Clinton vs Sanders: Peace is still possible

John Cassidy writes: In many hard-fought political races, there comes a time when tempers fray and emotion takes over. Right now, the Democratic Presidential primary appears to have reached such a point, with people on both sides going at each other with gusto, and some of the media getting swept up, too.

The front page of Thursday’s Times featured this headline: “Sanders Willing to Harm Hillary in Home Stretch.” Did Sanders really say that? No, he didn’t. The only quote in the Times story from anyone in the Sanders campaign came from his senior adviser, Tad Devine, who said that he didn’t think his boss’s criticisms of Clinton on the stump would hurt her in a general-election campaign against Donald Trump. The senator’s team, Devine said, was “not thinking about” the possibility that they might prevent Clinton from becoming the first woman to be elected President. Then came a long statement by Devine to the Times:

The only thing that matters is what happens between now and June 14th … We have to put the blinders on and focus on the best case to make in the upcoming states. If we do that, we can be in a strong position to make the best closing argument before the convention. If not, everyone will know in mid-June, and we’ll have to take a hard look at the way things stand.

One way to interpret this story comes from the headline, which implies that Sanders is callously ignoring the danger that he will damage Clinton’s chances in the fall and hand the Oval Office keys to Trump. Paul Krugman tweeted a photo showing a Web version of the headline, “Sanders Willing to Harm Clinton in Homestretch.” To that, he added, “Of course he is. Fwiw, I don’t think Sanders has gone off the rails; I think this is who he always was.” Linking to the Times story on her Facebook feed, the writer and editor Anna Holmes wrote, “Seriously. Fuck this guy.”

Another possible interpretation is that the headline was inflammatory, and the story contained little that was new. After all, Sanders has been saying for weeks that he intends to campaign aggressively until the end of the primaries, in mid-June, and that he is hoping to defeat Clinton in California, on June 7th. To this end, he has continued to depict his opponent as the candidate of élites and big money, as he has been doing for many months.

Devine’s focus on the here and now was what you would expect from a campaign operative. If you read his statement carefully, it actually contradicts the notion that Sanders’s campaign is conducting a battle to the death, oblivious to the implications for the general election. [Continue reading…]

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Bill Clinton recalls killing himself for the Palestinians

Politico reports: Bill Clinton went on the defensive over his record on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as his wife’s, after a spectator at a Friday afternoon campaign event repeatedly pressed the former president on the issue.

Clinton was explaining his wife’s policy positions in Ewing Township, New Jersey, when a spectator yelled, “What about Gaza?”

“She and the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt stopped the shooting war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza,” Clinton responded.

“She said neutrality is not an option,” the spectator said, prompting boos from the audience, but Clinton told them to stop.

“Depends on whether you care what happens to the Palestinians as opposed to the Hamas government and the people with guided missiles,” the former president answered.

“They were human beings in Gaza,” the audience member said.

“Yes, they were,” Clinton said. “And Hamas is really smart. When they decide to rocket Israel, they insinuate themselves in the hospitals, in the schools, in the highly populous areas, and they are smart.”

The line prompted applause, and he continued: “They said they try to put the Israelis in a position of either not defending themselves or killing innocents. They’re good at it. They’re smart. They’ve been doing this a long time.”

“I killed myself to give the Palestinians a state. I had a deal they turned down that would have given them all of Gaza,” Clinton said. [Continue reading…]

When Bill Clinton supposedly “killed himself” in his efforts at Camp David, one of his principle aides was Robert Malley, Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs. After Clinton and others blamed Yasser Arafat for refusing to accept a “generous” offer from Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Barak, Malley set the record straight in the New York Review of Books in 2001:

Robert Malley and Hussein Agha wrote: In accounts of what happened at the July 2000 Camp David summit and the following months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, we often hear about Ehud Barak’s unprecedented offer and Yasser Arafat’s uncompromising no. Israel is said to have made a historic, generous proposal, which the Palestinians, once again seizing the opportunity to miss an opportunity, turned down. In short, the failure to reach a final agreement is attributed, without notable dissent, to Yasser Arafat.

As orthodoxies go, this is a dangerous one. For it has larger ripple effects. Broader conclusions take hold. That there is no peace partner is one. That there is no possible end to the conflict with Arafat is another.

