Tag Archives: Clinton

Republican House Members Baying at the Moon

I have just finished reading the entire 235-page transcript of the Executive Session Committee on the Judiciary, Joint with the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, U.S. House of Representatives, December 7, 2018 in which the Republican majority questioned James Comey, former Director of the FBI about the same set of issues related to his public statements during the runup to the 2016 election and to his explanation of why former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not charged with criminal conduct related to her misuse of emails.

Suffice to say, the Republicans failed yet again to lay a glove on Comey, and I say that recognizing that many people, myself included, disagree strongly with his decision to tell the world, on the eve of the election, that the FBI had reopened its investigation of Clinton because of the discovery of a trove of her emails on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, husband of Clinton aide, Huma Abedin

After all the questioning and posturing, only two things emerged that are even interesting at this point in time.

One was the effort by Rep. Trey Gowdy, to compare unfavorably the treatment of Clinton regarding whether she had simply “made a mistake” and the treatment of President Trump and General Michael Flynn on the question whether on the question of his potential attempt at obstruction of justice by asking Comey to drop the Flynn matter. Recall that Comey immediately prepared a memo about Trump’s demand and shared it with senior people at the FBI.

In classic fashion for the Republicans, Gowdy suggested that a statement by former President Obama had stated, while in office, that “the target of an investigation that was ongoing simply made a mistake and lacked the requisite criminal intent.” Gowdy demanded to know whether Comey didn’t think that Obama’s statement was “potentially obstruction of justice.”

“Mr. Comey. I didn’t see it as — through the lens of obstruction of justice. I saw it as threatening our ability to credibly complete the investigation.

Mr. Gowdy. In what way?

Mr. Comey. The President of the United States offering a view on a matter or a case that’s under investigation, when that President is of the same party as the subject of the investigation and working for her election, would tend to cast doubt in reasonable people’s minds about whether the investigation had been conducted and completed fairly, competently, and independently…. It concerns me whenever the Chief Executive comments on pending criminal investigations, something we see a lot today, which is why it concerned me when President Obama did it.

Mr. Gowdy. Well, it concerns me too, Director Comey. I’m also concerned that people treat similarly situated people the same. And did you make a memo after President Obama said she made a mistake and lacked the requisite criminal intent?

Mr. Comey. He said that on FOX News.

Mr. Gowdy. Right.

Mr. Comey. I did not make a memo about the FOX News broadcast.


The second instance occurred when Jim Jordan made much about the fact that James Baker, then General Counsel of the FBI, had testified earlier that it was a unique circumstance that anyone would approach him directly with evidence of someone’s wrongdoing that the discloser claimed would warrant an FBI investigation. What Jordan did not do was acknowledge that Baker had in fact returned alter to clarify that he did remember another case, a completely different matter, in which precisely that had occurred. It was left to the Democrats (Ms.  Sachsman Grooms in this case, she being Deputy Staff Director for Rep. Elijah Cummings of MD) to ask what amounted to redirect questions to fully develop the record that the Republicans were trying to create with partial information from a prior hearing.

Overall, despite all the sturm und drang from the Republicans, it was the same old same old. This is not part of an investigation designed to get at the truth about some threat to the country. It is an entirely partisan attempt to buttress the President against the ugly truth that he tried to obstruct justice by directly asking the Director of the FBI to drop a criminal investigation involving the National Security Advisor that Trump had appointed. The hearing will resume on December 17.

Trey Gowdy, soon to retire from the House, has little time left to restore himself to the good graces of the President who tolerance for independent thought is below zero. Read the history of Trump-Gowdy here: “Trump allies gang up on Gowdy,” https://politi.co/2Lgl1SZ  It’s pretty amusing. We can expect more “fireworks” from the Republicans in the next round with Comey who must be getting pretty tired of answering the same stupid questions over and over. But that’s what the President’s sycophants do. They have nothing else.

The Sound of Fear, Starring the Trump Family Deniers

The latest revelation about the collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is about a meeting attended by the campaign manager Manafort, Trump Son No. 1, Donald Jr., and Trump-in-Law Jared Kushner. I won’t waste your time with the details which were first reported by the New York Times, a newspaper of global fame to which the Trump family has been notably hostile. Maybe not a good move on their part.

I want instead to focus on the narrative that the Trump Family, and its enablers like Kellyanne Conway, have tried to spin in response to the now-admitted meeting whose stated-in-advance purpose was to secure dirt on Hillary Clinton that was sourced in the Russian government. That narrative has a familiar ring as it seems to follow almost exactly the concept of “alternative pleading” that law students learn about in courses on trial practice.

The idea of alternative pleading is that since, in the early stages of a lawsuit, you don’t know for sure how things are going to play out, you, as the defendant accused of some wrongdoing are entitled by rules of court to plead alternative defenses, including defenses that are inconsistent with each other. The evidence will then show what it shows and some defenses will fail while others may succeed. To some extent it resembles the old saw about throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.

To illustrate, suppose a lawsuit is filed against D claiming D’s conduct was the proximate cause of injury to plaintiff P resulting in damages of X amount, which P therefore is entitled to recover from D. D’s typical first step is to move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. That is, in simple English, even if everything alleged by P is true, there was nothing wrong with D’s conduct and thus the suit should be dismissed. A “fake suit” in current Trumpian parlance.

Kellyanne Conway, among others, has made this precise argument: even if Junior was seeking dirt on Clinton, this is politics and there was nothing wrong with seeking such dirt that might help the Trump campaign. But this argument ignores the fact that the source of the information was the Russian government, which suggests conspiracy with a foreign power to affect the outcome of an American election. Most rational people consider that seriously wrong, possibly criminally wrong.

