Ted Rall

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Smart Politics in Pictures and Words
Updated: 4 hours 4 min ago

How Do You Take Your Evil?

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 23:54

Say what you want about Donald Trump, but at least he provides a sort of truth in advertising: he has an obnoxious style that reflects his obnoxious policies. What makes someone like Hillary Clinton (or Barack Obama) particularly insidious is that they come packaged in a respectable format, yet espouse despicable policies.

Making Presidential History

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 23:07

This year, Americans have another chance to make presidential history. We can elect someone who represents a group of Americans who have been consistently marginalized!

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Thrilla at Hofstra: Trump Beat the Spread

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 13:43

He won last night.

I know it runs counter to conventional wisdom – that’s so rare for me! – but I award last night’s first 2016 presidential debate to Donald Trump.

This isn’t to say that I disagree with what the mainstream men and women of the pundit class said they witnessed. Like them, I watched a well-prepared Clinton outmaneuver a political amateur who showed up to class after a night of partying following a year of refusing to crack open a book. Trump rambled, repeated himself, interrupted and bullied. He conflated NATO and the EU. He even unleashed a fat joke.

All things being equal, I would agree with the corporate media consensus that Hillary won. But that’s the thing – things are far from equal.

Hillary Clinton is a pro. She should have wiped the floor with Trump. Instead, she delivered a performance on the line between a B+ and an A-. Trump gets closer to a C-. That’s much closer than it ought to have been.

As they say in sports, Trump beat the spread.

It went down the same way during the Democratic primaries. Hillary Clinton had every advantage: domination of the Democratic National Committee, support of a sitting president, massive name recognition, experience and personnel from a previous run, a huge pool of wealthy institutional donors, a marriage to a popular ex-president fondly remembered for presiding over a great economic expansion. Despite all that, she nearly lost to Bernie Sanders – an aging self-identified socialist from a tiny, powerless state, with no name recognition. How, many people asked, could Hillary’s inevitable Goliath of a campaign have come so close to losing to such a David?

The answer was obvious. As we learned in 2008 when she lost to another obscure politician — Obama, with a weird name, who had little experience — Hillary Clinton underperforms. She has no charm. She doesn’t learn from her mistakes. She relies on outdated fundraising methods, like sucking up to big corporate donors. Not only does she lie, she insults our intelligence as when she emerged from her daughter’s Manhattan apartment days after being diagnosed with pneumonia. “I’m fine,” she said. What’s the matter with “pneumonia sucks”?

During last night’s debate, I was struck by how many chances Trump had to nail Hillary. If he were a better debater, she’d be toast.

Hillary tacitly confirmed that the United States was behind the Stuxnet virus that attacked Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, implying that she deserves credit for forcing the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table. Because cyberwarfare is illegal, U.S. officials have always refused to comment on whether or not we helped create Stuxnet – so it remains classified. If Trump had been smarter, he would have said: “Jesus, Hillary! There you go again, revealing America’s secrets to our enemies.”

He also allowed her to weasel out of her on-again, off-again support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership “free trade” agreement. Why didn’t he reference the verbal diarrhea of close Clinton friend Terry McAuliffe, who let slip the all-too-credible assertion that President Hillary would sign TPP shortly after coming to office?

His response to Hillary’s demand that he release his taxes came close to disastrous. If ever there was a time to interrupt, there it was. Instead, he just stood there waiting for her to finish. Clearly Trump has a lot to hide. Then he made a lame gambit: “I will release my tax returns — against my lawyer’s wishes — when she releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted. As soon as she releases them, I will release. I will release my tax returns. And that’s against — my lawyers, they say, ‘Don’t do it.’ I will tell you this. No — in fact, watching shows, they’re reading the papers. Almost every lawyer says, you don’t release your returns until the audit’s complete. When the audit’s complete, I’ll do it. But I would go against them if she releases her e-mails.”

It was incoherent and ridiculous. But once he decided to go that direction, why not mention her secret Goldman Sachs speech transcripts? At least that way, he would have conveyed that she has two types of things to hide (emails, speeches) as opposed to his one (taxes).

