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TBR News November 4, 2016

Nov 04 2016

A Compendium of Various Official Lies, Business Scandals, Small Murders, Frauds, and Other Gross Defects of Our Current Political, Business and Religious Moral Lepers.

“When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes… Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”- Napoleon Bonaparte, 1815

 

“Corrupted by wealth and power, your government is like a restaurant with only one dish. They’ve got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side. But no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen”. – Huey Long

 

“I fired [General MacArthur] because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. That’s the answer to that. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail “- Harry S Truman

 

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” -Thomas Jefferson.

 

“Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage”

– H.L. Mencken

 

 “For a quarter of a century the CIA has been repeatedly wrong about every major political and economic question entrusted to its analysis.” 

-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

The New York Times, 1991.

 

Don’t tell a lie! Some men I’ve known
Commit the most appalling acts,
Because they happen to be prone
To an economy of facts;
And if to lie is bad, no doubt
’Tis even worse to get found out!

 

My children, never, never steal!
To know their offspring is a thief
Will often make a father feel
Annoyed and cause a mother grief;
So never steal, but, when you do,
Be sure there’s no one watching you.

 

The Wicked flourish like the bay,
At Cards or Love they always win,
Good Fortune dogs their steps all day,
They fatten while the Good grow thin.
The Righteous Man has much to bear;

   The Bad becomes a Bullionaire!

 

 

 

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C.  November 4, 2016:”(We will be out of the office until November 6. Ed.)

Clinton Versus Trump: The Script of a Real-Life Tragedy

Trump versus Clinton will go down in American history as the dirtiest campaign of all time. It seemed at times as though script writers had let their imaginations run wild. But the consequences for democracy in the United States will be long lasting.

November 4, 2016

by Spiegel staff

Spiegel

One could imagine the pilot episode for this series beginning with a fast-paced time-lapse video from the Hudson to the Potomac, music rising dramatically in the background. The flight would start over New York, Manhattan bathed in morning mist, before shooting up Fifth Avenue, banking over the 58-floor Trump Tower and heading out over the countryside to the southwest. The route would take us over New Jersey, past Philadelphia and then Baltimore, where the battle that inspired the US national anthem was fought — land of the free, home of the brave. Finally, we would reach Washington D.C., the river, the Watergate building, the proud Mall with its monuments, the dome of the Capitol and then, the center of power, the White House.

It would make for a dramatic beginning of the series with the working title of “Dirty Duel” or “Sad!” or perhaps, more prosaically, “The Next President.” Or simply “Trump versus Clinton.” It would ultimately be a tragedy, but one with so many twists and turns, sudden mood swings, absurd side stories and crazy coincidences that it could pass as fiction. It would feel like a television docudrama written by screenplay writers who let their fantasies run wild.

On Tuesday, the final episode of the series will be filmed — when American voters go to the polls to elect their country’s 45th president. Up until a week ago, the race had seemed over. The attempt by New York real estate mogul Donald Trump to transform himself from a political nobody into the most powerful man on the planet looked as though it had failed. This Twitter-clown’s dream of launching a cultural revolution and installing his own unique interpretation of American democracy was over. But then, it wasn’t.

The bewildering stories about incorrectly forwarded emails and/or emails hacked by Russian agents returned. The head of the FBI suddenly looked like a shady Trump stooge and this other guy from New York, the one who has a penchant for sending obscene selfies to assorted women, returned to the stage together with his beautiful ex-wife, who by a quirk of fate just happens to be one of Hillary Clinton’s top advisors. In short, the final days of the campaign became so insane that, as a Washington Post columnist wrote, one feels like the figure in Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream.” And one is tempted to scream: Stop! Enough!

Hillary Clinton, no doubt, feels the same. On Wednesday, she made another visit to Las Vegas, hoarse and exhausted. There, in a venue on the edge of town, she spoke to a couple hundred plumbers and electricians. The Clinton team had brought along an employee of the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas who beseeched the crowd not to vote for his boss.

Then Clinton climbed onto the stage and held a strangely feeble speech. Instead of using her last reserves of energy to convince her audience to vote for her, she spent far too long talking about her opponent Donald Trump. “Let’s face the facts,” she said. “A lot of Americans are voting for him, right? A lot of people are still considering who to vote for. I think people who are considering voting for him say to themselves: … maybe he’ll become different when he becomes president.” She asked the people in the hall to imagine Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office. The last casualty of his presidency, she intimated darkly, would be democracy itself.

For the last year, American democracy has become a circus, one in which the most outlandish gag gets the most applause. And it won’t be without consequences: The country will have to live with the scars of this ugly campaign for quite some time to come. Make no mistake: When the advances of civilization are set aside, even if only temporarily, fractures are the result and they aren’t easy to repair. When arguments don’t count and lies are accepted as truth, when politicians have entire teams working to spread disinformation, democracy as we understand it ceases to exist.

Clinton and Trump have managed to drag US politics — already not the purest of spectacles — into the muck. With the help of the hysterical media, they have transformed the race into a soap opera, and this time, reality has far exceeded even our wildest imaginations. Five current and two former US SPIEGEL correspondents have re-watched all of the episodes in this series and documented what has taken place thus far.Episode 1: Huge Expectations

In March 2015, Huma Abedin was driving on the highway along the East River in New York. In the middle of the river, which flows between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens, the lights of apartment buildings on Roosevelt Island were flickering.

Abedin was 39 years old and had already become a living legend in Washington. For almost 20 years, her entire professional life, she had been working for Hillary Clinton, first as an intern in the White House when Clinton was first lady and later as her personal assistant once Hillary entered politics herself. She was always available, always reliable and by spring 2015, she had become Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. If a problem arose that was considered insoluble, it was Huma Abedin’s job to solve it. She was perfect for the position: calm, intelligent, unflappable and she looked like a cross between Angelina Jolie and an Indian princess.

Abedin had long known that her boss was considering a run for the White House. She looked across the East River to the lights on the island, named after Franklin D. Roosevelt. If Clinton really did make a run, she was thinking, wouldn’t that be a perfect spot to kick off the campaign?

Another candidate had already been kneeling in the starting blocks for two months. At the end of January 2015, Donald Trump had chosen a neo-baroque theater in Des Moines, Iowa to make an appearance, a venue with heavy curtains and satin-covered seats.

The occasion was the annual meeting of Citizens United, a group that is a wing of the Tea Party movement on the right-wing of the Republican Party and about 1,000 supporters had shown up. Trump inveighed against Jeb Bush, the brother of George W., who was also running for the presidency. “The last thing we need is another Bush,” Trump blustered. The applause was polite and reserved. There were still almost two years until the election and Trump at the time was seen as an outsider without a chance.

After his speech, he wandered around backstage. There were a couple of cameras, but they weren’t trained on him. Three or four bored reporters listened to what Trump had to say, but the rest of the journalists were concentrating on Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, who was speaking on stage.

Trump had come to the event with two bodyguards who seemed strangely out of place because there was nobody who took much of an interest in the man from New York. But Trump kept eagerly talking anyway: “I know someone who can make American great again, and that is Donald Trump.”

Make America Great Again. It was soon to become a sentence heard everywhere. And Donald Trump would also have a lot to say. In April 2015, realDonaldTrump, as he calls himself on Twitter, opened his campaign against Hillary Clinton by retweeting the following: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” It was a tweet that set the tone for the coming race.

Episode 2: Candidates

It was June 2015 and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” was pounding through the first floor of the Trump Tower in Manhattan, music that was a good fit for the skyscraper on Fifth Avenue. Finished in 1983, the building has a black facade with pink marble, gold and a three-story waterfall in the atrium. The landlord, now 70, had his best years in the 1980s: He had several large construction projects going, was married to the model Ivana Trump and made frequent appearances in the tabloids.

Back in his tower, Trump gave the thumbs up sign and smiled, his hair in the style once described by a comedian as: “dead squirrel.” Next to him was his third wife Melania. Twenty-four years his junior, she was the daughter of a Slovenian car-salesman and a seamstress — and, again, a model. Behind a podium flanked by eight American flags, Trump formally announced his candidacy.

“Our country is in serious trouble,” he intoned. “When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal? … When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet in Tokyo?” He then swung his attention south: “When Mexico sends its people … they’re sending people that have lots of problems…. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people…. It’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.”

Many listeners found his words troublesome and there was widespread indignation afterwards. But it was a speech that laid the cornerstone for Trump’s presidential campaign. China, Mexico, trade and immigration. Innuendos, speculation, racism and impudence. That was his strategy.

He would go on to bring that strategy to bear against “Crooked Hillary,” as he calls her, doing all he can to portray her as the puppet of a hated political caste system, as an out-of-touch pawn of the Washington elite. He, the billionaire, would portray himself as the advocate of downtrodden white men — and he didn’t care about the contempt of intellectuals on the country’s East and West Coasts as long as those in the “flyover zone” got his message. The country, Trump said in his speech in the Trump Tower in June 2015, was in need of a leader like Donald Trump.

