Hillary Clinton about 2008: “Eventually I just decided I had to withdraw”


Sunday, May 1 (May Day):

CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, Tapper interviewing Secretary Clinton, established two points. First, in spite of polls showing widespread doubt about Clinton’s honesty, Clinton still tends to make recklessly inaccurate statements in public venues. Second, Clinton and strategist Karen Finney suggested no particular place for Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic national convention. They offered no specific suggestions as to how Sanders delegates might contribute.

To the first point, this pick-up line from Clinton:

“There comes a time when you have to look at the [realities],” Clinton said. “In fact, in ’08 I was much closer in both popular vote and pledged delegates to Sen. Obama than is the case right now, but eventually I just decided that I had to withdraw and support Sen. Obama because the goal was to make sure we had a Democrat in the White House.”

The statement is posted at CNN.com. Clinton actually said that in 2008, she “eventually just decided I had to withdraw.” Link here. The interview was taped Friday (April 29).

Tapper had asked Clinton whether she was the presumptive nominee, as Trump styles himself. She demurred but said appropriately that she is on the path to the nomination.

But leaving behind the appropriate and dignified, again to the fore comes Clinton’s compulsion to overreach. It wasn’t enough for her just to tell Tapper that she was ahead, and that she hoped for party unity. Asked about the 2008 campaign, she had to rewrite history. In actual fact, Clinton did not ‘withdraw’ from the 2008 Democratic primary until June. In fact, she did not withdraw; she lost. The comments below from National Public Radio on June 5, 2008, are representative:

“From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I’m Robert Siegel.

This Saturday, Hillary Clinton will concede – maybe. She’s expected to congratulate Barack Obama on winning the Democratic nomination. But there have been mixed messages from Clinton’s campaign and she is not planning to release her delegates.

NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON: Senator Clinton’s behavior since Obama clinched the nomination has some of her strongest supporters worried that she is undermining Obama at a historic moment that should be his to savor. Congressman Charlie Rangel is the dean of Clinton’s own state delegation in the House.

Representative CHARLES RANGEL (Democrat, New York): The New York congressional delegation are with her to the end, but we thought the end was the end.

LIASSON: The end Rangel meant was Tuesday night [June 3, 2008], when Clinton delivered what many Democrats are calling her less-than-gracious non-concession speech. To give you an idea how much anguish this has caused even her most loyal supporters, listen to Bill Galston, a former top aide in Bill Clinton’s White House.

Mr. BILL GALSTON: I was an early supporter and remain supportive of her candidacy as long – as long as there – the candidacy was at stake. Having said that – how to put this? This is really hard for me. She’s not doing either herself or Senator Obama any favors.”

The issue in 2008 went beyond a less-than-gracious concession speech. As previously written, one Clinton campaign tactics in 2008 was to keep referencing the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy as proof that anything can happen in an election.

It can hardly be expected that Clinton would bring up that issue in a Sunday morning interview. Still, she could have refrained from egregious distortion.

Other parts of Clinton’s statement above may be more colorable but also are problematic. The timeline of the 2008 election shows that on May 1, 2008, Sen. Clinton did indeed have more delegates than Bernie Sanders has now. However, she also had to lend her campaign $1 million of her own money. (On April 29, she had come on ABC saber-rattling against Iran.) A few days later (May 5) she lent her campaign another $425K.

The first week of May was big in 2008. On May 5, Clinton’s campaign argued that the total needed to win nomination should be 200 additional delegates, an attempt to move the goalposts. On May 7, Clinton reminded audiences about the killing of RFK in 1968 once in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and once in Washington, D.C. (There is no evidence that the times recorded are the only occasions Clinton used this talking point. It was and is a delicate item for reporters.) On May 8, she told USA Today that “Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans is weakening.” She later walked back the comment. She is now walking back her “off the reservation” comment about Trump or others, used as the tease by CNN this morning.

Less colorful but also problematic

Other statements Clinton and her strategist Karen Finney, in today’s CNN round table, could raise concern. Clinton said early, in response to questions about working with Sanders, that she looks forward to working with Sanders “in the lead-up to the convention” and “in the lead-up to the platform.” If this phrasing was more carefully chosen than some of her other comments, it does not suggest much place for Senator Sanders and his delegates in Philadelphia.

In the CNN round table, Sanders strategist Jeff Weaver reiterated that Sanders will stay in the race until the Democratic convention. Finney’s comments paralleled Clinton’s. While making nice to Sanders in general terms, Finney refrained from specifics. She referred to “conversations” with Sanders about “what he thinks is important for the platform.” Finney suggested that Clinton agrees with Sanders broadly on his positions, or some positions, but has different approaches as to “how we get there.”

None of this raises hope that Sanders supporters will be part of the national conversation, from the perspective of the Clinton campaign in 2016.

Clinton on convention platform

Back to the “I just decided I had to withdraw” line —

Clinton’s insistence on rewriting history is the more baffling for being so unnecessary. Virtually any candidate could have put the same thing better. A witty, self-deprecating Barack Obama or Jack Kennedy might have made a joke out of it. “Eventually, after going down [xxx] delegates after that last primary, I just decided to withdraw. Primaries aren’t everything.”

Something along those lines. But for Hillary Clinton, the way to sum up the 2008 primary–which she lost decisively–is with an insinuation that she withdrew voluntarily. There was no follow-up question about ’08.

Yet the Clinton allies fret about media coverage, and about that persistent perception of untruthfulness.

[Edited slightly from morning post]

 

 

 

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Hillary Clinton on using other people’s words (2008)


There is a great Saturday Night Live parody of Hillary Clinton literally turning into Bernie Sanders:

(Video clips of the hilarious skit are widely available on the Internet, here and here among other places.)

Now let’s get back to that topic of amnesia about 2008.

On Thursday, February 21, in the 2008 campaign, Senator Hillary Clinton leveled a singular accusation against Senator Barack Obama.

From transcripts:

“SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That’s, I think, a very simple proposition. (Applause.) And you know — you know, lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in; it’s change you can Xerox. And I just don’t think —

SEN. OBAMA: Oh, but that — that’s not what happened there —

SEN. CLINTON: No, but — you know, but Barack, it is, because if — you know, if you look — (jeers from the audience) — if you look — if you look — if you look at the YouTube of these videos, it does raise questions.”

The exchange attracted some attention on the campaign trail, although with less than success than the Clinton campaign presumably hoped. As discussed by anchor Lloyd Robertson on CTV Television the same night,

LLOYD ROBERTSON: And the two Democratic contenders for the U.S. Presidential nomination struck a few sparks tonight during a debate in the crucial state of Texas. At one point the moderator asked Senator Barack Obama how he responded to charges from Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign that he was guilty of plagiarizing a speech by the Governor of Massachusetts. Obama pointed out that the governor, Demal Patrick, was a co chair of his campaign.

BARACK OBAMA  (Democratic Presidential Candidate): The notion that I had plagiarized from somebody who was one of my national co chairs, who gave me the line and suggested that I use it I think is silly.

Less pointed than the criticism itself is the remarkable fact that it came from Hillary Clinton, who is now going around trying to sound like Elizabeth Warren.

As I wrote in 2008, as a feminist I would like to vote for a woman for president. But the fundamental problems with Mrs. Clinton remain exactly the same now, as then, including her ability to say nice-sounding things, good things, and then to turn around and either do the opposite or use her language as a smokescreen for economic rapacity.

Quite simply, this is a candidate who has never marched in the vanguard for economic justice. She is still GOP Lite, the Republicans’ stop-loss candidate, as Mr. Koch’s recent comments confirm.

As fallible human beings, we all fall short of perfect truth. But Mrs. Clinton carries a pleasant, complacent deceitfulness into pathology territory, like a spouse in denial. She can sound so nice that, at least when she feels relatively comfortable, she resembles some of the moms you remember from the PTA, down to earth, reasonably sensible–and then she trots out a line about the other candidate that turns out to be either exactly the reverse of true, or far more applicable to herself.

Take for example her habit, or pattern, of accusing others of exactly her own problems, like the accusation that Obama was using someone else’s words, or the (dog-whistle) harping on Obama’s alleged inexperience. There was also her other jaw-dropping line on Barack Obama in 2008:

“Well, you know, Senator Obama, it is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you, because you never take responsibility for any vote, and that has been a pattern.”

As I wrote back then, I never did think this was a particularly good read on Obama, whose positions generally come across as measured and rational–well thought out, in other words.

The criticism applies better to the Clintons. Clinton’s vote for George Bush’s war is the perfect example. The public overwhelmingly recognizes that the Iraq resolution gave Bush the cover he needed to invade Iraq. But did Mrs. Clinton acknowledge that? No, her version of the story was that she voted for the war in order to rein in Bush.

As for Bill Clinton, he is rapidly becoming the epicenter of defensiveness. In this election cycle, he has spoken to audiences as though he thinks the Iraq War should not even be brought up. As I wrote in the 2008 election, Bill Clinton is now (again) lumbering around testy and blustering, bullying reporters and blaming the media for his wife’s problematic candidacy. The main difference is that President Clinton was red-faced in 2008 and is pale and thin now.

This is not a matter of appearances. It’s the conduct that is unbecoming. And yet the Clintons themselves seem to feel little doubt that Bill Clinton is adored wherever he goes. (The grain of truth in this representation is that, as in 2008, the Clintons fare better with audiences and voters in communities with less access to the Internet. In 2008, Hillary Clinton did better with seniors, as she does to some extent now, in some regions. In 2016, she often does better with African-Americans–especially in the Deep South states with the widest racial disparity in Internet access.)

Back to Mrs. Clinton’s own career. To recap: she was a good student in college and at Yale Law; flunked the bar exam; moved to Arkansas and re-took the bar exam there; passed. Married Bill Clinton, who became Arkansas’ attorney general and then governor for several terms, after an early loss.

Her law career in Arkansas? Her law career was as the governor’s wife. Look where she worked. For all Mrs. Clinton’s high-sounding rhetoric about ‘fighting for us’, ‘standing up to the NRA’, etc., did she take a low-paying public-service job in the Public Defender’s office? No. Did she go to work as an Assistant District Attorney, fighting crime? No. Welfare or Child Services? No. Did she work as a labor lawyer, helping organizers in Arkansas? Pursue corporate malefactors for workplace abuses or environmental abuses? Sexual harassment? Get real. This is no Norma Rae. Mrs. Clinton went for a ‘good’ job, a job she got as a pol’s wife,  in the most established law firm in Arkansas. (For perspective, check out statistics on the employment situation for most young adults with first-professional degrees in the late 1970s.)

Back to February, 2008 —

By the way, what Obama had said was,

“We are going to rid the tax code of these loopholes and giveaways. We’re going to stop giving a penny of your money to anybody who ships a job out of Texas, Ohio or anywhere else to another country. We’re certainly going to begin to get the tax code to reflect what the needs of middle class families are, so we can rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class.”

Surely every Obama voter, including this one, believes that we would be better off if these goals had been achieved. But they have been obstructed, to the last syllable, by Republicans in Congress and out. And they were never boosted successfully, or effectively, by the Clintons or by Hillary Clinton’s top allies. The globe-trotting Clintons have been considerably more engaged in reaping big bucks abroad than in keeping American jobs at home.

