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“Michael Moore’s Casual Chauvinism”: To A Lot Of Men, The Woman-President Thing Just Isn’t Important

It isn’t exactly shocking that Michael Moore has endorsed Bernie Sanders, so normally I wouldn’t comment. But Moore’s letter announcing his reasons for backing the Bern is one of the most un-self-aware documents I’ve read in a long time, and it shines a light on one of the biggest obstacles Hillary Clinton faces now, even, apparently, from the left: the casual chauvinism of men for whom electing a woman president just doesn’t matter very much.

The whole conceit of the Moore letter is that “they” have always said this or that thing could never be done. Here’s a taste:

When I was a child, they said there was no way this majority-Protestant country of ours would ever elect a Catholic as president. And then John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected president.

The next decade, they said America would not elect a president from the Deep South. The last person to do that on his own (not as a v-p) was Zachary Taylor in 1849. And then we elected President Jimmy Carter.

In 1980, they said voters would never elect a president who had been divorced and remarried. Way too religious of a country for that, they said. Welcome, President Ronald Reagan, 1981-89.

Then he invokes Bill Clinton, who had never served in the military, and he winds up of course with Barack Obama, because obviously this country would never elect a Hawaiian. (Just kidding, he said black.) In all these cases, the naysayers were wrong.

If I didn’t know going in that this was a Sanders endorsement, I might have thought that he was setting us up for a Clinton nod. “And they said this country would never elect a woman…” But since I knew it was Sanders, I was thinking okay, first Jew. But no, wrong again! The pitch is: “And now, this year ‘they’ are claiming that there’s no way a ‘democratic socialist’ can get elected president of the United States. That is the main talking point coming now from the Hillary Clinton campaign office.

I’m not exactly sure that’s the Clinton camp’s “main talking point,” but let’s let that pass. Here’s what’s weird and gobsmacking about this endorsement. In a letter that is almost entirely about historical firsts—it goes on to discuss how “they” used to say we’d never have gay marriage and other changes—Moore doesn’t even take one sentence to acknowledge that Clinton’s elevation to the presidency would represent an important first.

I mean, picture yourself sitting down to write that. You’re a person of the left. You are writing specifically about the first Catholic president, the first black president, the first this, the first that. You want people to believe that if those things could happen, then a “democratic socialist” could win too. Fine, if that’s your view, that’s your view.

But it’s also the case the other candidate winning would make history in a way that is at least as historically important from a politically left point of view—I would say more so, but OK, that’s a subjective judgment—and it’s not even worth a sentence? I wouldn’t expect Moore to back Clinton or even say anything particularly nice about her. But he can’t even acknowledge to female readers that this great progressive sees that having a woman president would be on its own terms a salutary thing?

I obviously have no idea whether Moore contemplated such a sentence and rejected it or it just never occurred to him. Either way, it tells us something. To a lot of men, even men of the left, the woman-president thing just isn’t important.

Oh, no, Moore and some folks of his stripe will shoot back. I’d love to see a woman president. Just not that woman. Moore and other Sanders supporters would say, more precisely, not that corporate shill warmonger etc etc. They’d insist that they’d be perfectly content to back another woman. But then, somehow, the years pass and that other woman doesn’t come along. Or she comes along and it turns out, wouldn’t you know it, that there are certain particular reasons to be against her, too.

Others will say hey, look at Elizabeth Warren. She’s a woman and a genuine progressive, and she maybe could have been president. Well, maybe. I admire Warren a great deal, but the Democratic Party’s record in nominating Massachusetts liberals in recent history is 0-2, and throw on top of that her apparent complete lack of interest in foreign policy, and it seemed to me that she was going to be savaged in a general election campaign. Since she didn’t run, she may have thought so herself.

The fact is that Hillary Clinton is the woman who has a good chance of becoming president. And the further fact is that her flaws, from the left point of view, are inescapably commingled with the very reasons that she happens to be in a position to be elected president. Like it or not, a woman has to “prove” she’s tough on foreign policy in a way most men do not. A woman, especially one who was a senator from New York, has to reassure the financial elites, a world of certain attitudes toward women and of ceaseless and tasteless female-anatomy jokes, in a way that a man just doesn’t have to. And so on, and so on, and so on. Many of the very things that make Clinton anathema to the left are exactly the things that have enabled her to become a viable presidential contender as a woman.

I backed Barack Obama over her in 2008. I thought then that either first would be great, but that given this country’s uniquely revolting history on race, the nod in my mind went to first black president. Some prominent feminists I know reached the same conclusion. But now we’ve checked that box. I certainly wouldn’t say that anyone should back Clinton solely because she’s a woman. And I will refrain from making Moore’s error by stipulating that it would be a great thing to have a first Jewish president.

