Five things I wish Hillary would have asked the Donald last night

Last night we had the last of the three Presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – although the debates were anything but Presidential – and there were a number of things that I wish Hillary could have said to the Donald, but she didn’t. These include:

  1. How is it possible that you keep referring to me as a liar, when every neutral and objective party who has looked at the question has determined that you are by far the most untruthful candidate who has ever run for President in the at least the last century?
  2. How do you dare to insinuate that my campaign manufactured the women who are now accusing you of sexual assault, as each one came forward on their own (and at great expense to their dignity) after you had callously claimed that you never did any of the acts that you talked about so cavalierly on the Billy Bush bus tape?
  3. How dare you claim that you have “more respect for women than anyone?” Have you taken a national or global survey in which you came out on top of everyone else? And how dare you say that when it’s now clear that you have sexually assaulted and sexually harassed dozens of women in your lifetime?
  4. Why don’t you answer the question about whether you would put “boots on the ground” in Iraq instead of just continuing to lie about whether you were for the Iraq war in the first place?
  5. If you want to continue to talk lost emails, why don’t we start talking about the 22 million emails that the Bush administration lost during the U.S. Attorney controversy? After you’ve explained that one, then you can continue to ask about my emails.

I also wish Hillary had pointed out at the debate that although she’s spent 30 years in public service, it was as the First Lady of Arkansas, the First Lady of the United States, a U.S. Senator and the Secretary of State, and that none of these are positions from which a person can make unilateral decisions. So when the Donald keeps wanting to claim that she hasn’t “done anything” in 30 years, she might want to point out to him that she wasn’t the dictator of the United States who could just decree that things be done unilaterally.

While there are things I wish Hillary would have said, Trump’s debate performances, from the first one to the last, didn’t show any improvement or grasp of the office he is running for, as pointed out by even conservative commentators like Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post. She said of Trump that has a standard approach that he has consistently applied: “interrupt and insult the opponent, complain about the moderator, provide no details, exhibit weird hand gestures, string together fragments of ideas in no particular order, praise Vladimir Putin, denigrate anyone and everyone else in public service except people who have said nice things about him, demonstrate the vocabulary of a fourth-grader, repeat lies debunked many times before and most of all deny, deny, deny your own vile rhetoric and behavior.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Arlie Russel Hochschild and the Analogy of Cutting in Line

In the last decade there have been a spate of books examining the question of why conservatives so often seem to vote against their own economic interest. “What’s the Matter with Kansas” and “Deer Hunting with Jesus” are excellent examples of that genre. In both cases, they’re written by authors who emerged from a conservative milieu, and went back to see why their former friends and neighbors are voting as they are.

Arlie Russel Hochschild and the Analogy of Cutting in Line

A recent entry into this field is “Strangers in their Own Land,” by the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild. Ms. Hochschild, who is a professor from Berkley California (of all places) essentially “embedded” herself in the bayou country of Louisiana for the better part of five years. This is Teaparty country, and she wanted to focus on a particular issue: to find out why a populace who have been the victims of a lot of pollution and environmental degradation are so adamantly against any kind of environmental regulation. While there she made a number of close friendships with people that have completely different political views from hers.[1] (The people she became close to knew that she was writing a book, so there was no deception involved.) Hochschild also examined the appeal of the Teaparty in general to that cohort and the source of their adamant opposition to welfare for the poor.

Along the way Hochschild created an analogy which – and frankly, I didn’t think this was possible – actually makes me feel sympathy for certain Teaparty type conservatives. The analogy is one of a long line of people seeking the American Dream, which is a long way off and over a hill. The line does not seem to be moving at all anymore, and the American Dream is becoming a distant mirage for many of these people. In some cases, this cohort sees what appear to be other people who are “cutting in line.” These are the poor, the blacks, the Latinos, immigrants and other minorities.[2] The big business types, the Donald Trump’s of the world are at the front of the line, in this view, because they deserve to be there.[3] Further, as Hochschild also notes, this stalled American Dream hits many on the right at a particularly vulnerable season of life – in their fifties, sixties, and seventies.

The Demonization of the Federal Government

One of the other things that Hochschild writes about persuasively is the demonization of the federal government as a deliberate strategy of the American right.[4] This strategy was initiated by Newt Gingrich, who first set out to demonize the United State Congress. This is written about extensively in another book, authored by Thomas Mann and Norman Orenstein, and titled “It’s Worse than It Looks (How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism).” As explained by Mann and Orenstein, back in 1994, young firebrand New Gingrich – yes, he was young and “fresh” once before his long stay in the moldy bottom drawers of your broken refrigerator – ran an explicit campaign to demonize Congress and to exacerbate the seemingly paradoxical situation that people disliked the Congress as a whole but loved their own congressman. Gingrich united Republicans in refusing to cooperate with Democrats in committee and on the floor, while publicly attacking them as a permanent majority presiding over and benefiting from a thoroughly corrupt institution. (Sound familiar, my friends?) Gingrich’s strategy was, needless to say, very effective, as the Republicans routed the Democrats in the mid-term election of 1994.

This was 22 years ago, and the Republicans have branched out to attacking the entire federal government since. That too, has been surprisingly effective. The end result is that people in the Teaparty believe myths like that 40% of the American workforce works for the federal government, whereas the actual number is 1.9%.[5]

Ironically, and in a demonstration of the cognitive dissonance that is resonating in the minds of so many conservatives, Teaparty types in Louisiana also blame the federal government for not adequately regulating the industrial polluters who are turning so many of the swamps into toxic cesspools while at the same time objecting to the federal government’s regulatory authority.

How does this make sense? It doesn’t, of course.

Where did Melanie Austin Get these Ideas?

The Washington Post recently ran a story about a woman named Melanie Austin, who is an ardent Trump supporter.

Austin lives somewhere with her unemployed boyfriend in the coal country of Western Pennsylvania, and used to work as a crew dispatcher and engineer for the railroad. She left her employment after filing a sexual harassment claim, which she won, but which was eventually overturned on appeal. If she wasn’t a bitter woman already, that was the icing on the cake.

As the Post reports, when Austin first saw Trump at a rally in June, she “was just beginning to realize how many people saw the world the way she did, that she was one among millions.”[6] Donald Trump had inspired her by talking “about so many of the things she had come to believe, from Obama being a founder of the terrorist group ISIS, to Hillary Clinton being a co-founder, to the idea that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have been murdered in a White House plot involving a prostitute and a pillow.”

More and more, she was “meeting people who felt the same as she did, joining what amounted to a parallel world of beliefs that the Trump campaign had not so much created as harnessed and swept into the presidential election.” To her, President Obama “seemed so far away, so oblivious to the decay she saw around her” so that when Donald Trump began suggesting that Obama was not American, “it made sense.” When Trump and others suggested that Obama was Muslim, to Austin that too seemed plausible. And when Obama started talking about, of all things, gay marriage and letting transgender people into bathrooms, it all came together: the President of the United States was “a gay Muslim from Kenya working to undermine America.”

