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GOP: Zika? Who cares? We want to fly the Confederate flag!

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Everybody knows the Zika virus is a menace. Last month the Centers for Disease Control issued an unprecedented travel warning” to pregnant women, and repeated that warning on Monday, adding that women in susceptible groups should get tested for the virus.”

Considering the seriousness, President Obama and Senate Democrats urged Congress, one month ago, to approve $1.9 billion in emergency funding, a reasonable enough request, given Zika’s epidemic status in Brazil, where in addition to brain encephalopathy, other viral infections connected to the disease, including hearing loss in infants, are being reported.

Reasonable enough, also, given that the World Health Organization says that More than two billion people are at risk of developing the Zika virus.”

Yet to date, Congress failed to move forward a… funding package to help the country address the outbreak of Zika,” reported ABC News yesterday.

Why the inaction? Because Republicans are trying to festoon a Zika-appropriation bill with their other pet projects, including t[aking] aim at Planned Parenthood funding, end[ing] pesticide regulation, and…allow[ing] the Confederate Flag to be flown at military cemeteries.”

Historic metaphor time [stay with me here]:

Back in the 1940s, when F.D.R. was trying to persuade Americans to approve Lend-Lease to help Great Britain in her war against Hitler, the President resorted to a homely analogy. Britain needed ships and other materials now, he said, and could not wait for endless political machinations to wend their way through Congress. His analogy was to a house catching fire. “Let me give you an illustration,” he began. “Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire. Now, what do I do? I don’t say to him before that operation, ‘Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it.’ What is the transaction that goes on? I don’t want $15–I want my garden hose back after the fire is over. All right. If it goes through the fire all right, intact, without any damage to it, he gives it back to me and thanks me very much for the use of it. But suppose it gets smashed up–holes in it–during the fire; we don’t have to have too much formality about it, but I say to him, ‘I was glad to lend you that hose; I see I can’t use it any more, it’s all smashed up.’ He says, ‘How many feet of it were there?’ I tell him, ‘There were 150 feet of it.’ He says, ‘All right, I will replace it.’ Now, if I get a nice garden hose back, I am in pretty good shape.”

F.D.R.’s point was that, when the crisis is upon you, you act to end it immediately; you don’t haggle over ridiculous details. Yet that is precisely what these Congressional Republicans are doing.

We have an outbreak of a deadly disease on our shores, and the Republicans are tying it to defunding Planned Parenthood—a fight they cannot otherwise win. Really? Zika is sickening if not killing babies in Florida, and Republicans prefer instead to make fighting Zika dependent on allowing the Confederate flag to fly. Really?

What the hell is going on?

What’s going on, friends, is what’s known as a “poison pill.” Republicans know that Zika funding is badly needed, and is being demanded by the public. So they attach unrealistic and highly partisan stipulations to Obama’s proposed funding legislation, in the hope that the President won’t dare to veto it—which, by the way, he has threatened to do.

Let’s just focus in on one of the more absurd poison pills, the Confederate flag thing. Who’s in back of the preposterous proposal to let the Stars and Bars fly high? One of its prime backers is New Jersey Republican Congressman Scott Garrett. He may not be from the Deep South, but “he has more in common with rural Alabamans than the people of northern New Jersey.” This is the same Rep. Garrett who said he opposes same-sex marriage as a man of faith” and who added that he would not support the National Republican Congressional Committee—his own party’s organizational arm—“because it actively recruited gay candidates and supported homosexuals in primaries.”

Garrett is a Bible-thumper who home-schooled his children because, he said, he and his wife could find no high school offering a Christian education.” He was an early Trump endorser whose Twitter feed is a shopping-list of rightwing craziness: Keeping Gitmo open to “stop terrorists from having the chance to attack America,” warning against “tyrannical government bureaucracies” and “Washington elites,” and attacking Hillary Clinton every chance he gets. (Incidentally, is Garrett himself a Washington elite? He’s been a Congressman for 13 years. Sounds pretty insidery to me.)

This is your modern Republican party, folks, your extremist religious Trump supporters who can’t wait to appoint the next few Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade and Obamacare, and see if they can get the Court to make gay marriage once again illegal.

