Friday, July 29, 2016

How Hillary Blew Her Big Moment

By John Podhoretz
The New York Post
July 29, 2016

Well, Hillary Clinton took the stage after four days of Democratic triumph — the party staged what was even to these conservative eyes and ears the best, tightest, most interesting convention of our time — and pretty much stunk up the joint.

Her speech was a Jell-O mold of a sort my Aunt Millie used to make — blandly gelatinous in flavor and texture with little pieces of boilerplate left-liberal policy suspended in it like peach chunks from a three-week-old can. I can’t think of another one of these events when the presidential candidate’s acceptance address ended up solidly in the running for the more-than-dubious honor of being the worst speech of the convention.

I’d quote the bad parts, but since it was almost all bad parts I couldn’t decide which one. I’d even quote the good lines to be fair, only there weren’t any. There were some passable ones, true, but citing them to praise them is like praising a pitcher with an 11.33 ERA for throwing a few strikes here and there over nine full innings.

After losing her lead in the poll averages to Donald Trump and after the FBI director indicted her in spirit if not in fact, Hillary needed to rise to the occasion, simply as a practical political matter.

She needed to win over undecided voters with a new eloquence she had not shown previously, establish the place she would wish her presidency to secure in the flow of American history, do something to convince people she’s trustworthy…and come across as likable.

The previous three days of the convention did a brilliant job setting her up for just that. It cast her and the Democratic Party in fresh new terms as the voices of optimism and patriotism in this election.

And just a few hours before she took the stage came breathtaking remarks by Gen. John Allen and especially Khizr Khan, a Muslim whose son Humayun died defending this nation as a Medal of Honor winner in Iraq — both of which sounded notes that the Republican convention could not sound because of Donald Trump’s words about Muslims and his incoherence on the subject of fighting ISIS.

Then Hillary blew it.

She spoke in her patented da-DA da-DA ta-TA cadence, which makes every sentence sound like every other. What is more, she looked more angry than determined and seemed in no way transformed into a larger or more impressive figure due to her historic accomplishment at securing her party’s nomination and very possibly the presidency itself.

For all those who want to dismiss my words here as the dishonest rantings of a right-winger who dislikes Hillary, let me assure you that I dislike Barack Obama a lot more, but as I said yesterday in these pages, I thought his speech was magnificent. If Hillary had been good I would say so. But she wasn’t good. She was kind of the opposite of good.

What’s more, I’m pretty sure that if you watched it and you’re honest with yourself, you know it, too.

We’ve seen candidates transcend their past ineloquence in these circumstances before, to great effect.

George H.W. Bush was vice president for eight years and no one’s idea of an exciting candidate for president, but at his convention he knocked it out of the park.

Four years later, Bill Clinton transcended his reputation at the time for being robotic and excruciatingly boring (yes, really, that was his reputation as a speaker) with an address that drew a perfect contrast between him as the man of the future and Bush as the man of the past.

And in 2000, George W. Bush — at the time considered a parlously awful speaker — seemed to become a different, more serious, more focused, more capable candidate after he worked hard on a very successful convention address.

Not Hillary. Which is why her supporters and fans should be disappointed in her rather than mad at me.

Article Link to The New York Post:

How Democrats Became The Party Of ‘Safe Socialism’

By Rich Lowry
The New York Post
July 29, 2016

The Democratic Party has perhaps never been so radical or so conventional.

The Democrats are now to the left of President Obama and desperately trying to placate the teary-eyed, obstreperous, wholly unrealistic shock troops of the Bernie Sanders Revolution, yet they’re also portraying themselves as the party of sobriety and traditional political norms.

This year, Democrats want to fight the man and be the man, and running against Donald Trump, they might manage the feat.

The Sanders delegates — by all appearances, the kind of people who typically work the giant puppets at street protests rather than serve as delegates at a political convention — nursed their sense of betrayal at an event that marked their success.

Yes, the Democratic National Committee blatantly tilted against Bernie, and yes, Hillary Clinton is a highly malleable careerist, but the latest, Sanders-lite version of Hillary is a testament to the power of the Revolution.

Hillary, who described herself as a New Democrat at the outset of her 2008 campaign, got pushed left on the Trans- Pacific Partnership, the Keystone pipeline, Social Security, the minimum wage, criminal justice and immigration.

The change on immigration is particularly stark. Back in 2008, after some waffling, Hillary opposed giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Now, illegal immigrants address the Democratic convention and hail Obama’s executive orders to allow them to stay in the country. The authority to issue those orders was so dubious Obama used to say it didn’t exist. Now Hillary promises to go even further.

Nonetheless, the Democrats’ leftward march isn’t the point of contention one would expect in a typical general election. On the high-profile issues, there’s a stark difference between Trump and Clinton on immigration and guns, but not so much on trade, entitlements and the minimum wage, where the distinctions arguably involve only questions of sincerity or degree.

It’s telling that two of the three major progressive victories in the Democratic platform Sanders crowed about in his convention address — breaking up the banks, reinstating the Glass-Steagall financial regulations and opposing TPP — made an appearance in the Republican platform, as well.

The GOP committed itself to reimposing Glass-Steagall and a draft included soft opposition to TPP before the language was stripped out in favor of silence on the issue (in 2012, the platform robustly favored the agreement).

If the overlap in substance masks how the Democrats have changed, so does the way they’re selling themselves. Although it’s been rocky, they’ve attempted to stage a traditional convention with traditional speakers making traditional pitches. They’ve showcased rising stars (and alleged rising stars) and featured a president and a former president.

They wrap their case for Hillary in anodyne commonplaces that pass for cutting attacks when running against Trump — you shouldn’t mock disabled people, question the religion of your opponents or casually question the utility of decades-long treaty commitments.

The wildness of Trump makes it possible for them to try to sell a “safe socialism,” or a politics that is consistently left wing but doesn’t scare the horses.

It may not have been his intention, but you could be forgiven for thinking that, in his convention speech, Bill Clinton sought to situate Hillary on the left, while making her sound as boring as someone who has spent the entirety of her adult life attending committee meetings and serving on task forces.

Running against Trump the populist, there was little risk Hillary could go too far left with her VP pick, say by choosing Elizabeth Warren or Tom Perez. She still opted for the aggressively normal Tim Kaine, a career politician who has maintained the affect of a suburban dad.

He comes off like the neighbor you trust to return your rake after borrowing it. If you found him in Trump Tower, he’d be wandering around in the lobby wearing a fanny pack mingling with the tourists on a trip with the kids.

The self-styled party of normality is even playing the patriotism card. In 2008, Michelle Obama notoriously declared herself proud of her country for the first time. The other day she pronounced us the greatest country on earth (i.e., no need to make it great again).

Democrats routinely hit Trump for calling the military “a disaster,” and President Obama, in a speech invoking Reagan’s “shining city on a hill,” all but called Trump un-American.

The classic Chris Matthews distinction is that Democrats are the Mommy party and Republicans the Daddy party. This has never been truer, except Democrats believe they can convince voters Daddy is off bragging to tabloid reporters about his romantic exploits under an assumed name — among other erratic and unaccountable actions.

It may be that none of this works, and everything safe and professional feels stilted and inauthentic to disaffected voters this year. But the Hillary Democrats are putting their faith not so much in hope and change as in stolid reliability.

Article Link to the New York Post:

Clinton’s DNC Address: Fact Or Fiction?

In her acceptance speech, Hillary Clinton didn’t sweat all of the details.

By Timothy Noah, Jennifer Haberkorn, Ben White, Dough Palmer, and Michael Crowley
July 29, 2016

Hillary Clinton ran much of her campaign on being a pragmatist, the candidate with the knowledge, experience and, above all, the detailed plans needed to usher in the progressive change her fellow Democrats pine for.

But while accepting the Democratic party’s nomination Thursday night, Clinton’s address long on aspiration and imagery, but was short on the facts, figures and nuance she has put at the center of her candidacy.

For many in the seemingly endless string of pundits offering Clinton public advice, it was the speech they’d been waiting for, one with touches of President Barack Obama’s soaring rhetoric about change rather than a data-driven roadmap for getting there. But it also made for an odd contrast with one of her persistent critiques of Donald Trump, that he has big promises for what he’ll do but zero detail about how he’ll do it.

Still, even as she eschewed the data and details, Clinton’s address included several references to her love of both. “It’s true. I sweat the details of policy – whether we're talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs,” she told the crowd in Philadelphia . “Because it's not just a detail if it's your kid — if it's your family.”

