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“More Awful Than Anyone Realized”: Fiorina Dead Wrong About Clinton Foundation — But It’s Worse Than That

Carly Fiorina is still masquerading as a Republican candidate for president – although her poll numbers remain dismal – so perhaps we must pay attention to her. The longer she sticks around, however, the more she demonstrates that she is even more awful than anyone realized.

Which is, for the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and busted Senate candidate, a kind of achievement.

Attempting to reintroduce herself to America as the anti-Hillary, Fiorina has repeatedly attacked the work of the Clinton Foundation, repeating lies she reads in right-wing media about its budget and expenditures. When Fox News Channel interviewed her on June 10, she complained, “We are finding so little of the charitable donations [collected by the Clinton Foundation] go to charitable work.” Based on her interpretation of the foundation’s IRS 990 forms, she estimated that only 6 percent of its funds have gone toward charitable purposes.

Uttered by someone who claims to be a brilliant executive — which presumably includes the capacity to read and comprehend financial documents — that was an embarrassingly stupid remark. Very little knowledge or expertise is required to figure out that the Clinton Foundation is an operating entity, or really a public charity, whose salaries, travel expenses, and other costs reflect actual work on the ground all over the world.

Now the nonpartisan has bluntly corrected Fiorina’s nonsensical accusation in a long, painstaking refutation of what she and others (including a Fox News genius named Gerri Willis) have said about the Clinton Foundation’s spending.

“Fiorina is simply wrong,” according to the Factcheck report, which went on to assess the foundation’s budget in detail. The bottom line, according to the philanthropy analysts at CharityWatch, is that the Clinton Foundation spends 89 percent of donations for charitable purposes – well above the industry standard of 75 percent.

But that’s not even the worst part. Fiorina could have found out these facts very easily, because she is involved with groups that work with the Clinton Global Initiative and even got herself some free publicity in 2014 by appearing at a CGI event with former President Clinton.

So she mounted a damaging political assault on the same organization whose goodwill she had exploited for her own purposes, casually defaming thousands of foundation employees who perform important work — without even attempting to learn the truth from them first.

To me, this indicates personal character so low as to disqualify her for any elected office, let alone the presidency. She is untrustworthy as well as incompetent.

Anyone who has studied Fiorina’s career probably knows that already. Discussing her disdain for a minimum-wage increase at the CGI event, she blamed increasing economic inequality on “crony capitalism” – a problem highlighted, of course, by her own $40 million golden parachute, which enraged Hewlett-Packard stockholders, executives, and workers.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog; The National Memo, June 20, 2015

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Clinton Foundation, Clinton Global Inititiave | , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Limits Of “Israeli Exceptionalism”: The Perilous Path The Current Israeli Government Is Pursuing

This incident from the 2008 campaign, relayed by Matthew Duss at TNR, tells you a lot about trends in U.S. thinking about Israel in the Netanyahu era:

[R]epresentatives of the Obama, McCain, and Clinton teams appeared at a Jewish community forum. Daniel Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt, spoke for Obama, explaining that he wanted to see a “plurality of views” on Israel. Clinton adviser Ann Lewis responded that the United States should simply support Israeli policy, regardless of its content. “The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel,” she said.

It was a pretty strange statement (is there any other country in the world to whose electorate anyone would similarly suggest outsourcing U.S. policy decisions?), but it does accurately describe the operating theory upon which much of conservative pro-Israel advocacy in Washington is based.

But it’s an increasingly rare point of view outside the conservative opinion bubble. After her service in the Obama administration, it’s pretty clear Hillary Clinton would not again allow herself to be represented as simply ratifying whatever policy is yielded by Israeli elections (presumably the only way one is permitted to deduce “decisions of the Israeli people,” who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s policies towards Palestinians and indeed towards the rest of the world).

It’s against this backdrop of a growing tendency among Democrats to reject the idea of “Israeli exceptionalism” as the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy that you can understand the perilous path the current Israeli government is pursuing in demanding the same–or perhaps greater– unconditional American support as in the past. This posture is not only liberating Democrats to assert national interests as superior to those of any foreign country in formulating U.S. foreign policy, but as I think we will see in 2016, leading public sentiment in the same direction.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Wasgington Monthly, June 17, 2015

June 18, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“From TPA To TPP; A Trade Deal Explainer”: A Mix Of Policy, Procedure, And 2016 Politics

There is no shortage of acronyms or confusion surrounding the trade deal legislation being debated in Washington.

