Friday, August 21, 2015

Happy Friday!

Joining the show today is 2016 hopeful Jim Webb, Tony Hale from VEEP and Zbigniew Brzezinski with personal reflections on his time with former President Carter.

A Moment of Grace From Jimmy Carter. The 90-year-old former president’s discussion of his cancer is a reminder of why so many Americans once placed their faith in him. The 1970s were overall a terrible and traumatic time, and Jimmy Carter was both their product and their victim. He was their product in that it took an unprecedented national convulsion—turmoil and eventually defeat in Vietnam, the forced resignation of a president—to give a little-known one-term governor of Georgia, and peanut farmer, a chance at national office. He was their victim in that the woes of the late 1970s—gasoline shortages and price spikes, worldwide hyper-inflation that drove the prime interest rate to 21 percent, the dawn of Islamist turmoil in the Middle East, leading to the revolution in Iran—all happened on his watch and dragged him down. Even so, as he points out and as most historians attest, if he had sent one more helicopter on the doomed rescue mission for American hostages in Tehran, he would probably have been re-elected in 1980, and Ronald Reagan might have missed his chance.

The 1970s are so dis-esteemed, and Carter has been so vilified (in counterpoint to the elevation of Reagan), and the entire era is now so long in the past, that many people may wonder how Carter could have become president in the first place.

I think the video of today’s press conference, at which the 90-year-old President Carter discussed the spread of cancer through his body and how he planned to continue his work, will give you a glimpse of what people saw in the man.

Beyond that, it is an extraordinary display of human grace. And humor!

I worked for Jimmy Carter in the campaign and for two years in the White House. I had my differences with and criticisms of him during his troubled time in office, along of course with admiration and respect. I now find it amazing that so many things he did, and tried to do, stand up so well in the long run. The peace that has lasted in the Middle East is the one he willed into existence, between Israel and Egypt.

But even if you disdain his ideas and his works, I suggest watching this performance for its display of intelligence, serenity, and, again, grace, of a sort we all can reflect on.

Hillary Clinton: Emails wouldn't be public if I hadn't asked for it
Hillary Clinton says her emails are now out in the open solely because she wanted them to be made public.

In an Aug. 17 interview with Iowa Public Radio, Clinton told reporter Clay Masters what she thinks will come of her controversial decision to exclusively use private email while secretary of state.

"I think this will all sort itself out," Clinton said. "And in a way, it’s kind of an interesting insight into how the government operates. Because if I had not asked for my emails all to be made public, none of this would have been in the public arena. But I want people to know what we did, I’m proud of the four years I was secretary of state."

We know that Clinton did ask the State Department to release her emails, and they are now being released on a rolling basis. But it isn’t quite right to say that if she hadn’t made that request, her emails would not now be "in the public arena."

A quick refresher on how and when this aspect of the email story unfolded:

  • March 3: The New York Times broke the story that Clinton did not use a government email account for her entire tenure at the State Department.The story indicated it was unclear if the emails would be made public.
  • March 4: Clinton tweeted, "I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible."
  • March 5: Secretary of State John Kerry said in a press conference that the department was already reviewing the emails for release. Additionally, the State Department press office sent out a notice to reporters specifically responding to Clinton’s tweet that day.
  • May 21: The State Department released the first batch of Clinton emails.

The State Department’s decision to release the emails as soon as possible was a response to Clinton’s specific request. But even if she had not made that request, there were other people pushing to make the emails public.

When the story broke, numerous media outlets and conservative organizations had already submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the State Department, looking for various records (including emails) connected to Clinton. Up until that point, the State Department had yet to produce the vast majority of those records.

Notably, Jason Leopold of Vice filed a FOIA request in November 2014 asking for all of Clinton’s emails, among other records, and he filed a lawsuit in January 2015 because of the State Department’s slow response. The State Department’s May 2015 response to Leopold’s lawsuit said the release of Clinton’s emails would satisfy a large portion of his FOIA request.

It’s reasonable to assume that these FOIA requests would have eventually made the emails public, whether or not Clinton made her own request.

