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Gag Me With Lawrence Summers

Robert Scheer   |   July 30, 2013    2:59 AM ET

The idea that Barack Obama would still consider appointing Lawrence Summers to head the Federal Reserve rather than order an investigation into this former White House official's Wall Street payments, reported Friday by the Wall Street Journal, mocks the president's claimed concern for the disappearing middle class. Summers is in large measure responsible for that dismal outcome, and twice now, after top level economic postings in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, he has returned to gorge himself at the Wall Street trough.

As Clinton's Treasury secretary, he pushed for radical deregulation allowing investment bankers to take wild risks with the federally insured deposits of ordinary folks, a disastrous move compounded when he successfully urged Congress to pass legislation banning the effective regulation of the tens of trillions in derivatives that often proved to be toxic.

The first direct result of those new laws was the mammoth merger that created Citigroup. Eight years later, the federal government had to save Citigroup from bankruptcy brought on by its leading role in the sale of those toxic mortgage-based derivatives, to the tune of $45 billion in taxpayer funds and backing $300 billion of the bank's bad paper.

At that time, Citigroup paid Summers -- teaching at Harvard and yet hustling as a Wall Street consultant -- $45,000 for a lecture, a piddling amount compared with the $135,000 he got per talk from Goldman Sachs. In all, while he was advising candidate Obama during the 2008 election season, Summers made off with $8 million in Wall Street compensation, with the lion's share coming from the D.E. Shaw hedge fund.

Some might argue this is ancient history, but as the Wall Street Journal reported, Summers, after serving as a top economic adviser to Obama, has done just as well on his second passing through the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street. He rejoined the D.E. Shaw hedge fund, not having done anything to inconvenience its operation while in government, and got a gig with the operator of Nasdaq and other heavy hitters.

The Journal also revealed that Summers re-entered service with Citigroup, but neither he nor the bank has revealed his current rate of pay. The Journal did report that Summers has been paid more than $100,000 per speech for some of his recent talks to the financial industry goliaths. The newspaper also noted that at one Citigroup forum in March, "Mr. Summers expressed surprise about the persistent backlash in Washington toward big banks. ... "

Speaking of lectures, Obama should deliver one to Summers, detailing why his prior record renders him unfit for future public service. As Obama pointed out in his speech on the economy Wednesday, "The income of the top 1 percent nearly quadrupled from 1979 to 2007, while the typical family's barely budged." Eight of those years of income stagnation occurred during the Clinton presidency, when Summers was designing policy that led to the derivative-induced housing bubble that exploded on George W. Bush's watch.

Nor did it get better when Obama brought Summers into a key economic role in his administration. As Obama conceded in his speech last week, "Nearly all the income gains of the past 10 years have continued to flow to the top 1 percent. The average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40 percent since 2009, but the average American earns less than he or she did in 1999. And companies continue to hold back on hiring those who have been out of work for some time."

That's because Obama, following Summers' advice, adopted the save-the-bankers-first philosophy of his predecessor, with outrageous publicly funded bailouts of the same financial conglomerates that had put the economy into a deep tailspin. It is a policy that continues to this day, with an outlay of $85 billion a month by the Federal Reserve to purchase toxic assets from the banks' books in the hopes that they will reinvest that largess. But as the president's jobs critique noted, they haven't.

Trillions have been passed on to the banks to relieve them of the burden of the toxic derivatives they created, derivatives that then-Treasury Secretary Summers testified to Congress were no threat to the "thriving market" that "has assumed a major role in our own economy and become a magnet for derivative business from around the world." No threat there because, "given the nature of the underlying assets involved ... there would seem to be little scope for market manipulation. ... "

This is an idiotic statement by someone Obama considers brilliant, or as the president put it when Summers left the White House in September 2010 to get back into the big money game: "I will always be grateful that at a time of great peril for our country, a man of Larry's brilliance, experience and judgment was willing to answer the call and lead our economic team."

What leadership? According to last week's McClatchy-Marist poll, 54 percent of Americans think the U.S. remains in a recession, and 60 percent see the country "going in the wrong direction." Further, an Associated Press survey released Sunday concludes that "Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream. Survey data exclusive to the Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend."

That is what Obama conceded in his speech last week, which underscores how outrageous it is that he would consider bringing back brilliant Larry, who caused so much of that misery.

Are Political Sex Scandals Passé? The Weiner Test Case

Robert Weiss   |   July 28, 2013    5:06 PM ET

They're Back!

Yes, that's former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner getting all the attention in the New York City mayoral race. Yes, that's former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer running for New York City comptroller. Yes, that's former U.S. Congressman and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford once again sitting in the House of Representatives. And yes, that's Bill Clinton who's emerged as an emeritus force in the American political landscape.

So who's next? Should we expect to see Gary Hart, John Edwards, Pete Domenici, Herman Cain, Mark Souder, Larry Craig, Mark Foley and/or any of a hundred or so other politicians of note who've been caught with their pants down (both figuratively and literally) suddenly back in the limelight? In other words, has the "permanently ruinous political sex scandal" gone the way of the dodo bird?

