Defending Hillary

“In the Senate, I have worked across the aisle to make change. When I was elected, the people of New York took a chance on me and it was a great honor that they did. But I knew that I had to go and get things done. I couldn’t just say, ‘Well I’ve been elected, thank you very much.’ That’s not who I am, that’s not what I do.” – Hillary Clinton-*

Surprise—Hillary announced her candidacy for President! Yeah, I know that’s an enormous yawn because everyone knew she would eventually make it official. By now you have also probably heard about a little scandal having to do with the former secretary of state’s emails. I know that I’m a little behind addressing this situation, but now that Clinton has officially declared her intentions, it is time to offer some perspective on the email issue. If you aren’t aware of this, well, the hypocrisy surrounding the outrage (most of which has died down—at least for now) from both the right and (yes) even the left is enough to make one’s head explode—well, mine anyway.

Let me preface with the fact that I am a huge proponent of transparency and accountability at every level of government and believe that all communication of government business should be conducted on a government server (apologies for the redundancies). However, transparency and accountability are for another discussion and one well worth having, not only in regards to Secretary Clinton, but all elected and appointed government officials.

So what is the hypocrisy surrounding Secretary Clinton’s emails one might ask? Oh, let me count the ways (and this isn’t a comprehensive list):

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush’s email transparency is a total joke

Jeb Bush had another private email account as Florida Governor

Jeb Bush owned personal email server he used as governor

Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo administration begins large-scale email purges

Mitt Romney

Romney staff spent nearly $100,000 to hide records

Scott Walker

John Doe Transcript: Scott Walker must have known of private email, laptop system

Sarah Palin

Palin outraged that Hillary Clinton pulled a Palin

Colin Powell

Colin Powell relied on personal emails while Secretary of State

Congress members

Congress doesn’t have rules for saving emails

5 million missing emails during the GW Bush administration related to the attorneys general firing investigation. That should be truly shocking and outrage-inducing to anyone concerned with transparency and accountability in government.

Madame Secretary as Right-wing Target Practice

Conservatives are attacking Secretary Clinton because she is the Democratic frontrunner, possesses stronger credentials than anyone currently running on the GOP side, and is a Clinton— and you know there is always something “sneaky” about “those” people and the “rules don’t apply to them.” (Well, the rules don’t apply to most powerful, wealthy people so why should she be held to different standards? I’m not saying that’s right, because it’s not, but just posing the question as food for thought.)

Of course, these omitted emails will now be used to perpetuate the Benghazi hysteria, keeping it front and center through 2016, if possible, although most people have moved past that issue because there was no criminality involved—even the GOP-led investigative report confirmed there was no misconduct. This report was issued by the Benghazi Select Committee, which is headed up by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).

Mr. Gowdy has requested Clinton turn over to him her personal email server, which she has refused to do. Yet he refuses to release Clinton’s Benghazi-related emails—that she did release—to the public as Democrats in the House of Representative have requested. If Congressman Gowdy were so adamant about transparency and accountability, he’d release them. He has not. My question is why hasn’t he? They must be less than compelling and devoid of any smoking gun. However, it’s a brilliant strategy because to withhold them from the public allows the Republican propaganda machine to continue hyping a conspiracy or possible foul-play surrounding that tragic incident.

Gowdy also prefers the committee to interview Clinton (again) in private. Clinton prefers a public hearing, which most Americans interested in this situation would appreciate. Why is he so adamant about keeping the hearing secret? It all feeds into the way conservatives want to milk this issue through 2016. I guarantee it. Now, that’s not to say the Democrats wouldn’t do the same in this situation because they probably would. Again, it’s politics, which is not for the faint of heart.

Liberal Media Pundits Join In

Liberal media pundits have joined the GOP attackers. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the cable news networks and political blogs. Even liberal MSNBC has denounced her, failing to see that they held her to a different standard than others, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Perhaps his being a man shelters him from this type of scrutiny? Furthermore, the Clintons have a love-hate relationship with the media, so any opportunity the media sees to go after them they do so, and with great fervor.