Trump’s announcement came just three days after Hillary Clinton had announced her own candidacy, with the race officially starting for her on June 13, 2015. And everything was just as her advisor Huma Abedin had imagined it. The party, with Bill and Chelsea at her side, took place on Roosevelt Island in the middle of the East River. As usual, Abedin had taken a final look at her speech. Clinton would talk about her mother and then declare her candidacy for US president.

Abedin knew that the day would mark the beginning of a long and difficult journey and that she wouldn’t have much time to spend with her son Jordan. But her husband would support her, Jordan’s father Anthony Weiner. He owed her that much — and plus, he didn’t have a job. Abedin and Weiner — his name pronounced like the light-hearted American slang term for the male member — got married in 2010. At the time, he was considered one of the Democrats’ greatest political talents: energetic, sharp-witted, well-informed and gave off the impression of authenticity.

His career, though, was derailed by his dark passions: In 2011, Weiner had to resign from the House of Representatives after sending salacious selfies — photos of his own penis, covered only by his underwear — to women in social media networks. Abedin stood by him at the time and proudly watched as he attempted to make a comeback by running for New York mayor. But during the campaign, it was revealed that he had sent yet more revealing selfies, this time under the alias “Carlos Danger.”

That was the end of Weiner’s political comeback. His wife was forced to endure public humiliation, something that likely strengthened her bond with Hillary Clinton, who had also gone through some rough times with her husband Bill. But Weiner could prove dangerous to the candidate. Clinton, it was said at the time, insisted that Abedin leave Weiner — unsuccessfully.

But now, Abedin had to focus her attentions elsewhere. Hillary’s campaign required all her energy. The task was that of portraying Clinton as a friendly, modest woman, just as she had done in a short video in April 2015 that focused primarily on the candidate’s potential voters. The video showed a white woman watering plants and a girl arranging letters of the alphabet; there were gays, African-Americans and Hispanics, who said in Spanish what their concerns were. “I’m getting ready to do something too,” Clinton said in the video. “I’m running for president.”

Her campaign would become an event planned down to the last detail, a well-oiled machine designed to elevate a professional and intelligent, but only moderately popular candidate to the presidency. Paradoxically, it is possible that her professionalism became her greatest Achilles heel. It helped Trump portray himself as Clinton’s polar opposite. On the one hand is a candidate that controls her image down to the last nuance. On the other is a man who tosses aside his manuscripts, exceeds his allotted speaking time and improvises according to his gut feelings. Intellect versus instinct, machine versus authenticity, calculation versus charisma.

Clinton’s campaign, in any case, didn’t start as promising as had been hoped. And Abedin was with her around the clock, often visiting two cities per day.

Anthony Weiner, who owed her quite a lot, stayed home with Jordan, their son of three-and-a-half years. In the evenings, when he got bored, Weiner would take off his T-shirt and pants and take selfies of his chest and crotch. At one point late in the summer of 2015, he took pictures of himself — half naked and clearly aroused — next to his son. He sent the photos to a woman, a Trump fan who supports the weapons lobby and hates Barack Obama. Abedin knew nothing about it.

Part 2: The Dark Art of Character AssassinationEpisode 3: Trump Reigns

It was August 2015 and the first televised debate between the Republican candidates was about to begin inside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Ohio. Ten candidates were standing on the stage. “Are you nervous?” the moderator, Megyn Kelly of Fox News, asked.

Ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who was still considered the frontrunner at the time, nodded. Marco Rubio, the young, emergent Senator from Florida forced a laugh. Donald Trump, in the middle, stretched his hand out and made a gesture to mean “kind of.” With millions of television viewers, it was the first real opportunity for him to see how he stacked up against his competitors. And even though Bush and Rubio were considered the favorites, it was Trump who cleaned up.

“You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.’ Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?” Kelly asked Trump. It wasn’t a bad question, but Trump’s answer was even better. “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” he responded. “I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

After the debate was over, Trump launched an unhinged, sexist attack on the moderator. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

Trump, it was clear on that evening in Cleveland, is polarizing. Even as half the studio audience booed Trump’s answers, the other half was rollicking in support. But somehow, everybody — the entire nation — would become addicted to seeing and hearing more and more from this candidate Trump.

Trump clearly relished the attention, likewise becoming addicted to the cacophony of the masses, no matter whether they booed or cheered — and he continued to increase the dosage of his impudence. He likewise began forging alliances with the political fringe, such as Roger Stone, who in political America is considered a master at the dark art of rumor-driven character assassination.

One could also say that Stone is the biggest mudslinger of them all. His Twitter profile once had a picture of his naked back, on which was a tattoo of Richard Nixon, for whom he once worked. Stone has been a close friend of Trump’s for 35 years. In summer 2015, he was working on his book, “The Clintons’ War on Women,” which accuses Bill of having raped several women and Hillary of helping to cover it up. The volume insinuates that Bill had had a son with a prostitute and that Chelsea Clinton wasn’t Bill’s daughter.

The purveyor of this garbage was an advisor to Trump during the first summer of the campaign, until August 2015. The lack of scruples that Trump’s campaign has displayed is thanks in large part to him. Almost everything that Trump thinks he knows about politics and power comes from Stone. And Stone’s most important piece of advice was: “Attack, attack, attack.”

From the very beginning, Trump’s favorite channel for his attacks was Twitter. He often grabs his Samsung Galaxy late at night or in the early hours of the morning to fire off insults, taunts and derisive comments. In his tweets, almost all politicians — except for himself, of course — are “crazy,” “weak,” “dumb” or “corrupt.” But even that form of derisive drivel scored him points. Following him on Twitter became cult.

He attacked well-respected Senators, governors, Hollywood stars and athletes who didn’t support him. He accused them of being mentally ill, losers, failures and nitwits. On August 31, 2015, he took aim on Twitter at Clinton advisor Abedin, calling her a “major security risk” and “the wife of perv sleazebag Anthony Weiner.”

His attacks on President Barack Obama have never ceased and he continuously tweets them out to his 15 million followers. He has accused the president of being “ignorant,” of having “no control” and of having a “horrible attitude.” Obama, according to Trump, is “incompetent,” “dishonest” and “has done such a poor job as president, you won’t see another black president for generations!”

Obama makes “one mistake after another,” “has no understanding of how to create jobs,” “has no problem lying to the American public,” does “absolutely nothing for Christians,” is a “total disaster,” a “terrible president,” “an incompetent leader,” who “looks and sounds so ridiculous,” and is “perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States!” According to Trump.

Episode 4: You’ve Got Mail

Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton stepped onto the stage at Pasco-Hernando State College in Dade City, Florida hand-in-hand with Alicia Machado, who was chosen as Miss Universe in 1996 when she was 19. Trump slammed her at the time as “Miss Piggy” and an “eating machine” after she gained a bit of weight.

“It was really painful for me,” Machado told the gathered audience. Her role at the rally was that of crown witness against Trump and she balled her hand into a fist and led the audience in anti-Trump chants. Clinton’s people tracked her down and asked if she would be prepared to make an appearance to talk about the abuse she had received from Trump, a move designed to help the Democratic candidate gain even more support from women and Hispanic voters.

Clinton’s machine has done its job. Her attacks on Trump have worked well and he is now widely seen as a blatant sexist. She even managed to put him on the defensive. Clinton’s own weaknesses, though, have been with her throughout the entire campaign. She is hated and derided by Trump and by Republicans more broadly. And she herself is partially to blame, much of it stemming from an appearance in the United Nations building in March 2015.

She wasn’t yet a candidate for president at the time and not everything was quite as magnified as it has since become. On that afternoon, she was facing questions after it had become public that as Secretary of State she had sent and received official emails through a private server in her house in Chappaqua, located an hour’s drive north of New York. It caused quite a commotion at the time and it hasn’t yet died down. When it comes to misconduct while in office, the American democracy can be quite strict — and the FBI began investigating.

For those wishing to understand why many people don’t trust Hillary Clinton, it is worth reading the transcript of this appearance. It is a long sequence of untruths and obfuscations — a transcript of the arrogance of power.

Clinton said that the use of her private email account “was allowed” by the State Department, but that isn’t true. She said: “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.” That too is incorrect. Investigators found 110 emails that contained information classified as “top secret” and 22 mails with “top-secret” material. In 65 cases, she sent material that was classified as “secret.”

Things didn’t look good for Clinton. But Trump was likewise proving himself the master of the misstep. On Dec. 28, 2015 at around 11 p.m., Trump retweeted an altered image showing his adversary Jeb Bush picking his nose. Whenever people began thinking that the campaign had sunk to the lowest depths possible, Trump would prove them wrong.

Episode 5: Triumphs

In March 2016 — to the horror of his opponents and to the surprise of his own party — Trump began looking like he might actually win the GOP nomination. He was in the lead and only Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio were still in the race. It was the day of the vital Florida primary, a crucial vote that could provide the winner with a decisive boost.

