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.

The Bernie Cult

It was disgusting.

At first I thought I had dozed off watching television last night and was having a bad dream. But it was no dream. Actress Susan Sarandon, showing herself not to be a Democrat but only a Bernie groupie, did actually tell MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that she wasn’t sure she could vote for Hillary Clinton, should her beloved Bernie fail to win the nomination. Sarandon claimed that because Bernie-ites were “passionate and principled,” there was “a good possibility” that they might not be able to support Clinton’s candidacy because the Democratic front-runner doesn’t believe what Bernie believes.

sarandonWhat nauseating nonsense. What depressing drivel. Sarandon sounded exactly like your average Tea Party nut. At one point, the prominent Bernie supporter said she had talked to people who will write Bernie’s name on the ballot in November because they feel Hillary is “not authentic, that she’s a liar, that they don’t trust her, so what difference does it make?” By now, that line of attack should sound familiar coming from Bernie’s side. After all, his supporters learned it from his campaign.

Hayes suggested to Sarandon that when faced with the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Drumpf, even Bernie Sanders would “probably” have to support Hillary—there is some doubt about that because Bernie has hinted he won’t support her unless she and the “Democratic establishment” meet his demands. Responding to Hayes’ suggestion, the star-struck actress responded:

I think Bernie would probably encourage people, because he doesn’t have any ego in this thing. But I think a lot of people are, ‘Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to do that.’

“Probably”? Are you kidding me? Sanders would probably encourage people to vote for the Democrat in the general election? Jesus. Susan Sarandon isn’t part of a political campaign, she is part of a cult. There is the evidence right there in her statement about Bernie: “he doesn’t have any ego in this thing.” Oh. My. God. No ego? All politicians have ego and Bernie Sanders is no different. Someone who wants to be the most powerful person in the world definitely has an ego.

In fact, one could argue that it is Bernie’s rather large ego that prevents him from acknowledging the reality that his quest for the presidency is increasingly quixotic. And one could argue that it is his rather large ego that prevents him from productively sanders on young turkschanneling the amazing energy of his younger followers into a movement to win back control of Congress. If Bernie had no “ego in this thing,” he would start attacking Republicans in vulnerable districts and spend his resources and his political capital in support of Democratic candidates who can actually help bring about some needed change. But he won’t. Like almost all politicians, his ego won’t let him.

Sarandon didn’t limit her fantasizing last night to Bernie-worship and Hillary-bashing. As bad as it was that she said she couldn’t be sure she personally, or Bernie-ites in general, would support Hillary Clinton in a race against Drumpf, what she said subsequently was worse. Chris Hayes, rather emphatically, said he couldn’t believe that faced with a choice between Clinton and Drumpf that folks like her would sit it out. Sarandon then said,

Some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately. If he gets in, then things will really, you know, explode.

Huh? Was she really saying that there are Bernie devotees out there who think it would be best if Drumpf actually wins in November because the much-awaited revolution will then come—after the country explodes? Yes. She really said that. And, again, she sounded just like a strange member of a strange cult. Chris Hayes even suggested to her that such an idea was “the Leninist model,” which she did not deny. Oh, my.

Susan Sarandon was co-chair of Ralph Nader’s National Steering Committee in 2000, the year that Nader and his cult following helped make George W. Bush president by taking votes away from Al Gore in Florida. Sarandon has a history of being blind to reality. We can only hope, those of us who don’t want to see America Drumpfed or Cruzed, that there aren’t a lot of Bernie-cultists out there wearing revolution-at-any-cost blinders.

And, my God, at this point we can only hope—we can no longer be sure—that Bernie himself won’t get caught up in the cultic atmosphere that is starting to define his campaign.


Hillary Clinton And The Purity Test

During a segment this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Hillary Clinton was all but convicted of “crimes” related to her never-ending email “scandal.” Now, for those of us condemned to watching this daily Drumpf-drumming, Hillary-hating nonsense on MSNBC, the ugly discussion about Clinton’s emails and server was nothing new. The host of the show, Republican Joe Scarborough, makes no secret of his opinion that Hillary Clinton is guilty of something, and she is especially guilty of lying about whatever that something is.

In any case, today’s excuse for yet another Hillary-is-guilty segment was a story published yesterday by the Los Angeles Times (“Clinton email probe enters new phase as FBI interviews loom“) that began this way:

Federal prosecutors investigating the possible mishandling of classified materials on Hillary Clinton’s private email server have begun the process of setting up formal interviews with some of her longtime and closest aides…

Notice something about that intro: “the possible mishandling of classified materials.” What’s so hard to understand about that word “possible”? Here’s some help from Merriam-Webster: “something that may or may not be true or actual.” You see? It may or not be true that Mrs. Clinton “mishandled” classified materials, let alone did anything that could remotely be considered criminal. That’s why the FBI is, uh, investigating the matter. And normally when there is an investigation, there are interviews. That’s the way it works. What’s the jaw-dropping news in that? It would be jaw-dropping news if the FBI didn’t interview anyone, wouldn’t it?

In fact, the same L.A. Times article notes that “a person familiar with the investigation” said that FBI agents “have interviewed a number of former aides so they could better understand how the system was used and why Clinton chose to use it.” And now the FBI is moving further up the chain of people involved, just as we should expect them to do. Is that a big deal? No. It’s not a big deal. But this is Hillary Clinton we are talking about. She is judged by a different standard. Many pundits, especially those working on television, are quick to turn even the smallest trickle of information about the FBI’s investigation into a Niagara Falls of accusations. Why? Because she is presumed to be so damned dishonest. A liar. Everyone knows that, right? Just look at the polls!

But it’s not just right-wingers like Joe Scarborough who make such outrageous claims about Clinton. As I have argued, the not-so-subtle attacks on her integrity are part of Bernie Sanders’ campaign to beat her. She is not to be trusted. She is a liar. And then there are the zany left-wing columnists out there who back Bernie. Let me give you an example of something one of those zany columnists published this morning on HuffPo:

It’s Time for Hillary Clinton to Concede the Democratic Nomination to Bernie Sanders

Yes. That is really the headline. This strange opinion piece, also generated by that L. A. Times article, was written by H. A. Goodman. He’s a real winner. Some of his past gems include “Bernie Sanders Will Become President. The FBI and 67 Percent of Americans Distrust Hillary Clinton” and “The FBI’s Investigation of Clinton’s Emails Makes Bernie Sanders the True Democratic Front-Runner” and “Bernie Sanders Won the Debate Because Jorge Ramos Is Right, Clinton Could Get Indicted” and “33 Percent of Bernie Sanders Supporters Will Not Vote for Hillary Clinton. Here’s Why” and, my personal favorite from just last week, The Case for Writing-In Bernie Sanders If Hillary Clinton Is the Democratic Nominee.” Get the idea? These creeps would rather lose the election than vote for Hillary Clinton.

