Tag: 2016

Happy New Year, Hillz

I went home this week to visit with my parents. While they’ve asked the progeny to avoid mentioning their political beliefs on social media, I do think it’s probably fair to say they are not supporting certain candidates. So, the past week gave me a lot of time to think about my own views and ponder the mysteries of partisan politics.

I’m not particularly anti-Hillary myself; I would say I am more lukewarm. I am currently supporting Bernie Sanders. I will support whoever my party nominates, provided they’re not in the KKK or Scientologists or La Rouchites or something gauche like that.

But, anyway. I have had the chance to meditate a bit on the Hillary phenomenon over the past week. Here are some random thoughts of mine:

1.) I am rather annoyed with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, over the debates, and the initial handling of the NGP-VAN mini-scandal. I do think many Bernie Sanders supporters are getting a bit paranoid and are spouting conspiracy-theories. But I do think any fair reading of the facts would show that the DNC chair is somewhat biased in favor of Team Clinton.

2.) I think some people, particularly those leaning toward the right, are inclined to believe that Hillary Clinton is an evil person, a pathological liar, etc.

I’m not inclined to view Mrs. Clinton as entirely a kindly grandma. I think she is a very competitive and ambitious person, and in some regards I find this entirely admirable. I believe that many of her critics do not give her credit for that, and that is unfair and (perhaps) sexist.

But, I also think that, objectively speaking, those traits do make her “unlikable” to a lot of people, and I think that after decades in politics, she has legitimately put-off a lot of people. She is certainly divisive, and seems to revel in that.

All those years of experience in public service (which, by the way, also are what qualifies her to hold the highest office in the land) has probably taken a toll on her personally – mentally, and potentially physically.

Anyone who has engaged at-length in political debate in the past two decades probably has at least a mild-case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Serious partisans (and I include myself in this statement) have tended in recent years to adopt a “bunker mentality” and this has resulted in many people (at best) ignoring good-faith criticism and (at worst) the dehumanization of political opponents.

So anyway, I think that the stress of national politics since at least 1991 has probably made Hillary Clinton and her closest supporters a bit paranoid and cranky, and probably have been for quite a while (remember the FBI file scandal?)

As such, I think that Hillary’s political judgment is going to be colored by anger, frustration and bitterness — and not all of it rational or constructive.

One of the things that I admired about Obama is that I think he honestly tried to appeal to conservatives in good faith, even to the point where he looked like a fool. I don’t see Hillary trying to do that. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

3.) Certainly, many people on the right seem to dehumanize and demonize Hillary Clinton unfairly. And probably far worse than Hillary has or does or will.

4.) I am frustrated and annoyed with the hecklers who are on Hillary’s tail regarding Bill Clinton’s indiscretions. I think it’s tacky to interrupt a campaign rally to attack people personally, which, given the identities of the hecklers, is exactly what this is about. I think Hillary Clinton was right to shutdown one of her hecklers as “very rude.”

(I wouldn’t mind if the hecklers were directly raising real issues; this is why I have no lingering enmity toward #BlackLivesMatter for interrupting Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton; I likewise think Bernie was admirable for allowing private citizens to bring up their concerns — let’s not forget that the President works for us, not the other way around).

However, I do think there is a serious issue that underlies the heckling, and one that Democrats ought to care about – not just right-wing cranks like Kathy Prudhomme-O’Brien.

Vox wrote an excellent explainer about this recently, as did Slate‘s Michelle Goldberg, who writes:

We will probably never know the truth of what happened between [Juanita] Broaddrick and [Bill] Clinton. But today, few feminists would find her shifting story disqualifying. Consider, also, another piece of evidence that was marshaled against Broaddrick in the 1990s: Three weeks after the alleged assault, she attended a fundraiser for Clinton. Speaking to Klein, she says she was traumatized and blamed herself for what happened. “I felt responsible. I don’t know if you know the mentality of women and men at that time. But me letting him come to my room? I accepted full blame.” In any other context, most feminists today would find this credible. After all, many were outraged when rape skeptics tried to discredit Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz because she’d sent friendly Facebook messages to her alleged rapist after the alleged rape.


To be clear: I don’t think for a moment that the people who hope to use Broaddrick against Hillary care about victim blaming. And it would be a profound sexist irony if these accusations, having failed to derail Bill Clinton’s political career, came back to haunt his wife. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see why many on the right are giddy at the prospect of a new national conversation about Bill Clinton’s sex scandals, and thrilled that Trump is giving them one. As Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro told the Washington Post, “The irony of the situation is that the old Clintonian defense, ‘everybody lies about sex,’ doesn’t fly in a world in which Hillary has declared that nobody lies about sexual assault.”

There were many accusations made against Bill Clinton in the 1990s; many of the accusers, frankly, come across as demonstrably nutty (Paula Jones and the non-existent penis birthmark; Kathleen Willey and the various problems with her story). But, in my opinion, the accusations made by Juanita Broaddrick were never really disprovable, and Bill Clinton has never really answered them with the seriousness that is warranted (all I have ever seen is sort of a general, blanket denial; as well as a bunch of vague innuendo spread by Friends-of-Bill regarding Broaddrick’s credibility).

Anyway, the point here is that Bill and Hillary Clinton has not always been consistent feminists, at least with regard to women who have made accusations against Bill.

I think that this is largely because of a “bunker mentality” amongst the Clintonites, like the one I described above; I think that Hillary is sincere in her feminism, and not simply cynical and calculating (as many of her critics would suggest).  And I still think Hillary is a much better candidate on women’s issues than any of the Republicans. But, even with those concessions, I still think it is intellectually dishonest to ignore the problem entirely.

Now, as a Democrat, I would prefer the issue  would just “go away” (preferably with a plausible explanation from Bill, something we’ve never really gotten). But I have a feeling that this won’t happen.

5.) Regarding substantive progressive issues like bank regulation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the minimum wage — Hillary is, at best, a “day late and a dollar short” (or in the case of the minimum wage, three or four bucks short).

