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

ANTITRUSSSSST! (Dear Hillary: In a well-received economics-themed speech in Toledo on Monday, you mentioned ANTITRUST LAW and ARBITRATION CLAUSES. Please, please do so also at Sunday’s debate.)

Clinton also said she would push for new steps to crack down on “forced arbitration” fine print that prevents workers and consumers from suing companies, proposals aimed at reducing market concentration and increasing competition, and curbing tax rules that gave corporations and the super-wealthy, like Trump, tax breaks not available to ordinary taxpayers.

After Trump’s tax-return leak, Clinton accuses him of protecting a ‘rigged system’, Abby Phillip and David Weigel, Washington Post, Oct. 3

Yes, Monday was economic-policy day for the Clinton campaign.  Tuesday was, well, not.  And while Tim Kaine is taking the brunt of the criticism for that, he is not the one who made that decision.  Clinton and her campaign gurus are.

Abby Phillip reported last night in a blog post titled “Clinton debate prep is focused on what happens once the debate is done”:

Sen. Tim Kaine may have awakened Wednesday to poor reviews after the first and only vice-presidential debate, but his acerbic performance in Farmville, Va., revealed that the Clinton campaign’s strategy for these debates extends far beyond the stage.

Armed with pre-planned Web videos, television ads and tweets, the campaign has used key debate moments this week and last as a cudgel against the Republican ticket, showing a level of discipline and organization largely absent from Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s campaign.

“Kaine had a very clear and simple plan for the debate: remind a national televised audience of all of the offensive things Trump has said and done in this campaign,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama. “The Clinton campaign was smart enough to know that who ‘wins’ or ‘loses’ the VP debate doesn’t move votes. Instead it’s an opportunity to communicate a message to a very large audience.”

“I don’t see a single thing that Pence did that moved the needle for Trump in any way,” he added.

Both Hillary Clinton and her running mate showed up on their respective debate nights well rehearsed. At moments, they seemed over-rehearsed. At one point Tuesday, Pence shot back at Kaine: “Did you work on that one a long time? Because that had a lot of really creative lines in it.”

But Clinton and Kaine had a larger goal in mind than winning the debates themselves: to create a series of compelling sound bites that they planned to weaponize for the reminder of the campaign. They logged scores of hours of preparation. They recited laundry lists of Trump’s faults. Their clear objective: to record him and his running mate embracing, denying or evading controversial positions that Trump has taken in recorded speeches.

That pattern is likely to continue Sunday at the next presidential debate, Democrats said.

“[Pence] claimed over and over and over again — he claimed, ‘He never said those things!’ ” exclaimed conservative radio host Glenn Beck on Wednesday. “We’re not living in the 1800s. We can go back to the clips on YouTube.”

And that’s exactly what the Clinton campaign did. Shortly after the debate Tuesday, the Clinton campaign tweeted out a glossy new site at hillaryclinton.com/literallytrump. The site highlighted dozens of moments “mentioned at the debate,” most of them by Kaine, with citations to back them up and the “share” button never too far away.

By Wednesday morning, a new video was blasted: a 90-second super-cut of Pence’s denials.

Here’s the problem with that strategy: It’s only half of what the Clinton strategy should be.

The other half?  Illustrating that on his fiscal, economic, and regulatory policy agenda—all of it intricately related—Trump and Pence are exactly the same.  It’s a Mercers/Kochs/Tea Party agenda.  Yet Kaine at the debate—at the orchestration of the Clinton campaign’s strategists—allowed Pence to get away with the more important of the Trump campaign’s two new lines.

The less-important line was the one that everyone knows is preposterous: that it is Clinton rather than Trump who is running a campaign based on insults.  Greg Sargent, linking to a Washington Post video clip of Trump’s rally in Nevada yesterday, writes this morning:

A new, self-effacing version of Donald Trump appeared on the campaign trail late yesterday. In Nevada, Trump said this:

“A vote for me is a vote for change, and common sense, and a strong military, and great veterans’ care, and Second Amendment rights, and good health care….But it’s also a vote directly for you. Because I am a reflection of you.

“You’re voting as people who believe in yourselves. You are voting to believe in your future. You are voting to believe in your great country. All together, we are going to make our country wealthy again….And we are going to make America great again.”

“This isn’t about me, it’s about you” is standard political boilerplate, of course. But in Trump’s case, it may signal a closing strategy.

The Post titled that video clip “Trump to supporters: ‘I am a reflection of you.”  And this time he wasn’t talking only about those who are in the basket of deplorables.

He also wasn’t talking about those who wouldn’t be assisted by the tax policy drafted for him at the Mercer-funded Heritage Foundation, nor to those who would be forced to make up some of the lost income and estate tax revenue in order to pay for the massive buildup in military defense and border security (among other things).  Although he, like Pence on Tuesday night, was claiming that is the “you” who he is talking about, and talking to.

I’ve written two or three posts here at AB in the last few months in which I’ve pleaded with Clinton to discuss antitrust law and also forced-arbitration clauses.  Antitrust law is the more important of the two, and truly implicates the very workings of the larger economy.  In a post several months ago, I recalled that it was a regular part of Bernie’s stump speech, and mentioned an article from back in the summer of 2015 in which the reporter sat not in the press section but instead amongst the crowd at a yugely enthusiastic rally in Iowa and reported that the young woman with long blond hair sitting next to him would rise from her seat and, cheerleader-like, punch the air to shout one or another subject line that Sanders was mentioning—and that one of those things was: ANTITRUSSSSST!!

But forced-arbitration clauses in consumer, employment, securities, mortgage and other loan, and various other types of contracts—as the Supreme Court, in a series of 5-4 opinions, has rewritten (er, “interpreted”) the Federal Arbitration Act to permit in breathtakingly sweeping form, also is important.

The two subjects, along with labor-law issues and campaign-finance law, get at the very heart of what so much of the public means when they say they want change: they want a major recalibration between the profoundly powerful and everyone else.  They want to regain some real power over the private and public institutions that have such a stranglehold on life in this country.

That’s what Bernie understood, and his policy proposals reflected that, and to the extent that they are incorporated into the Democratic Party platform, they still do. Trump understands this, too, and that’s why there has been that other basket—the one without the deplorables.

Trump began his campaign as both a racist and xenophobe and an economic populist.  But last October, in an attempt to fend off a threatened torrent of Koch spending to try to kill his campaign, he quietly switched to Paul-Ryan-on-steroids on fiscal and financial-industry-regulatory matters.  And when not long after that, after the Kochs made clear their continued hostility toward Trump’s candidacy, the hedge-fund-billionaire father-daughter duo Robert and Rebekah Mercer took up the slack.

And then some.

I had expected, naively, before Tuesday that Kaine would get this across at the debate, especially in the wake of the Trump 1995 tax return publication and its (momentarily, I guess) resulting attention to Trump’s tax plan.  And also because Pence is Paul Ryan with gray hair.

I had thought, although it was only wishful thinking, that Clinton and her campaign actually finally recognized that millennials, Rust Belt blue collar voters, and middle-class suburbanites all would be as repelled by Trump’s Heritage Foundation fiscal-and-regulatory-policy agenda.  And that, contrary to what Clinton clearly had believed throughout her campaign from its inception, middle class suburbanites, in large numbers—including many independents and moderate Republicans, like most of the genuinely progressive fiscal and regulatory agenda that Sanders had forced into the party platform.

But I was wrong. Clinton believes, apparently inalterably,  that moderate suburbanites, millennials and racial minorities care only about Trump’s racism, xenophobia, misogyny, vulgarity and such—and his obvious mental instability, which is why reportedly internal polling by both Trump’s and Clinton’s campaigns are showing an en masse movement toward Clinton among independents and moderate Republicans, and third-party-candidate-fan millennials in the last week—more so than the public polls are showing.

But Clinton could wrap this up and tie a bow on it—and significantly help Dem Senate and maybe even House candidates—if she talks about what she talked about on Monday in Toledo.

I also want to say this: For me, what mattered a lot about that speech was that she ventured away from the usual and discussed—mentioned and explained—two tremendously important aspects of the economic-power status quo in the current age: massive consolidation of, and massive control over the legal system by, large corporations, hugely increasing the power of mega-corporations over small and midsize businesses and individuals.

And a big part of what mattered to me is that Clinton trusted that her audience would understand what she was talking about, even though these things required some explanation.

Finally, I want to note that the Phillip and Weigel piece I quoted from above was the only report among the (I believe) three I read about Clinton’s Toledo rally that noted her mention of antitrust and forced-arbitration-clause law.  Neither the NYT report nor Politico did.