Trump had invited guests to his vacation home in Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach. It was a place to which he was fond of retreating with his wife Melania, a place he had been coming to for many years to enjoy the Florida sun. But on that evening in March, the second “Super Tuesday,” he was hoping that Mar-A-Lago would be the place where he would celebrate his greatest primary triumph yet. In a back room at the estate, he was watching television as the results came in.

Five states held their primaries on that day and Trump emerged victorious in four of them. Trump wasn’t just receiving the support of traditional Republican voters, he had also managed to attract many non-voters, primarily from the lower classes. He received 40 percent in North Carolina, 41 percent in Missouri, 39 percent in Illinois and, most importantly, 46 percent in Florida.

“We’re going to win, win, win and we’re not stopping,” Trump told his followers that night.

Episode 6: Defeats

As Trump was winning, Clinton was losing. In February, she took to the stage in Manchester, New Hampshire with “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten blaring from the speakers. The audience was chanting “Hil-la-ry, Hil-la-ry,” but she had just suffered a disastrous defeat in New Hampshire. Her adversary for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, the only Senator in the US who referred to himself as a socialist, received 60 percent of the votes. Clinton needed a new message and she needed to inject more heart and emotion into her campaign.

Just a few days before the Nevada primary, she appeared together with immigrants and spoke about the hopes and dreams of those who had long been living in the US, but who had no papers. A 10-year-old girl named Karla Ortiz raised her hand. “My parents, they have a letter of deportation,” she said. “I’m scared that they are going to be deported.” Then she began to cry.

Clinton brought her up to the front of the room with her. “You’re being very brave,” Clinton said. “And you have to be brave for them too, because they want you to be happy. They want you to be successful. They don’t want you to worry too much. Let me do the worrying. I’ll do all the worrying, is that a deal?” The girl nodded and the guests were touched. Some in the audience shed tears as they applauded. A few days later, the Clinton campaign released a video of the scene as an advertisement.

At the end of April in New York, Anthony Weiner issued a podcast in which he talked about his life as a father. Weiner said that he had seen the light. He said that he may have failed as a politician due to the obscene selfies, but that he was a good father and was now, as a kind of compensation, making it possible for his wife to join Hillary Clinton in the White House.

In the podcast, there was absolutely no indication that even then he was still sending out “dick pics,” as the photos are known. There was a storm brewing on the horizon that spelled bad news for the Clinton camp.

And the misery of the email affair also refused to go away. In early summer, with just four months to go before the election, a Senate committee addressed the issue and heard testimony from James, head of the FBI.

If one had to name a person who embodied what Donald Trump refers to in his speeches as the “corrupt Washington system,” Comey would be a good choice. The FBI director is a pliable career bureaucrat who was long registered as a Republican before becoming independent. Under President George W. Bush, he was deputy attorney general before transferring to the arms industry and then to a hedge fund. He is well-liked in Washington because he gets along with everybody and has led the FBI for almost three years.

Comey’s office spent months investigating Clinton’s email server and on that sunny July morning in the Senate, he presented the results. The FBI, he said, had found more than 100 emails on Clinton’s private server containing classified information and that she had been “extremely careless” and had not adhered to the rules. But he also said that “no charges are appropriate in this case.” Such decisions can make or break careers in Washington and it looked at the time as though Clinton had emerged from the email scandal merely with a black eye.

But looks can be deceiving.

Part 3: Explosive Scandals Mar Final Stretch

Episode 7: Seeing Red

Viewed from a European perspective, the American party conventions can seem like giant children’s birthday parties, but they are also showcases of American diversity. At the Republican Convention, the GOP even allowed someone from San Francisco onto the stage, a man from Silicon Valley, surely one of the most liberal places in the world. The Valley views itself as a center of progress — not just technological, but also societal. Companies like Google, Apple and Facebook take advantage of every opportunity to preach their political philosophy of an open, liberal society that supports environmental protection, gay marriage and immigration.

Peter Thiel is a leader in this world. He graduated from elite Stanford University, founded the online payment service PayPal and was Facebook’s first investor, moves that earned him billions and established him as a confidant of Mark Zuckerberg. Thiel is rich, smart and backs Trump.

On July 21, he stood on the stage of the Republican National Convention in a “Prime Speaking Slot,” during the best possible evening time. “I am proud to be gay,” he said, marking the first time those words had even been uttered from the stage at a Republican Convention. Then Thiel spoke of “fake culture wars” that distract us from “our economic decline.” It’s time, he said, to “rebuild our country,” with Donald Trump.

When it comes to making America “a normal country again,” he would later say, gay marriage and gender equality are unimportant. The only thing that can help, he believes, is radical change — which he thinks only Donald Trump can deliver.

By June, the Republican candidate had collected the number of delegates necessary to secure the nomination, a moment he celebrated on the terrace of the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester, New York. Almost exclusively old white men were on hand with large watches on their wrists and hair gelled back. Some were wearing red “Trump” baseball caps to complement their suits and ties.

It was on that June night that Trump read a prepared speech from a teleprompter for the first time. Up to that point, he had constantly bragged to voters that he didn’t require such help. But his team had begun to realize that he needed more gravitas and had to soften his callous image. It was time for him to reconcile a Republican Party he had spent months dividing — in other words, he had to become a real candidate.

“You’ve given me the honor to lead the Republican Party to victory this fall,” Trump told supporters at the time. As if to convince himself of the canned sentence, he quickly added: “We’re going to do it folks. We’re going to do it.”

Then came the convention. The entire show at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland was conceived as a significant moment of harmony before the election — an early victory party, a veritable confidence fest during which a stream of prominent supporters would shower their blessings on the man they had pinned their hopes on. The only problem was that Trump didn’t have any — or at least not very many.

There were even last-ditch efforts to stop his nomination. Delegates from nine states joined together in an attempt to force a roll call vote to change the convention rules to allow them to vote based on their conscience. There was much outcry and a voice vote was held. The outcome of the voice vote wasn’t entirely clear, yet the Trump camp was still declared the victor.

On the last day of the convention, Donald Trump appeared on stage in the blue-lit cloud of a fog machine. He hugged his wife Melania, who had lifted entire passages from her convention speech from one given by Michelle Obama, and then he began speaking — with the help of a teleprompter. Trump had managed to become the Republican Party’s candidate.

If he could contain himself, he could become anything, it seemed, even President of the United States. All he needed to do was heed what Melania had said earlier in the year when she was asked at an event which habit she would like her husband to quit. “Tweeting,” she said.

Episode 8: Seeing Blue

As Bill Clinton stood on the stage of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, he abandoned all restraint. The big balloons had already fallen from the roof of the arena, just as they do at the end of every convention. The arena filled with color and the former president threw, kicked and hit balloons from the stage into the audience. It almost seemed like he had been nominated again and not his wife.

The convention was a show for both Clintons, thoroughly choreographed with big doses of pathos and celebrity. Bill put in a strong performance, delivering a declaration of love of sorts. “In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” his speech began, by which point he had already won over the audience.

Hillary Clinton’s own speech offered what was more or less a demolition of Trump. She implied he was a “little” man, one “moved by fear and pride.” “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

But to what extent can Hillary Clinton, a person who may have sent classified information in unsecured emails, be trusted? And who is even capable of fully understanding this complicated flurry of email scandals? The FBI is currently investigating two different email affairs. There’s Clinton’s blurring of the public and the private, but also the other, more bewildering ignominy: the slow, steady release of clearly hacked emails from Democratic Party officials and advisors.

In this second mail scandal, the FBI appears to be up against an even bigger foe than the two candidates in Washington: It appears that Russian government hackers have been seeking to interfere in the election. During the summer of 2015, hackers penetrated Democratic Party computers, and a further breach occurred in the spring of 2016.

FBI agents didn’t notice the first attack, but they did detect the second one. They are now tracking a trail that leads to Eastern Europe and further. The FBI believes Putin’s people are behind it, Russian intelligence services. It raises important questions, too: Is the Kremlin seeking to sway the American vote in Trump’s favor? And then, in a development that could hardly be invented, another old hat suddenly got his hands on Democratic Party emails — Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks whistleblowing platform. As if the cast of characters with Trump and Clinton wasn’t big enough already, Putin and Assange joined the party as well.

What’s in these emails? Some are completely banal, others are embarrassing for the Democrats and then there are some that provide evidence of the close ties between Clinton, her foundation and major donors. It is precisely these emails that reinforce the image of a candidate who is part of a small societal elite and who is wheeling and dealing behind the scenes — one who serves her cronies and rich donors. Nothing in the mails appears to be truly explosive. But everything seems a bit shady.

Episode 9: Pneumonia

Huma Abedin took a day off from the campaign to spend a Sunday with her husband Anthony Weiner and son Jordan in the Hamptons near New York. That afternoon, a reporter from the tabloid New York Post called Weiner on his cell phone and informed him the newspaper would be printing new Weiner “dick pics” the following day, including a July 2015 photo showing his son Jordan next to Weiner’s half-erect penis.

