Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Daily Summary - Humanizing Hillary and the Russians Get Blamed for Something New


Bill Clinton Humanizes Hillary at the DNC
Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention proved to be a much smoother affair than Day 1. Hillary Clinton was officially declared the nominee, and the headliner of the evening, Bill Clinton, managed to make an effective case that Hillary is in fact a decent human being, breaking sharply with popular opinion on the matter.

Like Trump's children at the DNC, Bill made his case for Hillary with a series of vivid anecdotes. He stayed on the subject, and his approach was sufficiently understated that it didn't draw attention to himself. The crowd seemed to be with him as well--a courtesy not afforded to all of the previous speakers. Also, as with the stories about Trump, the details of Bill's stories included many specific details (places, issues, etc.), that would seem to be readily falsifiable if they were in fact untrue. Thus, we should assume most of them were true, if perhaps embellished a bit.

And the picture they paint would surely be appealing to most of the American people--that of a headstrong woman and mother trying to make a difference in the lives around her. Her tool of choice was government action in most of the cases surveyed, so some skepticism is certainly warranted about the actual results. But if half of Bill's stories are to be believed, her intentions wouldn't be in question.

Then again, it's not unheard of for people to start out idealistic and end up something else. And the Hillary Clinton of Bill's speech is going to be difficult for many to reconcile with the consummate warmonger that she's been in public life. How can one be deeply concerned about the disadvantaged in America that have been left behind, and then be utterly dismissive of the millions of disadvantaged people oppressed and/or killed by US policy and US-backed regimes throughout the Middle East? Perhaps the answer is simple Trumpian nationalism, as we suggested was true of Bernie Sanders. Or maybe it's a misguided faith in the omnipotence of American foreign policy? Or maybe it's just craven political ambition?

None of those avenues fit particularly well with the clever and caring portrait offered by Bill. And for consistent folks on the left who prioritize foreign policy, however many still exist after eight years of President Obama, it's going to be a significant barrier to overcome. And for any libertarians fooled by the usefulness of lesser evil voting, her record on war should remain a nonstarter.

Finally, given that this was a Bill Clinton speech, I would be remiss not to mention the creep factor. Admittedly, he kept it in check pretty well. But with his scandalous sexual history--specifically the various rape allegations--I suspect there were a few phrases they might wish to have back. Personal favorites below:

When speaking of the time he first saw Hillary:
After the class I followed her out, intending to introduce myself. I got close enough to touch her back, but I couldn’t do it.
That's definitely what I go for when I meet someone I'm attracted to. No handshakes needed, just start out with the back.

And later, this:
So like me, in a different context, he [Obama] had to keep asking.
I feel like, "If they say 'No', just keep asking," isn't exactly an acceptable practice. I mean, I know it was a different time, Bill, but still, you might want to keep these comments away from an open mic.

Granted, in context, he's actually referring to asking her to marry him multiple times, which was discussed much earlier in the speech. Still probably not his best line.

Neither of those are on par with "You better get some ice on that," which he allegedly said to one of his rape victims after assaulting her. But rest assured, the Bill Clinton creep factor is alive and well.

New Self-Sabotage at the Hillary Campaign - It Was the Russians!
I apologize for talking still more about the Presidential race, but it appears we're going to need a recurring feature profiling all the terrible strategies deployed by the Hillary Campaign.

(Note that I'm not a Trump or Clinton supporter; that's not my purpose here. Rather, I'm just fascinated by the unending string of bad decisions Team Hillary makes, in spite of the fact that they must employ the best experts money can buy. I view it as a hopeful reminder that the bar is always lower than we think. Or stated another way, the empress has no clothes.)

Needless preface aside, yesterday's gem was immediately hiring the scandalized Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Now they're attempting some retroactive damage control on the DNC leaks themselves. The message: It was the Russians that hacked us to tilt the election towards Putin's buddy, Donald Trump.

Technically, this is possible, but contrary to mainstream supposition, there's no proof at all. There's just official-sounding conjecture, echoed a hundred times over. There are any number of people that would take delight in taking down the DNC and Hillary Clinton, so jumping to blame Russia without any publicly released proof so far is a bit of a stretch. This is especially important in this case since cyber security breeches are notoriously difficult to prove.

What is far more interesting than the validity of these claims, is their political effect. As I see it, here are the ways this is likely to be interpreted by voters:

  • The Russians are our mortal enemy and now they're even trying to take down our democracy.
    • This will play well to conservative / nationalist types. But the nationalist / tough guy vote is definitely going to Donald Trump, so that's not really a helpful message Hillary.
  • It's not that the Democrats were being careless with email; it's just that the Russians are really smart and unstoppable.
    • Clearly, this is problematic. If you really do think the Russians are trying to hack us, are you going to vote for the party that they already proved they can compromise? No, that's absurd.
  • Oh yeah, Putin likes Trump. I guess we haven't heard that idea enough times yet, so here it is again.
    • For even moderately antiwar types, this is a feature of Trump, not a bug. Shouldn't we want our president to have a good relationship with the leader of the other major nuclear power in the world? By now, that question should be rhetorical.
    • For everyone else, the idea seems to be that Trump is inexperienced, and the Russians want him so they can manipulate him. But again, Trump's campaign and party isn't the one that just had 20,000 emails stolen.
The only non-catastrophic takeaway is to strengthen voters' connection between Trump and Putin, since the latter is unpopular among Americans. But every other implication of the Russians-hacked-us story is overwhelmingly negative for Hillary's / Democrats' appeal.

Another Terrorist Attack in France--And a Thing Not to Do
Yesterday, France suffered yet another terrorist attack from men who reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS. They used a knife to execute an 86-year-old Catholic priest at a mass, and were killed by security forces shortly thereafter.

As is so often the case, one of the attackers in this case was known to police and was actually placed on house arrest because they suspected he was a threat. This sort of an event will lead many to conclude authorities should have just prosecuted or locked up the attacker when the initial suspicion arose to prevent things like this--thereby eroding whatever remains of due process in France today.

However, there is at least one better solution for this case and others like it. You see, in this case, the reason authorities got suspicious in the first place is because the attacker tried to travel to Syria, they believed, to join ISIS. This was also true for the Charlie Hebdo attackers (if you replace ISIS with Al Qaeda, that is).

This seems to beg an obvious question. If the authorities have reason to believe someone is trying to travel abroad to join a terrorist organization, why in the world would the solution be to prevent them from leaving? Wouldn't it clearly be better to let them go, lest they decide to carry out their terrorist ambitions locally instead of joining the war? This is even more true in a US context, given that legally, the US isn't at war with anything in the region right now.

Of course, there would be real challenges (legal and practical) related to trying to figure outwho left for the purpose of joining ISIS et al to prevent them from coming back later, without affecting aid workers with a nonviolent reason for being in Syria.

Still, it seems a good first step to reduce these events is to let suspected terrorists leave in some way. To do otherwise is madness. 

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