Goodman, as well as other Bernie-loving leftists, are as sure as Joe Scarborough that Clinton is guilty of something. Goodman’s piece referenced some critics of Clinton who think “a criminal charge is justified” and that if it were anyone else but her, jail would probably await. But none of these people, on the left or the right, apparently bothered to read the entire L.A. Times article that left them all aglow with Hillary-hate. Here is what they missed:

Many legal experts believe that Clinton faces little risk of being prosecuted for using the private email system to conduct official business when she served as secretary of State, though that decision has raised questions among some about her judgment. They noted that using a private email system was not banned at the time, and others in government had used personal email to transact official business.

The bigger question is whether she or her aides distributed classified material in email systems that fell outside of the department’s secure classified system. But even if prosecutors determine that she did, chances she will be found criminally liable are low. U.S. law makes it a crime for someone to knowingly or willfully retain classified information, handle it in a grossly negligent manner or to pass it to someone not entitled to see it.

Once you read those two paragraphs, once you realize that the hysteria surrounding this issue mostly involves the weird and unruly classification of material handled by various agencies in the federal government (blogger Jim Wheeler has an excellent post on that mess), then you see why there is “little risk” of a prosecution for Hillary Clinton. But even so, there remains the issue of her trustworthiness, which is always raised as a liability for her in the general election. And fortunately, someone—someone important in the world of journalism—has addressed the issue in a straightforward manner.

If you follow politics religiously, you no doubt have heard of Jill Abramson. Right now she is a columnist for the Guardian, but for nearly two decades she worked for The New York Times, serving as its Washington bureau chief and then its managing editor and then its first female executive editor. That’s a big deal. That’s a lot of journalistic cred. Today, Abramson published a piece for the Guardian that should be read by every single reporter and pundit:

This may shock you: Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest

“Shock you”? Abramson explains:

I would be “dead rich”, to adapt an infamous Clinton phrase, if I could bill for all the hours I’ve spent covering just about every “scandal” that has enveloped the Clintons. As an editor I’ve launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I’m not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising.

Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.

Abramson, without starry-eyed admiration—she points out that Clinton’s biggest fault is her reluctance to disclose even harmless information—tells us why she thinks her “honest and trustworthy” conclusion is justified:

jill abramsonThe yardsticks I use for measuring a politician’s honesty are pretty simple. Ever since I was an investigative reporter covering the nexus of money and politics, I’ve looked for connections between money (including campaign donations, loans, Super Pac funds, speaking fees, foundation ties) and official actions. I’m on the lookout for lies, scrutinizing statements candidates make in the heat of an election.

The connection between money and action is often fuzzy. Many investigative articles about Clinton end up “raising serious questions” about “potential” conflicts of interest or lapses in her judgment. Of course, she should be held accountable. It was bad judgment, as she has said, to use a private email server. It was colossally stupid to take those hefty speaking fees, but not corrupt. There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor…

As for her statements on issues, Politifact, a Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking organization, gives Clinton the best truth-telling record of any of the 2016 presidential candidates…

Clinton has mainly been constant on issues and changing positions over time is not dishonest.

“Fundamental to understanding her,” Abramson writes, is this:

Clinton distrusts the press more than any politician I have covered. In her view, journalists breach the perimeter and echo scurrilous claims about her circulated by unreliable rightwing foes.

As a once-reluctant Clinton supporter myself, I have come to see why, especially after what Republicans and some in the press did to her in the 1990s, she has tended to insist on maintaining what Abramson referenced as a “zone of privacy,” a space for breathing air not polluted by partisan politics. I’m convinced that is what led her to make that dumb decision to have her own private server, a decision that dogs her each and every day.

But I want to be clear about something. Clinton’s past fights with right-wingers and her distrust of some journalists who made those fights more difficult doesn’t excuse her from the demands of democracy. It sounds tautologically trite, but we need information to make informed decisions, and the job of the press is to get that information. Having said that, though, Hillary shouldn’t be subjected to higher scrutiny than other candidates. As Abramson put it:

It’s fair to expect more transparency. But it’s a double standard to insist on her purity.

Insisting on Hillary Clinton’s purity is not only a right-wing standard of measuring her integrity, but, sadly, in too many cases it has also become a left-wing standard for measuring her integrity.

And the only beneficiary of such unrealistic nonsense is the Republican Party.

Like A Rolling Stone?

My days of reading Rolling Stone magazine go back to the early 1970s, when the undergroundish magazine was using newsprint and was full of strange and stimulating stuff about music and politics that a boy from southeast Kansas couldn’t easily find anywhere else.

Today, the now slicked-up version, still published by its co-founder Jann Wenner, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. The editorial endorsing her was authored by Wenner, and I found it not only well-written, but well-reasoned.

Wenner compliments Bernie Sanders for proving “to be a gifted and eloquent politician,” who “has articulated the raw and deep anger about the damage the big banks did to the economy and to so many people’s lives.” He praised him for making it clear “how punishing and egregious income inequality has become in this country.” Wenner says his “heart is with him.”


it is not enough to be a candidate of anger. Anger is not a plan; it is not a reason to wield power; it is not a reason for hope. Anger is too narrow to motivate a majority of voters, and it does not make a case for the ability and experience to govern. I believe that extreme economic inequality, the vast redistribution of wealth to the top one percent — indeed, to the top one percent of the one percent — is the defining issue of our times. Within that issue, almost all issues of social injustice can be seen, none more so than climate change, which can be boiled down to the rights of mankind against the oligarchy that owns oil, coal and vast holdings of dirty energy, and those who profit rolling stone header.jpgfrom their use.

Hillary Clinton has an impressive command of policy, the details, trade-offs and how it gets done. It’s easy to blame billionaires for everything, but quite another to know what to do about it. During his 25 years in Congress, Sanders has stuck to uncompromising ideals, but his outsider stance has not attracted supporters among the Democrats. Paul Krugman writes that the Sanders movement has a “contempt for compromise.”

Every time Sanders is challenged on how he plans to get his agenda through Congress and past the special interests, he responds that the “political revolution” that sweeps him into office will somehow be the magical instrument of the monumental changes he describes. This is a vague, deeply disingenuous idea that ignores the reality of modern America. With the narrow power base and limited political alliances that Sanders had built in his years as the democratic socialist senator from Vermont, how does he possibly have a chance of fighting such entrenched power?

I have been to the revolution before. It ain’t happening.

