Category Archives: Hillary Clinton

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Donna Brazile is a Hack

After any failed presidential campaign, operatives reposition themselves to avoid being or appearing wrong — to keep prominence, respect, and power, they naturally want to be on the right side of every campaign decision, or at least make others believe they stood against the tide and fought for hindsight’s best strategy.  Donna Brazile is no different.  Her ethical shortcomings during the campaign rightly cost her a job with CNN; her poor leadership at the DNC and the bizarre strategy she pushed should cost her respect within the party.  But it probably won’t matter because of her revisionist and ironically titled forthcoming book, Hacks.  This effort to recast herself after a botched campaign shows that Donna Brazile herself is in fact the hack.

False Rigging Claims

One of the book’s most explosive claims is that the DNC rigged the primary through a joint fundraising agreement with the Hillary Clinton campaign that let the latter have de facto control over hiring and strategic decisions.  This claim seem unsupported by contemporary reports of the joint fundraising agreement and the text of the agreement itself (made available by WikiLeaks).  As an officer of the party, Brazile should have made herself aware of any subtext or unspoken agreements about the fundraising venture to make sure nothing underhanded happened.

In fact, Donna Brazile’s claims about the 2015 joint fundraising agreement seem very similar to the text of the 2016 agreement signed after Clinton won the nomination and her campaign assumed control of the national party apparatus.  Without supplying further documentary proof, it remains entirely possible that Brazile’s account simply mistakes (or deceitfully confounds) the two agreements.  *UPDATE* NBC reports that the memo on which Brazile based her claims of “rigging” pertained to the general election, not the primary, a routine move as candidates assume control of party structures after their nomination.  Brazile lied about the memo’s contents.

Her claims of the DNC tilting or “rigging” the primary simply by an alleged scheme in which the Clinton campaign could veto strategic action by the DNC has no basis in reality.  The national party does little and is fairly weak — observers often overstate its importance (campaign committees such as the DSCC and DCCC control most of the money and political activities carried out by the party).  Without the Clinton campaign’s support, a bankrupt DNC couldn’t have done anything and, even if it had the money, what could it have done to rig a primary to favor either candidate?

The best means by which a primary can be rigged are the rules.  But the DNC approved the 2016 primary’s rules in 2014 and most of those rules carried over from 2010.  Similarly, the idea that a small group of individuals could somehow control 50+ primaries and caucuses as well as the voting inclinations of tens of millions is absolutely ridiculous (even if some of those officers emailed each other about supporting Clinton over Bernie Sanders).  Brazile’s claims of a rigged primary simply tap into lasting anger in an attempt to ingratiate herself with that wing of the party.

Such an overture is needed because Brazile caught flack for leaking Democratic primary debate questions to the Clinton campaign, another instance which Sanders supporters claimed as evidence of “rigging.”  This, too, is a senseless claim as none of the few questions Brazile gave to the Clinton campaign appeared verbatim, Clinton never sought the questions in advance (Brazile simply handed them over), and campaigns that prep extensively for debates can predict the questions with a high amount of accuracy.  They don’t need leaks to prepare for what’s coming (and leaked questions do not cause tens of millions to vote for a candidate).

Regardless, this ethical impropriety rightly resulted in CNN firing Brazile and Brazile losing respect among much of the politically inclined.  It’s little surprise that to improve her image among the insurgent Sanders wing, Brazile needed to embrace their “rigged” rhetoric and appear on their side.

Donna Brazile’s Revisionist History

Brazile made other revisionist claims that either show a bad memory or the underhanded actions of a hack trying to be on the right side of history.  In her phone call to Sanders about alleged (read: non-existent) “rigging,” Brazile claimed to say that “I did not trust the polls…I told [Sanders] I had visited states around the country and I found a lack of enthusiasm for her everywhere. I was concerned about the Obama coalition and about millennials.”

When polls tightened in September, Brazile, then interim leader of the DNC, went on CNN and expressed her confidence in a Clinton victory.  It’s true this might not reflect her actual beliefs — no party leader will go on national television to express belief that her candidate will lose — but Brazile’s electoral strategy showed she truly believed her words.  As Politico reported, Brazile held millions the Clinton campaign transferred to the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC and had the committees buy airtime for minority voter turnout in places such as Chicago and New Orleans.

Donna Brazile never doubted that Clinton would win the Electoral College.  She feared Clinton would lose the popular vote — polls never showed that being a likely outcome — so she had the DNC spend millions in non-competitive states to drive minority turnout.  Had Brazile actually worried about voter enthusiasm, she never would have squandered millions on states with certain outcomes.  She would have directed resources to Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Actions backed up her contemporary words about faith in Clinton’s ultimate victory but undermine her revisionist argument that she foresaw an enthusiasm gap that would cost Clinton the election.  Clearly, Brazile’s rewriting the past to appear correct even though her decisions at the time represented a major strategic blunder.

