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Did Trump backdate his charity’s $25,000 check to Pam Bondi’s PAC by four days? Or was it sent, as Bondi AND Trump now say, in response to Bondi’s phone solicitation of a donation from Trump made (according now to Bondi herself) not weeks before the Orlando Sentinel reported that Bondi’s office was considering joining a fraud lawsuit against Trump U. but instead—coincidentally, of course—only a few days before the Sentinel reporter phoned Bondi’s office and inquired about the office’s plans regarding that lawsuit?

Last night I clicked on the NYT website and saw a prominently-featured article by Kevin Sack and Steve Eder titled “New Records Shed Light on Donald Trump’s $25,000 Gift to Florida Official.”  The article lays out a sequence of events concerning Trump’s charity’s Sept. 2013 check to Florida AG Pam Bondi’s 2014-reelection-campaign PAC.

The check, it was reported earlier in various news articles in the last three months arrived at the PAC four days after an article was published in the Orlando Sentinel reporting that Bondi’s office was considering joining a lawsuit** filed two weeks earlier by New York AG Eric Schneiderman alleging concerted fraud by Trump University and Trump Institute victimizing a significant number of New Yorkers.  The fraud also victimized a number of Floridians.

Most of the news reports on this came earlier this month after it was reported that nonprofit Trump Foundation had paid a $2,500 fine to the IRS for violating tax law concerning the political donation.  It hadn’t been of sufficient importance to the political news media and punditry to give these reports real attention, partly, I think, because it hadn’t been of sufficient important to Hillary Clinton to mention this and drive it home in public statements; only news about the content of this or that Clinton email, especially if it tied in, however trivially, with the Clinton Foundation, could (and did) attain news-media-frenzy/inundation-of-coverage status.

And Clinton and her campaign didn’t think to have Clinton herself educate the public about this or anything else about Trump if it didn’t already come out of Trump’s mouth or his Twitter feed.  Anything about Trump that Trump wanted hidden managed to be hidden almost completely from most of the public that doesn’t read the Washington Post or the New York Times.  Or the Orlando Sentinel.  And Clinton was fine with that, apparently.  Or fine enough not to make an issue of any of it, since Trump himself wasn’t talking about it.

But here’s something that those news reports from earlier this month reported, concerning the timing of a phone call from Bondi to Trump, reported initially back in June when the story first broke nationally (for roughly three minutes), in which she solicited a campaign donation from him, according to Bondi herself.  And it conflicts materially, as AGs would say (“material” and “materially” are big in legalese), with what Bondi is now saying was the timeline.

In the reports earlier this month, Bondi was saying that her phone solicitation of Trump occurred several weeks before the Sentinel article was published on Sept. 13, 2013, reporting that “saying that Ms. Bondi’s office would ‘determine whether Florida should join the multi­state case.’”  If I recall correctly, one article quoted Bondi or her spokesperson as placing the timing of the phone call as sometime in July.

In any event, Bondi was saying earlier this month that her phone solicitation of Trump was part of a midsummer series of routine campaign solicitations to wealthy Republicans who lived mostly or largely in Florida (as Trump does), and that therefore she could not reasonably be said to have been trying to extort a donation from Trump, whose foundation’s check arrived at her PAC four days after the Sentinel article was published.

But now Bondi is claiming, according to the Sack and Eder article (which no longer is anywhere on the Times’ opening online page, best as I could tell, even though it was published online only last night and appears on the front page of today’s paper), that her phone call to Trump actually occurred in … late summer 2013, although no precise date is offered.  And that Bondi—and Trump—are now saying that Trump’s foundation’s check indeed was sent in response to Bondi’s phone solicitation.

But, not to worry, folks.  The Times story reports that the foundation’s check, signed by Donald J. Trump—is he the foundation’s treasurer?—is dated Sept. 8, 2013.  The article includes a photocopy of the front and back of the check.

That’s right; the check arrived four days after the Sentinel article was published, but it was dated four days before the article was published.*

The Sack and Eder article, however, reports that the Sentinel reporter first contacted Bondi’s office by phone on August 29, 2013 to inquire whether her office would be joining the New York case on behalf of 23 Floridians who had filed fraud complaints with that office, one filed after Bondi assumed office in January 2011, the others during her immediate predecessor’s term.  And that the phone call set off a series of internal inquiries resulting in a response to the reporter from Bondi’s communications director, to whom the reporter had placed the call, saying that “We are currently reviewing the allegations in the New York complaint.”

Sack and Eder detail what occurred:

It was Aug. 29, 2013, an unremarkable day inside Florida’s whitewashed Capitol, and a typically sweltering one outside among the mossbearded oaks and sabal palms. Around 3:45 p.m., Jennifer Meale, the communications director for Attorney General Pam Bondi, fielded a seemingly routine call from a financial reporter for The Orlando Sentinel. The attorney general of New York had recently filed a lawsuit against Donald J. Trump alleging fraud in the marketing of Trump University’s real estate and wealth­building seminars. Had Florida ever conducted its own investigation, the reporter asked.

The call set off an exchange of emails between Ms. Meale and top lawyers in the office. She learned that 23 complaints about Trump­related education enterprises had been filed before Ms. Bondi became attorney general in 2011, and one since. They had never generated a formal investigation, she wrote the reporter, but added, “We are currently reviewing the allegations in the New York complaint.”

The Sentinel’s report, which was published on Sept. 13, 2013, paraphrased Ms. Meale’s response and took it a step further, saying that Ms. Bondi’s office would “determine whether Florida should join the multi­state case.”

Four days later, a check for $25,000 from the Donald J. Trump Foundation landed in the Tampa office of a political action committee that had been formed to support Ms. Bondi’s 2014 election. In mid­-October, her office announced that it would not be acting on the Trump University complaints.

The proximate timing of the Sentinel article and Mr. Trump’s donation, and suspicions of a quid pro quo, have driven a narrative that has dogged Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi for three years. It has intensified during Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, peaking this month with the filing of ethics complaints, calls for a federal investigation by editorial boards and Democrats in Congress, and a new investigation of Mr. Trump’s foundation by New York regulators.

But documents obtained this week by The New York Times, including a copy of Mr. Trump’s check, at least partly undercut that timeline. Although the check was received by Ms. Bondi’s committee four days after the Sentinel report, and was recorded as such in her financial disclosure filings, it was actually dated and signed by Mr. Trump four days before the article appeared.

The check’s date does not categorically demonstrate that Mr. Trump was not seeking to influence Ms. Bondi, a fellow Republican. Even as he has denied trying to do so in this instance, he has boasted brazenly and repeatedly during his presidential campaign that he has made copious campaign contributions over the past two decades, including to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, in order to buy access and consideration for his business dealings. Politicians in Florida, which Mr. Trump considers his second home, have been among his leading beneficiaries.

An analysis of public records shows he has contributed at least $375,000 to state and federal candidates and political committees here since 1995, accounting for 19 percent of the roughly $2 million he has given to campaigns nationwide, other than his own. Although not unprecedented, his $25,000 gift to And Justice for All, the committee supporting Ms. Bondi, is among his largest.

What is more, when Mr. Trump wrote that check, he still theoretically had reason to be concerned that Florida’s attorney general could become a player in the legal assault on Trump University. Through 2010, when the company ceased operations, Florida had been one of the most lucrative markets for his unaccredited for­profit school. It ranked second among states in purchases, with 950 transactions, and third in sales, at $3.3 million, according to an analysis of sales data revealed in court filings.

The lawsuit by New York’s Democratic attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, which was announced on Aug. 25, 2013 — two weeks before Mr. Trump wrote the check to And Justice for All on Sept. 9 — did not cite allegations from consumers in Florida. But news organizations had reported as early as 2010 that the attorneys general of Florida and Texas had fielded complaints from consumers who had paid up to $35,000 for Mr. Trump’s seminars and mentoring programs. His contribution, therefore, could have been a pre­emptive investment to discourage Ms. Bondi from joining the New York case.

And then the coup de grace paragraphs of today’s Times article:

Brian Ballard, Mr. Trump’s lobbyist in Florida, said it was “ridiculous” to think his client sought to buy off Ms. Bondi. “I’m the Trump Organization lobbyist, and he has never, ever brought up Trump University with me,” he said. “It wasn’t something of concern to him. With Donald Trump, if a friend calls up and says, ‘Listen, I’m running for XYZ, could you help me?’ his instinct is to say yes. That’s all it was.”

Yet, even those who doubt anything nefarious between Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi acknowledge that they bear blame for the intensifying focus on the appearance of a conflict. For his part, Mr. Trump fanned the embers by sending the contribution from his nonprofit foundation, which cannot under federal law make political donations.

When questions arose this year, he agreed to refund $25,000 to the foundation from his personal account and pay a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service. Trump officials have called the mix­-up an inadvertent error by his staff. Ms. Bondi, meanwhile, has failed to explain why she accepted Mr. Trump’s check even after learning that her office was examining the New York case against Trump University. Six months later, she allowed him to host a $3,000­-per­-head fund­raiser for her at his Mar­a-­Lago Club in Palm Beach. Mr. Trump attended the event, which records indicate raised at least $50,000.

No, on second thought I think maybe this is the coup de grace in the article:

Now, with the revelation of the date on Mr. Trump’s check — which came in a release of correspondence by Mr. Schneiderman — it appears that Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi had in their possession a piece of favorable evidence that they bewilderingly failed to disclose.

“All these things come together in a way that if you don’t unpack the whole thing, the unspoken implications coalesce to create this great suspicion,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Florida Republican strategist and lobbyist who disdains Mr. Trump and has never worked with Ms. Bondi. “The optics are terrible even though there is not a shred of evidence that Pam Bondi solicited a bribe or that Donald Trump provided one.”

Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi have said they share a long friendship, but the origins of it are not apparent. Ms. Bondi, who declined requests for an interview, initially backed former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida for president. After he withdrew from the race, she endorsed Mr. Trump the day before Florida’s March 15 primary, snubbing the state’s other favorite son, Senator Marco Rubio.

The only woman currently holding statewide elected office in Florida, she has since become an enthusiastic Trump surrogate. Ms. Bondi became a conservative darling in 2010 when, as an assistant state attorney, she won her post in her first campaign of any kind. Her political future is unclear as she faces a two­-term limit and has said she will not run for governor in 2018.

It was in late summer 2013, as her re­election campaign was gearing up, that Ms. Bondi called Mr. Trump to solicit the donation, aides to both of them have said; they have declined to provide a precise date. Records show that Mr. Trump had already donated $500 to Ms. Bondi’s campaign on July 15.

His daughter Ivanka Trump donated another $500 on Sept. 10. The Texas attorney general’s office, then under Greg Abbott, a Republican, had also decided in 2010 not to act on complaints against Trump University when it left the state. Mr. Trump later donated $35,000 to Mr. Abbott’s successful 2014 campaign for governor. Mr. Abbott’s office has denied there was any connection. No other attorneys general have joined Mr. Schneiderman’s litigation.

The Times, of course, can’t explicitly suggest in a news article that Trump may have backdated by a week of so that check from his foundation to place its issuance to a barely-comfortable and conveniently clairvoyant four days before publication of the Sentinel article.  But it can, well, intimate it, by, say, saying:

Now, with the revelation of the date on Mr. Trump’s check — which came in a release of correspondence by Mr. Schneiderman — it appears that Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi had in their possession a piece of favorable evidence that they bewilderingly failed to disclose.

But accepting the date of that check as accurate, the date coupled with the Aug. 29 2013 date in which the Sentinel reporter first contacted Bondi’s office—and the admission now by both Bondi and Trump that Bondi’s phone solicitation to him came not in July and not several weeks before the article was published but a couple of weeks before it was published and likely after the Sentinel reporter first inquired to her office about whether that office might join the New York lawsuit filed two weeks earlier.

A phone inquiry likely prompted by a call to the business reporter by one of the complainants to the Florida AG’s office upon learning of the New York AG’s lawsuit.  I mean—donchathink?

Which highlights three things: One, that Trump habitually pays to silence government officials and private individuals about his scams—including possibly some bank-loan scams that were never investigated for what they sure sound like they were.  Why weren’t these investigated?

Another is how perfect an example of what Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have made so central to their political messages: that the economic and legal systems are rigged by people and industries that sponsor political campaigns, not on issues but of candidates including officials running for reelection or higher office.

And finally, this: Why is it that Republican AGs—the self-styled champions of the working class—in the states in which the largest numbers of fraud complaints against Trump U. and Trump Institute unconcerned about the complaints?  But all the way back in 2013 the New York state AG, unlike, say, Bondi and Abbott, a member of the elite—was?

I don’t expect the questions I’ve raised here, including in that last paragraph, to be mentioned by pundits or by Clinton, since they don’t involve anything that Trump has said or tweeted within the last 24 hours (or ever), and they have nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, misogyny, anti-gay sentiment—or foreign affairs.  And therefore since moderate Republicans, to the extent that they care at all, are fine with the issues I’ve discussed.

Still, on the remote chance that Clinton and some pundits could actually draw attention to them, I hope that someone who matters reads this post.  Although I won’t hold my breath, because I want to be alive to continue posting about this kind of stuff.

Even if ignored.

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*Sentence corrected 9/16 at 9:20 a.m.  The cut-and-paste error, in which the clause after the comma was the same as the clause before the comma, was evident.

** Link added 9/16 at 10:00 a.m.

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Mission Accomplished! (Wow. Thank you, Matea Gold.)

In, I’m guessing, four or five posts here at AB in the six weeks or so, since hedge fund billionaires Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer were profiled in two or three articles because they’re providing substantial funding to Trump’s campaign and for the last few months have served as his puppeteers—steering both his campaign and his fiscal and regulatory policy plans (and therefore whom he will nominate to the federal bench and to the relevant slew of administrative agency officials)—I’ve pleaded for some real attention to this from political news and commentary journalists.

And from Clinton and her campaign.

It’s finally happening.  Clicking on the Washington Post site just now and seeing as featured article Matea Gold’s piece there today titled “The rise of GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer” had the feel of an out-of-body experience.  I couldn’t believe it.

As I’ve said repeatedly in my references to this duo, their capture of the Trump campaign and fiscal and regulatory policy plans explains why so few Establishment Republicans (Paul Ryan, for example) are renouncing support of Trump.

Also as I’ve said repeatedly, all Clinton has to do to win the Rust Belt (and, I believe probably Florida, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire, too) is run a few ads apprising the public that Trump indeed has billionaire puppeteers—two of them.  And exactly who they are and what they want.  And where and how they live.

