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

Why does Krugman hold Clinton and her campaign harmless for . . .

the public’s cluelessness about Trump’s policy agenda vs. her own?

PHILADELPHIA — On Wednesday night, the Harvard Institute of Politics pulled together a focus group of eight millennial voters from the Philadelphia area, and a small group of journalists watched. One of the millennials supported the Green Party presidential candidacy of Jill Stein. The rest professed to be totally undecided — despondent about the election, offended that they were being asked to choose between major party candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Most of the participants asked for anonymity. A few, including the Green-voting 27-year-old Amanda, offered up their first names and allowed a few follow-up questions. The small sample of voters, in one swing state, was illustrative just as the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs and Researchpoll had been — and with the same tantalizing power for Democrats. Unlike some of the white working-class men who are breaking for Trump, the millennials were onboard with the Democrats’ 2016 agenda. But they were struggling to cast a vote. Among the lessons:

1. They agree with the Democrats on the issues. For the better part of an hour, the members of the group listed their most pressing policy concerns, from climate change to taxes to education to agriculture. When all the terms were written on a whiteboard, they were ask to list their top three, and for each, say which candidate they agreed with. Seven of the eight millennials ended up preferring Clinton on the issues; the eighth, as mentioned above, preferred Stein.

4. They’re counting on something — an assassin, impeachment — to prevent Trump from doing too much damage. Alex paralyzed the room with laughter when he floated a strange and “dark” idea. “If Trump wins,” he said, “he’s probably going to be assassinated, and Mike Pence will become president.”

Alex, a Democrat who had voted for Barack Obama in 2008, had stayed home in 2012 and cooled on most politicians. He had come to like Pence for his demeanor, as seen at Tuesday night’s debate. But the more important point was that a Trump presidency did not seem like a four- or eight-year proposition.

“He’s going to be in court most of the time as president,” said one focus group member who preferred to be anonymous. “He’s going to get impeached.”

5. They’re not necessarily thinking about all the powers a president would have. One of the questions that halted the group’s discussion was simple: How was the Supreme Court affecting their vote? Several members of the group admitted that they had not considered this; when they did, as in the issue round, they preferred that Clinton appoint members of the court.

— Five lessons about millennial voters from a Philadelphia focus group, David Weigel, Washington Post, yesterday

Meanwhile, today, Paul Krugman, Clinton’s penultimate cheerleader pundit, continues to pin on the political news media the entire blame for this epidemic of cluelessness about Trump’s and the Republican Establishment’s actual policy agenda. And for such things as the unawareness that Trump will be appointing Supreme Court justices, lower-federal-court judges, and federal-agency heads, and will be signing Paul Ryan’s fiscal and regulatory bills.

And that if Trump resigns, is impeached, or is assassinated, Mike Pence (the rightwing talk-show host cum Tea Party pol) will.

Krugman often beats the drum with praise for Clinton by reminding the public of such things as how poised and how much stamina she showed last fall during that 11-hour Benghazi House Committee hearing.  He can’t understand why that doesn’t suffice as reason to be fond of her, or at least to vote for her against Donald Trump.

He even more often rages in anger at the appalling, diametrically opposite manner in which the mainstream political media has covered both Clinton and Trump—and its god-awful-absurd, unremitting obsession with Clinton’s email for a full one-and-a-half years until finally it stopped late last month.

But never, ever, does he acknowledge that the profound lack of knowledge, particularly among millennials, about the differences between these two candidates’ agendas, and between their respective parties’ agendas, may be as much because Clinton herself has failed to apprise the public of this.  Some of it at all, some of it with actual specifics, the rest of it with anything resembling consistency.

To wit, Krugman’s column today, titled “What About the Planet?”  It begins:

Our two major political parties are at odds on many issues, but nowhere is the gap bigger or more consequential than on climate.

