Via the Washington Post:
Via the Washington Post:
Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post:
Our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated. This is the definitive conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. It documents a serious crime against the American people.
The debate about how to respond to Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” attack — and how to hold President Trump accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law — has been reduced to a false choice: immediate impeachment or nothing. History suggests there’s a better way to think about the choices ahead.
Obviously, this is personal for me, and some may say I’m not the right messenger. But my perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of Vladimir Putin’s ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country.
I am also someone who, by a strange twist of fate, was a young staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee’s Watergate impeachment inquiry in 1974, as well as first lady during the impeachment process that began in 1998. And I was a senator for New York after 9/11, when Congress had to respond to an attack on our country. Each of these experiences offers important lessons for how we should proceed today.
First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.
The Republicans, of course, will not listen to this. All they will say is that she’s a sore loser and E-MAILS! But what is so striking is that they and a lot of other people were willing — and still are — to take Trump’s word that the Russians did nothing to interfere with the election of 2016 and are just as likely to do the same next year. Oh, but our real national security is threatened by refugees from Central America who are begging, with their last dime, for asylum. But the systematic corruption of our electoral system? Nah.
We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.
Of all the lessons from our history, the one that’s most important may be that each of us has a vital role to play as citizens. A crime was committed against all Americans, and all Americans should demand action and accountability. Our founders envisioned the danger we face today and designed a system to meet it. Now it’s up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our nation.
The very fact that Trump and his toadies are saying “Move along, folks, nothing to see here,” is reason enough to hold hearings and get to the truth. It may lead to impeachment; it may not. But to sit back and do nothing is exactly what the Russians are expecting us to do. They know we’re too easily distracted by trivial bullshit and shiny objects; while the country is obsessed with the latest Kardashian sighing, they’re robbing us and getting away with it.
The Trolls of St. Petersburg — Masha Gessen in The New Yorker.
“Seen any of these before?” a headline blared on CNN’s Web site this week. “You may have been targeted by Russian ads on Facebook.” One half expected a toll-free number of a law firm to flash across the screen, or perhaps the name of a medicine to take post-exposure to Russian ads. Among other revelations of the past few days: Russian ads may have reached a third of Americans! And some of them were paid for with rubles! The very thought seemed to be enough to make Senator Al Franken cradle his head in distress on Tuesday, during congressional hearings in which representatives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter were questioned about Russian influence in the 2016 Presidential campaign.
In the past few weeks, we have learned a fair amount about the Russian online presence during the election. What matters, though, is not that Russian interference reached a third of Americans—that, in fact, is a significant exaggeration of the testimony by Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, who said that a hundred and twenty-six million people, not necessarily Americans, “may have been served” content associated with Russian accounts sometime between 2015 and 2017, with a majority of impressions landing after the election. He also mentioned that “this equals about four-thousandths of one per cent of content in News Feed, or approximately one out of twenty-three thousand pieces of content.” Nor is it significant that, as a “CNN exclusive” headline announced, “Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin.” The story that followed actually said nothing of the sort. The real revelation is this: Russian online interference was a god-awful mess, a cacophony.
The Times published some of the ads that Facebook has traced to Russian accounts. Among them: a superhero figure with a green leg and a fuchsia leg, red trunks, and a head vaguely reminiscent of Bernie Sanders, all of which is apparently meant to read as pro-L.G.B.T.Q.; a Jesus figure arm-wrestling Satan, with a caption indicating that Satan is Hillary; an ad reminding us that “Black Panthers, group formed to protect black people from the KKK, was dismantled by us govt but the KKK exists today”; and an anti-immigrant ad featuring a sign that says “No invaders allowed!,” among others.
Several former staff members of a St. Petersburg company widely known as the Kremlin’s “troll factory” gave interviews to different Russian-language media outlets last month. One told TV Rain, an independent Web-based television channel, that hired trolls were obligated to watch “House of Cards,” presumably to gain an understanding of American politics. At the same time, trolls took English classes and classes on American politics. In the former, they learned the difference between the present-perfect and past-simple tenses (“I have done” versus “I did,” for example); in the latter they learned that if the subject concerned L.G.B.T. rights, then the troll should use religious rhetoric: “You should always write that sodomy is a sin, and that will bring you a couple of dozen ‘likes.’ ”
Another Russian outlet, RBC, published the most detailed investigative report yet on the “troll factory.” RBC found that the company had a budget of roughly $2.2 million and employed between eight hundred and nine hundred people, about ten per cent of whom worked on American politics. The trolls’ job was not so much to aid a particular Presidential candidate as to wreak havoc by posting on controversial subjects. Their success was measured by the number of times a post was shared, retweeted, or liked. RBC calculated that, at most, two dozen of the trolls’ posts scored audiences of a million or more; the vast majority had less than a thousand page views. On at least a couple of occasions, the trolls organized protests in the U.S. simply by strategically posting the dates and times on Facebook. In Charlotte, South Carolina, an entity calling itself BlackMattersUS scheduled a protest and reached out to an actual local activist who ended up organizing it—and a BlackMattersUS contact gave him a bank card to pay for sound equipment.
These reports don’t exactly support the assumption that the Russian effort was designed to get Donald Trump elected President. In fact, as The Hill reported on Tuesday, a Russian account announced plans for an anti-Trump march in New York City four days after the election—and thousands attended.
Why did Russian trolls, funded at least in part by the Kremlin, work to incite protests against Trump and an ersatz Black Lives Matter protest, and, at least in one offline case, work to pit American protesters against one another? “We were just having fun,” one of the troll-factory employees interviewed by RBC explained. They were also making money—not a lot, but more than most college students and recent graduates, who comprised most of the troll-factory staff, would have earned elsewhere. In exchange, they had to show that they could meddle effectively in American politics.
Russians have long been convinced that their own politics are infiltrated by Americans. During the mass protests of 2011 and 2012, Putin famously accused Hillary Clinton personally of inciting the unrest. At the time, I was involved in organizing the protests. In advance of a large protest in February, 2012, I helped a particularly generous donor, who had shown up out of the blue volunteering to provide snacks, to connect with the hot-tea coördinator. A few weeks later, state-controlled television aired a propaganda film that used footage of protesters eating donated cookies and drinking tea, which was intended to expose the U.S. State Department’s sponsorship of the Moscow protests; the voice-over claimed that America had lured protesters out with cookies. A few months later, we learned that the generous donor had been an undercover agent who had used Kremlin rubles to purchase the cookies. In the end, protesters got tea and cookies, and millions of Russians became convinced that the anti-Putin protests were an American conspiracy.
The cookie story is not a perfect analogy, but it is an antecedent of sorts to the narrative of Russian meddling in the American election, and it is instructive. Was the Moscow protest made any less real because a fake donor had brought cookies? Was the protest in New York in November of last year any less real, or any less opposed to Trump, because a Russia-linked account originally called for it? Is Trump any less President because Russians paid for some ads on Facebook? Is there any reason, at this point, to think that a tiny drop in the sea of Facebook ads changed any American votes? The answer to all of these questions is: no, not really.
