Saturday, February 13, 2016

Republican Strategists Are Beginning To Realize Hillary Isn't Being Embraced By Democratic Voters


Last week, writing for The Intercept, Lee Fang reported that the Clinton campaign is stuffed full of advisors and fundraisers who were lobbyists working to kill Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. That's the Clinton Machine, her team and her allies-- corrupt lobbyists working against progressive values on every level.
Hillary Clinton is campaigning as a guardian of President Barack Obama’s progressive policy accomplishments. In recent weeks, she has called the Affordable Care Act “one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, of the Democratic Party, and of our country,” and promised that she is “going to defend Dodd-Frank” and “defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street.”

Meanwhile, however, Clinton’s campaign has been relying on a team of strategists and fundraisers, many of whom spent much of the last seven years as consultants or lobbyists for business interests working to obstruct Obama’s agenda in those two areas.

Consultants associated with the Dewey Square Group, a lobbying firm that has been retained by business interests to defeat a variety of progressive reforms, are playing a major role in the Clinton campaign. Charles Baker III, the co-founder of Dewey, is a senior strategist and the campaign’s chief administrative officer. Michael Whouley, another Dewey co-founder, played an early role in advising Clinton’s plan for the current campaign by convening some of the very first strategy sessions. Senior Dewey officials Jill Alper and Minyon Moore are also close advisers and fundraisers for Clinton, while at least four other Clinton officials have worked at Dewey within the last four years. In addition, disclosures show that Clinton’s Super PACs Priorities USA Action and Correct the Record have also paid Dewey Square Group for a variety of services in this election.

Dewey, for instance, worked on behalf of the health insurance industry during the health reform debate, specifically to block the changes to Medicare Advantage that were critical for financing the Affordable Care Act. Medicare Advantage, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to use plans administered by private insurers, had long served as a cash cow for the health insurance industry. By one estimate, insurance companies over-billed the government by nearly $70 billion in improper payments over just a five year period. Dewey, which had been tapped to by health insurers to block cuts from the program starting in 2007, continued during the Obama era to lobby to protect Medicare Advantage, even as such reforms became a major part of how Democrats and the Obama administration sought to finance the Affordable Care Act.

...On financial reform, Clinton has similarly tied herself to Obama’s legacy. Speaking with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last month, Clinton asserted that on Dodd-Frank, Obama’s financial reform legislation, she is one of the “many Democrats” who are “fighting to prevent it from being turned back.”

Clinton’s inner circle, however, has lobbied to help obstruct and roll back many of Dodd-Frank’s signature reforms.

The Benenson Strategy Group, the consulting firm run by Joel Benenson, now serving as the Clinton campaign’s chief pollster and strategist, was retained by the Financial Services Forum, a lobbying group for Wall Street interests such as Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Lobbying records show the Financial Services Forum has worked over the years to weaken a variety of Dodd-Frank reforms. In 2013, the Financial Services Forum paid Benenson’s firm $273,459 while it was lobbying on a number of rules that were mandated by Dodd-Frank, including capital requirements designed to prevent another financial crisis. Danny Franklin, a partner with the Benenson Stategy Group, wrote to The Intercept to say the Financial Services Forum is not currently a client of his firm, but declined to comment any further.

  Last month, Benenson convened a conference call with reporters to “deride Bernie Sanders for airing an ad that criticized Wall Street firms and the politicians who accept their donations,” according to a report from International Business Times. As IBTimes reported, Benenson has also represented JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, among other corporate clients.

...Speaking to The Hill last year, Tony Podesta said that unlike President Obama, who instituted a ban on registered lobbyists in his administration, K Street will find a more welcome home in a Clinton White House.

“I think Hillary Clinton will be the next nominee and probably be the next president, but whomever the next president is will not maintain the lobbying ban,” he predicted. “It was a good applause line for Obama, but it didn’t seem to make much sense for policy.”

Similarly, when we look at which members of Congress voted against the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 (Dodd-Frank) and against the Affordable Care Act, many are Clinton surrogates or on her Leadership Teams. Most the the 34 conservative Democrats who crossed the aisle and voted with the Republicans against the Affordable Care Act were subsequently defeated for reelection by Democratic base voters who refused to turn out and vote for them in the 2010 midterms, 7 months after the Obamacare debate. We referred to it as the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse, since nearly the entire Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- a big part the Hillary support team-- was wiped out in one fell swoop. Only 3 are still in Congress-- Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN) and Stephen Lynch (MA). Lynch is on the Clinton Massachusetts Leadership Team and several of the defeated Blue Dogs-- like John Tanner and Lincoln Davis of Tennessee-- have also endorsed her. 27 Democrats voted against Dodd Frank. The only ones still in Congress are Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Ann Kirkpatrick (New Dem-AZ), Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR) and Pete Visclosky (IN). Cuellar, Kirkpatrick and Schrader are on Clinton Leadership teams in their states.

