Terrible Tuesday Reads: Iowa’s Chaotic Meltdown, Clusterf#ck, Sh#tshow

Rainy Day, Columbus Avenue, Boston, by Frederick Child Hassam

Good Morning!!

Can we please stop letting Iowa go first now?

 

Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: R.I.P. the ‘First-In-the-Nation’ Iowa Caucuses (1972-2020).

The “first-in-the-nation” Iowa caucuses died Monday night after a protracted battle with advanced-stage omnishambles.

DeMoines Skyline by Buffalo Bonker

Or so we can hope. Iowa’s eccentric, endearing — and wildly anti-democratic — nominating contest has always been an indefensible institution. There is no reason why the most politically-engaged and/or time-rich citizens of America’s 31st most populous state should have the power to veto presidential candidates before anyone else in the country has a say. And yet, few of Iowa’s bitterest critics ever dreamed it would subject the country to something like this.

As of this writing, we are one hour into Tuesday morning and only a small fraction of Iowa precincts have reported their results. Officials currently say that they hope to have the numbers by “some time Tuesday.” The ostensible reasons for this are twofold. 1) This year, for the first time ever, the Iowa Democratic Party was required to report three distinct sets of results — the vote tally on “first alignment,” the vote tally on “final alignment” (when backers of candidates who lack 15% support redistribute their votes to higher-polling candidates), and the final delegate tally. In the past, the party was only on the hook for that last metric, which is much easier to tabulate. 2) To ease the burden of logging all this information from more than 1,600 precincts, the party developed an app for reporting results — which many precinct chairs could not figure out how to use. Thus, they began calling in the results on a telephone hotline. Much waiting on hold ensued.

Guess who pushed for the changes in the vote counting and reporting?

Politico: ‘It’s a total meltdown’: Confusion seizes Iowa as officials struggle to report results.

No results had been reported by midnight Eastern, and two campaigns told POLITICO that after a conference call with the Iowa Democratic Party, they didn’t expect any returns until Tuesday morning at the earliest.

Candidates stepped into the void. Pete Buttigieg went first by claiming victory — misleadingly, in the view of Bernie Sanders, whose campaign responded by releasing unofficial figures showing his strength. Amy Klobuchar also joined in by citing unverified results she said demonstrated a robust performance.

Edward Hopper cityscape

The biggest “winner” might have been Joe Biden. According to the Iowa entrance poll, he was hovering close to the viability threshold of 15 percent statewide. But the questions surrounding the vote-counting served to obscure a potentially poor performance. The former vice president, facing potentially ugly headlines going into New Hampshire and beyond, couldn’t get out of Iowa fast enough.

“We’re going to walk out of here with our share of delegates,” Biden declared to a packed room on the Drake University campus. “It’s on to New Hampshire!”

Conversely, it might have delivered a blow to Sanders and Buttigieg, who appeared on track to do well in the state. Whether the victor turns out to be Sanders or Buttigieg or someone else, that candidate was denied the chance to give an election night victory speech to a nationwide audience — a springboard heading into New Hampshire.

Read more at Politico.

The New York Times:

The app that the Iowa Democratic Party commissioned to tabulate and report results from the caucuses on Monday was not properly tested at a statewide scale, said people who were briefed on the app by the state party.

It was quickly put together in just the past two months, said the people, some of whom asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Life in the Suburbs, by Leonard Koscianski

And the party decided to use the app only after another proposal for reporting votes — which entailed having caucus participants call in their votes over the phone — was abandoned, on the advice of Democratic National Committee officials, according to David Jefferson, a board member of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan election integrity organization.

And let’s not forget what happened with the final Iowa poll. Ben Smith at Buzzfeed News: This Iowa Poll Was Never Published. It’s Still Influencing What You Read.

The Des Moines Register spiked its poll Saturday night, but by the next day it seemed most reporters here had seen the numbers — or something purporting to be the numbers.

Here’s what happened: As the Des Moines Register readied a cover story and CNN prepped for an hourlong special about the time-honored poll, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign complained that his name hadn’t been offered to some poll recipients. The pollster, Ann Selzer, quickly discovered the glitch in a Florida call center that triggered the error. It seemed likely to be just a minor error — but everyone involved cares about their reputation for trustworthiness, and they quickly decided to pull the poll rather than publish with doubts.

But the news organizations had already been preparing to publish the numbers, and a version of them began to circulate almost instantly. I won’t print those numbers: I haven’t been able to confirm that the numbers I’ve seen are the already-questionable official ones.

And yet, most veterans of coverage here trust Selzer’s surveys. So many acknowledged to me last night that they’d quietly taken the unreleased and possibly wrong numbers into account.

“Nobody was talking about Elizabeth Warren and now everybody thinks she has a shot because of those numbers,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive political consultant who supports Warren. (It’s not the only reason, I should note: Other polls this week also showed Warren in a strong position, as did the last published Selzer poll in January.)

Read more at the link.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: Iowa Might Have Screwed Up The Whole Nomination Process.

In trying to build a forecast model of the Democratic primaries, we literally had to think about the entire process from start (Iowa) to finish (the Virgin Islands on June 6). Actually, we had to do more than that. Since the nomination process is sequential — states vote one at a time rather than all at once — we had to determine, empirically, how much the results of one state can affect the rest.

By Ron Francis

The answer in the case of Iowa is that it matters a lot. Despite its demographic non-representativeness, and the quirks of the caucuses process, the amount of media coverage the state gets makes it far more valuable a prize than you’d assume from the fact that it only accounts for 41 of the Democrats’ 3,979 pledged delegates.

More specifically, we estimate — based on testing how much the results in various states have historically changed the candidates’ position in national polls — that Iowa was the second most-important date on the calendar this year, trailing only Super Tuesday. It was worth the equivalent of almost 800 delegates, about 20 times its actual number.

Everything was a little weird in Iowa this year, however. And there were already some signs that the Iowa bounce — which essentially results from all the favorable media coverage that winning candidates get — might be smaller than normal….

But we weren’t prepared for what actually happened, which is that — as I’m writing this at 3:15 a.m. on Tuesday — the Iowa Democratic Party literally hasn’t released any results from its caucuses. I’m not going to predict what those numbers will eventually be, although early indications are that Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and perhaps Elizabeth Warren had good results. The point is that the lead story around the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses is now — and will forever be — the colossal shitshow around the failure to release results in a timely fashion.

In other news, The New York Times Magazine has published an article adapted from David Enrich’s forthcoming book about Trump and Deutche Bank: The Money Behind Trump’s Money. The inside story of the president and Deutsche Bank, his lender of last resort. It’s very long and involved, but here’s a brief excerpt:

George Grosz, Street Scene

Last April, congressional Democrats subpoenaed ­Deutsche Bank for its records on Trump, his family members and his businesses. The Trump family sued to block the bank from complying; after two federal courts ruled against the Trumps, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, with oral arguments expected in the spring. State prosecutors, meanwhile, are investigating the bank’s ties with Trump, too. The F.B.I. has been conducting its own wide-­ranging investigation of ­Deutsche Bank, and people connected to the bank told me they have been interviewed by special agents about aspects of the Trump relationship.

