Kamikaze Bernie

Hell hath no fury like an ideologue scorned.

After the New York primary on April 19th, in which Hillary Clinton trounced Bernie Sanders 58-42, the pundits on television were using a surprisingly appropriate metaphor. It went something like this: “How will Bernie eventually land the plane” of his losing campaign? bernie planeHmm. I liked that. Bernie has a choice. He is the pilot. He can land his plane safely on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, the USS Democratic Party, or he can do something else.

Apparently, he has chosen something else. A kamikaze attack.

Last night, Jane Sanders, earnest and able wife of Bernie, was on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes. She made sure we all knew that Bernie was serious about taking his airplane all the way to a “contested convention.” He ain’t goin’ away. “There’s gonna be a fight on the issues, no matter what,” she affirmed. “Everybody knows, anything can happen in politics,” she said later. Bernie’s gassed up and ready to crash.

Well, well. What else should we have expected? He’s been telegraphing his intentions for some time now. It’s not exactly going to be a surprise attack.

In any case, I want to offer another apt metaphor for what Jane Sanders did last night on Chris Hayes’ show. She unceremoniously tossed the great liberal economist Paul Krugman under the Bernie bus. Why? Because it’s the Bernie way. If you don’t subscribe, word-for-word, to Bernie’s world view; if you don’t think Bernie’s ideas are realistic or realizable; if you don’t buy Bernie’s unique mathematical theories about delegates; then you are dead to him and his surrogates. It’s pretty much that simple.

But before I get to Mrs. Sanders running over Paul Krugman with the Bernie bus, I want to first take a quick look at who Krugman is and why most Democrats respect him. Krugman is an op-ed columnist (and a blessed blogger!) for The New York Times. He earned a B.A. in economics (summa cum laude) from Yale in 1974, followed by a PhD in economics from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT, Stanford and Princeton and currently is—let me get this right—the “Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.” He has published around 20 books, from “Market Structure and Foreign Trade” in 1985 to “The Conscience of a Liberal” in 2009, a book I have in my library and from which I learned a lot of liberalology. In 2008 Krugman won a Nobel Prize and, if that ain’t good enough for ya, he holds a John Bates Clark Medal, which he got in 1991 and which The Economist says is “slightly harder to get than a Nobel prize.”

You get the idea. You may not like Krugman. You may think, as some folks do, that he is a left-wing nut. Or, you may think he is a phony progressive sellout and thus a suck-up to Hillary Clinton, as apparently a lot of Bernie fans do, including his wife, who had the following exchange with Chris Hayes on Monday night:

HAYES: I want to give you a chance to respond to critics of yours. Paul Krugman in The New York Times has been really hammering the Sanders campaign, but there are others who basically sasanders on hayesy that the Sanders campaign, by soliciting donations to make Bernie Sanders the nominee, is essentially running a con on its donors. What do you say to those people?

SANDERS: Really? What is John Kasich doing? And what is Ted Cruz been doing? No. We’re running on the issues. You know that. And I don’t take Paul Krugman seriously anymore. I used to. I think there are a lot of other, better economists and people who seem to have better critical thinking. So, that’s a disappointment. But I don’t read him, so I can’t tell you what he says anymore.

She doesn’t take the liberal economist “seriously anymore,” and there are “other, better economists and people who seem to have better critical thinking.” Now you see why I spent some time looking at Krugman’s résumé. It’s just silly for a Democrat to talk about him that way.

So, what has pissed off the Sanders team so much that they now are trashing yet another liberal Democrat, this one a distinguished economist? A blog post. Well, really, more than one blog post, but especially his latest one, “Bernie’s Bad End,” which began:

This is really depressing: Sanders claiming that there will be a contested convention, and suggesting that the nomination fight was rigged. Can someone tell Bernie that he’s in the process of blowing his own chance for a positive legacy?

No, Professor Krugman. No one can tell Bernie anything. He is not tellable. He operates in his own universe where math bends to his will; where the Democratic primary is “rigged” sanders in indianaagainst him despite his receiving a minority of votes; where the superdelegates he once loathed are now his path to victory—if they will only do what he says they should do.

Krugman noted that Bernie could have turned “defeat in the primary into a moral victory.” But, the prize-winning economist said, “he would have had to accept the will of the voters with grace.” Grace? Bernie knows no grace. He is the most graceless loser (and winner, for that matter) since, well, Donald Drumpf. You can’t beat Bernie. You can only hope to contain his Bernie-or-bust ego. You can only hope his metaphorical plane misses the flight deck and lands harmlessly in the sea.

Saint Rachel Maddow, who no one in his or her right mind could accuse of being a squishy liberal, or, Allah forbid, could accuse of being in bed with the right wing (like I have been so accused on this blog), pointed out on her Monday show that what Bernie is proposing— rachel on berniethat because Hillary Clinton can’t wrap up the nomination with pledged delegates by the last primary contest on June 14, he will essentially force a “contested convention”—represents “real radicalism.” Why? Why would Maddow say such a thing?

Because, using Bernie’s logic, Barack Obama—who did not have anywhere near a majority of pledged delegates going into the 2008 convention—would have had to suffer through a nasty floor fight with Hillary Clinton over superdelegates in order to win the nomination, which would have been quite radical, as well as a lasting disaster.

Hillary could have done what Bernie is saying he will do. She could have been a kamikaze. But she chose not to, even though she was much, much closer to Obama in the delegate count than Bernie is to her—Obama had only a 4% lead in pledged delegates and Hillary, right now, has a 11% lead—and she was actually leading the future president in the popular vote. Rachel remembered for us that Hillary went to the convention floor in Denver in August of 2008, not to fight for herself, but to certify Obama’s legitimacy as the nominee. To do anything else, she knew, would have hurt Democrats in the fall.

If only Bernie had that kind of grace, or, really, if only Bernie cared about the Democratic Party enough to be a team player and land his plane on the flight deck, long before the convention in July, rather than deliberately crash into it. But it has become painfully—and as a former fan of Bernie Sanders I mean “painfully”—obvious that Bernie is not a team player, if the team is the Democratic Party trying to defeat a Drumpf-led GOP. There may not be a clichéd “I” in team, but as all observers of this Democratic primary fight now know, there is an “I” in Bernie. A big one.

For her part, the courageous Saint Rachel, who called what Sanders is proposing “fantastical, which is not the same as fantastic,” knew there would be a backlash against her relatively aggressive segment on Bernie’s lack of grace and realism. She sweetly welcomed the “hate mail” she knew was coming. “Your accusations and swear words do hurt my feelings,” said Rachel, “but they also make me stronger.”

Well, I don’t know how much profanity-laced hate mail she has received since last night, but I will end with something posted to her MSNBC.com site, something that sort of reveals a phenomenon that Bernie didn’t necessarily create, but a phenomenon that he is certainly exploiting. Someone named LynneAlex posted:

Rachell – you have become a corporatist in your success and evident in your support of Hillary. You can no longer call your self a progressive. Hillary was a “proud” Goldwater conservative Republican along with her family. The apple has not fallen far from the tree and calls herself democrat in name only. She has a record as a hawk and has strong corporate ties. What is there to support for progressives? Nothing. I have been a very loyal viewer and sad to say you have lost at least one. Back to listening solely to Amy Goodman a true progressive.

My, oh, my. When you turn on St. Rachel, when you boot her out of the progressive tent for telling you the truth, you have to wonder if maybe your affection for Bernie has morphed into something else. But, as Jane Sanders proved, that’s the Bernie way. Paul Krugman tries to tell the truth about Bernie and, poof, he’s gone. Black voters in the South make Hillary a winner and those victories become meaningless and irrelevant. She smashes him in the New York primary and elsewhere and the excuse is that non-Democrats didn’t get to pick the Democratic nominee. The superdelegates side with Hillary and the system is “rigged.”

All of us who once so respected Bernie Sanders and admired his vision for a future America are, or have a right to be, disappointed with the way his story, and possibly the Democratic Party’s November story, looks like it will end. We can only hope, and at this point it is a faint hope, that someone will convince him to abandon his crash-and-Bern approach before it is too late.

The “Likable” Drumpf?

At the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore told some good jokes and some bad jokes, but he got at some real truth when he said this:

…whenever I turn to the TV, I see Trump’s family campaigning for him, gushing all over him. Or as it’s also known as, “Morning Joe.”

Have you seen “Morning Joe”? C’mon, guys, seriously. No, you know it’s true. Guys, “Morning Joe” has their head so far up Trump’s ass they bumped into Chris Christie. You know that’s true. You know I’m not lying. You know that’s true.

Nobody on MSNBC’s Morning Joe had a thing to say about it today. Why? I guess because it’s the awful truth and there isn’t any point in disputing it.

This morning the show actually validated Wilmore’s claim, dancing even deeper into Drumpf’s crowded colon, where not only Chris Christie lives, but so too does other human polyps like player-assaulting Coach Bobby Knight, convicted rapist Mike Tyson, and unrepentant birther and racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and many of the other regulars on Morning Joe, which is actually transmitted from Drumpf’s poop chute, are in good company.

In any case, I will only share with you one comment by a Morning Joe panelist this morning. Elise Jordan, who is now a political analyst for MSNBC, but who worked in the Bush II administration and recently was a foreign policy aide to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, was part of a discussion on how irritating Ted Cruz is—everyone on Morning Joe hates Ted Cruz. Using that as her springboard, Jordan said the following:

I think for Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz is a much better contender to go up against her, from the Democratic perspective, just because he wears so thin so quickly. And Donald Trump, you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him. And he’s got a likability factor—yes, he has huge unfavorables and, yes, he offends basically every women [sic], but there’s something kinda likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.

elise jordan.jpgWhere does one start dissecting that stunningly strange analysis? How about with a kind word to Ms. Jordan: You got it right that Cruz would be easier for Hillary to run against. But you got it wrong as to why. It has very little to do with his wearing thin on people. It has a lot to do with the fact that the guy is a religious zealot who abhors compromise and has no sense of where the country is on any of the social issues, not to mention his tax plan would reward the wealthy and hurt the poor, while starving the country of revenues to the tune of nearly $9 trillion over ten years.

But since Cruz is the longest of long shots to win anyway, it ain’t worth discussing him. What is worth discussing it the idea advanced by Jordan that Drumpf’s competitive strength is “you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him.”  First of all, we have a good idea of what we’re going to get out of him: more of the same we’ve been getting for months now. Childish insults and incoherent policies—including his own ridiculous tax and tariff policy that would harm ordinary folks—and “two” Corinthians and Tan-ZANE-i-a. He ain’t gonna change that stuff because he can’t change that stuff.

But I’ll grant that there will be some real unpredictability with Drumpf. Why? Because he’s a brilliant strategist? No. Because he’s unstable. His unpredictability is a product of his instability. Period. The man is unhinged, when it comes to the world of facts. He has a love affair with lies. His intellectual boat doesn’t have an anchor. It drifts with the flow of the moment. So, in that sense, there is some, and some dangerous, unpredictability associated with him. But Mrs. Clinton can respond to it by making sure people know that his unpredictability is a sign—a warning—that there is something seriously wrong with the guy’s approach to and understanding of the way the world works, if not something wrong with his mind. The presidency isn’t an office where instability-driven unpredictability is a virtue. At least it shouldn’t be.

In light of that, let’s look at the rest of what Elise Jordan said, something so strange about Drumpf that it bears repeating:

And he’s got a likability factor—yes, he has huge unfavorables and, yes, he offends basically every women [sic], but there’s something kinda likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.

What do we make of this? It came from a female analyst, one with much experience in the world of policy and politics. Is this something only a female analyst could say about a male candidate? Is this an example of the bad boy syndrome? I ain’t going there. But where I will go is to a New York Times article from 2012.

Richard Friedman is professor of clinical psychiatry. He wrote a piece for the Times titled, “I Heart Unpredictable Love.” It’s an interesting read. Dr. Friedman discussed why people are attracted to “unpredictable romantic partners,” but it has application to what Elise Jordan said about Donald Drumpf, who has a weird romance going with no small number of voters.

Friedman focused on a study done using brain scans that attempted to measure what happens to the brain “when people are given rewards under two different conditions: predicted and unpredicted.” Results indicated there is a “greater activation in the brain’s reward circuit when the reward was unanticipated than when it was delivered in a predictable fashion.” More dopamine—an organic chemical that helps regulate the brain’s reward and pleasure centers—is released when receiving unpredictable rewards than predictable ones, said Dr. Friedman. And he also said:

If you are involved with someone who is unpredictably loving, you might not like it very much — but your reward circuit is sure going to notice the capricious behavior and give you information that might conflict with what you believe consciously is in your best interest.

Does this explain why people, people who should know better, are tempted by Drumpf? Does it explain Elise Jordan’s jaw-dropping remark about Drumpf this morning? Before you are tempted to call me a sexist for implying that her remark is related to her femininity, note that the study Friedman cited, on what happens in the brain regarding unpredictable-predictable rewards, included both women and men. It is clear enough that there are plenty of men who are attracted to Drumpf’s bad boy image and his “you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him” unpredictability. Just watch the men react to him both inside and outside of his rallies.

All of this may be loosely connected to another phenomenon that may or may not be something Democrats have to worry about in the upcoming Clinton-Drumpf brawl. It’s called “social desirability bias,” a concept from social psychology that has applicability to the polling numbers we’re all bombarded with every day. The idea is that the results of a poll are dependent on whether a respondent is surveyed online or is asked questions by a live interviewer on the phone. It turns out that it makes a difference in Drumpf’s numbers. From The New York Times last November:

Ever since Mr. Trump rose in the polls, he has fared best in the online ones — sometimes by as much as 10 points better than live-interview telephone surveys conducted over the same period.

There are a number of possible explanations for Mr. Trump’s strength in online polling, which was first noted by Jonathan Robinson, an analyst for Catalist, a data firm associated with the Democratic Party.

One is that voters are likelier to acknowledge their support for Mr. Trump in an anonymous online survey than in an interview with a real person. Plenty of research suggests that the social acceptability of an opinion shapes the willingness of poll respondents to divulge it, and it’s imaginable that voters would be reluctant to acknowledge support for a controversial figure like Mr. Trump.

As Vox points out about his phenomenon,

In the case of Trump…social desirability bias appears alive and well. It seems even Trump’s supporters understand that favoring him is not entirely socially acceptable. But that doesn’t diminish their backing — that Trump is loathed by political elites is part of his appeal.

Elise Jordan, a Republican, may have simply said something out loud this morning that other Republicans, men and women, may only say to themselves or behind closed doors. For them, especially since it appears Drumpf will be their nominee, there is obviously something “likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.” What these people find likable is beyond my ability to understand. But what they find terrible, and obviously tempting because it is so terrible, is plain to see.

“You Claim To Support Progressive Values”

So, a Bernie supporter, signing with the name “A. Progressive,” wrote in to say the following (among other things) as a response to my second “Dear Bernie” appeal:

You claim to support progressive values, but support a candidate that is no more progressive than Bill Clinton was during his tenure. If the DNC continues with pushing “centrist” candidates, they do so at their own peril. Winning elections at the cost of abandoning the progressive values it espouses is hypocritical.

As I told A. Progressive, such comments annoy me. “You claim to support progressive values….” Claim. Claim. Claim. We know what that means, of course. I’m not really a progressive. I’m only pretending to be. Yeah, well.

Since I’ve said just about all I can, both publicly and privately, to earnest Bernie folks, I thought I would allow the great Kevin Drum take a stab at it. In a piece published today on Mother Jones (“Here’s Why I Never Warmed Up to Bernie Sanders”), Drum made most of the points that I have been making but, let’s face it, he’s Kevin Drum and I’m not.

Drum starts out by consciously provoking Bernie people by saying the following about their beloved candidate:

I think he’s basically running a con, and one with the potential to cause distinct damage to the progressive cause.

