Hillary’s unbreakable bond with Bibi and her commitment to fight for Israel

Hillary Clinton writes: I will do everything I can to enhance our strategic partnership and strengthen America’s security commitment to Israel, ensuring that it always has the qualitative military edge to defend itself. That includes immediately dispatching a delegation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to meet with senior Israeli commanders. I would also invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House in my first month in office.

The dangers facing both our nations in the Middle East require bold and united responses. We must remain committed to preventing Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to vigorously enforcing the new nuclear agreement. I would move to step up our partnership to confront Iran and its proxies across the region, and make sure dangerous Russian and Iranian weapons don’t end up in Hezbollah’s hands or threaten Israel. I also will combat growing efforts to isolate Israel internationally and to undermine its future as a Jewish state, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. I’ve spoken out against BDS in the United States and at the U.N., and will continue to do so.

For me, fighting for Israel isn’t just about policy — it’s a personal commitment to the friendship between our peoples and our vision for peace and security. [Continue reading…]


Iran deal furor reveals a split among Jewish Americans

Lisa Goldman reports: The frenzied lobbying in Washington over the international deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program has drawn attention to two unprecedented ruptures — both of which potentially have significant long-term consequences for Israel’s place in U.S. domestic politics.

For decades, unconditional support for Israel had been a point of unshakable bipartisan consensus inside the Beltway, even as bipartisanship on most other issues became a distant memory. A majority of Jewish voters continue to choose the Democrats; deep-pocketed Jewish donors remain vital to the electoral prospects of candidates from both parties, but partisan distinctions meant little when it came to Israel. And the pro-Israel lobbying establishment, first and foremost the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has always worked hard to span the aisle on Capitol Hill, while political leaders from both parties routinely pay tribute to the lobbying group at its annual convention.

The Iran nuclear deal has thrown that consensus into crisis, leaving Jewish Americans divided between a Democratic-voting majority that polls show support the Iran deal (in numbers proportionally larger than the wider U.S. population) and a conservative minority that includes some very powerful donors, and supports the GOP-led opposition to the deal. And AIPAC’s leading role in campaigning against the deal has prompted President Barack Obama to publicly challenge the group in a manner unprecedented for a U.S. leader over the past two decades. [Continue reading…]


Israel could lose America’s Democrats for a generation

James Traub writes: Last week, I went to hear Secretary of State John Kerry defend the Iran nuclear deal at the Council on Foreign Relations. Richard Haass, president of the organization, began by asking Kerry to explain what “we have gained by this agreement.” The first thing the secretary said was that he was “very proud” of his “100 percent voting record for Israel” as a senator. The second thing he said was that nobody had worked harder than he had to bring peace to the Middle East. The third thing was, “I consider Bibi” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — “a friend.” What we have gained, Kerry summed up, is “safety and security … for Israel and the region.”

I found it astonishing that Kerry had answered a question about the most consequential diplomatic agreement the United States has signed over the last four decades as if he were the foreign minister of another country. Wasn’t the “we” in question “the American people”? Of course, Kerry’s political instincts were perfectly accurate. He knows that he and President Barack Obama don’t need to persuade the Democratic left of the deal’s merits and needn’t bother trying to convert Republican conservatives. He needs to reach the people who view American national security as not just inextricable but indistinguishable from Israeli security.

On the way out, I saw once such personage and asked, jokingly, whether he had come around on the deal. He hadn’t, of course, but he conceded that he would have to live with it. On the other hand, he added darkly, he knew very well what would happen if Congress voted against the agreement and then overrode Obama’s veto: “They’ll blame the Jews.”

