mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“A Statement Of Mathematical Fact”: Come On, Bernie, Time To Level With Your Dreamers

Soon and very soon, Bernie Sanders is going to have to help his most ardent fans confront the fact of his defeat. How he does so will help to determine his legacy.

That is not meant to disparage the campaign or the candidate, despite the vitriol that’s sure to start flooding into my Twitter timeline right now. It’s a statement of mathematical fact. As of today, no matter what happens in Kentucky (or Oregon, or Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, D.C. or even mighty California), Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee.

Clinton is 94 percent of the way to the 2,383 required delegates, having won 54 percent of the total pledged delegates so far, to Sanders’s 46 percent. She needs only 35 percent of what’s left, while Sanders needs 65 percent, and a literal miracle. If you throw in superdelegates, as they stand today, Clinton needs just 14 percent of the remainder to win, versus an astounding 86 percent haul Sanders needs.

Everyone covering this race knows these facts, and the only question is how to manage the communication of them in a way that respects the ongoing democratic process.

Of course, none of that has stopped the magical thinking, and in some quarters, the rage and even conspiracy theorizing of hardcore Sandernistas who refuse to accept that the war is lost. Case in point, the cantankerous Nevada Democratic convention in Las Vegas this weekend at which stalwart liberal California Sen. Barbara Boxer was booed and shouted down for the crime of calling for civility and party unity, and a fight literally broke out on the convention floor over the setting of rules and the election of 43 delegates and three alternates to go to the July 25 national convention in Philadelphia.

Indeed, there’s nothing quite like firing up Twitter only to be inundated by Bernie-hair avatars shrieking about hundreds of thousands—no, millions—of would-be Bernie voters falling victim to a supposed national voter suppression campaign that is the “real reason” he isn’t winning. The culprits, in this alternate reality, are the Democratic National Committee, which does not set the rules for individual caucuses and primaries. They are run, respectively, by state parties and state legislatures, but according to the theory, they’ve been gamed by nefarious Hillary Clinton operatives in the parties, who have been programmed by “The Establishment” to deny Bernie his rightful nomination.

And then there’s Sanders, his wife Jane’s and some of his prominent surrogates’ dismissals of the heavily African-American Southern primaries won by Hillary Clinton as irrelevant red states that are too conservative, too “brand loyal” and too unacquainted with their own best interests to have voted the “right way”; nearly all-white red caucus states like Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and nearly all-white, red primary states like West Virginia notwithstanding.

The rush to conspiracy theories, appropriation of the real, ongoing struggles against actual voter suppression including voter ID laws, and the embrace by some on the Sanders left of every scurrilous accusation against Hillary Clinton, from the ’90s to Benghazi, is jarring. And the memes are especially vicious among the youngest Sandernistas, whose abject, #BerntheWitch hatred of Secretary Clinton is reaching World Net Daily proportions. In fact, some supposed leftists have taken to tweeting out actual WND, Breitbart, and Daily Caller links to prove their case.

And while this likely represents a small minority of Sanders supporters, much like the Hillary PUMAs and “Obama bros” in 2008, the Sanders campaign and the candidate have done little to try to shut it down.

In 2008, Team Obama pushed out foreign policy adviser Samantha Power and sidelined Obama national co-chair Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. for slagging Hillary Clinton as a “monster” and mocking her New Hampshire tears, respectively. Obama himself directed his team and supporters to lay off the Clintons, while the Clinton campaign ultimately forced out Geraldine Ferraro over her racial bitterness, and wouldn’t let the PUMA faithful anywhere near the Denver convention, to the point where some of them turned on Hillary herself as a traitor to the cause.

By contrast, Sanders and his team have seemed at times to encourage the bitter-enders to fight to the proverbial death, with the campaign itself vowing to contest the nomination right onto the convention floor. It’s not clear what Team Sanders hopes to achieve, beyond a platform battle in Philadelphia that will make for a great TV spectacle, but won’t change the outcome.