The next day, Abedin announced her separation from Weiner on Twitter in what turned out to be a disaster not only for her, but also for the Clinton campaign. It meant more negative press and the taint of perversion, sex and smut.

Trump, whose own campaign wasn’t going particularly well, then began to focus Clinton’s physical and psychological health. As usual, he took to Twitter, claiming that Hillary “doesn’t have the strength or the stamina to make America great again.” He wrote that on Sept. 1. It would soon look prophetic.

Ten days later, at Ground Zero in Manhattan, as on every anniversary of Sept. 11, thousands of people gathered for a memorial service for those who died in the 2001 terror attacks. Clinton and Trump both attended the vigil.

The candidates, who had been campaigning brutally against each other from afar for weeks, were now standing almost right next to each other, with only a few other visitors separating them. She wore sunglasses and he a red tie. As the names of the victims were read out, the rivals didn’t even acknowledge each other with a glance.

After an hour, Clinton abruptly left the ceremony. Together with a handful of staffers, she walked across the southern tip of the memorial towards West Street and waited at the curb for her car.

Clinton looked weak and had to lean against a gray pole while a staffer helped keep her upright. A Secret Service agent then closed off the scene. The black van pulled up in front of Clinton and an assistant opened the sliding door, but Clinton didn’t get in. She couldn’t even manage the two steps to the vehicle. Helpers caught her when she then collapsed and lifted her into the van before it drove off. It was a scary scene.

Later, it emerged that she had been driven to her daughter Chelsea’s apartment on 26th Street, where she rested. She then assessed the possible political fallout with confidants, called friends, drank a bottle of Gatorade and played with her grandchildren. Heat exhaustion was blamed in the first official explanation provided. Shortly before noon, she addressed the media, saying, “I feel great.” Everything seemed just fine.

But it wasn’t. That moment of weakness is the only thing people remember from that day. Having a fainting spell in front of the eyes of the nation is a nightmare for any candidate, but in this election season that has so little to do with actual content and so much to do with secondary concerns like vigor and performance, it was particularly disastrous.

It also wasn’t a smart move on Clinton’s part. She tried to hide the fact that it was actually walking pneumonia that had caused her fainting spell. It was only later in the afternoon that her team announced she had been ill, and an episode that had only lasted a few seconds triggered another national debate over Clinton’s integrity. Once again, she lost the lead she had managed to gain and Trump recovered in the polls.

Meanwhile, fresh dirt was on the way — real dirt. A 15-year-old girl came forward with allegations she had had an online sexual relationship with Anthony Weiner. Trump, who had known Weiner for 20 years as a local politician in New York, suddenly sensed he had been given fresh ammo he could use against Hillary.

But even as Clinton had her back up against the wall, Trump began stumbling, damaging himself badly in the process. During the early hours of Sept. 30, a Friday six weeks before the election, Trump couldn’t find peace of mind. It wasn’t the horrific news pouring out of Syria that was bothering him, it wasn’t the debt crisis in Europe, competition with China, America’s greatness or even his own poor standing in the polls. No, Trump wanted to exact revenge on a beauty queen who had had the audacity to say she was backing Hillary Clinton in this election.

At 3:20 a.m., Trump began a campaign of character assassination against Alicia Machado, disparaging her in a tweet as a “con,” the “worst” and “disgusting” in the wee morning hours. But that was just the start. Fifteen other tweets followed over the next two hours — all with one goal: that of destroying the former Miss Universe’s reputation. Did he really not have anything better to do?

Episode 10: A Tanking Campaign

At the beginning of October, a video was sent to journalist David Fahrenthold inside the offices of the Washington Post. Farenthold watched the video and immediately knew he was sitting on a bombshell. The video from the TV network NBC showed 11-year-old raw footage from “Access Hollywood,” a show focusing on celebrities.

In the video, at the end of a bus ride with show host Billy Bush, Trump boasts that he can just start kissing women and “grab them by the pussy.”

The footage electrified Fahrenthold. He had already published a number of Trump scoops, but this was a whole different level. Once posted on the Washington Post website, the video quickly went viral.

It outraged Republicans all across the country and within hours, an exodus began among Trump supporters. His campaign appeared to be on the verge of collapsing. Inside Trump Tower, his top campaign staffers convened for a crisis meeting and Trump sent out a tweet describing the footage as “locker room talk” between men. But that didn’t go far enough for campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. The lawyer persuaded Trump to apologize without any ifs, ands or buts.

Conway’s staff quickly wrote up a speech for Trump and late that night, he spoke into the camera, with the nighttime New York skyline as his backdrop. “I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them,” he said. “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I apologize.” But it failed to stop the flood of media coverage. Indeed, for days it was all they focused on. At the beginning of October, it looked as though there was nothing left standing between Hillary Clinton and the White House.

The Trump camp tried to strike back. Two days later a woman named Juanita Broaddrick could be seen sitting next to Trump in St. Louis where, one hour later the second of three televised debates between Trump and Clinton was to take place. Trump needed to dig up something worse than his own insulting chauvinism so he brought along Broaddrick to share her account. She claims to have been raped by Bill Clinton.

It was an allegation Broaddrick had taken public 17 years ago, saying she had wanted to volunteer for Clinton’s gubernatorial campaign in Arkansas. She says Clinton suddenly started kissing her and then raped her in her room in 1978. There were no witnesses and the allegations have never been proven.

Today, Broaddrick is a 73-year-old woman, with shoulder-length, curly blonde-gray hair. She had become a part of the Trump campaign, a decoy designed to distract from the candidate’s own weaknesses. Once the second debate ended, Broaddrick was the first person the campaign dispatched to waiting reporters. When asked by a reporter why she had chosen the middle of an election campaign to go public with her allegations, she replied that people had only now started listening to her.

Episode 11: The Finale

In October in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the Al Smith Dinner took place, an annual benefit hosted by the Catholic Church. The proceeds go to charitable causes, the men wear white tuxedos and women wear evening gowns.

During election years, both presidential candidates traditionally give witty and charming speeches in which they poke fun at each other in a respectful manner. Kennedy and Nixon managed it in 1960 and George W. Bush even did so in 2000.

Trump and Clinton sat close to each other, with only a cardinal between them.

Trump spoke first. Initially, he tried to adhere to the tradition, but he quickly slipped into campaign mode. Parts of the audience began booing — a scandal, an unprecedented incident in 70-year history of the gala benefit. Former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani, a hero after 9/11 and by now one of the last and most important of Trump’s supporters, tried to quiet the audience.

When Hillary got her turn, she directed her jabs at Giuliani, who had left no opportunity unexploited to insult Clinton. The former mayor was unable to conceal his discomfort. This was no longer humor — it was hatred.

On Oct. 26, a man in workers’ overalls appeared in Hollywood with a jackhammer and a pick axe at the Walk of Fame and proceeded to destroy Donald Trump’s star.

Episode 12: Overtime

For quite some time, it felt like things were over for Trump, that the spell had been broken. But then FBI head James Comey reappeared on the stage a week ago Friday, just 12 days before the election. He sent a new letter to Congress in which he announced that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server would be reopened and, unbelievably, investigators had found a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner containing 650,000 mails from the time when Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin had been a senior deputy to then-Secretary of State Clinton.

There’s an inviolable rule that investigations should not be launched during the final leg of an election. Comey is well aware of this rule, but he decided to break it anyway. It will take until after the election to investigate the reasons behind the decision, but it did generate a shock, an unbelievable turn that placed a question mark over what had seemed like a certain Clinton victory. Comey’s announcement, which circled the planet within seconds, triggered a media tsunami that could potentially shift the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor.

Is Comey a Trump stooge? Is he deliberately seeking to harm Clinton? There are also rumors circling from unnamed investigators relating to Trump and Putin claiming that the Russian leader is in possession of video of a sex orgy Trump purportedly engaged in while in Moscow. That Trump could be the target of blackmail and that’s why he’s Putin man. Comey and his people are also familiar with these rumors, but he hasn’t written any letters about them. He has remained silent about them. Why?

Meanwhile, one of the more tragic subplots of this episode is the career Huma Abedin, one of Clinton’s most loyal staffers. Other advisors are urging Clinton to distance herself from Abedin as quickly as possible. Those envious of her have already recognized their opportunity, but she also has defenders. Philippe Reines, an important advisor to the Clinton family, reportedly went on a rampage about Anthony Weiner during a campaign conference call, saying he was going to “reach through this phone” and “pull out” his throat.

Episode 13: Counting Sheep

As of Thursday night, Clinton and Trump were almost even in the polls. With only four days left to go until the election, it has become clear that this entire abusive, mud-slinging campaign has been a zero-sum game. The two candidates resemble two boxers in the 12th round of a fight, both only half-conscious, unable to raise their fists to deliver any more punches.

They are looking around to see who is still backing them and who has jumped ship. Close to 400 economists have written an open letter to American voters warning them against the threat of a Trump presidency. The real estate developer, they warn, “is a dangerous, destructive choice for the country.” A month and a half ago, 300 other economists issued a warning about Clinton’s economic policies.