No, they won’t. Most Americans who hate the Jews also hate Obama and Iran, and so will be happy to see the deal go up in smoke. Maybe they’ll thank the Jews. What will happen, though, if Congress overrides Obama’s veto — thus destroying the signal foreign-policy achievement of his tenure, humiliating the president before the world, and triggering a race for nuclear weapons capacity in Iran and across the Middle East — is that Democrats will blame Netanyahu and Israel. And it won’t just be the American left, which already regards Israel as an occupying power. The fraying relationship between Israel and the Democratic Party will come apart altogether. Pro-Israel Democrats like Hillary Clinton will have to begin calculating how high a price they’re prepared to pay for their continued support. [Continue reading…]


Iran nuclear deal gets support of House Israel backer, Sander Levin

The New York Times reports: Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan and the longest-serving Jewish member now in Congress, said Tuesday that he would support the Iran nuclear accord, lending a hefty voice of approval in a chamber deeply skeptical of the deal.

“Israel’s security has and always will be of critical importance to me and our country,” Mr. Levin said in a lengthy statement explaining his decision. “I believe that Israel, the region and the world are far more secure if Iran does not move toward possession of a nuclear weapon. I believe the agreement is the best way to achieve that. In my view, the only anchors in public life are to dig deeply into the facts and consult.”

Mr. Levin’s remarks came as members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee began a sharp grilling of three cabinet secretaries sent to Capitol Hill for the second time by President Obama to defend the agreement. While many Republicans have lined up against the accord and some Democrats rushed in early to defend it, the administration is most deeply concerned with congressional Democrats, especially Jewish members and those from heavily Jewish districts who have expressed skepticism. [Continue reading…]


Facebook expands in politics, and campaigns find much to like

The New York Times reports: “Facebook is going to be the advertising monster of 2016,” said Zac Moffatt, a co-founder of Targeted Victory, a Republican technology firm that ran Mitt Romney’s 2012 digital effort. “They have the largest audience, a dominant set of tools for advertising, and the most aggressive approach to allowing campaigns to leverage their data to maximize efficiency and minimize waste.”

Campaigns can now include what Facebook describes as a “call to action” at the end of their videos — in most cases, a link that allows users to donate to the campaign or sign a petition.

Video represents a tremendous growth area generally. When Facebook announced its new video capacities in September 2014, it had one billion video views a day. Now, the site gets four times as many.

Another innovation allows a campaign to upload its voter file — a list of those they hope will turn out to vote or can be persuaded to do so — directly to Facebook, where it can target those users. Integrating this deep and rich source of information about voters also allows campaigns to find and reach other Facebook users who resemble, in behavior and interests, those in their existing voter file.

The emphasis on reaching increasingly segmented voters reflects the narrowing of the electorate, in which campaigns are devoting more and more money and effort to finding their supporters and turning them out on Election Day, rather than trying to win over uncommitted voters. [Continue reading…]


O’Malley is right: Climate change helped create conditions for rise Of ISIS

Joe Romm writes: Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley linked climate change to the rise of ISIS earlier this week. Conservatives pounced. Score this round for O’Malley.

For three years now, leading security and climate experts — and Syrians themselves — have made the connection between climate change and the Syrian civil war. Indeed, when a major peer-reviewed study came out on in March making this very case, Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley said it identifies “a pretty convincing climate fingerprint” for the Syrian drought.

Titley, a meteorologist who led the U.S. Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change when he was at the Pentagon, also said, “you can draw a very credible climate connection to this disaster we call ISIS right now.”

Compare the words of Admiral Titley — former Deputy Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (!) and currently Director of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risks. — with O’Malley’s (video here): [Continue reading…]


Why Hillary Clinton is moving left on every issue except Israel

Peter Beinart writes: From immigration to campaign finance reform to criminal justice, Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategy is clear: Move to Barack Obama’s left, to energize liberal voters. Except on Israel, where she’s moving to Barack Obama’s right, to energize hawkish donors.