Meanwhile, a reality show vulgarian with a penchant for fight club rallies, tasteless broadsides against “flat-chested women” and a singular ability to excite white nationalists (including his own longtime butler) with his anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican rhetoric is quickly consolidating the Republican Party behind his nomination. And some Democratic operatives are starting to worry that Sanders’s zombie campaign is preventing Hillary Clinton—who possesses some real flaws as a candidate, from her inability to deliver a big speech to the ongoing drag from her paid speeches and her private email server—from focusing her full attention and resources on the real target.

If Sanders does hope to have a future in Democratic Party politics, he will eventually have to tell his supporters the truth: that he simply lost the primary contest, despite a hard-fought race. He’ll have to walk back some of his sharpest anti-Clinton rhetoric, and find some way to become a bridge to the voters who have become so fervently devoted to him.

It’s tough to imagine the Vermont senator actively embracing Clinton, who is considerably more hawkish on foreign policy, and less ambitious on domestic affairs than he. But Sanders has a particular credibility with white working-class voters and young, mostly white collegians. Sanders’s particular resonance with the white working-class,a group that has bedeviled Democrats over the last 50 years, and whose skepticism of free trade makes them a prime target for Donald Trump, could prove to be his most valuable asset to his newfound party. Sanders has proven to be an effective attacker when he sets his mind to it. If, as he says, he wants to do everything in his power to prevent a Trump presidency, nothing is preventing him from using his capital now, to try to prevent those voters in his camp from bolting to Trumpville by training his fire on the Republican nominee.

Of course, Sanders could refuse to do that, perhaps concluding that he would lose too much credibility with the rather angry movement he’s built, and go right on hitting Hillary Clinton instead. But he risks winding up an isolated figure in Philadelphia, surrounded by his diehards but scorned by Democrats who blame him for weakening the nominee, tolerated by Camp Clinton only because they have to, and unable to win meaningful platform concessions from a party that could well view him as an enemy invader, rather than a bluntly critical, but ultimately valuable friend.

Only time will tell how Sanders chooses to play out the end of his campaign.

 

By: Joy-Ann Reid, The Daily Beast, May 18, 2016

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Long Past Time For The Farce To End”: GOP Committee’s Lawyer Undercuts Benghazi Conspiracy Theory

Things have not been going well for the House Republicans’ Benghazi committee, which is overseeing an investigation that, as of last week, has now lasted over two years. This morning, things have managed to get worse for the GOP’s partisan witch hunt.

As of a couple of weeks ago, the Defense Department started pushing back against the committee Republicans’ increasingly outlandish demands. In no uncertain terms, the Pentagon let Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) know the panel’s requests have become “unnecessary” and “unproductive.” Worse, the DoD believes the partisan committee is guilty of “encouraging speculation” from witnesses, rather than focusing on facts and evidence.

Today, however, the beleaguered committee, whose very existence has become something of a joke, is facing a new round of embarrassing headlines. The Huffington Post reported:

Shortly before the House Benghazi committee ramped up its battles with the Department of Defense in its probe of the 2012 terrorist attack, the committee’s own top lawyer admitted at least four times in interviews with military officials that there was no more they could have done on that tragic night.

That’s according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post that was sent Sunday to the chairman of the committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), from the top Democrats on the Benghazi panel and the House Armed Services Committee, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Remember, the whole point of the right-wing conspiracy theory is built around the idea that the military could’ve done more to intervene in Benghazi the night of the September 2012 attack, but it didn’t for political reasons. Military leaders, the State Department, and multiple congressional investigations all concluded that the conspiracy theory is wrong, but House Republicans don’t care, which is why they created a committee, led by Trey Gowdy, to tell conservatives what they want to hear.

Now, however, there’s evidence that Gowdy’s former top committee staffer already concluded that the question has been answered truthfully. The Benghazi panel is investigating a conspiracy theory that the committee’s lawyer considers bogus.

