Earlier this week Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post published a column titled (in the print edition) “Stonewaller, shape‐shifter, liar.” I won’t keep you in suspense: it was about Donald Trump. But apparently I wasn’t the only reader to have the reaction, Wouldn’t that title apply to more than one candidate this year? And some of the readers made their view known to Marcus. So today she tries valiantly to explain why Hillary Clinton isn’t — really, quite, so much — guilty of the same offenses.
Sure, she stonewalls and keeps secrets. But in many cases, she eventually comes clean. Like, you know, with her private‐server emails and her Benghazi correspondence.
And yes, she’s flipped 100 percent from her previously firm positions on same‐sex marriage (against, then for) and the Pacific region free‐trade agreement (for, then against). Yet, Marcus writes, “voters, agree or disagree, can have reasonable confidence about Clinton’s basic worldview and where she stands on issues.” Really? Just where does she stand on trade? For TPP or against it? For a trade agreement with Europe or against it? Unless Marcus is psychic, she’d surely have to admit that Clinton stands firmly with her finger to the wind. (Admittedly, that might be better than Trump’s adamant support for protectionism.)
And then there’s, well, the lying. Marcus cites two fact‐checkers who conclude that there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove that Clinton lied about the Benghazi attack. Not beyond a reasonable doubt, anyway. Marcus even praises Clinton’s wildly inaccurate and repeated statements about coming under sniper fire:
Clinton’s handling of another “lie” is instructive. At several points during the 2008 campaign, Clinton described “landing under sniper fire” in Bosnia in 1996; video debunked that account. But confronted with conflicting evidence, Clinton acknowledged that she “misspoke.” Has Trump ever backed down from his bevy of demonstrably false statements?
Sorry, counselor, this is not “misspeaking.” It would be misspeaking if she said she came under fire in 1998, when it was really 1996. We might even credit her with misspeaking if she said it happened in Bosnia when it really happened in Kabul; she’s traveled a lot. But in this case, she made a claim about her own experience, and repeated it many times over several years with great detail (as a video with 7 million views illustrates), that was completely at odds with the facts. It’s not a stumble. It’s more like the false claim of Joe Biden that he came from a long line of coal miners, or the false claim of Sen. Richard Blumenthal throughout his political career that he served in Vietnam, or indeed the false claim of historian Joseph Ellis that he too served in Vietnam. In every case these claims served to make the teller seem more experienced and even heroic than he or she actually was — helpful in building a political persona, but absolutely false.
And that doesn’t even get us to statements at odds with known facts on such points as whether she was “dead broke” upon leaving the White House, why she was named Hillary, whether her grandparents were immigrants, and whether she tried to enroll in the Marines or how and why she voted for the war in Iraq.
My low regard for Donald Trump is pretty well known. But I don’t see how any honest assessment can dismiss the low levels of honesty that Hillary (and Bill) Clinton have displayed for 25 years now. Which might explain why exactly 64 percent of voters consider both Clinton and Trump not to be “honest and trustworthy.” And given the high levels of unpopularity of both major‐party nominees, you have to wonder if voters are going to be looking around for plausible alternative candidates.
Michael Kinsley’s short oped “And Now For Some Good News” is one of the most uplifting things I’ve read in a while:
The overwhelming Democratic front‐runner is a woman, yet all the questions that used to be raised about whether a woman could be president have disappeared…
The Democratic front‐runner’s rival is a Jew, which also has not been an issue…
This election season has seen the president nominate a person who would be the fourth Jew (out of nine justices) on the Supreme Court. The other five seats are filled by Catholics. No fuss at all…
[O]ne of the remaining GOP candidates is Latino, as was another who recently dropped out of the race…[Ted] Cruz still could win the nomination. There was also a black candidate who did well with voters, but the fact that Ben Carson is African‐American was simply not an issue…
Most encouraging of all, after an initial explosion of joy and self‐congratulation, the fact that our president for the past eight years has been a black man has largely receded into the background.
I plan to return to Kinsley’s op‐ed when this election inevitably stoops to yet another new low.