Yes, she was secretary of state, but so was Colin Powell. In my view, the disappearance of 5 million Bush administration emails related to the attorney general firings investigation is a much more serious matter. I didn’t hear much outrage from the right when that was revealed.

As the 2016 presidential campaign progresses, the Clinton email issue will continue to provoke political attacks against her. There are valid issues and policy positions that her opponents can exploit, but until everyone else in government is held to the same standards of transparency and accountability, I’m cutting Hillary a little slack on this email one.

* What did Hillary Clinton accomplish while in the Senate? You can read about it here and here.

 

 

Getting your story straight: Mitt Romney edition

Mitt Romney is in the news again. Contain yourselves.

I encourage you to read the entirety of this fascinating article.

There are two things that stand out to me upon initial reading.

  1. First, this:
    “At that Christmas gathering, the family took a vote on whether Romney should run. . . Even some of Romney’s closest political advisers might have been surprised. When the family members took a vote, 10 of the 12 said no. Mitt Romney was one of the 10 who opposed another campaign. The only “yes” votes were from Ann Romney and Tagg Romney.”What was going on in Mr. Romney’s mind here? He opposed his own campaign before it started?This, to me, is not so much a criticism but a curiosity of our human nature.Perhaps I’m being too charitable. So be it.It’s truly a mind-boggling vote.
  2. “When Romney had mentioned his “lousy September,” it was an evident reference to what may have been the low point of his campaign: the “47 percent” video. He was in California and said at first he couldn’t get a look at the video. His advisers were pushing him to respond as quickly as he could. “As I understood it, and as they described it to me, not having heard it, it was saying, ‘Look, the Democrats have 47 percent, we’ve got 45 percent, my job is to get the people in the middle, and I’ve got to get the people in the middle,’ ” he said. “And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a reasonable thing.’ . . . It’s not a topic I talk about in public, but there’s nothing wrong with it. They’ve got a bloc of voters, we’ve got a bloc of voters, I’ve got to get the ones in the middle. And I thought that that would be how it would be perceived — as a candidate talking about the process of focusing on the people in the middle who can either vote Republican or Democrat.As it turned out, down the road, it became perceived as being something very different.”You mean that you were insensitive to a whole group of people? I asked. “Right,” he responded. “And I think the president said he’s writing off 47 percent of Americans and so forth. And that wasn’t at all what was intended. That wasn’t what was meant by it. That is the way it was perceived.” I interjected, “But when you said there are 47 percent who won’t take personal responsibility — ” Before I finished, he jumped in. “Actually, I didn’t say that. . . .That’s how it began to be perceived, and so I had to ultimately respond to the perception, because perception is reality.””
    Emphasis mine. I truly have no response. This is the most mind-boggling comment from Romney since, oh, the hilarious and inane “Binders Full of Women” gaffe.This insistence of his also seems to be an out-right lie.We’ve all seen the notorious 47% video.  It lives forever.

 There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right—there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. …And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

And as charitable as I try to be, these opposing quotes by Romney indicate that he will not take “personal responsibility” for his own words or actions.

Excuse me, I need to get back to work so I can be “personally responsible” for not being able to afford health insurance STILL, but making sure my family is fed, housed, and maybe I’ll make phone calls to friends on my Obamaphone so I don’t bang my head on the desk thinking about how out of touch this man–and so many others in POWER–are.

Evergreen Up Late: Boundary Gates

‘Must not cross page boundary’ – Original Apple OS Source Code comment

This line was meant as a warning to programmers because doing so incurred a penalty in that a program took longer to accomplish its task.
Crossing a boundary may lead to bad things.

Activists must sometimes cross established boundaries in order to change them.

Refusal to sit at the back of the bus and other forms of civil disobedience showed the need for equal Civil Rights for all races.

Crossing a boundary may lead to good things.

Last month, ChickenHawk GOP speakers at CPAC belly-ached about pretty much wanting to pick a fight with … well EVERYONE.

