Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Okay, so how many of the 53 percent of voters who say they want a Republican Congress to thwart Clinton’s policy agenda have any idea what that policy agenda IS? Just wonderin’.

But those same polls [suggesting a Clinton lead] don’t suggest doom and gloom for down-ballot Republicans just yet. And in fact, there’s real reason for GOP optimism that Trump won’t ruin their year completely. …

For one, the so-called generic ballot — i.e., whether people prefer a generic Democrat for Congress or a generic Republican — still only favors Democrats by a small margin: 3 points in both the Post-ABC poll and NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, among likely voters. That same Democratic edge on the generic ballot is actually down from 6 points in last week’s NBC-WSJ poll.

Put plainly, these generic ballots are unremarkable and don’t suggest a big Democratic wave ahead.

Part of the reason Trump’s woes might not have filtered downballot could be that a strong majority of people don’t really associate Republicans with their party’s presidential nominee. And many people also appear to dislike Clinton enough that they like the idea of a Congress that could keep her in check.

The Post-ABC poll includes a question about whether people think Trump represents the “core values” of the Republican Party, and a strong majority of likely voters say he doesn’t — 57 percent overall.

The number includes a whopping 62 percent of independents. Just 27 percent of them think Trump does represent the GOP.

And the NBC-WSJ poll might be even more encouraging for Republicans, because it suggests a path forward for them. The poll asked whether registered voters would be more likely to support a congressional Republican who would be a check and balance on Clinton and Democrats, and 53 percent said they would. Just 40 percent preferred a congressional Democrat who would help Clinton pass her agenda.

And now, some legitimately good news for Republicans, Aaron Blake, Washington Post, this morning

Of all the asinine comments by major political pundits about the presidential campaign during the last one and a half years, one that rates among the silliest is a recent claim by Paul Krugman on his Twitter feed pronouncing himself vindicated for his aggressive defense of Clinton as the only Democrat who could win the general election.

Why the claim of vindication?  Well, because no candidate other than Clinton would have had a campaign team deft enough to recognize that Trump could be baited into a meltdown during the first debate by reciting his awful treatment of 1990s-era Miss Universe Alicia Machado because she gained weight during her reign, a meltdown that spiraled for about a week afterward.  And that was what began the turning of the tide away from what appeared to be momentum for Trump and (apparently) triggered the release of the Access Hollywood Boys-on-the-Bus videotape.  See?

Because the only possible way that a Democratic nominee could defeat—at all, but especially soundly defeat—Donald J. Trump was that.  It couldn’t have happened instead based on, say, on a progressive platform pushed by Bernie Sanders in the primaries, or one that would have been advanced by Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown, one or the other who likely would be the Dem nominee had she or he run. That is, on a progressive agenda that is broadly popular among the dominant swath of the public that wants significant change, and much of it among pretty much everyone else who isn’t in the basket of deplorables.

Or, hell, even a platform chosen by Joe Biden, who currently is far more progressive than he had been at any earlier time in his career, had he been the nominee.

That, of course, presumes—surely accurately—that each of these candidates would have run, and run aggressively and constantly, on their progressive platform.  A platform that argues for significant structural change in the power of mega corporations and the very wealthy vis-à-vis everyone whose interests are not the same as those of mega corporations and the very wealthy.

I chuckle every time Krugman or some other big pre-convention Clinton backer angrily notes that Clinton is running on the most progressive party platform ever. As if Clinton has actually campaigned on this, other than to mention it in passing when the last Trump outrage falls from constant view and his poll numbers begin to rise, or hers begin to drop because of some new email-related something-or-other.

I’ve thought countless times since the convention how lucky Clinton is to have a party platform to run on that was largely forced through by Sanders.  But that has presumed that eventually she actually would begin to run on it.  No.  I mean actually campaign on it.  It’s specifics.  Godot may arrive, but he hasn’t really yet.

But if he does, it should be in the form of asking this: What part of Clinton’s agenda is it, exactly, that all those voters want a Republican Congress to halt?  And what part of the Republican Congress’s agenda do those voters want Clinton to comprise on and agree to?

