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“DEFCON 4”: Bernie Sanders’ PUMA Moment; Hillary Clinton ‘Not Qualified’

That didn’t take long.

I wondered Tuesday night how nasty both Democrats would get—whether Bernie Sanders would start aping conservative talking points against Hillary Clinton, and whether she would try to out-Israel him in New York. We’re not quite to those places yet, but Sanders’s blunt statement Wednesday night that Clinton “is not qualified” to be president ratchets up the arms race considerably.

This started Wednesday morning when Clinton appeared on Morning Joe and Joe Scarborough—jumping off from Sanders’s wobbly Daily News editorial board interview—tried to ask her four times whether she thought Sanders was qualified to be president. Here’s the full exchange so you can decide for yourself:

JS: In light of the questions he had problems with, do you believe this morning that Bernie Sanders is qualified and ready to be president of the United States?

HC: Well, I think the interview raised a lot of really serious questions, and I look at it this way. The core of his campaign has been break up the banks, and it didn’t seem in reading his answers that he understood exactly how that would work under Dodd-Frank and exactly who would be responsible, what the criteria were; and that means you really can’t help people if you don’t know how to do what you are campaigning on saying you want to do. And then there were other—

JS: So is he qualified?…And I’m serious, if you weren’t running today and you looked at Bernie Sanders would you say this guy is ready to be president of the United States?

HC: Well, I think he hadn’t done his homework and he’d been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn’t really studied or understood, and that does raise a lot of questions and really what it goes to is for voters to ask themselves, can he deliver what he’s talking about, can he really help people—

JS: What do you think?

HC: Can he help our economy, can he keep our country strong…Well, obviously, I think I’m by far the better choice—

JS: But do you think he is qualified and do you think he is able to deliver on the things he is promising to all these Democratic voters?

HC: Well, lemme put it this way, Joe. I think that what he has been saying about the core issue in his whole campaign doesn’t seem to be rooted in an understanding of either the law or the practical ways you get something done. And I will leave it to voters to decide who of us can do the job that the country needs, who can do all aspects of the job. Both on the economic domestic issues and on national security and foreign policy.

I don’t know how you read that, but I read it as Scarborough trying four times to get Clinton to say outright that Bernie Sanders is not qualified to be president, and her refusing to do so. She came sorta close; The Washington Post headlined a write up on it “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president,” but she never said the words, and after attempt number four, she retreated to the standard, and appropriate, dodge about it being up to the voters. From there, the interview moved on to other topics.

And what did Sanders do? This, in a speech in Philadelphia Wednesday night.

She has been saying lately that she thinks that I am not qualified to be president.

Well, let me, let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton: I don’t believe that she is qualified, if she is, through her super-PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds. I don’t think that you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your super-PAC.

I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are qualified if you have supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement which has cost us millions of decent paying jobs. I don’t think you are qualified if you’ve supported the Panama free trade agreement, something I very strongly opposed and, which as all of you know, has allowed corporations and wealthy all over the world people to avoid paying their taxes to their countries.

Wait. What? “Has been saying”? “Has been saying,” as if she’d said it seven times? She didn’t even say it once!

Now—Sanders apologists will scream that she started it, and even neutral observers, if there are any, may be confused. But there’s a big difference between saying “raises serious questions” and “I’ll leave it to the voters to decide,” and saying flat out that one’s primary opponent is “not qualified.”

Clinton is still the favorite to win the nomination. I heard Chuck Todd say Wednesday morning that Sanders needs to win 67 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to overtake her lead. Since all delegates are awarded proportionally, and since there aren’t likely to be many huge blowouts in the upcoming states (we’re almost done with caucuses), that seems a tall order.

Clinton also leads the popular vote tally by almost exactly 2.4 million. Pretty hard to picture him overcoming that, too. How hard? Let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, big Sanders wins in New York and California. In 2008, Clinton won both of those handily over Barack Obama—New York by 17 percent and around 250,000 votes, and California by 8 percent and around 430,000.