I’ve said a couple of times recently that in my opinion the Washington Post’s campaign coverage throughout the primaries and general election campaign has been far superior to any other that I’ve read.  I’ve mentioned John Wagner, who covered Bernie’s campaign and now helps cover Clinton’s, for its straight and thorough reporting on campaign events.  Jenna Johnson’s reporting and David Weigel’s as well have been terrific.  And then there is David Fahrentold’s Pulitzer-caliber investigative reports on the Trump Foundation.

As of right now I expect Clinton to win reasonably comfortably.  But she can win with a fairly clear mandate for the types of change that the Dem platform proposes, if she campaigns on them and—relatedly—on the specifics of Trump’s, and Ryan/Pence’s, actual fiscal and regulatory agenda.

As for Tim Kaine, my heart sort of goes out to him.  And the way that Clinton can make it up to him is not by claiming that he did great at the debate, but instead by pointing out this: Mike Pence built his name as a far-right but studiedly-smooth talk-radio host.  Tim Kaine built his career as a civil rights lawyer.

This matters.  And it favors Kaine, not Pence.

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What HE said! (And what I said. Yesterday.)

Any American under the age of 50 has no memory of living with a liberal Supreme Court. That could change soon. Were a Democratic appointee to fill the current opening, laws could change on voting rights, corporate power, campaign finance, criminal justice and many other issues.

“For the first time in decades,” Jeffrey Toobin writes in the current New Yorker, “there is now a realistic chance that the Supreme Court will become an engine of progressive change rather than an obstacle to it.”

A Liberal Supreme Court, David Leonhardt, NYT, today

Time to campaign on this, with specifics, Hillary Clinton.  And time for your surrogates to do so.  As I said yesterday.

Please instruct voters on the difference between Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito.  There is a difference.  A big one.  The Mercers know this.  Please ensure that voters and potential voters know this, too.

Thank you.

 

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ADDENDUM: Anyone who’s actually interested in this subject might want to read the Comments thread to my post from yesterday, which I linked to above.

Added 9/30 at 1:39 p.m.

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What Clinton and her surrogates need to get across to millennials, racial minorities and union members

Coming soon: President Barack Obama, who’s expected to campaign [in Florida] at least twice before Election Day. First Lady Michelle Obama — more popular than her husband — will likely visit Florida as well, in addition to the ad she cut for Clinton that’s currently airing on Florida radio.

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is in panic mode. Full panic mode,” said Leslie Wimes, a South Florida-based president of the Democratic African-American Women Caucus.

“They have a big problem because they thought Obama and Michelle saying, ‘Hey, go vote for Hillary’ would do it. But it’s not enough,” Wimes said, explaining that too much of the black vote in Florida is anti-Trump, rather than pro-Clinton. “In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.”

Part of the problem Clinton faces is that Obama, the actual black president, is the toughest of acts to follow. Obama enjoyed support from 95 percent of Florida’s black voters in both 2012 and 2008, according to exit polls.

Clinton campaign in ‘panic mode’ over Florida black voters, Marc Caputo and Daniel Ducassi, Politico, yesterday

“In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.”  Sounds like a plan!  If your plan is to ensure that the Supreme Court remains in the hands of the rightwing Federalist Society for another two decades, and that the lower federal bench, which after three decades of Federalist Society control is no longer in that stranglehold.

Guess the “we” who, in the end, don’t vote against somebody but instead vote for somebody, are just fine with the Supreme Court’s killing of the Voting Rights Act; the Court’s killing of federal-court habeas corpus review of state-court and state-prosecutor actions wayyy beyond what the 1996 jurisdictional statute they purport to just be interpreting (they’ve actually rewritten it); the Court’s singlehanded creation of a legal doctrine called “qualified immunity” (by their own admission not based on any statute but instead solely on their preferred policy) that exempts all law enforcement people, including (especially) prosecutors (including those who falsify evidence and those who withhold clearly exculpatory evidence) from any civil lawsuit liability, like, ever.

And the possibility of the Supreme Court upholding new campaign-finance laws—federal and state. Including state judicial elections or appointments.  And state attorneys general and local DAs.

You think black lives matter, but you don’t care enough about who in the federal judicial branch is making policy that goes such a long way toward deciding whether or not black lives matter?  Or, you don’t know that it the judiciary—and particularly the federal judiciary—at least as much as Congress that determines the relevant policy, and that the person who determines the makeup of the Supreme court and he lower federal courts, and therefore determines how much latitude state court judges and state prosecutors and state and local police have, is either that person whom you won’t vote for because you’re not enthusiastic about her, or that the person whom you don’t want to just vote against?

Ditto for millennials in general.  Most of the African-Americans saying that are, best as I can tell, millennials, leading me to wonder where they were during the primaries, when African-Americans in the South effectively determined the outcome of the primary contest.  Was Sanders not someone they could vote for?  Apparently not, so I guess they just didn’t vote.  Which should, maybe, suggest to them that if there are things that matter to them that will be determined by whom the next president is, they should ditch their high-mindedness and vote for the one of the two candidates that they would rather see making those decisions who will be making those decisions (court appointments, for example).

But its by means just African-American millennials.  It’s millennials generally.  It’s just the in thing this year.  The fashion. Which is good, to a point.  But not beyond that.

I say: Heck, millennials, just tell reporters and pollsters whatever you want about how cool you are to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or to not vote (even for Senate and House, and state legislators).  It’s certainly the millennial in thing to support Johnson or Stein, or not vote.  And it will be unless and until President Trump, say, fulfills his promise to appoint a justice like Antonin Scalia to fill Scalia’s seat on the Court.  But if that’s not what you want to actually see, then vote.  For Clinton.

It’s one thing to threaten to cast a vanity vote, but quite another to actually cast one, ceding to others, without an iota of input, the actual decision about who will become president.

Care about consumer and employee protections (including the Supreme Court’s series of 5-4 opinions rewriting the Federal Arbitration Act in favor of … well, not consumers and employees), and finance-industry regulations?  Really?  But you’re fine with the prospect of President Trump and all those someones he’ll appoint?  Because you only vote for someone—the candidate herself or himself.  You won’t vote against someone.  Or, apparently, all those someones the candidate will appoint once in the White House.

Clinton, her husband, and her campaign do seem finally, and ever so belatedly, to have gotten the message you’ve sent through the polls.  But she doesn’t seem to fully know what to do about it.  Yes, it’s great that she’s finally campaigning on the Party platform—and even doing so with Bernie!  And her most potent surrogate besides Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, is becoming active after (what I’m guessing) was a period of about seven weeks when Clinton and her campaign didn’t want these two prominently campaigning for her.  Suburban moderate women would have been thrilled about what platform planks these two would have highlighted.  But, y’know, all those name Establishment Republicans whose endorsements she was trying for (successfully, for the most part) might not have happened.

And since this election cycle is nothing if not one in which to highlight support of name Establishment folks, that seemed to Clinton, her husband and her campaign as the route to the White House.  Even if everyone else was stupefied by it.

Well, almost everyone else.  But Clinton, her husband and her campaign really, really do finally understand this (even if Paul Krugman does not and still thinks Clinton’s failure to campaign intensely, or at all, on the Party platform for six weeks, and to not herself respond immediately and very publicly to the late-August Clinton Foundation pay-to-play meme).  Sort of, anyway; Clinton still won’t tell the public about the Mercers or the oil-and-gas billionaires who will in effect be making these appointments—nor, apparently, even wants Sanders and Warren to do so.

But this week there does seem to be real progress. Or at least it had seemed that way.  But today there is this, from Greg Sargent:

Clinton may have erred in calling “half” of Trump’s supporters “deplorables,” but there’s little question she wants this broader national argument. Of course, in some ways, Trump might also want this debate. He obviously sees expressing outrage about Clinton’s “deplorables” and “implicit bias” comments as a way to juice up his base by playing to white grievance.

But Trump also needs to improve his appeal among college educated whites, who are already convinced that Trump is either personally biased against minorities or is running a campaign designed to appeal to bigotry, which could be one reason his unfavorable numbers remain so high among those voters. And in this context, it’s worth appreciating that there’s a basic political imbalance underlying this debate: It energizes the base for both candidates, but it arguably could limit the broader appeal of only one of them.

As Democratic strategists have pointed out, by fully confronting Trump’s bigotry, and by talking about systemic racism as a continuing societal problem, Clinton may be able to engage core Dem voter groups in ways that tip the composition of the electorate in her direction on election day. It is always possible that engaging this debate might alienate some swing voters. But it seems more likely at this point that a continuing national focus on Trump’s racism could further alienate from him those college educated whites that Clinton hopes to win among, which would make her the first Democrat in over half a century to pull that off.

