Category Archives: WH 2016

Webb on a Matter of ‘Distinction’

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza examines Hillary Clinton’s “inevitability” and profiles possible challengers Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb. Here are a few excerpts on my fav:

webb-jim001Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who served one term, from 2007 to 2013, and then retired, has the potential to win the beer-track vote. … Webb is a moderate on foreign policy, but he is a Vietnam veteran from a long line of military men. After the war, Webb became a writer. His most famous book, “Fields of Fire,” published in 1978, is a novel based on his own experiences and has been credibly compared to Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage” for its realistic portrayal of war. Webb has always moved restlessly between the military and politics and the life of a writer. In the late seventies and early eighties, he worked as a counsel on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and later as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy. He has also travelled around the world as a journalist for Parade. …

In his senatorial race, Webb did well not only in northern Virginia, which is filled with Washington commuters and college-educated liberals, but also with rural, working-class white voters in Appalachia. In 2008, those voters were generally more loyal to Clinton than to Obama, but Webb believes that he could attract a national coalition of both groups of voters in the Presidential primaries. He laid out a view of Wall Street that differs sharply from Clinton’s. …Senator-Jim-Webb-001

“Because of the way that the financial sector dominates both parties, the distinctions that can be made on truly troubling issues are very minor,” Webb said.

“If you don’t have stock, and a lot of people in this country don’t have stock, you’re not doing very well,” Webb said. ….

As President, he says, he would be aggressive about taxing income from investments: “Fairness says if you’re a hedge-fund manager or making deals where you’re making hundreds of millions of dollars and you’re paying capital-gains tax on that, rather than ordinary income tax, something’s wrong, and people know something’s wrong.” …

“There is a big tendency among a lot of Democratic leaders to feed some raw meat to the public on smaller issues that excite them, like the minimum wage, but don’t really address the larger problem,” Webb said. “A lot of the Democratic leaders who don’t want to scare away their financial supporters will say we’re going to raise the minimum wage, we’re going do these little things, when in reality we need to say we’re going to fundamentally change the tax code so that you will believe our system is fair.”

Read More Webb on other issues, plus profiles of MD Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

No More Soggy Fries

Time for fresh meat. The old Democratic Party collapsed yesterday. Crony capitalists posing as populists. Paying lip service to the working class and small business. Let the Republicans own that charade. How else do you explain voters in red states like Arkansas raising the minimum wage while electing Republicans who oppose it? Because Democrats are so beholden to big business they won’t even speak to that sentiment. If this repudiation of the Democratic hierarchy is to prevent more of the same bring on some new thinkers and candidates who actually give a damn about average folk.

Still Hoping For Change

Retired Des Moines Register Opinion pages editor Richard Doak, is not just making sense, but damn good sense:

I have voted proudly in every state and national election for more than 50 years. Voting fulfilled a civic duty and came with a sense of wonder at democracy in action. Election Day was always a good day to be an American.

Not so much anymore. I can’t remember a year when voting was so unsatisfying. Casting an early ballot in 2014 felt like a chore. There was no pride or enthusiasm. There was something close to indifference.

That might partly be due to a case of viewer PTSD from being carpet-bombed by attack ads, but the malaise goes deeper than that.

It comes from the realization that nothing much will change no matter which candidates win on Tuesday.

Say it again, nothing will change.

Oh, Republicans talk a good game of cutting spending and reducing the size of government, but they won’t. The last time they were in power they did the opposite.

They talk of replacing Obamacare, but they won’t, because they haven’t the foggiest idea how. Besides, the big health care corporations have a stake in Obamacare, and Republicans aren’t in the habit of crossing the corporations.

Democrats talk the talk of helping the middle class, but when they get a chance they only nibble around the edges.

Take college affordability, for instance. Democrats loudly proclaim they want to reduce the interest rates on student loans. Big deal. What middle-class kids really need is affordable tuition so they don’t have to borrow in the first place.

But making college more affordable would require replacing tuition revenue with tax revenue, mostly from the affluent. Democrats, for all their populist rhetoric, aren’t about to irritate the affluent by taxing them to pay tuition for middle-class kids.

Both parties are in thrall to the affluent and other powers that be, including corporations, CEOs, Wall Street financiers, free-market ideologues, business and trade associations. There is no handy label for this conglomeration of power. Call it the business lobby. Better, call it the plutocracy. Government is tightly in its grip.