And what about the Zika virus? Ask Rep. Garrett why he’s holding Zika funding hostage to his pet rightwing obsessions. If he loves babies so much, why is he letting them die? While you’re at it, ask every Republican you meet the same questions. We have a crisis now. It’s time to lend our neighbor, who is ourself, the fire hose to put out the fire.


Why do white men overwhelmingly back Trump?

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Throughout history, white males have taken their superiority—over women, over men of color, over other men they look down on—for granted.

To understand the precedence of white men, in the West at least, we need to look at the book that has most shaped Western thinking: the Bible. That the people of the Old and New Testaments lived in a patriarchy is unquestioned. Women were chattel, or nearly so. Tribal chieftains, like Abraham, exercised total control over their flocks. God was conceived as male. When Christianity imposed a religious order on society, it, too, kept intact a white male power structure. From the Pope on down to pastors, a military-like hierarchy kept men in control, and everybody else out.

No wonder white men have gotten used to being Tops. It’s always been that way. You might even say, if you buy into this kind of stuff, that some law of the universe—maybe even God–made it that way. Men are smarter, more able to make decisive, intelligent decisions—the kind upon which individual survival as well as the survival of the tribe depends. “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” the hapless Henry Higgins, in My Fair Lady, wondered, listing a J’accuse! of offenses against females:

Women are irrational, that’s all there is to that!
Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They’re nothing but exasperating, irritating,
vacillating, calculating, agitating,
Maddening and infuriating hags!

If Henry Higgins felt that way about women, how must he have felt about colored people?

After all, men built the British Empire! Men settled the Colonies (America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand), felling forests, eliminating indigenous people and making great nations! White men were the scientists, the artisans, the philosophers, the explorers, the hunters who put food on the table, who defended the tribe against its enemies, who always knew the right thing to do, because Nature endowed them—not women, not colored people—with reason, logic and insight.

We come now to an America (and a Western world) that seems to be losing all the old values. White people no longer are a majority in California, and in a few decades will no longer be a majority in America.

To the white guy who resents the intrusion of inferior “others” into his life, onto his block, and beside whom he must work, the pop-up of Blacks, Latinos, Asians and gays (the white guys who ran the world were straight), this is terribly confusing and problematic.

It’s not hard to feel empathy with white guys losing power; I am a white guy. They feel their world slipping away. All sorts of thoughts and emotions dash through their heads: resentment, fear, envy, anger, incredulity, frustration. They think there must be a reason for things spiraling out of control—perhaps a conspiracy. These feelings are natural. Many men feel these things, but not all give into them. Many choose to correct their internal balance, to better themselves through interior spiritual work, to sort these feelings out. They strive to be “better people” through rising above their own negativity. This kind of white man has variously been called a liberal, a metrosexual, an urban identifier, part of a culture that sees itself in the vanguard of creating a new, fairer and more open and responsible political and social order.

Unfortunately, there’s another kind of white male—the kind that loves Donald Trump. These are men who, instead of struggling against their own negative emotions, give in to them. They sacrifice their humanity and compassion to the gods of anger and fear. For most of the twentieth century, and especially after World War II, outright expressions of hatred—towards minorities, towards women—were concealed in polite society, because to make them public would be embarrassing, and invite the censure of friends and family. But the right wing in America has invented a so-called “war on political correctness,” the meaning of which is this: These people now give each other permission to hate. Hatred of “the other” used to be cause for shame. Now it is a cause célebre, and is the igniting factor behind the Trump phenomenon.

This, by the way, is why the same white men who have a bit of a homoerotic thing about Trump loathe Hillary Clinton. She’s not their idea of “the right kind of woman”: complacent, quiet, with a passive disposition. Hell, they had her number back when Bill was running in the Democratic primaries in 1992, when she said that, rather than having had a superb career as an attorney, “I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas.” Since that’s exactly the kind of woman these men wanted (and, later, they loved Laura Bush), they immediately pegged Hillary as an urban, strong, pants-suited bitch, an “irritating hag” with a mind of her own. And they’ve been hating on her ever since, locked as they are into a regressive emotional state.

