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“The Hysteria Of The Hillary Haters”: An Exaggerated Animosity Lacking Any Rational Connection To Reality

Over the past few weeks, Republican politicians and party officials have begun the dreary and demoralizing work of reconciling themselves to the prospect of Donald Trump serving as the GOP’s presidential nominee.

Conservative writers and intellectuals, by contrast, have been more obstinate.

A few have come out in grudging and grumbling support of the likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Most of the others, meanwhile, have expressed disgust at the prospect of having to choose between Trump and Clinton at all. This has inspired a small group of dissenters to fasten onto the fantasy of sparking a “true conservative” third-party challenge to Trump.

But many of the rest seem inclined to settle into a pox-on-both-your-houses position: Trump’s unfitness to serve as president is obvious, running the gamut from wholesale ignorance about policy to temperamental volatility and authoritarian instincts that alarm every informed and responsible observer. But Clinton is no better. She’s corrupt! She can’t be trusted! She isn’t qualified to be president! And oh boy, is she unlikeable!

This implies that the most responsible thing for a conservative to do is refrain from voting at all.

That would be foolish. Does Clinton have flaws? You bet she does. But the Hillary hatred that seems to motivate the right’s most adamant objections to her ascending to the presidency is rooted in unfair and exaggerated animosity lacking any rational connection to reality.

The national threat posed by a potential President Trump more than justifies that conservatives promptly get over it.

I can certainly understand ambivalence about Clinton. I feel some of it myself, even though she’s pretty close to my ideological (neoliberal) sweet spot on domestic policy. My hesitation comes mainly from the air of scandal that, as I’ve put it before, seems to follow her and her husband around like the cloud of filth that trails Pig-Pen from Peanuts. If I also opposed her economic agenda, as most conservatives do, I could imagine that concern curdling into something harsher.

On the other hand, I have strong objections to Clinton on foreign policy, where I think her hawkish instincts (on Iraq, Libya, and Syria) have led her badly astray on numerous occasions — and where conservatives probably find her outlook pretty congenial.

That’s a mixed bag. But under present circumstances, it should be good enough to win her conservative support, however reluctant.

Those on the other side usually begin with the signs of corruption that trouble me as well.

The contrast with Barack Obama is instructive. Contending with a rabidly hostile Congress for five of his seven years as president, Obama has nonetheless managed to avoid becoming embroiled in any significant scandals. There have been no subpoenas of White House staff, no special prosecutors.

Is it even conceivable that a Hillary Clinton administration would be so clean? Not a chance. From the string of scandals during Bill Clinton’s presidency (including an impeachment proceeding) to Hillary Clinton’s email imbroglio to signs of questionable practices at the Clinton Global Initiative, the Clintons seem to be plagued by a mix of bad luck and congenitally poor judgment that we have every reason to assume would follow them back to the White House.

But here’s the thing: Every single accusation is trivial. Petty. Penny-ante. Yes, even the business about Clinton’s private email server. And especially the septic tank full of hyped-up, conspiracy-laden nonsense that goes by the name of “Benghazi.” (If well-meaning members of the conservative movement want to explore how the Republican electorate ended up hoodwinked by a transparent charlatan-demagogue like Donald Trump, they could do worse than reflecting on their own complicity in publicizing, or at least failing to defuse, this endless, cockamamie “scandal.”)

In an ideal political world, all administrations would be as clean as Obama’s. But as the events of this election cycle have demonstrated quite vividly, this is most emphatically not an ideal political world — and in the deeply troubling world we do inhabit, the prospect of a president dogged by minor scandals shouldn’t distract us from the far higher stakes involved in the upcoming election.

As for the other conservative objections to Clinton, they are even less compelling.

She’s unqualified? Compared to whom? Clinton’s been a successful lawyer. A first lady. A senator. A secretary of state. If that isn’t a stellar resume for a would-be president, I don’t know what would be. It’s certainly far more impressive than Barack Obama’s remarkably modest list of accomplishments when he ran for president — let alone Trump’s background of inheriting a few hundred million dollars and using that wealth to play a real-life game of Monopoly in the richest real estate market in the country (while still managing to file for bankruptcy four times).

