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Smart Politics in Pictures and Words
Updated: 1 hour 35 min ago
After North Carolina passed HB2, the “Bathroom Law” designed to prevent transgendered people from bothering cis people in restrooms, I began thinking about the universe of high-profile Americans who really do cause mayhem in johns. Mostly, they’re Republican senators, coaches, and Republican Congressman who are also coaches.
Hillary Clinton’s coronation at the Democratic national convention is likely but not a foregone conclusion. Since the superdelegates won’t vote until July, and neither she nor Bernie Sanders will arrive in Cleveland with the requisite number of pledged delegates to clich the nomination, there is still the possibility that the party bosses will see sense, internalize the polls that show she’s weaker than him against Trump, and push the superdelegates to support the populist senator from Vermont.
But sense is in short supply in American politics, especially this year. So I’m preparing for the worst: Hillary versus Trump.
It’s one hell of a choice. The more I delve into Donald Trump and his past (to research my biography, which comes out in June), the more scared I get. Nevertheless, there is no way I’ll vote for Hillary. I won’t vote for her if she stops shaking down rich right-wing Republicans for donations. I won’t vote for her if she adopts Bernie’s platform. I won’t vote for her if she names Bernie her vice president. I won’t even vote for her if Bernie invites me to spend the summer with him and Jane in Vermont.
#NeverHillary. That’s me.
There are millions of us.
Many progressives are baffled by this stance. Trump is a threat to democracy, decency, peace and the economy. He acts and talks like a nut. Why not suck it up and vote for Hillary? She’s experienced, steady and presentable. Unlike Trump, she understands the issues. Plus: first woman president! That’s 225 years overdue!
Here is my reasoning.
First, a vote is an endorsement. A vote tells a candidate: “I mostly agree with what you have done.”
I agree with nothing she has done. Most egregiously, she voted to invade Iraq. At the time, everyone knew there were no WMDs. She knew. More than a million Iraqis are dead because of that war of choice, a war no one but especially no Democrat should have supported. I will not, cannot, betray those dead. Casting a vote for Hillary says: “I love that a million Iraqis got murdered.” Or, at minimum it says: “I’m cool with it.” Well, I’m not.
For me, that’s enough. What she did was monstrous. She should be in prison for life.
Do you need more? Really?
- Here’s more:
Running a close second behind Iraq are Hillary’s vote to invade Afghanistan (another mistake, unjustified, illegal fiasco that left hundreds of thousands of innocents maimed or dead), and encouraging Obama, as secretary of state, to arm and fund crazy Islamist insurgencies in Libya and Syria, reducing two modern countries to failed states. I can’t let those go.
Voting for a politician also tells them: “I agree with what you promise to do.” There is no indication — none, zero, nada — that Hillary wouldn’t continue her every-war-a-good-war philosophy were she to become president. Unlike Trump, she has never questioned the usefulness, legality or ethics of use of force as America’s go-to approach to foreign policy.
I refuse to throw good blood after bad.
She’s sleazy — a cheater and a liar. I can’t forget how she willfully misrepresented her own take on the minimum wage: she wants $12/hour, but since Bernie’s $15/hour is more popular, she claimed she wanted $15/hour too, but it would be up to the states and cities. Pressed, she conceded she’d “like” $15/hour, but wouldn’t lift a finger to make it happen federally. Incredibly, she still does this.
Then there’s her lie about the auto bailout. Factcheckers call her claim that Bernie voted against it untrue; he voted against bailouts for Wall Street, some of which was attached to aid for automobile companies. Despite being called on this whopper, she still uses it on the campaign trail.
The primary fight against Bernie saw Hillary deploy tactics that went way beyond political hardball. Her allies in the Democratic National Committee schemed to deny Bernie media coverage or a decent debate schedule. They rigged the superdelegate process. They made sure votes and caucusgoers weren’t counted and that voter registrations in Bernie strongholds mysteriously disappeared. Can’t let that go.
