Monday, July 25, 2016

Daily Summary - The DNC Leaks, Hillary's VP, and More

Democratic National Committee (DNC) Email Leaks Confirm What We Already Knew
It turns out that the Democrats' email problems weren't confined to Secretary Clinton. Last Friday, Wikileaks released roughly 20,000 emails that had been hacked from the DNC servers. The leaks were somewhat overshadowed by news of Clinton's delightfully foolish Vice Presidential pick (we'll get there).

Nevertheless, the story is an important one. In effect, the leaks confirmed long-held "conspiracy theories" of the Bernie Sanders supporters that the DNC working to undermine the Sanders campaign and support Clinton instead. This always seemed true, and now we know it was. Here are a few of the details:

The Bad
One email has the DNC considering trying to get Sanders to admit being an atheist in public to hurt him in more religious states. Another email has the thoroughly unpopular DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, calling Sanders' campaign manager a "damn liar"; in another "an ASS"--with caps lock in the original.

Elsewhere, the DNC could be found trying to offer a counter-narrative for why Bernie failed. Instead of DNC favoritism towards Clinton (which we now know existed), an email proposed saying it was because the Bernie camp never got their act together.

And the emails also show the DNC pushing back on scheduling debates with Bernie, even those that had already been agreed to. This doesn't really make sense if they were impartial; more Democratic meant more publicity for the party's ideas. And given that Sanders was not attacking Clinton at all (to a fault), it's not like either one was going to be bruised coming out of it. So what explains this? Why, their support for Hillary Clinton of course.

Clearly, the DNC understands that there's a distinct inverse relationship between the amount of time Clinton spends in public and how much people like her. Postponing or eliminating debates was necessary to slow down the political decay function. And it worked.

All of these things make perfect sense if they came from the Hillary campaign itself. They would be trying to assassinate Sanders' character by outing him as an atheist and they would be avoiding debates at all costs. The problem is that they're coming from an institution that is, at least theoretically, supposed to be impartial in the primary process. When Sanders supporters accused the process of being rigged against them, this is what they had in mind. The leadership of the Democratic Party was loyal to the Clinton campaign and actively worked against Sanders.

The Aftermath
Understandably peeved, Bernie Sanders called for the chair to resign from her post based on this new evidence of unprofessionalism. And yesterday, she announced she would resign, in an apparent olive branch from the Democratic Party to former Bernie supporters.

That said, it's worth noting here that none of this is illegal, nor should it be. The political parties have no obligation to have a fair or transparent nominating process, any more than a private company needs to consult its customers on its internal operations or product design decisions. The remedy to bad behavior is also the same in both cases. If you don't like how a political party conducts itself, then stop supporting it.

Hillary Chooses Vice Presidential Candidate to Reassure Trump of Victory
Speaking of olive branches to Bernie supporters, Hillary's vice presidential pick wasn't one of them.

She chose current Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who is known in Washington, DC for a record of bipartisanship. His most recent bipartisan foray was to expand the usage of the civil liberties black hole known as the terrorist watch list to exclude people from buying guns. (Fortunately, that effort failed.)

Kaine's positions are pretty similar to Clinton's as a moderate Democrat. For instance, he supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership originally, but now plans to vote against it. Another revealing sign is that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham likes him, which does not bode well for Kaine's judgment. Perhaps Kaine's most laudable position is that he called for President Obama to ask Congress for authorization of the now almost two-year-old illegal war against the Islamic State. It's not clear whether he would vote in favor such an authorization if it were allowed to come up, however. (Probably yes.)

Most important, however, is what Tim Kaine is not. He is not a strong progressive that could bring the Bernie Sanders voters back into the Democratic fold. He's mostly a copy of Clinton, except that broad swaths of the population don't have a visceral dislike for him. That could play well if he were the actual Presidential candidate. In a VP pick, however, it's going to be useless.

Independents who strongly dislike Hillary are still going to vote for Trump or possibly Gary Johnson; a more likable VP can't sufficiently compensate for the unfavorability of the president. Neoconservatives who prioritize Israel or a hawkish foreign policy generally were already going to vote for Clinton because Trump is too much of a wildcard in this regard.

Only two sets of voters were really up for grabs in Hillary's VP decision--undecided independents concerned about the status quo, and hardcore progressives. Her decision appeals to neither.

Undecided independents will find little to like in Kaine, who has been in politics a long time and holds very conventional opinions.

Hardcore progressives will be similarly disappointed. Mainstream Democratic politics is not enough--that was the emphatic message of the Bernie campaign. And yet, that is precisely what Hillary is going to offer. More of the status quo (and more war). Don't be surprised if many Bernie supporters stay home. This is the one outcome that Clinton could not afford, but that's the outcome she'll get.

Thus, the Clinton campaign proves anew how surprisingly bad it is at politics, and Donald Trump is the likely beneficiary.

More recent emails from the DNC have not yet been leaked. But if they were, I'd expect Clinton's explanation to read something like this: "Eh, I didn't really want to win anyway."

US-backed Allies in Syria Call for US to Stop Causing Instability
After recent US targeting mistakes killed scores of innocent civilians in Syria, the local US-backed faction called on the US to end the strikes. They said the strikes were being used as a recruiting tool by ISIS, which is likely true.

But the US has said that the strikes will continue anyways and it blamed ISIS for putting civilians in harm's way. One wonders how convincing that message of sympathy will be to the victims' families.

In any case, this might mark a new low point for the Syrian war. When the US's own proxy armies are concerned about causing instability, that's a pretty clear sign things aren't going too well.

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