So, what next? Faced with the revelations about Junior’s meeting, to which he has confessed publicly via the Family’s chosen medium, Twitter, the Trump Family Deniers change the tune, moving toward classical alternative pleading. First, the story was “there was no such meeting,” Then, if there was a meeting, I didn’t attend it. But if I did attend a meeting, it was a waste of time because we didn’t learn anything with which to smear Clinton so I left the meeting empty-handed. So, even if I did attend the meeting with the intention to do harm to Clinton, no harm to Clinton arose from my conduct, so everything is okeydokey. No harm, no foul. Finally, even if there were some harm, we were just amateurs at politics so we can and should be forgiven our sins and let bygones be ….

In a lawsuit, this sort of stairway to the basement approach is perfectly acceptable practice and the Trump Family Deniers’ playbook appears to follow it quite closely. The problem, of course, is that this is not a lawsuit, not yet anyway.

Instead, it is the early-to-middle stage of investigation into one of the greatest scandals in the history of American politics. One of the singular features of the scandal is that, from the very outset, during the campaign itself, Trump made no secret of his desire for assistance from Russia among others and no secret of his desire to buddy-up with Vladimir Putin (who will be featured in my next blog post). At the same time. Trump repeatedly denied there was any connection between him and Putin or between his campaign and anyone connected with the Russian government. His fame as liar-in-chief, thoroughly documented by many observers, led many to suspect that the denials were false.

Slowly but surely, more revelations of contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign have emerged.  All the while Trump and his enablers, including Attorney General Sessions as well as several family members and key campaign players, have denied there is anything there. Their stories have changed over time, of course, as new revelations undermine the previous denials. This is starkly shown by the latest stories about Junior and Kushner meeting with a promised source of incriminating evidence on Clinton.

Even if it is true that the Russian lawyer with whom Junior/Kushner/Manafort met did not actually have any useful information and was really trying to influence Trump on the issue of adopting Russian children or to blunt the move to increase U.S. sanctions on Russia, the fact remains, and at this point appears to be undeniable and undenied, that the purpose of the gathering, from Junior’s point of view, was to seek Russian help in the battle with Clinton. And, of course, he wants everyone to believe that the President knew nothing of the meeting.

So craven are the enablers of the Trump Family Deniers that Ed Rogers, in an op-ed in the Washington Post this morning, http://wapo.st/2uaPmNy, singing the familiar tune “hysteria among the media,” argues that,

No senior campaign official, much less a family member of the candidate, should take such a meeting. Having the meeting was a rookie, amateur mistake. Between human curiosity and a campaign professional’s duty to get the dirt when you can, Trump Jr. likely felt that the person had to be heard. However, the meeting should have been handed off to a lackey. Said lackey would have then reported the scoop — or lack thereof — and awaited further instruction. [emphasis added]

What can one say after that? A fair reading of it, I suggest, is (1) perfect execution of “we were just amateurs at politics” defense, and (2) in a play right out of the Godfather, never send anyone from the family to do the dirty work and leave fingerprints; send in one of the stooge soldiers who can be sacrificed if necessary to protect the family, (3) seeking dirt from dirty sources like the Russian government is just good political fun, so what’s the problem?

This “win at any cost” mentality may be part of what led Trump to confess to Lester Holt in the now famous interview that he was going to fire FBI Director Comey because of Comey’s pursuit of the Trump-Russia connection regardless of what the leadership of the Department of Justice recommended. Trump and his very very rich family are accustomed to getting their way without arguments and if you do argue, you’re fired.

Maybe I’m being naïve about politics but I continue to struggle with understanding how the Republican Party can continue to support this president, given that he has no real connection to conservative political values that have driven the Republican Party historically and is making a complete hash of the office of the President. He has accomplished nothing of positive significance since taking office six months ago while destroying international relationships that have sustained world peace for decades. More about this in the next post.

Trump and Putin – Two Peas

Commentators continue to marvel and puzzle over Not-My-President Trump’s apparent adulation of Vladimir Putin and, in turn, the adulation of Trump by the Rust Belt workers and families who have historically been the Democratic base. I have a theory of my own based on my and others’ observations of Trump’s behavior during the campaigns and since taking office.

Recall Jimmy Connors, the great tennis champion of the 1970s and 1980s who was known for his fierce competitive drive. When asked for an explanation of his ferocity in what had been a gentlemanly game, he said “I hate to lose more than I love to win.”

Trump sold his political base on much the same idea. With him as President, he claimed, the Rust Belt workers, who were either unemployed (and possibly unemployable) or were hanging onto tenuous positions in dying industries like coal mining and raw steel production and who felt, rightly, that they had “lost” something, would “win” again. No more losing!

Generally, behavioral economists tell us, loss-aversion is a stronger force on people’s thinking than is the opportunity to gain an equivalent value. Like Jimmy Connors, people really hate to lose especially employment that, in the American ethos, is so central to people’s sense of self-esteem. That was the psychology that Trump played to in the campaign with his “jobs, jobs, jobs” and “Make America Great Again” themes. He called the Rust Belt voters the “forgotten people” and assured them they were “forgotten no longer.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was announcing multi-part complex plans to solve the dis-employment problem while promising to put coal companies and their employees out of business and condemning Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.” In essence, Trump’s simple message, while phrased in terms of “so much winning,” was actually “When I am president, you will no longer be losers.” By touching the “loser nerve,” Trump was able to capture the deep loyalty of his fan base that is seemingly impervious to repeated proofs that he has lied or made demonstrably false statements.

Now consider Putin. Many knowledgeable people in the Western world would describe Putin as dishonest, corrupt, despotic, a murderer and generally an immoral and evil person. To that description, Putin would likely have one answer: “Am I winning?”

Putin’s answer would be ‘yes,’ though the price of his “winning” is being paid in impoverishment of much of the Russian population along with suppression of opposition speech, among other horrors. To which Putin would respond again, with a smirk, “Am I winning?” That is the only relevant metric for him. His political goal, to the extent one exists beyond ill-gotten accrual of personal wealth, and the likely source of such support as he enjoys among some Russians is the restoration of the Russia of days gone by – a global superpower equal to or even dominant over the United States and the “West.” Not too far in concept from Trump’s “Make America Great Again” theme. Putin uses different techniques than Trump to advance his agenda, but in fundamental ways the goals are very similar. The crucial point is that losing and winning are not equivalents. “Avoiding loss” carries more psychological heft than “winning.”

