Lazy Saturday Reads

Couch on the Porch, Cos Cob, Frederick Childe Hassam

Couch on the Porch, Cos Cob, Frederick Childe Hassam

Good Morning!!

Hillary Clinton has had a great run since her terrific performance in the first Democratic debate and ending with her 11 hours of testimony before the House Benghazi Committee and her interview with Rachel Maddow last night. Hillary’s poll numbers are going up, and yesterday she was endorsed by a major union, AFCME.

LA Times: Hillary Clinton’s good week puts her back where she started.

Since Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her bid for the White House, she has steadily slipped from inevitable nominee to flawed and vulnerable front-runner amid campaign mishaps and Clinton fatigue – and her rivals anticipated that it all would accelerate in recent days.

But in yet another reflection that little in the presidential election is going the way of the prognosticators, Clinton is bolting out of October with the wind at her back.

The House Benghazi committee that threatened to menace her campaign turned into a bust. The presidential debate that promised to give her rivals a boost instead gave her an opportunity to outshine them. And most important, the headache for her campaign that was Joe Biden disappeared altogether with his surprise Rose Garden announcement that he won’t pursue the Democratic nomination.

Biden’s exit Wednesday followed that of former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a declared candidate. And by Friday morning, Lincoln Chafee, the former senator from and governor of Rhode Island, was pulling out of the race, nodding to Clinton’s “good week” as a reason.

“It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it?” Clinton asked the crowd after taking the stage Friday morning at a Democratic National Committee women’s leadership event in Washington.

Autumn Landscape with Boats, Vassily Kandinsky

Autumn Landscape with Boats, Vassily Kandinsky

Yes, it certainly has. Here’s Steve Benen at MSNBC: ‘The best 10-day stretch Clinton could have asked for.’

About a month ago…Hillary Clinton’s fortunes appeared to be taking a turn for the worse. Her poll support was dwindling; there was increased chatter surrounding Vice President Biden; Bernie Sanders was being cheered by massive crowds; and the political world, for reasons that have never been entirely clear to me, was fascinated with Clinton’s email server management.

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver explained that Clinton was “stuck in a poll-deflating feedback loop,” in which the national press hammered her for some perceived weakness, which caused her to lose public support, which produced weaker poll numbers, which caused the national press to hammer her again, starting the cycle anew.

But that was last month. This month, offers a very different take on Clinton’s candidacy. NBC News’ First Read had a good piece this morning:

She came. She saw. She – take your pick – conquered/thrived/survived. As a matter of pure political theater, yesterday’s Benghazi committee hearing was a victory for Hillary Clinton and an overwhelming defeat for House Republicans. And perhaps more importantly, it caps off the best 10-day stretch Clinton could have asked for. […]

At the beginning of this month, we told you how important October was going to be for Clinton’s presidential bid after her summer struggles: If she doesn’t end up as the nominee, we’ll be able to trace it back to the events in October. Conversely, if she DOES end up the nominee, it will be because of what happened in October. And so – with the reminder that anything can happen in politics – we think we have our answer to our October question.

Henri Matisse - The Red Beach

Henri Matisse – The Red Beach

If you didn’t see the interview with Rachel Maddow last night, please be sure to watch it. You can also read the transcript here. Hillary was very relaxed and sincere during Maddow’s questioning, and she never became the slightest bit defensive when asked about Bill Clinton’s policies on LGBT rights and about her long-time friends who supposedly might cause problems if she becomes President. I was so impressed! It was wonderful to hear her talk about reproductive rights and voting rights. Listening to her makes me realize again and again why we need a woman in the White House.

Rachel even asked Hillary about Alabama Republican Mo Brooks, who said he would start trying to impeach her on day one of her presidency.

Clinton laughed heartily when Maddow confronted her with the threat from Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks to try to depose Clinton on “day one” of her hypothetical presidency.

“Isn’t that pathetic?” the former secretary of state said with a smile. “It’s just laughable, it’s so totally ridiculous.” She characterized it as one of many GOP efforts to win over “the most intense, extreme part of their base.”

Chris Hayes seemed especially amazed by Clinton’s response to this question. I got the impression that he had bought into the Villagers’ narrative about Hillary and was suddenly discovering that she is a real person who is intelligent, competent, and comfortable in her own skin. Until now he has touted Bernie Sanders and Lawrence Lessig. Perhaps he’ll try to get Hillary as a guest now.