The false and confusing claims as well as the revisionism show Donna Brazile has little interest in helping the DNC unify and move forward.  Rather, she wants to reposition herself as a Sanders ally, one who stood up to the entrenched Clinton interests and tried to salvage the Clinton campaign.  Doing so keeps her prominent and indicates that she thinks Sanders will be a major force in 2020.  Naturally, a political operative at heart, Brazile wants to gain the favor of those who she believes will control the party for years to come even if she has to lie to do so.

With falsehoods stated and history changed, Donna Brazile reveals herself as nothing more than a hack.

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Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile are Wrong


Both Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile have declared the 2016 primaries “rigged” in Hillary Clinton’s favor.  This claim is entirely false and can only be made by those with political motives, whether rekindling popularity among the Bernie Sanders wing of the party or practicing revisionist history to shift society’s memory away from ethical improprieties that reflect poorly on Brazile, but not the the Clinton campaign.

Warren’s incorrect agreement that the DNC “rigged” the primary follows an explosive — at least to those not politically trained — excerpt from Brazile’s forthcoming book in which she reveals that the Clinton campaign used its Hillary Victory Fund to keep the DNC financially afloat in return for controlling a number of its operations.

That’s not new information, it’s not shocking information, and it in no way “rigs” an entire primary.  In August 2015, the DNC publicly announced its joint fundraising venture with the Clinton campaign — a remarkably poor way to hide the information Brazile claims is a bombshell.  Just three months later, Bernie Sanders himself signed a similar agreement with the party (to which he never belonged until he sought the presidency).

So Brazile’s Super Explosive Report That Changes Everything™ reveals no new information, but does rekindle the ignorant passions that rally those angered, without reason, at the DNC.  We can only hope Brazile, who noted in the book her desire to get to the bottom of the alleged “rigging,” didn’t expend money or resources to find a document of which all knew in 2015. (*UPDATE, November 3, 7:25p* NBC reports that the memo Brazile cites as “rigging” only pertained to the general election, a routine procedure worthy of no debate and certainly not evidence of non-existent “rigging.”)

Furthermore, in absolutely no way does a campaign trying to control party operations rig an election.  The party organization itself does not fall under campaign control until delegates select a nominee.  Up to that point, the party’s national committee is pretty impotent: It (wrongly) doesn’t choose favorites and even if certain staff members voice their desire to see one candidate elected over another, they can do nothing about it.

No DNC operatives hit the ground during the primaries to campaign for or against a candidate; the DNC spends no money on ads to boost or deride presidential aspirants; the party itself does little — and it almost always does little.  Fixation on the DNC and RNC largely misses the mark because those committees have little actual power or campaign prowess.  Most actions and funds go to campaigns or the national party’s committee arms (eg, the DCCC or RNSC).

The party does, however, decide the primary’s rules.  This represents the best method by which the party can “rig” a primary.  If an early favorite controls the rulemaking process and, for instance, moves the largest and most expensive states to the beginning of the primary calendar and makes the winner-take-all, then that would be rigging the primary by pricing out competitors and ensuring early momentum goes exclusively to the frontrunner.  Controlling the rule making process is one method by which Donald Trump can fend off a primary challenge in 2020.

But the Clinton campaign had not “infiltrated” the DNC (to borrow Brazile’s parlance) at the time of primary rule approval.  This happened back in 2014 and those rules by and large carried over from the ones to which the party agreed in 2010.  Moreover, the rules as they stand actually favor insurgent candidates.

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina currently begin the primary season.  All are small states and relatively cheap television markets (New Hampshire’s a bit tricky as campaigns sometimes need to buy air time in the Boston television market to best reach New Hampshire voters), so underdog candidates are not priced out of competing.  Iowa’s caucus system favors populist candidates able to forge an intimate connection with the voters — caucuses and primaries differ rather dramatically in demographics with the former being far less democratic.  State demographics also favor factional candidates able only to appeal to certain races (IA and NH being overwhelmingly white whereas SC has a large African American constituency).

This calendar actually favored Bernie Sanders and enabled his continued presence in the primaries.  He performed best in smaller, caucus states with few minorities — exactly the demographics of the first two states (IA and NH), conveniently those which generate the most news coverage and which can decide momentum moving forward.  Had the calendar started with a diverse sect of states, Sanders would have lost each one by large margins and been written-off even by his most ardent supporters.

Far from the DNC “rigging” the primary for Hillary Clinton, the rules carried over from 2010 (agreed to in 2014) allowed Sanders to stay in the race and appear competitive.