That perception is, I believe, the true meaning behind the question he reportedly kept asking as the ObamaCare “repeal and replace” legislation unraveled: “Is the Ryan legislation a good bill?” He really meant “am I going to lose with this bill?”  When it became clear that losing was almost certain to happen, he abandoned the effort before the losing could become choate in a House floor vote.

Trump hates to lose and ending the healthcare fight was a way to avoid losing, even if in reality he did not achieve his goal and by any objective standard would be seen as having lost with resulting damage to his self-image as an infallible deal-maker. When he was widely portrayed in the media as having lost the ObamaCare replacement fight, he immediately reversed course and said that the battle was not over and that negotiations were on-going, an assertion now shown by recent reports to be true. http://wapo.st/2nYE37S.

Given Trump’s history and lifestyle, it is hard to imagine he ever really got to know people like those who are now his most ardent supporters. It is highly unlikely that he is capable of genuine empathy regarding their situation. But Trump doesn’t have to genuinely care about those people in order to “win” with them. He showed during the health care battle that he was prepared to deprive millions of them of health care coverage in order to avoid losing the fight to repeal ObamaCare. And, by recent accounts of what is being discussed among Republicans as a “compromise” approach, the “essential benefits” and “pre-existing conditions” coverages that he promised to keep are now expendable. One solution reportedly being considered is to amend the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) so that the states can individually decide which essential benefits to retain. In the states the influence of the giant corporations and the big-money SuperPACS is even greater than at the federal level, so the principal benefits of the ACA will likely be diluted or eliminated.

On the other hand, we are now witnessing an apparent backlash against Trump’s agenda at multiple Town Hall meetings of Republican legislators. Republicans are facing the wrath of their constituents who are finally beginning to recognize the threat of the Republican agenda to their welfare. The reality that Trump lied to them appears to be sinking in, as his popularity in polls has fallen to 35 percent.

It is, on the other hand, often reported that many of his infatuants still appear to forgive him every sin, no matter what he does or says. These folks are impacted by a real conundrum. Trump promised to lift them up from their “loser” status. He is failing to deliver on those promises, but his base really hates to return to being losers. Losing is the worst thing and they have nowhere else to turn that offers the same comfort. So they reject the idea that their chosen champion has played them. They refuse to accept a self-image of being losers and … chumps.

Putin, of course, doesn’t have to worry about whether his constituents approve of his policies. His dictatorial control over the state machinery of compulsion assures that he cannot be displaced or even seriously challenged. Putin hates to lose too and no doubt understands what might happen to him if he were displaced, given that Russia is not wedded to the peaceful transfer of power. He would readily crush any opposition with any and all means at his disposal.

Trump doesn’t have the same tools at this disposal as Putin, so he is forced to negotiate when he would prefer to dictate. That Trump admires Putin so much is one of the most disturbing aspects of his status as President of the United States. One wonders whether Trump would attempt to use the instruments of state compulsion to get his way if he believed he was otherwise completely blocked and that he was losing his hold on the infatuants who continue to believe he can do no wrong. He is showing signs of that in his deportation policy and in the latest announcement that the Department of Justice consent decrees on law enforcement practices in some major cities may have gone too far in compelling the use of non-violent policing practices.

Ultimately, Trump’s affection for Putin may be his undoing. The investigation of the Russia connections, and possible collusion, involved in the presidential campaign is on-going and almost every day some new revelation emerges that strengthens both the concern about possible collusion to influence the election and the concern about Trump’s efforts to sabotage the investigations. To the more suspicious mind, there is a major cover-up underway whose unmasking would likely bring about the premature end of the Trump presidency.

Assuming that does not occur, the 2018 electoral season is afoot and it’s time to prepare to act where it matters most. The challenge for the Democrats is to relearn the language that in the past had earned them the voting loyalty of the working-class American. It is not enough to offer complicated ten-point plans to these citizens. They have experienced loss, are suffering deeply as a result, both economically and psychologically. If Democrats are to be successful in regaining their prominence with this voting group, they have to change how and what they are communicating. Trump still knows how to talk their language and the Democrats need to catch up.

And they need to do it fast.

Trump Spits in Women’s Faces; Calls on Nation to … What?

I am not making this up. Tomorrow the Federal Register of the United States will publish a Presidential Proclamation declaring that January 20, 2017, the date of Trump’s inauguration, shall be a “National Day of Patriotic Devotion,” the stated purpose of which is to “strengthen our bonds to each other and to our country — and to renew the duties of Government to the people.” See http://bit.ly/2j6VtJC  See also http://wapo.st/2j7soOc The proclamation is quite precise as to the date and does not say that the date is to be so recognized in future years. It appears, therefore, to be solely about Trump’s inauguration, attempting to unify the concepts of his election/inauguration and patriotism. The cult of personality is now with us. Can loyalty oaths be far behind?

This action aligns with the signing of an Executive Order today that cuts off U.S. funding to international non-governmental organizations that perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other countries. The history is that this “Mexico City Policy” was announced by President Reagan in 1984, rescinded in 1993, restored in 2001, rescinded in 2009 and now, once again, is restored. Women of the World, Trump has heard your cry for control of your own bodies and responded with contemptuous spit.

The monumental Women’s March on January 21 had better be the kickoff of a unified national and even global movement to counteract what Trump has in store or the essential nature of the American experience will be lost. Mobilize now.

The Democratic Party needs to make a decision too. Is it going to try to outplay Trump at his own game, or accept his rejection of “politics as usual” and take the game to him. The Party must get organized, develop an action strategy and communicate it through the massive networks developed by the Obama and Clinton organizations. Trump is going to pick everyone apart if they continue to try to placate him with “we want to work with you.” He has made it clear there is only one basis on which he will work with anyone and that is on terms he sets. The Party must decide where its soul is and act accordingly or abandon the pretense that it represents the liberal/progressive cohort in our politics.