Clinton’s obsessive focus on Trump’s two most obviously scary traits—his dangerousness in foreign-policy matters and his alt-right mania—have been, in my opinion foreseeably, insufficient.  Everyone already knows these things about Trump, which is why so many independents and moderate Republicans won’t vote for him.  Incessantly reminding Republicans and independents of this, and repeatedly saying that these aspects of Trumpism isn’t traditionally Republican, gains her nothing, or close to nothing.

And presumably it was her fear of losing Republican support that caused her and her campaign to remain silent—throughout the summer and well into September—about Trump’s puppet-puppeteer relationship with billionaire far-right donors, and these two billionaire far-right and alt-right donors in particular.  Wouldn’t wanna risk causing Meg Whitman to rescind her support for Clinton, I guess.

But now, finally, ridiculously belatedly … no more. I’m guessing that Gold’s piece today was prompted by a very legitimate request from the Clinton campaign.  How legitimate?  Can anyone really say in good faith that the public is not entitled to learn of this information through in-your-face political news media attention?

I’m thrilled.  And I also want to say this: My main sources of news are the New York Times and the Washington Post; I have online subscriptions to both.  And throughout this campaign season, dating back to the truly wonderful coverage of the Sanders campaign by the Post’s John Wagner and certainly continuing through the general-election campaign to date, the Post’s straight political and political-analysis reportage has been excellent, and the Times’ has been, in my opinion, subpar.

In any event, I sure welcome a finally-enlightened Clinton campaign.  And some real news emphasis on the Mercers.  Normally, when I read a commentary or a statement by a major pol, or some such, that appears to reflect a recent AB post of mine, I joke here that, say, “Obama reads Angry Bear!”, or the like.  But this time I think maybe my posts here imploring Clinton and the news/commentary media to tell the public, very loudly, about the Mercers and their puppet/puppeteer role in the Trump campaign and what that would mean in a Trump administration.

I mean, who knows?  Clinton’s taking a few (very entitled) sick days right now and maybe has happened upon this awesome blog called Angry Bear.  If so, she should take up a related suggestion of mine: asking rhetorically what the Mercers think about Citizens United.

And about Citizens United.  Which the Mercers apparently fund (as they do Brietbart).  And whose founder and president for the past 16 years is now, at their suggestion, Trump’s deputy campaign manager.  As a native Rust Belter I’m sorta thinkin’ that maybe some on-the-fence voters in the upper Midwest would like to know that.  So tell them, Hillary Clinton.

Tell. Them.

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My Comments-Thread Comment to Robert Waldmann’s “From Small Town to Prison” Post

Robert Waldmann did something this morning that I’d planned to do: He posted an in-depth post about the NYT’s awesome article in yesterday’s paper titled “From Small Town to Prison,” by Josh Keller and Adam Pearce.

Robert makes a critical point about the fiscal cause of the phenomenon that the Times article reports on, and my rather lengthy comment to Robert’s post adds some things that I’d planned as the key point to my post.

Here is my comment in the Comments thread to Robert’s post:

“It is caused by prosecutorial discretion with laws which allow extremely long sentences combined with plea bargaining. If the sentence for the actual crime committed weren’t absurdly long, DAs would not be able to help their counties at the expense of the state.”

That certainly is true, but it also is caused by the complete takeover of the U.S. Supreme Court by the Conservative Legal Movement, which has removed any access to federal court in order to challenge through the habeas corpus process anything—and really, I do mean, as a practical matter, anything—that occurs in state or local court proceedings, however flagrantly violative of even basic constitutional rights.

For state-court criminal cases, these Supreme Court justices (not to be confused with justice; they’re justices, a title, nothing more) these people took an already awful federal-court jurisdictional statute that Bill Clinton cravenly signed in 1996 in order to avoid, y’know, soft-on-crime attacks during his campaign for reelection, and (very) effectively rewrote it to actually completely preclude federal habeas review of ANYTHING that transpires in ANY state or local court.

This was done in the name of states’-rights-to-violate-individual-rights-except-religion-gun-ownership-and -real-property constitutional rights. Er—I mean—in the name of FREEDOM. A.k.a., LIBERTY.

What I hadn’t realized, though, Robert is that because it’s the states that pay for state prisons, there is an incredibly strong incentive for these county DAs and judges to put everyone they can in prison, and or as long a time as is allowed—which according to the Supreme Court is as long as they want. One major achievement of the Conservative Legal Movement is that the Supreme Court has nullified the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

A 12-year sentence for selling a handful of narcotic prescription painkillers, admittedly highly addictive drugs, is both cruel and (happily) unusual, and should be challenged as violating the Eighth Amendment. But under Supreme Court precedent from the current crowd+Antonin Scalia the lower federal courts probably would reject the argument.

I’m so glad you posted this post, Robert. I read the Times article yesterday and planned to include it in a post I plan to write soon whose main subject is my anger about the push by some progressive senators* and by some other progressives to get the Senate to confirm Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat. This is beyond misguided. And it makes no sense.

The big, big progressive complaint about Garland is that he is pro-law enforcement, and especially pro prosecutor—and not all that concerned about such matters as specific constitutional rights such as Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure limitations and, well, other things. But Garland is, I guess, progressive on the kinds of things that corporate conservatives and culture-wars conservatives care about. In other words, he’s fine for conservatives on law-and-order stuff that is politically passe even among most Republicans, but is from the perspective of the Republican donor base and culture-wars base he’s not fine. So why push this guy? Why the hell was he even nominated, in the first place?

(Okay, he was nominated because Obama, like so many other political types, thinks it’s still 1988. But actually it’s not still 1988.)

There are more than a fair share of former prosecutors and other former government lawyers on the Supreme Court and the lower federal benches. There are almost no former criminal defense lawyers and civil rights lawyers on the federal bench at any level, and it’s been, like, forever since there’s been on the Supreme Court unless you count Ginsburg’s Women’s Issues legal background. It’s really, really, REALLY time for one. Or, hey, even two!

Hillary Clinton owes her nomination to African-Americans, and she may well owe her election to them. At a minimum, she’ll owe her large margin of victory to them, if it materializes. So I’ve been wondering: Who will be her first Supreme Court nominee? And her second one?

Everything about Hillary Clinton suggests that if she decides to pay attention to Blacks in her Court selections, she’ll go with appointing a second Black to the Court. I mean, hey—another first! Which she will conflate with, Hey! Someone who will actually matter to a significant numbers of African-Americans in what he or she DOES on the Court.

Which is not to say that that there are no African-Americans who would be terrific for the position; one I know of is an Obama appointee to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, VA. Or I should say, that’s my impression, although I don’t know all that much about him. But Clinton likely will just operate on the assumption that the specifics of the nominee don’t matter, other than the specifics of race.

My strong, strong preference would be Jeffrey L. Fisher, who was highlighted in one of NYT Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak’s occasional Sidebar articles last month titled “Criminal Defendants Sometimes ‘Left Behind’ at Supreme Court, Study Shows.”

And to replace Ginsburg when she retires next July, the drop-dead awesome Vanita Gupta, Obama’s current Justice Dept. Civil Rights Division chief. (Kudos, Mr. President!) Gupta would be the first Asian-American on the Court, which means Clinton actually might appoint her! She won’t appoint Fisher, although there’s no one in the country who could come close to having the impact that Fisher would have on the Court because of his victories at the Court in gaining Scalia’s vote on some major constitutional-criminal-law issues.

Anyway … I’ve inserted into your post a link to the Times article, and corrected a typo (“2006”, rather than “206”). Your posts get a lot of readers, and I hope this one will be no exception even though it’s not on economics, except of course indirectly.