So, the question arises, where did Melanie Austin come to these beliefs. I mean, think of how preposterous they are, shared as they are by millions:

  • To believe that Obama was born in Kenya, you have to believe that the Republican party would ignore the specific requirement of the Constitution that the President be a “natural born citizen” (i.e., someone born in the United States). There are only three requirements for President: (1) that the he or she be natural born, (2) at least age 35, and (3) have resided in the United State for 14 years. That’s it.
  • To believe that Obama is a Muslim you have to ignore the entire Reverend Wright controversy which threatened to sink his candidacy back in 2008. And you have to ignore his unprecedented drone war against a number of Muslim nations.
  • To believe that Obama is gay, I don’t even know where to begin to respond to that. Obama is one of the few President’s we’ve ever had to survive in office for eight years without a major scandal. Let’s leave it at that.

Again, where did Melanie Austin acquire these beliefs? The answer is from Fox News and right wing talk radio, that’s where. These two sources of “news” have proven, beyond a doubt, that if you repeat the same lies often enough and brazenly enough, people will simply believe it as the truth. It’s a shame, but now that really is the truth. There is no penalty for lying whatsoever.

As the final irony, Trump has been escalating his attacks against the mainstream media, alleging that they are part of some conspiracy with Hillary Clinton to get her elected President. This, from the same guy, who benefitted more than any candidate in history from free media coverage of his campaign for months and months at a time. Any fair minded person can see that the media is not out to elect Hillary Clinton.[7]

Why Kelly Quelette is voting for Donald Trump.

Somewhere in my readings about the election I came across this WordPress post from a woman named Kelly Quelette, who declares to all the world why she is still voting for Donald Trump. Ms. Quelette cites five reasons for voting for the Donald:

  1. Because Hillary Clinton is more responsible for “rape culture” in the United States than Donald Trump (through Hillary’s defense of her husband and of a single convict accused of rape).
  2. Because Hillary Clinton believes in an “open border” on immigration.
  3. Because Donald Trump is a businessman (and therefore can do a better job with the economy).
  4. Because Donald Trump is pro-life (allegedly).
  5. Because the next President may have as many as five appointments to the Supreme Court.

So, where to begin in responding to this? One could write an entire article just on these five issues alone, but let’s take them on as briefly as possible.

  1. This first assertion is preposterous. As I’ve already discussed extensively, Bill Clinton’s record of behavior with women is truly awful. But Bill Clinton is not running for President. The notion that Hillary, as an “enabler” has done more to promote rape culture than Donald Trump, who is clearly guilty of multiple sexual assaults, is putting the cart way before the horse.
  2. Hillary Clinton does not believe in “open borders,” which lie has been refuted by fact-checking organizations like Politifact. Hillary is on record supporting the same kind of immigration reform that Obama supports, which includes a path to citizenship for undocumented aliens, support of DACA and DAPA, and the “humane” enforcement of existing immigration laws.
  3. Donald Trump’s business record is a matter of extensive controversy, with many of his billionaire colleagues, like Mark Cuban and Michael Bloomberg (i.e., the ones who know him best) completely opposed to his candidacy. Even if Trump were a good (or at least honest) businessman, there is nothing in evidence that suggests that a businessman would better at managing the American economy.[8]
  4. Donald Trump is a very recent convert to the pro-life cause (if he is a convert at all). As the Washington Post has pointed out, Trump has taken at least five different positions on abortion, ranging all the way from being “very” pro-life to wanting to throw women in jail for having an “illegal” abortion.[9] What is Trump’s actual position on abortion? Only God knows and she ain’t telling.[10]
  5. Finally, when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, here I have to agree with Ms. Quelette. It will be a matter of critical importance. I don’t know about five nominations, but it could be a bunch. The Republicans have already indicated that they plan on objecting to any Supreme Court nomination that Hillary Clinton might put forward, which could trigger the greatest constitutional crisis involving the judiciary since Roosevelt’s 1937 court packing plan (and go look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about).[11] This is part of the reason that it’s absolutely critical that the Democrats win back the Senate.

It’s not that I don’t have sympathy with conservatives at the loss of Antonin Scalia, their intellectual hero, from the court. But as I have to remind people all the time, we went from Thurgood Marshall to Clarence Thomas, and that was about as bad as it could get for liberals and progressives. That’s what happens when you lose a bunch of Presidential elections in a row: the other side gets to appoint the Justices that your side doesn’t care for. Tant pis, comme dit le Français.

The Hypocrisy of the Christian Right in 2016

I’ve already written in the past about the hypocrisy of Christian fundamentalists in this election. Although Mike Pence is a true Christian conservative, Trump is probably the most profane, sacrilegious and impious Presidential candidate that we’ve ever had. By contrast, it’s clear that Tim Kaine is very pious, and even Hillary Clinton is a solid Methodist whose faith is actually important to her. (Trump believes in only one God, and that’s the one he sees in the mirror.)

It turns out that Trump’s Billy Bush bus tape may have finally exposed a very deep fault line in the Christian right, and that is the fault line between men and women. Trump’s use of the word “pussy” and the escalating number of sexual assaults reported by women in the wake of Trump’s candid observations seem to have finally pushed some women and Christian millennials past the breaking point.

To which I can only say, what took you all so long?[12]

They’ve Been Punching Us in the Face for Twenty-Five Years

One final thought: I’ve noticed on social media that a number of conservatives have reacted with hurt and surprise by the strong language that some of us on the progressive side of the ledger have used with respect to Trump.

Welcome to the club, my friends.

On the liberal or progressive side of the ledger, we’ve been punched in the face by the likes of Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Andrew Breitbart and Glenn Beck – to name just a few – for the better part of the last 25 years. Not literally, of course. Proverbially. But now, when conservatives taste a little bit of their own medicine, they react like the classic bully: hey, why are you hitting so hard? Stop it, that hurts!

It’s like Mike Tyson. When his invincibility fell and he had to face off with really tough fighters like Evander Holyfield, he resorted to biting off a chunk of his ear. That’s what we’re seeing now: the Tysonization of the American conservative movement. Naturally enough – as if there could be any other outcome – the actual Mike Tyson is a Donald Trump supporter.

As I’ve said repeatedly, there will need to be a lot of healing in this country after this election. But first there will need to be some soul searching, especially among Republican intellectuals – and yes, there are still Republican intellectuals, albeit not many – about what their party has wrought.

[1] As Hochschild notes, not only have the country’s two main political parties split further apart on such issues, but political feeling also runs deeper than it did in the past. In 1960, when a survey asked American adults whether it would “disturb” them if their child married a member of the other political party, no more than 5% of either party answered “yes.” But in 2010, 33% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans answered “yes.” In fact, partyism, as some call it, now beats race as the source of divisive prejudice.

[2] The question this view begs, of course, is how did those people end up at the back of the line in the first place, or more realistically, why weren’t they included in the line at all.

[3] In Donald Trump’s case, not only is he at the front of the line, but he still wants to cut in line anyway, just to move up one or two places.

[4] According to Hochschild, conservatives seem to arrive at their dislike of the federal government via three routes: (1) their religious faith (the government has unnecessarily curtailed the church); (2) hatred of taxes (which they see as too high and too progressive), and (3) its impact on their loss of “honor.”