When her close relationship with Establishment war criminal Henry Kissinger was exposed on national TV during last Thursday's debate-- followed by her public defense of the reviled figure-- many Democrats began to see for the first time what they are being asked to support. As David Corn reported for Mother Jones after the debate, the Clintons and Kissingers are close personal friends and spend summer holidays together in a Dominican beachfront villa owned by Oscar de la Renta. Watch the video of the Kissinger exchange at the top of the post.
What Clinton did not mention was that her bond with Kissinger was personal as well as professional, as she and her husband have for years regularly spent their winter holidays with Kissinger and his wife, Nancy, at the beachfront villa of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who died in 2014, and his wife, Annette, in the Dominican Republic.

Oscar de la Renta, Hillary and war criminal Henry Kissinger

This campaign tussle over Kissinger began a week earlier, at a previous debate, when Clinton, looking to boost her résumé, said, "I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time. So I have an idea about what it's going to take to make our government work more efficiently." A few days later, Bill Clinton, while campaigning for his wife in New Hampshire, told a crowd of her supporters, "Henry Kissinger, of all people, said she ran the State Department better and got more out of the personnel at the State Department than any secretary of state in decades, and it's true." His audience of Democrats clapped loudly in response.

It was odd that the Clintons, locked in a fierce fight to win Democratic votes, would name-check a fellow who for decades has been criticized-- and even derided as a war criminal-- by liberals. Bill and Hillary Clinton themselves opposed the Vietnam War that Nixon and Kissinger inherited and continued. Hillary Clinton was a staffer on the House Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach Nixon, and one of the articles of impeachment drafted by the staff (but which was not approved) cited Nixon for covering up his secret bombing of Cambodia. In the years since then, information has emerged showing that Kissinger's underhanded and covert diplomacy led to brutal massacres around the globe, including in Chile, Argentina, East Timor, and Bangladesh.

With all this history, it was curious that in 2014, Clinton wrote a fawning review of Kissinger's latest book and observed, "America, he reminds us, succeeds by standing up for our values, not shirking them, and leads by engaging peoples and societies, the sources of legitimacy, not governments alone." In that article, she called Kissinger, who had been a practitioner of a bloody foreign-policy realpolitik, "surprisingly idealistic."

This Clinton lovefest with Kissinger is not new. And it is not simply a product of professional courtesy or solidarity among former secretaries of state, who, after all, are part of a small club. There is also a strong social connection between the Clintons and the Kissingers. They pal around together. On June 3, 2013, Hillary Clinton presented an award to de la Renta, a good friend who for years had provided her dresses and fashion advice, and then the two of them hopped over to a 90th birthday party for Kissinger. In fact, the schedule of the award ceremony had been shifted to allow Clinton and de la Renta to make it to the Kissinger bash. (Secretary of State John Kerry also attended the party.) The Kissingers and the de la Rentas were longtime buddies. Kissinger wrote one of his recent books while staying at de la Rentas' mansion in the Dominican Republic and dedicated the book to the fashion designer and his wife.

...When awarding herself the Kissinger seal of approval to bolster her standing as a competent diplomat and government official, Hillary Clinton has not referred to the annual hobnobbing at the de la Renta villa. So when Sanders criticized Clinton for playing the Kissinger card-- "not my kind of guy," he declared-- whether he realized it or not, he was hitting very close to home.
What did he teach her? "The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern." Or was it this? "It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination." Or was this Kissinger quote where she got her attitude? "The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer." Or maybe he taught her how much money she could put in her pocket by giving speeches to groups eager to bribe her.

Although low-info Democrats still back Clinton to a great extent-- she is still ahead of Bernie in virtually all polls-- the margins are rapidly shrinking and her campaign is beginning to disintegrate. Republicans are now starting to prepare for what seemed out of the question just a few months ago-- that they will be facing Bernie Sanders, not the fatally flawed Clinton they had hoped for, in November. Friday BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported that a Republican opposition research firm, America Rising, has already begun compiling an opposition book on Bernie. In fact, they've already released their first video attempting to smear him:

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