The great progressive writer then goes on to make the point that many have made about the lack of a revolution and the lack of conditions to even get one started in the way Bernie keeps describing it from his imagination. Drum cites two examples, and there are only two, where one could plausibly—Drum admits he is “stretching things a bit”—describe historical developments as amounting to an “economic revolution”:

  • The destruction of the Southern slave economy following the Civil War.
  • The New Deal.

The first of these was 50+ years in the making and, in the end, required a bloody, four-year war to bring to a conclusion. The second happened only after an utter collapse of the economy, with banks closing, businesses failing, wages plummeting, and unemployment at 25 percent. That’s what it takes to bring about a revolution, or even something close to it.

Obviously, as Drum points out, “We’re light years away from that right now.” The conditions, relatively speaking, are just too damned good for most folks to get them to buy into a game-changing economic or political revolution. Unemployment is fairly low, wages, though in a stagnant phase, are pretty good for the average family (“close to $70,000”), and “90 percent of the country has insurance coverage.” And finishing this point with a mike-dropper, Drum says:

Dissatisfaction with the system? According to Gallup, even among those with incomes under $30,000, only 27 percent are dissatisfied with their personal lives.

That leads us to the most important point, the point that is hard to get ideologically minded folks, especially young folks committed to the things Bernie talks about, to understand:

Like it or not, you don’t build a revolution on top of an economy like this. Period. If you want to get anything done, you’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: through the slow boring of hard wood.

I like that metaphor. “The slow boring of hard wood” is exactly what it takes, in this country, to make real progress. There simply isn’t a substitute for it. That’s the way our political system is designed to work. That is, generally, the way Americans prefer change to come. Americans, except on the fringes, tend to prefer things to move a little slower than the average Bern-Bernie-Bern fan, or the average Ted Cruz or Drumpf fan, would like. Drum:

…if you want to make a difference in this country, you need to be prepared for a very long, very frustrating slog. You have to buy off interest groups, compromise your ideals, and settle for half loaves—all the things that Bernie disdains as part of the corrupt mainstream establishment.

That’s a hard message. But it is absolutely true. That’s our system, like it or not. If you want to change it, you first have to get inside of it. You can’t blow it up from the outside. That simply won’t do. You have to get in and work at it.

The problem with all this is that we aren’t just talking about an academic exercise. There can be real harm done by all the loose talk, as Drum points out. He says that rather than telling his people that there is a long slog ahead, Bernie

promises his followers we can get everything we want via a revolution that’s never going to happen. And when that revolution inevitably fails, where do all his impressionable young followers go? Do they join up with the corrupt establishment and commit themselves to the slow boring of hard wood? Or do they give up?

That’s a damned good question. And like Drum, I fear that some of them will give up:

They’ve been conned by a guy who should know better, the same way dieters get conned by late-night miracle diets. When it doesn’t work, they throw in the towel.

What I have been trying to warn people about, in terms of what Bernie Sanders has done and continues to do, is what Drum hits on toward the end of his piece:

…there’s a decent chance that Bernie’s failure will result in a net increase of cynicism about politics, and that’s the last thing we need.

Yes, dammit. There is too much cynicism as it is. That’s the kind of environment in which a Drumpf can rise and flourish. And, as progressives, real progressives, we shouldn’t allow such cynicism to creep into our camp. We should fight for our principles, but fight for them knowing the fight is necessarily long and difficult and often frustrating. We should fight for them knowing that there are lots of other Americans who don’t have any affection for our vision of the future. We need to understand that some folks, maybe our neighbors or friends or family, are downright hostile to it. That’s what makes the fight so hard and what makes it so long and frustrating.

And as Drum says, the last thing we need is someone on our side, on the progressive side, generating the kind of cynicism that could put someone like Donald J. Drumpf in the most powerful office in the world. Enough is enough. Let’s get our progressive act together before too much damage is done.

Dear Bernie. Again.

Dear Bernie,

Almost two months ago I wrote to you. You ignored me. Fine. I can live with that. But I want to take this opportunity to remind you of what I said and try again to convince you that if you continue on as you are, you will sort of be, as a pundit on television said this morning, in “an unspoken alliance” with Donald Drumpf. Ouch.

It was evident, even back at the beginning of March, that you would not become the nominee of my—I mean, “our”—party. I urged you back then to accept that fact and not prolong the inevitable and to go out and actually help actualize the political revolution you keep talking about by,

suspending your campaign and taking all those millions of dollars that those earnest, well-meaning Americans have given you and put it to good use, like helping Democrats win competitive House and Senate races, so that a Democratic president can actually get done some of the things that you and I want done.

Well, you didn’t take my advice and here we are today. David Plouffe tweeted after the devastating loss you suffered in the New York primary more than a week ago:

Sanders has run a stunningly strong campaign fueled by passionate supporters. But raising $$ stating you have path to nomination is fraud.

Then you took another pretty good beating this past Tuesday and the “path” you keep talking about has now narrowed so much that only you, apparently possessing preternatural eyesight, can see it. At what point, Bernie, does it really become “fraud” to keep raising money by telling your small-dollar donors that you still have a chance to become the nominee?

Last night in West Lafayette, Indiana, you said,

I am very good in arithmetic, and I can count delegates, and we are behind today. But you know what? Unusual things happen in politics.

You know what would really be unusual? For you to see that instead of laying off hundreds of your campaign staffers around the country, you could give them a new mission: help down-ballot Democrats beat vulnerable Republicans.

You could redeploy some staffers to Illinois to help our U.S. Senate candidate, Tammy Duckworth, beat a very vulnerable Mark Kirk. Others you could send to Wisconsin, where the deplorable teapartier Ron Johnson is ripe for picking off the Senate tree. Wouldn’t it be worth some of your own time and effort to see to it that Russ Feingold—who lost to Johnson in that devastating 2010 election—becomes your colleague in the Senate again? Huh? Feingold, after all, has been trying to get something done on campaign finance reform for a long time. How about putting your money where your mouth is on that issue and help him?

Still other staffers you could send to New Hampshire, where Republican Kelly Ayotte will have to battle with a very popular Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan—she’s won twice statewide, Bernie!—and where you and your folks could really be a big help.

In Florida, Marco Rubio’s seat needs to be filled. Let’s fill it with a Democrat like Patrick Murphy, what do ya say? Granted, Murphy is no Alan Grayson, but that’s sort of the point, you know what I mean? Congressman Murphy disposed of the disposable Allen West, so, dammit, that’s worth giving him some help down there.

There are more Senate races in which you and your supporters could make a big difference. Believe it or not, John McCain can be beaten in Arizona. So can Pat Toomey, a Club for Growth kinda guy, in Pennsylvania. Rob Portman is a little shaky in Ohio. Chuck Grassley could be swept away in a Bernie-led landslide in Iowa. Richard Burr could be knocked off in North Carolina. Maybe you could even send a few devoted staffers to us here in Missouri, where Jason Kander is up against the lobbyist-loving Roy Blunt.

Besides all those vulnerable Republicans currently in the Senate, we have some big shoes to fill in Nevada. Harry Reid is leaving and Democrats could use a Bernie-boost to help Catherine Cortez Masto become the first Hispanic woman to sit in the U.S. Senate. Wouldn’t that be revolutionary?

Senator Michael Bennet needs some love in Colorado, a place where we always struggle to win. And since you talk a lot about goin’ to California, how about weighing in on which Democrat should replace retiring Barbara Boxer? (Hint: Attorney General Kamala Harris is big on the minimum wage and paid family leave!)

Yes, the Democrats could, with your sizable help, take back the Senate. It is quite possible, some say even likely, if our top of the ticket, Hillary Clinton, runs strong with a Bernie-wind at her back. And even though it would be much tougher—this is where we will need your revolution, Bernie—there are dozens of House races you could put your name to, put money into, devote some time to.

Can you see how using your considerable resources to elect down-ballot Democrats would be much better than holding out for some language changes in the party’s platform that nobody really gives a damn about anyway? Or much better than forcing Hillary to become Hillary Sanders by adopting all of  your policy positions in exchange for your and your fans’ support? You said in Indiana,

We are in this campaign to win, but if we do not win, we intend to win every delegate that we can so that when we go to Philadelphia in July, we are going to have the votes to put together the strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen. Our goal, whether we win or we do not win, is to transform the Democratic Party, to open the doors to working people, to senior citizens, to young people, in a way that does not exist today.

Okay, I get that. You want to “transform” my, uh, our party. But that shouldn’t be a priority right now, not when there are so many Republicans we have to beat this November. You really want to help working people? Then help Democrats get rid of as many Republicans in Congress as we can. You really want to take care of our seniors and help young folks? Same thing. Your revolution, and the far-reaching social and political changes you and I both want, will only come, Bernie, if we control all three branches of the government. And although that might seem to some people like a quixotic undertaking, it isn’t nearly as quixotic as your quest to become president.

So, please, suspend your shrinking campaign and really think big. You passively said, “Unusual things happen in politics.” How about making those unusual things happen?


The Erstwhile Conservative


Drumpf Foreign Policy Speech: “Rambling To The Point Of Being Incoherent”

Drumpf’s sophomoric and laughingly “serious” foreign policy speech today was, needless to say, an embarrassment—and an embarrassment of riches for Pinocchio-awarding fact-checkers everywhere. I won’t bore you with the details now, scary as they are, but I will hand you a gift in the form of instant analysis provided on CNN by a very smart guy, Fareed Zakaria. After noting that Drumpf “stuck to his guns” in terms of a “populist, nationalist, protectionist” message, Zakaria then dropped the hammer:

It was sort of rambling to the point of being incoherent. He contradicted himself several times, it struck me. He said we’re gonna get out of nation building, but we are gonna create stability. Well, how do you do that? You get out of nation building in Afghanistan, you’ll get more instability. You got out of nation building in Iraq, you got more instability. He said the allies can rely on us, but we will be completely unpredictable. He said we will spend what it takes to rebuild the military, but we’re gonna pay down the debt. Uh, we’re gonna spread Western civilization, but we’re not gonna spread democracy. And he ended with a truly bizarre statement about the greatest problem in the world is that we have too many weapons, and, once again, a strange place where you might find that he and Bernie Sanders are one.

So, I thought that when he tried to flesh out an actual foreign policy, it was pretty incoherent. He was very strong on his protectionism, anti-trade, American unilateralism. He was very strong on attacking the Obama-Clinton legacy…really that’s mostly the Bush legacy when he talks about the trillions of dollars spent trying to nation build in the Middle East. That’s the Iraq war, that’s the Afghanistan war, both of which were initiated by President Bush. So, I don’t know that it’s gonna convince anyone, certainly it didn’t strike me as a careful, analytic laying out of a Trump foreign policy.

Others on CNN, including Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman who was Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Zakaria in his critical analysis, Rogers saying, “It was not exactly coherent.”

Who couldn’t have guessed that?

Drumpf’s Vaginal Probe

Once again, Drumpf was allowed to phone it in. His voice appeared on the morning shows today sounding, well, really Drumpfy. He sounded tired. Worn out. Old. Low Energy. No wonder he didn’t want to be seen. But he was energetic enough to continue attacking Hillary Clinton for, essentially, being a woman. The bully is actually afraid of losing to a girl!

And Drumpfy had enough energy to outline his future strategy against Hillary during the general election:

I’m going to be taking a lot of things Bernie said and using them.

I hope Bernie is proud of himself. Apparently, after months and months of attacking Hillary Clinton’s integrity, someone was listening: Donald Drumpf and the Republicans. But of course Bernie will feel no shame, take no blame. After a shellacking last night, he is still on to California!

In any case, Drumpf, who loves to double down, made yet another double-down mistake, as he was responding to reporters after his impressive string of primary victories Tuesday night. And unlike so many others, this mistake he will come to regret. The double-down came when he was asked to respond to the following comment that Hillary Clinton had made during her own victory speech in Philadelphia:

Now, the other day, Mr. Trump accused me of playing the, quote, ‘woman card.’ Well, if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in!

Using Drumpf’s original “woman card” mistake against him the way she did was a brilliant and effective counterpunch, especially against a man who specializes in unseemly, below-the-belt counterpunching. Hillary’s smooth attack is the way to go after Drumpf. Just keep focusing on his words and using them against him, and Drumpf, being Drumpf, will double down on his mistakes, which he did last night:

Well, I think the only card she has is the women’s card — she’s got nothing else going. And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her, okay? And look how well I did with women tonight.

“If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote” was a very dumb thing to say, even for a Drumpf. And, again, the way Hillary drew him out and got him to do that double-down demonstrates how you go after him. You tempt him to sound even more ridiculous, as he attempts to validate his original mistake. He’s a sucker for that kind of bait. Next up, I’d get him to double down on punishing women for what would be, under his wishes, an “illegal” abortion.

In the mean time, poll after poll shows how unpopular Drumpf is among women. Gallup found that 70% of women don’t like the guy, which may be a little high, especially as it is becoming clearer that he will win the nomination. But Drumpf’s gender-based attack on Hillary Clinton is really an attack on women voters. Hillary knows that and will, quite shrewdly, continue to make that clear. If Drumpf wants to make the general election a fight about women and their choices, whether reproductive or electoral, he picked the wrong fight with the wrong woman.

[Composite image of morning shows from Media Matters.]

You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Live In Kansas, But It Helps

I spent my first 30 years living in Kansas. When I left there in 1988, I left there as a right-wing dittohead. It would take another dozen years or so to get the Kansas out of me, to get the ditto out of my head, and to get right with reality. And though I am glad I escaped, I feel sorry for those I left behind, those who still live there, who have to live under Sam Brownback, a Christian extremist and governor whose “experiment”—his word—with supply-side economics has caused real harm to real people.

I’ve gone over the details before on this blog, so no need to do that again. Suffice it to say that yet another round of budget cuts are necessary because the Brownback experiment, which failed years ago, is an experiment that won’t stop giving because the governor won’t stop the experiment. The other day he again nixed the idea of raising taxes on the rich, taxes that he cut in order to make Kansas a thriving place that lots of job-creators would want to come to and create lots of jobs that would bring in lots of revenue and everyone would see how wonderful Republican governance was. It seems like a cruel joke now. But it ain’t a joke.

The practice of giving rich people large tax cuts and then believing that such generosity will increase the state’s revenue is faith-based economics. It really is voodoo, as a critic of Ronald Reagan’s economics, George H. W. Bush, once called it before he became a convert to it out of political necessity. In Brownback’s case, his faith in his economic program is a lot like his right-wing Christian faith: zealous and doctrinaire and unbending in a gale of contrary evidence.

As I said, the governor isn’t interested in debating the tax issue but he does have yet another plan: “Instead, we will focus our support and attention on controlling government spending more efficiently.” When the working class and the poor hear that in Kansas, they know they are about to take another beating. And, as the old saying goes, the beatings will continue into morale improves.

There was some good news coming out of the state, though, believe it or not:

A federal court rejected the argument from a Christian group in Kansas which said that evolution was religious “indoctrination” and should not be taught in schools.

As Ars Technica pointed out,

This case, COPE v. Kansas Board of Education, is a notable victory for science—and a blow to the creationist crowd and its progeny.

Now, if only someone could deliver a similar blow to a similar group of zealots—those who are ruining the state via supply-side superstition—maybe, just maybe, the long and crazy and nightmarish economic experiment in Kansas would finally come to an end.

[Brownback photo: Gage Skidmore]

The State Of Drumpf’s Mind

Finally, someone has, out loud, gone there: What if Donald Drumpf is on the verge of Alzheimer’s?

Sophia McClennen published an article today with the provocative title, “Maybe Donald Trump has really lost his mind: What if the GOP frontrunner isn’t crazy, but simply not well?

McClennen is not a medical doctor. She is a Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at Penn State University. But she has recently co-authored a book on satire called “Is Satire Saving Our Nation? Mockery and American Politics.” It is from that perch she is examining Drumpf and makes an interesting humanitarian point:

I need to be reassured that Trump is indeed OK so that the jokes about him remain funny. Public mockery has been the only way to stay balanced this election. And, of course, the best jokes about Trump have come from political satirists because satire does more than poke fun. It encourages critical thinking in the face of blind acceptance. It doesn’t just make Trump look silly and stupid; it points out that he’s dangerous to democracy. It’s the difference between jokes about his orange face and jokes about his demagoguery.

