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“A Hatred That Will Not Fade”: Why Republicans Are Still Losing Their Minds Over Bill Clinton’s Sex Life

Donald Trump is very, very excited to talk about Bill Clinton’s sexual history, and he’s not alone. Stroll around the conservative media universe, from Breitbart to Drudge to Limbaugh, and you’d almost think Clinton was still president and the most urgent task faced by the right was discrediting him. And judging from the people sending angry missives my way via email and social media (not a representative sample of anything, but still suggestive), the outright rage against both Bill and Hillary Clinton burns as bright as it ever did.

It’s too early to say whether this will turn out to be a momentary issue, filling up a week or two of the primary campaign and then disappearing. But I doubt it, because that anger is real. The conservatives who were around during the 1990s don’t loathe Bill Clinton any less than they ever did, and the prospect of his wife becoming president is bringing all those feelings to the fore.

For the purposes of this article, I won’t be assessing the veracity of anyone’s accusations against Bill Clinton, which is perhaps a worthy topic of discussion but one for another day. I’m interested in what the issue tells us about where we are now and where we might be going. This was touched off by Donald Trump when he responded to Hillary Clinton saying he has a penchant for sexism by firing back that she can’t talk because her husband mistreated women. Though Trump didn’t seem to care much about Clinton’s sex life 20 years ago, this was like firing a starting gun, with old accusations remade and old feelings renewed.

To understand this, it’s important to remember how conservatives felt about Bill Clinton when he was president. It wasn’t just that they disliked him personally and disagreed with his policies. Many political opponents also found Clinton infuriating, exasperating, maddening. With that easy charm and that ready smile and that silver tongue, they thought he was as phony as could be. It wasn’t just that they found him dishonest, or that he always played it close to the ethical line. It was that again and again, he got away with it. Every time they thought they had him in their clutches, he’d manage to slip free.

The Monica Lewinsky affair, culminating in impeachment, was the apotheosis of this pattern, the ne plus ultra Clinton scandal. Republicans were sure they had him — for Pete’s sake, he had an affair with a 20-something intern right there in the White House! Surely the public would finally see the true nature of his villainy and turn away from him in disgust once and for all. But even then, Clinton escaped — and not only that, Republicans were the ones who ended up condemned by the public, and Clinton left office two years later with boffo approval ratings. It was enough to make you lose your mind.

And so many of them did, even those who didn’t travel through the fever swamps where no conspiracy theory about Clinton was too outlandish to believe (there were prominent political figures who sincerely thought that Clinton ran a vast drug-smuggling operation as governor of Arkansas and had murdered dozens of his political opponents and allies). When Clinton waltzed out of office, all they were left with was their frustration, disappointment, and a hatred that would not fade.

The frustration wouldn’t dissipate as long as Hillary Clinton, whom they always hated nearly as much, could one day become president. Now they have a new story to tell: Not only was Bill Clinton a serial abuser of women, but Hillary Clinton was no victim at all, but rather an active participant in his reign of terror, enabling and covering up his crimes.

This is an appealing story for conservatives with long memories, for multiple reasons. It’s not because their concern for women is so profound, and it’s not because they’ve made a careful strategic assessment that this issue is likely to significantly wound Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid (it probably won’t). What raising this issue does is allow them to fight that old battle again, to say that when they were mocked for their Clinton Derangement Syndrome, they were right all along and Bill Clinton was worse than everyone thought. And unlike things like Hillary’s emails or Benghazi, it allows them to wage a frontal assault on both Clintons at the same time.

The media environment today is far different than it was when opponents helped build what Hillary so famously referred to as the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” The start-up costs for such a conspiracy have been reduced to almost nothing, and accusations that 20 years ago had to be carefully nurtured if they were to spread will today move through the ecosystem in a matter of minutes. But at the same time, the unity of focus that characterized the right in those days is more difficult to sustain when so many people have the ability to move the agenda in one direction or another.

So those who want nothing more than to keep everyone’s attention on Bill Clinton’s sexual history won’t have an easy task before them. And just as before, their hatred, their mania, and their sheer desperation will probably turn them into their own worst enemies. And the Clintons will escape yet again.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, January 8, 2015

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Bill and Hillary Clinton, Conservative Media, Conservatives | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“An Economic Self-Kneecapping”: How Michigan Literally Poisoned An Entire City To Save A Few Bucks

You know what’s bad? Brain damage.

Flint, Michigan, is finding this out after it accidentally gave its entire population at least a little bit of lead poisoning when it switched up their water supply. In an attempt to save money for a cash-strapped city, Flint started drinking water from the Flint River — but ended up contaminating children with a poisonous heavy metal. Governor Rick Snyder has declared a state of emergency, and the federal government is investigating.

