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“A Much Bigger Deal Than Usual”: Bernie Sanders Gives The Middle Finger To The DNC

Mixed messages over the past few days from camp Sanders on how hard he’s going to fight on the Democratic platform. Friday night, Rachel Maddow broke the news that the Sanders campaign wanted Clinton backers Dannel Malloy and Barney Frank removed from their positions as co-chairs of, respectively, the Platform and Rules committees; Maddow suggested Sanders was threatening to tie the convention in knots if they weren’t removed.

[UPDATE: Greg Sargent writes in to point out that Tad Devine said this to him about Frank and Malloy back on May 18, and so they did. Happy to correct the record.]

The Democratic National Committee said no dice to this on Saturday, and Sanders softened his tone a bit. Meet the Press’s Chuck Todd tried to lure Sanders into talking some platform smack, but he didn’t engage.

The old cliché about platforms is that no one reads them and no one cares. The new cliché, which I just invented, is: It’s still true that no one reads them, but that need not prevent millions of people from getting irate about what is and isn’t in them after they’ve been instructed on Twitter to get irate. So we have every reason to think that this platform fight is going to be a much bigger deal than usual. How hard Sanders and his appointments to the platform committee push—and on what exact points—will say a lot about how unified the Democrats are going to be.

Before we look at that, though, let’s just spend a paragraph noting how extraordinary it is that Sanders has appointments on the platform committee at all. Throughout history, party chairs have appointed these people. Whatever you think of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, her decision to let Sanders name five of the committee’s 15 members went way beyond what was necessary.

And then Sanders responded in his usual graceless way. Four of his appointees are fine to very good, but Cornel West is just a bulging middle finger to the president and the party. He despises the Democratic Party. What possible interest could he have in shaping its platform, except to enrage the kinds of Democrats—like, oh, the future nominee, for example—for whom he has such open contempt?

All right. I’ve read different accounts in which Sanders is going to demand about 20 different things, all of them uttered by him or leaked out by his campaign over the past month. One big one was going to be a demand that there be no vote in this Congress on the Trans Pacific Partnership. That’s exactly the kind of Sanders bluster that drives me nuts, since as he well knows Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan decide on that, and they don’t care what Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton think. And in any case, Clinton has already agreed to this piece of utterly meaningless theater. So we can check that one off the list.

Last week the media focused on Israel as a big point of contention. There is potential here for messiness, as Clinton has been a big Israel hawk ever since representing New York in the Senate. But I’ve been in contact with a couple of sources who think this is being overplayed. Even Sanders said on MTP:  “I have the feeling that while the media wants to make this into a great conflict, I think there’s going to be broad consensus within the Democratic convention on that issue.” It may well come down to just adding language accepting that the Palestinian people have to be seen as human beings. As those of you who monitor my columns for evidence of thought crimes might remember, this is the one issue for which I have nothing but praise for Sanders.

No, the major issues are probably going to be the ones at the heart of Sanders’s campaign: the big banks; the free stuff; the corrupt-system complaints. And here, Clinton should say no on the first two but cede ground on the third.

Breaking up the big banks isn’t her position. The guy who’s going to end up with about 300 fewer pledged delegates and more than 3 million fewer votes doesn’t get to say “you beat me, but you must adopt my position.” It’s preposterous and arrogant, which of course means he will do it. And she’ll probably have no choice but to arrive at some kind of semantic accommodation of him. But will he rail on about how her refusal to adopt his position shows that she’s corrupt and give us another two months of “release the Goldman-Sachs transcripts”?

As for free college, that’s just bad policy, and it would be nice if Clinton would say so, although alas she probably won’t be in a position to. Why is it bad policy? As Harvard’s Theda Skocpol explained at The Huffington Post, universal free tuition would “waste resources on upper-middle-income families that can afford to pay or borrow to cover at least some college costs.” Clinton’s plan for debt-free college is actually more progressive in that it targets those who really need help most, while still offering massive relief to those in the upper-middle brackets. I hope against hope that if the time comes she will just stand up and say this.

Finally, on corruption questions, she should just largely agree. She already does, on overturning Citizens United (another vastly overrated thing that will help, although not nearly as much as its proponents think or as Sanders has led his followers to believe, although of course I’m for it). Since most of these matters are for the courts to decide anyway, the only actual commitment she need make here is to nominate progressive judges, which she’s obviously going to do anyway.

We’ll have to see how Bernie plays it. If he wins California he’ll be feeling his oats. If he loses it narrowly we can probably expect another week of “the system is rigged” and resultant prickliness to follow. If she defeats him by more than four or five points, even he might finally accept reality.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I Like People That Weren’t Captured, OK?”: Trump Takes The Wrong Message To The Wrong Crowd In The Wrong Way

For those unfamiliar with the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle rally, the point of the annual gathering is to raise awareness of prisoners of war and American servicemen and women missing in action. If you tried to find the most out-of-place individual imaginable for this rally, you could do worse than pointing to a New York billionaire who avoided military service and who’s publicly mocked POWs, saying last year, “I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”

And yet, take a wild guess which high-profile speaker graced Rolling Thunder with his presence this holiday weekend?

