Monday, February 08, 2016

Are the Wheels Coming Off in the Democratic Primary? A Roundup.


Carl Bernstein explains why the White House is "horrified" at the state of the Clinton campaign, which they (and Bernstein) favor.

by Gaius Publius

This is a roundup of recent pieces with a common theme — the wheels may be coming off the effort to keep the insider game alive on the Democratic side. Note, for example, in the Bernstein portion, the great concern by the White House that Hillary may not be able to take the crown.

I didn't expect to see this explosion of concern. Putting all this in one place makes interesting reading. I do encourage clicking through. The sections I touch on are listed below, if you want to skip around, please do. The assembly of all this worry is interesting. Our sections are:

◾ Reuters: Sanders / Clinton race in "dead heat"
Carl Bernstein: White House "horrified" ... Clinton "blowing up" her campaign
Bill Curry: "It’s almost over for Hillary ... a mass insurrection against a rigged system"

For the latter sections, click the links above to go there directly.

Reuters: Sanders, Clinton in "dead heat"

Let's start with this, the data, hot off the Reuters presses:
Exclusive: Presidential hopefuls Sanders, Clinton in dead heat - Reuters/Ipsos poll

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has erased Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's wide lead for the Democratic presidential nomination since the start of year, putting the two in a dead heat nationally, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Clinton leads Sanders 48 percent to 45 percent among Democratic voters, according to the poll of 512 Americans, conducted Feb. 2-5 following the Iowa caucus. The poll has a credibility interval of 5 percentage points.
The data sets the stage. Now for the gnashing of teeth, which strongly indicates these polls aren't very far off.

Carl Bernstein: White House "horrified" that "Hillary Clinton is blowing up her campaign."

For reaction, let's begin with Carl Bernstein, speaking recently on CNN. This is enormously interesting. Note that Bernstein, though clear-eyed about her vulnerabilities, is coming to this as a Hillary Clinton supporter — not a criticism, just something to note. He's open about that in the interview.

I hope you have time to read or listen to this through. Bernstein is well connected, and he has a lot to pass on (italicized emphasis and ellipses mine):
Bernstein: There is a huge story going on. I've spent part of this weekend talking to people in the White House. They are horrified at how Hillary Clinton is blowing up her own campaign.

And they're worried that the Democrats could blow -- they are horrified that the whole business of the transcripts, accepting the money -- that she could blow the Democrats' chance for White House. They want her to win. Obama wants her to win.

But Sanders has shown how vulnerable she is. These ethical lapses have tied the White House up in knots. They don't know what to do. They're beside themselves. And now, you've got a situation with these transcripts a little like Richard Nixon and his tapes that he stonewalled on and didn't release.
At this point CNN put up a graphic — "Total Hillary Clinton speech income from "big banks" 2013-2014: At least $1.8 million for at least 8 speeches" (highlight theirs).

Then the host asks, "You're saying this is akin to the [Watergate] tapes?" (a significant question given Bernstein's role in Watergate). Bernstein replies:
Bernstein: No, what I'm saying that if she stonewalls on it and does not release them and enables the Republicans to paint her again into a corner. This is not just a vast right-wing conspiracy that is causing her problems. She has caused herself these problems. The server is not the vast right-wing conspiracy. It's Hillary Clinton deciding that she could put a server in her closet, the same with these transcripts, the same with accepting this money in a presidential year when she knew that she was going to probably be running for president.

To the people in the White House I talked to, it is unfathomable that she did this and has endangered President Obama's legacy. As I say, they are terrified at this point and they want Bernie Sanders to not do well [in New Hampshire] on Tuesday and Hillary to do well. Because if this keeps going like that, they see real problems ahead.
The host asks about Clinton's shrugging defense of having been paid $600,000 by Goldman Sachs, "I don't know; that's what they offered."
Host: "So what should she have said?"