Well, yeah, it pretty much has.

The Weiner Wangle

Let's take a look at one politician in particular, Anthony Weiner, since he's the one getting the most ink, tweets, and airplay these days. In case you've forgotten, Weiner is the former U.S. congressman who resigned from office in June 2011 after he was caught sending a series of digital sexts -- some of which were actually taken in the congressional gym's locker room -- to half a dozen (or more) women. According to Weiner, he'd been engaging in this type of behavior for about three years. And now he's admitted that his sexting activities continued even after his resignation from Congress.

In recent days I've spoken with numerous major media outlets about Weiner's latest revelation, and the basic question is always the same: Why did he continue with his inappropriate sexual behavior even after he was caught? The answer is simple: He might be a sex addict. Think about the gambler who tosses away his kid's college fund at a casino, gets confronted by his wife, and then takes out a loan the next day to gamble some more. Why does he do this? He does it because he's addicted to gambling. Think also about the drinker who gets thrown in jail for drunk driving and then, immediately after being released, heads to the liquor store. Why? Because that's what alcoholics do. The story is no different with Anthony Weiner, except his probable addiction is to sex rather than gambling or booze. The simple, sad truth is that even after they've been caught and are facing potentially severe consequences, addicts typically continue with their problematic behavioral patterns because that is how they cope with life. At best, being "found out" will drive someone with a self-destructive addictive disorder into treatment, where the lengthy and somewhat arduous process of eliminating compulsive behaviors can begin.

So is Weiner's recent revelation the death-knell for his political career? We'll have to wait and see. But let's face it, just two years after sneaking away with his tail between his legs, he's returned and become a mayoral frontrunner in our nation's largest city. And he's achieved this status without the support of the city's Democratic power brokers! That, in and of itself, is utterly amazing. Yes, this recent revelation will likely hurt his cause, but it's not likely to bump him from the race.

So how the heck has Weiner accomplished this remarkable comeback? Amazingly, he's used the same social media networks that led to his downfall. For instance, he announced his mayoral candidacy with an online video. In the video he is seen with his wife and new baby, looking more than a little bit domestic, apparently attempting to create the impression that he is "cured" of whatever it was that ailed him and everything is now just fine, perfectly normal, thank you for asking. His underlying message seems to be: My wife trusts me now, so you should too.

Rather interestingly, very few people seem willing to challenge him on this. He has stated that after his 2011 resignation, he spent three days at the Gabbard Center, an outpatient psychiatric evaluation facility specializing in the assessment of high-end professionals in crisis. The center's website lists "sexual disorders" as being among the major diagnostic groups it assesses. Nevertheless, he adamantly denies having an addictive or compulsive sexual disorder, despite the fact that his highly problematic sexual behavior continued for many months after first being discovered. Regardless of the diagnosis Weiner may or may not have received at Gabbard, a three-day evaluation hardly qualifies as "treatment" for a three-years-plus repetitive pattern of sexual misbehavior. An evaluation simply identifies the issues that need to be worked on and suggests a pathway for change -- no more, no less.

Sadly, Weiner's post-scandal behavior mirrors that of many of the powerful men (and women) we treat in sexual disorders programs. Nearly always these clients are neck-deep in denial about their actions. They create any number of rationalizations to justify their behaviors (in their own mind). Sure, they agree that anybody else engaging in the exact same behaviors would be crazy to do it, but somehow they see themselves as unique, different and entitled. And this sort of misguided thinking often continues even after they've been caught and scandalized, as they stubbornly tell themselves and others any number of lies to justify what they've done (and very often are continuing to do). In the biz, that's what we call DENIAL.

This misguided denial is what we all saw from Anthony Weiner two years ago, and it's what we are continuing to see today. "I'm a new man," he says, but somehow this doesn't ring true. In my professional experience, men and women whose sexual behavior leads them to crash and burn as badly as Weiner did nearly always need intensive residential treatment followed by long-term outpatient recovery, and that needs to occur in an addiction (rather than an analytic or family therapy) setting. This is especially true if the behavior that derailed the person continues after the initial crisis! At the very least, Anthony Weiner should have a solid understanding of the demons he is battling and the recommended path toward recovery. In this regard, he seems to have no clue. Instead, he has called his sexual acting out "a blind spot" that is "in the past."

Seen It, Bored Now

It appears that the American public has become desensitized to the political sex scandal. The more it happens, the less that people seem to care. In many ways this is part and parcel of the digital onslaught. Nowadays cable news stations, websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook, and the like provide an endless barrage of news -- much of it salacious in nature. People seem to require a constant array of "new and different," meaning that our collective memory and our ability to hold a grudge are greatly reduced. Once we were elephants, remembering everything, but nowadays we're gnats and fruit flies. The only reason any of these scandals has a shelf-life longer than a few days or weeks is that the media must sometimes wait for the next indignity to occur. Without something new to report, content-starved media mavens tend to rehash the old stuff in ever-more-titillating ways, even if the public no longer cares. Such is the case with this summer's "Weiner Roast."