The latest example is a just-released letter about her opposition to the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS). Among the most significant things about the letter is one of the people to whom it’s addressed: Haim Saban. (Hillary sent similar letters to at least two other Jewish organizational officials, Malcolm Hoenlein and Jack Rosen). Saban is neither an expert on the Middle East nor on Jewish law or culture. He’s a guy who writes large checks. These days, if Joseph Ber Soleveitchik or Abraham Joshua Heschel wanted to correspond with a presidential candidate, they’d first be asked to donate to his Super PAC.

And Saban isn’t just any mega-donor. He’s a mega-donor who thinks Barack Obama has been bad for Israel. As Connie Bruck reported a few years ago in The New Yorker, Saban was so suspicious of Obama’s views on Iran in 2008 that he considered backing John McCain. Saban’s preferred approach: “I would bomb the daylight out of these sons of bitches.” Not surprisingly, one Saban advisor told Bruck, “I don’t think Haim feels particularly positive about Bibi’s performance. But he certainly isn’t happy about Obama’s.”

Reading Hillary’s letter in light of its recipient, a few things become clear. First, don’t expect her to express much concern for Palestinians. In his campaign book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama emphasized the common humanity of Palestinians and Israeli Jews. “Traveling through Israel and the West Bank,” he wrote. “I talked to Jews who’d lost parents in the Holocaust and brothers in suicide bombings; I heard Palestinians talk of the indignities of checkpoints and reminisce about the land they had lost. I flew by helicopter across the line separating the two peoples and found myself unable to distinguish Jewish towns from Arab towns, all of them like fragile outposts against the green and stony hills.”

Compare that to Hillary’s letter. Yes, she reaffirms her support for two states. But only because “Israel’s long-term security and future as a Jewish state depends on having two states for two peoples.” Not because Palestinians have legitimate grievances or aspirations. And Hillary reaffirms that support in a letter to Saban, a man who, like her, supports Palestinian statehood because it preserves Israel’s Jewish majority but has so little regard for Palestinians that at an event last November, he endorsed Sheldon Adelson’s contention that they are an “invented people.” [Continue reading…]


Large majority of Democrats say Israel has ‘too much influence’ over U.S. foreign policy

The Times of Israel reports: Three quarters of highly educated, high income, publicly active US Democrats — the so-called “opinion elites” — believe Israel has too much influence on US foreign policy, almost half of them consider Israel to be a racist country, and fewer than half of them believe that Israel wants peace with its neighbors. These are among the findings of a new survey carried out by US political consultant Frank Luntz.

Detailing the survey results to The Times of Israel on Sunday, Luntz called the findings “a disaster” for Israel. He summed them up by saying that the Democratic opinion elites are converting to the Palestinians, and “Israel can no longer claim to have the bipartisan support of America.”

He said he “knew there was a shift” in attitudes to Israel among US Democrats “and I have been seeing it get worse” in his ongoing polls. But the new findings surprised and shocked him, nonetheless. “I didn’t expect it to become this blatant and this deep.”

“Israel has won the hearts and minds of Republicans in America, while at the same time it is losing the Democrats,” he said. On US politics, “I’m right of center,” he added. “But the Israeli government and US Jews have to focus on repairing relations with the Democrats.”

Luntz put a series of largely Israel-related questions to 802 members of the opinion elites and his findings have a 3.5% margin of error. The survey, sponsored by the Jewish National Fund, was conducted last week. Among the key findings: [Continue reading…]


Hillary Clinton to Jewish donors: I’ll be better for Israel than Obama

Politico reports: Hillary Clinton is privately signaling to wealthy Jewish donors that — no matter the result of the Iranian nuclear negotiations — she will be a better friend to Israel than President Barack Obama.

But, even as donors increasingly push Clinton on the subject in private, they have emerged with sometimes widely varying interpretations about whether she would support a prospective deal, according to interviews with more than 10 influential donors and fundraising operatives.