Both Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile are wrong and while I cannot be sure of their motives, the most obvious — a political ploy to retain 2020 favor and an effort to revise history after an ethical embarrassment, respectively — point to weak characters willing to lie to angered partisans.  The Democratic Party doesn’t need the continued fabrication of alleged “rigging” hanging over its head.  It needs to rebound in strength to wage a strong midterm fight.  Enough with the lies.

hillary clinton don't go away

Stop Telling Hillary Clinton to Go Away

It’s Ridiculous to Try to Silence Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s out with a new book, “What Happened,” and, unsurprisingly, she’s received immediate backlash for daring to put pen to paper.  Many simply want the former presidential candidate who lost a shocking and disappointing race to Donald Trump to simply go away, fade into the night.  That’s utterly ridiculous and hypocritical.  Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee for a major party, is a Democratic leader and has every right and reason to speak bluntly and openly — an honesty that many thought she lacked during the primary, but now want her to shove that honesty up her…wherever — about the campaign and politics in America.

A former presidential nominee who won more votes than any white man in United States history, the first woman to nearly become president, a Secretary of State, U.S. senator, and First Lady has every right to speak about politics.  Full stop.  Losing should not muzzle an individual, especially one who has committed her life to public service and helping others.  No one asked John Kerry to fade into obscurity after his 2004 loss; Al Gore continued to be a loud liberal voice following his defeat; Harry Truman opted to avoid defeat in 1952 by not running, but remained a steady Democratic force (the 1952 lose, Adlai Stevenson, ran again in 1956 and 1960).  Many rightfully idolize Clinton.  She’s a role model to women everywhere — her actions have inspired countless to pursue public office.  There’s absolutely no reason to shut up a party leader and hero.

Clinton’s book shows humility and, above all, honesty, a trait which many claimed she lacked, leading to countless vicious character assaults.  Yet when Clinton opens up and shares her true thoughts — thoughts or reasons with which any reader may disagree, but honest ones nonetheless — critics hypocritically turn Clinton’s honesty against her.  At what point does incessant character nagging become obsessive?  Deride her proclaimed lack of honesty; harangue her clear honesty because suddenly it has no place in public discourse as it may sow discontents within the party.

While it’s true that Clinton’s book may rehash or reopen some party wounds from the 2016 election, right now is the perfect time to have a dialogue about the direction of the Democratic Party and how it can better handle nominating affairs and unity thereafter.  The midterms are 14 months away’ the 2020 presidential election, 38.  Who do we harm by debating whether Bernie Sanders hurt Hillary Clinton?  When the party’s grappling with a strong centrist block and a insurgent (far) leftist movement, oughtn’t we at least consider how the appeals play or open divides within the party that could hamper general election chances?  And, if we agree we need those conversations, shouldn’t we do so now rather than in the months leading up to a general election against a bigot like Donald Trump?

Critics arguing Hillary Clinton should simply go away employ little logic — they disparage the honesty presented by a long-time party often mocked for privacy and overly scripted behavior while accusing her of  weakening the very party they sought to overhaul and tear apart as it became overwhelmingly apparent their favored candidate would not emerge from the primaries victorious.  Clinton should not shut up.  She should not go away.  She, and every Democrat, should continue to speak as she feels fit, helping the party come to grips with the election, understand its mistakes, resist Donald Trump, and, ultimately, strengthen itself for the tasks the lie ahead.

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Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened”

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Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” Explains Why She Lost

Months after her shocking defeat to Donald Trump, Clinton has released a new memoir detailing how she lost the election.  Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” offers a raw look into her mind, both as a candidate and after deep reflection of her campaign and its tragic ending.  While there are many reasons that Clinton lost last year — many, if not most, related to the candidate herself, to which she owns up — the blame must also fall on one particular group: Voters.

Blaming voters for an undesired outcome may seem elitist, or simply whiney, but to avoid casting even an inkling of guilt on the actors who knowingly and willingly decided to vote for a charlatan ignorant of American values and laws would itself be an act of the utmost condescension by ignoring the agency inherent in everyone’s decision making.  We’re all responsible for our choices and those choices, especially when they affect hundreds of millions, invite critique.

Ignoring History

The Founding Fathers despised demagoguery and populism, fearing both (though especially the latter) would undermine the Constitutions and the institutions put in place to protect it.  A demagogue would corrupt the rule of law and use his majority for insidious means.

They also envisioned great individuals holding elected office, including the presidency.  Trump’s election represents a dramatic break from the Founders’ vision of the country.  Trump, first and foremast, is a demagogue.

Our Constitution’s structured to separate powers, offer checks and balances, and leave voters only indirectly in charge of government in order to stop demagogues from seizing power (Shays’ rebellion, which prompted the constitutional convention, only heightened fears among the Founders of demagoguery).

