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“Please, Not Again!”: Don’t Try To Breathe Life Into A Dead Scandal

This just in: Nothing boosts circulation or enhances ratings like a sex scandal. The more prominent the actors and the more prurient the allegations, the better. And if any factual adjustments become necessary to keeping the narrative going, many journalists are eager to play along.

For example, how did the current spat between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over her husband’s well-known sins begin? Was it when Hillary, unwisely rising to the bait, criticized Trump’s “penchant for sexism”? Or was it earlier, when Trump described her taking a bathroom break during a TV debate as “disgusting”?

Most would say Trump’s bizarre insult jump-started things. However, if you watch Morning Joe or read accounts of Hillary’s supposedly “enabling” Bill Clinton’s transgressions, you’d learn that it’s pretty much all her fault. Always was.

Even the New York Times, in an editorial arguing that “Trump is way out of line bringing up Mr. Clinton’s philandering,” couldn’t restrain itself from scolding her for allegedly attacking Bill’s paramours.

“When Mr. Clinton ran for president in 1992,” editors chided, “Mrs. Clinton appeared on television beside him to assert that allegations involving Gennifer Flowers were false. In 1998, he admitted to that affair under oath.”

Actually, no he did not. In the famous 60 Minutes interview, Bill Clinton had acknowledged “causing pain in my marriage.” He added that most adults would understand what that meant.

Testifying in 1998, he admitted a single backseat tryst with Flowers, very far from the 12-year relationship she’d claimed. In her own deposition, she testified to earning more than $500,000 posing as Bill Clinton’s mistress. Besides claiming college degrees she’d never earned, beauty titles she’d never won, and even a twin sister who never existed, Flowers also managed to write an entire book without stipulating a single time and place where she and her famous paramour were ever together.

Fans of MSNBC’s Hardball have evidently forgotten the August 1999 episode in which Flowers was permitted to accuse Bill Clinton of having political opponents murdered, while host Chris Matthews told her how hot she was.

Bob Somerby found the transcript: “You’re a very beautiful woman,” Matthews panted. “He knows that, you know that, and everybody watching knows that. Hillary Clinton knows that!”

See, where Lewinsky was a starstruck amateur, Flowers was a seasoned professional.

Echoing Trump, who’s been going around describing Hillary as an “enabler,” who “totally destroyed” women that accused Bill Clinton, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd depicted her as a hypocrite for “running as a feminist icon” after smearing women who truthfully maligned him.

And who would those be?

Dowd provides exactly one example, the unfortunate Monica — the most reluctant “accuser” imaginable. And did Hillary not describe her husband’s paramour as a “narcissistic loony toon”? Apparently so, but in a private communication with her close friend Diane Blair, a University of Arkansas professor whose papers became available after her untimely death.

It’s the press that turned it into a smear.

If that’s the worst thing a middle-aged wife ever said about a young thing who threw herself at her husband, she should get the Nobel Peace Prize.

So am I so naïve that I believe Bill Clinton innocent of all charges? Certainly not. However, my suspicion is that like most public men with what the old Johnny Cash song called a “wicked wandering eye,” he waited for the woman to make the first move, and rarely had to wait very long.

Indeed, I long ago learned that the way some women act around famous, powerful men — athletes, actors, musicians, politicians — contradicts almost everything your mama (and every feminist since time began) says women behave. I have even witnessed women at writers’ conferences trying to trip novelists (and even the odd journalist) and beat them to the floor.

I’ve also noticed that some can get vengeful when they don’t get what they want. Or even if they do. That’s why Hillary Clinton in particular ought to avoid academic-accented cant about women never lying about sexual assault.

All human beings lie, and sex is one of the most common things they lie about. Again, sorry, but there it is.

Meanwhile, some reporters appear keen to return to those thrilling days of 1998 the way others yearn to experience Woodstock. I recently read a screed by a Vox reporter who was eight years old when this all went down: Linda Tripp, Kathleen Willey, Michael Isikoff, the “Elves,” Kenneth Starr, the lot.

He made a brave show of arguing that it would be “misleading and pernicious” to doubt the ever-changing tale of Juanita Broaddrick, an Arkansas nursing home owner (and Trump supporter) who claims that Bill Clinton raped her 40 years ago, but has also given sworn statements denying it.

He appears unaware that a veritable army of jackleg private eyes and right-wing political operatives (many employed by Kenneth Starr) ransacked Arkansas for years without proving a thing.

