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Why Hillary Clinton Left Obama To Fend For Himself On Trade

Zach Carter   |   April 17, 2015    8:05 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's trade agenda took a beating on Friday, as House Democrats threw cold water on his bid to fast-track the biggest free trade pact since the 1990s, and 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton declined to back the plan.

Although Republican leaders in Congress are on board with Obama's effort to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping deal between the U.S. and 11 Pacific nations, Democrats have been persistently critical of the negotiations. The White House had hoped that a Thursday compromise between Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) would help thaw progressive opposition.

Obama got no help from Clinton. Late Friday, her campaign released a statement saying she "will be watching closely to see what is being done to crack down on currency manipulation" and to "improve labor rights, protect the environment and health," as first reported by The New York Times.

"We shouldn’t be giving special rights to corporations at the expense of workers and consumers," Clinton's statement reads.

These are standard Democratic objections to the TPP -- that whatever gains the deal might create for economic growth will come at the expense of the middle class and the environment. Labor unions, environmental groups and open Internet advocates have aggressively opposed the pact. The fact that Clinton is echoing these concerns several years after the negotiations began says a lot about how liberals think the deal is shaping up. The Obama administration has kept drafts of the TPP deal secret, but parts have leaked, intensifying Democratic concerns.

Clinton's statement does not reject TPP outright. But by refraining from coming down on the deal, while echoing concerns that aren't likely to be assuaged -- the Obama administration has made clear that there is no currency manipulation provision in TPP -- Clinton is leaving Obama to fight for Democratic votes on his own.

And Obama faces an uphill battle, particularly in the House. On Friday, Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) vowed to take down the Wyden-Hatch fast track bill, which would strip lawmakers of the authority to amend any trade deal that Obama ultimately reaches. Without fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority, few on Capitol Hill believe TPP can win congressional approval. Levin is the top Democrat on Ways and Means Committee -- the key panel that any trade legislation must clear before getting to the House floor.

Fast-track legislation offers Congress the ability to set negotiating objectives for trade agreements -- about five years late for TPP -- and Levin said Friday that the terms of the bill fall well short of what he is prepared to support. Levin said he had been excluded from negotiations that led to the fast-track deal involving the White House, Hatch, Wyden and Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

"The administration has essentially given us the power to defeat TPA," Levin said. "I'm out to defeat the Hatch-Wyden bill."

Only 11 of the 46 members of the congressional New Democrat Coalition came out in favor of the bill after it was released. New Democrats are friendlier to major corporations than most other Democrats, and typically support free trade deals. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has suggested he needs at least 50 Democratic votes in order to pass a fast-track bill, due to opposition among Republicans skeptical of ceding authority to Obama.

But Democrats simply do not trust Obama on trade. Levin's exclusion from White House negotiations with a former GOP vice presidential candidate is just the latest in a long line of Democratic frustrations. Liberals in both chambers say that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has obstructed their access to TPP documents for years.

"From my own experience, USTR’s consultations with Congress have been -- I hesitate to use this adverb, but I will -- pathetically inadequate," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said at a Thursday hearing, before listing a host of failed efforts by his office to get information on the deal's impact on the auto industry.

While the president has publicly committed to requiring upgrades in environmental and labor standards in any bill, his trade enforcement record is very weak on both fronts.

"The sad reality is that widespread worker abuse is taking place all over the world while virtually nobody in the USTR’s office is paying attention," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a potential challenger to Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary, told HuffPost. "Words on paper don’t mean anything if they are not enforced. ”

Sanders' sentiment is shared by many House Democrats, who say the president's recent promises on trade policy aren't backed up by his record in office. In November, the Government Accountability Office released two reports taking the Obama administration to task for spotty oversight of both labor and environmental conditions in existing trade agreements.

"USTR has never once brought a trade dispute over an environmental issue, over noncompliance with an environmental chapter, even when there has been clear documented evidence of violations," said Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s responsible trade program.

A spokesman for USTR pointed HuffPost to a list of the agency's labor rights efforts in Guatemala, Colombia, Jordan, Bahrain and other nations.

But USTR has made little progress on those cases. Union members in Colombia have been assassinated repeatedly since Obama approved a trade pact with the country in 2011. The administration has raised only one formal labor rights challenge to a trade deal. That dispute involves Guatemala, and remains unresolved after six years.

Clinton Campaign Will Accept Donations From Lobbyists And PACs

Sam Stein   |   April 16, 2015    1:09 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign will accept donations from lobbyists and political action committees, a difference in policy from the man she's hoping to replace, President Barack Obama.

The Clinton campaign confirmed that there would be no prohibition on such donations, after The Huffington Post was tipped off by two lobbyists supportive of the former secretary of state's run for the White House.

“Hillary Clinton has a long history of taking on tough fights against special interests, whether or not they’re donors to her campaigns," said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the campaign. "She strongly supports campaign finance reform and has voted for tough lobbying reform, but as long as Republican groups and candidates are going to spend millions attacking Hillary, we need the resources to fight back.”

The approach is consistent with the one Clinton took in her last White House run in 2008. But it differs from what Obama did that same year and four years later. Though accepting donations from lobbyists and PACs comes with some risks -- to the extent that it adds to the criticism of Clinton as a creature of Washington -- even some good-government figures downplayed its significance.

"Self-imposed rules, in general, are not reform by themselves," said David Donnelly, president and CEO of Every Voice, an organization that advocates for transparency and against the influence of money in politics. "Americans should be much more interested in the proposals her campaign will share about how to address the problem of money in politics -- and more importantly, what she'll pledge to do to make those proposals a reality if elected."

Clinton's vulnerability on accepting donations from lobbyists and PACs likely will be limited by the fact that few, if any, other potential presidential candidates are likely to apply the prohibition to themselves. That wasn't the case in 2008. During their square-off in the Democratic primary that year, Obama used his refusal to take cash from K Street as a key point of distinction and a way to deflect attacks.

“Eleventh-hour smears, paid for by lobbyist money," went one ad run by the Obama campaign. "Isn’t that exactly what we need to change?”

At the time, Clinton defended her acceptance of lobbyist contributions at the progressive YearlyKos conference in 2007, saying, “A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans.” Her remarks drew a round of boos from the audience.

The Obama policy, however, proved easier to tout than to execute. On several occasions, money from lobbyists did make it through the screen, forcing the Obama campaign to issue refunds after it was reported.

It also became apparent the policy was largely ceremonial in terms of limiting the ability of powerful interests to fund campaigns. Executives and board members of large corporations spending huge sums on lobbying, and with their own political action committees still provided hefty contributions to the Obama campaign, as did non-registered lawyers working for firms registered to lobby for clients. Obama’s policy also did not cover lobbyists registered at the state level.