Rookie errors. But hey, Trump did great for a guy who has never run for political office before – and didn’t cram for the debate. Hillary has debated at the presidential level so many times she could probably do it half of it in her sleep. If I go into the ring with heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury and manage to survive a round with all but one of my teeth, it’s fair to say that I won.

What’s baffling to me is that she wasn’t able to deliver a knockout blow.

Some of it is her inability to just be real.

Part of coming off as an authentic human being is a self-deprecating sense of humor. We saw that when Trump asked Secretary Clinton how she wanted to be addressed: “Now, in all fairness to Secretary Clinton — yes, is that OK? Good. I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me.” It was deferential. It almost seemed sweet. (Weirdly, she didn’t adjust to the honorific, failing to tack to “Mr. Trump.”)

Hillary seems allergic to humanism. Back to the TPP, for example, she could have countered Trump’s fictional assertion she “heard what I said about [TPP], and all of a sudden you were against it” with something along the lines of: “actually, that was Bernie Sanders.”

Another awkward moment was her apology for using a private email server. This should have been a win for her. It was the first time that she expressed regret in a straightforward manner. But she clearly wanted to keep talking, to make excuses, to mitigate. It was also a missed opportunity to make an email joke.

Maybe the herd is right. Maybe it’s a simple matter of she did better, he did worse. But I keep thinking, debates are graded on a curve. She was supposed to kick his ass. Yet there he is, dead even in the polls with her.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form.)

The Thrilla at Hofstra

Mon, 09/26/2016 - 23:01

Pundits and ordinary voters have universally bemoaned the coarsening of our elections, particularly due to Donald Trump’s outrageous behavior throughout the campaign. But the first debate between Trump and Clinton drew record numbers of viewers. Why? Because Trump is so exciting.

Bend Over

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 23:09

Democrats are telling voters that Donald Trump is an existential threat to the republic and must be defeated at any cost. So why isn’t she willing to court the voters who could help her defeat him?

At Home With the Whites

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 06:48

Another police shooting of a civilian with shifting narratives, another popular uprising, this time in Charlotte, North Carolina. Once again, white Americans are tsk-tsking that African-American rioters are making themselves look bad. The thing is, peaceful protests don’t attract national attention.

Get Inspired

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 23:49

After more than a year of campaigning on her experience, competence, and measured realism, Hillary Clinton realizes that she may lose the election due to the lack of enthusiasm among her supporters. So now she’s on an inspiration-mongering tour.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary: It’s Political Malpractice, Stupid

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 14:34

            Hillary Clinton supporters are freaking out. And rightfully so! Eight weeks from Election Day, she and Trump are basically neck and neck. And that’s before the three presidential debates, which I not only expect him to win but can’t imagine a scenario in which she does not lose.

Democrats are wallowing in the Anger stage of the Kübler-Ross model of grief. How on earth, they howl on op-ed pages and cable-news talking-head shows, can this be? Why doesn’t the electorate — that useless “basket of deplorables” — not see what is plain for all to see, that Hillary possesses more qualifications for the nation’s highest political office in her tiniest pinkie toe than The Donald has in his whole 267-pound body? For that matter, why isn’t the media holding him accountable for his lies?

“Donald Trump, who lies whenever he speaks and whose foundation is a Ponzi scheme compared to the Clintons’, is being graded on a ridiculously generous curve,” Michael Tomasky complained at The Daily Beast.

Hillary says she’s tired of watching the media treat Trump with kid gloves — but she’s happy that some people (her allies and surrogates) are finally paying attention: “I’ve been somewhat heartened by articles recently pointing out the disparate treatment of Trump and his campaign compared to ours — I don’t understand the reasons.”

And here we have it: the biggest reason Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be president. She is an atrocious politician.

Hillary’s political incompetence manifests itself in two ways.

First, she repeats her mistakes.