For a process of such complexity, the diagnosis is remarkably shallow. It ignores history, the dynamics of the negotiations, and the relationships among the three parties. In so doing, it fails to capture why what so many viewed as a generous Israeli offer, the Palestinians viewed as neither generous, nor Israeli, nor, indeed, as an offer. Worse, it acts as a harmful constraint on American policy by offering up a single, convenient culprit—Arafat—rather than a more nuanced and realistic analysis. [Continue reading…]

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Bernie Sanders could still win the Democratic nomination — no, seriously

Seth Abramson writes: Last night on CNN, while discussing Bernie Sanders’ landslide victory over Hillary Clinton in West Virginia — which followed a 5-point Sanders win in Indiana last week — Michael Smerconish said that “Democratic super-delegates might have to rethink” their support of Hillary Clinton given how dramatically better Sanders fares in head-to-head match-ups against Donald Trump.

After Clinton’s Indiana loss, John King had told CNN viewers that “if Sanders were to win nine out of ten of the remaining contests, there’s no doubt that some of the super-delegates would panic. There’s no doubt some of them would switch to Sanders. What he has to do is win the bulk of the remaining contests. Would that send jitters, if not panic, through the Democratic Party? Yes. Yes it would.”

So what gives? Isn’t this thing over?

Almost, but not quite.

What Smerconish (and Wolf Blitzer) were discussing last night, and John King was discussing last week, is a very simple theory — call it “run-the-table” — which is easy enough to understand if you simply know the history of Democratic super-delegates and what’s happened in the 2016 Democratic primary since Super Tuesday.

So here it is — both a brief history of the “super-delegate” and an explanation of the “run-the-table” scenario that increasingly is making it into the mainstream media. [Continue reading…]

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Hillary Clinton and the engine of war-making

Given the ubiquity of the phrase, perpetual war, it’s clear that many Americans believe that a powerful faction at the heart of government has such an insatiable appetite for war that if all the conflicts the U.S. is currently entangled in were to unexpectedly find peaceful resolution, then Washington would seek out, engineer, or in some other way precipitate new wars, because this has become America’s core business: war-making.

Among those who subscribe to this view are at one extreme the Truthers who believe 9/11 was an “inside job” carried out as a pretext for a never-ending war on terrorism. At the other end of the spectrum are those with a less conspiratorial perspective who simply observe that the military–industrial complex generates its own political and commercial momentum which fosters geopolitical conditions that make wars more rather than less likely.

The decisive factor seen as most likely to tip the balance in the future is the hawkishness of the president.

Hillary Clinton is constantly being branded as a hawk, but most of these assessments of her appetite for war-making seem to be based on judgments about her character and her track record rather than on plausible predictions of the actual scenarios in which this destructive appetite will continue to be satisfied.

Aaron David Miller writes:

Mrs. Clinton may have more hawkish instincts than President Obama, but there is little reason to doubt that her preference for U.S. engagement in the world is through diplomacy, political and cultural soft power, and economic strength. She led the “reset” with Russia (though later soured on it), advocated using negotiations to address North Korea, campaigned for a nuclear agreement with Iran, and preferred regional diplomacy to counter Beijing’s military moves in the South China Sea. She also supported the President’s Cuba initiative. Mrs. Clinton has long championed negotiating an end to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Unlike many of her Republican rivals, who bluster against engagement in favor of force and tough responses, Mrs. Clinton has been a cheerleader for negotiations on the campaign trail, a predisposition likely to follow her into the White House.

“There’s no doubt that Hillary Clinton’s more muscular brand of American foreign policy is better matched to 2016 than it was to 2008,” her close aide, Jake Sullivan, told Mr. Landler. The rise of Islamic State and the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino last year bolster that argument, certainly when it comes to protecting the homeland. Shortly after the attacks in Paris, a CNN/ORC poll found that 53% of Americans supported sending ground to Syria or Iraq to fight ISIS. But as time passes after attacks, support for deployments falls. Gallup polling in February found that Americans were divided on U.S. military involvement in Syria, with 34% saying more involvement is needed, 29% saying the current level of engagement is about right, and 30% saying that the U.S. should be less involved. Should a Brussels-style attack be carried out in the U.S., support for a large military response would grow, as would any president’s options to authorize it.

What is perhaps the greatest constraint on a putative President Clinton’s hawkishness? The bad options that exist for projecting military force, particularly in the Middle East. Mrs. Clinton’s strategy toward ISIS doesn’t differ much from President Obama’s: She has talked about creating a partial “no-fly” zone, though it’s hard to see how this would improve the situation, and it risks conflict with Russia. It’s likely that as president Mrs. Clinton would try to work with Moscow to deescalate the situation in Syria through diplomacy. She is highly unlikely to deploy thousands of additional ground troops to Iraq or Syria, though she talks about using special forces more–something President Obama is already doing. Meanwhile, as a staunch defender of the international agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, she is not looking for a fight with Tehran.