[5] According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the end of 2014, 1.9% percent of the 143 million American non-farm workers were employed in the civilian sector of the federal government. An additional 1% percent were in the enlisted military. Another 3.5% work for the various state governments, and by far the largest percentage work for local government. That group is composed primarily of teachers, and police and fire officers, or the government workers that we actually like.

[6] Austin had been “involuntarily hospitalized for several weeks” after a “series of online postings that included one saying that Obama should be hanged and the White House fumigated and burned to the ground.” On her discharge papers, in a box labeled “medical problem,” a doctor had typed “homicidal ideation.”

[7] Otherwise, why the fixation on her “email” scandal or the “Benghazi scandal,” both of which are objectively minor scandals that have been completely blown out of proportion. But to people who have already been hoodwinked, when Trump says that the major media is lying, that our side is lying, that the election is “rigged” – notwithstanding that he has ran the worst campaign in modern American history – there is a whole cadre of people who believe him.

[8] While we haven’t really had a pure businessman as President, we’ve had plenty of businessmen as Governors, and there’s nothing to suggest in their record that they are better stewards of a state’s economy than anyone else. Mitt Romney was Governor Massachusetts and Gary Johnson was Governor of Arizona, to cite just a few examples, and their records on the economy were unimpressive.

[9] At the current time, abortions in general are not illegal, because of Roe v. Wade, but certain kinds of abortion (such as partial birth abortions) are illegal in some states.

[10] As reported by the Post, it should be noted that in 1999, Trump told Tim Russert that he was “very pro-choice” explaining that that he grew up in Manhattan, not Iowa; by 2011, when Trump was seriously considering running for President the first time, he told conservatives at CPAC that he was pro-life; in a March 2016 interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews Trump told that women should be criminally punished for having an “illegal” abortion; a day later his campaign walked that back and released a statement that in the case of an illegal abortion, only the doctor or other medical provider performing the procedure would be charged; and asked again about abortion a day after that, Trump basically advocated for a “state’s rights” policy on the matter.

[11] Yes, Senator McCain walked that one back almost immediately, but it does give all of the rest of us a good sense of what the Republican’s intentions are.

[12] Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine founded by Billy Graham, recently wrote that “enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord.”

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Comparing the Donald and Bill Clinton’s record of behavior with women (revised and updated)

Donald Trump has had a bad week on top of the bad several weeks that he has had since his first debate with Hillary Clinton. This week someone unearthed the 2005 bus trip conversation that he had with Billy Bush,[1] which for some reason was caught on a hot microphone.

The tape speaks for itself, and doesn’t require much interpretation. On the other hand, the Donald has maintained that what he has said and done is much less egregious than what Bill Clinton has done. So, even though spouses are supposed to be “off limits” in this election, let’s go ahead and look at the comparison.

At the outset, let’s acknowledge the obvious: that Bill Clinton’s record of behavior with women is pretty awful. His infidelity was one of his major character flaws, and almost completely undid his presidency in the Lewinsky scandal. He may have been guilty of sexual assault.

Bill Clinton’s Record

When we look at Bill Clinton’s record with women, we have to divide it up between the clearly consensual encounters, and ones where nonconsensual contact was alleged. The clearly consensual encounters include:

  • Gennifer Flowers, a former model who claimed to have had a 12-year relationship with Clinton (but most likely had a brief affair).[2]
  • Monica Lewinsky, the famous former intern who at least had oral sex with Clinton in the White House.
  • Elizabeth Ward Gracen, a former Miss Arkansas and Miss America claimed she had a one night stand with Clinton in 1982.
  • Dolly Kyle Browning, a former high school classmate, claimed to have been his mistress while Bill was already married to Hillary.
  • Sally Perdue, another former Miss Arkansas, who said she had a four-month affair with Bill in 1983.
  • Lencola Sullivan, another former Miss Arkansas and fourth runner-up in the Miss America pageant, who claimed to have a sexual relationship of some kind with Clinton.

People much smarter than me (Gail Sheehy, for example) have suggested that Bill Clinton emerged from his highly dysfunctional childhood with a sexual addiction. It is also clear that while Governor of Arkansas, a large number of women propositioned Bill Clinton (or at least signaled their availability), just as was true for Magic Johnson before he contracted AIDS. For a man who arguably had a sexual addiction, that’s a lot of temptation.

On the other hand, there are also three women in particular who have alleged that their sexual contact with Bill Clinton was non-consensual:

  • Paula Jones, who alleged that Clinton, while Governor, exposed himself to her in a room at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas.” The resulting civil suit for sexual harassment was complicated by the fact that Clinton was President and questions about whether he was immune from prosecution.[3]
  • Kathleen Willey, a former White House volunteer aide who alleged on 60 Minutes that Bill Clinton had sexually assaulted her on November 29, 1993, during his first term as President.
  • Juanita Broaddrick, Juanita Broaddrick, a former nursing home administrator from Arkansas, who alleged in 1999 that Bill Clinton had raped her back in 1978 while campaigning for Governor of Arkansas.

The most troubling of these allegations is those of Juanita Broaddrick. The problem with her allegations is principally that she initially denied that anything non-consensual occurred, and she did so under oath. In the Paula Jones case, when contacted by the Starr investigators, Broadrick filed an affidavit denying any sexual contact between her and Clinton. She subsequently contradicted her affidavit several years later in an interview by NBC’s Lisa Meyers, but this was after Clinton had already been acquitted in his impeachment trial.

Kathleen Willey also undercut her credibility in significant ways. Among other things, she (1) lied to the FBI during their investigation about her relationship with a former boyfriend,[4] (2) her deposition testimony in the Paula Jones case differed substantially from her grand jury testimony, and (3) she led Linda Tripp to believe that she was deliberately pursuing a romantic relationship with Clinton.

With respect to Paula Jones, Jeffrey Toobin, in his book “A Vast Conpiracy” makes a persuasive case that Paula Jones and Bill Clinton most likely had a consensual sexual encounter, but because Paula Jones was married to a very jealous husband, she later claimed that the encounter was non-consensual. Stephen Jones, her husband at the time, was a driving force behind the civil suit, and arguably prevented the case from being settled early on with reasonable terms. Stephen and Paula Jones subsequently divorced in 1999.

None of this proves that these women were not assaulted by Bill Clinton. But it also doesn’t prove that they were.

Donald Trump’s Record

If there was ever a case of the pot calling the kettle black, then it must be Donald Trump accusing other men of sexual improprieties. However appalling Bill Clinton’s legacy of sexual improprieties is, Donald Trump’s is just as bad. Or worse.