Autumn landscape, Maurice de Vlaminck

Autumn landscape, Maurice de Vlaminck

More about the interview:

Maddow questioned Clinton on several fronts, including Syria policy, the future of the Veterans Administration, and what Maddow described as a personal concern that the Clintons have surrounded themselves with too many old friends who would want to “fight your wars again.”

Maddow’s toughest questions addressed Bill Clinton’s legacy on civil rights and civil liberties. Many of President Obama’s accomplishments on those issues, Maddow argued, involved “undoing things from the Clinton administration.” In particular, Maddow cited Clinton’s embrace of the Defense of Marriage Act and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy blocking gays from serving openly in the military….

The Defense of Marriage Act, legislation Bill Clinton signed that defined marriage legally as between one man and one woman, was “a defensive action” to stymie what the Clintons believed was enough political momentum to amend the constitution to effectively bar gay marriage, Hillary Clinton said.

The tough-on-crime bill that her husband signed into law was a reaction to the “horrific crime rates of the 1980s,” the former first lady added.

“There was just a consensus across every community that something had to be done,” she said.

Clinton noted that she has since disavowed the law and was committed to reforming criminal justice policies. But Clinton framed her overall governing philosophy as one based on pragmatism, a realization that sometimes it’s necessary to choose the lesser evil.

“I think that sometimes as a leader in Democracy you are confronted with two bad choices. It is not an easy position to be in, and you have to try to think what is the least bad choice, and how do I try to cabin this off from having worse consequences?” she said.

More highlights at the link.

Burst of Orange, Jean Sheridan

Burst of Orange, Jean Sheridan

The consensus on both left and right about Clinton’s testimony before the Benghazi committee is that her GOP torturers did her a big favor.

Jeb Lund at Rolling Stone: Republicans’ 11-Hour Gift to Hillary Clinton.

Eleven hours is a long damn time. Eleven hours is long enough to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco with two stops along the way to watch a movie and a football game in their entirety. And over the course of 11 hours of hectoring, insinuation and questions that started out redundant and turned into echolalia, Hillary Clinton never lost her cool. If she’s elected president, she should send every Republican member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi a needlingly effusive thank you card. They practically picked her up and carried her toward the White House….

Despite being billed as a hard-nosed prosecutor, [Trey] Gowdy let the proceedings wander all over the place, to the point where it’s impossible to tell what the Republicans even wanted to know, let alone what they thought they could charge Hillary with. Maybe it was her Libya intervention policy itself that failed, inevitably leading to the four deaths in the Benghazi compound. Maybe it was her email. Maybe she emailed with her buddy Sidney Blumenthal too much and Ambassador Chris Stevens too little. Maybe she didn’t care about the security staff. Maybe she tried to spin the attack afterward. Maybe she goes on political talk shows.

The Republican members of the committee demonstrated their ignorance on two issues repeatedly over the day’s duration. Many seemed totally unaware of the contents of previous Benghazi reports and testimony. If this had been a conventional courtroom, Clinton’s attorneys could have objected with “asked and answered” and turned the proceedings into 11 hours of tape hiss.

Many of the Republicans also seemed ignorant of how the State Department even functions. Republican Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana showed off a pile of Hillary’s emails pertaining to Libya from 2011 and another from 2012, then insinuated that the much smaller 2012 pile indicated her administrative indifference to the issue. Her case of the piles signaled an unawareness of the face that the State Department conducts the majority of its communications through cables, and that things like telephones exist, and that one of the unfortunate byproducts of conducting business on the telephone is that it doesn’t generate an email afterward. Even the most generous interpretation of her questions can’t elide the fact that the disparity in emails could easily have indicated general conversational traffic about Libya that eventually shifted to the official cable system as the maintenance of the Benghazi compound became more urgent.

Read the rest at Rolling Stone.

Girl Reading on a Stone Porch, Winslow Homer

Girl Reading on a Stone Porch, Winslow Homer

From The Washington Post: Clinton’s curse and her salvation: Her enemies, by Karen Tumulty.

Throughout her political career, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s greatest curse — the reaction she provokes in her adversaries — has also been her salvation.

That was proved once again during her 11-hour inquisition by the House Select Committee on Benghazi, a Republican-engineered train wreck from which she emerged without a scratch.

Pale, hoarse and weary as she was, the former secretary of state left the hearing room looking stronger than she has at any point since she announced her second campaign for president.

Naturally, the rest of Villager Tumulty’s piece is a serious of digs, criticisms, and warnings of future stumbles, but she did have to admit that Hillary is doing great at for now.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend!