Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cruising the Web

Ah, the Clinton Foundation bribery problem - as if that's a surprise.
A pair of Clinton Foundation donors with financial ties to the former first family have both been at the center of major corruption cases, raising questions about why they chose to give millions to the Clintons' charity.

Nigerian businessman Gilbert Chagoury's connections to the Clintons have come under scrutiny following revelations that State Department policy may have benefited him personally while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has repeatedly pressed the State Department for documentation of Hillary Clinton's decision not to place Boko Haram on the terrorist watch list while serving as secretary of state....

Chagoury's financial support of the Clintons has raised red flags in the past. In 1996, he was reportedly prodded by a Democratic National Committee fundraiser to give $460,000 to a nonprofit voter registration group that later won the DNC's business.

The group, Vote Now 96, drew attention "from congressional investigators because of its connections to the DNC and indications that in some cases, at least, donors ineligible to give to the party were steered to the voters group," the Washington Post reported in 1997.

Chagoury was one such ineligible donor whose gift to the supposedly nonpartisan organization nonetheless earned him a seat at a White House dinner for top DNC donors months later "although he is not a party contributor and could not legally give to the Democrats," according to the same Washington Post report.
And this is the sort of behavior that the Democrats want to put back into the White House.

And the scandals keep on coming.
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s efforts to provide favors to major donors to her husband’s global charity or her own political career stretch back far earlier than her tenure as America’s top diplomat, dating to the time she served as a U.S. senator and had the power to earmark federal funds and influence legislation, records show.

For instance, Mrs. Clinton introduced a bill when she was New York’s junior senator that allowed a donor to the Clinton Foundation to use tax-exempt bonds to build a shopping center in Syracuse, New York, public records show.

She also went to bat for Freddie Mac, working to defeat legislation that would have subjected the mortgage giant to tougher regulations before the housing bubble burst and led to a major recession. That same year, Freddie Mac donated $50,000 to $100,000 to her husband’s charity, originally called the William J. Clinton Foundation records show.

Mrs. Clinton also used her leverage as a senator to help persuade the Chinese government to reduce tariffs on Corning Inc.’s fiber optic products. The central New York company’s employees and executives contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to her campaigns and political action committee.

Read more:
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Kristin Roberts at the National Journal chastises President Obama for his approach to ISIS as Iraq's problem. No, it's America's and, therefore, Obama's problem.
This is dishonest. That he takes this position, however, is understandable. The man ushered into office in part on a promise to get America out of Iraq (and Afghanistan) does not want to be the man who did that only to watch that state fail and then go back in. Add to this the polling: While the public wants a U.S. campaign against ISIS, it remains divided over the use of ground troops.

So as Obama's critics shout about the president putting politics, and legacy, ahead of security, the truth is that his ambivalence reflects the collective churning of the American gut. We think we've seen this movie before, and we didn't like the ending.

But we haven't seen this movie before because this one is not about Iraq. And after a decade of training Iraqi troops, a few more months of tutoring will not turn this force into one that can defeat what Obama today called the "nimble," "aggressive," and "opportunistic" Islamic State fighters.

It's about ISIS, a lethal, strategically smart, and tactically effective adversary whose intentions are not contained by Iraq's borders.

The United States—under Barack Obama or the next president—can choose to sit this out, to let Sunni fight Shia and then Wahhabi fight Sunni until some resolution is found. The risk associated with this option is that what remains standing could be the slave-holding, woman-raping, Christian- and Jew-killing territory known as the Islamic State, which will not pause to relish victory but instead set sights on Europe and the United States.
But, hey, I guess it will all work out since we're now sending over a few hundred more advisers to further the non-strategy that the President has admitted is all we have.

Even Jon Stewart is laughing at the NYT's lame stories on Rubio's four traffic tickets and finances.
“You bastard! Paying off law school loans? How dare you. At long last, senator, have you no sense of insolvency?” Stewart deadpanned.

That story followed a shorter item last Friday in which the Times reported on the 17 parking tickets accrued by Rubio and his wife Jeanette. (His wife racked up 13 of those citations in that time; Rubio had 4.)

“Oh sh—! Marco Rubio got … 4 tickets! In … 17 years! I assume The New York Times obtained this damning information from Marco Rubio’s plaque in the ‘Hall of Best Miami Drivers Ever,’” Stewart cracked.

He also referenced the Times’ reporting of the Rubios’ purchase in 2005 of a larger home for $550,000 in 2005 that included, according to the paper, “an in-ground pool, a handsome brick driveway, meticulously manicured shrubs and oversize windows.”

“Oh, what’s the matter, senator? The normal amount of light isn’t good enough for you?” Stewart joked. “I’m Senator Marco Rubio. I like to roll around in giant patches of sunlight! Like I’m a big ol’ kitty cat. Meow.”

Robert Samuels at the Washington Post reports on black voters who are so disillusioned with Obama's presidency that they're just not sure that voting is worth it. That must be Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare.

David Brooks doesn't think that Hillary Clinton's strategy of winning in 2016 by mobilizing her party's base rather than trying to expand it to include independent voters will succeed.
This strategy is bad, first, for the country. America has always had tough partisan politics, but for most of its history, the system worked because it had leaders who could reframe debates, reorganize coalitions, build center-out alliances and reach compromises. Politics is broken today because those sorts of leaders have been replaced by highly polarizing, base-mobilizing politicians who hew to party orthodoxy, ignore the 38 percent of voters who identify as moderates and exacerbate partisanship and gridlock. If Clinton decides to be just another unimaginative base-mobilizing politician, she will make our broken politics even worse.

