Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hillary's Flights of Fancy

In recent interviews, Hillary Clinton has "accepted full responsibility for her loss" then immediately blamed other people. She still hasn't accepted that she lost outright and that she, herself, is the person most to blame. Here's some of her claims:

If the election had been ten days earlier. This isn't much of an excuse. Yes, if the election had been held when she was ahead in the polls she might have won. But if the election had been held nine weeks earlier then Trump would have won the popular vote as well as the election. Hillary believes that the letter FBI director Comey sent to Congress, which was immediately leaked to the press, caused her to drop in the polls, costing her the election. This may be true (polling at the time indicated the announcement only caused a three-day dip and she'd been cleared before election day regardless) but the Bill Bush tape hurt Trump much more that the Comey letter hurt Hillary. All losingcandidates wish that the election had been held at a time that was more favorable to them but few go as far as Clinton.

Voter Suppression in Wisconsin. Trump won Wisconsin by 20,000 votes. A voter advocacy group calculated that a new voter-ID law in Wisconsin had kept 200,000 people from voting. The assumption is that the majority of those kept from voting were Hillary supporters. The fact-checkers disagree. The "study" came from an openly pro-Hillary group and their methodology was hopelessly flawed. They compared voter numbers in 2016 to 2012 in Wisconsin and Minnesota (which did not have a voter-id law). Turnout was down in Wisconsin and up in Minnesota so they concluded that the only factor was the voter-id law. Among other flaws, this ignores the fact that the Wisconsin turnout was higher in 2016 than in 2008 and that minority turn-out in general was down which accounted for most of the drop in Wisconsin (for some reason minorities were more likely to turn out for a fresh, young black man than an old, establishment white woman). It may comfort Hillary to think that outside forces kept her from winning Wisconsin, the fact remains that she never set foot in the state.

The Russians. Those terrible Russians. They hacked the election by releasing all of those boring Podesta emails. Even Hillary admits that there was nothing damaging in the emails but she still insists that the release was a factor. I can almost forgive her for this one. The emails were a much bigger issue inside her campaign. Every day for a month staffers would have to pour through the latest email dump then report to the campaign what the damage was. This made the emails seem much bigger to those in the campaign than to voters. But by blowing the emails out of proportion, Clinton can advance the idea that she was robbed by the Russians (with dark hints that they colluded with Trump).

Misogyny. Sure some people voted against her because she's a woman. But being a woman was a big part of her appeal. She undoubtedly got more votes because of the gender she identifies as than she lost. She and her campaign staff still complain about a double standard - that men are allowed to be angry but women aren't. Inconveniently, this doesn't apply to other women candidates. Elizabeth Warren is always angry and never accused of being shrill. Maybe the fault is in the candidate instead of society's reception to her gender. As a side-note, Hillary's still pushing the lie that Trump followed her around the stage and loomed over her during the second debate. A close look at photographs shows that Trump never moved from his seat. Hillary walked over to his side of the stage and placed herself between Trump and a camera man. According to Shattered, this was a move she'd rehearsed.

The truth is that Clinton was constantly her own worst enemy. Her decision to have total control over her emails by setting up a private server was an unforced error that came back to haunt her in numerous ways. That lead to the FBI investigation. She compounded this by forwarding emails to her assistant Huma who sent them to her husband, Anthony Weiner, to print. These turned up in an unrelated investigation of Weiner's PC. The hacking of Podesta's emails would barely have been news if the public hadn't been hearing about Hillary's private server for months. It's been said of Hillary that she'll never tell the truth if she can lie instead. She told lie after lie about her email server and each time a lie was exposed, the public lost more confidence in her. (Yes, Trump set a record for statements that weren't true but they weren't seen as self-serving the way Hillary's email lies were.)

Hillary's lack of candor really caught up with her when she collapsed at a 9/11 commemoration. Her campaign had been denying her health problems for weeks and the initial explanation - that she'd become dehydrated - turned out to be a lie. When it came out that she had pneumonia and hidden it from everyone including most of her staff, her campaign insisted that sexism was somehow to blame.

