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“Is Bloomberg Betting Hillary Gets Indicted?”: Conservatives, Well, They At Least Hope It’s Going To Happen

The conventional wisdom says that Mike Bloomberg, whose presidential dreams were revealed Saturday by The New York Times, will in all likelihood not run against Hillary Clinton. The conventional wisdom is probably right in this case. It’s hard to imagine that against Clinton, Bloomberg would be anything but a Naderesque spoiler, which he would know and not want to be; against Bernie Sanders on one side and “Crump” (either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump) on the other, however, I think Bloomberg becomes a candidate—and a real player.

Unfortunately for Bloomberg, the chances of Sanders winning the Democratic nomination are quite slim, as he surely knows. So the rubber-hitting-road question is: Is there any chance he’d run against Clinton? I mean, if nothing else, this is presumably his last shot at glory, as he’s a few weeks shy of 74 (what’s with all these septuagenarians, anyway?).

There was a hint in that Times article that suggested he might consider doing that—that at a dinner party at the home of a prominent Clinton backer last fall, Bloomberg offered a “piquant assessment” (those Times euphemisms!) of Clinton’s weaknesses, built around “questions about her honesty” and the email mess.

I can back this up. On Saturday, I spoke with a longtime New Yorker I know who heard Bloomberg inveigh similarly last year at another such event, as Bloomberg delivered a blistering critique of the email controversy and even suggested—well, piquantly!—that Clinton deserved to be in very serious legal trouble. This person was “shocked by how little he seemed to think of her.”

A source in Bloomberg world says this is nonsense; this person claims to have heard the ex-mayor limn Clinton in adulatory tones numerous times, saying, in this person’s words, that she was practically alone among the candidates in being able “to take care of business”—simply to run the government and country responsibly and prudently. From the technocratic Bloomberg, praise doesn’t come higher.

Both these things can be true, of course. Let’s assume that Bloomberg was aghast at the email situation last year, but that it’s faded, and he’s now decided he’d be fine with a Clinton presidency even as he explores a bid of his own. Okay. But even this brings us to another thought—that maybe Bloomberg thinks there’s some chance Clinton might be indicted sometime soon.

If you were shocked to read that sentence, you’re clearly not reading enough conservative web sites. Let me say up front here that while I have no idea of the status of the ongoing FBI investigation into the email business, I would be really surprised to see this happen. Righties have been predicting her imminent indictment ever since Bill Safire’s ignominious 1996 column, but as far as is known publicly, Clinton is not under investigation. It was last summer when the FBI started looking into the matter, and officials announced then that Clinton wasn’t a target.

But that was months ago, so who knows, really? This Charles McCullough, the intelligence community inspector general who keeps retroactively stamping “classified” on emails Clinton read or wrote when she was secretary, and who originally notified the executive branch last July that classified information might exist on Clinton’s server, sure seems to be an aggressive sort.

I think it’s a farfetched scenario myself. An ex-prosecutor friend tells me that a crime would require criminal intent. Then there’s the question of the timing. Somebody’s going to bring serious charges against one of the two major parties’ leading presidential hopeful in an election year? Conservatives whose carotid veins are popping after reading that sentence would do well to remember a time when they excoriated a prosecutor who brought suspiciously timed indictments of Republicans. Google Lawrence Walsh.

But mostly it seems farfetched to me because I just consider it pretty unlikely that any secretary of state, any American in that position, would knowingly compromise U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts.

If you talk to plugged-in liberals, they say forget it, ridiculous. If you talk to plugged-in conservatives, they, well, they at least hope it’s going to happen, think it clearly ought to happen, and maybe this week, i.e., before Democrats start casting votes. If nothing else, a non-indictment gives them all a chance to caterwaul for another few months (or years) about how the Clinton’s keep getting away with things and go raise money off that.

And what if these conservatives happen to be right? Well, when I’ve discussed this with liberals, most people think Joe Biden is the automatic Plan B. John Kerry gets a few mentions, on the grounds that he tried it once before, but that strikes me as a minus, not a plus. In any case, Democrats I’ve discussed this with all assume they rally behind a new establishment-type candidate rather than throwing in their eggs with Bernie. Or maybe they could rally to a Bloomberg bid, since many, many Democrats represent districts where a Sanders endorsement could hurt them. And don’t forget, the above scenario seems to assume that Clinton under such circumstances would just stop in her tracks. Not sure we can assume that.