To be sure, I am certain she is better than literally every Republican. But Hillary Clinton would still feel like a step back from the (very incomplete) legacy of Barack Obama.

(In large part, because I remember Hillary running as a moderate-conservative in 2008, and am still annoyed with some of the things that happened then).

6.)  One of the complaints I heard this week, of course, is “why can’t Bernie Sanders criticize Hillary over [Benghazi/E-mails/Bill’s bimbo eruptions/whatever].”

Aside from the fact that doing so would be a massive distraction from the substantive issues at hand (one of the most important reasons that Bernie Sanders is running for President – aside from winning – is to educate voters about the democratic socialist alternative) — criticizing Hillary Clinton would just play into her hands. She’ll use it to polarize the party against her critics, and persuade Democrats to write-off critics as right-wing stooges.

7.) In conclusion: I respect Hillary Clinton and her campaign in the same way that a rodeo clown respects a steer — I know they’re kinda full of bullshit, but I’m not stupid enough to say it to their face!


One Of These Assholes Has To Win!

On the eve of another “are we really doing this again?” Republican debates, the quants over at FiveThirtyEight are debating whether they would bang-or-pass buy-sell-or-hold the Republican candidates. Possibly the most revealing part of this discussion relates to Nate Silver’s assessment of Marco Rubio:

natesilver: I’m buying at 38.6 percent, although I don’t think I’m getting a great bargain.

micah: You’re in the tank for Rubio.

natesilver: If I know you guys as well as I think I do, you’re going to be selling or holding a lot of the other candidates. Unless you’re really bullish on Jeb Bush or Trump or Ben Carson, it’s hard to get the numbers to add up to 100 percent unless you have Rubio in the 40 percent range or above. But more importantly, we have seen some signs of progress for Rubio. He’s one of only two Republicans to have received any endorsements in the past few weeks. He’s lined up some big super PAC backers. His favorability ratings remain strong.

Micah Cohen is, I think, joking. As you can see Weasel Silver’s main argument is mathematics — the odds have to add up to 100 percent, and right now Rubio has the best claim to a bigger share of the probability pie.

In short: somebody has to win. Even if all of those somebodies are just appalling to sober analysts.

(Incidentally, I think that Silver is putting too much faith in the GOP establishment and am willing to buy Trump at 18.7 percent, if only because one does not become a multi-billionaire without knowing how to manipulate a few rubes).

Jim Newell at Slate, meanwhile, hits the panic button over Democratic voter enthusiasm:

A new survey conducted by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner demonstrates the enthusiasm gap. It polls likely voters across four Senate battleground states—Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin—of which three are also critical presidential battlegrounds. (Wisconsin isn’t a state that Democrats can take for granted, either.) Though GQR finds that demographic changes aid Democrats in these states, it does not find a whole lot of enthusiasm among the new national Democratic coalition of minorities, young people, and unmarried women.

As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent points out, one question asks voters how interested they are in the November 2016 election on a 1 to 10 scale. Among those who answered 10, the leading demographic affiliations are: seniors, overall “non-RAE” (the Rising American Electorate, meaning unmarried women, young people, and minorities), conservatives, Republicans, and white non-college men. These are, as Sen. Ted Cruz would describe them, “rock-ribbed conservative” demographics. The demographic groups with the fewest “extremely interested” members are overall “RAE,” millennials, and at the very bottom, white millennials, offering further proof that white millennials are the worst people ever created.

You need to have your own people be excited—and not just excited about defeating the opposition, which seems to be what Wasserman Schultz plows most of her resources into doing. Your party’s voters have to be excited about your party’s candidate. And if that candidate’s worth getting excited about, there shouldn’t be any hesitancy about exposing her to the public as much as possible, instead of hiding her few mass public appearances behind weekend football games.

Newell, as you can see, asserts that the enthusiasm gap has to do with what might politely be described as the Clinton coronation. I agree – but only up to a point.

I don’t the think the problem for the Democrats right now is so much that debates are getting shoved off to undesirable time slots. The big problem is that Democrats pretty much know that Hillary Clinton is going to win in the end, and that’s frankly a bit of a buzz-kill. Not because Hillary is a bad person or a bad candidate; but because certainty is rarely very exciting or interesting.

Right now, Betfair.com (the same site that the Gang of FiveThirtyEight are discussing) puts Hillary’s odds of winning at 1.12:1, which translates to an implied probability of about 89.2 percent. That may even be a slight underestimate (and I say this as a Bernie Sanders supporter and donor). To be sure, Hillary is only barely cracking 50 percent support in national polls, and Bernie Sanders is still in the same time zone, garnering around 30 percent. (The latest RCP average has it at 54.6 for Clinton, 32.5 for Sanders). But the actual poll numbers obscure the extent to which Hillary is winning the “invisible primary.”
(Yes, I remember 2008 – I was an Obama Precinct Captain on the day that Obama won the Texas caucus and Hillary won the Texas primary. But in 2008, Obama had a respectable share of endorsements… whereas this time around, Hillary Clinton is pitching a virtual shutout — she’s got 407 endorsements “points” versus only 2 for Bernie Sanders, per 538).

So anyway, the Democrats know who their candidate is going to be, warts and all. How does this compare to the Republicans? Those guys have no clue who their nominee is going to be, and many of the candidates are empty vessels for their wildest right-wing fantasies. Ben Carson is only the latest in a long string of Con-Dumpsters who have utterly no chance of actually winning, but who manages to win millions of fans by touching them in all of their socially-reactionary erogenous zones.

There are other reasons, by the way, why the GOP might be polling better enthusiasm right now. The most obvious is the surge-and-decline theory. And sure, perhaps better time slots would help pump up Dems a little bit. There is some evidence that competitive primaries are good for parties.

But, I  expect that as we get into primary season early next year – and one of the Republican rogues actually threatens to win the nomination – that the partisan enthusiasm gap will narrow significantly.