I am highly sympathetic with the argument that we need, and that women and girls deserve, to see a woman in the White House. We do; they do. If Hillary Clinton were merely a flawed candidate, the woman thing would be enough for me.
But Hillary is not flawed. She is a monster. A mass murderer. A warmonger.
The fact that she wears bright-colored Doctor Evil suits and has a silly laugh and twinkly eyes and is kinda smart can’t change the fact she has never voted against a war, or apologized for voting for one, or promised not to start any new ones. Her resume can’t cover up for her record: zero sponsorships or votes for a major anti-poverty proposal, and only one vote against a job-killing free trade agreement.
I don’t vote for monsters.
Let Hillary or Trump destroy the world without the endorsement that would be my vote.
During the run-up to America’s war against Iraq, I told audiences that Bush would certainly win reelection. Some people broke down in tears.
That’s my job: telling people things they prefer not to hear, especially about the future. Being Cassandra isn’t much fun. Because we live in a nation in decline and yielding to incipient fascism, the more I’m right — i.e., most of the time — the more I annoy my readers.
So please believe me when I say this gives me no pleasure: Donald Trump isn’t bluffing when he threatens to deport the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally.
Are you undocumented? Prepare to go underground.
Are your papers in good standing? Are you a good person? Prepare a hiding place in your home.
Dark days are ahead.
Do not take comfort in the fact that Trump flip-flops on all sorts of issues. Contrary to his initial, typically strident position on abortion, the master demagogue now says women needn’t fear imprisonment if they terminate their pregnancy (unless he changes his mind again). Even his much-ballyhooed Great Wall of Trump along the Mexican border may wind up as half a wall. He does this a lot.
But there’s no way he’ll back away from mass deportations.
Why are deportations different? Radical nativism, as defined by this promise to deport illegal immigrants, every single one of them, defined his campaign from the start. It’s why he’s here. It’s why he won.
Reneging on deportations would be like Bernie Sanders asking Goldman Sachs for donations or Hillary Clinton changing her gender — it would betray the raison d’être of his campaign. He can’t back down without losing most of his support.
The optics of the biggest forced population movement since those carried out by Hitler and Stalin would be awful. Police kicking down doors. Women and children dragged off in the middle of the night. Neighbors, friends, colleagues, lovers, spouses — disappeared.
Countries of origin would be reluctant to absorb millions of new arrivals, all unemployed, many of them who came to the U.S. as children and thus have no memory of their “home” countries. So the Trump Administration would have to build concentration camps to house them.
Because the idea is so outlandish, so fundamentally un-American, it’s too much to contemplate seriously, even for journalists. They’re in denial. If Trump wins, however — and it’s entirely possible he will — he will carry out his plan.
Legally, there’s nothing to it. Trump doesn’t need an act of Congress. He doesn’t even have to sign an executive order. All he’ll have to do to set this outrage in motion is pick up the phone and tell the head of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to do his or her job: enforce the law.
Camps cost money. So do more agents. No problem. President Trump can shift his budget priorities in favor of ICE. He’s already said he would triple ICE’s enforcement division from 5,000 to 15,000 officers. The FBI would have to pitch in.
Backlogs in the nation’s 57 existing immigration courts run as long as two years. The system would have to be expanded.
I look to Trump’s authoritarian impulse to turn initially to the federal budget. I imagine him making a pitch that goes like this: “I won because the American people wanted my business acumen in charge of government. Congress has totally messed up the budget process with their budget stand-offs. Let me take care of the budget, and I promise you an end to this crap. Take your kids to a national park and I guarantee it won’t be closed due to some government shutdown, believe me.” Compliant media + perceived mandate + popular exhaustion = Trump gets his way.
Sad but true: subtracting 11 million people from the population, and thus two to four million from the workforce, will put money into the pockets of everybody else. Fewer workers means labor has more clout. Wages will go up.