Hillary Clinton weighed in on the trade debate Sunday during a campaign stop in Iowa. Or maybe she didn’t. Or she did, but not in the way people thought she did. Confused or frustrated yet? You’re not alone. Between TPP, TPA, TAA, TTIP, and any other number of letter t-laden acronyms, it has become difficult to pinpoint what, specifically, lawmakers are actually talking about as this process moves forward. That’s a problem.

Trade policy is complicated. Congressional procedure is complicated. Politics are often deliberately made complicated by lawmakers or candidates who see limited benefit in weighing in on thorny or increasingly complex issues. The ongoing fight on Capitol Hill over trade combines them all—a mix of policy, procedure, and 2016 politics. That means it’s probably worth breaking down a few top-line points on all three.

The policy

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the name of the 12-nation trade talks that are currently ongoing. There is no deal, though Obama administration officials say they are closing in on one. President Barack Obama has made reaching a deal on TPP one of the top goals of his second term and a cornerstone of his foreign and domestic policy agenda. It is also a top priority of Republican leadership in the House and Senate. Many Democrats, stung by past major trade agreements, are skeptical of the direction of the negotiations. But it’s important to note, again, there is technically no deal … yet.

Think about negotiating with 11 other countries. They’ve all got their own politics, their own legislatures, and their own powerful industries. How could you possibly get all 11 to agree on the same principles, let alone a specific trade deal? It’s not easy. So it would make sense to create a mechanism to try and streamline the process, right? Meet the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). TPA is not the trade deal (again, that’s TPP). It is, more or less, a procedural mechanism designed to ease the passage of any deal. TPA, also known as “fast-track,” doesn’t prevent lawmakers from voting on a final deal, but it does prevent amendments. Obama administration officials say explicitly they need TPA to reach a final agreement on TPP. Other nations, as Obama’s team explains it, simply don’t trust that the U.S. can get a deal through Congress untouched without it. (This is a serious point of disagreement between Obama and Democrats opposed to the trade deal.)

While TPA is not (repeat: is not) the actual trade deal, it does require legislation and a vote. Democrats opposed or who are wavering on trade see that bill as one of the last points of leverage should Obama actually finalize a deal. If TPA passes and Obama’s team reaches an agreement on TPP, there’s little confidence within the ranks of those opposed to a deal that momentum could be halted at that point. For a unified labor movement, progressive activists, and Democrats opposed to the deal, that has painted TPA as a must-kill item on the agenda.

The procedure

Last week House Democrats chose to vote to sink their own priority, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), in order to slow down Obama’s (TPA). So what the heck does this have to do with TPA? Well, nothing really. Except that program, used to provide aid to U.S. workers displaced due to trade, is expiring. Democrats, who are overwhelmingly supportive of the program, saw an opening in the TPA legislation and it became the vehicle to extend (and actually expand) the program.

House Democrats opposed to the underlying trade negotiations quietly settled on a strategy to deliberately kill their own priority in order to re-set the broader trade debate. That meant voting against TAA, even in the wake of (and perhaps because of in some cases) personal lobbying from Obama. In an interesting twist, House lawmakers actually had the votes to pass the TPA measure separately, but without TAA attached, that goes nowhere for the moment.

Obama and Republican leaders are now left with trying to find another route to get TPA to the president’s desk. One possibility is swinging a huge number of Democrats who just a few days ago voted against TAA. That seems unlikely, save for an epic weekend of lobbying by the White House legislative affairs team. But House and Senate leaders can get quite crafty when it comes to passing bills they badly want to move. So it’s safe to say there’s more to be written in this story.

The politics

The procedure and the policy have presented a political conundrum on the campaign trail for Clinton. She was Obama’s secretary of state when negotiations on TPP started and was supportive at the time. But the party continues to hold a general distrust for trade deals. As Clinton presses for a “better agreement” and leaves the door open to eventually supporting a final deal, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley have made attacking the trade deal a central point of their campaigns. Both weighed in to oppose TPA.