If they ever become public, the bank’s Trump records could serve as a Rosetta Stone to decode the president’s finances. Executives told me that the bank has, or at one point had, portions of Trump’s personal federal income tax returns going back to around 2011. (­Deutsche Bank lawyers told a federal court last year that the bank does not have those returns; it is unclear what happened to them. The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) The bank has documents detailing the finances and operations of his businesses. And it has records about internal deliberations over whether and how to do business with Trump — a paper trail that most likely reflects some bank employees’ concerns about potentially suspicious transactions that they detected in the family’s accounts.

One reason all these files could be so illuminating is that the bank’s relationship with Trump extended well beyond making simple loans. ­Deutsche Bank managed tens of millions of dollars of Trump’s personal assets. The bank also furnished him with other services that have not previously been reported: providing sophisticated financial instruments that shielded him from risks and outside scrutiny, and making introductions to wealthy Russians who were interested in investing in Western real estate. If Trump cheated on his taxes, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know. If his net worth is measured in millions, not billions, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know. If he secretly got money from the Kremlin, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know.

Also, Trump will give his fake state of the union address tonight, and I won’t be watching. What are you thinking and reading today?


Thursday Reads: A Mish-Mash of Stories

By Maugham Casorati, born 1897 in London, UK died 1982 in Turin, Italy

Good Morning!!

I wish we could go back to the days when we weren’t overwhelmed with breaking news every single morning. I’ve got a mish-mash of articles for your this morning.

The biggest news today will probably be what happens at Paul Manafort’s sentencing hearing at 3:30 this afternoon in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Courthouse News: Manafort Faces Decades in Prison at Virginia Sentencing.

Manafort, 69, faces up to 24 years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. During his trial last August, spread over 12 rigorous days, prosecutors unfurled a complex web of fraud he coordinated in multiple countries with the help of his business associate, Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and testified against Manafort as the star witness.

Accused of failing to report roughly $16.5 million in income from his political lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine and its onetime President Viktor Yanukovych, the jury in Virginia found Manafort guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud after four days of deliberations….

By Bego Tojo

Though none of the charges Manafort faced in Virginia directly involved any of his work on President Donald Trump’s campaign, Mueller’s underlying task – to unearth American activity connected to Russian meddling in the election – placed the spotlight firmly on the president’s onetime campaign chairman….

Manafort will go before Judge Ellis on Thursday afternoon for his sentencing.

Federal sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case suggest Manafort should serve 19 to 24 years in prison but Judge Ellis can impose any sentence he sees fit – including one well below the guidelines. Mueller has recommended Manafort be sentenced in the upper range of the guidelines.

As you probably recall, Judge Ellis is kind of eccentric and usually makes very blunt remarks. Remember, he asked prosecutors whether they had considered charging Mike Flynn with treason and told him “You sold your country out.” Read Ellis quotes at CNN: Baked Alaska and birthday cake: Memorable lines from the Manafort trial judge, T.S. Ellis.

I really dislike the conservative site Axios, but they have a good piece today: The biggest political scandal in American history.

Historians tell Axios that the only two scandals that come close to Trump-Russia are Watergate, which led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, and the Teapot Dome scandal of the early 1920s, in which oil barons bribed a corrupt aide to President Warren Harding for petroleum leases.

Mueller has already delivered one of the biggest counterintelligence cases in U.S. history, author Garrett Graff points out — up there with Aldrich Ames (a former CIA officer convicted in 1994 of being a KGB double agent), or Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (executed in 1953 for spying for the Soviets).

By Guillermo Marti Ceballos (Barcelona 1958)

Watergate yielded more charges than Mueller has so far: A total of 69 people were charged in Watergate; 48 people and 20 corporations pleaded guilty. Mueller so far has indicted 27 people; seven have been convicted or pleaded guilty.

But historians say that both Watergate and Teapot Dome were more limited because a foreign power wasn’t a central player, and a much narrower band of potential offenses was under investigation.
A fourth notable scandal, the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s — in which arms were traded for hostages held by Iran, with the money usRed to fund rebels in Nicaragua — also involved a more limited range of issues.

Read the rest at Axios. It’s actually quite a bit more comprehensive than most of their stories.

J.T. Smith, who was executive assistant to Attorney General Elliot Richardson under Nixon, has an op-ed at The New York Times today: What if the Mueller Report Demands Bold Action?

Most people take for granted that both Mr. Mueller and the new attorney general, William Barr, accept the current Justice Department legal position — reached in a 2000 opinion — that a sitting president cannot be indicted. In a June 2018 memo, Mr. Barr said that under “the Framers’ plan,” the “proper mechanism for policing the president’s” actions “is the political process — that is, the People, acting either directly, or through their elected representatives in Congress.”

Yet since 1973, the Justice Department has revisited its position five times on the question of indicting a sitting president and reached different conclusions. In fact, as executive assistant to President Richard Nixon’s attorney general, Elliot Richardson, I can speak to the circumstances that delivered that first opinion: The principal purpose of the 1973 Watergate-era legal opinion — which concluded that a sitting president cannot be indicted — was to aid in removal from office of a criminally tainted vice president, who, the memo concluded, could be indicted.

But it was not intended to set an ironclad precedent that would forever shape how a president might be treated.

By Jerry Weiss

My experience makes me believe that Attorney General Barr should reconsider Justice Department policy. If the evidence gathered by the Mueller investigation on the actions of the president and his advisers indicates a crime, an indictment might be the proper course to hold the president accountable. Further, the indictment policy does not stand in isolation: It has repercussions for a Mueller report and access to it for Congress and the American public.

As Rachel Maddow reported recently, the 1973 policy was written when Nixon’s VP Spiro Agnew was being investigated for “bribery, extortion and tax evasion.” (he was subsequently indicted and forced to resign). You can read more details about the history at the link. Smith’s conclusion:

Mr. Mueller’s investigation has brought us to face similar questions of institutional integrity and transparency for the American public. If Mr. Barr determines that Mr. Mueller’s findings compel legal action, he should reconsider the policy against indictment of a sitting president.

But if Mr. Barr holds to the view that a president’s actions should be policed by the political and not criminal process, it will be imperative that he share a Mueller report with Congress and, to the extent practicable, with the public, redacting only information that is classified or otherwise prohibited by statute.

In light of the gravity of our circumstances, it would be timely and appropriate for the Justice Department to reconsider the shaky policy regarding indictability of a sitting president and provide Congress and the public with the Mr. Mueller’s full findings and conclusions. Only through sunlight and transparency can we preserve confidence in our national institutions and leadership.

Yesterday the DNC announced that they will not hold a primary debate in conjunction with Fox News, citing Jane Mayer’s New Yorker Article. This is nothing unusual; the Democrats have refused to work with Fox News since 2007, but mainstream journalists are criticizing the decision.

Now media critic Margaret Sullivan has weighed in at The Washington Post: It’s time — high time — to take Fox News’s destructive role in America seriously.

Chris Wallace is an exceptional interviewer, and Shepard Smith and Bret Baier are reality-based news anchors.

By Dibujo de Eduardo Estrada

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the overall problem of Fox News, which started out with bad intentions in 1996 and has swiftly devolved into what often amounts to a propaganda network for a dishonest president and his allies.