Please, not again.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, January 13, 2016

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Journalists | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Not-Very-Subtle Attack”: GOP’s Official SOTU Response Helps Obama Undermine Trump

At the beginning of her pre-recorded “response” to the State of the Union address, Nikki Haley echoed the president’s evocation of his 2008 campaign themes by taking up the old 2008 Republican theme of Obama being just a good speech-maker with no substance. Near the end she briskly went through the Republican critique of Obama and the standard GOP agenda of tax-cutting and Obamacare-repealing and defense-spending increases, etc. But in between these bookends, she did something very different.

The emotional and structural heart of Haley’s speech was a not-very-subtle attack on Donald Trump as a “siren voice” of intolerance:

During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.

No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

That was clear enough. But Haley doubled down by making the saga of the Charleston massacre earlier this year — not coincidentally the beginning of her best moment in office when she squashed conservative resistance to the removal of the Confederate flag from state property — an allegory of the kind of tensions Trump is exploiting.

What happened after the tragedy is worth pausing to think about.

Our state was struck with shock, pain, and fear. But our people would not allow hate to win. We didn’t have violence, we had vigils. We didn’t have riots, we had hugs.

We didn’t turn against each other’s race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world.

We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us, and we found a strength that united us against a domestic terrorist and the hate that filled him.

There’s an important lesson in this. In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results.

Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.

Not much doubt who she was talking about.

So Haley delivered the Republican Establishment’s message to and about Trump as much as any message to and about Obama. By doing so, she is presumably doing their will, and will store up treasure in heaven politically. But will it make her more or less viable as a possible vice-presidential nominee in 2016? That obviously depends on the identity of the person at the top of the ticket. But if I were Donald Trump and had any leverage over the GOP at the end of this nominating contest, I’d make sure Nikki Haley is buried at the Republican Convention in some pre-prime-time, five-minute speech slot, preferably confined to talking about the Tenth Amendment or something. She’s only 43, so maybe she’s shooting for a spot on the ticket — perhaps even the top spot — in 2024 or 2028.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 12, 2015

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Nikki Haley, State of the Union | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Lesson In Leadership”: Obama Uses State Of The Union To Rebut Ted Cruz And Marco Rubio Along With Donald Trump

President Obama spent a lot of time in his State of the Union address responding to Donald Trump without naming him. The president denounced the politics of fear, of inwardness, scapegoating minorities, and Trump’s conviction that the United States is undergoing economic or military decline. But Trump did not absorb all of Obama’s jibes. The president drew clear lines of distinction against the other two leading Republicans, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Cruz and Rubio have offered contrasting ideological approaches to foreign policy — and, especially, opposing ISIS. Cruz has revived the isolationist tradition of ignoring the world except for occasionally bombing parts of it to smithereens. Rubio has instead embraced the neoconservative doctrine of using ground troops to project force and promote democratic governments. Obama very clearly attacked both philosophies in succession:

The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage. [Cruz]

We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq  —  and we should have learned it by now. [Rubio]

Of course Obama proceeded to expound his internationalist position, before returning to a contrast against both Cruz’s isolationism and Rubio’s neoconservatism: “American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world  — except when we kill terrorists; [Cruz] or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. [Rubio]”

The State of the Union address provided a forum for Obama to insert himself into the presidential campaign and resist the habit of the opposing party’s assumptions about the state of the world to gain currency through repetition. It also showed that he is paying close attention to the Republican race — and not only to the candidate who is grabbing all the headlines.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 12, 2016

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Leadership, State of the Union | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“State Of The Union Vs. State Of The Trump”: Our Political Spite And Meanness Have Gotten Out Of Control

Barack Obama really does not have it so bad. He gets $400,000 a year in salary, $50,000 in expenses, a fleet of planes, a car and driver, and almost all the golf he can stand.

In other words, the president’s life is almost as good as Donald Trump’s.

With one major exception: President Obama feels actual remorse. And considerable responsibility. And Trump may never have felt either.

In his last State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Obama spoke of something presidents rarely speak of at such moments: regret.

Pointing out how “our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention,” Obama said, “Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter, that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.”

He went on, “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency: that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.”

And who is to blame, according to Obama?

Obama is to blame. At least a little.

“There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide,” Obama said, “and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”

But he won’t hold the office for very much longer — only a little more than a year. And Obama said that if things are going to improve, somebody else needs to bear some blame around here: you and I.

Which made it an unusual political speech. If there is one rule of politics, one unbreakable commandment, it is this: Thou shalt never blame the voters.