According to the letter, that staffer, former Gen. Dana Chipman, said in interviews with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Defense Department Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash that the department did all it could on that night when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi or in Tripoli or elsewhere in the region,” Chipman told Panetta in the committee’s January interview with the former defense secretary, according to transcribed excerpts. “And, sir, I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”

Chipman was similarly deferential to Bash. “I would posit that from my perspective, having looked at all the materials over the last 18 months, we could not have affected the response to what occurred by 5:15 in the morning on the 12th of September in Benghazi, Libya,” said Chipman, who himself served 33 years in the Army.

And if the military did everything it could that night, the conspiracy theory is no more. The Benghazi committee is asking questions that have been answered to the satisfaction of the committee’s top lawyer, chosen by the committee’s Republican chairman.

Circling back to our previous coverage, Republicans have already admitted the Benghazi panel is a partisan exercise, making it that much more difficult to justify its prolonged existence – at a cost of nearly $7 million. Now there’s evidence the committee is not just annoying the Department of Defense for reasons no one seems able to defend, the panel’s former top lawyer has also seen the evidence and rejected the investigation’s basic premise.

To reiterate a recent observation, though I find the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee ridiculous, I’m not suggesting the deadly terrorist attack in Libya, which left four Americans dead, is unworthy of investigation. Just the opposite is true – Congress had a responsibility to determine what happened and take steps to prevent similar attacks in the future.

But therein lies the point: seven separate congressional committees investigated the Benghazi attack before the Select Committee was even created. This was already one of the most scrutinized events in American history. Republican lawmakers, however, didn’t quite care for what the evidence told them, so they effectively concluded, “Maybe an eighth committee will tell us something the other seven committees didn’t.”

But even now, Republicans can’t substantiate the various conspiracy theories, which their own lawyer has dismissed.

It’s long past time for the farce to end.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 16, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Thing That Launched Trump’s Campaign”: Birtherism; Trump’s Original Sin And The Media’s Latest One

Next time you watch the news, do me a favor. Take a look at the reporters’ arms. Do they seem tired to you? Overworked? They have to be a little sore at least. Such is the vigor with which the media have been patting themselves on the back lately.

After a full year of the Trump steamroller — in which a honey-baked ham with authoritarian inclinations has managed to blow past any serious questioning of his policies or candidacy — the media apparently feel that they’re now doing their jobs.

You could see it a few weeks back in the breathless praise for MSNBC’s Chris Matthews when he interrogated Trump on abortion; or in the hype around the New York Times interview that nailed down Trump’s Strangelovian approach to nuclear weapons; or even in Trump’s recent pivot toward a more “presidential” tone. Among reporters and critics that I know, there’s a growing sentiment that Trump is changing his ways because they, the press, are taking him seriously now. They’re handling Trump not based on the job he has (obnoxious reality star) but on the job he wants (president or, perhaps, generalissimo).

Call me crazy, but I’m not totally buying this notion. I think it’s a crock. The media haven’t “done their job” with regard to Trump, and the reason why is very simple: The press have largely ignored the issue that made him a political phenomenon in the first place.

The media have overlooked Trump’s birtherism.

I’m a Catholic. I’ve seen enough baptismal water spilled to fill William Taft’s bathtub ten times over. But it doesn’t take a Catholic like me to understand the original sin of the Trump candidacy. His first act on the political stage was to declare himself the head of the birther movement. For Trump, the year 2011 began with the BIG NEWS that he had rejected Lindsay Lohan for Celebrity Apprentice, but by April, his one-man show to paint Barack Obama as a secret Kenyan had become the talk of the country. Five years later, Trump is nearing the Republican nomination for president.

In many ways, birtherism is the thing that launched Trump’s campaign. But as he nears the big prize in Cleveland, Trump has refused to disavow his conspiracy theory. In July, when Anderson Cooper pressed Trump on whether President Obama was, in fact, born in the United States, Trump’s response was, “I really don’t know.”