The network, which attracts more viewers than its two major competitors, specializes in fearmongering and unrelenting alarmism. Remember “the caravan”?

At crucial times, it does not observe basic standards of journalistic practice: as with its eventually retracted, false reporting in 2017 on Seth Rich, which fueled conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton had the former Democratic National Committee staffer killed because he was a source of campaign leaks.

Fox, you might recall, was a welcoming haven for “birtherism” — the racist lies about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. For years, it has constantly, unfairly and inaccurately bashed Hillary Clinton.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Jared Kushner recently traveled to the Middle East and met privately with Saudi prince MBS. Now he won’t tell anyone what went on in his meetings. The Daily Beast: Embassy Staffers Say Jared Kushner Shut Them Out of Saudi Meetings.

Officials and staffers in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said they were not read in on the details of Jared Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia or the meetings he held with members of the country’s royal court last week, according to three sources with knowledge of the trip. And that’s causing concern not only in the embassy but also among members of Congress.

By Henry McGrane

On his trip to the Middle East, Kushner stopped in Riyadh. While there, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman to discuss U.S.-Saudi cooperation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and economic investment in the region, according to the White House.

But no one from the embassy in Riyadh was in the meetings, according to those same sources. The State Department did have a senior official in attendance, but he was not part of the State Department team in Saudi. He is a senior member of the department focused on Iran, according to a source with direct knowledge of the official’s presence in Riyadh.

“The Royal Court was handling the entire schedule,” one congressional source told The Daily Beast, adding that officials in the U.S. embassy in had insight into where Kushner was when in Saudi Arabia. “But that is normal for his past trips.”

Click the link to read the rest. A related article from the WaPo editorial board: Trump is covering up for MBS. The Senate must push for accountability.

New York Times gossip columnist Maggie Haberman relays former WH Chief of Staff John Kelly’s attempted cleanup of his mangled reputation following the revelations about Jared and Ivanka’s security clearances: John Kelly, Out of White House, Breaks With Trump Policies.

The former White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, on Wednesday declined to answer questions about the existence of a memo he wrote saying that President Trump had ordered officials to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a security clearance in May 2018.

By Mario Tozzi 1920

Mr. Kelly also broke with Mr. Trump on key aspects of his approach to immigration and the NATO alliance, and said that his top concern about decisions made by the president was whether they were objectively right for the country when divorced from political concerns.

Mr. Kelly, who kept his voice level during a 90-minute question-and-answer session at Duke University, would not specifically address Mr. Kushner’s clearance being ordered by Mr. Trump, which The New York Times reported last week.

“I couldn’t — and I’m not dodging — I couldn’t comment on that for a couple of reasons,” Mr. Kelly said, citing clearances being among the things that he could not discuss, and that conversations with the president “at that level would certainly” be kept confidential under executive privilege.

Some of what Kelly did talk about:

Mr. Kelly, who left at the end of December, also made clear he did not consider himself working for Mr. Trump, but doing his civic duty to serve. If Hillary Clinton had won, he said, he probably would have worked for her as well.

Mr. Kelly defended the utility of the NATO alliance, which Mr. Trump has often criticized as an unfair financial drain on the United States.

On a wall at the border with Mexico, Mr. Kelly said that there were specific areas where it could be effective but constructing one “from sea to shining sea” was a “waste of money.”

The issuance of the zero-tolerance policy for border crossings that resulted in family separations “came as a surprise” to him and to other officials, Mr. Kelly said, defending his replacement as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, from criticism. He appeared to place most of the blame on the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who announced the policy.

I have a few more links to share, but this post is getting long. I’ll put them in the comment thread. What stories have you been following?


Lazy Saturday Reads: tRump, Comey, and Kompromat

Resistance, by Gianluca Zanna

Resistance, by Gianluca Zanna

Good Morning!!

It looks like one thing we won’t have many of in the tRump era is slow news days. We are on the brink of something big–much bigger than Watergate, Iran-Contra, or any other scandal in my lifetime at least. We must brace ourselves to stand firm in the face of autocracy and the threat of actual tyranny. Watergate began slowly until the dam broke and it began escalating rapidly. This isn’t even starting that slowly.

Already we can see that tRump is planning some kind of real takeover–he’s already signaled a purge of the diplomatic corps, the state department, and the energy department. He has even ordered the commander of the DC National Guard to step down in the middle of the inauguration. 

The Army general who heads the D.C. National Guard and has an integral part in overseeing the inauguration said Friday that he will be removed from command effective at 12:01 p.m. Jan. 20, just as Donald Trump is sworn in as president.

Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz’s departure will come in the middle of the presidential ceremony — classified as a national special security event — and while thousands of his troops are deployed to help protect the nation’s capital during an inauguration he has spent months helping to plan.

“The timing is extremely unusual,” Schwartz said in an interview Friday morning, confirming a memo announcing his ouster that was obtained by The Washington Post. During the inauguration, Schwartz will command not only members of the D.C. Guard but also 5,000 unarmed troops dispatched from across the country to help. He also will oversee military air support protecting Washington during the inauguration….

A person close to the transition said transition officials wanted to keep Schwartz in the job for continuity, but the Army pushed to replace him.

Schwartz, who was appointed to head the Guard by President George W. Bush in 2008, maintained the position through President Obama’s two terms. He said his orders came from the Pentagon in the form of an email that names his interim successor, a brigadier general, who takes over at 12:01 p.m. next Friday.

I don’t know if the fact that Schwartz is African American had any role in this decision, but the question must be asked.

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And then there is James Comey. Has this man been compromised by tRump, his fear of the New York FBI office, the Russians, or all three? As Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns and Money wrote yesterday, it’s way past time for Obama to fire Comey for cause.

James Comey, who threw the election to Donald Trump by repeatedly violating norms and regulations to falsely imply that Hillary Clinton was a crook, refuses to be candid about the FBI’s investigation Trump’s relationship with the Russians even in private:

Embattled FBI director James Comey has refused to clarify whether his organization is investigating Donald Trump’s ties to Russia in a closed briefing on Friday for members of Congress, angering legislators who recall his high-profile interjections about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Guardian has learned.

Comey’s lack of candor in a classified setting, intended to brief members on the intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered in the election to benefit Trump, follows a public rebuff this week to senators seeking clarification.

In that earlier hearing, Comey said he would “never comment” on a potential FBI investigation “in an open forum like this”, raising expectations among some attendees of Friday’s briefing that Comey would put the issue to rest in a classified setting.

But according to sources attending the closed-door Friday morning meeting, that was not the case. As such, frustration with Comey was bipartisan and heated, adding to intense pressure on the director of the FBI, whose conduct in the 2016 election itself is now being investigated by an independent US justice department watchdog.

Even in post-parody America, this is astounding conduct.

Revolution, by Borna Demel

Revolution, by Borna Demel

After yesterday’s closed door hearing with intelligence officials, House Democrats stormed out, visibly enraged.

The Hill: Wasserman Schultz confronted Comey about Russian hacking.

The former head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) confronted FBI Director James Comey on Friday during a confidential briefing on Russian hacking that left many Democrats calling for Comey’s scalp, several lawmakers told The Hill.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was forced to resign last summer as head of the DNC amid the hacking scandal, told Comey that he should have come to her directly once the FBI was aware of the breach, just as he had done with other hacking victims….