Clinton, for her part, has held her fire, instead broadly focusing on the need for a strong final deal on the TPP. There’s a reason. Read through the previous sections above. Does that sound like a process a presidential candidate would want to explain on the campaign trail? No. Especially not when the underlying issue is so divisive among the most activated members of the party, as it is for Democrats. Clinton, on Sunday, was talking about the broader trade negotiations, not the specifics of the fast-track legislative process. That, it appears, is something that her team has decided there is simply no benefit to weigh in on. As Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday: “The back and forth that’s happening right now is about procedures and parliamentary this and that.”


This stuff is complex, and that’s even before one gets into the specifics of TPP itself—an enormously important negotiation that touches on just about every sector of the U.S. economy and more than 40 percent of the world’s. That, in a nutshell, is exactly why figuring out what each lawmaker or candidate means when they say something on the issue, matters. No matter how many times they use the letter “T” in the acronyms.


By: Phil Mattingly, Bloomberg Politics, June 14, 2015

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Economy, Election 2016, Trade Promotion Authority, Trans Pacific Partnership | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Talk About What Makes Governing Harder”: The Problem Is One Political Party Catering To An Ever Decreasing Group Of Voters

By now almost everyone has weighed in on the article in the NYT by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman about Hillary Clinton’s strategy for winning the 2016 presidential election. Chuck Todd and his friends at First Read adopted the conventional wisdom of the Washington D.C. pundit class with their response titled: This is the Way to Win Elections (But it Makes Governing Harder).

Campaigns see an America more polarized than ever, and winning is all about coming out ahead in this polarized world. But it makes governing harder than it already was. Bottom line: Campaigns don’t engage in persuasion anymore. They simply look for unmotivated like-minded potential voters and find an issue to motivate them. And if someone wins office by not having to persuade a voter who actually swings between the two parties, there isn’t any motivation for said elected official to compromise.

Of course Ron Fournier joined that chorus immediately with his entry titled: The Right Way and Wrong Way to Win the Presidency.

My problem with this approach is that it works only until Election Day, when a polarizing, opportunistic candidate assumes the presidency with no standing to convert campaign promises into results.

Naturally, David Brooks agrees.

…this base mobilization strategy is a legislative disaster. If the next president hopes to pass any actual laws, he or she will have to create a bipartisan governing majority. That means building a center-out coalition, winning 60 reliable supporters in the Senate and some sort of majority in the House. If Clinton runs on an orthodox left-leaning, paint-by-numbers strategy, she’ll never be able to do this. She’ll live in the White House again, but she won’t be able to do much once she lives there.

This is a classic case of the media’s addiction to “both sides do it” as a way of explaining gridlock in Washington. It is a lie they tell themselves (and us) about what is going on in order to claim a false sense of balance in reporting to appease conservatives who constantly decry the “liberal media.” The fact that it is a lie matters less than their desire to prove that claim wrong.

So let’s take a moment to deal with the facts. As I pointed out before, the positions Hillary Clinton has articulated enjoy broad support among voters – including independents. In reacting to the same article, Steve M. dug up some of the actual numbers.

Americans support gay marriage by a 60%-37% margin, and 58% want the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage nationwide — and Hillary’s is a “liberal position”? There’s 72% support for legalization of undocumented immigrants — and her position on immigration is too left-wing? And when I Google “bipartisan support for criminal justice reform,” one of the first hits is a post with precisely that title from, um, FreedomWorks — but Clinton’s out of the mainstream? Oh, please.

So if Clinton is talking about issues that enjoy 60-70% support from Americans, where is the polarization coming from? What stops elected officials from compromising to address their concerns? Do you suppose it has anything to do with a Republican Speaker of the House who finds it hard to even utter the word “compromise?”

Let’s take a close look at just one example to make the point: immigration reform. Typically Democrats have prioritized a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in this country while Republicans have prioritized border security. Not that long ago, a bi-partisan group of Senators got together to compromise by drafting a bill that included both priorities. With Democrats still in control of the Senate, it passed there. But Speaker Boehner refused to bring it up for a vote in the House. Part of Hillary Clinton’s agenda in her campaign is to support the Senate’s bi-partisan approach to immigration reform.

