Democratic Party crisis explodes in wake of Brazile revelations

By Patrick Martin
6 November 2017

The political crisis in the Democratic Party, brought to the surface with the publication Thursday of excerpts of a campaign memoir by the former interim chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Donna Brazile, erupted into mutual denunciations over the weekend.

Brazile made public an unprecedented agreement between the DNC (under previous chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz) and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign that involved Clinton paying off the DNC’s debts and providing it a monthly subsidy in return for gaining control over the appointment of DNC officials and the right of approval over key operational decisions.

The deal was concluded in August 2015, six months before the first votes were to be cast in caucuses or primaries, when the DNC was required by its own rules to remain neutral in the contest between Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and several other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

A further revelation from Brazile’s book was made public Saturday: she acknowledged discussions among leading Democrats in September 2016, after Hillary Clinton had collapsed at a ceremony in New York City marking the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, over whether Clinton should be replaced as the presidential candidate because of health concerns. Brazile writes that she herself considered Vice President Joe Biden as the logical replacement, but did not make the proposal.

Within hours of this report, 100 former Clinton campaign aides, headed by campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook, put their signatures on an open letter denouncing Brazile’s criticism of the Clinton campaign.

The “Open Letter From Hillary For America 2016 Team” makes use of the same Russia-baiting technique employed by the Democrats in their political conflict with the Trump White House, but this time directed against a former top Democrat. In assailing Brazile, the first paragraph of the open letter declares: “It is particularly troubling and puzzling that she would seemingly buy into false Russian-fueled propaganda, spread by both the Russians and our opponent, about our candidate’s health.”

The health questions about Clinton were fueled, however, not by Moscow, but by video broadcast over American cable television networks showing the candidate being lifted into a vehicle by aides and Secret Service agents, in visible distress. The characteristic duplicity of top campaign officials, who initially sought to conceal the incident, added to the ensuing furor.

Even more revealing is what is missing from the Clinton camp’s “Open Letter”: there is no reference whatsoever to the main revelation stemming from Brazile’s book—the secret joint fundraising agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, six months before the first caucus in Iowa, giving Clinton effective control of the party apparatus. The Clinton aides do not dispute that this backroom deal occurred and make no attempt to justify it.

On Sunday morning, Brazile appeared on the ABC News program “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” The host, himself a former top political aide in the White House of Bill Clinton, provided a platform for Brazile to repeat her exposure of the collusion between the Clinton campaign and the DNC and discuss the “Open Letter” from the former Clinton campaign officials.

She bitterly denounced the Clinton camp, both for its treatment of the DNC while she was in charge, and for their ferocious response to her new book. “George, for those who are telling me to shut up, they told Hillary that a couple of months ago,” Brazile declared. “You know what I tell them? Go to hell! I’m going to tell my story.”

Brazile also touched on a topic of intense but largely behind-the-scenes discussion in official Washington: the July 2016 murder of Seth Rich, a low-level IT staffer at the DNC, who was shot to death in what police called a failed robbery attempt. The Trump White House and ultra-right media allies, including Alex Jones of InfoWars and Sean Hannity of Fox News, have portrayed Rich, rather than Russian hackers, as the likely source for the DNC emails obtained by WikiLeaks, and his killing as a retaliatory “hit” ordered by the Clinton campaign.

Brazile reportedly suggests in her book—which will not be available to the public until Tuesday—that Rich’s death, warnings from the Obama administration about Russian hacking and repeated online threats from Trump supporters had made her extremely concerned about security issues, to the point where she had her home swept for bugs and installed multiple security devices. In her interview Sunday with Stephanopoulos, she spoke of her fears for her own personal safety. Her mention of Seth Rich, entirely unsolicited, seemed a veiled warning to the Clinton camp that more revelations about 2016 campaign skullduggery could be forthcoming.

Current DNC Chair Tom Perez was interviewed Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC and directly rejected the two main issues raised by Brazile. He maintained, “The charge that Hillary Clinton was somewhere incapacitated is quite frankly ludicrous,” although he did not attribute that concern to Russian propaganda.

He went on to argue that Clinton won the Democratic primary contest by four million votes, and the DNC was not in control of those elections, which are run by the state governments, while noting that the caucuses, which are controlled by the party apparatus, were mostly won by Sanders, not Clinton. Perez would concede only that “the DNC fell short during critical moments of the primary,” in terms of openly favoring Clinton over Sanders.

Significantly, neither Sanders nor any of his top aides or supporters made an appearance on any of the Sunday television talk shows. Sanders issued a statement on Brazile’s revelations suggesting that the conduct of the 2016 campaign was a diversion from the effort to mobilize opposition to the Trump administration.

The fact is that Brazile informed Sanders of the joint fundraising agreement and the takeover of the DNC by Clinton more than a year ago, and he has chosen to say nothing about it. This is part of his effort to prop up the Democratic Party and prevent the millions of working people and youth who supported his campaign from drawing the political conclusion that it is necessary to break with the Democrats in order to conduct any genuine struggle against the billionaires who dominate the US political system.

The conflict within the Democratic Party has erupted under conditions where the Republican Party is bordering on civil war, with several Republican senators denouncing Trump as a threat to American democracy—and then announcing they would retire from office rather than oppose him—and a vicious conflict developing between the party establishment and the fascist-minded elements around Trump, spearheaded by his former chief political aide and campaign manager, Stephen Bannon, now returned to his position as chief executive of the ultra-right Breitbart News.

In recent days, it has been reported that in an upcoming book titled The Last Republicans, the author cites interviews with George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush in which the two last Republican presidents before Trump denounce the current occupant of the White House and reveal that they refused to vote for him in 2016. In response, Trump tweeted an attack on his Republican presidential critics.

The ABC “This Week” program on which Brazile was interviewed began with the presentation of a new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing public support for Trump falling to its low point for the year, only 37 percent, with 59 percent opposing. Trump’s showing was the worst for any first-year president since modern polling began. Other polls have shown public support for the Republican-controlled Congress hitting new lows as well.

The vast majority of working people are increasingly alienated from the two-party political system in the United States, correctly regarding both the Democrats and the Republicans as tools of the super-rich and looking for an alternative. The central political question is the building of a political movement of the working class that will fight the capitalist system as a whole and advance a program to defend jobs, living standards and democratic rights, and oppose imperialist war.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/11/06/dems-n06.html

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Former Democratic chairman reveals Clinton rigging of 2016 nomination campaign

By Patrick Martin
4 November 2017

The Hillary Clinton campaign used its financial resources to take control of the Democratic National Committee more than six months before the first primary vote, using the party machinery to insure Clinton won the presidential nomination, according to a new book by a top Democratic insider.