The most interesting question is: What were the Russians doing? In the weeks leading up to the election, Putin made it clear that he expected Hillary Clinton to become President. There is every indication that Moscow was as surprised as New York when the vote results came in. Indeed, in Russia, where election results are always known ahead of time, the Trump victory might have been even more difficult to absorb. So what, then, was the point of Russian meddling—what was the vision behind the multicolored Bernie superhero and the “No invaders” ad?
All of us, including the trolls of St. Petersburg, want the world to make sense. Given the opportunity, we want to show that it works the way we think it does. Russians generally believe that politics are a cacophonous mess with foreign interference but a fixed outcome, so they invested in affirming that vision. In the aftermath, and following a perfectly symmetrical impulse, a great many Americans want to prove that the Russians elected Trump, and Americans did not.
Rainbows and Unicorns — Charles P. Pierce on the GOP tax plan.
With Sudden Sam Clovis suddenly cleared out, there was room for the House Republicans to uncrate their long-awaited tax plan and it was pretty much as disastrous as you thought it would be.
(And I should point out how stunned I am that the administration would not want a guy already under FBI investigation to go under oath in a completely separate proceeding in which would be examined his credentials to do a job for which he was completely unqualified. ‘Ees a puzzlement.)
One good way to understand what’s going on with this latest exercise in financial misdirection is to notice that this plan will tax the interest payment on one student’s loans, but that it may no longer tax another student’s multibillion-dollar inheritance. Of course, the estate tax will go away entirely in six years, probably when nobody’s watching. It also will cap the mortgage-interest deduction, probably in the interest of eliminating it entirely when nobody’s watching. So that’s what all that “middle-class” bafflegab is really all about.
Brownback’s catastrophic imbibing of straight supply-side Sterno crippled his state, and the Center for American Progress immediately pointed out the similarities between what Brownback did in his state and what the Republican plan proposes to do to the country. Otherwise, the Republican plan is pretty much the same thing as David Stockman long ago said the first Reagan budget was: a Trojan horse to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthiest among us. From The Washington Post:
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and collapse the seven tax brackets paid by families and individuals down to four. It would create giant new benefits for the wealthy by cutting business taxes, eliminating the estate tax, and ending the alternative minimum tax.
The elimination of the deduction for state and local taxes seems to be based in an entirely new riff that’s become popular among congresscritters who are tired of seeing their laissez-faire hellholes called moochers because the hellholes take in more money from the federal government than they send back to it in taxes. Now, believe it or not, and you will believe it because these people will say anything, the argument is being made that the high-tax states are somehow luxuriating on the backs of Good Country People in places like Alabama and, yes, Kansas. In any event, this provision of the bill has put Republicans from places like New York and New Jersey in a considerable bind, so much so that insisting upon it may be enough to sink the bill entirely.
And, finally, of course, we have the most spavined old nag in this entire herd of unicorns.
The bill would add $1.5 trillion to the debt over 10 years, but Republicans believe the changes would trigger a surge in economic growth, higher wages, and job creation.
Clap as hard as you want, America. This is not going to happen because it never has happened in all the years that Republicans have been running this con on the country. It never has happened because it can’t happen. In the immortal words of Rocket J. Squirrel:
“But that trick never works.”
Time Was… Michael S. Rosenwald on the chaotic history of timekeeping in America.
One of the crazier facts about life in America is this: For roughly two decades, nobody had any clue what time it was.
In office buildings, it could be 4 p.m. on one floor and 5 p.m. on another — an important matter for several reasons, including who punched out first to get to happy hour. People would step off airplanes with no idea how to set their watches. Ponder this head-scratcher:
“A short trip from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia became a symbol of the deteriorating situation. A bus ride down this thirty-five-mile stretch of highway took less than an hour. But along that route, the local time changed seven times.”
That “deteriorating situation,” as historian Michael Downing put it in his book “Spring Forward,” is the reason millions of Americans will set their clocks back this weekend for Daylight Saving. (And it is daylight saving, not savings. You’re welcome.) Those who forget are going to be very early for Sunday brunch.
Before 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson solved the craziness over America’s clocks two years after passing the Civil Rights Act, time was essentially anything governments or businesses wanted it to be. Though laws mandating daylight saving — to save fuel, to give shoppers extra time in the light — passed in 1918, by the end of World War II the system had become fractured and was ultimately dismantled.
These were nutty times, Downing writes, with some localities observing daylight saving, some not:
Left to their own devices, private enterprise and local governments — which had repeatedly demanded the right not to alter their clocks — took to changing the time as often as they changed their socks, setting off a nationwide frenzy of time tampering …
Especially in Iowa, which had 23 different Daylight Saving dates. “If you wanted to get out of Iowa, you had to time your departure carefully,” Downing writes. “Motorists driving west through the 5 p.m. rush hour in Council Bluffs, Iowa, found themselves tied up in the 5 p.m. rush hour in Omaha, Nebraska, an hour later.”
The historian also offers this truly astonishing fact: “By 1963, no federal agency of commission was even attempting to keep track of timekeeping practices in the United States.”
When the government did finally get involved, a committee was, of course, established.
It was called, “The Committee for Time Uniformity.”
Congressional hearings were held. Legislation was proposed. Editorials were written.
The measure “is a bid for the termination of chaos,” this newspaper opined. To those who would oppose such a sensible idea, the Post editorial page said, “It is better for them to adjust to the will of the majority than to tolerate the Babel of contradictory clocks.”
The Uniform Time Act of 1966 — designed “to promote the observance of a uniform system of time throughout the United States” — was signed into law by Johnson on April 13, 1966.
Six months later it became the law of the land, though one wonders: Did it go into effect at the very same time in New York and Chicago, which is one hour behind?
Actually, never mind.
Doonesbury — Rhyme time.
If the Republicans were truly as outraged about the mistreatment of Hillary Clinton and her e-mails at the hands of James Comey as they now claim to be, she would have won the election.
I doubt that it was intentional and I doubt that the Republicans were happy with it, but Sen. John McCain’s questions to former FBI Director James Comey were the most puzzling of the day.
McCain, the final lawmaker to question the former FBI chief, seemed to conflate the federal investigation of Russian election interference with the Hillary Clinton email probe.
The veteran lawmaker then appeared to suggest the FBI was guilty of a double standard, effectively clearing the former Democratic nominee for her use of a private server while keeping the heat on President Donald Trump and his campaign associates for their possible ties to Russia.
“In the case of Hillary Clinton, you made the statement that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to bring a suit against her, although it had been very careless in their behavior, but you did reach a conclusion, in that case that it was not necessary to further pursue her, yet at the same time in the case of Mr. Comey you said that there was not enough information to make a conclusion,” McCain said, confusing Comey for the president.
McCain later asked, “You’re going to have to help me out here. In other words, we’re complete, the investigation of anything that former secretary Clinton had to do with the campaign is over and we don’t have to worry about it anymore?”
“I’m a little confused,” Comey replied.
