Tuesday Reads: The First Democratic Debate

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Good Morning!!

Tonight’s the night! Hillary Clinton will be center stage for the first Democratic Debate, hosted by CNN. To her right, Bernie Sanders will probably have to wear a suit instead of rolled-up shirt sleeves. The other three spots will be filled by people most Americans have barely heard of: Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee.

Hillary is obviously the most experienced debater of the five, although I imagine Bernie Sanders will be able to hold his own. Can Martin O’Malley increase his visibility and voter recognition? Will Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee be able to explain why they are supposedly running for President? We’ll find out tonight.

We’ll have a live blog tonight beginning around 8PM, and I hope you can join us. It’s always more fun watching these events with friends.

So what are the pundits saying this morning?

From CNN: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders finally face off.

Though Clinton and Sanders have rarely mentioned each other’s names, they are clearly reacting to each other and their rival’s potential weaknesses. Sanders took aim at Clinton’s Wall Street record and Iraq vote over the weekend; she put him on the defensive on guns and his poor standing with minority voters.

Until now, they have each had good reason for avoiding full contact with the other. Clinton hasn’t wanted to elevate Sanders and his surprisingly strong poll numbers, while Sanders has wanted to maintain his untraditional, above-the-fray image.

On Tuesday, that calculus will change. And the distinctions they’ve subtly staked out on a range of issues are only likely to grow sharper.

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The focus of the article is mostly on ways that Bernie will be able to attack Hillary.

As he limbered up for their clash, Sanders threw down the gauntlet on the Iraq War — a thrust that Clinton has struggled to counter in the past — hinting that she has hawkish views that are out of step with the majority of Democratic voters.

His campaign issued a statement reminding voters that he, then a member of the House of Representatives, voted against authorizing the Iraq war in late 2002. At the time he argued that the conflict would destabilize the Middle East, kill large numbers of Americans and Iraqi civilians and hamper the war on terror against al Qaeda….

“Democrats are no more fond of the Iraq war now than they were back then. That could be a problem,” Peter Beinart, a foreign policy expert and CNN contributor, said Monday. He added that another Democratic candidate, former Virginia senator and Vietnam war veteran Jim Webb, who was also against the war, could double-team with Sanders to cause trouble for Clinton on the issue.

Sanders has also been staking out territory to Clinton’s left on Syria. The former secretary of state recently distanced herself from Obama’s much-criticized policy on the vicious civil war by calling for a no-fly zone to be set up to shield refugees.

Sanders issued a statement earlier this month pointing out that he opposes such an idea, warning that it could “get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never ending entanglement in that region.”

Fine, but Hillary’s Iraq vote was a very long time ago. Right now, she has laid out specific policy proposals to deal with America’s present-day domestic problems. Tonight, she’ll get a chance to explain her policies. Will Bernie have specifics about how he plans to achieve his ambitious policy goals?

CNN's emergency Joe Biden podium

CNN’s emergency Joe Biden podium

CNN is still fantasizing about getting Joe Biden on stage tonight. They supposedly have a podium ready for him if he shows up at the last minute. Last night Stephen Colbert poked fun at CNN’s “Biden fever.” Read about it and watch the clip at the Washington Post.

The New York Times’ Amy Chozick had an interesting article on Hillary as debater on Friday: In Debate, Hillary Clinton Will Display Skills Honed Over a Lifetime.

When Hillary Rodham’s high school government teacher in Park Ridge, Ill., insisted she play the role of Lyndon B. Johnson in a mock debate of the 1964 presidential election, she protested.

Ms. Rodham, one of the school’s standout debaters, was a proud Barry Goldwater supporter (she wore a hat with an “AuH2O” logo) and an active member of the Young Republicans. But the teacher, Jerry Baker, was intent on challenging her to argue the other side.

Always a dutiful student, she agreed, settling into the library to pore for hours over Johnson’s positions on civil rights, foreign policy and health care. She prepared with such ardor and delivered such a compelling case that she even convinced herself. By the time Ms. Rodham graduated from college, she was a Democrat.

Chozick notes that Hillary is a genuine policy wonk.

The first Democratic primary debate Tuesday on CNN will provide Mrs. Clinton with an opportunity to present her policies to voters — policies that have been largely overshadowed in the news media by developments over her use of private email at the State Department and by the rise of her insurgent opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

But more important, the debate — perhaps more than any late-night appearances or social media gambit — will provide Mrs. Clinton with the largest platform yet to make a connection with voters and show off her genuine passion for policy.