Donna Brazile, longtime vice chairman of the party, campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000, and interim chairman of the DNC from July 2016 to February 2017, makes the explosive revelation in her newly published account, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.

A chapter of the book was excerpted Thursday on the Politico web site, under the headline, “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC.” Brazile writes that soon after she became interim chairman after the Democratic convention in July 2016, she began investigating charges of collaboration between the previous DNC chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the Clinton campaign.

She discovered in the DNC files a signed agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, dated August 2015, in which the Clinton campaign was given effective control of DNC decision-making in return for bailing out the DNC financially.

The DNC was near bankruptcy, and Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook agreed to pay off its $10 million debt and provide a monthly stipend, which ultimately totaled another $10 million. Brazile continues: “in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.”

Brazile admits the grossly anti-democratic character of this arrangement, given that the Democratic presidential nomination was a contest between at least five candidates at that point, two of them, Clinton and Sanders, with substantial support. In all previous such contested races, the rules of the DNC had required it to remain neutral.

“The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal,” she claims, “but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.”

Brazile is defensive about the legality of the arrangement for good reason: it involved a brazen effort to evade restrictions imposed by federal campaign finance laws, which limit to $2,700 the amount that an individual can give to a presidential campaign.

Under the deal brokered with the DNC, wealthy donors could pump $353,400 into the party’s coffers, $10,000 to each of 32 state parties that participated in the scam, and $33,400 to the DNC itself, in each case, the maximum allowed under federal law. All these funds would be deposited in the accounts of the various state parties and the DNC. Most states would send their money back to the DNC, and the DNC would funnel the whole sum to the Clinton campaign. In the end, the state parties retained less than one percent of the $82 million raised in this effort.

Similar money trails have been a staple of both Democratic and Republican fund-raising efforts for the last several presidential election cycles, but the 2016 campaign was the first in which such flimflam was conducted before the party had selected a presidential nominee, and months before a single vote had been cast in a caucus or primary.

There are several important aspects of the Brazile account. It confirms that the DNC emails released by WikiLeaks—which the US intelligence agencies and the media claim, without providing evidence, were obtained through Russian hackers—provided an accurate picture of the collaboration between top DNC officials and the Clinton campaign. The leaked emails were damaging to Clinton because they were true, not because they were false, or “fake news.”

Some 12 million people, with a preponderance of youth and students, voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and caucuses, attracted by his claim to be a socialist and his denunciation of the grip of “millionaires and billionaires” on the US economy and political system.

But he was seeking the presidential nomination of one of the two parties controlled by the billionaires and unshakably committee to their interests, as demonstrated by the blatant purchase of the DNC for $20 million by Hillary Clinton, the favored candidate of the financial aristocracy in 2016.

The US ruling elite was shocked and surprised by the mass support for a candidate claiming to be socialist—none more so than Sanders himself. His major service to Wall Street was to divert this popular following back into safe channels, by wrapping up his campaign and throwing his support to Hillary Clinton at the convention.

Brazile notes in her memoir that she called Sanders in September 2016 to tell him about her discovery of a formal agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC. “I had promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process,” she writes.

She described the joint fund-raising agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, telling Sanders, “I’ve completed my review of the DNC and I did find the cancer,” but pleading with him, “But I will not kill the patient.”

Brazile continues: “Bernie took this stoically. He did not yell or express outrage. Instead he asked me what I thought Hillary’s chances were. The polls were unanimous in her winning but what, he wanted to know, was my own assessment?”

This gives a glimpse of the real politics of Sanders, who agreed to Brazile’s entreaty not to “kill the patient,” i.e., expose the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign by making public this stinking backroom deal.

Some of Sanders’s former campaign aides have vocally denounced the DNC and the Clinton campaign in the wake of Brazile’s revelations. Mark Longabaugh, a former adviser, called the DNC-Clinton deal “outrageous,” while former campaign manager Jeff Weaver called it “egregious” and “undemocratic,” while describing the fundraising scheme as “a laundering operation.”

But Sanders himself continued to downplay the revelation, suggesting that to focus on the 2016 campaign was a diversion from opposing the policies of the Trump administration. After President Trump tweeted about the Brazile book, calling for a Justice Department investigation, Sanders responded, also on Twitter, “We won’t be distracted from your efforts to give billionaires tax cuts, take health care from millions and deny climate change.”

A tale of two leaders of the left: New books by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

Bernie’s new book is a forward-thinking guide for the young; Hillary’s looks back at who she can blame for 2016

Well before folks could get their hands on Hillary Clinton’s new memoir of the 2016 presidential election, “What Happened,” word was out that VIP tickets for her book tour were running upwards of $2,000. In contrast, Bernie Sanders launched “Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution” with a few media interviews and a slate of agenda items for the new Senate session to consider. Folks wanting a copy of the book could find it in the teen non-fiction section of their local bookstore.

The contrast between high priced VIP tickets to an event for a memoir about losing the election and a down-to-earth how-to guide for progressive politics aimed at young readers offers us clear evidence of the vastly different ways that Clinton and Sanders see their roles as national leaders.

Sanders is looking forward and Clinton is looking back. Sanders is engaging the young and working to build momentum for his progressive agenda. Clinton is naming names, bristling at her unfair loss and cashing in.

While Clinton’s book hits stores on September 12, enough of it has been leaked to show that at least one goal of the memoir is to blame Sanders for inflicting “lasting damage” on her campaign during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Even more, she argues that the Sanders campaign helped Trump win.

She also has some blame for President Obama, whom she faults for telling her to hold back in her attacks on Sanders. According to Clinton’s version of events, if she had gone after Sanders more aggressively, she might have won. She felt, she writes, like Obama put her in a “straightjacket.”

Before I move on to comparing the tenor of these two books and the fact that they confirm the vast difference between Clinton and Sanders, not just on policy but on leadership itself, let’s start by saying something obvious. If anyone should be writing a “what happened” memoir, it is Sanders, not Clinton.