Trump is himself both a victim of this negativity, and its enabler-in-chief. As a [very] successful and famous straight white male himself, his overt expressions of hatred and anger (and in particular his venomous smearing of Hillary) cause other white men to think along these lines: “Hey, if he can feel that way—and say it, and get away with it—then there’s nothing wrong with me! I can feel that way and say it, too, and there are millions of others who feel the same way.” Strength in numbers gives these men the courage to indulge in their resentments.

And there are a lot of them. The latest CNN poll shows men preferring Trump over Hillary Clinton by a whopping 54% to 32%. This is considerably larger than womens’ preference for Hillary over Trump (53% to 38%). This poll should make us worry; Trump leads Clinton among all likely voters by 2%. While these numbers will certainly change in coming weeks, they testify to a troubling trend: white men are showing no sign of giving up their anger in favor of more positive, sensible solutions to problems, such as the kinds Hillary offers. These men are indulging in magical thinking: Let’s elect somebody who’s as angry as we are, and hope that anger, alone, will be the answer to all America’s problems.

It won’t be, you know. It never has been. Hitler tried it, and we know what happened to his country. But these 53% of angry white men don’t care. They’ll vote their emotions, and as for the consequences, screw it. They’d rather have an America fueled by anger than one in which mature politicians make careful decisions. They—the angry white guys—may well get what they wish for.


Trump: Duterte got it right

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In an interview with The Drudge Report, Republican Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump vowed to “crack down on illegal Mexicans using the same super-effective methods that my good friend, Rodrigo Duterte, is using so successfully in the Philippines Islands.”

Duterte was elected that country’s president last May, on a platform to rid the nation of drug criminals. Since then, some 10,000 people have been arrested and 2,500 have been killed, not only by legitimate police forces but also by so-called “death squads”–vigilante groups that enjoy Duterte’s tacit support.

As the New Republic reported yesterday, in a typical Manila scene, A shot rings out, and a person lies dead on the street with a cardboard sign laid next to him, scrawled with a single word: ‘Pusher.’”

Duterte’s approval of extra-judicial executions has been condemned by journalists, human rights groups, the U.S. government, and the United Nations. Duterte rejects all the criticisms, instead vowing to defend our crackdown on illegal drugs no matter what these fucking morons say.”

Trump, in the Drudge Report interview, praised Duterte’s get-tough methods and pledged to “support him with everything we’ve got. He’s a great guy, he really is. I’m looking forward to meeting him. And by the way, I love lumpia.” He called the Filipino president’s opponents “obviously supporters of the failed Obama-Clinton drug policies” and suggested that Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “loves drug pushers.” When she was Secretary of State, he said, “Crooked Hillary allowed drug mules to roam this country like animals. They have created havoc, not only on our borders, but throughout America. Face it, folks, Crooked Hillary’s probably on drugs. Maybe I’ll start calling her Cracked-Out Hillary.”

Asked to provide specific details of the Clinton policies that helped drug dealers, or any evidence that the former Secretary of State uses illegal drugs, Trump replied, “We’re looking into that. You’ll know soon enough.”

The GOP standard-bearer promised that illegal Mexicans stopped for even minor offenses, such as a rear car light being out or for littering, would face immediate deportation. “We’ll get rid of them so fast, you won’t believe it, that I can tell you. We’ll create a special Mexican Deportation Squad, comprised of unemployed ex-military veterans who—unlike Crooked Hillary–love America. And they know how to use guns.”

Asked what he would do if Mexico’s government refused to accept return of the illegal aliens, Trump said, “Believe me, they won’t. My new good friend, Piña Nieto, told me he’d take them. But even if he doesn’t—and he will, trust me on this—there’s plenty of room in those big, rectangular states out West where we can store them.”

Trump also suggested he might ask “loyal Americans” to form their own “civilian round-up” teams to place illegal Mexicans under citizen’s arrest. “This is a huge problem, folks, I don’t need to tell you that, and we’re going to need every real American to help out our Deportation Squads, who by the way are going to be very well paid. That, I can tell you.” Trump said he might put his sons, Donald, Jr., and Eric, in charge. “They good at hunting animals,” he pointed out.

