Saturday, April 28, 2018

New Animal: Fake Progressives In Democratic Primaries


Does this look like a Bernie supporter to you? Neither does his contribution record

Whatever their strategy for general elections, it's pretty important for candidates to present themselves a progressives during Democratic primaries. We've been using a foolish example of "ex"-Republican multimillionaire lottery winner Gil Cisneros having claimed ridiculously that he was a Bernie supporter during the 2016 primaries. He's a major campaign contributor but he didn't give a nickel to Bernie-- ever. But he did max out a couple of times to Hillary, including on March 31, 2016 a week before the California primary and again on July 7, still in time for plenty of other primaries. He also gave around $150,000 to the DNC which was being run by crooked Hillary booster Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who certainly wasn't using anything to benefit Bernie (to put it mildly). Cisneros is a conservative Republican masquerading as an establishment Democrat and the progressive pose is a little far-fetched. But, as Eric Draitser pointed out at CounterPunch Friday, there are other conservatives besides Cisneros pretending to to be progressives before their primaries.

Some people-- like Cisneros-- have records of one kind or another you can look at. Kaniela Ing, for example was loudly campaigning to Bernie and introducing Bernie-oriented issues in the state legislature. One of his candidates for Congress, Beth Fukumoto, was not just voting against all of Ing's legislation, she was the minority leader of the House GOP and was campaigning for Trump. She can't pretend to have backed Bernie-- open and shut case. The other congressional candidates, Doug Chin and Donna Kim, were also on record as Hillary primary backers... with conservative records to match.

Today, wrote Draitser, "Democratic incumbents from Texas and Illinois to New York and California now suddenly find themselves facing challenges from their left, forcing them to try to save their jobs by adopting progressive talking points. While this upsurge could be seen as a welcome development for anyone interested in progressive causes, there is a dark side to the burgeoning left movement, one that remains mostly shrouded behind a veil of secrecy and omission. For it seems that progressive candidates aren’t the only ones who learned the lesson of Bernie Sanders in 2016; the neoliberal Clintonites have too. So, while left-wing campaigns crop up in every corner of the country, so too do astroturf faux-progressive campaigns. And it is for us on the left to parse through it all and separate the authentic from the frauds."
Nestled in the heart of New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley, the 19th congressional district (NY-19) encompasses some of New York’s most appealing scenery and towns: Woodstock, Kingston, New Paltz, Hudson and the majority of the Catskills Region. It is littered with historic sites dating back to the Revolutionary War, and boasts names like Oneonta and Shawangunk as a reminder of the indigenous peoples of the region. From artist retreats to an endless labyrinth of hiking trails and small farms, this area represents a microcosm of the state with its New York City expats and its upstate lifers.

And it is here in NY-19 that one of the more interesting congressional races is shaping up as a number of Democrats vie to win the party nomination and try to unseat the Republican incumbent, the loathsome John Faso who, according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, has voted in line with President Trump nearly 90% of the time.

Beals has a crooked smile
One candidate currently generating some buzz in the race is Jeff Beals, a self-identified “Bernie democrat” whose campaign website homepage describes him as a “local teacher and former U.S. diplomat endorsed by the national organization of former Bernie Sanders staffers, the Justice Democrats.” And indeed, Beals centers his progressive bona fides to brand himself as one of the inheritors of the progressive torch lit by Sanders in 2016. A smart political move, to be sure. But is it true?

Beals describes himself as a “former U.S. diplomat,” touting his expertise on international issues born of his experience overseas. In an email interview with CounterPunch, Beals describes his campaign as a “movement for diplomacy and peace in foreign affairs and an end to militarism…my experience as a U.S. diplomat is what drives it and gives this movement such force.” OK, sounds good, a very progressive sounding answer. But what did Beals actually do during his time overseas?

By his own admission, Beals’ overseas career began as an intelligence officer with the CIA. His fluency in Arabic and knowledge of the region made him an obvious choice to be an intelligence spook during the latter stages of the Clinton Administration.

...Beals shrewdly attempts to portray himself as an opponent of neocon imperialism in Iraq. In his interview with CounterPunch, Beals argued that “The State Department was sidelined as the Bush administration and a neoconservative cabal plunged America into the tragic Iraq War. As a U.S. diplomat fluent in Arabic and posted in Jerusalem at the time, I was called over a year into the war to help our country find a way out.”