Which is why nothing is going to change. At the moment, the rich and powerful seem to like things pretty much the way they are, so the nation will continue to have a do-nothing Congress and a feckless president.

It’s hard to pinpoint when America stopped being a popular democracy and became a plutocracy. It happened gradually, insidiously over several decades. Private power has penetrated every facet of government from a Congress that has been bought outright, to a Supreme Court that believes corporations are people, to a bureaucracy that is increasingly run not by public employees but by private contractors.

We have ended up with a government of, by and for commercial interests. No wonder that inequality of wealth has become the defining feature of life in the United States. That’s what the people with the power arranged to happen.

Under the circumstances, it doesn’t matter much which party is nominally in control of the government. Republicans happily do the bidding of the plutocrats they call job creators. Democrats are paralyzed by the fear of being labeled anti-business and try not to offend the powerful. Either way, the result is about the same.

When the lords of banking came within an eyelash of causing another Great Depression, Republicans rushed to their defense and opposed any efforts to rein in their excesses. Democrats demanded reform but were too timid to pass anything except watered-down regulation that really didn’t change much.

Nothing ever changes.

Then there is President Obama. He promised change, but didn’t deliver. Perhaps that is because in his major decisions Obama has been remarkably solicitous of the rich and powerful.

Obama’s Affordable Care Act, far from being a socialist takeover of health care, operates mostly through private sector health care companies. It strengthens the private sector by subsidizing the purchase of insurance. It locked in this country’s expensive reliance on the private sector to deliver health care and guaranteed health care executives would keep getting rich.

Obama also locked in something else — most of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. Those cuts were set to expire automatically, but Obama rescued most of them and made them permanent. That act left the government chronically short of revenue, and it guaranteed Obama’s presidency would be a lot like that of George W. Bush’s.

Obama has essentially been Bush-lite, which was probably bound to happen no matter who was president. Nothing much ever changes with the plutocracy in charge.

The pattern has been the same in state governments, with states falling all over each other trying to be the most generous in giving benefits to corporations and the wealthy.

There’s no indication that will change no matter who wins election on Tuesday.

A century ago, the United States was in a similar situation. The robber barons of industry and banking ran the government for their own benefit, presiding over an era of vast inequality. America appeared doomed to a future of the fabulously wealthy few ruling over the beaten-down many.

Then the public rose up and reasserted democratic rule. People voted for income and inheritance taxes to lessen the concentration of wealth and power. They enacted reforms such as primary elections and direct election of senators to take control of politics away from the party bosses. They enacted consumer protections and broke up monopolies. They built free public high schools so that working class kids could be educated beyond eighth grade.

The Progressive Era reforms and the later New Deal eventually created an unprecedented era of shared prosperity with a growing and thriving middle class, but today we’re back to robber baron levels of inequality and a stagnating middle class.

What’s depressingly different this time is that the public seems to have no inclination to rise up and reassert control. There is no mass movement to take the country back from the plutocrats and their politicians. There are no leaders capable of rallying the country to action, as Theodore Roosevelt did a century ago.

So the ballot offers no opportunity for real change. Voting becomes a rote act of civic duty exercised with little hope that the future will be any better than the present.

That’s the melancholy way it is for this voter in 2014.

Richard Doak is the retired editor of The Des Moines Register’s opinion pages.

Christie Misses the Memo

My wife and I work in a local school district. In the past few years no issue has received more attention than that of ‘bullying’.

Whether in the classroom, in the hallways, or on the school bus, our district like so many others across the nation has adopted a zero tolerance approach to bullying. All members of the staff from administrators and teachers to custodians and school bus drivers receive training in recognizing and intervening in suspected cases of bullying. We have even adopted a method for students to report bullying anonymously via a tip line.

One of the most revealing things about this program is the support it receives from the public. It cuts across party lines, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic distinctions. People support it because in general people detest bullying. Not just in our small community but across the nation.

So it is somewhat surprising to hear politicos and pundits who should know better attempt to down play the outbursts and bravado of a high profile governor and possible presidential candidate as some type of straight-talking, hard-hitting pragmatism that will be very appealing to voters. It is nothing of the kind.