“You let us down!” one Democrat yelled to Comey during the tense exchange, according to one attendee.

Another Democrat described the scene: “Essentially Debbie asked, how was it that the FBI knew that the DNC was being hacked and they didn’t tell her? He gave some bulls–t explanation, ‘That’s our standard, we called this one, we called that one’ — [she said] ‘Well, why didn’t you call me?’ ”

Recall that the only notification the FBI gave the DNC was a phone call from an agent to an IT guy who didn’t know whether the call was legitimate or a prank.

Yesterday, we also learned that top tRump aide Gen. Michael Flynn has been in in “frequent contact” with the Russian ambassador. The AP reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump’s national security adviser and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. have been in frequent contact in recent weeks, including on the day the Obama administration hit Moscow with sanctions in retaliation for election-related hacking, a senior U.S. official said Friday.

After initially denying that Michael Flynn and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak spoke Dec. 29, a Trump official said late Friday that the transition team was aware of one call on the day President Barack Obama imposed sanctions.

It’s not unusual for incoming administrations to have discussions with foreign governments before taking office. But repeated contacts just as Obama imposed sanctions would raise questions about whether Trump’s team discussed — or even helped shape — Russia’s response.

Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly did not retaliate against the U.S. for the move, a decision Trump quickly praised.

More broadly, Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador suggests the incoming administration has already begun to lay the groundwork for its promised closer relationship with Moscow. That effort appears to be moving ahead, even as many in Washington, including Republicans, have expressed outrage over intelligence officials’ assessment that Putin launched a hacking operation aimed at meddling in the U.S. election to benefit Trump.

In an interview published Friday evening by The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he might do away with Obama’s sanctions if Russia works with the U.S. on battling terrorists and achieving other goals.

“If Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions?” he asked.

In the same interview, tRump said he is not “committed to the One China policy,” according to NBC news this morning.

bansky

A couple of updates on the James Bond-like spy who gathered information on the likelihood that tRump has been compromised by the Russian government:

David Corn at Mother Jones: The Spy Who Wrote the Trump-Russia Memos: It Was “Hair-Raising” Stuff.

Last fall, a week before the election, I broke the story that a former Western counterintelligence official had sent memos to the FBI with troubling allegations related to Donald Trump. The memos noted that this spy’s sources had provided him with information indicating that Russian intelligence had mounted a yearslong operation to co-opt or cultivate Trump and had gathered secret compromising material on Trump. They also alleged that Trump and his inner circle had accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin. These memos caused a media and political firestorm this week when CNN reported that President Barack Obama and Trump had been told about their existence, as part of briefings on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia hacked political targets during the 2016 campaign to help Trump become president. For my story in October, I spoke with the former spy who wrote these memos, under the condition that I not name him or reveal his nationality or the spy service where he had worked for nearly two decades, mostly on Russian matters.

“Someone like me stays in the shadows,” the former spy said.

The former spy told me that he had been retained in early June by a private research firm in the United States to look into Trump’s activity in Europe and Russia. “It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” he recalled. One question for him, he said, was, “Are there business ties in Russia?” The American firm was conducting a Trump opposition research project that was first financed by a Republican source until the funding switched to a Democratic one. The former spy said he was never told the identity of the client.

The former intelligence official went to work and contacted his network of sources in Russia and elsewhere. He soon received what he called “hair-raising” information. His sources told him, he said, that Trump had been “sexually compromised” by Russian intelligence in 2013 (when Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest) or earlier and that there was an “established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.” He noted he was “shocked” by these allegations. By the end of June, he was sending reports of what he was finding to the American firm.

The former spy said he soon decided the information he was receiving was “sufficiently serious” for him to forward it to contacts he had at the FBI. He did this, he said, without permission from the American firm that had hired him. “This was an extraordinary situation,” he remarked.

The response to the information from the FBI, he recalled, was “shock and horror.” After a few weeks, the bureau asked him for information on his sources and their reliability and on how he had obtained his reports. He was also asked to continue to send copies of his subsequent reports to the bureau. These reports were not written, he noted, as finished work products; they were updates on what he was learning from his various sources. But he said, “My track record as a professional is second to no one.”

Read the rest at the link.

election-protests-jpeg-84e2

The Guardian: Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s frustration as FBI sat on Donald Trump Russia file for months.

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who investigated Donald Trump’s alleged Kremlin links, was so worried by what he was discovering that at the end he was working without pay, The Independent has learned.

Mr Steele also decided to pass on information to both British and American intelligence officials after concluding that such material should not just be in the hands of political opponents of Mr Trump, who had hired his services, but was a matter of national security for both countries.

However, say security sources, Mr Steele became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

It is believed that a colleague of Mr Steele in Washington, Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who runs the firm Fusion GPS, felt the same way and, at the end also continued with the Trump case without being paid.

WTF was Comey doing? Was he trying to hold off long enough to find another excuse to hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances and get tRump elected? Comey has to go!

That’s all I have for you this morning, but there is plenty more going on. Please post your own links along with your comments in the thread below.


Tuesday Reads: Berning It All Down

Bernie bros getting ready to burn it all down

Bernie bros getting ready to burn it all down

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, I’ve been sitting here for hours trying to figure out where to begin a post on what’s happening in the news today. So far May has been so terrible for me personally and for my family that I can barely deal with the insanity that is happening in the world of politics. Has it ever been this bad before? I suppose it has, but somehow this election year seems so tawdry, so ugly, so ridiculous, and so horrifying that it’s hard to find a comparison, at least in my lifetime.

Hillary Clinton, one of the most qualified candidates for POTUS ever, is being forced to deal with two insane old white men who are using lies and conspiracy theories to try to bring her down as well as an irresponsible media full of “journalists” who want nothing more than to see her shamed and brought low. If they could get away with burning her at the stake, I believe they would do it without hesitation. I’m not alone. I found this in my Twitter feed:

It is well past time for Bernie Sanders to drop his vicious attacks on Hillary and the Democratic Party, but it has become clear that he is not going to do it. I’m beginning to believe that he actually wants to help elect Donald Trump so that “the revolution” he (Sanders) has dreamed of all of his life will come to fruition.

Bernie is delusional, and I don’t think the Democrats in DC realize the extent to which he has begun to live in his own fantasy world. I don’t think he is going to stop his attacks, and I would not be at all surprised if he tries running third party. I hope and pray that I’m just catastrophizing because of my own stress level.

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One of the first things I clicked on this morning was a link on Memeorandum to Cannonfire: A sin against democracy. It’s a rant about what has become of Salon. You need to read the entire post, but here’s an excerpt:

Salon has become something worse than Fox. Comparing the two, I’m reminded of Steve Martin’s great line from Leap of Faith: “Manipulators are sneaky. I’m obvious!” Fox, at least, has the virtue of being obvious.

Here’s the truth: The Clinton Foundation is a charity. Watchdog groups consider it transparent and honest. It does an enormous amount of good. Liars have painted a completely false picture of that Foundation, what it does and how it runs. (They’ve also seeded the internet with utterly bogus stories about how much money actually reaches the needy.)

