The Hill reports that Democrats are telling the Clinton campaign to let Donald J. Trump’s threats to kick up the dirt in Clinton’s past go unanswered. The piece quotes several high ranking Democrats as saying that old scandals from the 90’s have lost their effect on voters.
Anyone who spends any time in social media and the comment sections of the nation’s newspapers knows that the names Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers and all the others still come up as soon as the topic turns to the Clintons. The participants in these discussions are not exclusively Republicans. The express tactic of meeting a dredging up of past scandals with silence is unwise, especially when we’ve seen how adept Trump is at taunting, and know he remains undeterred in the face of criticism of his behavior, and is more apt to double down rather than back off.
The advice given Clinton assumes that Trump will limit himself to old scandals. Working off of such assumptions is foolish. One can rest assured that Trump is only dredging up the old stuff now because he is saving what his oppo research has turned up from recent years. Then, there are things he probably knows thanks to his years-long relationship with the Clintons and because he moves in the same social circles they do. What could he possibly know about either Clinton that he’s saving up for the general election? Worst of all, knowing Trump, whatever it is he has in store will be presented in the same way he presents everything else: a kernel of truth tightly wrapped in layer upon layer of untruths. How damaging could it be? How much of a distraction will it be? How long would it take Clinton to deal with it if she isn’t bumped off-stride?
Were Clinton to respond in kind, either directly or through her usual conduit, David Brock, one has to wonder whether it is even possible to embarrass Donald Trump? Given all of the scandals he’s been a part of, and judging his behavior at the time, the answer to that question is probably no. Have we ever seen Trump get flustered? Lose his bluster?
For the already battered and bruised candidate Hillary Clinton, this advice from her political allies should serve as a caution. Is it possible Trump can embarrass her with new allegations? What can the Clinton camp do to preempt The Drumpf from being first to make them public? Over the last eight years, the public has been used to the idea that Clinton would run this cycle. Other than Benghazi, the email scandal that is still unfolding, and the issues that center around money in politics – her relationship with Wall Street, money made from speeches and Clinton Foundation donors – the public isn’t ready for anything new to pop up. Primary 2016 wasn’t expected to be one in which there is a close second choice. Finding out, after the nomination that Clinton has new skeletons in her closet will throw the process into a tailspin.
It is bad enough that both candidates are so flawed. It’s especially bad that one of them doesn’t care what you throw at him, while the other isn’t good at throwing. In, Hillary Clinton Struggles to Find Footing in Unusual Race, the New York Times reports that anxiety is spreading throughout the Democratic donor base at Clinton’s inability to find her general election mojo. The piece also includes mention of Clinton sticking to a conventional campaign even as her opponent is anything but that and nothing that has been thrown at him has stuck.
Clinton has tried over the last two weeks to turn Trump’s tax returns into an issue, with no success. After eight years of general awareness of the .01%’s tax free earnings, the experience of Mitt Romney in 2012, companies like GE being in the news every year for paying nothing or getting tax refunds, all have made the public impervious to the kind of excitement and outrage Clinton is attempting to generate. Trump’s bankruptcies haven’t stuck when his former Republican opponents tried to use them against him. His explanation has been that, as any businessman worth his salt, he’s used the tax code to his advantage.
Trump’s opponents lost and, even with some very bitter rivalries, most have come around in support of him, including the latest, Marco Rubio. It won’t be any surprise if Clinton is also unsuccessful with attempts to use the newly unsealed Trump University lawsuit against him. That too is old news, with 60 Minutes having covered it over two years ago. Since Trump is rather proud of his past sexual conquests, it is rather doubtful that attempts to embarrass him in that way will yield anything. Past attempts by Republican rivals to shame Trump using pictures of his wife didn’t yield the desired result. Besides, Democrats who engage in this kind of attack would immediately be called out for hypocrisy and the very sexism Liberals always rail against.
Democratic allies want Clinton to focus on the issues. What are these issues?
Trade and Jobs:
Clinton has said she’d work with big business to create good jobs. Her opponent has been very vocal about inversions and getting U.S. corporations to bring jobs back home. Trump, undoubtedly, will say he is the better placed of the two to achieve these goals because he is a successful businessman who is committed to reversing the “terrible 1990s trade deals” of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He has even said, many times, that he would put Wall Street raider Carl C. Icahn in charge of trade negotiations. Will Clinton publicly go after Icahn? Will Clinton’s really late opposition to the TPP and her role negotiating a good portion of it help or hurt her position?
On wages, Trump has been moving to the left of Clinton, probably in anticipation of the general election and also because that is one of the top issues that has resonated with Sanders voters. It doesn’t help that Clinton did herself a huge disservice with the bobbing and weaving she did in the Brooklyn debate. This performance of Clinton’s in Brooklyn will likely be featured in attack ads this fall.
