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Posts Tagged ‘GEORGE W. BUSH’

AFGHANISTAN: DYING TO CIVILIZE THE UNCIVILIZED

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 16, 2017 at 1:02 am

On February 9, Army General John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee he had enough U.S. and NATO troops for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. 

But he needed more to sufficiently “train, advise and assist” the Afghan forces.

There are now 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and another 5,000 troops from NATO countries.

To put this latest troop request into human terms:

On December 21, 2015, a suicide-bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.  Six American troops and an Afghan were killed.

One of the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective and 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. A technical sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, he had been deployed three times–once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

IMAGE: NYPD Detective Joseph Lemm

Joseph Lemm

Lemm left behind a daughter, Brook, 16, a son, Ryan, four, and his wife, Christine.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 23 in Lemm’s honor.

“Staff Sergeant Joe Lemm served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Lemm’s death was a double tragedy–that of a dedicated man who should not have died so needlessly.

In short: It’s long past time for the United States to quit its failed mission to civilize Afghanistan.

The history of American conflict in Afghanistan began on September 11, 2001.

On that date, 19 Islamic highjackers slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted–and the highjackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

The administration of President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011–less than one month from the 9/11 attacks–American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

The whole point of the campaign was to pressure the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

But the Taliban held firm. Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then ultimately escaped into Pakistan.

After December, 2001, American Intelligence completely lost track of Bin Laden.  CIA officials repeatedly said he was likely living in the “no-man’s-land” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan–to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

There was, admittedly, a great deal to detest about the Taliban:

  • When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they turned soccer stadiums into execution plazas for mass beheadings or shootings.
  • Taliban “fighters” have proven their “courage” by throwing acid into the faces of women who dared to attend school.

Taliban religious police beating a woman

  • On August 8, 1989, the Taliban attacked Mazar-i-Sharif. Talibanists began shooting people in the street, then moved on to mass rapes of women. Thousands of people were locked in containers and left to suffocate.
  • The Taliban forbade women to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative and wearing the burqa–a traditional dress covering the entire body. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten.

Yet, as horrific as such atrocities were, these did not obligate the United States to spend eternity trying to bring civilization to this barbaric country.

And, in pursuing that goal, both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014) didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he was viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • The same can be said for his successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan feel surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • Afghan “insurgents” are fighting American forces because (1) they are in a civil war; and (2) they believe their country has once again been occupied by foreigners.
  • Counterinsurgency is being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan–where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied just as firmly to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their so-called South Vietnamese allies as American troops now feel about their Afghan “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed up how Americans had really felt about their supposed South Vietnamese allies.

American surgical team in Vietnam

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person. The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps.  The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].  The fourth was VC [Viet Cong].

“And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

HUBRIS–AMERICAN STYLE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Donald Trump has changed Presidential campaigning–perhaps forever.

First, he routinely insulted his opponents. He made angry and brutal attacks on a wide range of persons and organizations–including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, other countries and even celebrities unconnected with politics.

Among those groups:

  • Mexicans
  • Prisoners-of-War
  • Blacks
  • Handicapped

Donald Trump

  • Muslims
  • Women
  • Asians

Second, he weaponized social media. He made Twitter an essential arm of his campaign, swiftly insulting his opponents and keeping them constantly off-balance. He proved himself a master at the tabloid news culture and thoroughly in tune with his target audience.

Third, he used the media for free publicity.  Since announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015, he got a year’s worth of free media advertising.  This wasn’t the result of a networks’ conspiracy to favor Trump.

Instead, it owed to the media’s lust for sensational copy. And scenes of conflict–such as making brutal attacks on others–generate huge viewership.

This was most apparent in debates, during which he belittled his Republican opponents with insulting nicknames, such as:

  • “Little Marco” – Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
  • “Goofy” – Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • “Lyin’ Ted” – Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz

And looking beyond the Republican primary cycle, he created one for his future Democratic antagonist: “Crooked Hillary”–Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State.

Political pundits marveled at Trump’s ability to jettison long-held niceties of political discourse and not pay an electoral price for it. They kept predicting that eventually this might happen.  But it never did.

Fourth, he openly called for the subversion of the American political system.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Cyber-security experts believed the hackers originated from Russia–and that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized it.

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The emails revealed the DNC’s bias for Clinton for President. And they showed clear animosity toward her lone challenger, Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign.

Five days later, on July 27, at a press conference in Doral, Florida. Trump said:

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Trump hoped to score points on Hillary Clinton’s using a private email server as Secretary of State. Instead, he ignited criticism–of himself–on both Left and Right.

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” said Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s chief foreign policy adviser. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was equally quick to react. “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” said Brendan Buck, Ryan’s spokesman. “Putin should stay out of this election.”