Ah.  It must be re-deregulation of the finance industry that they want.  And immense cuts in taxes for Donald Trump, his heirs, mega corporations, CEOs of mega-corporations, and the insurance that Citizens United will never be overturned, and that the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts will continue to be steady-as-she-goes unapologetic proxies for mega-corporate America; Clinton’s agenda includes some very specific legislation on campaign financing, some of proposals which I did not know of until I read yesterday’s NYT editorial listing them.

Or maybe it’s the stuff about handing federal lands and environmental and energy policy to the likes of the Koch brothers.  And control of the SEC by the Mercers and the Ricketts. The Kochs don’t support Trump, but they sure as hell fund the rest of the Republican Party.  And Harold Hamm, Forrest Lucas, the Mercers and the Ricketts fund Trump—bigly—as well as the Republican Congress.

For starters.  There’s also the healthcare-insurance public option.

Every one of those proposals by Clinton is supported by a majority of the public, some by wide margins.  And every one of the Republican Congress’s proposals are opposed by a majority of the public, most by very wide margins. Yet Clinton’s campaign focuses so little on this that, according to that poll, 53 percent said they want a Republican Congress, to keep Clinton from enacting these policies, and just 40 percent preferred a congressional Democrat who would help Clinton pass her agenda.

I’ve wondered—and wondered, and wondered—for many weeks now why Clinton continues to allow the misconception to persist that Trump’s general election campaign is not funded in part by billionaires and has no ties to the finance industry.  I actually had expected her to mention at one or another of the debates that Trump is funded extensively not only by two oil-and-gas billionaires, Hamm and Lucas, but even more so, apparently, by two finance-industry-titan families: the Mercers and the Ricketts.

When she didn’t, and didn’t mention the Mercers and the Ricketts even when campaigning in Toledo, Ohio, I presumed it was because she was concerned about angering some of her Wall Street donors.  But in light of the leaks of the transcripts of her paid Wall Street speeches, I think there was something more.  I think she knew or suspected that these had been hacked, and she didn’t want to provoke their release.

So now, to borrow from Trump, she’s been unshackled. She can detail to the public the reports that the Mercers in particular, but other billionaire donors as well, including the fossil fuel ones, are directly dictating policy proposals to Trump.

And that the Heritage Foundation—the far-right policy arm of none other than Congressional Republicans, the very ones whom the public wants to write laws, rather than seeing Clinton’s administration do so—in fact has written a fiscal and regulatory policy agenda for Trump that curiously mirrors the policy agenda of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.  Neither of whom is exactly popular.

In my opinion, there isn’t much in Clinton’s paid speeches—at least from the articles I’ve read about them—that are really a problem, other than that she said that Wall Street folks should help craft the laws to reign in Wall Street, since they know better than anyone else how Wall street works.  Well, not better than Warren.  And not better than some other law and business professors. And not better than former Wall Street folk who left in disgust.  But, okay; that was three years ago, in a paid speech.

What is seriously problematic, in my opinion, though, is the hacked email discussion about how to go about trying to persuade an angry, adamant Hillary Clinton that Bill Clinton should cancel his paid speech to Morgan Stanley scheduled for a few days after Hillary Clinton was scheduled to announce her candidacy.

The hero in that incident, as in several others, was campaign manager Robby Mook, who appears to be the only actual modern-era progressive in Clinton’s entire inner circle. He’s a millennial, but so are a (precious) few others.  But only Mook appears to be a circa 2016-style progressive.

Trump likes to say that if it weren’t for the conspiratorial news media, he would be beating Clinton by 15%.  But that misses, well, a few points, but this one in particular: that the news media and the Clinton campaign seem to have conspired to keep from the public the most critical fact of all.  Which is that Clinton’s progressive policy agenda is the agenda that a majority of the public wants.

And that the Republican Party’s, so much of it actually adopted by Trump, with a steroid cocktail thrown in, is precisely the opposite of what that very majority wants.