Christie-1-485x323Make no mistake about it, Chris Christie is a bully! A classic school yard bully who just happens to hold elected office and wear nice suits.  He exhibits all the given traits of a bully. Perceived superiority as a result of his size and his office, a sense of entitlement, and a willingness to intimidate those whom he deems as unworthy or who dare to disagree with him, especially teachers, nurses, or people who are down and out through no fault of their own. Like all bullies he is capable of finding the smallest kid on the play ground to harass, and he invariably resorts to personal attacks on his targets.

Like all good bullies, Christie acts the way he does in order to compensate for some perceived inadequacies or short comings — usually related to his policies or his governing style, or his honesty, perhaps even his weight, all of which have come under increasing scrutiny as of late and managed to remove a good deal of the luster from this once rising star.

Being a bully does not automatically disqualify one from the presidency. What should disqualify Christie is the fact that he is so tone deaf to an issue on which Americans have made themselves very clear.

Chris Christie missed the memo on bullying in society. How many more memos has he missed.

The presidency may well be ‘a bully pulpit.’ It is not however meant to be a pulpit for bullies.

– Jace is a Trail Mix Contributor

HRC a Populist? Don’t Ask Warren

The question about what Hillary would run on seems to be getting at least one answer: More and more she’s talking like an anti-Wall Street populist. (Polls of Democratic voters, especially in all-important Iowa, show real concern about her credentials for this claim.)

So far it seems that someone who could be helpful to that effort isn’t buying it — Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Clinton did her best last week to heap praise on the Massachusetts Democrat, and echo the fiery professor’s popular appeals for economic fairness – which has made Warren a rock star on the midterm campaign trail.

“I love watching Elizabeth,” Clinton said on the stump in Massachusetts. “You know, give it to those who deserve to get it. Standing up not only for you, but people with the same needs and same wants across our country.”

Clinton called Warren a “passionate champion for working people and middle class families” during a stop for the Democratic candidate for Massachusetts governor, Martha Coakley.

Clinton in Boston (10/24)
Clinton in Boston (10/24)

Warren was at the same stop, but took off before Clinton could get the photo opportunity that she surely wanted. And in her own stem-winder bashing big banks Warren was not nearly as gushing in return: “I’m happy to welcome Secretary Clinton back to the commonwealth. We love it.”

Also last week, on CNN, Warren seemed to reject any notion that Clinton can be counted among the party’s anti-Wall Street wing. Asked if the ex-New York senator is too close to the financial sector, she said:

“I have said I worry about everyone who is too close to Wall Street. When I describe what this is about, it’s about who does government work for. I worry everywhere.”

When People magazine recently tried to get Warren to talk about her relationship with Clinton she was about as reticent as it gets: “We have talked. It’s not much more than that. Not much more.”

Warren in Boston (10/24)
Warren in Boston (10/24)

A Telling Reversal

For some history on the ideological gulf between the two, consider a 2004 video interview recently released by The Bill Moyers Show. Warren describes how Hillary reversed herself on a pro-business bankruptcy bill that Warren considered unfair to consumers. As First Lady in the 1990’s Clinton heeded  Warren’s pleas to persuade Bill  to veto the bill — a move Clinton boasted about in her autobiography.

But once joining the Senate, Clinton gave in to intense pressure from credit card companies, and voted for a revived version of the bankruptcy bill she had once so proudly opposed.

“As Senator Clinton, the pressures are very different,” Warren told Moyers. “She has taken money from the groups, and more to the point, she worries about them as a constituency.”

By the way, when running for president in 2007 Clinton left out that Senate vote for the bankruptcy bill when citing her earlier work against it as First Lady, calling it evidence that she “fought the banks.” Warren must really be seething about that.

Clearly, Clinton’s effort to shed her Wall Street ties for Warren-style populism lacks the convert she might need most: Warren herself.

Hillary vs Mitt 2.0?

Nash 2.5
I know what you’re thinking: “Yes, Hillary will be nominated, but Mitt Romney? Again?”

The problem with all the other potential GOP presidential candidates is that either they are indicted (Perry), about to be indicted (Walker, Christie), the Tea Party hates them (Rubio, Paul), or they are just too crazy, even for the GOP (Cruz, Palin, Bachmann).

Then there’s Bush III (Jeb).  When you see him on TV, doesn’t he seem to be half-asleep?  Even his own mother thought he wouldn’t be a good candidate.