She goes on to say:

Satirical humor only works if it is punching up.  Humor that punches down is just mean.  A joke about Trump’s brain is amusing; one about an Alzheimer’s patient is twisted and cruel.

Her article cites examples of Drumpf’s odd behavior and his strange habits of speech and his inability to focus. She uses the recent example of Drumpf’s encounter with The Washington Post’s editorial board, a member of which had asked the candidate about whether he might use nuclear weapons against ISIS:

DRUMPF: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way, he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…

POST: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS?

DRUMPF: I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good-looking group of people here.  Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?

McClennen writes about this bit of weirdness:

We have become so accustomed to these sorts of ramblings that we don’t really register them as anything more than standard nonsensical Trump-speak—a pattern of speech we have seen crop up across the GOP in recent years, most notably in Palin’s gibberish.  But I urge you to re-read the exchange above and register the range of nonsense—the lack of basic grammar, the odd syntax, the abrupt shift in topic, the disconnect from reality, the paranoia, and the seeming inability to even grasp the question.

The writer then asks whether Drumpf’s campaign gives us a clue that the candidate is more than “a savvy politician channeling Tea Party political rhetoric and reality TV sound bites,” that he might be “an example of someone who doesn’t have full command of his faculties.” She goes on to sort of indict a larger group of folks:

At times it can be very hard to distinguish between extreme right-wing politics and symptoms of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association tells us that if two of the following core mental functions seem impaired then it is time to seek medical help: Memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment, visual perception.  Alzheimer’s carries other symptoms besides memory loss including difficulty remembering newly learned information, disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes.

Does she go too far? And does she go beyond what the evidence suggests when she writes:

Much to the chagrin of the reasonable conservatives who wonder what has happened to their party, it is now often difficult to distinguish Republican rhetoric from the ravings of someone suffering from diminished mental capacity.

Let me start by admitting the obvious. I’m not a doctor of any kind, nor do I know Drumpf in any other way than from his public appearances. Thus, I am not going to say there is something mentally wrong with the guy, other than he acts like there is. Likewise, I am not going to say that extremist right-wingers are literally sick people. I know plenty of them who are quite clearly not mentally impaired in any way but who still believe what I consider to be crazy shit. So, I think it is a little irresponsible to go so far as Sophia McClennen did in her piece. Besides that, there are plenty of people on the left who believe crazy shit, too.

But—you knew there was a but, right?—I will say this: I am worried about the state of mind of people who will believe unbelievable things just because those things fit into the way they model the world, or who won’t take a minute to critically ask whether there is any real evidence for their beliefs. Some people, for instance, believe when bad things happen, like when the AIDS crisis came upon us or when Hurricane Katrina hit, that God is judging us for our sins. Is believing that a form of mental impairment?

Other folks believe that chemtrails may have killed Merle Haggard and Prince. Don’t believe me? Just look at a headline from the right-wing conspiracy site, Infowars:


Are folks who believe that nuts? You can go on that website, which is run by a strange and
dangerous man named Alex Jones—who also has a show on which Drumpf has appeared—and find all kinds of stuff that makes you wonder whether folks who take any of that stuff seriously are in their right minds. And you can do the same thing on Facebook or other social media, where many of these ridiculous conspiracy theories get replicated on a massive scale by earnest believers passing them on to friends and family.

But Drumpf isn’t just an ordinary person with a Facebook or Twitter account. He is the front-runner for the presidential nomination handed out by the Republican Party. So, it is natural that we hold him to a higher level of scrutiny than Grandma Orleta passing on some Obama-cancelled-the-National-Day-of-Prayer nonsense as a kindly warning to her fellow Christians. And when we look at Drumpf closely, we do find a man who could be mistaken for someone with a serious mental flaw, someone who often appears to be untethered to reality.

Without even exploring the fact that he has no real understanding of most of the issues of the day—an odd thing itself for someone running for president—the biggest example of his detachment from the way things are is his fondness for, or entertainment of, conspiracy theories. Most famously, of course, is his utter fascination with Obama’s birthplace and the easily falsifiable idea that the president wasn’t born where he obviously was born. The press has nearly forgotten about this weird fascination and I won’t go into the details here. But I can’t remember the last time he was asked to account for it, despite the fact that it should come up again and again because it reveals something important about the way Drumpf’s mind works—or doesn’t work.

I mentioned Alex Jones, the king of kooky conspiracists. As Mother Jones reported, after Antonin Scalia died, Jones speculated on his show that Obama “killed him, and all the intellectual evidence lays it out.” The next day, as it happened, Drumpf appeared on Michael Savage’s radio show—Savage is another conspiracy lover—and was asked about Scalia’s death. Here’s how Mother Jones wrote it up:

Savage raised the possibility that Scalia had been murdered, and asked Trump whether an immediate autopsy was necessary.

“Well, I just heard today and that was just a little while ago actually—you know I just landed and I’m hearing it’s a big topic—that’s the question,” Trump said. “And it’s a horrible topic, but they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”

Now, it isn’t just the fact that Scalia was not found with a pillow on his face or that Scalia, for God’s sake, was 79 years old and could easily have passed on quite naturally, as most people lucky enough to live that long or longer do. It is the fact that a man running for president, for leader of the free world, would first go on a thoroughly disreputable show like The Savage Nation and then, without knowing anything about the subject, say something based only on the kind of rumors one would find coming from conspiracy junkies. “I’m hearing it’s a big topic,” Drumpf said. And, as far as I can tell, no one has ever asked him from where he heard such a thing. But it is important. And, again, it says something about the mechanics of his mind.

So, too, does his disturbing refusal to accept real knowledge about vaccinations and autism, around which survives one of those horrible conspiracy theories that some lefties, particularly lefty celebrities, push. We know today that there is no evidence that vaccinations cause autism. One study, from 1998, that argued that there may be a connection was shown to be a massive fraud and it was eventually retracted by the prestigious journal that published it. But despite all the evidence against a connection, Drumpf has continued, as late as a debate in September of last year, to perpetuate the dangerous myth that there is a connection. We have to ask: What kind of mind won’t surrender to the facts?

Finally, there is Drumpf’s less well-known flirtation with another mind-numbing and terribly dangerous conspiracy. Like many Republican politicians and pundits, Drumpf doesn’t believe global warming is real. Last November he tweeted:

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

This theory is a new twist on an old theme, popularized by Rush Limbaugh a long, long time ago, that the entire climate change issue is being used by Democrats and other socialists [sic] to get their hands on and subsequently destroy capitalism. So, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that February and March of this year were the warmest, by far, of any two of those months on record, that doesn’t mean a thing. The conspiracy will live on in the minds of too many people, despite the facts. And in light of that, we are entitled to ask: Does the fact that evidence, real evidence from real climate scientists, has no effect on the brain state of Donald Drumpf mean that there is something inherently wrong with his brain?

Such questions are essential when considering a president. We need someone whose mind, at least eventually, bends to the will of the facts, who won’t persist in a belief that has been proven false or never had plausibility in the first place. And whether one concludes that Drumpf is suffering from some form of dementia or whether one decides, for whatever reason, that Drumpf’s mind is just too unpredictable or unstable to install in the Oval Office, the facts are that he is showing us, day by day, tweet by tweet, that a President Drumpf would be a very dangerous man.

Etch A Drumpf

Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.“—Jeremiah 13:23

almost exactly four years ago, I wrote a piece titled “Etch A Romney.” It played off the admission by Eric Fehrnstrom, who was Mittens’ top aide and senior adviser, that the Romney whom voters were seeing and hearing in the primary election wasn’t the real deal. After he wrapped up the nomination, a better, more palatable, candidate would emerge. Fehrnstrom smugly told CNN:

Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.

Except he couldn’t start over again. Romney had said too much, some of it behind closed doors, to simply take it all back and reinvent himself. And his opponents in that primary campaign had also said too much. It was Texas governor Rick Perry who labeled him a “vulture capitalist.” It was Newt Gingrich who said the business model for Romney’s Bain Capital “undermined capitalism” and was “indefensible,” themes the Obama campaign amplified throughout the spring and summer that year, before Romney could be crowned at his party’s convention.

Thus, one would think, given Romney’s ultimate defeat in 2012, that cynically playing primary voters for fools—shaking it up and starting all over when the nomination is secured—would not be a strategy the 2016 Republican front-runner would want to employ, let alone admit to employing. Except, here we go again.

Paul Manafort—whose campaign experience goes back to Gerald Ford and includes Reagan and Bush I—is now Drumpf’s top aide. Drumpf brought him in to professionally navigate the complicated waters of finally securing enough delegates to win the nomination and then transitioning to the general election campaign. But Manafort may be a little rusty. Thinking he was speaking behind closed doors—why do people these days still think there are closed doors?—Manafort told RNC bigwigs that Drumpf “gets it.” Gets what? Oh:

…the part that he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now you’ve been expecting, but he wasn’t ready for because he had to first feed the first phase.

So, up until now, Drumpf has just been an act? Yep:

When he’s sitting in a room, he’s talking business. He’s talking politics in a private room. It’s a different persona. When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose.

etch a drumpfIf I were a fan of the man with the tiny hands, I think I would resent the notion that I was a Drumpkin bumpkin, a simpleton who bought the whole I’m-gonna-build-the-wall-and-Mexico’s-gonna-pay-for-it shtick like it was something real, not something the reality star was “projecting” just to win my simpleton ass over. But I’m not a Drumpkin bumpkin. I don’t really know how such people will process this utter admission of fraud because it’s not like it hasn’t been out there before. It’s not like Drumpf hasn’t hinted at it now and then. It’s not like we didn’t learn in February:

The New York Times is sitting on an audio recording that some of its staff believes could deal a serious blow to Donald Trump, who, in an off-the-record meeting with the newspaper, called into question whether he would stand by his own immigration views.

Despite calls from Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for Drumpf to give the paper permission to release the transcript of that interview, Drumpf wouldn’t do it. Yet his throngs kept coming to his rallies and kept salivating over his bigotry and kept punching people who dared to protest him. So, who knows what the Drumpkins will do now, now that they know beyond a doubt that their beloved is a grifter and his campaign has been a hustle. Here’s how “Lyin’ Ted” put it to right-wing radio nut Mark Levin:

Donald is a New York liberal who is pretending to be a conservative, to try to fool Republican primary voters. And, you know, the amazing thing, Mark, all of us are frustrated with politicians lying to us. I’m actually going to give Trump a little bit of credit here. He’s being candid. He’s telling us he’s lying to us.

That’s pretty clever of “Lyin’ Ted” to give Drumpf credit for lying, don’t ya think?

In any case, what other choice does Drumpf have but to change his spots—after he has convinced enough Drumpkins to give him the nomination? An avid poll watcher, Drumpf knows how unpopular he is among non-goobers. He has to pivot toward palatability. And he has the advantage of knowing that some of the press will pivot right along with him, so that they can set up an epic, ratings-rich battle in November.

It’s already happening, as I have previously noted. This morning MSBNC’s Morning Joe, which has been a platform for advising Drumpf on how to be a better candidate, featured a discussion in which the Etch A Drumpf strategy was seen as a good move, one that, in the words of panelist Donnie Deutsch, could make it possible for the bigot to beat Hillary Clinton.

Well, if he does get the nomination, and if he does beat Hillary Clinton in November, it won’t be because people ignored as showbiz all the bigoted buffoonery they have witnessed since last June. It will be because they embraced it. And if they do, that will say a helluva lot more about them than about Drumpf.

Harriet Tubman Is Still Pissing Off Conservatives

It was, of course, quite predictable. Courtesy of Media Matters, let’s explore the damage Harriet Tubman is still doing to reactionaries.

The ISIS of IQ killers, Fox and Friends, featured Brian Kilmeade’s brilliance:

Well, how could you be remaking American history at this rate? It’s incredible.

Whoa, big fella! Remaking history? Who in the hell is remaking history? Oh, never mind. It is Brian Kilmeade.

The same show continued its assault on intelligence by offering us the stunning insights of right-wing commentator Crystal Wright:

I mean this is once again, we have Democrats now using our currency as a political weapon to pander to their constituents. This isn’t about Harriet Tubman, they don’t care about her.

Now, wait a minute. How could Democrats be using her to pander to their constituents if Democratic constituents don’t care about her? Huh? Oh, my bad. Logical consistency is not a hallmark of a show that has issued a fatwā on intelligence.

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, who sometimes, but not by me, gets credit for being quasi-sensible, chimed in rather energetically:

Don’t you wonder why some people don’t just use their heads? Well, the Obama Administration did it again. Went stupid. And went stupid for no reason…We could put a woman on a bill, Tubman, acknowledge her courage and not stir up the country. But give Tubman her own bill like a $25 bill. We could use a $25 bill. Put her picture on that and we could all celebrate. That’s the smart and easy thing to do. But, no. Some people don’t think, would rather gratuitously stir up conflict in the nation. That is so awful, and yes, dumb.

Nothing like the old $25-bill trick to keep white folks happy!

Former Illinois congressman Crazy Joe Walsh, who got all Drumpfish one time and urged President Obama to fix our immigration problem by constructing moats on the border and stocking them with alligators, is now—who could have guessed it!—a talk show host. Crazy Joe, obviously, had something uplifting to say:

Sorry Andrew Jackson, you’re just a dead white guy. Time to get you off that $20 bill. In the name of progress. Smh

I get the feeling Crazy Joe isn’t too worried about a dead white guy. It’s the live white guys in his radio audience who matter mo$t to him.

The Conservative Review got all mysterious on us:

Because she’s a woman or b/c she deserves it?

Both maybe?

And, finally, one of the nastiest conservatives God ever put on His liberal earth, Michelle Malkin, ignored the history, ignored the greatness of a great American hero, ignored the impact of it all, and simply said something so clever it still makes my brain tingle:

If only we had politicians who cared more about letting us keep our money instead of whose faces are on it.

Yep. For some conservatives it’s all about pissing off white folks. For others it’s all about disrespecting a genocidal slaveholder. And for some, it’s all about the money.

Just another day in conservative punditry.

“Mah People Mus’ Go Free.”

Have you ever heard of Mary Pattison Brodess? Probably not. The only reason anyone ever heard of her today is because she happened to have owned one of the greatest expressions of the often-illusive American spirit ever to take a breath on our shores. Brodess owned, just like she might have owned a horse or a plow or a plot of land, a little woman born with the name Araminta Ross, but who we know as Harriet Tubman.

Harriet Tubman, circa 1900. (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)When I first heard that Tubman, finally, would replace the reprehensible Andrew Jackson on the front of the ubiquitous $20 bill (Jackson will, regrettably, remain on the back of the bill for some strange reason), the first thing I thought about were all the cruel and not-so-cruel slave owners, the sadistic and not-so-sadistic masters, and the always greedy slave catchers who are a part of our nation’s history, all of whom once thought that, as white people of privilege, the Harriet Tubmans were theirs to abuse, to work, to trade, to buy and sell like cattle and then be forgotten. I thought about how her face—Harriet Tubman’s face—will stare at all of us as we do our own buying and selling today. If we ever need a reason to avoid transitioning to a cashless society, it would be because that would mean her face would disappear with the currency.

I won’t detail Tubman’s remarkable life here. There are plenty of places you can go to read about her, if you have forgotten her story of sadness and triumph, her heroism, her devotion to liberty for herself and other slaves she helped rescue through the Underground Railroad. As I suggested, her spirit was a true American spirit, an odd thing for someone whose family roots were in Africa.  Her courageous and freedom-loving soul represented that soul of America that our slave-owning Founders described on paper, but so often failed to represent themselves.

I know the Obama administration has accomplished a lot since 2009, but this move by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has to rank way up there. Next to Barack Hussein Obama’s inauguration as our nation’s first African-American president, I can’t think of anything so pregnant with symbolism, so fitting as a reminder of who we have been and who we are today. Someday, somewhere, Mr. Obama will take out a Tubman Twenty, look at it, and smile. He will know that for years to come a former slave woman will stare into the eyes of all Americans, including those white Americans who have long resented our black president because his presidency itself has symbolized not just the partial realization of a long-incubating American idealism, but the waning of white privilege, privilege that began with slavery, with the idea that Harriet Tubman had no rights that white people were bound to respect.

The Drumpf Is Still A Drumpf

Much has been made of the “change in tone” of the Republican front-runner’s victory speech last night in New York. He actually got a ton of credit from media personalities for not calling Cruz “Lyin Ted” for a change. And suddenly the nationally unpopular GOP leader has been getting a lot of credit from journalists for being “more disciplined” as a candidate. Well, as Antonin Scalia might say if he weren’t permanently visiting that great hunting ground in the sky, what a load of jiggery-pokery. Once a Drumpf always a Drumpf.

I don’t give a damn if he tidies up his act for the cameras, now that some real professionals are taking over his campaign, replacing the creepy groupies who have helped him get this far in a creepy Republican primary. He can’t un-birth his birtherism. He can’t un-bigot himself. He can’t take back all those nasty things he said about Mexicans and Muslims. He can’t suddenly cast away the David Duke-ish nature of his quasi-racist campaign or slither away from his slimy, misogynistic meanderings. He paladino and trump.jpgcan put on a Mr. Rogers mask, but underneath there will always be a Drumpf peeking out.

Just last night, while trying to sound “presidential,” there stood behind the GOP buffoon one of the most buffoonish characters in New York Republican politics, second only to Drumpf himself. His name is Carl Paladino, a prominent Drumpf surrogate who ran for governor in 2010 and promptly got crushed by Andrew Cuomo because, well, the guy is a weirdo. Oh, and he likes to promote racism, too.

And what I found amazing about all the cable TV coverage of Drumpf’s decisive victory last night, coverage in which he was given too much credit for changing his manners, no one on TV, at least that I saw, mentioned that Carl Paladino was standing right behind him on th20100409-g67jy9ubexh98eptq85jiykxjte stage. Why is that? In all the rush to anoint an allegedly new and improved GOP presidential candidate, why wouldn’t it be relevant to mention that the “more disciplined” Drumpf was sharing the stage with someone who was caught forwarding racist emails, one of which depicted President Obama as a pimp and his wife as a hooker, and another—once all the rage on white supremacist websites—that was titled “Obama Inauguration Rehearsal” and featured a video of African tribesmen dancing? Is this the way the straight media are going to cover a slicker Drumpf from now on? Just ignore shit?

I doubt it. After journalists get over the shock of Drumpf’s slight change in campaign etiquette, Hillary Clinton will be around to remind them all of just how bad even a lipsticked Drumpf really is.

Bernie, The Pope, And A Moral Dilemma

Bernie Sanders, who gets my praise for being a secular guy, got lots of press and pundit praise over the weekend for going to Vatican City for a too-obscure conference “on social, economic and environmental issues hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.” He also got a quick meeting with Pope Francis. Good for Bernie.

But let’s look at Bernie’s speech to the conference and compare it to what he, and to be fair, what Hillary Clinton have been saying on the campaign trail. And I will compare it to what a lot of Americans in both parties believe. First, here is the title of Bernie’s speech:

The Urgency of a Moral Economy: Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of Centesimus Annus

“Centesimus annus” refers to an encyclical offered by Pope John Paul II in 1991, which was essentially an update of a prior pope’s encyclical, in 1891, on how the Church views the Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor.” Most people consider that 1891 encyclical by Pope Leo XIII to be, as Georgetown’s Berkley Center put it,

a foundational text in the history of Catholic social thought, establishing the position of the Church on issues pertaining to the proper relationship between capital and labor. The vision expounded by the encyclical emphasizes the duties and obligations that bind owners of capital and workers to each other.

So, that encyclical, and those related to it that have followed, are big deals, in terms of how Catholic doctrine addresses the way the world’s economy ought to work. As Bernie Sanders acknowledged and emphasized, these are “moral” issues, and he lauded Pope Leo XIII for highlighting “the enormous wealth of a few as opposed to the poverty of the many.” All of this makes sense for Bernie, obviously, since income and wealth inequality is one of the big themes of his presidential campaign. But let’s keep in mind a very important distinction here. The Popes, when addressing social and economic issues, are talking about the entire world. Bernie iBernie Sanders meets Pope Francis during visit to Vatican Citys talking almost exclusively about the United States. And, as we will see, there is a conflict between what the Catholic Church says it stands for and what both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton—not to mention Drumpf, in his own weird way—are advocating as presidential candidates.

Since Bernie is the one who spoke at the conference at Vatican City, and since he got his five minutes with the Pope, I will mostly use Bernie’s positions to draw a contrast between Catholic social teaching and what has become the standard position for many Democrats, and, increasingly, many Republicans. First, though, at the heart of the Church’s social teaching on economics is the following, from  a section in the 1991 encyclical that Bernie quoted in his speech:

The essential wisdom of Centesimus Annus is this: A market economy is beneficial for productivity and economic freedom. But if we let the quest for profits dominate society; if workers become disposable cogs of the financial system; if vast inequalities of power and wealth lead to marginalization of the poor and the powerless; then the common good is squandered and the market economy fails us. Pope John Paul II puts it this way: profit that is the result of “illicit exploitation, speculation, or the breaking of solidarity among working people . . . has not justification, and represents an abuse in the sight of God and man.”

Again, remember that this laudable statement of the Church’s position regarding how market economies ought to work is not limited to one country. It is a statement applicable to all countries, to “the common good.” I want you to notice something from that last line:

Pope John Paul II puts it this way: profit that is the result of “illicit exploitation, speculation, or the breaking of solidarity among working people . . . has not justification, and represents an abuse in the sight of God and man.”

FILE - Apple CEO Steve Jobs smiles with a new iPhone at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. In the white-hot competition for tech talent, some workers are alleging Silicon Valley's top companies conspired to keep employees from switching teams, June 7, 2010.The breaking of solidarity among working people…has not justification…” Think about that for a moment. That solidarity, as far as the Church is concerned, extends across national boundaries. It crosses oceans and deserts and leaps over mountains. In the Church’s eyes, that solidarity ought to include workers in Malaysia and Michigan, Vietnam and Vermont. It ought to include garment workers in Bangladesh and flat-screen factory workers in Mexico. It ought to include Apple iPhone assemblers in Zhengzhou, China, and autoworkers in Warren, Ohio. But let’s look at something Bernie Sanders said recently and examine it in light of what the Catholic Church teaches.

Bernie’s now infamous interview with the New York Daily News featured an attack on General Motors. Here is what he said:

General Electric was created in this country by American workers and American consumers. What we have seen over the many years is shutting down of many major plants in this country. Sending jobs to low-wage countries. And General Electric, doing a very good job avoiding the taxes. In fact, in a given year, they pay nothing in taxes. That’s greed. That is greed and that’s selfishness. That is lack of respect for the people of this country.

Notice what Bernie said: General Electric is greedy and selfish because it is guilty of “Sending jobs to low-wage countries.” A lot of Democrats have said similar things. I have myself. As Bloomberg pointed out last month, “Hillary Clinton proposed rescinding tax relief and other incentives retroactively for U.S. companies that move jobs and operations overseas.” Here is what she said in a speech delivered at an automotive supplier in Detroit:

If a company like Nabisco outsources and ships jobs overseas, we’ll make you give back the tax breaks you receive here in America. If you’re not going to invest in us, why should taxpayers invest in you. Let’s take that money and put it to work in the communities that are being left behind.

Such expressions of exasperation with American corporations aren’t hard to find. We all know what a ruckus Donald Drumpf has started among Republicans over outsourcing and trade issues, to the point that he is even attracting some support among working-class Democrats. Bernie Sanders, raising a ruckus himself, has said that General Electric and companies who behave similarly are “destroying the moral fabric of this country.” Again, he puts it in a moral context, just like, he admits, the Church does. But clearly the Church wouldn’t agree with what Bernie told the Daily News when someone suggested he sounded like Drumpf:

Well, if he thinks they’re bad trade deals, I agree with him. They are bad trade deals. But we have some specificity and it isn’t just us going around denouncing bad trade. In other words, I do believe in trade. But it has to be based on principles that are fair. So if you are in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 65¢ an hour, or you’re in Malaysia, where many of the workers are indentured servants because their passports are taken away when they come into this country and are working in slave-like conditions, no, I’m not going to have American workers “competing” against you under those conditions. So you have to have standards. And what fair trade means to say that it is fair. It is roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States.

There is no equivocation here from Bernie. He sides with American workers. There is no talk of “the urgency of a moral economy” when it comes to Americans having to compete against low-wage workers elsewhere. He doesn’t mention, as John Paul II did, “solidarity among working people.” He does talk of a low minimum wage in Vietnam and “indentured servants” and “slave-like conditions” in Malaysia. But those things could be fixed without bringing those jobs back to the United States. The issue with Bernie is what’s best for Americans, not the Vietnamese or Malaysians. The “Feel The Bern” website puts it succinctly:

American trade policy should place the needs of American workers and small businesses first.

Maybe it should. But is that moral? And is it moral in the sense that the Catholic Church and the current Pope criticize unfettered capitalism? Let’s go back to that passage from Bernie’s speech at the Vatican where he quoted the 1991 encyclical:

The essential wisdom of Centesimus Annus is this: A market economy is beneficial for productivity and economic freedom. But if we let the quest for profits dominate society; if workers become disposable cogs of the financial system; if vast inequalities of power and wealth lead to marginalization of the poor and the powerless; then the common good is squandered and the market economy fails us.

Aren’t Bernie and Hillary and me and other Democrats—and now Drumpf Republicans—simply defending, in another form, what the Church is condemning? When we make statements like Bernie makes on his website—“If corporate America wants us to buy their products they need to manufacture those products in this country, not in China or other low-wage countries”—aren’t we guilty of letting “the quest for profits dominate society”? Aren’t we guilty of making foreign workers “become disposable cogs of the financial system”? Aren’t we guilty of allowing our own “power and wealth” as Americans to “lead to marginalization of the poor and the powerless” and squandering “the common good”?

When I first heard that Bernie Sanders was going to speak at that conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, I wondered what he might say. I have often thought about how selfish we Americans—who live in the wealthiest nation on earth—sound to the rest of the world when we talk about jobs and trade. You can read Bernie’s entire speech yourself, but I especially noticed this:

The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great economic issue of our time, the great political issue of our time, and the great moral issue of our time. It is an issue that we must confront in my nation and across the world.

It’s hard to see how an American, especially one who is adamantly opposed to spreading American wealth to “low-wage countries”—let’s face it, people, that’s what this is all about when it comes down to it—can confront “the great moral issue of our time” by demanding that American companies make all their products here. Nor can an American confront that great moral issue by saying that “fair trade” means only trading with countries that have standards that are “roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States.” As we have already seen, Sanders made that statement in his Daily News interview, and as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp (formerly at ThinkProgress) pointed out about Bernie’s impossible-to-meet standard:

But there’s one big problem, according to development economists I spoke to: Limiting trade with low-wage countries as severely as Sanders wants to would hurt the very poorest people on Earth. A lot.

Free trade is one of the best tools we have for fighting extreme poverty. If Sanders wins, and is serious about implementing his trade agenda as outlined in the NYDN interview and elsewhere, he will impoverish millions of already-poor people.

I don’t want to just pick on Bernie Sanders over this issue. All of us who worry about outsourcing—which is not done for altruistic reasons but does bring some benefits to the world’s most vulnerable people—and who also worry about world poverty have to confront the moral dilemma involved. Bernie said at the conference:

Pope Francis has given the most powerful name to the predicament of modern society: the Globalization of Indifference. “Almost without being aware of it,” he noted, “we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

Pope Francis is right, of course. And Bernie was right to cite him. But Bernie did not, perhaps because he can not, tell us why his own nationalist position on trade—a position he shares with a large majority of Americans—is nothing if not a perfect example of what the Pope means by “the Globalization of Indifference.”

And although it was Bernie who got to meet Pope Francis, it is up to all of us—all of us who believe the common good should extend beyond our borders—to face the moral dilemma created by such seeming indifference.



[Photos: Bernie at St. Peter’s Basilica: AP; Steve Jobs: Reuters; Outsourcing protest: DaytonOS; Pope Francis: Luca Zennaro/EPA-Pool]


Bernie Supporters Keeping It Classy By Making It Rain On Democratic Front-Runner Who Happens To Be A Woman

make it rain: “Throwing money on hoes”

The Online Slang Dictionary

apparently the last whore metaphor wasn’t enough. Here’s how HuffPo wrote up a story about the latest attempt—not by Republicans but by quasi-Democrats—to smear the Democratic Party front-runner:

A group of Bernie Sanders supporters showered Hillary Clinton’s motorcade with one thousand $1 bills as the former secretary of state drove to a glitzy fundraiser hosted by Hollywood power couple George and Amal Clooney…

As the motorcade passed, Sanders supporters played the song “We’re In The Money.” After it was out of sight, they danced in the street and stomped on the dollar bills, according to CNN.

You may have seen or heard some news reports that George Clooney himself admitted, like almost all Democrats do, that Bernie is right about money in politics and that “it’s an obscene amount.” What you may not have heard is that Clooney went on to make the point that “the overwhelming amount of the money that we’re raising is not going to Hillary to run for president; it’s going to the Democratic ticket.”

So, if I understand what some Bernie supporters are saying, all Democrats who get money from friendly rich people—money they need to run against well-funded Republicans—are now hoes.

Classy stuff.

A Bernie Fail

No game-changing debate for Bernie. A lot of shouting, a lot of arm waving, but no coup de grâce.

But it wasn’t because he didn’t have a chance to knock her out. The day before the debate, one of his supporters, no doubt taking a cue from the candidate himself, suggested Hillary was a corporate whore. As we all know, Bernie himself has suggested, in more gentlemanly ways, the same thing. She has sold herself to the highest bidder, don’t ya know. Last night, he got his chance to give us some examples:

DANA BASH: Senator Sanders, you have consistently criticized Secretary Clinton for accepting money from Wall Street. Can you name one decision that she made as senator that shows that he favored banks because of the money she received?

SANDERS: Sure. Sure. The obvious decision is when the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street brought this country into the worst economic downturn since the Great Recession — the Great Depression of the ’30s, when millions of people lost their jobs, and their homes, and their life savings, the obvious response to that is that you’ve got a bunch of fraudulent operators and that they have got to be broken up. That was my view way back, and I introduced legislation to do that. Now, Secretary Clinton was busy giving speeches to Goldman Sachs for $225,000 a speech. So the problem response — the proper response in my view is we should break them up. And that’s what my legislation does.

CLINTON: Well, you can tell, Dana, he cannot come up with any example, because there is no example.

You would think that a man who has spent so much time tossing around accusations of corruption, suggestions of her whoring around, would have at least one example on the tip of his tongue that proved Mrs. Clinton, who has been in politics for a helluva long time, has been turning tricks for corporate cash. But nope. He couldn’t. Just 123 words of pure bullshit.

Finally A Moment Of Honesty At A Bernie Rally

I’ll make this short and to the point.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign against Hillary Clinton has always boiled down to one thing that Bernie himself has suggested but has not said openly: she is a corporate whore.

Last night during a rally in Washington Square Park in Lower Manhattan, a surrogate for Bernie spoke to the large crowd and finally said what Bernie has been implying all along. Dr. Paul Song, a radiation oncologist and health care activist—who, by the way, is very, very wealthy and lives in a 4,300-square-foot house in Santa Monica—said the following:

Medicare-for-all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate Democratic whores who are beholden to big pharma and the private insurance industry instead of us.