“It’s who she is at her core,” said Patti Solis Doyle, who was an aide to Mrs. Clinton from 1991 to 2008 and managed her last presidential campaign. “She’s an avid studier. She does her homework. She’s a massive preparer.”

The characteristics that viewers will see in Mrs. Clinton on Tuesday are in many ways the same ones that Mr. Baker spotted in his ambitious high school student a half-century ago.

Read much more at the link.

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Here’s a hilarious headline from today’s Washington Post: Hillary Clinton’s declining image numbers inch upward. The article itself is quite revealing (emphasis added). The charts are from the article by Philip Bump.

This is the story of Hillary Clinton’s favorability that’s usually told: a steep and accelerating drop over time.

New polling data from The Washington Post and ABC News, though, paints a different picture. Since August, Clinton’s approval rating is . . . up slightly, to 47 percent from 45 percent. Her net favorability — the percentage of people who view her positively minus those who view her negatively — is up six points.

Clinton’s net favorability didn’t change among Democrats, we’ll note, while both Bernie Sanders and non-candidate-and-maybe-never-candidate Joe Biden saw improvements with Democrats. Clinton gained with independents — and Republicans, where she essentially had nowhere to go but up. Biden saw the biggest gain in net favorability with Republicans, though, gaining 12 points.

Clinton and Biden both saw improvements in their favorability and declines in their unfavorable numbers. For Sanders, the picture was different. Since August, both his favorable and unfavorable numbers increased by about the same amount, nine and eight points, respectively, among registered voters, even as he became much better known….

We’ll note that, for her recent improvement, Clinton is still the least positively viewed Democrat among the three that poll the highest. At least on net. She is also the most popular Democrat among Democrats, with 79 percent favorability to Biden’s 72 and Sanders’s 47. It’s just that she’s viewed far worse by Republicans.

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Gee, I wonder why Biden’s favorability has improved so much among Republicans? /s

How have the candidates been preparing for tonight’s debate? Politico claims to have the lowdown on what Clinton and Sanders have been up to. In the article on Clinton, you have to look for informative tidbits scattered through the Hillary hate. Inside Hillary Clinton’s debate prep.

Her debate strategy is now expected to be two-pronged, according to campaign officials and people with knowledge of the debate preparations: She will attempt to embrace some of Sanders’ ideals while dismissing his solutions, and simultaneously try for a third time to introduce herself to the American public and explain her rationale for running.

She will arrive on the Las Vegas debate stage having poured over briefing books that underscore Sanders’ problematic gun control votes, like his lack of support for the Brady Act, which established mandatory checks on gun sales, and his vote for the 2005 law that gave protection to firearm manufacturers from lawsuits filed by victims and their families. (She also unveiled her own specific gun control policies Monday, just eight days ahead of the debate.)

She is also expected to hold her ground on any attacks that question her fight for progressive values, and hammer home the point that it’s not about great rhetoric or speeches, it’s about results and who can deliver them.

Clinton’s team has also discussed how to inject skepticism into the minds of viewers by questioning how her challenger plans to pay for trillions of dollars in new initiatives he has proposed (The Wall Street Journal tallied his proposals to cost $18 trillion over 10 years), sources said.

The article had little to say about Hillary’s actual debate prep methods, but there’s a more informative article at Glamour Magazine by Jackie Kucinich. It’s an interview with Neera Tanden, who helped prepare Hillary for the debates in 2008. It’s well worth reading. According to Tanden, Hillary likes to participate in mock debates and practice question and answer sessions. She is always very well versed on the issues.

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Politico on Bernie Sanders’ “unorthodox debate prep”:

Hillary Clinton has had aides lined up to run her debate prep for months. A Washington super lawyer is mimicking Bernie Sanders, and her top policy staffer is acting as Martin O’Malley.

Sanders started studying for next Tuesday’s event not even a full week ago. And that’s because his two top aides sat him down in Burlington on Friday and asked whether he had a plan.

Sanders has briefing books, a couple of meetings with policy experts and an abiding aversion to the idea of acting out a debate before it happens. He knows the stakes are high, his staff says. But the candidate, whose New Hampshire polling and fundraising prowess have put a scare into Clinton, is uninterested in going through the motions of typical debate practice.

The Vemont senator’s debate preparations, in other words, don’t look a ton like debate preparations.