TrumpDeath

Told of Piña Nieto’s refusal to pay for the Wall—repeated again yesterday—Trump hinted at a “secret plan, a huge, fantastic, unbelievably great plan,” he would institute if elected. “We might make the younger illegals, say under 60, we round up who are in good shape build that Wall, like they did with the pyramids. We’re looking into that. But I can tell you this: whoever builds it, Mexico will be paying for it one way or another, that I can guarantee.”


Trump’s Dozens: America’s Insulter-in-Chief

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In Black culture, there is a spoken-word game, The Dozens, in which (to quote Wikipedia), participants insult each other…in front of an audience…until one gives up.”

Among the more common topics for insulting one’s opponent are “lack of intelligence, ugliness, cowardice, poor hygiene, and exaggerations of physical defects…” (Eminem’s 2002 movie, 8 Mile, features a good re-enactment of a Dozens contest.)

Ugliness…physical defects…lack of intelligence…If, dear reader, you are by now thinking of a certain Republican candidate for President, who can blame you?

There is no evidence Donald Trump knows of the existence of The Dozens. He certainly didn’t grow up black (despite his recent pandering to black voters). And yet I am not the first or the only one to note that Trump’s nonstop insults, both during the primary and now during the general election, can well be called a version—white and rightwing—of The Dozens.

Following the South Carolina primary, when Trump repeatedly insulted Jeb “Low Energy” Bush, the National Black Chamber of Commerce on its website headlined a blog post “Trump Plays The Dozens,” in which the author criticized Jeb for not defending himself vigorously enough against Trump’s onslaught: “You…got hustled,” he wrote. In other words, in front of an audience, Jeb Bush gave up.

In June, the Huffington Post ran an opinion piece, “Donald Trump And Playing The Dozens,” in which the Rev. Dr. Frank Thomas, a black man, nailed Trump’s strategy: “The object of the dozens is to bewilder and confound one’s opponent with swift, skillful and creative speech. It is a contest of personal and rhetorical power—of wit, self-control, emotional strength, and mental agility and toughness—in which the person who gets angry or has no comeback is the loser.” A year ago, in yet another post also titled “Playing The Dozens,” the Daily Kos slammed the media—and NBC’s Chuck Todd in particular—for “treat[ing] the bullshit of oratory vomit gushing from Trump’s lips as something coherent and substantive”; this is a charge with which I fully agree (and CNN is the absolute worst in this regard). If media talking heads really wanted to call out Trump’s bullshit, they have plenty of opportunities: the New York Times studied Trump’s tweets and came up with a list of “258 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted…” If that’s not enough, try Googling “Why does Donald Trump insult people?” You’ll get 5,550,000 hits. That’s a lot of insults.

Where did Trump come across this particular form of verbal bullying? You can source it to his New York roots. He was born in Queens (where my own parents lived, after moving there from The Bronx). Queens was, of course, the home of Archie and Edith Bunker (“All in the Family”); Archie was, famously, a bigot, loudmouth and bully, an early model of the angry, working-class white males that form Trump’s shock troops. Still, we loved Archie despite his flaws, because he possessed a trait Trump does not: after all the bluster and blarney, Archie was a sweet man with a tender heart, and capable of perceiving, however dimly, his faults. (Archie’s family also was a lot more likeable than Trump’s.)

Why is Trump so good at insulting? To him, insulting is not a game, as it is in The Dozens, where it’s fun and harms no one. In Trump’s case, it’s sheer, unprovoked aggression, which makes it the kind of trait nobody wants in a human being: neighbor, family, co-worker. We avoid these kinds of people, and rightfully so: they hurt others, for no reason at all, and are not responsive to attempts at friendship. In my view, Trump simply wasn’t raised right. His parents allowed him to be a bully, perhaps even encouraged him; and the lack of moral values in his home encouraged a feral, nasty streak, aided and abetted by his father’s wealth, which let him think he could get away with any behavior, no matter how objectionable. Trump is, in short, the classic mean rich boy, the kind of kid nobody liked–which in turn made him him even angrier and more insulting.