In hindsight, it looks as though Clinton’s accusation of plagiarizing was basically an indirect attack on Obama’s statement itself. She couldn’t outright come out and oppose keeping jobs at home or getting rid of corporate giveaways in the tax code. But she could signal indirectly, to interested donors, that she had her mind on other things.

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Defeat amnesia: More on Hillary Clinton comments in 2008


More on Hillary Clinton in 2008–

The previous blog (Friday, April 15) was a reminder of Senator Hillary Clinton’s 2008 comments on assassination. Specifically, she instanced as the reason for her staying in the 2008 race the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968. As a parallel to the effect of that tragic event on the 1968 race, she said that her husband had won his race in 1992 in June.

Below is some of the discussion–just some of it–stemming from Clinton’s repeated remark. The commentary quoted below, while trenchant,  is only the tip of the iceberg. Moreover, as I wrote previously, Clinton had actually made the same reference several times before on the campaign trail. It was her using the explicit word “assassination” in a conversation with a newspaper’s editorial board that had such impact in May, 2008.

There are a few concerns here. One is the series of shifting and implausible explanations Clinton gave for her remarks; see below. Another is her not apologizing to the other candidates–Senators Barack Obama and John McCain–who had a vested interest in the remarks. (She rushed to apologize to the Kennedys.) There is a strong concern about a presidential candidate’s referring to assassination in a heated race; see below. And last, there is the strong possibility that many newer voters this year have never been informed about the character Clinton displayed as candidate in 2008.

From transcripts

May 23, 2008: Fox News Network: FOX SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRIT HUME 6:00 p.m. EST:

“(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

Clinton then apologized–to the Kennedy family–for her remarks:

“I was referencing those to make the point that we have had nominations, primary contests that go into June. That’s historic fact, and I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation, and particularly for the Kennedy family, was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

“BAIER: The first video there was Hillary Clinton talking to a South Dakota newspaper editorial board, where, as you heard, she mentioned the assassination in 1968.

The second video, an apology late this afternoon, scrambling before cameras, after the Barack Obama campaign put out this quote:

“Senator Clinton’s statement before the editorial board was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign,” Bill Burton, campaign spokesman.”

I am not always a fan of the political coverage on Fox. But this was one occasion when Fox News commentators got it right:

“KRAUTHAMMER: It was an amazing gaffe. She has spoken in the past about how about in ’68 and ’92 the campaigns have gone on long into June, but she had never uttered the word “assassination.” And the reason is that you don’t in presidential campaigns.

We all worry about it, and we worry about it in particular when you have the first African-American candidate who can be the president.

And that’s not a paranoid fascinating. You remember that Colin Powell was on a wave of support in 1996, and thinking of running. According to Bob Woodward, his wife Alma had said that he could not run, and, in fact, Woodward writes that she had said she would leave him if he ran for one reason–she thought he would be assassinated.

We have a history of that in our country. It was obviously on the Powells’ mind, and it is in the back of people’s minds today. And you worry about it. Whenever you see a presidential candidate wade into a crowd, everybody worries about it.

But for her to say the word is astonishing. I have to attribute it to fatigue, exhaustion, because raising it in this context is really toxic. She had to come out and apologize immediately. But I think it resonates.

BAIER: There are people out there, obviously, Nina, who will say she has said this line a million times. Today she used the assassination. Why?”

Note the point made by Bret Baier in passing–that Clinton had made the same reference often before. (This time, she made it unavoidably explicit.) The suggestion is borne out in further commentary:

“NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “FORTUNE MAGAZINE”: There are some people who are speculating that she did this purposely, which is, I think, insane, because it was so politically stupid, why would she do that?

I think probably what it was was a bit of a curtain raiser for us on her private conversations, as in things could happen. This is why she’ll stay in this race and why her husband Bill is encouraging her to stay in the race, because things could happen.

But I agree with Charles, the idea of mentioning the word “assassination.” We know that Barack Obama has been subject to threats. He has been under secret service protection for more than a year now because of that.

It’s a troubling kind of link to make, and it probably doesn’t help her standing with the Obama campaign.”

On May 23, 2008, from a different place on the political spectrum, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann hosted similar perspectives:

“KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

At Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for the first time, Senator Hillary Clinton actually invokes the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968 as a reason for her not to drop out of the race with Senator Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON,  (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?

We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Why in the name of all that all of us hold dear, would anybody ever say anything like this? Can she in good conscious continue in the race for president after having said anything like this? Is her political career at an end?

An official statement from Senator Clinton`s campaign: “She was simply referencing her husband in 1992 and Bobby Kennedy in 1968 as historic examples of the nominating contest going well into the summer. Any, any reading into it beyond that is inaccurate.”

Howard Fineman on the extraordinary statement and its ramifications for Senator Clinton and her presidential bid. Jonathan Alter on why — even if it were appropriate – she would say it, since it`s not like the sudden retirement or incapacity of a candidate, would mean the Democrats would simply not run anybody.

And a Special Comment: This time Senator Clinton, you have gone too far.”

Olbermann makes a good point on the lack of internal logic in Clinton’s comment: hypothetically anything could happen, but the hypothetical event would not necessarily change everything. The historical event in 2008 was that no presidential candidate before had done what Clinton did.

“OLBERMANN: Obviously, the operative word here is assassination. She used it at least once before, as a historical marker to time two months ago, but all the references since to, even timing — to even Robert Kennedy`s death had avoided that word. That word is a third rail word in American politics, is it not?

FINEMAN: It sure is. And it shocked her today and shocked the world of the campaign. I`ve been on the phone and blackberrying (ph) with leaders on both camps and elsewhere. And you saw Hillary Clinton in that supermarket there looking kind of dazed herself. I think she realized that she had done something here that`s going to be very hard to repair.

Even though David Axelrod, the leader of the Obama campaign told me in similar words, he said, “Look, I assume she didn`t mean anything here. You know, it`s too dark a thought to think otherwise.”

As pointed out in Friday’s post, Clinton’s examples (1968 and 1992) were not good examples in the first place. If Hillary Clinton was going to defend long primary seasons, she had better examples:

“She could have cited 1984 or 1988, Mike Dukakis, she could have even talk about Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford battling it out to the floor of the convention in Kansas City in 1976. And she`s got something on her mind there that, I think, has troubled a lot of people somehow.”

Olbermann was among commentators (and others) who noticed that Clinton addressed her apology of sorts to the Kennedys, not to Obama or to the public:

“OLBERMANN: She also apologized for it when she did, an apology might be too strong a term. She expressed her regrets, specifically to the Kennedy family, but not to Senator Obama,  not to Senator McCain, who was another candidate in this race while this term is out there. Does that not seem to have left even the regret`s part of the job sort of half done?

FINEMAN: Well, it was a double pass there, Keith. She not only didn`t actually apologize to the Kennedy family, she said, “If somebody is upset about it, then I`m sorry.” And, of course, she completely avoided the main subject here, which is the notion that she somehow even inadvertently or somehow subconsciously in some weird way, was bringing up the possibility that there might be some cataclysmic change – you know, event in the campaign here like that.

So, she didn`t – she seems constitutionally incapable of just saying — I screwed up. And her sort of lead footedness about this here is being observed by all the people who are still undecided about whom to back.”

Clinton in 2008

Again, aside from the graver issues, there is that off-the-mark choice of 1968 and 1992 in the first place. The horse race was different then:

“OLBERMANN: Yes. Howard made a great point. The other practical political issue in this, the invoking of the assassination of RFK in June as a landmark, as a fixed time in the process, or even her husband clinching in June of 1992 — it`s apples and oranges historically, isn`t it? Because in `92, the Iowa caucuses were on the 10th of February; in 1968, New Hampshire was March 12th. June then is not June now.

ALTER: Right. The other thing that`s really important to understand is the first part of her answer where she referred to her husband, that somehow, like he didn`t clinch the nomination until June of 1992 is preposterous. He had had the nomination wrapped up for weeks by that point. Now, because California didn`t vote until June, as a technical matter, he wasn`t over the top, but the race was long since over.”

RFK in 1968

Olbermann’s special comment was forceful. Here, in part:

“She actually said those words.

Those words, Senator?

You actually invoked the nightmare of political assassination?

You actually invoked the specter of an inspirational leader, at the seeming moment of triumph for himself and a battered nation yearning to breathe free, silenced forever?

You actually used the word “assassination” in the middle of a campaign with a loud undertone of racial hatred — and gender hatred — and political hatred?

You actually used the word “assassination” in a time when there is a fear, unspoken but vivid and terrible, that our again-troubled land and fractured political landscape might target a black man running for president?

Or a white man.

Or a white woman!

You actually used those words, in this America, Senator, while running against an African-American man against whom the death threats started the moment he declared his campaign?

You actually used those words, in this America, Senator, while running to break your “greatest glass ceiling” and claiming there are people who would do anything to stop you?”

Moving back rightward on the spectrum, on May 25, 2008, Fox News’ Chris Wallace addressed Clinton’s comments. Wallace interviewed Terry McAuliffe, chair of the Clinton campaign, who of course denied that there was anything dark in Clinton’s line of thought. Here in part:

“MR. WALLACE: I want to ask you a couple of questions, then I’m going to get off this.

When Governor Huckabee made a bad joke at the NRA about someone pointing a gun at Obama, he immediately apologized and he personally called Obama to say he was sorry. Has Senator Clinton personally called Obama?

MCAULIFFE: No, and nor should she. Let’s be very clear. I will say this again.

This has nothing to do with Senator Obama. This was all about Hillary Clinton, her campaign, Chris, and her timeline.

WALLACE: But given the fact that people have been so offended, wouldn’t it make sense for her simply to call and say, hey, listen, if this caused you any heartburn, I’m sorry?

MCAULIFFE: Chris, I don’t why you’re saying everyone’s offended. The press corps, it’s a quiet weekend, everybody got overhyped, they had a big weekend talking about it.

But you know what I’ve got to tell you? Chris, out in Puerto Rico and South Dakota where I just was last week, and Montana, this is not what they’re talking about. They’re talking about $4-a-gallon gas. They’re not going away for Memorial Day weekend. They’re talking about having —

WALLACE: I’ll tell you somebody who was offended. Charlie Rangel — one of your big supporters, one of the people who helped get Hillary Clinton into politics running for the Senate from New York — said it was one of the dumbest remarks he’d ever heard. So there are a lot of people who were offended.”

Wallace, often well prepared for interviews, can actually produce follow-up questions. In this case, he pointed to an obvious inconsistency in Clinton’s saying that she mentioned Robert Kennedy because she was thinking of Ted Kennedy (whose brain cancer had just been announced). Chronology is key:

“MR. WALLACE: Last question. Senator Clinton explained her reference to the Kennedy assassination by saying that the family is on her mind because of Ted Kennedy’s recent illness.

But as you point out, more than two months ago, here’s what she told Time Magazine: Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A.

So it’s not true that she started thinking about this and it was on her mind because of Ted Kennedy’s illness.”

McAuliffe gamely, if less than coherently, did his best to shore up Clinton’s explanation:

“MCAULIFFE: Maybe, obviously, in this context. She has had thousands of interviews since she talked in March to Time Magazine. Thousands and thousands. Maybe on this one editorial board she was [back ?] because she was thinking about Senator Kennedy and the brain cancer and all of that issue.”