“If he is talking about the State Department emails on her server, he is inviting a foreign intelligence service to steal sensitive American government information,” said Michael Hayden, head of the CIA under President George W. Bush.

“In addition to its implications for national security today,” wrote Benjy Sarlin, political reporter for MSNBC, “the incident raised disturbing questions about how Trump would govern as president. If a leader is willing to turn to ask foreign spy agencies to target a political opponent, what would he ask of his own spy agencies?”

The avalanche of criticism led Trump to claim: “I was only being sarcastic.”

For at least one normally conservative newspaper, Trump’s words were simply too much. In a July 27 editorial, The Dallas Morning News declared:

“Words have meaning.  The world is listening. And what the world is hearing is a man demonstrating that he is unfit to sit in the Oval Office.”

Since the end of World War II, Republicans had taken an intensely anti-Communist stance. Now their Presidential nominee had not only complimented an ex-KGB agent but had even invited him to target the American political system.

Despite the criticism, the overwhelming majority of Republicans–including Paul Ryan–continued to support Trump’s candidacy. Nor did the Obama administration investigate or indict him for treason or subversion.

The ancient Greeks believed hubris–overweening pride–to be the greatest of sins. And, they warned, it was usually punished by divine wrath.

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In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride–pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is a nothing in the sight of the gods.”

And, in the pages of The Histories lies this warning: “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.”

Donald Trump has finally made it to the White House. But there is still time for hubris to overtake and destroy him.

DR. STRANGEVELOVE COMES TO THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 14, 2016 at 12:01 am

Americans like to believe they make rational choices for their Presidents.

But this has not always been the case.

One such example was Richard M. Nixon, elected in 1968 and re-elected in 1972.

In 1970, while deciding whether to widen the Vietnam war by bombing Cambodia, he repeatedly watched the movie “Patton.”  Then he ordered the bombing to begin.

Richard Nixon

In 1974, as Justice Department investigations of Watergate increasingly threatened his Presidency, his behavior grew increasingly erratic.

He drank heavily, took pills by the handful, and, on at least one occasion, was seen talking to pictures of Presidents that adorned the walls of the White House.

In the final weeks of his administration, as impeachment for his Watergate abuses seemed increasingly certain, Nixon inspired fears of a military coup in his Secretary of Defense.

James Schlesinger warned all military commands to ignore any direct orders from the White House–or any other source–without the counter-signature of the SecDef himself.

On his last night in the White House–August 8, 1974–Nixon summoned Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the Oval Office.

Half-rambling, half-crying, Nixon asked Kissinger to kneel with him on the White House rug and pray for God’s forgiveness. Kissinger, though Jewish, had never shown any interest in religion. Nevertheless, he reluctantly did so.

Later that night, Nixon called Kissinger and pleaded with him to never tell anyone “that I cried, and I was not strong.” Kissinger promised to keep his secret–and then promptly leaked it.  It soon became the most talked-about revelation of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s blockbuster, The Final Days.

Nixon, however, was not the only President whose irrationality played havoc with history. 

In June, 2001, George W. Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovenia. Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

And Putin was quick to take advantage of it.

George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin  

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land. 

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross.  That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross. 

BUSH:  Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned. Things are meant to be.

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.” 

Of course, no one from the Right is now recalling such embarrassing words.

In early 2003, Bush telephoned French President Jaques Chirac, hoping to enlist his support–and troops–for his long-planned invasion of Iraq.

Failing to convince Chirac that overthrowing Saddam Hussein was politically advantageous, Bush took a different tack.

BUSH: Jaques, you and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we’re both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord. 

Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East.  Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.

This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase His people’s enemies before a new age begins.

When the call ended, Chirac asked his advisers: “Gog and Magog–do any of you know what he’s talking about?”

When no one did, Chirac ordered: Find out.

The answer came from Thomas Roemer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne.

Romer explained that the Old Testament book of Ezekiel contains two chapters (38 and 39) in which God rages against Gog and Magog, sinister and mysterious forces menacing Israel.

Jehovah vows to slaughter them ruthlessly. In the New Testament book of Revelation (20:8) Gog and Magog are depicted as gathering nations for battle: “And fire came down from God out of Heaven, and devoured them.”

Chirac decided to oppose joining the upcoming invasion of Iraq.  France, he said, would not fight a war based on an American Presient’s interpretation of the Bible.

Click here: 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars: Kurt Eichenwald

Bush’s war cost the lives of 4,486 Americans–and an estimated 655,000 Iraqis. And the United States remains mired in Iraq, with more than 4,400 troops stationed there.

Bush, however, was not the first President to invoke Gog and Magog.

Ronald Reagan predicted that this Biblical confrontation would pit the United States against the Soviet Union–which had abandoned God at the time of the Russian Revolution.

