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“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

“Change Takes Continuity”: Hillary Clinton Is The Change America Needs

Over the coming weeks and months, Democrats in caucuses and primaries around the country will choose between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to be the party’s nominee. Some are now casting the decision as one between “continuity” and “change,” with Clinton representing a continuation of President Obama’s agenda and Sanders representing a shift toward the transformational change that escaped Obama.

This binary is completely false.

Ours is a historical era in which continuity and change are one and the same. Obama ended the wars of the George W. Bush administration, normalized relations with Cuba, and prevented the ascent of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. In the last week alone, his administration declined to renew licenses to coal mining operations on federal lands, declared a ban on solitary confinement of minors in federal penitentiaries, and ordered police departments around the country to give back military surplus equipment being misused by law enforcement. And on Tuesday, news came of the White House preparing to issue an executive order that would require any firm doing business with the federal government — virtually all giant corporations — to disclose its campaign contributions.

We need more of the same. We need the unbroken continuation of Obama’s domestic and foreign policies to bring about the laws, rules, and regulations that advance progress. It may not be “transformational,” but real change is rarely that sexy. It may not feel all kumbaya, but politics almost never does.

Let’s remember the Democrats saved the economy, passed the Affordable Care Act, and reformed Wall Street — with nearly unanimous opposition from Congressional Republicans. Since 2010, we have seen more job growth since no one remembers. More Americans have health insurance. And, while it took a while, the Dodd-Frank financial reforms are now being felt.

That’s real change.

Yes, wages are not what they used to be, health care is still run by private insurance companies, and Wall Street still rakes in more money than God. But those are not reasons to break the chain of real progress. Change takes continuity.

Consider Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all.”

In the hours before the final Democratic debate, Sanders released a plan for creating a single-payer health care system of the kind found in rich European countries that have managed to keep costs down while ensuring the right of all citizens to access to quality health care. Ever since Obama proposed health care reform that kept intact the role of private health insurance companies, the Democratic Party’s left wing has demanded nothing short of “Medicare for all.”

That’s fine. Most left-liberals would prefer that. But it doesn’t represent change so much as wishful thinking.

Hillary Clinton was not, during the debate, just wrapping herself in Obama. She was speaking the truth: Democrats can’t go back and restart the fight over universal health care because they have no hope of winning. Now is the time, however, for policy reforms addressing rising costs, insurance exchanges, and private profit. Yes, this is change by a thousand tweaks, but it is still change.

Is there a risk in voting for Clinton? Yes, of course. You don’t really know what kind of president you’re getting until she’s elected. But Hillary Clinton may be the exception. She’s long been in the public eye. We know her strengths as well as her weaknesses. Most important, we know she can be forced to listen to progressive demands. That cannot be said of Republicans.

I like Bernie Sanders and would support him in another context, and I don’t personally like Hillary Clinton. But my dislike isn’t as important as my country transcending the long conservative malaise that began before I was born.

 

By: John Stoehr, The Week, January 29, 2016

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How And Why Campaigns Behave As They Do”: An Explanation Of What Bernie Sanders Staffers Actually Did And Why It Matters

After a spat lasting just over 24 hours, it appears that the top news story of the day is already resolving itself: the DNC has come to an agreement to return voter database access to the Bernie Sanders campaign after top staffers were caught snooping into the Clinton campaign’s records.

The brouhaha over this little fiasco has been intense, and made worse by the fact that only a few thousand people in the United States understand anything about the voter tools involved. Few journalists–to say nothing of armchair activists–have enough campaign and field management experience to truly understand what happened. That ignorance has led to wild accusations and silly reporting from all sides, whether from conspiratorially-minded Sanders supporters or schadenfreude-filled Republicans.