Noting that Clinton “is one of the most qualified candidates for the presidency in modern times,” Wenner reminds us about that infamous 2000 Bush v. Gore election and how, “The votes cast for the fantasy of Ralph Nader were enough to cost Gore the presidency,” a sin of the left for which we are all still paying. And as I have tried to do, Wenner compared this moment to a similar one and came to the same conclusion I have:

Rolling Stone has championed the “youth vote” since 1972, when 18-year-olds were first given the right to vote. The Vietnam War was a fact of daily life then, and Sen. George McGovern, the liberal anti-war activist from South Dakota, became the first vessel of young Americans, and Hunter S. Thompson wrote our first presidential-campaign coverage. We worked furiously for McGovern. We failed; Nixon was re-elected in a landslide. But those of us there learned a very clear lesson: America chooses its presidents from the middle, not from the ideological wings. We are faced with that decision again.

After pointing out that this election is “a tipping point like none since before the Civil War”—because “We are at the culmination of a decades-long effort by the right wing to take over the government”—Wenner writes:

When I consider what’s in their hearts, I think both Clinton and Sanders come out on the side of the angels; but when I compare their achievements in the past decades, the choice is clear. This is not the time in history for a “protest vote.”

No. It’s not the time merely to register one’s anger. As I have said and will keep saying, there is too much to lose. Look around you. Out there in the darkness of an easily-frightened, overly-anxious,  often ill-informed electorate, there lurks a Drumpf. Or possibly an even more dangerous beast: Cruz, The Christian Crusader.

Why John Kasich Shouldn’t Be President Either

It is fairly obvious why Donald Drumpf shouldn’t be president. If you don’t yet know why, just go read the transcript of an interview he did with the editorial board of The Washington Post. A more dangerously uninformed, pathetically sophomoric view of everything from libel laws to NATO you will not find.

And we all know what a dangerous Christian demagogue Ted Cruz is. This morning on Fox “News,” Cruz essentially blamed Obama for the terrorist attacks in Brussels. “This administration refuses to protect us,” he said.

But fewer of us know how temperamentally unqualified for high office is John Kasich. Not only is he nearly as politically reactionary as most of the right-wing zealots in his party, but his emotions seem to be out of control. I know some folks have said he is “arrogant” and “condescending” and “manipulative.” That’s bad enough. But he has a reputation of responding with anger to things he doesn’t like. A conservative activist from Ohio said of Kasich:

When you criticize Kasich, you’re sort of dead to him. That’s the way it works.

Even his friends say strange things about his behavior. Take Newt Gingrich, who said:

I never knew Kasich to have anger issues. He has intensity, urgency and passion issues.

No doubt he does. I’ve seen it on the campaign trail this primary season. But what Kasich said today, in response to the massacre of civilians in Belgium, is why he shouldn’t be in the White’s House. Here is the way the AP reported it at 1:30pm:

Speaking to reporters in Minneapolis Tuesday, Kasich says Obama should return to the United States to call European heads of state and assemble intelligence experts at home. He’s suggesting the president is being “too lax” in facing the growing threat of what he calls radical Islamic terrorism.

Now, think about what that means. Exactly what is it that President Obama is supposed to do about terrorists in Belgium? Does Kasich think it is within our power to not only police the Middle East, but to police individual countries in Europe, too? And doesn’t Kasich know that Mr. Obama has access to a phone with which he can “call European heads of state”? Huh?

Kasich thinks that yet another terrorist attack on the other side of the world is enough to completely wash out President Obama’s trip to Cuba and Latin America. Really? There is no imminent threat to Americans on American soil that didn’t exist before the president left on his trip. Terrorists don’t want to kill us more today than they did yesterday.

What terrorists want is an overreaction. That is the point of terrorism. It is to get us to abandon our values, to do what Drumpf and Cruz and most Republicans have done. Terrorists want us to change our lives. They want us to fear them. They want to control us. And John Kasich, who wants to be commander-in-chief, is playing right into their hands.

Kasich told reporters:

If I were in Cuba right now, the last thing I would be doing is going to a baseball game.

Oh, yeah? Why not? What better way to demonstrate that a few terrorists in Belgium are not in charge of the world’s most powerful leader?

If John Kasich had his way, there would be no presidential trips. If his way of dealing with every act of terrorism in the world was to hunker down in the Situation Room and “assemble intelligence experts,” that’s all a president would ever get done. Terrorism would paralyze us.

If there were an attack on American soil or against an American target abroad, that would be one thing. That would require a different response. But, unfortunately, terrorist attacks are happening rather regularly these days all over the world. And President Obama and the administration are dealing with them through intelligence gathering and policing—and through unmistakable acts of war. They can do that and still tend to other business.

What they shouldn’t do is what John Kasich apparently would do when terrorists strike somewhere in the world: drop everything and frantically run back to Washington.

Advice To The Left: Leave The Paranoia To The Experts

On CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, host Brian Stelter began the program with a segment on the “troubling behavior by Donald Trump’s right hand man, campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.” It was almost as if CNN just now discovered that there reliable sourceswas anything “troubling” about Drumpf’s campaign at all, let alone what his gangsterish groupies, including those working for him, have been doing at his hateful rallies for months now. But at least, you may have noticed, CNN and MSNBC have lately been critical of some aspects of Drumpf’s effort to become con man-in-chief. That’s a good thing. But.

A guest on the segment, Jeff Greenfield—a television journalist whose political experience goes back to 1960s—made the point that “an appetite for the ratings” has turned much of cable news into Castro-like “state TV” on behalf of Drumpf. Greenfield also made an additional point about the kind of journalism we have been seeing since the GOP front-runner hit the stage with his bigoted act:

I think the desire to have him on—and the unpreparedness of so many of the people interviewing him—will stand for a long time as a serious black mark on the American press.

That indictment is true enough and bad enough. But perhaps Greenfield’s most important point was something else he noted, what he called “one of the essential questions.” He explained:

reliable sources and greenfieldAs the media, some of it, had gotten critical about Trump, it has had no effect on his support, and one of the really central questions we’re going to have to face is whether a chunk of the American electorate has been taught to distrust the media so long and so completely that even when the media zeroes in on some of Trump’s blatant falsehoods or the dangerous rhetoric, his supporters say, “Oh, that’s coming from The New York Times or CNN or in some cases even FOX. We don’t believe it.”

And the whole theory about what the press is supposed to do in a free society, to put spotlights on political people seeking power…we may be in a situation where a fairly large chunk of the United States electorate is saying, “We don’t care what you say. We don’t believe you. If Trump says it, it’s true.”

And that’s a real problem. I don’t know how we deal with that.

Yes. It’s a real problem. And I don’t know how we deal with it either. For years, going at least back to William F. Buckley’s dominance of the movement, conservatives have always distrusted journalists who weren’t conservative. Beginning in the 1980s, right-wing radio made a fetish out of attacking mainstream journalism, with Rush Limbaugh calling it the “drive-by media” because it was, in his paranoid, ideological mind, completely biased in favor of liberals. In fact, there was so much distrust of the press, so much of a market for niche journalism that would tell conservatives what they wanted to hear, that a new cable channel, masquerading as a news channel, was born. And now, ironically, many conservatives, as Greenfield noted, don’t even trust Fox to bring them “the truth.”