I am loathe to diagnose from a distance, and I am hesitant to label anyone as suffering from dementia. If they are, then it’s not something you mock them for; it’s a debilitating disease for both the patient and the family. So I’m not going there with why Sen. McCain was confused and lit up Twitter. But even if he’s not perfectly healthy, he still had no reason to make it sound like Hillary Clinton got off easy.
John Podesta, who ran Hillary Clinton’s campaign, wonders why the FBI was so obsessed with tracking down the ghosts of e-mail servers past but basically left a voicemail for the DNC warning them about Russian hacking.
Comparing the FBI’s massive response to the overblown email scandal with the seemingly lackadaisical response to the very real Russian plot to subvert a national election shows that something is deeply broken at the FBI.
Comey justified his handling of the email case by citing “intense public interest.” He felt so strongly that he broke long-established precedent and disregarded strong guidance from the Justice Department with his infamous letter just 11 days before the election. Yet he refused to join the rest of the intelligence community in a statement about the Russian cyberattack because he reportedly didn’t want to appear “political.” And both before and after the election, the FBI has refused to say whether it is investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.
Meanwhile, House Republicans who had an insatiable appetite for investigating Clinton have been resistant to probing deeply into Russia’s efforts to swing the election to Trump. The media, by gleefully publishing the gossipy fruits of Russian hacks, became what the Times itself calls “a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence.”
You can call Mr. Podesta a sore loser if you want, but he’s not wrong about the FBI basically acting like the cop writing a ticket for a double-parked car outside the bank while the burglars are inside raiding the vault.
It’s supposed to sound magnanimous and forgiving that Trump has decided not to prosecute Hillary Clinton, but all it does is show that he doesn’t understand how our government works. Presidents don’t get to decide who the Justice Department goes after, and it was one of the reasons Richard Nixon was in the running for impeachment in 1974 when he took it upon himself to try.
The only saving grace is that now all those folks in the GOP base who got their jollies chanting “Lock her up!” are now left holding the flaming bag of dog turds. The guy isn’t even president yet and he’s already conned them.
By the way, one of the annoyances — of many — about the election of Mr. Trump is that we’re going to have to put up with the simpering and galling appearance of Kellyanne Conway as his spokesdroid. Both her personality and her manner of speaking are better suited for selling bladder-control products on late-night television.
President Obama visits Berlin on his farewell tour.
Minnesota officer faces manslaughter charges in shooting of unarmed black man.
Terrorism possible in deaths of three U.S. soldiers in Jordan.
Thousands have donated to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s “honor.”
Hillary Clinton speaks up: “Never ever give up.”
Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello — both former Tigers — win Cy Young award.
John Roberts and the Voting Rights Act — Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones and the Chief Justice’s antipathy for the law.
In 2013, when Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. issued the most far-reaching Supreme Court decision on voting rights in the 21st century, he finally succeeded in gutting a civil rights law he has been fighting his entire career. For three decades, Roberts has argued that the United States has become colorblind to the point where aggressive federal intervention on behalf of voters of color is no longer necessary—and this case, Shelby County v. Holder, was the pinnacle of that crusade.
Roberts honed his views on race and voting as a clerk for Justice William Rehnquist, a man who as a court clerk himself had written a memo endorsing Plessy v. Ferguson, the “separate but equal” doctrine upholding segregated schools. On the high court, Rehnquist helped redefine opposition to civil rights laws as a commitment to color blindness, and he used this theory to undermine the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Roberts took a similar outlook in the Reagan Justice Department, where he worked after finishing his Rehnquist clerkship. Gerry Hebert, now executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, was also at the DOJ. He recalls that Roberts “had it in for the Voting Rights Act,” which Roberts thought should cover only intentional discrimination, not discriminatory results or effects of state voting regulations. But proving intentional discrimination is virtually impossible—and besides, Hebert says, judges “don’t want to find that somebody was a racist.” They’d rather focus on the discriminatory impact of a law. “I don’t think John Roberts ever got that.”
Echoing Rehnquist, Roberts has long insisted the United States has achieved a postracial, colorblind society, a point he emphasized in his 2013 majority opinion in Shelby County v. Holder. That 5-4 decision eviscerated a critical component of the Voting Rights Act: the requirement that jurisdictions with a long history of voting discrimination submit any changes in voting procedures to the DOJ for “preclearance,” to ensure those changes didn’t have a discriminatory impact. Preclearance blocked more than 700 discriminatory voting changes between 1982 and 2006 alone. But in the Shelby opinion, Roberts asserted that “history did not end in 1965” and such protections were no longer warranted. Federal oversight of the jurisdictions in question, mostly states in the Deep South, along with Texas, Alaska, and Arizona, was outdated and unjustified, he said.“The speed with which formerly covered states passed laws making it harder for people of color to register and vote shows that Roberts was engaged in little more than wishful thinking.”
In a scathing dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg laid out evidence that those states have not grown colorblind—by any stretch. She recounted how federal investigators had secretly recorded Alabama officials referring to African Americans as “Aborigines” and openly plotting to block a ballot initiative they thought would increase African American turnout, as “every black, every illiterate,” would be “bused [to the polls] on HUD financed buses.”
“These conversations occurred not in the 1870’s, or even in the 1960’s, they took place in 2010,” she wrote, indicating why preclearance “remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.”
Ginsburg proved prescient. After the 5-4 Shelby decision, states passed a torrent of new voting restrictions that overwhelmingly affected minorities. On the day the decision was handed down, Texas announced that the only two forms of state voter identification it would accept were a driver’s license or a gun license—a measure the DOJ had previously blocked. Georgia moved some municipal elections in predominantly minority areas from November to May, depressing turnout by nearly 20 percent in one instance. Alabama implemented a strict voter ID law—and then shut down driver’s license offices in every county where more than 75 percent of voters were African American. Perhaps the most blatant was North Carolina’s omnibus voting law. Passed shortly after the Shelby decision, the law imposed strict ID requirements, limited the registration window, and dramatically cut early voting during times traditionally used by African Americans.
“The speed with which formerly covered states passed laws making it harder for people of color to register and vote shows that Roberts was engaged in little more than wishful thinking,” says Richard Hasen, a University of California-Irvine law professor who specializes in election law.
The undoing of the Voting Rights Act may be one of Roberts’ most lasting legacies. But “there’s a lot of resistance among some lower-court judges to Roberts’ views of the state of race relations and voting…and it is reflected in some of their decisions,” Hasen says. In July the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of North Carolina’s voting law, saying its provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” In the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Roberts no longer had enough votes on the Supreme Court to prevent that ruling from taking effect before the election.
Lower-court decisions rejecting the Roberts orthodoxy haven’t fallen along ideological lines, either. The very conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Texas’ harsh voter ID law. A George W. Bush appointee wrote the majority opinion. “The lower courts are coalescing around a broad view of the Voting Rights Act’s prohibitions on discriminatory results,” says David Gans, a civil rights expert at the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.