Everyone messes up. When smart people screw the pooch, however, they learn from their mistakes. When they make new mistakes, they make a whole new different kind of mistake. Not Hillary. Hillary keeps going back to the disaster well for another cup.

Take her vote to invade Iraq. It was unforgivable for a Democrat to support Bush. So Democrats didn’t forgive her. That vote, and her refusal to apologize, is the main reason she lost to Obama in 2008. An intelligent politician would have recognized that her party’s base is generally antiwar, and acted accordingly. Hillary pushed Obama to arm and fund radical Islamist insurgents in Libya and Syria, two of the Arab world’s most prosperous countries. Thanks in large part to her, both nations are embroiled in endless, brutal civil wars. As far as we can tell, she’s still a nasty George W. Bush-style interventionist — a stance that may well cost her 2016 too.

Then there’s the email thing.

Polls have consistently shown that voters don’t trust her. Why? Because she’s too secretive. Given that knowledge, you’d think Clinton and her advisers would act as transparently as possible. Straight and narrow! By the book!

But no. Not only does she illegally use a private email server for her State Department email, she deletes thousands of them. When she gets caught, she blames Colin Powell. Then she claims none of those emails were classified — but some were. The email thing never goes away — so what does she do next? She lies about catching pneumonia. (I’m fine. Just mild seasonal allergies. Wait, I was overheated/dehydrated. Actually, I have pneumonia. Had. Two days ago. Gonna be just fine now.)

Which is why the DNC may be asking themselves if it’s too late to bring back Bernie Sanders.

The second half of Hillarian political malpractice is her stubborn refusal to accept something that she can’t do anything about: the media, and the voters, really do give Trump a pass on a lot of stuff for which they hold her feet to the editorial fire.

And there’s a reason for that. People hold Clinton to a higher standard than Trump because she has a long record in government: eight years as First Lady, eight years as Senator, four years as Secretary of State. She has a record. So we know what she’ll do if she wins: suck up to corporations like Wal-Mart, push through the TPP and other unpopular “free trade” agreements and start another war or two in the Middle East.

Trump, on the other hand, is a novice. So they grade him on a curve. “People are willing to give him a pass because he doesn’t have a career in service,” said Lanhee Chen, an advisor to Romney in 2012. If he doesn’t know from Ouagadougou, people accept that. He’ll figure that stuff out, hire some people. No one knows what he’d do — which, in a change year, is at the core of his appeal.

It may not be fair. It certainly isn’t a good way to choose a president. “I think it’s the wrong approach because you should be assessing the candidate’s readiness to do the job,” Chen continued.

But that’s how it is. If Hillary Clinton were a talented politician, she’d get over the double standard, stop whining that we expect too much from her, and prove herself worthy of that high bar — by convincing voters that she has a big vision to address their concerns.

I won’t hold my breath.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form.)

Anonymous

Sat, 09/17/2016 - 23:47

Hillary Clinton won’t show her speeches. Donald Trump won’t release his taxes. Neither of them come forward about their health. What’s next in the secrecy obsessed world of American presidential candidates?

Basket of Deplorables

Wed, 09/14/2016 - 10:47

Hillary Clinton to keep, and apologized for, calling half of Donald Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables.” Setting aside the lousy optics of criticizing a quarter of the voters, what’s up with that weird phrase? What American would ever use it?

Correction to Last Week’s Column

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 17:25

In last week’s column,”At the Clinton Foundation, Access Equals Corruption,” I wrote that the charity rating agency Charity Navigator did not rate the Clinton Foundation due to its poor performance. While that was true in the past, and I relied on that previous information while researching my piece, at present the Clinton Foundation actually receives a fairly respectable rating from Charity Navigator.

Pneumonia and Me

Mon, 09/12/2016 - 16:08

Hillary Clinton’s campaign was wallowing in lies of omission when they covered up the fact that she had pneumonia. This isn’t sort of thing that just sneaks up on you. If indeed it really is pneumonia, this is something she has known about for a while. And, frankly, it’s medically irresponsible of her to continue campaigning and fundraising at this intense rate.

