Thursday, October 22, 2015

The anti-Hillary Select Congressional Committee oops I mean Benghazi Select Committee outs itself as a Partisan Witch-hunt

If you want the 5 second spoiler to this article, here it is: According to a CNN/ORC Poll, 72% of the country views the work of the Congressional Select Committee on Benghazi as nothing more than a partisan witch hunt and nothing that happened today changed that.

The joke that was this committee’s supposed hearing with former Secretary of State Clinton was made apparent with two discordant messages from Republicans on the committee. First was chairman Gowdy who tried to claim that the goal of the select committee was to get to the truth and not attack Hillary Clinton. He so badly wanted to get that message across that he used the word “truth” no less than twenty one times in his opening statement.

The first problem with this is that seven other congressional investigations have been conducted on Benghazi. We have enough findings on paper to fill the gold vaults at Fort Knox. We know the truth. This wasn’t about the truth.

The second problem with the “It’s about finding out the truth regarding Benghazi and not about Hillary Clinton" line was Indiana Congresswoman Susan Brooks visual props which featured no less than several tens of thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails, the vast majority of which are personal and have nothing to do with the affairs of the Government let alone Benghazi.

So this isn’t about Hillary Clinton with a stack of her emails a foot and a half high on this congresswoman’s desk?  That right there is the tell that explains what this whole select committee is about.

Of course we knew all this from two congressional Republicans who said in the last month that the entire purpose of the Benghazi Select Committee was to hurt Hillary Clinton's chances to win the 2016 Presidential election. Representative Richard Hana said it on October 14 and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said it a few weeks before that. We know this is all a partisan farce.

The news of the day in Conservative media is that Republicans believed they found two or three cases where Hillary contradicted herself.

I was asked about those situations on the Steve Malzberg show on Newsmax TV. One of those is where Republicans claim that at the same time that Hillary was sending out emails calling the attacks a Terrorist attack, in public she was saying something different, that it was about the anti-Muslim video.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Republicans tried to assert some conflict on this during the 2012 President election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Most of the public was smart enough then to see through what the Republicans were trying to sell. It was a confused situation, the anti-Muslim video had come out and caused violent protests at several embassies throughout the middle east, and if the attack on Benghazi wasn’t related, it was a pretty strange coincidence
My answer to all of this was simple, Hillary had her suppositions but couldn’t prove anything. She voiced her suppositions to friends and family in emails. I am sure other members of the administration had suppositions too. Until those suppositions were proven, the administrations official line was to be cautious about publicly pointing a finger at terrorism or anything else besides what seemed to be the same reasons elsewhere (the anti-Muslim video).

This should be familiar to anyone working at a company that has any kind of media policy regarding talking to the media about the company. You might have private ideas of things going on but you cannot discuss them with the media without permission and certainly if the folks in charge of media relations at that company aren’t sure about what has taken place. This isn’t that different.

As I said, Republicans have tried to make a big deal of this, but there is no there there. What does it matter what it was called in the confusion of the first 24-48 hours if when we received incontrovertible evidence two days later the correct culprit was called out? No one has as yet told me the difference of calling it terrorism or not terrorism right away. This happened September 11, 2012, the election was November. The effect on the election whether the right answer was figured out on September 11 or September 13 was/would be zero.

Even this amount of space in this article given to all of that is more than it deserves.

Here is the coup de grace on all of this silliness, one of the masterminds of the Benghazi attacks, Ahmed Abu Khattala told Reuters before his arrest that the video in fact was the motivation for the Benghazi attacks.  Khattala said:

"The film which insulted the Prophet was a direct attack on our values and if America wants good relations with the Muslim world it needs to do so with respect," Abu Khattala said. "If they want to do it with force, they will be met with force."

There are other things Conservatives are pointing to that are equally silly. The issue raised about the multiple requests for additional security were well answered by Secretary Clinton when she said that the requests went to the folks at State who handle embassy security. Hillary is not a personal or embassy security expert, nor is it a requirement for the SecState to be those things and I don’t think any Secretary of State has ever been those things.