Will any of these developments prompt Roberts to rethink his Shelby opinion? Probably not. In the August order the Supreme Court issued that blocked North Carolina’s draconian voting law, Roberts wrote that he personally would have allowed most of the law to take effect. And despite the lower-court rulings, in November 14 states will have new voting restrictions that didn’t exist in 2012. “He probably still believes he is right, because he likely sees what is going on as simple partisan politics,” says Hasen. “But for many of us, we see a world in which it is once again getting harder, not easier, for people—especially people of color—to cast a ballot which will count.”
Outside the Norm — Jane Mayer in The New Yorker on FBI Director Comey’s decision to drop a dime to Congress.
On Friday, James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting independently of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, sent a letter to Congress saying that the F.B.I. had discovered e-mails that were potentially relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private server. Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.
Comey’s decision is a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials. Comey, who is a Republican appointee of President Obama, has a reputation for integrity and independence, but his latest action is stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities, who see it as potentially affecting the outcome of the Presidential and congressional elections.
“You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”
Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.
Four years ago, then Attorney General Eric Holder formalized this practice in a memo to all Justice Department employees. The memo warned that, when handling political cases, officials “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” To guard against unfair conduct, Holder wrote, employees facing questions about “the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election” should consult with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division.
The F.B.I. director is an employee of the Justice Department, and is covered by its policies. But when asked whether Comey had followed these guidelines and consulted with the Public Integrity Section, or with any other department officials, Kevin Lewis, a deputy director of public affairs for the Justice Department, said, “We have no comment on the matter.”
According to the Administration official, Lynch asked Comey to follow Justice Department policies, but he said that he was obliged to break with them because he had promised to inform members of Congress if there were further developments in the case. He also felt that the impending election created a compelling need to inform the public, despite the tradition of acting with added discretion around elections. The Administration official said that Lynch and Justice Department officials are studying the situation, which he called unprecedented.
Matthew Miller, a Democrat who served as the public-affairs director at the Justice Department under Holder, recalled that, in one case, the department waited until after an election to send out subpoenas. “They didn’t want to influence the election—even though the subpoenas weren’t public,” he said. “People may think that the public needs to have this information before voting, but the thing is the public doesn’t really get the information. What it gets is an impression that may be false, because they have no way to evaluate it. The public always assumes when it hears that the F.B.I. is investigating that there must be something amiss. But there may be nothing here at all. That’s why you don’t do this.”
“Comey is an outstanding law-enforcement officer,” Miller said, “but he mistakenly thinks that the rules don’t apply to him. But there are a host of reasons for these rules.”
As Miller sees it, Comey’s “original sin” was the press conference he held in July regarding the Clinton e-mail investigation. At that press conference, Comey stated that the F.B.I. had found no reason to bring criminal charges against Clinton for using a private e-mail server to handle much of her State Department business, but that Clinton and her staff had been “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, extremely classified information.” Comey made clear that he had decided to make this comment without any sign-off from the Justice Department. Ordinarily, when no charges are brought, such matters are not exposed to public view, let alone addressed at press conferences.
Comey’s supporters argue that he had to act independently, and publicly, because Lynch had compromised herself by having an impromptu visit with Bill Clinton late in the investigation. In the ensuing uproar, Lynch promised to accept Comey’s recommendation on whether to bring charges against Clinton. But, as Miller notes, Comey’s press conference triggered a series of other events, including congressional hearings where Comey was forced to defend his decision not to recommend prosecution. Comey’s letter to Congress on Friday updated his earlier statements that the Clinton e-mail investigation had ended.
In a letter to F.B.I. employees sent soon after the letter to Congress, Comey tried to explain his unusual decisions. In the letter, which was obtained by the Washington Post, he acknowledged, “Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season,” he noted, “there is significant risk of being misunderstood.”
“I don’t really blame Comey,” another former Justice Department official said. “But it’s troubling.” This official thought that Comey “didn’t want to look tainted. This new information comes to him, and he’s afraid if he doesn’t make it public until after the election he’ll be impeached. People will say he lied to Congress. But in the end he did the self-protective thing. Was it the right thing? Put it this way: it isn’t what previous Administrations have done.”
What Others Said — James Fallows on how previous candidates dealt with an uphill climb shortly before the election.
Donald Trump was of course “joking” when he said [Thursday] in Toledo, Ohio, that “we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for?”
In [this] clip, you can see what we’ve come to recognize as a classic Trump-rally two-track message. It’s a mixture of claims that would be outrageous if taken seriously, with a half-joking affect that lets Trump suggest that he’s not being serious at all. As a result, he can have it both ways. People who want to, can take this as something Trump is really supporting. (This is a variation of, “A lot of people are saying….”) But if anyone gets huffy and calls Trump on it, he can say, “What kind of dummy are you? Of course that was a joke!”
So, it’s a joke. But it’s a joke that connects with other non-joke Trump statements deeply at odds with the very process of democratic transfer of power. For instance, “I alone” can save us (a refrain from the convention onward). Or, “It’s rigged, folks, rigged” (of recent months). Or “I’ll keep you in suspense” (at the final debate, about accepting the vote outcome.)
Why do all of these deserve notice? Because other nominees just do not say things like this. Really, this is new—and different, and dangerous, and worth recording as it happens to remember when this election has passed.
Even when under pressure, even when telling themselves that the deck is unfairly stacked, other American public figures have been careful to pay public homage to the electoral process and the need to accept its outcome. Please consider these two examples:
John McCain, 2008. Trump’s remarks were in Toledo yesterday, October 27. Eight years ago on that same date, on October 27, 2008, McCain was also in western Ohio, in Dayton—swing states are swing states. Like Trump right now, McCain was far enough behind in enough polls in enough states to know that he was likely to lose. But here is the way he talked about the election and its outcome on his October 27:
Jocelyn Davis in the Santa Fe New Mexican:
You know the acronym DWB: Driving While Black. It’s code for how African-Americans are pulled over by police more often than whites for minor infractions — driving slightly over the speed limit, busted taillight — or sometimes for no reason at all. Yesterday, as I scrolled through a batch of anti-Hillary comments on Facebook, a similar acronym came to mind. LWF: Leading While Female.
Hillary Clinton (we are told) has a trust issue. There are (we hear) many voters who can’t stomach Donald Trump but who also aren’t comfortable with Hillary Clinton because (they argue) she’s untrustworthy. After all (they say), look at how she’s behaved: the scheming, the favors, the hostility toward adversaries, the coziness with bankers. Look, says Gen. Colin Powell in a leaked email, at her “unbridled ambition.” Thanks, Gen. Powell, for making the double standard so obvious.
See, Hillary has kicked butt her entire life. Whatever you think of her policies or party, you cannot deny that she is an incredibly successful political leader. Her peers are almost entirely men. And the men are judged very differently.
Here are four of Hillary’s LWF infractions. In my view, she’s guilty as charged. But the guys are just as guilty, and they aren’t getting pulled over; instead, the crowd is applauding as they speed on by.
Playing close to the line. When a successful woman bends the rules or beats the rap, she’s a liar and cheater who belongs behind bars. A Republican friend of mine said about Hillary, “She did what she did” — by which he meant he wasn’t going to excuse her for “what she did” even if decades of investigations have turned up nothing indictable. When a successful man walks that line, however, he’s a bold wheeler-dealer who knows how to work the system. “Wow, he pushes the envelope,” we say.
