020 frontrunner. While many establishment Democrats continue to resist Sanders and his supporters to various degrees, there are signs such as this that others are acknowledging this reality.

The post by Yglesias makes some points which I have made in the past, leaves out some things of significance, and does have some interesting material which Sanders supporters might not be aware of.

Yglesias does repeat a point I have made previously, both in the context of one reason why Sanders lost, along with an explanation for why Sanders went on to back Clinton and try to work with the establishment. It is important to understand how things looked before Sanders entered the race. Clinton’s nomination appeared inevitable and nobody (including Sanders) thought he had a chance. Sanders two main goals were to force Democrats to consider his economic views, and to strengthen his position in the party in order to push his priorities in the future. As Vox put it:

By the time it was clear the Sanders 2016 campaign had legs, it was already fatally hobbled. Almost no one believed in the summer and fall of 2015 that he stood any chance of beating Hillary Clinton — and that included Sanders himself. As Patrick Healy and Yamiche Alcindor reported last April, he “was originally skeptical that he could beat Mrs. Clinton, and his mission in 2015 was to spread his political message about a rigged America rather than do whatever it took to win the nomination” and only began to really focus on trying to win when his poll numbers unexpectedly soared in early 2016.

Consequently, labor leaders who sympathized with Sanders’s critique of Clinton didn’t give any serious thought to actually endorsing him. Instead, they used his presence in the race as leverage to extract concessions on issues like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Cadillac tax on high-value health insurance plans from Clinton.

And since Sanders was running to raise the profile of his issues rather than to win, he didn’t bother to develop much in the way of answers to foreign policy questions, even though Clinton’s record of support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and her hawkish instincts were some of her biggest vulnerabilities with the Democratic Party base.

Elected officials were almost uniformly afraid to endorse him, even if their policy views were closer to his than to Clinton’s, and left-of-center think tanks — including ones that are deliberately positioned to the left of mainstream Democrats ideologically — shied away from working with Sanders on policy development, for fear that Clinton’s wrath would destroy them if they did.

I would also add that the view that he could not win also affected Sanders’ early strategy. He continued to work in the Senate and initially only campaigned part time. If he realized how close the campaign would be he might have campaigned more in 2015, including going to the Super Tuesday states and work earlier to increase minority support. He might also have protested more about the lack of early debates, and made an issue out of Clinton’s scandals.

The lack of early debates also brings up another point which Yglesias ignored–the degree to which the nomination was rigged for Clinton from the start. There was undoubtedly pressure to clear the field for her, and Wikileaks made it clear that the DNC was not following their own rules about neutrality. This has further been confirmed in the class action lawsuit against the DNC.

Rules since McGovern, including Super Delegates and front loading the process with southern states, were specifically written to get a more conservative nominee. The irony is that they failed to change with the times, and these rules gave the Democrats a nominee who could not even beat Donald Trump, while harming a strong general election candidate such as Sanders when he did arise.

Rather than reverse the outdated rules, the Democrats instead altered the rules even further in 2016 to help Clinton. This included limiting debates, changing fund raising rules, and refraining from announcing the popular vote in Iowa, which Sanders probably won, as was done in 2008. Harry Reid’s actions in Nevada, at a time when he claimed to be neutral, also helped tilt the race towards Clinton. Despite the primary process, Hillary Clinton was chosen in back rooms by the Democratic establishment in 2016 in a manner which was little different than how parties picked their nominees in the proverbial smoke filled rooms in the past, ultimately costing the Democrats the election.

Things will be different in 2020. Yglesias also points to how Sanders is building a team to expand upon the issues he raised in 2008. As I noted again yesterday, among the major reasons I supported Sanders were his opposition to the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, as opposed to the major issues he campaigned on. A future campaign will hopefully include these issues. Yglesias wrote:

Earlier this year, Sanders — who doesn’t sit on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, or Intelligence Committees — quietly added to his team Matt Duss, a veteran Middle East analyst known for looking askance at America’s tendency toward uncritical alliance with Saudi Arabia and Israel. It’s a clear sign that Sanders, who had a keen interest in left-wing foreign policy as mayor of Burlington but hasn’t had much of a profile on the issue in Congress, is serious about being able to play competently on the full spectrum of issues.