And I want to add this: I would love to see Pence asked about this at his debate with Kaine. And if he’s not asked about it by the moderator, Kaine should raise the point.

Okay, so I guess I’ve now posted that post I’ve been planning to post about progressives trying to push through Garland’s confirmation.  Good; one more thing I can check off my to-do list.

Oh. The title I’d planned for it: “The Really Awful Advice That Some Dem Senators Are Giving to Clinton.” They want her to announce now that she will renominate Garland to the Court–the idea I guess being that the Republican senators might as well confirm him now, although I have no idea why, since she’d be promising to nominate him rather than a young liberal. Garland is in his mid 60s.

Even more bizarre than that argument, Harry Reid also advised Clinton** that she should renominate Garland even if she doesn’t promise, pre-election or pre-inauguration, to do so, because, they say, she’ll be too busy in the first few months of her term to have someone new vetted and then have her administration shepherd the nomination through the Senate.

Seriously; that’s what that article about this that I linked to above  says.* The theory being that the new administration won’t be able to chew gum and walk backward at the same time, and Supreme Court appointments aren’t important.

So there we have it. Some Senate Democrats’ advice to Clinton is to throw away a Supreme Court appointment because it’s just easier that way.

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NOTE: The last five paragraphs were added after original post was posted. 9/3 at 4:20 p.m.

____

UPDATE: Reader Nihil Obstet posted this comment in the Comments thread:

One of the great successes of the elite is to weaponize the Supreme Court nomination process by limiting it to culture war issues. We have to vote for our party’s candidate because of abortion, affirmative action, religious freedom, gun regulation, and sexual orientation. Both Democratic and Republican politicians are very happy with those issues. When I’m told that the election is all about the Supreme Court appointment, my reaction is, “You’re not helping your cause by saying that it’s crucial to get more Merrick Garlands on the court.”

I’m not seeing any focus among progressives about the need to reverse the erosion of personal rights with regard to the power of the state and of the corporations.

I responded: Exactly.

Added 9/3 at 4:44 m.

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* Link corrected. 9/3 at 4:56 p.m.

** I erroneously said originally that “these senators” advised this.  But it was only Harry Reid who did, according to the article.  Apologies to Dick Durbin, Chris Coons and Chuck Schumer, the other senators the article mentions.  Also: Durbin apparently is playing a role in this because he is minority whip.  He’s one of my favorite senators, and so I’m a bit disappointed, but I guess he feels that as whip he has to participate in pushing for Garland’s confirmation. 9/3 at 5:08 p.m.

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Why did the Clinton campaign say earlier this month that Trump’s statement that he plans to partially default on the national debt could work? (And, yes, that, as the NYT mentions today, is what the Clinton campaign said.)

Debates have broken out in Mrs. Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters over the best approach to take. Some advisers worry that by running against Mr. Trump as she would a traditional Republican candidate, Mrs. Clinton is actually making the reality­ television star appear more legitimate.

This month, when Mr. Trump suggested he would reduce the national debt by negotiating with creditors to accept something less than full payment, economists dismissed the idea as fanciful. Hours later, the Clinton campaign sent out a news release about Mr. Trump’s “risky” idea of defaulting on the national debt with a response from Gene Sperling, formerly a senior economic adviser to both President Obama and Mr. Clinton, condemning the idea. The seriousness of the campaign’s response seemed to elevate a nonsensical proposal.

The seriousness of the campaign’s response seemed to elevate a nonsensical proposal. “That is a danger,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “You have to take the threat of Trump becoming president seriously, but you shouldn’t treat him as a serious person.”

Hillary Clinton Struggles to Find Footing in Unusual Race, Amy Chozick, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, New York Times, today

Oh.  Brother.  The Clinton campaign characterized Trump’s statement that he wants to partially default on the national debt as “risky.” In other words, they said that, yeah, this would be a big risk, but there’s also the possibility that it could work!

Actually, when I read that sentence this morning in the Times I did remember reading an article about that response by the Clinton campaign shortly after it was made.  I remember thinking, “Risky?  Seriously?  Risky?  Not absurd?  Not a guarantee of global economic collapse and immediate major increase in the Treasury debt needed to pay off current debt that Trump was agreeing to pay off immediately in this refinance scheme?  No, merely risky?”

I also remember reading the Sperling response, which was concise, very good and easily understandable, I thought.  But, why the borderline-comical characterization of this proposal as risky?  Why not say it would be certain to cause global economic collapse and, by its own terms as a refinancing scheme, would require the borrowing of the money to pay the debt at far higher interest rates than the current full-faith-and-credit debt is borrowed at?

And, why wasn’t the candidate herself on television, immediately, saying these things?

What Trump actually said was that he was going to renegotiate with creditors.  It took me—me, a complete novice in anything resembling high finance—only a few hours after Trump’s comments hit he internet for me to post what I thought (okay, probably incorrectly, but it did make the point) was a hilarious parody of Trump sitting across the negotiating table from all the owners, worldwide, of Treasury securities, their lawyers and financial advisors in tow, negotiating reduced interest rates on these securities.

Okay, I posted this on an economics blog.  But the points on all of this could be made—and were made, by Sperling and many others—clearly, understandably, and easily.

The Times article quotes Clinton campaign official Jennifer Palmieri as telling one of the reporters on this article “Each tactic we use is designed for a particular purpose to either engage the press or reach a certain audience.”  The article summarized Palmieri’s explanation, paraphrasing her as saying that “[a]ny aggressive approach by Mrs. Clinton is potentially dangerous, however, because recent polls show she is viewed negatively by a majority of the electorate.”

What Palmieri apparently didn’t explain (at least it’s not reported) is why a response to Trump’s outlandish proposal as merely risky was expected possibly to engage the press, presumably because it was not.  It was instead, I guess, intended to reach a certain audience: the audience that political consultants for both parties long have been telling their clients respond negatively to candidates who seem “risky” or to policy proposals that seem (and may well be) risky.  “Risky” is one of the buzzwords that focus groups show should be used as often as possible to characterize the opponent or a policy proposal of the opponent.

And since the Clinton campaign limits its responses and campaign rhetoric to focus-grouped buzzwords and clichés, and “risky” seemed the most apropos of the words and phrases on the be-sure-to-use list, “risky” it was.

Good grace. Any aggressive approach by Mrs. Clinton is potentially dangerous, because recent polls show she is viewed negatively by a majority of the electorate?  Any aggressive approach by Mrs. Clinton is potentially dangerous, because recent polls show she is viewed negatively by a majority of the electorate?  Explaining to the public how ludicrous Trump’s partial-default proposal is, and how stupefyingly ignorant he is of even basic public-finance and economics mechanisms, is potentially dangerous, because recent polls show she is viewed negatively by a majority of the electorate?

Educating the public about Trump’s actual fiscal-policy proposals and matching them with Romney’s and Paul Ryan’s would be potentially dangerous, because recent polls show she is viewed negatively by a majority of the electorate?

If so, then Clinton should throw in the towel.  She and Sanders could ask their delegates to come together to nominate Warren, or something.  ‘Cuz this ain’t working, folks.

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There are limits to the analogy between Clinton’s 2008 primary contest with Obama and Sanders’s primary contest now with her. Clinton doesn’t get that. But she needs to figure it out because the differences matter.