Trading in secrets. A woman who shares confidential information is either Lucrezia Borgia or a blabbermouth. If it’s intentional, she’s catty, conniving, possibly a traitor. If it’s unintentional, she’s shockingly careless. But a male secrets-trader knows information is power. He’s a smart networker, a valuable mentor who tells you the lay of the land. And if the spills are egregious, on a David Petraeus level, well, the poor guy was led astray by (you guessed it) a conniving woman. Tsk tsk.
Favoring allies and squashing adversaries. A woman who grants access and favors to her supporters is corrupt. That’s pay for play. Whoredom. As for a female chief who punishes disloyalty or eliminates her enemies — that’s just plain evil. The man who does all of the above? He’s a savvy player, a relationship-builder who isn’t afraid to mix it up.
Aiming for high position. A woman who works hard for professional success is a greedy, power-hungry climber. How can we trust her when she so clearly wants that top spot? But a man who rises to the top is talented, driven, a superstar with big dreams and goals. Colin Powell surely didn’t stumble, whoopsy daisy, into his positions as four-star general, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. Yet no one has ever accused him of “unbridled ambition.”
If you truly hate Clinton’s policies, go ahead and vote for someone else. But if you’re willing to risk a President Donald Trump simply because a brilliant woman has outplayed a lot of men at their own game, think carefully about that double standard.
Me, I’ll be voting for the notorious HRC and her wheeling-dealing, take-no-prisoners, no-you-smile blonde ambition. She’s guilty as charged — of LWF.
If Hillary Clinton loses, blame the media.
Thomas Patterson in the Los Angeles Times:
My analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding both parties’ national conventions found that her use of a private email server while secretary of State and other alleged scandal references accounted for 11% of Clinton’s news coverage in the top five television networks and six major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Excluding neutral reports, 91% of the email-related news reports were negative in tone. Then, there were the references to her character and personal life, which accounted for 4% of the coverage; that was 92% negative.
While Trump declared open warfare on the mainstream media — and of late they have cautiously responded in kind — it has been Clinton who has suffered substantially more negative news coverage throughout nearly the whole campaign.
Few presidential candidates have been more fully prepared to assume the duties of the presidency than is Clinton. Yet, her many accomplishments as first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of State barely surfaced in the news coverage of her candidacy at any point in the campaign. She may as well as have spent those years baking cookies.
How about her foreign, defense, social or economic policies? Don’t bother looking. Not a single one of Clinton’s policy proposals accounted for even 1% of her convention-period coverage; collectively, her policy stands accounted for a mere 4% of it. But she might be thankful for that: News reports about her stances were 71% negative to 29% positive in tone. Trump was quoted more often about her policies than she was. Trump’s claim that Clinton “created ISIS,” for example, got more news attention than her announcement of how she would handle Islamic State.
I also looked at the year before the 2016 primaries began, and even then Clinton had a 2-to-1 ratio of bad press to good press. There was only one month in the whole of 2015 where the tone of her coverage on balance was not in the red — and even then it barely touched positive territory.
During the primaries, her coverage was again in negative territory and again less positive than Trump’s. After the conventions got underway and Trump got embroiled in a testy exchange with the parents of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier, the tone of his coverage nosedived and her coverage looked rosy by comparison. But even then it was not glowing. Her convention-period news coverage was 56% negative to 44% positive.
Judging from their stories, journalists rate the emails as being a highly important and very serious issue. They cover it heavily and with damning tone. When 90% or more of the coverage of a subject is negative, the verdict is in. Even good news gets turned to her disadvantage. For example, when the FBI announced that her emails did not violate the law, the Los Angeles Times ran a story focused on Trump’s response, quoting him as saying, “This is one of the most crooked politicians in history…. We have a rigged system, folks.”
In today’s hypercompetitive media environment, journalists find it difficult to resist controversies. Political scientist W. Lance Bennett explored this phenomenon around Trump’s 2011 allegation that President Obama was not a native-born American. Trump’s “birther” statements were seized upon by cable outlets and stayed in the headlines and on newscasts for days. Veteran CNN correspondent Candy Crowley even interviewed Trump, who was then not a political figure at all. She justified it by saying on air: “There comes a point where you can’t ignore something, not because it’s entertaining …. The question was, ‘Is he driving the conversation?’ And he was.” In truth, the news media were driving the conversation, as they have with Clinton’s emails.
Decades ago, the Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press concluded that reporters routinely fail to provide a “comprehensive and intelligent account of the day’s events in the context that gives them some meaning.” Whatever else might be concluded about the coverage of Clinton’s emails, context has been largely missing. Some stories spelled out how the merging of private and official emails by government officials was common practice. There were also some, though fewer, that tried to assess the harm, if any, that resulted from her use of a private server. As for Clinton’s policy proposals and presidential qualifications, they’ve been completely lost in the glare of damaging headlines and sound bites.
So if we end up with a president who is vaingloriously proud of his ignorance and treats the Constitution like one of his contractors, it will be in large part because the media was far more interested in getting a story that boosted ratings so they could charge more for ads for boner pills.
Hillary Clinton is working hard to win over the progressives and the millennials; the 18-25-year-olds who helped get Barack Obama elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012.
This time they’re “meh,” which is understandable: Hillary Clinton is not “cool,” she reminds them of either their grandmother — like that’s a bad thing? — or their Grade 10 history teacher, and as she’s admitted, she’s not a “natural politician” like her husband or President Obama. (That’s a tough act to follow.) She seems hawkish on the situation in Syria, and yes, she did vote for the war in Iraq in 2003, a vote she says she regrets. How many times does someone have to say that before it sinks in?
But that’s not what matters. What matters is what she stands for, what she has worked for since way before these young voters were born, and what she wants to do for them and the rest of us.
To that end, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones makes the case.
Nobody should take this as an attempt to demonstrate that Clinton is perfect or to persuade you to vote for her. If you think she’s too instinctively hawkish—as I do—that might be reason enough for a liberal to vote for someone else. On some issues—supporting the Iraq War, supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, voting for the Patriot Act, etc.—she’s taken positions that might be flat deal killers. On other issues, you might think she’s not strong enough, or that it took her too long to get to the right place. Finally, on a personal level, she’s often oversecretive, overly lawyerly, and sometimes skates a little close to some ethical lines. She distrusts the press and withholds information too often. And she is, plainly, an establishment politician, with all the flaws that implies.
On the other hand, no successful politician is ever perfect. Franklin D. Roosevelt signed on to lots of compromises that liberals detested. Ronald Reagan did the same with conservatives. Clinton will too. There are just too many competing interests in a pluralistic country like America to expect anything else. But all that said, the liberal case for Clinton remains pretty overwhelming.
The following list is by no means exhaustive, but here it is:
- In 1995, despite strong pressure from diplomats and White House aides to remain low-key, she went to China and said, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”
- She worked her heart out for health care reform in 1993.