Her emails, at least in part, might have been made public sooner, had she not exclusively used the private email address. Until Clinton turned over her emails to the State Department in December 2014 -- at the department’s behest -- the department did not have the full set of emails in its possession. This made Clinton’s emails basically inaccessible to FOIA requests until then. This wouldn’t have been the case if she used a government email address.

Take the case of Gawker: In 2013, Gawker filed a FOIA request for emails between Clinton and long-time adviser Sid Blumenthal after a hacker revealed emails that Blumenthal sent Clinton. Although the emails were already known to the public, the State Department told Gawker that no such correspondence existed.

In a previous article, we spoke with several experts who said Clinton’s email setup was tailor-made to circumvent FOIA requests.

Additionally, Clinton’s phrasing is disingenuous. It implies that requesting her emails to be made public was a proactive measure, in the interest of transparency and highlighting her record as secretary of state. Rather, it was reactive -- a response to the New York Times article that broke the story and its aftermath. If Clinton’s email practices hadn’t come to light, it’s possible she would never have made such a request.

Our ruling
Clinton said, "If I had not asked for my emails all to be made public, none of this would have been in the public arena."

The shred of truth here is that Clinton’s request was the driving force behind the State Department’s decision to release the emails as soon as possible. However, multiple pending FOIA requests for her emails likely would have made some of these emails public regardless.

It’s disingenuous for Clinton to treat her request as proactive transparency, when her practices protected her email from public scrutiny until she was out of office. We rate Clinton’s claim Mostly False.

Trump and allies plot path to victory. For Donald Trump and his followers, the path to victory is fairly clear.

First, consolidate the leads he enjoys in Republican polls; then turn out enough supporters to win early state contests; then ride a wave of new and energized anti-establishment voters to the Republican Party presidential nomination and beyond. In interviews with activists, analysts and Trump supporters in early voting states, a complicated picture emerges of what it would take to transform the billionaire real estate developer from a front-running candidate to a plausible nominee.

Although not many people beyond Trump's orbit see it playing out that way, what is clear is that Trump has significant appeal with core GOP voters — and significant hurdles that may prove difficult to overcome.

Not that his supporters are worried. "I think he will win in Iowa, he will win in New Hampshire, and he will win in South Carolina," said Stephen B. Stepanek, a Trump state co-chairman and volunteer from Milford, N.H. "And that momentum is going to carry him."

That path will not be easy, though.
The closer Republicans get to actually voting — and there are more than five months to go before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary — the more they will question Trump's volatility, analysts said. The more they will wonder about past positions that are more Democratic, such as support for a single-payer health care system.

Down the line, the question may be the durability of the Trump political phenomenon and how long it will take the GOP to coalesce around an anti-Trump alternative, said Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College. "Republican elites are uncomfortable with him being the party's nominee," he said. "They're not all powerful, but they can exert a lot of leverage."

Whatever happens in the next six months or so, the New York-based billionaire has put his political stamp on the summer of 2015, and Republican opponents will have to deal with him one way or another, sooner or later. At this point, Trump has convinced a large cadre of volunteers that he can go all the way by stressing issues like immigration and trade and attracting potential voters who have sat out previous elections because they dislike traditional politicians.

In an interview with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News this week, Trump played up the notion that he can bring in people who had given up on politics.

"If you look at the polls that are coming out on me, they have a great incentive to vote," Trump said. "They like what I say. I think they like me in a certain way which is nice. It is always nice to be liked."

Tana Goertz, who got to know Trump as a contestant on season three of NBC’s The Apprentice and now co-chairs his efforts in Iowa, said she’s regularly approached by Iowans who say this is the first time they’ve been excited about politics — and they want to pledge to vote for Trump. She said she’s also bombarded with volunteer requests from college-age Iowans who are old enough to caucus for the first time.

The early states are key to Trump's chances (as well as his many opponents). In addition to his main campaign headquarters at Trump Tower in New York, they are currently the only places where he has full-time staff members, the campaign said: 10 in Iowa, eight in New Hampshire and seven in South Carolina. He has volunteers in other states; those in Alabama are helping plan a Friday night rally at a football stadium in Mobile.

Trump and aides have said they are staffing up and will have people in all 50 states, an effort that is critical for a range of campaign activities, from organizing events to making sure he's on the ballot in every state.