The attacks on the Clintons Foundation mirror the infamous “swiftboat” attacks on John Kerry’s war record. That, too, was a Republican smear campaign designed to target an opponent’s strength.

If people like Rove, Stone, Atwater — and the writers for Salon — had been around in 1960, they would have found ways to make people believe that JFK had acted abominably in the PT109 affair. I’m not sure how they would have created that impression, but casuistry can achieve miracles.

While you’re at Cannonfire, you can also check out Joseph Cannon’s previous post: 50 reasons why Sanders would lose all 50 states.

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Yesterday the DNC let Bernie pick five of his supporters to be on the platform committee at the Democratic Convention in July. I’ll give him this much credit: he didn’t name Susan Sarandon or Rosario Dawson.

Sanders’s slate includes James Zogby, a longtime activist for Palestinian rights as well as a DNC member and official. Zogby currently co-chairs the party’s resolutions committee. His inclusion is a sign of Sanders’s plans to push the party’s policy on Israel toward what he has called a more even-handed approach to the Palestinian cause….

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, who will chair the committee, was named by Wasserman Schultz. Most others named by Wasserman Schultz and Clinton are party stalwarts or Clinton supporters — the establishment Sanders has railed against to great effect. Sanders’s picks include people from outside the usual sphere of party influence, including a Native American activist and author and racial justice activist Cornel West….

Sanders also named Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, among his most prominent elected backers, author and environmental activist Bill McKibben and Native American activist Deborah Parker….

The Clinton campaign’s choices are Wendy Sherman, a former top State Department official and Clinton surrogate; Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a longtime Clinton confidante; Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez of Illinois; Carol Browner, a former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency; Ohio state Rep. Alicia Reece; and Paul Booth of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

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I wonder if Cornell West will ask for inclusion of a plank containing some of his most outrageous attacks on President Obama? Read examples at the links below.

Cornel West: Obama Is First ‘Niggerized’ Black President, by Karoli Kuns.

The Ghost of Cornel West, by Michael Eric Dyson.

Bernie Sanders should be invisible at this point, but he just won’t stop screaming for attention, and neither will his abhorrent surrogates. Rosario Dawson was in fine form in California yesterday. The Daily Mail:

Actress Rosario Dawson told Bernie Sanders supporters this afternoon that winning the White House is only the beginning of the political revolution.

It’s time for a ‘clean sweep,’ she said.

‘It’s time for us to start looking at everyone down the ballot and go, “Are you really representing us?’ Dawson said at this afternoon at a Sanders rally in East LA. ‘Who are these superdelegates? Who are these Congress people and these senators – are they really with you?’

Dawson told the California crowd, ‘We need to reform, not conform.’ ….

At a rally later in the day for Sanders in Santa Monica she said ‘when they’re telling us that your vote doesn’t matter right now, but on the side they’re talking about party unity, what they’re really telling you’ is to conform….

Dawson intimated this afternoon as she campaigned for the U.S. senator in California ahead of the June 7 primary that the rest of the Democratic Party establishment ought to watch its back, too.

‘We need to vote together. They’re gonna do anything and everything in their power to stop you from doing that,’ she said, ‘to say that it doesn’t matter.’

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Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: Rosario Dawson Thinks Prince’s Ghost Will Help Bernie Win California or Something.

Rosario Dawson, last seen bringing up Monica Lewinsky at a rally in Delaware [is now] somehow connecting a predicted Bernie Sanders win in the California Democratic primary to the birthday of recently-deceased music legend Prince. To cries of “Down with Hillary!”, Dawson explained that Bernie’s appeal to Republicans, Democrats, and independents meant that they were all going to “vote purple,” so,

So actually, I think it’s quite fitting that on June 7, the day that we’re going to win California, that that would’ve been Prince’s birthday.

Bernie is never going to go away. Never.

Meanwhile Donald Trump is doing his darndest to swiftboat Hillary with tired 1990’s attacks on her husband Bill, who is not running for anything. When will the mainstream media start writing about what Trump’s campaign is really about?

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TPM Muckraker: Great White Hope: Trump Unites Generations Of White Nationalists.

According to Taylor, this year’s conference saw a 100-person jump in attendance from 2015; a show of hands identified half of the participants as first-time attendees and one-third as under the age of 30.

This is the man Bernie Sanders is helping–presumably because he thinks a Trump presidency will trigger a left-wing “political revolution.”

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More links to explore:

NYT: Kenneth Starr, who tried to bury Clinton, now only praises him.

Business Insider: Bill O’Reilly confronts Donald Trump over Bill Clinton attacks: ‘I’m not sure that’s a good idea.’

NBC News: Obama Hits Highest Job Approval Since Second Inauguration.

Right Wing Watch: Trump ‘Christian Policy’ Adviser Is A ‘Prophet’ Who Stopped A Tsunami, Says AIDS Is Result Of ‘Unnatural Sex.’

TPM: Sanders: It’s ‘Insulting’ For Clinton To Decline Fox News Debate.

Amanda Marcotte: Bernie insults voters: He must drop notion that everyone who disagrees with him is corrupt or a dupe.

Hollywood Reporter: Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Drops Tommy Chong as Intro Speaker Hours Before L.A. Rally.

Dana Millbank: Donald Trump, the welfare king.

What stories are you following today? Please share in the comment thread below.

 


Friday Reads: Political Crazy Season

americas-entitlement-crazy-politicsGood Morning!

There are some interesting items out there for folks that find politics fascinating.  I guess I’m getting more in the mood to read about these things since I’ve been phonebanking and canvassing to GOTV for Senator Mary Landrieu here in New Orleans.

I’m not wild about doing either of these activities but I learned to buckle down and do it when I ran for office like 20 years ago.  It’s important this year.  I don’t want to see Republicans take over the Senate.  I don’t agree with Landrieu on a lot of things but the alternative would be a disaster.

I will be canvassing on Saturday and then going to a forum about Women’s issues presented by my Congressoman Cedric Richmond with speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday afternoon.  I will try to live blog the forum. I was thrilled to be invited even though I still consider myself an independent.  Really, the Republicans give me fewer reasons to consider them as serious candidates each election even though the Dems do not thrill me at all.

So, first up, the whacky state of Kansas continues to provide some interesting goings on.  Usually reliably Republican, but also reliably practical, Kansas voters appear ready to get rid of their Republican Governor Sam Brownback. who has basically followed the Koch formula and the discredited economic policies of Arthur Laffer.  They also look to be getting rid of their long-time Senator for an Independent.  The Democrat left the race and The Kansas Supreme Court decided it was fine to remove his name from the ballot.  The highly panicked Republican party has been scrambling to get anyone’s name back in the race so they could possibly profit from a three way split.  Kansas’ Secretary of State has been nakedly partisan. (BTW, my father was born in Kansas and I spent a good deal of my childhood going back and forth between the Kansas City suburbs of Kansas and Kansas City Missouri where my mother was born and all her relatives lived.  I know both states very well.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Democratic Senate nominee Chad Taylor’s name should be removed from the ballot in November, overruling Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).

The much-anticipated ruling in one of the most-watched Senate races of 2014 means national Democrats are closer to their perceived goal of clearing the field for independent candidate Greg Orman. Polling suggests that Orman, who had briefly run as a Democrat in 2008 and is open to caucusing with either party, is better positioned to knock off the vulnerable Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.