I suffer from chronic respiratory problems. This has been the case since I was 12 years old, when a Boy Scout camping trip went wrong and I wound up with a case of asthmatic bronchitis that left me with scarring in my lungs.

I’ve had pneumonia a few times and let me tell you, it makes you feel like you are going to die. And in fact, it kills a lot of people. So no matter what, what’s going on with Hillary Clinton is very serious. Especially considering her advanced age: 68.

I was also one of those people who was laid low by swine flu. My doctor actually thought I was going to die. Even then, I never collapsed. It’s hard to understand, as someone who suffers from chronic bronchitis, repeated bouts of pneumonia and has had swine flu, oh and the worst seasonal allergies in the world, what could be so brutal that it could cause her to collapse like that.

I’m not a doctor – many commentators have pointed that out, and they are right – but I’m not going to ignore my common sense. Something is going on with Hillary Clinton, something is up, it’s serious, and they are lying about it.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Clinton Attacks Trump’s Lies…with Lies

Mon, 09/12/2016 - 10:44

Hillary Clinton’s strategists have identified Donald Trump’s innumerable lies as a major weakness in his campaign for president. They’re smart. Trump does lie a lot. He often gets caught lying. Voters want their next president to be trustworthy.

What the Clintonites and their allies in the media don’t seem to understand, however, is that if your attacks on your rival’s truthfulness are themselves based on lies, your efforts are doomed to failure.

In a recent op-ed column for the New York Times, Charles M. Blow wrote that Trump “is prone to making up his own set of false facts.” (Let’s leave aside the fact that, by definition, facts are true.)

“[Trump] wildly exaggerated the number of immigrants in this country illegally and ‘inner city’ crime rates,” Blow wrote. “He said President Obama founded ISIS and that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.”

I like Blow and often agree with him — though, for the life of me, I will never understand why he was so hard on Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries and so willing to excuse Hillary Clinton’s dismal record on issues of concern to African-Americans and LGBTQ people. Now he appears to have embraced the two-party trap, using his platform to bash Trump. That’s his right, of course. What I find fascinating is Blow’s willingness to resort to untruth to make his case for Hillary. Is it really so difficult to focus on Trump and his well-documented lies?

Consider the above quote, for example. It’s true that Trump said that there were 30 million illegal immigrants in the United States. (The real number is closer to 11 million.) Follow Blow’s link, however, and you find that he said that in July 2015 – well over a year ago. Nowadays, he acknowledges the widely accepted 11 million figure, albeit with the caveat that government statistics shouldn’t be trusted because they are compiled by incompetents. “Our government has no idea. It could be three million. It could be 30 million,” he said recently.

Trump is right. It’s impossible to know for sure, although the range is probably narrower than his example. The point is, the Times and Charles Blow willfully misrepresented Trump’s position by dragging up an ancient quote, since corrected. It’s the kind of thing Trump does, and it’s sleazy.

Similarly, it’s a stretch to say that Trump “wildly exaggerated” inner-city crime rates. Politifact has backed away from their previous assessment that he had lied about an uptick in urban crime. It’s pretty clear that Trump was referring to the widely reported rise in crime in cities like Chicago. The media has seized upon his use of the modifier “record” in the phrase “record high”; while crime has indeed been higher historically, shootings have spiked in places like Chicago.

The Islamic State claim is particularly unworthy of a storied newspaper like the New York Times. When Donald Trump called President Obama “the founder of ISIS,” it’s obvious to everyone what he meant. He was being colloquial. He was speaking like a normal person. Obviously Obama wasn’t literally at the founding of ISIS. Trump meant that Obama’s policies – namely his financing and arming of the radical Islamic fundamentalists in Syria’s civil war, a faction of which became ISIS, and the drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq which created a vacuum of power — effectively created the group as the monster that we know it as today. Many Middle East experts agree with this assessment, as do mainstream political observers, including some who oppose Trump. Blow’s nitpicking is unbecoming, inaccurate and so transparent as to be totally ineffectual.