It’s pretty unlikely that Sanders can equal those results, but let’s just say he does, and then let’s give him another 100,000 in Pennsylvania. That would be 780,000. That still puts him 1.6 million votes behind. Say he even runs the table and nets another 300,000 or so from the smaller states. He’s still more than a million votes behind in the most optimistic scenario.

Votes are important because they tend to determine what the superdelegates do. Superdelegates are hesitant to undo the voters’ collective will. It’s worth noting here that in 2008, Clinton lost the popular vote tally to Obama by only 300,000 or 400,000, depending on how you counted them. There were controversies then over whether to count Florida and Michigan, which had disobeyed the party’s mandated calendar. If you don’t include them, Obama won by around 450,000. If you do, he beat Clinton by just 60,000 (out of 35 million cast).

So it was much closer than it seems this is going to be, but even so, the superdelegates wouldn’t overturn the voters’ choice.

Why all these numbers? Just to show that it’s still likely that at the end of the process, Clinton will be ahead, and Sanders will have to endorse her. Not certain, of course, but likely. So the question is, how can he endorse her after saying flat out that she’s not qualified to be president?

Well, politicians have their ways. “She’s better than Trump/Cruz.” But won’t it ring awfully hollow? For her part, Clinton, looking toward a future mending of fences, brushed off Sanders’s  remarks. It’s worth noting, too, that back in 2008, Clinton gave up the fight in early June right after the primaries ended and endorsed Obama. One has trouble picturing Sanders doing the same, if it comes to that, and what he said Wednesday night makes it even less likely.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 7, 2016

April 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“A Standard Of Absolute Purity”: His Respected Friend; But What Does Bernie Really Think Of Hillary?

What does Bernie Sanders really think of Hillary Clinton?

When they meet in debate, the Senator from Vermont usually refers to the former Secretary of State as his “friend” – not in the polite Congressional-speech sense of someone that he actually despises, but in what is presumably his authentic, Brooklyn-born candor. He speaks frequently of his “great respect” for Clinton. And he has said more than once that “on her worst day” she would be a far better president than any of the potential Republican candidates “on their best day.”

Even more often, however, Sanders suggests that Clinton has sold out to the financial industry for campaign contributions, or for donations to her SuperPAC, or perhaps for those big speaking fees she has pocketed since leaving the State Department. Certainly he has fostered that impression among his supporters, who excoriate Clinton in the most uninhibited and sometimes obscene terms on social media.

But if Sanders believes that Hillary Clinton is “bought by Wall Street” — as his legions so shrilly insist — then how can he say, “in all sincerity,” that she is his respected friend?

To date, his criticism of Clinton on this point is inferential, not specific. He hasn’t identified any particular vote or action that proves her alleged subservience to the financial titans she once represented as the junior senator from New York. As Sanders knows, Clinton’s actual record on such issues as the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ran opposite to the banksters.

Back in 2007, eight years before she could ever imagine facing the socialist senator in debate, she spoke up against the special “carried interest” tax breaks enjoyed by hedge-fund managers. Her proposals to regulate banks more strictly have won praise not only from New York Times columnist and Nobel economist Paul Krugman, but from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the populist Pasionaria, as well.

Still, to Sanders the mere act of accepting money from the financial industry, or any corporate interest, is a marker of compromise or worse. Why do the banks spend millions on lobbying, he thunders, unless they get something in return? The answer is that they want access – and often donate even to politicians who don’t fulfill all their wishes. They invariably donate to anyone they believe will win.

Meanwhile, Sanders doesn’t apply his stringent integrity test to contributions from unions, a category of donation he accepts despite labor’s pursuit of special-interest legislation– and despite the troubling fact that the leadership of the labor movement filed an amicus brief on behalf of Citizens United, which expanded their freedom to offer big donations to politicians. (That case was rooted, not incidentally, in yet another effort by right-wing billionaires to destroy Hillary Clinton.)

By his own standard, Sanders shouldn’t take union money because the AFL-CIO opposed campaign finance reform, which he vociferously supports. Or maybe we shouldn’t believe that he truly supports campaign finance reform, because he has accepted so much money from unions.