If Hillary Clinton wins, she will move forward with the Obama administration’s combination of domestic clean-­energy policies and international negotiation — a one­-two punch that offers some hope of reining in greenhouse gas emissions before climate change turns into climate catastrophe.

If Donald Trump wins, the paranoid style in climate politics — the belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast international conspiracy of scientists — will become official doctrine, and catastrophe will become all but inevitable.

So why does the media seem so determined to ignore this issue? Why, in particular, does it almost seem as if there’s a rule against bringing it up in debates?

He goes on to castigate Kaine/Pence debate moderator Elaine Quijano for her general awfulness and, specifically, for this:

[I]t’s really stunning that in the three nationally televised forums we’ve had so far — the “commander in chief” forum involving Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, the first presidential debate and the vice­-presidential debate — the moderators have asked not a single question about climate.

This was especially striking in Tuesday’s debate.

Somehow Elaine Quijano, the moderator, found time for not one but two questions inspired by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — an organization concerned that despite relatively low budget deficits now and extremely low borrowing costs, the federal government may face fiscal problems a couple of decades down the line. There may be something to this, although not as much as deficit scolds claim (and Ms. Quijano managed to suggest that Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, which are fully paid for, are no better than Mr. Trump’s multitrillion-dollar debt blowout).

But if we’re worried about the longer­-term implications of current policies, the buildup of greenhouse gases is a much bigger deal than the accumulation of low-interest debt. It’s bizarre to talk about the latter but not the former.

And this blind spot matters a lot. Polling suggests that millennial voters, in particular, care a lot about environmental protection and renewable energy. But it also suggests that more than 40 percent of young voters believe that there is no difference between the candidates on these issues.

I watched that debate from beginning to end (although I’m sure I broke a record for times checking the clock during a 90-minute period).  And I couldn’t believe this moderator’s focus on the national debt.  Or, to be accurate, I couldn’t believe her loaded, circa-2011 questions about it and deep urgency in the tone of her voice.  Might a question specifically about what Trump’s massive tax cuts and massive military board-patrol buildup relative to the debt not have been, y’know, a good thing for her to ask?

But it also might have been a good thing for Kaine to ask.  And it might have been helpful if he’d responded to Pence’s false statement that the debt has increased massively since Obama assumed office with a truthful statement that in fact it has been significantly reduced, but he didn’t.  But Kaine had one, and only one, assignment in that debate, and it wasn’t to make either of those two points.  It was instead to force Pence to accept, reject, or deny the fact of Trump’s racist, xenophobic, misogynist, vulgar, etc., etc., pronouncements.

Mission accomplished.  Unless, of course, the mission was to educate the public about the Trump agenda that huge swaths of the public—including, apparently, most millennials—doesn’t know about.

Including all those court and agency-head appointments. And what that would mean.

I don’t expect that Clinton and her campaign strategists can be disabused of their foundational presumption that moderate suburbanites just love extreme tax cuts for the wealthy, further deregulation of the finance industry, global warming, and complete control of government at every level by a handful of billionaires and some mega-corporations.  Which is why she doesn’t campaign on these, and campaigns almost entirely on the racist, xenophobic, misogynist, etc., etc. stuff, in the belief that only that will sway or hold moderate suburbanites.

So I suppose it would make no difference if someone other than me—someone like, say, Krugman—pointed out that Clinton’s been an extreme enabler of the political news media’s de facto blackout on these dramatic policy-and-appointments agenda differences.  But it would be worth a try.

Although first the people I’m urging to do this would themselves have to be persuaded that Clinton’s poise and stamina during the Benghazi hearing did nothing to educate the public about those policy-and-appointments agenda differences.

I guess I won’t hold my breath.  Even though time is now so short that I probably wouldn’t even turn blue.

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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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Kellyanne Conway Admits That Trump’s Domestic Policy Agenda Is Circa 1980s and Early-to-Mid-2000s.

That Is, the Very Opposite of a “Change Agenda.” Clinton Should Quote Her On That.