The total amount of money from lobbyists and PACs available to a presidential candidate isn’t overwhelmingly consequential. Clinton's 2008 campaign raised $1.4 million from political action committees and just under $2 million from registered lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The benefit of empowering lobbyist donors comes from their ability to raise money. There were at least 22 lobbyist bundlers for Clinton’s last presidential campaign.

Obama’s policy of refusing lobbyist and PAC money extended to the Democratic National Committee as well. The party’s central organ banned cash from these two sources as soon as Obama became the effective Democratic presidential nominee, after Clinton withdrew from the race in June 2008. This policy is perhaps more consequential, as the contribution limit is much higher for individual donors to the party committee ($33,400 per year) than to a candidate’s campaign ($2,700 per election). Political Action Committees, meanwhile, can donate $15,000 to a party committee and $5,000 to a candidate's campaign.

The DNC generally takes direction from the leader of the party. It isn’t clear when or if the DNC will turn on the spigot for lobbyist cash in the 2016 election cycle.

Will Hillary Show up to Netroots Nation?

Chris Weigant   |   April 13, 2015    9:27 PM ET

And so it begins. Hillary Clinton is now officially in the race for the White House. Her announcement, like pretty much everything else about her upcoming campaign, will be microscopically analyzed within an inch of its life. Was she too generic? Was she appealing enough? Where were the specifics? What about Bill? And what was up with that laughably 1970s campaign logo? Most of these deep-dive analyses won't make a tiny bit of difference, in the long run (well, OK, that logo is pretty bad, hopefully that's the first thing Team Hillary decides to change...). But it'll certainly give all the pundits something to do in the meantime.

As campaign rollouts go, Hillary is obviously going for the lowest key she can manage. She hasn't even scheduled any big rallies or events for the first few months, and her announcement video didn't even show her face until the minute-and-a-half mark. She has, obviously, learned her lesson about the whole "inevitability" thing from the last time around. She is going to start campaigning by going on a "listening tour," starting in Iowa. This worked wonders for her as a senator, and it could be valuable if she meets some interesting people and does actually listen to their concerns along the way. The most interesting thing about her launch is that she's actually driving from New York to Iowa. Well, not personally driving (she's still got a Secret Service escort, like all former First Ladies), but still -- traveling the country's Interstates is a lot better way to reconnect to the common man and woman than chartering an airplane. Sure, it's a stunt, but it could turn out to be more than that, depending on the people she meets in the rest stops of the Midwest.

Hillary Clinton, like all presidential candidates, is going to have to perform a balancing act. She's got to reach out to the undecided voters that will be crucial for the general election, and she's also got to shore up her base. Right now, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is somewhat leery of Clinton (and that's putting it politely). Hillary is seen as being much more hawkish than the base is really comfortable with, and much closer to Wall Street than any Elizabeth Warren fan wants to see. That first one is pretty much of a given -- Hillary can transform herself in many ways out on the campaign trail, but she'll never be able to go back and erase her vote for the Iraq War. In her recent book, she stakes out a more aggressive foreign policy stance than President Obama, so it's pretty hard to see her walking this back all that much. But then again she's still going to have to work hard to be an acceptably-tough president for some voters, seeing as how she is the first woman to ever have a decent crack at winning.

Many Democrats are ready and willing to, if not actually forgive her for her hawkishness, at least accept it as part of the Clinton package. But when the subject turns to domestic issues, progressives are going to push a lot harder for Clinton to champion the causes of progressivism. Giving either Robert Reich or Elizabeth Warren a prominent place among Hillary's close economic advisors would go a long way towards quelling progressive fears that Hillary is but a reluctant progressive, at best.

But there's one other big thing Hillary could do to build bridges with the left of the Democratic Party -- attend this year's Netroots Nation conference. Because if you're going to woo liberals, the best way to do it is to travel to where the liberals will all be, in mid-July.

Eight years ago, the second annual Netroots Nation conference was held in Chicago (it was actually called YearlyKos back then, the name wouldn't change until 2008). Seven of the eight Democratic candidates appeared at the 2007 conference, including both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It was a different time, of course, since the primary race was a lot more openly contested than it likely will be this year. Since that time, the conference has grown into the premiere event for the "netroots" -- liberal bloggers, progressive activists, Unions, progressive politicians, and many other lefty influences (and influencers). It's the one time of year all of them can be reliably found under one roof.

This is why it is almost imperative for Hillary Clinton to attend this year's Netroots Nation in Phoenix. There is already some degree of controversy about the choice of site this year (some people are still boycotting Arizona over the anti-immigrant law they passed a few years back). But that shouldn't deter Hillary, who (after all) is going to have to campaign in all 50 states.

Hillary Clinton is not the netroots' favorite candidate. That's about as politely as I can put it. Instead, many progressives are putting a whole lot of time and energy into what is almost guaranteed to be a futile effort: convincing Senator Elizabeth Warren to run and be their champion. Warren has said -- over and over and over again -- that she is not going to run. Sooner or later, her fans are going to have to come to grips with this. If Hillary Clinton truly is the only viable candidate from the Democratic side ("viable" meaning "polling above ten percent," say), then the only real option is going to become trying to influence Hillary to be the most progressive candidate possible.

That's a disappointing prospect for many. Other Democrats may become favorites of the progressives who will be looking for "anyone but Hillary," but the question will become whether they'll get any real traction beyond the halls of Netroots Nation. A much more possible outcome is trying to get Hillary to see that progressive ideas are popular ideas, and indeed the ones she should be eagerly running on.

The differences between Hillary Clinton (and even Bill) and the netroots are not as great as some may think, however. After all, it is not radically leftist to be in favor of a higher minimum wage -- it's in fact been a standard Democratic position for decades. Most of the real friction comes over how to treat Wall Street and the big banks, where progressivism becomes downright populist in nature. Hillary Clinton may get a little squishy on the question of taxing hedge fund managers and the one percent, and on strictly policing Wall Street in general. But her positions on women's rights and equal pay should be completely in tune with progressives. So while she's got some work to do to convince the netroots that she hears their issues and supports most of their agenda, it doesn't mean she has to completely reinvent herself to do so.

Ignoring the netroots (and skipping Netroots Nation), though, would be a big mistake for Hillary. Because she's going to need not only the independent voters in the general election, she's also going to need a big turnout from the coalition that Barack Obama put together -- the same coalition that largely didn't show up at the polls in 2014. What 2014 proved is that when the base shows no excitement, Democrats can lose elections in a big way. The people who attend Netroots Nation are, to a large extent, the people who can actually generate this excitement. These are the people who walk precincts and get heavily involved in Democratic politics, after all. They need convincing so that they can go out and convince others, to put this another way.