Can Clinton be trusted? Probably no more or less than any other politician. Public servants go where the votes are, and in a primary season in which she’s had to fight a left-wing insurgency against the Democratic establishment and her husband’s centrist legacy as president, Clinton has undeniably moved modestly to the left. The question is whether it’s possible to imagine any presidential hopeful in the same situation not doing precisely the same thing. I think the answer is no.

Finally, there’s Clinton’s likeability. Follow conservatives on Twitter during a Clinton speech and you’ll hear the litany. She shouts. She hectors. She condescends. She’s shrill. She laughs in a really annoying way.

I’ll give Clinton’s conservative critics this: She isn’t the most charismatic politician in the world. But you know what? That’s her problem, not anyone else’s. If the voters find her sufficiently off-putting, they won’t elect her. The question is whether, when conservatives are presented with a candidate whose defects go far beyond style, they will be willing to put the good of the country ahead of what really is a merely aesthetic objection.

The path ahead for conservatives is clear. If they want to assure that Donald Trump loses, they need to assure that Hillary Clinton wins.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, May 19, 2016

May 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Did He Pay Anything At All?”: Donald Trump Says He Won’t Release Tax Returns

Months after he said he would release his tax returns, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has decided that the American public doesn’t need to see how much (or little) he has paid in taxes until after the November elections, marking a shift in the vague promises he previously made to release the records to the public.

He solidified his position in an interview published by the Associated Press today, in which he said that “there’s nothing to learn from them.” Trump has also claimed that he is in the process of being audited by the IRS, and that releasing his returns for the year under audit would be imprudent, despite the agency confirming that being audited doesn’t legally interfere at all with the ability to release one’s tax records.

As far back as October 2015, Trump promised to release his tax documents. “I’m not going to say it, but at some point I’ll release it,” he said at the time. In that same interview, he also said, “I pay as little as possible, I’m very proud to tell you.”

In January, Trump said again that he would release his taxes soon. “We’re working on that now. I have big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we’ll be working that over in the next period of time,” he said. Months later, they still haven’t been released.

Then again on May 8, just days before his announcement that he wouldn’t release his returns, he said, “Sure. If the auditors finish. I’ll do it as fast as the auditors finish.You don’t learn much from tax returns. But I would love to give the tax returns. But I can’t do it until I’m finished with the audit.”

But how little does Trump actually pay in taxes? David Cay Johnston, who spent three decades covering Trump as he moved from one business venture to another, noted that in 1978 and 1979 the businessman had paid exactly $0 in taxes.

He further explained how wealthy Americans like Trump use the tax code to their advantage, writing:

It’s all about tax rules that require you to depreciate, or reduce, the value of buildings over time, even if the market value of the structures is going up. If your depreciation is greater than your traditional income from work and businesses, Congress lets you report negative income. If these paper losses are just a dollar more than traditional income, it wipes out your income taxes for the year.

If Trump’s returns show he has paid no income taxes in some years, that could be a reason he has not yet released details.

Congress says most Americans can deduct no more than $25,000 of real estate depreciation against their income. But if you work two days a week managing real estate and own enough that the depreciation exceeds your salary and other income, Congress lets you live income-tax-free. And for as long as you keep buying buildings and depreciating them, the tax does not come due.

There are numerous reasons why Trump wouldn’t want to release his taxes. First, he has amassed his fortune partly by using tax loopholes that allowed him to effectively pay no income tax for years — possibly up to the present day. More recently, he changed his tune, saying, “I am willing to pay more, and you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more.” America should be thankful Trump wants to pay more than… whatever he’s currently paying. It could be nothing at all.

Second, the tax returns could show that he has far less money than he claims. This possibility was seized upon by anti-Trump Republicans who have tried to coerce Trump into releasing his returns. During the opening shots of the fight against the racist billionaire’s takeover of the party, Mitt Romney raised the possibility, saying, “Either he’s not anywhere near as wealthy as he says he is, or he hasn’t been paying the kind of taxes we would expect him to pay.”