Second, this base mobilization strategy is a legislative disaster. If the next president hopes to pass any actual laws, he or she will have to create a bipartisan governing majority. That means building a center-out coalition, winning 60 reliable supporters in the Senate and some sort of majority in the House. If Clinton runs on an orthodox left-leaning, paint-by-numbers strategy, she’ll never be able to do this. She’ll live in the White House again, but she won’t be able to do much once she lives there.

Third, the mobilization strategy corrodes every candidate’s leadership image. Voters tend to like politicians who lead from a place of conviction, who care more about a cause than winning a demographic. If Clinton seems driven by demographics and microtargeting, she will underline the image some have that she is overly calculating and shrewd.

Finally, the base mobilizing strategy isn’t even very good politics.

It’s worth noting, to start with, that no recent successful first-term presidential campaign has used this approach. In 1992, Bill Clinton firmly grabbed the center. In 2000, George Bush ran as a uniter, not a divider. In 2008, Barack Obama ran as a One Nation candidate who vowed to transcend partisan divides....

Today’s political consultants have a lot of great tools to turn out reliable voters. They’re capable of creating amazing power points. But as everybody from Ed Miliband to Mark Udall can tell you, this approach has not succeeded at the ballot box. Voters want better politics, not a continuation of the same old techniques. By adopting base mobilization, Clinton seems to have made the first big decision of her presidential campaign. It’s the wrong one.
If that is how she is campaigning, just imagine how she'd govern.

Hillary Clinton will have some problems coordinating her own wealth with her platform on income inequality.
The problem for Hillary Clinton is that on position after position, what she will say will stand in stark contrast to what she has actually done in office and how she has conducted her private life. And on the party’s favorite issue of income inequality, Clinton is the poster child for what Democrats believe is wrong with the United States. If she is the Democratic nominee in 2016, how will the party standard bearer rationalize her gargantuan haul of cash over the past few years? How can she reconcile her past with her platform?

There are a lot of questions Clinton will eventually have to answer. If the U.S. economy were operating at some optimum level the Democrats find acceptable, how much less would Clinton have raked in since leaving her position as secretary of state? Does she feel guilty about her wealth? Does Clinton think she should have taken less money? If the Clintons’ $30 million income in 16 months was too much, what would the right amount have been? If she had to do it all over again, would she do it all the same way? Does she have any regrets she will acknowledge in public?

Clinton’s FEC filings show an estimated 30 percent tax rate for 2014. Does she think that was enough? If not, how much should she have paid? Will she raise taxes on people like herself?

And if Clinton is elected, will she change the rules so others can’t follow her path? Will she work with Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on reforming tax-free organizations? Will she suggest that non-profits be prohibited from having political operatives who serve no charitable function on the payroll?

Even the famous Clinton gall and lack of shame will make explaining some of this with a straight face impossible.
Oh, I think you're underestimating the "fmaous Clinton gall and lack of shame."

Jack Shafer at Politico rightly ridicules Donald Trump's "clown show." As he has regularly done, he's teacing about running in order to gain more interest in his business ventures.
The campaign playground has never witnessed a player quite like Trump before. Sometimes his feints for the White House resemble the stunt runs mounted by comedians Stephen Colbert, Pat Paulsen, Pigasus, John Hagelin, Pogo and George Papoon. Other times, Trump’s I-can’t-make-up-my-mind shtick conjures visions of Mario Cuomo and Sarah Palin and their Hamlet acts. Still other times—like when he’s sleeping or when you’re just waking—Trump seems no more improbable a candidate for president than Ben Carson, Pat Buchanan, Herman Cain, Ralph Nader, Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes, Al Sharpton, Gary Bauer, Jesse Jackson or other public figures who have never won an election but think they’d look good in the Oval Office.

As presidential campaigners have proved, you don’t need a chance to win it to be in it. A failed presidential campaign can lead to a cable news gig or a book contract. Sometimes, it translates into a place in the paid lecture-circuit. But that’s not Trump’s game. Experienced Trump-watcher Michael Scherer noted in Time several months ago that the best way to understand his candidacies are as another part of the Trump “show,” a view of himself the mogul articulated in his 1990 Playboy interview. Being a candidate—or teasing the public with a candidacy—is just another visible product (hotels, country clubs, beauty pageants, reality shows, eatables, et al.) upon which he can hang his name and profit. It doesn’t matter to Trump what you say about him, only that you say something.

The Scherer interpretation, which I endorse, helps explain Trump’s trash-talking of the other candidates as well as his loony musings about Obama’s citizenship and his speculation that Obama might be a Manchurian Candidate. You don’t have to be a megalomaniac to prefer quantity of attention over quality of attention, as the Wharton-educated Trump would probably tell you if he were to allow himself a reflective moment. As we approach the third decade of Trump’s presidential flirtations, reporters still seem unable to appreciate that Trump’s prime directive is to exploit the media’s appetite for hot and goofy copy
Trump likes to deride the GOP candidates this year as clowns. Now that is funny.

Daniel Foster argues against the idea of universal voter registration. Remember, he's not arguing against allowing people to vote or against expanding the franchise. As he points out, we've already expanded the franchise; what people are talking about is expanding voter participation among those who are already qualified to vote. Jim Geraghty puts forth his own comparison.
Let’s try an experiment with this idea of maximizing participation among all Americans, and treating a non-vote as some sort of dire problem to be solved. Before we require everyone in the country to cast a ballot for the American president . . . let’s require everyone in the country to cast a ballot for the American Idol.

“But Jim!” you can hear the American Idol fans cry. “Lots of people don’t care in the slightest! Lots of people don’t even watch the show! Making people who don’t know about the options or care will only dilute the votes of the people who do know and do care!”

Indeed . . . so why would we want to do that for our governmental elections?