While the lawsuit that alleged fraud over the Democratic National Committee’s handling of the 2016 presidential primary came to an end a couple of weeks ago, the legal proceedings, along with the hacked DNC emails, showed that the DNC leadership exhibited a clear case of bias against the Sanders campaign. DNC lawyers argued that they did not have a legal obligation to be neutral. And so the case was dropped.

The lawsuit is really only the tip of a much larger iceberg that surrounded the #DemExit movement. From the debate schedule to superdelegates to the disputes over the DNC platform itself, Sanders and his supporters had plenty to gripe about.

But rather than write a book about all of the ways that he got screwed by the DNC, Sanders took the high road and helped campaign for Clinton, then, after she lost, he focused on advancing his agenda. Meanwhile basically every public statement Clinton has issued since the election has focused on how the presidency was stolen from her.

After he lost his presidential run, Sanders launched the “Our Revolution” website to help continue his campaign’s momentum well after he was running. Its goal was to support and empower a new generation of progressive political leaders. In contrast, Clinton supporter Peter Daou just launched Verrit, a site endorsed by Clinton which offers users verified pro-Clinton quotes they can share online. Many of these sharable quotes are meant to show how awesome she is.

The leaked sections of “What Happened” portray Clinton as a victim of Sanders, of Obama, of Putin, of Comey and so on, but also as someone still indignant about the reality of her loss. Despite the fact that the book is meant to offer an intimate side of her, it reads like the petty account of a sore loser.

In contrast, Sanders offers his book as a gesture of solidarity towards future political activists. When he discusses his campaign in the opening of the book, he does so with pride, mentioning the fact that he won more of the millennial vote than Clinton and Trump combined.

He also dedicates the book to the younger generation, which he praises as the most tolerant and intelligent in U.S. history. “The current generation of young people is the smartest, most idealistic, and least prejudiced generation in the modern history of the United States,” Sanders writes. “This is a generation that is prepared to think big and move this country in a very different direction than we have been traveling for years.” The goal of his book, he explains, is to help the young turn their idealism into action.

Where Clinton’s attacks on Sanders get really low is in her resuscitation of the Bernie Bros myth. In the passage where she complains about the Sanders campaign, she goes on to write, “Some of his supporters, the so-called Bernie Bros, took to harassing my supporters online. It got ugly and more than a little sexist.”

Now, here’s the problem: Clinton was, in fact, the target of a whole lot of misogyny, but the sources of those attacks were not the so-called Bernie Bros. In fact, the “Bernie Bro” narrative, as Glenn Greenwald explained for the Intercept back in January 2016, was a potent political tactic  and a journalistic disgrace:

It’s intended to imply two equally false claims: (1) a refusal to march enthusiastically behind the Wall Street-enriched, multiple-war-advocating, despot-embracing Hillary Clinton is explainable not by ideology or political conviction, but largely if not exclusively by sexism: demonstrated by the fact that men, not women, support Sanders (his supporters are ‘bros’); and (2) Sanders supporters are uniquely abusive and misogynistic in their online behavior.

Back when Greenwald wrote the piece, an Iowa poll showed Sanders with a 15-point lead over Clinton among women under 45, while one-third of Iowa women over 45 supported him. Even more recently, Sanders had a 58 percent favorability rating among all women voters and an 80 percent one among Democrats. That poll, conducted in April of this year, concluded that Sanders was the most popular active politician in the nation.

But, still, for Clinton, she lost because Sanders impugned her character and allowed his supporters to hurl sexist epithets her way.

Another stark difference between the new books by Sanders and Clinton is the way that they treat the idea of party loyalty.  Sanders’ volume really doesn’t talk about political parties per se, although it does clearly divide what he describes as left and right political agendas. Instead it focuses on policy, platforms and effective means of political action. Nowhere does he speak of loyalty to a party or even a cause. Instead the key word he uses to link his readers to his vision is “solidarity.”

Meanwhile, Clinton goes on a tirade about Sanders as a disrupter of the Democratic Party. She points out, rightly, that Sanders was not a DNC insider and professed no “loyalty” to the party. But when she ends her adulatory jag about the Democrats, she writes, “I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were, too.”

She wishes he were proud to be a Democrat too? Seriously?

It’s not just a weird passage that exposes how Clinton favors party loyalty over listening to the needs of the people; it’s also completely tone-deaf politically. In the latest Gallup poll numbers, only 28 percent of American identify as Democrats and 41 percent are Independents. It’s Clinton’s attachment to party loyalty that is the problem. It favors a cronyist DNC oligarchy over paying attention to what voters want.

Sanders is a leader who advocates solidarity. Clinton wants party loyalty. It’s a clear breakdown in political leadership. One vision is of a leader working with and for the people. The other is a vision of how the people serve the leader and the system. Clinton’s assumption that Sanders voters should have been hers is another clear sign of how she thinks of voters as belonging to her, rather than having their own right to vote the way they want.

But perhaps the best sign of how these two books teach us about the radically different leadership styles of Clinton and Sanders takes place as Clinton dismisses Sanders on policy. Clinton mocks Sanders for what she saw as copying her ideas and then “super-sizing” them to make himself more appealing to voters. She describes him as a “serial over-promiser.”

She goes on to recount how Jake Sullivan, her top policy aide, told her that Sanders’ campaign strategy reminded him of a scene from the movie “There’s Something About Mary,” where a hitchhiker says he has a plan to roll out seven-minute abs to top the famous eight-minute abs.

“Why, why not six-minutes abs?” Ben Stiller’s character asks.

Clinton mocks: “That’s what it was like in policy debates with Bernie. We would promise a bold infrastructure investment plan or an ambitious new apprenticeship program for young people, and then Bernie would announce basically the same thing, but bigger. On issue after issue, it was like he kept promising four-minute abs, or even no-minutes abs. Magic abs!”

But here’s the thing. The Sanders vision is not equivalent to “magic abs.” In fact, as his book clearly shows, his policy ideas are progressive, practical and possible. And even more, they are what the nation wants.

“The Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Action” is actually filled with clear and helpful information designed to help young activists better understand the challenges facing this nation. It contains infographics, illustrations and resources that help break down issues like income inequality, climate change, healthcare, law enforcement reform, prison system reform and student loan debt. Each chapter includes ways to learn more about an issue and ways to get involved. It is straightforward, concise and inspiring.

While Clinton is going on about “magic abs,” Sanders is writing a book that helps his readers understand how current government structure works and what they can do to make it better. The contrast couldn’t be starker.