Here’s POLITICO’s fact-check of Clinton’s Democratic National Convention address.

“More than 90 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent. That's where the money is.”

That’s no longer true, though it was true as recently as 2013. Clinton almost certainly based her calculation on a 2015 paper by the University of California-Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, who reported that during the first three years of the economic recovery from the Great Recession — that is, from 2009 to 2012 — the top 1 percent captured 91 percent of the income gains.

But since 2012 economic growth has been more widely shared. Saez’s latest calculation is that the top 1 percent captured 52 percent of income gains during six years of economic recovery from the Great Recession. That covers the years 2009 through 2015.

Since Obama took office, there are “20 million more Americans with health insurance.”

Since the ACA was passed in 2010, 20 million people got health care coverage through the insurance exchanges, Medicaid expansion and other provisions, according to the Obama administration's statistics.

In that time, more than 6 million young adults got coverage by joining their parents' health insurance plans, one of the most popular pieces of the health care law. In 2014, the insurance exchanges opened and the Medicaid program expanded in many states. Since then, more than 14 million people enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program and more than 12 million enrolled in the insurance exchanges. Those figures account for people who may have moved into and out of different kinds of health coverage.

The 20 million figure accounts for people who got coverage under Obamacare. It doesn't include those who lost insurance that was cancelled as the health law was rolled out and some insurance plans were eliminated -- a huge criticism lobbed by Republicans who question the coverage gains of the health law. And many more are still uninsured: The Gallup-Healthways poll shows that 11.5 percent of American remained uninsured as of the first quarter of 2016.

Since Obama took office, there are "nearly 15 million new private-sector jobs.”

That’s true only if you start counting in 2010; if you start counting in 2009, when President Obama took office, net job growth is closer to 10 million, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s because the country was still losing jobs through much of 2010 as the country struggled to recover from the 2007-9 Great Recession.

In Clinton’s defense, though, political scientists and economists often argue that it’s foolish to hold presidents accountable for economic performance during their first year in office, because their policies have yet to take effect.

"If you believe that we should say “no” to unfair trade deals... that we should stand up to China... that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers…join us."

Clinton here appears to be referring here to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with twelve Pacific Rim nations that has become a flash-point for progressive Democrats who supported Bernie Sanders's candidacy. But Clinton as Secretary of State once called TPP "the gold standard" for trade deals. And some progressive Democrats worry that if she wins, Clinton won't work hard to try and stop Congress from passing TPP in a post-election lame duck session.

Clinton has criticized the deal for failing to include enforceable rules against currency manipulation and complains the automotive rules threatens jobs in the United States. However, neither of those are likely to be renegotiated by the Obama administration and would be hard for her to achieve, because of resistance from Japan and other TPP countries. Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues to push hard for TPP passage this year.

"I'm proud that we put a lid on Iran's nuclear program without firing a single shot – now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel's security."

This is basically true, though she doesn’t mention that the lid comes off after a decade. Critics of the deal say that’s much too soon, and that the lid will blow off and Iran will very quickly develop a nuclear weapon. And as Clinton notes, the deal is only as strong as it is enforceable.

Article Link to Politico:

Clinton’s DNC Address: Fact Or Fiction?

Hillary's Democrats Seize American Optimism

In Philadelphia, the nominee and the party claimed the high ground that Donald Trump, and the millions who voted for him, have abandoned.

By Michael Tomasky
The Daily Beast
July 29, 2016

American politics changed, seemingly irrevocably, in 1984. I remember it well. Ronald Reagan was running for reelection, and his campaign released the famous “Morning in America” video. If you weren’t around then, you can’t know, but it had seemed permanent midnight four years before, and one ushered in by the Democratic Party. Inflation, Rust Belt decline, crime, the Iranian hostage crisis—all happened on the Democrats’ watch.

Along came Reagan. He didn’t make everything work, God knows. But he did make a majority of Americans believe in America again. And ever since, that’s been the default position of our political discourse: Republicans believe in American greatness, and Democrats denigrate it.

That is what changed this week, and it’s seismic.

Donald Trump, and the millions who voted for him, turned the Republican Party into a party of rage about America. They spoke last week in Cleveland, and spoke and spoke and spoke, about a country that has stage-four cancer. The Democrats spoke about a country that surely faces problems and challenges, but a country that has to and will choose optimism and hope.

If it’s Morning in America today, it’s a Democratic one. The Republicans are now the party of permanent midnight.

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard thousands of Democrats chant “USA! USA!” Certainly not in the 1970s, which is what gave Reagan his opening. This week, though, the Democrats have chanted it over and over.

It’s been a beautifully stage-managed convention. This isn’t my spin, this is an honest reaction to what I’ve watched. It has surprised me consistently every night, from a party that hasn’t usually done this all that well. And the reason it’s been well stage-managed is that it hasn’t been just Democratic elected officials who’ve sung from the hymnal. It’s been Americans. It’s been victims of 9-11, mothers of black citizens killed by cops; but it’s also been less usual suspects for Democrats—cops, police chiefs, veterans, military leaders, ministers, and the parents of veterans, especially Khizr Khan, the father of Captain Humayun S. M. Khan, a Muslim American who sacrificed his life in Iraq for his fellow American soldiers.

I’m sure, Mr. Trump, he said, you’ve never actually read the Constitution. “I will gladly lend you my copy,” offered the immigrant from the United Arab Emirates. Wow.

In those ways, the convention worked extremely well. The “regular people” part didn’t just press the predictable buttons—it pushed unpredictable ones, too, and the unpredictable ones are the only ones that add real value. The same can be said, more or less, of the “famous people” part. And here I refer mainly to Mike Bloomberg’s speech. It’s my bet that Bloomberg, lukewarm on him though Democrats may be, delivered the speech that will have the most impact of all of them over the next 15 weeks. His mere presence surely impressed non-Democrats watching. If he follows that speech up with some campaigning or at least one great commercial—he knows all about that; Rudy Giuliani made one for him in 2001 that basically got Bloomberg elected mayor—he can make a meaningful difference in this election.

But as pivotal as that optimism is, it isn’t really the main work this convention needed to accomplish. This convention needed to establish that Hillary can be trusted, and that she and her party will run the economy well. If there’s one poll result that’s stopped me in my tracks over the last couple months, it’s the one showing that people trust Trump more than Clinton to deal with the economy. I can’t conceive of how anybody could answer “Trump” to that question. But somehow they do. I guess they just believe what they see on TV.

I don’t think the convention as a whole, or she personally, quite did enough to flip that perception. That might prove to be a huge missed opportunity. Donald Trump, economic steward? That’s about as serious a proposition to me as Donald Trump, racial healer. That point of attack got a little lost, all week. To be sure, she laid out a progressive economic agenda. But it didn’t feel to me as central as should have felt. It felt a little more like a box being checked. They’re going to need to think about this going forward. If those who-can-help-the-economy polls don’t change by November, she’ll have trouble.

On the trust thing, this week was somewhat more successful, I think. It didn’t take on the email issue directly, which no convention would have done. But it did show Americans other sides of her. General John Allen’s testimony was pivotal, and so was Chelsea’s, for that matter, just describing her as a normal loving mother, which one third of America doesn’t think she has the capability of being. I’m not sure it will move public opinion immediately, but the convention seemed to open a window that had been closed tight. We’ll see.

Except for the whiny Berniac-no-answers minority, which was a decided minority and which ultimately didn’t make much of a difference, this was about as good a week as the Democrats could have hoped for. They changed the historical default position of the last 32 years. That’s two generations. It’s a big, big deal.

But: They changed that position in behalf of a candidate that a lot of America still feels hinky about. Americans want to choose optimism, but they’re more likely to choose it when they feel confident that they have a captain who can steer them toward that shore. The next 15 weeks are about turning Hillary into that captain.

Article Link to The Daily Beast:

The Dollar - And The Fed - Still Rule

Americans may think the U.S. is in hock to China, but Beijing’s economic fate lies in Washington’s hands.

By Ruchir Sharma
The Wall Street Journal
July 29, 2016

When Donald Trump recently declared that “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” he was expressing the kind of sentiment that animates not only his new Republican coalition, but nationalists everywhere. From the leaders of Russia and China to the rising European parties hostile to an open Europe, these nationalists are linked by a belief that in all matters of policy, their nation should come first.

