Category: #NeverHillary

Domestic Politics “Trumps” Foreign Policy Positions

George S Ledyard“There’s no such thing as foreign policy, there is only domestic policy” – Justin Raimondo of AntiWar.com in an interview on NPR today.
In this case he was talking about Donald Trump’s recent bombing of Syria, ostensibly in response to Assad’s sarin gas attack on civilians. His take on it, and I think it makes sense, is that Trump is basically bombing Syria, in order to try to show the American people that he isn’t in bad with the Russians.
Cruise missiles SyriaInterestingly, the total flip flop from the Reagan era when the GOP was full of anti-Russian cold warriors and the Democrats, as the opposition party were obligated to oppose Reagan’s global anti Communist efforts, we now have a Republican administration which is clearly positively disposed towards Russia and an almost hysterically anti-Russian Democratic Party.Anti RussianThis creates the most amazing political conjunction. Many of the far left Progressives who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaign, seem far more focused on the perceived evils of the Democratic Party establishment, the so-called Neo-Liberals, than they are  with what the people on the ultra right are doing. So, we find these Progressives putting forth the same pro-Russia, anti-Democratic messages that the far right talk show hosts are putting out.
WikiLeaksThey question whether the Russians really did hack the DNC, they deny that the Russians intervened in the election to benefit Donald Trump, they are depicting the Syrian gas attack as a false flag operation designed to generate support for anti-Assad  forces and pressure the Russians to perhaps distance themselves from their ally.
Isn’t it rather insane that a group of people who share absolutely no agenda items in their vision of America with the GOP or the Tea Party radicals end up allied on foreign policy issues with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin?
And the Democrats themselves, have so committed to the anti-Russian narrative that, when their arch enemy, the Great Satan, Donald Trump chooses to bomb Syria in order to convince people he isn’t in the pocket of the Russians, they end up praising his actions and actually assisting him in his attempts to appear more “Presidential”. It is actually the far right nationalists, who thought Trump was going to be an isolationist that are upset about the bombing and his flip flop on the US as a global policeman.
My point here is that the Syrian issue ends up highlighting just how irrational most folk’s foreign policy positions are. They have little or nothing to do with the realities of the political and military situation on the ground in Syria. Folks take their positions based on the interplay of political considerations here on the domestic scene.
Trump PutinTrump clearly has a serious Russian influence problem. So, he goes against his publicly stated stance as an isolationist, and bombs Syria in order to show he’s not in the pocket of the Russians. The Democrats who have suddenly become hyper anti-Russian (just since the election amazingly) have been using the Russian influence scandal to bludgeon Trump. So, when Trump actually does something that runs counter to Russia’s stated interests, the Dems end up helping to legitimize and normalize this man whom they strongly oppose. This of course totally validates Trump’s attempts at deflection.
Hillary Clinton Progressive OppositionThe far left Progressive fanatics are trying to create a movement to set up a third party. Their narrative is that the Democratic Party is compromised beyond repair. They want to split off Democratic Party support in order to grow support for their new party. This means that their major focus isn’t on resisting Trump or the Alt Right, it’s on opposing any and all Democratic efforts to appear to recover from the Hillary Clinton / DNC electoral loss. So, if the Democratic establishment is taking an anti-Russian stance in response to Trump’s clear pro-Russia agenda, the Progressives end up pursuing the same agenda as the Trump forces.
Can everyone see just how little this has anything at all due to historical, cultural, and political reality in Syria? While I am sure that in the intelligence and military communities there are educated people striving for fact based decision making. But if one is listening to the leaders of ANY of the different political factions, Tea Party, Republican, Democratic, Progressive, it doesn’t matter, you see their positions change with the wind, based on domestic political concerns and with little regard to educated and consistent foreign policy agendas.

How Your Government Works

George S LedyardThe recent flap over the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton State Department has created an appearance of influence peddling and pay per play government. The reality is that the uproar demonstrates that most Americans simply do not know how the government works.

In a country which is governed by laws and in which government regulations effect almost every area of economic life, a virtually constant need for rulings and decisions about how the laws and regulations apply exists. While so-called “normal” channels exist for getting the various permits, permissions, and decisions required to do business both domestically and internationally, to deal with immigration issues, foreign investment in US businesses, export of US technologies, and so on, it is also a constant effort on the part of businesses and individuals to get these decisions made as expeditiously as possible.

In every area of life, relationships are important and nowhere are relationships more important than in government. Every citizen has Congressmen and Senators in Congress that they elect to represent their interests. In theory, we all have the same access. But the reality is, and this has been true since the nation was founded, that the richest individuals and the most successful corporations go to the head of the line when they need access.