There also seems to be a growing realization, with so many people living such large chunks of their lives in the online (hence, public) universe, that the only reason most of us are not in the news like Weiner, Spitzer, Sanford, Clinton and the like is that we're not as famous as they are. In other words, we're beginning to understand that almost everyone engages in regrettable behavior at least occasionally, so judge not lest ye be judged. Or whatever. Basically, if we have jobs and health insurance and the schools are open and taxes aren't too high, we seem to be relatively willing to overlook whatever it is our elected officials are doing between the sheets.

So can politicians do whatever they damn well please and get away with it these days? Probably not. Infidelity seems to no longer be a big deal, even with prostitutes. An abuse of power, however, such as Nevada Sen. John Ensign's affair with an aide, still draws quite a bit of public ire, as does dallying with someone who is underage or a member of the same sex (especially if the politician's power base is conservative).

That said, it seems like almost anyone can make a credible comeback these days. The formula seems to be: acknowledge your mistake (but not that you might have an ongoing problem), insist that your issues are in the past, get your wife or minister to corroborate this, and then take advantage of the name recognition you earned in the midst of your ignominy. And this recipe really does work! In fact, one study of post-Watergate congressional scandals found that nearly three-quarters of the disgraced politicians who decided to run for office again survived their primary, and of those who made it to the general election, 81 percent won.

So here we are. Sanford is back in office, Clinton is a respected elder statesman, and both Weiner and Spitzer have pulled a Stella and gotten their New York groove back. Essentially, it appears that we no longer care all that much about the sexual peccadilloes of our elected representatives. To be honest, I think it's pretty cool that America has gotten a lot more forgiving lately, but can we really trust these guys with our political well-being? Only time will tell.

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development with Elements Behavioral Health. He has served as a media specialist for CNN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Today Show, among many others. He is author of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, and co-author with Dr. Jennifer Schneider of both Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn, and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age and the upcoming 2013 release, Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Technology and the Internet on Sex, Intimacy and Relationships.

KEN THOMAS   |   July 8, 2013    8:11 AM ET

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to strike the right balance between staying out of the daily political maelstrom and setting herself up for a possible second presidential run. But her fans and foes are making that difficult.

Nearly six months after departing the State Department, Clinton finds herself in the middle of an early effort by both parties to prepare for her return to politics even as she keeps to a schedule of highly paid private speeches, work on her book and her family's global foundation.

IAN DEITCH and DIAA HADID   |   June 17, 2013    5:26 PM ET

JERUSALEM — Former President Bill Clinton urged Israel to make peace with Palestinians in order to survive as a Jewish and democratic state at a conference Monday evening, adding his voice to a chorus of prominent pro-Israel figures warning of the urgency of peacemaking for the country's own survival.

Clinton spoke hours after an Israeli Cabinet minister declared that the Palestinians would not establish a state in territory Israel controls.

One American Who Isn't For Sale

Robert Scheer   |   June 11, 2013    5:23 AM ET

So it's true, as filmmaker Michael Moore once warned us, the Carlyle Group is Big Brother. That's the $176 billion private equity firm that once employed former President George H.W. Bush, his Secretary of State James A. Baker III and a host of political luminaries that would put any other list of America's ruling elite to shame. Plenty of Democrats too, including former President Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff Mack McLarty and Arthur Levitt, the man Clinton appointed to head the SEC during the creation of the housing bust.

It is also the firm that owns Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., which, thanks to the revelations of one of its employees, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, we now know collects and stores much of the government's immense PRISM database spying on the lives of this nation's citizenry. This is systematic snooping through the telephone and Internet records of hundreds of millions of Americans conducted by Snowden and others in Booz Allen's employ who had the highest access to our most private personal data while working at a for-profit company.

Our data is their commerce, and ever since 9/11, observing us has become mega lucrative. "Booz Allen Hamilton," the New York Times reported Sunday, "has become one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the United States almost exclusively by serving a single client: the government of the United States." The word "serving" might be pushing it here, since 98 percent of the firm's revenue of $5.8 billion last year came from the taxpayers, who are the same folks being spied upon.

Heck, Booz Allen knows all about those taxpayers, since back in 1998, during the Clinton presidency, the firm was hired to "modernize" the IRS. "We made some very dramatic changes in the way the IRS is organized," Booz Allen's CEO claimed at the time. How perfect: Make tax collection more efficient and less painful, so the suckers might not notice when you scoop up the loot at the other end.

Of course, to those swinging through the revolving door between the government and its defense contractors, it must be difficult to draw a distinction between their changing roles. James R. Clapper, the chief intelligence official in the Obama administration, who is now investigating this security lapse, was himself a top Booz Allen executive. And it should be of little surprise that John M. McConnell, currently vice chairman of Booz Allen, was previously the chief intelligence official in the George W. Bush administration. It's crony capitalism at its patriotic best.