While Hillary had position papers on everything conceivable, no one can truly say what she believes in. In 2008 she was running on a platform of a return to the Clinton years. By 2016, under pressure from Bernie Sanders, she was repudiating all of her husband's accomplishments. She teased for months on the Trans Pacific partnership which she had been involved in negotiating and which she had called the gold-standard. No one was surprised when she came out against it after it became unpopular within her party. The same was true for other issues such as oil and gas pipelines and gay marriage. She always took the most expedient stand on issues and always after waiting to see which position would be most advantageous. She had no real core to her beliefs. This was in contrast with Trump who seemed to care about what's best for Americans.

According to Shattered, Hillary was never able to articulate a reason why she was running to her closest advisors. She simply assigned them the job of inventing something. With no core to her campaign, all she had to run on was negative attacks on Trump. She set a record for negative ads but failed to even attempt to court voters. her campaign was centered on turning out likely voters while suppressing Trump voters as the most cost-effective way of running the campaign. She has to take responsibility for that. A presidential candidate has to inspire by more than simply being a woman and grandmother.

Hillary lost because multiple decisions came back to haunt her. Her email server, relations with Russia while she was Secretary of State. her paid speeches for Wall Street - they all hurt her. With no core beliefs for her supporters to rally behind, there was nothing to make up for her short-comings. While it's true she did win the popular vote, she did it by running up the vote in states where Trump never tried to compete. In the Electoral College, which is all that matters, she was not competitive.

Hillary Clinton lost fair and square. She needs to accept that and be a gratuitous loser instead of the bitter failure that she's become.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Original Hypocracy

One contentious point between conservatives and progressives is original intent. Conservatives believe that laws should be enforced according to the understanding and motivations of the legislators when it was passed. If a law needs updating then it should be done by the legislature or by amending the Constitution. Progressives and liberals before them preferred the concept of a "living Constitution" and of reinterpreting laws. One example is Title IX which was passed to prevent discrimination in colleges receiving federal funding on the basis of sex. Over the Obama administration, Title IX's scope was expanded to include the proper response to allegations of sexual assault and to gender identification. Neither of these was intended when the law was passed in 1972.

It's easy to understand why the left likes using new interpretations. It's much easier to find a sympathetic (progressive) judge or administrator than to convince a (likely conservative) legislature that a law needs modifying. The left insists that it's impossible to know exactly what the original intentions were so it's up to the current courts to assign whatever meanings they want.

This principal has been turned on it's head with President Trump's executive order on immigration, often (inaccurately) described as a Muslim travel ban. Court after court has ruled that the order is perfectly legal then struck it down based on the President's intentions based on broad statements made during the 2016 campaign. Ruling that an order would have been legal from any other president sets a dangerous precedent, one that will probably come back to bite the left. Giving judges the power to strike down legal executive orders because of the suspected intentions of the President will inevitably be used against the next Democratic president.

This is not the first, or second, time that Democrats have pushed for systemic changes based on short-term gains without looking at the long-term consequences. The Democratic Senate eliminated the filibuster for judicial candidates short of the Supreme Court which made it easy for the Republican-controlled Senate to approve Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. President Obama expanded the use and bredth of the executive order giving Trump similar powers.

In a democratically-elected representative government, both sides must adhere to the existing rules and both sides must agree to changes. Unilateral changes will inevitably be used against the instigators.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Perpetual Impeachment Proceedings

In was wake of a special council being named to investigate connections between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, local Representative Joyce Beatty called for impeachment proceedings to begin. Keep in mind that to date, no one has identified an actual crime beyond someone hacking the DNC email server and the Gmail account of John Podesta. It still hasn't been proven that thee hacks were directed by the Russian government (and a whole new wrinkle was thrown in when a private investigator claimed that a member of the DNC was the real source of the Wikileaks material). While there was incidental contact between people associated with the Trump campaign, it has not been proved that this was anything but innocent. If there was a quid pro quo agreement between the Russians and the Trump campaign, so far there is no trace of it. And, since there is no evidence of an agreement, there is no evidence that Trump was party to it.