As noted political philosopher and musician Sebastian the Crab once said, “the seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake.”  Wiser words have never been spoken by a crustacean.
* This is an in-joke that you are not necessarily intended to understand. I actually have a lot of respect for Nate Silver.

Pros Blow Prose on MoDo’s Beau No-Nos

I wrote earlier this month about Maureen’s Dowd in promoting Bidenmania. On one hand, I’m glad that questions are being asked about the column, but on the other, I’m annoyed because they’re the wrong questions. TPM:

But in an interview with the CBS show “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night, Biden said that his son’s request wasn’t what it was made out to be.

“Beau all along thought that I should run and I could win,” Biden said. “But there was not what was sort of made out as kind of this Hollywood-esque thing that, at the last minute, Beau grabbed my hand and said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to run, like, win one for the Gipper.’ It wasn’t anything like that.”

Margaret Sullivan, the public editor for The New York Times, wrote on Tuesday that she looked into the matter after hearing from readers who wondered whether Biden’s comment conflicted with Dowd’s column. She asked Dowd to respond.

From Dowd’s email to Sullivan:

The Vice President confirmed on CBS that he often talked to Beau about running for president, and that Beau thought all along that his dad could run and win. Mr. Biden said what never occurred was a “Hollywood-esque thing that at the last minute” there was a deathbed request where Beau “grabbed my hand and said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to run.’ ”I never reported a last-minute deathbed scene where Beau grabbed his father’s hand. In fact, my column recounted a conversation they had seated at a table after Beau knew his prognosis was bad. He was terminally ill for some time.

Ultimately, Sullivan decided that Dowd was in the clear. But Sullivan wrote that the news staff took Dowd’s column “a step further — in fact, a step too far.”

Got that? Maureen Dowd is absolved because, to the extent anyone thought that her column portrayed a maudlin death-bed scene, that was a mischaracterization!

As I noted, the real problem is that, regardless of the exact details of the story, Maureen Dowd did her readers a dis-service by not being candid about the source of her information. Margaret Sullivan deals with that with hand-waving:

Opinion-side columnists have a lot of leeway, and they should. Ms. Dowd took full advantage of that freedom in this column by reporting something newsworthy without describing her source (though, frankly, it wasn’t hard to figure that out, given the paucity of choices)

Well, duh.

But if Dowd had been fully forthcoming about her sourcing, it probably would have spared the body politic quite a bit of Biden drama. The sub-text of Sullivan’s dismissive response is: “look readers, you should expect that our columnists have hidden agendas, and if you were fooled, it’s your own damn fault.

The Times shouldn’t get to dodge the hard questions about journalistic ethics by casting them as nontroversies over literal accuracy.

They’ll get away with it though.

They always do.

Democrats In Disarray? A Roundup of Responses to Matt Yglesias

Earlier this week, Vox posted an article by Matthew Yglesias suggesting that the Democratic Party is in great peril due to the lack of attention paid to state and local races:

The presidency is extremely important, of course. But there are also thousands of critically important offices all the way down the ballot. And the vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republicans hands. And, of course, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Indeed, even the House infighting reflects, in some ways, the health of the GOP coalition. Republicans are confident they won’t lose power in the House and are hungry for a vigorous argument about how best to use the power they have.

Not only have Republicans won most elections, but they have a perfectly reasonable plan for trying to recapture the White House. But Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren’t even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don’t even admit that they exist.

Instead, the party is focused on a competition between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton over whether they should go a little bit to Obama’s left or a lot to his left, options that are unlikely to help Democrats down-ballot in the face of an unfriendly House map and a more conservative midterm electorate. The GOP might be in chaos, but Democrats are in a torpor.

Insofar as this piece has been widely read and discussed — Yglesias has succeeded as an author. It seems like everyone from Rush Limbaugh to public radio picked up on it.

So naturally, I’d like to weigh in with a few thoughts:

1.) This issue comes up at the same time that both the national Republican and Democratic Party leaderships are under fire. The GOP, of course, is running Congress like a poorly-managed three-ring circus and their presidential nomination contest so far, has been a dumpster fire. And on the other side, the first debate revealed a major feud between DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Tulsi Gabbard over the former’s heavy-handed management of the party (ostensibly on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions).

2.) Given the inanity of national politics these days, it is only natural to take a look “outside that box” to say something fresh and interesting. As a professional contrarian, it makes complete sense for Yglesias to look to state and local races.

3.) It is hardly news that the Democrats have suffered several blow-outs in a row in state legislative races. Cokie Roberts made the same point months ago.

4.) Democrats are not oblivious to the issue. As Ed Kilgore notes (h/t to Ryan Cooper):

After reading Matt Yglesias’ cri de coeur against “complacent” Democrats who don’t seem to be aware the Donkey Party is a presidential loss away from a total conservative makeover of the country, my basic reaction is that Matt needs to get out more. The whole premise of his Vox piece is that Democrats either don’t know or don’t care that they are at a historic disadvantage at the state government level and have little chance of—or a “plan” for—regaining control of the U.S. House, either. The Democrats I talk to seem pretty aware of the situation, if perhaps too sanguine about their long-term prospects (thanks to faith in demographics or doubt that the craziness rampant in the GOP will enable that party to pull of a trifecta).

Hillary Clinton herself went on MSNBC yesterday to stress the importance of down-ballot races.

5.) Yglesias is doing some cherry-picking here. Yes, 70 percent of state legislatures are controlled by the GOP. But as Ed Kilgore notes, “controlling a majority of the states can be accomplished with far less than a national majority thanks to the number of small (and often conservative) states.”

Note that the 70-percent-of-legislatures translates to only 55.6 percent of seats across the country.