"The national security apparatus has been more and more privatized and turned over to contractors," Danielle Brian, executive director of the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, told the Times. "This is something the public is largely unaware of, how more than a million private contractors are cleared to handle highly sensitive matters."

Brian points out that the for-profit folks spying on us also get to grant high level government security clearances. Those private sector employees are then entrusted to work in the most secretive sectors of the government's national security apparatus, including at the National Security Agency. It's good work if you can get it. In January, the Defense Department granted Booz Allen a five-year, $5.6 billion deal assigning its private sector employees in key positions to advise Pentagon personnel on crafting military policy. Maybe they can find some new conventional wars to fight just in case the one against terrorism loses its profitability.

That could happen now that the American public has been alerted to the fact that in the grand design of that war, it is the ordinary American citizen, even when shopping on the Internet, who gets to play enemy. That reality is what seems to have turned Snowden, like others before him, into a courageous whistle-blower. He signed up for training with the Army Special Forces to go fight in Iraq because he bought the Bush administration's line that it was a war "to help free people from oppression." That misplaced idealism collided with the observation that "Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone," Snowden told the British newspaper The Guardian.

Still, he continued to serve the government, both with the CIA and then at the NSA, where he worked as a Booz Allen contractor. There he witnessed a part of the sordid story that he chose to share with his fellow Americans. As he explained to The Guardian:

The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. ... If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards. I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things. ... I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded.
The folks at Booz Allen, and its parent company the Carlyle Group, love that world as a fabulous profit center, and it is truly inspiring that there are still folks like Snowden whom they can't buy.

Ne'er the Twain?

Ian Williams   |   June 10, 2013    9:55 AM ET

Read More: obama, clinton, xi, us, china, roosevelt

In 1907, U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt signaled the arrival of the U.S. as as world power by sending the "Great White Fleet" in a grand gesture to the globe it circumnavigated. It was a little premature: the ships were obsolescent and relied on the kindness of strangers to refuel but it did mark Washington's aspirations to put truth in the rumours about the Monroe Doctrine.

Similarly, Xi Jinping's grand tour, which began in California and a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on June 7, is a debut rather than a consolidation.

It is, perhaps wisely, more economic in its theme, brandishing investments rather than waving big sticks.

While modern financial and trading networks need not follow the consolidated marine and land boundaries of previous rising empires, Xi's triumphal progress through America's backyard -- the Caribbean and Mexico -- demonstrates how much more effectively powerful China's economic success is than the Soviet weaponry had been. "The China Dream" is Xi's rallying cry of a China with a seat at the top table.

It will be interesting to note the progress, with small indicators like the almost certain relaxation of Chinese regulations that restrict imports of Mexico's tequila because of methanol levels. A few extra Chinese hangovers is a small price to pay for an economic beachhead right on the Rio Grande.

It is fascinating to watch the interplay between the aspirant and receding superpowers and it is reassuring that both sides are obviously thinking seriously, and not necessarily reflexively about it.

When Richard Nixon went to China, apart from recognition of the previous pariah state's future potential, at least part of the White House motive was counterbalancing the Soviet Union. President Xi's tour of the America epitomizes a renewed appreciation on both sides, but above all of China as a potential counterweight to the U.S. itself. A less confident U.S. is relinquishing the xenophobia, or more specifically Sinophobia, that previously greeted Chinese investment interests.

Across the U.S., job-hungry local governments yearn for the Yuan to come in and do what their own bankers are refusing to do -- invest locally.

The times, they're a-changing

Previous ups and downs of the great powers have been marked by major conflagrations, and we can be grateful that the demotion of the Soviet Union was relatively peaceful. Two decades ago, it would have been difficult to believe that the U.S. of Strategic Defense Initiative, Star Wars and the New American Century fame would have been quite so polite to its most likely supplanter.

Two decades ago, even Japan was viewed with a jaundiced eye as it surged close to overtaking the U.S. economically, even though militarily it was no threat, and indeed, was almost a U.S. protectorate. The costs of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have taxed U.S. power even as it outspends the rest of the world militarily.

But the relationship between China and the U.S. is unique. While there is very real rivalry as they both compete for the same space at the top of the table, it is like a Puerto Rican knife fight with the combatants tied by the wrists to each other. The U.S. needs China, which, after all, has financed Washington's wars with its purchase of U.S. dollars. Conversely, China needs the U.S. Beijing can neither forgo those reserves deposited in its rivals' Treasury vaults and needs its markets to fuel the growth of its economy.

Xi knows that the secret of continuing Communist Party of China (CPC) power in the face of potential domestic dissatisfaction is the growing prosperity that keeping U.S. consumers happy brings.

However, China is developing military potential along with its economic success and the friction over disputed islands around the China Sea is worrying. The scenario of a rising uppity power confronting one that is relatively getting weaker, is all the more worrying when we consider that network of alliances and defence commitments that the US has across the region. China has interests and claims in an area where the US is far from home but has ties made in former days of glory.

Pulling treaty triggers

In 1914, we saw what happened as a result of those treaty triggers being pulled, and in the South China Sea, U.S. commitments to Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines could drag the U.S. into a local conflict with China where the latter has its forces concentrated.