There are many reasons to strongly suspect that Donald Trump has cheated on more than one occasion, but if he has, the women who could verify that have not yet come forward. Maybe some will, and maybe they won’t. But one thing is for sure: he cheated on his first wife, the former Ivana Zelnícková with Marla Maples, who became his second wife.[5]

What there is little doubt about is that Donald Trump is a serial sexual harasser, and that he has a deplorable attitude towards women. A large number of sexual harassment allegations have been made against Donald Trump over the years. One of them is from the Apprentice, where Donald Trump says to contestant Brande Roderick right on camera, “it must be a pretty picture seeing you drop to your knees.” You can see it right on YouTube. That’s hardly the only incident. Other examples incude:

  • Carrie Prejean, a former Miss USA contestant, described Trump’s requirement that contestants “parade” in front of him before he picked whether they would enter the pageant. “Many of the girls found this exercise humiliating,” according to Prejean. “Some of the girls were sobbing backstage after he left.
  • Temple Taggart, competing as Miss Utah in the 1997 Miss USA pageant, claimed that Trump greeted by kissing her “directly on the lips,” something she saw him do with other contestants as well.
  • Rowan Brewer Lane, then a 26-year-old model, claims that having been invited to his Mar-a-Lago estate, Trump asked her to put on a bathing suit, and after she did, essentially paraded her in front of other guests proclaiming about her “That is a stunning Trump girl, isn’t it?”[6]

In a different kind of sexual discrimination, a former Donald Trump staffer, 26-year Elizabeth Mae Davidson, accused Trump’s campaign of sex discrimination in pay, saying that that men doing the same job as her on the campaign trail were being paid more money.[7] The Boston Globe later determined that Trump’s campaign paid men on his campaign staff one-third more than women, while Hillary Clinton has compensated men and women equally.

Trump has also famously feuded with people like Rosie O’Donnell, Cher and Megyn Kelly, and is especially vicious when he finds the woman unattractive, as was the case with Rosie O’Donnell.

Allegations against Donald Trump for rape.

Donald Trump has also been accused of rape on more than one occasion. One of his accusers was his ex-wife Ivana.

  • In their 1991 divorce Ivana Trump apparently accused Donald Trump of marital rape.[8] In a 1993 book called Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, author Harry Hurt III paints a scene in which, after a painful scalp reduction surgery to remove a bald spot, the Donald Trump confronted Ivana, who had previously used the same plastic surgeon, and accused “her” doctor of having “ruined” him. What followed was a “violent assault,” according to the author. The Donald “held back Ivana’s arms and began to pull out fistfuls of hair from her scalp, as if to mirror the pain he felt from his own operation.” He “tore off her clothes and unzipped his pants and proceeded to rape her.” She allegedly told some of her closest confidants that “he raped me.”[9]
  • In April of 1997 Trump was sued by a woman named Jill Harth Houraney, who says she met Trump in her capacity as a pageant producer organizing international model search events in the early 1990’s. In her complaint she alleged that Trump engaged in hostile and offensive sexual behavior towards her from 1992 to 1997 including “groping” her under her dress on several occasions, “forcibly” moving her to his daughter’s bedroom in an attempt to have sex with her, and repeatedly, aggressively and inappropriately propositioning her for sex. [10] Not even a month after filing the case, Harth withdrew it. The court record indicates it was “voluntarily dismissed” but “without prejudice” (meaning she could have re-filed the case). Around the same time the case was withdrawn, Trump reportedly agreed to settle with her husband’s company, The American Dream Enterprise, which had filed a breach of contract lawsuit in 1995 against Trump. She now says that she would vote for him.[11]
  • More recently, in April of this year, a woman named Katie Johnson sued the Donald in federal court in California, claiming that back in 2004 she was forced to perform fellatio on the Donald, and that this was in the company of Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender who has also been linked to Bill Clinton. Johnson claimed that she and other juveniles were used by Trump as “sex slaves” and that the sexual assaults occurred from June to September 2004 when she was 13; she further indicated that she was enticed by a potential modeling career and cash. Johnson filed her suit pro se – meaning without the benefit of an attorney – and it has apparently been dismissed, which is what often happens to pro se If her allegations are legitimate, it shouldn’t be that hard for her to find an attorney who would want a crack at it. Regardless, the details can be read here.

It’s hard to know what to make of these last two claims. Harth Houraney is, needless to say, a remarkably unreliable witness, sending a message that could not be more confused if she tried. As for Katie Johnson, if true, hers should really be a criminal complaint. The website Heavy reported that “The phone number she lists in the filing is disconnected. It was previously listed as a cell phone number for a California dentist, who could not be reached. Her listed address is a house that has been foreclosed and is vacant. Court documents show that mail sent by the court to Johnson was returned to the sender.”

Trump should be given the same benefit of the doubt as Bill Clinton. Except for his ex-wife Ivana (see below), who is now back in the Trump camp.

Hillary Clinton’s Record

Unlike Bill and the Donald, no one has ever accused Hillary Clinton of sexual improprieties. Oh, some conspiracy theorists have accused her of involvement in the death of Vince Foster, an accusation that has been proven to be baseless time and time again. That is part of the “vast right wing conspiracy” that Hillary has complained about for some time.

After the Lewinsky scandal, no one would have blamed Hillary if, when she and Bill departed the White House in January of 2001, she had left Bill behind and filed for divorce. No one would have blamed her. But that’s not the choice she made. For reasons that are hers and hers alone, she chose to stay with the man that she raised her daughter with, a man with whom, by all accounts, she is enormously compatible with, except for in at least one clearly defined arena. Just as we need to respect a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, we need to respect a woman’s right to choose to stay married to her husband, regardless of the transgressions he might have committed. Many people have speculated on her reasons, but she’s the only one who knows for sure.

Now, despite what the Republicans would have you believe, Hillary Clinton has said next to nothing about the various women who have either alleged a consensual relationship with Bill, or who have alleged nonconsensual conduct in Bill’s part. What is clear, is that she doesn’t believe that her husband is a rapist. While Hillary has sometimes suffered from “cognitive dissonance” when it comes to her husband and his affairs, she still knows him better than any of the rest of us. She is entitled to stand with her husband against his accusers.

The Prevarication of the Donald’s Wives

The Donald has been married three times, once to an émigré from the western side of the former Czechoslovakia, (Ivanna Trump) and once to a woman from the eastern side of the former republic (Milania Trump). And once to a Georgia Peach (Marla Maples), proving that he can find a wife somewhere other than from Eastern Europe.

Both Milania Trump and Ivanna Trump have a history of being less than truthful. Milania famously lifted portions of her RNC convention speech from Michelle Obama’s 2012 DNC convention speech. But that’s not the only time she has been caught out. Milania also was caught enhancing her professional resume, when she claimed that she graduated “in design and architecture at University of Slovenia.” The first problem with this claim is that there is no “University of Slovenia.” There is, however, a University of Ljubljana, which interestingly enough is in Slovenia (one of the former Yugoslavian republics) and not Slovakia. The second problem with this claim is that she did not graduate. According to official records, Milania dropped out of college after her freshman year.

Also caught enhancing her resume is the Donald’s first Czechoslovakian wife, Ivanna. The mother of Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric, has claimed in her official biography that she was selected as an alternate on the 1972 Czechoslovak Olympic Ski Team. The only problem is that they have never heard of her.

But the most serious problem with Ivanna Trump’s lack of truthfulness concerns the rape allegations against the Donald, previously discussed. Again, in a 1993 deposition she gave while she was seeking a divorce from the Donald, she claimed that he had raped her in 1989, while they were still married. This claim was made under oath. After she obtained the settlement that she wanted, she recanted her claim, which recantation she maintains to this day.

So either she was lying then or she is lying now.

Either he raped her and she is covering for him, or she made a false accusation of rape in order to achieve a financial advantage. She can’t have it both ways. Either one of these two things must be true.