I don’t give a damn whether Dr. Song apologized or not. I don’t really give a damn whether Bernie Sanders comes out, eventually, and says he rejects Dr. Song’s choice of
words. What Sanders has been saying for months now has been nothing but a polite way of calling Hillary Clinton a “corporate Democratic whore.” If you follow the “Bernie or Bust” campaign, or read the comment section of nearly any story about the Democratic race, you will find that many of Bernie’s Hillary-hating followers have been calling her a whore or worse. They get Bernie’s implied message.

And now, in front of an estimated 27,000 people at a Bernie rally, a surrogate for Sanders finally came clean, finally said out loud what the anti-Democratic Party presidential candidate has been insinuating. And such honesty ought to wake up real Democrats everywhere. They should stop flirting with a man who couldn’t care less about the Democratic Party.

Black Lives Matter Vs. Democrats?

I have avoided the entire controversy surrounding the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994, Hillary Clinton’s use of the word “superpredator” in a speech at New Hampshire’s Keene State College in 1996, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement’s protests at Democratic events. I just haven’t wanted to get into it.

Since Bernie Sanders was essentially forced to surrender the microphone to a Black Lives Matter activist last summer; since Hillary Clinton was confronted in South Carolina a few months ago by a Black Lives Matter activist demanding the candidate apologize because “I’m not a super-predator Hillary Clinton”; since Bill Clinton was confronted during a speech the other day by someone holding a sign that read, “Black youth are not super predators”; and since Bernie Sanders has now somewhat unfairly exploited what Bill had to say to those protesters, it’s time now to address it, even though some folks won’t like what I have to say.

First, the context of that 1994 bill. Steve Drizin, a law professor who has written a lot about “juvenile justice, wrongful convictions, and false confessions,” wrote:

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, there was a rapid increase in violent crime on the streets of many urban centers in the country. Much of this violence was related to the crack cocaine trade and some of this violence was committed by youthful offenders. Adult gang members recruited teens as their child soldiers, armed them with high-powered weaponry, and dispatched them to do battle over with other gangs over turf in the drug trade.

That is what Bill Clinton was referring to last week when he was defending both Hillary and his record as president and, probably too aggressively, said this to the Black Lives Matter protesters:

I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack, sent them out onto the street to murder other African-American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She didn’t! You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter! Tell the truth. You are defending the people who cause young people to go out and take guns.

Bernie Sanders then chimed in and tried to take political advantage, while he was in Harlem, of Clinton’s “unacceptable” remarks. The Washington Post reported it this way:

“We all know what the term meant in the context that it was said years ago,” Sanders said after the applause died down. “We know who they were talking about.”

“Black people,” yelled someone in the audience.

“That’s exactly right,” Sanders said, “and I think the president owes the American people an apology for trying to defend what’s indefensible.”

Let’s stop here for a moment and take a breath. Let’s look at some facts. First, that 1994 Crime Bill enjoyed widespread bipartisan support. And many black leaders and activists, responding to rampant crime in their cities related to drugs, also supported the bill, cbc vote on crime billincluding two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus. Oh, and so did Bernie Sanders. Not only did Sanders vote for the bill, he used that vote in his campaign for Senate in 2006 to make the point that he was “tough on crime.” And while a little less outrage from him about President Clinton’s recent remarks would have been nice, given his position in the past, I don’t really mind Bernie playing politics with this issue, since he is, despite what some of his most ardent followers seem to believe, a politician.

In any case, both Bill and Hillary Clinton have admitted that they regret parts of the 1994 Crime Bill and have argued that reforms are needed to fix some of its negative consequences, like over-incarceration. In fact, Mrs. Clinton’s first big policy speech of this campaign was about criminal justice reform. Hillary has also apologized for using the term “superpredator” in that 1996 speech—the term was coined in this context by a Republican political scientist named John Dilulio, who also now regrets both the term and the policies built around it because “demography is not fate and criminology is not pure science.” Here are the original remarks from Hillary Clinton’s now-infamous New Hampshire speech:

They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘superpredators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.

Mrs. Clinton said the following to The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, after an activist in South Carolina confronted her about the above remarks:

In that speech, I was talking about the impact violent crime and vicious drug cartels were having on communities across the country and the particular danger they posed to children and families.  Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.

My life’s work has been about lifting up children and young people who’ve been let down by the system or by society.  Kids who never got the chance they deserved.  And unfortunately today, there are way too many of those kids, especially in African-American communities.  We haven’t done right by them.  We need to.  We need to end the school to prison pipeline and replace it with a cradle-to-college pipeline.

As an advocate, as First Lady, as Senator, I was a champion for children.  And my campaign for president is about breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of all kids, so every one of them can live up to their God-given potential.

So, we can see that Mrs. Clinton has learned something in 20 years. Isn’t that a good thing? And, as Capehart points out, Bernie Sanders, while voting for the Crime Bill and using it to make him look tough on crime, did have wise reservations at the time. In a floor speech in 1994, Sanders said:

Mr. Speaker, it is my firm belief that clearly, there are some people in our society who are horribly violent, who are deeply sick and sociopathic, and clearly these people must be put behind bars in order to protect society from them. But it is also my view that through the neglect of our Government and through a grossly irrational set of priorities, we are dooming tens of millions of young people to a future of bitterness, misery, hopelessness, drugs, crime, and violence.

Capehart, who is an African-American columnist, wrote:

No one would question Sanders’s commitment to justice before or after he voted for the crime bill. Nor should anyone do the same to Clinton, who didn’t even have a vote. Sure, her words sting in the light of 2016, but they should not blind anyone to what she did before and after she uttered those 42 words in the span of 12 seconds.

All of this leads me to the part that will likely get me in trouble with some folks. I’m a white guy from Kansas who now lives in a mostly-white part of southwest Missouri. It happens that, growing up in Kansas, I lived around a lot of African-Americans. I lived in a fairly poor neighborhood. The old dodge, I’m-not-a-racist-because-I-have-black-friends, was actually true of me when I was younger. I did have black friends, good friends. To the extent that a young white kid could understand what it meant to be black in this society—and I admit that ain’t much—I tried my best to understand. I always have.

I have written a lot on this blog about the unfair and demonizing way police, and the larger white society that usually supports them no matter the circumstances, too-often treat African-Americans, especially young males. I have written a lot about the white angst that leads to so much of what we have seen in hate-filled Republican politics, especially as regards the treatment of President Obama. I have written a lot about the attempts of white Republicans to suppress the votes of blacks and Latinos. I have done my best to understand, as an adult, what I tried hard to understand as a teenager, when I was hanging out with my African-American friends: why are so many white people afraid of, or disdainful of, black people?

Thus, I think I understand the point of the Black Lives Matter movement. I believe I get it. In too many cases, black lives haven’t seemed to matter all that much to those entrusted to protect them: the government, in the form of people wearing uniforms and badges. And in too many cases white people in general overlook or excuse the injustices done to Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice and Eric Garner and Sandra Bland and Walter Scott and countless others, injustices done not just by the police, but by prosecutors and courts.

But here is what I don’t understand about the Black Lives Matter movement. I don’t understand that rudely conducted protest at a Bernie Sanders rally last August. I don’t understand that rudely conducted protest at a Hillary Clinton event in South Carolina in February. I don’t understand that rudely conducted protest recently during a speech given by a former Democratic president trying to help his wife get into a position where she can beat a Republican in November. While I understand holding Democrats accountable, I don’t understand either the rudeness in doing so or what seems to me to be a lack of focus, at this crucial point in a presidential campaign, on who the most egregious offender in all this is: the Republican Party, both nationally and at the state and local level.

Republicans have stood in the way of criminal justice and other reforms. Republicans have almost always defended the most outrageous actions by police. Republicans, almost everywhere they’re in control, are trying to suppress black voters and voices. Republicans have as their front-runner a candidate for whom white supremacists have openly campaigned and supported, a candidate who had trouble disavowing David Duke and who doesn’t think our first African-American president is legitimate. Republicans have another leading candidate who defended his father’s remark that President Obama should be sent “back to Kenya” and whose signature issue in the Senate and in his campaign is repealing ObamaCare, a program that has greatly helped African-Americans and would help them even more if Republican governors and state legislators would expand Medicaid in their states, many of them poor states in the South with large African-American populations.

I know there have been many protests at Drumpf rallies by members of the Black Lives Matter movement. But not enough. And not enough at Cruz rallies. And especially not enough at rallies for Republican candidates for all offices, at all levels of government. The focus and overwhelming political force should be on where the biggest problem is now, not on the sins of the past by the Democratic Party, sins that go all the way back to supporting slavery and Jim Crow and, yes, to overreacting in the 1990s to outrageous violence in our cities.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both supported the Crime Bill in 1994, a bill that was trying to tackle what was then perceived as a real problem and a bill that did some good things but had some bad consequences for African-Americans. However, both Hillary and Bernie have expressed their unequivocal support for reforms that would help fix some of the problems that old legislation didn’t create but contributed to. And it’s not that either should be given a pass now, but it seems to me that there are more important things for the Black Lives Matter movement to do than so aggressively confront two people who are their clear allies.

The most prominent targets these days, of both their wrath and their efforts to hold public officials and offenders accountable, should be those folks with that “R” featured proudly by their names, those who try to suppress and thereby silence black voters, who crave “states’ rights” to protect their pedigree of white privilege, and who—like here in the state of Missouri where all the Republican gubernatorial candidates have said they will support Donald Drumpf—would eventually, if necessary, embrace a man for president who is little more than a race-baiting bigot.

The Sanders Campaign Goes Drumpf

“Remember, one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counter-puncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first.” —Donald Drumpf

Let’s get something straight about what has been happening. Bernie Sanders, in a Drumpfed-up way, went after Hillary Clinton in a speech in Philadelphia—suggesting she wasn’t qualified to be president—for two reasons (which he stated in a press conference
tbernie in philadelphiahe next day in Philadelphia and which you can see on YouTube starting at around 9:45).

The first reason he gave was because he was pissed off after The Washington Post published a story with the headline, “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president,” a headline that the Post’s own fact-checker (“Sanders’s incorrect claim that Clinton called him ‘not qualified’ for the presidency”) called into question, while giving Bernie three Pinocchios for his false claim that Hillary actually said, in quotes, that he was “not qualified.”

The second reason Bernie got all Drumpfed up was because of a report by CNN’s Senior Washington Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, who began his article (“Clinton plan: Defeat Sanders, then unify Democratic party“) this way:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is taking new steps to try and disqualify Bernie Sanders in the eyes of Democratic voters, hoping to extinguish the argument that he is an electable alternative for the party’s presidential nomination.

Zeleny  also wrote this in the article:

A Clinton campaign fundraising appeal after the Wisconsin primary offered a glimpse into the new approach. The campaign’s deputy communications director, Christina Reynolds, argued that Sanders is unqualified, sending a full transcript of a New York Daily News editorial board interview of Sanders.

You should note that Zeleny’s lede—“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is taking new steps to try and disqualify Bernie Sanders”—wasn’t something the reporter directly attributed to anyone in Clinton’s campaign, except Christina Reynolds. And you should note that he did not quote Reynolds as saying “Sanders is unqualified.” Much like The Washington Post’s story, this appears to be the case of a reporter interpreting, or misinterpreting, something that was said or distributed by the campaign.

The point, therefore, is that without any hard facts, with only a headline in a newspaper and a report by CNN that did not directly quote anyone in Clinton’s campaign or Hillary herself, Bernie did what Donald Drumpf has done when he has seen something in the news that he thought slighted him: attack without thinking.

In fact, like Drumpf, Bernie didn’t back away, even after it was clear he was wrong. The next day in that press conference in Philadelphia, he continued pushing the notion that the Clinton campaign had actually said it was trying to disqualify him. Then he dropped this Drumpf on us:

If Secretary Clinton thinks that just because I’m from a small state in Vermont and we’re gonna come here to New York and go to Pennsylvania and they’re gonna beat us up and they’re gonna go after us in some kind of really uncalled for way, that we’re not gonna fight back, well we got another — you know, they can guess again because that’s not the case. This campaign will fight back. So, when you have headlines in The Washington Post, quote, Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president, my response is, well, if you want to question my qualifications, let me suggest this: that maybe the American people might wonder about your qualifications, Madame Secretary…

Again, all that was based not on something that was directly attributed to anyone in the Clinton campaign, but only on press reports. If that doesn’t remind you of Drumpf, what does? Oh, I know, this:

weaver on cnn and isisI think if you look at her record and campaign, her campaign is funded by millions and millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests. She’s made a deal with the devil, and we all know the devil wants his money in the end. So that’s the kind of campaign she’s running. She supported the terrible trade deals which have devastated American manufacturing in the country. She supported the war in Iraq. She continues to have a very, very hawkish foreign policy that has led to the rise and expansion of ISIS in the Middle East.

That Republican tripe wasn’t uttered by a Republican. It wasn’t uttered by Rudy Giuliani who said, “She helped create ISIS. I mean, Hillary Clinton could be considered a founding member of ISIS.” No, all that “deal with the devil” stuff was uttered by Jeff Weaver, Bernie’s campaign manager. This morning Weaver doubled down on those disgusting remarks. After having that ridiculous ISIS claim read back to him, he was asked, “Is this a bridge too far?” He responded:

WEAVER: No, I don’t think so. I think a number of experts have pointed out that the vacuum that was created in Iraq after the Iraq War, with the deposing of Saddam Hussein, and the deposing of Qaddafi in Libya, you know, allowed ISIS to rise in Iraq and Syria and then allowed for its expansion into Libya. So, no I don’t think that’s the case. It’s not just my opinion, it’s the opinion of many people who have studied this issue.

CNN: But Hillary Clinton is responsible for the vacuum that arose in Iraq?

WEAVER: Well, look, Hillary Clinton supported the war in Iraq, there’s no doubt about that. And it’s clear from a lot of reporting that she was a key voice in the administration pushing for the war in Libya. I think at one point there was talking about being a 50-50 split almost in the administration and her sort of tipping it over, so, yes, I do think you have to bear responsibility for things like that.

Is it fair to criticize Hillary for her Iraq vote? Absolutely. She has admitted it was a big mistake. Is it fair to blame her, and by extension President Obama, for the rise of ISIS? Absolutely not. And it should be scandalous that Weaver, like so many Republicans have done, did so. But not a peep from the “positive” campaigner, Bernie Sanders, who has every right to brag about his anti-war vote and his predictions about the consequences, but who is wrong to allow his top guy to say such outrageous things about Hillary Clinton.

Jeff Weaver kept mentioning Libya. Why? Because by now people have forgotten just why it was that a reluctant Obama, with Clinton’s urging, intervened there as part of an international coalition, initially led by France and Britain with our vital support. It was a tough decision at the time. Qaddafi had slaughtered many and was about to slaughter more anti-government protesters and rebels, who were asking for the West’s help. So were other Arab countries. Western nations were accused of moving too slowly to stop the bloodshed and violence. Eventually, the West did act. Qaddafi is gone. Conflict still remains. ISIS has a presence there and we are taking action against them. The new head of a UN-backed government is trying to bring enough stability to the country so that other nations can come in and help attack ISIS bases there. It’s all very messy.

But what would have happened if we would have allowed Qaddafi to slaughter so many of his own people? We have no idea. Nobody does. But we do know that people would be criticizing Obama and Clinton for inaction, just like in Syria, where we didn’t get involved in that civil war. This stuff ain’t easy, even if it is easy to criticize after the fact. But I want to note that in all those words he uttered, given all those chances, Jeff Weaver—again, Bernie’s campaign manager—couldn’t bring himself to mention George W. Bush or Dick Cheney or the warmongering neoconservatives who actually made the phony case for the Iraq war and who actually managed its aftermath so poorly that we find ourselves where we are today. All Weaver could do was blame Hillary Clinton, which was mighty Drumpf of him, since Drumpf said sometime back“Hillary Clinton created ISIS with Obama.” 