We got to the end in June, and I did not put down conditions. I didn’t say, ‘you know what, if Senator Obama does X, Y, and Z, maybe I’ll support him.’ I said, ‘I’m supporting Senator Obama, because no matter what our differences might be, they pale in comparison to the differences between us and Republicans.’ That’s what I did.

At that time, 40 percent of my supporters said they would not support him. So from the time I withdrew, until the time I nominated him — I nominated him at the convention in Denver — I spent an enormous amount of time convincing my supporters to support him. And I’m happy to say the vast majority did. That’s certainly what I did and I hope that we will see the same this year.

— Hillary Clinton, at an MSNBC town hall-style event, Apr. 21

That is true.  Six days after she lost the California primary to Obama in early June 2008 she made a gracious speech strongly endorsing Obama and urging her supporters to support him, and repeated it in a primetime speech at the Convention.

Which almost certainly is what Sanders will do, almost exactly.  But what he also will do is attempt to play a role in the drafting of the party platform.  And when he endorses Clinton and then campaigns for her he will point out both that Trump’s actual fiscal-policy and healthcare policy proposals, published on his website, are geared toward gaining favor with the Republican Party elite, especially the donors who have been (very) effectively financing the so-called think tanks that draft and dictate Republican Party dogma and have been doing so for several decades now.

And Sanders also will remind the public that he remains a senator, as does Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown and three or four others–among them now Chris Murphy of Connecticut, he made clear a day or two ago in an eloquent statement–who comprise the Senate’s contingent of what’s often referred to as the Warren wing of the Party.

Which is why it is so off-base, so missing the point, for Clinton and many pundits to claim that Sanders’s primary campaign and his decision to remain an active candidate seeking additional elected delegates in the remaining primary and caucus states endanger Clinton’s, and the down-ballot candidates’, chances in the general election.  Because of critical distinctions between the nature of Obama-vs.-Clinton in 2008 and Clinton-vs.-Sanders now, the very opposite is likely true: There were few significant distinctions between Obama’s and Clinton’s domestic-policy proposals, but fairly large distinctions between some of Clinton’s and some of Sanders’.

The main policy distinction between Clinton and Obama in 2008 was on foreign policy. Clinton as a senator had voted in favor of the Iraq war authorization.  Obama, not yet a member of Congress, nonetheless had publicly voiced opposition to it.  The virulently angry Clinton supporters—the 40 percent of her backers who, if the poll she referenced was accurate, thought in June 2008 that they would not vote for Obama that November—almost certainly were mostly middle-aged women, many of them upscale career women like her, and older women, who were angry at Obama for halting the road to the presidency for a woman.  They were not, suffice it to say, pro-Iraq war voters; instead, for them the chance to see woman elected president was paramount. Policy differences, such as they were between two candidates, were secondary.

As Paul Krugman often reminds, the key domestic policy difference between Obama and Clinton was Clinton’s support of an individual mandate to obtain healthcare insurance as a key part of her detailed healthcare-insurance proposal, and Obama’s rather craven opposition to the mandate in his own proposal.  As someone who supported John Edwards in 2008 until it became clear that the race was between Clinton and Obama, but who remembers well that it was Edwards who brought healthcare insurance into the primary contest, proposing a plan that Clinton quickly adopted almost in full as her own because Edwards was gaining media and voter admiration for making it an issue—and who was not pleased that Obama needed to be prodded to propose his own plan and then proposed one that clearly was weaker than Edwards’s and Clinton’s—I seriously considered switching my allegiance to Clinton rather than to Obama.

The deciding factor for me then in choosing Obama?  That I didn’t want another triangulator as a Democratic president, and figured that while Clinton surely would be that, Obama only might be one.  He wasn’t particularly specific about most domestic-policy positions, something that annoyed ad concerned me.  But he was promising change.

Clinton fails at her own (rather large) risk to recognize the differences between the 2008 primary contest and this one, and why Sanders’ campaign is helping her own chances in the general election—a well as those of down-ballot candidates.  To illustrate the key differences between then and now, I’m selecting excerpts from two campaign reports, one by Baltimore Sun political reporters Kate Linthicum and Chris Megerian, from April 24, the other a lengthy Campaign Stops blog post by New York Times correspondent Emma Roller. Both reports are from

Linthicum and Megerian write from the campaign trail in Reading, PA:

In recent months, Bernie Sanders has transformed Dennis Brandau from a guy who hated politics into a first-time voter. On Tuesday, the 29-year-old line cook will proudly cast a ballot for the Vermont senator in Pennsylvania’s Democratic presidential primary.

But the bruising campaign this year also has turned Brandau into a fierce opponent of the Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He says he has a hard time imagining backing her this fall if she wins the nomination.

“I don’t know if I can vote for her,” Brandau said. “I don’t even want to hear her talk.”

Sanders’ chances of winning the nomination have dimmed since his 16-point loss to Clinton in last week’s New York primary. Polls show he faces an uphill race in several of the five Eastern states that vote on Tuesday, as well as in California’s June 7 primary.

Some of his supporters remain so steadfast, however, that a #BernieOrBust movement has picked up momentum on Twitter. So has an online pledge for supporters who vow to vote for Sanders as a write-in candidate if he loses the nomination.

Roller reports, also from Reading:

KEITH MANDICH had been to this theater before, to see John Mellencamp.

Now Mr. Mandich, a retired steelworker, was back in downtown Reading, Pa., to see another guy he thought of as a hero for working-­class America: Senator Bernie Sanders.

In his bid for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Sanders has nurtured vocal support from young, college-­educated liberals. But he also has fervent support from people who remember the era of well­-paying union jobs at manufacturing plants — and who are very aware of how far we are from that time.

“I just like Bernie because he’s old like me,” joked Mack Richards, 70, another retired steelworker at the Reading event. Pennsylvania is among the five states holding a primary on Tuesday, and it has the most delegates at stake. Since neither party has locked up its nominee yet, the state’s white working­class voters have more of a voice in the primary process than they have had in years past. In 2008, they were considered Biden voters — the white working-­class denizens of Scranton, Pa., and places like it — whom Joe Biden, Scranton’s own, was supposed to win over for Barack Obama.

This time around, the fight for these voters has focused significantly on a somewhat unlikely contender for juiciest campaign issue: international trade deals and their repercussions.

Any presidential candidate on the stump knows how to work a good metaphor into a speech, and Mr. Sanders knew to use the very ZIP code he was rallying in.

“In many ways, what is happening here in Reading, what has happened over the last several decades, is kind of a metaphor for what’s happening all over this country,” Mr. Sanders told the crowd. “We have seen a city which once had thousands of excellent-­paying jobs lose those jobs because of disastrous trade policies.”

He went on to list corporations, including the Dana Corporation, that had shut down plants in Reading and moved overseas. Mr. Mandich, the Sanders supporter and Mellencamp fan, said that he was laid off from his job at the Dana Corporation, which manufactured automobile frames, when the company closed its Reading plant in 2000. The Dana Corporation was one of the companies that supported the Clinton administration’s effort to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, which activists and liberal economists argue did more harm than good to the United States economy.

Kevin Wright, a high school physics teacher in line to see Mr. Sanders, saw parallels between the populism on the left and similar sentiments on the right. “We’re the response to the Tea Party,” he said.

His sister, standing next to him, laughed nervously. “Careful!” she warned.

“The Tea Party has taken over the Republican Party,” Mr. Wright continued. “I think our movement’s stronger, and has more numbers, and is more rational and grounded in reality. And you can see that just based on the people here.”