And in an almost mirrored fashion, the latest round of bellicose rhetoric from North Korea’s Dear Leader is practically daring the US to engage them.

Crossing a boundary should not be undertaken by those not fully understanding the consequences.

So far, the financial markets do not seem to have responded to the posturing. One could easily imagine what a President new to the job might feel was a needed response to “show strength”.

I, for one, sure am glad that we have an experienced President at the helm during these events.

Inexplicably, one conservative pundit claimed on television that the quick response by the US of sending B-2’s to South Korea and a THAAD missile defense system to Guam shows to Iran that the US is weak. An explanation was never given.

Huh?!?

Some boundaries should just not be crossed.

Will we cross the boundary into another war, through The Gates of Delirium?

May you always be in tune with The Music of the Spheres.

Money, Money Everywhere

“We can have a democracy or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”   ~ Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

English: Louis Brandeis

Louis Brandeis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 2012 Presidential Election cost a whopping $2.23 billion according to Bloomberg’s Gregory Giroux.

Per the New York Times, the Obama Campaign + the Democratic Party + Priorities USA Action Super PAC raised $1,072.6m and spent $985.7m, while the Romney campaign + the Republican Party + Restore Our Future Super PAC raised $992.5 m and spent $992.0m. 7% of Obama’s money came from Priorities USA Action while 16% of Romney’s came from Restore Our Future, both Super PACs.

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In other outside spending: 8 of the top 10 groups went to defeat Obama while only 2 in the top 10 were against Romney—$281.6 million supporting Romney, or against Obama; $68.4 million against Romney. More independent spending totals can be found here.

The Center for Public Integrity recently released their free ebook, Consider the Source, offering analysis of the 2012 presidential race including a compilation of articles tracking outside money and its influence on the election.

In Consider the Source, p. 139, “Super PACs, Nonprofits favored Romney Over Obama,” Michael Beckel and Russ Choma on October 30, 2012, published the below figures:

Contributions raised by Super PACs: Obama – $249 million; Romney – $397 million

Spending by Super PACs and other groups: Obama – $237 million; Romney – $577 million

The spending from outside Republican groups helped keep Mitt Romney viable, but not enough to outperform the Obama fundraising machine on Election Day. The break-out for candidate donors, up to the contribution maximum of $2,500 was:

Obama: 57% under $200, 33% at $200 – $2,499, 11% at $2,500 (max.)

Romney: 24% under $200, 37% at $200 – $2,499, 39% at $2,500 (max.)

Romney

Photo: Roger Barone/TRNS
Governor Mitt Romney during campaign stop in Philadelphia. Romney’s visit to Philly was organized by a local chapter of the Tea Party. © Roger Barone 2012

Many of the Super PACs were backed by billionaire donors. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his family topped the list at $30 million for Mitt Romney. However, Huffington Post reported on October 27, 2012, the Adelson family’s total contribution to GOP candidates was $53.69 million.

It has proved more difficult to find contribution totals for 501 (c)(4) organizations, or social welfare organizations. These groups are also able to raise unlimited funds but are not required to disclose donor names, so there is a lack of transparency.

Per OpenSecrets.org, there are hundreds of millions of dollars off the books and “What remains unknown — and may never fully be accounted for — is how much money secretive “shadow money” organizations spent, with some investing massive sums on ads, but also on unreported and purportedly “non-political” activities, as the election neared. It may take years to determine how much they spent.” This secrecy further degrades the low-level of confidence many Americans have regarding the integrity of our democracy.

Overall the Super PACs and non-profits favored Romney over Obama. While these groups didn’t allow Romney to win the presidency, they definitely helped put him on a more level-playing field with President Obama. From the Beckel and Choma article referenced above,  “of all the outside spending in the 2012 election, more that $450 million was dedicated to the presidential election with more than $350 million spent helping Romney and about $100 million spent to help President Barack Obama (p. 136).