Personally, I will be attending Netroots Nation this year. I truly hope to see Hillary Clinton there as well. I think it's the best thing she could do to shore up those in the Democratic base who still have reservations about supporting Hillary wholeheartedly. Sure, not everything she'll have to say is going to be wildly applauded -- she might even get booed a few times. Hillary Clinton is already a known quantity, and parts of her political persona aren't going to be in line with everyone in a Netroots Nation audience. The question for her is whether she can get beyond that and get the crowd a little fired up on the issues where Hillary does see eye-to-eye with progressives. Hillary needs the netroots to be not just begrudgingly for her, but to actually get excited about the prospect of four (or eight) years of her in the Oval Office. The best way for her to accomplish this is to show up, explain her positions, and let people see she's listening not just to people along the Interstates of America and in Iowa living rooms, but also to the folks in the big keynote hall of Netroots Nation.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

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Hillary Clinton Team Holds Off-The-Record Journalist Dinner Ahead Of 2016 Announcement

Michael Calderone   |   April 10, 2015    9:22 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Hillary Clinton's campaign team held an off-the-record dinner Thursday night in Washington, D.C., for roughly two dozen journalists and staff members at John Podesta's house, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The dinner signals that the Clinton team is trying to engage with top reporters in the days before the Democrat's expected announcement of a 2016 presidential run. It also suggests the new campaign team is looking to change course from the toxic relationship with the press that plagued the 2008 race. The Clinton team is also holding a private event in New York on Friday night for journalists, according to sources.

Podesta, the campaign chairman and a seasoned cook, made a pasta with walnut sauce for the dinner guests, which included reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, Bloomberg, McClatchy, Reuters and several major TV networks.

A Huffington Post reporter attended the dinner, but did not discuss it with this reporter.

The guests also enjoyed a shrimp appetizer, homemade cookies, and a selection of wine and beer -- including, appropriately, Brooklyn Lager.

Clinton herself did not attend the dinner. But several key Clinton staffers, including Campaign Manager Robby Mook, Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, Strategic Communications Adviser Karen Finney, Senior Adviser Mandy Grunwald and pollster Joel Benenson, were there.

A Clinton spokesman declined to comment on the gathering.

Clinton has long had a fraught relationship with the media, going back to scandals and controversies during her husband's presidency in the 1990s. But in recent months, Clinton sources have promised that the 2016 campaign would be different.

She took questions from the press for about 15 minutes last month following revelations that she exclusively used a private email account for government business throughout her four years as secretary of state, but hasn't since given an interview.

During a journalism awards ceremony late last month, Clinton suggested she wanted a fresh start with the Fourth Estate.

"I am all about new beginnings," Clinton said. "A new grandchild, a new email account. Why not a new relationship with the press? So here it goes. No more secrecy. No more zone of privacy. But first of all, before I go any further. If you look under your chairs, you'll find a simple nondisclosure agreement."

This post has been updated with a more complete list of who was in attendance and to mention a Friday event in New York.

The Case Against Political Dynasties in American Politics

Daniel Wagner   |   April 7, 2015   12:16 PM ET

The Founding Fathers of the United States warned against the perils of dynastic succession in American politics. In 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote to George Washington that "... a hereditary aristocracy will change the form of our Government from the best to the worst in the world." At that time, he called ancestral political rule a "scourge" that had condemned the overwhelming majority of France to a "cursed existence."

Yet, for some strange reason, many American citizens today seem to believe that because an individual may have come from a privileged background or a 'political' family, they should either have a right to attain elected office or will naturally do a better job than someone who isn't 'privileged' or part of a political dynasty. A January 2015 Washington Post-ABC News poll noted that only a third of voters polled would be less likely to vote for a Bush, and 14 percent less likely to vote for a Clinton, because of their surname.

Where did merit get lost in the equation, I wonder, and why do Americans fall for the 'dynasty trap'? At least part of the answer is apathy. Voter turnout for the 2014 mid-term elections was just 36.4 percent -- the lowest since 1940. At the beginning of World War II, just at the time when voters should have been motivated to ensure that fascism didn't consume America, the voting public chose to remain politically apathetic. The current propensity of American voters to be so indifferent to political dynasties appears then to have something to do with a lack of interest in politics, the idea being to go with the devil that you know.

Apathy appears to have spread beyond politics, to knowledge more generally, with a substantial decline in the number of Americans who regularly read a newspaper or a book. A 2012 Pew Research poll noted that only 23 percent of Americans read a newspaper regularly, and a 2013 Huffington Post poll showed that 28 percent of American hadn't read a book in more than a year. On this basis, how actively interested is the average American likely to be in politics or politicians? Not very.

What does history teach us about the wisdom of going the 'easy' route and voting for candidates from political dynasties? Does being part of such a dynasty impart one with greater political wisdom or a higher level of achievement? The Roosevelts and Kennedys greatly contributed to modern American liberalism, while the Bushes did the same for conservatism. But the longer historical record is far more mixed.

Our country's first two experiences with political dynasties did not end particularly well, with the Adams and Harrison Administrations being largely considered failures. Franklin Roosevelt's dramatic expansion of executive power resulted in a greater ability to promote economic reform and enhance military preparedness, but it also created a cult of personality and an enduring era of big government. The Kennedys were supremely devoted to public service and lofty liberal ambitions, but in the process, also to the acquisition of political power and the virtual elimination of competition in some areas of Massachusetts state politics.

While Bill Clinton has made a significant contribution to solving some of the world's more pressing problems through the Clinton Global Initiative, he and Hillary have become extremely wealthy since they left the White House -- something that would surely not have been so easily achieved had they not ridden their own political coattails to fortune. George W. Bush's legacy will likely be played out for decades to come as a result of the disastrous Iraq War and its lingering global consequences. Could a third entanglement in the Middle East be the result of a third Bush presidency?

With that all said, I actually believe that the American people will choose not to elect another Clinton or Bush to the presidency in 2016. Despite their political aloofness, the American people must know that political dynasties are not what the Founding Fathers intended, and that in this country, dynasties have not proven to be a net positive throughout the course of history. Moreover, given the current state of the world, what is clearly needed is some fresh thinking and the ability to move beyond the legacies of recent political history. At least it is my hope that, given the stakes at hand, the voting public has the common sense to become more engaged in the political process and consider the consequences of prolonging the Clinton and Bush dynasties.

Daniel Wagner is CEO of Country Risk Solutions.

Success, Service and Sexism

Kayla Behbahani, D.O.   |   April 3, 2015    1:49 PM ET

During my first year of medical school, we had a sports medicine lecture. The professor introduced himself, then scanned the room, making note of the fact that there were more men than women. He asked for the male-to-female ratio. Sitting in the front, I replied with the figure that had been quoted to us at orientation: "60 percent male." He looked at me then and asked, "Is that why you're here?"