Meanwhile, deportations will empty housing stock. Rents will decline.
In the short term, anyway, Trumpism could stimulate the economy. That would be popular.
Establishmentarians can’t imagine that Trump would actually go through with mass deportations, much less how he would carry them out. “I can’t even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years when we don’t have a police state, where the police can’t break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant,” says Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush.
You don’t need imagination to game this out. You need history.
Right-wingers will call the cops to report their undocumented neighbors. As in Nazi-occupied Europe, anyone with a grudge against someone without a valid I-9 form — resentful ex-boyfriends, etc. — will drop a dime to Trump’s jackbooted thugs. Checkpoints will spring up on roads, at bus stops, in train stations. Not that they have to; mass surveillance by the NSA ensures that the feds already know where illegals live.
It won’t be hard to find judges to issue warrants based on those reports.
For Trump, deportations are a political necessity he can easily execute. For his critics, they won’t occur because they would run against our societal values. “Unless you suspend the Constitution and instruct the police to behave as if we live in North Korea,” Chertoff says, “it ain’t happening.”
More than most people, Chertoff ought to know better. After all, he served under a radical right-wing president who convinced us to go along with perpetual war, concentration camps, legalized torture, invading foreign countries for fun, killer drone planes and a new cabinet-level bureaucracy whose mission — and very name, Homeland Security — evokes Nazi Germany.
It doesn’t take much to convince Americans to accept the unacceptable.
Donald Trump has promised to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants from the United States if elected president. The optics of this forced population movement would be horrific, with millions of children who don’t remember their countries of origin ripped away from the homes in the dead of night and sent to internment camps. And there is nothing Trump needs from Congress to make this happen. He wouldn’t even need to issue an executive order.
After an election season in which nothing they predicted came true — their confidence that Donald Trump would never be the Republican nominee comes to mind — you’d think our losing-streak corporate pundits would be reluctant to underestimate Trump’s chance of winning the presidency in November.
Alas, there is no limit to the willfully oblivious hubris of the barking dogs of the political class. Despite last week’s cataclysm the airwaves and opinion pages are still dominated by the smug meme that It Can’t Happen Here.
Never mind that half of that It, Trump’s capture of the nomination, has Happened. But this is where Trump’s juggernaut stops, say the center-right prognosticators. Polls show him losing to Hillary Clinton by 14% — er, now it’s 2%. But still.
Trump’s disapproval ratings are as big as his ego. Women hate the guy. So do Latinos; Republicans can’t win without them. Trump, they assure, has a ceiling: 45%. No way no how will more than 45% of Americans vote for him. (Remember when the same folks told us his ceiling was 30% — of Republicans?) He’s a guaranteed loosah.
If Hillary Clinton prevails over Bernie Sanders and the Department of Justice to become the Democratic standard-bearer, she’ll be welcomed as a liberator against Trump, Democratic leaders say. Most GOP insiders say/fear the same thing: she’ll win by a landslide.
I wouldn’t be so sure.
There are plenty of good reasons to believe that Trump will defeat the former secretary of state.
Before we list them, please bear in mind something no one talks about: what an amazing candidate Trump has proven to be. Not only does Trump have no political experience, this is his first run for president, or for any elected office. For a novice to win a major party nomination on his first time out, spending hardly any of his own money, is a triumph, a trifecta without historical precedent. (True, there was Eisenhower. But Ike was the supreme commander of Allied forces during World War II, and president of Columbia University. Those were essentially political positions.) With Trump, we are in uncharted territory. The man is a beast.
Now for the factors that run counter to the widely accepted Hillary-is-a-shoo-in narrative.
First, Hillary is a weak candidate.