The first true test comes with the Iowa caucuses in early February.

Iowa Christian conservatives say they’re passionate about Trump, even if some feel a bit conflicted. They regularly say they believe the best president should be someone who exhibits family stability, faith in God, business ethics and personal humility, characteristics that don't exactly apply to a man on his third marriage, who admits he has never sought God's forgiveness and regularly boasts about his wealth and his conspicuous consumption.

For now, Christian conservatives are taking delight in Trump for “throwing a monkey wrench into the early coronation of a moderate Republican,” said American Renewal Project leader David Lane, who is helping Iowa evangelical conservative pastors mobilize an army of like-minded voters.

Despite that, some social conservatives say it won't be easy for them to caucus with a candidate who has no daily relationship with Jesus Christ. “Evangelicals will most likely not vote to nominate Mr. Trump as the Republican nominee for president in 2016,” Lane said.

Goertz pointed out that Trump abstains from drinking and gambling. “And when he says he hasn’t sought God’s forgiveness, he’s just being honest. Most politicians aren’t that transparent,” said Goertz, who was raised in the Mormon faith. “In my experience, what people love is his honesty.”

Not everyone's convinced.
“It's not going to happen right away,” said Wes Enos, who worked for the campaign of Christian conservative Michele Bachmann in 2012. “But eventually, Trump will look like old news. And obnoxious.”

One Iowa Republican faction that’s pre-disposed to liking someone like Trump is the Tea Party. Activists want a presidential candidate who shares their concerns about illegal immigration and Obamacare and who will defy the GOP establishment, they said. “Some are still on the fence, but they’re beginning to drop for Donald,” said Tea Party organizer Ken Crow, co-founder of“The Tea Party doesn’t want any mushy middle moderates," Crow said.

Lou Gargiulo, a county chairman for Trump in New Hampshire, said the billionaire "speaks to issues I care about," including jobs and protecting the border. "The other candidates," he said, "seem to dance around these issues."

Trump's people believe he can win because he is tapping a large vein of voter discontent. He has the money and the independence to truly challenge the status quo, they said, and his status as a billionaire is seen as proof that he knows how to create jobs.

Some just like his style.
Ed McMullan, who chairs the Trump campaign in South Carolina, said people like him because he's "real," and no "your typical run-of-the-mill politician" of recent decades. "He's not giving them a line that's been rehearsed and polled and practiced," he said.

Donald Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman who lives in South Carolina, said Trump may well have strong appeal in that very Republican state. His message plays well with conservatives who believe that cheap foreign labor, bad trade deals and immigration — legal or otherwise — have cost Americans jobs, and that the so-called political establishment has failed to address these problems.

The New York Times reports that dropping mild tone, Jeb Bush assails Donald Trump as leaning Democratic.
After weeks of parrying Donald J. Trump’s derisive thrusts with elliptical, indirect and sparing responses, Jeb Bush aggressively attacked Mr. Trump here on Thursday, portraying him as a Democratic-leaning poseur in the Republican field and expressing confidence that voters would come to the same conclusion.

Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor who has been both eclipsed by Mr. Trump and mocked by him repeatedly, heatedly portrayed Mr. Trump as someone with a record that should disqualify him as a genuine conservative.

“There’s a big difference between Donald Trump and me,” Mr. Bush told reporters after a forum here. “I’m a proven conservative with a record. He isn’t.”

Many Republicans had hoped that Mr. Trump, given his history of incendiary comments, would either fade or implode as a presidential candidate. But Mr. Bush, who entered the race with every expectation of becoming the front-runner, on Thursday signaled he was not content to wait.

New Hampshire voters at Mr. Bush's town-hall meeting in Keene on Thursday. Credit Jim Cole/Associated Press
“I cut taxes every year; he’s proposed the largest tax increase in mankind’s history, not just our own country’s history,” Mr. Bush said. “I have been consistently pro-life; he until recently was for partial-birth abortion. I’ve never met a person that actually thought that was a good idea. I believe we need to reform our health care system to make sure we stop the suppression of wages and allow people to have access to insurance; he’s for a single-payer system.”