The crowd in Reading skewed a bit older than a typical Sanders rally — possibly because it took place on a weekday afternoon. Fritz Von Hummel, 55, a self­-employed appliance technician who was laid off from his previous job in November, canceled a couple of appointments to come to the event. He said he had not had health insurance for the past seven years because he could not afford it, and he was eager to talk about the shortcomings of President Obama’s signature health care law.

“I’m just furious with the situation the way it is,” he added.

Roller went on to report from a Trump rally a few miles away.  Some of the people she spoke with there echoed refrains similar to those of the Sanders’ supporters.  Here article is titled “CAMPAIGN STOPS: Pennsylvania, Where Everyone Is ‘Furious’.”  The Linthicum and Megerian piece is titled “Voters’ ‘Bernie or Bust’ efforts persist despite Sanders’ vow not to be another Ralph Nader.”

I myself think there’s little danger that most millennials like Dennis Brandau and perhaps-millennials but anyway youngish Sanders supporters like Kevin Wright and his sister won’t ultimately vote for Clinton.  I think they’re more likely to fear Trump than the middle-aged and elderly working-class Sanders supporters.  And I think that thanks in part to social media, they’re more likely to know or learn before November, simply from their web use, that Trump’s fiscal-policy platform is drafted by standard-issue Republican operatives, borrowing from Republican lobbyists and the Club for Growth/Koch brothers’ think-tank-payroll folks.

I think this is so even though Clinton effectively wrapped up the nomination by winning by 16 points in the New York primary in which only those who were registered as Democrats by early October 2015 were able to vote in that primary, and large percentages of young and younger New Yorkers were independents.  Clinton, understandably, doesn’t mention that publicly.  But it is a fact.

And what about the middle-aged one-time factory workers who support Sanders now?  And the middle-class white collar workers whose kids will borrow, or have borrowed, large amounts in student loans?  What about those who pay high healthcare premiums with out-of-pocket expenses that to Clinton may seem negligible but seem less so to the ones who pay these?

These are not people who are livid that Clinton is keeping a Jewish 74-year-old male from gaining the nomination.  They are people who care, deeply, about the policy differences between the two candidates.  And I’m pretty sure that many of them care, as I do, that Clinton keeps feigning ignorance about what people mean when they use the phrase “the establishment.”  And that Clinton has campaigned against Sanders largely using a playbook seemingly co-opted from a used-car-salesman sales manual, pre-lemon-laws.

I myself harbor not so much as a second of doubt that I will vote for president in November, and about whom I vote for.  It will not be the Republican nominee.  And I absolutely know that I will be joined in that by many, many millions of Sanders primary supporters.

And I dearly hope that Sanders will follow the playbook I say above that I expect him to.

And I will say this: Far from hurting down-ballot candidates’ fundraising chances for the general election, those of us who have contributed to Sanders’ campaign—we’ve done so through ActBlue.com—will continue to receive, as we already have, ActBlue’s solicitations for contributions to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  We’ll click the buttons and fill in the blanks, like we have done for Bernie Sanders.  We’ll do so upon our own accord, and also at Bernie Sanders’s urging.  We will be reminded that the Warren wing, the Sanders wing, of the Democratic Party badly needs to grow.  Into a majority in Congress.

Turns out that millennials already have figured this out, according to dramatic results of a newly released poll taken by the Harvard Institute of Politics.  And many progressive older folks know this, too.  At least those who aren’t New York Times op-ed columnists or the like.

____

ADDENDUM: Just want to add that once Trump chooses Scott Walker as his running mate–he seriously seems headed in that direction, and recently hired Walker’s campaign manager as his campaign’s deputy director or something–the Dems’ problems will take care of themselves, thank you very much.

Added 4/27 at 4:29 p.m.

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Clinton admits she failed to do her homework, and therefore misunderstood, when she stated at the February debate that Dodd-Frank already authorizes the Treasury Dept. to force too-big-to-fail banks to pare down and that therefore no further legislation authorizing it is necessary. That’s quite an admission by her, and the New York Daily News editorial board (and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza) should take note.

A notion is rapidly crystallizing among the national media that Bernie Sanders majorly bungled an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News.His rival, Hillary Clinton, has even sent a transcript of the interview to supporters as part of a fundraising push. A close look at that transcript, though, suggests the media may be getting worked up over nothing.

In fact, in several instances, it’s the Daily News editors who are bungling the facts in an interview designed to show that Sanders doesn’t understand the fine points of policy. In questions about breaking up big banks, the powers of the Treasury Department and drone strikes, the editors were simply wrong on details.

Take the exchange getting the most attention: Sanders’ supposed inability to describe exactly how he would break up the biggest banks. Sanders said that if the Treasury Department deemed it necessary to do so, the bank would go about unwinding itself as it best saw fit to get to a size that the administration considered no longer a systemic risk to the economy. Sanders said this could be done with new legislation, or through administrative authority under Dodd-Frank.

This is true, as economist Dean BakerPeter Eavis at The New York Times, and HuffPost’s Zach Carter in a Twitter rant have all pointed out. It’s also the position of Clinton herself. “We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk,” Clinton said at a February debate. No media outcry followed her assertion, because it was true.

As the interview went on, though, it began to appear that the Daily News editors didn’t understand the difference between the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. Follow in the transcript how Sanders kept referring to the authority of the administration and the Treasury Department through Dodd-Frank, known as Wall Street reform, while the Daily News editors shifted to the Fed.

Did Bernie Sanders Botch An Interview With The Daily News? It’s Not That Simple., Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief at The Huffington Post, yesterday

The subtitle of Grim’s article isThe interview exposes as much about the media as it does about Bernie Sanders.”  And indeed it does.  It exposes this particular editorials board as profoundly ignorant about virtually every subject the interview addressed—not just the specifics of Dodd-Frank but (astonishingly) also about this country’s decades-long position on Israel’s policy regarding new settlements in occupied Palestinian territories and also on the general nature and legal effect of treaties and United Nations resolutions pertaining to them, and a few other things.

It also exposes the board members as high-school-amateurish, not just as journalists but as, well, people.  Not just in the adolescent questions they asked but also in their mysterious inability to follow their own questions, which on the banking issue they were unable to recall from one question to the next whether they were asking about current law (Dodd-Frank) or instead about possible new legislation.  Not to mention, although Grim did, their failure to distinguish between the role of the Fed and the role of the Treasury Dept. on this issue under Dodd-Frank.

And it exposes a slew of other mainstream-media political analysts as just ridiculous.  But particularly, it exposes the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, the chemist who started the crystallization shortly after the Daily News released a transcript of the interview, for what he is: a robot, or maybe a computer, whose algorithms are programmed to forecast specific public reactions to certain words, phrases or clauses uttered by politicians in interviews, debates or off-hand responses to a reporter or to a voter at, say, a town hall-type campaign appearance. “I don’t know the answer to that,” or “I haven’t thought much about it,” or “the banks should be allowed to determine what means they will use to pare down in accord with banking-regulation edict” or “I can’t provide the specific citation to the fraud statute in the federal Criminal Code” are definite career destroyers.*  Or at least presidential candidacy destroyers.