Her negatives are nearly as high as Trump’s. A recent poll shows her even or losing against Trump in key battleground states: Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The liberal base of the Democratic Party, which mostly supports Bernie Sanders, is not at all Ready for Hillary. If the Bernie or Bust movement convinces even a few percentage points worth of Dems to stay home, write in Bernie’s name or vote for Jill Stein, that shortfall of support could be enough to throw the race The Donald’s way. If anything, Hillary is the one with a ceiling: she’s been in public life so long that it’s hard to believe that anyone who doesn’t like her now will find a reason to do so in the next six months. Politically, we’re just getting to know Trump.
Also, Americans’ hardwired historical amnesia is tailor-made for Trump.
His insane pronouncements would sink a conventional candidate. But when his racist or idiotic statements stir controversy, he doesn’t apologize: he denies that he ever said them. Then he doubles down. He constantly contradicts himself, sometimes in the same speech. This drives the media crazy. But it doesn’t touch Teflon Don. Thanks to Ronald Reagan and his ideological progeny, we’re living at a time when we choose our own facts along with our opinions — and no one is held accountable for their broken promises, hypocrisies or flip-flops. The past? Even when it isn’t past, even in real time, the past so doesn’t matter. As a conventional politician, Hillary will be forced to defend herself and her long record in public service from Trump’s attacks. Because he has no such record, and the record he does have is something he’ll just lie about — and voters will be perfectly fine with it — she can’t go after him the same way.
Because GOP campaigning is so much more effective, Democratic presidential candidates need to be at least 10% ahead of Republicans in August in order to win in November. Trump and Clinton are single digits apart, and it’s only May. Just wait until the zillions of GOP attack ads do their thing.
Trump’s Republican Party may not be as unified as they would like. But it will be unified enough to beat Hillary. Because she’s unwilling to make the policy and personnel concessions necessary to bring Sanders’ supporters into her fold — $15/hour minimum wage, offer Sanders veep — she’ll never be able to recover from the bruising primaries. Her party will be the more fractured one.
Trump is also in the unique position of being positioned to attack her from both the left and the right. He’ll go after her as a warmonger and a free trader and fiscally irresponsible and corrupt. As we’ve seen in the primaries, he has an uncanny ability to hone in on his rivals’ Achilles’ heels. Then he kicks them until they fall.
In the end, Hillary’s biggest liability may be overconfidence. She clearly doesn’t think much of Trump’s intellect, his political acumen or his campaign chops. Big mistake. This guy is many things, some of them very bad. But he is not stupid. Donald Trump is one of the most formidable politicians of our lifetimes. He can win.
Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Pre-order at Amazon!
Everyone in America thought they knew Donald Trump: the real estate magnate, reality TV star and bigger than life personality lived his life in the tabloids. Little did they know – though he hinted at it repeatedly – that he planned to take American politics by storm. This graphic biography explores the little-known episodes that helped form the man who shocked the U.S. media by launching the hostile takeover of the Republican Party, and whose wild political agenda could subvert representative democracy for years to come.
Hey Bernie supporters: Hillary has a talking point for you.
Confident that she has the Democratic nomination pretty much locked down and turning toward a general election contest against Donald Trump, Secretary Clinton’s surrogates and paid Internet trolls are targeting Sanders devotees via email and seeding comment threads on political websites with a low-key sales pitch.
It goes like this: We’re not asking you to vote for Hillary in November. We are asking you to work for and donate to “down ticket” Democratic candidates for Congress, governor, state rep and so on. Oh, and if you could kindly hold your fire against Hillary — because those attacks help Trump — that would be awesome too, thanks.
Like all things Clinton, this tightly scripted DNC-approved don’t-vote-for-me-vote-for-other-Dems argument carries more than a whiff of triangulation, big data analytics and well-managed focus groups. It also reeks of desperation.
At this stage in a presidential campaign, the likely nominee normally wants to unify the party by convincing voters who voted against her in the primary to see her as next best, good enough, and enough of a champion for some of her defeated opponent’s ideas to justify supporting her with some enthusiasm. I can’t recall, even following the bitter Democratic primary fight in 1980, Jimmy Carter telling Ted Kennedy’s acolytes not to bother with him but to please pull levers for Democratic state senators.