The U.S., of course, is still in imperial overstretch mode, with bases and commitments worldwide. At home, the American public has strictly limited enthusiasm for wars for far-away countries of which, after all, it knows amazingly little.

Conservatives have set up a shopping lists of what Obama should demand of Xi, on economic reforms, currency policy, government etc. Obama is more sophisticated than many of his predecessors -- and of course economic circumstances have weakened his hand. He is, one hopes, not going to be crass in his demands of China.

One assumes that Obama would realize just how counterproductive it would be for the U.S., whose economic model has never looked so dodgy, to lecture China, for whom a growth rate four or five times the U.S.', seems to be overstretched in its own right. He will also understand that Xi has his own domestic politics to worry about.

The Communist Party has pretty much abandoned the dialectic of the class struggle, and the glue that holds it together is the nationalism of an oft-humiliated civilization.

So the talks are an opportunity for quiet dialogue and a development of rapport between the two leaders. Beijing might offer magnanimous compromises or exit routes on many of the maritime border issues, for example, but would certainly bridle at any ultimata. But the U.S. is hardly in a position to brandish ultimata.

Room for compromise

In the case of Taiwan, for example, the administration's efforts are more about stopping Taipei tickling the dragon than building up a prickly defence. The long obfuscation of Congressional efforts to sell F-16s to Taipei shows successive presidents' deference to Beijing's sensibilities, which on the face of it is illogical appeasement. The planes are only of use if China attacks -- no one seriously expects Taiwan to attack the mainland, after all. But Washington has to take account of the importance of the island in China's inner party rivalries.

There is room for compromise. If we consider, for example, North Korea as China's Israel, an embarrassing but ineradicable ally, it would frame the limits of what Washington could reasonably expect China to do in a low key way. Xi can no more disown Kim Jong-un publicly than Obama can repudiate Netanyahu, but there are important gestures available.

Obama could pledge, for example, that U.S. forces would withdraw from the Korean Peninsula in the wake of any re-unification, thus avoiding the triumphalistic mistakes in Europe that still fuel Russian resentment.

In fact, there is another model the two might adopt. Britain and the U.S. were similar rivals and partners, tied as much by financial chains as any alleged common bonds of culture and language.

The U.S. facilitated the decline of its erstwhile rival, moving from debtor to creditor -- and, it might be added, doing its best to stab its ally in the back financially even as they fought together. But it has not approached military tensions since the British burnt the White House in 1814.

Of course, unless the Tea Party triumphs and splits the U.S. into autonomous fragments, the U.S. is never going to decline as precipitately as Britain shorn of empire, but it is possible for a rising China to be partners with a still powerful, although relatively declining America.

It would appear that Xi and the Chinese are prepared for this.

In terms of domestic politics, Japan is the foreign scapegoat up front while the U.S. is relatively benign in China's image.

Similarly, China benefits in the U.S. from not being the Soviet Union and also the main trading partner, an object of admiration and emulation.

Xi and Obama might be the two right people in the right place to make the mutually respectful links needed -- and these talks will demonstrate that, one way or another.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the publisher's editorial policy.

The BRICS Post

Joanna Zelman   |   May 17, 2013    3:44 PM ET

"We are in a race against time," former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Wednesday night, in an interview with actor Harrison Ford.

"We still live in a state of denial," Clinton suggested, regarding the future impacts of climate change. "We see it, we experience it, but we have a great deal of difficulty in summoning the political will ... to address it."

Ford interviewed Clinton on challenges ranging from climate change to poaching as part of Conservation International's annual New York Gala Dinner.

Clinton focused specifically on small Pacific Island nations whose existences, she said, "are truly at stake."

At the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands last August, she announced aid for programs focused on sustainable economic development and climate change adaptation.

Many island nations are already being forced to adapt to the effects of a changing environment. Earlier this year, Kiribati President Anote Tong told The Huffington Post that unprecedented coastal erosion is forcing some of his island nation communities to relocate, and declared that the United States should "not be so scared to talk about climate change."

Recent research confirmed that virtually all scientists agree that humans are contributing to climate change through actions such as the burning of fossil fuels.

On Wednesday, Clinton also spoke out against wildlife poaching. "We have a wildlife trafficking, poaching, murdering crisis," she said.

Beyond endangered species concerns, "Think about ungoverned space that is dominated by criminal and terrorist elements," Clinton warned, "murdering park ranchers and local people who try to prevent them from killing large numbers of animals, and think about what that means to our own security."


Clinton cited an incident earlier this month in the Central African Republic, where armed poachers killed at least 26 elephants at a protected sanctuary.

The country has been plagued by violence recently, and rebels ousted the president earlier this year.

Clinton pushed for conservation groups to help nations protect wildlife and their habitats, while also encouraging tougher ivory penalties in the U.S.

Luke Johnson   |   April 25, 2013   12:21 PM ET

Former President Bill Clinton, speaking at the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication on Thursday, said that he had considered asking his successor to paint a picture of him, but joked that he backed off after he saw the hacked self-portraits of Bush nude in the bathroom.