Another Times columnist, Frank Bruni, recently repeated the oft-cited claim that Trump treasonously “encouraged” Russian hackers to steal U.S. government records and interfere with the election when he sarcastically suggested: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton State Department] emails that are missing.”

Give me a break. I’m not going to vote for The Donald. I think he’s dangerous. But everyone knows exactly what he meant. He wasn’t encouraging Russian hacking. He was making a point in a humorous way: that it’s ridiculous and frustrating that Secretary Clinton got away with deleting so many public records.

Why are Hillary’s people resorting to the exact same style of lying that they claim to criticize? I don’t know if it’s because the truth of some claim is of little concern to them compared to it possible effectiveness, or if it’s because they believe that the numerous legitimate criticisms of Trump — his breathtaking ignorance of history and politics, his glib encouragement of violence at his rallies, his inexperience in government, his authoritarian tendencies — are unlikely to get much traction.

What I do know is that, unlike Trump, they aren’t fooling anyone.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form.)

 

They Have So Much Due Process in Common

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 23:18

Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, is the villainous violent thug who campaigned on a promise to murder 100,000 criminals. He has already started on his program of genocide by having the police shoot hundreds of street-level drug dealers. Now he is scheduled to meet with Barack Obama, who plans to lecture him on human rights and extrajudicial killings. The problem is, Obama doesn’t have the moral authority to do so.

This is How Stupid Americans Are

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 23:16

Want to know exactly how stupid American voters are? For months, especially since he secured the Republican nomination, the media has been urging Donald Trump to stop saying nasty things and to start acting more presidential, like a normal presidential candidate. What if he agrees to do so? Should we forget all the nasty stuff that he said before? No matter what he does, everyone hears what they want to hear.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: What Obama Doesn’t Want You To Know About Uzbekistan

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 12:31

Victims of the massacre at Andijon, Uzbekistan, 2005

Death is usually a sad event. The passing of a world leader, particularly one who brought stability to a tense part of the Muslim world for several decades, is typically cause for concern.

The death of Uzbekistani president Islam Karimov is not typical.

For the majority of the long-oppressed citizens of Uzbekistan, the end of one of the world’s bloodiest and most corrupt dictators — and, to our eternal shame, an American ally — is cause for joy and gleeful celebration.

The SOB died 82 years too late.

Except for the time Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain called it “a small, insignificant state…Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan,” the hell on earth created by Karimov doesn’t get much coverage in the news media. Few Americans could find this backwater on a map to save their lives. Yet Uzbekistan, once known as the underbelly of the USSR, is incredibly important. Which is why the rich and powerful – military generals, energy company executives, Hillary Clinton – know all about it.

Unfortunately for the Uzbeks, these American elites’ interest in their country has made their lives unspeakably miserable. And unless something unexpected takes place, that’s likely to continue. Which is why, during this presidential election season, American voters ought to ask the candidates most likely to win (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump) as well as those who should be most likely to win (Jill Stein and Gary Johnson) how they would change American foreign policy in obscure/important places like Uzbekistan.

American policymakers care about Uzbekistan because it is an energy giant: one of the largest producers of natural gas in the world, a significant supplier of oil, and the fourth-largest source of gold in the world. Sitting smack dab in the middle of Central Asia, the nation has undeniable strategic importance. Uzbekistan has the region’s largest population, its most sophisticated infrastructure and its biggest cities: Tashkent, a city of 2.3 million people, even has a subway. It also has the blockbuster tourist attractions: the Silk Road cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand should be on any world traveler’s wish list.

Uzbekistan is the only Central Asian republic with common borders with all of the others, as well as with perpetually troubled Afghanistan. Oil and gas pipelines to and from the biggest source of fossil fuels on earth, the Caspian Sea, crisscross this blisteringly hot, dry nation.