Moreover, even the share-of-seats measurement is an inflated measurement of Republican electoral success. Ideally we would be looking at share-of-the-vote, since that reflects the actual support among the electorate. Unfortunately, that is a metric I can’t find, possibly because not all state legislative seats nationally are up in a single election. But we can reasonably assume that the Republicans won less than 56 percent of actual votes based on a few factors:

  • We do know that (federal) House Republicans got only 52 percent of the vote in the last election, and this translated into the largest majority for them since Hubert Hoover was president (56.7 percent of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives). We can probably assume that most of the partisans who voted for the GOP in the national legislature voted for the GOP in state races.
  • Some of the states with the largest number of legislators tilt GOP, despite relatively small populations. For example: Massachusetts has 160 members of the state legislature (123 D, 35 R) but the D’s advantage in seats in Massachusetts is nearly wiped out by New Hampshire, which has 400 seats (160 D, 238 R, 2 I), even though Massachusetts has five times as many people as New Hampshire does.

6.) Not all state legislative majorities are equal. Some states, like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia, are going to be prize plums because they are swing states, and send a significant number of representatives to Congress. The party that can win control of the state legislatures there (and heretofore, that has been the GOP in all four of these states), is in a position to make a serious impact on federal races, particularly vis-a-vis gerrymandering.

However, the flip-side to that is that there are some state legislatures which are simply irrelevant to national politics because there is only a single House seat which cannot possibly be gerrymandered. Control of the state government may matter to residents of these states, of course, but that is not the main concern of Yglesias’s article. Any effort spent by a national party organization on down-ballot races in these states is simply a waste of money:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

Note that five of these seven states are GOP strongholds at the national level (though all of these states have elected both Republicans and Democrats in recent memory).

7.) Moreover, in states that do matter, the state legislative majority is often a fait accompli due to state and local gerrymandering. Perhaps the most cogent response to Yglesias comes from Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress, who notes:

Reading Yglesias’s piece, however, one comes away with the impression that there are only two branches of the federal government — the president and Congress. Granted, these are the only two elected branches, but the winner of 2016’s presidential election is likely to play an unusually large role in shaping the membership of the Supreme Court. And the Democratic Party’s best road to relevance in highly gerrymandered states begins with changing the makeup of the nation’s highest Court.

And of course, control of the judiciary depends primarily on control of the White House and secondarily on control of the U.S. Senate. Which means that taking the focus off of the presidential race is the exact opposite of what needs to be done.

8.) Ed Kilgore also emphasizes the importance of presidential GOTV in down-ballot races:

… a focused GOTV effort in a presidential year is going to produce Democratic downballot gains next year, almost infallibly, especially but not exclusively in battleground states. Yes, it is unfortunate for Democrats (but absolutely beyond anyone’s control) that relatively few governorships are up for grab in 2016. But if Matt really is interested in a “plan” for recovery instead of just a healthy sense of panic, then the actual 2016 battlegrounds are a good place to start.

Ryan Cooper also makes a similar point, asserting that base mobilization during presidential years is part of a big part of educating voters and pushing them to participate in mid-term years (not just presidential elections):

The Democrats’ strategy is thus far a halfhearted, pale shadow of the fervent ideological mobilization that the Republican base has been deploying for generations, but it basically makes sense. The end game is a politically activated base that fully understands that merely voting in presidential elections is totally inadequate to securing substantive liberal goals. It might not work, but it’s got a better shot than being the party of triangulating sellouts.

9.) It’s actually quite normal for the political party that controls the White House to stumble in mid-term elections, and the 2014 wipe-out was in large part cyclical (being the first mid-term after a decennial redistricting). Note that the same dynamic existed in 1982, 1994 and 2002. As PolitiFact notes, the calendar has simply dealt Democrats a bad hand in recent elections. Furthermore, Kilgore notes that the next decennial census cycle should be kinder to Democrats. While that is not (in itself) a “plan” as Yglesias demands, it also puts his Cassandra-ism into context.

10.) Given that reality, this interview by Greg Sargent with the director of the DGA ought to dispel notions that there is not a “plan.”

11.) Ryan Cooper notes that Yglesias seems to have an ideological agenda at play:

So why have Democrats been struggling at the state and local level? Yglesias has several explanations: structural over-representation of rural voters, who tilt conservative; the fact that the bulk of the monied class is conservative; gerrymandering; and so forth. All good reasons. However, he also implicitly embraces one of the hoariest Washington clichés: It’s because Democrats are too left-wing — they’ve abandoned the center! Perhaps sensing that he’s sounding disturbingly like America’s Worst Pundit, he tiptoes up to this rather than stating it outright, but the conclusion is clear enough:

[T]he party is marching steadily to the left on its issue positions — embracing same-sex marriage, rediscovering enthusiasm for gun control, rejecting the January 2013 income tax rate settlement as inadequate, raising its minimum wage aspirations to the $12-to-$15 range, abandoning the quest for a grand bargain on balancing the budget while proposing new entitlements for child care and parental leave — even though existing issue positions seem incompatible with a House majority or any meaningful degree of success in state politics. [Vox]

One problem with this argument is that conservative Democrats have already lost in droves. During the huge Republicans wave in 2010, it was overwhelmingly conservative Blue Dogs and New Democrats who got thrown out. The party leadership has been desperately trying to preserve its last few Blue Dog preserves in battleground states, but they lost a bunch more in 2014 too.

This would not of course be the first time that someone has asserted that Vox-style contrarianism is simply a pose for shallow, corporate centrism. Moreover, the response from the right to this piece generally seems to be sympathetic; witness NRO quoting approvingly Yglesias’s “important point” about the Democrats “marching steadily to the left”; see Hot Air do the same.

12 < X < 435 Monkeys, Solve For "X"

A time vortex has opened up — and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-ButYouKnewThatAlready) has come back to us to spread Clinton Derangement Syndrome before it’s too late:

It’s amazing to me how “Ready for Hillary” the Republicans are…. even though America is, as a guy who-is-not-Larry-David said, “sick and tired of hearing about the damn emails.”