Your Senators and Congressmen spend a huge amount of their time helping their constituents navigate the maze of government regulation. They can contact an agency and help you make your case for a favorable decisions, they can contact another agency to find out the status of an immigration visa in process. Within certain ethical limits, they are there to represent the interests of their constituents. But it is a simple fact that big supporters of the party, companies that employ their constituents, even personal friends, will have “access” that ordinary people do not have.

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, not a right / left issue, it is how things work and have always worked. One could certainly make a case for doing various things that would reduce the influence of wealth on our politics. We can make campaign finance reform a priority. We can repeal Citizens United and make the whole process more transparent. But nothing we will do will make relationships less of a central factor in getting anything done in our society.

clinton-foundationThe whole reason that Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have come under fire has to do with the window into how relationships are formed and access is achieved in our society. The only difference between what happened during the Clinton years at the State Department and what has gone on in every administration, whether Republican or Democrat, is that the hacked emails let us see how the process works. We simply did not get the same kind of window on the relationships under under government officials.

The inference that foreign governments were making donations to the Clinton Foundation in order to get access and favorable decisions at the State Department is backwards thinking. The kinds of people making large donations to an international charity are doing so BECAUSE they already have these relationships. After her years as First Lady, her years as a Senator, and then in her years as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who is famous for her ability as a “connector”, built a huge network of friends, colleagues, professional and government acquaintances. She is one of those people who seems to “know everyone”. So, many of these folks donated to the Clinton Foundation because they knew both Hillary and, obviously, the former President, Bill Clinton. In other words, these relationships existed BEFORE donations were made to the Foundation. These were all influential people, government figures, etc who could expect to have access without doing anything at all regarding the Foundation.

Influence peddling involves benefiting personally from using ones position in government to influence government decisions improperly on behalf of some person or entity. But this is and has always been a gray area. Is a big campaign donor or wealthy constituent having his or her representative go to bat on their behalf some sort of ethical issue? It might be, depending on how it’s done, but it might just be the elected representative taking care of a constituent. Now, if some benefit accrues directly to the government official from doing this,. it is clearly an ethical violation.

So, people need to be clear about the relationship of the Clinton Foundation to the Clintons themselves. The Foundation is a not for profit charity that operates world wide. Unlike a charity like the United Way, which collects donations and then dispenses them to other charities that are actually engaged on doing various projects, the Clinton Foundation does most of its work directly. So, when right wing critics try to say that most of its donations are not dispensed to other charities, it is precisely because it is doing its own charitable work.

As a not for profit charity, the IRS looks closely at the Foundation finances. The Clinton family does not financially benefit financially from the money donated to the Foundation. They do not have access to those funds. The Foundation is regularly audited to ensure that its funds are used primarily for the charitable purposes intended.

So, to the extent that people who donated to the Foundation had access to Hillary Clinton and her staff, it was the same kind of access that one would expect any wealthy contributor, influential leader, or even just a celebrity might have. This is how the government works. Influential people have more access than regular people. This is in no way shape or form unique to Hillary Clinton and it would be difficult to see how any system would exist in which this wouldn’t be true.

So far, in reviewing the meetings set up on behalf of the see figures by Clinton’s staff, there is ZERO evidence of improper pressure being applied to any of the decision makers involved. In most instances, meetings took place with no positive result for the person requesting the meeting. In those instances in which there might have been a positive result, it appears to have been an outcome that one would normally have expected.

So, to sum up. we have a suggestion of scandal that actually involves no direct benefit to the Clintons, demonstrates no improper pressure on officials to sway their decisions, which amounts to little more than using ones relationships to get a hearing from an agency empowered to make that decision. This is exactly what every Congressman, Senator, and other government official that represents the interests of the voters will do. The fact that wealthy elites, big corporations, leaders of other nations get more access than regular citizens is just a fact of life and is absolutely no different under any party, any administration. It was this way under the Bushes and it was this way under Bill Clinton or Obama. I won’t be different under a Clinton or a Trump Presidency.

The one thing that can be said with certainty, is that this is another non-scandal. The only reason that people think that Hillary Clinton has acted differently is that we didn’t get an inside view of any other official’s emails via some hacker.

capitolio-washington-dc

Progressive Movement and Collective Hara Kiri

George S LedyardThe way I see the 2016 election  shaping up, it’s going to be determined by which party has the fewest defectors. If the number of Republicans who have some decency and sense of honor and either do not vote, or choose to reluctantly vote for Clinton, outweighs the number of fanatical, uncompromising, Lefties who want to commit progressive suicide by hopping on the #NeverHilary movement, then we will be OK.

It is bad enough that I am looking at a country in which the members of one major political party seem to have gone mad, running a nouveau-Fascist, racist, sexist, bigot for President… but now I get to watch my beloved progressive movement commit elective hara kiri out of a rabid and irrational hatred for an establishment Democrat.
I feel as if the whole country is going mad. It’s like I went down the rabbit hole and am now in some alternative world in which rationality is nowhere to be seen and anger, hatred, vitriol, and polemics have replaced any kind of normal behavior.