Evangelical Christians twice elected Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to the Presidency.

In light of this, voters should think carefully before choosing candidates who accept superstitious beliefs over rational inquiry.

DR. STRANVELOVE COMES TO THE WHITE HOUSE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 13, 2016 at 12:22 am

Millions of Americans are appalled that Donald Trump, who will take office as President on January 20, has repeatedly skipped national security briefings offered by the CIA and other Intelligence agencies.   

“I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years,” Trump told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace on December 11.

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Donald Trump

Americans like to believe they choose rational men and women for their political leaders–especially their President.

And they like to believe that, once elected, the new President will base his decisions on rationality and careful consideration.

This is essential–because a Presidential decision can, in a matter of minutes, hurl nuclear bombers and missiles to lay waste entire nations.

Unfortunately, Presidential leadership hasn’t always been based on rationality.

A classic example of this was Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

Ronald Reagan

His wife, Nancy–like the last Empress of Russia–sought answers from “the other side.”

For Czarina Alexandra, wife of Nicholas II, the last “Czar of all the Russias,” those “answers” came from Grigori Rasputin, the “mad monk” from Siberia.

Rasputin claimed the ability to work miracles on behalf of Alexandra’s hemophiliac  son, Alexei, heir to the Russian throne.

Nancy Reagan’s Rasputin was an astrologer named Joan Quigley. The two met on “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1973.

Quigley gave Nancy–and through her, Reagan himself–astrological advice during the latter’s campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1976.

That effort failed to unseat President Gerald Ford–who was defeated that November by Jimmy Carter.

Four years later, in 1980, Reagan defeated Carter to become the 40th President of the United States.

On March 30, 1981, a mentally-disturbed loner named John W. Hinckley shot and critically wounded Reagan. Hinckley’s motive: Fixated on actress Jodie Foster, he believed that by shooting the President he could gain her affection.

For Nancy, the assassination attempt proved a watershed.

Shortly after the shooting, Merv Griffin told her that Quigley had told him: If Nancy had called her on that fateful day, she–Quigley–could have warned that the President’s astrological charts had foretold a bad day.

From that moment on, Nancy made sure to regularly consult Quigley on virtually everything that she and the President intended to do.

Click here: The President’s Astrologers – Joan Quigley, Nancy Reagan, Politicians and Their Families, Ronald Reagan : People.c

Many–if not most–of these calls from the White House to Quigley’s office in San Francisco were made on non-secure phone lines.

Joan Quigley

This meant that foreign powers–most notably the Soviet Union and Communist China–could have been privy to Reagan’s intentions.

Nancy passed on Quigley’s suggestions in the form of commands to Donald Regan, chief of the White House staff.  

As a result, Regan kept a color-coded calendar on his desk to remember when the astrological signs were good for the President to speak, travel, or negotiate with foreign leaders. 

Green ink was used to highlight “good” days, red for “bad” days, and yellow for “iffy”days.

Forget relying on Intelligence supplied by the CIA, the National Security Agency or the Pentagon.  Statecraft-by-astrologer was now the norm.

A list provided by Quigley to Nancy made the following recommendations–which Nancy, in turn, made into commands:

Late Dec thru March    bad
Jan 16 – 23    very bad
Jan 20    nothing outside WH–possible attempt
Feb 20 – 26    be careful
March 7 – 14    bad period
March 10 – 14    no outside activity!
March 16    very bad
March 21    no
March 27    no
March 12 – 19    no trips exposure
March 19 – 25    no public exposure
April 3    careful
April 11    careful
April 17    careful
April 21 – 28    stay home

Donald Regan, no fan of Nancy’s, chafed under such restrictions: “Obviously, this list of dangerous or forbidden dates left very little latitude for scheduling,” he later wrote.

Forced out of the White House in 1987 by Nancy, Regan struck back in a 1988 tell-all memoir: For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington

The book revealed, for the first time, how Ronald Reagan actually made his Presidential decisions.

All–including decisions to risk nuclear war with the Soviet Union–were based on a court astrologer’s horoscopes.  Rationality and the best military intelligence available played a lesser, secondary role–at best.

In 1990, Quigley confirmed the allegations an autobiography, What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan.

Click here: What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan: Joan Quigley

The title came from the question that Ronald Reagan asked Nancy before making important decision––including those that could risk the destruction of the United States.

Among the success Quigley took credit for:

  • Strategies for winning the Presidential elections of 1980 and 1984;
  • Visiting a graveyard for SS soldiers in Bitburg, Germany;
  • Pursuing “Star Wars” as a major part of his strategy against the Soviet Union;
  • The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; and
  • Moving from seeing the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire” to accepting Mikhail Gorbachev as a peace-seeking leader.