But the matter might not be fully resolved.

After the ruling, Kobach quickly moved to put another obstacle in the way of Democrats’ plan. Kobach reiterated his position that the Democratic Party is required under state law to replace Taylor on the ballot. He said he had notified the party chair that Taylor should be replaced and moved the mailing date for ballots from Sept. 20 to Sept. 27 to give Democrats time to pick a new nominee.

Election law expert Rick Hasen said on his blog that Kobach would likely have to sue the Democratic Party to force it to replace Taylor. A Democratic Party spokesperson did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

The court said Thursday that it did not need to address whether Taylor should be replaced under state law because that issue was not before it.

Kobach had declared earlier this month that Taylor’s name would have to remain on the ballot, despite his attempt to withdraw. Taylor then sued Kobach to reverse his decision, and the court sided with Taylor on Thursday.

“Our determination that the uncontroverted contents of Taylor’s September 3 letter timely satisfy the statutory requirements for withdrawal now leads us to Kobach’s clearly defined duty imposed by the law,” the court wrote in 4c85b2653dd93.preview-300its unanimous decision. “Kobach’s attorney admitted at oral arguments that if the letter was held to comply with the statute, Kobach would have no discretion.”

So Kobach first argued that today was a drop dead date since the ballots would go to print. The Court delivered the verdict at close of business indicating that the ballot would contain no Democrat.  Kobach has now changed the drop dead date for 8 days from now and has told the Democrats they must deliver a candidate name to him by then.  This is something that was never implied in the verdict.

This whole mess could have been avoided if Taylor would have done a better job with his letter, or if Kobach did not push the issue—and the evidence that his office had accepted non-complying letters before was damning to his case. The Court noted that Kobach submitted those letters after the deadline for filings, but seemed to praise him for doing it out of an “ethical obligation” to the court. In other words, if he just sat on letters his office just found which showed the inconsistent treatment of withdrawal letters in the past, it would have been deceptive to the court.

So what happens next depends upon Kobach’s next move.  He has said he would sue Democrats to get them to name a replacement, but given the time frame now, and the fact that it may not be in Republicans’ political interests to let this fester any more, this may be the end.  [Update: Byran Lowry reports: “Kobach says Dem chair has been informed that she has 8 days to select a replacement candidate. #ksleg#KSSen#kseln.”  It is not clear how the 8 days fits into the existing ballot printing timeframe.]  [Second update: Kobach is moving the mailing to 9/27.  What does this say about what he represented to court about deadlines? Wow wow wow.]

Addendum: If Democrats refuse to name or no candidate agrees to serve, then what?  It seems like it would be a tough First Amendment claim to FORCE a party to name a replacement.  Perhaps if Democrats do nothing Kobach will realize there’s not much he can do and drop the issue. We will see.

What other craziness is popping up in elections across the country?  How about a GOP congressional candidate that wants to go to war with Mexico over undocumented immigration?reverse_robin_hood_cartoon_500-500x350

The latest candidate to sign up for the hard-fought America’s Dumbest Congressman competition is Republican Mark Walker, who’s running for North Carolina’s deep-red 6th Congressional district. Walker is the one who previously vowed that he would impeach Barack Obama, if given the chance, and is generally of the Michele Bachmann “you must be this paranoid to enter Congress” wing of the party, worried about Sharia law and/or Obama declaring martial law and/or whatever else you got. You know, a tea partier.

But I don’t think that prepared any of us for the revelation that Mark Walker’s answer to undocumented immigrants is to “go laser or blitz somebody” in Mexico, as he told a local Rockingham County tea party group called Will of the People on June 26th of this year. Ye Gods, man:

Question: Mr Walker, I want to ask you how you feel about military, using the military to secure our southern border? I know a lot of people holler Posse Comitatus, that’s when the military out enforcing local laws, guarding the border is not the same thing. And we’ve got other people, other countries going, “Why can’t we guard our own?”

Walker: Well, my first answer for that is we need to utilize the National Guard as much as we can. But, I will tell you If you have foreigners who are sneaking in with drug cartels to me that is a national threat and if we got to go laser or blitz somebody with a couple of fighter jets for a little while to make our point, I don’t have a problem with that either. So yea, whatever you need to do.

Moderator: “I hope you wouldn’t have any qualms about starting up a little war with Mexico.”

Walker: “Well, we did it before, if we need to do it again, I don’t have a qualm about it.”

I realize our standards for who should be in Congress these days have been thoroughly dismantled by the likes of Bachmann, Steve Stockman and Louie Gohmert, but shouldn’t a theoretical national leader have just a few qualms about going to war with Mexico in order to prove a rather nebulous not-sure? Just a wee bit of qualms? (And what does it mean to “go laser” somebody? Will that make it into the congressional resolution, that the Congress of the United States hereby demands we “go laser” someone? Either I am not hep to modern tea party lingo or this man is a bonafide imbecile.)

This is really a bad timing situation for the DNC.  Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was the subject of a Politico Hit piece that included some really horrid insider comments.  One has to wonder if sexism was involved but her position seems to be in jeopardy as a result.sherffius21

Based on interviews with DNC staffers — both former and current — the piece described Wasserman Schultz as something of a modern-day Tracy Flick: over-eager, disloyal and not shy about promoting her ambitions. It would be fair to say that she sounds like, well, a lot like other politicians. And this would be accurate. But the wholesale bashing of Wasserman Schultz at every level of the party — White House, Congress, donors, aides in her own shop — is especially rough, even given the reality of Beltway politics.

She comes across as a woman without a party, holding a job that could be a stepping stone, but now seems more like a trap door. (As Philip Bump notes, it might be a stepping stone no matter how it ends.) This is a public firing, Washington-style.

A few of the harsher passages:

One example that sources point to as particularly troubling: Wasserman Schultz repeatedly trying to get the DNC to cover the costs of her wardrobe.

Many expect a nascent Clinton campaign will engineer her ouster. Hurt feelings go back to spring 2008, when while serving as a co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Wasserman Schultz secretly reached out to the Obama campaign to pledge her support once the primary was over, sources say.

For even the occasional Obama briefing by the heads of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, she is not invited.

“We say the big ‘D’ is for Democratic,” one member joked to others at the House Democratic retreat on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in February, according to one of the members. “For her, the big ‘D’ is always for Debbie.”

Instead, the DNC chairwoman stakes out the president of the United States at the end of photo lines at events and fundraisers. “You need another picture, Debbie?” Obama tends to say, according to people who’ve been there for the encounters.

Since 1848, the DNC has only had three women at the helm, and part of the reason (maybe the biggest reason), Wasserman Schultz landed the role andkept it is gender. Her selling point, according to people familiar with the initial deliberations, was that she was good with donor and had deep ties to Clinton supporters (read: white women) who Obama needed to keep on board in 2012. It also helped — a lot — that she is Jewish and from Florida, a big important state with lots of money for the fundraising.

Wasserman Schultz embraced the “war on women” lingo early on, and as DNC chair she helped to elevate it nationally. And though DNC insiders weren’t ever sold on her TV skills, she was good on the stump, pumping up grassroots activists and helping them feel connected to the campaign.