But I am saying that I’m surprised at how little people, mostly (but not wholly) people with my chromosomal structure, seem to care about maybe having a woman president. And not only how little people care, but—on the testimony of some pro-Clinton female writers I know—how hostile some people are to the idea that it’s even a factor that should matter. If you follow these things on Twitter, you know what I’m talking about.

Making history was a legitimate factor in 2008, and it’s one now. But it seems that for a lot of people, what was ennobling then is irrelevant or illegitimate or embarrassing today. There may be good reasons to oppose Clinton, but there is no good reason whatsoever for this first to be any less important than Obama’s.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 4, 2016

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore, Women in Politics | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hillary Unleashes The Kraken On Bernie”: ‘If You’ve Got Something To Say, Say It Directly’

It was almost as if a switch went off in Hillary Clinton’s brain.

Moments into the first Democratic debate not beleaguered by the presence of Martin O’Malley, Clinton laid into her remaining opponent, Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has tried to paint Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady, as a representative of the “establishment” he rails against. He often notes, sometimes without using Clinton’s name that she has taken millions in contributions from Wall Street and pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from banks.

But tonight, after weeks of semi-veiled attacks, Clinton announced she had enough.

“People support me because they know me, they know my life’s work, they have worked with me, and many have also worked with Senator Sanders—and at the end of the day, they endorse me because they know I can get things done,” Clinton said, redefining her “establishment” credentials as an asset.

“Being part of the establishment is in the last quarter having a super PAC that raised $15m from a whole lot of money from drug companies and other special interests,” Sanders quickly retorted.

As soon as the dreaded “e” word was used again, Clinton was ready to pounce, directly pushing Sanders to attack directly if he was going to attack at all.

“It’s fair to really ask what’s behind that comment. Senator Sanders has said that he wants to run a positive campaign, and I’ve tried to keep my disagreements over issues,” she said. “But time and time again by innuendo and by insinuation, there is this attack that he is putting forth, which really comes down to ‘anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought,’ and I just absolutely disagree with that, senator.”

Clinton went on to insist that she would never be influenced by the vast sums of money she’s received from Wall Street.

“If you’ve got something to say, say it directly,” Clinton said, her voice raised. “You will not find that I have ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation I have received. I have stood up and I have represented my constituents to the best of my abilities, and I’m very proud of that.”

Semantics about the definition of “establishment” and “progressive” aside, this seemed to mark the beginning of a new stage in the contest between Sanders and Clinton. And it’s not going to be pretty.

 

By: Gideon Resnick. The Daily Beast, February 4, 2016

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Who’s The Ugly Loser Now?”: Trump’s Moment Of Magnanimity Did Not Last Very Long

For a brief moment on Monday night, as he took the stage in Iowa to acknowledge that he came in second in the state caucuses, Donald Trump was surprisingly gracious. He was clearly unhappy with the results but seemed to accept them with equanimity and didn’t blame anyone else for his failure or call into question the legitimacy of the democratic process.

That moment of magnanimity did not last very long. By Tuesday morning, he started sending off a series of bitter, petulant tweets that made clear that he could not accept his loss and was looking for a scapegoat to kill. The crescendo of whining reached a peak Wednesday morning when he argued that winning candidate Ted Cruz had stolen the victory. In a series of tweets, he came across as an embittered loser, which endangers the brand he has worked so hard to create.

It could be argued that Trump’s sour grapes gambit is a smart move to recapture the media spotlight, and to rally his dispirited supporters by showing that he has a fighting heart—that he remains a pugilist who is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Accusations that the winner is a cheater are not unknown in the world of pro wrestling, a shaping force in Trump’s aggressive persona. And it could be that some of Trump’s fan base will take his lead and double-down.

Trump might also be muddying the waters of the Iowa election to shore up his support in New Hampshire, where he has a strong lead. Accusations that Cruz cheated are a way to staunch any flow of voters deserting Trump for Cruz and Rubio. Moreover, by bringing Carson into the fold as a fellow aggrieved victim, Trump gives another set of voters who might move to Cruz a reason to hate him.

Trump benefits from the fact that his complaint against Cruz has an element of truth to it, even though overstated with Trumpian hyperbole. The Cruz campaign did send out a mailer made to look like a government document in order to coerce voters, which was unethical and fraudulent. His campaign staff also told caucusgoers that Carson was dropping out of the race. It’s doubtful whether these tactics explains the margin of victory, given Cruz’s overwhelming superiority in ground game (a political concept that Trump himself admits he’s only recently heard about).