Such assumptions would be wholly ridiculous, of course – just as ridiculous as assuming that Clinton’s acceptance of money from banking or labor interests, both of which have made substantial donations to her campaign, proves her advocacy of reform is insincere.

Political history is more complex than campaign melodrama. If critics arraign Clinton for the decision by her husband’s administration to kill regulation of derivatives trading, it is worth recalling that she was responsible for the appointment of the only official who opposed that fateful mistake. She had nothing to do with deregulation — but as First Lady, she strongly advocated on behalf of Brooksley Born, a close friend of hers named by her husband to chair the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. One of the few heroes of the financial crisis, Born presciently warned about the dangers of unregulated derivatives.

So it is fine to criticize Clinton’s big speaking fees from banks and other special interests, which create a troubling appearance that she should have anticipated. It is fine to complain that politicians are too dependent on big-money donors. And it is fine to push her hard on the issues that define the Sanders campaign, which has done a great service by highlighting the political and economic domination of the billionaire elite.

But it is wrong to accuse Clinton of “pay for play” when the available evidence doesn’t support that accusation. And if Sanders wants to hold her to a standard of absolute purity, he should apply that same measure to himself.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, February 13, 2016

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Financial Industry, Hillary Clinton, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , | 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

“Doubling Down On W”: Determined To Take What Didn’t Work From 2001 To 2008 And Do It Again, In A More Extreme Form

2015 was, of course, the year of Donald Trump, whose rise has inspired horror among establishment Republicans and, let’s face it, glee — call it Trumpenfreude — among many Democrats. But Trumpism has in one way worked to the G.O.P. establishment’s advantage: it has distracted pundits and the press from the hard right turn even conventional Republican candidates have taken, a turn whose radicalism would have seemed implausible not long ago.

After all, you might have expected the debacle of George W. Bush’s presidency — a debacle not just for the nation, but for the Republican Party, which saw Democrats both take the White House and achieve some major parts of their agenda — to inspire some reconsideration of W-type policies. What we’ve seen instead is a doubling down, a determination to take whatever didn’t work from 2001 to 2008 and do it again, in a more extreme form.

Start with the example that’s easiest to quantify, tax cuts.

Big tax cuts tilted toward the wealthy were the Bush administration’s signature domestic policy. They were sold at the time as fiscally responsible, a matter of giving back part of the budget surplus America was running when W took office. (Alan Greenspan infamously argued that tax cuts were needed to avoid paying off federal debt too fast.) Since then, however, over-the-top warnings about the evils of debt and deficits have become a routine part of Republican rhetoric; and even conservatives occasionally admit that soaring inequality is a problem.

Moreover, it’s harder than ever to claim that tax cuts are the key to prosperity. At this point the private sector has added more than twice as many jobs under President Obama as it did over the corresponding period under W, a period that doesn’t include the Great Recession.

You might think, then, that Bush-style tax cuts would be out of favor. In fact, however, establishment candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are proposing much bigger tax cuts than W ever did. And independent analysis of Jeb’s proposal shows that it’s even more tilted toward the wealthy than anything his brother did.

What about other economic policies? The Bush administration’s determination to dismantle any restraints on banks — at one staged event, a top official used a chain saw on stacks of regulations — looks remarkably bad in retrospect. But conservatives have bought into the thoroughly debunked narrative that government somehow caused the Great Recession, and all of the Republican candidates have declared their determination to repeal Dodd-Frank, the fairly modest set of regulations imposed after the financial crisis.

The only real move away from W-era economic ideology has been on monetary policy, and it has been a move toward right-wing fantasyland. True, Ted Cruz is alone among the top contenders in calling explicitly for a return to the gold standard — you could say that he wants to Cruzify mankind upon a cross of gold. (Sorry.) But where the Bush administration once endorsed “aggressive monetary policy” to fight recessions, these days hostility toward the Fed’s efforts to help the economy is G.O.P. orthodoxy, even though the right’s warnings about imminent inflation have been wrong again and again.