Bill Clinton is Not Running for President

The allegations made in the past against Bill Clinton are both very serious and very troubling. They tarnish his legacy substantially. But Bill Clinton is not running for President. The time to vet these allegations and to come to conclusions about their veracity was in 1992 (and again in 1996) when he was running for President. In fact, a number of journalists and political opponents did look into these allegations at that time, and they did not stick.

Hillary Clinton is running for President, and whatever she has or has not done as a proxy to her husband’s former accusers pales in comparison to what Donald Trump has actually done regularly and directly in his own behavior with women.

Once again, as has so often been the case in this election, this is a matter of false equivalence. There simply is no comparison.

[1] Billy Bush happens to be a member of the Bush family, as he is the son of Jonathan Bush, younger brother to George H. W. Bush.

[2] Clinton himself admitted under oath only to a single encounter with her in 1977. Flowers subsequently also admitted that she had made a total net profit of $500,000 by publicizing her alleged affair with Clinton to Penthouse, Star Magazine and other news sources. Flowers also sued George Stephanopoulos, James Carville and others in 1999 for defamation claiming that they orchestrated a campaign to discredit her. Her case was dismissed by summary judgment in 2004, and that dismissal was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in 2006.

[3] It was the Jones case, where Clinton was deposed under oath and asked about Monica Lewinsky, that led to the attempt to impeach him. Jones had filed a civil case alleging sexual harassment against the President, and it became very complicated, with questions relative to whether aspects of the civil trial had to be delayed until after Clinton was finished with his term as President. In the case of Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997), the United States Supreme Court ruled against Clinton that the case could proceed while he was still President, which is how it was that Clinton was deposed. The case was initially dismissed at summary judgment, but an appeal was filed. The Jones team was financed by the Rutherford Institute, and Jones later claimed that she was used as a “political pawn“ by conservative groups to come after the President. After Clinton’s term ended, he decided to settle the case while refusing to admit liability.

[4] The Independent Counsel agreed not to prosecute her for false statements, which she ultimately admitted to.

[5] Unlike some others, I don’t hold it against Trump that two of his previous marriages didn’t work out, since that can happen to anyone. I do also note that Trump seems to have maintained good relations with his ex-wives.

[6] This was revealed in a longer New York Times article entitled Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved with Women in Private.

[7] There have also been allegations of assault, sexual harassment piling up against Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

[8] The documents are sealed and Ivana herself is the subject of a gag order, so this would be hard to verify.

[9] Ivana Trump now denies that this characterization is accurate and now says that the alleged rape was “not in a criminal sense.” Trump’s own attorney has claimed that you “cannot rape your spouse,” which happens to be false.

[10] In the court document, she said that Trump bragged that he “would be the best lover you ever have.” In addition to her personal accounts, Harth made a litany of other claims against Trump including allegations that he had an adulterous affair, that he retaliated against those who crossed him by making sexually charged allegations and accused him of making “racial slurs.” Harth said that on evening of Jan 9, 1993 at a “Calendar Girl” competition Trump directed “any black female contestant to be excluded.”

[11] Harth, who now runs a beauty business, says she’s put the lawsuit behind her, and told that she’d even vote for Donald Trump in the upcoming election. However, in that same interview she also told the author of the article, Rachel Stockman, that “never disavowed the complaint to anyone.”

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Why does everything stick to Hillary, and nothing to the Donald?

I’ve been thinking about Hillary a lot and why I like her but don’t love her. It seems that a lot of people that I know feel that way. I’ve also been thinking about why everything seems to stick to Hillary and nothing to the Donald. It’s much worse than in the era of Ronald Reagan, who was after all the “Teflon President.”

First of all, I should admit that I’ve been reading a lot of biographies in anticipation of this election. I’ve become a little obsessed with it. In the year I’ve read:

  • A Vast Conspiracy (Jeffrey Toobin)
  • A Woman in Charge (Bernstein, Carl)
  • Hillary’s Choice (Gaily Sheehy)
  • Trump Revealed (Michael Kranish and Mark Fisher)
  • The Making of Donald Trump (David Cay Johnston)
  • The Hunting of Hillary (Joe Conason & Gene Lyons)

More recently I watched the fabulous Frontline documentary called “The Choice (2016).” Last year I read Sara Marshall’s short biography eponymously entitled “Hillary.” And if that weren’t enough, I recently read Arlie Russel Hochschild’s “Strangers in their Own Land,” another look, this time from a sociologist’s perspective, as to why so many conservatives vote against their own economic interests.

So I can’t be criticized for not having done my homework. I have definitely been doing my homework. Maybe too much homework. I’m a little bit burned out on reading about these two, but at least I’m one citizen who is well informed.

Hillary as Goody Two Shoes

For anybody who has looked at Bill Clinton’s biography at all must acknowledge that it’s a minor miracle that Bill emerged from his upbringing as a functioning human being. He did not emerge unscathed, of course, and one legacy that arguably followed him into adulthood is what psychologists now call a “sex addiction.”[1] That Achilles heel certainly caused enough damage to his presidency, as we all know.

hillarybillAlthough Hillary emerged from a more stable household, her father was also a major prick. On the other hand, Hillary’s frustrated mother – who herself emerged from a remarkably tumultuous childhood – poured all of her dreams and ambitions into Hillary, making her into one very ambitious child. By the time that Hillary arrived at Wellesley, what is clear now is that she was a pretty cool chick. There’s even photographic evidence of that. And, as is now well-known, Hillary was chosen by her peers to be the first ever student speaker at her Wellesley commencement, where she demonstrated her chutzpah by rebut the sitting Massachusetts Senator Ed Brooke with respect to the Vietnam War, who had been the commencement speaker, in what was essentially an off-script extemporaneous rejoinder.

Hillary was still a cool chick at Yale when she met and fell in love with Bill Clinton. Then, right out of law school, she became a staffer to the Senate committee investigating Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, and shortly after that, a protégé of Marion Wright Edelman. At some point Hillary made the very difficult choice to follow Bill Clinton down to Arkansas, a choice that disappointed a lot of her friends. Bill Clinton didn’t win his first race in 1974, for the Arkansas 3rd Congressional District. He did, however, win for Attorney General in 1976, and then at age 32, he became the youngest Governor in the nation in 1978. When Hillary married Bill in 1975, she retained her own name, and she maintained her own career, a decision which became controversial while Hillary was the First Lady of Arkansas. Bill Clinton lost the Governorship in 1980, and then fought to get it back in 1982, with repeat wins in 1984, 1986 and 1990.[2]

It seems to have been that 1980 election that turned Hillary Clinton from a cool chick into a politician. All her biographers acknowledge that she is the fighter in the marriage, and that without her propulsive ambition, Clinton never would have regained the Governorship or become President. Along the way, Hillary lost a little bit of her soul.

She’s also been living in the public spotlight for 38 years, since she became the First Lady of Arkansas, and that’s a long time to live in the public spotlight. In that time, a “vast” (or perhaps narrow but intense) right-wing conspiracy really did organize itself against her and Bill, and that’s actually been documented in considerable detail in a number of books, including those that I’d mentioned earlier. That brought us a multitude of “scandals” lacking any real substance, including Whitewater, which led to Paula Jones which led to Monica Lewinsky, which led to impeachment.[3] Along the way, Hillary has had to keep an incredibly stiff lip (as the British like to say), but it hasn’t dampened her ambition.