That’s a staggering amount of money–money spent to influence elections and the electorate as well as to buy influence once the candidates are in office.  As written in a previous post, senators and congressmen spend anywhere from 30-70% of their work day fundraising, on the phone or meeting with donors to ask for contributions, instead of legislating.

The Center for Public Integrity reported on February 1 that Democratic Super PACs started 2013 with a cash advantage but GOP Super PACs will not be outdone. Already these outside groups are gearing up for the 2014 midterm elections. John Bolton recently started his own Super PAC that will focus on his foreign policy agenda. 

While the money continues to roll in, there are grassroots efforts from organizations whose goal is to overturn Citizens United and restore financial integrity to our elections. A few of those organizations and their efforts will be profiled next week.

Cross-posted at The Feisty Liberal

Other resources:

 Related articles

Electing Presidents – Part II: Change the Electoral College

February 5’s post outlined some issues relating to the way we currently elect the president. Today’s post presents some possible alternatives. I understand the GOP’s frustration with the Electoral College. The winner-take-all system lacks fairness and is a relic. Changing it would improve our democracy. However, the congressional-district system some GOPers are pushing isn’t ideal either because most states’ districts are rural, not urban. Citizens in many urban districts would find themselves disenfranchised by small town and rural community populations, the minority deciding the outcome of elections. This scenario provides traction for instituting the national popular vote.

Election reformers have been pushing for a National Popular Vote (NPV) bill for years. States would give their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote. Nine states have signed on to the NPV bill that preserves the Electoral College and allows states to retain control over elections. I’ll go into more depth about NPV next week as well as its pros and cons.

One argument against using the popular vote is that most Americans are ignorant of the issues. So what? Many regular voters are ignorant of the issues. How many times have any of us voted for someone at the local or state level, knowing very little about them except for party affiliation? And is that so bad if one is familiar with the party platform and agrees with it?

In an ideal world we would all be highly informed citizens. However, we don’t live in an ideal world, so we work with what we have. Regardless of how informed one is—and some will take issue with that—we should be expanding the franchise, not shrinking it.

Still, rural folks don’t want to feel left out of the process either, which is why the popular vote is a better option, or change the Electoral College to reflect the popular vote in each state. For example: State A has 10 electoral votes. One candidate receives 60% of the popular vote; the other candidate receives 30%. The 60% candidate receives 6 electoral votes and the 30% one receives 3.* The media may have to wait a little longer to call the winner, rather than calling the election within hours of precinct closings, but this would be a more representative reflection of the popular vote.

I compiled data**—electoral votes and popular votes from each state for each candidate (from the two major political parties only)—from the 2004, 2008, and 2012 presidential elections. Per the data and as an example, in 2012, President Obama received 332 electoral votes and 51.1% of the popular vote to Romney’s 206 electoral votes and 47.2% of the popular vote. There are 538 electoral votes total. 270 electoral votes are required to win. Obama won 61.7% of the 538 electoral votes to Romney’s 38.3%. This is hardly reflective of the race: Obama did not beat Romney by this margin.

However, when I did the calculations based on popular vote per state and took the percentage of votes each candidate received and split the electoral votes between them instead of giving them all to the winning candidate, the outcome was much more in sync with the popular vote. Obama had 272 electoral votes or 50.5% of the total and Romney had 257 electoral votes or 47.8% of the total. These electoral vote percentages are consistent with the popular vote results.

Data for each election analyzed:

 2012 Election Results

2008 Election Results

2004 Election Results

I also examined the 2000 and 1984 presidential races. The electoral and popular vote percentages lined up quite accurately in the 2000 contest, despite George W. Bush losing the popular vote. However, the 1984 race is a perfect example of how skewed the results can be when comparing electoral votes to the popular vote. Reagan did not win 97.6% of the popular vote.

2000 and 1984 Presidential Races

Admittedly, a process of divvying up electoral votes would take longer to calculate and apportion before calling a winner. Plus if we go to this much trouble trying to ensure electoral votes are representative of the popular vote, shouldn’t we eliminate the Electoral College and use the popular vote instead?