Liveblogging The First Democratic Presidential Debate

My thoughts on tonight’s exciting debate, starring Hillary “Robitussin” Clinton, Bernie “Sudafed” Sanders, Martin “O’Morpheus” O’Malley, Lincoln “Sweet Dreams” Chafee, and Jim “Zzzzz” Webb.

7:43 Central — Here we go. Anderson Cooper is wearing the smart glasses. Linc is first on the stage, looking dashing in a green tie. O’Malley follows, sporting light blue. Hillary with the dark blue pantsuit, Bernie with blue and gray stripes, and Jim Webb, with silver (and glasses?).

Sheryl Crowe nails it.

And now for some exciting commercials!


8:00 Central  Introductions. Chafee has had no scandals, and has “high ethical standards.” May or may not have formerly been a Republican. Tie is very distracting.

Jim Webb goes on the attack against big money. Bled for our country. May or may not have formerly been a Republican. Tie is also somewhat distracting. Compelling personal story. Has five children.

Martin O’Malley. Tie is not distracting. Actually a pretty good public speaker. Is definitely a Democrat, and goddamnit he wants you to know it. Platitudes.

Bernie Sanders. Tie is not distracting, and that’s good because America has a CRISIS. “Millionaires and Billionaires” — if you had that on your debate bingo card, drink bitches. May or may not be a Democrat, but is definitely angry, so take that, O’Malley. Gets the first solid applause from the crowd.

Hillary Clinton. Never heard of her, but she’s a granddaughter of a factory worker and has a granddaughter, who is probably cute. Does a lot of listening. “Raising wages” is at the center of her campaign. And then tax fairness. Believes in equal pay and paid family leave, and the audience does to! Will heal divides. Fathers will now be able to lie to their daughters and tell them they “too can be President.”

8:01 — Hillary, “will you say anything to get elected?” Says that the TPP was just negotiated so she was entitled to change her opinion. Coop didn’t seem satisfied. HRC insists she is a consistent progressive. “I’m a progressive who likes to get things done.” Will work with Republicans, maybe, if they don’t piss here off.

8:03 — Bernie, “how can any kind of socialist win?” By rattling off statistics and factoids, apparently. Just like in every other country. Denies being part of the “casino capitalist process” that has “wrecked the economy.”
Coop asks if anyone else is not a capitalist. Hillary says capitalism is about small businesses and that we need to “save capitalism is from itself.” Says “we’re not Denmark.”

Bernie agrees that entrepreneurship is great, but growth must be spread fairly. Says he will support small businesses.

8:07Linc, “why should Democrats trust you?” Says he is a “block of granite” who has not changed on the issues, despite changing parties. Says GOP “left me.”

8:08 — O’Malley, “why should Americans trust you” when they see that Baltimore is a flaming dumpster fire? Says that Charm City got better under his leadership. “I did not make our city immune to setbacks, but I did attend a lot of funerals.” Says he helped save over 1,000 lives.

8:11 — Webb, “aren’t you out of step” by being a crotchety white guy with questionable views on race? Says he is in the tradition of the Democratic Party, and that he supports affirmative action for black people. Says lots of white people have it hard.

8:13 — Bernie, “shield the gun companies from lawsuits?” Sanders says he has a D- rating from the NRA. Says he has supported background checks and banning assault rifles. Says we need to improve mental health care. Says that gun shop liability is complicated, but thinks that manufacturers should be exposed to lawsuits.

Hillary says Bernie is not tough enough on guns, and says we need to “stand up” to the NRA. Jabbing hard on this issue.

Bernie says that “all the shouting in the world” isn’t going to keep guns out of the hands of people who “should not have guns.” Emphasizes consensus.

O’Malley. Obama can’t pass gun control, “how can you”? Notes that Aurora shooting parents are in the audience. Joins the pile-on regarding gunmaker liability.

Bernie says “we can raise our voices, but I come from a rural state.” Emphasizes consensus. “I intend to lead the country.”

O’Malley asks if Sanders has ever been to Western Maryland. Says he “led with principle” instead of “pandering.”

Sanders says it is not “pandering” to recognize that Congress won’t pass a Maryland-style bill.

Coop asks Jim Webb to chime in, noting he had an A rating from the NRA. Says ordinary Americans should be able to defend themselves with guns.

Chafee chips in, notes that gun lobby is successful at scaring voters. Says he can “find common ground” with the gun lobby. Sounds delusional.

O’Malley says he won the debate in Maryland by writing letters to gun owners.

8:22 — Hillary, “did you underestimate the Russians?” Hillary says she got a lot of business done with the Russians. Says it’s not acceptable for Vladimir Putin to be “creating chaos” in Syria.

Bernie says Syria is a “quagmire in a quagmire.” Insists he will do everything he can to prevent U.S. involvement. Says we should get Arabs to handle this.

Hillary chimes in and says “nobody” supports U.S. ground troops in Syria.

8:25 — Dana Bash asks the candidates about war in Syria. Hillary and Bernie square off on their records regarding the Iraq War.
(I had some technical difficulty at this point, so excuse the fact that I’m being a tad brief).

O’Malley gets asked if Hillary is too hawkish. Says he agrees with Bernie Sanders that the Iraq War was “one of the worst blunders in modern American history.”

Hillary notes that the decision has already been made regarding the Syrian no-fly zone, and says diplomacy is not about getting the “perfect solution” but about balancing risks. That seems like a slight gaffe that could be used against her later.

Webb says “the greatest strategic threat” is China, not the Middle East.

Cooper asks Bernie to chime in. Bernie seems a bit surprised, says that Russia will “regret” being involved in Syria.

Hillary is asked about Libya and Webb’s criticism. O’Malley says that Benghazi resulted from failed human intelligence. Webb says that Libya was rushed by Obama, and made Benghazi inevitable.

8:39 — Webb is asked if Bernie Sanders can be commander-in-chief when he applied to be a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. Says he respects objectors, but that he feels that he (Webb) is the most qualified to be commander-in-chief.