In other words, at this point all we have is a circumstantial case that the Russians tried to affect the election and a deduction that Trump must have been involved.

Without a lot more concrete evidence, there can be no impeachment. And investigations like this take a long time. We may not have the results in until after Trump is reelected.

So why is Beatty talking about impeachment right now? Sheer partisan hatred.

This is poisonous to our democracy. Trump won the election fair and square according to the rules in place at the time, The Democrats spent the months leading up to Trump's inauguration trying to change the rules. Not that that failed, they are looking for pretexts to remove him from office.

But the Democrats are so blinded by partisan rage that they don't see what till happen next. The Republicans spent the Obama years being fairly quiet. True, Congress obstructed as much of Obama's agenda as they could but that's what opposition parties do. What they did not do was vow start talking publicly about removing him from office before he was even sworn in. But if the Democrats keep trying to remove Trump then they can count on their next president getting a similar reception.

Let's save time and start the impeachment proceedings for the next Democrat president now. Beatty has already shown that we don't need an actual cause.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Shattered - what it tells us and what it doesn't

The recent book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign is an interesting insider's account of Hillary's campaign and why it failed. The authors said that they had been getting information from the campaign staff all through the campaign on condition that is not be published until after the election. I suspect that the authors intended it to chronicle Hillary's winning campaign and how she surmounted numerous internal issues and external events.

The authors are Democrat insiders. They have detailed accounts of Bernie Sanders's entrance into the campaign but very little insight into Trump of his campaign. The biggest insights come from the debate preparation when they admitted that Hillary's trump-proxy was a better candidate than Hillary.

There are some omissions and false impressions. The book waits until the final chapter to mention that Trump was the candidate that Hillary wanted to run against. Early polling showed that she had the best chance against him and her hope was that he would pull the entire Republican slate down with him, giving Democrats total control of Congress and the White House. This was reduced to a single sentence.

Hillary's Basket of Deplorables speech was covered but around the same time she recorded a video asking "Why aren't I 50 points ahead?" That got a lot of play and contitributed to her early-September slump but was skipped.

At one point Trump jokingly called on Russia to release the 35,000 emails that Hillary had deleted. This was meant as a dig at the private server and the assumption that it had already been hacked. Trump was not calling on the Russians to hack into the server. The Clinton campaign spun it as Trump calling on the Russians to hack into the server which was already in FBI custody and off-line. Shattered repeats the charge without pointing out how silly that spin was.

After the second debate the Clinton campaign circulated a picture of Trump "looming disapprovingly behind Hillary," Shattered mentioned that Hillary rehearsed for the debate on a set that was lent to her by Obama but failed to mention that she actually made a point of walking past him to the other side of the stage so that she was between Trump and a photographer.

Shattered goes light on some of the damaging details leaked such as the Clinton campaign getting questions in advance. At the same time it over-emphasizes the effect of the Podesta emails. This probably reflected the view inside the Clinton campaign. Wikileaks did a daily dump of emails for the month before the election. That meant that the Clinton campaign had to check hundreds or thousands of emails daily and evaluate if any were damaging. As it turned out, there was very little of significance in the emails and it's unlikely that they had any measurable effect on the polls. Regardless, Hillary is still talking about them, using the same language that Shattered uses.

Despite these short-comings, Shattered is a good look at all of the back-scenes drama that was kept hidden. It is also comforting for anyone who is unsure about Trump being elected. Given the problems that Hillary had just keeping her campaign together, her presidency would have been a disaster.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means

Why did Hillary Clinton lose the election? Misogyny

What is President Trump? A Misogynist
We hear that constantly but up until late last Summer those words almost never appeared. What was used instead was sexism and sexist.

For those who never heard of a misogynist before the 2016 presidential campaign, it means someone who hates women. It does not mean someone who imposes himself on women. A true misogynist would never do that because he hates women.

And seriously, does Hillary really think that she lost the election because a large portion of the electorate hates women?

The proper word here is sexist and sexism but those words are not strong enough.

