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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.

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

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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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Alison Lundergan Grimes vs. The Kentucky Newspaper Editorial Boards That Endorsed Her Today

Two major Kentucky newspapers have endorsed Alison Lundergan Grimes for Senate over incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).

The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader both ran editorials Sunday in support of the Democrat, who currently serves as Kentucky’s Secretary of State.

In its endorsement, the Courier-Journal’s editorial board praised Grimes’ stance on issues like the minimum wage and early childhood education, while accusing McConnell of “lacking a vision for Kentucky.”

“[McConnell] lost his way to the point where he now is identified largely as the master of obstruction and gridlock in Washington,” reads the endorsement. “Kentucky needs a U.S. senator who sees a higher calling than personal ambition and a greater goal than self-aggrandizement.” …

The Lexington Herald-Leader‘s endorsement strongly rebukes McConnell, who the editorial board says has “repeatedly hurt the country to advance his political strategy.”

“The Senate may never recover from the bitter paralysis McConnell has inflicted through record filibusters that allow his minority to rule by obstruction,” reads the editorial. “He poses as a champion of the right to criticize the government, but it’s really his rich buddies’ right to buy the government that he champions.”

Kentucky Newspapers Endorse Alison Lundergan Grimes, Mollie Reilly, Huffington Post, this morning

Two weeks ago, the big political story out of Kentucky was that Grimes refused to answer when a televised-debate monitor asked her whether she had voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.  So important was this, politically, that Chuck Todd reacted to it by saying (in)famously that Grimes had disqualified herself, and McConnell immediately began featuring Todd’s comment in an ad, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee ended its ad buys in the state.

At the same debate, though, McConnell said that Kynect, Kentucky’s ACA-funded healthcare insurance exchange—through which Kentuckians can purchase independent-market policies that comply with the statute and apply the statute’s tax credits toward premium payments—actually is just a website that lists healthcare policies and allows sign-ups but has no financial benefit to purchasers of the insurance plans.  This, too, was reported nationally and highlighted, apparently, in local news recaps of the debate, but it was presumed, I guess, that it wouldn’t matter.  Although McConnell had made a vaguer but substantively similar statement earlier in the campaign, and although it was reported by national and Kentucky newspapers, its significance apparently hadn’t penetrated to much of the electorate, mainly because Grimes was perfectly happy to have Kentuckians think that the popular Kynect had nothing to do with the hated Obamacare—much less with Obama himself.

And, although by then consistently down by several points in the polls, and appearing to lose ground as the election neared, she didn’t blink in this.  Asked about McConnell’s brazenly false claim about the nature and effect of Kynect, a spokeswoman for Grimes’ campaign responded with something like, “Alison Grimes will always choose Kentucky over Washington.”  That’s right; Alison Grimes will vote to remove federal financial support for the website and, especially, end the federal tax subsidies for purchase of the policies.

It was a day or two later that the DSCC announces its removal of financial support for Grimes’ campaign.  But then something apparently completely unexpected happened: A Bluegrass Poll showed Grimes suddenly trailing McConnell by a single point.  And then last week Grimes, who dismayingly had failed to highlight in ads or appearances a video that surfaced a couple of weeks earlier showing McConnell outlining to a Koch brothers’ group his exciting plans as Senate Majority Leader, suddenly began running an ad showing a clip of the video.  A day or two later, the DSCC restored its financial ad-buy support for Grimes’ campaign.  Asked why, a spokesperson for the DSCC said that polls were showing that undecideds were moving toward Grimes.

And so they must be, because a day or two ago it as reported that McConnell had just committed $1.8 million of his own money for the campaign.

The problem with Grimes’ campaign—and with candidates like Grimes herself—can be seen in a  nutshell in an article by Richard Eskow published on Huffington Post on Friday, discussing the specifics of McConnell’s comments to that Koch brothers crowd in August, captured on that video.  McConnell promises not only to defund Obamacare but also the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and to force a repeal not only of the CFPB but of the entire Dodd-Frank law that created that agency and that includes the financial-industry regulations enacted in the wake of 2008 economic collapse. But, of course, no one knows of the existence of the CFPC and no one knows that the Senate Republicans and candidates are pledging to repeal the post-2008 financial-industry regulations.  Just as no one knows, or at least no one remembers—because the Democratic candidates apparently won’t be caught dead mentioning it—that among the new regulations enacted by the Democratic-controlled Congress during the first two years of the Obama presidency (and pushed entirely by Democrats such as Dick Durbin)—are ones ending the banking-industry practice of exorbitant overdraft fees for small, sometimes-momentary checking-account overdrafts, and the so-called “Durbin Amendment” that prohibits disproportionately high payments by retailers (including small ones) to Visa and Mastercard for customer purchases using those cards.

Look.  If you want to run a Washington-vs.-our-state campaign as a Democrat, you need to make that campaign about the issue of who it is that determines specific Washington policy—in other words, about whether it’s the Kochs who effectively write legislation and dictate what legislation is filibustered or never brought to a vote, or instead small-business owners or ordinary individuals who play some meaningful role in this process.  A campaign for Congress by a Democrat that amounts to a generic ideological “Washington vs. our state” is a campaign that is incoherent. Grimes’ campaign is Exhibit A, but it’s certainly not the only current Exhibit.

The Louisville Courier-Journal, in its endorsement editorial, points out that Grimes supports such policies as a raise in the federal minimum wage and federally sponsored universal access to preschool.  But these are federal programs; she’s running for the United States Senate, not the Kentucky Senate. “Washington vs. our state” as a generic ideological precept precludes these. If Grimes’ ideology is really the same as Joni Ernst’s, then she should switch parties.  If it’s not, then she should make that clear, and make clear why it’s not.

And if Grimes wins, it will be precisely because of why it’s not—and because McConnell, not Grimes, finally made that clear to Kentucky’s voters.

And next time someone like Ashley Judd wants to run for Senate in a state like Kentucky, the Democratic Establishment should not insist that she not run because, after all, a “centrist” would have a better chance.  Judd would win this election comfortably, I’d bet.

Finally, though, the spot-on eloquence of the Courier-Journal’s and (especially) the Herald-Leader’s editorials should be noted for their courage, their emphatic directness and their specificity.

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