Trump is going to out-do himself for the next two months before the election in insulting Hillary Clinton. Expect an onslaught of “oratory vomit.” How is she going to defend herself? She can’t match Trump’s “rhetorical power”—can’t out-insult him, especially live, during the debates, nor should she try to do so. Nor can she take the haughty high road, as Jeb Bush tried to do: Trump will hustle her. If she looks hapless, this will feed into Kellyanne Conway’s latest smear: Hillary’s health.

The greatest asset Hillary has is her dignity. She has never lost it, not during the egregious calumnies lodged by Republicans during her eight years as First Lady. Not during even worse lies during and after her service as Secretary of State. She maintained her dignity (and her family, something the thrice-married Trump was unable to do, or maybe he just didn’t give a damn) throughout the awfulness of her husband’s philandering, and while he was being hounded by a rogue Republican House of Representatives attempting to drive him from office.

So here’s my advice to Hillary: stay dignified. When answering Trump, be in command of your facts: Trump’s racism, misogyny, xenophobia, bullying…his unsavory business practices…the way he insults, not only people, but our country’s allies…the flirting with dictators…the flip-flops, the pandering unreality of his “Wall”…the rip-off schemes of “Trump University” and his get-rich-quick T.V. scam…his anger and infantilism, his utter incompetence to be President of the United States, the fact that insults are all he has. You can point out, as needed, the glaring personal defects in his curriculum vitae (multiple wives, endless lawsuits, repeated bankruptcies) without seeming vicious. Just the facts, ma’am. Do it coolly, with a level head. Look the camera—the American people—in the eye. You are honest and sincere, Hillary Clinton: Donald Trump is not. Even his supporters know he’s batshit. So, Madame Secretary, dignity is your best defense to Trump’s Dozens.


On the Vatican’s influence in American politics: the Murdoch connection

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In no other major U.S. newspaper but Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal will you find, right there on the editorial page, a column that could have been written for L’Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of Vatican City and thus of the Roman Catholic Church.

A recent example was last Friday’s “review” of the new movie, Ben Hur. It was written by Charlotte Allen, a Christian writer for the conservative Weekly Standard (whose writers include such unrepentant neocons as Iraq War proponents Elliott Abrams and John Bolton). Allen’s other writings have included attacks on breastfeeding, transgendered people and (shocking, shocking) Hillary Clinton, whom Allen compares to Roswell UFO enthusiasts. (How’s that again?) Allen also is obsessed with quashing tales that Jesus had a wife, a theory that actually is enjoying a certain popularity lately (but why does Allen find it so upsetting?). Allen, in other words, earns her living as a Christian apologist, which makes her the perfect Murdoch doppelganger.

Almost all critics have savaged this latest Ben-Hur flick, but Allen’s contempt for it rests, not on any lack of cinematic virtue—she does not claim to be, and patently is not, a real film critic–but because it is not Christian enough to suit her tastes. The film’s producers, who also created The History Channel’s award-winning series “The Bible,” don’t hammer home any specifically theological aspects of Jesus’s ministry, preferring instead to focus on the literary-historical epic that Ben-Hur’s original author, Lew Wallace, told in his 1880 novel. In fact, in that book, Wallace preferred to dwell on the relationship between Ben-Hur and Jesus; there is very little religion per se. Ben-Hur is an adventure story of a transformative friendship between two men.

That’s not good enough for Allen, though, who wishes the movie were more theological. Well, that’s her right; let’s move along. Why is an overtly Christian column—and a conservative one, at that (there are, after all, other strains of Christianity than rightwing)—given prominence on the editorial page of the supposedly non-sectarian WSJ?

Because the Wall Street Journal is not non-sectarian.

At a normal newspaper, like the New York Times, or any other professionally objective paper, the editors would tread exceedingly lightly in habitually espousing one particular religion on the editorial page. But if you’re the Wall Street Journal, your first and foremost duty is to be the standard-bearer for your owner’s religion. And, while Rupert Murdoch has been cagey about revealing the specifics of his religious beliefs, There is no denying the identification of Murdoch’s media empire,” according to this Adventist blog, “with the rightwing political agenda of the Roman Catholic Church in America.”

America’s Founding Fathers were concerned with Vatican interference in our internal affairs.* To Enlightenment men and women, the Church had hoisted itself on its own petard, through such peculiarities as its murderous anti-semitism, the Inquisition, and the idiocy of condemning Galileo—for which the Church did not apologize for more than 350 years.