As for the media, you have clearly been warned. It’s déjà vu all over again. Richard Nixon has risen and is embodied in Donald Trump. You must stop depending on the White House to feed you what they want you to get.  Stop giving air time to people like Kellyanne Conway just because they work for Trump. And please, please get rid of the Trump shills on the “panels of experts” that discuss everything Trump says and does. Go back to being news organizations. Trump is not entertaining.

Americans should not have to reply on the satire of Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show to point out the hypocrisy and absurdity of this administration and Congress. Take risks. Grab hold of stories and don’t give up. Where are the tax returns? What is he hiding? Call out the lies, every one of them. That alone will give you plenty to report on.

One President at a Time

I recall that some years ago, during the Bush-to-Obama transition period, then President-Elect Obama was asked a question about some foreign policy issue that had emerged and responded with, as I recall it, “In this country we have one president at a time.” Thus, he declined the invitation to step publicly on the out-going-but-still-in-charge, administration of President Bush.

Contrast that with the conduct of President-Elect Trump and his crowd of Know Nothings. The issue du jour is the question whether the Russians, perhaps at the personal direction of Vladimir Putin, interfered with the presidential election through electronic hacking. Having expressly urged the Russians to do this during the campaign, Trump is hard-pressed to stand up to the Russians now. But there is another option. He could remain silent. He could defer, for now, to the sitting president of the country by keeping his mouth shut in public about this question that goes to the heart of the nation’s ability to conduct its democratic politics.

Instead, Trump suggests, via Twitter, that the Obama White House was fine with the Russian hacking as long as it thought Clinton would win the election. Then he has his attack dog, Kelly Ann Conway, publicly question the loyalty and integrity of the sitting president in this oh-so-classless statement: “If you want to shut this down and you actually love the country enough to have the peaceful transition in our great democracy between the Obama administration and the Trump administration, there are a couple people in pretty prominent positions — one is named Obama, one is named Hillary Clinton, since his people are trying to fight over her election still, they could shut this down.” In other words, Conway is, in essence, communicating that “we won the election and we don’t care what evidence exists of foreign interference; you, Mr. President, are so disloyal to the country that you put political gain ahead of the national interest in a smooth transition, the only thing that matters right now.” If there is any lack of love for country here, that stone must lay at Trump’s own feet for placing the interests of Vladimir Putin and his anti-democratic politics ahead of the interests of the United States.

Trump’s willful ignorance of foreign affairs is so profound that he may not even realize how damaging this type of public conflict can be. It gives aid and comfort to our enemies by dramatizing in public the conflicts within our own government. If he read a few books and actually tried to learn something before shooting off his mouth, it would do the country a great service.

The hallmarks of autocracy are showing in much of what Trump has said and done since the election. He has personally attacked American corporations and personally attacked individuals who voiced disagreement with his policies.  His transition team has demanded the names of government employees involved in climate change research (later retracted in the face of public outrage), and launched broad-based and factually-deficient attacks on the U.S. intelligence community (in the face of FBI concurrence in the CIA’s analysis of the Russian cyber-attacks) and made clear that anyone who opposes him risks being publicly excoriated by the President himself. This is one of the principal techniques that autocrats use to silence criticism and dissent, the hallmarks of free speech and the means by which a democracy tests and improves its ideas.

In the immediate aftermath of the election, Secretary Clinton’s supporters were told “it’s time to suck it up, accept the outcome and get behind the new administration. Support the success of the new leader, for the benefit of the country, they were told. Every day, and every new revelation, makes it that much harder to follow that advice. The Republican politicians who eviscerated Trump during the Republican primaries and the general election have largely lined up at Trump Tower to seek forgiveness, redemption and of course, jobs in the administration. Their dissent has been interesting to watch but so short-lived as to lack any moral foundation.

The evidence is mounting that Mr. Trump only understands how to run a company where he is the sole owner and the only voice that matters. The United States government is so much more complex, so vast in reach and faces such different and more difficult challenges that his experience as the “boss” on reality TV (whatever that is) and building a real estate empire is utterly and completely irrelevant. He has said he is too smart to need regular briefings from our intelligence experts, that he pretty much knows what he needs to know, getting most of his information from postings on the Internet. He had denied the legitimacy of the scientific consensus on climate change, endorsed the possibility of using torture and taken other positions in overt conflict with American values. He has reportedly “walked back” some of those positions since the election, but why should we believe anything a remorseless liar says? Apparently, Trump’s mother did not teach him the lesson of the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

The Rust Belt voters who turned to Trump after hearing his rhetoric about returning old-style jobs to the area are going to be bitterly disappointed when they discover the harsh truth that such jobs are not competitive and simply cannot be restored to their central place in our manufacturing plants of yesteryear. A thoughtful piece in the Washington Post just today explains that there are many more jobs available in the Midwest than there are qualified people to fill them:

“Although some companies and state programs will cover tuition bills, some workers, particularly those who have held the same job for decades, are hesitant to take them up on the offer, even if unemployment is imminent and the wages are competitive.”

As manufacturing evolves, skilled labor hard to find,” Washington Post, Dec. 16, 2016, at A14.

The problem of dis-employment due to technological advances that produce more with less human input is a major economic challenge for all advanced countries. The solution, like the solution to climate change, will not be found through promises of a return to the “old ways.” That is the stuff of fantasy, a cruel one at that, because it plays on the deepest anxieties of a lot of good people caught up in forces of change they don’t, and in many cases simply don’t want to, understand. Living a lie does not make it any truer.

Obama, with generosity of which he alone among political leaders seem still capable, continues to say that Trump and his “team” are still largely in campaign mode and have not yet come to grips with the realities of governance. That is how he appears to explain Ms. Conway’s remarks. He appears to believe genuinely that these assurances will indeed have a calming influence. We are a little over a month away from the inauguration when all the powerful instruments of government will be at the disposal of the Commander-in-Chief.