Hillary Clinton knows the consequences of using force in Iraq and Libya absent a political strategy, and she knows that the Middle East won’t be “fixed” by U.S. military power alone. She may have hawkish instincts, but if she is in the Oval Office next year, she may be as reluctant to use force as Barack Obama has been.

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Bernie Sanders is profoundly changing how millennials think about politics, poll shows

Max Ehrenfreund writes: After Bernie Sanders’s defeat in New York last week, his chances of winning the Democratic nomination are dwindling. Yet, even if he loses this campaign, a poll published Monday suggests that Sanders might have already won a contest that will prove crucially important in America’s political future.

The poll of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 finds that Sanders is by far the most popular presidential candidate among the youngest voters. This group’s attitudes on a range of issues have become more liberal in the past year.

The data, collected by researchers at Harvard University, suggest that not only has Sanders’s campaign made for an unexpectedly competitive Democratic primary, he has also changed the way millennials think about politics, said polling director John Della Volpe.

“He’s not moving a party to the left. He’s moving a generation to the left,” Della Volpe said of the senator from Vermont. “Whether or not he’s winning or losing, it’s really that he’s impacting the way in which a generation — the largest generation in the history of America — thinks about politics.” [Continue reading…]

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Bernie Sanders and allies aim to shape Democrats’ agenda after primaries

The New York Times reports: Even as his chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination slip away, Senator Bernie Sanders and his allies are trying to use his popularity to expand his political influence, setting up an ideological struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party in the post-Obama era.

Aides to Mr. Sanders have been pressing party officials for a significant role in drafting the platform for the Democratic convention in July, aiming to lock in strong planks on issues like a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, breaking up Wall Street banks and banning natural gas “fracking.”

Amid his unexpectedly strong showing in the Democratic primaries, Mr. Sanders has tapped his two-million-person donor list to raise money for liberal congressional candidates in New York, Nevada and Washington State. And in the waning months of Barack Obama’s presidency, Mr. Sanders’s allies are testing their muscle against the White House, mounting a public attack on the president’s housing secretary, Julián Castro, over his department’s sales of delinquent mortgages to banks and private equity firms.

“There is a greater goal here,” said Representative Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who sent a letter to Mr. Castro criticizing the mortgage sales. “The contribution of Bernie that will be lasting for us is that we will coalesce around an agenda.” [Continue reading…]

Robert Reich writes: Will Bernie Sanders’s supporters rally behind Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination? Likewise, if Donald Trump is denied the Republican nomination, will his supporters back whoever gets the Republican nod?

If 2008 is any guide, the answer is unambiguously yes to both. About 90 percent of people who backed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries that year ended up supporting Barack Obama in the general election. About the same percent of Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney backers came around to supporting John McCain.

But 2008 may not be a good guide to the 2016 election, whose most conspicuous feature is furious antipathy to the political establishment.

Outsiders and mavericks are often attractive to an American electorate chronically suspicious of political insiders, but the anti-establishment sentiments unleashed this election year of a different magnitude. The Trump and Sanders candidacies are both dramatic repudiations of politics as usual. [Continue reading…]

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Bernie Sanders is aligned with mainstream America on Israel

Dina Smeltz writes: Rarely — if ever — has a presidential candidate been so publicly critical of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians as Sen. Bernie Sanders was last week during the CNN Democratic primary debate in Brooklyn. Media outlets seized the moment, with headlines such as “Bernie Sanders smashes the Israel status quo,” “Bernie Sanders just shattered an American taboo on Israel” and “Why Does Bernie Sanders hate Israel?”

Some writers have pitched this as a “watershed moment” in Democratic Party politics. For the political class, perhaps it is. But public opinion surveys show that Sanders’s views are representative of many Americans, and particularly Democrats, who are critical of some Israeli policies yet remain favorable toward Israel.

At the debate, the senator from Vermont stuck by a previous comment that the 2014 Israeli incursion into Gaza was “disproportionate.” Sanders further advocated a more balanced U.S. role in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, saying “there will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays a role, an even-handed role trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people.”

Survey results from the past decade demonstrate that a majority of Americans has consistently favored an impartial role for the United States in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. A CNN-ORC poll from 2015 showed that two-thirds of Americans said the United States should refrain from taking either side, while 29 percent favored taking Israel’s side and 2 percent favored taking the Palestinians’ side. Although this sentiment is strongest among self-described Democrats (76 percent), a majority of independents (70 percent) and even a substantial number of Republicans (47 percent) agree. [Continue reading…]

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2016 U.S. election critical to success of Paris climate pact

Climate Central reports: The 2016 presidential election is likely to be enormously consequential to the success of the Paris climate agreement, due to be signed Friday at the United Nations, and the ability of the United States to lead the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming to “well below” 2°C (3.6°F).