I hope, and believe, all this will remain hypothetical. I just bet it’s rattling around in Bloomberg’s cage somewhere.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 25, 2016

January 26, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Taking On The N.R.A.”: A New, Reinvigorated Gun-Control Movement With Grassroots Support And Backed By Real Money

In the wake of the massacre at Umpqua Community College, in Oregon, Hillary Clinton promised that if she is elected President she will use executive power to make it harder for people to buy guns without background checks. Meanwhile, Ben Carson, one of the Republican Presidential candidates, said, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” The two responses could hardly have been more different, but both were testaments to the power of a single organization: the National Rifle Association. Clinton invoked executive action because the N.R.A. has made it unthinkable that a Republican-controlled Congress could pass meaningful gun-control legislation. Carson found it expedient to make his comment because the N.R.A. has shaped the public discourse around guns, in one of the most successful P.R. (or propaganda, depending on your perspective) campaigns of all time.

In many accounts, the power of the N.R.A. comes down to money. The organization has an annual operating budget of some quarter of a billion dollars, and between 2000 and 2010 it spent fifteen times as much on campaign contributions as gun-control advocates did. But money is less crucial than you’d think. The N.R.A.’s annual lobbying budget is around three million dollars, which is about a fifteenth of what, say, the National Association of Realtors spends. The N.R.A.’s biggest asset isn’t cash but the devotion of its members. Adam Winkler, a law professor at U.C.L.A. and the author of the 2011 book “Gunfight,” told me, “N.R.A. members are politically engaged and politically active. They call and write elected officials, they show up to vote, and they vote based on the gun issue.” In one revealing study, people who were in favor of permits for gun owners described themselves as more invested in the issue than gun-rights supporters did. Yet people in the latter group were four times as likely to have donated money and written a politician about the issue.

The N.R.A.’s ability to mobilize is a classic example of what the advertising guru David Ogilvy called the power of one “big idea.” Beginning in the nineteen-seventies, the N.R.A. relentlessly promoted the view that the right to own a gun is sacrosanct. Playing on fear of rising crime rates and distrust of government, it transformed the terms of the debate. As Ladd Everitt, of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told me, “Gun-control people were rattling off public-health statistics to make their case, while the N.R.A. was connecting gun rights to core American values like individualism and personal liberty.” The success of this strategy explains things that otherwise look anomalous, such as the refusal to be conciliatory even after killings that you’d think would be P.R. disasters. After the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, the N.R.A.’s C.E.O. sent a series of e-mails to his members warning them that anti-gun forces were going to use it to “ban your guns” and “destroy the Second Amendment.”

The idea that gun rights are perpetually under threat has been a staple of the N.R.A.’s message for the past four decades. Yet, for most of that period, the gun-control movement was disorganized and ineffective. Today, the landscape is changing. “Newtown really marked a major turning point in America’s gun debate,” Winkler said. “We’ve seen a completely new, reinvigorated gun-control movement, one that has much more grassroots support, and that’s now being backed by real money.” Michael Bloomberg’s Super PAC, Independence USA, has spent millions backing gun-control candidates, and he’s pledged fifty million dollars to the cause. Campaigners have become more effective in pushing for gun-control measures, particularly at the local and state level: in Washington State last year, a referendum to expand background checks got almost sixty per cent of the vote. There are even signs that the N.R.A.’s ability to make or break politicians could be waning; senators it has given F ratings have been reëlected in purple states. Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s embrace of gun control is telling: previously, Democratic Presidential candidates tended to shy away from the issue.

These shifts, plus the fact that demographics are not in the N.R.A.’s favor (Latino and urban voters mostly support gun control), might make it seem that the N.R.A.’s dominance is ebbing. But, if so, that has yet to show up in the numbers. A Pew survey last December found that a majority of Americans thought protecting gun rights was more important than gun control. Fifteen years before, the same poll found that sixty-six per cent of Americans thought that gun control mattered more. And last year, despite all the new money and the grassroots campaigns, states passed more laws expanding gun rights than restricting them.

What is true is that the N.R.A. at last has worthy opponents. The gun-control movement is far more pragmatic than it once was. When the N.R.A. took up the banner of gun rights, in the seventies, gun-control advocates were openly prohibitionist. (The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence was originally called the National Coalition to Ban Handguns.) Today, they’re respectful of gun owners and focussed on screening and background checks. That’s a sensible strategy. It’s also an accommodation to the political reality that the N.R.A. created.

 

By: James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, October 19, 2015 Issue

 

October 19, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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