My, oh, my.


It’s Not Too Late To Come Home, Democrats For Bernie

Let me start with a couple of images from online media:

bernie dirty.jpgbernie and unqualified.jpg

And here’s a screen grab from CNN this morning:

bernie on cnn not qualified.jpg

By now, anyone interested enough to read a blog about politics knows what’s going on between Bernie and Hillary, especially related to the above images. For those who don’t know exactly, here is what Bernie said last night in Philadelphia:

Now the other day, I think, Secretary Clinton appeared to be getting a little bit nervous. We have won, we have won seven out of eight of the recent primaries and caucuses. And she has been saying lately that she thinks that I am, quote unquote, 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, if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds. I don’t think 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’ve supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent paying jobs. I don’t think you are qualified if you supported the Panama free trade agreement, something I very strongly opposed and which, as all of you know, has allowed corporations and wealthy people all over the world to avoid paying their taxes to their countries.

Here is one simple fact: Hillary Clinton has never said Bernie Sanders was “not qualified to be president.” Never. She’s too much of a pro for that kind of talk in a primary campaign. And when Bernie put that in quotes last night, he was, to put it bluntly, telling a lie. I don’t know why he was telling such a lie, but it was a lie. Clearly he was disturbed by her remarks on MSNBC yesterday, when she—like any skilled politician running against him would naturally do—discussed his now famously disastrous interview with The New York Daily News. Here is the way Politico summarized her exchange on MSNBC:

When asked point-blank by “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough whether Sanders was ready for the Oval Office, Clinton raised the senator’s recent interview with the New York Daily News.

“Well, I think the interview raised a lot of serious questions,” Clinton said. “I think of it this way: The core of his campaign has been ‘break up the banks,’ and it it didn’t seem in reading his answers that he understood exactly how that would work under Dodd-Frank.”

Asked again whether Sanders is qualified, Clinton dodged. “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 raises a lot of questions,” she said.

Asked a third time, Clinton said she would “leave it to voters to decide who of us can do the job the country needs.”

I have followed politics a long time. What Hillary did was what anyone in her position would do. She took advantage of her opponent’s most recent mistake. She used Bernie Sanders’ bewildering interview with the Daily News to make the point that he talks a good game, but there’s not much substance behind what he is saying. And she went out of her way to avoid saying he was “not qualified.” She could have said it. She could have said how that latest interview suggested that his ignorance of things he should know a lot about might be disqualifying. But she refrained. She’s smarter than that. She knows what uttering that phrase would have meant.

But for Bernie it was a different matter. Not only did he tell his supporters a falsehood about Hillary Clinton, he then stumbled down the low road and put the label of “not qualified” on her. Sanders has hammered Clinton, countless times, for all the same reasons he hammered her last night. He has implied she is dishonest and corrupt. His surrogates have openly said she is untrustworthy and a liar. Bernie’s campaign manager—his bleeping campaign manager!—suggested her campaign was willing to “destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the secretary’s ambitions to become president of the United States.” That utter nonsense, by the way, came from someone representing a man who has spent nearly his entire political career trashing the Democratic Party.

But despite all the attacks on her integrity, both implied and expressed, Bernie’s campaign has stopped short of saying she wasn’t fit to be president. Now, though, either because of exasperation or desperation, his campaign has gone too far. They have injected poison into this primary race, the same kind of poison Republicans are now using against each other, and will certainly use against Democrats after the GOP primary fight is over.

I’ll admit my first reaction last night, upon hearing Bernie’s latest assault, was to get angry and write an “I told you so” post today. I wanted to tell all of Bernie’s die-hard supporters, who may or may not think Hillary is corrupt but who definitely think that at the end of this process Bernie will get on board and back her if she wins, that they have always been wrong about him. That he is the one who has shown a willingness to damage the interests of the Democratic Party in order to satisfy his own ambitions, whatever they have been. That he isn’t exactly a Kumbaya kind of guy when he loses.

But then I thought about it some more.

Getting angry at Bernie Sanders or his supporters won’t help Democrats win in November. We can’t afford to lose too many voters who now believe, sometimes with reckless fervor, that Bernie is the best choice. I know we will lose some, perhaps a lot, but the more we can convince Bernie supporters that the Democratic Party, as a whole, is the only thing standing in the way of a Republican assault on progress, the better off we will be as a party, and, more important, as a country.

So, with that in mind, I am asking Bernie supporters everywhere to take a good look at what Bernie did last night. And take a sober look at the likelihood that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and face a Drumpf or a Cruz or a Kasich or some other reactionary Republican in the fall. Then ask yourselves an important question: Did Bernie hurt or help the Democratic Party’s chances of winning in November?

[Bernie photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

“Actually, I Haven’t Thought About It A Whole Lot,” Says Bernie

NOTE: The following post is rather long and detailed. It is about policy specifics. It isn’t for everyone. Many other critics of Sanders have used short excerpts to make their points. I chose to go long for context. Reader beware! 


Yesterday afternoon, The Washington Post published this headline on its politics blog, which is written by Chris Cillizza:

This New York Daily News interview was pretty close to a disaster for Bernie Sanders

That disastrous editorial board interview is available for all to see in transcript form. But it takes a long time to read, and, as someone said on TV this morning, Bernie is lucky it wasn’t on video.  But today, the day after Bernie’s Wisconsin primary victory, I have seen at least five segments on CNN discussing it, and it came up in an interview with Hillary Clinton on MSNBC this morning.

Before we get into several examples as to why the interview was such a mess, I want to quote something Cillizza wrote about it:

A large part of Sanders’s appeal to the throngs who back him is his insistence that we are in need of a political revolution. And, for those people, the Daily News interview will be much ado about nothing. But what the interview exposes is that once the revolution happens there will be lots of loose ends to tie up. Loose ends that Sanders either hasn’t grappled with — or doesn’t want to.

It is probably true that Sanders’ most ardent supporters will either not read the interview critically or, if they do, make excuses for its shallowness. But as the interview demonstrates, away from his superficial script, without recourse to his stimulating stump speech, Bernie just doesn’t seem to be able to explain in depth how he would, even if he could, do the things he says are vital for rescuing the country from billionaire bogeymen, big banks and big businesses. And he knows next to nothing about what to do about problems around the world.

Let’s start at the beginning of the Daily News interview. He was asked a simple question:

Daily News: You’ve said that the greed of Wall Street and corporate America is destroying the fabric of our nation….is Apple destroying the fabric of America?

Bernie Sanders: No, Apple is not destroying the fabric of America. But I do wish they’d be manufacturing some of their devices, here, in the United States rather than in China. And I do wish that they would not be trying to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Now, wait a minute, cowboy. If Apple is manufacturing millions of their devices in China, thus depriving Americans of that work, and if Apple is trying to avoid paying taxes here in the United States, then why are they excused from the accusation that “corporate greed” is destroying the fabric of American society? Huh? Makes no sense to me.

Bernie went on, after trying to focus only on banks, to mention General Electric as one of those corporations that was definitely part of destroying the fabric of America. Here’s what he said:

Sanders: General Electric, good example. General Electric was created in this country by American workers and American consumers. What we have seen over the many years is shutting down of many major plants in this country. Sending jobs to low-wage countries. And General Electric, doing a very good job avoiding the taxes. In fact, in a given year, they pay nothing in taxes. That’s greed.

That is greed and that’s selfishness. That is lack of respect for the people of this country.

A reader has to wonder: what’s the moral difference between what Apple does and what General Electric does? And why does Bernie single out one over the other? I don’t get it. Is Apple’s strategy to manufacture its products cheaper overseas, and to avoid domestic taxes, somehow morally superior to General Electric’s? Apparently, in Bernie’s mind, it is. But he doesn’t explain why. I’d like to know why.

On the issue of trade—one of Bernie’s major talking points—his thinking is also a little hard to follow. First, he offers the standard line that all Democrats who criticize trade deals offer: “I’m not anti-trade.” Good for him, since not trading with other countries would cripple our economy. He then explains:

Sanders: We live in a global economy, we need trade. But the trade policies that we have allowed to occur, that were written by corporate America have been disastrous for American workers.

Let’s stop here. It’s not true that our trade policies have been disastrous for all American workers. It is true that some have been harmed by them but it is also true that others have jobs because of them. Among other things, we export industrial products like factory robots, other high-end technology, and agricultural commodities. I’m sure workers in those sectors would very much resent being told that American trade policy has been a disaster. All of this is very complicated, with populists on both ideological sides using the negative aspects of trade policy against all trade deals. But there are good arguments that other factors, besides our trade policies, contribute to trade deficits with other countries and wage stagnation. But I’ll let Bernie continue:

Sanders: So I think we need trade. But I think it should be based on fair trade policies. No, I don’t think it is appropriate for trade policies to say that you can move to a country where wages are abysmal, where there are no environmental regulations, where workers can’t form unions. That’s not the kind of trade agreement that I will support.

Good for him. I wouldn’t support that kind of agreement either. And guess what? Neither would Hillary Clinton. In her book, Hard Choices, she wrote:

The current global trading system is distorted not only by barriers to entry in developing and emerging economies, but by the power of special interests in developed countries, including the US. To make trade fairer as well as freer, developing countries have to do a better job of improving productivity, raising labor conditions, and protecting the environment. In the US, we have to do a better job of providing good jobs to those displaced by trade.

So, as far as stated principles on trade, there is little if any difference between the two candidates. In fact, like Hillary and Obama before him, Bernie says he would stop such bad trade practices by “renegotiating all of the trade agreements that we have.” And here is the way Bernie explains his criteria for renegotiating such deals and here is where I start to get perplexed:

Sanders: …we have some specificity and it isn’t just us going around denouncing bad trade. In other words, I do believe in trade. But it has to be based on principles that are fair. So if you are in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 65¢ an hour, or you’re in Malaysia, where many of the workers are indentured servants because their passports are taken away when they come into this country and are working in slave-like conditions, no, I’m not going to have American workers “competing” against you under those conditions. So you have to have standards. And what fair trade means to say that it is fair. It is roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States.

We should all ask Bernie (or Hillary, for that matter) a question: What would it mean for the United States if you actually followed such “fair trade” principles? I mean, Bernie is essentially saying we wouldn’t have a trade deal involving Vietnam or Malaysia or any number of countries in which the “wages and environmental standards” were not “roughly equivalent” to those of the United States. That leaves out a lot of countries, probably including Mexico. Are we going to stop trading with Mexico? I don’t get it. I confess I don’t.

How can we expect some of the developing countries we trade with to have anywhere close to the standards we insist on? Thus, since they can’t even come close, how do we trade with those countries? And if we don’t trade with them, how do we expect them to ever grow their economies so they can buy the stuff, mostly expensive stuff, we want to sell them? I said the issue of trade is complicated, but someone who makes such a big deal out of it in his campaign should be able to explain it to someone like me. But apparently he can’t.

There is another one of his big issues, this one involving the big banks, that Bernie has trouble explaining in detail. Bernie famously wants to break up the biggest banks. The Daily News simply asked him how that might work. As you can see from the following exchange, Bernie has no real idea:

Sanders: How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail.

Daily News: But do you think that the Fed, now, has that authority?

Sanders: Well, I don’t know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.

Daily News: How? How does a President turn to JPMorgan Chase, or have the Treasury turn to any of those banks and say, “Now you must do X, Y and Z?”

Sanders: Well, you do have authority under the Dodd-Frank legislation to do that, make that determination.

Daily News: You do, just by Federal Reserve fiat, you do?

Sanders: Yeah. Well, I believe you do.

If that exchange leaves you scratching your head, especially coming from a candidate who has criticized Dodd-Frank and made the issue of breaking up the banks central to his campaign, you have a right to scratch. And scratch. And scratch.

Then there is this related exchange:

Sanders: …if you’re saying that we’re going to break up the banks, will it have a negative consequence on some people? I suspect that it will. Will it have a positive impact on the economy in general? Yes, I think it will.

Daily News: Well, it does depend on how you do it, I believe. And, I’m a little bit confused because just a few minutes ago you said the U.S. President would have authority to order…

Sanders: No, I did not say we would order. I did not say that we would order. The President is not a dictator.

Daily News: Okay. You would then leave it to JPMorgan Chase or the others to figure out how to break it, themselves up. I’m not quite…

Sanders: You would determine is that, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. And then you have the secretary of treasury and some people who know a lot about this, making that determination. If the determination is that Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase is too big to fail, yes, they will be broken up.

Daily News: Okay. You saw, I guess, what happened with Metropolitan Life. There was an attempt to bring them under the financial regulatory scheme, and the court said no. And what does that presage for your program?

Sanders: It’s something I have not studied, honestly, the legal implications of that.

Isn’t it fair to expect that someone who is so adamant about breaking up the banks would have studied the “legal implications” of doing so? Huh?

Then there is the issue of prosecuting and jailing the creepy Wall Street banksters responsible for the economic crisis that almost brought the country to its knees in 2008. Bernie and his supporters discuss this a lot, and they fault the Obama administration for not doing much about it. Here’s how that exchange went:

Daily News: Okay. Staying with Wall Street, you’ve pointed out, that “not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy.” Why was that? Why did that happen? Why was there no prosecution?

Sanders: I would suspect that the answer that some would give you is that while what they did was horrific, and greedy and had a huge impact on our economy, that some suggest that…that those activities were not illegal. I disagree. And I think an aggressive attorney general would have found illegal activity.

Daily News: So do you think that President Obama’s Justice Department essentially was either in the tank or not as…

Sanders: No, I wouldn’t say they were in the tank. I’m saying, a Sanders administration would have a much more aggressive attorney general looking at all of the legal implications. All I can tell you is that if you have Goldman Sachs paying a settlement fee of $5 billion, other banks paying a larger fee, I think most Americans think, “Well, why do they pay $5 billion?” Not because they’re heck of a nice guys who want to pay $5 billion. Something was wrong there. And if something was wrong, I think they were illegal activities.

Daily News: Okay. But do you have a sense that there is a particular statute or statutes that a prosecutor could have or should have invoked to bring indictments?

Sanders: I suspect that there are. Yes.

Daily News: You believe that? But do you know?

Sanders: I believe that that is the case. Do I have them in front of me, now, legal statutes? No, I don’t. But if I would…yeah, that’s what I believe, yes. When a company pays a $5 billion fine for doing something that’s illegal, yeah, I think we can bring charges against the executives.

Daily News: I’m only pressing because you’ve made it such a central part of your campaign. And I wanted to know what the mechanism would be to accomplish it.

One would think that Bernie, who talks about this all the time, would be able to offer something, something that the Obama administration has not offered, that would lead us to believe there was a “mechanism” to prosecute and send to prison people he thinks should have been prosecuted and sent to prison. But nope. He’s got nothing. Just talk.

Let’s move on to foreign policy, which most Bernie supporters will admit is not his specialty. It’s easy to see why. He was asked about the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly Israel’s expansion of settlements in Palestinian territory, and how a Sanders administration would make its attempt at peace:

Daily News: Okay. You’ve called not just for a halting construction of so-called settlements on the West Bank, but you’ve also called for pulling back settlements, just as Israel did in Gaza. Describe the pullback that you have in mind.

Sanders: Well, that’s the Israeli government’s plan, but I think that right now…I’m not going to run the Israeli government. I’ve got enough problems trying to be a United States senator or maybe President of the United States.

Hmm. Well. Okay. Apparently he isn’t planning on doing much about those settlements, which are at the heart of any potential peace agreement. In any case, Bernie was asked to weigh in on the level of responsibility Israel has for what some folks think is overkill in retaliation for attacks from an organization the United States and other countries consider to be terrorists:

Daily News: Okay. Now, you have obviously condemned Hamas for indiscriminate rocket attacks and the construction of the military tunnels. But you’ve also criticized Israel for what you described as a disproportionate response.