I think it’s fair to point out, when discussing the security of American personnel overseas, that most people crying about Hillary regarding Benghazi are old enough to have been around and opining when over 220 Marines, 18 Sailors and three Soldiers were killed in a terrorist bombing of the Marines barracks in Beirut on October 23, 1983 under the administration of Ronald Reagan. No Republicans in congress or elsewhere cried out for congressional hearings after this disaster. Reagan was allowed to address this with an internal administration investigation only. And as far as warnings go, the American embassy in Beirut was bombed by terrorists only six months before (April 18, 1983) the Marine barracks were hit killing 17 Americans. That’s much more of a clue that Americans were being targeted in Lebanon by terrorists than anything that was going on in Libya. Again, there was no clamoring for congressional investigations on the Beirut bombing by Republicans. No Republicans cried that Reagan was at fault or that additional measures should have been taken or that warnings should have been heeded.

The good news about this for people really interested in the truth is that Hillary sailed through these hearings with grace and with Presidential bearing. If it had an effect, I think this helped her more than it hurt her. What is more true, however, is that if you are one of the 72% who thought these hearings were a partisan witch-hunt before Hillary testified, you are certain of that afterwards, and if you are one of the 23% who thinks there were good reason for the hearings, the supposed contradictions, silly as they are as I noted above, have added fuel to your suspicions.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Did the Polling Agencies Take the Night of the First Democratic Presidential Debate Off?

Something is missing from the post debate analysis.

I watched the first Democratic Presidential debates of 2016 and thought both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton did very well. Both exceeded my expectations, Hillary by a little larger margin and I think she won the debate. I posted on my Facebook page my prediction about how the major polling agencies scientific polls would look:
If I had to guess I would say 55% say that Hillary won, 40% say Sanders won, 5% say O'Malley won.
In past debates, the major polling agencies usually had results within an hour or two of the end of the debate. While I was waiting for those results, the online polls sprang up all over the place. To the Sanders folks' credit, they were all over those polls, posting links to them on the Sanders reddits and on Social media and driving up the results for him to ridiculous margins (Some had the results as high as an 85% victory margin for Sanders. It's possible he won the debate in the eyes of debate watchers but not by that much). But as we all know (or should know), online polls don't mean a whole lot and the ability of Sanders' supporters to manipulate these polls shows why.

On the other side of things, my fellow analysts and pundits were almost all proclaiming not just a Hillary Clinton victory but a victory by a large margin. While that felt nice to me as a Hillary supporter and perhaps means slightly more than an online poll for its effect on those who watch or read them, it's still not a scientific measurement of how regular people felt who saw the debate.

So I waited, and waited and waited and finally I realized that no real polls were forthcoming. This is all the more surprising to me because the host of the debate, CNN, has an impressive polling center that could easily have done this. 

Scientific polling is important because the pundits have been wrong about debate perceptions before. I remember watching a number of Presidential debates where the prevailing assumption among television punditry had been that one candidate won and when the polls came out it turned out the public thought another candidate had won. I think this happened once or twice with President Obama's debates with Mitt Romney and John McCain. Most of the time the punditry gets it right but not always.

Perhaps as they day or week progresses we will see some scientific polls released but I am not hopeful. It seems we will be left with meaningless online polls, what the talking heads believe and, egads, our own opinions.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Will Bernie Sanders engage in Demagoguery against Hillary Clinton on the Iraq War Resolution during 1st Democratic debate?

Before I even start, since Sanders supporters tend to accuse people who support Hillary Clinton of duplicity to distract from whatever points they are making, note the two links to previous articles of mine at the bottom of this page where I make the same points back in 2006 and 2009.

In the lead up to today’s first Presidential debate of the 2016 Democratic primary, indications have come from the Sanders camp that Bernie intends to bring up Hillary Clinton’s 2002 vote on the Iraq War Resolution to try to hurt her during the debate.

There is so much revisionist history pushed regarding that vote that I bet most folks don’t even know they are engaging in revisionism.