The four former presidents still living, the current president, three Democrats and two Republicans — George Bush Sr. and George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama — have all said they do not want to see Donald Trump become president. But Trump does have some prominent supporters, like boxer and convicted rapist Mike Tyson. He leads a list of celebrity Trump endorsers that also includes rock singer Ted Nugent, professional wrestling legend Hulk Hogan, Clint Eastwood and the far less famous American reality television star Tila Tequila.

The list of prominent people backing Clinton is more impressive and includes Meryl Streep, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lady Gaga, Sigourney Weaver, George Clooney, Richard Gere, Salma Hayek, Lena Dunham, Jennifer Lopez, Snoop Dogg, Beyoncé and Katy Perry. Bryan Cranston, the leading actor on the series “Breaking Bad,” has threatened that he will leave the United States if Trump gets elected.

Anthony Weiner will also presumably vote for Clinton. It has been reported that he has checked himself into a clinic to be treated for exhibitionism, cybersex and pornography addiction

The Klu Klux Klan’s newspaper has also backed Trump. But that, at least, is one endorsement too far for the Trump team. It has rejected it.

By Markus Feldenkirchen, Ullrich Fichtner, Veit Medick, Philipp Oehmke, Gordon Repinski, Thomas Schulz and Holger Stark

 Will President Trump Free Julian Assange?

November 4, 2016

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

The former British ambassador to Cuba, Paul Webster Hare, wants the British police to invade the Ecuadorian embassy and ferret out Julian Assange – in the name of preserving diplomacy:

“The Ecuadorians have partially cut Assange’s access to the Internet – perhaps until after the election. But that will not solve the problem.

“Now the U.K. legal authorities have to decide whether the precedents Assange has set in handling “stolen” property while residing in a diplomatic mission is sufficient reason to rescind temporarily the inviolable status of Ecuador’s mission.”

In the Bizarro World we live in today, invading the inviolable territory of an embassy is “diplomacy pushing back,” as Ambassador Hare puts it. He goes on to burble: “It’s time for diplomacy to reassert itself in a world that seems increasingly willing to reject consensus-building in favor of stoking nationalist fervor.”

Whatever that means.

So what, exactly, is the rationale for invading what is legally Ecuadorian territory? According to Hare, WikiLeaks has been picking on the United States exclusively, and so it doesn’t really qualify as an advocate of transparency:

“To have an impact, transparency must be applied to every state – not used to bludgeon just one. If it wants to be valued as a window into duplicitous diplomacy, then WikiLeaks should probe the communications of all states.”

Where has the Ambassador been since 2008? As The New Yorker pointed out:

“In December, 2006, WikiLeaks posted its first document: a ‘secret decision,’ signed by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a Somali rebel leader for the Islamic Courts Union, that had been culled from traffic passing through the Tor network to China. The document called for the execution of government officials by hiring ‘criminals’ as hit men.”

Assange followed that up by exposing how Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi had looted his own country. That year, everything from illegal activities engaged in by Cayman Islands banks to the membership lists of the far-right British National Party found their way to the pages of WikiLeaks. The next year it released intercepted phone conversations that exposed the role played by Peruvian politicians who enriched themselves in the “Petrogate” scandal. The first news of a major nuclear accident at the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz was revealed by WikiLeaks. That year also featured a number of other revelations involving governments other than that of the United States, but let’s move on to some of the major ones in subsequent years: in 2012, WikiLeaks published the Syria files, a compendium of millions of emails sent and received by Syrian government officials and state-owned companies: in 2015, WikiLeaks published the Saudi cables, consisting of thousands of emails, cables, and memoranda by Saudi government officials.

There’s plenty more, but you get the idea. The Ambassador has his head so far up his ass that he can’t think straight. That’s why he’s able to write the following:

“Assange’s actions, if not challenged, threaten core elements of diplomatic practice – like the right of diplomats to secure and unfettered communications – and could negatively impact how diplomacy is practiced around the world.”

What could “negatively impact how diplomacy is practiced around the world” more than the invasion of a country’s embassy by the host nation? Not even the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites undertook such an action: when Cardinal Josef Mindszenty was given asylum in the US embassy in Budapest after the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, he stayed there for fifteen years, and the Communists didn’t dare touch him. That’s because even they recognized that to violate the sanctity of an embassy would have catastrophic consequences – but not Ambassador Hare. And he has the nerve to invoke the virtues of “diplomacy”!

Hare goes on to speculate that the Ecuadorian government, whose president, Rafael Correa, supports Hillary Clinton and despises Donald Trump, may soon tire of its troublesome guest: like the slimeball he is, Hare says this is “a delicious irony.” One can imagine him licking his lips as he wrote this.

And it’s true: President Correa may very well kick Assange out into the street, where the British police have been waiting for years to grab him. Correa is no doubt eager to suck up to Hillary, whom he probably – and perhaps mistakenly – thinks is slated to occupy the White House. The heroic founder of WikiLeaks has never been in greater danger. After all, it’s been reported that Hillary has said: “Can’t we just drone this guy?” And I wouldn’t put it past her, but that may not be necessary.

The great irony is that, if Donald Trump is elected President, Assange may be home free. It’s not hard to imagine a Trump administration putting pressure on the Brits to let him leave the embassy and seek another safe haven – perhaps even the United States. After all, didn’t Trump declare “I love WikiLeaks!”?

We’re living in Bizarro World, where up is down, right is left, a diplomat argues against the inviolability of embassies, and a Republican presidential candidate is praising the man who has exposed the depredations of US imperialism around the world. Yes, it’s weird, but you know what? I kind of like it this way.

Arrest of Kurdish politicians in Turkey threatens further upheaval

The arrest of Kurdish politicians in Turkey is part of a dual military and political strategy to crush the Kurds. It hasn’t worked in the past.

November 4, 2016

Turkey detained at least a dozen parliamentarians from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Friday, threatening to plunge the country into further instability and remove one of the last checks on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s power.HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag (pictured) were among those arrested and placed in custody pending trial. Prosecutors said the arrests were in response to the lawmakers refusing a subpoena to testify over alleged support for terrorism.

The government accuses the HDP of being the legal front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a more than three-decade long insurgency for greater Kurdish rights and autonomy.

The HDP is the third largest party with 59 seats in the 550 seat Turkish parliament.

Parliamentarians enjoy immunity but in May this was revoked for any members subject to investigation, a move hitting 138 lawmakers, mostly from the opposition. This paved the way for the arrest and prosecution of HDP members. In September, more than two dozen elected Kurdish mayors alleged to have ties with the PKK were replaced with pro-government administrators.

The arrests and broader crackdown threaten to send Turkey careening down a further spiral of violence as politics is removed from the table, voters are disenfranchised and the PKK’s message that the gun prevails over the ballot box gains traction.  The government, in turn, believes it can defeat the PKK militarily, and the Kurdish movement politically.

“The government’s official policy, which they believe will succeed, is to defeat terrorism by killing PKK terrorists one by one,” academic and Kurdish expert Dogu Ergil told DW. “Arresting parliamentarians means nothing is expected from politics.”

Since the failed coup attempt this July, Erdogan has used state of emergency powers to purge the military, bureaucracy and media of alleged followers of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, who the government blames for orchestrating the coup. More than 100,000 people have been dismissed or suspended for suspected Gulenist ties. The purge has since morphed into a broader assault on all opposition, even those that were traditional rivals of the Gulenists, a former ally of Erdogan.

Kurds as a barrier to Erdogan’s presidential system

Since moving from prime minister to president, Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have pushed for rewriting the constitution to turn Turkey into a presidential system.

The government’s argument is that Erdogan has already turned the presidency into an executive position, which is constitutionally a largely ceremonial post, and the de facto situation should become de jure.

The government plans to put forward measures for the new constitution. In order to change the constitution with a referendum the AKP needs 330 votes, but currently has only 317 seats. In order to change the constitution without a referendum two-thirds support, 364 votes are needed for straight parliamentary approval.

The AKP appears to have made an alliance with at least part of the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is stridently anti-Kurdish and has recently experienced internal divisions.  The MHP has 40 seats, and a fraction of those could bring the AKP above the 330 seats needed to bring the constitution to a referendum, but short of the 364 need for straight parliamentary approval.

However, if the HDP were closed down or parliamentarians convicted, then those seats would go up for a by-election (or possibly handed to the ruling party), giving the AKP a chance to pick up more seats.

Ayhan Bilgen, a HDP parliamentarian and party spokesman, told DW the arrests are a political move to pave the way for a presidential system.

“This is an attack to neutralize the HDP and to push the country towards a presidential system at the cost of a civil war,” Bilgen said.

The Kurdish movement remains one of the last bulwarks against Erdogan’s goal to cement power. Indeed, led by the charismatic Demirtas, the HDP for the first time passed the 10-percent electoral threshold in June 2015 national elections with 13 percent of the vote.