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That’s why America is a republic and not a direct democracy.  John Adams himself wrote “Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide.”  Federalist 1 warns

“On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.”

Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” may not mention the historical ignorance of the electorate, but it’s important that we understand voters deviated from the will of the Founding Fathers.

Encouraging Ignorance

Supporting and voting for Trump only encourages ignorance, both in candidates and the electorate.  Trump knew — and still knows — nothing of policy.  Whenever pressed to explain policies, he failed to do so, often blabbering or simply repeating himself numerous times in a garble of largely incoherent rambling.  But he seemed to revel in his ignorance, not once willing to engage in actual policy discussions and showing little interest to meet with experts.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise from someone who proudly screamed about how he “love[d] the poorly educated” and bragged about “knowing more than the generals” because he watched “the shows.”  His vile antipathy for experts bled over to his voters, with whom he shared and encouraged this hatred.

Needless to say, a poorly informed electorate will not perform well when it goes to the polls.  Ditto one misinformed because it chooses to listen to one man and one man only.  Such actions fundamentally undermine democracy because when a polity entrusts its citizenry with such awesome power, there lies with the citizens a civic duty know what they’re doing and be well-informed on issues settled by elections.

Voting for a man who ran and now governs in ignorance only encourages other political hobbyists to run for office because they realize that knowledge is not a barrier.  Charisma and yearning for self-enrichment suffice.  It tells candidates that voters don’t value thought and policy, instigating a race to the bottom as candidates forego meaningful discussions in order to appeal to grievances and base emotions.

what happened hillary clintonForgiving Bigotry

Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” naturally touches on Trump’s disturbing bigotry and the willingness of voters to simply overlook what he said or twist his words in such a way that clear bigotry lost its bite.  We mustn’t forget that Trump began his presidential campaign by claiming Mexico sent its “rapists” and “drug-dealers” into the United States out of malice or some dark motive.  These actions continued throughout the campaign, such as his remarks that a Mexican judge couldn’t do his job because of his heritage, which Speaker of the House Paul Ryan labelled the “textbook definition” of racism.

Other minority groups also received Trump’s ire.  Trump frequently ranted against Islam and Muslims, claiming universal Muslim hatred of the United States, threatening to illegally close mosques, and wanting to ban an entire religion from entering the country.  The fool went actually said that “I think Islam hates us. There’s something there that — there’s a tremendous hatred there. There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There’s an unbelievable hatred of us.”

Of course, Donald Trump also led the birther crusade against President Barack Obama, falsely claiming that the president was not born in America.  These lies stirred the right-wing fever swamps, which embraced and pushed false claims about Obama, and, under Trump’s leadership, surged into a powerful grievance movement.

Voters knew all of this.  They recognized Trump’s inherent racial animus, his animosity for Islam that bordered on paranoid delusions, and the lies he for years pushed, yet cast a ballot for him anyway.  Supporting such clear bigotry should not be overlooked and those that chose to make the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis’ beloved candidate president should be held responsible for enabling and legitimizing grievanced racism.

Read Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened”

Clinton lost for many reasons.  No one reason explains the loss.  Her book rightly analyzes many culprits and ultimately she accepts her primacy in defeat.  Read Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” to gain and understand her inside perspective.

While a politician cannot blame voters for a reprehensible decisions, I most certainly can, and I will.  Overlooking Trump’s clear historical flaws, his deep-seated ignorance and promotion of stupidity, and his all-too-obvious bigotry to vote for the demagogue deserves criticism.  We should all be held responsible for our actions.  And so, above all else, I blame and repulsed by the voters who opted for Donald J. Trump.

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The Truth About Hillary’s Supposedly Scandalous Finances

No Wrongdoing.  At All.

As far as Clinton’s money is concerned, she graduated from a top law school and easily could have immediately gone to work at a big law firm, making a lot of money.  Instead, she opted to work at the Children’s Defense Fund and, later, became one of two female faculty members at the University of Arkansas’s law school while also working as the director of a legal aid clinic.  Though that last bit has garnered her some notoriety, providing legal aide to the accused is a fundamental part of the American judicial system (see: John Adams defending the British after the Boston Massacre).
Fast forward to recent times.  No Clinton received a salary from the Clinton Foundation, which we know to be true because of released tax returns from Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.
Money came primarily from book advances and sales as well as Hillary’s much-reviled speaking tour.  The speaking tour, even though she received millions from big banks, did not change her policies.  In fact, her Wall Street reform plan presented a tough stance on big banks while doing so in a way that wouldn’t dramatically overhaul the banking system.  Many, if not most, former public officials embark on such a tour as they’re low in supply and high in demand.  Her actions were not unusual.
I’m personally okay with their free market actions.  If they want to earn money, I’m happy for them; if not, that’s their choice, too.  I do think she erred in her decision to receive millions from the likes of Goldman Sachs ahead of a planned presidential run.  The perception of cozying up to the big banks is powerful, even if it’s not true, and I think that hurt her in both the primary and general.  Had I been her, I would not have pursued such speaking fees, but, again, it’s her private life.
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Clinton’s Emails Should Not Have Been a Scandal