While CNN is billing the event as a showdown, Sanders’ team sees the first Democratic debate as a chance to introduce a fairly niche candidate to a national audience. So his team intends to let him do what he’s been doing. Far from preparing lines to deploy against Clinton — let alone O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee or Jim Webb — Sanders plans to dish policy details, learned through a handful of briefings with experts brought in by his campaign.

Hmmmm….I’m just wondering if he’ll have any specifics about how to implement and pay for his proposed policies. It sounds like he’ll mostly be arguing that he’s the best because he opposed the Iraq War, the pipeline, and the TPP “from day one.” We’ll find out tonight, I guess.

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I couldn’t find anything about Chafee’s or Webb’s preparations, but Huffington Post has a short piece on Martin O’Malley: Martin O’Malley’s Spin On Debate Prep: An Open Mic Night In Vegas.

O’Malley’s last best chance to become a factor in the race arrives on Tuesday night, when he is set to share a debate stage here with Clinton and Sanders. His goal will be a simple one: to introduce himself in a positive light — with a particularly well-timed one-liner or two as an added bonus — to the millions of Democratic voters who still have no idea who he is.

Many of them may end up liking what they see, as O’Malley’s relative youth and executive experience presents an immediate contrast to his better-known rivals.

As we discovered when we spent a day on the campaign trail with him in Sin City last week, O’Malley is a more compelling figure than his relatively anonymous profile would suggest.

Sure, he can still eat lunch at a strip mall Subway without any substantial risk that he might be recognized, as he did with our cameras rolling. But O’Malley is also able to boast of having complied a host of progressive accomplishments during his tenure in Annapolis on issues ranging from gun control to immigration reform and beyond.

Oh, and he can really sing, too, as he showed us during his guitar-picking open mic night performance on a rainy evening at a dimly lit bar in downtown Vegas.

Okay…..nothing too substantive there.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and don’t forget to come back tonight for the debate live blog!


Thursday Reads: GOP Clown Car Update and Other News

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Good Morning!!

I can’t believe I have a cold in June–sore throat, stuffy nose, and a cough. Ugh. Plus the town is working the water pipes on my street, and they are right in front of my house for the second day. This morning they have shut off my running water. I don’t know how long it will be, because I wasn’t even warned they were going to be digging a giant trench that would keep me from getting my car out of the driveway for two days straight. What if I had to get to a job?

There is a huge digger machine in front of the house, men all over my yard and driveway. Occasionally there are loud thumps that shake the house. Late yesterday they filled in the trench temporarily, but I still wouldn’t have dared drive my car out because there was a depression at the end of the driveway that looked like it would be difficult to get past.

I just hope they finish up today. I have known for a long time that they were going to do this, but I expected to be told when they would be shutting off my water and blocking my driveway. Oh well . . . fortunately I don’t need to get out.

I had something really interesting that I wanted to write about today, but I’m going to postpone that until Saturday when I hope I’ll be feeling more like myself. This post will be basically a link dump.

Here’s the latest on the GOP clown car.

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We all knew that Ted Cruz was a giant a-hole, but this is really beyond the pale. From David Nir at DailyKos,

Joe Biden has suffered far, far more tragedy than anyone should ever have to endure in a lifetime. In 1972, just weeks after he first won election to the Senate, Biden’s wife and one-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident. Last week, his 46-year-old son Beau, who survived that same accident, died of brain cancer.

As Biden’s son Beau’s body awaited burial, Cruz decided to tell a “cruel joke” about his grieving father.

“You know, Vice President Joe Biden,” he said as a few chuckles emerged from the crowd, setting up the joke for him.

“You know the nice thing. You don’t need a punchline. I promise you it works. At the next party you’re at, just walk up to someone and say, ‘Vice President Joe Biden,’ and just close your mouth. They will crack up laughing.”

Afterward reporter Chad Livengood asked Cruz about the death of Biden’s son. Cruz’s response was telling.

Q: Could you talk about the vice president losing his son this week?

A: Heartbreaking and tragic, and our prayers are very much with Vice President Biden, with Jill. It’s a tragedy no one should have to endure.

Q: Why’d you tell a joke about the vice president tonight?

A: Uh …. [walks away]

 Cruz later “apologized,” according to The Detroit News:

“It was a mistake to use an old joke about Joe Biden during his time of grief, and I sincerely apologize,” Cruz said in a statement. “The loss of his son is heartbreaking and tragic, and our prayers are very much with the Vice President and his family.”