The voters are holy. They can do no wrong. Or, rather, they can be blamed for no wrong. Because if you blame them, they may not vote for your party. And we couldn’t have that, could we?

Yes, we could, said Obama. Because our political spite and meanness have gotten out of control. And that must stop.

“My fellow Americans, this cannot be my task? — or any president’s — alone,” Obama said. “There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. … It’s not enough to just change a congressman or a senator or even a president; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.”

We must “end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around,” Obama said. “We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.”

In other words: Don’t hold your breath.

No, wait. That’s the kind of cheap cynicism that Obama wants to eradicate or at least reduce.

“What I’m asking for is hard,” he admitted. “It’s easier to be cynical, to accept that change isn’t possible and politics is hopeless and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter.”

You bet it is! And if you get cynical and hopeless enough, they make you a columnist!

Obama blamed an array of people, most of whom turned out to be Republicans running for president.

Chris Christie was the target when Obama said, “As we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.”

Ted Cruz was the target when Obama said, “The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians.”

And Trump was the target when Obama said: “When politicians insult Muslims … that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. It betrays who we are as a country.”

Making these statements — as true as they may be — will not do much to decrease the rancor in Washington, however.

Which Obama admits. He is not perfect. Often criticized for being aloof and academic, he is, in fact, proud of his toughness. If you are not tough in the world of today’s politics, nobody will respect you. Which means you have to be tough without being so tough that nobody will work with you, either.

“Our brand of democracy is hard,” Obama said Tuesday night. But there are good people in it who redeem it.

And Obama listed some of them, including “the American who served his time … but now is dreaming of starting over.”

“The protester determined to prove that justice matters.”

“The young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.”

“The son who finds the courage to come out as who he is and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.”

And Obama ended with a Carl Sandburg-like list, saying Americans are “cleareyed, bighearted, undaunted by challenge, optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

 

By: Roger Simon, Politico’s Chief Political Columnist; The National Memo, January 13, 2015

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Donald Trump, State of the Union | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Maybe Ted Cruz Isn’t Eligible To Be President”: Cheney Posing As A Wyoming Citizen Was A Fraud

I’m not qualified to second guess the considered judgment of constitutional scholars about the original meaning of the term “natural born citizen.” I think it may well be the case that anyone who was not born in the United States of America cannot be considered eligible to serve as president of the United States. I also think it’s possible that they can be.

Either way, there’s a distinction to be made between people like John McCain and my brother, Phil, who were born abroad in military installations while their fathers were serving in the military, and Ted Cruz, who was born in Calgary, Canada because that’s where his parents were voluntarily living at the time.

It’s my strong suspicion that the Founding Fathers would not have wanted to punish the children of citizens who they had sent to serve abroad. But they would not have been willing to make an exception for citizens who were living in another country for their own reasons.

I can imagine some tricky cases, like a mother who was spending a summer in Europe rather than actually relocating there. But the basic intent of the constitutional provision seems clear to me. If you are born a Canadian, you can’t become president.

A separate question is whether anyone is really interested in enforcing this provision in a case like Ted Cruz’s.

For me, I have no such interest. His mother was a citizen. As far as I am concerned, that’s good enough. I don’t like Ted Cruz but I don’t think he’ll sell us out to Ottawa.

If some people want to be sticklers, I think they have that right. I don’t feel like being a stickler.

You know, there’s another provision of the Constitution that (sort of) says that the president and vice-president cannot come from the same state. I think it’s an outdated provision and we shouldn’t care about it. But it should have been discussed more when George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney as his running mate. They were both residents of Texas at the time, and I don’t think Dick Cheney maintaining a second residence in Wyoming should have allowed him to pretend that he didn’t live in Texas. As it turned out, Cheney registered to vote at his second residence which was actually critical because the Electors from Texas were prohibited from casting their votes for more than one Texan. Because the Electoral College vote was so close (271-266), if Cheney hadn’t been considered a citizen of Wyoming, Bush could been elected but Cheney could not have been.

I thought Cheney posing as a Wyoming citizen was a fraud. But, I actually didn’t care too much about it. I didn’t see any real reason why we should still care if the president and vice-president come from the same state.

Likewise, I don’t care that Cruz was born in Calgary. But some people will care. And I will laugh my ass off if the Republicans discover that after falsely accusing the current president of being born in another country they wind up having a problem electing a president because he actually was born in another country.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 12,2016

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Birthright Citizenship, Dick Cheney, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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