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“The Final And Most Powerful Advantage”: Hillary Clinton Has A Secret Weapon. His Name Is Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton is crushing Donald Trump. In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, she thumped Trump 51 percent to 39 percent among registered voters nationwide. That’s an almost inconceivable 14-point swing in the Democrat’s favor since May.

But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Trump is barely even contesting the election, at least when it comes to the traditional fields of political combat. Last week, for example, it came out that he was running literally zero campaign ads in several swing states. The reason? His campaign is practically broke. It’s unprecedented for a major party nominee to basically not campaign. Is it any wonder Trump has resorted to crowing about polls in which he’s only losing narrowly?

Of course, there’s no guarantee this dynamic will last. Maybe Trump will get his act together and stop behaving like a silage-addled steer. Maybe the economy will crater and Trump will exploit it. Maybe Republicans will somehow oust him at the convention.

But even if these things happen, and Clinton’s healthy lead over Trump dwindles, we shouldn’t forget the final and most powerful advantage Clinton will have: President Obama.

No sitting president in modern times has ever campaigned at full strength for his party’s nominee. George W. Bush was persona non grata on the campaign trail by 2008. Bill Clinton was seen as damaged goods by Al Gore in 2000, who distanced himself from the Clinton name (despite the 42nd president’s tremendous popularity at the time). Ronald Reagan was already elderly in 1988 and did not have a great relationship with George H.W. Bush. LBJ quit politics altogether in 1968. Eisenhower did campaign a bit for Nixon, but he was also old by 1960, and avoided much of the campaign.

President Obama, by contrast, is still quite young (indeed, he is 14 years younger than Clinton herself), and by all accounts is eager to help Clinton, who represents the best chance of preserving his legacy. Any lingering sense that a soon-to-be former president should refrain from campaigning to preserve the dignity of the office is utterly dead. And as he finishes his presidency, Obama is more popular today than he has been since the bin Laden raid — part of an upward trend that shows no sign of slowing.

The economy is doing reasonably okay, particularly compared to several years ago, and as Obama himself is not running for re-election, some of the partisan hatred has passed to Clinton. But perhaps more importantly, Obama’s personality is extraordinarily well-suited for this political moment. Like him or hate him, you have to admit that he is even-keeled almost to a fault. Always cool, always considered, Obama never flies off the handle and rarely expresses any emotion aside from a wry humor. In a chaotic world, Obama is a reassuring presence.

Sometimes that leads to grotesque immorality, as when he flippantly disregarded the legal obligation that torturers be prosecuted. But when instability is breaking out everywhere, and things are developing fast — like, for example, when the U.K. has just voted to leave the European Union, precipitating a financial panic, and potentially auguring the crackup of the eurozone and the U.K. itself — it’s nice to know that the president is always going to keep his icy cool.

This kind of clamor and chaos seems to be happening every other week in 2016. Even aside from the horrifying spree killings and endless war in the Middle East, the tectonic plates of politics in Western nations are crumbling. Open bigotry and ethnic nationalism are making huge political inroads, and pointless austerity has badly damaged or destroyed the political establishment in many countries — Spain, to pick one example out of many, just had its two hung parliaments after not a single one since the end of the Franco dictatorship.

A deranged maniac is about to become the official presidential nominee of the Republican Party. It seems a safe bet at this point that Trump is not going to discover some inner reservoir of quiet intelligence. He’s a hair-trigger showboating ignoramus to the bone. And as the campaign goes on, and Trump says goofy, alarming nonsense in response to one crisis after another, Obama’s quiet, competent reserve is going to look increasingly appealing.

Hillary Clinton will only benefit partially from this, of course. She simply does not have Obama’s unflappability. But she’ll gain much by simple association with Obama’s extreme chill, and can only benefit by contrast with Trump’s extreme capering. Should she win in November — particularly by a large enough margin to take back the House of Representatives — Obama can claim a large share of the credit.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, June 28, 2016

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, President Obama | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Without The Help Of Superdelegates”: Hillary Clinton Shatters America’s 240-Year-Old Glass Ceiling

History was a long time coming, but it arrived last night when the venerable Associated Press broke the news that Hillary Rodham Clinton had surpassed the needed number of delegates to secure the Democratic nomination.

For women born in the middle of the last century, this is the kind of unimagined achievement that makes you wonder if you stepped into the middle of a new Broadway play, perhaps “Hamilton” spun in another way to make the Founding Fathers turn over in their graves.

Like Clinton herself, these women, and I’m one of them, found their voices during the women’s movement of the 1970s, the civil rights movement of the 1960s and beyond, and the antiwar movement of the sixties and seventies. And while Clinton has her flaws, as we all do, she was on the front lines of all this social change, especially when it comes to women and girls.

“I got to tell you, according to the news, we are on the brink of a historic, historic unprecedented moment, but we still have work to do, don’t we?” Clinton said at a rally in California, one of six states holding elections today, and the one that could send her off with a big boost if she can edge out rival Bernie Sanders.