Clinton’s private responses in some ways resemble a foreign policy Rorschach test; donors who see a deal as important to world peace have come away thinking that Clinton shares their perspective, but so, too, do donors who oppose any prospective agreement as compromising Israeli security. [Continue reading…]


Naomi Oreskes: Why climate deniers are their own worst nightmares

When I go out with my not quite three-year-old grandson, his idea of a good time is hide-and-seek. This means suddenly darting behind a bush too small to fully obscure him or into a doorway where he remains in plain sight, while I wander around wondering aloud where in the world he could possibly be. In this, there’s a kind of magical thinking and denial of reality that has great charm. When similar acts of denial are committed by adults, when they refuse to see what’s right before their eyes — the melting sidewalks and roads of India, the emptying reservoirs of parched California, the extreme rain and flooding in parts of Texas and Oklahoma, the news that last year was a global heat record for the planet and this year is already threatening to be another, or that Alaska just experienced its hottest May ever, or that 13 of the 14 hottest years since temperatures began to be recorded took place in this century, or that a supposed post-1998 “pause” in the planetary warming process was a fantasy — the charm fades fast. When you discover that behind this denial of reality lies at least $125 million in dark money, it fades even faster. In just three years, unidentified conservative sources have poured that eye-popping figure into a web of think tanks and activist outfits dedicated to promoting climate denial (and not even included in that amount are the vast sums that Big Energy continues to contribute to the promotion of denialism, as it has done since the 1980s). In other words, some of the most powerful and profitable interests on the planet are determined to deny reality with a ferocity meant to confuse the public and put a damper on any moves or movement to save a planetary environment that has long nurtured humanity. It’s a charmless spectacle.

The well-funded climate deniers and the politicians who support them (and are, in turn, supported by the same set of funders) repeatedly yell “hoax.” In truth, they are the hoax and by now, were we looking, we would see that they are standing in a nearby doorway stark naked and in clear sight. And yet, backed by all that money, they essentially control the Republican Party and the Republican Congress. (Seventy-two percent of the Republican Senate caucus, for instance, now qualify as climate deniers.) This means that, for the party’s increasing horde of presidential candidates, the phrase “I’m not a scientist, but…” followed by doubts about or the rejection of climate science will be a commonplace of election year 2016. It couldn’t be a grimmer vista, even though in the decades to come achieving a relatively speedy changeover to non-greenhouse-gas-releasing fuels seems ever more possible.

This means, of course, that taking on the climate deniers directly couldn’t be more important. That’s why TomDispatch is lucky to have historian of science Naomi Oreskes return — having only recently given testimony before a Republican-controlled congressional committee dotted with climate deniers — to take on their false claims, fantasies, and lies. She co-authored with Erik Conway the now-classic book Merchants of Doubt on how the fossil fuel companies, like the tobacco companies before them, created a public sense of uncertainty about the dangers of their products when a scientific one didn’t exist. More recently, again with Conway, she wrote The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, a look back at the effects of global warming and climate denialism from the point of view of a historian of 2393. Tom Engelhardt

The hoax of climate denial
Why “politically motivated” science is good science
By Naomi Oreskes

Recently, the Washington Post reported new data showing something most of us already sense: that increased polarization on Capitol Hill is due to the way the Republican Party has lurched to the right. The authors of the study use Senator John McCain to illustrate the point. McCain’s political odyssey is, in some dismaying sense, close to my own heart, since it highlights the Republican turn against science.

As unlikely as it might seem today, in the first half of the twentieth century the Republicans were the party that most strongly supported scientific work, as they recognized the diverse ways in which it could undergird economic activity and national security. The Democrats were more dubious, tending to see science as elitist and worrying that new federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health would concentrate resources in elite East Coast universities.

In recent decades, of course, the Republicans have lurched rightward on many topics and now regularly attack scientific findings that threaten their political platforms. In the 1980s, they generally questioned evidence of acid rain; in the 1990s, they went after ozone science; and in this century, they have launched fierce attacks not just on climate science, but in the most personal fashion imaginable on climate scientists.