Why on Earth did they do this? Austerity. Aside from the obvious humanitarian disaster, this is a stark demonstration of austerity’s false economy. Trying to be cheap on Flint’s water supply will end up costing the state of Michigan (and probably the country as a whole) a ton more money than it would have to fix it properly in the first place.

Flint, as you may have heard, has been an economic disaster zone for decades now. What was once a key part of the great Midwest industrial powerhouse — General Motors was founded there over a century ago — has been troubled since the 1970s, beset by deindustrialization, population loss, a collapsing tax base, and the inevitable concomitant spike in crime and poverty.

Of course such a situation is going to require some painful downsizing of local services, which has been partially accomplished under a succession of emergency managers imposed by the Michigan state government with a tremendous amount of legal scuffling. While some cuts or tax increases are surely necessary, in such a situation it’s critical to lay out a trajectory to future fiscal sustainability to avoid a death spiral.

Ideally, this is where the state or federal government would step in, making sure that pain is spread around equitably — particularly to bondholders, who probably knew exactly who they were lending to — and the city doesn’t get stuck in legal limbo for years on end.

But emergency managers, particularly the ones appointed by Governor Snyder (a Republican) have been far more focused on cuts for their own sake, particularly crushing unionized public sector workers. The idea to temporarily use Flint River water while another pipeline was being constructed was one of those cost-saving measures.

It was immediately obvious that the water was filthy, and residents loudly protested that it was cloudy, smelled bad, and tasted worse. General Motors stopped using the water because it was literally corroding their machinery. But Snyder and his handpicked head environmental official Dan Wyant studiously ignored the problem — despite internal warnings of lead poisoning as early as July of last year — until an outside scientific study demonstrated extreme levels of lead in Flint children. In late December — over a year after the water switch — Snyder finally apologized and Wyant quietly resigned.

Lead poisoning is one of the lesser-known great evils of the 20th century. Most notably it may have even caused a great crime wave, as basically the entire population was subjected to minor aerosol lead poisoning from leaded gasoline, resulting in lower IQs and poorer impulse control across the population — and therefore higher crime.

Things have improved since lead was removed from gasoline, but it’s still a gigantic problem for many impoverished communities, who can’t afford to replace their lead pipes or properly remove flaking lead paint. The threat is greatest for small children, who are most vulnerable to lead poisoning and most likely to eat lead paint (which often has a sweet taste). Freddie Gray, the Baltimore resident whose death in police custody sparked major unrest last year — was just so brain damaged.

Now Snyder has already been forced to pony up over $10 million to switch the Flint water system back to the way it was before (hooked up to Detroit, basically), and the city is asking for some $50 million more to replace lead pipes. But that’s very likely only the beginning. Flint’s population is roughly 100,000, and several families have already sued state and local officials over the lead issue. It’s unclear so far how badly the city’s children have been poisoned, but it’s a pretty safe bet the state will end up spending tens or perhaps even hundreds of millions on settlements.

And that’s where a moral atrocity becomes an economic self-kneecapping. Aside from the cost of settlements, children are the major portion of the future’s economic capacity, which depends critically on their ability to function normally. Destroying their brains with heavy metals will rather impede their ability to get the jobs and pay the taxes that will get Flint on a sound fiscal footing.

Being a cheapskate can be expensive indeed.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, January 7, 2016

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Austerity, Flint Michigan, Lead Poisoining, Rick Snyder | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Addicts Deserve Alternatives To Prison”: Misguided War On Drugs Has Left Many Victims With Scars

Earlier this month, five Republican presidential contenders addressed a New Hampshire forum concerned with a crisis swamping certain regions of the country, including New England: heroin addiction. The candidates spoke passionately, some sharing personal experiences, according to news reports.

Jeb Bush spoke of his family’s turmoil as his daughter Noelle, now 38 and in recovery, struggled with an addiction to prescription drugs and cocaine. “What I learned was that the pain that you feel when you have a loved one who has addiction challenges and kind of spirals out of control is something that is shared with a whole lot of people,” he said.

Carly Fiorina also talked about her family’s struggles; her stepdaughter, Lori Ann, died at 34 after years of battling drug and alcohol abuse.

“… As Lori grew progressively sicker, the sparkle, the potential, the possibilities that had once filled her life — disappeared from behind her eyes,” she said.

This new frankness and sympathy concerning the physical, emotional and financial costs of drug addiction comes as white middle-class Americans have found their lives upended by the emergence of heroin as the drug of choice for their children and grandchildren. Nationwide, the number of deaths from heroin rocketed from fewer than 2,000 in 2001 to more than 10,000 in 2014, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And experts say that nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white.