But, sadly, it’s not just conservatives these days who are sowing seeds of distrust by attacking the press. Some liberals are doing it too. And such liberal attacks would be okay, if they were actually making specific, valid claims of bias—for instance, lefty Amy Goodman was also on “Reliable Sources” and she made the point that, in 2015, Drumpf “got 23 times the coverage of Bernie Sanders”—rather than just blanket statements that, like what conservatives do, sow general distrust of mainstream journalism. If journalistic malpractice is going on, liberals (or conservatives) should point it out, but they should be specific and not generalize. A general distrust of the mainstream press hurts the country by making us collectively dumber.

Let me give you just one example of such a harmful generalization coming from a liberal, an example from this morning. Robert Reich—a man whose opinion I normally greatly respect—tweeted the following:

reich tweet on bernie

Now, I listened to right-wing talk radio religiously for almost two decades, mostly as a right-winger myself, and I can say that the phrase, “Pay no attention to the national media, who want you to think” is exactly the kind of phrase that would, day after day, slide off the lips of Limbaugh, Hannity, and all the other conservative zealots on the air. And it’s the kind of claim that goes to what Greenfield was talking about when he said a “large chunk” of the electorate so distrusts the press that they simply refuse to believe even basic facts.

delegate count march 21 2016I realize Robert Reich is a fierce Bernie Sanders supporter. Fine and dandy. He can say all kinds of nice things about Bernie and even tell people the race is not yet over if he wants to. But come on. Just because journalists are, quite accurately, reporting how exceedingly difficult the math is for a Bernie comeback, that doesn’t mean Bernie supporters should undermine the role of journalism by resorting to that old Limbaughesque “they want you to think” nonsense. I see no difference between saying, as Greenfield put it, “We don’t care what you say. We don’t believe you. If Trump says it, it’s true,” and “We don’t care what you say. We don’t believe you. If Bernie says it, it’s true.”

The press, particularly television journalism, has a lot to answer for regarding the Drumpfing of America, that’s for sure. The CEO of CBS, Les Moonves, did really say that Drumpf’s presidential run was a “good thing,” mostly, I am sure, because of what he also said: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” Thus, it is completely fair to criticize on-air journalists and their producers and their corporate bosses for specific cases of malpractice, like the way coverage of Drumpf has been handled since last summer. But the conspiratorial rubbish—“Pay no attention to the national media, who want you to think”—is the kind of paranoia that belongs on the right, not on the left.

We should be better than that.

[Delegate graph: AP]

Donald Drumpf And The Three Shtarkers

shtarker: “a Yiddish word  defined by the lexicographer Sol Steinmetz as ‘a strong- minded person willing to wield power.'”William Safire

first of all, if you don’t like the Rolling Stones, you should. But even if you don’t like them or their music, you have to like a story about them involving Donald Drumpf, a story I somehow missed when it came out last summer. The Los Angeles Times, just three days ago, picked up the old story and it is so cool, so revealing of just who Drumpf really is even in real life, that it will give you great joy to read.

A little background: Michael Cohl is a big-time concert promoter who, as the Times pointed out, “has worked on massive tours by Michael Jackson, U2 and Barbra Streisand.” Back in 1989, the Rolling Stones began touring again after several years off-road. The band had just released its latest album, Steel Wheels. Michael Cohl hooked up with the Stones and, as the Times noted, “concocted an idea for a boxing-style pay-per-view event that, if marketed properly, would yield huge profits.” Cohl said, “I thought, geez, if I can separate the Stones from their own gig, and just concentrate on the pay-per-view, then I might pull it off.”

The problem was that he couldn’t get any takers for his big idea. Except one. Drumpf. Cohl explained:

…unfortunately, the only person I could get to kind of agree to the site fee we needed and to work it through was Donald Trump. Now I had one of those, “Oh God, how am I going to do this?” moments.

And I opened my big mouth in the meeting with The Rolling Stones where they go, “This is all great, but we’re not going to be affiliated with Donald Trump. At all. Screw you.” And I go, “I will control Donald Trump! Don’t you worry!”

At this point you already have to admire the Rolling Stones. They wanted nothing to do with Drumpf. But it gets better, and I will let Cohl explain it in full, as he did last summer:

So, we signed the contract. Donald agrees that he will not be in any of the promotion except in Atlantic City, and he will not show up at the gig! Holy shit! Well, the quick version is we go on sale. Eric Clapton was there, Axl Rose, Slash, John Lee Hooker – we had a fantastic show; sell out three shows.

Are you ready for the punchline? Three-hundred dollar tickets. That’s where they originated — $300, $250, $150 and it worked. It was spectacular. And that’s how it happened.

The Stones agreed to that ticket pricing in Atlantic City. It didn’t have the happiest of endings, though. It’s the night of the show.

The Stones had such power in those days that the 6:40 p.m. slot on the national evening news was going to be an interview with the Stones to talk about and promote the pay-per-view. At about 5:50 p.m. I get word that I have to come to the press room in the next building. I run to the press room in the next building and what do you think is happening? There’s Donald Trump giving a press conference, in our room!

I give him the [come here gesture]. “Come on, Donald, what are you doing? A) You promised us you wouldn’t even be here and, B) you promised you would never do this.” He says, “But they begged me to go up, Michael! They begged me to go up!” I say, “Stop it. Stop it. This could be crazy. Do what you said you would. Don’t make a liar of yourself.”

I go back to the dressing room. Five minutes later, he’s back up. They call me back over there. Holy shit. I call him out (again). Same thing happens. I say, “Donald. I don’t know if I can control this. Stop it.” I go back to the dressing room. And I leave my walkie-talkie on in the dressing room. Moronic, on my part.

They call me back, at which point Keith [Richards, the Stones’ great guitarist and co-writer with Mick Jagger] pulls out his knife and slams it on the table and says, “What the hell do I have you for? Do I have to go over there and fire him myself? One of us is leaving the building – either him, or us.” I said, “No. I’ll go do it. Don’t you worry.”

I run over. He’s up there again! I go [gives the come here gesture]. We go into the hallway. I said, “Donald. You lied. You broke your promise. One of two things is going to happen. You’re going to leave the building and, at 6:40, The Rolling Stones are going to speak on CBS News, or you’re not going to leave the building and I’m going to go on and do an interview to explain to the world why the pay-per-view was canceled. I know it’s your building and…” – and in my head I’m going, this is so crazy, right? I’m trying to throw Donald Trump out of his own building.

But, anyway, the bottom line is I look at Donald and said, “You and Marla (Maples) have to go. You’re fired.” He looks at me and goes berserk.