Either way, Clinton appears fully committed to this debate at this point, and most signs are that Democrats broadly see this orientation of the party as a short-term and long-term positive. So she probably won’t stop taking about it anytime soon.

Presumably this is because there are a few people hiding in caves with not even radio transmission who don’t know that this has been debated intensely for the last 16 months.  Or who want to hear still more debate about it. Maybe that’s the ticket.  Then again, maybe not.

It’s the court and agency appointments, stupid.*

Got that?  It’s the court and agency appointments, stupid.**

But … whatever.  As always, it’s only the Republicans who understand and campaign on this.  Or at least who campaign on this–even if they’re not the only candidates who understand this.

Progressives of all generations are tired of this.  Really.  We are.  Although by and large, it’s only millennials who plan to play with matches.

 

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NOTE: *That line is intended as a takeoff on the (I guess no longer) famous line that Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign manager, James Carville, posted to his office wall to remind himself of what to focus on above all else during the campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The “stupid” being a reference to … himself. As in: Remember, James, you idiot. It’s the economy that should be the main focus of the candidate’s campaign, not the side stuff (like culture wars issues). That campaign was during a recession.

After reading the first comment in the Comments thread I realized that I needed to explain that rather than presume that this would be understood, as it would have been, say, even a decade ago. Oh, dear.

Added 9/29 at 5:07 p.m.

**I just added this link to the Wikipedia article about “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Lordy.

Added 9/29 at 5:27 p.m.

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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.

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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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Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen Gets It Right About the Clinton Foundation (in my opinion)

Back when I worked for the claims department of a major insurance company, I got stuff. Some of the stuff consisted of tickets to Broadway shows and sporting events, and sometimes I got bottles of booze, Canadian Club being a popular choice for some reason. These items were tendered to me by auto appraisers, repair shops and other firms, large and small, that wanted the business my company could offer. Corrupt souls that they were, they offered these items as bribes. Pristine young man that I was, I accepted them as gifts. I was, in my own modest way, Hillary Clinton before her time.

The pattern established by the vaunted Cohen of Claims is similar to the one later copied by Clinton of Chappaqua. You may note that when it came to these matters — these matters being the acceptance of ethically dubious gifts — Hillary Clinton was lots of quid and little quo. The mountains of money that came into the Clinton Foundation, some of it offered by otherwise heartless men, apparently got the donors nothing. They came from parts of the world where a man’s bribe is his word, and yet money offered in New York to the foundation did not open a door in Washington at the State Department.

Clinton Foundation alchemy — turning bribes into gifts, Richard Cohen, Washington Post, today

Cohen’s column today triggers memories for me.  My father, too, turned bribes into gifts.

As a journalist for a major local newspaper, he and his colleagues were inundated with gifts of the sort that Cohen was as an auto insurance claims adjuster.  Free passes to movies, to the annual auto show (fun), boat show (also fun), flower show (pretty), big-deal movie premiers (very occasionally; this was not NYC), and the latest hit play touring after (or before) its Broadway run.  Glamorous cocktail parties called “press parties”.   (Clothes, especially ones for fancy gatherings, were expensive, and my mother would always have two “dressy” dresses, both of them that “went with” black heels (also expensive back then) that she would alternate, depending on who she thought would be attending the particular event or gathering.

During the winter holiday season, the doorbell was ringing often.  There were bottles of French designer perfumes and colognes for my mother, bottles of high-priced alcohol (my mother would just call them “bottles,” as in, “It’s a ‘bottle,’ from so-and-so,” usually said with a sigh; “so-and-so” being a “press agent,” these days known as people in “public relations”).  Our living room was filled with poinsettia plants; we were Jewish, but enjoyed the colorful displays.  The tops of my parents’ bedroom dressers looked like a perfume counter at Saks; almost all the bottles remained in their unopened boxes, for years.  The basement had a mini upscale liquor section, the bottles unopened, also for years.  And years.

One night when I was 10, my father came home gingerly carrying a lovely roughly-200-year-old Japanese woodcut that he’d been sent by the someone at the public relations office at the local art museum.  The museum was having a special exhibit of antique Japanese art, and my father’s newspaper had run a lengthy picture-filled article about it in the Arts section before the exhibit opened.  The exhibit was one of the most successful in memory, and my father had played a role in the article’s prominence and length in the Arts section.  The museum’s PR person sent my father the woodcut, along with a note of appreciation, attributing the popularity of the exhibit largely to that article.  The paper’s art editor, George, himself an artist and art collector, and a close friend of my father’s, had chosen the pictures for the article, and wrote the article.  My father asked him if he could place a value on the woodcut.  He did, and my father paid the museum for it.

My father not long before had asked him if he could find an affordable large painting for the main wall, behind the couch, in our living room, and George suggested instead that my parents by a set of Japanese woodcuts from the same era that would look nice with the museum woodcut that would be on another wall.  George found a set of four that told a story, and framed them in narrow, plain wood frames that he covered with rice paper he died a light blue, with natural-colored rice paper matting.  They were beautiful, and, I’m quite sure, the most valuable things my parents ever had in their home.

That was my father’s foray into quid pro quo—an antique Japanese woodcut he received as a gift and then paid for.  My father, George, and a few others at the paper had received free passes for two to the exhibit before it opened, along with a lengthy press release about the upcoming exhibit.

In an addendum to this recent post of mine here at AB, I wrote:

For me this general election campaign has been an exercise in frustration and dismay at the failure of Clinton and her campaign to apprise the public of critically important things about Trump that they don’t already know.  Like Trump’s monetary motive for his coziness with Putin, and his methods of financing his real estate empire that included bank fraud and partnerships with corrupt foreigners.  Things that make the Clintons’ self-dealing and misrepresentations to the public look utterly inconsequential by comparison.

And like what billionaire is backing Trump financially and calling the campaign shots, and would be calling the shots in a Trump administration.  And what those shots would be.

Whatever favors Clinton did as Secretary of State for Clinton Foundation donors, they were trivial in that they had nothing to do with making or changing government policy, it appears.  And the Clintons’ rapacious money mongering didn’t defraud banks or individuals.  And while it served their personal financial interests well, their foundation did have the effect of actually doing some real good on fairly widespread scale.  The Clintons, in other words, aren’t sociopaths.  Trump is.

Finally—finally—now, Clinton is angry enough about Trump’s statements about Clinton Foundation/State Department connection that she’s willing to depart from her campaign’s strategy of telling the public what they already know about Trump, but nothing else, because informing voters about the stuff they don’t know would require a slightly complex discussion.  Telling people what they already know is quick and easy and soundbite-y.  So it’s what her highly paid consultants and top campaign staff advise.

But in a stark, sudden and surprising departure, Clinton is about to begin educating the public about something somewhat complex, something that requires that she tell them things about Trump that they don’t already know.  She’s about to explain the alt-right, apparently in some actual depth, and illustrate that Trump is the alt-right’s candidate because he himself is alt-right.

So is his billionaire.  The public has no idea he has one, much less what the billionaire’s specific agenda is.  And if Clinton finally is ready to tell the public that, yes, Trump has his very own billionaire supporting his campaign with many millions of dollars, she will get some help from John McCainwho obviously reads Angry Bear even if Clinton and her campaign folks don’t.  Although, of course, it’s more accurate to describe the relationship as one in which the billionaire has his very own presidential nominee.

The post was titled “Trump suggests to undocumented immigrants that they quickly pool their savings and use the funds to buy real estate in extremely leveraged deals* in order to avoid paying back taxes (or income taxes at all) once they become legal residents during a Trump administration.  And Eric Trump agrees!

And a few days earlier, in a post titled “Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel vs. Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer (i.e., the meaning of TRUE CHANGE)”, I wrote:

Amid the widespread media focus last on the Trump campaign’s shakeup that ended Paul Manafort’s reign there (such as it was) and brought in Breitbart alum Steve Bannon as campaign CEO (interesting title, but whatever) and elevated Trump pollster Kellyann Conway to campaign manager, a critical aspect of this, though reported in-depth by the New York Times and a couple of other major news outlets, has, clearly, not made it mainstream: that Trump’s actual current puppeteers are the father-daughter duo of Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer.  And who they are.

So let me introduce them to y’all, by borrowing heavily from an in-depth article by Nicholas Confessore titled “How One Family’s Deep Pockets Helped Reshape Donald Trump’s Campaign,” published in last Friday’s New York Times:

What followed that colon detailed enough about Robert and Rebeka Mercer to disabuse the reader of any conception that a Trump administration would be pro-blue-collar worker and, to borrow from Bernie Sanders, anti-the-billionaire class.   A purpose of the post was to express dismay that neither the Clinton campaign, nor the DNC, nor most of the mainstream news media had deigned to try to educate the public about who is financially propping up the Trump campaign, and what they hope to accomplish in a Trump administration.