This world-wide turning inward, however, comes in a period when countries are more beholden than ever to one institution, the U.S. Federal Reserve. Every hint of a shift in Washington’s monetary policy is met with a sharp response by global markets, which in turn affect the U.S. economy more dramatically than ever.

The Fed has been forced to recognize that it can no longer focus on America alone. When the Federal Open Market Committee voted in January 2015 to hold interest rates steady, its official statement explicitly noted, for the first time, that it was factoring “international developments” into its decisions. Since then the Fed, including this week, has frequently cited international threats, from Brexit to China, as reason to continue with hyper-accommodative monetary policy.

Though Mr. Trump argues that America must tend to its own affairs because it is weak, the Fed’s evolving role shows the limits of this argument. The U.S. may have slipped as an economic superpower, falling to 23% of global GDP from 40% in 1960. But as a financial superpower Washington has never been more influential. Forecasts of the dollar’s downfall have completely missed the mark.

Since the 15th century the world has had six unofficial reserve currencies, starting with the Portuguese real. On average they have maintained their leading position for 94 years. The dollar succeeded the British pound 96 years ago, and it has no serious rival in sight.

In the past 15 years, total foreign currency reserves world-wide rose from under $3 trillion to $11 trillion. Nearly two thirds of those reserves are held in dollars, a share that has barely changed in decades. Nearly 90% of global trade transactions involve dollars, even in deals without an American party. A Korean company selling TVs in Brazil, for instance, will generally ask for payment in dollars.

Because the Fed controls the supply of dollars, it reigns supreme. Its influence has only grown since the financial crisis of 2008. As the Fed began experimenting with quantitative easing to inject dollars into the system, tens of billions flowed out of the country every month. The amount of dollar loans extended to borrowers outside the U.S. has doubled since 2009 to $9 trillion—a record 75% of global nonresidential lending. Many of those are in the form of bonds, and bond investors are highly sensitive to U.S. interest rates.

That helps explain why any sign of Fed tightening, which reduces the supply of dollars, sends global markets into a tizzy. Earlier this year, for example, Chinese investors were shipping billions abroad every month, searching for higher yields. The Fed had been expected to raise short-term interest rates later this year, but it backed off that commitment in February, when China appeared headed toward a financial crisis.

Had the Fed tightened, China’s central bank would have been pressured to follow, crippling the flow of credit that is keeping the Chinese economy afloat. So instead the Fed held steady, effectively bailing out Beijing. Though many Americans still see the U.S. as deeply in hock to China, the fact is that China is even more reliant on easy money to fuel growth—putting the country’s economic fate in Washington’s hands.

The Fed is thus caught in a trap. Every time the U.S. economy starts to perk up, the Fed signals its intent to start returning interest rates to normal. But that signal sends shock waves through a heavily indebted global economy and back to American shores. So the Fed delays rate increases, as it did in June and again this week.

The rest of the world recognizes the Fed’s power as well. As soon as quantitative easing began, finance ministers from Brazil to Taiwan warned about the risks of unleashing torrents of dollars. They said it would drive up the value of currencies in the emerging world, destabilize local financial markets, undermine exports and economic growth.

The Fed was initially skeptical. Its then-chief Ben Bernanke argued that the central bank’s policies were a boost for every country. Other officials stated bluntly that the rest of the world wasn’t their problem. “We only have a mandate to concern ourselves with the interest of the United States,” Dennis Lockhart, president of the Atlanta Fed, said in 2013. “Other countries simply have to take that as a reality and adjust to us if that’s something important for their economies.”

The Fed has since discovered the world, which matters more than ever to the American economy. In the past 15 years the share of U.S. corporate revenues that come from foreign markets has risen from a quarter to a third. The more interconnected global markets become, the more rapidly financial instability in the rest of the world ricochets to hurt the U.S.

In the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, the Fed’s loose policies may have temporarily stimulated growth world-wide. But those policies have come back to haunt it. Fed officials ignored the resulting excesses, including the credit and asset bubbles building around the world. Now every time the Fed tries to tighten, the dollar starts to strengthen and global markets seize up, forcing the Fed to retreat. It’s unclear how to end this cycle, but this much is apparent: The financial hegemony of the U.S. has never been greater, making the Fed the central bank of the world.

Article Link to The Wall Street Journal:

Hillary Clinton’s Plan To Trounce Donald Trump

It’s not without risks, but it’s her best bet to win the White House.

By Brian Beutler
The New Republic
July 29, 2016

If Hillary Clinton is to trounce Donald Trump—and trouncing him should be the aim—it won’t be because she’s a bravura orator, but because her campaign will marginalize him so effectively that her coalition will grow to dwarf his.

The question is how she intends to do it. What kind of campaign will she run? She answered that question Thursday night.

Trump is easy to beat in theory. An offensive, ignorant, greedy figure, he lacks any natural appeal among ethnic minorities and educated people; and while his superficial attractiveness to working class whites is obvious (he’s brash and racist, and speaks to their grievances) even mild scrutiny of his record and his agenda undermines the impression he likes to give that he’ll improve the lives of the disaffected.

But Trump is mercurial, and meretricious. Indeed the two qualities (if you can call them that) complement one another nicely. His wild swings of opinion and mood can be mistaken for authenticity and disinhibition; or perhaps they simply embody the blurry line between keeping it real and being erratic.

In any case, Trump’s character and indiscipline have confronted the Clinton campaign with a dilemma no campaign has ever faced: How the hell do you run against someone like that?

You can attack Trump as a bloodless billionaire, a nouveau-gauche Mitt Romney, who will subvert the interests of workers and the environment beneath those of the wealthy. An archetypal Republican, in other words. But that would conflict with the plainly hostile way Trump took over the party. Alternatively, you can attack Trump as temperamentally unfit demagogue in whom it would be dangerous to vest the power of the presidency. But there is an ad hominem quality to this attack that frees Trump to play tribune to the poor, and, more importantly, absolves the broader GOP for nominating and endorsing Trump’s racist candidacy.

This dilemma mirrors a debate that has played out in the past 24 hours, since President Barack Obama treated Trump as an aberration, rather than the apotheosis of modern Republicanism, in his Wednesday convention address.

“What we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican,” Obama said, “and it sure wasn’t conservative.”

Contrast with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who is at pains to portray Republican senators as a bunch of mini-Trumps, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as the Dr. Frankenstein of the Trumpian monster.

“The only thing Republicans like Mitch McConnell have accomplished,” Reid told the convention Wednesday, “is setting the stage for a hateful con-man, Donald Trump.”

These arguments are clearly in tension; and to the extent that they’re mutually exclusive, Clinton has placed herself squarely on Obama’s side. She compared our current crossroads to the one that faced American colonists who were divided over whether they were monarchists or revolutionaries. “America is once again at a moment of reckoning,” she said. “Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying. And just as with our founders, there are no guarantees. It truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we all will work together so we all can rise together.”

The implicit theme of the convention’s final night was that Americans shouldn’t see the election as a contest between Democrats and Republicans, but between responsible citizens and Donald Trump. Reagan Republicans and devout Muslims on one team; Donald Trump and Scott Baio and the sewer scavengers of right-wing talk radio on the other.

“A man you can bait with a tweet,” Clinton said in her peroration, “is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.” This is indisputable. But has Clinton chosen the most surefire way to keep them out of his hands?

This is a consequential question.
In Obama’s thinking, erasing Republican and conservative culpability for Trump might make more of them feel comfortable voting for Clinton or abstaining, where tarring Republicans as Trump’s forbearers would forge their bond of common enemy.

That sounds like a great way to widen Clinton’s margin, but it doesn’t do much directly to help Democratic candidates in Reid’s domain of Congress who would benefit just as much if their Republican opponents were seen as Trumps-in-sheeps-clothing.

And the added insult is that, all strategic concerns aside, Reid has the better historical argument. Trump wasn’t incubated in the Senate Republican conference, but it beggars belief to imply that Trump was able to thrive in a party that did nothing to foster Trumpism. And the concern is that by failing to acknowledge the GOP’s role in enabling Trump, Democrats might win the presidency, but leave Clinton at the mercy of a Republican Congress.

The truth, though, is that this debate is unnecessarily binary. Elections are state-based as much as they are national, and there is nothing stopping the Clinton campaign, buffeted by Obama and her other top surrogates, from running an inclusive campaign, while Democratic congressional candidates drape their opponents’ Trump endorsements around their necks.