This is a Master’s class in blatant historical revisionism and outright dishonesty. Beals was not a soldier unwillingly drafted into service, but an intelligence officer who voluntarily accepted an influential and critically important post for the Bush Administration in its ever-expanding crime against humanity in Iraq.

Moreover, no one who knows anything about the Iraq War could possibly swallow the tripe that CIA/State Department officials in Iraq were “looking to help our country find a way out” a year into the war. A year into the war, the bloodletting was only just beginning, and Halliburton, Exxon-Mobil, and the other corporate vultures had yet to fully exploit the country and make billions off it. So, unfortunately for Beals, the historical memory of the anti-war Left is not that short.

Beals also claimed in his CounterPunch interview that he “turned down a lucrative job offer from Exxon because of my opposition to the fossil fuel industry.”
That was another lie that Draitser unmasked in great detail, pointing out that Beals was already looking towards a political career and "knew that Exxon on his resume would be an irreversible stain. This seems plausible considering the fact that Beals’ burgeoning political trajectory, presented as progressive in the Sanders tradition, is in fact carefully managed by one of Hillary Clinton’s most loyal henchmen. The district voted for Obama both times he ran and then rejected Hillary 50.8% to 44.0%. The PVI is now R+2. There are 7 full counties in NY-19 and parts of 4 others. This is how the 11 counties (the partial 4 at the end) voted in the primary:
Columbia-- Bernie- 57.1% (more votes than Trump)
Delaware-- Bernie- 60.9%
Greene-- Bernie- 51.5%
Otsego-- Bernie- 59.1% (more votes than Trump)
Schoharie-- Bernie- 63.6%
Sullivan-- Bernie- 56.1% (more votes than Trump)
Ulster--Bernie- 62.6% (more votes than Trump)

Broome-- Bernie- 56.6% (more votes than Trump)
Dutchess-- Bernie- 51.5%
Montgomery-- Bernie- 57.9%
Rennselaer-- Bernie- 58.4% (more votes than Trump)
That's right-- the district didn't just go for Bernie over Hillary, voters also showed a preference for Bernie over Trump. Bernie beat her in every single county-- no exceptions-- and in some by landslides. They just didn't want Hillary, the status quo establishment candidate. Now there are 7 Democrats competing for the party nomination to take on Republican incumbent John Faso. Three Democrats have raised over a million dollars: Antonio Delgado, Brian Flynn (half of that in self-funding) and Pat Ryan. Beals has raised $233,580.
Beals’ burgeoning political trajectory, presented as progressive in the Sanders tradition, is in fact carefully managed by one of Hillary Clinton’s most loyal henchmen.

It is self-evident that Beals has a laundry list of things in his past that he must answer for. For those of us, especially Millennials, who cut our activist teeth demonstrating and organizing against the Iraq War, Beals’ distortions about his role in Iraq go down like hemlock tea. But it is the associations Beals maintains today that really should give any progressive serious pause.

When asked by CounterPunch whether he has any connections to either Bernie Sanders and his surrogates or Hillary Clinton and hers, Beals responded by stating:
“I am endorsed by Justice Democrats, a group of former Bernie Sanders staffers who are pledged to electing progressives nationwide. I am also endorsed for the Greene County chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network, formerly the Bernie Sanders network.  My first hire was a former Sanders field coordinator who worked here in NY-19.”
However, conveniently missing from that response is the fact that Beals’ campaign has been, and continues to be, directly managed in nearly every respect by Bennett Ratcliff, a longtime friend and ally of Hillary Clinton. Ratcliff is not mentioned in any publicly available documents as a campaign manager, though the most recent FEC filings show that as of April 1, 2018, Ratcliff was still on the payroll of the Beals campaign. And in the video of Beals’ campaign kickoff rally, Ratcliff introduces Beals, while only being described as a member of the Onteora School Board in Ulster County. This is sort of like referring to Donald Trump as an avid golfer.

Beals has studiously, and rather intelligently, avoided mentioning Ratcliff, or the presence of Clinton’s inner circle on his campaign. However, according to internal campaign documents and emails obtained by CounterPunch, Ratcliff manages nearly every aspect of the campaign, acting as a sort of éminence grise behind the artifice of a progressive campaign fronted by a highly educated and photogenic political novice.

By his own admission, Ratcliff’s role on the campaign is strategy, message, and management. Sounds like a rather textbook description of a campaign manager. Indeed, Ratcliff has been intimately involved in “guiding” Beals on nearly every important campaign decision, especially those involving fundraising.