Another purpose was to try in my tiny-readership way to illustrate the absurdity of Trump’s claimed equivalency of his billionaires’ financial backing of his candidacy and the fundraising assistance to Clinton from Hollywood multimillionaire progressives like Timberlane and Biel and other extremely wealthy people whose financial interests are counter to their support of Clinton and of progressive down-ballot candidates, especially for the Senate and House.

Clinton wants to see the demise of Citizens United, and presumably her Supreme Court nominees do, too.  Trump has promised Supreme Court nominees in the mold of Antonin Scalia.  Progressive Democratic members of Congress will attempt to enact new, sweeping campaign-finance-reform legislation.  Clinton will sign it if it makes it that far.  Trump would veto it, and Republican members of Congress will do whatever they can to thwart it.

This media focus on Clinton Foundation donors, while certainly legitimate, seems to hold a monopoly on news media dissection of presidential-campaign financial backing.  Why?

Seriously.  Why?

Cohen writes in that column:

“The fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as Secretary of State because of donations to the Clinton Foundation,” said Josh Schwerin, a Clinton campaign spokesman. Apparently, this is true, and it no doubt breaks the hearts of Republicans everywhere who think that Clinton is both a crook and a fool. She is possibly only a bit of the former and certainly none of the latter.

Let us take the case of Casey Wasserman. He runs the Wasserman Media Group, a sports marketing and talent-management agency. According to The Post, Wasserman’s charitable foundation contributed between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation and his investment company also hired Bill Clinton as a consultant, paying him $3.13 million in fees in 2009 and 2010. For this, aside from a warm feeling, it seems Wasserman got nothing. When he tried to get the State Department to approve a visa for a British soccer star with a criminal record, he got nowhere — so much quid, so little quo.

As Cohen of Claims, I followed the same M.O. Not only did I treat every bribe as a gift, but also I never demanded anything from anyone and went out of my way to award my business on the basis of competence alone. In fact, on the rare occasion that someone complained that I was not sending enough business their way and wondered if a little cash would help their cause, I cut them off completely. I insisted on good work, promptly done. I could not be bought.

My father could not be bought, either; he was not bought.  Which is not to say that none of his colleagues, or his counterparts at the other local newspapers, were, but it is to say that most were not and that the ones who were were bought cheaply and that the quo, while important to the one who offered and gave the quid, surely was pretty trivial to the larger public.

It also is not to say that $3.13 million in, um, consulting fees directly to Bill and Hillary Clinton, not to their foundation, in the space of two years—those two years being the depths of the financial crisis and recession—is trivial.  It’s not.  Nor did it go to a good cause, as donations to the Foundation at least did.  Cohen writes:

But just as I knew that the gifts I got were intended as bribes, and just as only I knew that the bribes were buying nothing, so did Hillary Clinton know that the huge amounts of money raised by the Clinton Foundation were coming from donors who thought they were buying something — access, a favor down the line, even a choice seat at some glitzy Clinton event with the requisite selfie to be sent to clients, spouses and interested others. And just as I never spelled out my rules — never said that the gift/bribe would buy nothing — I, like the Clintons, understood what might be the expectations of the donors. Some of them, probably, felt more strongly about taking a picture with Bill Clinton than about AIDS in Haiti.

The same pattern repeats itself over and over. Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of huge philanthropic endeavors — he is a benefactor of the Louvre in Paris, for instance — donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. Yet, when he contacted the foundation for help in meeting with a State Department official regarding Lebanon, where he has business and political interests, he got nowhere. Still, like the occasional tycoon from anywhere, he might have expected otherwise.

There is precious little that’s charitable about the world of charity. Raising money, like sausage-making, ain’t pretty to see, and it would be just criminally naive to rely on the big hearts of big donors. Much is bartered — access, recognition, social standing, proximity to the star at a dinner, a call afterward and, unspoken, the promise of influence if influence is needed. The Clintons knew exactly what was happening — a kind of alchemy in which potential bribes were turned into innocent gifts, leaving everyone with clean hands and, inevitably, the noxious odor of scandal.

What matters at this juncture, in this particular presidential campaign, isn’t what the Foundation or even the Clintons personally received, but instead what, if anything, they gave in return, and what, if anything, Hillary Clinton as president would actually give as quo.  And what Trump as president would, and to whom, and to what extent.  And what the quo’s importance to the public would be.

I’ll quote myself here:

Whatever favors Clinton did as Secretary of State for Clinton Foundation donors, they were trivial in that they had nothing to do with making or changing government policy, it appears.  And the Clintons’ rapacious money mongering didn’t defraud banks or individuals.  And while it served their personal financial interests well, their foundation did have the effect of actually doing some real good on fairly widespread scale.  The Clintons, in other words, aren’t sociopaths.  Trump is.

Please, no false equivalencies on this.  Okay?

Neither of my two recent posts from which I quote received any attention.  I hope this one does.

____

UPDATE: Reader Zachary Smith and I just exchanged these comments in the Comments thread:

Zachary Smith / August 30, 2016 2:24 p.m.

As part of the murder process of Muammar Gaddafi, he was sodomized with a bayonet. Out of respect for any children reading this blog, I’m not going to spell that out any further. What was Hillary’s RECORDED reaction?

“We came, we saw, he died,” followed by a laugh and gleeful hand clap.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgcd1ghag5Y

Under my definiton of “sociopath”, Hillary Clinton qualifies on that one alone. Of course there are others….

*** My father, too, turned bribes into gifts. ***

I know some saintly people myself, and have no difficulty accepting this claim at face value. Stretching the analogy to the Clinton Foundation is, in my opinion, a stretch too far. If Hillary was as pure as the driven snow, why did she work so hard to ensure her communications were beyond the reach of the Freedom Of Information Act? Why has the State department refused to release her meeting schedules until after the election?

Finally, using Richard Cohen as an source for anything is beyond the pale. This shill for Israel was all-in for the destruction of Iraq. He was a big fan of the destruction of Libya. He’s a huge booster for the destruction of Syria. And he most definitely wants somebody in the White House who will finish off Iran.

That person is Hillary Clinton.

____

Me / August 30, 2016 3:04 pm

Well, first of all, my father was never a movie critic, a theater critic, never covered the auto industry or the pleasure boating industry, or, really, anything else that could have involved him in a quo on anything like a regular basis, so maybe that wasn’t a good line for me to use and maybe this wasn’t a good analogy after all. I was never really sure what these folks were after from my father, but that was the era of “press parties” and free passes to this and that, and there certainly were a lot of those. (Maybe these still are; I have no idea what the ethical aesthetic for journalists is these days.)

Still, not a truly apt analogy, as you’ve now illustrated, even though Cohen’s trip down memory lane did evoke incidents from my childhood.

But the point of my post is that the heavy media focus on Clinton’s conflict-of-interest-type transgressions, and the near-total lack of it regarding Trump, the Russian connection being the lone exception, is inappropriately asymmetrical, and does the voting public a major disservice.

As for Libya, you may well not know that the civil war there was quite well underway when this country intervened in order to fend off the imminent slaughter by Gaddafi of about a quarter-million people trapped with no defenses in a particular Libyan city. It was intended as, and was, a humanitarian intervention. And it was considered so throughout much of the Middle East. The problem came afterward, after Gaddafi’s fall, when this country did nothing to assist the rebels, and they were overtaken by ISIS.

As for Syria, here too I’m not sure why you think this country caused its civil war, but it did not.

I’ve hardly made a secret here at AB of my near-virulent distaste for Hillary Clinton and, these days, Bill Clinton. I’m, suffice it to say, not a shill for her. I really, really dislike her personality. But she’s running against Robert-and-Rebeka-Mercer-and-Paul-Ryan’s-legislative-agenda (believe me, and I don’t mean in the Trump sense). I’m sorry that that’s the case. But it is the case.

And about my father, he wasn’t a saint, but he wasn’t that far from one, in my opinion and that of almost everyone who knew him. He was a very good person.

R.I.P., Daddy.

Update added 8/30 at 3:24 p.m.

 

____

SECOND UPDATE:  I’m adding this exchange of comments between reader Nihil Obstet and me because my response to him clarifies a key point about my post that, judging from the Comments thread, some readers did not understand:

Nihil Obstet /August 30, 2016 4:08 pm

The problem with corruption in Washington these days is that they don’t know it’s corruption — it’s the atmosphere they breathe, the ocean they swim in.