On May 27, 2008, MSNBC’s Hardball, addressed the topic.

“Let`s take a look right now at what Senator Clinton said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know, I just — I don`t understand it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Senator Clinton has said in her defense, which is quite right, to make a defense in this case, she said that her comments were taken out of context. I would suggest that she didn`t say them in context. They came out to the public in the context of the following, unintended or not — the Ted Kennedy health problem right now, which everybody cares about, the fact that everyone cares about the safety of Barack Obama and worries about it, the fact that some of us fell a sort of deja vu about 1968 all the time, just in general, atmospheric times (ph), not about an assassination, the sense that Barack Obama is staying in the race for some outside event — not Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton — for some outside event, obviously not this tragedy, but something like another Jeremiah Wright story. There`s a lot of context. And then the horrendous joke by Huckabee last week where he talked about — week before last — where he talked about a noise at an NRA convention, he thinking — let`s say, comically, that it must have been Barack Obama falling off his chair because he saw somebody with a gun, as if that could ever be funny.

After quoting Clinton’s explanation and apology to the Kennedy family, Matthews continued,

“Roger, Jim Clyburn jumped on this. Of course, he said it was beyond the pale. His office put out that statement. The AP story went out that night, the Associated Press, Senator Hillary Clinton referred Friday to the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968 — in the 1968 campaign as a reason she should continue to campaign despite increasingly long odds.”

It wasn`t the Barack Obama campaign that went after her, it was the people trying to figure out what she was talking about.”

Regardless of political affiliation, on-air discussion of the Clinton comments mainly stayed appropriate and thoughtful. On Hardball:

“ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM: The first rule about talking about political assassination is you never talk about political assassination. I mean, I accept her at her word that she didn`t mean to say any of this, but you just don`t go there. We all have lived in times when a president, or most of us, has been assassinated, when a senator has been assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. There were what, two attempts on the lifes of — on the life of Gerald Ford. It was no — and it was widely reported that Colin Powell did not run for the presidency because his wife was so worried about his physical safety.

We all know why Barack Obama has Secret Service and the other candidates don`t. Hillary Clinton has it because she`s a first lady, former first lady. You don`t go there. Especially if you`re searching for a reason to stay in the race, you don`t want anyone to think it`s because you think something terrible will happen to your chief opponent.

MATTHEWS: Chrystia Freeland, your sense of this story. Does it have a scar (ph) factor here?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, “FINANCIAL TIMES”: Yes, I think it does. I mean, I think that Roger is right that Hillary Clinton certainly misspoke. But in misspeaking, she broke an unwritten and really important political rule. I think the reason it had so much resonance is it`s really logical to believe that a big reason why Hillary Clinton is staying in the race is she is waiting for some unknown event to befall Barack Obama,  surely not a tragic one, more like a Reverend Wright turbocharged type event.

But I think that`s. . .

MATTHEWS: Yes.”

If it might be argued that the Hillary Clinton of 2016 differs from that of 2008, it is far more apparent that the Chris Matthews of 2016 is different from the Matthews of 2008. Would that we had that earlier Matthews back. He’s starting to look better, in hindsight.

Referencing the horse race

Clinton’s using 1968 as example was the more problematic in being factually wrong on its own terms. The Democratic primary race in 1968 did not go on for very long:

“MATTHEWS: I`d like to go back to the real veracity of what she said because she said that her campaign`s running into June. And I`m often reminded of being on the boardwalk in Cape May one time, watching a Stanley Cup playoff in the summertime, because sometimes, these things do go too long, including sports playoffs.

But the only reason I would have the problem with it right up front is the fact of it. Bobby Kennedy didn`t begin his campaign in 1968 — I`m reading this wonderful book (INAUDIBLE) plug this book, “The Last Campaign” by Thurston Clark [ph]. It`s a heck of a book. You know, it`s a really good book. But it points out again it was a very short campaign. It began in March of `68. And of course, he was assassinated in June.

Bill Clinton`s race was over by March of `92.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right.

MATTHEWS: Why is she claiming these as examples or precedents for staying all the way through June, if she needs them? Why does she need a precedent?

TODD: I don`t know . . .

MATTHEWS: Nobody`s telling her to leave the race. Next week is the end of the primaries. What`s the rush?”

Matthews is basically right: there was no onslaught of advice to Clinton to drop out of the race anyway. She had no need to harp on “June.” Commentator Chuck Todd also noted the oddity of the choice:

“TODD: Well, she`s using the wrong — I mean, if she would use `84, `76 with Reagan…

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: … or `84 with Gary Hart and Mondale, those would be much more factually correct, where the June primaries actually meant something. But I actually think what we`re seeing here is she made a mistake. You know, this idea that somehow she`s staying in the race because something could happen as far as Senator Obama,  when it comes to maybe a scandal or something like that . . .”

June 1976. June 1984. Not June 1968. I remember the 2008 election; you didn’t have to be a Republican to wonder whether Clinton’s wish was father to her thought. The suggestion was logically inescapable.

And as said, it was all over the air waves–this in a year when the major media outlets were overwhelmingly predisposed to treat Clinton as the favorite, from day one.

Last up, on May 27, 2008, NPR’s All Things Considered:

“DANIEL SCHORR:

The holiday weekend has afforded time to reflect on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s apparent inability to understand why so many Americans are upset by her mention of the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Senator Clinton has shown evidence of a tin ear before, but her allusions to a past assassination for whatever reason displayed a deeper disconnect with an American trauma. Her assertion that her husband did not sew up the nomination in 1992 until mid-June, that’s factually wrong. Governor Bill Clinton was generally recognized as the Democratic front-runner from the time that Paul Tsongas withdrew in March, and he said so in his own memoir.

But more troubling was Senator Clinton’s reference to the assassination of Senator Kennedy 40 years ago on June 5th. These are thoughts better not articulated lest they have an effect on some disordered mind. From Lincoln to the Kennedys, we know the unhappy possibilities. We live with the sorrowful awareness that a talented soldier statesman, Colin Powell, agonized about running for president and finally decided against it when his wife, in tears, implored him not to expose himself as a target on the campaign trail. We live with memories that resulted in Senator Obama’s receiving Secret Service protection earlier than any other presidential candidate in history.

In a Washington Post-ABC poll last March, almost six of 10 Americans worried that someone might try to harm Senator Obama. Among African-Americans, the figure was eight of 10. We do not need to be reminded that one of our leaders can suddenly be struck down. Senator Clinton may have thought she was just helping her waning candidacy, but I imagine that she’s reduced her chances of being designated for vice president, only a heartbeat away from the presidency.

This is Daniel Schorr.”

Schorr’s grave and thoughtful commentary underscores the grim resonances of a slip like Clinton’s, in such a context.

Hillary Clinton not only repeatedly used the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy as a talking point on the viability of her campaign in 2008. She basically imagined or created the context. Contrary to what Clinton was saying about her husband’s 1992 race, Bill Clinton had wrapped up the race in March, not “June.”

 

 

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Hillary Clinton in campaign 2008: Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination as talking point


From transcripts

Any candidate, having used a good talking point once, will likely repeat it. Talking points are a minor staple of political campaigns. The utterance may be fairly spontaneous the first time, but pretty soon it gets embedded in the basic stump speech. Then it gets repeated, and repeated, and repeated, with minor tweaks. Repetition is a characteristic of campaigns. Policy positions get repeated, catchphrases get repeated, jokes get repeated. More superficial observations also get repeated, as if they were good jokes or statements of position.

What many people seem to have forgotten is that Hillary Clinton used the assassination of Robert Kennedy as a repeated talking point in 2008. Since this is not a reminder conveyed in any of the large media outlets this year–catch Wolf Blitzer or Chris Matthews mentioning it–it is being brought up here. Amnesia is lethal to democracy.

Ironically, the question addressed was how long Clinton thought the campaign should continue in 2008, or more precisely, how long she thought she should stay in the race. Thus Hillary Clinton on March 6, 2008, to Time magazine:

[Q] “One group that probably ultimately wouldn’t want it to go on too long is the Democratic Party itself. Can you envision a point at which — if the race stays this close — and with the difficulties that everyone has analyzed in accumulating enough delegates to get any distance ahead where party elders would step in and say “Senators Clinton and Obama, this is now hurting the party and whoever will be the nominee in the fall. We need to figure this out.”

[A] “No I really can’t. I think people have short memories. Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn’t wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June, also in California. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual. We will see how it unfolds as we go forward over the next three to four months.”

For the record, I agree with then-Senator Clinton’s position that the Democratic primary race should continue.

New York, 2016

As a voter and citizen I feel that the primary race should continue through June this year, too.

However, bringing up June, 1992, is different from bringing up June, 1968. Coupling the two is one more manifestation of Hillary Clinton’s almost eerie tone-deafness. Somehow she seems to have trouble conceptually getting on top of the difference between the two races. (Her widely-published graduation speech in 1969, a year after RFK was shot and killed, did not mention the assassinations of 1968 any more than they mentioned the Vietnam War or civil rights.)

Bringing up assassination would have been remarkably poor judgment, from anyone on the campaign trail. Few to no presidential candidates in our nation’s history have volunteered comments on assassination as part of the course of events in politics. In 2008, Clinton’s doing so seemed uncomfortably pointed; she was talking about the insurgent candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, and the insurgent candidacy in 2008 was Senator Barack Obama’s. Anyone who does not realize that Obama was the target of more threats than the norm, by the way, must have been living under the proverbial rock. See Petula Dvorak’s good column here, on the abuse and threats endured by the Obama family even in the White House. This is a difficult and dangerous topic even to touch in print.

Clinton’s remarks to Time in March 2008 were not some one-time slip, an exceptional lapse of some sort, attributable to the exhaustion of campaigning. More than two months later, Clinton was still comfortably repeating here same horse-race talking point.

To clarify: the reminder that Bill Clinton wrapped up the 1992 nomination in June was acceptable in itself. But in her horse-race comments, Hillary Clinton repeatedly linked the 1992 campaign with 1968.

Thus Hillary Clinton on May 7, 2008, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia:

“June of 1992, that’s when Bill really wrapped up the nomination, the middle of June after the California primary. You know, I remember very well what happened in the California primary in 1968 as, you know, Senator Kennedy won that primary.”
Hillary Clinton on May 7, 2008, in Washington, D.C.:

“Sometimes you gotta calm people down a little. But if you look at successful presidential campaigns, my husband did not get the nomination until June of 1992. I remember tragically when Senator Kennedy won California near the end of that nominating process.”

One could argue that Clinton was focused on Senator Kennedy’s having “won California near the end of that nominating process.” Mentioning his winning California rather his being shot there does clean the line up a bit.

If so, however, Clinton backslid again.

Here is Hillary Clinton on May 23, 2008, in Sioux Falls, Idaho:

“[from transcript]

CLINTON: People have been trying to push me out of this ever since Iowa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?

CLINTON: I don`t know. I don`t know. I find it curious because it is — it is unprecedented in history. I don`t understand it. And you know between my opponent and his camp and some in the media, there has been this urgency to end this. And, you know, historically that makes no sense. So I find it a bit of a mystery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you don`t buy the party unity argument?

CLINTON: I don`t because again, I`ve been around long enough. My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?

We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know, I don`t understand it.”