Those who still believe in democracy, who still believe that policy should be driven by facts rather than whatever people prefer to believe, who believe in science, who believe that a cornerstone of our freedom is the freedom to speak, write and perform without fear of chastisement, or worse, by the government … they must never yield in their active opposition to the degradation of American values. They must speak out and act up, remembering that the whole world is watching.

Notes From The Field

My wife and I arrived in Cleveland, Ohio on October 26, to join with other union staff and members from California, Texas, Chicago, Washington DC area and locally in the “ground game” to elect pro-labor candidates. The mission is to visit hundreds of thousands of homes personally to urge prospective voters to adopt a plan to vote on Election Day and to identify supporters of Hillary Clinton and Senate candidate Ted Strickland. My role has been to provide transportation for two-man teams who do the actual walking in neighborhoods in and around Cleveland.

The teams are armed with some data about the voters they are trying to contact face-to-face. Data has shown that these types of contacts result in a significant increase in actual voting. Since early voting is legal in Ohio, the teams also urged prospective voters to take advantage of that opportunity and avoid the likely crowds on Election Day.

Ohio is considered a “swing state, having produced Democratic majorities for President in 2008 and 2012 (Obama) and Republican wins in 2000 and 2004 (Bush), preceded by victories for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. It is generally believed to be “in play” in the current election. Stimulating maximum turnout is thus the key to assuring victory for either side. Tomorrow the issue will be decided.

It is likely too late to influence how individuals will vote, but not to late to motivate them to go to the polls. Thus, the “walker” campaign” has been out every day, rain (plenty of it) or shine, working until sunset today and starting again tomorrow, continuing until it is too late for anyone to get to the polls.

The reactions among the population have been varied and interesting. I write now to simply share some of the stories that have emerged from this effort of 15 committed walkers knocking on door after door. One or two people greeted the walkers with “get the f_____ off my lawn” or “don’t come around here with that stuff.” But the vast majority was at least polite and most said they were going to vote, or had already voted, for Hillary Clinton. One young Muslim couple was approached as they mowed their lawn. They said, somewhat timidly, that this was the first time they were voting in the United States. Their reticence to talk was understandable since in their former homeland speaking about voting to the wrong person could get you hurt. Not here.

A couple of people in cars stopped to ask what we were doing and, upon hearing the explanation, responded with “thank you, thank you for what you are doing.” One even made the sign of the cross. One young man came out onto his porch to listen, then said “I’m voting for Clinton, man. I’m Mexican.” At another house an elderly man, who seemed puzzled at first, proclaimed proudly “I’m a union man. I’m for Hillary!” Numerous talks ended with “good luck with what you’re doing.”

Some people, especially in the poorer neighborhoods, were suspicious at first, perhaps because strangers at their doors usually mean trouble. Some had limited English but would call someone, usually younger, to the door to translate. One inquired about me, following slowly along behind my walkers. “Is that guy with you? There are drug dealers in this neighborhood.”

Very few houses visited responded with “I’m not going to vote,” but one who did say that added, “I will vote for Jesus; he’s going to take care of everything. He’s going to eliminate all the evil people.”

There were a few instances of hostile men answering the doorbell when the walker was actually looking for the lady of the house and refusing to call the woman to the door. Hopefully those women will enjoy the privacy of the polling station to cast their ballot the way they want.

Tomorrow it’s over. There is much anxiety about the Ohio vote and overall outcome of the election. But the walkers will not give up until it is too late to get anyone out to the polls, which close here at 7:30. Many other groups are also working the multitude of neighborhoods that comprise Cleveland and its suburbs. Our team of 15 will then gather at a local restaurant to watch the election returns together. All told, in just the Cleveland area, hundreds of thousands of homes will have been visited. For the walkers there have been moments of rejection and moments of joy that will likely never be forgotten. Stories were shared during daily meetings and occasional group meals. There is nothing left to do but wrap up, clean out the staffing headquarters and await the outcome. On November 9, the volunteers will return to their homes. They will hold their heads high because they did everything they could do.

I conclude with a request that, if you are undecided about who should be the next president, look at these two stories before you vote: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2016/11/07/a-disabled-boy-was-booted-from-a-trump-rally-the-next-day-he-got-to-meet-president-obama/ and https://youtu.be/cgkgMtVv1g4.

The Moment Of Truth Draws Nigh – What Will You Do?

The tendency to oversimplify complex questions has brought us to the brink of a monumental decision being driven for, apparently, millions of voters by a frightful distortion of the essential issue to be decided. The central question is: which candidate is the most competent to assume responsibility for the leadership of the United States and, in many respects, the leadership of the Free World.

The United States government is likely the most complex institution in the world. The position of President has rightly been called the most difficult job in the world.

Consider a few facts. The U.S. government consists of three main branches: Legislative, Judiciary and Executive. There are 15 Cabinet level positions, hundreds of independent agencies and commissions (for example: CIA, NASA, FCC, SBA, FERC, FRB, SEC, EPA, NLRB, EEOC, Director of National Intelligence, NTSB, FTC and on and on). In addition, the government is partly comprised of federal corporations with far reaching responsibility (for example, Tennessee Valley Authority, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, USPS, FDIC, Export-Import Bank).

The Executive Branch, led directly by the President, interacts with all of those and has ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the country’s foreign relations, including, with some limitations such as formal declarations of war, the use of the vast military power of the United States.

No one, I suggest, would build a for-profit company that resembles the structure and responsibilities of the U.S. government, even if, somehow, that company could be vested with the power to tax citizens and to spend money on programs that have no immediate potential for return on investment. Fundamentally, government is different from a business, precisely because its functions are political and social in nature. Moreover, the argument that the government needs a good dose of “business thinking” fails because the reality is that the government employs many successful business executives in leadership posts and as advisors to the President. There is no shortage of inputs from the business community on any important question. The head of government does not have to be a businessperson in order to consider business advice or to apply business principles when they are appropriate.

You wouldn’t, I hope, ask a car mechanic to fix a broken tooth, and you likely wouldn’t think it wise to hire a 12-year old to run a multi-trillion dollar company.