- She now supports Obamacare, and supports expanding it.
- She supports increasing the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour. This is good for workers, but less likely to have downsides than a national level of $15.
- She supported comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 and continues to support it.
- She was a prime mover behind the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, and was a key figure in finding compromises that allowed it to pass after partisan bickering nearly sank it.
- Sen. Sherrod Brown: “As much as we want to move this country forward, you gotta cajole, persuade, work with, whatever it takes. And I think she does that better than about anybody I know.”
- She supports LGBT rights.
- She worked with Attorney General Janet Reno to create the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women.
- She was one of the prime movers behind SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, eventually signed into law by Bill Clinton.
- She pushed the Adoption and Safe Families Act through Congress.
- She was instrumental in the founding of the Center for American Progress.
- She has been the target of countless baseless attacks but has always rebounded and kept on working anyway.
- President Barack Obama: “What sets Hillary apart is that through it all, she just keeps on going, and she doesn’t stop caring, and she doesn’t stop trying, and she never stops fighting for us—even if we haven’t always appreciated it.”
- She voted against both of George Bush’s tax giveaways to the rich.
- She favors closing the carried-interest loophole.
- Jill Abramson, who covered Bill and Hillary Clinton critically for more than two decades, first in the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal and later at the New York Times, says this about Hillary Clinton: “Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy…There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor.”
- She supports legislation to end racial profiling at all levels of government.
- She wants to clean up the toxic lead remaining in soil, water, and paint.
- As secretary of state, she was tireless in traveling the world to repair the damage to our reputation from the Bush years.
- German chancellor Angela Merkel: “I admire her strategic thinking…Whenever I was able to work with Hillary Clinton, it was a great pleasure.”
- She wants to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
- She voted for TARP.
- She was the principal author of the sanctions on Iran that brought them to the bargaining table.
- She then began the secret negotiations with Iran that eventually led to the treaty stopping their work on nuclear weapons.
- She supports Dodd-Frank.
- At the age of 29 she co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families advocacy group.
- She is annoyed by airline bag fees.
- She supports a higher tax rate on the very rich.
- She supports the Paris Climate Agreement and has endorsed a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.
- She wants to restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences.
- She was one of the original co-sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have implemented card check.
- She has literally spent her entire adult life advocating for children and women.
- Sen. Barbara Boxer: “She is authentic. Hillary is Hillary, and she’s not going to become a cheerleader with pom-poms.”
- She supports automatic voter registration at age 18.
- She has a lifetime score of 94 percent from the AFL-CIO and 98 percent from AFSCME.
- She pushed through State Department regulations that gave same-sex couples most of the same rights as straight couples.
- She supports universal pre-K.
- She has set a goal of producing one-third of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2027, three years before Obama’s deadline.
- She wants to expand home visiting programs, one of the best known ways to improve child development.
- She wants to spend $275 billion (over five years) on rebuilding infrastructure.
- She was instrumental in securing help for New York’s 9/11 first responders.
- In the Senate, she fought Republican attempts to privatize Social Security.
- She spent 11 hours testifying in front of the Benghazi committee and made Republicans look like idiots.
- She supports net neutrality.
- She would nominate liberal judges to the Supreme Court.
- She would also nominate liberal judges to the lower courts.
- She supports a plan that allows people over 55 to buy into Medicare.
- She co-sponsored the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.
- She is pro-choice and supports the right of all women to have access to affordable contraception and safe and legal abortion.
- She wants to prevent pharmaceutical companies from jacking up the price of long-standing drugs.
- She supports the addition of a public option to Obamacare.
- She wants to overturn Citizens United.
- She has fought for decades for increased funding for HIV treatment and research.
- She wants to restore the portions of the Voting Rights Act that were recently struck down by the Supreme Court.
- She supports Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.
- She wants to beef up antitrust enforcement.
- She worked to ensure ratification of the New START treaty with Russia.
- She wants to impose a tax on high-frequency trading.
- She’s a big supporter of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.
- In the Senate, she had a very good reputation as someone who could work across the aisle to get things done. Her word was always good.
- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on his Republican colleagues in the Senate: “Two of them, her very prominent antagonists in this election, and one looked over at the other and said, ‘Boy, she’s good.’ The other one leaned back and said, ‘Yeah, she’s really good.’ And that’s the Hillary that they know. Not the talking points Hillary or the caricature, but the real person.”
- She wants to tighten regulation of the shadow banking system, one of the prime causes of the crash of 2008.
- She wants to strengthen the Volcker Rule.
- She supports DACA and DAPA, the “mini-DREAM” executive orders.
- She supports 12 weeks of paid leave for new mothers or to recover from a serious illness.
- As first lady, she fought for the Family Medical Leave Act. As a senator, she worked to expand FMLA to cover wounded soldiers and their families.
- She has long supported gender equality efforts around the world.
- She has legendary stamina and endurance.
- Sen. Al Franken: “She is the toughest, most experienced, hardest-working person I know.”
- As secretary of state, she personally negotiated the 2012 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
- She has a 100 percent rating from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
- In the Senate, she co-sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
- She did not kill Vince Foster.
- She did not issue a “stand down” order after the Benghazi attack.
- She didn’t flip-flop on the bankruptcy bill.
- She didn’t steal the primary from Bernie Sanders.
- She did not mishandle classified information or conspire to evade FOIA requests when she set up her email account on a private server.
- She did not loot the White House when she and Bill left in 2001.
- She had nothing to do with Filegate.
- She didn’t dole out any favors to Clinton Foundation donors when she was secretary of state.
- She did nothing wrong in the Whitewater affair.
- She referred to “super-predators” precisely once, 20 years ago in a context that referred solely to members of drug gangs.
- She probably overreacted to the financial misconduct in the White House travel office, but ultimately did nothing seriously wrong in the Travelgate affair.
Tweet that — or whatever it is you young whippersnappers do nowadays — and pass it along to your friends.
“Politically Incorrect” But True — Ta-Nehisi Coates on Hillary Clinton’s statement on Trump’s supporters.
This week Matt Lauer was subject to withering criticism for his ineffectual interrogation of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In a litany of complaints, one rose above all—Lauer’s failure to challenge Trump’s mendacious claim that he opposed the Iraq War. That Trump was lying is not a matter of opinion, but demonstrable fact. Lauer’s inability to cite the record was a striking journalistic failure—but one related to the larger failures implicit in political reporting today. Political reporting, as it is now practiced, is a not built for a world where outright lying is one candidate’s distinguishing feature. And the problem is not limited to the lies the candidate tells, but encompasses the lies we tell ourselves about why the candidate exists in the first place.Yesterday, Hillary Clinton claimed that roughly “half of Trump’s supporters” could be characterized as either “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.” Clinton hedged by saying she was being “grossly generalistic” but given that no one appreciates being labeled a bigot, that statement still feels harsh––or if you prefer, “politically incorrect.”