Bernstein: "I can't advise her. Maureen Dowd in her column tomorrow calls that answer obscene. ... Some of this is unanswerable because it represents such terrible judgment, which is what people in the White House are saying. They're just dumbfounded by this and want her to get back on track."
The host then offers that maybe Clinton didn't know she was going to run when she made those speeches. The reply:
Bernstein: "It's disingenuous. She knew she might [run for president]. And this has been a problem I say in the last pages of "A Woman in Charge," my book on Hillary written before she ran the last time, she has had a difficult problem with the truth going back to the Arkansas years. It's not about outright lying. It's about obfuscation. It's about not being transparent.

[Note this heavy praise] "She is so qualified to be President of the United States. She is so much in the right lane on Democratic issues, she has the experience, and yet she keeps tripping herself up. That's what she did in the last campaign, and that's what she's been doing in this campaign.

"She's got to get herself righted, meaning up-straight and moving forward. She might have to show some humility and start explaining that she has exercised some terrible judgment here. I don't know what the answer is for her to do, except to keep going forward, but she's got a big problem here.
And then comes this exchange on Sanders' "socialism," which Bernstein — conventionally — sees as a problem. The host pushes back on that.
Host: "Where does this go?"

Bernstein: "I don't know where it goes. I think the good news for Hillary Clinton in some ways, that Bernie Sanders, a self-described "socialist," is out of touch with mainstream America..."

Host: "But that wasn't reflected in Iowa..."

Bernstein: "Exactly, and particularly with young people he is tuning in and touching a nerve in mainstream America and with young women, which is Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare.

"In fact, I think you have to go back to the candidacy of Bobby Kennedy in 1968 -- and I don't want to care Sanders and Kennedy in some regards, but this is a movement. He's right, Sanders. He has started a movement. And that, too, has got the White House very upset."
Keep that "touching a nerve with young women" in mind, especially as you read about the "BernieBro problem" in the Clinton-supporting press. Bernie has far less of a BernieBro problem than Clinton has a "Feminists for Bernie" problem, based on the available data so far.

The host then raises the question that the Clinton campaign keeps raising as their differentiator — (paraphrased) "Pragmatism vs. passion. Doesn't she have that passion?"
Bernstein: "The last pages of my book are about her passion, her passion for America, her passion for doing good things for the people of this country ... and she has that fire, she has that passion, but so does Bernie Sanders. ...It's possible she is not in tune with her time and her country and her party. And somehow she has to get herself aligned with whatever this new strain of economic populism.

"She's got a problem. If she's cozy with Goldman Sachs, and she's got transcripts that she can't release that show her cozying up to Goldman Sachs, it's a problem. It would help her if she could get these transcripts out there. She's said, judge me by her record. Part of her record is what she has said to these investment bankers in these meetings, and we ought to be able to know what she has said."
I like Carl Bernstein and don't begrudge him his insider perspective, especially since he's doing a good honest job as a reporter. His bottom line — "It's possible she is not in tune with her time" — is fairly astute. Especially when coupled with "If she's cozy with Goldman Sachs, and she's got transcripts that she can't release that show her cozying up to Goldman Sachs, it's a problem."

And note, he wants those transcripts released as well, and for the right reason. Voters really do have a right to read them.

Bill Curry: "It's almost over for Hillary. This is a mass insurrection"

Now Bill Curry writing in Salon. He talks first about the establishment-rigged process (my emphasis):
It’s almost over for Hillary: This election is a mass insurrection against a rigged system 

It would be hard to overstate what Bernie Sanders has already achieved in his campaign for president, or the obstacles he’s had to surmount in order to achieve it. Not only has he turned a planned Hillary Clinton coronation into an exercise in grass-roots democracy, he’s reset the terms of the debate. We are edging closer to the national conversation we so desperately need to have. If we get there, all credit goes to Bernie.

Many of those obstacles were put in place by Democratic national party chair and Clinton apparatchik Deborah Wasserman Schultz. Without pretense of due process, Schultz slashed the number of 2016 debates to six, down from 26 in 2008, and scheduled as many as she could on weekends when she figured no one would be watching. ...