People who want something from you give you gifts? Well, the gift-giving has nothing to do with what they want you to do. They just like you. And you aren’t at all influenced by the gifts and their presumed affection. Unlike the rest of humanity, you aren’t at all affected by your perception of others’ valuing of you. Really?

In a criminal trial, potential jurors who know anyone who will be involved in the trial are dismissed. Silly courts? I don’t think so. That level of ignorance between the governed and their representatives is neither possible nor desirable, but its requirement where government will act is, I think, an accurate indication of the probability of conscious or unconscious influence of relationships.

If gift giving to those in power isn’t corrupt or corrupting, what’s the problem with Citizens United again?

In short, this pabulum about the real purity of backscratching is the crony justification of corruption. It’s not corruption. It’s just the way nice honest grownup people with favors to give live.

____

Me / August 30, 2016 5:55 pm

The thing here is that when there has been no action by the recipient of the gift, there is no backscratching. That’s Cohen’s point, and mine.

The problem with Citizens United is that extremely wealthy individuals, and corporations, are funding candidates who as elected officials will be making policy decisions that serve the financial interests of the people who funded those elected officials’ campaigns.

With Clinton, these people were doing what they were doing because she was Secretary of State and they wanted certain things from her as Secretary of State. If she didn’t oblige them, then the issue is one of access–they were able to get through to Abedin or whoever to request these things. That’s not pretty, but it’s not the same as actually getting what they’d requested.

There are big problems, of course, with potential conflict of interest concerning these past Foundation donors and consultant payments to Bill Clinton and speech payments to him and her. Big problems. But my post, and Cohen’s column, addressed only the issue of quid pro quos when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

Judging from the comments, I think several readers of my post missed that fact.

And here’s another comment of mine in the thread, this in response to a comment by Mike Kimel:

“It won’t affect my judgment” is different than “It can’t affect my judgment, because I have no judgment to exercise on this.” Which was true for my father and most of his colleagues.

But it also is different than “It didn’t affect my judgment, as you can see. I didn’t do what the gift-giver wanted, and in fact did nothing.” Which is what Cohen did as a claims adjuster. And, with the exception of trivialities, appears to be what happened at State.

If there eventually is evidence of instances in which something really did happen, that would be a big, big problem. But Trump is a walking conflict-of-interest machine, and his funders/puppeteers are far, far worse than Clinton’s, in almost every respect, not least on climate-change matters.

What this election has done is expose the awfulness of the Democratic Party’s nomination process. Every single day, when I click on the internet, I think, yet again, what a tragedy it is that Clinton so wrapped up the Party before the election season even begun that no progressive other than Bernie challenged her. Not Sherrod Brown, not Elizabeth Warren. No one but Bernie, whom the political news media insisted month after month could never actually win the general election, if nominated.

It makes me sick. and I think this will be the last Dem presidential primary season in which that will happen. But we’re faced with a contest between Trump and Clinton. We each have to choose whom we will support.

Hope this clarifies my post.  Especially since it’s my final comment about it.  I think.

Added 8/30 at 6:22 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (59) | |

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel vs. Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer (i.e., the meaning of TRUE CHANGE)

In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s recent fundraising along the East and West coasts, the Republican National Committee has released a new web ad claiming the Democratic presidential nominee is out of touch with “everyday Americans.”

The 19-second video, titled “Hillary Clinton’s Liberal Elite Summer Tour,” begins with an image of an airplane bearing Clinton’s logo. A voiceover resembling an announcement from a flight attendant names some of the stops on Clinton’s schedule, including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Martha’s Vineyard.

“Please use caution in opening the overhead bins, as Hillary’s baggage may have shifted during flight,” the “flight attendant” says as the ad ends.

Clinton spent her weekend on Martha’s Vineyard and held a fundraiser in Nantucket. On Tuesday, Clinton is headlining a $33,400-per-guest event being hosted by Justin Timberlake and his wife, actress Jessica Biel.

“Hillary Clinton claims she’s running to be a champion for ‘everyday Americans,’ but her busy week of fundraisers with her friends in the wealthy liberal elite show who she’s really fighting for,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Rather than visit flood-ravaged Louisiana or end her more than 250-day streak without a press conference, she’s taking her private jet from coast to coast raking in piles of campaign cash to fund her status quo campaign.

“Donald Trump is the candidate of true change in this election, and he is leading a grassroots movement to put an end to business as usual in Washington and make a difference in the lives of all Americans.”

New RNC ad attacks Clinton’s fundraisers, Rebecca Morin, Politico, yesterday

Amid the widespread media focus last on the Trump campaign’s shakeup that ended Paul Manafort’s reign there (such as it was) and brought in Breitbart alum Steve Bannon as campaign CEO (interesting title, but whatever) and elevated Trump pollster Kellyann Conway to campaign manager, a critical aspect of this, though reported in-depth by the New York Times and a couple of other major news outlets, has, clearly, not made it mainstream: that Trump’s actual current puppeteers are the father-daughter duo of Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer.  And who they are.

So let me introduce them to y’all, by borrowing heavily from an in-depth article by Nicholas Confessore titled “How One Family’s Deep Pockets Helped Reshape Donald Trump’s Campaign,” published in last Friday’s New York Times:

Last week, as Donald J. Trump endured one of the most tumultuous stretches of his presidential campaign, a few longtime allies in New York conservative circles met for dinner and a drink. As the evening progressed, the conversation turned to an inevitable topic: What would it take to give Mr. Trump his best shot at winning?

A few days later, one of the guests, Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, would become Mr. Trump’s campaign chief in a sudden shake­up. But it was a guest without a formal role in the campaign, a conservative philanthropist named Rebekah Mercer, who has now become one of its most potent forces.

Mr. Bannon’s ascension on Wednesday — urged on Mr. Trump by Ms. Mercer, among others — shows how a cadre of strategists, “super PACs” and political organizations quietly nurtured by her family have emerged to play a pivotal role in Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Over more than half a decade, Ms. Mercer’s father, the New York investor Robert Mercer, has carved an idiosyncratic path through conservative politics, spending tens of millions of dollars to outflank his own party’s consultant class and unnerve its established powers. His fortune has financed think tanks and insurgent candidates, super PACs and media watchdogs, lobbying groups and grass­roots organizations.

Many of them are now connected, one way or another, to Mr. Trump’s presidential bid. Mr. Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is a veteran Republican pollster who previously oversaw a super PAC financed by the Mercers. Mr. Bannon oversaw Breitbart, an outlet that has often amplified Mr. Trump’s message and attacked his perceived enemies. Mr. Mercer reportedly invested $10 million in Breitbart several years ago, and most likely still has a stake: A company sharing an address with Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund Mr. Mercer helps lead, remains an investor in Breitbart, according to corporate documents filed in Delaware.

Mr. Trump is also relying on Cambridge Analytica, a voter data firm backed by Mr. Mercer, whose staff members are working with Mr. Trump’s vendors to identify potential Trump supporters in the electorate, particularly among infrequent voters.

A Mercer-­backed super PAC supporting Mr. Trump is now being shepherded by David Bossie, a conservative activist whose own projects have been funded in part by the Mercers’ family foundation, according to tax documents.

Mr. Bannon has worked particularly closely with the family in recent years.

“I think they have complete confidence, and rightly so, in Steve Bannon’s decisions and what he brings to the table politically,” Mr. Bossie said. “He has been smart and successful in running these different political operations. And those things have come to the Mercers’ attention.”

The Mercers, who rarely grant interviews, declined through a spokesman to comment. Mr. Mercer, 70, a mathematician and competitive poker player who spent his early career at I.B.M., joined Renaissance in the 1990s and rose to become the co-­chief executive, earning hundreds of millions of dollars along the way.

Today, he and his wife, Diana, live on a sprawling estate on Long Island’s North Shore where, according to court records, he installed a $2.7 million model railroad set (and later sued the vendor for overcharging him).  [Italics added.]

Like many elite donors, the Mercers shun mainstream media attention — even while financing alternative outlets that provide content for conservative activists. That includes not just Breitbart, but also the self­described watchdog organization Media Research Center and the Government Accountability Institute, home to Peter Schweizer, the author of “Clinton Cash,” a book examining the Clinton family philanthropies. (Mr. Bannon co­founded the institute and Ms. Mercer, 42, has served on its board; she also co­produced a documentary based on the book and released last month, just before the Democratic National Convention.)

