Did Hillary Clinton Kill Someone Yesterday?

She must have. She must have killed a lot of people. Perhaps she perpetrated a mass shooting or blew up a school building full of children. Maybe she set a nursing home on fire and laughed while it burned. Something like that must have happened for there to be such Hillary-hating hysteria on television, the Internet, social media, and in print since yesterday.

It’s everywhere, this hysteria. Coming from the right and the left. I have seen it on Fox. I have seen it on CNN—which is subsidizing Trump’s campaign by paying so many of his surrogates for their on-air appearances and broadcasting his rallies endlessly—and, regrettably, I have seen it on MSNBC, starting last night when liberal journalist Chris Hayes invited Clinton-hating Glenn Greenwald on to have a go at Hillary. MSNBC this morning was even worse, as the crew at Morning Joe lost their minds over the FBI’s failure to recommend indictment of an obviously guilty Hillary Clinton.

morning joe and hillary emailYou see, Hillary’s guilt is determined not by a court, not by people in the law business, but by people in the Clinton-hating business. And as we can now see, that’s a big business. Joe Scarborough, a long-time Clinton hater, said this morning, “Anybody else would have gone to jail.” Scarborough, a Republican with a TV show, gets to play judge and jury when it comes to Hillary Clinton. She has no rights a cable pundit is bound to respect.

Try to keep all this hate and hysteria in context. And by context I mean Donald Trump. As Huffpo puts at the end of every story on the GOP nominee:

Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

That factual addendum leaves out one important fact: the man is clearly mentally unstable and in no way can be trusted with any intelligence information, let alone trusted with putting his tiny, insecure fingers on the nuclear trigger. Yet, this morning I heard the Morning Joe panel giggle over Trump’s unhinged speech last night at his rally in North Carolina, a speech that CNN carried in full and which featured this:

Trump Praises Saddam Hussein Again — This Time For Killing Terrorists ‘So Good’

Yes, Trump really praised a brutal dictator. He has never met an authoritarian he didn’t like. And his followers, who shower him with adoration, have apparently never met a lover of authoritarians they didn’t love. And journalists, on television and elsewere, apparently find Trump not dangerous or disturbed, but entertaining.

Also for context keep in mind the David Petraeus controversy scandal, which comes up during almost any discussion of Clinton’s email practices. What exactly did he do? As the L.A. Times put it in an excellent article:

In the Petraeus case, which came to light in 2012, the CIA director was found to have shared highly classified documents with his biographer, Patricia Broadwell, during the course of their affair. Investigators found more than 100 photographs from notebooks Petraeus had given her, as well as secret PowerPoint briefings on the war in Afghanistan. The Justice Department threatened to charge him with three felonies, which could have landed him in prison for years. They eventually settled on a misdemeanor plea deal, where Petraeus pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI, paid a $100,000 fine and was sentenced to two years’ probation. Petraeus, regarded as one of the military’s most skillful commanders by Democrats and Republicans alike, resigned in shame.

Let me summarize that for you: The good, family-values General was banging someone-not-his-wife, and he knowingly gave that someone-not-his-wife classified information that he knew would be made public because that someone-not-his-wife was a journalist writing a book about him, and then, just for grins and giggles, he lied to the FBI about it. Yeah, that’s pretty close to what Hillary Clinton allegedly did, right? Jesus, people.

Oh, I almost forgot. Remember that George W. Bush email controversy in 2007? You don’t? Haven’t heard the hysterical talking heads mention that one when discussing Hillary?  Here’s a summary from PBS’s Washington Week:

In 2007, when Congress asked the Bush administration for emails surrounding the firing of eights U.S. attorneys, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales revealed that many of the emails requested could not be produced because they were sent on a non-government email server.  The officials had used the private domain gwb43.com, a server run by the Republican National Committee. Two years later, it was revealed that potentially 22 million emails were deleted, which was considered by some to be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

Who went to jail over that? Huh? Karl Rove, who used that private server for most of his emailing while in the White House, is enjoying life on Fox “News” and still working to undermine Democrats everywhere. And Rove never suffered for his part in the public outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Oh, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, knee-deep in that 2007 scandal, was on television this morning criticizing FBI Director James Comey!

What a country.