Biden’s eldest son, Beau, died Saturday of brain cancer. Beau Biden was a former two-term attorney general of Delaware and is to be buried Saturday in the Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

Cruz used the joke to talk about Biden’s past comments about firing off a double-barrel shotgun to ward off intrudersone of several stump-speech jabs at Democrats.

“That is very, very good advice — if it so happens that you’re being attacked by a flock of geese,” Cruz said….

Cruz was the keynote speaker for the Livingston County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner at Crystal Gardens banquet center in Howell.

Jeb-Bush

I thought Jeb Bush was already running for president, but apparently he’s still playing games in an attempt to get media attention. From the AP, via Huffington Post: Jeb Bush Teases Presidential Announcement On June 15.

The former Florida governor, widely expected to run for the GOP nomination, tweeted “coming soon” with a link to the website jebannouncement.com. On that page, the date 06.15.15 was listed, followed by the tease, “BE THE FIRST TO KNOW. RSVP NOW!” Visitors to the site could enter their name and email address. Bush also tweeted it in Spanish, “Próximamente 6.15.15.”

Boooooorrrrrrringggggg . . .

And then there’s the scandal-ridden former governor of Texas.

USA Today: Rick Perry launches 2016 presidential campaign.

ADDISON, Texas — Former Texas governor Rick Perry will announce Thursday that he’ll make a second bid for the White House.

The campaign’s new website went up early in the day, saying that Perry offers “tested leadership” and “proven results,” particularly in job creation.

Perry, who served as Texas governor for 14 years, plans to stress his experience, saying in a campaign video: “It’s going to be a show-me, don’t-tell-me, election.”

Yawn . . . .

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Politico reports that Lady Lindsey “compare[d] Hillary Clinton to Kim Jong Un.”

Lindsey Graham says Hillary Clinton is avoiding media questions on the campaign trail because she lacks confidence in her own foreign policy record.

“Well, it’s easier to talk to the North Korean guy than it is her,” the Republican senator from South Carolina said in a “Fox & Friends” interview Thursday, an apparent reference to dictator Kim Jong-un.

“I think it’s the lack of confidence in her ability to distinguish herself from Barack Obama,” he added.

Clinton will be speaking on voting rights this afternoon at Texas Southern University, whose press guidance for the speech circulated Wednesday stipulated that there will be “NO opportunities to interview Hillary Clinton; her speech will be her interview.”

Hahahahaha! Now why wouldn’t Hillary want to talk to the media? Here are a few clues:

Josh Rogin at Bloomberg View: Why Hillary Can’t Run on Her State Department Record.

Washington Post: Clinton rivals pounce as her ratings fall.

Business Insider: There’s only one thing Wall Street hates about Hillary Clinton, and it has nothing to do with all the scandals. This one is incredible. according to author Linette Lopez, Wall Street insiders think the Clintons are “so shady, but Wall Street is a shady business.” And If supporting Clintons makes someone more money or gives them more power, they will instantly overlook their incessant corruption,”

At least the media wants to talk to her, unlike some of her competitors.

So far no one is reporting that Martin O’Malley is largely responsible for the policing problems in Baltimore. Maybe it’s because O’Malley has no chance in hell to beat Hillary.

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And then there’s former Republican Lincoln Chafee, who would probably fit in pretty well in the clown car.

Business Insider: A Democrat just launched his presidential campaign in a ‘half empty’ school auditorium.

Politico: Lincoln Chafee can’t win his local paper.

Moving on to other news . . . .

I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but Boston Police shot a man on Tuesday. He was a suspected terrorist.

From The Boston Herald: Roslindale man killed in showdown with anti-terror task force.

An armed 26-year-old man under constant surveillance by an anti-terrorism task force was shot and killed by an FBI agent and a Boston police officer in Roslindale this morning after he came at them with a military-style knife, authorities say.

The suspect was identified by police as Usaama Rahim of Roslindale.

“He was on foot, under surveillance,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said. “The officers have been surveilling him and again they wanted to speak to him … and he turned and our officers gave several commands for him to drop the weapon and unfortunately he came at the officers and they did what they were trained to do and that’s never an easy decision for any officer to make.”

One FBI agent and one BPD officer fired, FBI Special Agent in Charge Vincent B. Lisi said.

Evans said “the level of alarm” had them want to question Rahim today.

Lisi added task-force members — who had Rahim under 24-hour watch — wanted to “interview him and talk to him about his intentions and some other matters.” At the time, Lisi added, Rahim was considered armed and dangerous.

Evans said a video shows Rahim “coming at the officers” as police retreated telling him to “drop the knife!” They then shot him twice, once in the torso and abdomen.