As I’ve written in one fashion or another these last two years, this election will be, primarily, about trade, jobs, and a living wage. But there is more…
Trump has gone against the grain in his support for healthcare coverage and opposition to the ACA. He’s said he would implement a better, inexpensive plan. How will that measure up against Clinton’s embrace of Obamacare and criticism of her opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, for advocating universal healthcare coverage as a right. Sanders favors cutting out Big Insurance and reducing Big Pharma profits, and often talks about voters who are insured but cannot afford to use their insurance and pay for needed treatment. Clinton includes cutting the cost of pharmaceutical costs but says nothing about Big Insurance profits, or dealing with very high premium, copay and coinsurance costs to consumers. The cost of Obamacare, in the context of wage stagnation, the prevalence of lower wage jobs, and huge profits reaped by Big Insurance and Big Pharma is of particular concern to millions of voters. Clinton favors building on Obamacare. Trump, who, for most of his primary campaign proffered: “repeal and replace Obamacare with something much better,” published a seven-point healthcare proposal in March. He was on the record previously as telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that “I like the mandate. Here’s where I’m a little bit different. I don’t want people dying in the streets.” His new seven-point plan doesn’t reflect the statement, but it won’t be a big surprise if he reiterates a modified version of it in order to appeal to independent and blue collar voters later in the campaign.
These are some of the things that, in a normal election cycle, would be viewed as the issues of the day. But this is not a normal cycle by any stretch of the imagination. If one were to imagine a caricature-like candidate in some farcical alternate reality, Trump would fit the bill to a T. An opposing candidate of Hillary Clinton’s caliber, in a normal cycle, would be deemed a shoo-in for a landslide victory. But, as previously stated, this is no ordinary cycle and, it is becoming more and more apparent that, were she to become the nominee, we are not at all assured, even before the general election begins, that Clinton can put herself in position to dominate her opponent.
Donald Trump, described as a maniac by John Burton, Chairman of California’s Democratic party, certainly has a maniacal style. That description fits Trump’s unpredictable nature. Whatever else one might say about Trump’s methods, his success at keeping opponents off-balance has certainly been the main ingredient to his success. Mrs. Clinton, traditionally, has never done well under the duress created by sudden situations. In this context, she is poorly matched against Donald Trump, who seems to thrive on unpredictability. When placed under this type of duress, her Democratic opponent has shown the ability to adapt and react swiftly. Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, does well when prepped to deal with known trouble-spots, as was apparent during the Brooklyn debate when her questioner didn’t relent on the Wall Street speech money issue. But that was expected. What comes next, most likely won’t be.
Last week saw the release the Office of the Inspector General’s report on the email practices of Secretary Clinton and her predecessors, which I cover here:
The report is the first of two expected actions on Secretary Clinton’s usage of a private server from which she ran her government email and through which she corresponded during her tenure, surrendering to the Department of State, two years after the end of her tenure, only a portion of the correspondence that went through her private server. Within the scope of OIG’s investigation, were cybersecurity risk management and the preservation of records, as required by federal law.
The second expected action in the email scandal is the completion of the FBI’s own inquiry into Clinton’s private email server and any actions that may arise from it.
Then, in a third track, the first of several Clinton staffers were deposed by the attorneys of Judicial Watch as part of its Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit. Secretary Clinton may also be deposed in this case, as Judicial Watch states on its website. So far, two people have been deposed: Lewis A, Lukens and Cheryl D. Mills, respectively, Secretary Clinton’s executive director of State’s executive secretariat, and her chief of staff. While the New York Times covered Lukens’ testimony, coverage is sparser, compared to that of the websites Zero Hedge and Daily Caller.
The most astonishing revelations from Lukens’ testimony is that Secretary Clinton:
- never applied for a Dept. of State email account
- didn’t know how to access email on a desktop computer
- exclusively used her Blackberry phone to email
- had a standalone unsecured desktop computer set up right outside her office to check email
- did not use a password-protected email account
- may have used her Blackberry inside her office, against NSA regulation
Not using a password-protected account, when handling matters of state, is the most egregious of all the revelations here. It is akin to having an ATM card without a PIN or chip. What sane, competent executive would ever contemplate, much less demand that?
The more senior officials who are to be deposed are scheduled close to the end of June.Senator Bernie Sanders was asked by the host of CBS’ Face The Nation if he was going to use the email scandal against his opponent when arguing to the superdelegates that they should support him and not Hillary Clinton:
Sanders is right that voters need to take a close look at Hillary Clinton’s handling of the Secretary of State’s email. We are now only beginning to find out, through Judicial Watch’s request under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) just how careless and cavalier an operation Secretary Clinton ran at State. What we have learned here goes to both judgment and competence. If the Secretary never bothered to learn computer basics and is averse to technology, then she had the option of having dedicated staff get her emails printed out for her, if she absolutely, positively could not learn how to use a desktop computer. Instead, it is clear from testimony given, she had her staff come up with all kinds of shenanigans in order to accommodate her whims, rather than follow procedures and guidelines for cybersecurity and the preservation of government records.
So far, Clinton has not found a convincing explanation for her decision to bypass State. The press, while critical, has given her a pass on this. Senator Sanders, in the home stretch of the primary, is leaving it to us, voters, to decide how serious a matter this is. It’s a mistake he isn’t making more of an issue. He certainly would be within his right to. It is understandable that Sanders doesn’t want to wound Secretary Clinton, in case she does end up becoming the Democratic nominee. But to win, he is going to have to attack both as the last of the primaries take place, and in the DNC convention hall as he makes his case to the superdelegates. By then, the remainder of Clinton’s staff will have testified.
If Sanders doesn’t press Clinton on email, not only will Trump do it, but he will destroy any chance of Clinton winning the presidency by exposing flaws she will not be able to recover from. Not fighting back on old gossip and dalliances will be small potatoes next to Clinton not dealing with her email problem now.
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