It Was The Most Ridiculous Campaign Issue

Perhaps the biggest 2016 campaign story revolved around Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
Facts: As Secretary of State, Clinton used a personal email address hosted on a privately-owned server rather than her government email, a practice done by previous secretaries of state, including Colin Powell.  She turned over 55,000 emails to the State Department, but deleted 33,000 other personal emails.  James Comey found that no “reasonable prosecutor” would recommend charges be pressed against Clinton for her email actions.
Reality: Her explanation that she acted out of convenience is true (no one wants to carry around multiple phones; I’ve seen government officials do that and be quite annoyed at constantly switching and fumbling between phones).  This did violate a State Department policy directive.

Clinton, as you may have heard, is married to former president Bill Clinton, who stepped down from office in January of 2001. Clinton was in the White House throughout the 1990s when the rest of us were being bombarded with AOL signup CD-ROMs, so he didn’t have a personal email when he left. Gmail didn’t exist back then, and his new job was, in effect, running a Bill Clinton startup. He launched a charitable foundation, he established his presidential library, and he made big bucks on speaking tours. He had a staff and he needed IT infrastructure and support. So he paid a guy to set up an email server that he could use.  Hillary Clinton — who is, again, his wife — also set herself up with an account on the same server. This is a bit unusual, but a lot about being married to a former president is unusual. What it’s not is suspicious.

Upon discovery of her personal email use, the House Select Committee on Benghazi requested her emails and Clinton turned them over.  She undoubtedly should have had a process in place to automatically turn over emails or duplicate them onto a government server where they could easily be accessed by appropriate parties without hassle.
(An Inspector General report said Clinton should have printed her emails and filed them with the Office of the Secretary.  This requirement seems outdated and entirely wasteful, but Clinton of course should have followed it and created an easy process by which it could be followed.  But sloppiness and overlooking cumbersome demands does not malice make.)
Clinton did delete 33,000 emails, but those were all personal in nature (and really, there’s no need for the public to be reading about wedding or dinner plans, etc).  There’s also little reason to believe she wrongly deleted work emails — since it’s an email, there’s obviously a receiver; if the receiver of a work related email didn’t see it in the emails released, it would be all too easy to send that email to investigators or the press and quickly expose wrongdoing.
That didn’t happen.  We also know from released emails that Clinton and her lawyers had a very generous definition of work-related.  Many emails involved her asking about TV shows.  Those certainly seem personal in nature, and yet they released those.

And while she seemed (inadvertently) to handle classified emails on her personal server, she did so without malice (actual malice being needed for it to be illegal).  Ben Wittes of Lawfare agreed with Comey’s conclusion, arguing that

For the last several months, people have been asking me what I thought the chances of an indictment were. I have said each time that there is no chance without evidence of bad faith action of some kind. People simply don’t get indicted for accidental, non-malicious mishandling of classified material. I have followed leak cases for a very long time, both at the Washington Post and since starting Lawfare. I have never seen a criminal matter proceed without even an allegation of something more than mere mishandling of sensitive information. Hillary Clinton is not above the law, but to indict her on these facts, she’d have to be significantly below the law.

To sum, Clinton acted without malice and for the sake of convenience.  Those motives seem pure enough, but Clinton did fall short when it came to transparency.  She should have established some manner to duplicate emails onto a government email/server to facilitate discovery.  I also wish she had been more forthcoming about the email server and her practices immediately after it came to light.
Drawing out the controversy and dodging the issue made a simple and explainable decision seem nefarious.  This again goes back to what I described earlier as her overboard commitment to a private sphere that doesn’t exist as a public official.  It makes sense when putting yourself in her shoes, but it was the wrong decision.
benghazi truth

The Truth about Benghazi

Clinton/Obama Naysayers Have It Wrong

Background/facts: On September 11, 2012, terrorists storm the US mission in Benghazi, killed four US nationals including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.  Many initially think the attacks came from an angry mob protesting a viral video.  The next day, in a Rose Garden address, President Obama says, “The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. … no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.” Later that day he says, “No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America.”
Only on September 20 did Jay Carney and other White House officials back away from the theory that the aforementioned video caused the attack.  While this may seem absurd, it’s a logical conclusion if we assume their information (or lack thereof) pointed to such a culprit.  It’s dangerous to immediately jump to the conclusion that a given attack was committed by terrorists.  That said, the Obama administration did move slowly to such a label.  A day later, Hillary Clinton echoes the terror attack rhetoric.