"I probably shouldn't say this, but I'm going to anyway," Clinton said at the ceremony on Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. "Your mother showed me some of your landscapes and animal paintings and I thought they were great, really great, and I seriously considered calling you and asking you to do a portrait of me -- until I saw the results of your sister's hacked emails. Those bathroom sketches were wonderful, but at my age I think I should keep my suit."

The Smoking Gun released Bush's pictures of himself in the shower and the bathtub in February. Art experts contacted by The Huffington Post said uniformly that they were perplexed by the paintings.

The former president's wife, Laura Bush, said Thursday on NPR that there would be no paintings at the Bush center until he gets "better."

JIM SALTER   |   April 6, 2013    9:06 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- Former President Bill Clinton and a panel of successful entrepreneurs had a simple message Friday for college students gathered in St. Louis: Dream big, have a social conscience and commit to your goals.

The former president brought his Clinton Global Initiative to Washington University. More than 1,000 university students from 75 countries and all 50 states are gathered for a weekend of sessions seeking practical and innovative solutions to the world's problems.

How Can the Opposition Make Sure Hillary Does Not Win in 2016...

Dee Evans   |   April 4, 2013    6:30 PM ET

...let the liberal media and "Clintonistas" keep commanding the airwaves, newspapers and Internet 24/7 for the next two years with "Hillary is a shoo-in" 2016 talk. That'll do it!

As a woman and left-leaning voter, let me first say that I really like Hillary Clinton and I, too, hope that she runs (and hopefully wins) in 2016, so I can say this with perfect truth... if I as a potential Hillary supporter am already getting sick of hearing her name, then I know there are some others who are getting sick as well.

Barack Obama isn't even three full months into his second term and all I hear every time I turn on my television or open my newspaper or log onto a political website is... Hillary... Hillary... Hillary!

Remember the quote: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Translation: you did this in 2006-07 and it didn't work out so well... so stop it!!!

2016 is a long way from now and, as we all know from 2008, anything can happen. Hillary Clinton was the presumptive, unequaled, hands-down, unstoppable shoo-in, a bet-your-house-on-it nominee back then, and if I had a dollar for every time some so-called political know-it-all said on national TV or in an article that Barack Obama didn't stand a chance against the "Clinton Machine," I could be retired right now.

Right now, Hillary's people are their own worst enemy. I know they love and adore and worship the Clintons (to be honest, sometimes it can get a bit sickening) but the best way to ensure Hillary's 2016 success is to just shut up for a minute! Stop opening PACs and holding "I'm Ready For Hillary" rallies and going on television basically daring other Democrats to run against her when the woman hasn't even committed to running yet. You have plenty of time for that, trust me.

The best thing supporters can do for Hillary right now is to just say that they support her in whatever she decides to do and that they will stand with her when she does make that decision. The worst thing they can do is go on an almost daily full Clintonesque-diatribe al a Chris Matthews and Ed Rendell about how absolutely shiny and perfect she is and how she's a shoo-in and it's "her turn" and everybody else (i.e., Joe Biden) should just get the hell out of the way. Seriously, whether you know it or not, it's really beginning to get on people's nerves!

Another thing I'm beginning to hear is the slightest bit of resentment from some loyal Obama supporters who feel like President Obama's second term is being completely overshadowed "only three months in" by all the Hillary 2016 talk. They like Hillary but what they don't like is feeling like "their guy" is not being given the time and respect he's earned as a second-term president by Clinton people completely turning every discussion, every appearance and every event into a Hillary 2016 push. Obama supporters are fully prepared for 2016 presidential talk -- around late 2014, but not March of 2013. Too soon? Hell yeah, ya think? And believe it or not, there are quite a few voters out there who are labeled "Obama voters" -- they are not loyal to the Democratic party, they are loyal to Barack Obama. So let's not forget Clinton people, you just might need a few of those "Obama people" to come out and vote.

In closing, if Hillary decides to run, I will root for her all the way. I have the greatest respect for how she "womaned-up" and worked side-by-side with the man who beat her in a hard fought battle in 2008. I honestly don't know if I could have done it. She has earned our complete respect and admiration and through all of this, she should have also earned something else: a group of followers who should know better.

So to all the over the top Clinton worshipers whose well intentions are actually doing more harm than good I say: give it a rest already! Stop being silly! Didn't 2008 teach you bunch of loopty-loops anything? Nothing in this life is guaranteed and if any profession teaches us this, it's politics. When Hillary's ready, she'll let you know, then you can let us know, then we can all gas up the bandwagon together and hit the road to 2016!

Dee Evans

HILLEL ITALIE   |   April 4, 2013    8:07 AM ET

NEW YORK — So what does it all mean?

Hillary Rodham Clinton has a deal for a memoir and policy book about her years in the Obama administration, Simon & Schuster told The Associated Press. The book has yet to be titled and is tentatively scheduled for June 2014, in time for the summer reading season and for the midterm elections, when a promotional tour could easily blend with Democratic efforts work to recapture the House.