The first thing to understand is that NGPVAN is a creaky voter database system that looks, and feels like it was put together in the 1990s. It has been the mainstay of Democratic campaigns all across the country and has intense loyalty among national campaign professionals–though it should be noted that the California Democratic Party uses one of its more robust and more expensive competitors PDI (PDI, hilariously, sent an email this morning to its users with the subject line “At PDI Data Security Is Our Top Priority.”) I myself have extensive experience running campaigns on both platforms, both as a campaign consultant and as a county Democratic Party official in California.

The DNC contracts with NGPVAN, meaning that firewalls between competitive primary campaigns within NGPVAN are incredibly important. But they also have been known to fail. When that happens, campaign professionals are expected to behave in a moral and legal manner. But they would also be stupid not to, since every action taken by an NGPVAN user is tracked and recorded on the server side.

The other important piece of information to note is the difference between a “saved search” and a “saved list.” NGPVAN’s voter tracking has the option of being dynamic or static, meaning that you can run dynamic searches of voters whose characteristics may change as NGPVAN’s data is updated, or you can pull static lists of voters who currently fit the profile you are seeking. Most voter data pulls within an NGPVAN campaign will be dynamic searches–and in fact, that is the default setting. You really only want to pull a static list if you’re doing something specific like creating a list for a targeted mail piece–or if you want a quick snapshot in time of a raw voter list.

However, merely pulling a search or a list doesn’t mean you can automatically download all the information on those voters. You can see topline numbers. You can take a few screenshots–though it would take hundreds of screenshots and the data would be nearly useless in that format. To download the actual data, you would need to run an export–a step that requires extra levels of permissions only allowed to the highest level operatives. Despite the breach that allowed them to run lists and searches, Sanders staffers apparently did not have export access.

However, the access logs do show that Sanders staff pulled not one but multiple lists–not searches, but lists–a fact that shows intent to export and use. And the lists were highly sensitive material. News reports have indicated that the data was “sent to personal folders” of the campaign staffers–but those refer to personal folders within NGPVAN, which are near useless without the ability to export the data locally.

Even without being able to export, however, merely seeing the topline numbers of, say, how many voters the Clinton campaign had managed to bank as “strong yes” votes would be a valuable piece of oppo. While it’s not the dramatic problem that a data export would have been, it’s undeniable that the Sanders campaign gleaned valuable information from the toplines alone. It’s also quite clear that most of the statements the Sanders campaign made as the story progressed–from the claim that the staffers only did it to prove the security breach, or that only one staffer had access–were simply not true. It’s just not clear at this point whether the campaign’s comms people knew the truth and lied, or whether they were not being told the whole truth by the people on the data team who were still making up stories and excuses to cover their tracks. I suspect the latter.

In this context, it made sense for Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC to suspend the Sanders campaign’s access to the data until it could determine the extent of the damage, and the degree to which the Clinton campaign’s private data had been compromised. As it turns out the ethical breach by Sanders operatives was massive, but the actual data discovery was limited. So it made sense and was fairly obvious that the DNC would quickly end up giving the campaign back its NGPVAN access–particularly since failing to do so would be a death sentence for the campaign and a gigantic black eye to the party.

This doesn’t mean that Wasserman-Schultz hasn’t, in David Axelrod’s words, been putting her thumb on the scale on behalf of the Clinton campaign. She clearly has been, judging from the intentionally obfuscated debate schedule and from her demeanor and reaction to this recent controversy. The Democratic Party would have been wiser to bring the campaigns together privately and resolve the matter internally. Instead, Wasserman-Schultz chose to take it public to attempt to embarrass the Sanders campaign, and merely managed to embarrass herself and the Party’s data security vulnerabilities in the process.

Still, the Sanders camp’s reactions have been laughable. It was their team that unethically breached Clinton’s data. It was their comms people who spoke falsely about what happened. The Sanders campaign wasn’t honeypotted into doing it–their people did it of their own accord. NGPVAN isn’t set up to benefit Clinton at Sanders’ expense–and if the violation by the campaigns had been reversed, Sanders supporters would have been claiming a conspiracy from sunrise to sundown. What’s very clear is that the Clinton camp did nothing wrong in any of this. Sanders campaign operatives did, and then Wasserman-Schultz compounded it by overreacting. And in the end, the right thing ended up happening: the lead staffer in question was fired, and the campaign got its data access back.