The remarks provoked a storm of richly deserved criticism. Responses in the New York Daily News were typical:

“Hillary Clinton’s last-gasp campaign suffered a gaping, self-inflicted wound yesterday when she recalled Robert Kennedy’s 1968 assassination while defending her determination to keep running against Barack Obama.

“Meeting with the editorial board of the Argus Leader newspaper in Sioux Falls, S.D., Clinton vigorously defended soldiering on through the last two primaries on June 3.

“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?” Clinton said. “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

Political reaction was swift and unanimously negative. Even Hillary loyalists expressed shock, dismay and private outrage.

It was a rare moment in political circles when Democrats and Republicans alike literally had the same visceral first response:

“Oh. My. God.”

“She said what?” an incredulous Rev. Al Sharpton told the Daily News, adding that the remark reinforced his belief that Clinton should fold her candidacy.

“The danger of her staying in is that she keeps making statements that do serious harm to the party and, increasingly, irreparable harm to her and her legacy,” Sharpton said.

A horrified senior Republican operative added, softly: “She is so finished. What a pathetically stupid thing to say.”

Ironically, one reason the comment aroused shock and dismay was that it seemed to come out of blue–out of left field–when actually, as quoted above, Clinton had repeatedly made the same observation before. It just had not been so widely quoted before.

Even the defense by Clinton supporter Robert Kennedy, Jr., makes the fact plain. Kennedy rushed to damage control, but his pro-Clinton statement explicitly noted that Clinton had said the same thing earlier:

“It is clear from the context that Hillary was invoking a familiar political circumstance to support her decision to stay in the race through June. I have heard her make this reference before, also citing her husband’s 1992 race, both of which were hard-fought through June,” he said in a statement.”

The remark was finally widely reported and noticed in late May of 2008. At that point Sen. Clinton had gotten so comfortable making the observation that she repeated it to a newspaper’s editorial board.

She then issued an apology of sorts:

“CLINTON: I regret, you know, that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation, and particularly for the Kennedy family, was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever.

My view is that we have to look to the past and to our leaders who have inspired us and give us a lot to live up to and I`m honored to hold Senator Kennedy`s seat in the United States Senate from the state of New York and have the highest regard for the entire Kennedy family. Thanks.”

Thanks. Again that eerie complacency, that hint of what-could-possibly-be-the-trouble, joined with a degree of self-exoneration more appropriate to having eaten someone else’s chocolate eclair by honest mistake.

Cleaning up these comments as much as possible, the general observation is that anything can happen in an election.

Election 2016

That being so, it is worth noting that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s allies in the Democratic National Committee and elsewhere have done everything they could to clear the field for Clinton in election 2016.

Why? If Armageddon awaits — cf. all the sinister Clinton references to Trump/Supreme Court/etc — then why would party insiders put all their eggs in one basket? If anything can happen in an election, why would they exclude every other candidate from Joe Biden to Jim Webb? Why did they do their best to prevent anyone else (a sitting Vice President, for example) from even getting into the race? How could that possibly be a good idea? Assuming for sake of argument that every individual super-delegate allied with Clinton honestly felt that Clinton was the best candidate, how could just one candidate possibly be a good idea? Isn’t betting everything on one candidate an act of lunatic risk-taking, in this context?

Another question, of course, is how a bunch of seasoned pols could honestly think the baggage-ridden Clinton was the best bet. Table that one for the moment. Inevitably, at some point, information about pressure points and unsavory if informal quid pro quos will seep out.

Meanwhile, party insiders and the neo-feminists–now more like Ladies Who Lunch–use the behind-the-scenes machinations as a reason to vote for Clinton. We’re the people who put you in the position of having to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Vote for Us!

It used to be called “protection,” as in ‘the protection racket’. Do what we want, so bad things won’t happen to you.

Back to 2008

Having failed to hold Clinton to account for her public musings on assassination in 2008, some large media outlets and, incomprehensibly, some members of Congress then tried to boost Hillary Clinton’s nomination as Vice President.

To put that suggestion in context, let’s recap a few devastating items. First, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate for president in U.S. history openly to reference political assassination on the campaign trail. Second, she did so NOT once or twice, but repeatedly, at least four times on the record, referring specifically to the murder of Robert Kennedy in June, 1968, each time, although not always with the explicit term “assassination.” Third, she started this unsavory line of thought on the campaign trail (so far as is known) after failing to clench the nomination on February 5—after she had said on air, “It’ll all be over Feb. 5.”

Last, the bizarre referencing of assassination was a talking point. The focus was not Robert Kennedy; it was Clinton’s campaign. In Clinton’s bizarrely complacent style, the allusion to Kennedy’s death in a presidential campaign was a box to check in the list of campaign things-to-say, to make her running credible.

As I wrote in 2008, that kind of recklessness jeopardizes public elections, jeopardizes life and limb of prominent candidates. But the possible destructiveness of the comments was subordinate.

Conservative commentator George F. Will tried to write off the justifiable reaction to the assassination references as “synthetic outrage.” But then Will, like the rest of the GOP noise machine, was eager for Clinton to be the Democratic nominee in 2008. The GOP is even more eager for her to be the nominee this time.

Even given the shameless sacrifice of national interest to narrow partisanship, it is still amazing that well-placed figures in media and members of Congress tried in 2008 to push as VP a woman who repeatedly referenced assassination.

The only reason that 2008 trend seems less unbelievable in hindsight is that some of the same people are now trying to push her as POTUS.

 

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September 11, 2012. A Day in the Life of Hillary Clinton’s Career Ambitions


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had two chief rivals in the corridors of power–Vice President Joseph Biden and then-Ambassador to the U.N. Susan E. Rice. Each outweighed her in credibility, dependability, and sincerity. Biden posed by far the biggest threat as potential presidential candidate. Rice was being mentioned as next Secretary of State.

Susan E. Rice

Two of the first emails Mrs. Clinton issued before dawn on September 11, 2012, reflected the influence of Biden and Rice.

At 4:39 a.m., Clinton sent her first email, asking to see Stella O’Leary, founder of Irish American Democrats, who had written through channels praising the Clintons’ work with Ireland. O’Leary referenced a meeting with Clinton that week scheduled for Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. Back on St. Patrick’s Day, 2012, McGuinness had met with President Obama and Vice President Biden. In the ongoing effort to maintain ties with Irish Americans, Clinton needed to catch up. Events later that day–the tragic attacks in Benghazi, Libya–altered the timetable. Clinton met with McGuinness in October.

Pre-dawn on September 11, by 5:15 a.m. Clinton had forwarded eight articles, previously emailed to her. They went to “Russorv@state.gov” (Robert V. Russo), with the request, “Pls print.” (First was a blog post by Paul Krugman at the New York Times, forwarded by Clinton at 4:44 a.m.)

At 4:57 a.m., Clinton forwarded a Foreign Policy article titled “The Point Guard,” by James Traub.

The ‘point guard’ was Susan Rice. The article’s sub-heading read, “Susan Rice calls the plays for Barack Obama at the United Nations. Could she lead his foreign-policy team next? Should she?”

In hindsight, the Traub article seems to have had impact. The piece focused largely on Libya–and on Susan Rice. While administration policy and Rice get mixed marks, the piece nevertheless devotes mega-watt attention to Rice (see at link). Her impressive educational credentials, powerful life story, and phenomenal work ethic are forcefully highlighted.

Of particular interest:

In the entertaining parlor game of “Who would be secretary of state in a hypothetical Obama second term?” Rice is now considered the leader, or perhaps tied with Donilon, though questions about his possible role in the recent disclosure of sensitive national security information to the New York Times could threaten his confirmability. (Handicappers now place both in front of Sen. John Kerry.) It’s unclear that she’d be good at a job like that, though; her smile may be just a trifle too forced, her patience a bit too thin. A State Department official who has known her since the Clinton days says that though Rice is hard-driving, diligent, and effective, “There is a disconnect between that and wisdom.” The president, a shrewd judge of character, may know this about her, but the fact that he trusts her may matter more. Susan Rice is not to be denied. She has never faltered along the steep upward trajectory of her career. Some high-powered women have dropped out of the administration to tend to their families, and Rice says she is sympathetic to their plight; she just doesn’t share it. At one point I asked Rice whether she had ever experienced a serious failure. She thought about it. No, she hadn’t. “Some have tried to take me on,” she murmured. Presumably, they lived to regret it.

Traub also gave Rice forceful credit for her loyalty, her passion, her pragmatism, and her blunt honesty. He also noted that, after working in President Clinton’s administration, Rice chose to support Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. One hesitates to be a mind reader, but it is hard to imagine Secretary of State Clinton shrugging that off. For one thing, four articles Clinton next forwarded to Russo for printing were relatively laudatory as they pertained to her.* For another, Clinton requested that the Traub piece, like the others, be printed.

“Pls print.”

“Pls print” —

Side note: While Clinton as we know set up a private email server at home, she seems not to have set up a printer. Or if she did, she did not use it much. Was her “Pls print” request just a way to save paper and ink cartridges on the home front? Were the State printers that much better than the State email servers?

Or can one assume that when Secretary of State Clinton asked a State employee to use Department resources to print an item, she considered that document to be State Department business?

For perspective, the searchable SecState Clinton emails are posted online here–30,322 emails. Clinton’s frequent “Pls print” request turns up more than 3,400 times. Assuming that many of the results are duplicates or email chains, that’s still hundreds of pages of printing requests submitted to State. (Once again, as when they exited the White House and then had to return White House furniture to the public, the Clintons look like a couple of cheese-parers. But that’s another story.)

For all searchable State Department emails released and not just Clinton emails, go here. In this archive, 13,850 emails contain the private email address “hrod17@clintonemail.com.” Of these in turn, Clinton sent more than 8,200. (Emails received by Clinton begin only about page 413 out of 693–at 20 emails per page.) Again, many are duplicates and/or parts of email chains. But again, the total is hundreds of emails. Probably few people have read all of them. A quick check reveals that many emails sent by Secretary of State Clinton have parts redacted. In other words, either they contain private email addresses or other personal information about non-government employees, or they contain material now deemed classified. As written earlier, one consequence of Clinton’s private email server was to comingle State and off-duty communications.

Back to the early morning hours of September 11, 2012 —

At 5:14 a.m., Clinton replied to Melanne Verveer, who had fulsomely praised an appearance by Bill Clinton. From Verveer (September 6):

H I’m in the business lounge at Dubai airport en route to Dhaka watching your husband’s extraordinary speech and surrounded by countless foreigners all cheering him on. Only he would elicit that kind of reaction at home and abroad! I think it was his most brilliant performance yet, all bias aside. [NAME REDACTED] emailed me in the middle of it to say that you have to run for president so she can work for you!!!

Clinton’s reply:

That must have been a surreal moment–so far from home but so present. He did a great job for the President, the party and the country. Come see me when you have time this week.

At 5:22 a.m., Clinton emailed Cheryl Mills, simultaneously at both her home and work addresses. Subject line: “Need to be sure we talk today.” Message: “What time works for you?” At 5:35 a.m. she emailed Mills again, with the same subject heading and asking “How about 4:30?” At 5:41 a.m., she again emailed Mills with the “need to be sure we talk” and an additional request, “Also, can I call you around 7:30 this morning?” (Mills replied early that she was coming in.)