Bernie thanks Jim Webb and notes they have worked together on veterans benefits. Says when he was a young man (“I am not a young man today”) he notes that he strongly opposed the Vietnam War. But “I am not a pacifist” and says he is prepared to take the country into war.

Chafee and Webb have a back-and-forth regarding Russia and Iran regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

8:42 — What is the greatest threat? Linc – “chaos in the middle east.” O’Malley – “nuclear Iran”. Hillary – nuclear proliferation. Sanders – climate change. Webb – relationship with China, cyberterrorism, middle east.

8:47 — Hillary gets a question regarding e-mails, and whether she can handle crises. Says she has taken responsibility for legal but unwise decisions regarding e-mail. Looks forward to testifying. “Let’s just take a minute” to point out that the Benghazi commission is a partisan hackjob.

Coop, “isn’t it hard to call this just a partisan issue?” Shorter answer — heck no. Says she wants to talk about what the people want.

Bernie chimes in to agree with Hillary. “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails!” Gets loud applause, and the candidates shake hands.

Linc tries to Lincsplain why this is an issue. Coop asks if Hillary wants to respond. “No.”

Coop asks O’Malley. “Now that we’re finally having debates, Anderson, we don’t have to be defined” by the e-mail issue.

8:52 — Off to Don Lemon with Facebook question. A young man from Des Moines asks, “Do ‘black lives matter’ or do ‘all lives matter’?”

Bernie says #BlackLivesMatter and says that we need to combat institutional racism. Says we have more people in jail than China.

O’Malley says #BlackLivesMatter has a “legitimate, serious” point.

Cooper asks Hillary what she will do for black people that Obama hasn’t. Says that we need to follow-up on obstructed agenda items. Calls for a “new New Deal” for communities of color.

Webb says that “every life matters” but that he has a long history of working with black voters, and that he “risked his political life” on criminal justice reform. Says he has “done the hard jobs” on civil rights, but his answer might have been a bit tone deaf.

Cooper asks Bernie Sanders what he will do for black people that Obama couldn’t. Says that he will focus on creating jobs, raising the minimum wage to $15, pay equity for women, oppose globalization, and make college tuition-free.

Cooper asks Hillary what she will do about income inequality says “you and your husband are part of the one percent.” Hillary repeats her point (made several times) that she will help people reach their “god-given potential.” Notes that Democrats are better than Republicans.

Martin O’Malley agrees with Sanders on income inequality. Brings up Glass-Steagall Act, and says that is a big difference between him and Hillary Clinton.

9:01 — Cooper asks for details about how Hillary would regulate Wall Street banks. Emphasizes her plan to empower regulators to break up banks and look at shadow banks.

Bernie says it’s “not true” that Hillary’s banking plan is tougher than his. Says he fought deregulation of banks in the 1990s. Says that we’ve got to “break them up.”

Hillary says she respects Bernie Sanders’ passion, but that she “represented Wall Street” as a Senator from New York and supposedly told the bankers to cut it out. Might be considered a mild gaffe.

Bernie says “in my view, Congress doesn’t regulate Wall Street. Wall Street regulates Congress.”

O’Malley goes Full Sanders and starts rattling off statistics about bank consolidation. Re-iterates that he is for a “firewall” between investors and retail banking, and that Hillary is not. Brings up Keystone.

Hillary says “everybody on this stage has change a position or two.” Says that she got tough on the Chinese regarding climate change.

9:06 — Cooper asks Bernie if he would risk the economic stability of the country to stick with his principles. Bernie says that his objection to the 2008 bailout was that the burden was imposed on the middle class instead of on “the millionaires and billionaires.” Notes that his education plan would make college tuition-free based on a financial transaction test.

Cooper asks Jim Webb for his views. Notes that he called for a windfalls profit tax, and complains that he doesn’t get equal time.

Cooper asks Linc about Glass-Steagall. Says it was the first vote he made in the Senate. Coop digs in, asks if he voted for something he didn’t understand. Spins about the Bush cuts.

9:10 Dana Bash asks Bernie Sanders if it makes sense to provide college free to “Donald Trump’s kids.” Bernie says that a college degree is what a high school degree used to be, and reiterates that it is paid for by taxing Wall Street.

Dana Bash pivots to Clinton, and asks about other plans that Bernie Sanders has offered for Social Security expansion, etc. Hillary says that students should work during collegeEmbraces “enhancing” benefits.

Bernie chimes in, notes that he has been a leader in defending Social Security benefits, and eliminating the cap on the Social Security taxes.

9:15 — Juan-Carlos Lopez asks Bernie Sanders why he voted against a 2007 immigration bill. Bernie says he voted against it because the guest-worker program in the bill was “semi-slavery.” Says he supports comprehensive immigration reform.

Lopez then turns to Hillary whether Obamacare should be expanded to undocumented immigrants. Hillary says she supports healthcare for children, and supports an exchange buy-in.

O’Malley says that he would “go further than Obama” on immigration.

Webb says “he wouldn’t have a problem” with undocumented immigrants getting Obamacare. Talks about his wife’s story as a Vietnamese refugee.

Hillary chimes in with a note that there is “such a difference” between the Democrats’ views on immigration and the Republicans. Never hurts to get in a free swipe at the opposition party.

Cooper asks about giving in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. Hillary says that it is basically up to the states.

O’Malley, on cue, notes that he already did it in Maryland. Calls Donald Trump “that carnival barker.”

Anderson Cooper asks why Bernie Sanders didn’t take action sooner on veterans’ affairs. Bernie notes that he was only chair for two years, and that during his tenure he worked with John McCain to fundamentally reform VA care.

Coop then asks Chafee about his vote on the PATRIOT Act. Says he’d be willing to reform it.

Hillary says she doesn’t regret her vote on the PATRIOT Act. Blames the Bush Administration for screwing up the law.

Coop notes that Bernie Sanders was the only one to vote against the PATRIOT Act. Bernie says he would shutdown NSA telephone snooping.