Such irrational intransigence would be no more than tiresome, if confined within its own house. But the Church never has been content to remain a stay-at-home religion. And when unreason spills over into the Body Politic, we have reason to be concerned. You need look no further than the U.S. Supreme Court, where—until Antonin Scalia’s death—six of the nine Justices were Murdoch’s fellow co-religionists: the Catholics John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and, until his demise last February, Scalia.

Kennedy is a swing vote; his reading of the law occasionally outweighs his faith. Sotomayor often votes against the wishes of her Church, being of the noble opinion that religion ought not interfere with an objective interpretation of American law. The others, alas, seldom or never contravened Catholic doctrine. In fact, some of them—Scalia in particular—were so hostile to homosexual rights, despite the obvious march of History in that direction, that they openly incorporated the Church’s labeling of homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered” into their written opinions, as witness, for example, Scalia’s description of homosexuality as “immoral and destructive” and, just to make sure nobody misunderstood, as when he compared same-sex love to “murder, polygamy and cruelty to animals.” (Perhaps some future Pope in the year 2400 will apologize to gay people for persecuting them.)

Can there be any doubt that the Wall Street Journal is the voice of official Catholic doctrine? Rupert Murdoch himself might even admit that it is; he might, however, justify it by claiming that Catholicism is the true religion, and that besides, he, as publisher, owes it to his savior to spread the word and be “a light for the Gentiles…to the end of the Earth.”

So let’s call a spade a spade. The Wall Street Journal is not a real newspaper; it is a voice of the Roman Catholic church, at least on its editorial pages. One might say the same thing about Murdoch’s Fox News television show, whose chief agitators—Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Bo Dietl, Neil Cavuto—all are Catholic, and espouse a virulent form of Catholic reactionary conservatism.

How Murdoch gets away without criticism for being the Vatican’s mouthpiece is a puzzlement. Can you imagine a Muslim-owned newspaper or T.V. news channel in America that routinely reflected the Wahhabist Islam of Sunni mullahs? Fox News and the Wall Street Journal would demand that it be investigated and shut down. What’s the difference here, friends? Let’s just agree to get religion out of journalism—and out of politics, too. If that means sidelining certain American mullahs and their followers, so be it.

And in case you’re wondering why this matters, here’s Thomas Jefferson: “It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. … Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.

* The Vatican continues to try and influence U.S. politics. They, along with the Mormon Church, were one of the prime backers of California’s anti-gay Proposition 8, which eventually was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court due to a rare moment of lucidity from Justice Roberts. Meanwhile, Pope Francis, ironically, has turned out to be less homophobic than many of his American flock.


In Defense of Hillary: Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, and those emails

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A reader comments: If you want to have an impact on this election I suggest you work on a rigorous defense and explanation of Hillary’s shortcomings and mistakes rather than focusing on what should be painfully obvious about Trump being the most worthless candidate possibly ever.”

Fair enough. Let’s go.

Trump’s flip-flop on immigration is the talk of the town, but really, when you think about it, he’s back-pedaled on every issue that has driven his campaign. The only promise he made that he hasn’t retracted, or “softened” to use his own parlance, is “The Wall.” He still swears he’ll build it. But we haven’t heard much rhetoric lately about making Mexico pay for it—Pena Nieto has flat-out stated there’s “no way” that will happen—and I will make this prediction, right here and now: before Election Day, Trump will “soften” his position on “The Wall.” Maybe we’ll get a little fence.

There’s one other issue Trump hasn’t back-pedaled on, although it’s not so much an “issue” as a mood, an attack, a slur: the “Crooked Hillary” thing. Allegations of HRC’s untrustworthiness predate Trump’s candidacy: the Republican smear machine has been busy working on Hillary for decades, as I pointed out last Monday.