Clinton’s emails to Mills look increasingly urgent if not agitated. They had nothing to do with Benghazi, where the attacks had not erupted. However, the article on Susan Rice does seem to have inspired an action regarding Libya. Clinton’s next email went to Huma Abedin at 5:50 a.m.:

Request:

Can you get us a copy of Bernard Henri-Levi’s film about Libya? I think Harvey made it and showed it at Cannes last spring.

This would presumably be the documentary about the Libyan war by Bernard Henri-Levy. Other writers have addressed this item.

Clinton then turned to more respectable daily State business, at 5:15 forwarding a CNN article to Russo titled “Chinese media make inroads into Africa,” with “Pls print.” A minute later, she replied to the sender, “I don’t know why we can’t get the Congress (or anyone else in Washington) to care about this.”

Incidentally, the tone and diction of this comment are very unlike Clinton–unusually feeling and colorful, in contrast to the banality of most of her State emails. Either she got hold of a genuine issue for American concerns, or she suspected that Chinese media in Africa would not likely feature her, or both.

At 7:30 a.m., Clinton emailed four people in State with the subject heading “Xi Xinping‘s letter to me.” Message: “I’d like to respond as quickly as possible. Pls get me a draft today. Thx.”

At 8:38 a.m., she sent a message headed “Schedule”:

Pls reach out to schedule the following: Terre Blair–mtg in NY or DC Maggie Williams–she prefers dinner in NY John Kerry–he asked to see me when I saw him last night. Maybe mtg after work– for drinks or dinner? Not sure what’s best.

A few other emails on State matters were followed by a friendly reply to Capricia Marshall at 6:57 p.m.–“Are you still here in office?” Marshall had emailed Clinton at 5:45 that “Jake was simply amazing”– “He was our featured speaker at our State of the Administration on Monday. He really wowed the Ambassadors as he has such a command of your accomplishments. Have a few thoughts on this.”

By coincidence, Susan E. Rice had received word of the Benghazi attacks a few minutes earlier, in a message not yet transmitted to SecState:

From: Pelofsky, Eric 3 Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 6:42 PM To: Rice, Susan E (USUN); Singh, Priya (USUN); Ryu, Rexon Y; Oat-Judge, Siobhan Cc: DiCarlo, Rosemary A (USUN) Subject: RE: URGENT – Benghazi I should have mentioned that NEA conveyed to me that all of this is closehold. SBU

From: Pelofsky, Eric 3 Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 6:41 PM To: Rice, Susan E (USUN); Singh, Priya (USUN); Ryu, Rexon Y; Oat-Judge, Siobhan Cc: DiCarlo, Rosemary A (USUN) Subject: URGENT – Benghazi As reported, the Benghazi compound came under attack and it took a bit of time for the “Annex” colleagues and Libyan February 17 Brigade to secure it. One of our colleagues was killed — IMO.Sean Smith. Amb. Chris Stevens, who was visiting Benghazi this week, is missing. U.S. and Libyan colleagues . . .

For future reference, emails released show Clinton sending only 29 emails, including a few duplicates, on September 11, 2012. Relatively few emails fore-grounded State concerns over Clinton’s own. Fewer still had anything to do with Benghazi. Word of the attacks came only late in the day.

Only at 8:51 p.m. did Clinton’s emails about Benghazi begin, with the heading “I’m in my office,” sent to Diane Reynolds (i.e. Chelsea Clinton):

Because of attacks on our embassy in Cairo and our office in Benghazi so email when you can talk.

At the time, with incomplete information, she may have guessed that Cairo was the worse problem. At 11:12 p.m., Clinton emailed her daughter again with the heading “I’m in my office”:

Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like group: The Ambassador, whom I handpicked and a young communications officer on temporary duty w a wife and two young children. Very hard day and I fear more of the same tomorrow. Let’s try again later.

U.S. Consulate, Benghazi

“Chris Smith” —

After word of the Benghazi attacks, Clinton sent two emails headed “Chris Smith.” Notwithstanding her poignant “I handpicked” Ambassador Christopher Stevens, she seems to have conflated his name with that of Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, who like Stevens was killed in the first attack. CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the second attack.

The first went out at 11:38 p.m. It contained a rather weighty question, asking input:

11:38 p.m. “Chris Smith.” “From: H <hrod17@clintonemail.com>Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 11:38 PM To: ‘sullivanjj@state.gov’; ‘millscd@state.gov’; ‘nulandvj@state.gov’ Subject: Chris Smith

Cheryl told me the Libyans confirmed his death. Should we announce tonight or wait until morning?

The second went at 11:40 p.m., with the brief message–“Ok.”–in response to Mills’ reply: “We are awaiting formal confirmation from our team. We are drafting a statement while we wait.”

At some point, exact time and author not given, a “Statement on the attack in Benghazi” was issued. The initial email is archived with several others issued over the next few days–with progressively more personal statements over Clinton’s name, about the four Americans killed, some repeating the personal asseveration that she had handpicked Ambassador Stevens.

The take-away here is hard and painful. First, for a sitting cabinet member to send emails by private email server at home was almost pathologically stupid. Despite GOP bloviating, there are genuine security issues involved. Add in the optics of cost-saving by sending your emails to be printed at government expense, and the set-up doesn’t get any smarter or sunnier. Add in the banal light in which they present the Secretary of State herself.

Second, while a Secretary of State might not be determined responsible for security concerns, it should be a given that s/he show concern as a matter of character. Mrs. Clinton’s emails are devoid of that concern. They show–and again, these are the emails written by Clinton herself–a public figure self-engrossed, self-advancing, and relentlessly concerned about image. Some State Department personnel seem to have concerted with her. At 9:46 p.m, after the attacks had commenced, then U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul sent this email, subject line “Help”:

Clintn with Putin was on front page of Kommersant yesterday. Jake Sullivan, head of policy planning, wants to get a copy. Could you help me find it electronically ? Thanks mike

(McFaul resigned as ambassador in 2014.)

Paradoxically, the rigid concern with image leads to a gargantuan tin ear. Setting aside if one could the deeper issue of character, this is the issue for Mrs. Clinton as a campaigner. The problem with her hoarse yelling is not that she is a woman, but that she comes across as inauthentic. People can yell in passion, but when Hillary Clinton yells, it’s not from passion. She is trying to sound like a genuine dyed-in-the-wool pol on the hustings. Channeling Bill Clinton. Channeling Bernie Sanders. But it’s not who she is. So she always comes across as trying to seem — something. This is not a feminist issue. True it is that any woman in public life will be on the receiving end of misogynistic attacks. Equally true is that the Clintons are not the messengers for that message.

*5:01 a.m. forward “The Comeback Vegan,” by Maureen Dowd; 5:06 a.m. forward “A Touchy Relationship,” a NYTimes editorial; 5:10 a.m. forward “Faithfully Democratic,” a Washington Post blog post; and 5:15 a.m. forward “The Two Clinton Legacies that Obama Should Continue,” from The Hill.

 

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The Clinton disaster for Democrats continues


So far, in election 2016, Mrs. Clinton has won primaries in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and possibly Missouri. What commentators call her “Southern sweep” is complete.

Now let’s evaluate her chances of a Southern sweep, or any kind of sweep, or the narrowest electoral win, in 2016. Clinton’s total so far is fifteen states.* Of the fifteen states in which she has defeated or may have defeated a stronger Democrat and much more appealing candidate,

  • Four states–Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas–have not gone Democratic in a presidential election even once since 1976
  • One state–North Carolina–has gone Democratic in a presidential election once since 1976, in Barack Obama’s commanding win in 2008
  • Six states–Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia–have gone Democratic in a presidential election twice since 1976 (Georgia in 1980 and 1992, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee in 1992 and 1996, Virginia in 2008 and 2012)
  • One state–Florida–has gone Democratic in three presidential elections since 1976 (1992, 2008, and 2012)
  • One state–Ohio–has gone Democratic in four presidential elections since 1976 (2008 and 2012, 1992 and 1996)
  • Illinois has gone Democratic in every presidential election from 1992 on
  • Massachusetts has gone Democratic in every presidential election from 1988 on

So far, the electoral math is daunting. Reversing the order above to start with the results most favorable to the Democratic Party,

  • Illinois and Massachusetts combined have 31 electoral votes
  • Ohio and Florida have a combined 47 electoral votes
  • The eleven states which have gone Democratic no more than twice in the past forty years have a combined 62 (never) + 15 (once) + 64 (twice) = 141 electoral votes

So far, that’s 141 electoral votes quite possibly in the GOP column, to 78 votes possibly going Democratic (in an optimistic view of 2016 Illinois and Ohio). Add in Iowa’s six electoral votes for the Dems, and the total goes up to 84.

Run the same numbers more optimistically, and give weight to recent wins for Democratic nominees–or rather, for Democratic nominee Barack Obama. Obama won Virginia in 2008 and 2012 and North Carolina in 2008. Assuming for sake of argument that Hillary Clinton can replicate Obama’s success in both states, that’s another 28 electoral votes plused for Dems, minused for Repubs. The total so far then becomes 113 electoral votes for the GOP, to 106 for the Democrats.

This is Mrs. Clinton’s ‘inexorable’ series of victories in Democratic primaries, vaunted by the national political press, mostly, as a juggernaut. The fact that Clinton’s wins have mostly occurred in solidly red states or dicey swing states has not been foregrounded.

Turnout is discouraged, when media representations relentlessly shove one candidate down the public’s collective throat as inevitable.

Speaking of turnout, let’s look at some other numbers–again, just for the states in which primaries have already taken place. The Economist article linked here summarizes 2016 turnout, the take-away being that–as Trump has said–Trump has boosted GOP turnout over 2008. Primaries won by Clinton had lower turnout than in 2008. Hillary Clinton is no Barack Obama.

There are a few other points to make about 2016 turnout, scanted so far in major media outlets.

  • Except for Louisiana, Democratic turnout in the old Confederacy states has been significantly less than Republic turnout. Alabama had 857,000 GOP votes and 398,000 Democratic votes. Georgia had 1.3 million GOP votes to 761,000 Democratic votes. South Carolina had 741 GOP votes to 371,000 Democratic votes. Virginia had 1.02 million GOP votes to 783,000 Dem. (Louisiana had 301,000 GOP votes and 312,000 Democratic votes.)
  • The same pattern holds for Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas. Clinton’s erstwhile home state of Arkansas had 221,000 Democratic votes to 411,000 for Republicans.
  • Since no one is counting on southern states for the Democrats, it is yet more scary to look at turnout in Ohio last night. GOP votes: 2.04 million. Democratic votes: 1.2 million.
  • Only in Illinois, last night, did Democratic turnout exceed GOP, 1.9 million votes to 1.4 million. And Clinton barely won Illinois.

In my view, the disparity between the major parties in southern states is intensified by set-in-concrete media emphasis on ‘minorities’. Commentators also emphasize ‘minorities’ in northern and midwestern states, of course–county by county, precinct by precinct. I am caucasian myself, but as someone concerned for racial justice I cringe at the relentless pigeonholing that links Democratic votes–or in 2016, Clinton votes–to ‘minorities’ or to ‘African-Americans’. The pigeonholing itself is dispiriting and discourages turnout. The keep-hope-dead crowd is still in there, embedded as ever.