Oy.

Perhaps the biggest fight over the “war on women” will happen in Colorado where Marla-na-tt-supreme-court-spending-limits-2014040-001k Udall is slugging it out with Republican Cory Gardner. This is one race that looks safe for the Dems but they are really depending on women and minorities. This is a similar situation for Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.

Like all competitive Senate races, the neck-and-neck contest in Colorado may determine which party controls the Senate, but the race is also the central battleground for the fight between Republicans and Democrats over female voters. Will Democrats win by returning to the tested playbook of focusing on reproductive issues to run up their support with women, or have Republicans found a way to blunt that attack? The outcome will render a verdict on the principal strategic gambit of the Democratic Party, and it will contribute to a running debate within Republican ranks. Can the GOP win in competitive states—and even a national presidential contest—with its current positions, or must its candidates do more than offer cosmetic changes to core beliefs?

In two days this week, three new ads were launched in this Colorado race. In one, Udall spoke directly to the camera, saying his opponent is “promoting harsh anti-abortion laws and a bill to outlaw birth control.” The Democratic outside group NextGen Climate ran an apocalyptic ad in which it claimed Gardner’s position on contraception meant “he’d like to make your most private choices for you.” The pro-Republican group Crossroads GPS put up its own ad in which four women standing around a kitchen island bemoan that Udall wasn’t talking about issues that matter.

These ads are only the most recent volleys over a set of issues that have dominated the campaign since April. Two of Udall’s first three ads hammered Gardner on his conservative position on abortion and past support for the state’s “personhood” initiatives, which would grant a fetus rights and protections that apply to people. National Democratic organizations have been hammering these issues too, as has Planned Parenthood. “There’s been so much advertising touching on so-called ‘women’s issues’ in this race that it’s noticeable when a Democratic ad doesn’tmention them,” says Elizabeth Wilner, vice president of Kantar Media Ad Intelligence, which tracks campaign and issue advertising.

Democrats need women to turn out to vote in all of their toughest races, including Colorado. (Women are so important in the contested states that in my notes from interviewing one top Democratic strategist who described the key factors in each of those races, I scribbled the Venus symbol next to seven of them.) The challenge is to get women to turn out in a nonpresidential year. In 2010, 22 million fewer unmarried women voted than in 2008, according to a study by the Voter Participation Center and Lake Research Partners. Among married women, the drop-off was 10 million.

This is going to be a really interesting midterm election and it’s important.  That’s why I’ve decided to work my ass off.  I don’t want to think that I could’ve done something and sat home.

It certainly looks like it isn’t going to quiet down any time soon.  It will probably get uglier. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


The Big Dawg on Deck: A Sneak Preview

Whatever bad blood went on between Presidents Obama and Clinton around 2008 seems to be so much political dust in the wind right now.  Clinton appears to be fired up and ready to go for his nominating speech at the DNC.

Bill Clinton fired up the Arkansas delegation at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night, blasting Republicans for piling up the national debt and giving a preview of the speech he will give to the full convention on Wednesday.

“This economy that [President Obama] inherited was profoundly ruined. Nobody who’s ever served — no one, including me — has ever been expected to turn it around overnight,” Clinton said. “The economy failed and hit bottom six months after Republicans took office. Nine percent. That’s almost Depression-level shrinkage. And I’ll give you the details tomorrow night, but that’s quite a blow.”

“And it was really interesting to me that when [Obama] was trying so hard to put Americans back to work — two full years before the election — the Senate Republican leader said that their number one goal was not to put America back to work, it was to put the president out of work,” he added.

Clinton spoke to several hundred attendees at a fundraiser in his honor, sponsored by the Arkansas Democratic Party. Actors Adrian Grenier and Ashley Judd, as well as musician will.i.am, also spoke and celebrated the former president. The crowd warmly embraced Clinton as an old friend, yelling, “That’s our Bill!” and reminiscing about his time in Arkansas beforehand.

Clinton also made fun of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for offering so few policy details in his convention speech, joking that it was a good idea because if the American public heard them, they wouldn’t vote for them.

“They tell us they’re good husbands, good fathers and good Americans. Totally self-made. And you can trust me. See me after the election for the details,” he said, summing up how he interpreted the speeches in at last week’s Republican convention in Tampa, Fla.

But perhaps the main point of Clinton’s speech was putting the blame for the national debt squarely at the GOP’s doorstep.

He pointed to the giant national debt clock that Republicans had at their convention, saying, “You see that debt clock?”

“They built it!” shouted a man in the audience.

“Yeah, they built it. They built it,” replied Clinton, to loud cheers and laughs from the audience.

The Big Dawg has street cred on balanced budgets.  He has cred on a lot of things. He is the best retail politician I have ever seen in my lifetime. I’ve seen him speak and work a crowd many times down here in New Orleans.

One of the biggest, weirdest tropes coming out of the Republican propaganda machines these days is the imaginary ‘wedge’ between the former and current president.  I see absolutely no evidence of it.   You really have to wonder how many lies the Republicans think the American people will swallow.  It has to be a cynical attempt to grab votes.  You can tell when the Big Dawg is pissed at some one.  It’s really obvious.  I think Clinton realizes that Obama’s legacy is tied to the Clinton legacy in many ways.  I’m not alone in that thought.

Tonight, former president Bill Clinton gives the official nominating speech for the Democratic National Convention. It’s an understatement to say there’s a good deal of anticipation around what Clinton will say. For as much as both campaigns are focused on the future, this election is as much a referendom on Clinton’s presidency as it is a choice between two competing visions.

President Obama has explicitly presented himself as the natural extension of Clinton’s legacy. His administration is staffed with Clinton veterans, his secretary of state is the former First Lady, and his signature policies are a more muscular spin on the centrist approach that characterized Clinton’s first term. Indeed, one of the most recent television ads from Team Obama — “Clear Choice” — features Clinton as he speaks directly into the camera and tells viewers: “President Obama has a plan to rebuild America from the ground up, investing in innovation, education and job training. It only works if there is a strong middle class. That’s what happened when I was president. We need to keep going with his plan.”

The one noticeable pol missing is Al Gore.

He isn’t coming to the Democratic National Convention but is spending the week in New York City, anchoring coverage of the event for his network Current TV.

Gore’s evolution over the past four years — from a central figure in the Democratic Party to a no-show at its biggest event — matches what has happened to the issue of climate change itself, which moved to the sidelines alongside its chief crusader, environmentalists and some Democrats say.

It’s not like Gore hasn’t noticed — and his frustration with Obama has been on display. He’s leveled criticism at Obama for abandoning the push for a climate change bill. He accused him of failing to use the bully pulpit to spread the word about the dangers of rising global temperatures. And he faulted Obama for putting off tough new smog regulations.

On the other hand, Gore has also offered some defense of Obama’s record and says that “I would fear for the future of our environmental policy” if Mitt Romney wins the election.

People who know Gore say this is the role where he feels he can make a difference now — critic and outsider, more activist than politician.

This is a situation where a look back to the past is actually a good thing as compared to the retro-vision of the Republican Party.  The Clinton Economy was a period of great growth for every one in the country.   I am sure that Clinton will bathe in the spotlight.  The man adores it.