If I sound angry it is because I am. If you watched and appreciated President Obama yesterday, as he endorsed Hillary Clinton in North Carolina and gave a great speech extolling her virtues, obama and clinton.jpgthen you’d be angry too. That unprecedented event pretty much got lost in all the hate coming from, as I said, both the right and the left. We live in sick times.

If I were Mrs. Clinton, I would tell all the haters out there—especially those Bernie-bots who hate her more than most conservatives do—to go straight to hell. I would tell them they can have Donald Trump if they want him. I would say good luck getting, from a Trump administration, free college and decent healthcare for all and the other things you say you want. I would tell all those young people out there, those who hate Hillary’s guts so much they would prefer a global warming denier as their president, have at it. He’s all yours. I’ll be long dead before the worst of it hits the planet.

I would tell all those working stiffs—including some union folks—who prefer Trump, to enjoy the mess he makes of the economy and the world. Enjoy your lower wages, if you still have a bleeping job. And, finally, I would tell all those journalists, those who are making it safe for Trump to broadcast his bigotry and ignorance and racism and hatred for a free press, I’m outta here. You think it is more interesting to cover someone like Trump? You’ll find out what interesting is. You like the ratings he brings? You’ll be the ones who pay. You think he’s funny? Laugh until you cry.

I would tell them all that I’m going home to play with my grandkids. And when things get really bad, I can move. Can you?


Not that it matters much to anyone it seems, but here is an excerpt from President Obama’s speech yesterday:

Now, let me tell you, North Carolina, my faith in Hillary Clinton has always been rewarded. I have had a front-row seat to her judgment and her toughness and her commitment to diplomacy. And I witnessed it in the Situation Room where she argued in favor of the mission to get Bin Laden.

I saw how — I saw how — how as a former senator from New York, she knew, she understood because she had seen it, she had witnessed it, what this would mean for the thousands who had lost loved ones when the Twin Towers fell.

I benefited from her savvy and her skill in foreign capitals where her pursuit to diplomacy led to new partnerships, opened up new nations to democracy, helped to reduce the nuclear threat. We’ve all witnessed the work she’s done to advance the lives of women and girls around the globe.

She has been working on this since she was a young woman working at the Children’s Defense Fund. She’s not late to the game at this; she’s been going door to door to make sure kids got a fair share, making sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education.

She’s been fighting those fights, and she’s got the scars to prove it….

But you know, it — it wasn’t just what happened in the lime light that made me grow more and more to admire and respect Hillary. It was how she acted when the cameras weren’t on. It was knowing how she did her homework. It was knowing how many miles she put in traveling to make sure that America was effectively represented in corners of the globe that people don’t even know about. There wasn’t any — any — any political points to be had, but she knew that it was important.

I saw how she treated everybody with respect, even the folks who aren’t quote/unquote “important.” That’s how you judge somebody is how do they treat somebody when the cameras are off and they can’t do anything for you. Do you still treat them right? Do you still treat them with respect? Do you still listen to them? Are you still fighting for them?

I saw how deeply she believes in the things she fights for. And I saw how you can count on her and how she won’t waver and she won’t back down. And she will not quit, no matter how difficult the challenge and no matter how fierce the opposition.

And — and if there’s one thing I can tell you, Charlotte, is those things matter. Those — those — those things matter. I am here to tell you that the truth is nobody fully understands the challenges of the job of president until you’ve actually sat at that desk.

Everybody’s got an opinion, but nobody actually knows the job until you’re sitting behind the desk. Everybody can tweet, but nobody actually knows what it takes to do the job until you’ve sat behind the desk.

What Are The Troops Supposed To Think Now?

David Wood won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, after he published a series of articles on the severely wounded soldiers who have returned from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He has covered military and national security issues in a lot of dangerous places in the world for a number of publications. As his HuffPo bio reads:

He has been scared much of his professional life.

On this official-unofficial Veterans Day, Mr. Wood said the following on MSNBC about the implications of the David Petraeus scandal:

The thing that struck me about the Petraeus story is the damage that this puts on the troops and veterans. Because, look, the military for the last ten or fifteen years has emphasized that it’s a values-based organization. And the primary value that I hear talked about all the time, particularly in combat among what I call the working class of the military—the sergeants and lieutenants who do most of the heavy lifting in combat—the key value is, “doing the right thing when no one’s looking.” And there was nobody in the military, I think, who exemplified that more than David Petraeus. He talked about it all the time.