Thirty-five years after he became President, Ronald Reagan remains the most popular figure among Republicans.

His name is constantly invoked by Right-wing candidates, while his deliberately-crafted myth is held up as the example of Presidential greatness.

Conveniently left out: The small latter of his government-by-astrologer.

WHY TRUMP WON: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 18, 2016 at 10:22 am

Donald Trump owes his victory to a wide range of circumstances. Among these:

#10 Hillary Clinton gave only one memorable speech during the campaign–and then she quashed any benefits that might have come from it.  

This was the “basket of deplorables” speech, delivered at a New York fundraiser on September 9.  It was the only Clinton speech to be widely quoted by Democrats and Republicans.

She divided Donald Trump’s supporters into two groups. The first group were the “deplorables,” for whom she showed open contempt:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic –you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.

“He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people–now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”  

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Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore photo)

But the second group, she said, consisted of poor, alienated Americans who rightly felt abandoned by their employers and their government:

“But the other basket–and I know this because I see friends from all over America here….but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

“They don’t buy everything [Trump] says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

After giving this speech, Clinton threw away the good it might well have done her.

First, the day after making the speech, she apologized for it: “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’–that was wrong.”  

Many of Trump’s followers were racists, sexists and xenophobes–who deserved condemnation, not apologies. By apologizing, she looked weak, indecisive.

Second, having eloquently reached out to many of the men and women who were a prime constituency for Donald Trump, she made no effort to follow up.  

She could have used this moment to offer an economic package that would quickly and effectively address their vital needs for jobs and medical care. 

But that would have required her to put one together long ago. And all she had to offer now was boilerplate rhetoric, such as: “Education is the answer.”

Worst of all, Trump turned her speech against her, tweeting: “Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!”  

It did.  

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#11 Neither the Democrats nor the TV networks dared reveal the full intensity of hatred and violence that were hallmarks of Trump’s rallies–and campaign.  

Three New York Times reporters who covered Trump’s rallies for over one year routinely witnessed his supporters hurl vulgar taunts such as:

At Hillary Clinton: “Trump that bitch!” “Kill her!” “Lock her up!” “Hillary is a whore!” “Hang the bitch!”

At protesters: “Get out of here, you fag!” “Get him!” “Get the fuck out of here!”

At Latinos: “Build a wall–kill them all!” “Fuck those dirty beaners!” “Send them bastards back. I’m sure that paperwork comes in Spanish.”

At Muslims: “Fuck Islam!” “Islam is not a religion, partner. It’s an ideology.” “You don’t come and talk about America when you’re supporting Muslims.”

At President Barack Obama: “Fuck that nigger!”  

H. Allen Scott, a reporter for Fusion, attended a Trump rally and overheard conversations that startled him.

In one, a man marked Arabs as the enemy: “Those sand niggers are out to get us. We need to bomb the hell out of them.”

In the other, the supposed threat came from a different source: “The Donald will get all those Jews out of Washington.”

When protesters were ejected, Trump supporters went wild–and usually turned violent. Protesters were beaten and kicked–often with Trump’s encouragement.

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Protesters and supporters duke it out at a Donald Trump rally

Audiences at Trump rallies were overwhelmingly white. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.” Confederate flags were commonly displayed.

TV news networks and the Hillary Clinton campaign could have aired–repeatedly–such footage. Had they done so, Americans would have gotten a brutal, firsthand look at the anger and racism inherent in Trump’s candidacy–and followers.  

Instead, Trump was allowed to appear on late-night shows like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show where he was treated with kid gloves for fun and laughs. 

Thus, it is pointless to blame any one person (such as Hillary Clinton) or group (such as those who voted for third-party candidates) for Clinton’s loss. Many factors played a part–including some that, to keep this series at a reasonable length, could not be mentioned.

WHY TRUMP WON: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 17, 2016 at 12:05 am

Fans of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders have loudly claimed that if he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Donald Trump at the polls. 

Since he didn’t get the nomination, we will never know.

But Sanders would have carried his own negatives–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  Among the issues he championed:

  • Make college tuition free and debt-free.
  • Medicare for all.
  • Strengthen and expand Social Security.

Although worthy positions, they would have allowed Republicans to label him a “big-spending liberal.” 

In addition, Sanders had labeled himself a “democratic Socialist.” For millions of proudly ignorant Americans, “socialist” means “Communist.” And Fox News and the Republican party would have gladly assured them they were correct.  

Liberty Maniacs, a Minnesota-based brand that designs and sells political and satirical apparel, literally cashed in on this image with an eye-catching T-shirt.

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It depicted Sanders’ face alongside those of Karl Marx, Freidrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. And underneath were the words: “Bernie IS MY COMRADE.”

No doubt Republicans would have flooded the airways with similar images.