Last but not least, there’s foreign policy. You might have imagined that the story of the Iraq war, where we were not, in fact, welcomed as liberators, where a vast expenditure of blood and treasure left the Middle East less stable than before, would inspire some caution about military force as the policy of first resort. Yet swagger-and-bomb posturing is more or less universal among the leading candidates. And let’s not forget that back when Jeb Bush was considered the front-runner, he assembled a foreign-policy team literally dominated by the architects of debacle in Iraq.

The point is that while the mainstream contenders may have better manners than Mr. Trump or the widely loathed Mr. Cruz, when you get to substance it becomes clear that all of them are frighteningly radical, and that none of them seem to have learned anything from past disasters.

Why does this matter? Right now conventional wisdom, as captured by the bookies and the betting markets, suggests even or better-than-even odds that Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz will be the nominee, in which case everyone will be aware of the candidate’s extremism. But there’s still a substantial chance that the outsiders will falter and someone less obviously out there — probably Mr. Rubio — will end up on top.

And if this happens, it will be important to realize that not being Donald Trump doesn’t make someone a moderate, or even halfway reasonable. The truth is that there are no moderates in the Republican primary, and being reasonable appears to be a disqualifying characteristic for anyone seeking the party’s nod.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 29, 2015

December 31, 2015 Posted by | 2015, George W Bush, GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Mollifying The Insurgents”: Contrary To Their Laughable Spin, That’s Basically Their Job Descriptions Of McConnell And Ryan

Congress has until a week from today to pass a spending bill or face another government shutdown. That means that Sen. Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan have their work cut out for them. The last thing they want is to have the American electorate watch them shut the government down as we head into a presidential election year. And yet the insurgent wing of their party has been pushing for the inclusion of several “riders” to the spending bill that Democrats oppose and President Obama has promised to veto. They include:

* Making changes to the refugee program that would basically eliminate Syrian and Iraqi refugees

* Defunding Planned Parenthood

* Repealing Obamacare

There has also been talk about riders that would roll back Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms and EPA’s environmental regulations.

One of the things McConnell and Ryan have been doing to forestall a shutdown is to bring up bills that include these items and allow votes on them separate from the spending bill. So as we saw in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attack, the House voted on the changes to the refugee program. There has still been some effort to include it in the spending bill, but as I mentioned recently, that push is starting to fade.

Last night McConnell pulled off a two-fer with a vote on a separate bill that would both defund Planned Parenthood and repeal significant parts of Obamacare. Since it was brought up under a process called “reconciliation,” Democrats couldn’t filibuster and so it required 51 votes to pass – it got 52. No one doubts that President Obama will veto the measure. So the spin Republicans are putting on this is fascinating.

Republicans hailed it as a political messaging victory and a fulfillment of their promise from the 2014 midterm election to force President Obama to veto the landmark healthcare reform law named after him.

A “political messaging victory?” Does that sound like the kind of thing their angry base is looking for? Ha-ha!

And someone is going to have to find a reference for that 2014 midterm election promise about forcing President Obama to veto a repeal of Obamacare. I’ve looked and can’t find where they said that. There was plenty of talk about actually repealing Obamacare. But forcing a veto…not so much.

All this drama is really about trying to find a way to mollify the insurgents in their party and get them to back off of attempts to shut the government down. In explaining some of the shenanigans McConnell had to pull off to get last night’s vote, Kevin Drum summed it up pretty well.

Politico has a fascinating story today. It’s all about Mitch McConnell’s months of LBJ-worthy maneuvering to get legislation passed that would repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, thus paving the way for a clean budget bill later this year. But here’s the kicker: he wasn’t engaged in Herculean negotiations with Democrats. He was engaged in Herculean negotiations with his own party…

In today’s Washington, passing bills isn’t a matter of getting Republicans and Democrats to agree. They can usually manage that. The trick is somehow neutering the wingnut faction of the Republican Party. Once that’s done, negotiations between the two parties are (relatively speaking) a piece of cake. Welcome to 2015.

Over the net week, we’ll get to see if McConnell and Ryan have managed to mollify the insurgents. Contrary to their laughable spin, that’s basically their job description these days.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 4, 2015

December 4, 2015 Posted by | Government Shut Down, Mitch Mc Connell, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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