And since Cillizza is highly regarded among mainstream political analysts who themselves lack those algorithms and must get by with baas, Clinton had a ball she thought she could pick up and run with.  So, interviewed yesterday morning on “Morning Joe” yesterday, and asked about Sanders’ responses to the Daily News editorial board members’ too-big-to-fail questions, she had a script prepared not by her consultants but by Cillizza, et al., that included this:

I think he hadn’t done his homework and he’d been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn’t really studied or understood, and that does raise a lot of questions.

She went on to question whether Sanders was qualified to be president.

So the Daily News interview debacle serves handily also to highlight what’s wrong with Clinton.  Characteristically, she echoed a statement by members of that editorial board that she knew was false and also alluded to Sanders’ befuddlement (incredulousness, really) at other misstatements of fact by the editorial board members—it hasn’t been U.S. policy, for decades, to insist that as part of a two-state solution brokered by the White House or State Dept., Israel must withdraw its West Bank settlements on certain specific lands?—as disqualifying Sanders as a presidential candidate.

Grim’s piece links to the RealClear Politics headline from February 4, posted shortly after the February debate, headlined “Clinton Agrees With Sanders: ‘We Now Have Power Under Dodd-­Frank To Break Up Big Banks’”.  The article links to videotape.  Clinton said, “We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk. ”

So Clinton failed to do her homework, either before that debate in February or before that “Morning Joe” interview yesterday.  And that does raise a lot of questions.  A lot of questions.  Which presumably the New York Daily News editorial board will seek answers to when they interview her.

The aforementioned post by Peter Eavis, in the New York Times blog The Upshot on Tuesday, is titled “Yes, Bernie Sanders Knows Something About Breaking Up Banks.”  Time to find out whether Hillary Clinton does.

___

*These aren’t actually direct quotes. They’re my paraphrases.

____

ADDENDUM: This is an entry posted yesterday at the New York Times Fact Checks of the 2016 Election blog:

Discussing climate change on Monday, Mrs. Clinton cited her “very vigorous record” on the subject. Then she proceeded to express bafflement about a stance she said her opponent had taken.

“I couldn’t believe it when Senator Sanders opposed the Paris agreement — the best chance we have to actually reverse climate change and deal with the consequences,” Mrs. Clinton said in an interview on “Capital Tonight,” an upstate New York cable news show.

The Paris agreement, reached in December, commits nearly every nation to take action to combat climate change. Given that Mr. Sanders has made climate change a major issue in his campaign, his supposed opposition would indeed seem odd.

But Mrs. Clinton’s characterization was misleading.

It is true that Mr. Sanders did not warmly embrace the Paris agreement. But his lack of enthusiasm was for the opposite reason that Mrs. Clinton suggested.

“While this is a step forward, it goes nowhere near far enough,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement in December. “The planet is in crisis. We need bold action in the very near future and this does not provide that.”

— Thomas Kaplan

So Clinton doesn’t believe her own hallucination.  She just wants Democratic primary voters to.

Then again, maybe she really can’t distinguish between a lament by someone that something doesn’t go far enough or isn’t strong enough and one that objects that the thing goes too far or is too strong.  This seems to be a recurring type of confusion for her.  So she may not be faking it after all.  Maybe she really can’t tell the difference.

Addendum added 4/7 at 8:35 p.m.

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John Cornyn Adopts Trump-Like Fascism Techniques. Good Job, Donald! [Updated.]

Dan Crawford sent me links to these two articles about Senate Judiciary Committee enforcer John Cornyn’s threat on Tuesday that he and his compadres will destroy the reputation of anyone nominated by Obama for Scalia’s seat.  I responded to him after reading the articles:

You know, Dan, this is so palpably, stunningly offensive that Sanders and Clinton need to tell the public about it.  It’s really just jaw-dropping. It’s just … I don’t know; I can’t even think of a perfect adjective.  Scary, maybe?

Beverly

Sanders, especially, should mention this on the campaign trail as a way to illustrate the lengths that the people who want the federal courts—most prominently but by no means only, the Supreme Court—to continue to serve as a fully owned subsidiary of Koch Industries and the legal arm of the Republican Party, albeit with the full force of the United States government’s powers.

Cornyn is a former Texas state supreme court justice and Texas attorney general.  I’m betting that his professional history isn’t pretty, so he’s perfect to have his Fascism routine turned back on him. As in, turnabout is fair play.  Exposing his record as a state supreme court justice and a state attorney general to national examination may, given what some of the specifics are likely to be, ensure his seat as a Texas senator for as long as he wants it.  But it also may well help in making the remainder of his tenure as a senator, beginning next January, be as a member of the Senate minority.

And I don’t mean that I expect him to become a Democrat.

Thug-like threats and actions aren’t likely to appeal to a majority of voters.  As Trump’s general-election and favorability poll numbers indicate.

In other words: Citizens united against Citizens United!  And so very much more.  Hoist this politician by his own piñata.

_____

UPDATE: The New York Times today has an editorial on this, writing:

On Monday, John Cornyn, the senior Republican senator from Texas, warned President Obama that if he dares to name a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court, the nominee “will bear some resemblance to a piñata.”

Violent imagery has been commonplace in political statements for a long time, but even so, it is disgraceful for a senator to play the thug, threatening harm to someone simply for appearing before Congress to answer questions about professional accomplishments and constitutional philosophy

The editorial is titled “Republican Threats and the Supreme Court”.

Senator, may we not drop this? … Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Added 3/11 at 8:42 a.m

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Two Must-Read Columns in the NYT Today

Nicholas Kristof’s and Linda Greenhouse’s.  They’re on different subjects but, in my opinion, part and parcel of the same thing.

____

ADDENDUM: Reader Sandi and I exchanged these comments in the Comments thread here this morning:

Sandi

February 19, 2016 9:03 am

One way Kristoff didn’t mention that amasses huge fortunes is our tax laws, as pertains to inheritance.

It’s beyond obscene that not only are families like the Scaifes and Kochs able to set up trusts to pass the loot to their kids, that, are structured so that after a few years of giving the proceeds of the trust to charity, the kids then get the whole enchilada with no inheritance or gift tax consequences.

The really brilliant bit is using that generated cash to set up 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)s to further your political agenda, much of which is to keep the tax laws bent in your direction……………
Power is great, but anonymous power really keeps your enemies on their toes. They never know where you’ll strike from next.

 

Me

February 19, 2016 9:57 am

Sandi, it absolutely dismays me that the news media and the Republican Establishment think Rubio could beat Clinton or Sanders. The two seminal parts of Rubio’s tax plan are to end the capital gains tax and end the estate tax.

The public, of course, doesn’t yet know this, and it does not occur to the media and Republican Establishment folks that once they learn of it Rubio couldn’t defeat a monkey in the general election.

Yet they all—the pundits of all ideological stripes—keep saying that Sanders’ current strength against the Republican candidates in polls pitting them against Sanders and against Clinton don’t mean much this early, yet the polls showing Rubio’s strength do. But the key thing that supposedly makes Sanders unelectable—that he’s a SOCIALIST—is actually the thing that virtually everyone who’s heard of him knows. Yet the key thing that actually would make Rubio unelectable—his tax plan—has yet to break through to most of the public. Literally; it’s extremely likely that almost no one knows of it.

I’ll add here that it is to Paul Krugman’s tremendous credit that he keeps making that point about Rubio.

Added 1/19 at 10:14 a.m.

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What If Thomas Friedman Had Decided Not to Claim In the Opinion Pages of The New York Times That Bernie Sanders Is a COMMUNIST?

What if our 2016 election ends up being between a socialist and a borderline fascist — ideas that died in 1989 and 1945 respectively?