Only candidate Obama was able to overcome these representations; I see no indication that candidate Clinton can–even after hiring some of Obama’s people (disappointingly, David Plouffe went over to Clinton, even though he must remember the 2008 election).

On the less elevated plane of partisan politics, if you want a good thumbnail view of what this linkage does to Democrats in elections, you might look at the electoral history of the state of Mississippi over the last fifty years. “Republican” is effectively a synonym for “white” in Mississippi; thus any precinct in which whites are the majority is effectively a lock for the GOP.

(It also makes me cringe to see stagily diverse, if small, crowds of voters pathetically holding up signs for Clinton that read “Fighting for Us.” When? When did Mrs. Clinton ever fight for ‘us’?)

Back to the electoral college–

Looking at states Mrs. Clinton has won so far, it is hard to envision her game plan for winning the general election in November. In a highly optimistic view, she wins all of New England; California and New York; Maryland and New Jersey; Illinois and Pennsylvania; at least a couple of western states; and enough of the battlegrounds–the old industrial states, Florida, and Virginia–to eke out the total needed. This view disregards the fact that several of the states referred to have recently elected Republican governors or have deep internal divisions among Democrats. What are the Clintons imagining? That Bill Clinton can pull in the states he got in 1992 and 1996? That Hillary Clinton has the same appeal for the minorities her campaign focuses on so much that Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012? That the Republicans, or Trump, will sink themselves–even though Donald Trump and John Kasich are both infinitely better speakers and campaigners than Hillary Clinton? That Hillary Clinton will automatically get all Bernie Sanders voters?

Or do they cling to the idea, regardless of reason or evidence, that there is a national groundswell of devotion to the Clintons?

Bill Clinton in 2016

Or are they counting on their entrenched media supporters to carry them across the finish line?

The most plausible successful scenario I have seen comes from University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato:

 

Electoral college scenario 2016

 

This particular electoral map generates a scary 270 electoral votes for Clinton, 268 for Trump.

This is scary from more than one perspective. One is that a race predicted to be this close carries the seeds of its own defeat, where the public interest is concerned. This is an Al-Gore-in-2000 campaign in the making. In such a scenario, Clinton from her perspective would have every excuse to trim toward ‘centrist’ positions on domestic issues, and to hint at hawkish intentions in foreign policy. She would thus be justified, were she to win the nomination, in ‘pivoting’–that nice media euphemism for abruptly disclosing that the candidate has been lying about her/his positions all along.

That one does not enhance turnout either.

 

More on the 2016 GOP race later.

*Clinton has also won delegates in Iowa, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas.

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The low-class Washington, D.C., chattering classes


The chattering classes are lower-class than the masses.

We have seen this before. In 2002 and 2003, millions of ‘ordinary’ Americans figured something was wrong about wantonly invading Iraq. That perception was not shared, however, by established media authorities including George F. Will, Charles Krauthammer, the entire Republican noise machine, the three original major television networks and Fox, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the major cable outlets. The upshot was a bloody and unconstitutional invasion of a sovereign nation that basically amounted to the betrayal of the less educated by the (nominally) educated.

Now we are seeing it again. The newest representation is our more elevated media mouths’ reaction to Donald Trump.

Typically inadequate commentary about Trump’s rise or support can be found here and here, among many other places.

The ground rule of pundits like these: always blame the many rather than the few. So much for participatory democracy. So much for each-one-teach-one. For Democrats, so much for winning in November 2016.
In commentary pieces like these, however well-meant they may be, a good guideline is to look at what is missing. Thus, in these particular pieces linked and in many others, there is no account of the staggering dearth of valid information in what passes for ‘political reporting’ in our big media outlets. Nothing about the paucity of genuine information in our politics coverage. (Far too typical. Did we learn about segregation and desegregation from the big media outlets? — not until the latter was dramatized by protests that lighted racial justice up on the big board. More recently, did we hear about insurance companies’ stiffing their own customers? — not until John Grisham and Michael Moore and, on a lesser scale, I, voiced the issue. For that matter, when was the last time Wolf Blitzer used the word ‘redlining’?) Nothing about the infotainment dished out by what Chris Matthews actually called (with a straight face) “Washington insiders.” Nothing about the brutal assaults on public education that leave many students unknowing about checks and balances. Nothing about the internal corruption in the Democratic Party that shut out an excellent candidate, Vice President Joseph Biden, away from voters who would have liked more choices. The behind-the-scenes money-and-connections apparatus, you will recall, did its collective best to lock up the party nomination for the deeply flawed Clintons. One result was that 17(?) 27(?) 127(?) GOPers were salivating at the chance to run against Hillary Clinton. And one result of that was Donald Trump–the cue ball banging into the rack, with the arithmetic of the field always in his favor.
Some of these guys in media commentary have even found ways to be unfair to Donald Trump–not a feat any ordinary person could pull off. Trump has at moments engaged in more accurate political commentary than the analysts covering him–one example being when he called out Ted Cruz for megaphoning that Ben Carson was liable to drop out of the race, just before the Iowa caucuses. The result was that Cruz came out on top in Iowa, beating Trump by a few points, with Carson well down toward the bottom. (Incidentally, the loss may have helped Trump in the long run. If he had ‘won’ Iowa and gone on to win the next couple of races, the rest of the field and the party establishment would have homed in on him that much sooner.)
More importantly–to do Donald Trump justice, it is Trump who has repeatedly criticized George W. Bush’s wanton and unconstitutional invasion of Iraq. Only Trump has had the temerity to point out that for George W. Bush to take credit for our ‘safety’ when 9/11 occurred on his watch is a dubious claim. (Imagine what would have happened to the principal of Columbine High School, had he gone around boasting, à la Bush/Pataki/Giuliani, about his actions in the immediate wake of the tragic events there). One predictable outcome is that all the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) signatories are now up in arms against Trump. PNAC was co-founded by Dick Cheney and Jeb Bush, and all the apologists for the Iraq War, all the movers and shakers who think the problem is that we just didn’t spill enough blood, are now joined with the remains of the GOP establishment to take an imaginary moral high ground against Trump.

PNAC

WOULD THAT HILLARY CLINTON AND THE SO-CALLED MAINSTREAM DEMOCRATS HAD MADE THE SAME CLEAR STATEMENTS, in recent years. Hillary Clinton never does, for obvious reasons; she voted for the Bush war. But too many Dems who see themselves as either connected or cerebral have spent the last seven years on the sidelines. Worse yet, too many of them dug in with passive-aggressive tactics against President Obama– undoubtedly partly out of the pettiest and most parochial envy/jealousy/competitiveness, partly out of spite because they underestimated him, and partly out of residual bigotry that afflicts some leftish writers as well as some rightwingers. So you have GOPers blaming President Obama, rather than GWBush, for every disaster in the Middle East. And the Blue Dog ‘centrist’ types and the sideline sitters seldom or never step up to the plate to defend one of the best presidents we have had. (Hillary Clinton now claims to be his defender, having adopted the line from people with my view that Obama should get more credit. Meanwhile, her emails show her as SecState chiefly intent on gauging Obama’s and Biden’s popularity. Read some of them.)

Priorities

I might add that the same left-ish media sources are not exactly eager to pay their own writers and lower-level staff; look at Arianna Huffington, Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow for examples. Too many producers take advantage of the passion of populist writers by paying, if at all, on the Walmart model–calling them Kossacks, or bloggers, etc., rather than employees, even contract employees. The treatment of PT/contingent workers has affected our republic of letters. This again is something you do not hear discussed by Hillary Clinton-type candidates–not for decades. Not until her people pick it up via social media from someone like me, or until some event makes it safe and popular.
The Democrats underestimate Trump at their peril in 2016. And downplaying Trump’s supporters as dumb will not help. Quite the contrary.
If some of the guys/gentlemen who have profited most from their media positions could be a little more concerned about fellow human beings and a little less concerned about vague notions of status, they might pull off some actual analysis once in a while. In the meantime, their accuracy will inevitably be hobbled by their vulgarity. It is quintessentially vulgar to proceed on an assumption that some individuals are worth more than others, purely on the basis of position or status or anything else extraneous to merit. The assumption also leads to a very simple but very obtuse logical slide–the view that if So-and-so is not important, then misrepresenting him is also not important.
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Financial-political corruption is not just a “single issue”


Lead Paint and the Tangled Web of Corporate Finance

Back in August the Washington Post ran an excellent, heartbreaking article on rip-offs of victims of lead paint poisoning. The article linked here should be read in full, but the short story is that finance companies induce poor people with annuities to cash their annuities in for a lump-sum pittance. In Baltimore, which like other older cities has been plagued by paint containing lead, some sufferers had received compensation for damage to their health from lead paint. But some recipients later sold their valuable annuities for pennies on the dollar. This nasty turn of events followed–of course–the previous heart-rending saga, beginning with the harm to human and animal victims and progressing to most landlords and property owners coming out financially unscathed, or close to it–while the victims fell disproportionately on the public welfare rolls. (Some lead-paint sufferers were then cleansed off the welfare rolls in President Bill Clinton’s ‘welfare reform’.)

The annuities were intended to protect the victims, somewhat, for the rest of their lives, giving them a steady monthly income, since a number of the people harmed were left so affected or ill as to be unemployable. But many of the annuities have been bought up, sold in exchange for ‘ready cash’ by the recipients or by unsophisticated relatives. This kind of scheming is not new. It figures as a plot point in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811:

Her legal allowance was not adequate to her fortune, nor sufficient for her comfortable maintenance, and I learnt from my brother that the power of receiving it had been made over some months before to another person. He imagined, and calmly could he imagine it, that her extravagance and consequent distress had obliged her to dispose of it for some immediate relief.

Two hundred years later, this particular suppurating pimple of financial chicanery has cropped out on the face of Wall Street, with some of the same blaming the victim, too.

Less poetically, we can narrow down the focus from Wall Street.

One company involved is Access Funding, located according to its Zoom Company Information in the LexisNexis database at 6900 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland, Suite 700.

Company records suggest that the company has recently dwindled. Access Funding recently listed $5M – $10M in revenues and 20 to 50 employees–including a “Director of Lottery Services.” However, its recently updated entry in the Lexis database lists “two employees” and revenue in six figures. Public investigations are under way, though slowly. After I recover fully from pneumonia and bronchitis, I hope to do some research in, among other things, the company’s interest in “Lottery Services.” Presumably the link is lottery winners who choose to take their winnings in annuity payments.

For the moment, I am interested in the murk of property ownership. The umbrella concept is responsibility. Property owners can sometimes be held to account for what happens on their property. The idea is that even a wealthy and politically connected landlord is still a landlord, and what happens on the property may be the responsibility of the owner, unless investigation reveals that full responsibility lies elsewhere. According to general principle, however, at least the question of responsibility is to be investigated. This general principle is supposed to apply, so far as I know, regardless of whether the owner is an individual or a corporation. If any harm done turns out to be exclusively the fault of a tenant, so be it, but a light has to be shone. Needless to say, this is exactly the kind of principle under attack by the Republican Party, under the guise of releasing “small business” from the burden of “regulation.” Instead of transparency and investigation, the public gets closed records and murky corporate layers that conceal ownership and responsibility. Instead of accountability, the public gets privatization of the rewards (dignified as “investment”) and socialization of the damages. Ethically or rationally under-qualified insiders do the harm; the public pays for the harm. (As goes the GOP, so go the Clintons. The secretive Clintons have triangulated exactly the same undermining of transparency and accountability throughout their careers, or at least since Bill Clinton lost an early election in Arkansas. This “Republican lite” pattern tends to be under-reported in political commentary, but it is a consistent theme in Hillary Clinton’s life since she was in college–following a track created by paralleling bad actions, but to a lesser degree or in a more secretive way, under the guise of mediating between opposing sides. More on that later.)