Hillary then still retains some of her childhood self, the really smart kid who always raises her hand first and always knows the answer, the resourceful munchkin and goody two shoes who doesn’t let any amount of adversity keep her down. We should admire her for this, and in a way we do, but we also resent her for being so exceptionally resilient. Some of us identify more with a loser than a winner, and Hillary is (ironically) very much a winner.[4]

Donald Trump and the Politics of Extreme Distemper

Which brings us to Donald Trump and the politics of extreme distemper. The Donald, as unlikely a choice as he seems to be, has become the megaphone for the frustrations of a certain large minority of voters, who seem to feel that his flamboyant in-your-face style represents what they wish they could say to the establishment of they only had the balls.

If you examine the biography of Donald Trump it’s clear that this little peckerhead was an asshole from the word go. Even his second grade school teacher remarked that Trump was an asshole, and Trump himself has opined that he hasn’t grown up much from when he was in second grade. That he is an extremely thin-skinned übernarcissist with a penchant for retribution has also been richly documented. As has the fact that he is a complete con man, and that so much of his alleged business success has been built on smoke and mirrors.

But it matters not a whit to Trump’s many supporters, who have been proven to be preternaturally loyal to the man. They simply resonate emotionally with what this guy is saying.

It does beg one question, which is why is Trump so angry? Given that he has had almost every advantage in life, one might think that he would be grateful. That clearly is not the case. A lot of people have suggested – and I very much buy into this theory – that Trump’s decision to run for President was very much motivated by his attendance at the 2011 Washington Correspondent’s dinner, where President Obama excoriated Trump probably at least in part for having led the completely ridiculous “birther” movement. To believe in the “birther” movement one has to believe that the Republican party did not have the competence in 2008 to present legal challenges to Obama’s qualifications to be President, if there were any that were in doubt. In other words, the notion really is “unhinged” from reality. And yet the Donald, always one to double down, claimed in the first debate with Hillary that he had done the country “a favor” by getting Obama to produce it. More proof of how unhinged the Donald really is.

The Big Christian Hypocrisy

One of the ironies of this election cycle is seeing the evangelical Christian right get behind Donald Trump, a man who is surely the most profane and least religious candidate for President that we’ve ever had. Trump has apparently had some nominal affiliation the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, where Norman Vincent Peale (from the “Power of Positive Thinking” fame) was the lead pastor. Other than that, I don’t think the Donald has spent any time in church, and he clearly doesn’t remember what is in any of the books because he famously couldn’t identify which ones were his favorite. (“All of them” was his disingenuous response.) When the Pope questioned his values, the Donald challenged the Pope, essentially demanding to know what the Pope knew about Christianity in the first place. He further called the Pope “disgraceful” for questioning the Donald’s faith, and implied that the Pope would regret doing so because the Vatican would inevitably become the target of a terrorist attack, at which time the Pope would “wish” that a strong man like the Donald were in office to take care of things.

Oh boy. So that’s the Donald, my conservative Christian friends:

  • Attacking the Pope;
  • Attacking John McCain for allowing himself to be captured;
  • Attacking a Muslim Gold Star family;
  • Attacking a former Ms. Universe.[5]

None of it sticks to Trump.

The Donald has also been pro-choice for many years, and has not been hostile to gay rights. So, on the two signature issues for social conservatives – abortion and gay rights – the Donald is completely out of step with their desires. (Oh sure, the Donald now claims to be pro-life, but no one believes him, any more than they believe that he will build that wall with Mexico.[6]) They don’t care. Christian conservatives don’t care that he’s been divorced twice, that he cheated on his first wife, or that he’s had five children with three different women. The “values voters” have clearly lost their collective compasses when it comes to Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a serious Methodist, someone who really finds comfort from her belief in Christ. She picked as her running mate Tim Kaine, who is the most devout candidate for Vice President that we’ve had in decades.[7] Kaine is so committed to his Christianity that he took almost a year off of his studies while at Harvard Law School in order to participate in running a Catholic school run by Jesuits in Honduras. That is where Kaine learned his essentially fluent Spanish.

But again, evangelicals don’t care. They don’t care how profane the Donald is, they don’t care how devoted Tim Kaine is, they don’t care that Hillary’s Methodism is the real deal. All they seem to care about is that the Donald resonates with their rage, built up through the decades, that makes far too many of them want to give a giant finger to the political establishment and to the rest of America, the part of America that so many of them don’t think is “real” anymore.

A Nation Permanently Divided

A lot of political commentators have noted that ours is a nation that is now permanently divided. Much of that can be seen in the election map, which has changed drastically since 1984 when Ronald Reagan just swamped Walter Mondale in the Presidential election. On that occasion, Reagan received 525 of 538 possible electoral votes, and Mondale received 13, winning only his home state of Minnesota, as well as the District of Columbia. Even my beloved home state of Massachusetts, the “don’t blame me” (we didn’t vote for Nixon) state voted for Reagan a second time. In the popular vote, Reagan received almost 60% of the vote, Mondale a little more than 40%.

Times have changed so drastically since then. Now the West Coast and the northern half of the East Coast are reliably Democratic; the South and Mid-West are reliably Republican; and only a half dozen or so “swing states” determine the outcome. These are Florida and Ohio and Colorado and New Hampshire and New Mexico, and occasionally Virginia, or West Virginia, or Pennsylvania. Even North Carolina and Nevada went for Obama in 2008.

The deadlock in Congress is then largely reflected by the deadlock in the larger American electorate. More and more we don’t understand each other, and we don’t particularly like each other. But that distance between the two halves of the electorate is about to get a turbo-boost in this election. If there was a gulf in the electorate before, it’s about to become a chasm. This time the nation is divided in support of either an überqualified mainstream liberal, and a man that the rest of America literally views as a lunatic and con man.

When it comes to con men, anyone can be taken in. I’ve argued in the past that a gifted con man like Frank “Catch Me If You Can” Abnagale and Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter (aka Clark Rockefeller) can pull a fast one on just about anyone, until the con has been exposed. With Donald Trump, the con has been exposed. Anybody who cares to look can find out about his fraudulent Trump University, his four to six bankruptcies (depending on how you count), and how he has stiffed suppliers and subcontractors over and over again. They can find out about how he has lied repeatedly about his personal wealth, how he doesn’t own most of the properties that bear his name, how the company he managed with his father was sued by the federal government for repeated and systematic housing discrimination, and how he, with the aid of his attorney Roy Cohn (literally of “Joe McCarthy” infamy) used a “scorched earth” approach to anyone who had the temerity to stand up to him. Or they can just listen to him accusing the majority of Mexican men of being rapists, or of proposing that we adopt a NAZI-era style database of American Muslims to be able to keep track of them. It’s all there in the record.

But Trump’s supporters don’t care. They don’t care, because for 20 years, since it’s 1996 inception, the Fox News Channel has told conservative Americans whom to hate and whom to blame for their current inability to recapture the American Dream. Fox News signaled its devotion to propaganda right at the outset, by adopting the slogan “Fair and Balanced” when even the most cursory examination of their broadcasting made it plainly obvious that Fox News was anything but. They don’t care because since the 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, blowhards like Rush Limbaugh have been able to go on radio and assert any kind of drivel with impunity, and Limbaugh and his compatriots, just like Fox News, has been telling conservative Americans ever since whom to hate and whom to blame.