Sanders also picked up Ari Rabin-Havt, best known in recent years for his Sirius XM radio show but previously an adviser for Harry Reid in his early years as Democrats’ Senate leader.

While Sanders is deepening his team in Washington, his national political organization Our Revolution is diligently working to get Sanders supporters elected to state and local offices. Critically, the list of Our Revolution winners — a group that includes House members, state legislators, state party chairs, and even city council members — is quite ethnically diverse. His camp is aware that 2016’s African-American outreach strategy was flawed in both concept and execution, and he’s setting himself up to be able to count on black and Latino elected officials from all regions of the country as surrogates while also courting national leaders like the NAACP’s William Barber.

Yglesias also says that Sanders is moderating his views, but if true he does remain well to the left of Hillary Clinton. While Clinton campaigned against single payer health care, Sanders continues to push for Medicare-for-all. I cannot disagree with Yglesias when he points out that Sanders’ age could be a problem in 2020. We will have to wait and see if he is still up to running. The post did look at other possible candidates should Sanders not run, concluding by saying that “Among the Bernie faithful the most frequently named fallback candidate isn’t the well-known Warren or labor-liberal warhorse Sherrod Brown. It’s Nina Turner…”

Yglesias ended with a strong argument that “It’s time to take Bernie Sanders seriously”

The Democratic Party establishment is, in many respects, in worse shape than it realizes.

Sanders’s insurgent campaign revealed a Democratic Party electorate that is fairly eager to embrace an ideological champion as a progressive counterpoint to the decidedly conservative GOP. The notion of pragmatism continues to carry weight, but having lost control of all three branches of the federal government and blundered to a point where Democrats don’t control the state Senate in New York or the governor’s mansion in Illinois, party leaders’ credentials as strategic masterminds are in question.

Last but by no means least, relying on African-American voters as a bulwark against left-wingery, as Clinton did, is tenuous as black views on economic policy are generally quite left-wing. Democrats now rely heavily for votes on the large — and very Democratic-leaning — millennial generation that lacks clear political memories of the Cold War or the booming neoliberal economy of the 1990s, so “socialism” isn’t a scare word for them, even as it remains unpopular nationally.

Sanders became their champion over the course of 2016 and continues to hold that status now. But while in 2016 he faced a unified — and intimidating — opponent and launched with a ramshackle campaign, today he has a strong national political organization, a proven fundraising track record, and is moving decisively to address his weak points on international affairs, policy development, and minority outreach. Everyone agrees that in a perfect world he’d also wave a magic wand and scrape 10 or 15 years off his age, but that’s not possible. The movement he’s created lacks an obviously more compelling successor, and he continues to be broadly popular with the public.

Predicting the future is a mug’s game. But if Bernie Sanders runs again, he’ll be hard to beat. And as far as one can tell, he’s doing everything you would do to set yourself up to run again.

While I often disagreed with Yglesias during the 2016 campaign, this is a far more realistic viewpoint than he expressed previously, and far more realistic than the delusional account of the race which Peter Daou posted on Facebook today.

New York Times Corrects False Claim of Seventeen Intelligence Agencies Agreeing That Russia Hacked DNC

Hillary Clinton and her supporters have often claimed that all seventeen intelligence organizations have agreed that Russia is responsible for hacking the DNC email. A correction at The New York Times highlights how this claim of unanimous agreement is false:

A White House Memo article on Monday about President Trump’s deflections and denials about Russia referred incorrectly to the source of an intelligence assessment that said Russia orchestrated hacking attacks during last year’s presidential election. The assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.

Robert Parry notes that this claim had already been debunked, with the assessment appearing like politicized intelligence similar to the claims of WMD under George Bush:

The reality of a more narrowly based Russia-gate assessment was admitted in May by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan in sworn congressional testimony.

Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community,” the former DNI said.

Clapper further acknowledged that the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 assessment on alleged Russian hacking were “hand-picked” from the CIA, FBI and NSA.

Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided report that they did..

CIA Director William Casey and Deputy Director Robert Gates shepherded the desired findings through the process by putting the assessment under the control of pliable analysts and sidelining those who objected to this politicization of intelligence.