In one excellent example, Sanders walks readers through the effects of a low minimum wage, revealing how a “starvation wage” that has workers earning less than the cost of living but putting in 40 hours a week actually serves to subsidize companies like Walmart. He shows how it is middle class taxpayers who help subsidize the cheap labor used by Walmart since their employees need federal and local assistance to survive.

And, while Clinton mocks Sanders for his idealistic desire to think big, Sanders starts his book reminding readers that his views are those of the bulk of Americans: “On major issue after major issue, the vast majority of Americans support a progressive agenda.” For Clinton, though, the progressive agenda wanted by the majority is nothing more than the hocus pocus of magic abs or the dreams of those who want a pony.

This tweet from David Sirota says it all:

There are so many things a leader could do at this moment of crisis. Clinton chose to slam Bernie Bros & hawk Verrit. I wonder why she lost?

That’s the real tragedy to Clinton’s discourse. She literally sees political vision as nothing but a fantasy. She has so thoroughly imbibed the corporatist, pro-status quo version of the Democratic party that she can’t even notice how pathetically uninspiring her positions are for those young voters she referred to as basement dwellers on the campaign trail.

Against the snarky, negative tone of Clinton’s book, Sanders offers his readers a combination of political passion and practical advice. When it refers to him personally, it does so by quoting a Sanders tweet that links to the issue being covered. The tweets are used to show how Sanders has been standing up for these issues for years. It is a technique that privileges the cause, not the ego. The effect is a subtle form of leadership that is grounded in the idea that a progressive leader is only as strong as the people being inspired and mentored.

“Young people are the future of our country,” Sanders explained to Teen Vogue. “As citizens of the United States, they have a responsibility to participate in our democracy and to help create a government which works for all, rather than just the few. This book will expose them to an unusual political campaign, the excitement of politics and what being a progressive is all about.”

Some will likely say that it is not fair to compare two books that have such radically different goals. Clinton’s is a look back at what happened with her campaign; Sanders’s is a book designed to help energize and guide future progressive political action. Hers is a memoir; his is a political guide to action. One is personal. The other is about political vision and action.

Or maybe comparing these books is exactly what we should be doing because they portray vastly different ideas for the future of left politics in this nation.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that media coverage of the two books has been vastly uneven. Article after article has covered Clinton’s attacks on Sanders. Not one piece I have seen thus far on Clinton’s Bernie-bashing has considered the fact that he has a book out now, too.

Those stories that have covered it often missed the point. Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “New Day” interviewed Sanders about his new book and suggested that some have been reading it as a sign of a potential future run for the presidency. Cuomo asked Sanders whether he planned to run again or back a younger candidate with a progressive message.

Demonstrating why Sanders is a completely different type of leader than Clinton, he quipped back, “Well there is a third school of thought, Chris, and that is that the media never, ever gives up,” said Sanders. “And instead of focusing on real issues, they keep talking about never-ending campaigns.”

Perfectly demonstrating that for Sanders, as it is for many of us, the goal is political progress, not ego-building, he went on: “We never stop elections, people are sick and tired of it. They want me to go back to Washington to deal with climate change, to deal with healthcare, to deal with education, to deal with issues that impact their lives,” he continued. “They do not want to see never ending elections.”

And they really don’t want to spend all their time thinking back on a lost election.

These two books offer different visions of political leadership, different narratives about political possibility and different views about our future. One is constructed to build collective support; the other is a story about a leader betrayed and unfairly thwarted. One offers a practical guide to political action; the other is filled with stories of magic abs and ponies. One hopes to make a real difference in our nation; the other mocks the idea of even trying.

Sophia A. McClennen is Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University. She writes on the intersections between culture, politics, and society. Her latest book, co-authored with Remy M. Maisel, is, Is Satire Saving Our Nation? Mockery and American Politics.

Bernie Sanders Answers Hillary’s Criticisms in Her New Memoir

NEWS & POLITICS
“I think the response is we have got to think going forward.”

YouTube Screengrab

America’s most popular politician, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., appeared on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” Thursday night where he was asked to respond to leaked excerpts from Hillary Clinton’s new book in which she blamed the senator for causing “lasting damage making it harder to unify progressives,” as well as accused him of joining the presidential race to “to disrupt the Democratic Party.”

Instead of firing back at Clinton, the longest reigning Independent senator in U.S. history, explained that he didn’t divide progressives at all. “Actually, the case is that the progressive movement today, and grassroots activism, is stronger than it has been in many, many years,” Sanders told Colbert.

“As a result of our campaign, millions of young people began to vote for the first time, became engaged in the political process . . . we have got to stand together against [President Donald] Trump’s efforts to divide us up, take on the billionaire class and make that political revolution so that we have a government that works for all of us, not just the one percent,” Sanders explained.

Colbert sarcastically pointed out that those were the exact attacks Clinton was talking about.

“But I understand,” Sanders continued. “Look, Secretary Clinton ran against the most unpopular candidate in the history of this country and she lost and was upset about that and I understand that,” he said. “But our job now is really not to go backwards. It is to go forward. It is to create the kind of nation we know we can become. We have enormous problems facing us and I think it’s a little bit silly to keep talking about 2016.”

Colbert pointed out another common criticism from Clinton which was that Sanders had made “pony” promises, and wouldn’t be able to deliver on them when people expected him to.

“I said that in America, we should join every other industrialized country and guarantee health care to all people as a right, and there is now growing sentiment for that effort,” Sanders explained. “So that’s not a pipe dream.”

Sanders then pointed out his plan to raise the minimum wag to $15 an hour, because it’s currently a “starvation wage.” He added that he now has 31 co-sponsors in the Senate to enact that legislation.

Clinton will be a guest on the “Late Show” on Tuesday, September 19 to promote her new book. The late-night comedian asked Sanders what he thought he should ask her when she comes on.

“I think the response is we have got to think going forward,” Sanders replied. “And I would like her to join us in a fight for 15 [dollar minimum wage], in a Medicare-for-all single payer system, in taking on the fossil fuel industry so that we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and move to energy efficient and sustainable energy.”

Hillary Hates Again


When “mainstream” (corporate) media talks about the terrible role that hate is playing in American political life the discussion is usually about partisan contempt between Democrats and Republicans or heated conflicts between “radical extremes” like the alt-right and the so-called alt-left (Antifa). You don’t hear much about the longstanding and dripping contempt the Democratic Party’s neoliberal corporate and professional class “elite” has for progressive and social-democratic forces within that party – this even though most of those “progressive Democrats” generally line up dutifully behind the party’s ruling class masters at the end of the day.