“His last tweet last night was how excited he was, how proud of him he was. They talked last night. I talked to Mr. Trump during the debate several times,” [Kellyanne] Conway said of Trump’s response to Pence’s debate performance. “I think the one thing to remember is that, as Ronald Reagan always said, personnel is policy. And Donald Trump has promised as president to surround himself with the best people. You saw last night who the best people are.”

Clinton’s camp insists Kaine walloped Pence on substance, Louis Nelson, Politico, today

So, isn’t it time that Clinton apprise the public of what this particular personnel choice indicates about what would be Trump’s … policy?

When I read yesterday morning (I can’t remember where) that the Clinton campaign had told the reporter that Kaine would be focusing on the Clinton campaign’s slogan “Stronger Together,” I said to myself: Here we go again.  God.

I, of course, had hoped, and until I read that article actually thought, that Kaine would, like, focus on the differences between the two campaign’s, y’know, fiscal and regulatory policy proposals. But, silly me, it was after all the Clinton campaign whose debate plans we were talking about.  So of course the plan was to focus on the “Stronger Together” theme of Trump’s xenophobic, racist, misogynist, anti-“fat”, nuttiness.  Since these are things that have received so little attention that the public surely had forgotten them and needed reminding.

Eh.  I feel like a broken record on this.  The Clinton campaign is really, really, really clueless.

And I’m by no means the only one who desperately wants Clinton to just dump her campaign consultants and strategists.  Or, if the problem is Clinton herself, then … I don’t know …allow herself to be hypnotized and indoctrinated by Jeff Weaver.

Last night while feeling not The Bern but just plain burned—really saddened—and skimming the internet for something that would make me feel a little bit better, I came upon something that did.  Sort of.  Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley’s instant-debate-analysis post was titled “We Are Begging the Hillary Clinton Campaign: Stop It With These Terrible, Terrible One-Liners.”  He wrote:*

Early in the Sept. 26 presidential debate, Hillary Clinton rolled out what seemed to be a rehearsed line about Donald Trump’s economic plan, calling it “Trumped-up trickle down economics.” She delivered the phrase with the pleased demeanor of someone who believes they are laying down a devastating burn, then repeated it later. Fact-check: It wasn’t a devastating burn. It was a zero out of 10 on the burn scale.

Tuesday night at the vice presidential debate, Tim Kaine also tried some zingers, and they were also bad. You can see them above. The first:

“Mike Pence: But there’s a reason why people question the trustworthiness of Hillary Clinton and that’s because they’re paying attention. The reality is when she was secretary of state, senator, she had the Clinton Foundation accepting contributions from foreign governments—

“Tim Kaine: You are Donald Trump’s apprentice!”

Woooooooooooof. The second:

“Kaine: On the economy, there’s a fundamental choice for the American electorate. Do you want a you’re hired president in Hillary Clinton or a you’re fired president in Donald Trump? I don’t think that’s such a hard choice.”

Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine need to Pokémon Go Fire Whoever Thinks It’s a Good Idea to Use Time Preparing for Debates by Coming Up With These Lines, Which Are Terrible.

Why didn’t he just respond to the substantive allegation regarding the Foundation—as he did, quite well, I thought, later in the debate, but with insufficient precision given the time limitation?

And why the HELL didn’t he tell the public what Trump’s actual fiscal/economic plan is, to the extent that time allowed?  Sorta like, why the HELL didn’t he make clear that Trump’s WILDLY LARGE INCREASE IN MILITARY EXPENDITURES, COUPLED WITH YUUUGE DECREASES IN TAX REVENUE, is not exactly a formula for jobs growth.  And why did he not tell the public at the outset, and with specifics, that TRUMP’S TAX PLAN WILL INCREASE TAXES ON THE MIDDLE CLASS TO PAY FOR THAT MILITARY BUILDUP, while dramatically cutting the income taxes and other taxes of the wealthy?

