Tuesday, December 20, 2016

4.6% - One Of The Reasons We Lost

Democrats are terrible at touting their achievements when they are in power. That is largely because we are never satisfied. No matter how much we achieve we always know there is much more to be done. But our inability to focus on our achievements rather than our failings hurts us when it is time to ask the voters to reelect us. And make no mistake, in 2016 we were asking the voters to reelect a Democrat for a third term.

Here are some political truisms. You can’t improve people’s lives unless you are in power. You can’t be in power unless you win elections. If you are out of power you win elections by telling people how bad things are. If you are in power you tell people how good things are, how you’ve made their lives better, and that things will be even better after you win again. Finally, if you do not tout your achievements, blow your own horn, the media will certainly not do it for you. To build a media narrative many voices must constantly repeat the same message.

The unemployment rate is at 4.6%, a nine year low. Interest rates are at historic low levels. Inflation is at historic low levels. Gas prices are at historic low levels. By most, though not all, objective measure conditions in the United States are better than they have been at any time during the last half-century. When Republicans are in power these types of facts are touted over and over again as the reason to return them to power.

That was the case with Ronald Reagan running for reelection in 1984. He won reelection by convincing people it was “Morning in America”. He was able to do so even though interest rates were five times what they are today, the unemployment rate was 3% higher than it is today, and inflation was 6% higher than it is today.

Yes, the party in power has to thread a very fine needle. That is especially so when, as in this case, you only control the Presidency, and both houses of Congress are held by the other party. But it is something that must be done and it can’t just start with the campaign a year or so before the election. It is a message that must be honed and repeated for two to three years before the election.

Contrast that with what Reagan did when he first ran against the party in power. When Ronald Reagan ran against Jimmy Carter the Republicans attacked Carter with something called the “misery index.” The misery index was computed by multiplying the unemployment rate by and the inflation rate. They sold the idea of the misery index to the news media and it was touted nonstop. And for grins they also threw in high interest rates and gas prices. After Reagan was elected he knew he had to switch gears when he ran for reelection. So for 1984 he launched his “Morning in America” campaign which, among other things, emphasized how much the misery index had dropped during his first four years in office.

Have you heard any discussion of the misery index recently, a time when it has dropped to a rate that would have been unimaginable when Reagan was President? No. Of course not. That is because Democrats could never run a “morning in America” campaign that emphasizes how much Democratic control of the White House has improved the lives of people. We can’t do it because we always want to talk about how things could be better. We want to talk about income inequality and it is at its worst in almost 100 years. But it is at its worst in part because of Republican tax policies and economic policies such as the attack on unions and the minimum wage. We want to talk about the reduction in manufacturing jobs. But we fail to address the fact that manufacturing jobs have declined even as the volume of manufacturing output is as high as it ever has been since World War II. If our rhetoric does nothing more than feed into the narrative that trade agreements are the source of all ills we will soon find ourselves out of power.

We want to talk about the non-economic issues that plague our society - racism, sexism, militarism, homophobia, police brutality, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and a host of other things that need to be addressed in our country. But often we do so without recognizing that as bad as they are they are now they are nowhere near as bad as they were in the past. Yes we want to make things better. Yes there are problems that we must continue to address. But we can only address those problems when we have the power to do so. But all too often, In talking about how things could be better, we feed into the Republican narrative that things are so bad that people need “change,” that they must elect Republicans to make their lives better.

Hillary’s candidacy was a request to the voters to essentially re-elect a Democratic president for a third term. You can point to many reasons as to why Hillary, even though she won almost 3% more of the popular vote than Trump, was unable to win the election. Yes, she made mistakes, her campaign made mistakes, decades of bashing by the Republicans had their effect, third parties drew away votes, and she fought in a primary race which was a foretelling echo of the Trump narrative of “corruption.”

But beginning two years ago I began to fear exactly what transpired. Democrats spent very little time talking about how people’s lives had improved during the Obama administration. Yes, there was some discussion, but every positive statement was amended with negative qualifiers as in “yes unemployment has gone down but it is slow and far too many people are left behind.” The reader or listener is not left with the feeling that things have gotten better but rather that progress is not being made.

And for the most part my sense was that Democrats didn’t really talk about the good but rather continued to talk about how bad things were. We talked about income inequality. We talked about corporate control over politics. We talked about all the things that we would like to change. But in doing so all we did was talk ourselves out of power. People will not re-elect you if they think you have made a hash of things. When I heard Democrats talk about the state of our nation it sounded like we had in fact made a hash of things. And remember the results of the selection would have been different if just a few tens of thousands of nonvoters voted for Hillary or switch their votes to Hillary from someone else.