Sanders’ partisans continue to insist he was “cheated” out of the nomination by Hillary Clinton. But this still leaves unanswered the question:

If Sanders couldn’t prevail against the alleged ruthlessness of Clinton in the primaries, how could he have done so against Trump in the general election? 

As the saying goes: “Politics ain’t beanbag.”

#5 Democrats and liberals fell prey to hubris. They dismissed Donald Trump as a bad joke: Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times

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If comments on Facebook are any guide, many liberals believed Clinton would bury him at the polls: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics will turn out huge for her. Democrats will retake the Senate, and maybe even retake the House.

If many Democrats/liberals didn’t vote, one reason may be that they expected others to do it for them.

#6 The coalition that twice elected Barack Obama deserted Hillary Clinton.

Clinton did worse-than-expected among all the groups she was counting on to support her: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics.

  • In 2012, Obama got 93% of the black vote; in 2016, Clinton got 88%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 55% of the women’s vote; in 2016, Clinton won 54%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 60% of the vote of those under 30; in 2016, Clinton got 54%
  • In 2012, Obama got 71% of the Hispanic vote; in 2016, Clinton got 65%.

Clinton proved less popular even among whites than Obama: In 2012, Obama won 39% of their votes; in 2016, Clinton won 37%.

#7 For years, Republicans had waged a vicious campaign to demonize Hillary Clinton.

This included even falsely accusing her of conspiring to murder American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

Kevin McCarthy, a Republican member of the House of Representatives unintentionally admitted this on Fox News on September 30, 2015:   

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her [poll] numbers today?

“Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

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Kevin McCarthy

Thus, McCarthy revealed that:

  • The House Select Committee on Benghazi was not a legitimate investigative body.
  • Its true purpose was not to investigate the killings of four American diplomats during a 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
  • It’s actual purpose: To destroy the Presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

#8 Republicans attacked Clinton for using a personal email account–while ignoring that her two Republican predecessors had done the same.

General Colin Powell served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He not only used a private email account but advised Clinton to do so as she was about to move into the same job in 2009.  

Powell’s successor as Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, similarly used a private email account during her tenure (2005-2009).

Yet while Republicans hounded Clinton, accusing her of recklessly endangering national security, they totally ignored Powell’s and Rice’s uses of private email accounts.

#9 Trump, adopting the role of a populist, appealed to blue-collar voters. Clinton offered a “love-your-CEO” economic plan–and suffered for it.

Trump visited “Rustbelt” states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and vowed to “bring back” jobs that had been lost to China, such as those in coal mining and manufacturing. Clinton didn’t deign to show up, assuming she had those states “locked up.”

Most economists agree that, in a globalized economy, such jobs are not coming back, no matter who becomes President.

Even so, voters went for the man who promised them a better future, and shunned the woman who didn’t come to promise them any future at all. 

In May, Democratic pollster CeLinda Lake had warned Clinton to revamp her economic platform.

“Democrats simply have to come up with a more robust economic frame and message,” Lake said after the election. “We’re never going to win those white, blue-collar voters if we’re not better on the economy. And 27 policy papers and a list of positions is not a frame. We can laugh about it all we want, but Trump had one.”

WHY TRUMP WON: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 16, 2016 at 12:13 am

Since November 8, Democrats and liberals (the two are not always the same) have been in shock.

“How could this happen?” they keep asking–themselves and others. “How could the country go from electing a brilliant, sophisticated, humane man like Barack Obama to electing an ignorant, coarse, brutal man like Donald Trump?”

Efforts have been made to blame one person/group or another. But the truth is that many factors were involved, and the fallout will be felt for months–if not years–to come.

#1 Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate. When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw compared his rallies to Hannah Montana concerts. Audiences were excited by his charisma, eloquence, relative youth (47) and optimism (“Yes We Can!”).

Clinton radiated none of these qualities. She was 67 when she declared her candidacy for President–and looked it. Her speaking voice grated like the proverbial fingernail on a blackboard.

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Hillary Clinton

She seemed to have been around forever–as First Lady (1993-2001), as Senator from New York (2001-2009) and as Secretary of State (2009-2013). Those born after 2000 thought of the Clinton Presidency as ancient history. She was offering a resume–and voters wanted an inspiration.

#2 Clinton brought a lot of baggage with her. In contrast to Obama, whose Presidency had been scandal-free, Clinton–rightly or wrongly–has always been dogged by charges of corruption.

During the Clinton Presidency, a failed land deal–Whitewater–while Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas triggered a seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor. No criminality was uncovered, and no charge was brought against either Clinton.

After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”

As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government were with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If a “pay-to play” system wasn’t at work, one certainly seemed to be.

She cast further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. This wasn’t revealed until March, 2015–after she was no longer Secretary of State.