That stripped the AKP of a majority in parliament for the first time since 2002. Unable or unwilling to form a government, the AKP called for new elections in November that brought it a majority. The HDP’s support dipped but stayed above the 10-percent mark. This threshold is the highest in the world, double Germany’s 5-percent hurdle.

The inter-electoral period saw a two-year peace process and ceasefire between the PKK and Turkish state break down in July 2015, shattering hopes for a political solution and opening one of the deadliest chapters in the conflict. The HDP blamed the government for reigniting the conflict in order boost the Turkish nationalist vote and peel away those Kurds who only marginally supported the HDP.  The government blamed the PKK for the peace process breakdown.

Nearly 2,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced in near daily fighting since last July.

Turkey concerned over Syrian Kurds

The broader assault on the Kurdish movement coincides with events in Syria and Iraq casting a long shadow over Turkey. Indeed, the breakdown of peace talks was indirectly the result of a July 2015 “Islamic State” terror bombing that killed more than 30 leftists and Kurds on a humanitarian mission to Kobane, the Syrian Kurdish border town that became a symbol of Kurdish resistance across the Middle East.

Turkey has looked on with concern as the Syrian Kurds, led by the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party and its armed wing, the YPG, have carved out autonomous zones along the border. The Kurds have been boosted by US backing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a joint Arab and Kurdish force dominated by the YPG, to fight IS on the ground in Syria.

Turkey fears Syrian Kurdish gains will embolden its own Kurdish population, strengthen the PKK, and lead to the ethnic and sectarian breakup of Syria.  Seeking to prevent this development, Turkey has intervened militarily in northern Syria to clear IS forces from its border, establish a safe zone and prevent further YPG expansion.

Deutsche Welle journalist Seda Bilen contributed to this report.

Hillary Clinton and the Neocons

Veteran GOP foreign policy hawks are flocking to Hillary Clinton. Is it callow opportunism, or a major realignment?

November 4, 2016

by John Feffer

AntiWar

Much has been made of the swing in political allegiances of neoconservatives in favor of Hillary Clinton.

As a group, Washington’s neocons are generally terrified of Trump’s unpredictability and his flirtation with the alt-right. They also support Clinton’s more assertive foreign policy (not to mention her closer relationship to Israel). Perhaps, too, after eight long years in the wilderness, they’re daydreaming of an appointment or two in a Clinton administration.

This group of previously staunch Republicans, who believe in using American military power to promote democracy, build nations, and secure U.S. interests abroad, have defected in surprising numbers. Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan, the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, and the Foreign Policy Initiative’s James Kirchick have all endorsed Clinton. Other prominent neocons like The National Review’s William Kristol, the Wall Street Journal’s Max Boot, and SAIS’s Eliot Cohen have rejected Trump but not quite taken the leap to supporting Clinton.

A not particularly large or well-defined group, neoconservatives have attracted a disproportionate amount of attention in this election. For the Trump camp, these Republican defectors merely prove that the elite is out to get their candidate, thus reinforcing his outsider credentials (never mind that Trump initially wooed neocons like Kristol). For the left, the neocons are flocking to support a bird of their feather, at least when it comes to foreign policy, which reflects badly on Clinton. The mainstream media, meanwhile, are attracted to the man-bites-dog aspect of the story (news flash: members of the vast right-wing conspiracy support Clinton!).

As we come to the end of the election campaign, which has been more a clash of personalities than of ideologies, the neocon defections offer a much more interesting story line. As the Republican Party potentially coalesces around a more populist center, the neocons are the canary in the coalmine. Their squawking suggests that the American political scene is about to suffer a cataclysm. What will that mean for US foreign policy?

A History of Defection

The neoconservative movement began within the Democratic Party. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a Democrat from Washington State, carved out a new position in the party with his liberal domestic policies and hardline Cold War stance. He was a strong booster of civil rights and environmental legislation. At the same time, he favored military buildup and a stronger relationship with Israel. He was also dismayed with the Nixon administration’s détente with the Soviet Union.

Prioritizing foreign over domestic policy, Jackson’s former aides Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and Elliott Abrams – along with some fellow travelers like Paul Wolfowitz – eventually shifted their allegiance to the right-wing Republican Ronald Reagan. They formed an important pro-Israel, “peace through strength” nucleus within the new president’s foreign policy team.

At the end of the Reagan era, their commitment to such policies as regime change in the Middle East, confrontation with Russia, and opposition to multilateral institutions like the United Nations brought them into conflict with realists in the George H.W. Bush administration. So, many of them defected once again to support Bill Clinton. Writes Jim Lobe:

A small but not insignificant number of them, repelled by George H.W. Bush’s realpolitik, and more specifically his Middle East policy and pressure on then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to join the Madrid peace conference after the first Gulf War, deserted the party in 1992 and publicly endorsed Bill Clinton. Richard Schifter, Morris Amitay of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Angier Biddle Duke, Rita Freedman of the Social Democrats USA, neocon union leaders John Joyce and Al Shanker, Penn Kemble of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, James Woolsey, Marty Peretz of The New Republic, and Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute all signed a much-noted ad in The New York Times in August 1992 endorsing Clinton’s candidacy. Their hopes of thus being rewarded with top positions in a Clinton administration were crushed.

The flirtation with Clinton’s Democratic Party was short-lived. Woolsey, Schifter, and Kemble received appointments in the Clinton administration, but the neocons in general were unhappy with their limited influence, Clinton’s (albeit inconsistent) multilateralism, and the administration’s reluctance to intervene militarily in Rwanda, Somalia, and Bosnia. Disenchantment turned to anger and then to organizing. In 1997, many of the same people who worked for Scoop Jackson and embraced Ronald Reagan put together the Project for the New American Century in an effort to preserve and expand America’s post-Cold War unilateral power.

A handful of votes in Florida in 2000 and the attacks on September 11 the following year combined to give the neocons a second chance at transforming US foreign policy. Dick Cheney became perhaps the most powerful vice president in modern American history, with Scooter Libby as his national security adviser. Donald Rumsfeld became secretary of defense, with Paul Wolfowitz as his deputy and Feith as head of the policy office. Elliott Abrams joined the National Security Council, and so on. Under their guidance, George W. Bush abandoned all pretense of charting a more modest foreign policy and went on a militarist bender.

The foreign policy disasters of the Bush era should have killed the careers of everyone involved. Unfortunately, there are plenty of think tanks and universities that value access over intelligence (or ethics) – and even the most incompetent and craven administration officials after leaving office retain their contacts (and their arrogance).

Those who worry that the neocons will be rewarded for their third major defection – to Reagan, to Bill Clinton, and now to Hillary Clinton – should probably focus elsewhere. After all, the Democratic nominee this year doesn’t have to go all the way over to the far right for advice on how to construct a more muscular foreign policy. Plenty of mainstream think tanks – from the Center for a New American Security on the center-right to the leftish Center for American Progress – are offering their advice on how to “restore balance” in how the United States relates to the world. Many of these positions – how to push back against Russia, take a harder line against Iran, and ratchet up pressure on Assad in Syria – are not very different from neocon talking points.

But the defections do herald a possible sea change in party alignment. And that will influence the trajectory of US foreign policy.

The Walking Dead

The Republican Party has been hemorrhaging for nearly a decade. The Tea Party dispatched many party centrists – Jim Leach, Richard Lugar – who once could achieve a measure of bipartisanship in Congress. The overwhelming whiteness of the party, even before the ascendance of Trump, made it very difficult to recruit African Americans and Latinos in large numbers. And now Trump has driven away many of the professionals who have served in past Republican administrations, including the small clique of neoconservatives.

What remains is enough to win state and local elections in certain areas of the country. But it’s not enough to win nationally. Going forward, with the further demographic shift away from white voters, this Republican base will get older and smaller. Moreover, on foreign policy, the Trumpistas are leading the party in a nationalist, apocalyptic direction that challenges the party leadership (in emphasis if not in content).

It’s enough to throw dedicated Republicans into despair. Avik Roy, who was an advisor to the presidential campaigns of Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, and Rick Perry, told This American Life:

I think the Republican Party is a lost cause. I don’t think the Republican Party is capable of fixing itself, because the people who are most passionate about voting Republican today are the Trump voters. And what politician is going to want to throw those voters away to attract some unknown coalition of the future?

One of his Republican compatriots, Rob Long, had this to say on the podcast about how anti-Trump survivors who stick with the party will navigate the post-election landscape:

It’ll be like The Walking Dead, right? We’re going to try to come up with bands of people and walk across the country. And let’s not get ourselves killed or eaten and hook up with people we think are not insane or horrible or in some way murderous.

Coming out of next week’s elections, here’s my guess of what will happen. The Republican Party will continue to be torn apart by three factions: a dwindling number of moderates like Susan Collins (R-ME), right-wing fiscal conservatives like Paul Ryan (R-WI), and burn-the-house-down Trumpsters like Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Foreign policy won’t be much of an issue for the party because it will be shut out of the White House for 12 years running and will focus instead on primarily domestic questions. Perhaps the latter two categories will find a way to repair their breach; perhaps the party will split in two; perhaps Trump supporters will engineer a hostile takeover.