History made quietly with math is history all the same.

Yet its arrival in the midst of a still heated primary race makes it awkward for Clinton to fully embrace all that it means. The AP’s count includes the so-called superdelegates, party leaders and lawmakers who Sanders has vilified as unelected and unrepresentative of the voters.

The irony, of course, is that, Sanders—if he weren’t running for president—would be a superdelegate along with every Democratic member of Congress, and Democratic governor. Also, Clinton is expected to win enough pledged or earned delegates in the other contests, that by the time the polls close in New Jersey, she will reach the magic number and be the victor without the help of superdelegates.

It is another irony that Clinton while achieving what no other woman in America has done at the same time is so disliked. How can that be? It’s partly a function of the Clintons themselves, the dodging and weaving we’ve come to know so well, and partly the fault of our politics. Negative campaigning works, and we’re in for a sustained period of mudslinging as the two presumptive nominees work to define each other as the worst of the worst.

Clinton campaigned in 2008 as a fighter, and the Democrats chose Barack Obama, the healer. Obama leaves the presidency with extraordinary accomplishments, but bringing the country together is not one of them.

Clinton often says on the campaign trail that after everything the other side has thrown at her, “I’m still standing.”

The changing nature of the country is on full display. After a long line of white men, Obama shattered the tradition, and now Clinton is poised to continue the change that Obama’s presidency began.  It’s been a long time since we’ve seen an incumbent president enthusiastically out on the campaign trail working to elect his successor.

President George W. Bush was constrained by an unpopular war from helping his party, and in 2000 Al Gore kept his distance from President Clinton, believing that Clinton’s moral lapses would hurt him.

Obama has given every indication he will be an active campaigner for Clinton, rallying the coalition of young people, single women, and minorities that elected him twice with over 50 percent of the vote, a threshold that Bill Clinton did not quite reach in his two elections—and that Hillary Clinton surely has set as her goal.

Perhaps it’s fitting then that 2016 is shaping up as a referendum on diversity, with Donald Trump making statements that have alienated certain groups and ethnicities, while Obama and Clinton have embraced this new America.

There are plenty more tests ahead, but for now Clinton has gone where no other woman in American history has gone. Adapting what Neil Armstrong said when he set foot on the moon, “That’s one small step for woman, one giant leap for humankind.”

 

By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, June 7, 2016

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Democratic National Convention, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“For The Moment, The Ghost Of FDR Must Be Smiling”: 2016 Is Turning Into A Historically Great Year For Social Security

Not that very long ago, Republicans were almost universally united in favor of a strategy of “entitlement reform” that included various benefit cuts — some overt, like changes in the formula for cost-of-living adjustments, and some indirect, like retirement-age increases — in Social Security. Most Republicans also favored, in principle at least, some sort of partial privatization scheme for the signature New Deal program. Meanwhile, Democrats were generally divided into a large camp trying to keep the program exactly as it was, and a smaller group — including, at least in theory, President Barack Obama — that was open to such “entitlement reforms” as part of some budgetary “grand bargain” with Republicans.

How things have changed in 2016.

The Republican presidential nomination has been won by a candidate who conspicuously refused to climb aboard the “entitlement reform” bandwagon. Since rank-and-file Republicans have never much bought into Social Security (or Medicare) cuts, it was not surprising this particular Trump heresy troubled party elites but no one else.

Meanwhile, both Bernie Sanders and (to a lesser extent) Hillary Clinton have both been talking about enhancing Social Security benefits, with their main argument being over the financing mechanism, with Clinton being reluctant to embrace a lift in the payroll tax cap that would hit upper-middle-class voters.

But now along comes another potential game-changer: President Obama.

Not only do we need to strengthen its long-term health, it’s time we finally made Social Security more generous and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned,” Obama said in an economic call to arms in Elkhart, Indiana. “We could start paying for it by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more.”

Now you can interpret Obama’s shift any way you want — as a response to leftward pressure from the primary contest, or as proof he was never serious about “entitlement reform” to begin with, or simply as a parting middle-finger-gesture to the GOP, whose leaders were probably less serious than Obama about reaching some “grand bargain” that included high-end tax increases. But the fact remains that the combination of forces in favor of Social Security benefit cuts — or even for simple maintenance of the status quo — has been reduced significantly.

You’d have to say 2016 is becoming the best year for Social Security since at least 2005, when George W. Bush devoted most of his post-reelection political capital to a partial privatization scheme and had his presidential ass handed to him as congressional Republicans headed for the hills while Democrats failed to rise to the “bipartisanship” bait. There will continue to be extensive and fractious arguments over how to improve Social Security benefits and how to keep the whole system solvent. Meanwhile, nobody should take Donald Trump’s assurances on the subject to the bank, any more than anything else the mogul says. And if he loses in November, conventional Republican economic policy, including “entitlement reform,” could make a comeback. But for the moment the ghost of FDR must be smiling.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 3, 2016

June 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, Social Security | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

“The Enthusiastic Embrace Of Ignorance”: It’s Not Cool To Not Know What You’re Talking About

President Obama delivered a powerful commencement address at Rutgers University over the weekend, taking some time to celebrate knowledge and intellectual pursuits. “Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science – these are good things,” the president said, implicitly reminding those who may have forgotten. “These are qualities you want in people making policy.”