Claims versus Reality

Claim: Hillary Clinton lied about Benghazi, initially blaming the video for the attack despite knowing better and continuing this lie.

Reality: Clinton, in her first public statement on the day of the attack, did in fact cast blame on the video (which had caused protests throughout the Middle East).  That same day, she emailed Chelsea and said “an al Qaeda-like group” carried out the attack.  This came to light during the Clinton email investigation and only led to general distrust.  The next date, in speeches and a statement, Clinton made no mention of the video (in relation to Benghazi, though she mentions it in connection to Egypt, where the material did spark protests).  Not until September 21 did she call it a terrorist attack.  Why this delay?
It seems that in between her first statement on September 11 and the email she sent to Chelsea, a government agencies emailed top officials saying that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility for the attack.  I’m guesing she and the administration wanted to confirm that claim before presenting it to the American people (which is, admittedly, a generous concession, but also one of the simpler explanations.  The administration had little to gain from covering up the motives.  Obama faced reelection in two months and had little to gain by covering up facts that would obviously come to light, though he did have reason to “play down the possibility of a planned attack because that would raise broader questions about whether U.S. intelligence and embassy security in Libya were adequate.”).
Another explanation came to light in 2013.  I’ll quote the Washington Post (above link) in full:

This analysis first suggested that the core reason for the evolution of the talking points was a bureaucratic battle between the CIA and the State Department. We informed readers that although the ambassador was killed, the Benghazi “consulate” was not a consulate at all but essentially a secret CIA operation which included an effort to round up shoulder-launched missiles. U.S. officials had been constrained in discussing that fact, as the administration could not publicly admit that most of the Americans in Benghazi were involved in a secret CIA effort that had not even been formally disclosed to the Libyan government. State Department officials objected to the talking points, initially drafted by the CIA, as an effort by the spy agency to pin the blame for the tragedy on the State Department.

So, in short, there are many possible explanations for why Clinton and the Obama administration did not immediately label the Benghazi attack as a terror attack (and one last point: The Washington Post fast checking team gave Senator Marco Rubio two pinocchios for his claim that Clinton lied about the Benghazi happenings, saying there’s not evidence to support that claim).
Claim 2: Clinton told the false video story to Benghazi widows.
Reality: There’s no evidence to support this claim.  Clinton says she didn’t and 4 of 6 interviewed widows support her version of the story.  No transcripts support this claim, either.
Claim 3: Clinton’s inaction as Secretary of State led to mishandled consular requests for additional security, easing the attacker’s push into the consulate.
Reality: Security at Benghazi (and many other consulates) was lacking.  Here’s a quote from a State Department Accountability Review Board (the PDF link is broken, so I can’t supply it; the in-depth review largely exculpated Clinton and the administration):

“The number of Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) security staff in Benghazi on the day of the attack and in the months and weeks leading up to it was inadequate, despite repeated requests from Special Mission Benghazi and Embassy Tripoli for additional staffing. Board members found a pervasive realization among personnel who served in Benghazi that the Special Mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security-related requests, especially those relating to staffing. The insufficient Special Mission security platform was at variance with the appropriate Overseas Security Policy Board (OSPB) standards with respect to perimeter and interior security. Benghazi was also severely under-resourced with regard to certain needed security equipment, although DS funded and installed in 2012 a number of physical security upgrades.”

Some quick facts from Washington Post that counter false narratives:
  • There were planes available for Special Ops forces
  • Clinton did not issue a stand down order to Leon Panetta
  • Clinton was not aware of requests for additional security.  Many consulates made such requests and mid-level staffers usually handled them
The last point is the most import.  There is no evidence that Clinton herself ignored security requests.  Ambassador Stevens also turned down offers of additional military security at the compound.  Clinton also did not sleep through the attack and worked throughout the entirety of the night, contrary to Donald Trump’s claims.  With the evidence available, the compound’s defensive shortcomings cannot be blamed on Clinton herself.
(As a side note, during a trip to a Marine consular defense center, I attended a lecture about the process of defending consulates and embassies.  One important note mentioned by a Marine pertained to the difficulty in bringing military personnel to such compounds because doing so requires permission from the host country.  We can’t just move members of the military into sovereign states will-nilly.)
hillary clinton privacy

The Origins of Hillary Clinton’s Privacy

Experience has taught her to be private

I’ve read enough and talked to enough Clinton antagonists to understand why people distrust her (which isn’t to say I agree).  The problem itself stems from Clinton’s private nature (others would say secretive, and that’s not necessarily incorrect — she’s not inclined to extraordinary transparency), which has been a perceived issue since 1994.
In response to a question from a reporter about letting scandals “fester” by not immediate jumping to full transparency, she replied: “My sense of privacy — because I do feel like I’ve always been a fairly private person leading a public life — led me to perhaps be less understanding than I needed to of both the press and the public’s interest as well as right to know things about my husband and me,” she said.  And apparently she hasn’t really learned that privacy doesn’t go over too well when you’re a prominent political figure.