And the larger point is that coalitions aren’t normally built on unforgiving honesty. In an ideal world, Clinton would trounce Trump, extending her coattails all the way down the ballot, to capture Congress as well, leaving Republicans branded as the Trump party for a generation. That outcome is still possible, but it can’t be pursued in a way that makes the risk of defeat unacceptably high. Clinton’s primary imperative is to prevent Trump from winning, even narrowly, and that in turn means leaving a door ajar to Republicans who can’t reconcile themselves to Trump’s nomination.

Clinton showcased on Thursday night what a campaign like that looks like: a maximal coalition to defeat a maximal threat.

Article Link to The New Republic:

Why The Bush Family Should Endorse Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump’s Russian flirtations are a rebuke of the family patriarch's greatest foreign policy legacy.

By Dana Houle
The New Republic
July 29, 2016

Imagine you’re the scion of a family that is part of the twentieth-century American elite. You were born into wealth and privilege, but raised to personify modesty, rectitude, and noblesse oblige. You were a war hero. You graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale in only two and a half years.

Your career was one of the most accomplished in American history: representative in Congress; ambassador to the United Nations; chairman of the Republican National Committee, where you were forced to ask your party’s president to resign; envoy to China, where you nurtured the relationship between what are today the world’s two largest economies; director of the CIA, where you gave intelligence briefings to the other party’s nominee; vice president; and president.

Your presidency was largely defined by foreign policy. The Warsaw Pact collapsed while you were in office, and you successfully facilitated the removal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany. You got a major nuclear arms deal with the USSR ratified, and as the USSR collapsed, you helped extract the Baltic republics from Russia. You also led a winning war in the Middle East, notable for the broad international coalition you put together.

You lost reelection, but two terms later your son became president. You developed a warm relationship with the Democrat who defeated you. And you show respect to and receive respect from the current president.

Would you want Donald Trump—whose personality and relationship to wealth and fame are the polar opposites of yours, and whose sense of duty and commitment to American security and power within a framework of international institutions are in doubt—to become president?

The man described, of course, is George H.W. Bush. He is 91, and supposedly retired from politics. But his legacy, and the security of the nation, are at serious risk. The first President Bush has one last duty to perform for his country: endorse Hillary Clinton for president.

Given his life, values, achievements, and commitments—not to mention Trump’s attacks on his two sons—why wouldn’t he?

To be sure, we should not overlook the many acts of political expediency and cravenness that helped get George H.W. Bush to the White House. He went from pro-choice to strongly anti-choice to be on the ticket with Ronald Reagan. His 1988 Lee Atwater–led presidential campaign was scurrilous. He deftly used the wedge issues of rights, regulations, and taxes as proxies for race. His vice president was callow, unaccomplished, and probably unfit for the job. The invasion of Panama was dubious at best. He nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, George H.W. Bush has always been a Republican, and he endorsed every Republican presidential nominee until this year. He may not be capable of endorsing Clinton, because it would mean the abandonment of his Republican Party. Refusing to endorse Trump may be as far as he can go.

But George H.W. Bush wasn’t crazy. He tried on the affectations of cultural populism, but he was and remains a member of the New England-New York elite. Though he referred to his grandchildren as “the little brown ones,” he appears to have embraced having a family blended with Mexican immigrants. He was a serious adult as president, in particular in his conduct of foreign policy. He didn’t have to be pushed to repudiate David Duke.

And unlike Donald Trump, he never suggested we should abrogate international treaties, toss aside our international commitments, and disdain diplomacy and international institutions. He didn’t invite Russian aggression by saying we may not come to the defense of NATO allies. And he never held a press conference in which he asked Russia, sarcastically or otherwise, to conduct espionage against his election opponent.

Bush dedicated his career to maintaining an international order that kept the U.S. in a preeminent position of global power, and that prevented the USSR and Russia from extending its power beyond its contiguous sphere of influence. As president, he oversaw what he hoped would be the creation of a new Europe, with a shrunken Russia unable to intimidate Eastern Europe and unable to keep the West on a constant war footing.

If he can get past naked partisanship, it should be easy to endorse Hillary Clinton—the only nominee in at least a century whose experience and preparation for the presidency rival his when he was a candidate.

What about the rest of the Bush family? Barbara appears to loathe Trump. Jeb has already said he will not vote for Trump. Laura hinted she may have already decided to vote for Hillary. And one of his closest former colleagues, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, has already endorsed Clinton.

George W. Bush has pledged to support Republican candidates for Senate. But he has openly mused that he may be the last Republican president. George W. Bush may have misread Vladimir Putin, but he didn’t openly play footsie with him. That—plus Trump’s attacks on his brother, and on his own legacy—might be enough to switch sides, especially if it was an endorsement accompanied by an endorsement from his father.

Would a Bush family endorsement be a net gain for Hillary? Without a doubt. It might embolden more Republicans to at least disavow Trump. It would make it even harder for the press to treat Trump like something other than an unstable extremist grossly unfit to be in charge of our nuclear codes, military and prosecutorial power, and state secrets. Like Gaullist-Socialist alliances against Marine LePen’s National Front in France, it would signal that Trump is outside what’s acceptable in a liberal democracy, and that protecting the republic is more important than inter-party rivalries. A Bush family endorsement of Hillary Clinton would convince many mainstream Republicans (especially college-educated Republicans and Republican women) to vote for Clinton—there might even be enough converts that Trump would have no path to victory.

Comedian Dana Carvey famously imitated George H.W. Bush with the line “Wouldn’t be prudent!” Prudence is commonly thought of as caution, but it has an older, richer meaning in ethical and political theory. A prudent man knows not only concepts of right action and conduct, but also has experience, sound judgment, and practical wisdom that he draws from to make the right decision in real-world situations. Prudence, under this definition, is one of the highest virtues. It is time for responsible Republicans to put nation before party, and endorse Hillary Clinton for president.

If you were George H.W. Bush, wouldn’t you conclude that’s the prudent thing to do?

Article Link to The New Republic:

Krauthammer: What’s The Case For Hillary?

Elect her because she wants to be elected.

By Charles Krauthammer 
The National Review
July 29, 2016

‘The best darn change-maker I ever met in my entire life.” So said Bill Clinton in making the case for his wife at the Democratic National Convention. Considering that Bernie Sanders ran as the author of a political revolution and Donald Trump as the man who would “kick over the table” (to quote Newt Gingrich) in Washington, “change-maker” does not exactly make the heart race.

Which is the fundamental problem with the Clinton campaign. What precisely is it about? Why is she running in the first place?

Like most dynastic candidates (most famously Ted Kennedy in 1979), she really doesn’t know. She seeks the office because, well, it’s the next — the final — step on the ladder.

Her campaign’s premise is that we’re doing okay, but we can do better. There are holes to patch in the nanny-state safety net. She’s the one to do it.

It amounts to Sanders lite. Or the short-lived Bush slogan: “Jeb can fix it.” We know where that went.

The one man who could have given the pudding a theme, who could have created a plausible Hillaryism was Bill Clinton. Rather than do that — the way in Cleveland Gingrich shaped Trump’s various barstool eruptions into a semi-coherent program of national populism — Bill gave a long chronological account of a passionate liberal’s social activism. It was an attempt, I suppose, to humanize her.

Well, yes. Perhaps, after all, somewhere in there is a real person. But what a waste of Bill’s talents. It wasn’t exactly Clint Eastwood speaking to an empty chair, but at the end you had to ask: Is that all there is?

He grandly concluded with this: “The reason you should elect her is that in the greatest country on earth we have always been about tomorrow.” Is there a rhetorical device more banal?

Trump’s acceptance speech was roundly criticized for offering a dark, dystopian vision of America. For all of its exaggeration, however, it reflected well the view from Fishtown, the fictional white working-class town created statistically by social scientist Charles Murray in his 2012 study Coming Apart. It chronicled the economic, social, and spiritual disintegration of those left behind by globalization and economic transformation. Trump’s capture of the resultant feelings of anxiety and abandonment explains why he enjoys an astonishing 39-point advantage over Clinton among whites without a college degree.

His solution is to beat up on foreigners for “stealing” our jobs. But while trade is a factor in the loss of manufacturing jobs, even more important, by a large margin, is the emergence of an information economy in which education, knowledge, and various kinds of literacy are the coin of the realm. For all the factory jobs lost to Third World competitors, far more are lost to robots.

Hard to run against higher productivity. Easier to run against cunning foreigners.