This hate, too, deserves attention.

Smearing “Doofus Bernie”

Take the case of Bernie Sanders, currently the most popular politician in the United States.  Bernie, it should be recalled, sheep-dogged for Mrs. Clinton (whose approval rating stands below even that of Donald Trump today) during the last quadrennial election cycle.  He promised support for the party’s locked-in top-down nominee (Hillary) from day one. He gave that support to Hillary against the wishes of many of his backers in the summer and fall of 2016.  He did this even after the spiteful Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee collaborated with other highly placed Democrats and their corporate media allies to rig the primary race against him.

He was treated in very shabby fashion the by those forces during the primaries. Bill Clinton in New Hampshire called Sanders and his team “hermetically sealed” purists, hypocrites, and thieves and mocked Sanders as “the champion of all things small and the enemy of all things big.”

Hillary sent her daughter Chelsea out to absurdly charge that Sanders’ single-payer health care plan would “strip millions and millions and millions of people of their health insurance.”

Former top John Kerry and Obama communications strategist David Wade used his perch at  Politico to call Sanders “the zombie candidate” – a “doomed” challenger at risk of “becom[ing] Trump’s best ghost-writer for the general election” and a “Nader” who would destroy the Democratic Party’s nominee with “friendly fire attacks.”

In April of 2016, for example, Hillary told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that a dreadful hit-job interview and smear campaign conducted by the New York Daily News against Sanders “raise[d] a lot of questions”about Sanders’ qualification for the presidency.

Hillary’s prizefighter Paul Krugman preposterously likened Sanders’ common-sense and majority-backed health insurance proposal (Medicare for All) to “a standard Republican tax-cut plan and  smeared Sanders as a practitioner of “deep voodoo economics” and “unicorn politics.”  (Krugman enjoyed calling Sanders’ supporters “dead-enders.”)

Hillary’s good friend the blood-soaked mass-murderer Madeline Albright told female voters there was a “special place in Hell” for them if they backed Bernie.

The liberal feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s curiously claimed that young women were voting for Sanders because “when you’re [a] young [woman], you’re thinking ‘where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”

The silly, power-worshipping Rolling Stone publisher Jan S. Wenner (the man who took childish fake-progressive ObamaLust to frightening new heights in 2008) insultingly and inaccurately described Sanders as just “a candidate of anger.” (“But it is not enough to be a candidate of anger. Anger is not a plan…”)

An endless stream of establishment “liberal” media talking heads and pundits (with Krugman as leader of the pack) treated Sanders’ moderately leftish neo-New Deal agenda as a radically outlandish pipedream beyond the pale of serious discussion. They constantly repeated claims that Sanders’ lacked Hillary’s supposed ability to defeat Trump despite one match up poll after another showing Bernie doing substantially better than Mrs. Clinton against The Donald.

This was all consistent with a February 2016 document Wiki-leaked in October of last year.  It showed top Clinton campaign operative Mandy Grunwald suggesting that Hillary essentially red-bait and otherwise smear Sanders.  Grunwald suggested calling Sanders a false promiser of “socialist…free stuff” that “middle class” Americans would only pay for with higher taxes – and to denounce Sanders for supposedly advocating giant slashes to the military budget (Sanders made no such demand., sadly). The main idea – standard centrist neoliberal Clinton-Tony Blair-Barack Obama-Bob Rubin-Lawrence Summer “pragmatism” – was to portray Sanders as an impractical leftist dreamer and then to present Hillary by favorable contrast as the “progressive” realist who knew how to “get things done” (Obama’s recurrent boast) in the real world.

A different Clinton campaign e-mail released in October showed Hillary’s campaign manager John Podesta referring to Sanders as “doofus Bernie” because the Vermont Senator had the basic decency to note that the Paris Climate Agreement fell short of what was required to stem global warming.

Clinton operatives and media allies repeated over and over the false charge that Sanders’ supporters at the Nevada state Democratic Party convention became a raging mob of “chair-throwing” thugs on par with the worst hooligans at Donald Trump’s rallies.

The Clintonistas invented the ugly, identity-politicized smear-term “Bernie Bros” to falsely paint out Sanders supporter as a bunch of bitter old sexist white men (there were plenty of women and people of color among Sanders’ disproportionately young base).

Rigged

Beyond the insults, put-downs, and smears, there was of course the rigging of the primary nomination process. There are abundant reasons to believe that Hillary benefitted from electoral and administrative shenanigans across the (seemingly endless) primary season. The fixing process was evident in Las Vegas, when the Nevada Democratic Party chair “shut down debate behind a screen of uniformed police” after the party excluded 58 Sanders delegates with sudden “rules changes” clearly made to block Sanders’ rightful claim to have won Nevada.

In July of 2016, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairperson Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign from her position after thousands of Wiki-leaked emails showed the DNC exhibiting a clear bias for Hillary over Sanders and other Democratic Party presidential candidates.

Wasserman-Schultz’s successor was interim DNC Chair Donna Brazille, who was later shown by WikiLeaks to have used her position as a CNN commentator to have relayed questions ahead of primary campaign debates to the Clinton campaign.

Then there was the open mockery of democracy behind the fact that much of Hillary’s convention delegate lead over Sanders – enough to give her the nomination without a contest on the convention floor – derived from the 525 explicitly unelected and so-called superdelegates pledged to her before Sanders even declared his candidacy.

Sanders Stumps for the Lying Neoliberal Warmonger

Despite all this and more, Sanders did his best, as originally promised, to try to drag Hillary Clinton’s horrifically bad and noxious neoliberal campaign across the finish line in November.  As the Democratic National Convention approached, Sanders endorsed Mrs. Clinton and dropped his totally reasonable criticism of her as captive to Wall Street billionaires and the moneyed elite. Re -directing his “populist fire” against Trump, the Senator travelled to Wisconsin, Michigan, and other battleground states (some of which he’d won during the primary campaign) on Hillary’s behalf. (Queen Hillary never deigned to set foot again in Wisconsin after she got nominated.