It’s also another reminder that armchair activists speculating about news stories would do well to actually get involved in campaign field activities. If you want to be involved in politics, there’s no substitute for actually doing the work to gain a real understanding of how and why campaigns and politicians behave as they do. There would be a lot fewer overwrought conspiracy theories, at the very least.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 19, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Stretching Facts To Fit His Preconceptions”: Only Softballs? Transcript Shows Trump Lied About Democratic Debate

By now you may have noticed that Donald Trump exists in his very own reality — a pleasing world where the Mexicans will pay us to build a border wall, where industrial nations will capitulate instantly to his trade demands, and where global climate change is merely a myth “created by and for the Chinese.” Lunatic as The Donald’s confident assertions often may be, not all of them are as easily debunked as certain remarks he made at today’s press conference in New York to introduce his new book.

Discussing the presidential debates, Trump complained more than once about the free ride that Hillary Clinton supposedly enjoyed at the last Democratic debate, which was televised by CNN and moderated by Anderson Cooper. According to the real estate mogul, the questioning by Cooper and his colleagues “was very unfair because Hillary Clinton was given all softballs. They didn’t ask her one tough question! They didn’t talk about the foundation, they didn’t talk about the emails….She only got softballs, that’s all she got…Hillary had only softballs, all night long. ‘Here, Hillary, hit this one over the park.’”

That struck me as a pandering and distorted account of the debate — so I checked.

It is true that Cooper didn’t inquire about the Clinton Foundation, but the questions he did ask (reproduced below without Clinton’s answers, which can be found in the full transcript here) indicate just how far Trump is willing to stretch facts to fit his preconceptions. Not only did Cooper pose several tough questions to her, from the very beginning of the debate, but he seized every chance to pillory Hillary in framing questions he put to the other candidates. (And he did ask her — and the others — about the damned emails.)

Unlike the Republicans, she spared us the post-debate whining.

From the transcript:

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency. You were against same-sex marriage. Now you’re for it. You defended President Obama’s immigration policies. Now you say they’re too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the “gold standard”. Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it. Will you say anything to get elected?

COOPER [following up]: Secretary Clinton, though, with all due respect, the question is really about political expediency. Just in July, New Hampshire, you told the crowd you’d, quote, “take a back seat to no one when it comes to progressive values.” Last month in Ohio, you said you plead guilty to, quote, “being kind of moderate and center.” Do you change your political identity based on who you’re talking to?

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, Russia, they’re challenging the U.S. in Syria. According to U.S. intelligence, they’ve lied about who they’re bombing. You spearheaded the reset with Russia. Did you underestimate the Russians, and as president, what would your response to Vladimir Putin be right now in Syria?

COOPER [to Martin O’Malley]: Secretary Clinton voted to authorize military force in Iraq, supported more troops in Afghanistan. As Secretary of State, she wanted to arm Syrian rebels and push for the bombing of Libya. Is she too quick to use military force?

COOPER [following up insistently]: Does she — does she want to use military force too rapidly?

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, on the campaign trail, Governor [sic] Webb has said that he would never have used military force in Libya and that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was inevitable. Should you have seen that attack coming?

COOPER [following up]: But American citizens did lose their lives in Benghazi.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, you are going to be testifying before Congress next week about your e-mails. For the last eight months, you haven’t been able to put this issue behind you. You dismissed it; you joked about it; you called it a mistake. What does that say about your ability to handle far more challenging crises as president?

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, Secretary Clinton, with all due respect, it’s a little hard — I mean, isn’t it a little bit hard to call this just a partisan issue? There’s an FBI investigation, and President Obama himself just two days ago said this is a legitimate issue.

COOPER [after Bernie Sanders dismissed the email controversy]: It’s obviously very popular in this crowd, and it’s — hold on.