(Boston, MA, 06/02/15) A picture of the military style knife that was used to threaten officers during a police involved shooting this morning at 4600 Washington St. in Roslindale, during a press conference at Boston Police Headquarters on Tuesday,  June  02, 2015.   Staff Photo by Matt Stone

(Boston, MA, 06/02/15) A picture of the military style knife that was used to threaten officers during a police involved shooting this morning at 4600 Washington St. in Roslindale, during a press conference at Boston Police Headquarters on Tuesday, June 02, 2015. Staff Photo by Matt Stone

The Christian Science Monitor: After terror shooting, Boston police choose transparency over tradition.

As US police officers acknowledge feeling under siege by public unrest over deaths at the hands of police, the city of Boston, for the second time in just over a month, tried a new strategy – sharing grainy video of a police shooting with civic and religious leaders.

The new video involved a terrorism suspect, Usaama Rahim, who authorities say threatened retreating officers with a military-style knife on Tuesday before being fatally shot. The footage, community leaders said a day later, contradicted the contention by Mr. Rahim’s brother, an imam named Ibrahim Rahim, that he was shot in the back while talking to his father on the phone.

Darnell Williams, CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, declared after watching the video that Rahim “was not on a cellphone and was not shot in the back.”

Quickly releasing video to community leaders, acknowledges Daniel Conley, district attorney for Suffolk County in Massachusetts, goes against a long-held policing tradition in which investigative details are kept under wraps until a trial. The strategy stands in sharp contrast to how officers acted after last year’s shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. There, days after violent protests had already erupted, police revealed only piecemeal and contradictory information….

Boston’s strategy is an attempt at transparency – to reach out to those who may have questions and concerns about what happened, and whose views can be influential in the community.

We’ll see if that holds up after further investigation, but so far it sounds somewhat positive.

According to The Boston Globe, Rahim planned to behead police officers. He was overheard talking about it on phone taps. I don’t know how he thought he’d accomplish that goal even though he had a very scary looking knife.

Usaama Rahim had been plotting for days, officials said. He bought three long-bladed fighting knives — “good for carving,” he said — and confided to his nephew and another man that he would travel to another state to commit a beheading.

But at 5 a.m. Tuesday, the plan abruptly changed, according to a federal affidavit. Rahim would murder police officers in Massachusetts.

“I’m just going to, ah, go after them, those boys in blue,” Rahim allegedly told his nephew David Wright, in a phone call recorded by an anti-terrorism task force.

Two hours later, when members of that task force approached him in a Roslindale parking lot, Rahim allegedly brandished one of his military knives. They told him to drop his weapon. “You drop yours,” he allegedly replied, before a Boston Police officer and an FBI agent shot him to death.

The details emerged as Wright, Rahim’s nephew and alleged conspirator, appeared in federal court on a charge that he obstructed the investigation by encouraging his uncle to destroy his cellphone to hide evidence.

I don’t know. It still sounds like one of those FBI sting operations . . . .

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A few more links:

This sounds like another Freddie Gray incident. From Raw Story: ‘Nobody knows what happened’: Florida inmate mysteriously dies after ride in sheriff’s van.

Vox: I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me.

Rhonda Garelick in an op-ed at the New York Times: The Price of Caitlyn Jenner’s Heroism. It’s not what it sounds like. Heroism should have been in quotes. Please read this one.

Eric Boehlert at Salon on why Hillary won’t talk to the media: GOP’s obscene sex-cop hypocrisy: Dennis Hastert, Hillary and the absurdity of the Clinton impeachment.

Why won’t Hillary Clinton open up to the press? Why can’t Bill and Hillary handle the media? Why has she ”withdrawn into a gilded shell“? Why does she wear media “armor“? Those questions have been rehashed in recent months as journalists focus on themselves and what role they’ll play in the unfolding nomination contest.

A suggestion: Follow the path back to Dennis Hastert’s impeachment era for clues to those Clinton press questions.

AP via the WaPo: Co-owner of Four Seasons charged with sex abuse in New York.

Think Progress: Jim Bob Duggar Repeatedly Minimizes The Sexual Molestation Of His Own Daughters.

Pop Crush: Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar Defend Son: ‘He Was Just Curious About Girls.’

Good Morning America: Duggars Say Son Josh ‘Improperly Touched’ 4 of Their Daughters.

Gawker: Gawker Media Votes To Unionize.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice Thursday.