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, may suffer as a result of its success. After all, how can a single party play host to both Bernie Sanders and Robert Kagan? How can the party promote both guns and butter? How can Hillary Clinton preserve Obama’s diplomatic successes – the Iran deal, the Cuba détente, the efforts to contain climate change – and be more assertive militarily? Whatever unity the party managed during the elections will quickly fall apart when it comes to governing.

In one sense, Clinton may well resurrect the neocon legacy by embracing a more or less progressive domestic policy (which would satisfy the Sanderistas) and a more hawkish foreign policy (which would satisfy all the foreign policy mandarins from both parties who supported her candidacy).

At the same time, a new political axis is emerging: internationalists versus insularists, with the former gathering together in the Democratic Party and the latter seeking shelter in a leaky Republican Party. But this categorization conceals the tensions within each project. Internationalists include both fans of the UN and proponents of unilateral US military engagement overseas. Insularists, who have not turned their back on the world quite as thoroughly as isolationists, include both xenophobic nationalists and those who want to spend war dollars at home.

The trick of it for progressives is to somehow steal back the Democratic Party from the aggressive globalists and recapture those Trump voters who are tired of supporting war and wealthy transnational corporations. Or, perhaps in the wake of the Republican Party’s collapse, progressives could create a new party that challenges Clinton and the neocons.

One thing is for certain, however. With a highly unpopular president about to take office and one of the major political parties on life support, the current political moment is highly unstable. Something truly remarkable could emerge. Or voters in 2020 might face something even more monstrous than what has haunted this election cycle.\

Three New Scandals Show How Pervasive and Dangerous Mass Surveillance is in the West, Vindicating Snowden

November 4 2016

by Glenn Greenwald

The Intercept

While most eyes are focused on the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, three major events prove how widespread, and dangerous, mass surveillance has become in the west. Standing alone, each event highlights exactly the severe threats which motivated Edward Snowden to blow his whistle; taken together, they constitute full-scale vindication of everything he’s done.

Earlier this month, a special British court that rules on secret spying activities issued an emphatic denunciation of the nation’s domestic mass surveillance programs. The court found that “British security agencies have secretly and unlawfully collected massive volumes of confidential personal data, including financial information, on citizens for more than a decade.” Those agencies, the court found, “operated an illegal regime to collect vast amounts of communications data, tracking individual phone and web use and other confidential personal information, without adequate safeguards or supervision for 17 years.”

On Thursday, an even more scathing condemnation of mass surveillance was issued by the Federal Court of Canada. The ruling “faulted Canada’s domestic spy agency for unlawfully retaining data and for not being truthful with judges who authorize its intelligence programs.” Most remarkable was that these domestic, mass surveillance activities were not only illegal, but completely unknown to virtually the entire population in Canadian democracy, even though their scope has indescribable implications for core liberties: “the centre in question appears to be the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s equivalent of a crystal ball – a place where intelligence analysts attempt to deduce future threats by examining, and re-examining, volumes of data.”

The third scandal also comes from Canada – a critical partner in the Five Eyes spying alliance along with the U.S. and UK – where law enforcement officials in Montreal are now defending “a highly controversial decision to spy on a La Presse columnist [Patrick Lagacé] by tracking his cellphone calls and texts and monitoring his whereabouts as part of a necessary internal police investigation.” The targeted journalist, Lagacé, had enraged police officials by investigating their abusive conduct, and they then used surveillance technology to track his calls and movements to unearth the identity of his sources. Just as that scandal was exploding, it went, in the words of the Montreal Gazette, “from bad to worse” as the ensuing scrutiny revealed that police had actually “tracked the calls and movements of six journalists that year after news reports based on leaks revealed Michel Arsenault, then president of Quebec’s largest labour federation, had his phone tapped.”

Speaking this week at Montreal’s McGill University, Snowden called for the resignation of Montreal’s police chief and denounced the spying as a “radical attack on the operations of the free press.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “obviously I think that the troubling stories – troubling for all Canadians – coming out of Québec,” adding: “we must and can continue to ensure protection of the press and their rights.” The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression’s Tom Henheffer made the key point – about this specific abuse but also mass surveillance systems generally:

You can’t even make the argument that this is just a few bad apples because it was authorised by a justice of the peace. This is the system as it’s supposed to work. Which just goes to show that the whole system is broken.

So just this month alone, two key members of the Five Eyes alliance have been found by courts and formal investigations to be engaged in mass surveillance that was both illegal and pervasive, as well as, in the case of Canada, abusing surveillance powers to track journalists to uncover their sources. When Snowden first spoke publicly, these were exactly the abuses and crimes he insisted were being committed by the mass surveillance regime these nations had secretly erected and installed, claims which were vehemently denied by the officials in charge of those systems.

Yet with each new investigation and judicial inquiry, and as more evidence is unearthed, Snowden’s core claims are increasingly vindicated. Western officials are indeed addicted to unaccountable, secretive, abusive systems of mass surveillance used against their own citizens and foreigners alike, and the more those systems take root, the more core liberties are eroded.

At the close of an ugly contest, a stark reality of low expectations awaits the next president

November 4, 2016

by John Wagner

The Washington Post

This story was reported by Jose A. DelReal, Anne Gearan, Abby Phillip, Patricia Sullivan, Sean Sullivan, John Wagner and David Weigel and written by Wagner.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Jennifer Petticolas arrived early at the Hillary Clinton rally here, and there was no doubt that the Democratic nominee would get her vote.

But the retired educator said the biggest draw for her on a sunny fall day was Mothers of the Movement — women appearing on the program with Clinton who have lost children to gun violence or in the custody of law enforcement.

As the African American grandmother of a 3-year-old, Petticolas said she prays for the day that her grandson will be able to walk down the street and not be viewed suspiciously by police because of his skin color.

Asked what she thinks the Democratic nominee can do to help with that, Petticolas sighed — and then confessed that her expectations aren’t terribly high for a candidate she considers only “the better of the two.”

“This is the worst election I’ve ever seen,” Petticolas said, “and I’m 68 years old.”

With the end of an ugly contest between Clinton and Republican Donald Trump drawing near, such frustrations underscore a stark reality confronting Clinton if she reaches the White House: Much of the country will have very low expectations for what she might accomplish.

The race has tightened in recent days in the wake of news about renewed FBI scrutiny of Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. But even with a volatile electoral map, Clinton retains more paths to the presidency than Trump.

It’s not that Clinton has been stingy in offering policy proposals. Over the course of her candidacy, she has put forward a slew of plans, many of them incremental, to expand health-care access, make child care more affordable, raise the minimum wage and invest in the country’s infrastructure, among many other things. But in a campaign dominated by both candidates’ efforts to tear down the other, not much of that seems to have broken through.

In campaign stops across Florida earlier this week, Clinton said she wants to give people something to vote for, not just against. But what made headlines were her blistering critiques of Trump, whom she accused of avoiding taxes and “degrading, insulting and assaulting” women for decades.Some voters simply don’t trust Clinton. But interviews with dozens of voters in battleground states — including many who attended her rallies — unearthed a far broader skepticism about her ability to work with a divided Congress and change the poisonous atmosphere in Washington.

Just 35 percent of registered voters said Clinton would make a good or great president in a survey published last week by the Pew Research Center. Another 20 percent predicted she would be average, while 45 percent said she would be poor or terrible.

For Trump, the numbers are even worse: Fully 56 percent said he would be poor or terrible.

“It’s not about having high expectations,” said Claudia McConnehead, as she sat in the bleachers waiting for the start of a Clinton rally in Daytona Beach, Fla. “We’d backslide under Trump. I can’t imagine there’s anything he’d do for me. It would be worse. It would be about hate.”

McConnehead, who has retired from a job at Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs, said among the issues she’d like the next president to press are improving the Affordable Care Act and expanding Social Security benefits. But she doesn’t have high hopes for cooperation between Clinton and a Congress that has thwarted President Obama far too often.

McConnehead, who said she’s in her 60s, said she hopes Clinton has learned the lessons of her email scandal but has grown weary of the issue.

“A this point in the game, I’m really not paying attention to these email aggravations,” she said. “I’m focused on getting this election over with.”

Sitting a few sections away, Kandi Simons, 58, who lives in nearby Ormond Beach, also drew heavily on her feelings about Trump to explain why she had cast an early ballot for Clinton.

“I feel like she’s going to stand up for me more than a billionaire with no experience,” Simons said, adding that she considers Trump a sexual predator.

Simons, a former social studies teacher who now owns a gym, said she understands the good that government can do, citing how she, as a cancer survivor, has benefited from the Affordable Care Act.

But Simons argued one the biggest reasons to support Clinton was to prevent bad things that could accompany a Trump administration, such as new restrictions on abortion.