And why didn’t he tell the public that killing financial-industry reform—the increased oversight and regulation—wouldn’t be, y’know, an economic boon?

His entire debate preparation apparently involved the xenophobia, racism, misogyny, fat-ism, and sheer meanness of Trump.

But Pence had memorized a few imbecilic lines, too—most, um, memorably, that the Clinton campaign is a campaign based on insults.  Of Trump, and of some of his supporters.  A tack that, I’ll guess, most viewers at first were puzzled by and then after Pence repeated for the 16th time, finally got, and found strikingly laughable.  This, I assume—and hope—will become a focus of a Clinton ad.  Along with that “You keep dragging out that Mexican’s” line—or whatever the precise words were.

But, what a missed opportunity last night was to educate the public about Trump’s actual fiscal and regulatory proposals, which Clinton—and Sanders, and Warren, please—need to say, again and again, Pence hardily approves of because it’s the Republican mantra, and has been for 35 years.

Which Kaine failed to say, even in response to Pence’s “Trump’s the change candidate.”  Really?  That’s change?  In the direction the public has in mind when it urges change?

Yes, Kellyanne Conway thinks the one thing to remember is that, as Ronald Reagan always said, personnel is policy. And that Donald Trump has promised as president to surround himself with the best people. You that you saw last night who the best people are. An extremely rightwing, standard-issue Conservative Movement, very Republican Establishment, 12-year former member of that absolutely awesome Congress.

Circa 2001-2012.

The public might like to know this, Hillary Clinton. Tell them.

 

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*Excerpt format-corrected, 10/5 at 3:28 p.m.

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Hillary Clinton’s mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham, had had the same health condition her daughter has (or at least used blood thinners for some condition) since she was about 49. She lived to age 92. So get off the hysteria wagon about Clinton’s health, folks.

Around the time of the Dem convention I read a lengthy profile of Clinton in which her famous Wellesley graduation speech was discussed.  The article mentioned that her mother, Dorothy Rodham, could not be present because she was on blood-thinning medication and could not fly.

Obviously, Mrs. Rodham eventually was able to fly, even though she probably remained on blood-thinning medication, in more modern varieties, for the last four decades of her life, and remained fully mentally competent at least until she became very elderly.  I’m presuming that Mrs. Rodham had the same condition that Clinton has and that Clinton inherited the condition from her mother.**

As for pneumonia, well, it’s not like that’s uncommon or any more debilitating than having a bad case of the flu.  It does drain the patient of energy, often for a little while after the other symptoms are mostly gone, as does bronchitis and certain strains of flu.

What I hope Clinton does is rest for as long as she really needs to, and simply post videos about her policy positions.  I hope also that Tim Kaine holds large rallies and makes other appearances serving as her voice, about her own policy positions and about the Mercers’, and will run short videos of Clinton discussing her policies.  I also would love to see Kaine use campaign events to refute the pay-to-play Clinton Foundation/State Dept. charges and explain exactly what the situations were in each of the instances.  As in, they were trivial and of the sort that has been standard regarding favoritism in access and in fact resulted in nothing or they actually were completely appropriate (e.g., a request for a diplomatic passport by someone who was traveling to North Korea with Bill Clinton and others to try to negotiate the release of two journalists being held there, a request that was denied but whose purpose obviously was as additional physical protection; a meeting with some Middle Eastern prince who had met as well with Clinton’s predecessors and since then with Kerry because he holds a position of power in his government, and whom Clinton knew personally–points that Clinton and her campaign should have made clear to the public).

Kaine is very smart and very articulate, and has gotten precious little* news-media attention for his campaign events.  He certainly wasn’t among my top hopes for Clinton’s running mate, but after reading about a speech of his a week or two ago I’ve become a fan.  And he’s absolutely perfect to speak in-depth about the types of civil rights issues involving the courts that I myself care so much about and that never, ever get any sustained attention from the news media of politicians.  Kaine is a former civil rights and criminal defense lawyer, in state as well as in federal court, I believe.  That matters more than you can even imagine.