In either case, Clinton has found no counter. If she has a theme, it’s about expanding opportunity, shattering ceilings. But the universe of discriminated-against minorities — so vast 50 years ago — is rapidly shrinking. When the burning civil-rights issue of the day is bathroom choice for the transgendered, a flummoxed Fishtown understandably asks, “What about us?” Telling coal miners she was going to close their mines and kill their jobs only reinforced white working-class alienation from Clinton.

As for the chaos abroad, the Democrats are in see-no-evil denial. The first night in Philadelphia, there were 61 speeches. Not one mentioned the Islamic State or even terrorism. Later references were few, far between, and highly defensive. After all, what can the Democrats say? Clinton’s calling card is experience. Yet as secretary of state she left a trail of policy failures from Libya to Syria, from the Russian reset to the Iraqi withdrawal to the rise of the Islamic State.

Clinton had a strong second half of the convention as the Sanders revolt faded and as President Obama endorsed her with one of the finer speeches of his career. Yet Trump’s convention bounce of up to 10 points has given him a slight lead in the polls. She badly needs one of her own.

She still enjoys the Democrats’ built-in Electoral College advantage. But she remains highly vulnerable to both outside events and internal revelations. Another major terror attack, another e-mail drop — and everything changes.

In this crazy election year, there are no straight-line projections. As Clinton leaves Philadelphia, her lifelong drive for the ultimate prize is perilously close to a coin flip.

Article Link to The National Review:

Hillary’s One-Candidate Race

She’ll try to disqualify Trump because she loses if the election is a referendum on her.

By Kimberley A. Strassel 
The Wall Street Journal
July 29, 2016

Conventions are useful for clarifying elections, and this week’s Philly confab notably so. A week of speakers—Democrat after Democrat beseeching the nation to please know that Hillary Clinton really is a good gal—has made something clear: This is, essentially, a one-person presidential race.

It’s Hillary against Hillary. This November is about whether Americans can look at 40 years of Clinton chicanery and nearly a decade of broken Obama promises, and still pull the lever for her. Not that Donald Trump doesn’t matter. He does, in that he can help sharpen those concerns. But Hillary is the main event.

The polls bear this out. Aside from his recent convention bump, Mr. Trump’s numbers have been largely consistent. Whether he leads or trails, and by how much, is mostly a function of voters’ shifting views on Mrs. Clinton. Lately her poll numbers have been devastating.

A CNN survey this week showed 68% of voters say she isn’t honest and trustworthy—an all-time high. CBS found virtually the same number: 67%. In the CNN poll, meanwhile, only 39% of voters said they held a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton. This is lower than any time CNN has polled Hillary since the spring of 1992—before she was first lady.

Mr. Trump’s poll numbers also bear this out. He is currently leading in the Real Clear Politics average despite no real ground game, little real fundraising, little policy message, a divided conservative electorate, and one of the messiest conventions on record. As of June 30, Mrs. Clinton and her allies had raised a stunning $600 million, which is already being spent to trash Mr. Trump. Yet to little or no effect. Mr. Trump is hardly a potted plant, but even if he were...

Mrs. Clinton’s problem is Mrs. Clinton. She is running against her own ethical morass. Already she was asking voters to forget about cattle futures and fake sniper fire and Whitewater and Travelgate. Then she chose to vividly revive the public nausea with her self-serving email stunt and her Clinton Foundation money grubbing.

Oh, she tried to roll out the usual Clinton defense: that this was just part of a renewed attack by political enemies. Yet the neutral inspector general of the State Department slammed her handling of official email; the FBI director (who works for Barack Obama) attested that she was careless with classified information; and she was caught on tape telling a series of lies about the situation. All of which makes it tough to blame the vast right-wing conspiracy. Tim Kaine’s many assurances that he “trusts” Mrs. Clinton was the campaign’s public acknowledgment that almost no one else in the nation does.

Hillary is running, too, against the reality of President Obama policies, which she promises not only to continue, but to build on. The president’s glowing appraisal Wednesday night of his time in office bore no relation to the country most Americans see—one in which health care costs more than ever, they struggle to pay the bills, and terror attacks on Western democracies are a weekly event. The state of the country might not be quite so grim as Mr. Trump painted it in Cleveland, but the mood is much closer to that grimness than to Mr. Obama’s forced optimism.

The president’s policies, which Mrs. Clinton now owns, have alienated significant tranches of voters that she needs this fall—in particular blue-collar Democrats. Coal communities are rejecting Hillary outright. Many union workers are too, whether they be Teamsters for Trump, or police officers appalled by the Democratic Party’s attacks on their profession.

Mrs. Clinton is trying to win back that blue-collar support by moving sharply on issues like free trade, but she’ll be hard pressed to out-populist Mr. Trump on that score. Whatever Bill says, Americans do not look at Hillary and see “change”—at least not the kind of change they are after.

Hillary is also running against her own party, which has moved left without her. She has chased after progressives, adopting one position after another from Bernie Sanders, feting Elizabeth Warren, working “progressive” into every sentence. But this week showed that her party’s liberal wing is unconvinced, still feeling the Bern. Yes, she has done some uniting in Philly, and will likely get her own bump. At the same time, 45% of Democrats who voted in the primary told that CNN pollster they still wish Sanders were the nominee.

Mrs. Clinton will continue to warn that her opponent is a threat, to try to worry voters enough that they overcome their misgivings about her. Mr. Trump can certainly make that job easier for her. Conversely, he can help his own numbers and campaign by focusing precisely on her vulnerabilities, and by presenting a stronger policy agenda of his own.

Mrs. Clinton is ultimately banking that a significant number of Americans won’t be able to vote for Mr. Trump. Certainly some won’t. But a dislike of Mr. Trump does not imply a like of Mrs. Clinton—and certainly not a vote for Mrs. Clinton.

Article Link to the Wall Street Journal:

Trump Unloads On Clinton Moments After Speech

By Jordain Carney
The Hill
July 29, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — Donald Trump immediately unloaded on Hilary Clinton with a string of rapid-fire tweets moments after her Democratic National Convention speech Thursday night.

"Hillary's refusal to mention radical Islam, as she pushes a 550% increase in refugees, is more proof that she is unfit to lead the country," Trump tweeted minutes after Clinton wrapped up her speech in Philadelphia.

He hit Clinton repeatedly for being soft on terror — a favorite attack by Republicans.

He added that Americans’ "way of life is under threat by Radical Islam and Hillary Clinton cannot even bring herself to say the words."

Clinton faced protests during her speech — though they were frequently drowned out by chants of "Hillary."

Trump also hit Clinton over her role in the Obama administration, saying "Hillary's wars have unleashed destruction, terrorism and ISIS across the world."

Progressives remain wary of Clinton's foreign policy because of her vote for the Iraq War, which she has since called a mistake.

He also knocked Clinton on the economy — saying the world will have "no borders, no jobs, no safety" in her administration — and corruption.

Article Link to The Hill:

For Inspiration, New Democratic Stars Look To Elizabeth Warren

By James Oliphant and Jonathan Allen
July 29, 2016

Twelve years ago, Barack Obama’s electrifying speech at the Democratic National Convention brought tears to Andrew Gillum’s eyes.

Now mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, and viewed as a rising star in that state, Gillum did not hesitate when asked to name his political role model.

“Elizabeth Warren,” he replied, referring to the firebrand U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

That the 37-year-old African-American mayor of a Southern U.S. city identifies Warren as his political lodestar speaks volumes about the Democratic Party's progressive shift, even as Hillary Clinton officially became its presidential nominee after a quarter-century in the public eye.

With the party in transition, Clinton’s 1990s-era brand of Democratic centrism is slowly being eclipsed by a wave of progressivism personified by Warren and by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a rival of Clinton's until he endorsed her this month.

Although Sanders' insurgent presidential bid fell short, leaving his supporters bitterly disappointed, a new crop of Democratic candidates seems determined to carry on his work, with Warren, 67, as their putative leader.

Like Obama in 2004, Gillum and many others at the Philadelphia convention sought to boost their profiles, raise cash and network with fellow Democrats, buoyed by the adoption of the most progressive platform in party history, with planks for debt-free college, expanded Social Security benefits and a tax on carbon emissions.

Clinton, too, has moved to the left, embracing many of these causes, separating herself from a more moderate brand of Democratic politics personified by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who was pro-free trade, friendlier to Wall Street and emphasized budget discipline.