There is evidence to back up Romney’s claim. Forbes calculated Trump’s worth to be $4.5 billion at most. “Trump has filed statements claiming he’s worth at least $10 billion or, as he put in a press release, TEN BILLION DOLLARS (capitalization his). After interviewing more than 80 sources and devoting unprecedented resources to valuing a single fortune, we’re going with a figure less than half that–$4.5 billion, albeit still the highest figure we’ve ever had for him.”

Even harder to explain is the jump in Trump’s cash-on-hand. The National Review wrote that his organization showed documentation for cash and cash equivalents of $307 million in 2014. This year, that number jumped up to $793 million, sans documentation, making it difficult to believe that he actually has that much money. “I’m running for President,” said Trump in an interview with Forbes. “I’m worth much more than you have me down [for]. I don’t look good, to be honest. I mean, I look better if I’m worth $10 billion than if I’m worth $4 billion.”

Trump’s obstruction has not only served his purposes, but that of his likely rival, Hillary Clinton. During the Democratic debate in Brooklyn last month, she responded to a question about her speech transcripts with a criticism of other presidential candidates, namely Trump, who didn’t release their tax returns.

“There are certain expectations when you run for president,” said Clinton. “This is a new one but I will tell you this, there is a longstanding expectation that everybody running release their tax returns.”

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Election 2016, Tax Returns | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Please Don’t Mainstream Trump”: The Risks Of Declaring Trump A Morally Acceptable Leader For Our Country Are High

Donald Trump’s Republican primary triumph means that this cannot be a normal election. Americans who see our country as a model of tolerance, inclusion, rationality and liberty must come together across party lines to defeat him decisively.

Many forces will be at work in the coming weeks to normalize Trump — and, yes, the media will play a big role in this. On both the right and the left, there will be strong temptations to go along.

Refusing to fall in line behind Trump will ask more of conservatives. Beating Trump means electing Hillary Clinton, the last thing most conservatives want to do. It would likely lead to a liberal majority on the Supreme Court and the ratification of the achievements of President Obama’s administration, including the Affordable Care Act. Conservative opposition could deepen a popular revulsion against Trump that in turn could help Democrats take over the Senate and gain House seats.

But the risks of declaring Trump a morally acceptable leader for our country are higher still, and shrewd Trump opponents on the right are already trying to disentangle the presidential race from contests lower on the ballot.

Three streams of Republicans are likely to oppose Trump: those to his right on trade and government spending; neoconservatives who oppose his “America First” noninterventionist foreign policy; and the remaining moderates and others in the party alarmed over his outbursts on, among other things, torture, immigration, race, women, Latinos, Muslims, Vladimir Putin and, lest we forget, Obama’s birthplace, Ted Cruz’s father and John McCain’s military service. These honorable and brave conservatives should not lose their nerve under pressure from conventional politicians or the very lobbyists and big donors Trump likes to denounce.

The fact that Trump draws opposition from the most ideological parts of the Republican Party heightens the temptation on the left to cheer his apparent victory. As someone who has argued that the right has long been on the wrong path, I understand this urge.

It’s certainly true that his feat vindicates much of what progressives have said about the conservative movement. Republican leaders have a lot to answer for, and not only the incompetence and timidity of their stop-Trump efforts.

They have spent years stoking the resentment and anger on the right end of their party that fueled Trump’s movement. They ignored the material interests of their struggling white working-class base and also popular exhaustion with foreign commitments fed by interventionist misadventures. Along with many Democrats, they underestimated the anger over trade agreements that accelerated the economic dislocation of the less well-off.

After this election, the GOP will need an extended period of self-examination. But no one on the left should applaud the rise of Trump as representing a friendly form of “populism” — let alone view him as the leader of a mass movement of the working class. He is no such thing. He is channeling the European far right, mixing intolerance, resentment and nationalism.