And as a former obsessive Bernie supporter who has never been a Hillary Clinton fan and who has repeatedly, here at AB, criticized her campaign and her campaigning not what I’d expected or hoped for, I should have some credibility when I remind progressive voters of my bent, and moderate voters too, that Clinton and Tim Kaine each, either temporarily or permanently, would beat Trump or Pence by roughly 100,000 miles on things we care about.  Such as Supreme Court (including the fate of Citizens United) and the makeup of the lower federal courts.

In this recent post, I mentioned a slew of other such specific considerations, and I invite y’all to read it notwithstanding its considerable length.

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*CORRECTION: The sentence originally inadvertently omitted the key word in it: little.

Added 9/12 at 1:46 p.m.

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** The condition is deep vein thrombosis. An article by Todd C. Frankel in today’s Washington Post, published online last night says:

She has deep vein thrombosis, which requires her to take a daily dose of a blood thinner that needs frequent testing. Her personal physician, Lisa Bardack, disclosed last year Clinton’s treatment with the drug Coumadin.

I read that article last night and assumed that information would be all over the internet by this morning, but I guess it’s not.

Added 9/12 at 4:26 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.

____

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

____

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

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

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

I responded: Exactly.

Added 9/3 at 4:44 m.

____

* 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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Brownshirts

The Clinton campaign has been strangely remiss in not publicizing the Trump campaign’s aggressive screening of journalists at Trump’s events—especially its denial of press credentials to several news media organizations, including the Washington Post and Politico.

But this report by Paul Farhi, the Washington Post’s media reporter, this morning, titled “Post reporter barred, patted down by police, at rally for Trump running mate,” but published in the Post’s Style section for whatever reason, is out of early 1930s Europe:

Donald Trump’s campaign has denied press credentials to a number of disfavored media organizations, including The Washington Post, but on Wednesday, the campaign of his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, went even further.

At Pence’s first public event since he was introduced as the Republican vice-presidential candidate two weeks ago, a Post reporter was barred from entering the venue after security staffers summoned local police to pat him down in a search for his cellphone.

Pence’s campaign expressed embarrassment and regret about the episode, which an official blamed on overzealous campaign volunteers.

Post reporter Jose A. DelReal sought to cover Pence’s rally at theWaukesha County Exposition Center outside Milwaukee, but he was turned down for a credential beforehand by volunteers at a press check-in table.

DelReal then tried to enter via the general-admission line, as Post reporters have done without incident since Trump last month banned the newspaper from his events. He was stopped there by a private security official who told him he couldn’t enter the building with his laptop and cellphone. When DelReal asked whether others attending the rally could enter with their cellphones, he said the unidentified official replied, “Not if they work for The Washington Post.”

Donald Trump’s running mate has been in public office since 2000, mostly in Congress, and is a favorite among social conservatives.

After placing his computer and phone in his car, DelReal returned to the line and was detained again by security personnel, who summoned two county sheriff’s deputies. The officers patted down DelReal’s legs and torso, seeking his phone, the reporter said.

When the officers — whom DelReal identified as Deputy John Lappley and Capt. Michelle Larsuel — verified that he wasn’t carrying a phone, the reporter asked to be admitted. The security person declined. “He said, ‘I don’t want you here. You have to go,’ ” DelReal said.

The security person wouldn’t give his name when DelReal asked him to identify himself. He also denied DelReal’s request to speak to a campaign press representative as he escorted the journalist out.

Officials of the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department were unavailable for comment Wednesday night.

Trump has banned nearly a dozen news organizations whose coverage has displeased him, but reporters have generally been able to cover his events by going through general admission lines.

The incident involving DelReal marks another in a series of run-ins between the news media and the campaign.