I saw Sanders speak in Iowa City the Friday before the general election. With former liberal Iowa Senator Tom Harken at his side, Bernie bellowed, pleaded, and begged for folks to vote for the “lying neoliberal warmonger” (Adolph Reed Jr’s all-too accurate words, not Bernie’s). His brief primary tussle with the reigning corporate Democrats was forgotten as he warned an at-best mildly enthusiastic crowd about the all-too real evils of Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton was always a tough sell.  The strain of trying to bring her across was evident on the Senator’s face.  The contrast was remarkable between the relatively small and polite gathering he attracted barnstorming for dismal Hillary and the giant and raucous crowds he’d attracted here when running on his own.

Still, Sanders hit the trail, beseeching voters on her behalf, with full knowledge that she was running a terrible operation. The Friday before the election he told some of his friends in Iowa City confidentially that he wasn’t sure he could bring her across: her campaign was just so awful, so clueless, dull, and conservative. She didn’t really have a serious policy agenda, Sanders noted.

Yet still he came out, ever the good Democratic Party company man(beneath the “Independent” veneer), swallowing his pride and fearing the Republican candidate enough to say over and again that  “we must defeat Donald Trump, you must vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Ingratitude: “The Worst Kind of Asshole”

How does Hillary pay Bernie back for his dedicated and energetic efforts on her behalf? In her soon-to-be-released political memoir What Happened? she accuses Sanders of causing “lasting damage” that opened the door to Herr Donald. She claims that Sanders “had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character” because the two Democrats “agreed on so much.”

“Some of his supporters, the so-called Bernie Bros,” Hillary writes. “took to harassing my supporters online. It got ugly and more than a little sexist.” The “Bernie-Bro” smear repeated.

“When I finally challenged Bernie during a debate to name a single time I changed a position or a vote because of a financial contribution, he couldn’t come up with anything,” Clinton wrote. “Nonetheless, his attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”

So primary challengers aren’t supposed to challenge at all.  They are supposed to be thoroughly cowed patsies for the front-runners.  No, they are supposed to act out the same role The Washington Generalsplayed vis-a-vis The Harlem Globetrotters: perpetually failed props. As one correspondent wrote me last Tuesday, reflecting on Mrs. Clinton’s cold ingratitude: “How dare [Bernie] have acted like a primary was meant to be anything other than a foregone conclusion? Really, Hillary Clinton is giving the strongest support for the concept of ‘sheepdog candidate’ that I’ve ever seen, and she’s offering it willingly.”

In What HappenedClinton says that Sanders “isn’t a Democrat,” claiming that “He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.” Never mind Sanders’ repeated promise from the day he enlisted in the presidential race as a loyal Democrat that, in his words in January of 2015: “No matter what I do, I will not be a spoiler. I will not play that role in helping to elect some right-wing Republican as president of the United States.”

After discussing how she disagrees with Sanders’ view of the Democratic Party, Clinton writes that “I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were, too.”

Wow. This is the thanks that the Hillary Clinton has for Sanders’ energetic and self-effacing efforts to save her sorry, vapid, sold-out, and uninspiring political career.  After everything Bernie did for her, after all the exhausting campaign stops he made for her, she still has the sneering sociopathic audacity to lay her abject failure partly at Sanders’ feet. As a different correspondent wrote me last Tuesday:

“Reprehensible. The worst kind of asshole kicks their own sheep dog when he/she left the pen door open. Madame Deplorable simply cannot face the fact that she alone is responsible for achieving the seemingly impossible i.e., allowing the crass, bloviating, two-legged toxic waste dump Trump from defeating himself. Her closest aides have confessed that she could not even name the reason that she desired to become president, other than, ‘It’s my turn. Gimme. Gimme.’”

One thing Trump got right: Hillary is “nasty.”

Conservative, corporate-imperial Hillary continues to look for others to blame for her longstanding pre-existing condition of severe unpopularity.  It’s Russia’s fault.  It’s Comey’s fault.  It’s Bernie’s fault: the sheepdog just wasn’t sheepish enough.  He wasn’t supposed to do what politicians do during primary and other election campaigns, which is find and exploit their opponent’s main weaknesses.

“An Asset to Her Campaign”

The Clintons had had such different hopes for the Bernie run. It wasn’t for nothing that, as the New York Times reported in the spring of 2015, “Mrs. Clinton cheerily welcomed Mr. Sanders into the race.”  The Clintons figured at that time that the only real threat to de-rail Hillary (as Obama did in 2007 and 2008) on the road to her inevitable. God-ordained Democratic presidential nomination this time was Elizabeth Warren. But with Warren appearing to have meant it when she said she wasn’t up for a presidential run (not ready for fighting Hillary’s daunting money machine, perhaps) and with little else to contest Hillary’s ascendancy on “the left” (Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb…seriously?), Hillary now faced a rather different political and public relations problem.  She was in danger of enjoying an all-too obviously Wall Street-funded dynastic coronation as the Democratic nominee.  She saw it as useful to face a challenge from a progressive candidate like Sanders, who could never (she calculated) receive the funding or media approval required to make a serious bid. That way, her pre-selected nomination could look less transparently plutocratic and more like a passably “democratic” outcome of “a real debate.” Ashley Smith puts things very well in a trenchant analysis on SocialistWorker.org:

“Hillary Clinton certainly doesn’t regard Sanders as a threat. She knows that the election business follows the golden rule: Whoever has more gold, wins. Clinton is expected to amass a war chest of more than $1 billion, mostly from Wall Street and Corporate America, to pay for advertising, an army of paid staff and Astroturf support. This will overwhelm Sanders’ fundraising goal of $50 million and his underdeveloped volunteer infrastructure…In fact, Clinton regards Sanders as an asset to her campaign. He will bring enthusiasm and attention to Democratic primaries that promised to be lackluster at best. He will also help her frame the election in populist terms that have widespread support. That benefits the Democrats and undermines the Republicans, who have little to say about inequality, except that they like it…No wonder Clinton celebrated Sander’s entry into the race” (emphasis added).

But then Bernie, probably even to his own surprise, got more support than he was supposed to! (Why that surprised anyone has always been a bit of a mystery to me, given the neoliberal-capitalist hollowing-out of America and the related desperation of masses of U.S. citizens for the slightest glimmer of substantively social-democratic decency on the part of anyone in the political class.) Bad sheepdog! Bad Bernie! For getting that popular support and at least briefly running with it in a major party campaign that came “surprisingly” close to unseating Hillary, Bernie simply cannot be forgiven. How pathetic.