He meant it as a joke and people did laugh, but the truth is, the reason that response garnered the reaction it did is because it played on a stereotype, one that's insulting and long-since outdated, but still considered politically correct -- the stereotype that women will attend college, or in this case medical school, just to land a man. I assure you such a stereotype couldn't be further from the truth. I attended med school with some of the smartest, most accomplished women I had ever met and now as a doctor, I'm working alongside some of the brightest minds in medicine. To have our accomplishments reduced for a few cheap laughs is frustrating. What's even more frustrating is that it's not restricted to academia.

Last December, Barbara Walters revealed her "Most Fascinating People" list. Among the contenders, there was Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who took a bullet to the head while advocating for women's education, or Brittany Maynard, the Oregon newlywed diagnosed with terminal brain cancer who incited controversy when she chose to enact Oregon's "death with dignity" act and take her own life when her suffering became too much to handle, or Janet Yellen, the first female to serve as chair of the Federal Reserve, or any of a number of other women whose accomplishments helped to shape the world.

But instead, Ms. Walters chose Amal Clooney, the woman who married George Clooney.

In fairness to Amal Clooney, she actually is quite an accomplished woman. She's a graduate of NYU's law school; she clerked for a Supreme Court Justice; she practices as an international attorney; she has represented noteworthy clients in some of the most controversial cases in recent history. Had that been why Ms. Walters selected her, at least her reasoning would have made sense. But instead, Ms. Walters chose her because she was able to "fascinate one of the most fascinating men in the world," referring to actor George Clooney, and that, by far, seemed to be the point of the piece.

The five-minute clip marginalized Amal Clooney's education and career and centered primarily around her new spouse, referencing all the women who previously dated him and failed to get a ring and calling George's commitment to Amal, "one of the greatest achievements in human history." High praise, indeed.

With Senator Ted Cruz's campaign kick off, the 2016 political season has begun and among the speculated contenders, Vice President Joe Biden, former Governor Jeb Bush, and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In 2008, then-Senator Clinton made her first bid for president and out came the critics. Criticizing her on policy was fair game for a presidential candidate, but her candidacy was reduced to criticism of her clothing, criticism of her hair and in perhaps one of the most bizarre media fixations since balloon boy's mid-air flight over Colorado, criticism of her cankles. National commentators attributed her success in politics to her husband's affairs, said that she looked like everyone's first wife standing outside the probate court, and even compared her to Glenn Close's chilling portrayal of a mentally unstable jilted lover in Fatal Attraction. Her historic candidacy became a punchline for every sexist joke that slipped the lips of both men and women.

So why then are people surprised that the closer we get to her announcement to run for president (if she truly does), the more her team stiffens their shoulders and steals their hearts for a replay? We can hope that past mistakes won't be repeated, that the national debate has progressed to a point that we no longer define our candidates by their gender, but considering the charges of sexism were never fully acknowledged the first time around and the recent backlash earned by the now-infamous "coded sexism" memo circulating in newsrooms around America, I don't plan to get my hopes up.

Obama's Foreign Policy: Continuity Rather Than Contradictions

Pierre Guerlain   |   March 31, 2015   12:21 PM ET

Analysts of foreign policy often dream or fantasize more than they analyze. Every single ideological stripe or every single political Internet site produces its analyses in accordance with preconceived notions or preferred frames of references. It is often difficult to know if analysts from different backgrounds are talking about the same events or policies. I am not talking about realists vs idealists for there are many more foreign policy churches than just two.

It is often like the famous Indian story about the blind men and the elephant: every one has a totally different conception of the elephant. Usually only time, and therefore history, enables one to find out which interpretations were the correct ones. Thus we now know that the missile gap between the US and the USSR during the Cold War was not the one which so many politicians and simple war-mongers referred to in the West: the US was always ahead and its economy was always much stronger, even at the time of Sputnik.

Now with the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program and the multiple battles in the Middle East a myriad of contradictions have flourished in articles, blogs and books. Obama is accused of cozying up to Iran with his eyes wide shut, some even argue that it is a return to the alliance with the "Persians" which shows Obama is ready to throw Israel under the bus. Saudi Arabia is said to doubt the US because it feels its President is so weak. Egypt supposedly turned to France to buy its latest aircraft for similar reasons.

In Europe some analysts also consider Obama is weak and that is the reason why he is not giving Ukrainians the lethal weapons (an oxymoron by the way) they request. Others argue that Obama is to the right of the Bush 1 administration and lets his adviser Victoria Nuland run the show which can only lead to a new Cold War (now threatening to become a hot one).

With Syria Obama is blamed for not bombing the Assad régime in 2013 and therefore appearing weak. He is now accused of forming a tacit alliance with the butcher of Damas and also with the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to defeat ISIS. But then the US supports Saudi Arabia in its intervention in Yemen although the UN did not authorize it. So the US is cooperating with Iran in Iraq while cooperating with Saudi Arabia in its major anti-shite bombings. The US also cooperates with its allies in Europe over Ukraine though Ms Nuland keeps insulting Europeans (fuck Europe) or bashing Germany (Merkel a defeatist). Obama talks tough on Russia but is on the same side as Putin against Islamists in Syria.

Netanyahu keeps trying to frighten the world about Iran, knowing full well that Iran does not have a nuclear bomb nor could it use one if it had it. Israel is talking as if the US were its enemy over Iran although it is financially, diplomatically and economically dependent on America. Friends use the rhetoric of enemies and enemies work together. Iran shares an objective with the US in Iraq but is radically opposed in Yemen. This is the stuff foreign policy is made of. Always.

Obama plays the foreign policy game the way all American presidents have played it. Iran-contra, for those who remember, involved the US, under supposedly super tough Reagan, illegally delivering weapons to Iran although the US supported Saddam Hussein's Iraq in its war of aggression against the Islamic Republic. The proceeds from this sale of weapons were used to illegally support the contras in Nicaragua. Cynicism and double-dealing are the rule in international relations. After 9/11, Iran and the US cooperated in the fight against the Taliban--without becoming friends for all this. Then the US, with its close ally Israel, resorted to sabotage of nuclear installations in Iran (stuxnet virus). Iraq under the butcher Hussein had been a good ally in the 80s when Rumsfeld went to Bagdad to pay a friendly visit. Bush junior refused to allow Israel to bomb Iran in 2008. American foreign policy is far more stable than the commentariat acknowledges.