Sanders: Yep.

Daily News: And I’m going to look at 2014, which was the latest conflict. What should Israel have done instead?

Sanders: You’re asking me now to make not only decisions for the Israeli government but for the Israeli military, and I don’t quite think I’m qualified to make decisions. But I think it is fair to say that the level of attacks against civilian areas…and I do know that the Palestinians, some of them, were using civilian areas to launch missiles. Makes it very difficult. But I think most international observers would say that the attacks against Gaza were indiscriminate and that a lot of innocent people were killed who should not have been killed. Look, we are living, for better or worse, in a world of high technology, whether it’s drones out there that could, you know, take your nose off, and Israel has that technology. And I think there is a general belief that, with that technology, they could have been more discriminate in terms of taking out weapons that were threatening them.

Daily News: Do you support the Palestinian leadership’s attempt to use the International Criminal Court to litigate some of these issues to establish that, in their view, Israel had committed essentially war crimes?

Sanders: No.

Daily News: Why not?

Sanders: Why not?

Daily News: Why not, why it…

Sanders: Look, why don’t I support a million things in the world? I’m just telling you that I happen to believe…anybody help me out here, because I don’t remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?

Daily News: I think it’s probably high, but we can look at that.

Sanders: I don’t have it in my number…but I think it’s over 10,000. My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled. Hospitals, I think, were bombed. So yeah, I do believe and I don’t think I’m alone in believing that Israel’s force was more indiscriminate than it should have been.

This breathtaking exchange is rather strange. First, Bernie thinks that the Israeli’s killed “over 10,000 innocent people” in Gaza. Wow. That’s a lot of people. (Bernie was later corrected; apparently it was “10,000 wounded” and 2,300 killed.) But Bernie doesn’t think that killing that many people in apartment houses and hospitals warrants Palestinians even bringing a case before the International Criminal Court. That may or may not be a defensible position, but Bernie’s lack of support for Palestinians seeking justice should require more of a response than, “Look, why don’t I support a million things in the world?” At least fake it, Bernie. This stuff you should have thought through a long time ago.

Bernie was asked this question about Obama’s drone policy:

Daily News: President Obama has taken the authority for drone attacks away from the CIA and given it to the US military. Some say that that has caused difficulties in zeroing in on terrorists, their ISIS leaders. Do you believe that he’s got the right policy there?

Sanders: I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is that drones are a modern weapon. When used effectively, when taking out ISIS or terrorist leaders, that’s pretty impressive. When bombing wedding parties of innocent people and killing dozens of them, that is, needless to say, not effective and enormously counterproductive. So whatever the mechanism, whoever is in control of that policy, it has to be refined so that we are killing the people we want to kill and not innocent collateral damage.

Maybe it’s just me. But shouldn’t a U.S. Senator have a position on Obama’s drone policy, not to mention a senator running for commander-in-chief?

And Bernie was asked a question related to the fight against terrorism:

Daily News: Okay. American Special Forces recently killed a top ISIS commander, after they’d hoped to capture him. They felt, from what the news reports were, that they had no choice at that. What would you do with a captured ISIS commander?

Sanders: Imprison him.

Daily News: Where?

Sanders: And try to get as much information out of him. If the question leads us to Guantanamo…

Daily News: Well, no, separate and apart from Guantanamo, it could be there, it could be anywhere. Where would a President Sanders imprison, interrogate? What would you do?

Sanders: Actually I haven’t thought about it a whole lot. I suppose, somewhere near the locale where that person was captured. The best location where that individual would be safely secured in a way that we can get information out of him.

Daily News: Would it be in the United States?

Sanders: Would it be in the United States? It could be, yeah.

Some people find the admission, “Actually I haven’t thought about it a whole lot,” somewhat endearing for its honesty. But I find it a little bit scary. This man has been in Congress since 1991. He has been a U.S. Senator since 2007. He’s now a candidate for the most powerful position on the planet. Maybe its honest to say he hasn’t thought about this stuff a lot, but it is quite appropriate to fearfully wonder why he hasn’t thought about it a lot.

Or a lot of other things he talks about on the campaign trail.


I will say this about Bernie. At least he’s consistent. When he wins he shows little grace toward his same-party opponent. And when he loses he shows little grace toward his same-party opponent. He may not know a lot about delegate math, he may not know how he is going to break up the big banks, he may not know what he will do with ISIS prisoners, but he is an expert on gracelessness.

In any case, last night in my inbox I found a message from Bernie with this subject line:


Here is the body of the email:

bernie email.jpg

I want to note a few things about Bernie’s message to me and millions of others on his list. He, once again, mentioned “political revolution.” His Wisconsin victory is, allegedly, another step in that direction. Some step. His impressive victory last night, by more than 13 points, may have resulted in him winning only a handful of delegates more than she won, possibly as few as three more. Hard to see that as revolutionary. But then I’m not a True Believer in the Cause.

And then Bernie mentioned “momentum.” He spent a lot of time talking about that last night, while he wasn’t talking about a “nervous” Hillary. His campaign has made a big deal out of winning something like 7 of the last 8 elections. Well, let’s think about that. In a football game, there are two halves. If you outscore your opponent in the first half by 50 points but get outscored by 20 points in the second half, guess what? Your opponent can claim second-half momentum, but you still win by 30 points. Momentum-schomentum. It’s math, people. This primary race is about accumulating delegates over time, not how many states Bernie may have won lately.

And speaking of winning races lately, as Dan Pfeiffer, who was the communications director for Obama’s 2008 campaign, pointed out on Twitter, “it is shocking how little the political class remembers what happened.” He was talking about people like Matthew Dowd, a former Bushie who now is an analyst for ABC News, who had tweeted, “Unprecedented losses by the leading candidates this late in the process.” Pfeiffer set him straight: Obama “lost 6 of the last 9 and some by very large margins.” So much for unprecedented losses.

sanders campaign manager.jpgThe truth is, as CNN pointed out this morning, Hillary Clinton needs to win only 36% of the remaining delegates and Bernie needs to win 77%. Reality, though, does not discourage Bernie: “If we can keep this up,” he writes, “we can win this nomination.” Up until lately, it has seemed impolite to ask how that is possible, but some media folks are now asking. And the latest theory from the campaign, expressed by his campaign manager on CNN and by Bernie himself last night, is to have an “open convention,” which the campaign is sure is going to happen. That means Bernie, who will not win the popular vote in the Democratic primary season or a majority of the delegates, will have to rely on superdelegates—the same anti-democratic “establishment elites” that his campaign initially abhorred. My how things change when you’re desperate—or intoxicated by your own revolutionary rhetoric.

All of which leads me to what Hillary Clinton, who has grown tired of her integrity being attacked by someone who is supposed to be in her own party, said to Politico’s Glenn Thrush (“Hillary Clinton has had enough of Bernie Sanders“). Thrush wrote today:

.clinton1_lede_1160.jpg..within two minutes of sitting in front of the microphone, Clinton’s icy reserve began to melt, especially when I brought up the issue of Sanders’ fealty (or lack thereof) to the Democratic Party establishment Clinton proudly champions against the anti-establishment tide.

Sanders had just told an interviewer that he was iffy about raising money for down-ballot Democrats, so I asked Clinton the obvious question: Did she think Sanders is a real Democrat?

“Well, I can’t answer that,” she said with a smile. Then she proceeded to answer the question. “He’s a relatively new Democrat, and, in fact, I’m not even sure he is one. He’s running as one. So I don’t know quite how to characterize him.”

I’m convinced if she had made this argument early on, the Bernie phenomenon might look very different today. He would have been forced to explain why he was, after years of denigrating the party, cynically using it as a vehicle for his presidential ambitions. And it would have put him on the defensive about his own integrity—as an authentic Democrat—and mitigated his attacks on her trustworthiness and his innuendos of corruption. Better late than never, I suppose, but it would have helped if this line of attack had come much sooner.

Thrush also brought out something else that Clinton has lately begun to articulate about Sanders. He writes:

Still, it is Sanders who poses the most immediate threat. He was was running hard — and hitting her hard — in New York, and she was clearly frustrated with his easy appeal to voters under 35. She even suggested for the first time (in public, anyway) that the septuagenarian from Vermont was feeding a simplistic, cynical line of argument to turn young voters against her.

“There is a persistent, organized effort to misrepresent my record, and I don’t appreciate that, and I feel sorry for a lot of the young people who are fed this list of misrepresentations,” Clinton said, a few minutes after talking herself hoarse at a rally here. “I know that Senator Sanders spends a lot of time attacking my husband, attacking President Obama. I rarely hear him say anything negative about George W. Bush, who I think wrecked our economy.”

How true that is. I have listened to many of Sanders’ speeches. I have listened to many of his surrogates on television. I have read many articles written by Bernie supporters. And you know what? You get the impression that Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill and Barack Obama and the Democratic Party “establishment” is the real enemy. Those Bush-Cheney folks, who helped wreck not only our economy but the Middle East, barely rate a mention. It’s as if they were bit players in an anti-populist con job that was really pulled off by corrupt Democrats and the rich donors who have bought them for a price.

Look again at the email above. Bernie says:

Wyoming caucuses in just four days and New York votes two weeks from today, and you can bet the financial elite of this country won’t give up without a fight.They’re going to throw everything they can at us. But if we stand together, we’re going to keep winning.

He’s not talking about the “financial elite” of the Republican Party. They aren’t spending a dime against him. They want him to win. They are spending their money against Hillary Clinton. Thus, Bernie is really talking about the financial elite of the Democratic Party. Amazingly, he is actually running against his own party!

Now, if a man who says he is now a Democrat wants a “political revolution,” running against the Democratic Party—the only political force that has been able to rectify some of the damage done by Republicans—is certainly an odd way to make that happen.

But as we shall see in a later post, that’s not the only thing odd about Bernie.

The Supreme Court Shows No Love To Anxious White People

“Equality of representation in the legislature is a first principle of liberty.”John Adams, 1776

a very important decision was handed down this morning by the U.S. Supreme Court. And I bet you didn’t even know it was coming. I know I didn’t and I follow this stuff fairly closely. And what this case, Evenwel v. Abbott, shows is that some white conservative activists in this country are not only suspicious of a democracy filled with brown people, they are openly hostile to it.

Before we get to the motives behind the plaintiffs in the case that was decided today, here is a quick summary from a story on MSNBC.com:

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected an effort to change political boundaries and reduce the voting strength of the nation’s Latino population on Monday.

Two residents of Texas urged the court to rule that in drawing legislative boundaries to create districts with roughly equal populations, states should count the voting population, not the total population.

Using the total population figures, the challengers said, dilutes the voting power of residents in districts with large numbers of people who are not eligible to vote, violating the one-person, one-vote requirement.

From an article in The Atlantic last year, we find that simply selecting the voting-age population as the criterion for creating voting districts “would produce districts that are older, whiter, richer, and more likely to vote Republican.” Get it? There are just too many pigmented people around who either don’t vote or can’t vote and if they live in a district with white people who do, then they are “diluting” the power of those white voters.

evenwel v abbottA group of white (let’s stop pretending race has nothing to do with this stuff) conservatives calling themselves (falsely) the Project on Fair Representation was behind this lawsuit, ostensibly brought by two Texas conservative voters, Sue Evenwel and Ed Pfenninger, who Raw Story described this way in December of last year:

Evenwel is a Tea Party activist who has thrown her support behind Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and she helps promote “birther” conspiracy theories at local political meetings in Titus County.

Pfenninger is a security guard who has posted dozens of YouTube videos explaining his disdain for Jews, the Catholic Church and short-haired women, and he also believes that unicorns are real and the sun revolves around the earth.

Raw Story points out that these two upstanding white citizens were recruited by the Project on Fair Representation, who proudly claims the group was “designed to support litigation that challenges racial and ethnic classifications and preferences in state and federal courts,” and says its mission “is to facilitate pro bono legal representation to political subdivisions and individuals that wish to challenge government distinctions and preferences made on the basis of race and ethnicity.” Clear enough? This is the same group that has been largely behind legal attacks on the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action.

You can read more details about the theories both in favor of this anti-democratic scheme and against it (even the state of Texas was against it, if you can believe that), but suffice it to say those in favor of this scheme—again, white conservative groups afraid of the browning of America— were sorely disappointed this morning. By a unanimous vote of 8-0, the Court left in place the very democratic idea of “one man, one vote,” which, oddly, only began to be articulated by the Court in the Earl Warren era, starting with the well-known Baker v. Carr in 1962, followed by the colossally huge case in 1964, Reynolds V. Sims, where the phrase—now a part of the lexicon of all those fighting for the right to vote around the world—was used to summarize the idea that state legislative districts should be drawn according to population rather than geographic districts.

Writing for the majority on the Court today, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said something so simple, yet apparently something so controversial among anxious white people who feel their cultural privilege slipping slowly away from them:

As the Framers of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote.

Ya think? Should that even have to be articulated in 21st-century America? Ginsburg also reached back into time and rubbed a little salt into the wounds of conservatives by citing a Founder, Alexander Hamilton:

There can be no truer principle than this – that every individual of the community at large has an equal right to the protection of government.

“No truer principle.” That doesn’t leave much room for white cultural angst, does it?

On a local note, it is interesting that the Cato Institute, a libertarian group-think tank co-founded by Charles Koch, filed a brief urging the Court to take up the case of Evenwel v. Abbott. Sitting prominently on the board of directors of the Cato Institute is Joplin’s own Ethelmae C. Humphreys, part of a family that has showered conservative and libertarian causes with tons and tons of cash. Here’s how the great legal writer for Slate, Dahlia Lithwick, described Cato’s argument:

As a practical matter, if the plaintiffs win this appeal, power will shift markedly from urban voters to rural voters and to white and Republican districts over minority and Democratic ones. In their brief asking the court to take the case, the Cato Institute was quite clear: If we apportion seats based on population, “a relatively small constituency of eligible Hispanic voters … have their votes ‘over-weighted’ and ‘over-valuated,’ effectively diluting the votes of eligible voters” and giving Hispanic voters “disproportionate power.”

Does anyone in their right mind think that Hispanic voters have “disproportionate power”? No. Only people in their white mind. That phrase in Cato’s brief, “diluting the votes of eligible voters,” can fairly be translated, “diluting the vote of eligible white voters.” 

Fortunately, Cato’s argument, and the argument of other brown-fearing white groups and their pawns, failed to convince even the rightiest of the right-wingers on the Supreme Court. And the vital concept of “one-man, one-vote” will live on.

At least for now. Joplin’s Humphreys family and the Koch brothers and those like them have plenty of cash available to keep on challenging what most of us, and all of those sitting on the Supreme Court, still see as fundamental to the success of our democratic experiment. The fight isn’t over I am sure. All of which makes this coming presidential election, with Antonin Scalia now resting in his everlasting home, more important than ever.

Bernie And His Buts

I’ve said from the start how much I have admired Bernie Sanders. I’ve cheered him on for years on MSNBC, back before the network abandoned most of its liberal programming. He has always had my moral support, if not my enthusiastic support for his presidential ambitions.

Now I have to admit something. If Bernie were to climb Mount Improbable and reach the summit of the Democratic nomination, I would most certainly vote for him—a Republican victory in November is unacceptable—but I would do so with a vise-grip painfully pinching my nose. What he and his surrogates have been doing in this campaign, well, to put it in King James language: stinketh.

I have previously documented how Sanders himself has essentially suggested that Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy and dishonest and corrupt. I have documented how some of his top spokesmen have openly called her a liar. Recently, a top surrogate, Susan Sarandon, suggested that if Bernie didn’t win the nomination, it might be better if Drumpf became president so the “revolution” would come more quickly after the country “explodes.” I have yet to hear Bernie distance himself from that brilliant analysis.