She appealed to Sanders supporters during her speech accepting the party's presidential nomination on Thursday, pledging to work with him on progressive issues. "Let's go out there and make it happen together," Clinton said.

Sarah Lloyd, 44, a congressional candidate in Wisconsin who supported Sanders, said, “There is an energy that’s coming from the folks that were brought to the process by the Sanders campaign.... That can only be a positive thing for the party.”

Taking The Lead

More than Sanders, Warren has taken the lead in shaping the Democrats' next generation. Formerly a professor of law, Warren conceived and set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau formed in 2011 under President Obama.

She launched a political action committee to back Democratic candidates and inspired other advocacy groups, such as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, to solicit donations to a bloc it terms the party's “Warren wing.”

A speaker at the convention, Florida's Gillum was frustrated by Sanders because he seemed disinterested in helping other Democratic candidates, in contrast with Warren.

“Senator Sanders was content to be a movement by himself,” Gillum said. “It’s a revolution when you bring people along with you.”

Warren’s committee has donated to the campaigns of U.S. Senate hopefuls such as Kamala Harris, 51, of California, Jason Kander, 35, of Missouri, and Catherine Cortez Masto, 52, of Nevada. They and Wisconsin’s Lloyd oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the global trade deal that has split the progressive and moderate elements of the party.

The PCCC’s slate of "Warren wing" candidates supports a $15-an-hour minimum wage, campaign-finance reform and tighter rules for Wall Street.

One of those on the slate is Zephyr Teachout, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York, who has campaigned in a T-shirt that reads, “I’m from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the party” and who has been endorsed by Sanders.

“There is a rising and very important populism, talking about money in politics, talking about trade, talking about economic issues,” Teachout, 44, told Reuters. “Within the party, and across the board, there has been a serious rethinking of trade, rethinking of big banks, rethinking of monopolies that have too much power.”

Tulsi Gabbard, a U.S. representative from Hawaii, is often mentioned by Sanders supporters as one who could assume his mantle. A cable-news regular, Gabbard, 35, was one of a few Sanders supporters offered a convention speaking slot. Onstage she formally nominated Sanders for president, saying he had become a “voice for millions, connecting seamlessly with laborers in the Rust Belt and environmentalists in the West.”

Other rising Democratic progressives frequently cited by strategists include Julian Castro, 41, the U.S. housing secretary, and his twin brother, Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas, former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, 48, U.S. Senate candidate Pramila Jayapal, 50, of Washington, and former South Carolina lawmaker Bakari Sellers, 31.

Brighter Than The Rest?

Harris might be the one to shine the brightest. As California’s attorney general, Harris has been mentioned as a potential U.S. presidential candidate or U.S. Supreme Court justice should she win her Senate race in November.

She enjoys the support of Warren, Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, suggesting she can appeal to both the party’s liberal and moderate flanks.

She joined forces with Bloomberg in his crusade for tighter gun laws, bonded with Warren over helping homeowners struggling through the foreclosure crisis of the late 2000s and joined Obama’s efforts to overhaul a criminal justice system that tends to treat black citizens more harshly than white ones.

In one campaign ad, Warren is viewed saying, "Kamala Harris was fearless."

Harris, in turn, has backed Clinton. In an interview, she rejected the idea that the party is leaving Clinton behind even as it nominates her for president.

“I strongly believe that these two generations have much more in common than what separates them in terms of fundamental values,” Harris said.

Article Link to Reuters:

In Speech Of Her Life, Clinton Promises A 'Clear-Eyed' Vision

By John Whitesides and Luciana Lopez
July 29, 2016

U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Thursday Americans faced challenges at home and abroad that demand steady leadership and a collective spirit, and attacked Republican Donald Trump for sowing fear and divisiveness.

In the biggest speech of her more than 25-year-old career in the public eye, Clinton accepted the Democratic presidential nomination for the Nov. 8 election with a promise to make the United States a country that worked for everyone.

"We are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid," she said.

She presented a sharply more upbeat view of the country than the dark vision Trump offered at last week's Republican convention, and even turned one of Republican hero Ronald Reagan's signature phrases against the real estate developer.

"He's taken the Republican Party a long way, from 'Morning in America' to 'Midnight in America,'" Clinton said. "He wants to divide us - from the rest of the world, and from each other. He's betting that the perils of today's world will blind us to its unlimited promise."

The speech was Clinton's turn in the spotlight after three days of electrifying appearances by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama, and Clinton acknowledged that some people still do not know her well.

"I get it that some people just don't know what to make of me. So let me tell you. The family I'm from, well no one had their name on big buildings," Clinton said in a reference to Trump. She said her family were builders of a better life and a better future for their children, using whatever tools they had and "whatever God gave them."

As she prepared to deliver her speech, people familiar with the matter said the FBI is investigating a cyber attack against another Democratic Party group, which may be related to an earlier hack against the Democratic National Committee.

The previously unreported incident at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, and its potential ties to Russian hackers, are likely to heighten accusations, so far unproven, that Moscow is trying to meddle in the U.S. election to help Trump.

Clinton said it would be her "primary mission" to create more opportunities and more good jobs with rising wages, and to confront stark choices in battling determined enemies and "threats and turbulence" around the world and at home.

"America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying," said Clinton, a former secretary of state. "No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance - looking for steady leadership."

Clinton, who is vying to be the first woman elected U.S. president, called her nomination "a milestone" and said she was happy for grandmothers and little girls and "everyone in between."

"When any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone," the 68-year-old Clinton said in a speech that capped the four-day nominating convention.

Trump, a 70-year-old reality TV show host who has never held political office, is running just ahead of Clinton in a RealClearPolitics average of recent national opinion polls. They both garner high "unpopularity" ratings.

At a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Trump said he was being criticized at the Democratic convention by people who had been friendly to him before.

"I think we'll stay here all night because I don’t really want to go home and watch that crap," he said.

Inside the arena, it sounded at times more like a traditional Republican convention than a Democratic one. During retired General John Allen’s remarks, chants of “USA!” filled the hall and large flags were brought in to be waved. Speakers, some of whom included military and police officers, made frequent mentions of religion and patriotism.

"I certainly know that with her as our commander-in-chief, our foreign relations will not be reduced to a business transaction, I also know that our armed forces will not become an instrument of torture," said Allen.

Trump has portrayed the country as being under siege from illegal immigrants, crime and terrorism and as losing influence in the world. He has proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country and a wall along the border with Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out.

Khizr Kahn, a Muslim whose son was one of 14 Muslims killed while serving in the military since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, drew cheers when he pulled out a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution and said he wanted to show it to Trump.

"Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son the best of America. If it was up to Donald Trump he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims," he said.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio called Trump a hypocrite who talked about opposing free trade deals to protect American workers but had the products sold by his companies made overseas.

"Now I’ve been fighting for a trade agenda for more than 20 years that puts American workers first and I can tell you that in all those years I’ve never ever seen Donald Trump," said Brown, one of the most liberal members of the Senate.

"The only thing I've seen Donald Trump do when it comes to U.S. trade policy is run his mouth and line his pockets," Brown said.

Article Link to Reuters:

Attempt At U.S.-Russia Cooperation In Syria Suffers Major Setbacks

By Tom Miles and John Walcott
July 29, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's attempt to elicit Russian military cooperation in the fight against Islamic State in Syria suffered two potentially crippling blows on Thursday.

First, the Syrian army said it had cut off all supply routes into the eastern part of the city of Aleppo - Syria's most important opposition stronghold - and President Bashar al-Assad's government asked residents to leave the city.

That move, U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity said on Thursday, appeared to be an effort to pre-empt a U.S. demand that Russia and Syria reopen a major road into the divided northern city before talks could begin on creating a joint intelligence center to coordinate air attacks against Islamic State.

Then al Qaeda's Syrian branch announced on Thursday it was terminating its relationship with the global network created by Osama bin Laden and changing its name to remove what it called a pretext by the United States and other countries to attack Syrians.

Although one U.S. official called it "a change in name only," the move complicates the American proposal to limit the Russians and Syrians to targeting only Nusra and IS, not other rebel groups supported by Washington and its allies in the coalition against Islamic State.

"By disavowing its ties to al Qaeda - which, incidentally, it did with al Qaeda's blessing - Nusra has made it harder to isolate it from more moderate groups, some of whose members may join it now because it's more powerful than some of the groups they belong to now," said the official.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Washington has been clear about its concerns over the announcement of the humanitarian corridor and that its view of the Nusra Front had not changed despite its name change.