Krugman’s Times column today is largely about the striking similarities between Trump’s depiction of the current state of this country and Ryan’s warnings in a speech last week about this country’s future if Clinton wins.  But the similarities are more in style than in substance. Krugman writes:

But for what it’s worth, consider the portrait of America Mr. Ryan painted last week, in a speech to the College Republicans. For it was, in its own way, as out of touch with reality as the ranting of Donald Trump (whom Mr. Ryan never mentioned).

Now, to be fair, Mr. Ryan claimed to be describing the future — what will happen if Hillary Clinton wins — rather than the present. But Mrs. Clinton is essentially proposing a center-­left agenda, an extension of the policies President Obama was able to implement in his first two years, and it’s pretty clear that Mr. Ryan’s remarks were intended as a picture of what all such policies do.

According to him, it’s very grim. There will, he said, be “a gloom and grayness to things,” ruled by a “cold and unfeeling bureaucracy.” We will become a place “where passion — the very stuff of life itself — is extinguished.” And this is the kind of America Mrs. Clinton “will stop at nothing to have.”

So, DSCC and DCCC, why not take this ball and run with it?  Why not take that little clip and juxtapose it with parts of the Dem Party platform and pieces of Clinton’s proposals, such as those on campaign finance reform?  And follow that with a summary of, say, Ryan’s budget’s Greatest Hits?

Clinton, of course, could do this, too.  Robby Mook, can you try to persuade the candidate to start campaigning on this, now that the sexual assault and voyeurism admissions and allegations are becoming old news?

I said here after the second debate that I myself believe that Clinton is very much a changed person now in her support of genuinely progressive structural-power changes.  I still believe that.  But she already has my vote.

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The New York Post and Citizens United’s executive vice president say Republican administrations magnanimously hire liberal Democrats to fill positions in their Cabinet departments. Someone should educate them that this is not accurate.

Hillary Clinton’s current campaign manager kept a list of people who were not to receive State Department jobs being doled out — just as the new secretary of state entered the Obama administration — The Post has exclusively learned.

“We are beginning the process of separating people we may want to hire from people we do not want to hire at all,” Robby Mook, the wunderkind 36-year-old campaign manager, wrote in an email to various Clinton officials. The email was sent Feb. 23, 2009, just two weeks after Clinton assumed the job as secretary of state.

“Below is a list of people we are proposing NOT to hire (the ‘no-offer’ list), along with the name of the person who submitted their resume,” Mook added.

Mook’s email was released by Citizens United, the conservative group that obtained the message through a Freedom of Information Act request from the State Department.

The email was sent to Clinton confidants Minyon Moore and Tamzera Luzzatto, as well as close Clinton aides and State Department officials Cheryl Mills, Capricia Marshall and Huma Abedin, among others. Tina Flournoy, Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, was on the email chain as well.

— Clinton’s campaign manager kept blacklist of potential hires, Daniel Halper, The New York Post, yesterday.

This, folks, is labeled “News Exclusive”.  Just so you won’t confuse it with, say, “Non-Newsworthy Information, Because It Falls Into the Category of ‘Staffing the New Administration’s Cabinet Departments in Accordance With the Election Results’”.

The article does point out that Mook was not working for Clinton.  Uh-oh.  Specifically, it says:

At the time, Mook does not appear to have been employed by Clinton. He had worked on Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid and then managed the campaign for Jeanne Shaheen, the New Hampshire Democratic senator. A few months after the email was sent, Mook went to work for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

It also appears that Mook, unlike Mr. Halper and his editors, knows the difference between Civil Service positions and, y’know, positions that are not Civil Service positions, wanted to be fair and not mistake a non-enemy for an enemy who as an enemy had the audacity to submit a resume and job application for a non-Civil Service position.  So he wrote in that email:

WE RECOGNIZE THERE MAY BE MISTAKES IN THIS LIST, which is why we are circulating it for comments. If you believe someone on this list should be considered for a position, please send their name to whl@state.gov. If you do not send to whl@state.gov, we cannot guarantee that we will get the information processed,” Mook implored.