The Clinton Administration

It’s worth looking at why Clinton is so private because doing so adds depth to the character.  Long ago, during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and the couple years of her presidency, Hillary often shared “her deepest thoughts and feelings,” including a speech she gave on “the politics of meaning” as her “father laying dying.”  The media, left and right, “ridiculed” that speech for its preacher-esque tone and theme.  She gave open interviews in which, unlike today, she did not sound overly scripted and disciplined.  But negative press coverage as well as the ceaseless attacks that naturally come during a presidential campaign (the Gennifer Flowers controversy, answering for Bill’s infidelities knowing that any response would be attacked by different groups, Whitewater, Bill’s Vietnam draft record, etc) left her distrustful and increasingly secretive.  She didn’t want her words to incite controversy or be used against her, a product of natural being and being a lawyer.

Those experiences shaped the private Hillary we know today.  Really, to understand why she falls short in transparency, we have to understand her thinking.  Clinton truly believe(s/d) that immediate and complete transparency invites dramatic backlash through public inquiries, media attacks, and political weaponry.  So to avoid that, or minimize its negative effects, she opts for privacy.

A Logical Decision Regardless of Whether You Agree

Now, I, and probably most other Americans, would come to the opposite conclusion and, even if sympathetic towards Clinton, wish she would simply embrace transparency as controversies arise.  Withholding information or otherwise dragging out alleged scandals only worsens them as people equate secrecy with wrongdoing and the media can focus day in and day out on the scandals, extrapolating or otherwise guessing as information remains woefully incomplete.  It’s more than reasonable to believe Clinton came to the wrong conclusion about privacy and to criticize her for the pervasive secrecy, but I do think it’s important to at least understand her position so we can view her actions as those of a rational human being with a valid — but likely not sound — argument about the (political) virtues of secrecy (in this search for understanding, I should also mention the truly outlandish conspiracies that further Clinton’s privacy: Vince Foster and Seth Rich’s deaths, which many in the “fever swamps” believe to be part of a Clinton crime conspiracy, and Pizzagate, another delusion which actually led someone to shoot up a DC pizza parlor).

So Clinton made the ill-fated decision to ignore transparency and instead act in an incredibly private manner.  This has rightfully come with political costs.  The president has the most prominently public office in the world.  We expect openness and transparency from the president and rightfully so — the head of state and government, the leader of the free world, should not be hiding from his or her constituents.
obama trump voters

Why Clinton Lost, Part 1: Obama-Trump Voters

8.4 Million Obama-Trump Voters

Obama Voters Abandoned Clinton

President Barack Obama won two elections with a robust and resilient electoral coalition that propelled him to easy wins throughout the Midwest.  His coalition, resilient though for him, did not remain intact for Clinton.  According to the American National Election Study, 13% of Trump voters cast a ballot for Obama in 2012.  That amounts to around 8.4 million individuals.[1]  By comparison, of Clinton’s voters, only 4% voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 (totaling around 2.5 million people).

Makeup of Clinton/Trump Voters by 2012 President VoteObamaRomney

Extrapolating those numbers to individual states and adjusting for state swing from 2012 to 2016 yields the following Obama-Trump voter estimates and compares that to Trump’s margin of victory.[2]

Estimated Obama-Trump VotersTrump’s Margin of Victory
Iowa 182,024 147,314
Michigan 449,036 10,704
Ohio 545,985 446,481
Pennsylvania 481,434 44,292
Wisconsin 253,924 22,748

In each state, Obama-Trump voters more than account for Trump’s margin of victory (though, again, see the caveats).  Even accepting flaws in these estimates, it’s readily apparent that a sizable number of Obama voters had to flee from the Democratic Party: How else would Iowa have swung 15 points; Ohio, 11; Michigan, 9.7; Wisconsin, 7.7; and Pennsylvania, 6.1?

These gains came predominately from the white working-class.  A pre-election survey in Pennsylvania found that of Obama’s white working-class voters, some 18 percent planned to vote for Trump over Clinton.  In Iowa, Obama won the white working-class by around 3 points in 2012 whereas Clinton lost it by 20 just four years later.  Macomb County, Michigan, went to Trump by 11.5 points but Obama by 4.  Trump took Erie County, Pennsylvania, by 2 points.  Obama won it by 17.