Corporate ownership is not an easy trail to follow.

The database of the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation indicates that Access Funding, based in affluent Chevy Chase, Maryland, had at least a couple of previous avatars, now canceled or forfeit. State records indicate the owner as “6900 Wisconsin LLC”–a limited liability company, not required to disclose details of individual personnel or ownership. The owner’s address is given as “c/o Washington Property Company, 4719 Hamden Lane FL 3, Bethesda MD  20814-2909.” Ironically, the secured party for both 4719 Hampden Lane and 6900 Wisconsin Avenue properties is the American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company. Thinking outside the box, it could be helpful if life insurance companies took an interest in health issues connected with the properties they underwrite. But then, American Equity may not have known of any connection between its property interest and the lead paint sufferers. This is one of the unimaginative principles guiding our eponymous ‘Wall Street’: sometimes it pays not to know. Again–this is exactly the guiding principle consistently upheld by a) the GOP, and b) the Clintons. (What is the ‘centrist’ number of lead poisoning cases?)

6900 Wisconsin Avenue

As mentioned, the “Washington Property Co” is pretty faceless, judging from public record. Checking political donations at opensecrets.org, from the Center for Responsive Politics, we can find that some Washington Property Co. exec donated more than $7,000 to candidate Mitt Romney. Peering closely at the state database, we can see an unhelpful typo in the street address of Washington Property Co., listed as “Hamden Lane” rather than “Hampden Lane.” (Typos and other mistakes that impede research are typical for these databases.) For the rest, Washington Property Co. has been active in Maryland since 2004, is as said located at 4719 HAMPDEN Lane, and the owner of 4719 Hampden Lane is “Hampden Lane Project LLC.”

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.

Except that we’re not. The owner of the soul-stirringly named “Hampden Lane Project LLC”? — “c/o Washington Property Company   4719 Hampden Lane Fl 3  Bethesda MD 20814-2909.”

Let’s follow a different version of the company name and see whether that one pans out–the corporate name, rather than the Limited Liability Company name. Washington Property Company Inc., as opposed to Washington Property Co LLC, originated in August, 2004, in Delaware.

This one actually gets us somewhere. Owner name: “c/o Morgan Stanley, Suite 800,  3424 Peachtree Rd, Atlanta GA 30326.” Again, there is a typo in the public record: the name “Morgan Stanley” is misspelled. Again, typical of corporate records in state databases, in Maryland and in other states, adding to obstacles including LLC, LC and corporate names; old names; lack of disclosure of key personnel; and use of registered agents.

The 3424 Peachtree Rd building currently has spaces for lease btw.

3424 Peachtree

Consulting the donor database from the Center for Responsive Politics, one finds that Morgan Stanley in Georgia donates almost entirely to a) Republicans and b) Hillary Clinton. A quick search of the current election cycle shows Morgan Stanley (Georgia) and its key people donating mainly to Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio–and Clinton. The Peachtree company/office has donated $43,000-plus to the Republican National Committee since 2012, mainly in 2012. It donated $20,000-plus to Right to Rise USA, the Jeb Bush-support PAC, in 2015. As in the 2008 election, Hillary Clinton is the stopgap candidate, the fallback position, for the GOP and for Wall Street.

So much for silk-stocking Republicans as somehow separate from the worst elements of either Wall Street or their party. So much for the Clintons as “Fighting for Us”–the slogan the Clinton campaign produced after jettisoning its earlier “Fighting for You.”

One thing the Bernard Sanders campaign has exactly right is that political-economic corruption is game-rigging. This is not just “one issue.” It touches virtually everything. There is no ‘centrist’ amount of lead in house paint.

One more quick point. First, a number of financial companies are in the business of buying annuities, some more respectably than others. Buying up annuities is big business. Second, all these companies contribute politically–if they donate at all–to the usual suspects: top preference goes to the GOP, next tier is Clinton.

Thus–in a quick look–people at Woodbridge Investments, for example, have donated some $135,000 in recent cycles, to Republican candidates including Carly Fiorina. Corona Capital has donated at least $6,400 to GOPers, including Rep. Todd Young of Indiana and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Client First Settlement Funding conveyed a more modest sum of $500.00 to Florida State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, among other donations to GOP candidates and the Republican National Committee. Someone at Settlement Capital Corporation gave $500.00 to John Boehner.

Other company names include Liberty Settlement FundingJ. G. WentworthCIYAAnnuity Transfers, RSL Funding, and Sell My Structured Settlement. More research awaits.

One of the biggest of these interested companies is Peachtree Financial Solutions. From company statements in the Lexis Nexis database:

Peachtree Financial Solutions is an affiliate of Peachtree Settlement Funding (Peachtree). Peachtree is a specialty finance and transactional tax-planning firm employing over 150 professionals in three offices located in Georgia, Florida and New Jersey. Peachtree has in excess of $500 million in committed financing lines for its specialty finance businesses and has originated over $2 billion in assets. Peachtree is the primary servicer on more than 5,000 transactions and is backed up by The Bank of New York. Peachtree’s servicing activities are routinely reviewed and subjected to agreed upon procedure audits by our financial partners. Peachtree is a full financial audit client of PricewaterhouseCoopers and its principal outside tax counsel for the WealthBuilder program is Foley & Lardner.
REVENUE: USD 17,500,000   www.wealthbuilder.com

Predictably, Peachtree Settlement Funding has been a big donor to both parties, Republicans and Democrats, in past cycles. Sen. Chuck Schumer has particularly benefited from Peachtree Settlement Funding–like any other office holder connected with Wall Street. Interestingly, in the current election cycle Peachtree Settlement Funding appears only in relatively modest donations such as $1,000.00 to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida. Either Peachtree Settlement Funding has stayed on the sidelines because of the Trump phenomenon, or it is cooling its jets in the wake of reporting on chiseling suffering people out of their annuities, or both.

Meanwhile, there are other problems with annuities, including problems with the annuities themselves. One of the first things that happened to my late mother after the death of my father was that someone came to her front door and sold her a substandard annuity she did not need. (My mother died in 2012, from Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, she did have a good and honest banker, on the ball, who got in touch with the vendor and reversed the transaction.)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has reported on yet another scam–that of financial kickbacks in selling annuities in the first place. The information is reported here.

This is the kind of report not produced by Sen. Hillary Clinton, “a workhorse not a show horse,” as she put it, during her time in the U.S. Senate.

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Sanders’ claim to turnout is valid


Several commentators have disparaged Sen. Bernard Sanders’ argument that turnout will be vital to Democrats in November and that he can help the turnout. He is right on both counts.

Commentators at MSNBC, CNN and now some of the networks have gotten on a train recently, though–pointing to the undoubted fact that Democratic turnout in primaries this year is lower than in 2008. (Barack Obama ran that year. No one has turned out newly energized voters like President Obama.) They also point out that the Democratic turnout is lower than turnout in Republican primaries, where Donald Trump has gotten the GOP moving. So–they go on to gloat–where is the turnout that Sanders promises to deliver? (Some particularly unappealing and smarmy gloating on this item has come from Wolf Blitzer, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Matthews. No surprise there. Matthews’ wife, Kathleen Matthews, is losing her race for Maryland’s 8th District congressional seat, in spite of locking hips with the Clinton team and its donor base behind the scenes; you can’t expect him to be a good sport–a man who uses the phrase “Washington insiders” with a straight face is hardly going to be an objective observer of the nation’s fortunes. Blitzer and a tiny handful of others at CNN have been drawing envious blood from Obama since moments after the president’s election November 4, 2008. They apparently resent both his and Vice President Biden’s independence of the DC media establishment. Maddow seems long since to have bought in to the notion that careerism=feminism, or something to that effect. In between fawning on Brian Williams, she seems to be pretty much engaged in boosting the most mediocre women she can find in public life.)

But there is a factor at work this year that did not weigh on turnout in previous elections. The factor is “superdelegates.” Regardless of how hard Sanders’ ardent supporters work–and most of his supporters are ardent–Hillary Rodham Clinton and her team quietly sewed up somewhere around 450 party insiders, to paste her into the nomination should she have difficulty with voters.

Senator Sanders

Hint to analysts: if you want to be an analyst, it might help to analyze. Is there any realistic possibility that the mass of offstage superdelegates would not discourage turnout, among any voters who knew about them? Or among voters who just saw the delegate tallies for the candidates, without clarification?

So much for hope and change. The insider campaign against both–again, by ‘Washington insiders’–has been relentless–while it has also been picayune, bigoted, petty, envious and competitive. Money does not mean sense.

Nor, in the media establishment, does it mean rigorous adherence to journalistic standards. (You read it here first.) Any political analyst is intellectually required to clarify those superdelegates, in the public interest. That is not happening.

The accrual of more than 400 superdelegates by the wealth- and foundation-supported Clintons should also have been rigorously and accurately reported as it occurred. That did not happen either.

This process will have to change, and will change. In the narrowest partisan terms, it is disastrous for the Democratic Party. Democrats are living in a dream world if they think that a Hillary Clinton campaign can just skate by a nominee like Donald Trump. Trump has already appealed to independents–and to Democrats. It is unrealistic just to assume that a gravely flawed candidate like Clinton can defeat him. This is a pipe dream, and that’s even before the rest of the information on the private-server emails comes out. The insecurities about Hillary Rodham Clinton as a candidate are already manifest, in the behind-the-scenes efforts to prevent anyone else from even running.

Vice President Biden

This strategy is also being feverishly boosted by the Maddows and Matthews of the media world. Maddow spent a lengthy segment one evening on some whack-job’s push to get a death penalty(?) for gays. The clear implication was that Hillary Clinton is our only firewall against measures such as, as Maddow put it, “executing homosexuals.” Do Maddow and her ilk really think that executing homosexuals would be opposed only by a Clinton? They don’t think a candidate like, for example, Vice President Joseph Biden would step up to the plate? They don’t think Biden would oppose executing homosexuals? Do they really think Jim Webb would not have opposed these ills, if he had been allowed in the field? Lincoln Chafee? Wouldn’t even Gov. Martin O’Malley have opposed executing homosexuals, at least if the polls were going the right way?

Bernie Sanders could crush Trump. But he has to become the nominee to do so.

Meanwhile, when these over-promoted, overpaid, and under-qualified folks joined up behind scenes to paste Clinton into a nomination she has not earned and does not deserve, they took away part of my vote. They will not get the rest of it. I will not be blackmailed into voting for the ‘electable’ candidate. For one thing, she’s not. For another, the blackmail is being pushed by the very people who put us in this situation in the first place. This is not a process, a candidate, or a strategy that can withstand accurate scrutiny.