As a result of their experience, there has been a stark change in public perceptions of drug abuse. You see it not only in the more sympathetic rhetoric on the campaign trail, but also in the less aggressive methods of law enforcement and the softer penalties meted out by legislative bodies. Police chiefs now speak of addiction as a medical and psychological problem that deserves treatment, not incarceration. And parents insist that their children be treated as victims, not as perpetrators.

If this signals an end to the wretched, misguided and punitive war on drugs, I welcome it. Still, I find it heartbreaking that the nation didn’t have the clearheadedness, the courage and the compassion to see addiction as something other than a crime during the 1980s, when crack was the scourge of poor black neighborhoods.

Back then, lawmakers, especially conservatives, competed to see who could impose the harshest measures on poor drug addicts, and police officers routinely rounded up penny-ante dealers to bolster their arrest records. I can recall the wild accusations about crack users, the phony science, the harebrained predictions.

When Congress passed the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, it enacted mandatory minimum sentences for drugs and enshrined into law harsher penalties for the use of crack cocaine than for powdered cocaine, which was more likely to be used by whites. Offering up invalid assertions not backed by any data, lawmakers insisted that crack was more dangerous — as were its users.

Remember the dire warnings about crack babies? According to some so-called experts, the nation would see a wave of children born to crackhead moms, babies whose intelligence would always be stunted and whose physical capacities would always be limited. In fact, those pseudo-facts turned out to be gross exaggerations. Some babies were, in fact, born addicted, but, given appropriate medical care, most have turned out to be no different than their non-addicted peers.

The crack epidemic finally died away, but the after-effects of the misguided war on drugs linger in the lives of countless black men and women. That so-called war has drained the national treasury of billions of dollars, torn apart countless black families and decimated entire black neighborhoods.

It has made permanent second-class citizens, forever marginalized, of tens of thousands of black men and women because felony records have rendered them virtually unemployable. In some states, those with felony convictions are not even permitted to vote.

Now that we seem to have finally figured out that addicts deserve alternatives to prison, perhaps we can find a way to help those who bear the scars of the war on drugs. They are victims, too.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, January 9, 2016

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Drug Addiction, War on Drugs | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Appalling Message To Women”: Stop Second-Guessing Hillary About Her Marriage

Ruth Marcus is a respected journalist, who has achieved an extremely privileged position in a male-dominated industry. More power to her! I’d be the last person to say she didn’t work hard to get where she is. Good on her.

But I am troubled by her recent over-the-top screed attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which sends an appalling message to women: Ladies, if you have a messy personal life, stay the hell off the public stage! Be forever shamed by your total humiliation! A respectable woman whose husband cheats on her must leave him — indeed, leaving him is the only way for her to regain her respectability, after an acceptable period of being ashamed of him, and ashamed of herself for ever having been with him. Darn that Hillary Clinton, she is not acting respectable! How dare she go out in public with that man!? How dare she run for U.S. Senate, serve with distinction, then go on to reshape the U.S. State Department as Secretary of State — all without leaving that no-good husband of hers. She was a shamed woman! How. Dare. She.

Ruth Marcus has been on the receiving end of media attention for her column, from this on MSNBC to this in the New York Times. Now, I know that columnists are often deliberately provocative, and I don’t expect to agree with everything that even a favorite opinion writer publishes. But I have a particularly personal reaction to this column.

Reading Marcus, I can be reminded what a loser I am. My life has been messy with many personal failures. My first husband beat the crap out of me. That was humiliating. I knew it was something that did not happen to respectable young women. I was extremely fortunate, however, as with the help and support of my parents I regained respectability by leaving my batterer. My mother and father breathed a sigh of relief and hoped I would stay on the right path. I went to law school, got good jobs and performed well. But my life kept being messy. I married again, not once but twice. Not respectable. My mother was bitterly disappointed. Ms. Marcus reminds me of her.

When my third marriage was breaking up, a friend of mine told me she believed marriage failures were always the woman’s fault. I laughed, but stopped when she said she was serious. This individual truly considered herself a friend, and so did I. I still do. I just don’t share her archaic view of women’s place in the world. Ruth Marcus’s narrow conception of what wives must and must not do is outdated in the same way.

All of which brings me round to why I admire Hillary Clinton as a woman, and why I am supporting her to be the next president of the United States. For most women, whose lives have not been perfect, Sec. Clinton’s career path — which has been marked by persistence and resilience in the face of extraordinary barriers — is cause for celebration and inspiration. When she ran for president in 2008, she was subjected to vicious forms of misogyny, but she didn’t let that chase her out of the public square. As a result, today, other women know that they don’t have to be chased out either.