But Trump’s Twitter whine is more likely to hurt him. It prevents him from moving on from Iowa and keeps his loss in the news. Moreover, being a sore loser hurts one of Trump’s main arguments: that he’s tough, and a winner. Trump is supposed to be a shrewd guy who knows how to make his way among the killers of the world. But now he’s admitted that he was snookered (if not schlonged) by a weasel like Ted Cruz.

There is a way for tough guys to lose and make a comeback, which is by recasting themselves as heroic underdogs who are fighting against the odds, like Rocky Balboa. On the one hand, it should be easy for Trump to present himself as an underdog: As he rightly points out, he’s a political rookie and doesn’t have the large outside funding available to the other top-tier candidates. So it is remarkable he came in second, beating out experienced pols like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie. And considering that Trump had no real ground game, the fact that he was only 4 percent behind Cruz is remarkable. So the post-Iowa pitch Trump could make is clear: I’m a rookie who came close to winning in Iowa, I learn from my mistakes, and I’m going to win in New Hampshire.

But to cast himself as an underdog goes against every grain of Trump’s persona. Last month, Vox’s David Robert argued Trump’s pose as a winner is brittle, and doesn’t allow him to handle defeat well:

He can’t modulate, can’t do humility, can’t abide the thought of anyone above him. All his claims, all his stories, all his insults are yuge, the best you’ll find anywhere.

The same belligerence that looked like strength when Trump was on top will look defensive and bitter when he’s not. And the more doubtful or skeptical voters and the media become, the more Trump will escalate, the more his chest will puff. He doesn’t know any other strategy. He’ll enter a negative spiral as self-reinforcing as his rise has been.

At the time, I was skeptical of this analysis, thinking that Trump could remake himself as a defeated but spirited boxer. But given Trump’s Twitter meltdown this week, Roberts’s analysis holds up well. Trapped in his mask as a winner, Trump can’t adopt the best guise to make a comeback.

 

By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, February 3, 2016

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Iowa Caucuses, Ted Cruz | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Veterans, Patriots And Pawns”: A Particularly Blatant And Distasteful Ploy For Credibility

When Donald J. Trump removed himself from the Republican debate last week and threw a huge public relations party for himself, he did what many politicians before him have done: He cynically used United States military veterans to elevate his own political standing. His alt-rally, called a “Special Event to Benefit Veterans Organizations,” held in Des Moines, was the type of circus we’ve come to expect from the former reality TV star turned politician.

Thankfully, the candidate stopped short of ringleading a few acts under his big top — no Marines on the overhead trapeze, Navy SEALs balancing balls on their noses or Special Forces walking the tightrope.

The circus had nothing to do with those who serve this country; we know that he was sticking it to Fox News and the “mean” moderator Megyn Kelly. But like many before him, Mr. Trump saw an opportunity and seized it.

Mr. Trump didn’t invent this particular brand of hypocrisy; he just employed it a bit more flagrantly. Politicians from both parties have used warriors as photo ops and speech fodder ever since Abraham Lincoln posed with his generals for Mathew Brady at Antietam.

In Des Moines, Mr. Trump, who took a swipe last year at Senator John McCain of Arizona for being “captured” in Vietnam, and long before that complained that “homeless veterans” were ruining his property values, made the night air sparkle with his praise. And soon, like a true ringmaster, he gave the people what they wanted — three real, live veterans who came onstage to speak to the crowd.

As someone who spent 20 years in the active-duty Army, I should be used to strangers bending and twisting my service to suit their needs. But I’m not. I’ve been out of uniform for nearly a decade, and I still break out in a rash when I see service members used, misused and abused for commercial or political gain.

For candidates, veterans are the most useful props imaginable. They are real-life stand-ins for any number of campaign trail virtues: patriotism, national defense, antielitism, take your pick. And they are a great way to inoculate oneself from criticism for not having served — which is the case for every major candidate in the 2016 race, not just Mr. Trump. (The former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, a long shot, is the exception.) Still, for Mr. Trump, who avoided military service in Vietnam, this was a particularly blatant and distasteful ploy for credibility.

But the public gets something out of the bargain, too. For many, to be in a room with a veteran is to touch the battlefield. In his novel, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” Ben Fountain describes the quasi-religious ecstasy that can come about when civilians meet so-called war heroes: “They tremble. They breathe in fitful, stinky huffs. Their eyes skitz and quiver with the force of the moment, because here, finally, up close and personal, is the war made flesh.” Mr. Trump hoped his supporters would skitz and quiver their way right into his campaign coffers.