So let’s be clear about what makes governing harder: the problem is that we have one political party that is catering to an ever-decreasing group of voters that completely rejects any form of compromise to their agenda. When/if folks like Chuck Todd, Ron Fournier and David Brooks figure that one out – they will finally be able to start telling the American people the truth.


By: Nancy LeTournau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 9, 2015

June 12, 2015 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Governing, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Progressive Frenemies”: It’s Always Wise To Seek The Truth In Our Opponents’ Error, And The Error In Our Own Truth

You probably think there is a big struggle over the Democratic Party’s soul and the meaning of progressivism. After all, that’s what the media talk about incessantly, often with a lot of help from the parties involved in the rumble.

Earlier this month, Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, a proud Democratic centrist, published a thoughtful essay on The Atlantic‘s website under a very polemical headline: “Americans Need Jobs, Not Populism.” Take that, Elizabeth Warren.

The Massachusetts Democrat is clearly unpersuaded. In a powerful speech to the California Democratic Convention last weekend, she used variations on the word “fight” 21 times. “This country isn’t working for working people,” Warren declared. “It’s working only for those at the top.” If populism is a problem, Warren has not received the message.

There’s other grist for this narrative. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel was re-elected earlier this year only after a spirited battle during which his opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, labeled him “Mayor 1 Percent.” And every other day, it seems, there’s a report about Hillary Clinton being under pressure either to “move left” or to resist doing so.

A storyline doesn’t develop such a deep hold without some basis in fact. There are real dividing lines within the center-left around issues such as the right way to reform public education and the best approach to public employee pension costs. There’s also trade, a matter that has so vexed Democrats that for many years, its presidential candidates have tried to hedge the issue — usually during the primaries but sometimes until after the election.

But the us-vs.-them frame on this debate has two major problems. The first affects the center-left itself, something shrewd Democrats have started to notice. A post on The Democratic Strategist website in March argued that “slinging essentially vacuous stereotypes like ‘corporate centrists’ and ‘left-wing populists’” inevitably leads to “a vicious downward spiral of mutual recrimination.”

The larger difficulty is that the epithets exaggerate the differences between two sides that in fact need each other. There is political energy in the populist critique because rising inequality and concentrated wealth really are an outrage. But the centrists offer remedies that, in most cases, the populists accept.

Both Markell and Warren, for example, have emphasized the importance of business growth and job creation. In her California speech, Warren described the need for policies that foster prosperity while “bending it toward more opportunity for everyone.” Her priorities were not far from those Markell outlined in his article.

There was nothing exotically left wing about Warren’s call for “education for our kids, roads and bridges and power so businesses could grow and get their goods to market and build good jobs here in America, research so we would have a giant pipeline of ideas that would permit our children and grandchildren to build a world we could only dream about.”

For his part, Markell freely acknowledged that “the altered economic terrain is preventing new wealth from being broadly shared,” that “income inequality is growing worse,” and that “a huge number of Americans are economically insecure.” Growth is “necessary, but not sufficient,” and he made the case for “a decent minimum wage,” “affordable and quality health care,” and support for a dignified retirement.

Sen. Warren and Gov. Markell, would you kindly give each other a call?

As for Emanuel, his inaugural address on Monday was devoted to the single subject of “preventing another lost generation of our city’s youth.” It was a powerful and unstinting look at how easy it is for the rest of society to turn its back on those for whom “their school is the street and their teachers are the gangs.”

“The truth is that years of silence and inaction have walled off a portion of our city,” he said. “It is time to stop turning our heads and turning the channel. … We cannot abandon our most vulnerable children to the gang and the gun.” If “centrists” and “populists” can’t come together on this cause, they might as well pack it in.

Yes, the populists and centrists need to fight out real differences, and that’s what we will see in the coming weeks on trade. But they would do well to remember the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s observation that it’s always wise to seek the truth in our opponents’ error, and the error in our own truth.

And as it happens, to win the presidency, one of Hillary Clinton’s central tasks will be to move both sides in the progressive argument to embrace Niebuhr’s counsel.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 21, 2015

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Liberals, Progressives | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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