They have given to libertarian organizations, such as the Cato Institute, and political organizations like the Club for Growth, which spends millions of dollars each election cycle in Republican primaries, hoping to promote orthodox conservative policies on taxes and spending. The Mercers are also significant donors to the sprawling political network overseen by the political activists Charles G. and David H. Koch, which is also libertarian-­leaning.  [Italics added.]

But unlike the Koch brothers, who remained neutral in the Republican primary and have said their organizations will focus on congressional races this fall, the Mercers were deeply involved in the Republican nominating battle this year. And they have shown a taste for more bare-­knuckled and populist politics than most of Mr. Mercer’s fellow hedge fund magnates.

The family originally backed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a more traditional conservative but one who, like Mr. Trump, is disliked by much of the party establishment. During the early phase of the campaign, Mr. Mercer donated $13 million to a super PAC supporting Mr. Cruz. In doing so, he broke with many peers in the elite donor world, who looked to candidates like Jeb Bush or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

The Mercers maintained close control over the group’s purse strings, installing Ms. Conway to oversee the group and coordinate with several other pro-­Cruz groups, an unusual move for a super PAC. During the Republican primary, the group ran ads questioning Mr. Trump’s conservative credentials, hoping to outflank Mr. Trump.

But the Mercers moved to support Mr. Trump after he won the nomination. They were helped in part, according to a person who asked for anonymity to describe the family’s thinking, by Mr. Trump’s growing emphasis on traditional conservative ideas, such as tax cuts. [Italics added.]  And the family broke with Mr. Cruz in highly public fashion after his speech at the Republican convention, when the Texas senator refused to endorse Mr. Trump and instead suggested that Republicans should “vote your conscience” for candidates “up and down the ticket.”

In an extraordinary rebuke, the Mercers issued a rare public statement, calling themselves “profoundly disappointed” in Mr. Cruz. In late June, the Mercer­-financed super PAC quietly re­formed as Make America Number One, now a pro-­Trump entity. Mr. Bossie, a longtime conservative activist who has produced documentaries about the Clinton family and illegal immigration, is leading the group, which is likely to raise more money from the Mercers to pay for attacks on Hillary Clinton.

Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

Yeah, yeah, okay, I didn’t borrow heavily from the Confessore piece; I borrowed the whole thing.  But the italics are mine, so … fair use?  In return, I will say that Confessore’s reporting is, in my opinion, unfailingly awesome.

What matters here is, I would hope, obvious: Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, George Clooney, and the folks who attend their, and other Hollywood types’, fundraisers, for Clinton, for the DNC, for Senate and House candidates, for other down-ballot candidates, are donating to politicians whose platform—and in the instances of Dem incumbents running for reelection, their actual legislative votes—run counter to their financial interests.  Sometimes very significantly.

That likely also is true of many of those Martha’s Vineyard fundraiser hosts and attendees.

In any event, I’m not sure why the funds raised by the liberal elite in Hollywood and Martha’s Vineyard, in the service of reducing their own fortunes, is more pernicious than the tens upon tens of millions of dollars provided by two people transferring the money from a sprawling estate on Long Island’s North Shore that, according to court records, features an installed $2.7 million model railroad set, and from other homes owned by one or another of the two, in the service of propping up campaigns for president and Congress whose explicit tax, expenditures, and regulatory plans—not to mention quieter federal legislative proposals—would directly and dramatically increase their already-exorbitant wealth and enable the fully tax-free passage of that wealth from themselves to their heirs.

Heirs, here, being a legal term of art, but it does double duty here as in “heir to the [fill-in-the-blanks] fortune” of common parlance.

Although presumably Ms. Conway can explain it, since yesterday, according news reports, she said in a TV interview that she’s chomping at the bit to see Trump campaign on his tax plan, which, she said, lowers taxes for … the middle class!  Who are in the tax bracket that will save them hundreds of thousands of dollars each year under Trump’s income tax proposal and who will be relieved to know that their wealth in excess of $5 million (or whatever the current level is above which is subject to the estate tax) will pass to their heirs (both uses of the term here) tax-free.

And while Trump is campaigning in, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania on his tax plan, maybe he’ll discuss also who will have his ear when it comes time to fill such positions as National Labor Relations Board members, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Commerce, head of the Federal Communications—and Attorney General.  As well as chief of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.

To name only a handful of appointees that, y’know, maybe could matter to some of those Rust Belt blue-collar workers, former and present.

And then there is the matter of Trump’s promise, repeated time and again, to appoint Supreme Court justices who will ensure the continued viability of Citizens United issued, 5-4, in 2010.  And of Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, a bizarre 5-4 opinion fabricating a constitutional ground on which to strike down Arizona’s matching-campaign-funds statute that applied to elections for state office.  This issue is dead only if Trump wins and does as he’s promised: Nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia.

Yesterday’s NYT Opinion section featured a lengthy piece by former Times Washington Bureau chief Hedrick Smith that made that clear.  Titled “Can the States Save American Democracy?”, Smith writes:

In the pushback against Citizens United, 17 states and more than 680 local governments have appealed to Congress for a constitutional amendment, either through a letter to Congress, referendums, legislative resolutions, city council votes or collective letters from state lawmakers.

In the most prominent case, California’s 18 million registered voters get to vote in November on whether to instruct their 55­ member congressional delegation to “use all of their constitutional authority” to overturn Citizens United. Washington State is holding a similar referendum. In 2014, a Democratic amendment proposal to allow regulation and limits on electoral spending won a 54­42 majority in the Senate, strictly along party lines, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster. Now bills calling for a 6­ to­ 1 match of public funds for small campaign donations up to $150, or requiring disclosure of funders for campaign ads, have wide Democratic support, but are blocked by Republican opposition.

Yet out in the country, even in some reliably red states, reform movements have sprouted. South Dakota is one, thanks to three petition drives. One seeks to make primaries nonpartisan and another calls for an independent redistricting commission. A third is for a ballot measure, similar to one in Washington State, that would create a $50 tax credit for each voter to donate to a political candidate; ban campaign contributions exceeding $100 from lobbyists and state contractors; and mandate that independent groups speedily disclose the top five contributors to political ads and electioneering communications made within 60 days of an election.

In April, Nebraska’s Republican-­dominated Legislature voted 29­15 to set up an independent redistricting commission. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, vetoed the bill, but reformist legislators promise a revised proposal in the next session.

Everyone, of course, knows about Citizens United, but no one knows about that Arizona matching-funds opinion.  Nor does anyone know about the string of 5-4 Supreme Court opinions rewriting, for example, the Federal Arbitration Act to provide what the Act does not provide, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), the statute that delineates key aspects of access to federal court, to provide the diametric contrary to what it actually says and had been accepted as saying since it was enacted in about 1970.

There are other critical rewritings of “codified” law—provisions of the Constitution and legislative enactments, including the very wording of the Constitution’s Eleventh Amendment—also regarding threshold access to federal court, as part of the Supreme Court’s makeover of American law in the vision of the Conservative Legal Movement.

To which Trump’s two funders/puppeteers aggressively subscribe.

And here’s what really matters: Trump himself will not win; that train has left the station and will not be returning.  And in recognition and acceptance of that, the RNC apparently plans to soon start trying to sell their Senate and House incumbent and new candidates a check on Clinton.  Which would seem to raise the issue of what policies she would propose that a majority of voters want checked.

Well, either that or what policies the Republican donors want checked.  And what policies they want to force as part of, say, the annual appropriations bill, including those quietly inserted during the night before the bill comes to a floor vote.

I’ve repeatedly argued here at AB, including here last week, that a fatal problem with Senate and House campaigns for Dems is that they think that “nationalizing” elections for Congress is something that works against rather than for Dems.  I’ve said that this is so only to the extent that Dems think triangulating on economic issues and running entirely on culture-wars issues—running a campaign that, to borrow from Mitt Romney, is an apology tour, albeit with such things as legitimate -rape matters thrown in.  And of course that extent has been pretty darn broad.  Until this cycle—at least to some extent.

But not to a large enough extent.  After Labor Day, Bernie Sanders will begin campaigning around the country, holding rallies not just in support of Clinton but also with—withsome Dem Senate and House candidates.  So this will change, I would think.

But as for the Clinton campaign itself, which has the creativity and guts of the chair I’m sitting in, I offer a suggestion: How about an ad featuring Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel in which they compare their financial gain or loss that of Robert and Rebeka Mercer under Trump’s plan and then under Clinton’s?  (Jeff Weaver, Bernie’s campaign manager, could put together something attention-grabbing, informative and funny; I know he could. And I’ve read that he’s now working informally with the DNC.)

Change? You say you want change, Rust Belters?*  Be careful what you wish for.  Or at least hope you don’t get it.