All that Trump has done has been to double-down on the charges, and make them more insulting. Regarding the untrustworthiness, let’s put aside the emails, Benghazi and the Clinton Foundation for the moment, for the untrustworthy image was used against her before those issues arose. Where does it come from? I would wage not a single Hillary hater can actually point to anything specific, beyond a “mood” they’re pinning on her. The “scandals” of the Clinton presidency—every one of them manufactured by the right–are long gone. No charge or allegation against Hillary has ever stuck; every investigation, whether juridical or legislative or journalistic, has ended up dry. All that remains behind is the taint of something unsavory. But this smell was first cooked up by the Republican attack machine, then spread endlessly by Fox “News” and trash-talk rightwing radio. Little wonder some credulous voters think, “Well, if so many people say she’s crooked, she must be. After all, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Well, no, that’s not true. Where there’s smoke, there’s a Republican smoke machine.

Benghazi. Every official body that’s looked into it has concluded the Secretary did nothing wrong. Obviously, Americans died that day. Americans stationed overseas die from terrorist attacks during every presidency, but only during Barack Obama’s has one of the major political parties so politicized a terrible event for such malign purposes. When 241 American servicemen were killed in the Beirut bombing of 1983, nobody blamed President Reagan. Democrats stood loyally by his side. When nearly 3,000 people were killed during the Sept. 11 attacks, nobody blamed President George W. Bush. Democrats once again stood loyally by his side. What was different about Benghazi? Nothing. Horrible things happen, and the best a government can do is to learn from them and try to do better in the future.

It used to be said that “Politics stops at the water’s edge.” It still does with Democrats, but Republicans have abandoned every pretense at patriotism with these ramped-up, baseless charges. You would think that every sensible American understands this, but then, Republicans abandoned common sense when they declared war on the Clintons (and the Obamas). Tragic as it was, Benghazi cannot be blamed on Hillary Clinton. We’re at war, folks, and unless you close all the embassies, their personnel are going to remain at some risk, especially in dangerous zones like North Africa. When–not “if”–that happens next, Democrats will rally behind whoever is President.

Then there are the emails. Hillary chose, for reasons of convenience, to have two email accounts, her own personal one and a State Department one, and she sometimes overlapped them, mixing business with personal communications. I’ve done the same thing: I have always had a personal account and a business one, and I bet a lot of you do, too. What’s wrong with that? Republicans say, “It showed bad judgment.” Really? Worse judgment than G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney launching the Iraq War? Worse judgment than Trump calling Mexicans rapists and criminals? Worse judgment than McCain’s choosing the imbecilic Sarah Palin? Worse judgment than W. Bush letting banks run amok with indefensible home loans? Worse judgment than Trump embracing white supremacy? Worse judgment than a Republican Party utterly unable to stand up to the National Rifle Association’s bullying? Come on.

Did Hillary inadvertently include classified information in her personal emails? Perhaps—at least, to some extent; there are different levels of “classified.” But not even the FBI could find any reason to criminally pursue her. Comey had to finger-wag her (for political reasons), but trust me, if he could have, he would have brought charges. He couldn’t—because the evidence just wasn’t there; and, Republicans notwithstanding, America remains at the moment a nation of laws. And yet, Republicans will not let go. They will ride this limping, panting horse until it collapses from underneath them. But the damage is done: some percentage of Americans have had their brains hacked by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and so will go to their graves insisting “Hillary gave national security secrets to the [fill-in-the-blank: Russians, commies, terrorists, Lesbians, Martians, ISIS]. She cannot be trusted.” Well, last word on the emails: She won’t do it again, and neither will any future Secretary of State, or Cabinet member for that matter, not in this day and age; for we have a brand new rule, the “Hillary Rule”: no secondary email accounts! By the way, Colin Powell, a Republican Secretary of State, also “used a personal email account.” But Democrats didn’t go after Powell because nobody cared, and nobody should care about Hillary’s emails, either.

And now we come to the Clinton Foundation. As I blogged the other day, the Foundation is the singularly most effective social- and environmental-activist group in the world.” How did it get there? By knowing and befriending the world’s most powerful people. Clinton’s modus was obvious from the beginning: as the most popular human being on Earth after he left the Presidency (some called him “President of the World”), Bill Clinton took advantage of those relationships to essentially wangle money from rich people, countries and institutions, in order to pay for medicine, research and relief efforts around the globe. Does anyone have a problem with that? Clinton tapped his daughter to help him. Got a problem with Chelsea? And Hillary helped. Did she use her position as Secretary of State in order to gain leverage with these wealthy donors? Probably she did. Did Hillary charm some Saudi prince or Russian oligarch at her and Bill’s Whitehaven Street home in D.C. to get them to pony up a quarter-million to help teach modern farming to poor people in Rwanda and Tanzania? Probably yes. Got a problem with that? Why? Did that Saudi prince or Russian oligarch benefit from their relationship with Hillary and Bill? Prove it, my friend. If you can’t, then shut up.