Out of politeness, I haven’t focused on other troubling aspects of Sanders “positive” campaign. For example, here is a question Bernie was asked during an interview recently with left-winger Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks:

UYGUR: You have convinced [millennials in the “movement”] that Hillary Clinton is the establishment candidate. If you were to lose, and the Democratic Party comes to you and says, “Okay, now, take this movement that is full of energy and is against the establishment and make sure they vote for the establishment candidate.” What do you say?

sanders on young turksBefore I get to Bernie’s answer, it is clear what any good Democrat would say to that question, isn’t it? Something like: “Why, of course I will do everything I can to make sure a Democrat is elected in November.” Shouldn’t we expect an answer like that from a person seeking the Democratic nomination for president? Yes. We should. But to be honest about it, Bernie is not a Democrat. Never has been. He is a party unto himself.

Worse than that, not only is Bernie not a Democrat, he has spent a good part of his political career trashing the Democratic Party. In a revealing article in Politico, we learned that the head of the party in Burlington, Vermont, said that during the 1980s, Bernie’s “goal was to destroy Democrats.” We learned that in 1985 Bernie said, “I am not now, nor have I ever been, a liberal Democrat.” We learned that in 1986, when he was running against Democrat Madeleine Kunin for governor of Vermont, Bernie said the party was “ideologically bankrupt” and “They have no ideology. Their ideology is opportunism.”

It turned out that the ideologically bankrupt and opportunistic Kunin went on to become Vermont’s first female governor and the first Jewish woman elected governor of any state. Politico noted that in Kunin’s memoir, she wrote that Bernie’s “daily diet consisted of vitriol.” So much for the “positive” campaigner.

In 1988, Sanders said again, “I am not a Democrat.” He called the Democratic nominee for president that year, Michael Dukakis, “the lesser of two evils.” Politico reports what he did next:

In an op-ed in the New York Times in January 1989, he called the Democratic and Republican parties “tweedle-dee” and “tweedle-dum,” both adhering in his estimation to an “ideology of greed and vulgarity.”

The next year, at a “Socialist Scholars Conference,” he asked out loud: “Why should we work within the Democratic Party…?” Why, indeed.

Going back to that question Cenk Uygur asked Bernie, about whether he would urge his enthusiastic supporters to support Hillary Clinton, here’s what Bernie said, not in 1985 or 1988 or 1989, but here in 2016:

Well, you know, what I say, number one, I’m not big into being a leader. I much prefer to see a lot of leaders and a lot of grassroots activism. Number two, what we do together as a growing movement is we say, “Alright, if we don’t win”—and by the way, we are in this thing to win, please understand that—“what are the Democratic establishment gonna do for us?”

That answer tells me at least one important thing about Bernie Sanders. He doesn’t give a damn about a Democratic Party that he can’t shape into his own image. It’s pretty much that simple. Let me give you another example from just the other night. Saint Rachel Maddow interviewed Bernie and they had this exchange:

MADDOW: I have to ask, though, if you have thought about whether or not you will, at some point, turn your fundraising ability toward helping the Democratic Party more broadly, to helping their campaign committees for the House and the Senate and for other – for other elections?

SANDERS: Well, right now, Rachel, as you are more than aware, our job is to – what I’m trying to do is to win the Democratic nomination. […]

MADDOW: Well, obviously your priority is the nomination, but I mean you raised Secretary Clinton there. She has been fundraising both for the nomination and for the Democratic Party. At some point, do you think – do you foresee a time during this campaign when you’ll start doing that?

SANDERS: Well, we’ll see. And, I mean right now, again, our focus is on winning the nomination.

“Well, we’ll see?” Huh? That was Bernie’s answer to a question about helping other Democrats win elections? If, as a Democrat, that answer doesn’t make you mad, then you’re a strange kind of Democrat. And if that man is the leader of a political revolution, he’s a strange leader and it’s a strange revolution. How can you peacefully revolutionize our politics without working to win congressional elections?

cllinton and greenpeaceThen, we have what happened yesterday. First, Hillary Clinton’s rally in Syracuse, New York, was interrupted by Bernie supporters who were chanting “If she wins, we lose!” Then when she was out greeting people after the event, a Greenpeace activist asked her a question based on a falsehood perpetuated by Sanders and his campaign. The activist asked her if she would “act on your word to reject fossil fuel money in the future in your campaign.” Clinton responded angrily:

I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick— I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it.

Me, too. Taking money from people who work for fossil fuel companies is not the same thing as taking money from the companies themselves. If postal workers gave money to Hillary Clinton, it wouldn’t be fair to say that she is taking money from the Postal Service. Here’s how Blue Nation Review put it:

One can hardly blame her. Bernie, his staff, his surrogates, and his supporters routinely accuse Hillary of accepting money from fossil fuel companies, along with every other industry they find objectionable. But what they are alleging isn’t even legal. Accepting direct contributions from corporations is a violation of campaign law.

Additionally, as BNR pointed out, “Bernie has received$203,885 in donations from energy industry employees.”  Maybe Clinton should send someone in to disrupt Bernie’s next rally and ask him if he will “reject fossil fuel money in the future in your campaign.”

In any case, Bernie had a chance to condemn all this nonsense this morning on ABC’s Good Morning America. David Muir asked him for his reaction to what happened to Clinton yesterday. The answer we got was typical Bernie-speak:

Well, I’m not crazy about people disrupting meetings. But…

sanders on gmaI’m going to stop here for a moment. There always seems to be a “but” when Sanders is asked about these kinds of things. He just can’t bring himself to say, without equivocation, that his supporters should not disrupt his opponent’s events, that his supporters should support whoever wins the Democratic nomination, and his supporters should stop suggesting Clinton is corrupt. You know why he can’t? Because he is the main author of their doubts about Hillary. Here is the rest of his answer this morning:

Well, I’m not crazy about people disrupting meetings. But the fact of the matter is Secretary Clinton has taken significant sums of money from the fossil fuel industry.

Now, first of all, that was hardly a condemnation of his supporters disrupting meetings. In fact, it was no condemnation at all. Second, what he claimed was false. Unless one counts taking money from employees in the industry as taking money “from the fossil fuel industry,” it is a phony charge against Clinton. And if one counts employees in the industry as the industry itself, then Bernie is also “corrupt” because, as noted, he has also accepted lots of money from energy company employees. If this is positive campaigning, I don’t want to see Bernie go negative.

Finally, this morning ABC’s David Muir finished up his interview with Bernie this way:

MUIR: Senator, do you think by being in the race, you have forced Secretary Clinton to evolve her message?

SANDERS: I think, if you look at issue after issue after issue, she has moved very much closer to us. But I think the real, what people have really got to look at, is who has been there for decades. Who has time after time taken on the special interests, whether it’s Wall Street, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industries. And I think if people check the record, they’ll find that Bernie Sanders was there a lot earlier.

I think if people check the record, they’ll find that Bernie left out one special interest group that he has, quite fiercely, taken on for decades: the Democratic Party. And that is why it is so damned hard for him to now support the party or its candidate, should that candidate be someone other than Bernie Sanders.

The Strange Logic Of Anti-Choicers

The coverage of Drumpf’s punish-the-women comment has been fairly extensive. And from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz and John Kasich, condemnation has come from both political parties and from both sides of the debate over abortion.

What I find fascinating, though, is the reaction of those who hold the anti-choice position. Cruz—who would force a woman to have a rapist’s baby—said, “Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world.” Kasich, who proudly says he has “exceptions” to his anti-choice stance, said, “Of course women shouldn’t be punished.” Oh, yeah? Why not?

8 cell zygoteIf it came to pass that aborting a zygote became the legal equivalent of murdering a “child,” then why wouldn’t the mother, who presented herself to an abortionist in order to have her zygote-child killed, be guilty of a crime? The standard response from anti-choicers is that such women are “victims.” It is the doctors who are the real criminals. Really? Let’s take a closer look at the issues involved. Keeping in mind that those in the anti-choice movement believe there should be no legal distinction between a zygote and a child, let’s examine this controversy by way of an analogy:

Imagine there is a business across town that, legally and for a fee, would kill unwanted toddlers, kids between one and three years old—but only if their mothers brought them in. And imagine a woman bringing her child to the business, paying the fee, and leaving behind a dead kid. Now, imagine that you object, and object strongly and passionately, to this practice. You don’t believe such a business should be allowed to operate. You believe it is immoral to kill toddlers. What would you do?

Here are some of your options:

1. Fight for a law that forbids such a business, except in cases in which the toddler is a product of rape, incest, or is a danger to the mother. In those cases, you would have no objection to the practice. We’ll call this the Kasich Option.

2. Fight for a law that completely forbids such a business. We’ll call this the Cruz Option.

3. Protest in front of the business and encourage women not to bring their kids there to be killed.

4. Burn down or blow up the business.

5. Kill the business owner, who you think is a murderer.

6. Stop the woman before she can deliver her child to the business, either by kidnapping her or killing her.

Now suppose you reject the options that involve violence. Even though you “know” that just across town there are toddlers being murdered each and every day, for some reason your passions aren’t aroused enough to actually try to physically stop it. And if someone came along who did resort to violence, whose passions couldn’t be tamed and either bombed the business or killed its owner, you would condemn such a person. You would argue that people shouldn’t take the law into their own hands. This position happens to be the position of most of those who call themselves “pro-life.”

Let’s stop here to think about what we have learned so far about most anti-choicers in this analogy. They are convinced that killing toddlers is morally wrong. And they know that toddlers are actually being killed across town. Yet, their position is to let it continue and fight to stop it through the law. Doesn’t that sound a little strange? Especially if killing toddlers legally has been going on since 1973? That’s a lot of murdered kids.

In any case, let us now examine those whose approach to stopping toddler-killing involves changing the law. First, there is the Kasich Option. Those who adopt this method will tolerate exceptions. Under their proposed law, a business could kill only a certain class of toddlers, those who were products of rape or incest or who presented a danger to the life of their mothers. Let’s think about what this tells us about anti-choicers who embrace the Kasich Option. They believe that it is wrong to kill a toddler, but it is not always wrong to kill one. Some toddlers don’t deserve the protection of the law and their mothers are free to bring them across town and have them killed. Again, doesn’t that sound a little strange?

That brings us to the Cruz Option. After rejecting violence and thereby tolerating murder across town, suppose these anti-choicers were successful in getting a law passed that made killing toddlers completely illegal. No exceptions. (This is the position of about 20% of Americans, by the way.) We can quickly see this position is at least logically consistent. If it is wrong to kill toddlers, it is wrong to kill all toddlers. Even those who came into existence by way of rape, by way of a violent act against a woman’s will, deserve equal protection under the law.

Now let’s plug Drumpf’s original abortion remarks and his subsequent reversal into this analogy. Drumpf said “we have to ban” toddler-killing. The conversation he then had with Chris Matthews assumed that toddler-killing was illegal. That’s when Drumpf said, “There has to be some form of punishment” for the woman who has her toddler killed outside the law. You could see his mind slowly and painfully grasp the logic of his position: If we criminalize the practice, then the woman involved has to be a criminal. But Drumpf, under intense pressure, retreated and later offered us the standard anti-choice rhetoric:

If Congress were to pass legislation making [toddler-killing] illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban [toddler-killing] under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a [woman’s toddler] would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the [toddler]. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.

Now we can clearly see how ridiculous all this is. If abortion is tantamount to toddler-killing, as the anti-choice movement insists it is, and if Drumpf or Kasich or Cruz had their way and abortions were outlawed, then it is absurd to claim the woman who has an illegal abortion is a victim. She would obviously be a criminal. The only question left is the one that perplexed Drumpf: what should the punishment be for the crime of having your child killed?

Not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time that this exact issue has come up in a presidential campaign. Back in 1988, Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush and Governor Michael Dukakis discussed penalizing women during their first debate. Mr. Bush had been pro-choice, until Republican orthodoxy required him to “evolve” on the issue. Here is part of that discussion:

ANN GROER of The Orlando Sentinel: Mr. Vice President, I’d like to stay with abortion for just a moment if I might. Over the years you have expressed several positions, while opposing nearly all forms of government payment for it. You now say that you support abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or threat to a mother’s life, and you also support a constitutional amendment that if ratified would outlaw most abortions. But if abortions were to become illegal again, do you think that the women who defy the law and have them anyway, as they did before it was okayed by the Supreme Court, and the doctors who perform them should go to jail?

BUSH: I haven’t sorted out the penalties. But I do know, I do know that I oppose abortion. And I favor adoption. And if we can get this law changed, everybody should make the extraordinary effort to take these kids that are unwanted and sometimes aborted, take the – let them come to birth, and then put them in a family where they will be loved. And you see, yes, my position has evolved. And it’s continuing to evolve, and it’s evolving in favor of life. And I have had a couple of exceptions that I support – rape, incest and the life of the mother. Sometimes people feel a little uncomfortable talking about this, but it’s much clearer for me now. As I’ve seen abortions sometimes used as a birth control device, for heavens sakes. See the millions of these killings accumulate, and this is one where you can have an honest difference of opinion. We certainly do. But no, I’m for the sanctity of life, and once that illegality is established, then we can come to grips with the penalty side, and of course there’s got to be some penalties to enforce the law, whatever they may be.

JIM LEHRER: Governor.

DUKAKIS: Well, I think what the vice president is saying is that he’s prepared to brand a woman a criminal for making this decision. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think it’s enough to come before the American people who are watching us tonight and say, well, I haven’t sorted it out. This is a very, very difficult and fundamental decision that all of us have to make. And what he is saying, if I understand him correctly, is that he’s prepared to brand a woman a criminal for making this choice.

BUSH: I just –

DUKAKIS: Let me finish. Let me simply say that I think it has to be the woman in the exercise of her own conscience and religious beliefs that makes that decision, and I think that’s the right approach, the right decision, and I would hope by this time that Mr. Bush had sorted out this issue and come to terms with it as I have. I respect his right to disagree with me. But I think it’s important that we have a position, that we take it, and we state it to the American people.

The elder Bush went on to win that election, of course. But so many years later the issue of criminalizing abortion is still packed with inconsistencies and contradictions. And for all the harm Donald Drumpf has done to the electoral process this season, he has done some good by inadvertently exposing those inconsistencies and contradictions.

Women Love Drumpf. Especially Now.

Drumpf says he cherishes women. Says he wants to help women. That he will be great for women. Women love him.

Today, Drumpf said something so remarkable about women, so unbelievably appealing, that he should have no problem winning them over in the general election. In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, as reported by BloombergPolitics, here’s how he has officially locked up the female vote:

At a taping of an MSNBC town hall to be aired later, host Chris Matthews pressed Trump on his anti-abortion position, repeatedly asking him whether abortion should be punished if it is outlawed. “This is not something you can dodge.”

“Look, people in certain parts of the Republican Party, conservative Republicans, would say, ‘Yes, it should,’” Trump answered.

“How about you?” Matthews asked.

“I would say it’s a very serious problem and it’s a problem we have to decide on. Are you going to send them to jail?” Trump said.

“I’m asking you,” Matthews said.

“I am pro-life,” Trump said. Asked how a ban would actually work, Trump said, “Well, you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places but we have to ban it,” Trump said.

Matthews then pressed Trump on whether he believes there should be punishment for abortion if it were illegal

“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump said. “For the woman?” Matthews asked. “Yeah,” Trump said, nodding.

Trump said the punishment would “have to be determined.”

Yes. The punishment will have to be determined. Jail? Maybe. Flogging? Who knows. Stoning? Could be. How about the death penalty? To be determined.

Republicans should be very, very proud of their leader. As Drumpf says, he will be great for women. He loves women. Women love him.

The saddest thing about this whole thing is that Drumpf is only following the logic of the anti-choice position. He is actually being morally consistent. If abortion is intentionally killing a constitutionally-protected human being, then punishment should follow. Women seeking abortions aren’t victims, but accessories to murder. Hooray for Drumpf for making that ridiculous position clear to each and every woman out there: if you have ever had an abortion, or if you ever do, you are a murderer who should be punished.

If this doesn’t do in the Donald, nothing—nothing—ever will.


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