[Read more…]


Nomi Prins: Hillary, Bill, and the big six banks

She eats at Chipotle. (Order: chicken burrito bowl.) She travels by van. (Model: A Chevy Express Explorer Limited SE nicknamed the “Scooby” van.) She barely figures in her own presidential campaign announcement video. (Entrance timing: A minute and a half into the two-minute clip.) Her campaign staff is so cheap they don’t have business cards, they commute by Bolt Bus, and they aren’t even equipped with real phones.

This is the “new” Hillary Clinton in the early days of her 2016 presidential bid. Absent — for now — are the swagger, the grand pronouncements, the packed gymnasiums and auditoriums, and the claques of well-paid consultants falling over each other to advise and guide her that we saw in Clinton’s last presidential bid. This time around, Clinton is casting herself in a new role: as the humble and understated people’s candidate. She cares about “everyday Iowans” and “everyday Granite Staters.” She really does! Her carefully staged events with those “everyday” Americans at small-town coffee shops and local businesses give her the chance to “share ideas to tackle today’s problems and demonstrate her commitment to earning their votes.”

This effort to recast Clinton as a folksy, down-to-earth, woman of we-the-people is, however, about to collide with the reality of American politics in the money-crazed, post-Citizens United era. Winning the White House in 2016 will cost somewhere between $1 billion and $3 billion — money raised by the candidate’s own campaign and outside groups like super PACs and dark-money nonprofits. And this in an election where it’s already estimated that the overall money may hit $10 billion. Jeb Bush, arguably the most formidable candidate in the GOP field, is on his way to raising $100 million in just the first few months of 2015, a year and a half before the actual election. The prospect of being drastically outgunned by Bush has prodded Clinton to speed up her fundraising schedule and hit the donor circles in New York City and Washington in settings that couldn’t be more removed from the local Chipotle. “I need to get out there earlier,” Politico quoted her telling one of her aides.

In the coming months, whatever hours Clinton spends introducing herself to voters in small-town America, she will spend hundreds more raising money in four-star hotels and multimillion-dollar homes in Hollywood and San Francisco, New York and Boston, Washington and Miami. She will court wealthy liberals across the land and urge them to collectively give tens of millions of dollars to her campaign. The question underlying this inevitable mad dash for cash isn’t “Can Hillary Clinton raise the funds?” The Clintons are practiced buckrakers.

The question is: “Can Clinton claim to stand for ‘everyday Americans,’ while hauling in huge sums of cash from the very wealthiest of us?”

This much cannot be disputed: Clinton’s connections to the financiers and bankers of this country — and this country’s campaigns — run deep, as Nomi Prins, former Wall Street exec and author of All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power (just out in paperback), writes in today’s dispatch. As she documents in her book, the Clintons have longstanding ties to the mightiest banks on Wall Street. Those alliances will prove vital as Hillary tries to keep up in the “money primary” of the 2016 campaign. But as she tries to appeal to working and middle class people, you can expect her opponents to use Clinton’s Wall Street connections against her. And it’s reasonable to ask: Who counts more to such a candidate, the person you met over that chicken burrito bowl or the Citigroup partner you met over crudités and caviar? Andy Kroll

The Clintons and their banker friends
The Wall Street connection (1992 to 2016)
By Nomi Prins

[This piece has been adapted and updated by Nomi Prins from chapters 18 and 19 of her book All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Powerjust out in paperback (Nation Books).]

The past, especially the political past, doesn’t just provide clues to the present. In the realm of the presidency and Wall Street, it provides an ongoing pathway for political-financial relationships and policies that remain a threat to the American economy going forward.

When Hillary Clinton video-announced her bid for the Oval Office, she claimed she wanted to be a “champion” for the American people. Since then, she has attempted to recast herself as a populist and distance herself from some of the policies of her husband. But Bill Clinton did not become president without sharing the friendships, associations, and ideologies of the elite banking sect, nor will Hillary Clinton.  Such relationships run too deep and are too longstanding.