(By the way, who the hell has Trump ever helped in his entire life? Since he won’t release his tax returns, we don’t know if he even gives 2 cents to charity. He’s a greedy old geezer who lives in mansions and skips out on his bills to the struggling vendors he hires.)

Speaking of benefit, what would have been Hillary’s motive in coaxing money from rich people for the Clinton Foundation, beyond the philanthropic element? Cui bono, the lawyers ask: Who benefits? The people of the world whom the Clinton Foundation helped. That’s who benefited. Got a problem with that?

But wait, Republicans say: Bill and Hillary benefited too. They are now very wealthy people. Well, yes, but how did they make their money? Not through the Clinton Foundation. Nobody is alleging the Saudis or anyone else paid the Clintons money. (Well, nobody except the likes of Breitbart, and they make this crap up.) Bill and Hillary made their money the same way Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush made their money when they left the White House: through writing books and giving speeches. If you want to pass a law or Constitutional amendment forbidding former Presidents (or First ladies, or Cabinet officers) from writing memoirs or giving speeches, feel free. But don’t hold it against Hillary (or Bill) that they did something that was (a) perfectly legal, (b) guided by precedent and (c) that you, yourself, no doubt would do, if you could. As a matter of fact, Forbes Magazine (hardly a defender of the Left) did a little digging on politicians giving paid speeches, and guess what? “An examination of the highest speaking fees ever paid puts Donald Trump on top with the staggering $1.5 million the Learning Annex paid him for each speech he delivered at the company’s real estate ‘wealth expos’ in 2006 and 2007.” How about that, Trumpsters? Are you up in arms about Donald’s conflicts of interest?

(And by the way, here are some of The Learning Annex’s major publications: “Intro to Pole Dancing,” “Make Contact with Lost Loved Ones” and “How to Marry the Rich.” There is no evidence—yet—that Melania read the latter book before she snared her current husband.)

Does some of what Hillary did look questionable? Sure. The Goldman Sachs lecture is wince-worthy. But, hey, Ronald Reagan made a ton of money as General Electric’s paid speaker and nobody held that against him when he was President and his administration was awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to G.E. As for former President George W. Bush (whose name no Republican dares mention), his standard speaking fee is in the low six figures, and to date he’s earned at least $15 million from speaking. So what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so to speak.

Look, it’s easy to imagine all sorts of unsavory, quid-pro-quo things happening behind closed doors. We’ve seen enough movies and read enough political thrillers to be conditioned for that, and the Republican machine takes every opportunity to amplify it. They did it again in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, where their nastiest columnist, Kimberley Strassel, officially dubbed Hillary’s State Department “the U.S. Department of Clinton” and accused Hillary of running “a secret, ongoing” cabal she sought to hide from the public and Congress. This is bullshit red-meat rhetoric for the haters, but once again, Strassel can prove nothing, despite weeks and months of ongoing investigations that have resulted in squat. In a country, America, where we cherish a system of jurisprudence based on fairness, evidence and the law, we have a Republican Party that has abandoned fairness, evidence and the law, in order to pursue an agenda of vigilante vengeance: an immature agenda, like a little child who can’t eat all the candy she wants and will stamp her feet and scream until Mommy relents. This is why Trump is dropping in the polls: Clinton is up in every recent one, because the mendacity of Trump and the Republican attack machine is turning people off. The more that Republicans rant on about Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s email server, the more swing voters are starting to wonder: Hey, why aren’t they talking about my issues? Here’s the answer: Because they can’t. They have nothing to say.

So, dear reader, this is my “rigorous defense” of Hillary. I hope it’s good enough for you. If not, you’re unpersuadable.


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