“Please keep in mind when editing this list that we have over 1,300 applications and less than 180 jobs to slot — we must be selective. Pretend you work for the Harvard admissions department,” the email concluded.

But don’t think Mr. Halper is an incompetent journalist.  He’s clearly not, since he does know an illegal political blacklist when he sees one, and also has the contact information of Citizens United executive vice president Michael Boos and can get a good quote from him conflating the decision to reject employment applications of ideologically or politically unfriendly applicants for jobs normally filled in White House administrations by people who are friendly to the administration ideologically or politically with Richard Nixon’s Enemies List listing the names of unfriendly journalists and others whose tax returns should be reviewed by the I.R.S. and who should have dossiers about them opened at the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.

In an appropriately breathless tone, he writes:

The names on the blacklist were redacted upon their release from the State Department to Citizens United.

The blacklist.  Got it? And he follows that with the money quote, writing:

Hillary Clinton’s similarities to Richard Nixon are more striking than anyone could have imagined,” Michael Boos, Citizens United executive vice president, told The Post.  “Now we’ve learned she even maintained a secretive blacklist while heading the State Department. The American people deserve to know who is on that list,” Boos added.

I’m sort of relieved about this, now that the polls are tightening.  At least we can be sure that if Trump wins the election he’ll stop soliciting and accepting advice from Robert Mercer, his daughter Rebeka, John Rakolta Jr., Sheldon Adelson, and the other far-right billionaires whom Trump is accepting advice from and making tacit promises to in exchange for their extensive financial support for his campaign.  Including during meetings in The Hamptons. Which is strange, considering that according to the news media no major-party presidential nominee this year other than Clinton is allowed to enter for the purpose of seeking campaign contributions.

I guess Trump is violating those municipal ordinances, and is attending fundraisers there—as are a few of his billionaire donors, who are violating the ordinance sections proscribing contributing to the delinquency of a presidential candidate not named Hillary Clinton.

At least according to the Washington Post’s terrific Matea Gold, who reported on this, in-depth, all the way back on Sept. 1.  And whose reporting no one but me noticed.  Certainly the Clinton campaign didn’t.

Down the road,  when an Establishment Republican is nominated as the party’s offering for president—Paul Ryan, say—we progressive Democrats will be able to take comfort in knowing that his cabinet heads won’t discriminate against progressive Democrats in staffing their departments.  Maybe I’ll apply.

Okay, look.  I bow to few other progressive Democrats in the intensity of anger at Bill and Hillary Clinton for, beginning in 2013, commandeering the mechanism by which the party chooses its presidential nominee and foisting upon us a standard bearer whose husband received exorbitant secret payments from companies with interests potentially touching upon normal State Department concerns when she was Secretary of State.

And I’ve wondered from time to time in the last few months how many of those Establishment folks who were Ready for Hillary back in 2013, 2015 and the first five months of 2015 feel regret.  Or maybe even remorse.  Partly because our party now has a presidential nominee who along with her husband was unwilling to choose between great riches and power of another presidency, rejecting mere ordinary riches and opting instead for far more than that, risking so much for so many of the rest of us when they decided to muscle other potential candidates, and actual candidate Bernie Sanders, out of their way because they not only wanted extraordinary wealth but also the White House or a second time.  And partly because we have a presidential nominee whose idea of a terrific campaign strategy in 2016 is to court endorsements from Henry Kissinger and Meg Whitman, on the apparent theory that the more uber-Establishment celebrities who endorse you the better this particular election cycle.  At least if they’re Republican.

And partly because we have a nominee who thinks that the way to effectively attack her opponent is to constantly remind people of what they already know about him and haven’t forgotten, and be sure not to tell them about the stuff they don’t already know about him but really should learn of.  Like that he’s soliciting policy promises—er, policy advice—from the Mercers and his other billionaire donors.  And that the Mercers live in … the Hamptons.