There will be much commentary on Trump’s political brilliance. But this should not blind us to the degree that Trumpism is very much a minority movement in our country. He has won some 10.6 million votes, but this amounts to less than a quarter of the votes cast in the primaries this year. It’s fewer than Clinton’s 12.4 million votes and not many more than the 9.3 million Bernie Sanders has received.

But never again will I underestimate Trump, having done this a month ago, rashly predicting he would lose the Republican nomination. I clearly had an excess of confidence that Cruz could rally anti-Trump voters and thought a series of wildly outrageous Trump statements would do more harm to his candidacy than they did.

I was dead wrong as a pundit, allowing myself to get carried away by my confidence that, at the end of it all, Americans would see through Trump. I still devoutly believe they will do so, once the campaign moves out of the Republican primaries, but I now know how urgent it is to resist capitulation to every attempt to move Trump into the political mainstream.

My friend, the writer Leon Wieseltier, suggested a slogan that embodies the appropriate response to Trump’s ascent: “Preserve the Shock.”

“The only proper response to his success is shame, anger and resistance,” Wieseltier said. “We must not accustom ourselves to this. . . . Trump is not a ‘new normal.’ No amount of economic injustice, no grievance, justifies the resort to his ugliness.”

Staying shocked for six months is hard. It is also absolutely necessary.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 4, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, Media, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The ‘Sandernistas’ Brand New Congress Initiative”: The Bernie Camp’s Really Bad Idea of A ‘Tea Party Of The Left’

From a great distance, the news that volunteers associated with Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign are turning their attentions to the herculean task of organizing progressives for midterm elections would seem to be exciting news for all Democrats. Without question, the close alignment of the two parties with groups of voters who do (older white people) and don’t (younger and minority people) participate in non-presidential elections has been a big part — along with the normal backlash against the party controlling the White House — of the massive Republican gains of 2010 and 2014. The prospect of heightened midterm turnout from under-30 voters alone could be a big and important deal for the Donkey Party.

But the closer you get to the Sandernistas’ Brand New Congress initiative — the new project by recently laid-off Bernie staffers to create a revolution in Congress beginning with the 2018 elections — the less it looks like the instrument for a difficult but achievable task and the more it looks like the product of a very strange set of beliefs about American politics. It’s not focused on boosting progressive turnout in general elections, but on recruiting and running candidates in Republican as well as Democratic primaries who meet a rigid set of policy litmus tests. The idea is very explicitly that people alive with the Bern can literally elect a “brand-new Congress” in one election cycle to turn public policy 180 degrees. Or so says key organizer Zack Exley:

“We want a supermajority in Congress that is fighting for jobs, criminal justice reform and the environment,” Exley said. “Most Americans actually want that, and I think we get it by running Dems in blue areas, Republicans in deep red areas, and by running independents wherever we didn’t defeat incumbents.”

Republicans, too?

Corbin Trent, another former Sanders staffer, said bringing Republicans on board is “the key to it being a successful idea” and there’s enough overlap between Sanders’ platform and tea party conservatives to make the PAC’s goals feasible.

Reality television star Donald Trump’s current status as the Republican front-runner demonstrates that GOP voters are eager for candidates who, like Trump, criticize the corrupting influence of money in politics and the impact of free trade deals on American workers, Trent said.

“This will allow Republicans to say ‘Yeah, I’m a Republican, but I believe climate change is real and I don’t believe all Muslims are terrorists,” he said. “It will allow people to think differently in the Republican Party if they want to pull away from the hate-based ideology.”

Yes, that was what I feared: The discredited notion that lefties and the tea party can make common cause in something other than hating on the Clintons and Barack Obama is back with a vengeance. And worse yet, Donald Trump — Donald Trump — is being touted as an example of a Republican capable of progressive impulses because he shares the old right-wing mercantilist hostility to free trade and has enough money to scorn lobbyists. Does your average Trump supporter really “believe climate change is real” and disbelieve that “all Muslims are terrorists”? Do Obamacare-hating tea-partiers secretly favor single-payer health care? Do the people in tricorn hats who favor elimination of labor unions deep down want a national $15-an-hour minimum wage? And do the very activists who brought the Citizens United case and think it’s central to the preservation of the First Amendment actually want to overturn it?