Given Uzbekistan’s tremendous oil, gas and mineral wealth and its geographically and geopolitically strategic importance, its citizens ought to enjoy a high standard of living. Instead, the average Uzbek subsists on $3 to $8 per day. Where does all that energy wealth go? Karimov, his family and cronies steal it. Gulnara Karimova, the deceased despot’s flamboyant chanteuse daughter, is accused of raking in over $1 billion in bribes from telecommunications companies seeking permits to do business. Another daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, is linked to shell companies that own gaudy multimillion estates in the U.S.

Cultural and ethnic heirs to Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde, Uzbeks are neither stupid nor lazy. It requires and incredibly brutal an ruthless military and police apparatus to prevent them from rising up and overthrowing their oppressors. So this is exactly what the Karimov regime has delivered since the country became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. (Karimov kept his job as boss of the Uzbek SSR, which he scored from outgoing Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.)

Uzbekistan is routinely awarded the world’s “Worst of the Worst” status for its extreme corruption and violations of fundamental human rights. Phones are tapped and militsia goons shake down motorists at innumerable checkpoints. Print and broadcast media are completely state-controlled. There’s a zero tolerance policy toward political opposition.

In 1999, Karimov said: “I am ready to rip off the heads of 200 people, to sacrifice their lives, for the sake of peace and tranquility in the country.” By which he meant his peace and tranquility.

Four percent of the population are subjected to slavery. At least 10,000 political prisoners are rotting in the nation’s prisons. Torture is standard and endemic; Team Karimov landed a rare spot in the news for boiling dissidents to death. In 2005, President Karimov asked security forces confronting protesters in the southern city of Andijon to wait for his arrival from the capital of Tashkent so he could personally witness and coordinate their massacre. An estimated 700 to 1200 Uzbeks were slaughtered. “People have less freedom here than under Brezhnev,” a U.S. official admitted.

Every now and then, some naïve US State Department official has issued a toothless tisk-tisk report documenting human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. But the Americans who run the show are obsessed with maintaining the country’s role in the Northern Distribution Network, a crucial aerial and ground supply line between the US and its European allies and the endless war against Afghanistan and Pakistan. They’re willing to do pretty much anything to protect the NDN — including funneling weapons to one of the most disgusting regimes on the planet.

In 2012, the Obama administration quietly lifted a post-Andijon ban on weapon sales. One major shipment included a 2015 delivery of 320 armored personnel vehicles to Karimov – exactly the kind of equipment an authoritarian state uses to crush demonstrations. “Perhaps worse than equipping a government so well-known for abuses against its own people and for its defiance of international norms with such powerful military equipment,” said Steve Swerdlow of Human Rights Watch, “is the message that the Obama administration is sending the people of Uzbekistan: that Islam Karimov has gotten away with it.”

American news accounts of Karimov’s death omitted America’s role propping him up.

It would be nice to hope that the flowers of democracy will sprout in the soil of the dictator’s grave. But years of suppression have destroyed the opposition groups that might have been able to step into power as part of a post-Karimov transition. The post-KGB security forces will continue to protect themselves and their kleptocratic bosses. Acting Uzbek president Nigmatulla Yuldashev will no doubt call for another of the country’s sham elections, which a hand-selected member of the ruling elite is predestined to win. And Obama will keep the military aid flowing.

This is the kind of thing that causes Muslims to hate us. It’s why we are a constant target of terrorism. But nothing is going to change there unless something changes at the top here.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form.)

 

Hillary’s Big Media Dump

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 06:14

On the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the New York Times broke news that might have ended the candidacy of Hillary Clinton – if it had been released at a time when people might be paying attention. As it happens, the house organ of the Hillary Clinton campaign released a classic media dump that exposed her as corrupt and wallowing in criminal behavior. If a scandal falls in the woods, does it make a sound?

A Mandate for Nothing

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 23:46

Hillary Clinton is currently expecting a landslide victory over Donald Trump. Her lead so big the Democrats even have a decent chance of recapturing the Senate. But she hasn’t campaign on a single signature issue. There isn’t a single major program that she has pushed for. So what would she do with her mandate?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: At the Clinton Foundation, Access Equals Corruption

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 11:56

 

More than half of the people who managed to score a personal one on one meeting with Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State donated money to the Clinton Foundation, either as an individual or through a company where they worked. “Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million,” the Associated Press reported.