However, I’m looking forward to him making the case for the current President.   We are also looking for that hint of answer to the big question of Hillary in 2016.  Will anything suggest this in anyway?

And if everything goes the former president’s way, it could conceivably lead to another Clinton winning the White House in 2016. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is not on the premises, in keeping with the diplomatic tradition of steering clear of partisan politics, but her husband’s ubiquitousness here would certainly come in handy during any future presidential try by her.

All this is possible because, nearly 12 years after leaving office still marred by impeachment, the former president is arguably the most popular figure on the political scene. His personal approval ratings have never been higher, easily exceeding Obama’s. His easy drawl is bombarding the airwaves in battleground state television ads broadcast by the Obama team.

Obama has asked Clinton to place his name in nomination, which makes him the first ex-president to have that honor and provides further proof, if any were needed, of his importance to the reelection effort.

Clinton is already raising money for Obama from wealthy donors and volunteering strategic advice. “He calls me frequently,” said a senior Obama campaign official in Chicago. “He is all the way in.”

He is also keeping the family business alive while his wife finishes her term as secretary of State. He has been making endorsements in down-ballot races and raising money for Democrats who backed her presidential campaign and could be in a position to help her again.

Secretary Clinton, one of the few figures on the national scene whose aura rivals her husband’s, has seen her personal ratings rebound to near-record highs during her tenure as the nation’s senior diplomat. She has announced plans to return to private life after the 2012 election, prompting intense speculation about another bid for the Democratic nomination.

“Why wouldn’t she run?” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has said, echoing the assessment of many others inside and outside Clinton circles. She would turn 69 in 2016, but even those who say she hasn’t made up her mind don’t think age would be an impediment.

Because she will be on the opposite side of the planet Wednesday — meeting with China’s leaders as part of a 10-day, six-nation trip — her husband will not only be promoting Obama and burnishing his own legacy in Charlotte. He’ll be her stand-in too, said Ann Lewis, a top Clinton White House aide and senior advisor in Secretary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. “He’s been practicing the role of spouse for several years,” she said. “He’s pretty good at it.”

This would be a past, present and a future to look forward to.  That would be a real change.


Wednesday Reads: Now Voyager…to seek and find.

Good Morning

If you missed the DNC party last night, check out these two post during the live blog:

Thread One

Thread Two

It looks like some of the basturds were tweeting their usual kind of comments. CNN’s Erick Erickson Apologizes For “Vagina Monologues” Tweet | Blog | Media Matters for America

During the first night of the Democratic National Convention, CNN contributor Erick Erickson tweeted, “First night of the Vagina Monologues in Charlotte going as expected”:

What an ass…speaking of which: RNC Delegate ‘Highly Offended’ By ‘Mexican’ Employee Working Disney’s ‘America Pavilion’ | Mediaite

Prior to their visit to the Republican National Convention last week, Pennsylvania Republican delegate Mark Harrisand his wife Irene spent a few days at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and were “highly offended” to find a Mexican employee working at the American pavilion of the resort’s Epcot Center.

Epcot features a “World Showcase” which contains pavilions representing eleven countries including the United States. On the couple’s personal blog, Harris wrote that her husband complained to staff that they were “highly offended” that a “person from Mexico” was “working in America” while the other representative pavilions were staffed by employees from each respective country.

“He was very civil but his point was well-made,” the blog post concluded.

But get this, he took the time to clarify his comment.

Harris contacted a local newspaper to defend himself, saying that, “This is getting taken out of context.”

He explained: “What we said is that in Epcot we saw a man that had a name tag that said ’Eddie, from Mexico,’ and we felt that in the America section of the park, there should have been Americans.”

Epcot employees typically wear name-tags bearing their hometown. Disney is known for its rigorous hiring process and it is unlikely that the employee the Harris couple spotted was just some Mexican citizen haphazardly working the America pavilion, but rather a Mexican-born man who is now also an American citizen.

Those do exist, you know.

These people are unbelievable. I mean, this is something Cartman would say, am I right?

Not My Waterpark (Season 13, Episode 14) – Video Clips – South Park Studios

Not My Waterpark

Season 13

Cartman sings a heartfelt ode about how his water park isn’t the way he remembered it.

I couldn’t get the video to embed. Give it a listen, and tell me if these GOP dipshits aren’t all Eric Cartmans.

Well, there is one group of people the Dems are focusing on, Democrats Seek to Fire Up Female Voters – NationalJournal.com

Chet Susslin

Sisterhood is powerful: Democrats courting women.

At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, every night is ladies’ night.

And it looks like Michelle Obama made her mark on the evening. Michelle Obama makes the political and personal case for four more years | World news | guardian.co.uk

Michelle Obama acknowledges the cheering crowd during her speech at Democratic national convention

Michelle Obama acknowledges the cheering crowd during her speech at the Democratic national convention in Charlotte. Photograph: Brian Blanco/EPA

Michelle Obama electrified Democrats on the opening night of the party’s national convention with a powerful and unashamedly personal speech in which she invoked the future of her own children as she made the personal and political case for her husband’s re-election.

On now to a few links from the pundits about last night.

Charlie Peirce is on: Joe Kennedy Convention Speech – Joe Kennedy III and the Neverending Kennedy Magic – Esquire

Ed Schultz interviews Sandra Fluke: Women Care About More Than Just Being Put at the Podium | Video Cafe

Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention — FULL TEXT – NationalJournal.com

And HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: ‘ObamaCare is a badge of honor’ – The Hill’s Healthwatch

One news story that I want to share, that I think is really cool, and it has nothing to do with politics!

NASA’s Voyager 1 on verge of leaving solar system – CBS News

Artist’s rendering provided by NASA shows Voyager spacecraft. (AP Photo/NASA)

(AP) PASADENA, Calif. — Thirty-five years after leaving Earth, Voyager 1 is reaching for the stars.

Sooner or later, the workhorse spacecraft will bid adieu to the solar system and enter a new realm of space — the first time a manmade object will have escaped to the other side.

Perhaps no one on Earth will relish the moment more than 76-year-old Ed Stone, who has toiled on the project from the start.

“We’re anxious to get outside and find what’s out there,” he said.

When NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 first rocketed out of Earth’s grip in 1977, no one knew how long they would live. Now, they are the longest-operating spacecraft in history and the most distant, at billions of miles from Earth but in different directions.

Wednesday marks the 35th anniversary of Voyager 1’s launch to Jupiter and Saturn. It is now flitting around the fringes of the solar system, which is enveloped in a giant plasma bubble. This hot and turbulent area is created by a stream of charged particles from the sun.

Outside the bubble is a new frontier in the Milky Way — the space between stars. Once it plows through, scientists expect a calmer environment by comparison.

When that would happen is anyone’s guess. Voyager 1 is in uncharted celestial territory. One thing is clear: The boundary that separates the solar system and interstellar space is near, but it could take days, months or years to cross that milestone.

When I hear the word Voyager…I think of two things.

Now, Voyager Poster

The movie, whose title comes from a Walt Whitman poem.

Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.

289. The Untold Want

THE untold want, by life and land ne’er granted,
Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.

And the Moody Blues album, Long Distance Voyager.

Remember this album cover? Take a look at the sky, do you see it?