“You don’t know anything! Your guys suck! I promote Mike Tyson! I promote heavyweight fights!” And I notice the three shtarkers he’s with, in trench coats, two of them are putting on gloves and the other one is putting on brass knuckles. I go on the walkie-talkie and I call for Jim Callahan, who was head of our security, and I go, “Jim, I think I’m in a bit of trouble.” And he says, “Just turn around.”

I turn around. He’s got 40 of the crew with tire irons and hockey sticks and screwdrivers.

“And now, are you gonna go, Donald?”

And off he went.

And that was the night I fired Donald Trump.

Now, go out and by a Stones album, if not because of the music, because of this story about the night Donald Drumpf was thrown out of his own place, as he would say, just like a dog.

“This Man Scares Me.”

On Thursday night on CNN I finally saw the viral video that has been fascinating people for some time now. Bill Bogert, a Republican actor who turned away from the Republican Party because of the candidacy of an unpredictable extremist named Barry Goldwater in 1964, made an ad for Lyndon Johnson’s campaign. It’s strangely relevant to what is happening today. Here it is:

Vox: “Proof Of Evolution That You Can Find On Your Body”

One of the questions that should be, but almost never is, asked of all candidates during any election is my old favorite: How old is the earth? Or I’d settle for this one: Did mankind evolve by way of a natural process over a long, long, long time? I want to know if a candidate for office is among those 42% or so who think God created human beings as they are now, some ten thousand years ago or less. I think that’s important information.

As sort of a respite from the nonsense we have been seeing in our politics, like discussion of Drumpf’s teenie weenie hands or Hillary’s intonation, below is a video Vox published today that is worth the four minutes it takes to watch it. So, watch it and marvel:

Remarks And Asides, Post-Election Edition

Good riddance: Little Marco Rubio be gone and he blamed the Almighty for his be-gone-ness. He said it wasn’t “God’s plan that he be president in 2016 or maybe ever.” It was, however, God’s plan that he get called out for his phoniness, as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp did on Wednesday. After Rubio falsely claimed last night that he took the high road by appealing to people’s best instincts during the campaign, Beauchamp ratted him out:

He portrayed an America that has never been in greater danger, led by a nefarious president who intentionally undermines his own country. He refused to rule out bringing back torture, and suggested Trump’s scheme for monitoring American Muslims at mosques didn’t go far enough.

Maybe someone should ask Little Marco if it would be part of God’s plan, should Donald Drumpf become president of Christian America. If so, then we are being led by a nefarious God who intentionally undermines his own country by bringing back torture.


Speaking of torture, this is one way to get what you want:

Donald Trump Warns There Could Be Riots If He Isn’t GOP Nominee

Some of the folks rioting may be Democrats.


Speaking of riotous Democrats, Obama’s former campaign manager, David Plouffe, tried to put the kibosh on that idea:

Democrats should not be popping champagne corks since Donald Trump is doing so well.

Plouffe rightly thinks Drumpf’s unpredictability will present a problem for Hillary and that Obama’s coalition of young folks, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians “should not be taken for granted.” He said the coalition has “got to be earned.” Sure it does. But let’s think about this thang: If Hillary can’t count on young people, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians to enthusiastically vote against a misogynistic racist with a fondness for authoritarian dictators, then those young people, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians deserve a Drumpfing.


Speakling of taking a Drumpfing, Fox “News” had to cancel its upcoming GOP debate because Drumpf is tired of never answering “the same question.” Newly-anointed establishment guy, John Kasich, said if Drumpf wasn’t showing up, he wasn’t either. All of which left us with master-debater Lyin’ Ted Cruz. He said he would go solo and buff his own banana, if anyone would watch. No takers, even at Fox.


Speaking of going solo, Drumpf told MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski this morning that his “primary consultant” on foreign affairs was his own bad-ass self. “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain,” he told Mika, who happens to also be a big fan of Drumpf’s very good brain.


Speaking of ratings-crazy journalists working for greedy and irresponsible corporate media conglomerates—those who have made Drumpf what he is today—I saw CNN’s Jake Tapper this afternoon do a million-dollar segment on Drumpf’s new 15-second barking Hillary video that he posted to Instagram for free. It’s no mystery why we must worry about the prospect of a former reality TV star—an ignorant, distemperate, gold-plated authoritarian—becoming president. Serious television journalism has morphed into versions of Entertainment Tonight.

Fortunately, there is some glimmer of hope out there. Drumpf’s media-abetted shtick is even too much for Jerry Springer, who said on CNN yesterday that his own goofy show is a “circus” and “stupid,” and he wouldn’t “want someone who’s been on my show to be president of the United States.” When Jerry Springer is the voice of reason on CNN, the world is definitely all Drumpfed up.


Finally, speaking of enabling journalists, yesterday Mark Halperin, a fixture on MSNBC, told his journalist friends on the set that Drumpf is “one of the two most talented presidential candidates any of us have covered.” Today, that talented presidential candidate, who knows nuttin’ about nuttin’ except self-promotion, thanked Mr. Halperin on air for his kind words. Rest in peace, television journalism, rest in peace.

Bernie The Ideologue

I waited and waited and waited last night. But no congratulatory words for Hillary Clinton ever exited the lips of Bernie Sanders.

Okay. I get how hard it must be to see and feel tremendous enthusiasm among your young supporters at large rallies around the country and then watch voters go to the polls and vote for your opponent. Sure, that is hard to stomach. But Bernie should make an effort to stomach it. At least he should be a little bit gracious when he loses. Or is it that his famous authenticity doesn’t allow him to honor his Democratic opponent-winner with a few kind words?

Here’s how an AP story, written after Clinton surprised almost everyone with her impressive victories Tuesday night, began:

PHOENIX (AP) — Bernie Sanders kicked off his Arizona campaign Tuesday night without mentioning a string of losses to Hillary Clinton in contests in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.

Nbernie in phoenixot a mention. Not a word. It’s as if last night didn’t happen. It’s as if delegate math has no bearing on the outcome of the race. It’s as if Bernie is living in a different world, a place where even in the face of near-certain defeat, he still has to, like a wounded Drumpf, attack, attack, attack. The AP article summarized his post-loss remarks about Hillary this way:

Sanders only mentioned Hillary Clinton twice during his Tuesday evening speech. He slammed her for giving speeches on Wall Street for six-figure sums and for having a Super-PAC funded by financial and pharmaceutical firms. He also cited her vote for the Iraq War, drawing boos from the crowd.

Bernie Sanders is not a fool. He has to understand what is happening. He has to know he is fighting a lost cause. So, even if he wants to stay in the race and keep spreading his stirring democratic socialist message, why does it have to include attacks on the eventual Democratic nominee’s integrity? He can argue for single-payer health care and free college tuition without undermining Clinton’s general election appeal, can’t he?

Maybe not. Unfortunately, Sanders’ disposition represents a form—hopefully in his case a mild form—of dogmatism that I don’t discuss as often as I discuss religious dogmatism. Let’s call it political fundamentalism. Political-ideological true-believers on the left, like their counterparts on the right, tend to shoot down, with fundamentalist fervor, anyone who doesn’t always practice the politics of purity.

Let me give you an egregious example of such ideological spotlessness run amok from just a few days ago. Leftist writer Thomas Frank, of What’s the Matter With Kansas fame, published a piece for Salon.com titled,

Bill Clinton’s odious presidency: Thomas Frank on the real history of the ’90s

In that piece (actually an excerpt from Frank’s new book, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?) you will find some valid criticisms of Clinton’s candidacy and presidency—especially the noxious pre-election execution of Ricky Ray Rector, for which Bill Clinton deserves utter condemnation—and you will find some invalid or misleading criticisms. I’m not going to attempt here to litigate the 1990s and Clinton’s role in what happened or what didn’t happen. But what is the point of publishing this particular excerpt from Frank’s book on Salon—known for attacking Democrats from the left—at this time? Bill Clinton is not running for president. Hillary Clinton is. And she is running on a much more progressive set of policies than her husband ran on and governed by years ago, years ago after Democrats had lost the White House for what seemed to them to be forever.

In Frank’s lengthy excerpt, we see why the piece ran at this point in the campaign. Frank spends one paragraph tying Bill’s “odious presidency” to Hillary. Calling her his “chief political adviser,” Frank then goes on to quote from Carl Bernstein’s not-so-flattering book on Mrs. Clinton. As Frank summarized Bernstein’s claim, Hillary announced that the way to win over public opinion in favor of Bill’s “‘vision’ for what the administration was doing” was to “pick a fight with supporters.” In other words, Hillary’s strategy was to piss off the left, to “discipline” them, so the Clinton(s) could stay in power and do nasty things to working class people like shoving NAFTA down their throats and devastating black people by passing a now-admittedly onerous crime bill.

If you don’t believe that is what Frank-the-purist is claiming, let me quote a remarkable passage from his article, a passage that demonstrates how an ideology, if given enough oxygen, can turn rationality to ashes:

Someday we will understand that the punitive hysteria of the mid-1990s was not an accident; it was essential to Clintonism. Taken as a whole with NAFTA, with welfare reform, with his plan for privatizing Social Security and, of course, with Clinton’s celebrated lifting of the rules governing banks and telecoms, it all fits perfectly within the new, class-based framework of liberalism. Clinton simply treated different groups of Americans in radically different ways—crushing some in the iron fist of the state, exposing others to ruinous corporate power, while showering the favored stratum with bailouts, deregulation, and a frolicking celebration of Think Different business innovation.

Some got bailouts, others got “zero tolerance.” There was really no contradiction between these things. Lenience and forgiveness and joyous creativity for Wall Street bankers while another group gets a biblical-style beatdown—these things actually fit together quite nicely. Indeed, the ascendance of the first group requires that the second be lowered gradually into hell. When you take Clintonism all together, it makes sense, and the sense it makes has to do with social class. What the poor get is discipline; what the professionals get is endless indulgence.

Reading that and knowing it comes from a man of the left is really breathtaking. Those claims are made against a Democratic president. And by extension they are quite openly made against his wife, the front-runner in this year’s Democratic primary. And Frank’s claims dovetail nicely with the message that Bernie Sanders, even facing defeat, is still sending about Hillary Clinton.

Frank’s raging, ideology-driven criticism, and Sanders’ refusal to stop attacking Clinton’s integrity, may tell you why there is so much harmful cynicism in our country today. On my chosen side, on the left, such outrageous criticism tends to produce a cynicism that leads to apathy. Fed a diet of puristic left-wing dogma, working class people—who should naturally look to Democrats for help—often stay away from the polls. Many don’t even bother to register to vote.

And on the other side, on the right, such cynicism that right-wing ideologues have created over the years often leads to anger. We have seen the rise of the Tea Party, which doesn’t give a damn about the Republican Party except so far as it can be fashioned into an instrument of political reaction. And the Tea Party insurgency has done such damage to the infrastructure of the Republican Party that we now see a quasi-fascist as the party’s dominant presidential front-runner, even as some party leaders have desperately struggled to stop him. That’s what can happen when people stop caring for the party as a whole and care only for their particular narrow interests. And that lack of caring was created by conservative ideologues, even though those same ideologues cannot now control what they have created.

In our peculiar American democratic system, political parties should differentiate themselves from each other. But they should not become vessels for undiluted ideological brews. They should not be places where one ideological set of ideas completely dominates all others, nor should they be characterized by my-way-or-the-highway policy positions. And, more important, we should not expect them to be led by candidates with perfect ideological scores. If we want our democracy to flourish, our two dominant parties, given the size and diversity of this country, have to have some ideological flexibility built into them. They have to make room for those hugging the center as well as those closer to the edges. They have to make room for ideological imperfection, or else they will eventually self-destruct, if they first don’t destroy the tenuous unity of the United States.

Today we are watching many working class Republicans, and some working class Democrats, embrace with cultish enthusiasm an authoritarian businessman who could very well lead the Grand Old Party—and possibly the entire country—into a neo-fascist nightmare. And it is ideological dogmatism on both sides that, oddly, has made such a scenario possible. For years now, President Obama has been attacked, sometimes mercilessly, for many of his domestic and foreign policies. But those attacks have come not just from conservative ideologues, but also from left-wing political purists.  And now that Hillary Clinton, Obama’s natural heir, is dominating the Democratic Party’s nomination process, the ideological knives—again, on both sides—have really come out.

And it’s too bad Bernie Sanders, even with no hope of winning, is wielding one of them.

NOW Is It Okay To Call Drumpf A Nazi?

I am tempted to think that now we are perfectly within our rights to call Donald Drumpf a Nazi.

No, it’s not necessarily because of his Hitleresque histrionics and calls for violence against protesters or his racism or xenophobia or his utter hostility toward anything and anyone standing in the way of his will to power.

It is because this morning, at a rally in Ohio, he told the biggest lie of his lie-plagued campaign. He called Bernie Sanders a communist. Again. Yes, he’s done it plenty of times before. But there’s something different about him doing it this morning.

Even his own fellow candidates and some party officials are, finally, expressing concern over the storm of ugliness that surrounds his strange rallies and Drumpf’s failure to rein in the rhetoric that stokes the hate so visible wherever he goes. But rather than come out this morning with a more sober tone—after a bad scene in Chicago last night, where he had to cancel a rally because of the widespread mayhem his campaign is generating—he went on with the same old stuff. And he added a new twist. He blamed the supporters of “Bernie, our communist friend” for disrupting his events and especially for what happened in Chicago last night.

So, that may be it. We may now have permission. The time may have come. Maybe we can, and maybe we should, use the Nazi reference when describing Donald Drumpf’s dark and dreary and potentially deadly campaign.

Remarks And Asides, Right Wing Watch Edition

If you have never visited the great watchdog website Right Wing Watch, you are not up-to-date on the crazy shit conservative Christians are saying and doing. I want to remind you that the headlines below aren’t satire. They be real.

Like this headline from yesterday about the musings of a crazy congressman from Texas:

Louie Gohmert: Obama’s ‘Hate Crimes’ Against Christians Invite God’s Judgment

Now we know why God sent us Donald Drumpf.


Courtesy of the site’s Right Wing Roundup section, here’s another Gohmert gem:

Louie Gohmert Stands By Claim That Gays Will Die Out if You Put Them on a Desert Island

And gays are standing by their claim that if you put all the Louie Gohmerts on a desert island they will become gay.


In any case, the loony legislator made more news today:

Louie Gohmert: Only ‘Self-Loathing’ Jews Get Along With Obama

That reminded me of two years ago, when Gohmert, who has said horrific things about President Obama, chaired the annual National Prayer Breakfast. At that strange event, a reconciliatory Obama said that he had “always found Louie to be unbelievably gracious every time I’ve seen him.” Thus, the headline for that day should have been: “Only ‘Self-Loathing’ Obama Gets Along With Gohmert.”


Also from today:

Glenn Beck: A Vote For Trump Or Clinton Carries ‘A Very Heavy Eternal Price’

Beck said,

I’m not going to face my maker if I drop dead and have Him go, ‘By the way, remember those crazy [constitutional] rights? You were alive then, weren’t you? What did you do? Who did you vote for?’

Funny how Glenn believes in an all-knowing, all-powerful God who can’t seem to remember when Glenn was alive or what he was doing or who he was voting for. If that’s the case, a newly-dead Beck would likely be greeted by the Less-Than-Almighty with this: “Now, who the hell are you again?”


More nuts in the news:

Dinesh D’Souza Says His New Movie Is So ‘Emotionally Powerful’ It’ll Cause Democrats To Need Counseling

Just to prove that Dinesh D’Souza doesn’t need counseling but a stadium full of psychiatrists, I will show you the trailer for his new movie:


Here’s a header announcing the amazing culinary skills of the Democratic front-runner:

Michael Savage: Hillary Clinton Will Become A Dictator Who Will Put ‘A Transgender In Your Soup’

I don’t know how appetizing that would be, but I’m guessing it would taste better than a Savage in our soup. And it wouldn’t make us stupid.


Mrs. Clinton isn’t the only one on the minds of the mindless:

Rick Joyner: Bernie Sanders Is Popular Because The Communist Party Runs The Schools 

Here is a sample of the mindlessness:

Mr. Joyner, a minister of the Gospel, happens to be a believer in something called Dominion Theology, which Wikipedia defines as “a theocratic ideology that seeks to implement a nation governed by conservative Christians ruling over the rest of society based on their understanding of biblical law.” 

Thank God the communists are running the schools!


And last up, an oldie-but-goodie headline from Right Wing Watch:

Glenn Beck: God Allowed Scalia To Die In Order To Highlight The Importance Of Electing Ted Cruz

Nope. If God really wanted to highlight the importance of electing Ted Cruz, he would kill Donald Drumpf. But he had better hurry.

Watching A Man Surrender His Soul To The Devil On National TV

psychopath: a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.

almost a year ago, presidential dropout and outspoken Christian Ben Carson called President Obama—a family man who has had but one wife and no personal scandals of any kind—a “psychopath.” Do you remember that? It happened. Here’s the context from GQ:

On the nightearlier this year that Barack Obama stepped before the nation to deliver his sixth State of the Union address, Ben Carson—a political newcomer who harbors dreams of soon giving his first—settled into a sofa just a few blocks away. He was eager to hate everything the president was about to say.

Carson had come to the Capitol Hill home of Armstrong Williams, a conservative media impresario who officially serves as Carson’s business manager and who lately has functioned as Carson’s unofficial image-maker and political adviser as well. As the two men turned to the TV, they began dissecting Obama’s performance.

“He looks good,” Williams said. “He looks clean. Shirt’s white. The tie. He looks elegant.”

“Like most psychopaths,” Carson grumbled. “That’s why they’re successful. That’s the way they look. They all look great.”

Later, CNBC’s John Harwood asked him about such stupidity:

“Obama, you referred to him as a psychopath,” Harwood said. “What did you mean by that?”

“I said he reminds you of a psychopath,” Carson corrected.

“And tell me how,” Harwood pressed.

“Because they tend to be extremely smooth, charming people, who can tell a lie to your face with complete — it looks like sincerity, even though they know it’s a lie,” Carson replied.

This morning Ben Carson endorsed a guy, Donald Drumpf, who claims he is successful and thinks he looks great and is sure he is smooth and charming and who has told so many lies that fact-checkers are dying from exhaustion. This morning Ben Carson endorsed a guy who has made fun of him before the world, and as we all know, just last November said this about the former brain surgeon:

I could say they don’t say, as an example, a child molester, you don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. Pathological, there’s no cure for that. Now, I didn’t say it, he said it in his book. So when I hear somebody’s pathological, when somebody says, I went after my mother with — and he’s saying it about himself with a hammer and hit her in the head, I say, ‘whoa, that’s a big statement.’

The guy who suggested that Ben Carson’s psychopathy was akin to being a child molester stood beside the strange doctor this morning and listened to the strange doctor say that there were “two” Donald Drumpfs, as if one wasn’t enough. He said Drumpf was “a very intelligent man who cares deeply about America.” Carson called the guy who compared him to a child molester “cerebral.” And, perhaps to warn us, Carson said that we are “going to see more and more of” that cerebral Donald Drumpf.

When a reporter asked Carson about Drumpf’s child molester comments, which were the political and rhetorical equivalent of taking a hatchet to Carson’s presidential campaign, Dr. Ben said, “We buried the hatchet.” So, the murder weapon, the weapon Drumpf used to kill Carson’s presidential aspirations, will never be found. Unless you have the Internet.

For me, the strangest moment this morning, during the weird press conference in which viewers actually got to see a man surrender his soul to the devil, was when Ben Carson, Christian extraordinaire, said that after spending time with Drumpf, he discovered that there was, “A lot more alignment philosophically and spiritually than I ever thought there was.” I’m pretty sure that doesn’t help Drumpf all that much.

The whole thing strikes me as very sad, not just for the country, but for Ben Carson himself. There is clearly something wrong with the once-great doctor, but, unlike Donald Drumpf, I don’t know what it is. I suspect it has something to do with how fundamentalist religion has poisoned his brain. And I suspect it would take every psychiatrist and psychologist in the entire world, working till Jesus returns, to even begin to explain how a man who makes a show of his Christian faith could call President Obama—about as good an example of a Christian family man as one could imagine—a psychopath, and a year later could stand up and endorse a disturbed and disturbing man for president, a man who not only compared the now soulless doctor to a psychopathic child molester, but a man who is electrifying real psychopaths all over the country, especially at his campaign rallies.