She claimed she had used it to avoid carrying two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she traveled with a huge entourage who carried everything she needed. Her critics believed she used a private email system to hide a “pay-for-pay” relationship with Clinton Foundation donors.

Finally,  as a candidate for President, she “secretly” worked with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she would get the nomination.

As DNC chair, Wasserman-Schultz was expected to be impartial toward all Democratic candidates seeking the prize. This included Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s chief competitor.

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Bernie Sanders

So Sanders and his supporters were outraged when WikiLeaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC.

The emails revealed a clear bias for Clinton and against Sanders. In one email, Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist.

#3 The Obamas’ support proved a plus/minus for Clinton.  Understandably, President Obama wanted to see his legacies continued–and she was the only candidate who could do it.

So he–and his wife, Michelle–stormed the country, giving eloquent, passionate speeches and firing up crowds on Clinton’s behalf.

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President Barack Obama

So long as either Obama stood before a crowd, the magic lasted. But once the event was over, the excitement vanished. Hillary simply didn’t arouse enough passion to keep it going.

And when Obama supporters compared the President and First Lady with Clinton, they found her wanting–in attractiveness, grace, eloquence, trustworthiness and the ability to inspire.

#4 Not enough Democrats entered the Presidential race. Among those few who did:

  • Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland;
  • Lincoln Chaffee, former governor of Rhode Island;
  • James Webb, former U.S. Senator from Virginia;
  • Lawrence Lessig, professor at Harvard Law School;
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders;
  • and former First Lady/U.S. Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Of these candidates, it’s worth noting that O’Malley withdrew during the primaries. Chaffee, Webb and Lessig withdrew before the primaries started.

Many liberals wanted Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren to run. As a specialist in consumer protection, she had become a leading figure in the Democratic party and a favorite among progressives.

But, without giving a reason, she declined to do so.

Thus, at least on the Democratic side, the stage was already set at the outset of the race.

No matter who the Republican nominee would be, the Democratic one would be Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.  

Sanders fans have loudly claimed that if only he had gotten the Democratic Presidential nomination, he would have crushed Trump at the polls. 

But Sanders would have carried big negatives as well–which the Republicans would have gleefully exploited.  

These will be explored in Part Two of this continuing series.

AMERICA’S NOW IN THE DOCK WITH GERMANY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 14, 2016 at 12:05 am

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator.

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims….

“If he answered their suppressed desires, it was not because he shared them, but because he could make use of them. He despised the German people, for they were merely the instruments of his will.”

On November 8, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans elected Donald Trump–a man reflecting their own hate and ignorance–to the Presidency.

Yet, in some ways, Americans have fewer excuses for turning to a Fascistic style of government than the Germans did.

Adolf Hitler, joined the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party in 1919–the year after World War 1 ended.

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Adolf Hitler

It took him 14 years to win appointment to Chancellor (the equivalent of Attorney General) of Germany in 1933.

In 1923, he staged a coup attempt in Bavaria–which was quickly and brutally put down by police. He was arrested and sentenced to less than a year in prison.

After that, Hitler decided that winning power through violence was no longer an option. He must win it through election–or appointment.

He repeatedly ran for the highest office in Germany–President–but never got a clear majority in a free election.

When the 1929 Depression struck Germany, the fortunes of Hitler’s Nazi party rose as the life savings of ordinary Germans fell. Streets echoed with bloody clashes between members of Hitler’s Nazi Stormtroopers and those of the German Communist Party.

Germany seemed on the verge of collapsing.

Germans desperately looked for a leader–a Fuhrer–who could somehow deliver them from the threat of financial ruin and Communist takeover.

In early 1933, members of his own cabinet persuaded aging German president, Paul von Hindenburg, that only Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor could do this.

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Paul von Hindenburg

Hindenburg was reluctant to do so. He considered Hitler a dangerous radical. But he allowed himself to be convinced that, by putting Hitler in the Cabinet, he could be “boxed in” and thus controlled.

So, on January 30, 1933, he appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany.

On August 2, 1934, Hindenberg died, and Hitler immediately assumed the titles–and duties–of the offices of Chancellor and President. His rise to total power was now complete.

It had taken him 15 years to do so.

In 2015, Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President.

Now, consider this:

  • The country was technically at war in the Middle East–but the fate of the United States was not truly threatened, as it had been during the Civil War.
  • There was no draft; if you didn’t know someone in the military, you didn’t care about the casualties taking place.
  • Nor were these conflicts–in Iraq and Afghanistan–imposing domestic shortages on Americans, as World War II had.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Barack Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs were doing extremely well.
  • In contrast to the corruption that had plagued the administration of Ronald Reagan, whom Republicans idolize, there had been no such scandals during the Obama Presidency.
  • Nor had there been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil–as there had on 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Yet–not 17 months after announcing his candidacy for President–enough Americans fervently embraced Donald Trump to give him the most powerful position in the country and the world.