And who thinks it’s a good idea to spend most of her time at the height of the campaign season cocooning with her extremely wealthy friends, and with the extremely wealthy friends of those friends, none of whom will sit out this election or vote for her opponent or a third party candidate. And who wouldn’t be caught dead actually campaigning on her policy proposals to rallies or audiences whose votes she thinks she has but may actually not have.  They’re not mainstream Republicans, so why bother to address them, right?

I can’t stand Hillary Clinton.  But I’m absolutely sure that her domestic-policy proposals, if actually enacted, would make a significant difference to a lot of people—in a good way—and that this country would be a meaningfully better place.  And I won’t even mention Supreme Court and lower federal court nominees—although I will ask whom the Mercers would recommend for appoint to the Court and to the courts.  Anyone who favors overturning Citizens United?  Or who thinks people who don’t have driver’s licenses or passports should be allowed to vote?  Or who favors plaintiffs’ access to federal court in consumer cases, employment cases, habeas corpus cases, or constitutional-rights cases that don’t concern religious freedom (loosely defined), gun ownership rights, or reverse discrimination by state universities or some such?  Didn’t think so.

I do acknowledge that her cabinet members probably would discriminate against job applicants who may be hostile ideologically or politically to Clinton or to the cabinet member.  But if so, there’s always the option of impeachment.  Just as there was for Nixon.

Clinton is saddled with a political media that can’t distinguish between normal, expected and trivial special, often meaningless, access, and even appropriate favoritism, on the one hand, and meaningful pay-to-play.  Or maybe a political media that thinks that the propriety of what has gone on in the respective professional lives of Clinton and Trump, and what promises to go on in a Clinton, or instead in a Trump, administration depends not on what is likely to go on but rather on whether it will be going on in a Clinton or instead a Trump administration.  The Clinton Foundation is just a distraction, in my opinion.  Bill Clinton’s half-million-dollar payments here for this no-actual-work activity, a whole million and then some for that no-actual-work activity–those are problems.  But they’re problems that fade into the landscape, or should, in comparison to Trump’s appalling, breathtaking decades-long career of breathtaking immoral greed.

These two men are stunningly, pervertedly greedy.  But Bill Clinton’s greed probably didn’t directly hurt anyone. by contrast, Trump’s very business model was, to a dismaying extent, to hurt people, some deliberately, some as casual collateral damage.  Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton is a sociopath.  Donald Trump is.  Yet it is the Clintons’ pattern of greed that the news media details and obsesses about, upon the pretext that these constitute conflicts of interest.   A few do, most don’t, and none reaches anywhere near the level of casual, deliberate harm to others and clear violations of law that Trump’s very modus operandi has caused and has constituted.

We, for our part—those of us who support this Democratic nominee, extremely grudgingly or otherwise—are saddled with a candidate who is running a god-awful campaign, apparently thanks mainly to campaign decisions by the candidate herself and her husband, both of whom mistake the 2016 campaign cycle for the 1988 one.

Those old enough to remember the 1988 campaign will get my drift.  It’s a double entendre.

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Is it just me, or is the Clinton campaign’s take on how to appeal to African-American voters really demeaning?

It’s worth noting that Clinton has an interesting built-in advantage here. Clinton is campaigning as the candidate of continuity, at least in the sense that she is promising to build incrementally on the Obama agenda, while Sanders is implicitly arguing that the change of the Obama era has been woefully insubstantial when compared with the scale of our challenges. Clinton’s positioning as the steward of the Obama agenda may alone give her an edge with nonwhite voters.

Hillary Clinton is placing a huge bet on nonwhite voters, Greg Sargent, this morning

To me, one of the most striking things about Clinton’s campaign is the ships-that-pass-in-the-night feel between the very nature of her campaign and the public mood, generally but certainly among a very large swath of Democrats and Dem leaners.  Mostly, her campaign is about her.  A week or two ago, I clicked a link to a video of an event in New Hampshire a day earlier in which Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s introduction of Clinton, as the latter stood nearby waiting to take the stage, consisted (at least in the clip I saw) of reminding the crowd of how awesome Clinton was throughout that 11-hour Senate-committee Benghazi hearing. As if that absolutely, definitely, for sure indicates that she will cow Republican senators and House members into enacting progressive legislation she wants.