Alliances of convenience are the staple of foreign policy as any reader of Machiavelli knows. Obama wants a deal over Iranian nuclear capabilities for it would be a major success of US foreign policy: Iran would not be a threat to Israel (which it is not really today anyway) but mostly Iran could not enjoy the prestige that this bomb might give it and thus could not lord it over Saudi Arabia or Israel. The deal Obama wants is actually in Israel's interest but Netanyahu needs an enemy or scapegoat for his own domestic reasons and his own military-industrial complex.

In Ukraine, Obama probably knows how not to get too far and if Nuland or McCain called the shots war with Russia would be a distinct possibility. It is wrong to argue that Obama was so busy with the pivot to the Pacific that he did not want to intervene in Europe. The US pushed its luck and its bases (NATO bases) closer and closer to Russia from Clinton onward. Americans thought the bear was defanged and Russia could be treated like Iraq or Serbia or maybe Venezuela. The US cornered the bear and then was surprised by the bear's brutal reaction. Obama talked about a reset which Putin's initial post 9/11 offer of cooperation made a reasonable proposition but then the US pushed further. The bear-baiter was taken aback.

Some argue that Obama is a neo-realist, but then he is les incisive than real realists like Walt and Mearsheimer, or that he is a pragmatist or neo-pragmatist. Whatever the label Obama, (that is, in fact, the many agencies, advisers and foreign policy decision makers working for his administration) is pushing the same agenda as former presidents which means projecting power to achieve more presence and ...power in the world. He fully supports Israel whatever is said about it for there is nothing pushing him to get closer to the Palestinians. He pushed Putin but not as far as fighting him in Crimea for he knows the stakes would be too high. He encircles China while the US and China have formed a kind of duopoly.

Lord Palmerston famously said in 1848: "We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow". This is the golden rule of foreign policy. So Obama's twists and turns, apparent weaknesses and reversals, his seeming contradictions can be understood in this frame. The interests of the US or of its dominant class are that Iran should neither have a bomb nor get too big for its boots in Iraq and the Middle East, that Israel should remain a close ally and client state in the Middle East without launching dangerous military attacks that could upset the fragile system of quasi-alliances in the region, that Russia should be kept down though not prompted into a serious military attack, that China should be a viable economic partner but kept to its sphere of influence and not threaten Japan, that Europe should be a close economic ally but not a major competitor nor a united force in the world.

There are shifts, twists and turns in the official rhetoric a few blunders like the Libya invasion in 2011 and probably a miscalculation about Russia which Clinton & Bush II also made but, overall, Obama has not strayed from the objective of US hegemony and global dominance. He resorts to other means than his predecessors, global surveillance for instance, but he has remained within the mainstream of US dealings with the world. On the left, people argue he is defending the empire, on the right people are reluctant to admit he has fought as hard an any former president to maintain American leadership, that is hegemony. There are curves and obstacles on the road but Obama navigates in the usual American way. The right is wrong to criticize him: he is doing what they would have done, only in a more subtle way.

Trail To The Chief: 2016 Perks Of Being A Wallflower Edition

Lauren Weber   |   March 30, 2015    5:52 AM ET

2016 Perks Of Being A Wallflower Edition

Here at Trail to the Chief, we are not cynics. Far from it. We actually think that politics and government can be positive forces. Why else would we report on their shortcomings? We can’t help but admire those who have the guts to immerse themselves in the miserable, and at times humiliating, process of running for president. Nor do we dismiss the possibility that the candidates are motivated, at least in part, by idealism, by desire to do good, and by the conviction that they have the talent, vision and patience to lead this all-but-unleadable country.

But surely there is more -- or rather less -- to it than that. Most of the people running have only the dimmest chance of winning. The Republican field alone has at least 14 candidates, which makes for forbidding odds; on the Democratic side, the chances of knocking off Hillary Clinton are steep, too.

So why are these legions of men and women running, or toying with running or talking about running in 2016? Well, there are, shall we say, Lesser Reasons. It doesn’t take a cynic to find them. It only takes a short while of hanging around in the Augean Stables of Campaign World, where the reeking stalls are full of vanity, blind ambition, narcissism, business networking and the plain old need to make a buck.

So here is our Trail to the Chief list of the potential perks of being a wallflower in 2016:

One good behind-the-curtain debate anecdote can double your fee.
Gary Bauer
Follow the Newt Gingrich guide to a multimedia industry -- books, DVD, lecture series, alternate history. You name it; he's got it.
Newt Gingrich
It's so much easier to be a TV commentator than an author.
Mike Huckabee
Not charismatic enough to win the big prize, but you walked and talked enough to make it to the No. 2 spot or Cabinet position.
Lindsey Graham
All about the Benjamins -- Chris Dodd added presidential campaign to his resume and ended up as head of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Chris Dodd
Mission from God means you never truly lose, and you boost your show's profile in the meantime.
Pat Robertson
Arguably can have a better impact elsewhere within the party than as a candidate.
Howard Dean
Your hedge fund Rolodex will be set for life.
The Clintons
Only Iowa and New Hampshire, but it's fine. And people have to listen to you play guitar.
Martin O'Malley
Ego-boosting phalanx of bodyguards that turns into the Secret Service. You can really impress the geeks at CPAC.
Bobby Jindal
Armchair quarterback with nothing to lose.
Mitt Romney
You can quit politics altogether and move on to another life.
Al Gore

Candidate Photos: Getty, Associated Press

  |   March 23, 2015   11:31 AM ET

WASHINGTON, March 23 (Reuters) - Private emails that Hillary Clinton turned over to a House committee investigating the 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, show her aides sometimes used their personal email accounts to communicate with her, the New York Times reported on Monday.

But the approximately 300 emails from Clinton, the presumptive presidential candidate, do not prove the former secretary of state ordered a "stand down," stopping U.S. forces from responding to the Benghazi attack or participated in any related cover-up, the newspaper reported, citing four senior government officials.

The Times report is the latest revelation in the saga over Clinton and her use of a personal email address to conduct government business, as well as a private computer server to store that correspondence.

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill told the Times that Clinton's aides primarily used their work email to correspond with her about government matters, adding that "only the tiniest fraction of the more than 1 million emails they sent or received involved their personal accounts."

According to the Times, at least four Clinton aides occasionally used personal emails to contact her while she was at the State Department, including her foreign policy adviser, Jake Sullivan; chief of staff, Cheryl Mills; senior adviser, Philippe Reines; and her personal aide, Huma Abedin.

A spokesman for the Republican-controlled House Select Committee on Benghazi declined to comment, according to the newspaper.

Clinton has said she gave copies of all work-related emails to the State Department, but Republicans, who see her as their top target in the run-up to the 2016 election, continued to press for more records.

Last week Republicans asked the State Department to hand over numerous documents related to Clinton's use of private email while she was secretary of state and have called on her to hand over her email server to a third party.

Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chairs the House committee investigating Benghazi, has said he does not think Clinton has given the committee all emails related to the attack and last week extended the deadline for her to turn them over. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Presidential Libraries: Taking Stock as Obama Readies His Own

Paul Gunther   |   March 19, 2015    4:09 PM ET

By voting yesterday to approve release of 20 acres of public parkland to the University of Chicago, the local City Council finally cleared the last obstacle to its pending hometown bid for the Barack Obama Library and Museum. While initially expected this month, announcement of the White House selection from among the finalist cities of Chicago, Honolulu, and New York shifted to after April 7, when the run-off mayoral election takes place between the incumbent, Rahm Emanuel, and challenger, Jesús García.

Rumors circulating about the cause of this postponement range from the assumption that New York's Columbia University will prevail on its ambitious new West Harlem campus and that such news --reported now-- would hurt loyalist Emanuel's prospects, to just the opposite: Chicago is the favored choice so why not leave it in doubt so that Rahm's re-election remains a presumed advantage in the final decision-making? Others believe it will be split among the cities with distinct departments functioning as part of a synchronized whole in contrast to other recent presidential examples.

In any case, the choice is imminent and the civic stakes are high for what will stand as the 14th such namesake museum and archive, which by now seems to be the inevitable legacy of every American chief executive. With this pending presidential archive in mind, it also makes sense to look briefly at the trajectory of this expensive and essentially American public/private siloing of historical memory and future interpretation.


When the British burned the nascent congressional library of the young American Republic in 1814, it was Thomas Jefferson, known for his obsessive list- keeping and declining finances, who agreed to revivify it through the sale of his own book collection from the shelves of his beloved Monticello. Within the year, therefore, the nation again had a good leg up on a diverse and rigorously conceived central holding of the great books of global civilization. The third president gladly took the $23,900 purchase price and in turn declared with thinly concealed self-celebration, "There is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may now not have occasion to refer."


An ever-growing and institutionalized Library of Congress finally got its own separate headquarters across from the Capitol in 1897 with construction of a Beaux-Arts extravaganza by prestigious architects Pelz and Smithmeyer and duly named the Thomas Jefferson Building. Among all other duties in what stands today as the world's second largest library, the archivists are assiduously recreating these full original purchase contents, whether with the actual Monticello copies or their contemporaneous facsimiles.


While unique as the measure of a single curious mind, this library nonetheless serves as a spiritual antecedent to the present imperative for housing the records of each successive president in an eponymous facility under the official care of the National Archives and Records Administration.

This division of the federal Department of the Interior first gained the mantle for the 31st President, Herbert Hoover, and they have continued ever since. Over time its purpose has grown from mere repository to active interpretive center, housing celebratory museum, library, and research institute, where the presidency, American society, and important issues of public policy are placed before scholars and the public alike, regardless finally of the partisan origins of each (so far) man elected to the world's most powerful job.


Many times, however, such dual but linked missions have been split geographically under distinct governing boards. The best example is the distinguished Hoover Institute on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University, housed in the landmark tower by the great West coast classicist, Arthur Brown, Jr. (1941)...


..and today conjoined with its Washington, D.C. Johnson Center satellite by Fox Architects (2013). It overshadows in more ways than one the more traditional blend of the Hoover Presidential Museum and Library in West Branch, Iowa by the forgotten firm of Eggers & Higgins (1962).

Next up, although in fact the first to open: The FDR Presidential Library and Museum of the legendary four-term chief executive who delivered America from the Great Depression and stood at the helm of our victory in the most just of wars. So far the nearest to New York City, it arose next door to his childhood home at Hyde Park, where the house and its fabled Hudson Valley setting are central to America's historic cultural identity.


Robert A. M. Stern, credited below for his own part in this library tradition, has called the longest-serving 32nd president an architect manqué. The Dutch Colonial Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum, like the earlier wheelchair accessible retreat (also at Hyde Park) called Top Cottage, was conceived and first sketched by Roosevelt who called in a licensed professional, Henry Toombs, to complete the working drawings and sign off accordingly. His respectful client collaborator later called Roosevelt the first disabled man, as well as the first president since Jefferson nearly 200 years earlier, to deserve the label "architect". Upon hearing Toomb's sincere apotheosis, Frank Lloyd Wright's reactionary son John Lloyd Wright wrote LIFE Magazine stating, "After seeing the title 'Architect' after Roosevelt in your magazine, please put me in a concentration camp. The moral breakdown of the integrity and dignity of the profession seems now complete." FDR quipped, "Did Jefferson have a license when he drew sketches of rather satisfactory architectural productions?"

Also separated from its academic nucleus is I.M. Pei & Associate's JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, dedicated in 1979, 16 years after his assassination despite a 1964 selection of the still obscure Pei firm by widow Jacqueline. Meanwhile, years earlier during protracted battles about the Pei building's sighting, Harvard created its John F. Kennedy School of Government, obviating any regional rationale for another educational institute honoring the 35th president.


This place-making split finally converged in 1971, when Lyndon Baines Johnson cut the ribbon for his legacy addition on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. The LBJ Presidential Library and Museum was designed by the Pritzker-Prize winning Modernist acolyte, Gordon Bunshaft and his colleagues at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.


Two bombastic, larger-than-life soul mates hit the commission jackpot with an ideal pairing of client and designer that also brought with it the advent of the adjacent LBJ School of Public Affairs. At last library, museum, and living civics laboratory took form side by side. With the high-visibility exceptions of The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Foundation along with its cousin The Clinton Global Initiative, this precedent became a norm:

-The Harry S. Truman, Independence MO


-The Dwight D. Eisenhower, Abilene, KS


-The Richard M. Nixon, Yorba Linda, CA


-The Gerald R. Ford, Grand Rapids, MI


-The Carter, Atlanta, GA


-The Ronald Reagan, Simi Valley, CA


-The George H. W. Bush, College Station (Texas A&M), TX


-The William Jefferson Clinton, Little Rock, AR


The George W. Bush Presidential Museum, Library, and Institute, on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, serves as the latest metaphor for such blending of past, present, and unknowable future in the context of the legacy it empathically celebrates, as do all these separated and privately influenced repositories. The formal impulse and the private funds raised guarantee such celebration as the sine qua non of visitor experience.


Inaugurated in 2013 by Bush 43 alongside his father and the other three surviving Presidents, it was designed by Robert A. M. Stern as the first green version, built with an eye on public transpiration and site topography.


If one believes, as any patriot must, that American civilization will endure at least as long as the Chinese one has already, that makes about 3,400 years to go. If every president in that interval won two terms, we'd end up with a combined total of 436 such evocations of the Oval Office and very likely many more, as of course not everyone wins a second term. In sum, finally, building and operating these individual paeans in constant sequence cannot go on indefinitely. Future generations will adjust the model to contemporary values, needs, and tools yet unknown. And thank goodness for that.