The Iraq War Resolution vote, like UN Security CouncilResolution 1441 that occurred within a few weeks of each other were efforts to pressure Iraq to allow UN Weapons Inspectors back into the country.  Allowing UN Weapons Inspectors into the country for a continuous inspection regime was part of a deal that Iraq struck in order for a cease fire to be put into effect at the end of the first Gulf War in 1991. This deal was enshrined in several UN Security Council Resolutions and were imposed on Iraq because Iraq had engaged in an unprovoked war of aggression against Kuwait and attempted to annex that small country.

In case anyone is unaware, engaging in an unprovoked war of aggression is a war crime.

So the Iraq War Resolution and UN Security Council 1441 were part of enforcing international law against a dictator and country that had engaged in a serious war crime.

There are literally hundreds of media articles backing up what I am saying here. Practically all you heard from June 2002 until December of 2003 in the media were articles and TV segments about efforts to force Iraq and Saddam Hussein to readmit the UN Weapons Inspectors.

Shortly after the Iraq War Resolution and UN Security Council 1441 were passed, Iraq did just that under the pressure of both of those measures. Iraq agreed to start obeying international law. Being that this is the case, I am alternatively amused and galled by the efforts of some to demagogue the vote on the Iraq War Resolution. It accomplished what it was designed to do.

That President George W. Bush misused the Iraq War Resolution several months later and invaded Iraq without justification for doing so doesn’t make the IWR vote bad, it makes George W. Bush a criminal. Congress cannot be afraid to act to support the effort to have countries obey international law because of concerns the President might do something bad one day. The President alone is responsible for Presidential bad acts.

I’d love to hear Hillary Clinton respond to any question about her vote by asking Bernie Sanders, why didn’t you vote to put pressure on Iraq to start obeying international law as it had agreed to do at the end of the first gulf war. What would Sanders have been willing to do to uphold international law in this situation?

Let's turn this around a bit to make this even more clear. If the Iraq War Resolution vote was never held, or had it failed, Iraq would not have allowed weapons inspectors back into the country. That alone would have been justification for war per existing UN Resolutions. The ceasefire terms of the various 1991 UN Resolutions would have been violated by Iraq and thus the ceasefire would no longer exist. 

My previous articles on the subject that I mentioned earlier are linked below and provide additional background. It’s time for folks to stop engaging in revisionist history on this subject, and that includes Bernie Sanders and his surrogates.

12-19-2006: Iraq War - When the Wrong Path Was Taken and What to Do Now

3-4-2009: Iraq War - Six Year Anniversary of what Should have Prevented it

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Endorsement of Hillary Rodham Clinton for President

With the first Democratic Presidential Debates a few days away, I realized I had yet to make a formal endorsement for President even though for those who know me my preference has been clear for some time now.

I endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton for President not just in the Democratic Primary, but in the General election once she gets that far as I am confident she will.

Compared with the various other candidates running for President on both sides of the aisle, there is no one who can match Secretary Clinton’s knowledge, experience and character.

Speaking of her knowledge and experience, even Republican Senator Marco Rubio said:

"If this election is a resume competition then Hillary Clinton is going to be the next President."
- From the first GOP Presidential debate August 6, 2015

While I rarely agree with Senator Rubio, other than his attempt at immigration reform which he subsequently repudiated, he was right in this one instance about Secretary Clinton. Having been a Senator and four years as Secretary of State, historically the second most important position in the US Government, there is no one currently running for President who can compare with her experience.

The other point I would make about that is that her experience as Secretary of State was a successful one. If we were going to make a job description about the position of Secretary of State, leading the diplomatic and foreign policy of the US, it would include something about cultivating a positive image of the US overseas, particularly among our western European allies. To be sure, Hillary had a challenge here. The administration of George W. Bush had decimated our relationship with our European allies and wrecked the opinion of the US with the populations of those countries. I’ve had numerous on screen and private discussions with Republican pundits and politicians who try to pooh-pooh this point but the data is clear. The administration of President Bill Clinton left the US with an excellent reputation overseas and that of George W. Bush threw that all away with the invasion of Iraq that most of the world viewed as unjustified.