A Goldwater Democrat

“I’m proud,” Hillary says, “to be a Democrat.”  But what kind of Democrat? The kind who has spent the great bulk of adult life helping push the Democratic Party ever further towards the corporate and imperial right – well to the right of the post-World War II Republican Party, in fact. In 1964, when Hillary was 18, she worked for the arch-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Asked about that high school episode on National Public Radio (NPR) in 1996, then First Lady Hillary said “That’s right. And I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with. I don’t recognize this new brand of Republicanism that is afoot now, which I consider to be very reactionary, not conservative in many respects. I am very proud that I was a Goldwater girl.”

It was a revealing reflection.  The right-wing Democrat Hillary acknowledged that her ideological world view was still rooted in the anti-progressive conservatism of her family of origin.  Her problem with the reactionary Republicanism afoot in the U.S. during the middle 1990s was that it was “not conservative in many respects.”  Her problem with Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay was that they were betraying true conservatism – “the conservatism [Hillary] was raised with.” This was worse even than the language of the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC) – the right-wing Eisenhower Republican (at leftmost) tendency that worked to push the Democratic Party further to the Big Business-friendly right and away from its working-class and progressive base.  Bill and Hillary helped trail-blaze that plutocratic “New Democrat” turn in Arkansas during the late 1970s and 1980.

The rest, as they say, is history – an ugly corporate-neoliberal, imperial, and racist history that I and others have written about at great length.  (I cannot reprise here the voluminous details of Mrs. Clinton’s longstanding alignment with the corporate, financial, and imperial agendas of the rich and powerful. Two short and highly readable volumes are Doug Henwood, My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency [OR Books, 2015]; Diana Johnstone, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton [CounterPunch Books, 2015].  On the stealth and virulent racism of the Clintons in power, I highly recommend Elaine Brown’s brilliant volume The Condemnation of Little B: New Age Racism in America [2003].)

And yet strident “liberals” I know here in Iowa City are seriously and enthusiastically talking about Madame Deplorable running yet one more time in 2020.

Stop Hillary before she hates again!

Postscript

Meanwhile, the rapacious fury of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suggest that Sanders (of whom I was no great fan thanks above all to his failure to break from the American imperial project) was on to something when he had the basic environmental decency to say in one of the primary debates that climate change – and not Russia or Iran or North Korea – is the single greatest threat to Americans’ “national security.”

Which reminds me: Has Rachel Maddow lost her mind? Irma’s on a lethal rampage in the Caribbean, Jose in her wake. Houston is just starting to dig out of Harvey and the massive chemical pollution that ensued. Nuclear war beckons on the Korean peninsula. And when I had MSNBC on at the gym last night, Rachel was going on and on about. – what else? – Russia and Trump, Russia and Trump (specifically how they supposedly collaborated to hijack Facebook last year). The night before that I saw Rachel say that for all the “non-ideological madness” of Trump there have been two and just two consistent themes in the Trump presidency: 1. Love of Putin/Russia and 2. Hatred of immigrants. Now, #1 is absurd given the conflict with Russia that Trump has participated in (look at the recent diplomatic staff war just for one example). But even more significantly, Russophobic Maddow deletes probably the most consistent and deadly theme in Orange Beast’s presidency: eco-cidal climate change-denial and environmental arch-de-regulation of energy…certainly themes of utmost relevance in relation to recent and current extreme weather events. Insane. Anthro-/capitalo-genic climate change is the biggest issue of our or any time (Please see my latest essay on Truthdig: “The Silence of the Good People”). The Earth is our witness to that. And she prattles on about Russia, Russia, Russia, as if whatever it might have done to U.S. politics comes remotely close to the power of just the nation’s leading oil corporations in “undermining our great democracy.”

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Unfair and unbalanced: Media defined Trump by his key issues — and Hillary Clinton by her phony scandals

Trump got his scary message out to voters, while Clinton’s issues got buried under an avalanche of email stories

Steve Bannon and his fellow travelers in right-wing media played us all for fools. While that’s never directly stated in a recent study of the role of media in the 2016 election, conducted by researchers from Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, it’s the unavoidable conclusion after examining the results. The right-wing media ecosystem, epitomized by Bannon’s no-longer-former site Breitbart News, was not only able to colonize Republican voters’ minds but also to direct the focus of the mainstream media. The result was that Donald Trump got his political message out with great success, while Hillary Clinton was largely silenced, and defined for the public largely in terms of hysterical right-wing attacks.

In the mainstream media, “the coverage was negative for both candidates,” Yochai Benkler, one of the study authors, explained to Salon. “What became clear was that the conversation in the broader public sphere reflected the agenda that was set by the right,” he continued, “rather than an agenda that was set by Hillary Clinton.”

Simply by dint of being a loud-mouthed boor, Trump was able to dominate the media coverage so thoroughly that it’s a miracle that Clinton even got through, the researchers found.

Fig03

 

Even though most of the Trump coverage, like most of the Clinton coverage, was negative in tone, Trump was able to leverage the negativity to get his message in front of the voters. Even more important, his candidacy was largely defined by his primary issues, such as his hostility to immigration.

“When you say Trump makes a statement about a Muslim ban, that’s a statement about immigration,” Benkler said. That may get negative coverage, he argued, but it also helped educate voters who follow the mainstream media about his positions and views on the issue.

Coverage of Clinton, on the other hand, was largely substance-free and focused on overblown “scandals,” such as stories about leaked emails or stories highlighting donors to the Clinton Foundation. Her campaign’s efforts at creating a robust, progressive political platform were largely wasted on a mainstream media that was almost entirely uninterested in educating the public on her policy views.

The end result was that Trump’s policy positions on nearly all issues got more media attention than Clinton’s, even though the latter put time and effort into developing substantive views, while her opponent’s “policies” were mostly the result of him riffing off something he heard on Fox News.

 

Fig02

A number of Clinton’s critics argue, as Columbia professor Mark Lilla did in my recent interview with him for “Salon Talks,” that the Democrats in 2016 failed to “articulate a vision.” This arguments frustrates many Clinton supporters, who could point to the reams of policy ideas and political ideals she spent the campaign promoting. But it’s easy to see why some people might believe Clinton didn’t articulate or discuss a vision, when her efforts to do so were studiously ignored by mainstream media sources that were more interested in breathlessly covering the non-story about her private email server.

The extent to which Clinton was defined by these pseudo-scandals, while Trump was defined by his views, is illustrated by perhaps the most disheartening chart that the Harvard researchers created from their data.