As the number of people enrolling in ObamaCare Exchanges is falling below the Obama administration’s targets, Hillary Clinton faced a tough question at a town hall meeting in Ohio on Sunday night. Theresa O’Donnell, a Democratic‐leaning voter complained that ObamaCare caused her family’s health insurance premiums to double from $5,880 per year to $12,972 per year. “I would like to vote Democratic, but it’s costing me a lot of money,” O’Donnell pleaded. “I am just wondering if Democrats really realize how difficult it’s been on working‐class Americans to finance ObamaCare.” The audience applauded O’Donnell, showing once again that, really, not even Democrats like ObamaCare.
Under the header, “Obama is president until January 20, 2017. It’s his job to nominate a justice, the Senate has a responsibility to vote,” Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page issues the following statement:
Nearly everything Clinton says here is either misleading or just untrue.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R‑KY) responded to the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with a press release saying, “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.” Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), and Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) agree. Hillary Clinton spoke for many Democrats: “The Republicans in the Senate and on the campaign trail who are calling for Justice Scalia’s seat to remain vacant dishonor the Constitution. The Senate has a constitutional responsibly here that it cannot abdicate for partisan political reasons.” Conor Friedersdorf says the no‐vote stratagem is “illegitimate” because “the Senate does have an obligation to fulfill its ‘advice and consent’ obligation.…A preemptive rejection of any possible Supreme Court appointment is self‐evidently in conflict with that obligation.” Clinton and Friedersdorf are wrong. Senators have every right to advocate not holding a vote on an Obama appointment, and not to hold a vote.
Clinton and Friedersdorf are overlooking the “consent” part of “advice and consent.” Consent means the Senate is under no obligation whatsoever even to hold a vote on any presidential appointment. The Senate’s obligation is to do what the Senate wants, and only what the Senate wants. Those are the rules. To try to hold senators to a different rule is to try to change the rules on them–and people tend to resent that. Everyone is free to disagree with the positions individual senators or the Senate as a whole take on individual nominations or prospective nominations. But there is no question that senators individually or collectively can deny their consent to any actual or prospective nomination for any reason – just as the American people can vote for whomever they want, for whatever reason they want.
Indeed, President Obama isn’t even entitled to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia – or at least, Congress can deny him that right. The Constitution gives Congress the power to decide how many seats there are on the Supreme Court. In 1789, there were only six. Given sufficient congressional support (i.e., veto‐proof majorities in both chambers), Congress could reduce the number of Supreme Court justices from the current nine to eight. McConnell, Cruz, and Rubio could propose doing so right now. It seems strange to criticize senators who are merely expressing in what circumstances they will withhold their consent when Congress has the power to deny the president the ability to fill this vacancy entirely by itself eliminating this vacancy.
At the same time Democrats turn a blind eye to President Obama repeatedly ignoring constitutional limits on his power, they claim Republicans would dishonor the Constitution if they use powers the Constitution clearly grants them. That is unlikely to dissuade Senate Republicans from delaying a vote on Scalia’s successor until 2017. Nor should it. For more on this topic, please read this by my colleague Ilya Shapiro at Forbes.
Scalia’s untimely passing was a gut punch. I didn’t agree with him all the time. But I agree with Trevor Burrus about him. RIP.
Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders participate in a Democratic primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina, on Jan. 17, 2016.
In their final debate before they face Democratic primary voters, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders traded sharp jabs on health care. Pundits focused on how the barbs would affect the horse race, whether Democrats should be bold and idealistic (Sanders) or shrewd and practical (Clinton), and how Sanders’ “Medicare for All” scheme would raise taxes by a cool $1.4 trillion. (Per. Year.) Almost no one noticed the obvious: the Clinton‐Sanders spat shows that not even Democrats like the Affordable Care Act, and that the law remains very much in danger of repeal.
Hours before the debate, Sanders unveiled an ambitious plan to put all Americans in Medicare. According to his web site, “Creating a single, public insurance system will go a long way towards getting health care spending under control.” Funny, Medicare has had the exact opposite effect on health spending for seniors. But no matter. Sanders assures us, “The typical middle class family would save over $5,000 under this plan.” Remember how President Obama promised ObamaCare would reduce family premiums by $2,500? It’s like that, only twice as ridiculous.