In June, Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger was ejected from a Trump event in San Jose by a campaign staffer and a private security guard after he tried to cover the rally without the campaign’s permission. In February, a photojournalist from Time magazine, Christopher Morris,was roughed up by a Secret Service agent as journalists rushed to cover a protest at one of his rallies. And Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, yanked and bruised the arm of a reporter for Breitbart News, Michelle Fields, when she tried to question Trump after a speech in March.

DelReal’s experience on Wednesday elicited a rebuke from Post Executive Editor Martin Baron.

“First, press credentials for The Washington Post were revoked by Donald Trump,” he said. “Now, law enforcement officers, in collusion with private security officials, subjected a reporter to bullying treatment that no ordinary citizen has to endure. All of this took place in a public facility no less. The harassment of an independent press isn’t coming to an end. It’s getting worse.”

Officials from the Pence campaign initially said they were unaware of the Waukesha incident when asked for comment Wednesday night. But after a cursory investigation, one official, who declined to speak on the record, said that no members of the campaign’s staff were involved. He said volunteers went too far.

“It sounds like they misinterpreted what they were supposed to be doing,” the official said. “This is not our policy.”

In a statement, Pence press secretary Marc Lotter said, “Our events are open to everyone, and we are looking into the alleged incident.”

“It sounds like they misinterpreted what they were supposed to be doing,” the official said? “This is not our policy?”

Some of them were doing what they were supposed to be doing—the volunteers at the press check-in table, for example.  Others surely knew that they were doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing, because they are public law enforcement officials, yet they did it anyway.

And then there is that middle category—the private security people—whose interpretation of what they were supposed to be doing wasn’t mere happenstance.

I don’t know who other than Clinton and her daughter will be speaking tonight in the primetime hours.  But I sure hope this night, with so many millions of people watching, will tell the public about this.  Even maybe someone who isn’t scheduled to speak tonight, and who could just take the stage to do that and only that.

My preference would be Bernie Sanders.  Or Elizabeth Warren.  But really, almost anyone could do it effectively.  It would take only about five minutes—and could be profoundly informative to so many people who don’t know about this.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but Bernie would be particularly effective, given his father’s family’s losses in the Holocaust.  And Elizabeth Warren would be because she could note, with some authority notwithstanding that although a former Harvard law professor she did not teach constitutional law, that what we undoubtedly are looking at if Trump is elected is a series of profound constitutional crises.

This is stunningly important stuff, folks.

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UPDATE: Can’t decide whether this is equally important, but it isn’t stunning.  In the least.

Then again, New Jersey isn’t all that far from Virginia.  And they both have to worry about hurricanes during the hurricane season!

Okay, I won’t make you click that link.  Trump said on Twitter last night that Tim Kaine was a lousy governor of New Jersey.  I presume Trump’s complaint is that Kaine didn’t show up much for work there.

Added 7/28 at 11:24 a.m.

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Apparently it wasn’t time for some traffic problems on I-95 during Kaine’s term as governor

Kaine’s emails show he was engaged on everything from traffic flows on southbound I-95 to explanations on why he picked one state lawmaker over another to sponsor income tax legislation. “Because I know him much better,” the governor wrote.

Kaine email trove shows media-savvy micromanager, Darren Samuelsohn, Politico, today

I thought it was time for some humor.  Apologies.

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Ugh. Okay, still …

In a letter co-signed by 15 other Senate Democrats — and every Senate Republican — Kaine asked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to exempt community banks and credit unions from many of its regulatory requirements. In justifying these exemptions, the letter suggests that these regulations would make it more difficult for these small banks to continue “spurring economic growth” and that such rules are unnecessary, anyhow, since community banks “were not the primary cause of the financial crisis.”

This latter point is a bit of non sequitur. Just because a reckless activity was not the “primary cause” of the last global economic crisis doesn’t mean that activity isn’t worth preventing. According to the Intercept’s David Dayen, the rule Kaine proposes “could allow community banks and credit unions to sell high-risk mortgages or personal loans without the disclosure and ability to pay rules in place across the industry.” Such bad loans may not take down our financial system, but they could ruin the lives of the families that receive them.

