Monday, July 18, 2016

Conventional Thinking

Donald Trump looks at the national party convention as a big TV show--and he's not wrong about that.  He will judge his TV production's success by the TV ratings his "showbiz" package produces, as compared to the one the Democrats will put on the following week.  Therefore, the least I can do as a public citizen is to vote with my remote:  the Republican convention's live broadcasts on the various networks will not receive one minute of my television monitors' time.  There may be some drama, very likely a metaphorical train wreck of some kind or other (either inside or outside the convention hall), but I can catch up with them through alternate sources (Stephen Colbert with Jon Stewart, Bill Maher's coverage, Rachel Maddow's....)

From the Democratic convention I expect little drama, but the roster of speakers will be far more impressive:  both Michelle and Barack Obama, both Hillary and Bill Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden.  I am flying out for vacation on Wednesday of that week (and we don't have home TV service where I'm going), but I'll do my best--maybe head to a local watering-hole Wednesday night for the President and Thursday night for the President-to-be.

My Problems with Hillary Clinton
I have been remiss in clearly proclaiming my endorsement of the presumptive Democratic nominee for the Presidency, though I believe any reader of my past posts would see that I always believed she both should and would win this election. Now that even Bernie Sanders has provided his endorsement, I certainly have no reason to hold back:  I promise my full support for her campaign. 

Still, I have some reasons for concerns, which I now intend to list, explain, and also point out some concerns others have that I do not share.  I hope this does not qualify me for the social media epithet, "concern troll", the meaning of which I confess I do not understand.

Concern 1:  Too Much Continuity - This is a concern more about electability than substance.  I am not looking for major changes from the policy directions President Obama has been pursuing; the lack of efficacy in the federal government (or in most state governments) is a function of Republican obstruction.  The question is whether the country needs a change, and, if so, can Hillary Clinton be expected to deliver it.  I was more concerned about this when it appeared the race might be Clinton-Bush II (the first was 1992!) , and now that it's Donald Trump that will be her opponent, it seems the question will be about change for change's sake rather than status quo vs. a plausible alternative.

The return to the White House of the Clintons after 16 years does seem a bit reactionary, as though we could wish away the last decade and a half  (or, at least, it seems nostalgic).  My desire is that Hillary win as big as possible, carry the Senate and bring the House closer to an even split, do her best to hit the ground running in 2017, have a good two years, campaign hard for the party in 2018, and then decide:  does she really want or need four more years of this?  Unless I am mistaken and she falls in love with the power (which would be a big problem), I think she can pass the torch to her designated successor--which is exactly why her choice of VP is so important--and leave office in January, 2021 with her place in history secure.

Concern 2:  Too Cozy with the Moneyed Elite - I don't think it's entirely fair to criticize her for the positions she took in favor of Wall Street when she was their Senator, nor do I think that her performance as Secretary of State gave unusual preference to American business (the fact is, it's just business as usual for State to seek to promote American business interests abroad).  What she has done since then as a private citizen doesn't concern me, either:  she and Bill have been reaping big bucks, for themselves and for their very worthwhile Clinton Foundation, and that's fine with me.

The concern I had is about the big money contributions she has been happy to receive, for her campaign and for the PAC's that support her.  I recognize that President Obama did the same as she has been doing, with the valid justification that unilateral monetary disarmament is a fool's strategy; however, she seems a bit too comfortable with it.  I will say in her defense that a lot of the big money she has raised has been passed on to other Democratic candidates, and that she has come out clearly for a Constitutional Amendment to reverse Citizens United (something that will seemingly never pass) and, more importantly, for making it a litmus test for Supreme Court justices she will nominate. Again, though, I wish she would walk the walk a little (more in the mode Bernie Sanders did):  it means little unless she is willing to sacrifice her self-interest, at least a little, for the cause.

Concern 3:  The War Hawk Thing - Let's just say that it would be good if Hillary has an opportunity to say "no, thanks" to some proposed military incursion between now and November.  She has more than established her strong support for a robust American military posture.  A little more than required, even.  At least she has the good sense to regret that her 2002 vote to give Dubya authorization for military action in Iraq turned out the way that it did, something Mike Pence does not have.

That's it.  Now for a couple of concerns I've heard expressed that I don't share.

She Didn't Accommodate Bernie Sanders Supporters Enough -  Hillary does not have to make the concession of choosing a Sanders follower, or Sanders himself, for her Vice Presidential nominee, and she won't.  In some sense, Sanders might have made sense as the nominee once it became clear Trump would end up being the Republicans' nominee; get the cat to catch the rat, as they say.  It was never going to happen, however.  From the point of view of giving the Democratic primary campaign and the platform for the general election some real substance, I am glad Sanders ran, and also glad that his efforts were so successful. It's now part of the party's DNA, and that will pay great dividends in the future.  When it comes to the VP pick, though, Hillary should pick the best person to get white, college-educated voters to support her, someone intelligent who could carry on as President if needed.

I don't blame Bernie for the delay in his endorsement, either.  For one thing, he didn't need to give up his shot until the off chance that Hillary might be indicted had passed (was that months ago, though?) He owed his passionate supporters a good battle over the platform, which was duly battled, and seems to have emerged as a reasonable center-left amalgam. In particular, it calls out the issues of climate change, income inequality, and campaign reform more than it would have without his influence.

The Damned Emails:  Here is what Hillary, and her subordinates, were guilty of:  a conspiracy to deny the American public the access to her private communication which the Freedom of Information Act allows.  Is that a crime?  I'm no lawyer, I don't know, but apparently it wasn't enough to indict a ham sandwich, let alone a major party Presidential nominee.  I am sympathetic to her desire, though I recognize that any hope of privacy is pretty much a lost cause.

As a conspiracy, it was evidently a total failure.  We now know a lot more about all her emails than we ever would have known, or care to have known, if she had used the government server.  Even if some misguided do-gooder had hacked and released them all, something not improbable in this day. They don't amount to much in their substance, and it is generally not understood that she used secure lines of communication, available to the State Department in every nation, for the really important stuff.

I have been arguing in Facebook and the like that nobody cares--outside the chattering classes of the Beltway, or the professional information security professionals who get so worked up about the rules There is another group, those who are unalterably opposed to her anyway and see it as a great opportunity to make political hay.  I'm not in any of those groups.

TP: T'Pence for His Thoughts
Mike Pence is the perfect "Veep", as in the brilliant TV satire with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss  in the title role.  There is absolutely no reason to think he will serve any purpose other than to reassure right-wingers that Trump's on their side.  In that regard, though, he was a solid choice, much better than the other two finalists, Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie, would have been.  Gingrich would have threatened to one-up his craziness at times, and Christie, by now, is so thoroughly humiliated that even Trump could not stand to have him around.

The gossip is that Pence was having trouble with his re-election bid for Indiana governor and this provided him a relatively safe harbor.   From Hillary's point of view, Pence is no threat and she can name any intelligent moderate or liberal, confident that person will show up Pence as the raving loony with a reassuringly normal look that his record shows that he is.

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