He added, “Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics, and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not ‘keeping it real,’ or ‘telling it like it is.’ That’s not challenging ‘political correctness.’ That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.”

Donald Trump heard this and apparently took it personally. The presumptive Republican nominee responded last night with arguably the most important tweet of the 2016 presidential campaign to date:

“ ‘In politics, and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.’ This is a primary reason that President Obama is the worst president in U.S. history!”

I assumed someone would eventually tell the GOP candidate why this was unintentionally hilarious, prompting him to take it down, but as of this morning, Trump’s message remains online.

In case it’s not blisteringly obvious, candidates for national office generally don’t argue publicly that ignorance is a virtue. But Donald Trump is a different kind of candidate, offering an enthusiastic, albeit unconventional, embrace of ignorance.

Don’t vote for Trump despite his obliviousness, support him because of it. The Know-Nothing Party may have faded into obscurity 150 years ago, but it’s apparently making a comeback with a new standard bearer.

There’s been a strain of anti-intellectualism in Republican politics for far too long, and it comes up far too often. House Speaker Paul Ryan last month dismissed the role of “experts” in policy debates; former President George W. Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have publicly mocked those who earn post-graduate degrees; Jeb Bush last year complained about Democrats using too many “big-syllable words.”

As a rule, prominent GOP voices prefer to exploit conservative skepticism about intellectual elites to advance their own agenda or ambitions. They don’t celebrate stupidity just for the sake of doing so; anti-intellectualism is generally seen as a tool to guide voters who don’t know better.

Trump, however, has come to embody an alarming attitude: ignorance is a virtue. If the president believes otherwise, it must be seen as proof of his awfulness. The Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee intends to lead a movement of those who revel in their lack of knowledge.

History will not be kind.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 17, 2016

May 18, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Net Neutrality”: To Remain Neutral In A Trump-Clinton Contest Is To Declare That One’s Conscience Has Been Compromised

Is there a more miserable figure than the man or woman who says they will abstain from voting for either Hillary Clinton or Deranged Donnie on November 8?

It’s difficult to have any respect for those (such as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and former George W. Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner) who seem to view Trump and Clinton as equally repulsive. It’s odd that these folks would choose to advertise their cowardice rather than take their responsibilities as citizens seriously.

Let’s be honest: when one says they cannot choose between Trump and Clinton, they are saying, in effect, that Trump is only disgusting, not dangerous, and that they will not actively try to resist his rise. To remain neutral in a Trump-Clinton contest is to declare that one’s conscience has been compromised.

It is illogical and immoral to remain neutral in the face of Trump’s racism, sexism and xenophobia. It is illogical and immoral to remain neutral in the face of Trump’s irrationality and incompetence. It is illogical and immoral to remain neutral in the face of Trump’s threat to American civility and decency.

The decision to remain neutral in a Trump-Clinton contest is one that can only be made from a position of racial and economic privilege. The African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and disadvantaged Americans of all colors who would be beaten down by Trump’s policies don’t have the luxury of remaining neutral. Do the folks who say they will sit on the sidelines in a Trump-Clinton matchup realize how crucial the outcome of this election will be for America’s shunned and stigmatized?

Rush (the band, not the wingnut radio host) got it right 36 years ago in the song “Freewill”: If you choose not to decide/you still have made a choice. By embracing neutrality instead of resistance in the face of Trump’s extremism, those who plan to abstain from voting in the presidential election have chosen to sanction such extremism.

Do these abstainers have children and grandchildren? Do they not care about the behavior those children and grandchildren will witness in the White House over the next four to eight years? Presidents set a moral tone, and when they behave in an immoral fashion, children learn that such behavior is good, that one can get away with the most atrocious of actions. Ask yourself: What kind of moral example did Ronald Reagan set with Iran-Contra? What kind of moral example did George W. Bush set with his lies about WMD? And what kind of moral example would Deranged Donnie set for our children and grandchildren over the course of the next four to eight years?

Much has been made of Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 “Confessions of a Republican” ad and how it could apply to today’s election. Let us not forget the key line in that ad:

I’ve thought about just not voting in this election, just staying home — but you can’t do that, because that’s saying you don’t care who wins, and I do care.

The folks who say they will remain neutral in the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are saying they don’t care who wins, that they don’t give a damn about the destruction Trump could bring about as President, that they really do think Clinton is as immoral and irrational and intolerant as Trump. If you know anyone like this in your personal life, don’t cut off communication with them. In fact, you only need to say three words to them:

“Shame on you.”

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 15, 2016

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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