In a second letter to the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Kaine and his co-signers argue that large regional banks like PNC, BB&T, and SunTrust should be exempt from two regulations meant to reduce their risk of collapse.

Currently, these banks are required to issue daily reports about their levels of liquidity, so as to assure the government that they hold enough assets to cover a 30-day period of financial stress. Kaine and 69 of his colleagues would like to exempt regional banks from this requirement, regardless of their size.

Kaine would also like these banks to be exempted from the “advanced approaches” capital requirements that dictate the ratio of reserves a bank must hold to cover potential losses. At present, any bank that holds $250 billion in assets is deemed systemically important and thus subjected to these requirements. Kaine argues that this threshold is too low, in light of the fact that the financial sector has grown substantially since the rule was written. Since regional banks “do not share the same risk profile or complexity as their larger, systemically important brethren,” the letter writers argue, they should not be forced to comply with the same regulations. But it’s not clear why the signatories believe that the collapse of a large regional bank wouldn’t create significant ripple effects in our deeply interconnected financial system.

While Kaine stepped up to the plate for banking interests this week, he simultaneously snubbed consumer-advocacy groups. On Wednesday, Kaine was one of 13 Democratic senators to withhold his signature from a letter authored by Sherrod Brown, which called for strengthening new rules against abusive payday lenders. The senator’s office told the Huffington Post that he is “working on his own separate ‘Virginia-focused’” letter on payday lending.

Clinton VP Favorite Just Gave the Left Two More Reasons to Distrust Him, Eric Levitz, New York magazine, yesterday (H/T Naked Capitalism)

An article I read late last night (I can’t remember where) said Clinton had been leaning toward Kaine partly because she thinks he will help her win votes of white men because he is originally from the Midwest and is, well, a white man.

That concerned me, because it suggests that Clinton sees white men as somewhat fungible: What matters is the region of the country he hails from and the fact that he is white and male.  But this election season has shown rather clearly that there are two distinct types of populism, one far more important in the South than elsewhere, the other far more important in the Midwest and the Northeast—respectively, the racial and xenophobic white-grievance mania that Trump has promoted so successfully, the other traditional economic-populism issues of the sort that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have come to represent in the minds of so many voters.

The article I read last night also reported, and the New York magazine article also says, that Bill Clinton had been pushing strongly for Kaine.  This too concerns me.  Bill Clinton remains ossified in the ‘90s; there has been indication upon indication of that in the last year.  He makes Hillary Clinton look observant of the current political climate.  Hillary Clinton spent the last year and a half until roughly three weeks ago seemingly unobservant of the current political climate—the very morning after the California primary, when she effectively secured the nomination, she was on the phone to moderate Republican donors, apparently on the assumption that they couldn’t figure out for themselves that if they couldn’t abide Trump they should support her, since she’s the only actual alternative.  So Bill Clinton’s feat is notable.

And Hillary Clinton’s decision to choose Kaine suggests what I, and I know many other progressives, fear: that she is manipulated by her husband to an unnerving extent.

I’m on a listserve of Sanders supporters whom the Clinton campaign occasionally targets with messages from Clinton promising to be a progressive president, and last night I received a message titled “Welcome Tim Kaine”.  It begins by assuring that she and Kaine both are genuine progressives.  The rest of the message is, I assume, the message she sent to her supporters announcing her choice of Kaine.  What caught my attention was something that also caught my attention when I read his Wikipedia page last night before posting this post (and titling it as I did): Kaine graduated from Harvard Law School and then practiced law in Richmond.

Why Richmond? I wondered when I read the Wikipedia entry, which doesn’t answer that question.  Kaine had no ties to Virginia.  And, it hit me, after graduating from Harvard Law he didn’t work for the government and didn’t work for a corporate mega-firm.  Yet he did practice law.  That’s really important.  (Trust me.  It is.)