[Read more…]


Debate over war authorization in Congress fades with little result

The Washington Post reports: As lawmakers continue to spar with President Obama over his use of executive power on an Iran nuclear deal and a slew of domestic matters, most appear willing to let him have his way on at least one issue — the war against the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and potentially beyond.

It has been nearly three months since Obama, responding to congressional demands and his own pledge to seek legislative blessing, sent proposed war authorization language to Capitol Hill. Now, the subject appears to be dying a quiet death.

A feisty bipartisan minority is not prepared to let it go without a fight. Thirty House lawmakers from both parties Thursday signed a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) demanding that he force action on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, against the Islamic State.

If not, wrote its primary authors, Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), “this shirking of our duty will have lasting effects, serving to expand the scope of executive power at the expense of Congress.”

But Boehner and other GOP leaders, blaming the Democrats, have already effectively announced the demise of the AUMF. They say they see no way to bridge deep partisan disagreements over how much authority to give the president.

The AUMF saga is a twist on conventional Washington wisdom in more ways than one. Unlike virtually every other issue before lawmakers, it is the Democrats who have argued for narrowing Obama’s latitude. They worry that vague language in his proposal, including about the possibility of ground troops, would deprive Congress of its ability to check executive action and allow Obama or his successor unlimited expansion of global military actions. [Continue reading…]


Activists skeptical about Clinton’s willingness to tackle climate change

The Guardian reports: After years of watching climate change fail to emerge as a central issue in US presidential elections, environmental activists are warily eyeing a coded message from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair that this might finally become the cycle when the future of the planet gets top billing.

The advocates are not just wondering about voters and their priorities, which a new wave of billionaire backers insist are at a “crossroads”. They are worried about the candidate herself.

Interviews with environmentalists, pollsters, donors and Democratic strategists reveal a deep vein of doubt over Clinton’s political will in committing to the environment, mixed with an eagerness to hear much, much more about specific policies. At the very least, they are waiting to hear her say the words “climate change” on the campaign trail, which alone might be an advantage over Republicans who would reject science in the White House.

Green activists say they are watching whether Clinton moves beyond talking vaguely about the climate – politically safe terrain for any Democratic candidate – to backing strategies that could make a difference but incur a political price, such as imposing new caps on carbon emissions or opposing the Keystone oil pipeline to run from the Canada tar sands to the Gulf Coast.

Bill McKibben, the environmentalist, author and founder of 350.org, said that in her decades in public life, Clinton had not established a strong record on climate issues. He cited her failure to lead the US to a deal at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change conference, and other episodes that have left the former secretary of state not at the forefront of the debate so much as playing catch-up. [Continue reading…]


Republicans strongly pro-torture, Democrats divided

Pew Research Center reports: Following the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogation practices in the period following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 51% of the public says they think the CIA methods were justified, compared with just 29% who say they were not justified; 20% do not express an opinion.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 11-14 among 1,001 adults, finds that amid competing claims over the effectiveness of CIA interrogation methods, 56% believe they provided intelligence that helped prevent terrorist attacks, while just half as many (28%) say they did not provide this type of intelligence.

Partisan divides on these questions are wide. A large majority of Republicans (76%) say the interrogation methods used by the CIA after 9/11 were justified. Democrats are divided – 37% say the methods were justified, while 46% disagree. About twice as many liberal Democrats (65%) as conservative and moderate Democrats (32%) say the CIA’s interrogation techniques were not justified. [Continue reading…]


Hillary Clinton sympathizes with #Israel’s ‘PR problem’

hillary-bibiIn case anyone has the slightest doubt whether Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016, read her interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic.

She dutifully supports every position the Israel lobby demands and even deftly conjures up a rhetorical connection between jihadists and the nuclear threat from Iran, introducing a piece of non-proliferation jargon into counterterrorism when she refers to the breakout capacity “of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States.”