Hillaryites are sweating the progressive #BernieorBust movement — a recent poll of Sanders voters found one out of four swearing they won’t vote for Clinton in November, no way, no how. Like Miley Cyrus’ pledge to leave the U.S. if Trump wins, these promises are more hot air than statements of serious intent. But it’s not like that 25% drops to 0 by November 8th. Some Berners will stay home on election day. Disaffected Sanderians will give Jill Stein’s Green Party the biggest surge it has ever seen. (That’s probably how I’ll roll.)
And yes — despite the opinions of the center-right pundits who have been wrong about everything all year long — a significant number of liberal Democrats will defect to Donald Trump. As a friend told me, “I always vote Democratic. In this race, Donald Trump is the Democrat and Hillary Clinton is the Republican.”
If Hillary wins the nomination, she’ll need as many votes from former Berners as she can get. So why is she giving up on them already?
There are two answers.
- She doesn’t think she can convince Sanders’ supporters that she’s a good-enough second-best.
- She doesn’t want to try.
She may be right about the first point. Stretching back over more than two decades, Clinton’s public record in national politics is too long and too consistent to make a credible case that she has a left-of-center bone in her body. From Hillarycare to NAFTA to welfare reform to the crime bill to Iraq and Libya and Syria, she’s always sided with neo-con war profiteers and corporations over people. (Hillary’s folks claim that she was secretly against NAFTA, in private, before she came out in favor of it, in public. But secretly doesn’t count in politics.)
Hillary’s refusal to make concessions to Sanders’ surprisingly successful democratic-socialist insurgency is highly illuminating about who she is and where she stands.
Clinton and Sanders are now tied in national polls. Does anyone doubt that if he were as well known when he began his campaign last year as he is now, that he would have trounced her? Given Sanders’ popularity and the real threat he presented to her, a smarter and/or less pigheaded candidate than Hillary would have co-opted the man, his ideas and his supporters. But there’s zero sign that she’s considering him as her vice president or a cabinet position. She has stolen many of Sanders’ topics. But she hasn’t adopted any of his major ideas.
At one of the debates she misleadingly implied that she supports Bernie’s national $15/hour minimum wage. Actually, she supports a Scroogesque $12. (If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be over $22.)
She still doesn’t want to make public college tuition free, as Bernie Sanders does. Nor would she lift a finger to replace the insurance profit protection racket that is Obamacare with the universal healthcare available around the globe.
In Hillary Clinton we have a right-wing Democrat who campaigned as a right-wing Democrat and who will now tack even farther right this summer and fall. She’s so far right that she won’t even bother to pretend to throw a bone to progressives, much less bring Sanders or his ideas into an Abe Lincoln-style Team of Rivals à la Hillary.
No one should say they’re surprised when President Hill turns out to a rabid rightie.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)
Harry Truman famously kept a sign on his desk that read: “The buck stops here.” (“Buck” is a disused term for “accountability,” not money.) What Truman’s phrase meant — it says a lot about the state of things that it needs to be explained — was that he, like the captain of a ship, accepted responsibility for everything that happened under his watch.
With Barack Obama, there’s nary a buck to be found. To paraphrase the 1970 movie “Love Story,” working for the United States government means never having to say you’re sorry.
Days before Obama took office in 2009, Obama signaled that federal workers who break the law would have nothing to worry about. During his campaign he’d promised to prosecute the CIA and military personnel who tortured Afghans, Iraqis and other Muslims under orders from Bush and Cheney. People who voted for him expected him to follow through. The CIA torturers were worried sick. Their victims looked forward to seeing justice served.