I see myself as a progressive. I have supported Bernie Sanders from the start. The legislative agenda I favor would be considered radical compared to the incremental approach, which I feel has largely failed. But I am also a realist. Politics is the art of the possible. Substantive change normally requires a long term commitment, moving the ball forward in any way you can. Sometimes that requires compromise with people or groups with whom you do not agree but can find enough common ground to accomplish some particular goal. Fanaticism is always a destructive force. It creates divisions, it is exclusionary, it wrecks things without replacing them with anything positive.

I simply cannot comprehend what is happening with the folks on the Left that I had thought were my “peeps”. Many are revealing a fanatical side that I had not seen and do not share. Their inability to deal with the fact that the “founding fathers” intentionally built in a certain amount of inertia into our system is going to destroy our movement.
The people in our society who have made positive change happen are not the radicals on the street, the activists, the demonstrators, the ones out on the barricades. The radicals, virtually by definition, do not have the power to change things. It is the “establishment” that has the power. To crate change, one has to win over enough of the establishment to accomplish that change.

The New Deal wasn’t created by the Labor Unions or the Bonus Marchers. It wasn’t created by the radicals out fighting with the security forces. It was created by a President and Congress many of whose establishment members had been won over to the belief that something had to be done to radically change the direction of the country. A fear of revolution may have been the impetus, but it required members of the establishment to be converted to the cause. Civil Rights Act The Civil Rights Act was passed by a bunch of establishment white folks. The impetus may have been Dr King’s “Movement” but it was the folks that held power who had to be won over. Dr. King understood this completely. He viewed his job as acting as the conscience of the nation, pushing and prodding the establishment to act out of a sense of national embarrassment concerning inequality and repression of his people. But Dr. King understood he needed those establishment types in Washington to see that their interests coincided with those of the movement.

The vilification of the establishment that I see from both the far right and the far left may be based on legitimate concerns over the various serious issues which the country faces. But people are acting like what needs to happen is to scrap the system and start over. With what, no one can actually say. How positive change is going to happen when the methodology is largely negative and destructive doesn’t seem to be a consideration. It’s all throw the bums out, break it all down. The total disdain for 300 years of our institutional development seems equal on both the left and the right.

Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic nominee for President. I am sad, I am disappointed. But, to my mind, that fact means that it is time to keep my eyes on the prize. The greatest threat to the country that I would like to live in is Donald Trump. A Trump Presidency could be the biggest disaster for our nation since its founding. He embodies virtually every single negative trait our body politic possesses. He is fearful, angry, aggressive, bigoted, insensitive, merciless,  and cruel. He has absolutely no experience relative to the job. His entire personality points to an admiration for dictatorship and “strong man” style leadership.
Hillary Clinton is the quintessential establishment Democrat. She is also the most accomplished female politician in the history of the country. In a society in which women cannot get ahead unless they understand how to play the game with the boys, she has prevailed. Toe to toe with some of the most vicious, unprincipled politicians in our history and she is still standing. This is a woman who knows how to get things done.
At this very moment, Hillary Clinton needs our progressive support to win. This is exactly the time when the interest of the establishment coincide with our interests. This is the moment when the establishment Democrats can actually be pushed towards the left. Right now, when they need us. And this is precisely when so many of my fellow progressives have decided to make themselves TOTALLY irrelevant to the process by refusing to work with the establishment Democrats. By adopting the #NeverHillary position progressives force the establishment Dems to focus more on trying to win over disaffected Republican voters than try to woo progressives. This irrational and uncompromising position guarantees that the party focus move towards center-right rather than towards any progressive agenda which we have said we supposedly felt so strongly about.
This is the best chance we are likely to get for many years to move our progressive agenda forward. Right now the collective interests of the establishment Dems and the Progressive Dems coincide. This is when we can get a more progressive platform for the party, this is when we can get commitments from Clinton to appoint more progressives to her administration, this is when, by uniting the party, we can get more progressives elected down ticket and possibly take back Congress. Right now, this instant, when the GOP is running a crypto-Fascist, racist, misogynist, narcissist. This is our chance.

#NeverHillary
TM Karla Enriquez Anti-Hillary Clinton protesters(left) lined up and questioned Clinton supporters (right) as she walked by the gym area of East Los Angeles College. Clinton held a rally at ELAC on Thursday, May 5. Photo by Karla Enriquez/TM.

The #NeverHillary position is a form of collective suicide for the progressive movement. A kind of electoral Masada in which we jump off the cliff rather than be captured by the “establishment”. I simply cannot comprehend why any thinking progressive would believe that this is a good idea. The result will absolutely not move the progressive ball forward and it could easily lead to a Donald Trump victory.

Progressive movement commits suicide