Clinton later said that she was “wrong” to say “half,” but reiterated that “it’s deplorable that Donald Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia.” One way of reporting on Clinton’s statement is to weigh its political cost, ask what it means for her campaign, or attempt to predict how it might affect her performance among certain groups. This path is in line with the current imperatives of political reporting and, at least for the moment, seems to be the direction of coverage. But there is another line of reporting that could be pursued—Was Hillary Clinton being truthful or not? Much like Trump’s alleged opposition to the Iraq War, this not an impossible claim to investigate. We know, for instance, some nearly 60 percent of Trump’s supporters hold “unfavorable views” of Islam, and 76 percent support a ban on Muslims entering the United States. We know that some 40 percent of Trump’s supporters believe blacks are more violent, more criminal, lazier, and ruder than whites. Two-thirds of Trump’s supporters believe the first black president in this country’s history is not American. These claim are not ancillary to Donald Trump’s candidacy, they are a driving force behind it.When Hillary Clinton claims that half of Trump’s supporters qualify as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic,” data is on her side. One could certainly argue that determining the truth of a candidate’s claims is not a political reporter’s role. But this is not a standard that political reporters actually adhere to.
Determining, for instance, whether Hillary Clinton has been truthful about her usage of e-mail while she was secretary of state has certainly been deemed part of the political reporter’s mission. Moreover, Clinton is repeatedly—and sometimes validly—criticized for a lack of candor. But all truths are not equal. And some truths simply break the whole system.Open and acknowledged racism is, today, both seen as a disqualifying and negligible feature in civic life. By challenging the the latter part of this claim, Clinton inadvertently challenged the former. Thus a reporter or an outlet pointing out the evidenced racism of Trump’s supporters in response to a statement made by his rival risks being seen as having taken a side not just against Trump, not just against racism, but against his supporters too. Would it not be better, then, to simply change the subject to one where “both sides” can be rendered as credible? Real and serious questions about intractable problems are thus translated into one uncontroversial question: “Who will win?”It does not have to be this way. Indeed, one need not even dispense with horse-race reporting. One could ask, all at once, if Clinton was being truthful, how it will affect her chances, and what that says about the electorate. But that requires more than the current standard for political media. It means valuing more than just a sheen of objectivity but instead reporting facts in all of their disturbing reality.
Release 9/11 More Records — Bob Graham, former governor and senator from Florida and chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee, says let all the records of the attack be released.
In July, after approval from the Obama administration, Congress released a 28-page chapter of previously classified material from the final report of a joint congressional inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said that the document had ruled out any Saudi involvement in the attack. “The matter is now finished,” he declared.
But it is not finished. Questions about whether the Saudi government assisted the terrorists remain unanswered. Now, as we approach the 15th anniversary of the most heinous attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor, it is time for our government to release more documents from other investigations into Sept. 11 that have remained secret all these years.
The recently released 28 pages were written in the fall of 2002 by a committee of which I was a co-chairman. That chapter focused on three of the 19 hijackers who lived for a time in Los Angeles and San Diego. The pages suggested new trails of inquiry worth following, including why a Qaeda operative had the unlisted phone number for the company that managed the Colorado estate of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the Saudi ambassador.
Some of those questions might be answered if the government released more of the findings of the Sept. 11 commission, the citizens inquiry that followed our congressional inquest. The commission said that it found no Saudi links to the hijackers. But the government could satisfy lingering doubts by releasing more of the commission’s records. Parallel investigations were also conducted by the F.B.I. and C.I.A. How much did they look into whether Prince Bandar or other Saudis aided the hijackers?
The government also knows more today about the 16 hijackers who lived outside California than when the 28 pages were classified in 2003. Much of that information remains secret but should be made public. For example, the F.B.I. for a time claimed that it had found no ties between three of the hijackers, including their leader, Mohamed Atta, and a prominent Saudi family that lived in Sarasota, Fla., before Sept. 11. The family returned to the kingdom about two weeks before the attack. But in 2013, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by investigative reporters led to the release of about 30 pages from an F.B.I.-led investigation that included an agent’s report asserting “many connections” between the hijackers and this family. The F.B.I. said the agent’s claim was unfounded, and the family said it had no ties to the hijackers. Still, a federal judge in 2014 ordered the bureau to turn over an additional 80,000 pages from its investigation, and he is reviewing those for possible public release.
There is one more thing our government could do to shed light on the attack. For more than a decade, the families of Sept. 11 victims have been litigating against the kingdom and Saudi interests, asserting that they facilitated the murder of their loved ones. With the support of the Justice Department, the Saudis used a 1976 law providing foreign nations some immunity from American lawsuits to block those efforts to secure justice. Now, both the Senate and House of Representatives have unanimously passed a bill, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, that would allow a thorough judicial examination of the Saudi role.
Some might ask, 15 years later, what difference does all this make?
In fact, a lot. It can mean justice for the families that have suffered so grievously. It can also mean improving our national security, which has been compromised by the extreme form of Islam that has been promoted by Saudi Arabia.
But the most important reason is to avoid the corrosive effect that government secrecy can have on a democracy. The nation that denies its people information about what it is doing in their name is a nation slogging down a dark alley of public suspicion toward decline and mediocrity. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it, “Secrecy is for losers.”
The government’s possible suppression of evidence of Saudi support for the 19 hijackers would go beyond passive cover-up. Is the government releasing false information, while continuing to classify documents containing the truth? As the presidential campaign is proving, appearances of government deception have contributed to wary Americans becoming more and more outraged with their elected officials.
In recognition of another anniversary, 45 years since the publication of the Pentagon Papers, Sanford J. Ungar, who teaches seminars on free speech at Georgetown and Harvard, said: “Nothing is more important to the health and sustainability of a modern democracy than its citizens’ awareness of, and confidence in, what their government is doing. Excessive government secrecy — inherent, instinctive, utterly unnecessary and often bureaucratically self-protective — is poison to the well-being of civil society.”
I care deeply about our nation’s future, its tradition of openness and the necessity of honesty in our international relations. President Obama has less than five months remaining in his term. I commend him for his decision to authorize the release of the 28 pages. He should sign the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and use his authority to direct the release of all the chapters of the book of Sept. 11. And then our country must act based on the truths they may reveal.
Live Long and Prosper — Charlie Pierce pays tribute to the original series.
This week is the 50th anniversary of the launching of a series that once was thought of by its creator as “Wagon Train in space.” (Wagon Train was a television horse opera of the early 1960s. It was no Rawhide, but it was a damn sight better than Sugarfoot.) Needless to say, Star Trek became far more than that, but I always like Gene Roddenberry’s description of his original pitch to Desilu because the great gift of the Trek always was in slipping something important in there between the phaser bursts and photon torpedoes.
(By the way, in The Original Series, the photon torpedoes were bursts of light. In the movies, they were actual torpedoes, albeit torpedoes that looked like coffins, and, in The Wrath of Khan, a torpedo actually functioned as one for the temporarily deceased Mr. Spock. How did Federation technology go so far backwards between the small screen and the large? These are the things I think about.)