True change.  The lady promised true change.  She wasn’t kidding.

____

*Look, I’ve said roughly 800 times here (rounding out the figure) that Trump will not come close to winning Rust Belt blue-collar workers.  But it’s critically important also to turn both houses of Congress blue.

For roughly that same number—800 (rounding out the figure)—of reasons.

____

I’ll insert a couple more links, regarding Supreme Court opinions I describe here, tonight.  I don’t have time now, and I want to get this posted as early as possible. Because, well … I think it contains darned important information.

 

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Hear, hear, Linda Greenhouse.

I don’t understand why some high-profile liberals are saying that the Supreme Court is becoming a liberal Court, although I guess that if you think the end-all-and-be-all of Supreme Court jurisprudence is culture-wars cases, then the two end-of-term culture-wars opinions that went liberal, and the gay marriage case last term, is all the proof you need.

In any event, it’s nonsense.  And I’m thrilled that I’m not the only liberal who sees that.

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Clarence Thomas confirms his belief that the only constitutional right we leave up to federal, state and local prosecutors is the right to keep and bear arms. And that that right is the only one, more generally, that we treat so cavalierly. [His words. Seriously.]

The Supreme Court said Monday that people convicted of domestic abuse can be prevented from owning a gun, in a case that prompted the first questions from Justice Clarence Thomas in 10 years.

In a 6-to-2 decision, the court said Congress had intended to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers.

The question for the court was whether the gun ban applies to those convicted under state law of misdemeanor domestic abuse and specifically whether assault convictions for “reckless” conduct could trigger the prohibition. …

The case decided on Monday was brought by two men, including Stephen Voisine, who was separately being prosecuted for killing a bald eagle. He had a previous conviction for a misdemeanor assault of a woman with whom he had a relationship, and federal prosecutors said that meant he should be banned from owning firearms.

The court rejected that argument, finding Monday that “a person who assaults another recklessly uses force no less than one who carries out that same action knowingly or intentionally,” according to the majority opinion by Justice Elena Kagan. She was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

To accept the interpretation of the petitioners, the majority said, would risk striking down similar laws in 34 states and the District and allowing “domestic abusers of all mental states to evade” the firearms ban. …

In his dissent Monday, Thomas said the firearms ban should apply only to “intentional acts designed to cause harm” — not to those based on “mere recklessness,” which do not necessarily involve the use of physical force.

“The majority fails to explain why mere recklessness in creating force — as opposed to recklessness in causing harm with intentional force — is sufficient,” he wrote.

Thomas was joined in part in his dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Separately, he also objected to the imposition of a lifetime firearms ban based on a misdemeanor assault conviction because of its implications for a person’s Second Amendment rights.

“This decision leaves the right to keep and bear arms up to the discretion of federal, state and local prosecutors,” Thomas wrote. “We treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly.”

Supreme Court: Domestic abusers can be banned from owning firearms, Ann E. Marimow, Washington Post, today

Actually, what Thomas meant by that last sentence is that we treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly that Thomas and his Federalist Society colleagues care about.  Ones that don’t concern gun ownership, or the unfettered freedom to buy elected officials, or to adopt a local or state, or the federal, government as your Christian pulpit.

Y’know; the constitutional rights that matter.  The ones that garner pro bono defense at the Court by some rightwing legal think tank whose name on a certiorari petition means the petition will actually be read by a justice or two, or three, or four.

And the ones whose certiorari petitioner can foot the $1,000 hourly billing fee totaling well into the six figures, to have the name of one of the tiny handful of Washington, D.C.-based Supreme Court “regulars’” name and law firm on the petition cover—the only other way to obtain actual review of your petition by an actual justice if you’re not represented in that petition by a non-government attorney (i.e., a state attorney general).  The petitioners who after paying those attorneys’ fees still have sufficient discretionary income to pay the $8,000 cost for the printing of the certiorari petition as per the extremely weird printing requirements that only three printing companies in the country can do.

Okay, well since the “regulars” get steep discounts at those printing companies, their clients will need considerably less than that full-freight price.  Which must be nice.

In any event, precious few others need apply.  Although nearly 10,000 others a year do.

Thomas’s veritable stock-in-trade is declaring something as fact that is clearly and facially false, often bizarre, sometimes downright comical.  He did that recently in what, happily, was, like this one, a dissent.  Thomas claims this time around that the only constitutional right we leave up to federal, state and local prosecutors is the right to keep and bear arms.  And that that right is the only one, more generally, that we treat so cavalierly.

Well, maybe.  Then again, it could be that that is just the only one Thomas knows of, since the Court itself has aggressively blocked federal-court review of violations of most constitutional rights involving state and local prosecutors, state courts, and state criminal statutes in the name of state-courts’ rights to violate individuals’ constitutional rights, and since gun-ownership rights are pretty much the only rights that are at issue solely in non-white-collar-crime appeals.  And therefore the only criminal-law-related constitutional rights raised in certiorari petitions that he reads.

Which of course explains this one justice’s belief that the only constitutional right we leave up to federal, state and local prosecutors is the right to keep and bear arms.  And that that right is the only one, more generally, that we treat so cavalierly.

There are many thousands of Americans who could disabuse him of that belief.  Some of them have even filed certiorari petitions.

____

ADDENDUM: Reader MIJ and I had the following exchange in the Comments thread:

MIJ

June 27, 2016 11:17 pm

Ok, I’m intrigued – not by Thomas who is predictably irrational, but by the way this vote went.
It appears Sotomayor joined the dissent “in part” while Alito abandoned his partner in the summer stock version of “Dumb and Dumber”.

There has to be a story here.

Me

June 28, 2016 10:50 am

Hi, Mark. This actually doesn’t surprise me. Thomas’s dissent is in three parts. The first two parts attack the majority’s claim that recklessness amounts to the “use of physical force” and “violence.” Those wo parts argue, in my opinion correctly, btw, that the terms “use of physical force” and “violence” denote only intentional conduct and therefore preclude recklessness. Thomas notes that even recklessness that causes a traffic accident is not considered “violence.”

The third part, the part that Sotomayer did not join, sings the praises of an absolutist Second Amendment.

The opinion and dissent are here.   (PDF required.)

Alito always—always—sides against the criminal defendant, in criminal cases and habeas cases, with the single exception of cases in which a key aspect (either the conduct of the defendant or the conduct of law enforcement) is something that he can imagine himself being entangled in. The only notable examples are Fourth Amendment cases in which Alito can imagine himself being victimized by an anything-goes nullification of the warrantless-search-and-seizure proscription.

Three or four years ago, Alito wrote an awesome opinion barring law enforcement from sticking a GPS tracker under your car. Alito of course parks his car in his home’s garage and in the Supreme Court’s employee garage, but presumably also, on occasion, in, say, a medical office parking lot or a shopping mall or restaurant one. Scalia, by contrast, apparently didn’t worry about such things; he dissented.

Then, two weeks ago, Alito joined the majority—Thomas dissented—in barring compulsory, warrantless blood tests for suspicion of DUI.  Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote a terrific article there last week about the whiplash Fourth Amendment-cases effect, caused sometimes, as happened last week, when two Fourth Amendment opinions are issued within days of each other, this time first an appalling one, then the DUI one.  It’s here.

As for Sotomayor dissenting, she’s simply not willing to treat anything related to a narrow definition of domestic violence as per se passing muster simply because domestic violence issues are all the rage these days among progressives. Sotomayor, to her credit, in my opinion, recognizes that once you treat recklessness as intent and violence for purposes of domestic violence you probably will be asked to do so for other things as well. There are differences in law, normally, between recklessness and intent (e.g., manslaughter vs. murder), and it’s dangerous to start conflating the two.

Truth be told, I haven’t read the majority’s opinion, and I’m not sure how domestic violence even can be charged, absent intent. But apparently in this case, under a state statute, it was.

Added 6/28 at 11:35 a.m. 

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Trump Falls to His Knees PLEEEADING for Republican ESTABLISHMENT Donors to Fund His Campaign—Offering Them the Ultimate Gift: Supreme Court Proxies. Toldya.

Tomorrow, behind closed doors with Paul Ryan & Friends, he will swear fealty to Mitt Romney’s platform.  And not just the part written literally, it turns out, by the Heritage Foundation and CNBC!  Also the part written by the Federalist Society. Including on Supreme Court and lower-court appointments.  Suffice it to say that his promise to hand Supreme Court and lower federal court appointments back to the Federalist Society would bode well for the Koch legal agenda.  And for the continued life of Citizens United.

For unions and people who aren’t so fond of Wall Street, though, not so much.