Consider then, if you will, the type of person and the qualifications needed to lead such a complex government, constrained as the President always is by the Congress and the Judiciary, in a world that is rapidly being transformed by technologies that were science fiction a few decades ago and in which we face multiple global and in some cases existential threats from around the world.

One candidate is a businessperson whose experience is real estate development and being a TV celebrity. He is a very wealthy man, but acquiring vast riches is not a qualification for leader of the government. The other candidate has 30 years of experience in public life, including actual time in government, including terms as a U.S. Senator and in a Cabinet-level position. [I am aware that there is also a Libertarian Party candidate and a Green Party candidate, but neither has a snowball’s chance of election and I will not consider them further. Given our current voting system in which each citizen casts one vote for one person for each office, these parties represent only the potential for distortion and election of the weaker major party candidate.]

The businessperson-candidate has an admitted consistent pattern of bankrupting companies to escape paying debts, taxes and obligations to employees and contractors, who brags that this use of what the law allows “makes me smart.” The other candidate has a consistent and very long standing history of trying to improve the lot of children, women, working people and, in general, members of the lower and middle classes.

These considerations would, by most rational assessments weigh overwhelmingly in favor of the candidate who has actually been in government. But there is that issue of “trustworthiness” that keeps coming up in connection with Hillary Clinton. From her earliest days in political life as a feminist and aggressive supporter of the rights of children, she has been under relentless attack. A weaker person would likely have given up in the face of constant hostile scrutiny that has plagued her every move. All that said, however, Ms. Clinton could have been better at building a persona of trustworthiness than she has. But that concession to the anti-Clinton story line does not mean that she is unworthy of the Presidency.

On the contrary, consider if you will, the trustworthiness of Donald Trump. On any scale of truthfulness, Trump fails completely. Numerous neutral “fact checkers” have analyzed each of the candidates on multiple occasions and Trump breaks all records for lying and cheating, not to mention crassness, ill temperament and childish and offensive behavior. If it’s convenient, he simply denies that he said or did what the public record of video and audio proves otherwise. Like the child who didn’t turn in his homework, Trump just throws a tantrum and keeps on denying. Or he just changes to another position, then flips back to the original whenever he feels like pandering to his adoring crowds. On any reasonable analysis, there is no way that Trump comes out ahead on any index of trustworthiness.

But what about contributions to the Clinton Foundation being used to gain access to the Secretary of State, even if true, there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone, and in particular Secretary Clinton, benefited personally or inappropriately. There is abundant evidence that the Clinton Foundation has helped hundreds of thousands of children and adults around the world. Regarding the access question, people who think this is important should look closely at how politics is practiced in their own statehouse by leaders on both sides of the aisle. There is simply no plausible basis to believe that “access” will play a lesser role in a Trump administration. The idea is downright silly.

But what about the private email server that Secretary Clinton used while serving as Secretary of State? There is little doubt that the use of such a server for official emails was an ill-considered decision and Ms. Clinton has acknowledged that. Repeatedly. Despite exhaustive review, however, there is no evidence that the decision resulted in actual loss of secrecy of any classified material. In fact, it has been acknowledged that a private line was used when General Colin Powell was Secretary of State. That differed from a private server but General Powell’s published emails make clear he intended to avoid use of the State Department’s antiquated systems. No one to my knowledge has questioned General Powell’s loyalty.

In addition to the relentless Trump attacks, based on no evidence – mainly just name calling and unsubstantiated rumor mongering – the leadership of the Republican party has now made clear that if Clinton is elected, they intend by every means at their disposal to undermine her presidency. That, I suggest, is a far more serious threat to our democracy, a direct threat to the functioning of our government, than anything Hillary Clinton ever did. It should be repudiated at the ballot box by giving Clinton a resounding victory.

The question for readers of this post is: what will you do in the few remaining days before Election Day to share with friends and colleagues the message about what is at stake in this election and to urge them to reject the Trump attacks on decency, common sense and political reality? And how will you explain to your children and grandchildren who will want to know if Trump’s behavior as a candidate is acceptable? Time is short.


The Washington Post ran three editorials today that should have the rapt attention of all thinking Americans.

The first editorial observes that Donald Trump represents an existential threat to American democracy by his raising the specter that his victory will lead to criminal prosecution of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, because, as President, Trump will be able to order the government to prosecute and jail any enemies of his choosing. I am confident that Ms. Clinton is not intimidated by these threats. She is well-schooled in the tripartite legal system that divides power among three branches of government and thereby restrains the unlimited use of power by any one branch, including the Executive.

These threats should nevertheless give pause to anyone who remains undecided at this late stage of the campaign. As the Post notes, this type of threat conflicts with the peaceful transition of power in a democratic society governed by a Constitution and not by a dictator. I suspect that Trump made these extreme statements mainly to pander to his core constituency who seem to be obsessed with thoroughly examined but unproven claims of email malfeasance while Clinton was Secretary of State, enhanced now by Trump’s repeated claims that the only way he can lose the election is if the voting is rigged. There are, of course, many other reasons that Trump could, and should, lose the election but from his “rat in the corner” position, striking out at the “rigged system” is probably the only strategy left to him.

I suspect that his defeat, which seems more likely every day, will lead to the vast majority of his core supporters just going home unhappy but equipped with new “evil forces” and conspiracies to complain about. They can take some solace in their moral certainty, removed from any connection to reality, that the “system” was against them and they never had a chance.

On the other hand, if Trump loses, will he, as the Post editorial implies, call on his “movement” to rise up against the United States in rejection of the outcome? This group of Americans appears to be impervious to facts, motivated by anger and fear and heavily armed. Mr. Trump should be very careful how he proceeds, lest he trigger events that will escalate beyond his control. ­­­By his own admission, he is not much interested in book learning, but he should at least scan Title 18, section 2381, wherein the definition of Treason is set out. Then he can start a new “reality” TV show, as some have speculated is his real objective.

