Tag Archives: Hillary

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.


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.