Clinton portrayed herself as the protector of ObamaCare. She warned that Sanders would “tear [ObamaCare] up…pushing our country back into that kind of a contentious debate.” She proposed instead to “build on” the law by imposing limits on ObamaCare’s rising copayments, and by imposing price controls on prescription drugs. Sanders countered, “No one is tearing this up, we’re going to go forward,” and so on.
Such rhetoric obscured the fact that the candidates’ differences are purely tactical. Clinton doesn’t oppose Medicare for All. Indeed, her approach would probably reach that goal much sooner. Since ObamaCare literally punishes whatever insurers provide the highest‐quality coverage, it therefore forces health insurers into a race to the bottom, where they compete not to provide quality coverage to the sick. That’s terrible if you or a family member have a high‐cost, chronic health condition — or even just an ounce of humanity. But if you want to discredit “private” health insurance in the service of Medicare for All, it’s an absolute boon. After a decade of such misery, voters will beg President (Chelsea) Clinton for a federal takeover. But if President Sanders demands a $1.4 trillion tax hike without first making voters suffer under ObamaCare, he will over‐play his hand and set back his cause.
The rhetoric obscured something much larger, too. Clinton and Sanders inadvertently revealed that not even Democrats like ObamaCare all that much, and Democrats know there’s a real chance the law may not be around in four years.
During the debate, Sanders repeatedly noted ObamaCare’s failings : “29 million people still have no health insurance. We are paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, getting ripped off…even more are underinsured with huge copayments and deductibles…we are spending almost three times more than the British, who guarantee health care to all of their people…Fifty percent more than the French, more than the Canadians.”
Sure, he also boasted, repeatedly, that he helped write and voted for the ACA. Nonetheless, Sanders was indicting ObamaCare for failing to achieve universal coverage, contain prices, reduce barriers to care, or eliminate wasteful spending. At least one of the problems he lamented — “even more [people] are underinsured with huge copayments and deductibles” — ObamaCare has made worse. (See “race to the bottom” above, and here.)
When Sanders criticized the U.S. health care system, he was criticizing ObamaCare. His call for immediate adoption of Medicare for All shows that the Democratic party’s left wing is simply not that impressed with ObamaCare, which they have always (correctly) viewed as a giveaway to private insurers and drug companies.
Clinton’s proposals to outlaw some copayments and impose price controls on prescription drugs are likewise an implicit acknowledgement that ObamaCare has not made health care affordable. In addition, her attacks on Sanders reveal that she and many other Democrats know ObamaCare’s future remains in jeopardy.
Seriously, does anyone really think Clinton is worried that something might “push our country back into that kind of a contentious debate” over health care? America has been stuck in a nasty, tribal health care debate every day of the six years since Democrats passed ObamaCare despite public disapproval. Or that Republicans would be able to repeal ObamaCare over President Sanders’ veto?
This week Hillary Clinton became the second prominent Democrat to refuse to answer the question, "What's the difference between a socialist and a Democrat?"
In July MSNBC host Chris Matthews stumped Democratic national chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) with the question. Asked three times, Wasserman Schultz first looked blank, then evaded: "The relevant debate that we'll be having this campaign is what's the difference between a Democrat and a Republican....The difference between a Democrat and Republican is that Democrats fight to make sure everybody has an opportunity to succeed and the Republicans are strangled by their right-wing extremists."
On Tuesday Matthews asked Clinton the same question. Clinton could see it coming, and she did say of socialism, "I'm not one." But pressed to explain "What's the difference between a socialist and a Democrat?" she too retreated to boilerplate:
I can tell you what I am, I am a progressive Democrat … who likes to get things done. And who believes that we’re better off in this country when we’re trying to solve problems together. Getting people to work together. There will always be strong feelings and I respect that, from, you know, the far right, the far left, libertarians, whoever it might be, we need to get people working together.
Hey, thanks for the "libertarians" plug, Madam Secretary! But seriously, why is this a hard question? Here's a clear answer:
"Socialists believe in government ownership of the means of production, and Democrats don't."
Would that be a true statement? If so, why don't Clinton and Wasserman Schultz just say it?