— Thomas Friedman, What If?, New York Times, today

What if Thomas Friedman had decided not to claim in the Opinion Pages of The New York Times that Bernie Sanders is a Communist?

Which, since what died in 1989 was not Democratic Socialism—the government systems of the Scandinavian countries, Holland and Germany, for example, did not collapse in 1989 and remain intact today—is what he said.*

That’s not a rhetorical question, New York Times editors.

Neither is this one: What if major news and opinion outlets like the venerable New York Times had meaningful standards limiting the latitude of its opinion writers to baldly misrepresent clear fact?  In other words, what if his editors had refused to let him make that representation of fact?

Appalling.  Truly.

—-

*Sentence typo-corrected. 1/20 at 7:36 p.m.

 

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Instead of nominating Marco Rubio, the Republicans should just cut out the pretense and nominate his doppelgänger: Charlie McCarthy

Bill Clinton had a line during his 1992 campaign that he said, mantra-like, so often in fact that eventually it lost its meaning and was just a cringe-inducing song-like chorus.  The line, the slogan, was, “People who work hard and play by the rules.”  It was—until he repeated it to a point well beyond when people actually would think of its meaning when they heard it, rather than just cringe or role their eyes—a very effective campaign mantra and also one that said something meaningful.  And it’s a line that I’ve thought of repeatedly since Thursday night’s debate.

Marco Rubio neither works hard nor plays by the rules.  Except, of course, the rules that politicians these days play by, although Rubio has throughout his political career—which is to say, virtually throughout his adult life once he graduated from law school—been jaw-droppingly adept at it, finding two billionaires to sponsor his political career and shore up his personal finances. One of them is human, the other is a corporate person.

The corporate person is GEO Group, the second-largest private, for-profit prison company in the United States—is there another country that has a private-prisons industry?  I have no idea—and whose company’s only client is government entities.  Including the State of Florida, thanks to Rubio during his tenure as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives (of billionaires, human and corporate).  The other is Miami billionaire Norman Braman.

A common refrain about Rubio is that he’s a man in a hurry.  A refrain that I trust is about to become common is that he also is a man on the take.  Which he is.  Pure and simple.  This spade needs to be called a spade, and will be, whether it’s Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders—or a massive swell from the news media of the sort that, finally, is occurring in the wake of Wednesday’s debate calling all but one member of the entire cast (Kasich was the exception) grifters, scam artists, fraudsters, liars on a truly grand scale—that begins it loudly enough to be heard.

Regarding GEO-Group-as-Rubio-family-financier, the first article about it (to my knowledge) in a major national publication was by Staten Island-based freelance writer Michael Cohen published in the Washington Post on April 28 of this year.  Its title is “How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about.”  Its subtitle is “Sen. Marco Rubio is one of the biggest beneficiaries.”  Among its paragraphs about Rubio is this one:

Marco Rubio is one of the best examples of the private prison industry’s growing political influence, a connection that deserves far more attention now that he’s officially launched a presidential bid. The U.S. senator has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company. (Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)

The statute of limitations has run on potential public corruption charges under the federal criminal code.  But many public officials have been charged and convicted for conduct that bears, let’s just say, a resemblance to Rubio’s. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell would dispute that his was one such case, since McDonnell contends that when he pushed that vitamin supplement in exchange for $165,000 (or whatever the amount was) in gifts and sweetheart loans, he did so not in his official capacity but as a private individual.

Then there is the curious case of Norman Braman, Florida tax policy when Rubio was speaker of the Florida House, and Rubio’s job teaching Political Science at a Florida public university courtesy of a newly created and paid for in full by Braman after Rubio left the Florida House in order to run full-time for the U.S. Senate.  (Full time except for that adjunct teaching position, of course.)  In an article published Monday on Alternet, Lou Dubose of the Washington Spectator summarized the details as revealed earlier by The New York Times:

In an interview with The New York Times, the senator described Norman Braman, a Miami billionaire who once owned the Philadelphia Eagles and now sells BMWs, Rolls-Royces, Cadillacs, Audis and Bugatis, as “a father figure who had given him advice on everything, from what books to read to how to manage a staff.”

Braman, the Times reported, gave Rubio more than advice.

He contributed $255,000 to an advocacy group Rubio formed to lobby for one of his signature-mark initiatives while he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives: a dramatic reduction of property taxes and increase in the state sales tax.

When Rubio left state government, he got a job teaching at Florida International University, committing to raise his salary from private donors. Braman contributed $100,000 to the university, earmarked for Rubio’s salary.

Braman donated to Rubio’s U.S. Senate campaign, and hired Rubio as a lawyer for seven months while he campaigned. He hired Rubio’s wife, and her company, to work for his charitable foundation. And he is reported to have committed $10 million to Rubio’s presidential campaign.

The New York Times reporters suggested that Rubio’s involvement with Braman will lead to a more thorough examination of the Florida Senator’s personal finances as the presidential campaign continues.

Dubose’s article is titled “Marco Rubio’s Financial Messes” and subtitled “Fishy financials don’t make for a great campaign.”  And, really, they don’t.

Rubio’s debate riposte—not about any of this, which he wasn’t asked about, but to a question about problems with his and his wife’s handling of their family’s cash flow—was that, well, he unlike Bush and Trump comes from a family of very modest means, and as an adult he received no financial assistance from his parents.  This presumably will do double duty as a response to questions about what the conduct that many people, I suspect, will view as amounting to public corruption.  But it’s a line that will continue to work only until someone other than me—to reiterate, e.g., Trump, Sanders, Clinton, or journalists—points out that many, many people who come from families of very modest means actually do work hard and do play by the rules.

Many of them, like Rubio’s mother, whom he mentioned during the debate in reference to Medicare and Social Security—he said she relies on them—are weak as people.  So, too, is he, by his own admission, for allowing his mother to rely on those federal programs rather than supporting her, including paying her healthcare costs.  Like people did in the old days. I was unaware of this admission by him, and in fact was unaware that he thinks Medicare and Social Security weaken us as people, until I read Steve Benen’s post yesterday on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC blog (h/t Paul Waldman):

Later, the far-right Floridian referenced entitlements – Rubio is on record condemning Medicare and Social Security for “weakening us as a people” – and said to laughter, “Nothing has to change for current beneficiaries. My mother is on Medicare and Social Security. I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother.”

That same record (video, actually) includes, specifically, Rubio’s statement that Medicare and Social Security have made us as a people lazy.

It will be a relief to many that as long as Mrs. Rubio is alive, Medicare and Social Security will be safe under a Rubio presidency.  Enabling the lazy Rubio to avoid having to support her.

The Democrats can only hope that Marco Rubio will be the Republican nominee for president.  Our current campaign finance system reduces most American politicians to ventriloquists’ puppets, but Rubio is unmistakably Charlie McCarthy reincarnate.  To the point of comedy.  Like the original Charlie McCarthy.  Next time you hear or see him speak, just think of how comfortably he would fit on Edgar Bergen’s lap.*

A week or two ago I read—I don’t remember where—that there is a Super PAC tied to Rubio that has a huge amount of funding but only one donor, whose identity is anonymous.  Rubio indeed would fit perfectly on Edgar Bergen’s lap, but here’s betting that that donor isn’t Edgar Bergen.

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*Link to Paul Krugman’s blog post from this morning titled “Policy and Character” added. 10/30 at 11:01 p.m.

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