The exact reasons Clinton failed to retain white working-class voters who supported Obama continue to be debated.  Cultural and economic anxiety quickly come to mind, as does Donald Trump’s demagoguery, critical rhetoric aimed directly at this sprawling constituency.  Regardless of why the white working-class abandoned the Democratic Party, this instance of the Obama coalition’s partial collapse spelled disaster for Hillary Clinton as the voters with which she aimed to replace them simply did not reside in swing states.

Coming soon: Part 2 – An Inefficient Electoral Coalition


[1] Such survey results do come with caveats: Respondents routinely misremember (or lie) about for whom they voted in the preceding election.  In this case, 58% of ANES survey takes claimed to have voted for Obama in 2012.  Obama only received 51% of the vote.  Research posits that individuals tend to say they voted for a socially acceptable answer – in this case, that means saying they voted for Obama (who has a high approval rating) where in following 2004, more claimed to have voted for John Kerry than for George W. Bush.

[2] These numbers suffer from the same drawbacks explained above.  Furthermore, these are just estimates and may well be off (this is also single-party crossover; the numbers don’t look at Romney-Clinton voters).  I tried to account for partisan swing by treating the 13% of Trump’s voters who cast a ballot for Obama as a baseline adjusted upwards based on how much the state swung to the Republican Party in 2016.  That means states with the largest GOP swing is estimated to be home to more Obama-Trump voters than that state’s share of the nation’s total voting population.

Put Your Children First and Vote for Hillary Clinton

For your children’s sake, you ought to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Elections tend to focus around economic issues and this year is no different — according to Pew Research, 84% of voters say economic issues are “very important” when deciding their vote (making it the most important factor in vote choice).  Gallup similarly found that “the economy” and “employment and jobs” are two of the four most important issues for Republicans and Democrats this cycle.  Voters want a candidate who will create jobs, both for current and future generations.

It’s for precisely the latter goal — creating well-paying jobs for our children — that voters should choose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

The economy today is very different than it was a half, or even a quarter, century ago.  Twentieth century America saw manufacturing dominance with factories employing millions of workers with high wages and generous benefits.  But in the last 20 years, those manufacturing jobs have been evaporating.  They will not return, for one simple reason: Automation.

New factories are capital — not labor — intensive, meaning that production is done largely by machines rather than workers.  This allows factories to increase productivity while keeping costs low, savings that are ultimately passed on to consumers.  In other words, even if companies decide to move production back to the United States, there will not be a manufacturing jobs boom.  It simply will not happen and anyone promising otherwise is immune to the economic reality of automated production.  No comparisons can be made to manufacturing’s heyday because automation was at that point but a fantasy.

This is not a uniquely American phenomenon.  Throughout the developed world, manufacturing employment has been steadily declining over the past 40 years.

donald trump manufacturing

In fact, as a country gets richer, manufacturing’s share of national employment tends to drop rather sharply.  This is true across the world.donald trump manufacturing plan

With manufacturing’s steady (and largely irreversible) decline, economic salience increases as voters wonder whether, where, and how their children will find employment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),  among the jobs seeing the greatest increase in demand between 2014 and 2024, and thus those likeliest to employ our children, are:

  • Registered nurses, 16% increase, median wage of $67,490
  • General and operational managers, 7.1% increase, median wage of $97,730
  • Accountant and auditors, 10.7% increase, $67,190 median wage
  • Software developers, applications, 18.8% increase, $98,260 median wage
  • Computer systems analysts, 20.9% increase, $85,800 median wage
  • Management analysts, 13.6% increase, $81,320 median wage
  • Market research analysts, 18.6% increase, $62,150 median wage

What do these jobs have in common?  They all require a college degree.  That is no surprise: According to the BLS, those with a college degree have exceptionally low unemployment rates and earn wages well above the American median.  As the economy continues to specialize, requiring specialized skills and education, this gap will likely continue to grow.

hillary clinton college plan

To ensure your child will find a job, you must vote for the candidate that will make college accessible and affordable to all.

Donald Trump’s website doesn’t mention education.  He has no plan for college affordability and his given no indication that he’s willing or able to help families give their children a world-class education.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has outlined and detailed a plan that would allow all students coming from families earning less than $125,000 a year.  Under her proposal, 80% of all students would attend college for free.  Furthermore, no taxes would be raised on middle- or working-class families in order to pay for near-universal college.

College is necessary to thrive in the new-age economy.  With a degree comes very low levels of unemployment (ie, very good chances of finding a job) and high wages.  Only Hillary Clinton will help students get the education they need to thrive in the 21st Century.

Put your Children First and vote for Hillary Clinton this November.