“He actually advocates these things,” Mr. Bush continued, before adding passionately: “He’s been a Democrat longer than a Republican.”

Mr. Bush’s attacks seemed to mark a new, more combative phase of his campaign.

Earlier, at a morning stop at a restaurant in New London, N.H., Mr. Bush also invoked the names of two other Republican rivals as he waded into the debate over birthright citizenship and immigration. In response to a question about the 14th Amendment, which allows children born in the United States to become citizens regardless of the legal status of their parents, Mr. Bush said, “The courts have ruled that it’s part of the 14th Amendment of our Constitution and my belief is that it ought to stay that way, that this is part of our noble heritage.”

Then he mentioned Senators Marco Rubio, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba, and Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban-born father, to buttress his point.

“Now if people are here legally, they have a visa, and they have a child who’s born here, I think that they ought to be American citizens,” he said. “People like Marco Rubio, by the way, that’s how he came. You know, so to suggest that we make it impossible for a talented person like that not to be a candidate for president — or Ted Cruz. I mean, I think we’re getting a little overboard here, and we’re listening to the emotion rather than to the reality of this.”

Mr. Bush appeared to be conflating criticism of Mr. Rubio, who has said he is open to exploring ways to prevent people from exploiting birthright citizenship by coming to the United States to have children, with early questions about whether Mr. Cruz qualified as a “natural born citizen,” as the Constitution says a president must be.

Mr. Bush’s more scrappy tone was a welcome relief to some of his fans. After his remarks in New London — where he stressed that he was “a doer” and “not a talker” — Nancy Anderson, a retiree, approached him with a plea.

“Take footage from this meeting, and make it into advertising so people know who you really are,” Ms. Anderson said, clutching Mr. Bush’s arm. “Seriously.”

Afterward, she explained her concerns: “He comes across without the fire in his belly,” she said. “We hear Donald Trump making all these statements and we hear different people saying things, and he comes across as just kind of a nice guy.”

Ms. Anderson need not have worried. By his next stop, Mr. Bush was in full-on attack mode.

“Look, there should be a little more focus on solving the problems and talking about ideas that matter, rather than just kind of coming in like a tidal wave and saying things that are just outrageous and don’t make sense,” he said. “All of this stuff is to appeal to people’s anger and their angst, rather than have solutions to the problems.”

He concluded by dismissing Mr. Trump as the flavor of the summer. “Let’s go talk about this two months from now, three months from now,” Mr. Bush said. “I think what you’ll find is you’ll have forgotten what exists in August, whatever it is — 20th.”

Jim Webb may still have a chance. The "other" democratic candidate for president shouldn't be overlooked completely. Although the primaries are still months away, the media circus surrounding presidential candidates has begun in earnest. On the Republican side, Donald Trump has the biggest share of attention, but with no dominant contender, more than a dozen candidates are receiving substantial coverage.

However, on the Democratic side, coverage is split almost exclusively between known quantity Hillary Clinton and upstart Bernie Sanders. Maryland voters are familiar with former Gov. Martin O’Malley, but nationally, he has mostly gone unnoticed by voters.

Meanwhile, a candidate who hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves is former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. If Clinton becomes stale in voters’ minds and the public finds Sanders to be too far left, space could open for another option this primary season.

Webb’s campaign seems to be centered on his military background. After graduating from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Webb served as a Marine Corps lieutenant, leading a platoon in Vietnam. He is highly decorated, earning a Navy Cross and two Purple Hearts.
Historically, veterans have performed well in presidential elections, but that has not been the case in the recent past. The 2012 election was the first since 1932 in which neither party had a veteran on the ticket. The only other veterans in the 2016 race are the long shot Republicans Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham, but neither saw combat duty.

Taking into account the lukewarm reception veterans received upon their return and the recent scandals involving the Veterans Affairs Department, it seems appropriate for at least one Vietnam veteran to play a significant role in 2016. But that alone is clearly not enough, as John Kerry in 2004 and John McCain in 2008 both failed to reach the White House.

Although it’s stabilized in recent years, the economy is still the dominant issue on many voters’ minds. If events in coming months bring greater focus to defense or foreign policy, Webb will become a stronger candidate. His statements opposing the Iraq War, along with other foreign policy columns he has written, have given him a foundation to build credibility.