Republican Donald Trump told a motorcycle rally on Sunday that people in the U.S. illegally often are cared for better than the nation’s military veterans, without backing up his allegation.

“Thousands of people are dying waiting in line to see a doctor. That is not going to happen anymore,” Trump told veterans gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the annual Rolling Thunder event, which brings thousands of motorcyclists to Washington each Memorial Day weekend.

The assertion that veterans often receive worse care than undocumented immigrants is demonstrably ridiculous, though that’s never stopped Trump before.

The presumptive Republican nominee was also apparently disappointed with the crowd size – organizers estimated about 5,000 people were in attendance – arguing that there were 600,000 people who wanted to hear his speech but weren’t allowed in.

Trump complained, “I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington monument, right? Unfortunately, they don’t allow ‘em to come in,” without explaining who “they” are or where these 600,000 people were hiding.

Of course, the more Trump avoids King references when talking about his speeches, the better.

Regardless, think about the chutzpah it took for the Republican candidate to claim credibility of the subject of veterans in the first place.

Even if Trumps’ mockery of POWs wasn’t enough to keep him away, and even if Trump’s plan to privatize veterans’ care wasn’t enough to keep him away, and even if Trump’s avoiding military service during the Vietnam war wasn’t enough to keep him away, there’s also the fact that Trump and his campaign got caught lying about his financial support for veterans’ charities.

This happened, by the way, literally last week – just days ahead of his remarks to an audience committed to raising awareness about a group of veterans.

The GOP candidate might have been disappointed the crowd wasn’t larger, but Trump’s lucky those who were in attendance didn’t just laugh in his face.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, POW/MIA, Veterans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Confessions Of A Former Dead-Ender”: Boy, Were We Wrong About Obama

Bernie Sanders is clearly winding down his campaign for the Democratic nomination. In speeches and interviews over the weekend, he started turning his lance away from Hillary Clinton and toward Donald Trump.

Though most of his supporters say they will make the transition to Clinton, a sizable minority — 28 percent, according to a recent poll — insist they will not. Some vow to cast ballots for Trump. The dedicated liberals among them (as opposed to those just along for a populist ride) are being called “dead-enders.”

I feel some of their pain, for I was once considered a dead-ender. The year was 2008. Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination after a grueling contest.

Some Obama bros had subjected Clinton and her female supporters to vile sexist attacks. And it wasn’t just the knuckle draggers. The late Christopher Hitchens called her an “aging and resentful female.”

The caucus and primary results, meanwhile, were a lot closer then than those between Clinton and Sanders.

It all seemed so unfair. Hillary the workhorse had labored at putting together a coherent health reform plan. The glamorous Obama floated by. Political expedience prompted him to oppose an individual mandate — unpopular because it forced everyone to obtain coverage but absolutely essential for universal health care.

I was sore. At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, I spent much time interviewing women still fuming over Clinton’s treatment and unable to support Obama. “Dead-enders,” these Clinton die-hards were called.

A poll in April 2008 had 35 percent of Clinton voters saying they would vote for Republican John McCain if Obama were to be the Democratic nominee. I, too, briefly toyed with the idea. After all, McCain at that time had retained a reputation for moderation. (He would have made a more plausible president than Trump ever will.)

McCain’s choice of the abominable Sarah Palin as his running mate quickly cured the so-called dead-enders of that notion.

And boy, were we wrong about Obama. Obama pulled America from the brink of another Great Depression. He championed the Dodd-Frank finance reforms and oversaw the passage of the Affordable Care Act (individual mandate included). He did it with virtually no Republican support and not a whiff of personal scandal. Obama will go down as one of the greatest presidents of our lifetime.

Has Sanders been treated unfairly as the Bernie camp asserts? There may be a valid grievance here and there, such as the scheduling of the debates in a way that benefited Clinton.

But no, the system wasn’t rigged against Sanders. It was in place before his candidacy. And Sanders gained extraordinary access to the infrastructure of a party he never joined.

As the apparent (if unannounced) truce between Clinton and Sanders sinks in, some of his dead-enders will cool down. Sanders surely knows that his movement will have far more influence docked in the Democratic Party than sailing off into third-party oblivion.

One last but important point: Participating in a party primary or caucus in no way obligates one to vote for that party’s eventual nominee. Anyone who genuinely wants a vulgar and unstable authoritarian to lead the nation has every right to vote for Trump.