It Wasn't David Stockman Who Wrecked the Economy

Robert Scheer   |   April 2, 2013    3:48 AM ET

Why is David Stockman driving everyone crazy? The shoot-the-messenger frenzy that has greeted Sunday's New York Times op-ed by Ronald Reagan's former budget director leaves one searching for the message that has so unhinged his critics.

I borrowed that word "unhinged" from more than one of Stockman's critics upset over his "rant" bemoaning the loss of the gold standard and the statist economics practiced by just about every American president from Franklin Roosevelt through Ronald Reagan on to the current inhabitant of the White House.

The only exception was a few golden years of fiscal responsibility under Dwight Eisenhower, who, like Stockman, was possessed of prudent Midwestern economic values. Stockman remains some kind of naive libertarian actually convinced that a free market ought to be free of control by the financial cartels and the cronies they purchase in government. What's all the outrage about? What's wrong with "putting the great Wall Street banks out in the cold to compete as at-risk free enterprises, without access to cheap Fed loans or deposit insurance"? That's the same cold world in which the rest of us live.

The headline on Stockman's piece -- "State-Wrecked: The Corruption of Capitalism in America" -- is unquestionably accurate. Actually, the title of his just-released book -- The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America -- is a bit softer, but you get the point. What his critics find so disturbing is not a quant argument about the purity of monetary policy but rather the bold assertion that the overall American system of crony capitalism is in fact wrecked. This is a contention that most Americans might readily agree with in terms of their daily experience, but one that the hardly suffering pundit class would rather not contemplate.

For all of the strident attacks on Stockman's column, I have yet to read a serious critique of his most brazen claim, that the bailouts and quantitative easing that have saved Wall Street and brought the stock market back to historic heights represent class warfare with the vast majority of Americans on the losing side:

Since the S&P 500 first reached its current level, in March 2000, the mad money printers at the Federal Reserve have expanded their balance sheet sixfold (to $3.2 trillion from $500 billion). Yet during that stretch, economic output has grown by an average of 1.7 percent a year (the slowest since the Civil War); real business investment has crawled forward at only 0.8 percent per year; and the payroll job count has crept up at a negligible 0.1 percent annually. Real median family income growth has dropped 8 percent, and the number of full-time middle class jobs, 6 percent. The real net worth of the 'bottom' 90 percent has dropped by one-fourth. The number of food stamp and disability aid recipients has more than doubled, to 59 million, about one in five Americans.
It wasn't Stockman who wrecked the economy. It was Bill Clinton who deregulated the too-big-to-fail banks, and it was George W. Bush and Barack Obama who bailed them out. But even Paul Krugman, who knows how bad things are and yet manages to be charitable in appraisals of his Princeton colleague Ben Bernanke, dismisses Stockman's critique as "cranky old man stuff. ..."

Fed Chairman Bernanke, who predicted this would be an era of the "Great Moderation" back in 2004 and as late as March 2007 assured the nation that the subprime mortgage crisis "seems likely to be contained," remains a member in good standing of the political establishment. Not so Stockman, who dares write: "Instead of moderation, what's at hand is a Great Deformation, arising from a rogue central bank that has abetted the Wall Street casino, crucified savers on a cross of zero interest rates and fueled a global commodity bubble that erodes Main Street living standards through rising food and energy prices. ..."

Bernanke, who throws $85 billion a month at the bankers who caused this mess, purchasing their toxic mortgage based derivatives, is still treated with respect. But Stockman, who opposed bailing out the banks so they, like those tens of millions of foreclosed homeowners, could learn a tough love lesson in real economics, is now an object of derision.

Herein is a lesson that the bankers should have been taught back during the Clinton presidency when, as Stockman writes, the principle of a bailout for Wall Street's hustlers "was reinforced by the Fed's unforgivable 1998 bailout of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management."

That fiasco's enablers -- Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers -- and the more disastrous ones to follow were crowned "The Committee to Save the World" on Time magazine's Feb. 15, 1999, cover and are still welcomed in those polite circles where truth-teller Stockman is being treated as a pariah.

Jessica Prois   |   March 11, 2013   12:43 PM ET

A forum this week is bringing together global leaders to tackle education solutions for the approximately 139 million children who are missing out on schooling worldwide.

During the inaugural Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai March 14-17, world leaders including Bill Clinton and Tony Blair will be discussing private-public partnerships to improve education equity.

Former President Clinton will deliver the keynote address and will answer questions from Twitter in partnership with Varkey GEMS Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers underserved children worldwide, for which he serves as honorary chairman. Clinton, who tackles global education issues through his Clinton Global Initiative and Clinton Foundation, has long stressed the need for providing greater education opportunities.

The global forum will cover topics including new technologies, technical and vocational education and solutions to pressing issues such as empowering girls. Attending world leaders have stressed the power of education-related public-private partnerships as a means to stability.