(APPLAUSE) I know that plays well in this room. But I got to be honest, Governor Chafee, for the record, on the campaign trail, you’ve said a different thing [challenging Clinton’s ethics]. You said this is a huge issue. Standing here in front of Secretary Clinton, are you willing to say that to her face?

COOPER: Governor O’Malley, you expressed concern on the campaign trail that the Democratic Party is, and I quote, “being defined by Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.”You heard her answer, do you still feel that way tonight?

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, how would you address this [income inequality] issue? In all candor, you and your husband are part of the one percent. How can you credibly represent the views of the middle class?

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, Governor O’Malley says the presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth between two royal families. This year has been the year of the outsider in politics, just ask Bernie Sanders. Why should Democrats embrace an insider like yourself?

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, November 3, 2015

November 4, 2015 Posted by | Democratic Primary Debates, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Grounded In Reality”: Democrats Have Become The Party Of ‘Normal’

Who “won” the Democratic debate? The Democratic Party won. All the presidential candidates, from the most flamboyant to the most contained, talked seriously about issues, even straying from liberal orthodoxy.

Hillary Clinton’s upbeat morning-in-America approach contrasted with Bernie Sanders’ eve-of-destruction — I mean revolution. But both stood grounded in reality, with special kudos to America’s favorite socialist for some refreshing breaths of nuance on polarizing issues.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — not a crazy Republican but one who often talked crazy — once called Democrats “the enemy of normal Americans.” Who’s looking normal now?

Surely not Republican Carly Fiorina, condemning abortion with a gruesome description of a fabricated video she never saw. Not Ben Carson or Rand Paul, who, despite being doctors, didn’t strenuously counter Donald Trump’s contention that vaccinations put children at risk. Trump doesn’t seem normal even when he’s right.

The consensus said that Clinton walked off with it. She did, but it was an ensemble performance. Sanders struck the high note by mocking the overblown controversy over Clinton’s use of private emails as secretary of state.

“The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” Sanders said. “Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.”

And the Democrats generally dived under the surface of today’s public debates. Clinton chided Sanders for his skepticism on some gun control measures, but Sanders had it exactly right.

He explained that his state, Vermont, has a rural hunting culture that doesn’t see guns as always evil. Sanders backed a ban on assault rifles but opposed letting gun shops be sued if a gun they sell legally is used in a crime. Common sense all around.

The immigration discussion offered a welcome balance between the need to deal humanely with people here illegally and the need for controls. Sanders defended his attack on an immigration plan that would have admitted huge numbers of “guest workers” to compete with low-wage Americans. If only more Democrats would talk that way.

Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia spoke up for struggling poor whites, another welcome reference in a party that too often frames policy in racial or ethnic terms. And thank you, Jim Webb, for saying, “No country is a country without defining its borders.”

All in all, though, it was Clinton’s show. Responding to Sanders’ declaration of love for Scandinavian socialism, Clinton firmly replied: “We are the United States of America. And it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kind of inequities that we’re seeing in our economic system.”

The consensus erred in naming Webb the evening’s “loser.” The former Navy secretary did great in his seething, quiet way. He steered the debate away from cloying political correctness. This very smart son of Appalachia would make a great vice presidential candidate.

Few noticed that Webb provided the wittiest remark of the evening. That came when he dryly informed Sanders that he doesn’t “think the revolution’s going to come.”

The most unintentionally funny line was from CNN moderator Anderson Cooper.

“In all candor,” Cooper said to Clinton, “you and your husband are part of the 1 percent. How can you credibly represent the views of the middle class?”

To borrow from the MasterCard ad, being questioned about losing credibility on matters of class because you’ve become rich: $2.03. Being so questioned by the son of a Vanderbilt: priceless.

Clinton is clearly moving on from intraparty debate to general election mode. The other candidates seemed to genuinely respect that pivot and gave her space.

How gratifying to hear a leading presidential candidate sound like a normal American and not get punished for it.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, October 15, 2015

October 15, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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