Does that make Hillary corrupt?

Yes.
It does.

At this writing, there is no evidence that anyone received any special favors as a result of their special access to Clinton. Not that treats were not requested. They were. (The most amusing was Bono’s request to stream his band’s music into the international space station, which was mercifully rejected.)

That’s irrelevant. She’s still corrupt.

Clinton’s defenders like to point out that neither she nor her husband draw a salary from their foundation. But that’s a technicality.

The Clintons extract millions of dollars in travel expenditures, including luxurious airplane accommodations and hotel suites, from their purported do-gooder outfit. They exploit the foundation as a patronage mill, arranging for it to hire their loyalists at extravagant six-figure salaries. Only a low portion of money ($9 million out of $140 million in 2013) makes its way to someone who needs it.

“It seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons,” says Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group.

As a measure of how institutionally bankrupt American politics is, all this crap is technically legal. But that doesn’t mean it’s not corrupt.

Public relations experts caution politicians like the Clintons that the appearance of impropriety is almost as bad as its actuality. If it looks bad, it will hurt you with the polls. True, but that’s not really the point.

The point is: access is corruption.

It doesn’t matter that the lead singer of U2 didn’t get to live out his rocker astronaut fantasy. It’s disgusting that he was ever in a position to have it considered. To put a finer point on it, ethics require that someone in Hillary Clinton’s position never, ever take a meeting or correspond by email or offer a job to someone who donated money to her and her husband’s foundation. Failure to build an unscalable wall between government and money necessarily creates a corrupt quid pro quo:

“Just got a call from the Clinton Foundation. They’re shaking us down for a donation. Should we cough up a few bucks?”

“Hillary could be president someday. Chelsea could end up in the Senate. It couldn’t hurt to be remembered as someone who threw them some money when they asked.”

This, I 100% guarantee you, was the calculus when Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hillary for a one- or two-hour speech. She doesn’t have anything new to say that everyone hasn’t already heard a million times before. It’s not like she shared any valuable stock tips during those talks. Wealthy individuals and corporations pay politicians for one thing: access.

“It’s not pay to play, unless somebody actually gave someone 50 cents to say I need a meeting,” counters DNC interim chair Donna Brazile. “No. In this great country, when you meet with constituents, when you meet with heads of states, when you meet like Bono, who I love, you meet with them because they want to bring a matter to your attention. That’s not pay to play.”

It ain’t 50 cents.

But it is pay to play. Absolutely.

Access is a zero-sum game. If I get a meeting with a senator, that’s a meeting someone else doesn’t get. I shouldn’t get a leg up over you because I donated to a politically connected, nominally charitable foundation. For that matter, I shouldn’t get a meeting you can’t get because I know someone, or because I’m famous, or whatever. Access should be, has to be in a democracy, determined solely by meritocratic criteria. Political leaders like Hillary Clinton need to be meeting with people who can offer them the best advice and who need the most help — not those who bought their way in.

Anyone who doesn’t understand that access always equals corruption, even when access doesn’t result in favors, doesn’t deserve to hold political office.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee.)

 

REVISED 9/13/16: In last week’s column,”At the Clinton Foundation, Access Equals Corruption,” I wrote that the charity rating agency Charity Navigator did not rate the Clinton Foundation due to its poor performance. While that was true in the past, and I relied on that previous information while researching my piece, at present the Clinton Foundation actually receives a fairly respectable rating from Charity Navigator. This essay has been revised to reflect this changed information.

A Choice of Temperament

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 23:45

Clinton’s campaign is running a hard-hitting add reminiscent of the classic 1964 anti-Goldwater “Daisy” ad. Going after him based on his temperament, the ad implies that he might accidentally start a war because of his hot temper. Interestingly, the one quote that they emphasize is one that she would be very likely to agree with.