Fig01

The gap between coverage of the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Foundation is a crystalline example of how distorted the 2016 campaign coverage was. No one has ever found any evidence of Clinton misusing her powers as secretary of state to do favors for Clinton Foundation donors. In contrast, David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post found extensive evidence, including an admission on a tax form, that Trump used his foundation for dubious and possibly illegal self-dealing. Fahrenthold found that Trump used his foundation to buy personal items or to settle legal disputes, rather than for charitable purposes, which is the only legitimate use of foundation funds.

Fahrenthold won the Pulitzer Prize for his investigation of the Trump Foundation, but somehow the rumors and insinuations around the Clinton Foundation got far more coverage. This contrast reveals how well right-wing media was able to control and direct the public conversation about the 2016 campaign.

On one hand, conservative media “provides a shared internal narrative for Trump supporters that keeps them comfortable with the choice and gets them mobilized,” Benkler said. “On the other, it produces a steady flow of stories that end up sometimes — often enough, it seems — setting the agenda for mainstream coverage. It’s this dual effect, on one hand stabilizing and insulating your base from the mainstream, and on the other nudging the mainstream coverage to cover your issues, that was so successful.”

The Clinton Foundation stories largely stemmed from a book called “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” written by then-Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, who also co-founded a right-wing think tank called the Government Accountability Institute, with funding from hedge fund billionaire and Trump enthusiast Robert Mercer. Even though Schweizer had no real proof of corruption, he was able to get his insinuations about the Clinton Foundation covered heavily by The New York Times. After that, the story spread far and wide, from mainstream media to left-leaning sources read by Bernie Sanders supporters.

The Harvard report offers a much more thorough retelling, but the larger lesson here is chilling: Right-wing propaganda forces were able to define Clinton in the public eye, concealing what was without question a substantive policy agenda under a pile of nonsense about her emails and other supposed scandals. Trump, despite his deep and demonstrable corruption, was still able to get his message out — virtually everyone in the country knew what he stood for, whether they found it repulsive or refreshing.

As recent days have shown, many of the mainstream outlets worked as conduits for right wing propaganda, highlighting Trump’s policy message while burying Clinton’s, refuse to take responsibility for what happened. The first step in recovery is recognizing you have a problem. It’s hard to imagine how mainstream media journalists will do better the next time around if they can’t accept that their failures helped put Trump in the White House.

This Is Where Obama Choked.

The American people had damn near an absolute right to know this information.

It so happens that Friday is an official Ratfcking Holiday, and a very important one. It’s June 23 or, as we who celebrate it like to call it, Smoking Gun Day. It was 45 years ago to the day that H.R. Haldeman stopped by the Oval Office and, with a tape recorder whirring merrily away in a drawer, he and Richard Nixon discussed how to get the CIA to turn off the FBI’s investigation of Watergate because that investigation was moving into “some productive areas.” They talked about ripping scabs open, and “that whole Bay of Pigs thing,” and having Walters tell Gray not to go into this thing any further, period. “All I can conclude,” Patrick Buchanan reportedly said when this tape finally came to light, “is that the old man has been shitting us.”

So, in honor of the day, The Washington Post comes up with an amazing tale of the way ratfcking is done in the modern era. It begins with a top-secret communique delivered to President Barack Obama last August.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

The dynamite, she go boom.

At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.

I seem to remember this remarkable coincidence.

The piece is too long, too well reported, and too detailed to summarize in block quotes, but what it makes sadly clear is that the culture of secrecy within the intelligence community worked invariably to empower the ratfcking, rather than to hinder it.

Over that five-month interval, the Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could “crater” the Russian economy.

All well and good. Go get ’em, tiger.

However, like so many things about the Obama administration, the response to what the Russians did was measured and allegedly proportional. (“I feel like we choked,” one official told the Post.) But, you may ask, what about the election that was going on at the same time the Obama administration was retaliating for Russian interference in its process?

They were concerned that any pre-election response could provoke an escalation from Putin. Moscow’s meddling to that point was seen as deeply concerning but unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election. Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day. They also worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia’s efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph.

This, right here. This is where they choked. The American people had damned close to an absolute right to the information their government already had. The most fundamental act of citizenship is the right to cast an informed vote. The idea that the Obama administration withheld the fact that the Russians were ratfcking the election in order to help elect a vulgar talking yam is a terrible condemnation of the whole No Drama Obama philosophy. Would Donald Trump have raised hell if the White House released what it knew? Of course, he would have. But, as it was, the American people went to vote with only about half of the information they needed to assess his candidacy. This was a terrible decision.

Before departing for an August vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, Obama instructed aides to pursue ways to deter Moscow and proceed along three main paths: Get a high-confidence assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies on Russia’s role and intent; shore up any vulnerabilities in state-run election systems; and seek bipartisan support from congressional leaders for a statement condemning Moscow and urging states to accept federal help.

Ah, yes. “Bipartisan support.” The brilliant snow-white unicorn pursued by that administration for nearly eight years. How did that work out? How did it ever work out?

On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance. The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday. Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.

Really, now. How did it ever work out?

The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble.

“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting. Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response and exasperated that the White House seemed willing to let Republican opposition block any pre-election move.

So they choked a second time, scared out of what they should have done by Mitch McConnell, ace conniver. (What the hell did they expect? Patriotism?) I repeat: the American people needed to know this before they voted, spin and fauxtrage and punditry be damned. They had a right to factor the question, “Why does Putin want this guy to be president?” into their thinking in the voting booth.

When U.S. spy agencies reached unanimous agreement in late September that the interference was a Russian operation directed by Putin, Obama directed spy chiefs to prepare a public statement summarizing the intelligence in broad strokes. With Obama still determined to avoid any appearance of politics, the statement would not carry his signature.

It’s at moments like this that I wish he’d never given that speech in Boston in 2004. It froze him into a public persona and a political stance that made even justifiable partisan politics look like base hypocrisy. It is entirely possible that, at what we must now believe was a critical moment (if not the critical moment) of his presidency, the better angels of a president’s nature were the voices he should have avoided at all cost.

Anyway, read the whole thing. It’s a fascinating window into presidential decision-making on the fly, as well as a look at how intelligence is gathered and managed. The 2016 presidential election was corrupted at its heart, and we do not know yet how fully it was corrupted, and that’s the most lasting scandal of all.

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a55836/obama-russian-interference/