These more representative options are worth considering and would give Americans a real stake in presidential elections. Furthermore, it would force candidates and their campaign staff to reach out to all Americans, not only those in swing states. People would then recognize their vote does matter and engage in the process, resulting in increased voter turnout. That’s good for democracy.

* This scenario would need to incorporate third-party candidates, but for demonstration purposes here, only the two major-party candidates are included.

** Data gathered from Wikipedia

Electing Presidents – Part I: Time to Change the Process

The reason many people give for not voting is that it doesn’t make a difference so they consider it a waste of time. They have a point. Why doesn’t their vote count? First, the Electoral College winner-take-system recognizes only those who voted with the majority in a state. Opposition voters in reliably red or blue states rarely, if ever, see that casting their vote makes a difference.

Second, because of these reliably Democratic and Republican states, due in large part to gerrymandering and increased partisanship, there are only a handful of “swing” states. These states are where Presidential candidates and their campaign surrogates focus while ignoring the rest of the country, or more accurately, taking their vote for granted.  Citizens are less likely to engage in the political process when they feel they have no stake in it.

The Electoral College is an antiquated construct for deciding the outcome of Presidential elections.  The current winner-take-all system of awarding votes in every state—except for Maine and Nebraska, where electoral votes are apportioned by district—lacks fairness and fails to accurately represent the percentage of votes each candidate received from the general population. There has been a push over the years, and currently, to use the popular vote to remedy this situation.

Over the past couple of weeks, it has been reported that some GOP-led swing states—those in particular that awarded Electoral College votes to President Obama the last two election cycles—are considering reworking the electoral votes in their states to advantage Republican candidates. This is a highly cynical move because it is only these battleground states being targeted, not all states, nor any conservative states. (Fortunately, some legislators in these states are now rethinking this strategy.)

What is attempting to be done? These Republican-led legislatures are trying to change the winner-take-all Electoral College system to a proportional system, but not one based on the popular vote. Their goal is to distribute electoral votes based on state congressional districts. All one needs to do is look at the composition of blue versus red districts in states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio to see that this strategy only serves to game the system to favor GOP candidates.

 GrandTheftElection_fig2-12 AA

Center for American Progress

Graphic pulled from Business Insider, January 24 article: Republicans are Getting Slammed for Their Plan to Rig the Electoral College

How does this game the system? Pennsylvania provides an example. Obama won the state by approximately 390,000 votes in 2012. However, if the 20 electoral votes had been allocated by district, Obama would’ve won Pennsylvania’s popular vote, but would’ve only received 7 electoral votes, while Romney would’ve received 13. The repercussions at the state level are stark, but look at the impact this plan would have had nationally.

In the 2012 Presidential election, Obama won by 5 million popular votes, but had the GOP’s plan to allocate votes by congressional district been in place, the Electoral College would’ve given the presidency to Romney with 282 electoral votes to Obama’s 256. Would that have been the appropriate outcome? George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore by 500,000 votes in 2000, which is the major reason many saw his presidency as illegitimate. The Supreme Court appointed him President, yet under the proposed GOP congressional district plan, he would’ve easily defeated Gore in the Electoral College—no recount required.

Business Insider did an assessment of how this GOP Electoral College scheme would have played out in the last eleven elections, with some interesting results—even to the benefit of Democratic candidates. However, with Republicans benefiting most from gerrymandering over the past few years, particularly after the 2010 mid-term elections, this idea is unfair and is highly advantageous to their party; especially in light of, and it bears repeating, they are targeting only a few battleground states, not all states.

These examples shed light on the deficiencies of the current Electoral College system as well as the egregious vote-rigging scheme cooked up by GOP state legislators, a scheme even endorsed by the Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus and other leading Republicans. So, what is the solution? In my next post, I will present a few ideas to transform the presidential electoral process with the goal of increasing voter turnout.

For more information on this topic, read The Center for American Progress’ Report: Grand Theft Election—PDF

This post also appears on Deborah Ludwig’s blog, The Feisty Liberal.