The same thing happened with racism. There used to be a distinction between prejudice and racism. Some acting from a stereotype, possibly with good intentions, was prejudiced. But someone who actively hated a person because of his race was a racist. Over years, the definition of racism has been inflated until it pushed prejudice out of the vocabulary. Now the left is trying to do this with sexism, just to make things sound worse.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trump and Comey

President Trump fired the director of the FBI. This was the first time a president has fired an FBI director since President Clinton fired William Sessions in 1993. The Democrats and the press (which are practically the same thing) went wild, insisting that this was done because Comey was investigating Trump's connections to Russia. They insisted this despite Comey saying repeatedly that the FBI was not investigating the President.

So, what's going on? I can see three possibilities:

1) Trump Derangement Syndrome. To many on the left, everything that Trump does is ominous and self-centered. They've never given up on the idea that Trump is a Russian puppet so they see this as just one more piece of evidence. They are the Trump version of Birthers.

2) Political posturing. Many on the left are calling for a special prosecutor to investigate. Savvy operators know that special prosecutors can run wild. Look at Clinton - the special prosecutor was appointed to investigate if Clinton as Governor gave special treatment to Whitewater Savings where Chelsea's college fund was invested but ended up investigating charges of sexual harassment in the White House. The hope is that once a prosecutor is appointed to investigate Trump, he won't stop until he finds an impeachable offense.

3) Trump was taking appropriate action. Just as a thought exercise, let's assume for a moment that Trump is not Russia's stooge. Comey lost the trust of both parties last year by inserting himself into the campaign multiple times. Just a few days ago he testified before Congress about his actions. Despite his rationalizations, the Democrats were still livid at him. The Republicans still haven't forgiven him for letting Hillary Clinton off the hook by saying that no reasonable prosecutor would file charges. Comey was a distraction for the FBI and no one trusted him. The best thing to do was fire him.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

The Resistance and Trump's reelection

I know that Donald Trump was only inaugurated a bit over three months ago but I had an insight about his chances to be reelected based on pop culture reaction to previous presidents.

For this I'm using modern presidents because I'm basing this partly on the relationship between the president and pop culture. Kennedy was assassinated before he could run for reelection and Johnson was a special case. So for this exercise, I'm starting with Nixon and continuing through Obama.

During that period there have been five Republican presidents: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush(41) and Bush(43). There were three Democrats: Carter, Clinton, and Obama.

Now here's the interesting part, Nixon, Reagan and Bush(43) were hated in pop culture. All three had constant protests and inspired numerous dystonian predictions. They were often openly mocked. Take this example from the comic strip Doonsbury.  CBS ran a two hour special by a British puppeteer group that was mainly an anti-Reagan screed. You can see a sample of their work here. Things went into high gear under Bush(43). Several major movies were released with strong anti-Iraq messages (they all tanked). Cable news channel MSNBC reinvented itself as the anti-Bush channel led by Keith Olbermann. Whoppi Goldburg went on a drunken tear during an awards show comparing her pubic hair to the president.

I could give lots of other examples. My point is that the Democrats hated all three of these presidents with a white hot anger. And all three were reelected. Nixon and Reagan won record landslides. Bush(43) didn't do as well but he was still the first president to win a majority of the vote in four elections.

What about Ford and Bush(41)? They were mocked a bit, mainly on SNL. But there were no marches, no major protests. They were tolerated. And they lost.

It's harder to apply this to the Democrats. Pop culture is dominated by people who are Democrat-friendly. But anti-Clinton sentiment bubbled up in other places. Rush Limbaugh became amazingly popular as the resistance to Clinton. The same thing happened with Glen Beck and Obama. These radio celebrities led the resistance to Clinton and Obama respectively. Republicans hated both of these presidents. The Gingrinch Revolution and the Tea Party rose to fight these presidents. And they failed miserably. Both presidents were reelected easily.

Carter was a different matter. There was no widespread resistance to him. There were no protests. Even SNL ignored him. And he lost.