Drawing tens of thousands to his campaign rallies, Sanders has become the first legitimate challenger to Clinton. As a more moderate Democrat, Webb has the potential to carve out his own base of support among more middle voters who don’t buy into Sanders’ brand of populism. He might currently be a long shot, but there is still time for Jim Webb to make an impact in the race. Daniel Galitsky is a senior economics and finance major. He can be reached at

Huffington Post, unmoved by polls, keeps Trump in celeb section. Donald Trump is still the Republican presidential frontrunner, the man to beat in a crowded field of hopefuls.

But at the Huffington Post, Trump remains no more of a legitimate candidate than Sharon Stone. And the liberal news website has no plans to change that anytime soon.

A month after HuffPost announced that it will include coverage of Trump's campaign in its entertainment section, two of the site's top editors said they are "more committed to the decision than ever."

"Over the last month, we've seen our central argument proven right: That Trump is nothing more than a sideshow and not a legitimate presidential contender with serious policy ideas for moving the country forward," HuffPost editorial director Danny Shea and Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim said in a statement this week.
Related: Huffington Post to cover Trump as an entertainer, not a politician

That same month has seen Trump cement his status as the clear frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. Poll after poll has shown the billionaire real estate mogul with ample leads over his Republican rivals -- disproving pundits who declared his candidacy doomed by one verbal gaffe or another.

A CNN/ORC national poll released Tuesday showed Trump 11 points ahead of his nearest opponent, with large numbers of GOP voters saying they trust Trump more than the other candidates to handle the economy, immigration and the Islamic State terror group.
trump ent huffpo
But Shea and Grim told CNNMoney that Trump's leads in the polls won't influence HuffPost's coverage. Shea dismissed the significance of polling this early in the election cycle, saying Trump's strong showing is "largely a function of name ID." Grim said the point of the decision remains true, regardless of Trump's success in the polls.

"He could win a caucus or a primary," Grim said. "That doesn't mean that he's not a clown."
So when would HuffPost reconsider the decision?

"Let's say he wins the White House," Grim said with a chuckle.

Shea and Grim are proud of the decision. As Shea sees it, a lot of journalists privately regard Trump as a sideshow, but only HuffPost will acknowledge it on the record. In their statement this week, the two reiterated that HuffPost is "still not taking the bait."

"Otherwise serious journalists are being seduced by Trump because of his willingness to say and do outrageous things for headlines and ratings," they said.

But HuffPost is still covering Trump plenty, and Grim said those stories do "extremely well" with the site's audience. On Monday, Trump's name appeared in more than 10 headlines across the site. And Trump is covered by the same HuffPost political reporters who write about Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

So the decision to stop treating Trump like an "actual presidential candidate" has been mostly cosmetic. Many Trump stories wind up on HuffPost's heavily trafficked homepage.
But the entertainment section is where HuffPost readers will find most of the site's Trump stories, right next to coverage of celebrity selfies and super hero flicks.

A story published Sunday on Trump's immigration plan was positioned on the site's entertainment page next to a post about Sharon Stone's recent nude photo shoot.

Reaction has been mixed among HuffPost's political reporters. Some said that the designation has at times been confusing. When HuffPost covers another candidate's comments about Trump -- as the site did the other day with a post on Bernie Sanders poking fun at Trump's helicopter -- those stories are housed in the politics section.

But other staffers said they are all for classifying Trump as an entertainer.

"I kind of love the decision," HuffPost's senior political economy reporter Zach Carter told CNNMoney.

Most HuffPost politics reporters stressed that the decision hasn't had much bearing on their jobs. One reporter said the biggest impact is likely felt in the site's traffic, with HuffPost's entertainment section drawing the precious clicks generated by Trump stories.

Grim acknowledged that HuffPost's politics section is missing out on that traffic.

The reaction among people "in the real world," according to Shea, has been overwhelmingly positive. He said that a few HuffPost staffers were at a bar when the decision was announced last month.
"People came up and bought them drinks," Shea said.

Regardless of it all today, please stay in touch. I am off to the Magna Ball.