In her email, Clinton details this.  After graduating from Harvard Law School, Kaine moved to Richmond to litigate against that city’s pervasive racial discrimination in housing.  He practiced law there, in Richmond, for 17 years.  Just ordinary law, I guess (although Clinton doesn’t say); not law of the corporate variety, I presume.

This matters.  But not as much as, I fear, Clinton thinks.  Economic populism matters right now in domestic policy, beyond all else.

I can’t emphasize enough that there is, I’m pretty sure, nothing that would cause me to not vote for this ticket.  But I’m a single vote.  And the way to win the votes of enough white men in Midwestern swing states is run on the progressive economic policy platform that so largely reflects Sanders’ and Warren’s policy prescriptions, if not enough.  It is not to rest on the belief that a majority of voters want experience and steadiness.  And that a majority of white men in swing states care mostly about whether or not the candidate has chosen a white man as her running mate.

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UPDATE: I want to really emphasize my point above that Bill Clinton apparently is having disconcertedly undue influence over Hillary in critical respects.  I’ve just read more about Kaine’s time as governor, and while these essentially Republican actions and positions he took may well have been necessary in order to enable a potentially successful Senate run, this is not a candidate who should be the Dem VP nominee, least of all in this election cycle.

As I say above, I was just dismayed when the very morning after the California primary, Hillary Clinton was on the phone soliciting contributions from moderate Repub donors.  But in thinking about this today, I realize that this probably was at Bill’s  elated suggestion.  This is NOT good–this retro chokehold on the current nominee.

Added 7/23 at 12:47 p.m.

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I think Kaine will be fine. [UPDATE: I’m no longer so sure.]

When I posted this earlier today it was because I had just read an article about these letters Kaine had joined other members of Congress in signing last week.  The article wasn’t the one I just linked to; I can’t find the one I read.  But I misunderstood it in two respects: I thought the letters were recommending reduction in the Dodd-Frank capitalization requirements for all banks, and I thought they were objecting to important new regulations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Instead, the signers want the capitalization requirements reduced for community-type banks and credit unions, in order to make it easier for them to compete with the mega-banks.

That’s not a bad thing, in my opinion.  Anything that makes community banks more able to compete with the internationals is probably a good thing, I think.  Of course, reinstating Glass-Steagall would help, too.

In any event, here is an article I just read about Kaine that makes me think he’ll be fine.  Freed from the constraints of Virginia politics, he could become quite progressive.  We’ll see.  He does seem to be genuinely intelligent and thoughtful.

And anyway, he’s not Hickenlooper.

Time to rally around Clinton-Kaine.

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UPDATE: This excerpt from a just-posted Washington Post article contains one of the quotes in the earlier article I read that prompted me to post this earlier today:

In recent television interviews, Sanders has praised Kaine, but some of his supporters have sharply questioned his progressive bona fides, pointing to Kaine’s support of trade deals and regulations favorable to big banks.

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the activist network Democracy for America, which backed Sanders in the primaries, said Thursday that it should be “disqualifying” for any potential Democratic vice-presidential nominee to “help banks dodge consumer protection standards.”

Those two paragraphs in the Post article are followed by these:

And on Friday, Norman Solomon, the coordinator of a group billing itself as the Bernie Delegates Network, called Kaine “a loyal servant of oligarchy.”

“If Clinton has reached out to Bernie supporters, it appears that she has done so to stick triangulating thumbs in their eyes,” said Solomon, whose organization claims to represent hundreds of Sanders delegates attending the convention in Philadelphia but is not coordinating with the campaign.

In a way I wish I knew the specifics of what Chamberlain and Solomon are talking about, but in a way I don’t.  I’ll be voting for this ticket no matter what.  And right now I just want to see what Kaine says.

Added 7/22 at 10:24 p.m.

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