So here we are with Trump. The left hates him with a passion. They've marched in the street in the hundreds of thousands. But it doesn't matter. In fact, all of that hate probably helps Trump. He's not the monster that the left makes him out to be and reasonable people tend to recoil from unreasonable hatred.

So all of this hatred is likely to increase Trump's chances of reelection.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Hillary's Mistakes

In one of her first public interviews, Hillary Clinton admitted to making mistakes but was vague about them, preferring to focus instead on factors outside her control.

So, did we make mistakes? Of course we did. Did I make mistakes? Oh my gosh, yes. … But the reason why I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last ten days. And I think you can see, I was leading in the early vote. I had a very strong — and not just our polling and data analysis, but a very strong assessment going on across the country about where I was, in terms of the necessary — both votes and electoral votes.

I disagree with her assessment that intervening events were the cause of her loss. She made lots and lots of mistakes and some of them led directly to the intervening events she complained about. Here's a partial list of mistakes:

The Email Server. The FBI couldn't have announced that they had reopened an investigation of misuse of classified information if Hillary hadn't used a private server in the first place. She wanted to have total control over what got out. She even went so far as to delete more than half of the emails on the server. Why did she do this? Excess concern for privacy? To hide influence peddling? We'll never know but the speculation darkens an already tarnished reputation (more on this later). In addition to this, she was careless with classified material. It just came out that she regularly forwarded emails to her assistant, Huma, to print and she forwarded them to her husband, Anthony Weiner. If this had made the headlines before the election she might not have lost the popular vote as well as the Electoral College.

Libya. If it wasn't for Hillary we'd never have overthrown Libya. This was a disaster for the Libyans and it lead to the death of an US ambassador. It also poisoned the US's relationship with Putin. Libya's Qaddafi had been cooperating with the US including voluntarily dismantling its nuclear program and we overthrew Qaddafi anyway. Putin was convinced that he'd be next and blamed Hillary. Personally, I don't think that the release of emails hacked by the Russians had much effect on the election but if it did, it can be traced back to this.

Wall Street and the Clinton Foundation. The voters were still mad at Wall Street about the Great recession. Both Sanders and Trump harnessed this anger. But Hillary was a creature of Wall Street. She made millions giving speeches to big banks. So did her husband, Bill. The Clintons' speaking fees were high, too. So, were these institutions simply paying for big-name speakers to impress the attendees at their functions or were they buying future good will from the next president? Again, we don't know. Hillary danced around the issue a lot and insisted that she'd warned the banks to be more careful with their investments but the one leaked transcript show just the opposite. She spent her time congratulating the banks on their wisdom. People wanted an outsider and she was the ultimate insider. She was even warned that accepting speaking fees from banks would hurt her and she brushed the warning off.

Lies and prevarications. Hillary has the reputation for never telling the truth when she can lie or tell a half truth. She did both constantly and, when she did tell the truth, she did it in a lawyerly way. She flat out lied when she said that her personal email server was because she can't use two devices at a time. She was forced to make admissions but never came out and told the entire truth. She hid the fact that she had pneumonia until she collapsed in public and even then spent hours insisting that it was just dehydration.

Expecting to rebuild the Obama coalition. Hillary expected that, as Obama's chosen successor, his voters would automatically default to her. But Obama was a fresh face and an outsider. Hillary became First Lady before many voters were born. Democrats voted for her out of duty but it was a joyless campaign.

Running negative. No one has ever run such a negative campaign as the one Hillary ran against Donald Trump. She started them well before the official launch of the national campaign, before either of them was officially the candidate. There were numerous cuts but they were all the same message, repeating things that Trump had said over years or decades. This was the worst thing that Hillary could have done. After months of hearing the same Trump quotes, they no longer shocked. They just faded into the background. Hillary inoculated the voters against Trump. The few positive ads that she ran failed to tell voters what she would do for them. That gave Trump space to tell voters what he would do for them.

The Basket of Deplorables. You just don't insult somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 of the voters. Ever.

At one point Hillary released an internal video were she asked why she wasn't ahead by 50 points. Given all of her mistakes, it's a wonder that she was ever ahead.