But those who don’t want Trump — but rather wish to punish Clinton for prevailing over their hero — have things to think about. The country, for starters.

In politics, there’s no building your ideal car. We end up choosing the preferable of two models. Doing something else with one’s vote also affects the outcome.

Frustration can hurt, but it helps to not over-identify with a candidate. To the dead-enders of 2016, peace.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Juries And Racial Bias”: The Supreme Court Cracks Down On Racist Prosecutors

The Supreme Court tends to expend more energy detangling questions of law than it does sorting through questions of fact. But on May 23rd, in a decision that could spare the life of a death-row inmate in Georgia, the justices took a microscope to the jury selection process in the trial of Timothy Tyrone Foster, a black man sentenced to die by an all-white jury in 1987 for murdering an elderly woman a year earlier. After examining evidence that emerged in 2006, the justices decided, by a 7-1 vote, that prosecutors were illicitly motivated by racial bias when they struck two blacks from Mr Foster’s jury pool. Justice Clarence Thomas, the lone dissenter, wrote that there were “credible” non-racist reasons for dismissing them from the list of potential jurors; his colleagues’ dive into a three-decade-old trial, Justice Thomas charged, was “flabbergasting”.

In his majority opinion in Foster v Chatman, Chief Justice John Roberts methodically marched through rather damning evidence that the men prosecuting Mr Foster were hell-bent on keeping black people off the jury. The prosecutors’ notes during voir dire (jury selection) showed certain names highlighted in green, a colour that, the legend helpfully explains, “represents blacks”. The prospective black jurors were labelled “B#1”, “B#2” and “B#3” with capital letter “N” (meaning “no”) written next to each. All of the prospective jurors were asked to fill out a questionnaire including a question about their race; on the black individuals’ answer sheets, prosecutors drew attention to their race by circling the answer. And one of the lawyers scribbled out this sentiment: “If it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors, [this one] might be okay”.

All of this, Mr Foster’s lawyer said at the November oral argument, adds up to “an arsenal of smoking guns” that race was at the forefront of the prosecutors’ minds. Such bias, the Supreme Court decided in Batson v Kentucky, a ruling that came down a year before Mr Foster’s trial, is impermissible during jury selection. When eliminating potential jurors via peremptory challenges (as opposed to challenges “for cause”), lawyers can be called upon to present a race-neutral explanation for their strikes. Mr Roberts wrote that the Georgia Supreme Court had “clearly erred” when it determined that racial considerations played no part in the selection of the jury. The host of reasons cited for nixing the black jurors—too young to care about a 79-year-old victim, too (apparently) bored, too shifty-eyed, too biased by relatives who were social workers—were not persuasive, as they applied just as readily to several non-black prospective jurors who were not challenged. These justifications, the court held, were mere pretext. Add to this “the shifting explanations, the misrepresentations of the record and the persistent focus on race in the prosecution’s file” and the justices are “left with the firm conviction that the strikes…were motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent”.

Very late in the game, and in the face of all those smoking guns, Georgia tried to defend the apparently racist strikes with a brazenly duplicitous mind-game defence. The prosecutors were keenly aware that they would be held to a higher standard since Batson had been decided just a year earlier. They called such flamboyant attention to the race of the prospective jurors only so they could keep track of the black jurors in the event they were called upon to supply a race-neutral reason for their dismissal. This argument, Mr Roberts wrote, “falls flat” and “reeks of afterthought”, since it had not been made “in the nearly 30-year history of this litigation: not in the trial court, not in the state habeas court, and not even in the state’s brief in opposition to Foster’s petition for certiorari”. All the lights and whistles flagging the individuals’ race, he wrote, “plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury.”

That the sole African American member of the Supreme Court bench saw the case so differently is less surprising than it might seem. In recent rulings, Justice Thomas has found himself increasingly alienated from his seven colleagues. Three times in the past two weeks, he has cast a lonely dissenting vote from an otherwise unanimous decision. But the implications of his colleagues’ ruling in Foster v Chatman remain to be seen. Mr Foster can ask for a new sentencing trial, but he has no guarantee another jury will be more lenient. And it’s unclear how much of a constraint Foster will be moving forward. Prosecutors are on notice that incriminating notations during jury selection are a very bad idea. That may lead, on the margins, to less racial discrimination in the criminal justice system—but it will do little to curtail subtler methods of jury manipulation.

 

By: Steve Mazie, The Economist, May 23, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Jury Selection Process, Prosecutorial Misconduct, Racial Bias | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Reporters Now Face A Choice”: Can Donald Trump Win By Duping Young Voters With ‘90s Conspiracy Theories?

The final week of the Republican primary was essentially a formality, but in hindsight an exceptionally important formality.