I’m taxing my mind to find a historical comparison here, to put this in context. I suppose Trump’s birtherism is the intellectual equivalent of the flat-earth theory; both are fully contradicted by the evidence. But then again, there is a difference between the two, and the difference is this: If a presidential candidate insisted that the USS Theodore Roosevelt would fall off the edge of the map after sailing past Catalina, Wolf Blitzer would probably ask him about it.

It’s been nine months since Cooper pressed Trump on the issue of whether he thinks the president is an American — almost enough time, as Trump might put it, to carry a baby to term in Kenya and secretly transport him to Hawaii — and still, no one has gotten an answer. In fact, most have stopped asking. It’s now known among reporters that Obama’s birthplace is a strictly verboten topic for Trump. If you bring up the subject, as Chris Matthews did in December, Trump looks at you with a glare I assume he otherwise reserves for undocumented immigrants and say, “I don’t talk about that anymore.”

Since July, there have been 12 debates, six televised forums, and enough cable interviews to combust a DVR, but the only “birther” issue extensively covered in the press has involved whether Sen. Ted Cruz was born in Calgary Flames territory. Most reporters don’t seem to want to piss off the The Donald and risk losing their access.

Look, I understand that there’s plenty of craziness to investigate in our politics. Cruz believes that global warming is a hoax. Ben Carson claimed that the Biblical Joseph built the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Heck, once upon a time, George W. Bush famously thought the jury was out on evolution.

But Trump’s birtherism is far, far more important — for two reasons:

First, in my experience, when a politician says he doesn’t talk about an issue, that’s precisely the issue you should ask him about.

Second, there’s another difference between being birther and flat-earther. It’s possible to believe the Earth is flat and not be a bigot, but it’s impossible to be a birther and not be one.

It’s no surprise Trump’s campaign has been a parade of racism after his foray into birtherism — a border wall, a ban on Muslim immigration, and the failure to denounce the Ku Klux Klan. Unlike Bush’s creationism and Carson’s historical idiocy, Trump’s birtherism can’t be written off as a minor policy quirk. It’s less of a bug than a feature. Trump, by his own admission, sees the controversy over Obama’s birthplace as foundational to his brand and instructive to how he approaches politics. When ABC asked him about his aggressive birtherism in 2013, he said, “I don’t think I went overboard. Actually, I think it made me very popular… I do think I know what I’m doing.”

I think it made me very popular… I do think I know what I’m doing.

With birtherism, Trump discovered a sad truth about modern American media: Bigotry gets you attention. And long as you bring viewers, readers, and clicks, the fourth estate will let you get away with that bigotry.

Long before Donald Trump, there was another demagogue, Huey Long, who made a run for the White House. Long was fictionalized and immortalized as the character Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren’s novel, All The King’s Men, in which Warren wrote, “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption.”

So, too, was Trump’s political career.

The press should get their hands off their backs and ask him about it.

 

By: James Carville, Media Matters For America, April 26, 2016

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Birtherism, Donald Trump, Media | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Every Republican Bad Habit”: Why Donald Trump’s Ham-Fisted Incompetence Is Such A Winning Combo For The Republican Party

Despite his brand as a ruthless businessman whose greed borders on the sociopathic, it’s becoming clear that Donald Trump couldn’t organize his way out of a wet paper sack.

After a deluge of truly abysmal headlines, he has tripped himself up yet again on the way to the Republican nomination, as poor logistics lost him multiple delegates in five states over the weekend. His own kids didn’t even realize they had to change their New York party registration last October in order to be able to vote Trump in the primary on April 19. Sad!

Ted Cruz, with his carefully organized army of staring ideologues, is the natural beneficiary of Trump missteps, and has gathered most of the lost delegates. Of course, if Trump had even a modicum of political competence, he would have long since locked up the nomination. Just look at this tidbit from the weekend caucuses: “The frontrunner’s advisers repeatedly instructed supporters to vote for the wrong candidates — distributing the incorrect delegate numbers to supporters,” Time reports.

Still, it’s hard to imagine a politically competent Trump who would also have run the same campaign that launched him to the front of the pack, where he still remains, despite the recent flailing. It’s a good demonstration of why nobody can lock up this primary.