Breaking his pledge, Obama issued the monsters a “get out of jail free” card. There wouldn’t even be an investigation, much less indictments. “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he said. The new president traveled to Langley to reassure the torturers everything would be cool. (“I will be as vigorous in protecting you as you are vigorous in protecting the American people.”) He even cooperated with the Republicans who approved of torture to pressure other countries not to file charges against U.S. torturers.
After 9/11, Americans asked themselves: why do they (Muslims in general, foreigners in particular) hate us?
No need to ask that one anymore.
One telltale sign that the government is engaged in a cover-up is timing: when it releases a report just before the weekend news blackout, you know something nasty is afoot. Obama’s latest whitewash, dumped online Friday, is the Administration’s attempt to drown its responsibility for one of the most heinous acts of mass murder in years in 3000 pages of spin, dissembling and circular logic.
On October 3rd, an AC-130 fixed-wing gunship — a fearsome array of high-caliber weaponry best described as a hovering battleship — unleashed an hour of hellfire on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, killing 42 doctors, staffers and patients, and wounding many others. The facility was completely destroyed. MSF (the French acronym for the group) pulled out. There is no longer any high-quality trauma care available in a major city in an active conflict zone.
It is now universally acknowledged that the attack was a mistake.
At the time, however, the Pentagon lied and denied. “Collateral damage,” they first said — they were aiming at something else. For an hour. Over and over. Then they said the Taliban were firing at U.S. forces from inside the hospital. (Never happened.) Next they blamed Afghan forces for calling in the airstrike. (They couldn’t have, and didn’t.) Finally, they admitted it was U.S. Special Forces.
Ultimately the new commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan issued an actual apology on March 22nd. “They hit us six months ago and are apologizing now?” spat Zabiullah Niazi, an OR nurse who lost his eye, one finger and the ability to use his hand, in the attack — and, like the other victims, has yet to receive compensation.
The heavily-redacted 3000-page report issued Friday by the Pentagon “describes a mission that went wrong from start to finish,” according to The New York Times. What stands out is the Americans’ obsession with protecting themselves at all cost, all others be damned — an attitude that has characterized the post-9/11 War of Terror.
“Even after Doctors Without Borders informed American commanders that a gunship was attacking a hospital, the airstrike was not immediately called off because, it appears, the Americans could not confirm themselves that the hospital was actually free of Taliban,” reports the Times. “‘Immediately calling for a cease-fire for a situation we have no SA’ — situational awareness, that is — ‘could put the ground force at risk,’ an American commander [said].” If you’re trying not to hurt innocent people, prudence dictates that you hold fire until your target is positively identified. Here, as usual in U.S. war zones, the default mode was to keep firing no matter what.
This is reckless disregard for human life writ large. So who will be held accountable?
“The punishments for the attack will be ‘administrative actions’ only, and none of those being disciplined will face criminal charges because the attack was determined to be unintentional… The punishments include suspension, removal from command and letters of reprimand, which can seriously damage or end a career.”
Reckless disregard for human life is a war crime. For example, former Rwandan official Clément Kayishema was convicted by an international tribunal for several counts of war crimes related to murder of Hutus in 1994, one of which was his reckless disregard for the possibility that his actions would lead to people’s deaths.
Forty-two people were murdered in Kunduz. So what if it’s just manslaughter or second-degree murder, rather than premeditated first-degree murder? Justice demands prison sentences, not letters added to personnel files.
I’d start with the guy who sits behind Harry Truman’s old desk.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)
First Hillary Clinton told a newspaper that Bernie Sanders wasn’t qualified to be president. When he shot back that her judgement made her unqualified, she pretended he’d attacked her out of nowhere. Such are the dynamics of a media narrative: it’s impossible to tell the true truth, only their truth.
There were widespread reports of irregularities by the Hillary Clinton campaign in the Nevada and Arizona primaries. In New York State, however, it appears that the Board of Elections illegally purged at least 150,000 voters in the Bernie Sanders stronghold of Brooklyn at the Clinton campaign’s behest…and more in other cities throughout the state.