Climate Central asked more than a dozen climate and political scientists and other experts how the outcome of that election will affect the climate pact.

The consensus was clear: If a Republican administration is elected in November, the Paris agreement would be severely undermined and any efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale will be cast into doubt. If a Democratic administration is elected, the Paris agreement will remain intact. [Continue reading…]

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How Hillary Clinton became a hawk

Mark Landler writes: As Hillary Clinton makes another run for president, it can be tempting to view her hard-edged rhetoric about the world less as deeply felt core principle than as calculated political maneuver. But Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone — grounded in cold realism about human nature and what one aide calls “a textbook view of American exceptionalism.” It set her apart from her rival-turned-boss, Barack Obama, who avoided military entanglements and tried to reconcile Americans to a world in which the United States was no longer the undisputed hegemon. And it will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she meets in the general election. For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas have demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.

“Hillary is very much a member of the traditional American foreign-policy establishment,” says Vali Nasr, a foreign-policy strategist who advised her on Pakistan and Afghanistan at the State Department. “She believes, like presidents going back to the Reagan or Kennedy years, in the importance of the military — in solving terrorism, in asserting American influence. The shift with Obama is that he went from reliance on the military to the intelligence agencies. Their position was, ‘All you need to deal with terrorism is N.S.A. and C.I.A., drones and special ops.’ So the C.I.A. gave Obama an angle, if you will, to be simultaneously hawkish and shun using the military.”

Unlike other recent presidents — Obama, George W. Bush or her husband, Bill Clinton — Hillary Clinton would assume the office with a long record on national security. There are many ways to examine that record, but one of the most revealing is to explore her decades-long cultivation of the military — not just civilian leaders like Gates, but also its high-ranking commanders, the men with the medals. Her affinity for the armed forces is rooted in a lifelong belief that the calculated use of military power is vital to defending national interests, that American intervention does more good than harm and that the writ of the United States properly reaches, as Bush once put it, into “any dark corner of the world.” Unexpectedly, in the bombastic, testosterone-fueled presidential election of 2016, Hillary Clinton is the last true hawk left in the race. [Continue reading…]

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Hillary Clinton will consider picking another woman for VP. Could it be Elizabeth Warren?

James Hohmann reports: Working in Warren’s favor:

  • Clinton would never choose Sanders as her running mate, but Warren might be able to activate many of his core supporters. If the former Secretary of State remains soft with liberals come summer, she might look leftward.
  • Democrats do not have a deep bench of senior women who are plausible as HRC’s VP. There are only three Democratic women who hold governorships and 14 in the Senate, including Warren.
  • Privately, Warren appears to covet the job. She’s picked her spots, carefully choosing which issues she weighs in on. But she’s signaled recently that she would embrace with gusto the attack dog role typically played by a VP candidate. Earlier this week, she ripped into Ted Cruz for saying that seeking the presidency requires significant sacrifice. She spent another recent day going after Donald Trump.

[Continue reading…]

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Hillary Clinton’s quiet supporters

Michelle Goldberg writes: Until Tuesday night, I had assumed that my neighborhood, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, was overwhelmingly supporting Bernie Sanders. Sanders bumper stickers and T-shirts outnumbered those for Hillary Clinton by what seemed like 20 to 1. A couple of times, I thought about putting my baby daughter in a Clinton onesie — whatever my hesitations about Clinton’s candidacy, I love the idea of my girl’s first image of an American president being female. But I always hesitated, not wanting to invite playground harangues from local dads about Goldman Sachs and the Fed.

When I looked up Cobble Hill on the nifty New York Times tool providing neighborhood-by-neighborhood results, however, it turned out that Clinton won the immediate area around my apartment by 59.4 percent. A block over, she won by 72.5 percent. She won all around me. A lot of Clinton supporters, evidently, have been keeping quiet about their allegiances.

There are a couple of explanations for this. Sanders fans seem to be more enthusiastic, though it takes a certain amount of enthusiasm to vote in a primary at all. Registered independents couldn’t vote in New York’s closed primary, particularly given the absurd, undemocratic October deadline for switching parties. But I think there might be something else at work as well: an optical illusion that the candidate with the most white male support had the most support, period. I had let myself mistake the loudest people for The People.

I’m not trying to deny that the Sanders coalition is diverse or to erase the many passionate women and men of color who supported him. But the fact remains that according to exit polls, Clinton won every racial and gender demographic except white men. And somehow, I’d become convinced that, in my own backyard, their preferences were far more widespread than they really are. [Continue reading…]

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Bernie Sanders smashes the Israel status quo

At CNN, Jeremy Diamond writes: Bernie Sanders is taking a sledgehammer to the political status quo on Israel.