Coop then asks the candidates whether Edward Snowden is a hero or traitor. Chafee says that we should bring Edward Snowden home. Hillary says he broke the law, and should “face the music.” O’Malley says “whistleblowers do not run to Russia.” Sanders says that Snowden “played an important role in educating the American people” but says that he should be punished for breaking the law. Webb stumbles, says he would leave it to the courts, rambles about destroying collected information.

Coop asks the candidates how their presidency would not be a third Obama term. Chafee would change middle east policy. O’Malley says that he would more populist and break up banks. Hillary Clinton says that she would be the first woman president, but refuses to name a specific policy difference. Bernie Sanders says he would lead a political revolution against corporate power. Webb dismisses Bernie, saying that “the revolution is not gonna come” but notes that he would be more conservative with executive authority.

O’Malley riffs on revolution, saying he wants a “Green Revolution,”

9:34 — Hillary. “Why should Democrats embrace an insider.” First woman president. Accomplishments. Etc.

O’Malley says our country needs new leadership.

Hillary says she wouldn’t “want anyone to vote for her based on her last name.”

Sanders notes that he doesn’t raise money from “millionaires and billionaires.”

9:38 — Facebook time! Anna from Tempe asks how the candidates will address climate change. O’Malley gets the question first, touts renewables.

Webb gets it next. Cooper asks him about supporting coal. Webb says he is a believer in “all of the above” energy solutions. Says we need to focus on China and India.

Sanders says we can’t fix climate change until we have campaign finance reform. Namechecks the Pope.

Hillary Clinton tells a story, that I think, is about beating up the Chinese vis-a-vis climate change at the Copenhagen Airport. Says we need verifiable commitments from other countries.

9:42 — Dana Bash asks Hillary Clinton about Carly Fiorina’s objection to paid family leave, that it might cost jobs and hurt small businesses. Hillary cites California as a success story. Calls it “typical Republican scare tactics.” Has a genuine moment describing challenges of being a working mother.

Hillary hits it out of the park attacking the GOP over Republican bullying (and sneaks in a mention to Planned Parenthood). “Big government this, big government that.” Definitely a high point.

Bernie Sanders chimes in, agreeing that America needs paid family leave.

O’Malley notes that Maryland already did that.

9:46 — Lopez asks Bernie Sanders how he would vote on a Nevada referendum to legalize recreational marijuana. Says he’d probably vote for it because of the problems of criminalizing drugs (including overcriminalization).

Hillary gets it next. Lopez asks if she is ready to take a position on recreational marijuana legalization. “No.” Does say that she is definitely in favor of medical marijuana. Says that we need to address mass incarceration.

9:48 — Another Facebook question. How will you work with the Republicans?

Bernie says that the GOP “has played a terrible terrible role as total obstructionists.” Says that people need to rise up and “make the Republicans an offer they can’t refuse.”

9:54 — Question is basically, who would be the hardest to work with? Chafee – coal companies. O’Malley: “The National Rifle Association.” Clinton — “Probably the Republicans.” Sanders: pharmaceutical and finance. Webb: “the enemy soldier who through the grenade who injured me.” What???

9:56 — Wrapping up now. Final statements.

Chafee, with all the enthusiasm as a comedy defensive driving instructor, reiterates that he has had “no scandals” (oh really Linc? your tie is a scandal). Says he wants to be the peacemaker.

Webb. Wants a national economic plan. This may be the only opportunity he’s had to speak for 90 seconds this whole debate.

O’Malley. Notes that the Democrats are not insane bigots. Says debate was “an honest search for the answers.” Says we need to “speak to the goodness in our country.”

Sanders. Hits on his main points. “Only major country” etc. “Nobody up here, certainly no Republican, can address the major crises in our country, unless millions of people stand up to the billionaire class.” Asks viewers for “30 bucks apiece.”

Hillary finishes up. “Please come and make it clear that America’s best days are ahead.”

10:04 — My impressions:

  • Doubt this will have a major impact on the polls. This was a friendly debate and everyone really did well (even Chafee and Webb, who came across as weirdos from time to time).
  • In my view, the best performances were: O’Malley, Clinton, Sanders, Webb, Chafee.

Master Debaters Masticate: Gannett Infographic Edition

There was once a time in my life when I used to enjoy reading USA Today. But then I graduated from middle school.

So, it’s notable that today’s Today captured my eye, during a short break at work, with this headline on the front page, above the fold :


Are we really doing this USA Today?  Survey says: “yes!”

According to a new study by the grammar-checking app Grammarly, supporters commenting on Democratic candidates’ Facebook pages made an average of 4.2 mistakes per 100 words compared to 8.7 mistakes for supporters of Republican candidates. The Democratic supporters also showed a larger vocabulary, using on average 300 unique words per 1,000 words, while Republicans used only 245.

The trend is starker when broken out by candidate: The five Democratic candidates — Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton — all get better Facebook grammar scores (in that order) than every Republican except Carly Fiorina, whose supporters posted the best grammar scores of any GOP candidate, tying her with Clinton.

Of the entire field, Chafee supporters are most grammatical (while also being rarest), making 3.1 errors per hundred words. Trump supporters are far more numerous but most grammatically challenged, racking up 12.6 boo-boos per hundred words. Fiorina and Clinton meet in the middle at 6.3.

Personally, I find it surprising that there are Chafee supporters to score. I do not find it surprising at all that the trumpenproletariat might not be able to spell “proletariat.”

Incidentally, USA Today seems to be so fascinated with this that they ran almost the exact same story two months ago. And in that early survey, yes, the Trump voters came out looking like jabronis.

(What does it tell you when even USA Today thinks you’re a moron?)


Joe Biden: Still The World’s Leading Source of Joe Biden

On August 2, The New York Times printed an op-ed by Maureen Dowd that started a Biden boomlet, in large part because of a touching anecdote about Beau Biden’s dying wish:

Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.