Sanders got bagged again in Iowa, this time by a state party chair, one Andrea McGuire. Like Schultz, McGuire’s specialty is high-dollar fund raising, and like Schultz she was deeply involved in Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Under the esoteric rules of the Iowa Democratic caucuses, and after a string of lucky coin tosses, Clinton eked out a 700.52 to 696.86 margin, not in votes cast but in a mysterious commodity known as “delegate equivalents.” ...

All evidence indicates Sanders won the popular vote [in Iowa]. It isn’t a minor point. If the public knew he won the only vote anybody understands or cares about, Clinton wouldn’t be “breathing a sigh of relief,” she’d be hyperventilating. McGuire refuses to release vote totals. She says keeping them a secret is an Iowa tradition. So what if it is?
And about the rigged press coverage:
Throughout the campaign the press has been nearly as big an obstacle for Sanders as the party. Even jaded political junkies were startled when the Tyndall Report exposed the media blackout of Sanders. In 2015, ABC News devoted 261 minutes to the 2016 campaign. Donald Trump got 81 minutes. Bernie Sanders got 20 seconds. Nearly as harmful is the dismissive tone of the cable commentariat, and I don’t mean just Fox News.

CNN has larded up ‘the best political team on television’ with partisans, including Bush acolyte Ana Navarro and Trump minion Jeffrey Lord. On the Democratic side, Paul Begala advises a Clinton Super PAC; David Axelrod was Obama’s guru; Donna Brazile a DNC chair; Van Jones an Obama staffer; David Gergen a Clinton advisor. All are bright, honorable people, but it’s hard to report on a peasant revolt from inside the castle. (The network just added Sanders sympathizer Bill Press to the mix, but it’s far too little and too late.)

Things aren’t all that different over at MSNBC though to its credit it lets reporters do more of its analysis. ... The whole press corps still treats politics as theater or sport. No one ever explains policy on a post-debate show.
What makes the media blackout of Sanders an even greater travesty is that it was imposed over a period of many months in which he led all 21 other candidates in both parties in nearly every general election poll. When a self-described socialist leads every poll, something historic is happening. ... Even horse-race reporters should have seen that a story so big ...
Something historic is indeed happening, or about to happen. There's much more on that subject in the piece. Curry dismisses Clintons's three main arguments (as he sees them) — her electability, her greater ability to govern, and her greater "loyalty to the [Democratic] establishment."

And yet, with all that rigging and all that obfuscation of the core economic issues:
My guess is the middle class sees what [Sanders] sees and wants what he wants: a revolution. If he can continue to drive the debate, they may get one.
At which point, you should refer back to Curry's headline. "It's almost over for Hillary." I'm not so sure yet, but Curry — and maybe Bernstein — appear much more certain.

Where We Stand Now

Nationally, Democratic voters had been supporting Clinton by a more than 2-to-1 margin at the beginning of the year. Sanders has narrowed that lead considerably over the past several weeks, to a "dead heat" in the most recent polls.

I'm not ready to wring my Sanders hands the way the White House is wring their Clinton hands, but I do want to see what's happening in the South. I'm optimistic that the tide is turning, but we're still in the second quarter (sorry for the sports metaphor) with the momentum just beginning to turn our way. We'll see.

This is the most interesting election of your life, I'm willing to bet. Also the most consequential.

(Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. If you'd like to help out, go here; you can adjust the split any way you like at the link. If you'd like to "phone-bank for Bernie," go here. You can volunteer in other ways by going here. And thanks!)


Labels: , , , , , ,


At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wish we could get this great summary out more to the masses. What I don't understand is why so many would even consider casting a vote for Clinton. It seems that where ever she is, there is some scandal...always involved but never guilty according to her. The country is indeed ready for a change, a big change, and Bernie is the only candidate who can actually achieve it. Go Bernie and please consider volunteering for his campaign. Volunteers are critical!

At 5:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No problem: just release heavily redacted versions of the Goldman-Sachs speeches.


Post a Comment

<< Home