If Donald Trump wins election to the American Presidency, I will be filled with a white hot rage that will not abate until Trump is either impeached, finishes his term, or emulates Sarah Palin and quits while in office (once he discovers how much hard work is involved in being the President of the United States). If Donald Trump is elected President I will literally get a license to carry and buy myself a gun, because I don’t want to live undefended in a nation that could elect this man as President.[8] (Okay, I probably won’t really get a gun, but the notion reflects the depth of my feeling on this.)

I still don’t think that Trump will get elected, but I’ve at least had to prepare emotionally that this is actually a possibility. I’m uncomprehending that roughly half the American electorate thinks that this Captain of the Clown Car is literally qualified to be President of the United States. Going from Obama to Trump would be the most absurd bookend, and would undo whatever credibility we regained in the world community after eight years of President George W. Bush.

Regardless of what happens, one thing is clear: after this election, as a nation, we’re going to need to do a massive reassessment of how we can live together and still have a functioning democracy. Because it’s not working this way. One can only hope that Trump’s nomination will serve as an epiphany, as a cathartic wake-up call for the mainstream of the Republican party, and they come to recognize that they, in particular, must stop demonizing the opposition, must stop demonizing the federal government and must stop suggesting to their voters that compromise is a four letter word. (It’s a 10-letter word, befitting of the complexity that is involved.) It’s the American right that has moved ever more rightward, while the American left has stayed in the same general groove it’s been in for generations, and that imbalance is no longer sustainable. If Trump were to get elected, the American left would go ballistic, myself included, and while that might seem like an inviting idea to some, it really would not be good for the body politic. Let’s hope that sanity prevails somewhere along the line.

[1] On the other hand, Bill Clinton also had a large number of women throw themselves at him much in the same way that women have thrown themselves at professional athletes like Magic Johnson.

[2] In 1986 Arkansas moved from having two year terms for Governor to having four year terms, which is the norm around the country.

[3] Technically, it was the Paula Jones civil suit that led us to Monica Lewinsky, but it was the Whitewater prosecutors inappropriate jurisdictional grab in the Paula Jones civil suit that brought us Bill Clinton’s perjury and the impeachment trial.

[4] I also need to acknowledge the role that sexism plays in the way that we look at Hillary. But I also know enough progressive women and men where I don’t think it’s her gender, but her other attributes that are more at play in people’s complicated reactions to Hillary.

[5] Most recently the Donald has not been able to resist the urge to go after former Ms. Universe Alicia Machado, the woman that Hillary brought up in their first debate for the Donald’s shaming her about her weight. The Donald, proving once again that he cannot let an insult go, unleashed a twitter storm at 3:00 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, September 30, or about a week after the debate. In the Twitter storm the Donald falsely accused Machado of having made a sex tape and the Clintons of having helped her become a citizen.

[6] The only thing that unites the pro-Trump and anti-Trump electorate is that it’s members are all agreed that Trump doesn’t mean to do much of what he proposes.

[7] Yes, Mike Pence is also clearly devout, but not evidently any more devout than Tim Kaine. Pence is also a complete mismatch with Donald Trump, and only God knows how the two would actually govern together if elected.

[8] Which will put the lie to the notion that all progressives are opposed to the Second Amendment, or that we’re unwilling to arm ourselves.

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Hillary is not the “lesser of two evils,” America

If I hear one more person say about how the choice between the Donald and Hillary is “the lesser of two evils,” I’m going to platz.

This election is mostly about one evil. But even that is debatable. Initially, let’s step back and acknowledge that even the Donald is not actually evil. He may be an Übernarcissistic blow hard con-man, but I don’t think the Donald is actually evil. Which is not to say that he’s not actually dangerous. I think the #1 guy that the Donald has conned is himself. He seems to believe his own hype.

In the past I have argued, along with others, that the Donald is more like Silvio Berlusconi than Adolf Hitler. Berlusconi, the Italian media tycoon who has been Prime Minister of Italy on (count them!) four different occasions has not ruined the country of Italy. But he also has not helped. Berlusconi was more interested in partying and sexually harassing women while the Donald is more interested in limitless self-aggrandizement. Of course, Berlusconi has never had a nuclear arsenal at his command, which makes the Donald’s potential ascendancy all the more troubling.

If he were elected President, I’m guessing the Donald would be somewhere between completely ineffective and actively destructive to the United States of America. What there is virtually no chance of is that he would be an effective leader of any kind. But he could do an awful lot of damage.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is not evil at all. Not in any shape or form. She has a politician’s unfortunate tendency to prevaricate and to equivocate, and that’s part of the reason that I voted for Bernie Sanders. I’ve argued in the past that Hillary Clinton has lived too long in a bubble, and that she is the candidate of the liberal corporatocracy. I’ve also argued that Hillary is the female, democratic version of Mitt Romney: an ambitious policy wonk who has wanted to be President for too long to remember. Those, and her vote for the Iraq war, are some other reasons that I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Massachusetts primary. (That, and the fact that voting for a septuagenarian Socialist Jew as a serious candidate for President filled me with a kind of childish delight that’s hard to describe.)

But for all I know Bernie Sanders might be a dick. I know that another of my political heroes, former 4th District Congressman Barney Frank, is definitely a dick.[1] I know that from personal experience, from the experience of others, and in particular from my friend who was the sign language interpreter for Barney Frank on at least one occasion.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has tended to win people over when they’ve had the chance to work with her. This was true in her work prior to becoming the First Lady of Arkansas, it was true at the Rose Law Firm, and it was especially in her eight years as the Senator from New York. Hillary won people over by being a work horse and not a show horse. She was cooperative, she was prepared, she was not a diva, and she did not grandstand. Even her Republican colleagues agree on this. Again, when called into the Obama administration as Secretary of State, she won over the President but, just as significantly, almost all of her colleagues in the administration.

Now, Bill Clinton, when he was President, made some mistakes during the course of his administration.[2] These include, as people now acknowledge, his part in deregulating the financial industry, his support of the omnibus 1994 crime bill, and his pursuit of welfare reform.[3] But with one exception, these mistakes need to be laid at his doorstep, and not hers. That one exception is, of course, the bungled attempt at enacting a universal health bill.

But lest we forget, Bill Clinton was the steward of a long stretch of economic prosperity in the United States, just as Barack Obama leaves this country in much better financial shape than how he found it at the beginning of his presidency.

Hillary Clinton has been the real deal for a long time. Many people forget that right out of law school she was invited to work on the staff of the Congressional Watergate investigation. She was a protégé of Marian Wright Edelman and has been fighting the good fight, especially for women and for children, for just about all of her political life.

As I’ve argued before, people who hate Hillary have been successfully propagandized by partisans on the right. Whether it’s Hillary’s email server or her non-role in the Benghazi incident, the Republicans have made something out of nothing over and over again. These conspiratorial attacks have exacerbated one of Hillary’s worst tendencies, which is to get all defensive the moment that someone criticizes her. At the same time, no one has been attacked more successfully about things that are essentially not her fault than Hillary Clinton.