Meanwhile with the decision pending in just a couple of weeks on Library #14 for President #44, the binding force of these successive projects is the fact that there is not and never should be a single political narrative.

Such shifting values rely instead on the bedrock of freedom to sustain the dynamic bonds of the social contract it upholds.

Democracy Reflux

Howard Meyer   |   March 13, 2015    5:09 PM ET

Read More: bush, clinton, obama

The cloak of inevitability that shrouds Hillary Clinton in secrecy does nothing to mask the problem Democrats are facing: there are few options for 2016. While Barack Obama was the young hotshot of the Democratic Party in 2008, there are no rockstars this time around. The elderly, white Democrats pitted against Hillary in theoretical polls, all lose badly -- theoretically. In a roundup of recent polls on potential Democratic Presidential candidates, RealClear politics has Hillary Clinton averaging at 57.3 percent, versus Joe Biden with 12.8 percent, Elizabeth Warren with 12.3 percent, Bernie Sanders with 4 percent, Jim Webb with 1.7 percent and Martin O'Malley with 1.2 percent.

If you put down your drinks for a second, Democrats, these polling numbers are a sobering reminder of the irresponsibility of relying on one candidate. Furthermore, why Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid or Debbie Wasserman Schultz have not publicly vetted any young Democratic politicians (or anyone for that matter) is anyone's guess. Perhaps Schumer and Wasserman Schultz have their own presidential ambitions? Maybe in 2020 or 2024. It is unlikely at this point.

I am disappointed with the Republican field as well. How did another Bush get to be the new Romney? "Step aside folks, I'm the decider!" He will bring down the whole Party! If youth is the Left's problem, the Tea Party is the Right's problem. Democrats may be ready for Hillary. But is the country at large? Can a Conservative who appeals to mainstream Republicans appeal to mainstream America? We have a lot of Cruzes, Walkers and Perrys, but not enough moderates. Moderate Republicans may be branded as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), but if any can get past that distinction, he or she should please contact the local Republican Party office. Such candidates are needed to appeal to the general election voters. As for the Democrats, they are running the clock backwards to 2008 again with the same candidate who lost the nomination to Obama. The other candidates are virtual unknowns.

The majority of Americans will not vote for Chris Christie. I'm just putting that out there. Comment again in 2016 if I'm wrong. Jeb Bush is the Republican Party's "Anointed One" (as Rush Limbaugh calls Obama). Hillary Clinton feels entitled to the presidency and that the Democrats are beholden to her. How did we get to this? Is this what George Washington envisioned when he rejected the monarchy? If being a former politician is the gateway to the judiciary (in some states), perhaps being a failed Presidential candidate is reason enough to run again and again.

While Americans say they want change, we are falling for more of the same. This may be because these are uncertain times and people are looking towards candidates they are familiar with. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush may be from the old guard, but we know them and expect new policies, that is, policies different from George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Wether either of these candidates can make it through a general election is anyone's guess.

We the people can do better next time. As Hillary Clinton herself said in a recorded interview with Der Spiegel (as opposed to her private yoga emails), the U.S. is "not a monarchy." Even Bush the First's First Lady Barbara Bush has weighed in saying, "If we can't find more than two or three families to run for higher office, that's silly." She later made a silly exception for her son Jeb. Americans cannot afford an endless cycle of kings and queens. Democracy deserves better.

The End of Hillary's 140-Character Campaign

Chris Weigant   |   March 9, 2015    9:29 PM ET

Hillary Clinton, by some accounts, wanted the luxury of waiting as long as possible before officially becoming a 2016 candidate for president. There were good reasons for her to wait, the most prominent being that she could pick and choose which day-to-day political issues to address, and which she could safely ignore for the time being. So the extent of her campaigning, so far, has largely been an occasional Twitter message. It seems, however, that this luxury is about to come to an end. Hillary's soon going to have to give the public more than 140 characters, whether she officially tosses her hat in the ring or not.

Since the beginning of the year, Hillary has tweeted a grand total of 14 times (or, roughly, twice a week). Most of these were pretty innocuous. Only a handful could even be labelled political in nature, in fact. Two of these stand out, one of which worked perfectly for her, and one which did not. The first was a snarky takedown of the anti-vaccine crowd, and it worked exactly as designed. It thrust Hillary into the debate raging over the Disneyland measles outbreak, staked out a clear pro-vaccine position, and gave the media precisely what they wanted. The second one, however, is turning out to be woefully inadequate. Hillary is now rumored to be about to speak publicly about the whole email fracas, to make up for all the questions those 140 characters didn't answer.

Figuring out when to launch a presidential campaign is always a balancing act that professional political consultants get paid a lot of money to navigate. Hillary Clinton's calculations on this question are more complex than most. She's got a lot of pros and cons to weigh, in other words. Jumping in early would mean she wouldn't have the luxury of ignoring current political events, as she'd be pressured to stake out one position or another on each of them. Jumping in too late, however, would make her look like she expected a coronation rather than a campaign for the Democratic nomination. Or, according to others, jumping in too early would look like she's expecting that coronation. As I said, it's a tricky tightrope for her to walk.

But at some point, dithering over the question of when to jump in begins to look like an overabundance of caution. Call it Clintonian triangulation, perhaps. The average voter wonders why any candidate wouldn't want to get in the race as soon as possible, to let the public fully know what the candidate stands for on any and all issues. Campaign consultants, however, know that this leads to possible pitfalls -- staking out positions which turn out later to either have been not adequately thought out, or just plain wrong. Avoiding taking such positions increases the chances that the candidate won't stumble badly over any of them too early in the campaign season.

So far, this has largely worked for Hillary Clinton. She remains quiet on many of the mini-tempests that the 24-hour political media loves to obsess over, and thus she does herself no harm with either side in any of the micro-debates. This stands in stark contrast to the campaign she ran back in 2008, however, when she was the self-professed "person you'd want answering the phone at 3:00 AM." If a scary phone call did happen at the White House at such an early hour, we were told, Hillary would not only be ready to answer it, but she'd also readily have the right answer to whatever problem the call was about. The ad projected decisiveness, for two tactical reasons. It was meant to portray Barack Obama as indecisive and inexperienced, and it was meant to directly address any qualms the public might have over electing the first woman president. Hillary would be as tough and forceful as any man, even in the wee hours of the morning.