The Most Successful Trojan Horse Since the Trojan War, Me, May 11

Soooo sorry about this, Rust Belt blue-collar folks.  I know these names don’t mean anything to you.  But, oh, by November, they will.  Won’t they, Secretary Clinton?  Won’t they?

Won’t they?

Promise me they will.  Promise.  Promise!  And promise me you’ll actually discuss, oh, say, the Fab Five’s Federal Arbitration Act opinions.  And their National Labor Relations Act opinions. And their opinions setting out who actually has access to court.  Such as how long beyond the moment when someone files a lawsuit he or she can manage to have the case stay in court?  And who is ordered to pay who’s legal fees?  And who has immunity from lawsuits? Obscure things of that sort.

Y’know; the things that these donors actually get for all that money they donate?  The things that they’re so damn sure no attempt will be made to explain to the public, because, well, these things are just toooo complicated for ordinary folk to comprehend?  The things that rarely have anything to do with the culture wars issues that most people think are all that the Supreme Court decides but that most billionaire donors don’t actually give a damn about?

And that what’s at least as important as Supreme Court appointments to the folks to whom this candidate is ostentatiously offering himself as their policy-and-appointments puppet is the makeup of the lower federal court bench?

Pleease, Secretary Clinton?  Pretty, pretty, pretty please?

****

Okay, on a serious note (the above is a serious note, too; it just doesn’t sound like one): This—this—is exactly the kind of thing that Bill Clinton could explain easily to people with no background in this stuff.  Most people couldn’t.  But he could.

And here’s another serious note: This candidate is an absolute monkey.  People just feed him policy stuff and he parrots it.  He asked someone to get him the names of rightwing appellate judges, and that someone obliged.  The candidate himself couldn’t tell you a thing of substance about any of them, or for that matter a thing of substance on legal issues at all.

Apparently, he’s decided to hand not only his fiscal-policy proposals but also his judicial nominations to the, um, Heritage Foundation.  Literally.  The Heritage Foundation.  So this should be a good time for Clinton to apprise the public of who, exactly, comprises this organization’s board of directors.  And who funds it.  Not too many labor union folks there.

President Chauncey Gardiner: ‘Being There’ at the Bait-and-Switch.  I’m batting 1,000 on this stuff.  The Democrats SHOULD LISTEN TO ME.  They should read AB.  This is a brilliant, prescient blog!

OMG.  I’m sounding like Donald Trump.  This election is getting to me.

____

CLARIFICATION (which apparently is needed): Reader J.Goodwin and I exchanged the following comments in the Comments thread:

J. Goodwin/May 19, 2016 8:34 am

I’m sure that she is already familiar with the names on this list.

Me/ May 19, 2016 3:58 pm

I wasn’t saying that Clinton isn’t familiar with the names. I was saying that the general public, the voters, aren’t–and that Clinton should fill them in. And that she also should inform the voters about the Heritage Foundation–what it is, and that Trump is delegating major policy proposals and prospective appointees like Supreme Court justices to this organization.

She absolutely needs to inform the voters of key things that the Republican donors know that Trump is promising them with. That was my point. My intended one, anyway.

It’s a critically important point, I think, so I wanted to clarify it. My cryptic reference to “the Fab Five”, also to be clear, meant the four winger Supreme Court justices who remain on the court and their recently-late comrade in arms.

Added 5/19 at 4:31 p.m.

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Dealing the Woman’s Card—Clinton’s. And Mine. And Dealing the Man’s Card—Bernie Sanders’s. And Donald Trump’s.

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.

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., Me, Angry Bear, yesterday

Later yesterday I posted a short follow-up, saying:

When I wrote this post today I wasn’t aware of this piece by Jonathan Cohn (a longtime favorite of mine, dating to his time at The New Republic).  It was published early this morning but I just learned of it (h/t Paul Waldman).  But it makes the same key point that I do in mine.

Which is that Sanders supporters will know that their vote for Clinton in November will mean something much more than just a vote for Clinton or a vote against Trump.  Most of us will be out en force on election day, voting not because of Clinton but because of Sanders.  And voting, really, not for Clinton but for Sanders.  As well as for progressives in the down-ballot contests.

The movement has taken hold.

Which managed to garner some attention to my first post, since I’d linked to it, and spurred the following in the comments thread to it this morning:

Beene

April 28, 2016 7:57 am

People if you take nothing else from the above article. Except that change is possible if you help Bernie and Warren when they ask for help for explicit people; reform of the democratic party is possible.

If you believe that the common belongs to the nation and those who benefit should be taxed according to assistance they have received as a member of this nation. But, dino’s like the Clintons’ or Obama are no better than having a republican, as the goal is not the common good.

 

EMichael

April 28, 2016 9:26 am

” But, dino’s like the Clintons’ or Obama are no better than having a republician, as the goal is not the common good.”

It is hard to imagine the stupidity required to write that sentence.

Prompting this lengthy comment from me:

You know what’s sort of funny to me about this thread?  I had forgotten this until this weeks’ Woman’s Card contretemps—specifically Clinton’s “Deal me in” response to Trump—reminded me of it.  Clinton responded with something like “If equal pay, and guaranteed paid family leave, and affordable preschool, and women’s healthcare are playing the Woman’s Card, deal me in.”  Ah; then I remembered the moment when I concluded that Clinton really DOESN’T have a core, or much of one anyway: When at the first debate last fall, after Sanders mentioned his proposal to tax everyone’s income at (I think) $1.54/a week (it was well less than $2.00) to pay for guaranteed paid medical and family leave, Clinton used, for the first of many times during the fall and very early this year, her rebuttal line that she wants to raise middle-class incomes, not lower them.

Until that moment I had thought that the one thing that really WAS her core politically was the panoply of traditional women’s issues, including guaranteed paid family leave.  Guess I was wrong about that, I said to myself.  So, apparently, did a good swath of other progressives.

She was raked over the coals for that—a stunning, dumbfounding comment from a Democratic candidate for president—yet she kept repeating it until the polls showed Sanders effectively even with her in Iowa and leading her in New Hampshire.  I remember the dismay and anger from commentators and others.  Several pointed out that that comment was straight from the Republican Party playbook.  And that apparently Clinton thinks FDR and LBJ wanted to lower incomes because, well … Social Security and Medicare.

Clinton thinks her problem in not being a natural politician is simply that she’s cold and stiff in her physical presence and speaking style.  She doesn’t recognize—and either do her campaign folks her feed her these sound bite lines she adopts—that her biggest problem, by far, is fondness for sound bites that are actually appalling.  Her husband raised taxes.  Guess he wanted to lower incomes rather than raise them.

I’ve debated here in AB threads several times with people who disagree with me that Clinton simply is not very bright.  That she’s so fond of this kind of thing—the asinine, self-defeating sound bites and sleights of hand that have been a hallmark of her campaign—is what I’m talking about.

NYT columnist Charles Blow has a good column today in which he calls Clinton a waffling contrivance.   Perfect!

But all that said, the bottom line is that EMichael is, extremely obviously, exactly right.  Why would anyone who is appalled by Citizens United and the Voting Rights Act opinion—two Supreme Court opinions that, unlike most of their other truly awful ones, most ARE aware of—think the outcome of the election between Trump and Clinton doesn’t matter?

I know that most people have no clue that most of the really important stuff that happens in federal courts happens at the district court (trial court) and circuit court (appellate court) levels. Much less do they know the genuinely appalling effect of the complete takeover of the entire civil and criminal justice systems, state and federal, by the Conservative Legal Movement.  Even less do they know the extraordinary breadth and reach of what this has affected.

Nor do they know that, finally—finally—in the last three years, thanks mostly to the decision by Harry Reid to kill the filibuster for circuit and district court nominees, the makeup of those courts has changed significantly and VERY meaningfully.

So, yeah, I repeat what EMichael said:

“”But, dino’s like the Clintons’ or Obama are no better than having a republician, as the goal is not the common good.”

“It is hard to imagine the stupidity required to write that sentence.”

Indeed.

Indeed.

I’m a Card Carrying Woman, but I prefer Sanders’s Man’s Card to Clinton’s Woman’s Card.  And Clinton’s Woman’s Card to this: Trump’s fiscal, healthcare and environmental positions will be drafted by the Club for Growth and the Koch brothers’-sponsored so-called think tanks and lobbyists.  Just as his actual policy proposals published on his campaign’s website were.

____

UPDATE: Greg Sargent has an up-to-date summary of efforts at a Clinton/Sanders rapprochement.

And Alexandra Petri discusses her own Woman’s Card.  Hilariously.

Added 4/28 at 11:24 p.m.

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