Trump soared to frontrunner status by exploiting the fact that the GOP base has, for years, been running on the political equivalent of solvent abuse. Angry, resentful, and paranoid, the conservative movement has responded to inconvenient politics or facts with sheer denial or an enraged doubling-down. Climate change going to drown half of America’s coastal cities? It must be a conspiracy cooked up by all those scientists out to get that grant money. Got creamed among Latinos in the presidential election of 2012? To Hades with elite attempts to pass immigration reform as an unavoidable compromise, and primary some major supporters for good measure.

Trump first got into major national politics on the back of the conspiracy theory that President Obama wasn’t really born in the United States. (Obama himself completely humiliated Trump for this at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, which reportedly was the spark for Trump to run for president.) During the primary, he has taken every Republican bad habit — every plausibly-deniable racist dogwhistle, every game of footsie with rancid demagogues, every piece of crank economics or pseudoscience — and made them overt slogans painted in 20-foot-tall letters.

As a strategy to win the Republican primary, such tactics combine extremely well with Trump’s spider sense for his audience’s worst instincts and his absolute genius at manipulating TV media to get himself free coverage.

The rest of the primary field has been unable to mount a serious challenge despite being implicated in exactly the same stuff, just to a lesser degree. If Trump’s tax plan is total garbage (which it is), Rubio’s and Cruz’s were no less so. His signature immigration policy of “huge wall plus deport the brown people” is bonkers, but rooted in decades of conservative anti-immigrant hysteria. And you can draw a straight line to Trump’s “ban Muslims” idea from many previous episodes of whipped-up anti-Muslim bigotry.

But it turns out that such a strategy means absolutely obliterating one’s standing among the broader population. If nominated, Trump would very likely be the least popular major party nominee since the advent of modern polling. Virtually any Democratic nominee would be the heavy favorite against him.

And that illustrates why traditional national Republican candidates wanting to leverage white racism for electoral advantage have used the dogwhistle instead of an actual whistle. Without plausible deniability, you’re going to turn out like Strom Thurmond in 1948. Only Trump, with his unmerited arrogance and manifest ignorance of basic political mechanisms, is dumb enough to try it.

But as a primary strategy, it’s successful enough that the only actual politician to pose a serious challenge to Trump, Ted Cruz, is having to scramble to pick up all the scraps he can find — and Cruz is similar enough to Trump that the party is still fantasizing about nominating someone else. Who knows, it might even work. But it’d be simpler to prevent the party from being eaten by galloping nonsense in the first place.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 12, 2016

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Base, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The End Of The Democratic Party’s Silent Era On Guns”: Has President Obama Broken The Political Stalemate On Guns?

On Thursday night, for the first time since he rolled out his plan to expand background checks for guns, President Barack Obama publicly faced his critics—some of them, that is. His audience of several dozen at a CNN-hosted town hall included a mother and rape survivor, a shooting-range owner, and an Arizona sheriff, all of whom questioned Obama’s approach to the gun-violence epidemic. The only voice missing was the one that has long overshadowed these debates—the National Rifle Association. NRA officials declined their CNN invitation, preferring the comfort of Fox News to what they labeled a “public relations spectacle.”

Obama was ready to pounce on the NRA’s absence; he looked most at ease during the hour-plus event whenever he was attacking and counterpointing the group. Early on, host Anderson Cooper asked the president about the NRA’s absence. “Since this is a main reason they exist, you’d think that they’d be prepared to have a debate with the president,” he said, pointing out (pointedly) that their headquarters was just “right down the street.”

Only a few minutes in, Obama had already shed the last of his overly cautious image on guns. And he’d begun to give Democratic candidates in 2016 an object lesson in how to talk about gun control—and its fiercest foes.

For most of his time in office, Obama has mostly treaded carefully on the issue, calling on Congress to take action after each round of national mourning for a mass shooting rather than tapping into his own (albeit limited) presidential powers to take action. As a candidate, he was similarly cautious. Finally, at the Virginia town hall, Obama proved he has outgrown any fear of the gun lobby.