Paul Ryan?  He just doesn’t LOOK “Presidential.”  He looks like Hoody Doody, baby boomers’ favorite 1950s kid show puppet.  Check out this video and see if you agree…

Which leaves the GOP with Mitt, or rather “Mitt 2.0”.

He’s arrogant, he’s rich, and he’s still totally clueless, but if the “establishment” Republicans throw their support (and their money) behind him, he could wipe out all the other GOP contenders, one by one, as they emerge from the clown car.  He did it before, and he can do it again.

I think “Hillary vs Mitt” would be really fun to watch in debates.

What do you think?

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor. Read More by this author.
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HRC on Refusing to Attack Palin

Rarely have we gotten word directly from Hillary Clinton about her behind-the-scenes relations with Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. But Clinton is forthcoming about at least one episode after her loss to him for the Democratic nomination, as she launches a tour for her new book, “Hard Choices.”

When Sarah Palin was picked as the GOP vice presidential nominee, Clinton says she rebuffed the Obama camp’s plan to immediately go on the attack against Palin, advice that his team ended up heeding.

clintonhardchoices“The Obama campaign did contact me and asked me if I would attack her,” Clinton told NBC. “I said, ‘Attack her for what, for being a woman? Attack her for being on a ticket that’s … trying to draw attention?'”

Clinton said she told the campaign, “There’ll be plenty of time to do what I think you should do in politics, which is draw distinctions.” She said the Obama campaign suspected Palin’s nomination “was a blatant attempt to scuttle their hope of welcoming the women who had vigorously supported me.”

“They immediately issued a dismissive statement and reached out to me in hopes I would follow suit,” Clinton wrote in her new book. “But I wouldn’t. I was not going to attack Palin just for being a woman appealing for support from other women. I didn’t think that made political sense and it didn’t feel right. So I said no, telling them there’d be plenty of time for criticism.”

A few hours later the Obama campaign reversed itself and congratulated Governor Palin.

Can anyone beat Hillary?

The 2016 Democratic Primaries.   No one wants primary challengers more than the Clintons.  Not real ones, of course.  The Clintons need a few paper tigers to knock down.   

Nash 2.5
Nash 2.5
They don’t like the “inevitable” label, even though EVERYONE of voting age knows Hillary is, in fact, the inevitable Democratic nominee.  Every time I hear someone say “She might not run,” I laugh. (It’s a cynical laugh.)

hrcglassesThe General Election.  Prepare yourself for the comic re-entry of the Republican “clown car.”  The GOP base has gotten even more conservative (if that’s possible) and the control of right wing billionaires over the nominating process has become even more oppressive.  Rand Paul (the best candidate the GOP has at this point) may not be CRAZY enough to get the nomination.  That’s right: to get nominated a candidate will have to say some truly bizarre things.

The “clown car” is a standard circus act.  Here is one:

Hillary could be beaten by a rational GOP alternative, but… it just ain’t gonna happen.

Some might say, “Isn’t too early to talk about 2016?  Shouldn’t we focus on the 2014 elections?”

No one cares about 2014.  It’s like minor league baseball.

Minor League Baseball clip: “Bull Durham.”

No one can beat Hillary.

– Nash 2.5 is a Trail Mix Contributor

Why Not The Best?

I couldn’t be more thrilled that Jim Webb acknowledged in a radio interview that he might, maybe, possibly consider a bid for the presidency.

webbIn my lifetime he’s the only real deal I’ve come across in politics since Jimmy Carter. Okay, for some that’s a bad comparison, but here’s hoping Carter’s post presidency has proved he was better than we thought at the time. Webb would be a better president than Carter because he’s been to the Washington rodeo and would know the score once in office. By “real deal” I mean someone who isn’t a player, a poser, an actor — but someone who would risk everything to protect and save those who need it most, just as he did in Vietnam with phenomenal acts of bravery that earned him medals (Navy Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart) and that reportedly served as the model for “Rambo.” Webb strikes me as what we need most, a fearless defender of the middle class who would take on the vultures. A straight shooter, a brilliant thinker and author, this dude is the only viable contender on the horizon who can get it done. I hope he does run because I can say with total conviction he’ll prove me right. The only thing I could get more excited about is if we could amend the Constitution and make him Emperor.