Now to find out that he was not only not doing the right thing, but lying about it, is, I think, devastating and will have a long-term, corrosive impact on the troops…I mean, think about the young kids who are in basic training now who are being taught, “do the right thing when no one’s looking.” Well, what are they supposed to think now?

While a lot of right-wing folks are wondering how Petraeus’s troubles figure into their wild conspiracy theory about a gigantic Obama administration cover-up of Benghazi, it’s nice to know someone is thinking about something else, something much more important.

Good Conservative Commentary As Easy As 1-2-3

Good things come in threes, the superstitious often aver.  On two of the Sunday morning shows, I heard two different conservative pundits—George F. Will and David Brooks—say sensible things, in threes.  And after I throw in a little William F. Buckley, this will mark the first time in the history of this blog that I have favorably quoted three conservatives.

From ABC’s This Week, I want to bring attention to this brief exchange between two regular panelists, Martha Raddatz and Will, during the program’s segment discussing President Obama’s speech last Wednesday on the planned withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year:

MARTHA RADDATZ: I think the president has never wanted a full counterinsurgency. The president has never even mentioned counterinsurgency in December 2009 and he certainly didn’t mention it the other night.

I always had the impression that David Petraeus and Stan McChrystal before him were fighting a war based on counterinsurgency, but the president was never committed to that…

GEORGE WILL: Obviously Pakistan is key. If Afghanistan were next to Denmark, we wouldn’t be there, we wouldn’t be worrying about it the way we do, because it is next to Pakistan, a nuclear power.

I think Martha has got it exactly right, which is the commander in chief and his commander in the field are fighting different projects.

David Petraeus is the author, literal, of the book on counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency is nation building. The United States army — army has been engaged in 16,000 economic projects over there.

There are three problems with nation building. It’s expensive and we’re short of money. It takes time and we’re short of patience. And, three, we don’t know how to it. It’s like orchid building, nations are not built like tinker toys.

I think Raddatz and Will are pretty close to the mark, although calling them “different projects” is going too far.  But Petraeus and Obama are not exactly on the same page with the counterinsurgency stuff, as I suggested last week

And Will’s triplet formulation and criticism of the counterinsurgency strategy is right on:

1. It’s expensive and we’re short of money.

2. It takes time and we’re short of patience.

3. We don’t know how to do it.

I will insert here a quote from another conservative voice, William F. Buckley, related to the nation-building idea:

One should not tire of repeating the fatalistic but wise maxim of Senator Fulbright, that the United States government has no proper quarrel with any nation no matter how obnoxious its domestic policies, so long as it does not seek to export them. As much was said by President John Quincy Adams when he stressed that Americans were friends of liberty everywhere, but custodians only of their own.

I also want to point out another triplet advanced on Sunday by yet another conservative, David Brooks.  On NBC’s Meet the Press, this brief exchange took place:

DAVID GREGORY:  …I spoke to a CEO this week who said, “Yeah, you go around the world, in Asia and Europe, there’s this sense that Pax Americana is over.” But even in a more positive way, David, that American influence is waning because our politics is not up to the task of some of the challenges we face.

DAVID BROOKS:  Yeah.  We’ve got a government problem.  We don’t have a country problem.  We still have an entrepreneurial country.  We’ll still have the only country in the world, only big country, where people can come in from all over the world and magnify their talents.  But we have a government problem. 

We have to do three things.  We have to be fiscally sustainable, we have to do it in a way that increases growth, and we have to do it in a way that reduces inequality.  Those are three things that are in tension with each other.  So if any of us who watch Washington think that our political system is capable of doing two–three things in tension with each other all at once?  It means borrowing from column A, column B, I haven’t seen that level of borrowing.

Again, the triplet that Brooks advanced is sound:

1. We have to be fiscally sustainable.

2. We have to be fiscally sustainable in a way that increases growth.

3. We have to be fiscally sustainable in a way that reduces inequality.

While I tend to share Brooks’ pessimism about the ability of contemporary politics to achieve those three things, my admittedly liberal analysis leads me to believe that Democrats and Republicans all agree on the first two points, but the truth is that Republicans don’t give a damn about the third point: whether any fiscal solution involves the reduction of inequalities.

And that’s why they are willing to play chicken with the economy.

Why Afghanistan War Strategy Must Change

As day three of the killing frenzy over an American Christian zealot’s Quran-burning unfolded, it has become increasingly clear to me—after agonizing over it for several months—that those who argue for an expedited drawdown leading to a pullout of combat troops in Afghanistan are right. That seems to be the wisest course to take, despite the fact that there are good, but not sufficient, reasons to stay.

The latest deadly unrest highlights two arguments for a swifter withdrawal than President Obama has outlined:

1) Hamid Karzai will never be a reliable partner.

2) General David Petraeus’ “winning hearts and minds” strategy won’t work in Afghanistan.

In addition to the many problems we’ve had with him in the past, the latest outrage is partly Karzai’s responsibility. As has been reported, most Afghans did not even know about the burning of the Quran in Florida—which happened on March 20—until Karzai tried to politicize it. From the New York Times:

Both Afghan and international news media had initially played down or ignored the actions of Mr. Jones, the Florida pastor. On Thursday, however, President Karzai made a speech and issued statements condemning the Koran burning and calling for the arrest of Mr. Jones for his actions. On Friday, that theme was picked up in mosques throughout Afghanistan.

“Karzai brought this issue back to life, and he has to take some responsibility for starting this up,” said a prominent Afghan businessman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution if he was identified as a critic of the president.

“Karzai’s speech itself provoked people to take such actions,” said Qayum Baabak, a political analyst in Mazar-i-Sharif. “Karzai should have called on people to be patient rather than making people more angry.”

Karzai, through education and experience with American culture, knows perfectly well that Pastor Terry Jones cannot be arrested. Stupidity is legal in the United States, after all. But Karzai’s irresponsibility continued today, as Reuters reported:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on Sunday for the U.S. Congress to condemn the burning of a Koran by a radical fundamentalist U.S. pastor and prevent it from happening again, his office said in a statement.

Karzai made the request at a meeting with U.S. ambassador Karl Eikenberry and General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the statement said.

Echoing this nonsense, the Taliban released a statement today:

The U.S. government should have punished the perpetrators, but the American authorities and those in other countries not only did not have a serious reaction, but defended (the burning) to some extent in the name of freedom of religion and speech.

One report included this paragraph:

The Taliban said in a statement emailed to media outlets that the U.S. and other Western countries have wrongly excused the burning a Quran by the pastor of a Florida church on March 20 as freedom of speech and that Afghans “cannot accept this un-Islamic act.”

That last phrase, Afghans “cannot accept this un-Islamic act,” leads to the other persuasive argument against our Afghanistan war policy: Petraeus’ strategy. There are just too many things in this war that the Taliban can exploit as “un-Islamic acts,” as the Washington Post suggests:

The protests, which began Friday, also appear to be fueled more broadly by the resentment that has been building for years in Afghanistan over the operations of Western military forces, blamed for killing and mistreating civilians, and international contractors, seen by many as enriching themselves and fueling corruption at the expense of ordinary Afghans.

General Petraeus is doing his best. Our troops are, of course, fighting admirably, despite the occasional horrific stories about “kill teams” and other atrocities.

The problem is that the strategy—winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans—is so tenuous that a combination of an idiotic American evangelical extremist pastor and a stupidly opportunistic Afghan president can, wittingly or unwittingly, conspire to cripple that delicate strategy in just a few days and undo much of the good our soldiers have done.

Another strategy, perhaps along the lines originally proposed by Vice President Joe Biden, is in order. From the New York Times in September of 2009:

…Mr. Biden proposed scaling back the overall American military presence. Rather than trying to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban, American forces would concentrate on strikes against Qaeda cells, primarily in Pakistan, using special forces, Predator missile attacks and other surgical tactics.

Oddly, whatever it was that Pastor Jones and President Karzai were trying to accomplish, news reports inform us of the results:                                             

“Death to America” and “Death to Karzai” chanted the demonstrators.


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