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Donald Trump

The message of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign had been one of hope–“Yes We Can!”

That of Donald Trump’s campaign was one of hatred toward everyone who was not an avid Trump supporter.

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Trump rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

They knew that demographics were steadily working against them. Birthrates among non-whites were rising. By 2045, whites would make up less than 50 percent of the American population.

The 2008 election of the first black President had shocked whites. His 2012 re-election had deprived them of the hope that 2008 had been an accident.

Then came 2016–and the possibility that a black President might actually be followed by a woman: Hillary Clinton.

And the idea of a woman dictating to men was strictly too much to bear.

Since Trump’s election, educators have reported a surge in bullying among students of all ages, from elementary- to high-school. Those doing the bullying are mostly whites, and the victims are mostly blacks, Muslims, Jews, Hispanics, Asians.

It even has a name: “The Trump Effect.”

And this is where matters stand more than two months before Trump takes the oath as President.

All of this should be remembered the next time an American blames Germans for their embrace of Adolf Hitler.

TWO ELECTION CASUALTIES AMERICANS CAN CELEBRATE

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 9, 2016 at 11:38 am

If there is one thing Republicans, Democrats and Independents can agree on, it’s this: 2016 gave America perhaps its most divisive Presidential election in modern history.

Many pundits have correctly noted that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump–especially Trump–brought a coarseness to the election never before seen.

Saturday Night Live brutally captured this in a series of skits featuring Alec Baldwin as Trump and Kate McKinnon as Clinton.

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But if basic civility proved a casualty of this campaign, there were two other casualties that the overwhelming majority of Americans will be glad to see finally buried: The Bush and Clinton family political dynasties.

Since 1980–36 years ago–there has been only one American Presidential election that did not feature a Bush or Clinton as a candidate.  Consider:

  • 1980: George H.W. Bush–first as a Presidential candidate; then, losing the Republican nomination to Ronald Reagan, as Reagan’s pick for Vice President.
  • 1984: Bush--as Reagan’s continued choice as Vice President.
  • 1988: Bush–as Reagan’s anointed choice for President, and then serving as President for four years.
  • 1992: Bush--as President running for a second term, only to be defeated by Bill Clinton, whose star now rises.
  • 1996: Clinton–as President, running for and winning a second term until 2001.
  • 2000: George W. Bush, son of the former President and Governor of Texas, runs for and wins the Presidency.
  • 2004: Bush, running for a second term and winning it.
  • 2008: Hillary Clinton–former First Lady and now New York Senator runs for the Democratic nomination and loses it to Barack Obama. Even so, he picks her to be his Secretary of State for the next four years.
  • 2012: The only Presidential election year since 1980 when neither a Bush nor a Clinton is a Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate.
  • 2016: Jeb Bush–son of George H.W. and brother to George W., he seeks the Republican nomination but is easily humiliated and defeated by Trump.
  • 2016: Hillary Clinton–having resigned as Secretary of State, she wins the Democratic nomination and loses the race to Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Among the “legacies” of both the Clintons and the Bushes:

  • George H.W. Bush: Sends a half-million American troops to Saudi Arabia to “liberate” Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. The real reason: To secure continued American access to Kuwaiti oil.

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George H.W. Bush

  • Presides over one of the worst recessions in American history–causing him to lose the 1992 Presidential election.
  • Bill Clinton: “Romances” White House intern Monica Lewinsky–and gets impeached (but not convicted) for it.

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Bill Clinton

  • Repeals FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking. This allows big banks to merge, becoming “too big to fail”–and sets the stage for the 2008 financial meltdown.
  • After Right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh blows up the Oklahoma City Federal Building, Clinton refuses to condemn Republicans’ 50-years’ demonizing of government that is largely responsible for it.
  • George W. Bush: Repeatedly ignores intelligence warnings of a coming attack by Al Qaeda, which results in the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

George W. Bush

  • Lies the United States into a needless war in Iraq, which costs the lives of 4,486 Americans and costs the treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Assures his fellow Americans that he has “looked into the soul” of Vladimir Putin and found him a man “very straightforward and trustworthy.”
  • After Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans, his Federal Emergency Management Agency–staffed with political hacks–bungles getting desperately-needed aid to America’s stricken citizens. Bush famously congratulates FEMA Director Michael Brown: “Heck of a job, Brownie.”
  • Hillary Clinton: As First Lady, refuses to release documents about Whitewater, a failed Arkansas land deal. This brings on a needless, seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor which turns up–nothing.