As long as Donald Trump still had to go through the motions to fend off candidates whose campaigns had been reduced to simulacra, and as long as his opponents were clinging to the hope of defeating him at the GOP convention, their combat served as a kind of permission for reporters to treat Trump’s campaign as the anomaly that it was.

On the eve of the fateful Indiana primary, when Trump infamously and speciously linked Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, The Washington Post ran a story headlined, “How on earth is the media supposed to cover Trump’s wacky JFK-Cruz conspiracy theory?” Glenn Kessler, who writes the Post’s fact checker column, gave Trump all four of his dreaded Pinocchios. Even the Post’s straight news piece about the supposed Cruz/Lee Harvey Oswald connection lead with an incredulous dependent clause, describing Trump as “Never one to shy away from discussing unsubstantiated tabloid fodder …”

In theory, debunking political whoppers is what the press is supposed to do, but in practice, things aren’t usually so straightforward. Politicians control access to themselves and their privileged information, which gives them outsize control over who breaks news. With their parties and supporters behind them, they can freeze out adversarial reporters and dismiss accusations of dishonesty as media bias. But in Trump’s case, reporters weren’t the lone arbiters of truth during the primaries. Other Republicans participated, too. Ted Cruz called Trump an “utterly amoral” “pathological liar,” a “narcissist” and a “bully.” The press wasn’t adjudicating Trump’s claims so much as they were relaying a cross-ideological consensus that Trump was unglued.

Just a few hours after he addressed the JFK conspiracy theory, Cruz suspended his campaign and the dynamic between the press and Trump changed. Leading Republicans stopped calling Trump a liar and trying to deny him their party’s nomination. In embracing Trump, they essentially rescinded their permission to the press to treat him as an outlier.

Reporters now face a choice between reimagining Trump as a partisan mirror image of Hillary Clinton, or drawing the ire of the broader GOP. Trump can’t become president unless he comes to be seen as on a par with Clinton, and that can’t happen without the assent of the media. So far the media hasn’t granted it, but we’ve seen scattered indicia of how it might happen.

Trump can’t become president unless he comes to be seen as on a par with Clinton, and that can’t happen without the assent of the media.

When Trump swung into general-election mode and indulged the horrific lie, fixated upon by conservative media more than twenty years ago, that the Clintons may have murdered Vince Foster (a Clinton ally who killed himself shortly after joining the White House counsel’s office), the Post rightly described Foster’s suicide as “the focus of intense and far-fetched conspiracy theories on the Internet.” But the same article essentially baptized Trump’s tactics as part of the normal give-and-take of partisan campaigning:

The presumptive Republican nominee and his associates hope that his tactics will bring fresh scrutiny to the Clintons’ long record in public life, which conservatives characterize as defined by scandals that her allies view as witch hunts. Through social media and Trump’s ability to garner unfiltered attention on the Internet and the airwaves, political strategists believe he could revitalize the controversies among voters who do not remember them well or are too young to have lived through them.

Trump’s approach would be perfectly reasonable but for the fact that the “scandals” he has resurfaced have all been either roundly debunked or, in the case of Hillary supposedly enabling Bill’s sexual indiscretions, merited no respectful hearing to begin with.

What Trump and his allies really hope is that they can hoodwink first-time voters or people who weren’t paying close attention back in the 1990s into believing known lies. Only the media can prevent this—but with Trump as GOP nominee, and party leaders rallying behind him, the media suddenly faces fresh incentives not to intervene, and they will become harder to resist over time.

It is possible, even in the context of a general-election campaign, to treat Trump’s embrace of widely discredited Clinton attacks responsibly. The Post, even as it was presenting Trump’s myth-based campaign strategy as a neutral matter in its news pages, ran a story by Foster’s sister, scolding Trump for revisiting “untold pain” on the Foster family, and Kessler gave Trump another four Pinocchios.

Meanwhile, CNN’s Jake Tapper set a standard for reporters who have to cover Trump’s pronouncements, but don’t want to lend credence to false claims, by calling the Foster insinuations “ridiculous and frankly shameful.”

“This is not an anti-Trump position or a pro-Clinton position,” Tapper said. “It’s a pro-truth position.”

The trouble is that unless a critical mass of media figures agrees to treat the things Trump exhumes from the fever swamps of the 1990s with the appropriate contempt, Trump will enjoy the benefit of the doubt most major-party nominees expect. It was easy for reporters to treat Trump adversarially, without fear or favor, when other Republicans were begging them to scrutinize him. Just three weeks later, the same kind of scrutiny presents those reporters with a collective action problem—by admonishing Trump, they might find themselves at a disadvantage to peers who choose to remain in the good graces of both campaigns. And if enough of them are cowed into treating the 20-year-old contents of The American Spectator as fair-game politics, Trump’s plan to dupe the young and forgetful will succeed.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, May 27, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Reporters | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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