For a few neocons in Washington who are indulging in fantasies about their political rehabilitation, much of what Clinton says, must be music to their ears. She shares the view frequently expressed by Israel apologists during its assault on Gaza, that Israel is getting more criticism than it deserves.

When it comes to killing Palestinian civilians, Israel still suffers from its “old PR problem.” Indeed, hundreds of dead children always cause a PR problem.

Hillary Clinton: [W]e do see this enormous international reaction against Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself, and the way Israel has to defend itself. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair.

Jeffrey Goldberg: What do you think causes this reaction?

HRC: There are a number of factors going into it. You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner. So there’s something else at work here than what you see on TV.

And what you see on TV is so effectively stage-managed by Hamas, and always has been. What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza. It’s the old PR problem that Israel has. Yes, there are substantive, deep levels of antagonism or anti-Semitism towards Israel, because it’s a powerful state, a really effective military. And Hamas paints itself as the defender of the rights of the Palestinians to have their own state. So the PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel.

JG: Nevertheless there are hundreds of children —

HRC: Absolutely, and it’s dreadful.

JG: Who do you hold responsible for those deaths? How do you parcel out blame?

HRC: I’m not sure it’s possible to parcel out blame because it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict and wanted to do so in order to leverage its position, having been shut out by the Egyptians post-Morsi, having been shunned by the Gulf, having been pulled into a technocratic government with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority that might have caused better governance and a greater willingness on the part of the people of Gaza to move away from tolerating Hamas in their midst. So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.

That doesn’t mean that, just as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians, that there aren’t mistakes that are made. We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are– and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position — that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.


Video: Why Democrats may sabotage Obama’s Iran deal


Record-high 42% of Americans identify as independents

Gallup: Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008.

The results are based on more than 18,000 interviews with Americans from 13 separate Gallup multiple-day polls conducted in 2013.

In each of the last three years, at least 40% of Americans have identified as independents. These are also the only years in Gallup’s records that the percentage of independents has reached that level.

Americans’ increasing shift to independent status has come more at the expense of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Republican identification peaked at 34% in 2004, the year George W. Bush won a second term in office. Since then, it has fallen nine percentage points, with most of that decline coming during Bush’s troubled second term. When he left office, Republican identification was down to 28%. It has declined or stagnated since then, improving only slightly to 29% in 2010, the year Republicans “shellacked” Democrats in the midterm elections.

Not since 1983, when Gallup was still conducting interviews face to face, has a lower percentage of Americans, 24%, identified as Republicans than is the case now. That year, President Ronald Reagan remained unpopular as the economy struggled to emerge from recession. By the following year, amid an improving economy and re-election for the increasingly popular incumbent president, Republican identification jumped to 30%, a level generally maintained until 2007.

Democratic identification has also declined in recent years, falling five points from its recent high of 36% in 2008, the year President Barack Obama was elected. The current 31% of Americans identifying as Democrats matches the lowest annual average in the last 25 years.


Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012

The Washington Post reports: The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors, according to an analysis of new tax returns and other documents.

The filings show that the network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors in the 2012 elections financially outpaced other independent groups on the right and, on its own, matched the long-established national coalition of labor unions that serves as one of the biggest sources of support for Democrats.

The resources and the breadth of the organization make it singular in American politics: an operation conducted outside the campaign finance system, employing an array of groups aimed at stopping what its financiers view as government overreach. Members of the coalition target different constituencies but together have mounted attacks on the new health-care law, federal spending and environmental regulations.

Key players in the Koch-backed network have already begun engaging in the 2014 midterm elections, hiring new staff members to expand operations and strafing House and Senate Democrats with hard-hitting ads over their support for the Affordable Care Act.

Its funders remain largely unknown; the coalition was carefully constructed with extensive legal barriers to shield its donors. [Continue reading…]