The second editorial addresses the issues that the Post thinks should be covered in the final debate Wednesday night. It’s a really good list that includes many of the hugely important issues that will face the next president. It includes the nuclear threat from North Korea, Pacific Rim expansion by China, the failure of democratic movements around the world, cyber warfare, the endless dispute between India and Pakistan and others of similar gravity. It would be refreshing, though perhaps too much to expect even from a veteran like moderator Chris Wallace, that the debate will stay on track on the issues. For once, just once, the moderator should, I suggest, act aggressively to stop the personal attacks, evasions and mis-directions that have characterized the prior “debates.” Wallace should absolutely demand that the candidates not talk over each other, not interrupt and respond to the questions asked. Unless he does that, we likely will get just another harangue by Trump of his campaign talking points, which to date have precious little to do with substantive issues.

Finally, and equally disturbing, the Post editorial board has called out Sen. John McCain for his recent statement that “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” This promise, from a man who claims his word is his bond, is essentially a reprise of the Republican congressional leadership’s oath that during Barack Obama’s first term in office, the main Republican goal was to defeat his agenda and to prevent him from gaining a second term. The Republican Party thus became the “party of no” and resisted almost all efforts to achieve bipartisan compromises on anything of substance, thereby, among other things, shutting down the federal government for a period of time.

­­­It appears that for the Republican Party, ideology trumps (forgive me) all other considerations. Sen. McCain is sending the message that more congressional deadlock lies ahead if a majority of the American people elect a president not of that Party’s choosing. This is a different form of political blackmail than Donald Trump’s normal fare, but it is blackmail nonetheless and Sen. McCain’s legendary deeds on behalf of his country cannot excuse it.

Time grows short. The army of Trump supporters has consistently shown that it not only has no objection to Trump’s constant lies, misogyny and other crimes against human dignity, but they in fact approve of them. They don’t care what the facts are – they just want to bring the house down. If we are not careful, they may succeed. This is the most important national election in modern times. If you agree with me, urge everyone you know to vote for Hillary Clinton. If some of them have to hold their noses, so be it. That will be the least of their worries if Trump succeeds.


Having watched yet another CNN display of breathless reporting of Hillary Clinton’s health episode, I am constrained to note the existence of another double standard at work in the 2016 presidential election. Wolf Blitzer spent many minutes haranguing New York Mayor Bill di Blasio about whether the illness should not have been publicly disclosed two days ago when first diagnosed and whether she must now make more detailed disclosures about her health. CNN played the video of Clinton stumbling into the SUV that was to take her away from the 9/11 memorial ceremony when she fell ill. And played it. And played it. Over and over again.

Yes, there was mention of the fact, yes fact, that the only health information disclosed by Donald Trump was a ludicrous letter from his gastroenterologist declaring Trump to be the most fit candidate in history. But the “story” was Clinton’s health and the implication was that she had withheld vital information from the public and might be suffering a devastating disability. CNN’s video feed to Yahoo.com earlier in the day included the SUV stumble video under a heading similar to “See Clinton Falter.”  Today’s early feed runs an opinion/reporting (it’s hard to tell) piece entitled “The no-transparency election” which appears to equate the disclosure positions of the two candidates.

The Clinton story on live CNN television was embellished by yet another “panel of political experts,” all familiar CNN faces, whose main interest seemed to be that Trump’s vice presidential partner, Mike Pence, had stated that all presidential candidates should disclose their tax returns and health records and therefore isn’t Mike Pence just the best supporter of his candidate Trump? That Mike Pence, boy, he’s better at supporting Trump than Trump is. What a guy!

Wow and Wow. To be clear, I believe it was a mistake for Clinton to fail to disclose the pneumonia diagnosis when it was made. Blame her staff for that one. Or blame her if you like. It was also a mistake to place her in a position where her medical condition could be photographed in such an awkward way. That one belongs to her staff.

But on the merits, the double standard at work here is that Hillary Clinton has already released a large trove of medical records and many years’ worth of tax returns, while her opponent has relied on an intestinal specialist to address his health in a useless and summary way and has used trivial and nonsensical excuses for refusing to disclose his tax returns. If there is real “news” in this, it should be about what Trump is hiding. CNN should be running a countdown clock or something similar, showing the number of days that Trump has refused to provide meaningful information about either subject. Why is CNN not reporting this important issue every day?

The CNN treatment of Ms. Clinton effectively punishes her for providing more disclosure than her opponent, whose intransigence is remarked upon mostly in passing. Future candidates may take note of this and follow Trump’s lead by refusing full disclosure. The longer he gets away with this outrage, the greater the precedent for future candidates who, like Trump, have something to hide. This issue goes beyond Trump’s likely false claims about his massive personal charitable giving, which is important as regards his credibility. Trump’s worldwide business holdings raise a unique question of how he would separate himself from those interests if he were elected President of the United States. With less than two months left before the election, is it not time that the press, in addition to fulminating over Ms. Clinton’s temperature, began seriously demanding answers to that critical question? Will the media pursue this in the upcoming debates or continue to badger Clinton about the emails and Benghazi, about which she has endured endless examination in Congress and elsewhere?

Is the explanation for this obsession with Ms. Clinton’s health, while effectively giving Trump a pass on the issue, a product of the old saw that a woman is a more delicate creature than a man and thus any show of weakness is a possible sign of more serious inadequacies? Trump has been making such claims for some time, without any factual basis. Catching a cold, or a lung infection, is a factual basis for saying that Ms. Clinton, like most humans, is susceptible to occasional illness. But she is not the first to stumble. There was George W. Bush in Japan at a state dinner. And, of course, Gerald Ford was a habitual stumblebum but never disqualified, for that reason, from being president. There are others.

And, yes, I am aware of the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle and the problems it presents, but CNN is at least somewhat self-aware and therefore has the capacity to resist the temptations it creates. The managers at CNN should take a serious look at the manner in which the network covers this election. Having provided Donald Trump with a daily platform for every fabrication and insult that he has uttered since entering the primaries, CNN should look inward and be sure it is not implicitly buying into the Trump song and dance. And, oh yes, North Korea has a deliverable nuke program in the works. CNN??