I will concede that the Beau story did pull on my heartstrings, in part because I lost my teenage sister to cystic fibrosis a few years ago and so I sympathize with any parent who loses a child. Nevertheless, one probably should have asked, “OK, Ms. Dowd, how do you know what Joe Biden was thinking in a conversation where there was nobody else but him and his now-dead son”?
To be sure, Maureen Dowd has a tendency towards fabulism; if some day in the future we are so blessed as to be treated to a dramatization of the 2000 election directed, written and starring Tommy Wiseau, I have no doubt that we will remember Wiseau (as Al Gore, no doubt) telling MoDo: “haha Maureen, you always play psychologist!”
So it seemed plausible at the time that she was just making sh*t up (that’s the technical term).

Politico today prints this shocking scoop — Joe Biden himself was in fact Maureen Dowd’s source: 

According to multiple sources, it was Biden himself who talked to her, painting a tragic portrait of a dying son, Beau’s face partially paralyzed, sitting his father down and trying to make him promise to run for president because “the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.”

It was no coincidence that the preliminary pieces around a prospective campaign started moving right after that column. People read Dowd and started reaching out, those around the vice president would say by way of defensive explanation. He was just answering the phone and listening.

But in truth, Biden had effectively placed an ad in The New York Times, asking them to call.

Before that moment and since, Biden has told the Beau story to others. Sometimes details change — the setting, the exact words. The version he gave Dowd delivered the strongest punch to the gut, making the clearest swipe at Clinton by enshrining the idea of a campaign against her in the words of a son so beloved nationally that his advice is now beyond politics. This campaign wouldn’t be about her or her email controversy, the story suggests, but connected to righteousness on some higher plane.

To be sure, I think that Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere may be overly critical of Joe Biden’s motives. Josh Voorhees of Slate also:

Still, given what we do know about Biden, this wouldn’t exactly be an M. Night Shyamalan–style surprise. Let me remind you of three irrefutable things: Joe Biden is an active politician who has been running for one office or another for the past five decades; Joe Biden is a successful politician who has climbed from county council to the second-highest office in the land; and Joe Biden is an ambitious politician who has long dreamed of being—and twice actively campaigned to become—president of the United States of America.

While relaying the story of your son’s dying wish to a New York Times columnist in a bid to get people talking about your 2016 plans may seem, at best, uncouth or, at worst, crassly calculated, it’s also a brilliant political move for someone in Joe Biden’s position. And you know who is in Joe Biden’s position? Joe Biden.

It’s entirely possible that Biden was calculating when he shared this story with the New York Times. It’s also entire possible that Joe Biden – a professional politician but one who is also known for making gaffes and deviating from scripts – simply started recounting the story stream-of-consciousness style.

Did he tell her directly? Did she overhear it? Was it a secret phone call? Drunken rambling?Ultimately, we don’t know what Joe Biden’s motives were in telling this story to the press. And a big reason for that is because Maureen Dowd didn’t think to tell us who her source was, or how she came to know this information.

Clearly, the Biden family has  suffered a tragedy, and even if the Vice President has ruthlessly decided to turn such lemons into political lemonade, he still has my respect. But as a journalist, Maureen Dowd has one job – ostensibly, to report the goddamn news fairly and accurately – and she continues to do it poorly.

Moreover, let us not forget that if Hillary Clinton had done this, Maureen Dowd would have thrown a supertanker’s worth of shade.

Benghazi Fishing Expedition springs leak; Dems aim to sink GOP shenanigans

A few days ago, GOP majority leader and might-have-been-Speaker Kevin McCarthy accidentally told the truth about the $4.5 million Select Committee on Benghazi:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

Immediately after this gaffe, some Democrats began calling for the committee to be disbanded.

Today — not missing the opportunity to kick the GOP while they’re down — the five Democrats on the committee have come forward with a public letter threatening to begin releasing unclassified-but-unreleased committee records they say proves the Committee has been running a partisan witch hunt:

In the letter, Reps. Elijah Cumming (D-SC), Adam Smith (D-WA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), said that the way Republicans on the committee went about their work shows how political their investigation has been.

“Although some Republicans attempted to explain away Rep. McCarthy’s admission, it reflected exactly what has been going on within the Select Committee for the past year-and-a-half,” the letter continues. “It has held no hearings of any kind since January, and it has completely abandoned its plans to hear public testimony from top defense and intelligence officials so Republicans can focus almost exclusively on Hillary Clinton.”

The Democratic members of the panel then accused the Republican members of using “a series of selective leaks of inaccurate and incomplete information in an effort to attack Secretary Clinton with unsubstantiated or previously debunked allegations.”

In particular, the letter claims that the committee unfairly portrayed its private interview with former Clinton staffer Cheryl Mills by demanding that the interview be treated as classified information and then leaking parts of the interview to the press. The Democratic members included previously unreported excerpts of the interview with Mills in the letter, and they told Gowdy that the State Department and Mills’ lawyers have five days to identify parts of the interview that should remain private before making the entire transcript public.

One of the key points that the Democrats’ letter makes is that the Gowdy Committee has been playing Calvinball with secrecy rulesOf course, inconsistent classification of government secrets has been a serious problem in all branches of government, including the State Department under Hillary Clinton. This is a serious, non-partisan problem which, unfortunately, will probably not be addressed any time soon.

Nevertheless, given that the Benghazi truthers have been alleging cover-ups and conspiracies based on smoke-and-mirrors, I really won’t fret if the Gowdy Commission gets hoisted by its own petard.

So fun, so relatable…

Screenshot - 10032015 - 10:56:49 PM

I have to admit, this was one of the best non-surprise surprise appearances I’ve seen in a while…

In the proposed actually-aired skit, Mrs. Clinton would likely poke poked fun at herself for trying to appear more authentic while carefully plotting her path to the presidency. Ms. McKinnon, an unabashed Clinton supporter, told The Times’s Maureen Dowd that Mrs. Clinton was “a staunch, passionate lady, and in our culture, unfortunately, there’s something funny about that.”

… and surprise-surprises also (WARNING: SPOILERS).