She is not evil.
She is not a compulsive liar, like Donald Trump.
She is not a terrible candidate.
She is the real deal.
Get over it, America.

[1] Interestingly, although you would think that they should, given that they are both cranky septuagenarian unreconstructed Jewish leftists, Bernie and Barney don’t get along very well.

[2] Thomas Franks has argued quite forcefully that Bill Clinton essentially enacted much of the Republican agenda while in office.

[3] Whether welfare reform was a success or not depends on where you sit. It did succeed in reducing the welfare rolls, but also increased levels of poverty and homelessness, especially among minority communities.

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This is why we’re obsessed with terrorism

If we want to know why Americans are obsessed with terrorism, all we need to do is look at the coverage of the two home-grown “terrorist” attacks that took place last Sunday night. One was the pressure cooker bombing attacks perpetrated by Ahmad Khan Rahami in New York and New Jersey, and the other the mall slashing attacks perpetrated by Dahir Ahmed Adan in Minnesota.

Both of these guys are ungrateful radical converts who decided to screw over the country that welcomed their families into its proverbial bosom. Both proved to be incompetent terrorists, lucky for us. And both of these stories deserved some coverage, but not the wall-to-wall coverage that it received in the national press.

I normally Tivo ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir. I don’t watch the whole thing, but I’ll watch 10 minutes of whatever might be interesting to me and then delete the rest. Last night the first 10 minutes of the broadcast was devoted to nothing but these two attacks. Nobody got killed. Both guys mostly demonstrated their ineptitude. With one of the bombs not exploding and still having a cell phone attached to it, I knew it would take the FBI like 5 minutes to track that idiot down.

Here’s something we forget, something that I’ve certainly forgotten. Jeffrey Toobin recently finished his fascinating history of the Patty Hearst affair – American Heiress (The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst) – and he makes the point that in the early 1970s, there were on average about 1500 political bombings a year.

I seriously did not remember that.

But I have no reason to believe that it’s not true.

Somehow we weren’t as obsessed with domestic terrorism back then as we are now with every little act of homegrown “Islamic” terrorism that pops up on our radar screen these days. It’s not that these acts are meaningless. I’m not saying that at all. But put them at the end of the newscast and give them the proportionality that they are due. Otherwise every Trump-wannabe is going to crawl out of their bunker in the years to come and run for office screaming bloody murder relative to terrorism.

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Not this time, Captain Hoodwink. (No, Hillary didn’t start the birther movement.)

One of the things that we attempt to do here at the Skeptic’s blog is to point out propaganda when we see it. Today is one of those days. Yesterday we wrote about the Donald’s acknowledgement last Friday that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.” While this was step in the right direction – for the Donald to finally acknowledge that the whole birther controversy was an outright lie and falsehood – we also wrote what so many other pundits and commentators have been writing, which is “not so fast” Donald.


Because the Donald clearly intends to reverse his position and then not have to explain the reversal or apologize for the fact that he had been intentionally and unjustifiable trying to demean President Obama on an issue that no thinking person would ever buy into. If you are a thinking person, you would know that the Republican Party, whatever else they may be, are NOT so incompetent as to allow an adversary to assume the Presidency if there were any chance at all that he did not meet one of the few explicit requirements for becoming President of the United States.

You would have to believe that the Republican Party, a party that if anything is known for its Machiavellian tactics – see the Wikipedia entries for Lee Atwater and Karl Rove if you don’t know what I mean – was so asleep at the switch that they allowed a despised adversary to assume the nation’s highest office TWICE without bringing as Constitutional challenge.

The birther movement was founded on an abject and obviously provable lie. And that is Trump’s legacy.

In his Friday announcement, Trump tried to slip another abject and provable lie into his 10 word announcement admitting that he was wrong, and announcement so short that it would have left 79 characters left on a single twitter post.

His new lie is the proclamation that “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.”

Trump then unjustifiable claimed credit by adding “I finished it.”

Yesterday I wrote that even ABC’s fact-checking this claim gives it more credibility than it deserves. But alas, our political environment is now so poisoned and there are so many people out there who hate Hillary even though they cannot articulate why[1], that as many as 40% of our electorate will probably believe that Hillary had something to do with the birther movement.

So, let’s debunk that little nugget even though it shouldn’t need any debunking at all.

The basis for the claim that Hillary’s 2008 Presidential campaign had something to do with the Birther movement is a story from Politico that was published in 2011. As patiently explained by Politico wrote on April 22, 2011, that “At the time, the Democratic presidential primary was slipping away from Hillary Clinton and some of her most passionate supporters grasped for something, anything that would deal a final reversal to Barack Obama.” The notion that Obama wasn’t born in the United States was supposedly that something.

Unfortunately for people who actually care about the truth, the Hillary campaign had nothing to do with the Birther movement. What did happen was that Philip Berg, a former Deputy Pennsylvania Attorney General and a Clinton supporter filed a lawsuit over Obama’s birth certificate. Berg’s suit was dismissed on grounds that he had no legal standing to file it. One of the authors of the Politico story, Byron Tau, admitted to that although they looked, “we never found any links between the Clinton campaign and the rumors in 2008.”

The other coauthor of the Politico story, Ben Smith, now the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, previously told MSNBC during a 2013 interview that the conspiracy theories traced back to “some of [Hillary Clinton’s] passionate supporters.” But he said the theories did not come from “Clinton herself or her staff.”

That’s it. That’s the whole basis for this rumor.

It should also be mentioned, as explained by, that On March 19, 2007, then Clinton adviser Mark Penn wrote a strategy memo to Clinton that identified Obama’s “lack of American roots” as something that “could hold him back.” That memo cited Obama’s “boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii” as life experiences that made his “basic American values … at best limited.” But Penn’s memo did not question Obama’s birthplace or his birth certificate. It advised Clinton to contrast her life experiences in middle America “without turning negative.”

As Buzzfeed noted, Trump tweeted in August 2012 that “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” In September of that year, Trump shared via Twitter an article claiming the birth certificate was fake. In a June 2014 tweet, Trump boasted, “I was the one who got Obama to release his birth certificate, or whatever that was!” And in 2013 he retweeted someone who alleged the long-form birth certificate was “a computer generated forgery.”

The Donald, as we should all know by now, is an asshole. But he’s also a lying, conning asshole who, like Fox News, will proclaim anything loudly and then, when caught in the lie, will just move on without explanation or apology.

Not this time Captain Hoodwink. It appears that the media has actually gotten so fed up with being lied to that they are – miracle of miracles – pushing back. Not this time, Captain Hoodwink.

[1] People who hate Hillary usually point to her being “dishonest” and that she somehow jeopardized our national security with the use of her private email server. The answer to which should really be a giant collective eye roll and a sigh of OH PLEASE! Compared to the Donald Hillary is the patron saint of honesty. While Hillary sometimes prevaricates and can be defensive, the Donald is provably and unambiguously a compulsive liar. In addition, the same people who are so up in arms about Hillary’s private email server conveniently have complete amnesia when it comes to the 22 million emails that the Bush White House lost during the U.S. Attorneys scandal.

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