It really fascinates me that so many prominent Democrats and progressives think that’s the end-all-and-be-all as an indicator of a successful Hillary Clinton administration.  These folks really should get out more. To, say, well, almost anywhere outside of Washington, DC or New York City.

No surprise that Clinton talks incessantly about herself.  On Tuesday it was that SHE WON THE IOWA CAUCUSES.  Earlier it was that she’s now a grandmother.  And in between these persuasive arguments was an equally persuasive one: That she knows how it feels to be the one to have to decide whether a presidential inauguration public ceremony should go on in the face of a credible threat of a terrorist attack.

That link is to a post of mine from two weeks ago in which I also said this:

What worries me more than anything else about a Clinton general election campaign is her propensity to say obviously silly things. Elsewhere in that speech, in Clinton, IA on Friday, she again repeated her (and her daughter’s) complaint—without any hint of recognition of irony—that Sanders’ single-payer healthcare insurance plan would kill Obamacare.  As if it weren’t the very purpose of a single-payer healthcare insurance system to eliminate private healthcare insurance for the benefits that the single-payer plan provides.  As if the purpose of Obamacare was to create some living monument to Obama, rather than to provide healthcare insurance to people who had no access to it, and provide decent insurance to people who had policies that provided almost no coverage.

Which I think makes the point that that quote above from Greg Sargent highlights: Clinton believes that African-Americans think the purpose of Obamacare was to create some living monument to Obama, rather than to provide healthcare insurance to people who had no access to it, and provide decent insurance to people who had policies that provided almost no coverage.  And that they think that everything else Obama did must be preserved in granite because, well … Obama.

They like him and support him.  And aren’t as discriminating in their analyses as, y’know, whites.  Or at least as whites who don’t feel that very same way about Ronald Reagan (a rapidly diminishing crowd now, although the Republican Establishment hasn’t noticed).

I just don’t know about that.  Me?  I suspect that most African-Americans know well that Obamacare was a necessary comprise, and know that there are still many millions of people who have no healthcare insurance.  And that large premiums to private insurers, and large co-payments and deductables requiring very significant personal expenditures, don’t make for a situation in which huge numbers of Americans aren’t pervasively in fear of needing expensive medical care, or of being unable to pay the premiums, or both.

And that citizens of no other wealthy Western-style democracy live this way.

Clinton’s marketing pitch is that she is a progressive who gets things done.  “I come to you with a lifetime of service and advocacy and of getting results,” was, as noted by Dana Milbank in a commentary post that otherwise itself misses the ship, “her less-than-soaring pitch” at a community college in Nashua yesterday.  But what results exactly has she gotten?  She’s never specific, except about foreign-policy achievements as secretary of state.  And either are her many boosters among the mainstream-commentary crowd, although they recite this mantra regularly.

Milbank worries about what he says is Clinton’s tendency to get bogged down in the details of her policy proposals when she speaks at events, boring her audience.  (Maybe it’s the policy proposals themselves that are the problem.)  But from where I sit, which is not at a Clinton campaign event, the problem is the opposite of too much detail.  It’s the incessant two-or-three-sentence soundbite stupidities she repeats, again and again.

Like that she wants to raise incomes, not taxes. (A winner!)  Or that we don’t want to subside college tuition for Donald Trump’s grandchildren.  (Sanders doesn’t either; he plans to tax Donald Trump enough to pay Trump’s grandchildren’s public college tuition, should they deign to attend a public college, and have a bit left over to subsidize others’ grandchildren’s college tuition, to boot!)

The New York Times reported yesterday that some supporters close to Clinton (read: her husband, I’m betting) want her to demote the campaign’s manager, Robby Mook, whose strength is in organizing and implementing get-out-the-vote drives.  But unless he also is the one who feeds her those soundbites and tacks—and I’m betting he’s not—replacing Mook would be as effective as killing the messenger.  Mook got out the vote.  It’s Clinton who didn’t.

And it’s not promising that Clinton and some people close to her apparently don’t see this.

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