It’s this last delusion that’s the most remarkable. If there is any one belief held most vociferously by tea-party activists, it’s that anything vaguely approaching campaign-finance reform is a socialist, perhaps even a satanic, conspiracy. These are the people who don’t think donors to their political activities should be disclosed because Lois Lerner will use that information to launch income-tax audits and persecute Christians. The tea folk are much closer to the Koch brothers in their basic attitudes toward politics than they are to conventional Republicans.

But there persists a sort of “tea envy” in progressive circles. Here’s Salon staff writer Sean Illing in a piece celebrating Brand New Congress:

Real change in this country will require a sustained national mobilization, what I’ve called a counter-Tea Party movement. While their agenda was nihilistic and obstructionist, the Tea Party was a massive success by any measure. And they succeeded because they systematically altered the Congressional landscape.

Well, you could say that, or you could say the tea party’s excesses cost Republicans control of the Senate in 2012, and produced an environment that’s made Donald Trump and Ted Cruz the GOP’s only two options for this year’s presidential nomination. Indeed, you can probably thank the tea party for the likelihood of a very good Democratic general election this November.

But that will again produce excellent conditions for another Republican-dominated midterm in 2018. It sure would make sense for progressives to  focus on how to minimize the damage in the next midterm and begin to change adverse long-term turnout patterns. Expending time, money, and energy on scouring the earth looking for Republican primary candidates willing to run on a democratic-socialist agenda will not be helpful.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 29, 2016

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Progressives, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hold Your Fire, Democrats”: Leave The Party Infighting To The Republicans.

OK. It’s time.

It’s time to prove the legendary Will Rogers wrong when he said, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” Or to prove, in fact, that the current circular firing squad is the Republican Party and not the Democrats.

After the New York primary, we are at a crucial period in the Democratic race. Sure, we are going to go on until June 7, but the next seven weeks will be crucial in determining whether the Democrats shout at each other or shout at the Republicans. I prefer the latter, thank you.

First of all, there is no need for the Hillary Clinton camp to attack independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and no reason to bait them either. With one week to go before five states decide on April 26, they are in the driver’s seat in this campaign. And there are only a total of five contests during all of May. So work as hard as can be to win the bulk of the primaries on April 26, but don’t have surrogates taking shots at Sanders. No need.

As for Bernie and his supporters, one lesson he has learned from New York and earlier contests is that the more he attacks Clinton, the worse he does. No more attack ads. No more speeches about speeches. No more questioning her “qualifications” or even “judgment.” It simply won’t help the Sanders campaign, and it conflicts with his own message and who he is in this race.

The month of May is important in setting the stage for November. In 2008, Hillary Clinton backed off from the critique of then-Sen. Barack Obama and played out the primaries until June. Bernie should do the same, especially after this week of competing in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland.

Not only is it important to make this race about Democrats v. Republicans and the strikingly different visions for the country, it is also important to have a unified party that will win back the Senate and, possibly, even the House in November. In order for the Democrats to build from this primary season, it is critical that they put the back-and-forth of a contentious campaign behind them. Of course, compared to the Republicans this has been a tame contest – beanbag really. But what the Democrats don’t need is a senseless negative barrage of ads or talking heads who take off after each other. The candidates lose, the Democratic Party loses and the chances increase that we lose a much-deserved advantage come November.

The bottom line here is that what Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have been talking about for the last year can only be accomplished with a resounding victory in November – not just winning the presidency but electing Democrats up and down the ticket, and especially in the House and the Senate. Getting the things done they have talked about means having the bodies in Congress to deliver the legislation. There is too much at stake now – time to avoid that circular firing squad. Leave that to the Republicans.

 

By: Peter Fenn, Head, Fenn Communications, U. S. News and World Report, April 21, 2016

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Republicans | , , , , , | 3 Comments

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