Sanders refused to back down Thursday night from his claim that Israel in 2014 used “disproportionate” force to respond to Hamas rocket fire from Gaza while calling for the United States to stop being “one-sided” in the conflict there. In doing so, he upended a long-standing tenet of American politics: that unflinching support for Israel is non-negotiable.

Sanders’ unorthodox remarks at CNN’s Democratic debate came just days before voters head to the polls in New York, where Sanders is fighting to narrow the significant, but not insurmountable, deficit he faces against former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The Empire State’s 19.79 million residents include the country’s largest Jewish population — some 1.8 million of the country’s 6.8 million Jews live there, according to the 2014 American Jewish Year Book — and one of the most active pro-Israel constituencies.

Sanders’ nationally televised stance could represent a watershed moment in Democratic politics, as the sole Jewish candidate in the race — and only one to have lived in Israel — smashed a taboo that could lead others to follow suit. [Continue reading…]

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Criticizing Israel, Bernie Sanders highlights split among Jewish Democrats

The New York Times reports: It was the sort of question — Does Israel have a right to defend itself as it sees fit? — that had often caused candidates, especially those with designs on winning a primary in New York, to produce paeans to the strength of the Israeli-American relationship and a stream of pro-Israel orthodoxy.

But Senator Bernie Sanders dug in.

“There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time,” Mr. Sanders said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, amid cheers from the crowd at Thursday’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn. He added: “All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.”

Jewish Democrats, like the rest of the party, have been struggling for years over the appropriate level of criticism when it comes to Israel’s policies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. But that debate burst onto a big national stage this week thanks to Mr. Sanders, the most successful Jewish presidential candidate in history.

Mr. Sanders’s comments, in the de facto capital of Jewish American politics, buoyed the liberal and increasingly vocal Democrats who believe that a frank discussion within the party has been muzzled by an older, more conservative Jewish leadership that is suspicious of criticism of Israel. [Continue reading…]

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Why did Bernie Sanders suspend a staffer for speaking the truth about Israel-Palestine when he has done the same?

Ali Gharib writes: During Thursday night’s heated Democratic debate in Brooklyn, Senator Bernie Sanders came out firing on Israel. A candidate who initially sought, seemingly at all costs, to avoid foreign policy altogether finally spoke out on the most politically charged issue of global affairs in Washington — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and he took it by the horns.

That’s why it was so disappointing that, only a few hours earlier, the Sanders campaign suspended one of its young staffers, Simone Zimmerman, who served only briefly as its Jewish outreach coordinator. (Disclosure: I edited Zimmerman at a blog where I worked in 2013, and we have remained friends.) Zimmerman’s sin was to call the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an “asshole,” adding “Fuck you, Bibi,” using his nickname, for good measure, in a Facebook post last winter, when she was all of 24 years old.

At the time, Netanyahu was coming to Washington to marshal support against the Iran nuclear deal, claiming to speak on the behalf of all “Jewish People” everywhere, not just Israelis. Zimmerman, who has been deeply involved for years in Jewish and liberal pro-Israel activism — often critical, though it may be — took umbrage at the notion, resulting in her expletive-laden post on social media. Within half a day, Zimmerman edited the Facebook post to remove the curses — mentioning in a comment that she did so to “reflect the seriousness with which I take this issue” — but not soon enough. Someone had screen-captured the original text, and lay in waiting for more than a year to leak it to the McCarthyite smear artists at the right-wing Washington Free Beacon (one only needs to scan the post, where liberal Zionist groups are derided as anti-Israel, to see what ideologues this lot are).

Then the pressure came. [Continue reading…]

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Sanders slams Clinton for ignoring Palestinian needs and thinking Netanyahu is ‘right all the time’

Philip Weiss writes: It’s finally happened: the issue of Palestinian human rights came up in the Democratic debate tonight on national television, and Bernie Sanders repeatedly criticized Hillary Clinton–for siding with Israel singlehandedly, for her support of Benjamin Netanyahu and her indifference to the plight of Palestinians.

On the same night that he caved in to rightwing fools and suspended his Jewish outreach director over her criticisms of Benjamin Netanyahu, Senator Sanders stood up for Palestinians and against Netanyahu to cheers from the Brooklyn crowd.

Toward the end of a bruising debate, the two Democratic candidates tangled over Israel and Palestine for more than six minutes, beginning when Wolf Blitzer asked Sanders if he stood by his criticism of Israel for “disproportionate” attacks on Gaza. [Continue reading…]

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