At least there was a payoff. The $6 million Mr. Trump promised to donate to veterans organizations is, as Forbes recently pointed out, $5.94 million more than his charitable foundation has given veterans in recent years. Though some veterans organizations have said they’ll take the money raised at the event, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a group that represents about 150,000 veterans, has said no thanks. The I.A.V.A.’s founder, Paul Rieckhoff, tweeted: “We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts.” Mr. Rieckhoff was right to refuse the candidate’s cash, and put some distance between veterans and Mr. Trump.

Other veterans saw last week’s rally as just more of the same. Nathan Webster, a Desert Storm veteran and contributor to the anthology “Incoming: Veteran Writers on Coming Home,” told me that “veterans are the go-to for any politician who wants an easy, effort-free splash for an event or promotion.”

Mr. Trump’s Iowa event appeared to be heavily seeded with fist-pumping veterans chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” “Veterans are like anybody else in this current culture,” Mr. Webster said. “They’re happy to play along with whatever cynical fame-grab somebody offers them.”

Most veterans I know don’t want to be lionized for any purpose. We were simply dedicated to doing our jobs to the best of our abilities, carrying out the orders of our superiors and coming home safe every night, not unlike responsible employees at Microsoft, City Hall or Mo’s Coffee Shop. But politicians don’t rally in honor of programmers, office clerks or short-order cooks because they just aren’t as sexy and camera-ready as soldiers — particularly the ones who’ve been battered and broken by combat. Military service is charged with a special aura of bravery and honor that politicians can’t resist glomming on to.

As a result, those who serve in the military all too often find themselves also serving as the flavor of the month (November), and the poster children or circus performers at political rallies like Mr. Trump’s. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. In his novel, Mr. Fountain writes: “What is a soldier’s job but to be the pawn of higher? Wear this, say that, go there, shoot them, then of course there’s the final and ultimate, be killed.”

What a shame, then, that those who make it home alive sometimes find themselves fighting a new battle: to be seen as more than a prop on the American political stage.

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republicans, Veterans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Powell, Rice Received Sensitive Info Through Private Emails”: Targeting Someone You Detest, Opposed To Someone You Like

When the political world’s interest in Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails was near its peak, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza defended the media’s fascination with the story. “Democrats, ask yourself this,” Cillizza wrote in August. “If this was a former [Republican Secretary of State] and his/her private e-mail server, would it be a ‘non-story’?”

As a rule, I continue to believe that’s a smart way for political observers to look at every story. If the situations were reversed, how would you react to a controversy? If the accusations targeted someone you detest, as opposed to someone you like, would you see the story as legitimate?

The problem in this case, however, is that Cillizza’s question wasn’t really a hypothetical. We learned nearly a year ago from a Politico article that former Secretary of State Colin Powell “also used a personal email account” during his State Department tenure. Several months later, MSNBC found that Powell conducted official business from his personal email account managed through his personal laptop.

“But wait,” Clinton’s critics in the media and Republican circles protest, “what about emails that were later deemed to include sensitive information?” NBC News reports today that both of the Bush/Cheney-era Secretaries of State fall into the same category.

State Department officials have determined that classified information was sent to the personal email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the senior staff of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NBC News has learned. […]

In a letter to Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy dated Feb. 3, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick said that the State Department has determined that 12 emails examined from State’s archives contained national security information now classified “Secret” or “Confidential.” The letter was read to NBC News.

According to the report, of those 12 emails, two were sent to Powell’s personal account, while the other 10 were sent to personal accounts of senior aides to Condoleezza Rice.

None of this is to suggest Powell or Rice’s office is guilty of wrongdoing. In fact, Powell told NBC News the messages in question include information that’s “fairly minor.”

There’s no reason whatsoever to believe otherwise.

The political salience of news like this, however, is that Clinton’s critics would like voters to believe she’s at the center of some damaging “scandal” because of her approach to email management. These new details suggest Clinton’s practices were fairly common, and unless Republicans and the media are prepared to start condemning Powell and Rice with equal vigor – an unlikely scenario – it’s starting to look like this entire line of attack lacks merit.

Or as the NBC News report put it, the new findings “show that past secretaries of state and senior officials used personal accounts to conduct government business and occasionally allowed secrets to spill into the insecure traffic.”

As for Chris Cillizza’s question – if we were talking about a former Republican Secretary of State, would it be a “non-story” – it would appear the answer is, “Yep.”

 Postscript: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement this morning, “Based on this new revelation, it is clear that the Republican investigations [into Clinton’s emails] are nothing more than a transparent political attempt to use taxpayer funds to target the Democratic candidate for president.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 4, 2016

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Colin Powell, Condolezza Rice, State Department | , , , , | Leave a comment

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