The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova said in a release: “Global companies have their global interests. But there is something new coming about, and that’s the common understanding that it’s in the private sector’s interest that people are well educated.

The Varkey GEMS Foundation CEO Vikas Pota has called for a disruption in education in a similar way global heath issues such as polio have been tackled by NGOs. Pota wrote in a blog:

"The overwhelming evidence points to the inability or motivation of governments to challenge the status quo. Are NGO's able to leverage their expertise?"

The Global Education and Skills Forum is in partnership with organizations including UNESCO, the UAE Ministry of Education and the Varkey GEMS Foundation.

Huffington Post Impact is a media partner for the Global Education and Skills Forum. Impact will exclusively live stream the event Friday, March 15 at 10:45 a.m. EST. Tweet #AskClinton to have your question considered, and follow @GemsEducation for updates.

Bill Clinton and DOMA: The Indelible Stain on a Presidency

Michelangelo Signorile   |   March 8, 2013    3:10 PM ET

A stain on Bill Clinton's presidency that will never be blotted out is his signing of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Today, in an op-ed, Clinton asked the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA, which, he and his defenders like to point out, he signed late at night with no fanfare. It's certainly a great thing for an ex-president to weigh in with a reversal and give his opinion to the Supreme Court. And I commend Clinton for his evolution. But that doesn't remove this damaging act from Clinton's legacy, nor certainly the harm that that one law caused for almost 20 years.

Clinton has at various points engaged in revisionist history in offering the reasons why he signed DOMA after the GOP pushed the law through Congress. The most disingenuous attempt was in 2009 when he, following on claims a year earlier by Hillary Clinton's campaign, stated that Democrats were trying to stop a constitutional amendment from being passed. In fact, gay activists cannot recall any mention of a constitutional amendment until years later.

''That's complete nonsense," Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry told Metro Weekly in 2011. "There was no conversation about something 'worse' until eight years later. There was no talk of a constitutional amendment, and no one even thought it was possible -- and, of course, it turned out it wasn't really possible to happen... That was never an argument made in the '90s.''

The reason Bill Clinton signed DOMA is, quite simply, because he refused to be leader on a civil rights issue, irrationally fearful of the ramifications of vetoing the bill and rationalizing the damage caused by signing it. That refusal to take leadership really goes back to day one of his presidency. That was when he signaled to the GOP, like a frightened person on the street signals fear to a barking dog, that he was deathly afraid of the gay issue and would not be a leader on it.

In the first few days of his presidency in 1993, Clinton blinked. Rather than sign an executive order ending the ban on gays and lesbians in the military, as he'd promised during the campaign -- and just as he signed various directives reversing anti-abortion policy of the Bush years -- Clinton bowed to the GOP and conservative Democrats like Georgia Senator Sam Nunn. We ended up with the loathsome "don't ask, don't tell" law, which in the end was no better than the outright ban.

Would the GOP and anti-gay Democrats have reacted harshly and passed a law banning gay service if Clinton had signed the executive order? Perhaps. But Clinton would have defined himself as a leader on the issue and could have helped to change public opinion. Instead, the gay issue was something he ran away from during the rest of his presidency and which the GOP knew he was vulnerable on and would use over him every time. That was when what Joe Sudbay calls "political homophobia" took hold -- when our supposed friends run from us, irrationally fearful of the political ramifications of embracing gay equality.

What if Clinton had decided to lead on the gay issue rather than bow? We'll never know for sure, but it's ridiculous to think Bill Clinton would have lost reelection over the gay issue, no matter what happened. And it's highly probable that his leadership could have helped change minds. In 1996, when he signed DOMA into law, Clinton was well ahead of Bob Dole in the polls. Anybody who would vote against him because he vetoed DOMA was already voting against him.

LGBT leaders of the time are to blame as well because they allowed Clinton and his administration to cravenly perpetuate political homophobia (which was carried with Rahm Emanuel and others into the first years of the Obama administration, too). LGBT leaders may have spoken against the signing of DOMA at the time, but they rallied around Clinton, continuing to raise money for him and making the case to the community to get out and vote for the man who'd just signed a law against them. There were no ramifications for Clinton of any kind from the gay community.

Contrast that to the Obama years. Though some in the Obama administration, including the president himself, were fearful of the gay issue early on, grass roots LGBT activists made it known that it was unacceptable. Members of groups like Get Equal chained themselves to the White House fence and interrupted Obama's speeches, while big donors withheld money. They made it clear that this was not the way to make his base enthusiastic heading into his re-election campaign.

Obama was pushed to the take the lead, and he did. Sure, public opinion was in a much different place on gay issues in 1993 and 1996 than it is now. But it was also in a different place in 2008, when Obama took office, and even in 2011, when Obama came out for marriage equality. The president's support of gay marriage -- his decision to take a leadership role on the issue -- helped push public opinion dramatically. Rather than hurt him, the issue helped to galvanize his base. BIll Clinton's presidency had enshrined political homophobia in Democratic politics, and it took almost 20 years for it to begin to diminish.The Defense of Marriage Act is part of that legacy.