That negative opinion was reversed under Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Barack Obama as President. While both deserve credit, the Secretary of State under such a performance deserves a lot of credit since, as I noted earlier it is part of what we all would agree to be her job description to lead the US’ diplomatic and foreign policy to cultivate a positive image of the US overseas and the numbers are dramatic. As we can see from the Pew Institutes report on the subject at,

opinions of the populaces of some of our most important allies in Western Europe, including the UK, France, Germany, Italy and many other countries like Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, Argentina, cratered during the Bush administration and rebounded during Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State.

Republican politicians and pundits who try to claim there are no major accomplishments during Clinton’s tenure at State willfully attempt to ignore this (as it is a triple headed problem for them, pointing out how awful the foreign policy of last Republican administration was and how successful not only the current Democratic administration is, but the leading Democratic candidate in 2016), but this is a better measurement of the success of US foreign policy and those who lead it than a treaty or other singular event.

This is all a long winded way of saying that Hillary Clinton not only has a great resume, but in the most important position she has had, one much closer to the duties and responsibilities of President than any other job held by any other current Presidential candidate, she excelled.

It’s almost laughable to compare her experience to that of anyone running against her.

The other interesting thing that her successful tenure as Secretary of State points to is Presidential demeanor. It’s impossible for a diplomat or foreign policy leader to be successful without having a level-headed personality and presence in your public persona and during important private negotiations. A President needs to be patient, strong but humble, positive and steadfast.

This is a clear advantage that Hillary has over rivals like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, neither of whom have demonstrated anything approaching Presidential demeanor and in fact seem to have the opposite qualities in several cases (arrogance, irritability and impatience, just to name a few).

In analyzing this endorsement, some will no doubt point to eight year old articles of mine during the 2008 Presidential campaign where I endorsed Barack Obama. My criticisms of Hillary Clinton at the time were many and pointed.

The fact is, from the moment of Hillary’s concession to President Obama in 2008 at the end of their contest; I began to suspect my evaluation of her was incorrect. This is not a new revelation, I have said so many times to friends and in public appearances beginning in 2008, i.e. long before I thought of her as a Presidential contender in 2016. The grace with which she conceded the race to Barack Obama and endorsed him to include announcing the delegate votes from New York to be his at the Democratic convention made me realize my prior opinions of her, which had included attacks on her character, needed to be re-evaluated.

I’m sure critics of mine and of Secretary Clinton will minimize this, but I don’t think that I or many people would find it so easy to behave gracefully in a similar situation. Having poured your heart and soul in an effort for the better part of two years, working 14-18 hour days seven days a week in the effort only to fail by the slimmest of margins at the last minute I believe would make the vast majority of folks bitter at least in the short term and perhaps longer than that. It is under adversity that I think all people show their true character. This was a true moment of adversity for Hillary Clinton. She had lost in this effort and her character came through and we learned a lot about who she was.

During her tenure as Secretary of State, I and all of the country had additional opportunities to learn more about her. By the end of her first year as Secretary of State, I was convinced my previous opinions of her were wrong.

Regarding Hillary’s positions on the issues, much has been made of the idea that she and former President Bill Clinton were co-Presidents during his term. That is probably overstating the issue, but what is not overstating the issue is that they discussed issues during his administration and that he utilized her as a trusted advisor. That administration where she was a trusted advisor was one of the most successful in the last 75 years on all fronts, economic, foreign policy, etc.  Sanders supporters can claim she is not progressive enough, and various Republican contenders and their surrogates can try to claim she is too progressive, but nothing makes a statement like actually being successful and few (as in none) of her antagonists can claim to have been part of (or support candidates who have been part of) a successful Presidential administration. In other words, their criticisms on her positions on the issues don’t mean a whole heck of a lot.

In terms of the knowledge and experience necessary for the job, in terms of the character needed to be President and in terms of being right on the issues I personally can’t see how anyone could come to any other conclusion. Hillary Clinton should be the next President of the United States and I heartily endorse her.