And it is in the realm of fundraising that Ratcliff really shines, but not in the way one would traditionally think. Rather than focusing on large donations and powerful interests, Ratcliff is using the Beals campaign as a laboratory for his strategy of winning elections without raising millions of dollars.

In fact, leaked campaign documents show that Ratcliff has explicitly instructed Beals and his staffers not to spend money on food, decorations, and other standard campaign expenses in hopes of presenting the illusion of a grassroots, people-powered campaign with no connections to big time donors or financial elites.

Ratcliff, along with Republican strategist John Pudner, is the founder of Take Back our Republic (TBOR), a well-funded, well-connected NGO that focuses on campaign finance reform. The organization has written a “People’s Democracy Playbook.” As TBOR’s own website noted:
“Take Back Our Republic is teaming up with the Bridge Alliance and the Pluribus Project to work with Pudner’s long-time data and analytics guru,  who launched the data effort for President-elect Trump, an original organizer of Occupy Wall Street, and a team that helped defeat Congressional Majority Leader Eric Cantor to create the People’s Democracy Playbook.”
Got that? Ratcliff and Pudner are using the same kinds of data-mining that we now know Cambridge Analytica (and possibly others) used to help Trump win the presidency. While this may simply be good strategy to some, it certainly raises serious questions about the authenticity of Beals and any other candidate connected with Ratcliff, Pudner, and the other Beltway ghouls and political lifers.

Essentially then, it seems that Ratcliff is the wizard behind the curtain, leveraging his decades of contact building and close ties to the Democratic Party establishment while at the same time manufacturing an astroturfed progressive campaign using a front man in Beals.

But how exactly is Ratcliff, and by extension Beals, connected to Clinton and the Washington power elites?

Ratcliff made his career working under Bob Squier, one of the founders of modern political advertising and campaigning. Squier worked for nearly every prominent Democrat from the late 1960s through the nineties, with then President Bill Clinton and then Vice President Al Gore even delivering eulogies at his funeral in 2000. Squier launched Ratcliff’s career, and even passed the torch to him when Ratcliff left Squier’s firm after having become Senior Vice President; Squier gave Ratcliff his client list which included nearly every influential Democrat.

And those relationships carried through to Ratcliff’s lucrative lobbying career when he became a point man for the Clintons on numerous occasions.

One of Ratcliff’s most infamous, and indefensible, acts of fealty to the Clinton machine came in 2009 when he and longtime Clinton attorney and lobbyist, Lanny Davis, stumped around Washington to garner support for the illegal right-wing coup in Honduras, which ousted the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in favor of the right-wing oligarchs who control the country today. Although the UN, and even U.S. diplomats on the ground in Honduras, openly stated that the coup was illegal, Clinton was adamant to actively keep Zelaya out. Clinton admitted as much in her book Hard Choices where, in an excerpt that was subsequently removed from later editions, Clinton wrote:
“In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico… We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”
But it was Ratcliff and Davis who enabled Clinton’s coup in Honduras by acting as a bridge between powerful interests in Washington, and actors on the ground in Honduras and the region broadly.

...Essentially then, Ratcliff is a chief architect of the right-wing government in Honduras – the same government assassinating feminist and indigenous activists like Berta Cáceres, Margarita Murillo, and others, and forcibly displacing and ethnically cleansing Afro-indigenous communities to make way for Carribbean resorts and golf courses.

And this Washington insider lobbyist and apologist for war criminals and crimes against humanity is the guy who’s on a crusade to reform campaign finance and fix Washington? This is the guy masquerading as a progressive? This is the guy working to elect an “anti-war progressive”?

In a twisted way it makes sense. Ratcliff has the blood of tens of thousands of Hondurans (among others) on his hands, while Beals is a creature of Langley, a CIA boy whose exceptional work in the service of Bush and Clinton administration war criminals is touted as some kind of merit badge on his resume.

What also becomes clear after establishing the Ratcliff-Beals connection is the fact that Ratcliff’s purported concern with campaign financing and “taking back the Republic” is really just a pretext for attempting to provide a “proof of concept,” as it were, that neoliberal Democrats shouldn’t fear and subvert the progressive wing of the party, but rather that they should co-opt it with a phony grassroots facade all while maintaining links to U.S. intelligence, Wall Street, and the power brokers of the Democratic Party.