Joplin’s Jane Doe And The Fight Against Fundamentalism

Let me tie together four recent news stories related to religious fundamentalism and the nasty nonsense associated with it. But before I do so, I should say something about my view of religion and religious belief.

I don’t have any knowledge as to whether there is or isn’t a God. I used to think there was and I used to think I knew his name(s). Now I don’t know if there is and even if I thought there was, I wouldn’t know what to call such a being. But here’s one thing I am fairly confident about: you, whoever you are and whatever you believe, don’t know whether there is or isn’t a God either. Okay? That’s where I’m coming from. Now to the stories.

First up is Franklin Graham, son of Billy, the famous evangelist. Graham has recently been making his way around the country in a bus. I’ve seen him on television more than once being interviewed about his mission, which is summarized on Facebook this way:

“America is at a crossroads, and I believe we should take every opportunity to stand up for the things of God and His Word.” –Franklin Graham

Franklin Gbilly graham bus tripraham is traveling to all 50 states in 2016 to hold prayer rallies, to preach the Gospel, and to challenge believers to take a stand and take action. He’ll be urging Christians to vote, to live out their faith in every part of their lives, and to pray for our nation just as Nehemiah cried out to God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore hope to His people.

Graham has said during interviews that his efforts are not partisan. He says he has no faith in either political party, that only God can save the country. Now, this is the same non-partisan guy who, after Obama was reelected in 2012, said the country was on a “path of destruction” and he explained why to Newsmax:

“In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” Graham reiterated. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.

“What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.”

And, “maybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse” to do that, Graham said. “Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.”

Yes, according to one of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the entire country, Barack Obama is responsible for every ungodly act, every offense against God that may force Him to bring us to our collective knees, communicating His divine displeasure to us by unleashing horrific suffering via an “economic collapse.” Funny thing, as I’ve pointed out before, non-partisan Graham had no bad words for Republican George W. Bush, who, as an evangelical himself, actually presided over a real economic collapse, as opposed to the one imagined by Graham four years ago. And it is funny, too, to think that since Graham made those comments, the economy has enjoyed some rather ungodly improvements. Apparently God either decided not to bring us to our knees or he decided to send Donald Trump to do the job instead.

In any case, let’s move on from a partisan conservative evangelist to a partisan conservative judge in Wisconsin, Rebecca Bradley. She was recently elevated to her state’s Supreme Court by evangelical governor and presidential dropout Scott Walker, who was filling a vacancy. Now she is facing voters for what would be a full 10-year term. But she has sort of a problem. It has been revealed that while in college at Catholic Marquette, Bradley authored some God-inspired opinions as a columnist for the student paper, opinions like the one she offered about president-elect Bill Clinton in 1992:

We have now elected a tree-hugging, baby-killing, pot-smoking, flag-burning, queer-loving, bull-spouting ’60s radical socialist adulterer to the highest office in our nation. Doesn’t it make you proud to be an American? We’ve just had an election which proves the majority of voters are either totally stupid or entirely evil.

And she gave some wise advice to those thinking about getting sick during the then-upcoming Clinton administration:

One will be better off contracting AIDS than developing cancer, because those afflicted with the politically-correct disease will be getting all the funding. How sad that the lives of degenerate drug addicts and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments.

Clearly, these and some of this young woman’s other nasty, bigoted opinions could only have been produced by a mind under the influence of some form of fundamentalist religion, some sort of poisonous dogmatism, which, like in the case of Franklin Graham, makes one think and act in such obviously thoughtless and callous ways. And this same kind of dogmatism can and does affect our public policy debates, which leads me to the next story.

Here in Missouri, the State Senate, after Republicans broke a 37-hour Democratic filibuster, advanced a proposed amendment to our state’s constitution that if passed by voters would, essentially, allow Christian cake bakers and wedding planners to only bake and plan for King James Version-approved nuptials. In other words, even though Bible-believing bakers and piety-promoting planners here in Missouri operate their businesses using public roads and services partly paid for by gay people, they don’t want to serve those taxpaying gay people because Jesus and God and Franklin Graham hate gay people, or, to be kinder, they hate the things gay people do, like, uh, being gay.

Obviously, all of this nonsense is related. From the bigot-protecting activity in the Missouri State Senate to the young Marquette kid who hated gays and Bill Clinton in the 1990s to the phony bus tour of a very partisan and dishonest evangelical leader, it’s all a product of zealot-producing cultural hardware and software: fundamentalism. Evangelical and fundamentalist churches and their affiliates are the hardware, and a literally-interpreted, allegedly God-inspired Bible is the software. But we non-fundamentalists are not without weapons. There are some things we can do to, if not stop it, at least slow it down, which leads me to my final story.

This is a local story about courage. In May of 2015, here in Joplin, a group of students at North Middle School were bussed over, during school hours, to a place called Victory Ministries and Sports Complex. It’s not hard to figure out what kind of place this is. On its “What is Victory” webpage, we find that its purposes are, among other things, to “Exalt victory field tripJesus” and “Expand the Kingdom of God.” Expanding the Kingdom of God in this case means, of course, indoctrinating children with fundamentalist views. And what better way to reach impressionable, unchurched kids than a Middle School field trip to a Christian gym with a “Jesus is worthy of it all!” banner proudly hanging on the wall?

It turns out that a courageous mom of one of the students in the class in question alerted the American Humanist Association, whose legal director tried to stop the field trip before it happened. The AHA “forewarned” the Superintendent of Joplin Schools in an email exchange, saying the trip was a violation of the Establishment Clause and threatening litigation if the trip wasn’t called off. It wasn’t. So, there is now an ongoing lawsuit.

The mom in this case is courageous because this kind of thing isn’t easy. Even though she is using the name Jane Doe in order to remain anonymous, she has good reason to. Joplin is a small town, and she and her children would likely be singled out for harassment, if the general public knew who they were. But by putting herself out there to stop fundamentalists from indoctrinating not just her kids, but other kids, Joplin’s Jane Doamerican humanist associatione is a champion of secularism. And she is a fighter against the kind of religious dogma that makes people irrationally hate other people and call down the wrath of God on innocents.

Fundamentalism is nasty and socially destructive. And whether it is practiced mostly without violence under the American flag—although we must not forget those abortion-related crimes—or whether it is expressed with unspeakable violence somewhere under the black flag of ISIS, it needs to be confronted.

Kudos to Joplin’s Jane Doe for doing her part. And if you want to do your part, maybe you could contribute to or become a member of the American Humanist Association. An introductory membership is only $35.


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