Well, it’s over. Now it is time to start doing what we are good at. Now is the time to started complaining in earnest about conditions and to complain about the people in power. And as the unemployment rate, interest rate, and inflation rate begin to rise, as they will continually during the Trump administration, it will be time to resurrect the misery index.

But when we do regain the Presidency, and when we do regain the Senate and the House of Representatives, as we work for change and as we work to improve people’s lives, we must always remember that at its core our message must be positive. If we don’t remember that, we will soon find ourselves out of power again.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Comey's Indignation At His Inability To Prosecute Clinton Is Why He Interfered With The Election Twice

There is only one explanation for why FBI Director James Comey violated Department of Justice policies in releasing a letter to the Congress regarding Secretary Clinton ten days before the election. It is the same reason why he violated FBI norms by not making a private recommendation to the DOJ regarding the results of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails, after which the DOJ would make an announcement regarding its decision as to whether to prosecute. Instead he usurped the DOJ’s authority and issued a public statement regarding the results of the FBI’s investigation of Clinton. And then he went beyond merely publicizing his recommendation by passing judgment on Secretary Clinton’s actions in a moralistic and highly unprofessional manner which is totally beyond the bounds of the role of a prosecutor.

Those two actions make clear that he desperately wanted to be able to recommend the prosecution of Hillary Clinton and see her indicted and that since he was unable to do so he did the next best thing. He castigated her in both his public statement and his testimony before Congress trying to present everything she had done in its worst light and trying to minimize the fact that she wasn't prosecuted. And when that was not enough to derail her campaign he decided to smear her again in a letter that contained no actual allegations, let alone facts, but was clearly designed to imply some sort of criminal wrongdoing.

Comey has a reputation as a “Boy Scout.” He may be that when it comes to some issues but he is clearly not impartial or professional when it comes to Hillary Clinton. The facts revealed in the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton's handling of emails clearly indicate there was not even the remotest chance of a prosecution and even Comey admitted as much when he said that no reasonable prosecutor familiar with the facts would bring an indictment.

But even if he had not said so the absence of evidence was clear. There were no emails in her possession that had been classified and properly marked as classified when she had them. There were a few emails regarding telephone calls she was to make to foreign leaders that someone may have intended to be classified as "confidential" but the markings were not in accordance with classification rules. There were documents in her possession that were not classified when she received or sent them but with which some federal agency subsequently thought should have been classified. Moreover, even if there were classified documents in her possession there was no evidence that any of these documents were given by Hillary Clinton to any person not authorized to receive classified documents. Finally, there was absolutely no evidence of any intent on the part of Hillary Clinton to handle classified documents in an inappropriate manner.

In passing it should be noted that it is absolutely irrelevant to this discussion whether or not Hillary conducted her business through a State Department email address or a Yahoo address or her own Clinton address. In all instances all of those servers would not have been authorized to handle classified information. Every State Department employee including Hillary Clinton, has an unclassified email address to handle unclassified material and uses a separate State Department classified system when dealing with classified emails. The inquiry that has been made regarding Hillary’s use of a so called “private server” could be made regarding every State Department employee and their use of the unclassified State Department email system. If Hillary had used a State Department email address we would be experiencing the same investigation and its parameters would be no different.

When Comey’s investigator’s told him there was no basis to recommend an indictment Comey knew he was not in a position to overrule them even though he may have tried. At that point, in the normal course of business Comey would have provided the results of the FBI’s investigation in private to the Department of Justice and the Department would have made a decision as to whether or not to prosecute. The Department of Justice would then have probably announce that decision publicly.

But since Comey wanted so desperately to bring an indictment and since he knew he couldn't, he did the best thing he could to try to derail Clinton's candidacy. He issued a public statement, that was followed by public testimony, in which he slandered Sec. Clinton and painted her in the worst light possible. Unfortunately for him, his smear job did not have the desired effect.

But he got a second bite at the apple. When he learned that there may be Clinton related emails on a computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, and it was theoretically possible that those emails may have at one time been sent or received by Hillary Clinton, and there was even the slightest of possibilities that those emails may not already have been looked at in the FBI's already exhaustive review, and it was not totally impossible that one of those emails may contain classified information, and it was possible to hypothesize that one such email may have been classified properly at the time it was in the possession of Hillary Clinton, he decided to notify the Congress that he was going to be doing something regarding the Clinton investigation. He didn't specify what that something was and clearly he couldn't because he didn't have a factual basis for anything that he was doing, but he did know that by sending that notification it could do nothing but potentially harm Sec. Clinton's candidacy.

We do not know why James Comey is so indignant at the prospect that Hillary Clinton might be elected President of the United States that he violates Justice Department and FBI policies on multiple occasions in an effort to undermine Secretary Clinton's campaign. But that indignation has driven him to use every means at his disposal to interfere with the outcome of an election. He is not fit to serve as the director of the FBI.