Ryan, Blue Dog
Beals isn’t the only candidate for NY-19’s Democratic nomination with ties to the Iraq War and the intelligence establishment. Patrick Ryan, who served two tours in Iraq as an intelligence officer after graduating from West Point, is also running in the primary against Beals.

...Ryan is backed by right-wing elements of the Democratic Party, as evidenced by his receiving support from the New Democrat Coalition PAC, a conservative, pro-business element of the party. In contrast, Beals doesn’t have such overt institutional support, and is instead handled by a Clinton surrogate who actively discourages large-scale fundraising as part of his strategy to build up his candidate as the true voice of the grassroots.

As such, Beals is attempting to craft an image as a progressive who stands in contrast to the Blue Dog conservatism of Ryan. What can you call this farce? It is the primary equivalent of professional wrestling. A rigged game.

Beals and Ryan represent a disturbing trend taking place across the country: intelligence insiders and military officers running as Democrats in an election year that expects to see triumphs for Democrats in reaction to the Trump shit show.

The World Socialist Website’s Patrick Martin has compiled a rather exhaustive list of other candidates who fall into this trend as well, including, but not limited to:
Elissa Slotkin (Michigan’s 8th District) – served three tours with the CIA in Baghdad
Gina Ortiz Jones (Texas’s 23rd District) – Air Force intelligence officer in Iraq [And backed by the DCCC against an actual Berniecrat, Rick Treviño.]
Abigail Spanberger (Virginia’s 7th District) – served as CIA operations officer for nearly a decade
Jesse Colvin (Maryland’s 1st District) – Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan and Korea’s DMZ
Shelly Chauncey (Pennsylvania’s 5th District) – CIA undercover officer in Latin America, East Asia, and, unsurprisingly, within the borders of the U.S.
These candidates represent only a small sample of the more than dozen races in which U.S. intelligence and/or military operatives are running as Democrats. Many of them directly participated in war crimes and crimes against humanity. And a significant number of this rogue’s gallery are posturing as “progressives” in the Bernie Sanders tradition.

What we are witnessing is the inevitable counter-insurgency by the forces of entrenched political power in Washington, and capital more generally. While Bernie Sanders was no revolutionary, his campaign ignited a grassroots upsurge that now threatens the power of the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party and the neoliberal Clinton political machine that, for all intents and purposes, controls it.

By presenting real progressive voters with manufactured, faux-progressive candidates like Jeff Beals, the Clintonites think they’ll pull the wool over the eyes of the progressive left.

Will the Left allow them to? That depends on us.

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At 6:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ayup. And when any of them win the primary, you'll then ask us to support them anyway.

When Pelosi said it was "OK" for candidates to SAY they supported MFA even though they don't (and Pelosi doesn't, which makes that whole issue moot), did you expect that was the only lie they would be pushing?

Will the 'craps get away with it? Well, yes, it *IS* up to us.
But us/US always ALWAYS help them get away with it, don't we DWT?

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Ulisse Di Bartolomei said...

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At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leaked Audio Reveals Democrats Cheating Progressives Again

Jimmy Dore: Recorded Audio from a phone call between Steny Hoyer and Levi Tilleman reveals the DCCC actively working against progressives.

Yeah, lets reclaim this party from within.

At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been a reader for many years, and this is my first comment--

The Counterpunch article promises to unmask candidates running as progressives, who are not.

The article fails. It gives a list of jobs the author thinks disqualifies you from being a progressive.

I am curious to know, is every veteran a war criminal? If not, why not?

If you served in the military in the past forty years, you had to volunteer to do it.

I want to hear about single payer, ressurecting unions, minimum basic income, enforcing anti-trust, public campaign financing.

If someone says they are for those things, you have evidence they are lying, that is one thing.

Just saying someone served in the CIA doesn't prove that.

How do you know their CIA/military service didn't turn them into progressives?

Ever heard of Edward Snowden?

At 10:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The DxCC Strikes Back!

Go suck off the corporatist empire!

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:00, we HEARD of Snowden (and Manning), thus we know they are principled people (utterly unsuited to run as democraps, btw).

We are only hearing about bloody Gina because she is up for a key posting. She tortured people for the cia just for the fun of it.

Working for the CIA or DOD doesn't automatically DQ them. But if the DCCC likes them, I'd presume that there is something there at the VERY least unsavory, if not war crimes.

Those candidates would have to prove to me that they are NOT war criminals. And I wouldn't vote for them anyway because they are democraps. guilt by association, absolutely.

At 2:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:41 What are youtrying to say? That you would rather vote for a republican then?


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