It is a safe bet that some time before the November balloting, there will be several presidential debates, likely in the format of past debates. The questions will almost certainly cover the full ambit of domestic economics, foreign policy, security and the other usual suspects. There are two issues, lingering unresolved from the primaries, that will also be raised. Phrased pejoratively, they are:

  • What is Donald Trump hiding by refusing to disclose his tax returns as other candidates have been doing for decades?
  • What promises did Hillary Clinton make in her paid speeches to protect Wall Street from more aggressive government oversight and to resist new taxes on the extra-wealthy (familiarly known as the “one percent”)?

Let’s consider these one at a time. Trump first. Trump’s oft-repeated excuse for withholding his tax returns is that he is being audited and no one would ever disclose returns that are under audit.

This is pure hokum. The fact that an audit is underway has nothing to do with the reasons the public should know what is in the filed returns. First, and importantly, every individual who has reportable income must sign an oath at the end of the tax return that reads, in relevant part: “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return and accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct and complete.” If it’s a joint return, the spouse must also sign the oath.

This means that, when submitted, the disclosed income fully accounts for reportable gross income as defined by the Internal Revenue Code and relevant regulations. While it is theoretically possible that an audit might reveal that too much income was reported, this would be a very unusual case, especially if the return were prepared, as surely Trump’s were, by a professional tax advisor/accountant/tax attorney. In any case, people who inadvertently report too much income would likely not be too worried about disclosing their generosity, no matter how misplaced.

On the other hand, if one had made much publicly of how wealthy he was and the under-oath return showed significantly less income, there would be a serious credibility question, among other things.

The other aspect of audits is, of course, that they examine whether the taxpayer has claimed inappropriate deductions, exemptions or exclusions. This is where the real fodder sits. No doubt Mr. Trump’s tax returns are very complex, given the multitude of companies, partnerships and other legal entities likely connected to his vast real estate holdings and other business ventures. No doubt he has aggressively sought to limit his tax liability, which is everyone’s right as long as avoidance does not slip into evasion.

Much about the way Trump does business would likely be revealed by disclosure of his tax returns. For example, the extent of his charitable contributions would be revealed.   Trump has crowed often about his generosity (despite questions that repeatedly arose about the lack of evidence that promised monies were actually paid) The returns would also likely show the extent to which his business expenses are incurred in off-shore business operations designed to reduce taxes paid in the United States (which may be lawful under the current tax system but would be relevant to his political claims made about how our economy can and should operate).

Even if the audit later revealed that all of the claimed deductions/exemptions/exclusions were entirely proper under current tax law, there is no reason to withhold the data until the auditors finish their work. Moreover, the tax code is complex, so it would not be surprising if adjustments were proposed by the auditors. This would not indicate, necessarily, any nefarious behavior on Trump’s part … but it might. Trump would, of course, benefit politically if his return were found 100 percent correct, just as he would be hurt if significant problems were uncovered. He appears to be more concerned about the risks of a bad audit than the rewards of a clean bill of health. This issue will definitely come up in the debates and we can only hope that the questioners have done their homework and don’t sit still for a repetition of the “audit excuse.”

Now, to be fair, we must also consider the question of Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches to firms on Wall Street following her service as Secretary of State. There seems little doubt that either Trump or the debate moderators will raise the issue of Clinton’s refusal to disclose the speech transcripts, assuming such exist.

Is it plausible to believe that Clinton, aware of the intense interest in everything she said and at least contemplating if not already decided to run for President, would make damning statements that, regardless of contractual assurances of privacy, would eventually leak out? Is it plausible to believe that since nothing has leaked out, nonetheless there is a vast conspiracy of silence at work here for which Clinton is “bound” to deliver reciprocal benefits to Wall Street if elected? It is possible, but it seems extremely unlikely that a political pro like Clinton would make anything reasonably resembling a reciprocal commitment to Wall Street when speaking to hundreds of people she didn’t know, any one of whom might be secretly recording the statements.

On the other hand, whatever she did say was not likely a “spit in your eye” to her paying hosts. Nor is there any reason to expect her to behave that way. Would any expressions of gratitude for the opportunity to speak be twisted and used against her politically? This would be a legitimate concern if, as is very likely, she was already determined to make a run for the presidency. Clever pundits on the right have already conjured up inventions of what she must have said, even though they have no hard information about what she did say.

We have seen a few scattered reports attributed to unidentified attendees at the Goldman Sachs speeches indicating that the speeches were coddling up to bankers. Since we don’t know the politics of these unidentified sources, and there are other interpretations from attendees indicating they heard nothing out of the ordinary (“It was one smart person talking to another smart person about global macroeconomics,” according to another unnamed source), there is simply no basis for speculation about the content of the speeches.

Some “observers” have argued that no one gets paid more than $200,000 to speak without an expectation of reciprocal pay-off down the road. Maybe, but there are plenty of reasons a firm like Goldman Sachs would want to bring a big-name speaker like Clinton before its audience. One is that it makes Goldman look more powerful to its audience of employees and investors – this is a common explanation for the high fees earned by “big name” speakers all the time. In other contexts, big fees are paid to big names to draw attendance to an event, for the simple reason that people are interested in seeing and hearing famous people, even those who, unlike Mrs. Clinton, have little of substance to say. A little research into the speaker marketplace will substantiate the argument that high fees are commonplace.

Clinton’s critics have not had much to say about one of her appearances as the keynote in connection with a 2014 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women: Proving the Case for Women Entrepreneurs dinner. The criticism is, it appears, a one-way street.

All that said, this issue is not going away. One hopes Mrs. Clinton and her advisors are prepared to address it forthrightly when the time comes, as it certainly will. There is reason to hope that once disclosed, these speeches will contribute less to Mr. Trump’s campaign than the revelations of his tax returns will add to Clinton’s chances.