However, that trailer bothers me. This is the 50th anniversary of one show, TOS, as it is dismally called in the marketing lingo of franchises. This is not an anniversary for the movies. This is not an anniversary for Picard, and Janeway, and Sisko, and Archer. This is not an anniversary for Data, or Seven Of Nine, or Dr. Phlox. This is not an anniversary for Q, or Cardassians, or the Xindi. I don’t care for the moment if you think Picard could beat Archer at arm-wrestling or that Janeway could fire a blast that would knock Sisko all the way back to Spenser: For Hire. This is not an anniversary for any of that, although I respect the franchise, and I’ve enjoyed all the shows, with the exception of Voyager, which I never could seem to get into.
But this is an anniversary for Kirk and Spock, for McCoy and Scotty, for Chapel and Yeoman Rand, for Uhura, Sulu and Chekov. It’s an anniversary for Romulans and Klingons and Orions, and for Vulcans and Organians. It’s for Tribbles and the Mugatu. It’s for Excalbia and Delta Vega. It’s for Argelius II, Cestus III, Talos IV, Ceti Alpha V, Janus VI, Eminiar VII, Holberg 917-G, and Psi 2000. It’s an anniversary for the show that started it all, a cheesy space opera with a resonance down through the years because, down through the years, human beings are still pretty much the same illogical creatures they’ve always been.
It’s also an anniversary that allows me to post this picture again.
Let’s all live long and see if we prosper.
Doonesbury — Let’s be brief.
Hillary Clinton on coming across as “natural.” Via Humans of New York.
I’m not Barack Obama. I’m not Bill Clinton. Both of them carry themselves with a naturalness that is very appealing to audiences. But I’m married to one and I’ve worked for the other, so I know how hard they work at being natural. It’s not something they just dial in. They work and they practice what they’re going to say. It’s not that they’re trying to be somebody else. But it’s hard work to present yourself in the best possible way. You have to communicate in a way that people say: ‘OK, I get her.’ And that can be more difficult for a woman. Because who are your models? If you want to run for the Senate, or run for the Presidency, most of your role models are going to be men. And what works for them won’t work for you. Women are seen through a different lens. It’s not bad. It’s just a fact. It’s really quite funny. I’ll go to these events and there will be men speaking before me, and they’ll be pounding the message, and screaming about how we need to win the election. And people will love it. And I want to do the same thing. Because I care about this stuff. But I’ve learned that I can’t be quite so passionate in my presentation. I love to wave my arms, but apparently that’s a little bit scary to people. And I can’t yell too much. It comes across as ‘too loud’ or ‘too shrill’ or ‘too this’ or ‘too that.’ Which is funny, because I’m always convinced that the people in the front row are loving it.
As I’ve said before, newspaper endorsements aren’t in and of themselves all that important in deciding an election, but they can be useful in determining the mood of a city or a region. And when a major newspaper with a reliably conservative editorial board not only endorses the Democratic candidate and trashes the Republican, you’re getting a harbinger of what might be coming along.
This is from the Dallas Morning News which has not endorsed a Democrat for the White House since the 1940’s.
Resume vs. resume, judgment vs. judgment, this election is no contest.
In Clinton’s eight years in the U.S. Senate, she displayed reach and influence in foreign affairs. Though conservatives like to paint her as nakedly partisan, on Capitol Hill she gained respect from Republicans for working across the aisle: Two-thirds of her bills had GOP co-sponsors and included common ground with some of Congress’ most conservative lawmakers.
As President Barack Obama’s first secretary of state, she helped make tough calls on the Middle East and the complex struggle against radical Islamic terrorism. It’s no accident that hundreds of Republican foreign policy hands back Clinton. She also has the support of dozens of top advisers from previous Republican administrations, including Henry Paulson, John Negroponte, Richard Armitage and Brent Scowcroft. Also on this list is Jim Glassman, the founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas.
Clinton has remained dogged by questions about her honesty, her willingness to shade the truth. Her use of a private email server while secretary of state is a clear example of poor judgment. She should take additional steps to divorce allegations of influence peddling from the Clinton Foundation. And she must be more forthright with the public by holding news conferences, as opposed to relying on a shield of carefully scripted appearances and speeches.
Those are real shortcomings. But they pale in comparison to the litany of evils some opponents accuse her of. Treason? Murder? Her being cleared of crimes by investigation after investigation has no effect on these political hyenas; they refuse to see anything but conspiracies and cover-ups.
We reject the politics of personal destruction. Clinton has made mistakes and displayed bad judgment, but her errors are plainly in a different universe than her opponent’s.
Trump’s values are hostile to conservatism. He plays on fear — exploiting base instincts of xenophobia, racism and misogyny — to bring out the worst in all of us, rather than the best. His serial shifts on fundamental issues reveal an astounding absence of preparedness. And his improvisational insults and midnight tweets exhibit a dangerous lack of judgment and impulse control.
I don’t hold out a lot of hope that this will sway the state of Texas away from voting for the Republican candidate in the election, but this is a canary in the coal mine and a sign of things to come.
I probably should have posted this yesterday in Sunday Reading, but who reads that? I’m posting it now hoping that it might get some attention from the five or six people who read this blog and pass it along, especially to their Fox-viewing friends who are sure that Hillary Clinton should be locked up.
This is Kevin Drum’s analysis of the FBI report on Hillary Clinton’s damned e-mails. He’s read the whole thing and come to the stunning conclusion that there’s no news here, and what news there is doesn’t amount, to coin a phrase, to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
If you read the entire report, you’ll find bits and pieces that might show poor judgment on Hillary’s part. The initial decision to use one email device is the obvious one, something that Hillary has acknowledged repeatedly. Another—maybe—is her staff’s view of what was safe to send over unclassified email. But this is very fuzzy. It could be that her staff knew exactly what it was doing, and it’s the subsequent classification authorities who are wrong. This is something that it’s impossible to judge since none of us will ever see the emails in question.
That said, this report is pretty much an almost complete exoneration of Hillary Clinton. She wasn’t prohibited from using a personal device or a personal email account, and others at state did it routinely. She’s told the truth all along about why she did it. Colin Powell did indeed advise her about using personal email shortly after she took office, but she chose to follow the rules rather than skirt them, as Powell did. She didn’t take her BlackBerry into her office. She communicated with only a very select group of 13 people. She took no part in deciding which emails were personal before handing them over to State. She had nothing to do with erasing information on the PRN server. That was a screw-up on PRN’s end. She and her staff all believed at the time that they were careful not to conduct sensitive conversations over unclassified email systems. And there’s no evidence that her server was ever hacked.
There’s remarkably little here. If you nonetheless believe that it’s enough to disqualify Hillary from the presidency, that’s fine. I have no quarrel with you. But if the FBI is to be believed, it’s all pretty small beer. [Emphasis in the original]
I know this will not get the attention of the horse-race gamblers at the cable channels or the conspiracy-mongers in the right-wing orcosphere, but facts are stubborn things. If you think that this is worse than the race-baiting nativism of the small-fingered crackercrockery of Donald Trump or the fact that he obviously bribed the Attorney General of Florida, then what the hell are you doing reading this blog?