"But we also remain committed to the proposals reached by the United States and Russia to better enforce the cessation of hostilities in Syria and provide the space needed for a resumption of political talks. If fully implemented in good faith, they can achieve a measure of success that has eluded us thus far," Kirby told Reuters.

"As the secretary made clear, however, we are pragmatic about these efforts, and we will look to Russia to meet its commitments as we will meet ours. That will be the primary, determining factor of success here," he added.

Faltering Proposal 

The twin U.S. goals in Syria have been ending the violence that already has claimed some 400,000 lives, according to United Nations estimates, and seeking a political process to replace Assad, whom President Barack Obama has said "must go."

But while Washington and Moscow have both expressed hope they can find a way to cooperate against IS, Kerry's proposal was already in trouble due to the competing objectives of the Cold War-era foes as well as resistance from U.S. military and intelligence officials.

U.S. officials questioned Russian and Syrian claims that their aim in evacuating civilians from Aleppo was to clear the way for humanitarian assistance to reach the besieged city, where 200,000-300,000 civilians remain with only two to three weeks of food on hand.

"Why would you evacuate a city that you wanted to send humanitarian aid to?" asked one official. "At first glance, that would appear to be a unilateral effort by Moscow and Assad to pre-empt Kerry's demand for ending the siege of Aleppo before starting negotiations on the larger issues. If the proposal isn't dead, it seems to be pretty badly wounded."

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura wants a deal as soon as possible so he can restart peace talks within a month and aid flows can resume.

Article Link to Reuters:

Friday, July 29, Morning Global Market Roundup: Asian Shares Flat, Yen Hits Two-Week High Ahead Of BOJ

By Nichola Saminather and Hideyuki Sano
July 29, 2016

Asian shares touched a one-year peak on Friday, while the yen hit a two-week high in nervous trade as investors waited to see if the Bank of Japan will come up with stimulus that would meet markets' expectations.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS hit the highest level since Aug. 11 before pulling back to trade down 0.2 percent.

It is set for a 1.2 percent gain for the week, and 5.7 percent for the month.

Japan's Nikkei .N225 slipped 0.4 percent. It looked set for a 1.3 percent weekly drop, but a 5.4 percent monthly gain.

The yen rose to as high as 103.30 to the dollar JPY= from 105.30 in late U.S. trade on Thursday, which market players largely attributed to the result of "fat finger" orders exacerbated by thin trading conditions as there was no apparent news to justify such a big move.

The BOJ is widely expected to expand its stimulus further by increasing its already massive asset purchases and possibly cutting interest rates deeper into negative territory.

But many investors said there is a big chance of disappointment because markets have long expected more stimulus, making it difficult for BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda to spring a surprise.

The yen was last up 1.1 percent at 104.11 per dollar, with all eyes on the BOJ's policy decision, which is usually announced some time between 0230 GMT (10:30 p.m. EDT) to 0500 GMT (01:00 a.m. EDT).

The Japanese government, which is crafting a fiscal stimulus package, has been lobbying hard for the BOJ to ease policy further and has prepared a statement it will publish in case the central bank eases.

"As the government is preparing a supplementary budget, the BOJ is perhaps feeling that they could maximize the impact of what little easing it can do by synchronizing their moves," said Daisuke Nomoto, senior portfolio manager at Columbia Threadneedle Investments in Boston.

Wall Street shares remained near all-time highs, with tech heavyweights Alphabet (GOOGL.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O) rising after the bell as their earnings beat expectations.

The dollar index .DXY slipped 0.3 percent to 96.452, putting it on track for a slide of 0.5 percent for the week, but a gain of 0.3 percent for the month.

European shares .FTEU3 fell on Thursday, however, as markets awaited the release of the stress test results on European banks on Friday night.

The euro stood little changed at $1.1085 EUR=. It is up almost 1 percent this week, but poised for a 0.2 percent loss in July.

Elsewhere in markets, oil prices fell to three-month lows, with U.S. benchmark now down more than 20 percent from this year's peak on growing worries that the world might be pumping more crude than needed.

U.S. crude futures fell to as low as $40.95 per barrel CLc1 and were last down 0.2 percent at $41.06. It's set for a drop of 6.8 percent for the week and 15 percent in July.

International benchmark Brent crude futures LCOc1 dropped 0.1 percent to $42.64. It is down 6.7 percent this week and 14 percent this month.

Article Link to Reuters:

Oil Prices Remain Near April Lows On Ongoing Oversupply

By Henning Gloystein
July 29, 2016

Oil prices on Friday remained around April lows as slowing economic growth threatened to worsen ongoing oversupply of crude and refined products.

International Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 were trading at $42.78 at 0127 GMT (09:27 p.m. EDT), up 8 cents from their previous close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was at $41.16, up 2 cents.

Brent hit its lowest since April in the previous session, at $42.56, while WTI hit a fresh low of $40.95 per barrel early on Friday, and both crude benchmarks are now down around 20 percent since their last peak in June.

Because of ongoing oversupply, U.S. bank Goldman Sachs (GS.N) said this week that it did not expect a big recovery in prices any time soon.

"We continue to expect that oil prices will remain in a $45 per barrel to $50 per barrel trading range through mid-2017 with near-term risks skewed to the downside," the bank said.

Despite this, some analysts said recent price falls in oil had been overdone, especially as demand remains strong despite concerns over future economic growth.

"Investors have become overly bearish on oil as U.S. production and gasoline inventories continue to rise. We think those concerns are unwarranted. Underlying demand in the U.S. remains robust," ANZ bank said.

Article Link to Reuters:

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Forbes: Bezos Passes Buffett, Becomes Third-Richest Person

By Jonathan Stempel
July 29, 2016

Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Inc (AMZN.O), has become the world's third-richest person as of the market close for the first time, Forbes magazine said, passing Warren Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N).

Bezos' fortune was $65.3 billion as of 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) on Thursday, compared with Buffett's $64.9 billion.

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) co-founder Bill Gates remained the world's richest person, at $77.7 billion, while Spain's Amancio Ortega, who founded the Zara clothing chain's owner Inditex SA (ITX.MC), was second at $72.7 billion. Facebook Inc (FB.O) co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was fifth, at $54 billion.

Bezos, 52, owns close to 18 percent of Amazon. Its stock has risen by roughly 50 percent since early February, as the world's largest online retailer continued to upend retailing as more people took to the Web rather than the mall to shop.

Amazon's share price rose further in after-hours trading, after the Seattle-based company reported better-than-expected second-quarter results.

Buffett, 85, owns close to 18 percent of Berkshire, but his donation this month of $2.86 billion of Berkshire stock to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities led to his drop to fourth place. He has donated more than $24.3 billion to the Gates Foundation and family charities since 2006.

Berkshire is based in Omaha, Nebraska, and has roughly 90 business units including Geico car insurance, the BNSF railroad and Dairy Queen ice cream.

In June, Buffett called Bezos a "classic example" of how a business owner could thrive, by having focused at Amazon on how to "delight" customers, and keep them coming back, rather than simply process their orders.

Article Link to Reuters:

Forbes: Bezos Passes Buffett, Becomes Third-Richest Person

Can The World Deal With a New Bank Crisis?

By Satyajit Das
The Bloomberg View
July 28, 2016

As Europe braces for the release of its bank stress tests on Friday, the world could be on the verge of another banking crisis. The signs are obvious to all. The World Bank estimates the ratio of non-performing loans to total gross loans in 2015 reached 4.3 percent. Before the 2009 global financial crisis, they stood at 4.2 percent.

If anything, the problem is starker now than then: There are more than $3 trillion in stressed loan assets worldwide, compared to the roughly $1 trillion of U.S. subprime loans that triggered the 2009 crisis. European banks are saddled with $1.3 trillion in non-performing loans, nearly $400 billion of them in Italy. The IMF estimates that risky loans in China also total $1.3 trillion, although private forecasts are higher. India’s stressed loans top $150 billion.

Once again, banks in the U.S., Canada, U.K., several European countries, Asia, Australia and New Zealand are heavily exposed to property markets, which are overvalued by historical measures. In addition, banks have significant exposure to the troubled resource sector: Lending to the energy sector alone totals around $3 trillion globally. Borrowers are struggling to service that debt in an environment of falling commodity prices, weak growth, overcapacity, rising borrowing costs and (in some cases) a weaker currency.