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Hillary Clinton

  • After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”
  • As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government are with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If there isn’t a “pay-to play” system at work, there certainly is the appearance of one.
  • Clinton casts further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. She claims it’s so she doesn’t have to carry two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she travels with a huge entourage who carry everything she needs.
  • As a candidate for President, she “secretly” works with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she will get the nomination.
  • She wins the nomination–but is so unpopular she loses to Donald Trump by an overwhelming margin in the Electoral College.

Millions of liberals and Democrats are no doubt dismayed at the outcome of the 2016 election.

And Republicans who sided with Trump will now find themselves at odds with those who refused to do so.

But Democrats and Republicans alike can rejoice that these two embarrassing–and disastrous–family political dynasties have finally been swept into the ashcan of history.

WIMPS ON THE LEFT, BULLIES ON THE RIGHT

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 2, 2016 at 12:04 am

Most Americans believe that Nazi Germany was defeated because “we were the Good Guys and they were the Bad Guys.”

Not so.  

The United States–and its allies, Great Britain and the Soviet Union–won the war for reasons that had nothing to do with the righteousness of their cause. These included:

  • Nazi Germany–i.e, its Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler–made a series of disastrous decisions. Chief among these: Attacking its ally, the Soviet Union, and declaring war on the United States;
  • The greater material resources of the Soviet Union and the United States; and
  • The Allies waged war as brutally as the Germans.

On this last point:

  • From D-Day to the fall of Berlin, Americans often shot captured Waffen-SS soldiers out of hand.
  • When American troops came under fire in the German city of Aachen, Lt. Col. Derrill Daniel brought in a self-propelled 155mm artillery piece and opened up on a theater housing German soldiers. After the city surrendered, a German colonel labeled the use of the 155 “barbarous” and demanded that it be outlawed.

German soldiers at Stalingrad

  • During the battle of Stalingrad in 1942, Wilhelm Hoffman, a young German soldier and diarist, was appalled that the Russians refused to surrender. He wrote: “You don’t see them at all, they have established themselves in houses and cellars and are firing on all sides, including from our rear–barbarians, they used gangster methods….”

In short: The Allies won because they dared to meet the brutality of a Heinz Guderian with that of a George S. Patton or a Georgi Zhukov.

This is a lesson that has been totally lost on the liberals of the Democratic Party.

Which explains why they lost most of the Presidential elections of the 20th century.

It also explains why Hillary Clinton finds herself on the defensive in the last week of the 2016 Presidential race.  

Throughout her campaign, the Democratic Presidential nominee has been stalked by her use of a private email server at her home in Chappaqua, New York, while Secretary of State (2009-2013). 

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Hillary Clinton

She did not use, or even activate, a State Department email account, which would have been hosted on servers owned and managed by the United States government.

Republicans have portrayed this as a criminal act–and their Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has threatened to send her to prison for it if he’s elected.

It wasn’t. 

When she became Secretary of State, the 1950 Federal Records Act mandated that officials using personal email accounts turn over their official correspondence to the government. 

Clinton maintains that most of her emails went to, or were forwarded to, people with government accounts, so they were automatically archived.

In November 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments, which require government officials to forward any official correspondence to the government within 20 days. But even under this new law, the penalties are only administrative, not criminal.  

In May, 2016, the State Department’s Inspector General found that:

  • Clinton’s email system violated government policy;
  • She did not receive permission in setting it up; and
  • The agency wouldn’t have granted approval had she asked.

Nevertheless, her behavior did not constitute criminal conduct. 

Clinton’s use of a private email system became a major political issue when The New York Times broke the story in March, 2015. 

Since then, Republicans have attacked her as having endangered national security as a result.  

In doing so, they have totally ignored two embarrassing facts:

First: During the George W. Bush Presidency, Clinton’s two Republican predecessors as Secretary of State–Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice–also used private email accounts; and

Second:  Government computer systems are not secure–and have been repeatedly hacked. Among the agencies attacked:

  • The White House (2014)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (2015)
  • Department of Defense (2015)
  • Internal Revenue Service (2015)
  • Pentagon (2015)
  • Department of State (2014)  
  • Department of Homeland Security

As soon as Republicans began attacking Clinton’s use of a private server, Democrats should have threatened to convene hearings spotlighting similar behavior by Powell and Rice.  

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Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice

Powell and Rice–both still highly influential figures within the Republican party–would have pressured their fellow Republicans: Knock this off–now.  

Even if Republicans had continued to hound Clinton on her email server, Democrats could have summoned and publicly grilled Powell and Rice. 

This would have served Republicans a lesson on Realpolitik straight out of Niccolo Machiavelli’s primer, The Prince:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. 

The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved….

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

For Democrats to win elective victories and enact their agenda, they must find their own George Pattons to take on the Waffen-SS generals among Republican ranks.

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