The good news is that the vast majority of women aren’t interested in second-guessing Sec. Clinton’s decisions about her marriage. To paraphrase Sen. Bernie Sanders, the public has no interest in that ancient history. Most people consider former President Bill Clinton to be more than the personal actions he regrets and has apologized for. As adults living in the 21st century, we are able to agree or disagree with him on policy without clutching our pearls and fantasizing about some dress.

What women voters do care about is whether our next president will enact policies we need more than ever — a higher minimum wage, an expanded Social Security system, paid family leave, racial justice initiatives that include girls and women of color, access to safe, legal abortion care and birth control, and recognition of civil and human rights of LGBTQIA people. I don’t agree with Sec. Clinton on everything, but I do know that she listens and responds to people who disagree with her. And I especially admire her strength in the face of the hate and nasty attacks that come at her from all angles.

Thanks to Ruth Marcus, we have been schooled once again in the old rules of how wives are supposed to behave. But thanks to Hillary Clinton, there is a brighter future for women leaders.

 

By: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women, The Blog, The Huffington Post, January 6, 2016

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Hillary Clinton, Women | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Calgary Ted”: What Goes Around Comes Around; Trump Shifts His Birther Gaze To Cruz

Who says Donald Trump lacks subtlety? The way he’s raising “birther” questions about his chief rival for the nomination is worthy of Machiavelli.

“I’d hate to see something like that get in his way,” Trump said of the fact that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) was born in Canada. Trump referred to the Constitution’s provision that “No Person except a natural born Citizen” — whatever that means — is eligible to be president.

“But a lot of people are talking about it,” Trump continued, in an interview with Post reporters, “and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport.”

Cruz flatly denied ever having a Canadian passport, telling CNN that this was just one of those “silly sideshows” the media love to engage in. But there is no question that he was born in Calgary, Alberta, to an American mother and a Cuban father. And there is no question that he had Canadian citizenship — before renouncing it in preparation for his presidential run.

Ah, what goes around comes around. For years, the Republican Party had nothing but patronizing nods and winks for the unhinged birthers — Trump included — who claimed, despite definitive proof to the contrary, that President Obama was born in some other country. Now, as party leaders desperately look for a way to deny Trump the nomination, the candidate with the best chance of doing so happens to have been born, without any doubt, in some other country.

Trump still leads the national Republican polls by a mile, while Cruz has pulled ahead of the rest of the field and now stands alone in second place. In first-to-vote Iowa, however, Cruz has taken a narrow lead over the bombastic billionaire and is favored to win. Hence Trump’s sudden concern over the birthplace of a man who perhaps should be nicknamed Calgary Ted.

“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem,” Trump told The Post. “It’d be a very precarious one for Republicans because he’d be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision.”

Most legal experts agree that Cruz is eligible to run; the fact that his mother was a U.S. citizen means he had citizenship from birth, which would appear to satisfy the “natural born” requirement. But the question of precisely what the Constitution means has never been fully explored by the courts.

The issue came up in 2008 because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) the GOP nominee, was born in the Panama Canal Zone to parents who were U.S. citizens. The Senate went so far as to pass a nonbinding resolution “recognizing that John Sidney McCain, III, is a natural born citizen.”

You’d think McCain might be sympathetic to Cruz’s situation, but did I mention that what goes around comes around? Cruz has gone out of his way to alienate many of his Senate colleagues, and McCain has called him and his allies “wacko birds.” Perhaps that’s why McCain, when asked by a Phoenix television station to comment on Cruz’s eligibility, responded: “I think there is a question. I’m not a constitutional scholar on that, but I think it’s worth looking into.”

McCain noted that the Canal Zone was “a territory of the United States of America” when he was born. And there was a precedent, he argued, since 1964 Republican candidate Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona when it, too, was a U.S. territory.

Whereas Canada is a whole different country.

I confess that I find the whole flap absurd. Cruz should be deemed unsuitable for the presidency because of his wrongheaded ultra-right-wing views and his dangerous political ruthlessness, not because his American mother happened to be living in Canada when he was born.

But maybe Cruz will have to squirm a bit. A lawsuit has been filed in Vermont to keep him off the ballot there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if suits were filed in other states as well. Somehow I doubt he’ll get the same moral support from his fellow senators that McCain was given.

Has the party of Lincoln really come to this, Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? The two men still insist that they like each other, their campaign-long bromance not extinguished. I’m reminded of something Machiavelli didn’t say but should have: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 7, 2016

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Birthers, Birthright Citizenship, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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