Which is why, to me at least, the whole email "scandal" is notable for how slowly and cautiously the Hillary team has reacted. Put aside any questions raised by her use of a private email server while secretary of state -- we'll all have plenty of time to hash out all those details as they come out. Also set aside any political damage this may do her in the long run. Again, we'll have plenty of time to figure all that out later. What is of interest to me, so far, is the gap between when the scandal broke and when Hillary is going to fully address it.

This gap should be seen as worrisome to Democrats for a couple of reasons, both having to do with the "Clinton brand" (which includes her husband as well). When Bill Clinton was in office, he was often criticized for being "poll-driven," or paying too much attention to "focus groups." Before Bill would take a position, he'd allow his political team to poll-test it within an inch of its life, to divine what the public truly thought about the various options being considered. This was seen as being too influential to the path Bill eventually chose to take. Now, any campaign for a political office is also going to do the same sort of polling, and every candidate is going to pay varying degrees of attention to such data. That's a modern fact of political life. It is inescapable, but at the same time it is usually conducted so far behind the scenes that it is not visible to the public at large. It only really becomes an issue for the candidate if the media chooses to focus on it. And that usually only happens when the media is left hanging because the candidate is being too cautious about taking a clear stance on any issue.

The problem for Hillary now is that Bill was really only accused of being so driven by polls after he got elected president. In his first successful presidential campaign, he had to take bold stances, because he was a relative unknown on the national stage. He didn't have the luxury of waiting to see what the public's consensus was, he just dove in and forcefully stated his various positions. It wasn't until after he was in the White House that the caution began to be a story, in other words. Hillary, to put it bluntly, does not have that kind of luxury. She's been in the public eye for over two decades now, and has been a senator and a secretary of state in the meantime. She is as far from an unknown as can be imagined, in fact. So while her natural inclination (gained through both her own experience and her husband's) is now to step very cautiously, she is going to have to abandon this caution to some degree or another if she's going to become an effective candidate.

The other contrast to the "Clinton brand" that is a bit surprising is how slow to react Hillary has been on an issue aimed directly at her. This is not a question of kids being vaccinated, or even some foreign policy question that Clinton could be forgiven for dodging for the moment. The emails are all about her personally, not some political question with a built-in choice about whether it needs to be adequately addressed or not. And that's what's surprising, considering what a pioneer her husband was in the firefighting aspect of presidential campaigning. Bill Clinton's first campaign is where the term "war room" morphed in meaning from that Pentagon room shown in Dr. Strangelove (where questions of nuclear annihilation were gravely pondered) to a purely political definition, one which boasted a lighting-fast response to any whiff of scandal surrounding Bill. It was damage control on steroids. When there were scandalous stories about Bill's relations with certain women (called "bimbo eruptions" at the time), the Clinton campaign would have a response before that evening's news even ran the story. This way, the public was given both the question and the answer at the same time. It was a brilliant strategy, especially for a man who was eventually shown to be seriously flawed in his judgment in what was proper behavior with women who were not actually his wife (and that's putting it about as politely as I can).

Getting back to Bill's wife, though, it seems that Hillary Clinton needs a refresher lesson in the whole war room strategy concept. This is another drawback to staying officially out of the race for too long, because it means her full campaign structure doesn't yet exist. There are a lot of empty chairs right now at Hillary's war room table, in other words. This might be one reason why the delay in addressing the email situation has been so long. There's another danger to this lack of campaign staff, and it was on full display this weekend. When there are no official campaign spokesmen and spokeswomen, the vacuum is filled by opportunists. Which is why Lanny Davis has been on television for the past few days. When the candidate doesn't speak for herself, there are others ready and willing to unofficially speak for her -- whether she wants such help or not, and whether these efforts ultimately help her or hurt her.

The only way to get control of the situation is to, well, get control of the situation. Hillary Clinton has to take the reins for herself, and get out there and answer questions about the emails. If she weathers the storm successfully, perhaps she can then retreat back (for a while, at least) to waging a 140-character campaign on all the issues not directly involving her, but this episode should prove to her that this is simply not a viable option when the political issue is so personal. Her previous political ad, after all, did not promise that when the 3:00 AM phone call happened that she'd get back to us by noon next Thursday with her answer. Taking political potshots via Twitter is a lot more fun and a lot easier than actually running a presidential campaign, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the luxury of doing so is now mostly over for Hillary Clinton.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

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COMMENTARY: Palin Criticism of Clinton Private Email Brings Back Memories

Alaska Dispatch News   |   March 9, 2015    9:30 AM ET

By Andrée McLeod

Upon hearing about Sarah Palin's recent Facebook post where she paints Hillary Clinton's use of private email accounts as shady and corrupt, I had to call my friend Zane Henning to get his take. As usual, we were both on the same page: Sarah Palin's hypocrisy knows no bounds.

During Palin's time in office, Zane and I exposed Sarah's abuses of power when we filed ethics complaints. He knew Sarah and Todd personally, and I'd dealt with her since 2002, when she unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor. Suffice it to say we knew she didn't belong in the governor's office.

We did not want to shrug off Sarah's Facebook post. It was another in a long line of false utterances within the culture of lies and deception she practiced during her (undeserved) time in office. It reads as follows:

This Clinton email scandal can't be shrugged off. If this doesn't strike you as shady and corrupt, I don't know what will. Didn't anyone in the Obama administration notice that the Secretary of State for "the most transparent administration in history" was only using a private email account for all her government business? And her answer to all these questions is a tweet? Diplomacy (and cover ups) by Twitter continues

Palin's dishonest Facebook post is no small matter to us, since we first "discovered" Sarah's flagrant use of private email accounts for official business in July 2008, before her Yahoo account was hacked a couple of months later. We separately requested and reviewed four banker boxes filled with emails belonging to Palin aides Ivy Frye and Frank Bailey. We then alerted the media after we found, amid the mostly redacted emails, an email that revealed Palin's underneath a partial redaction because the highlighter used for blacking out the email addresses had dried up.


Amber Ferguson   |   January 20, 2015   10:16 AM ET

On Jan. 20, 2007, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) announced her 2008 White House presidential bid.

“I’m in, and I’m in to win,” Clinton said.

According to The Washington Post, Clinton’s campaign advisers said her announcement was intentionally timed to “come shortly before President [George W.] Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday night” in order to “draw a contrast with the administration's record.”

"As a senator, I will spend two years doing everything in my power to limit the damage George W. Bush can do. But only a new president will be able to undo Bush's mistakes and restore our hope and optimism," Clinton said.

At the time of her announcement, a nationwide Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Clinton as the Democratic front-runner, with support from 41 percent of Democrats, compared with then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who had 17 percent of Democratic support.

“As we campaign to win the White House, we will make history and remake our future,” the former first lady said.

Clinton is expected to make a decision on a 2016 presidential bid later this year.

Watch Clinton’s 2008 announcement above.