The point of enlisting the broader intelligence community – and incorporating dissents into a final report – is to guard against such “stove-piping” of intelligence that delivers the politically desired result but ultimately distorts reality.

Another painful example of politicized intelligence was President George W. Bush’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD that removed State Department and other dissents from the declassified version that was given to the public.

Despite being debunked in the testimony by James Clapper, the claim of seventeen intelligence agencies agreeing continued to be widely repeated. The correction by The New York Times is a step in the right direction. Now we will wait for a retraction of the unsubstantiated claims reported by Russia Maddow on MSNBC.

The release of DNC email on Wikileaks, regardless of source, provided factual information which nobody has disputed about dishonesty on the part of Hillary Clinton, and the DNC violating their rules regarding being impartial in the nomination process.

Earlier this month Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in his Congressional testimony: “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results.”

Russia Not Working As Political Issue For Democrats

It looks like, unless new evidence should arise, the Democrats need to change their strategy of counting on attacks against Donald Trump based upon Russia to improve their political fortunes.  A  Harvard-Harris Poll reported by The Hill shows that sixty-two percent believe that there is no hard evidence of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia to alter the results of the election.

This does not mean there is no concern over the issue: “On the question of collusion, 52 percent said they don’t believe Trump coordinated with Moscow to influence the 2016 presidential election. But 54 percent said they believe Trump’s associates may have been involved.”

There are results in this poll which both supporters and opponents of Trump would be happy with. It does appear from this and other polls that a majority think that Congress should be dealing with other issues but do support the investigation by Robert Mueller:

Fifty-six percent of voters said it’s time for Congress and the media to move on to other issues, compared to 44 percent who said the focus should stay on Russia.

But other surveys have found strong support for the special counsel investigating the Russia probe. A Harvard-Harris survey released last month found 75 percent support for former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s investigation.

There is evidence in the Harvard-Harris survey that voters are taking the investigations seriously: Fifty-eight percent say they’re concerned by allegations of obstruction of justice against Trump, with the same number worried about possible dealings between Trump and the Russian government.

I have to disagree with the majority here. Considering what the Republican Congress is likely to do if not distracted by Russia, such as the terrible health care bill, I think that anything which interferes with the Republicans in pursing their agenda is a good thing. Plus there is  benefit to a Congressional investigation in addition to an investigation by a special counsel. An investigation by a special counsel is centered on actions which can lead to prosecution, and the details of their investigation might never become public. A Congressional investigation can be involved with investigation of all pertinent acts, including potentially unethical behavior which might not lead to actual indictment, and such a report should be made public. Of course there are also concerns regarding the reliability of any Congressional investigation with a Republican majority.

At this time there is far more evidence of possible obstruction of justice and potential financial irregularities than of collusion to tamper with the election results.It is also doubtful that Russia actually had any meaningful impact on the election. Earlier this week Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in his Congressional testimony: “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results.”

Russia remains suspected of being responsible for hack of DNC material leaked by Wikileaks but this only led to the release of information about Clinton and the DNC which was already widely suspected, and often already demonstrated by other sources. The alleged fake news and other propaganda attacks from Russia were probably trivial compared to all the noise already present in the media and on line. The claims of some Clinton supporters that anti-Clinton sentiment was a creation of Russian propaganda totally ignores the strong opposition to the Clintons on both the right and left which existed long before Russia allegedly tried to tamper in the election results. Russia certainly is not responsible for numerous bad decisions made by Clinton and her campaign which contributed to her loss. Shattered revealed that Hillary Clinton developed the strategy of blaming Russia for her defeat withing twenty four hours of her loss.

In the investigations of Donald Trump and his administration, obstruction of justice and  financial impropriety currently look  like a much more significant avenue for investigation than collusion to alter the election results. It is also worthwhile to look at any risks of future hacking of elections, regardless of source, to improve cyber-security in the future. If they want to break their current losing streak, Democrats also need to develop a better strategy than talking about Russia and avoiding principles.