Saher Ismail, who lives in Suffolk, Va., was a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) during the Democratic primaries but has now started volunteering for Clinton’s campaign. Ismail, an Indian American Muslim, said she was prompted to do so by a haunting question her preteen daughter asked her: “Can Mr. Trump put us in camps?”

Ismail said her daughter has had nightmares because of the election rhetoric she’s heard, including Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from coming into the United States.

Ismail, 47, said she has no real enthusiasm for Clinton’s candidacy or much hope she’ll be able accomplish much in Washington.

“She’s going to have a really, really hard time,” said the stay-at-home mother of one. “She needs to work on her image, have better answers about the emails and the Clinton Foundation. She has a lot of issues she needs to work out even within the party.”

Many Trump supporters talk about what a Clinton presidency would bring in apocalyptic terms.

“Oh my God, it would be even worse than Obama, and Obama was really bad,” said Gail Gorham, 77, a Republican who lives in Derry, N.H. “We would go down. I think we’re going to have to hit bottom to get back up again.”

Other voters say they’ve grown so disenchanted with Washington that they’re not sure Clinton will have any significant impact.

“I can’t image that anything will be any different than it has been the past 20 years,” said Chris Tape, 49, a high school science teacher in Cincinnati. “I can’t imagine anybody who has spent so much time there, how they would have any idea how I spend my day and how what they do impacts me.”

Tape said “curiosity” prompted him to attend a Clinton rally in his city this week with his wife. He attended a recent Trump rally when he came to town and remains undecided about how he’ll vote.

Tape, an unaffiliated voter, would like to see the next president reduce the role of money in politics — something Clinton has pledged to do — but he said he is skeptical that she’ll follow through.

Voters offered no shortage of issues they would like to see Clinton address if she makes it to the White House.

“We have plenty of problems in this country, with the economy the way it is, and corporations trying to run the economy,” said Tom Bazar, 43, a Norfolk resident. “Minimum wages should be at a level where people can afford to live off it. Health benefits should be expected [with a job] . . . and there should be a continued push for what Obama was trying to provide with his insurance program.”

Bazar, a disabled veteran who spent more than 17 years in the Navy, said he sees a lot of positive qualities in Clinton, whom he said “has been through trials and tribulations” and learned from her mistakes. But he said he expects continued gridlock in Washington next year, no matter who wins the presidency.

Autumn Jackson, 19, a sophomore at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., is somewhat more optimistic. Her leading issue is college affordability.

“Honestly, college should be free,” said Jackson, who came to see Clinton during a joint appearance with first lady Michelle Obama. “Okay, I think that it shouldn’t be free, but it shouldn’t be so costly. There’s still people paying for college in their 50s. Why is that realistic?”

After the primaries, Clinton worked with Sanders to craft a joint plan that would make public colleges and universities tuition-free for families making less than $125,000 a year. How soon and how vigorously she pushes it would be among the early signals of how ambitious she plans to be.

Hank Starks, 66, who attended a Clinton rally in Tampa, said he is holding out hope that she will be able to work with Republicans.

“Other people were able to get it done,” the semiretired Floridian said, pointing to a former House speaker and former president as examples. “Tip O’Neill was able to get it done with a Republican president. Bill Clinton was able to get it done with a Republican Congress.”

As for Hillary Clinton, Starks said, “I hope she’ll be able to twist some arms and get people thinking about the country instead of themselves.”

Many voters say they’re excited about the prospect of the county having its first female president. But some wonder whether sexism in Washington could hamper Clinton’s ability to get things done.

Casandra Greenlee Lane, a Winston-Salem resident who came to a Clinton rally in her city, said she knows what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace and worries about Clinton’s chances of getting things done.

“I think they’re going to give her an even harder time because she is a female,” Greenlee Lane said. “Typically men don’t like to take directives from women, so I think she’ll have an even harder struggle.”

That concern is shared by Petticolas, a Lynchburg, Va., resident who attended the recent Raleigh rally while visiting relatives there. She’d like to see a new president push gun-control measures through Congress.

“President Obama was fighting hard to make change,” Petticolas said. “But you had a black man who was fighting to make change, and that made it harder. On the one hand, Clinton is a woman, but she has a white face.”

Billy Nolas and Julie Naylor, a pair of public defenders who attended a Trump rally in Tallahassee, both said they think Clinton will face enormous resistance in Washington if she is elected. But they cited reasons Clinton, a former senator from New York, could succeed in at least pushing incremental change.

“She’s been more of an insider than Barack Obama was when he was elected,” said Nolas, a registered Democrat.

Naylor, also a Democrat, said that incremental legislative movement should not be scoffed at.

“Little things, a lot of little things need to get done,” Naylor said. “Little things matter, whether it’s a little thing to help the environment, or to hurt the environment, little things to help underserved people, or to hurt underserved people.”

DelReal reported from Tallahassee. Gearan reported from Coconut Creek, Fla. Phillip reported from Winston-Salem, N.C.; Tampa; and Las Vegas. Patricia Sullivan reported from Norfolk and Suffolk, Va. Sean Sullivan reported from Manchester, N.H. Wagner reported from Raleigh, N.C.; Daytona Beach, Fla.; Kent, Ohio; and Cincinnati. Weigel reported from San Diego and Denver. Scott Clement also contributed to this story.

 

Hillary Clinton’s Selective Moral Outrage

October 31, 2016

by Will Porter

The Libertarian

Not all civilian casualties are created equally.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has taken a tough line on the rights record of the Syrian government, but remains silent about similar war crimes committed by a coalition of states led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in their ongoing war in Yemen.

Jeremy Bash, Clinton’s foreign policy advisor, told the Telegraph last summer that a Clinton administration would order a “full review” of American strategy as it relates to Syria, pushing for the creation of a no-fly zone and the removal of Syrian president Bashar al Assad from power.

“It is a murderous regime that violates human rights,” Bash said of the Syrian government, echoing Clinton’s position.

Yet not only has Clinton pulled her punches on Yemen, her own actions as Secretary of State helped to produce the dismal situation in that country today.

In 2011, Clinton’s State Department approved a $29.4 billion fighter jet sale to Saudi Arabia, a “top priority” for the then-Secretary, according to former State Department Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro.

That deal included 84 F-15SA fighter jets, the very warplanes most frequently used in what have been described as indiscriminate and illegal airstrikes carried out by the Saudis in Yemen. International law forbids any military action that does not distinguish between civilian and military objects; the coalition has failed to live up to that standard.

With blatant disregard for human life and the laws of war, the Saudis have bombed hospitals, marketplaces, weddings and funeral processions in the course of the conflict.

The coalition began its campaign in Yemen in March of last year to restore President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to power after he was deposed by Houthi rebels. The Houthis, who stormed the capital city, Sana’a, in 2014 and forced Hadi’s resignation, constitute the armed wing of a political-religious movement that now receives somewhat wide support in the country.

The United States has made billions of dollars in arms deals with the Saudis in recent years, including sales of internationally-prohibited cluster munitions, and continues to assist the coalition with logistics support, midair refueling, airstrike targeting and vehicle maintenance in Yemen.

After nearly 20 months of fighting, the country has been devastated.

A 2015 Amnesty International report found that, at the time, of the estimated 4,000 killed since the beginning of the Saudi air campaign, roughly half of them were civilians. Most of those casualties were caused by U.S.-made air-launched explosives, the report said, fired from aircraft which Clinton herself approved for sale.

Since the release of that report, the estimated number of deaths in the war has risen to around 10,000, with 27,000 people wounded and millions more displaced. Because Yemen imports the vast majority of its staple foods, the war’s disruptive effects on Yemen’s economy has put 14 million Yemenis at risk of hunger or starvation, according to a report from the World Food Program, a U.N. agency. That’s 57 percent of Yemen’s population.

Though she moralizes about civilian death at the hands of the Syrian state, Hillary has said nothing about Yemen. No word on the thousands of civilians slaughtered with America’s help.

Ironically, in 1995 Hillary’s husband Bill as president signed a policy directive which required the State Department to consider the “human rights, terrorism and proliferation record” of recipients of American arms. Hillary Clinton did not take that precaution during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Clinton’s own State Department, in fact, released a report in 2011 detailing a lengthy list of human rights violations committed by the Saudi government, but that apparently was not enough to dissuade her from arming the regime with one of the deadliest weapons in America’s arsenal.

A 2015 International Business Times investigation also found that “Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation.”

Those include such liberal, rights-respecting regimes as Algeria, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and, of course, Saudi Arabia.

“In all,” the Times report continues, “governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department records.”

Clinton wants, in effect, to start a war with Syria in the name of humanity, but she willfully ignores other human rights disasters—ones that she helped to create. As she plans for a more bellicose Syria policy, Yemenis will continue to be killed by American-made bombs, dropped from American-made warplanes maintained by American mechanics, and whose targets are selected with the help of American intelligence.

Where, then, is the candidate’s moral outrage for the people of Yemen?

 

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