To make matters worse, the world’s limp recovery since 2009 is intensifying loan stresses. In advanced economies, low growth and disinflation or deflation is making it harder for companies to pay off what they owe. Many European firms are suffering from a lack of global competitiveness, exacerbated by the effects of the single currency.

Government efforts to revive growth -- largely through a targeted expansion of bank lending -- are having dangerous side effects. With safe assets offering low returns, banks have financed less creditworthy borrowers, especially in the shale oil sector and emerging markets. Abundant liquidity has inflated asset prices and banks have lent against this overvalued collateral. Low rates have allowed weak borrowers to survive longer than they should, which delays the necessary pain of writing off bad loans.

In developing economies, strong capital inflows, seeking higher returns or fleeing depreciating currencies, have contributed to a risky buildup in leverage. So have government policies encouraging debt-funded investment or consumption to stimulate aggregate demand.

What’s most worrying, though, is the fact that the traditional solutions to banking crises no longer seem available or effective.

To recover, banks need strong earnings, capital infusions, a process to dispose of bad loans and industry reforms. Yet today, banks’ ability to earn their way out of their problems and write off losses is limited.

Current monetary policy is partly to blame. Zero or negative rates drive down bank lending rates more than deposit rates, which can’t be cut because of the need to maintain deposits and comply with regulatory requirements for stable funding. Traditionally, banks have built capital by earning the margin between low deposit rates and safe, longer-term fixed rate assets, such as government bonds. Today, the term premium -- the difference between short and longer-term rates -- has fallen sharply.

Attracting new capital requires that the industry’s long-term prospects be sound. To the contrary, several structural factors are creating uncertainty about the future of banks and may have permanently reduced available returns. Bank business models in several countries are in need of major reform, which means consolidation and cost reductions ahead. Many countries where banks need assistance remain resistant to foreign ownership, capital and expertise that might help them become more efficient.

Poor institutional and legal frameworks, especially inefficient bankruptcy procedures, discourage new investment in banks or distressed assets. Foreclosures in Italy can take more than four years, compared to 18 months in the U.S. or U.K. In many emerging markets, the pervasive influence of the state among both banks and borrowers complicates the enforcement of claims. Politically connected borrowers can force loans to be rescheduled forever rather than recognized as unrecoverable.

Unanticipated political developments are added complications. Energy prices are affected by geopolitics as much as market forces. The Brexit vote has rippled through the banking system by driving down the pound and radically altering prospects for British financial institutions.

In Italy, political factors are impeding the recapitalization of banks. European Union procedures require progressively writing down equity, subordinated debt and then senior debt, protecting only insured deposits. But “bailing in” creditors in this way would result in writing down around $220 billion of securities held by retail investors, creating a political headache for the government. At the same time, EU banking regulations as well as budgetary and debt limits make it hard for the Italian government to intervene.

Whether a crisis might begin there, perhaps as some fear with the world’s oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi de Siena, is impossible to say. But regulators everywhere should be asking themselves some tough questions: Has the financialization of advanced economies gone too far? Does the role of banking need to be altered to ensure that such crises are less frequent? Increasingly, the answer to both would seem to be yes.

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Mark Zuckerberg Is About To Reach Another Level Of Rich

By James Covert
The New York Post
July 28, 2016

Facebook will soon be worth more than ExxonMobil — and Mark Zuckerberg will be richer than the Koch brothers.

The social-networking giant’s stock soared Wednesday after its second-quarter revenue rose 59.2 percent, to $6.4 billion, crushing the consensus estimate of $6 billion, as its computer-loving, smartphone-addicted user base continues to carpet ever-wider sections of the globe.

Profits nearly tripled, to $2.06 billion, or 97 cents a share — blowing past analyst forecasts of 82 cents, as well as the year-ago profit of 50 cents.

The surprisingly strong results — the 13th quarterly beat in a row for Facebook — sent the Silicon Valley giant’s shares soaring 6 percent in after-market trades, to around $130.

As such, Facebook’s market capitalization is poised to hit $375 billion on Thursday, on par with that of oil behemoth ExxonMobil, whose market cap stood at $376 billion at Wednesday’s close.

Facebook’s stock surge also sent the net worth of Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s 32-year-old founder and chief executive, soaring to $56.4 billion — past that of either Charles or David Koch, oil barons who are worth $54.8 billion each, according to Bloomberg.

Advertisers are shelling out ever-bigger bucks to place ads, video and other stuff on Facebook’s fast-growing site and its Instagram mobile app, whose photo-obsessed monthly users now number 500 million.

“We’re particularly pleased with our progress in video as we move toward a world where video is at the heart of all our services,” Zuckerberg said in a statement.

The ranks of Facebook’s overall monthly active users swelled to 1.71 billion worldwide, with 1.13 billion — or two-thirds of total users — logging in at least once a day.

What’s more, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp mobile apps now boast more than 1 billion monthly active users each.

“Concerns over user engagement and other social competitors are largely overblown,” Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W. Baird, said in a note to clients following the afternoon release of the blowout results.

“Few companies share Facebook’s combination of scale, strong technology orientation, and platform breadth/diversity,” Baird said.

That includes younger rivals like Snapchat — the disappearing-photo sharing app, which some industry watchers have viewed as a threat to Facebook’s and Instagram’s teen user bases.

Twitter, meanwhile, disclosed this week that its monthly user base remained relatively stagnant at 313 million active users, and that its revenue is slowing amid “increased competition.”

Twitter didn’t mention Facebook by name, but the message was clear.

Particularly impressive in Facebook’s results were mobile ads, which generated 84 percent of its advertising revenue.

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Welcome To The New Party Of Lincoln

President Obama and Democratic Party opened their arms to Republicans—without compromising their liberal values.

By Jeet Heer
The New Republic
July 28, 2016

To defeat Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is assembling a much wider popular front than even the Obama coalition. As evidenced by the Democratic National Convention, this front runs from the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders to the centrist Bill Clinton to the disaffected former Republican Michael Bloomberg. Much of the turmoil of the convention has come from the difficulty of bringing together these different factions, which still heatedly disagree on issues like trade and foreign policy.

The recurring theme of the third night in Philadelphia was that the Democrats offer a welcoming home to Republicans alienated by Trump’s antics. The speakers made a convincing case, and more importantly, they did so without offering any sort of compromise.

Polls show that suburban, college-educated whites, who traditionally vote Republican, are balking at voting for Trump. That’s the audience the Democrats went after again and again on Wednesday night. The most obvious pitch came from Michael Bloomberg, who was far from enthusiastic in his endorsement of Clinton but made a powerful case that she’s the only alternative to Trump’s demagoguery. But the former New York mayor served as a voice from outside the party who could explain why even those who disagreed with many Democratic ideas could still vote for Clinton.

“I’ve been a Democrat, I’ve been a Republican, and I eventually became an independent because I don’t believe either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership,” Bloomberg said. “There are times when I disagree with Hillary. But whatever our disagreements may be, I’ve come here to say: We must put them aside for the good of our country. And we must unite around the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue.”

Vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine made a more positive and personal version of the same speech by citing his father-in-law, Linwood Holton, who had been Republican governor of Virginia from 1970-1974.

“Lin’s still a Republican,” Kaine said. “But he’s voting for Democrats these days. Because any party that would nominate Donald Trump for president has moved too far away from the party of Lincoln. And if you are looking for that party of Lincoln, we’ve got a home for you right here in the Democratic Party.”

President Barack Obama sharpened Kaine’s point but arguing that not only is the Democratic Party a haven for Trump-traumatized Republicans, but also that Trump’s demagogic politics were so extreme that they fell outside the conventional divisions between the two parties.

“We Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “It’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward. But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican—and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems—just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate.” Obama also contrasted Ronald Reagan’s “City on a Hill” view of America with Trump’s dystopian vision.

Casting Trump in opposition to traditional conservatism and Republican doctrine allowed Obama and Kaine to pull off a daring ideological move: They made an appeal to Republicans without diluting their liberalism. Obama pointedly praised Bernie Sanders even as he made a pitch to Republicans, and he and Kaine both talked about gun control and economic fairness. In effect, they were saying to Republicans: Trump is so toxic that you have to come over to us, and we’ll be happy to have you, but we won’t change our core values.

The last time liberal politicians had the luxury of trying to appeal to moderate Republicans while remaining steadfastly to the left on policy was in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson won over many voters who found Barry Goldwater beyond the pale. If the gambit on display Wednesday night works, we could see a seismic realignment of American politics.

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