Trump Supporter Roger Stone Forming Coalition To Push For Legalizing Marijuana

As has been the case with other issues, Donald Trump has been inconsistent in his statements and actions related to marijuana. One longtime adviser, Roger Stone, plans to work with people of various political ideologies to push for legalization of marijuana. Another goal is to have marijuana rescheduled to Schedule I so that it can be prescribed by doctors. Business Insider reports:

Longtime Trump adviser and staunch conservative Roger Stone has a new mission: legalizing marijuana nationwide.

Stone announced on Friday at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo in New York the formation of the bipartisan United States Cannabis Coalition, an advocacy group with the express purpose of protecting state’s rights to legalize and regulate marijuana…

“I am going to be working with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats, progressives and libertarians, liberals, and conservatives to persuade the president to keep his campaign pledge,” Stone said in a talk on Friday, “and to remind the president that he took a strong and forthright position on this issue in the election.”

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura will join Stone in the advocacy group, as well as a host of both Republican and Democrat political strategists.

Stone pointed to the decreased rates of incarceration for low-level drug offenses and opioid-related overdoses in states that have legalized marijuana, along with the boon in tax revenue and job creation.

During the campaign, Trump told The Washington Post that legalizing marijuana should be a “state issue,” and he expressed “100%” support for medical marijuana in an interview with Bill O’Reilly in 2016…

Trump hasn’t been friendly to marijuana since he took office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a noted opponent of marijuana legalization, and he asked Congress in recent days to roll back federal protections for medical marijuana.

The protections in question, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, directs the Department of Justice to refrain from spending money to enforce federal medicinal marijuana laws.

Sessions has also called for a review of a 2013 directive from the Obama Administration, known as the Cole Memo, which stipulates that the Justice Department place “low priority” on enforcing marijuana laws against businesses and organizations that comply with state law.

“In all honesty it’s time for [President Trump] to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to cut the shit,” Stone added.

Stone also called out Homeland Secretary John Kelly, who has called for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana.

Geek.com has more, but prefaced this with a look at Stone’s record:

Roger Stone is bad. This is known.

The depths of the veteran Republican strategist’s consummate shittiness are like a rotting onion. Layer upon layer of dirty political tricks and cons from a conspiracy theorist and serial liar who has found his way behind the scenes into most of the major political controversies and scandals of the past 40-plus years. The Nixon acolyte been allegedly involved in everything from Watergate and the 2000 Florida recount to the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal and of course, his decades-long friendship and association with President Donald Trump (and alleged back-channel involvement with WikiLeaks in the current Russian hacking scandal).

Stone has routinely made racist, sexist, and Islamophobic statements in public and on Twitter, which led to a ban from appearing as a commentator on CNN and MSNBC. Stone showed up to President Trump’s inauguration in an outfit that can only be described as 19th-century robber baron Mr. Peanut meets Oswald Cobblepot. He has a website called the Stone Zone. These trifles alone are irrevocable proof of his objective shittiness.

Nonetheless, Roger Stone may be one of our best hopes for marijuana legalization in this the Year Of Our Lord 2017…at least while Donald Trump is still running the show.

This is an issue which crosses party lines, as Stone himself noted when he praised Bernie Sanders and chastised Hillary Clinton, who has also been a hard line opponent of ending marijuana prohibition and was the most conservative candidate on the issue during the last presidential campaign:

“I’ve looked, I can’t find Hillary Clinton ever coming out for the legalization of cannabis, and this astounds me. I salute Bernie Sanders because he had the courage to say it. I salute Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein; they had the courage to say it. Donald Trump had the courage to stand up for medical marijuana on a states’ rights basis. Where was Hillary?”

While Stone was right that Clinton was too conservative on this (along with other social/cultural issues), Donald Trump has not done any better in turning the matter over to others who are conservative on the issue. It is unknown whether Stone has enough influence on Trump to change this. His description of the political spectrum is also flawed:

“The essence of old-fashioned Barry Goldwater-style conservatism is I don’t want the government telling me what I can smoke,” said Stone. “To me, when the government tells you how to live, what you can ingest, well that’s the essence of big government liberalism, which I oppose.”

His claim of “big government liberalism” being on the other side of the issue might apply to some liberals, but in general polls have shown that liberals are more likely than conservatives to support legalization. Fortunately Stone does understand this enough to be forming an alliance with liberals along with conservatives and libertarians.