 

 

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The Elephant and the Denatured Donkey in the Room


As the New Hampshire presidential primary approaches (February 9), the national political press is consumed with speculation over Donald Trump’s lead in the GOP. Secondarily, it is speculating over how well Sen. Bernie Sanders’ lead on the Democratic side will hold up. The corollary re the GOP is that establishment candidates must be ‘winnowed’, so that Republicans can ‘coalesce’ around an alternative to Trump or Ted Cruz. The corollary re the Democrats is that loaded-with-minuses Hillary Clinton is in for the long haul, on her way to her still-inevitable nomination. Commentators do not always put it that way, but that’s the gist.

Not too ironically, one of the more interesting aspects of the 2016 race is what the national political press is not discussing. This has happened before. An avalanche of commentary in 2014 failed to disclose that the GOP ‘wave’ had a key cause: in state after state, the GOP saw to it that, while tea party candidates proliferated, party-establishment candidates had a clear path to nomination. Thus the arithmetic of the field virtually always prevailed, and in favor of the party’s preferred candidate. The relatively plausible candidate then went on, in most races, to win–especially against Blue-Dog, Clinton-like, triangulating-type Dems. More on that later.

The insurgent types seem to have learned a lesson from 2014, by the way. Trump may be a human cue ball, but most of the ‘winnowing’ this time has occurred in the non-establishment lane, as it’s now being called. Dropouts so far Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum would all be competing for the insurgent vote, if they were still in; Rick Perry and Scott Walker somewhat; only George Pataki and Lindsey Graham perhaps not. Thus with nine presidential candidates remaining, the GOP now has six candidates competing for establishment support–Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio. Only two are competing for the tea party-evangelical vote–Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Trump is running sui generis, salesman that he is.

I do not pretend to have a forecast for the New Hampshire primary. In the interest of full disclosure–to make my own position clear–if I lived in NH I would be voting for Senator Sanders. My own guess is that if Trump were to drop out of the GOP race or to do so poorly as to become irrelevant, his supporters would scatter or drop out, too. Pretty dreary prospect.

Sanders 2016

Back to what’s not being reported. First, the Republicans.

Whatever the outcome in New Hampshire, for anyone who can do arithmetic, the GOP candidate with the best chance long-term is still Jeb Bush–IF he chooses to stay in the race. Christie is ghastly. Fiorina is being sidelined pretty emphatically, in spite of her efforts to out-ugly the uglies. She would probably be sidelined more explicitly, except that the party is trying (sort of) to keep some women voters. Gilmore is being thoroughly ignored. Kasich is under none-too-subtle pressure to make like Scott Walker and bow out; that happens to GOP candidates who occasionally pay lip service to working people. The focus of commentary at the moment is on the GOP candidate most like Bush–Rubio. A few weeks of voting should answer some questions. Bush has the backing to survive not being voted for; Rubio may not. The big question is whether Bush and his backers stay in.

Jeb Bush

Meanwhile, in the tea party-ish lane, Ben Carson is facing an onslaught from Cruz, whom nobody can out-ugly. If insurgent voters were to turn on Cruz in revulsion, that whole wing of the GOP would change in a heartbeat. With Cruz hypothetically not a factor, his supporters would probably split among Carson, Trump, the multiple-candidate lane, and dropping out or voting Democratic. It will be interesting to see how they vote in New Hampshire.

So, back to the non-reported: what no esteemed commentator says about Jeb Bush is that the invasion of Iraq cost the United States dearly. No pundits bring up the statistical facts–the Iraqi civilians killed in the invasion and afterward; the assassinations of Iraqi college professors under the Coalition Provisional Authority; the deaths and injuries in American troops. No commentators point that Team Bush has never apologized for the harm done to fellow human beings, or even for the harm done to America around the globe. No mention of Iraqi children, or babies, killed; no reminder of the horrors of the Bush years–Fallujah, collateral damage, sexual assaults in the military and out of it.

Few commentators on the GOP candidates remind the public that George W. Bush used the attacks of September 11, 2001, as a pretext for invading Iraq. Not one major media figure has pointed out what I pointed out in 2002-2003, the luminously simple statement of fact that every American can understand: “The Iraqis didn’t do it.” There were no Iraqis among the hijackers. Nor do commentators tend to bring up ‘weapons of mass destruction’. (Neither do the Clintons; see below.)

Instead, we get commentary-lite, on the Jeb Bush ‘baggage’ in narrowly political terms. Two recent examples come from the pro-GOP Roll Call. One piece refers to “the family legacy” as a blessing and a curse, and to concerns about the effect on the candidate’s electability. The fact that the family has not expressed responsibility, let alone contrition, for our situation in the Middle East is omitted. Indeed, Jeb Bush says that people concerned about the actions of his father and brother need to “get therapy”–to the applause of his audience.

A succinct summary of the ethics-lite perspective is provided in the other piece:

“Bush has plenty of credentials, but they are less valuable this year. The Bush brand, once strong, was severely damaged by his brother, and Jeb himself doesn’t fit the times, when long political bloodlines and deep establishment connections are liabilities, not assets. He is, to put it bluntly, old news at a time when Republicans are looking for something new and different. For many Republicans, his name told them everything they needed to know about him and his candidacy.”

This is the way to acknowledge the biggest foreign-policy mistake in fifty years? Even Donald Trump does a better analysis of the Iraq War. Incidentally, Trump also provided a pretty good thumbnail of the effect (on the GOP) in political terms: “Lincoln couldn’t have gotten elected.” (Of course, Trump like all the GOPers blames President Obama. In my view, this is a cynical ploy to take advantage of voters too illiterate to understand that the invasion of Iraq happened before Obama’s watch, and over his opposition to the war.)

Needless to say, the same utter lack of contrition and the same failure to take responsibility extend to the Wall Street debacle in subprime lending. And the national political media tend to fall in line here, too. Too seldom is Jeb Bush, or any Republican candidate, held to account for his/her sympathy or collusion with the giant perpetrators. Meanwhile, the GOP gets to rail unchecked against the president even while unemployment falls, wages rise, prices stay level, the real estate market recovers, housing ownership revives, and coverage for health care expands. You’d think some of these gains were the capture of Osama bin Laden or the release of captured Americans all over again, they are so thoroughly ignored by big-time Republicans. Give credit to President Obama, the man who risks his life daily? Not on your bippy.

Now to the Democratic side.

As with GOP candidates, what is missing from commentary on the Democrats is exactly the information voters need. Hillary Clinton would be a disastrous nominee for Dems, but she has lined up segments of the media establishment along with her ‘Super Delegates’ and other connections.

Clinton is running basically on four planks, one semi-hidden–her electability; her inevitability (behind the scenes); her being a Democrat; and her “experience,” with the claim that she gets things done. Each claim is spurious. Setting aside longer examination for now, do they stand up to quick scrutiny? In order —

If Clinton is electable, why is she struggling so much for the nomination that she and her donors did their best to sew up beforehand? If Bill Clinton is ‘one of the best politicians of his generation’, then why did the Clintons leave the Democratic Party in shambles in Arkansas? Why was Arkansas a blue state when the Clintons began there, and a red state after their thirty-plus years? Why didn’t Hillary Clinton run for the senate from Arkansas? Speaking of New York, has there been a wave of Blue wins since the Clintons relocated there? Why did Marjorie Margolies (Mezvinsky), mother of the Clintons’ son-in-law, lose resoundingly in her New York district? The simple fact is that the Clintons are not beloved, and their coattails are nonexistent. Much of MSNBC in the tank for the Clintons. How are MSNBC’s ratings nowadays? Virginia results in 2015 were disappointing for Dems. Governor McAuliffe, widely billed as a chief Clinton ally, is not deeply beloved. Neither are the Clintons. After Clinton campaigned in Virginia in 2013, McAuliffe barely squeaked out a victory–and that was over Ken ‘Kook’ Cucinelli.

If Clinton was inevitable, why did her supporters do so much behind the scenes to keep other candidates from running? Do these machinations express confidence in their candidate?

Democrats? The Clintons are triangulators. They may be liberal on social issues, but as their track record shows, they have a pattern of shafting labor–even after receiving generous donations and support from labor, and from working people. Before she started sounding like Elizabeth Warren a few months ago, when was Clinton ever forceful on economic justice? In the senate, she voted for the resolution enabling GWBush to invade Iraq. Before that, as first lady she partnered in Bill Clinton’s anti-populist path. Before that, as wife of the candidate she stood by while Bill Clinton flew back to Arkansas to endorse personally the state’s execution of a mentally disabled African-American man.

What has Clinton ‘gotten done’? Did she work to reduce the backlog of rape kits? She now talks the game on student debt, etc., but did she ever work with her donors who are lenders to help with it before? Did she do anything beforehand to impede the coming subprime-derivatives meltdown? Did she support policies to rein in Wall Street (or the good ol’ boys in the C of C), either in Arkansas or later? Did she support gun control, before this past fall? Does her track record include support for clemency, for anyone besides Marc Rich?

These are character questions as well as economic-policy questions. Hillary Clinton is not Elizabeth Warren, and should not pretend to be. She is not someone who ‘fights for’ people outside her immediate circle. That’s not who she is. Clinton herself touts misogynistic and sexist attacks against her–but she has never stepped outside her comfort zone to defend other women, in her life. She is no Ann Richards–who endured savage and misogynistic attacks but without selling out. Clinton’s State Department emails show no consideration for President Obama, let alone for Vice President Biden. Clinton and her people, inside and outside her office, kept a wary eye out for any signs that anyone else (good) might be popular. She did the same in Arkansas, for decades. So did her husband.

One of the main problems analyzing the Clinton candidacy is that too much is deemed off-limits as ‘personal’. There is an unstated definition of ‘personal’ as ‘private’, even when the person is running for the White House. For obvious reasons, the Clintons themselves try to bat away every question of character, and many questions of policy, as mere gossip. But this strategy misconstrues the concept of the personal. Clinton has been married for decades to a man whose degrading treatment of her and of many other women is amply documented. This is not ‘right-wing conspiracy’. It is fact. It is also spousal bullying. (No, it’s not romance. It’s not intrigue. It’s not titillation. It was probably barely even sex. It’s spousal bullying–aimed at one’s own partner, while also demeaning the numerous other women involved.)

She shows the symptoms, by the way–that weird lack of judgment, that weirdly dehumanized Stay- Puft complacency, the perpetual calculatedness, the inability to empathize with any woman not ‘successful’ or established, etc.

And how did Clinton herself ‘stand up’ to the spousal bullying? –By working for the spouse’s political career, by helping the spouse advance up the ladder, by helping him into the White House. For my money, there is no way Bill Clinton could have won in 1992 if his wife had not stoutly denied every (true) accusation against him. As a result, Hillary Clinton became rich and famous; her husband became rich and famous; Arkansas was left behind. Reminding the public of this track record is not the same as gossiping about a neighbor. To remember the over-all track record of dishonesty, humiliation, and other forms of bullying is not the same as criticizing some poor woman for failing to take exactly the right course of action against an abuser. Clinton is now running for the White House, and now has all the resources in the world–entirely because of her long-term partnership with Bill Clinton. And she’s talking about the man with a credible accusation of sexual assault against him as “First Dude.”

There is not enough space here to discuss the problems with the ‘having it all’ version of feminism. Careerism is not feminism.

But the problems with the GOP and the Democratic races have one hideous parallel–that signature lack of shame. No matter what mistakes they make, no matter what harm they have caused–no shame, no remorse, no contrition. No amends. And the political media establishment is playing along on both sides.

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