Democratic candidates, presidential and otherwise, have long been silent and defensive on gun control, fearing that gun owners’ distrust, stoked by NRA spending, would cost them elections. That thinking dates back at least to 1994, when Democrats lost Congress and the defeat was partly chalked up to backlash from the recently passed assault-weapons ban. The conventional wisdom only solidified when Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee in 2000, costing Democrats the White House—another loss blamed, with scant evidence, on the Democratic candidate’s support for the assault-weapons ban and other forms of gun control.

It took roughly 20 years, but Obama has finally marked the end of the Democratic Party’s silent era on guns. His executive actions and last night’s forum mark the start—a strong one—to 2016, a year in which Democrats may finally learn to talk straight about the NRA and make combatting gun violence an issue they use to win votes, rather than shrink from.

Obama may not have convinced any of his NRA opponents that all he wants are modest measures, but he doesn’t need to. The NRA’s base won’t move, no matter what Democrats do or don’t do. But the vast majority of Americans already agree with the president on sensible background checks. Some 90 percent support background checks for guns, and in a poll before the town hall, CNN found that 67 percent of Americans support Obama’s recent executive actions.

Yet when asked about the likely effectiveness of his actions, the polls flip, showing nearly one in six think they won’t reduce gun deaths. It’s those sympathetic-but-skeptical Americans who Obama addressed most effectively on Thursday, giving us a preview of how the next Democratic presidential nominee will likely frame the party’s message on guns. “The goal here is just to make progress,” he said—incremental, but life-saving, progress.

Obama has given Democrats a template for how to navigate the gun-control issue in 2016. In his final year of office, he’s come out in front on gun violence, experimenting with the right message and providing his fellow Democrats with some political cover by taking the flak for it. He offered a roadmap on Thursday to the two Democratic presidential frontrunners—and candidates down-ballot as well—on how to campaign for gun reform.

First, he was (mostly) up-front about his own experience with guns. In the past, Obama has sometimes done his version of the compulsory “Democratic candidate goes hunting” photo-op, referencing his passion for hunting and skeet shooting (to be fair, he did mention it in passing on Thursday). But gun owners (along with everyone else) have long known enough to dismiss that as pandering. Obama’s far more effective moments at the forum came when he spoke about his other experience with guns, including Chicago’s gun violence, which has taken victims just blocks from his home.

Second, he knew who he was trying to convince: people who are already concerned about gun violence, but aren’t convinced that new regulations are really going to help. He turned to gun owners in the audience more than once, explaining that people “less responsible” than them shouldn’t be able to get a gun without a background check. And he came back again and again to his broader argument: “There’s nothing else in our lives that we purchase where we don’t try to make it a little safer if we can,” he said, comparing the gun industry to cars, toys, and medicine that have become safer with regulation.

Finally, Obama knew his enemy, and called the NRA out for its spin. At one point, Cooper asked him if it’s fair to call the idea he wants to take everybody’s guns a conspiracy, since “a lot of people really believe this deeply.” Obama—so visibly frustrated he mixed up Anderson Cooper’s name—cut in: “I’m sorry, Cooper. Yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy. What are you saying? Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can impose martial law is a conspiracy? Yes, that is a conspiracy!”

It’s too soon, of course, to know if Obama’s approach will prove politically popular or just manage to embolden the NRA’s base—probably both. But Democrats appear more and more inclined to stop tiptoeing around the issue and the NRA. Hillary Clinton proposed an almost-identical plan to Obama’s executive actions last fall, a promising sign she’d continue Obama’s march if she becomes the nominee. Bernie Sanders also recently embraced Obama’s actions. If this year’s Democratic nominee pushes further ideas for using executive powers to make incremental progress on gun control—and calls out the NRA and its arguments with anything near the force that Obama showed on Thursday—then we’ll know the stalemate on guns in electoral politics has finally broken.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, January 8, 2015

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Control, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: