Friday, May 6, 2016

Rove: What Donald Trump Needs Now

To stand a chance, he must tone it down, hire a fact-checker and open his wallet.

By Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal
May 6, 2016

No one has seen anything like this. Donald Trump—without past political or military experience and facing a formidable Republican field—bludgeoned 16 opponents into submission, rewrote the rule book and became the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee.

As extraordinary as this is, Mr. Trump’s success was achieved only by inflicting tremendous damage to the party. To win the general election in November, he must now unify a GOP with a deeper divide than it has faced in more than half a century.

Mr. Trump must disabuse himself of the notion he expressed last week that he “can win without” party unity. As if to prove it, Mr. Trump—on the morning he routed Ted Cruz in Indiana—implied that Sen. Cruz’s father was involved in President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. This was nuts. Winning the presidency is difficult for Republicans under normal circumstances; Mr. Trump’s scorched-earth tactics have left deep wounds that make victory more uncertain.

To heal his party, Mr. Trump should approach the convention gingerly. He shouldn’t mess with the rules or upend the platform and must energize the GOP with his vice-presidential pick.

He has promised that he would announce a list of the sort of people he would consider for Supreme Court picks. So he should do it. They would immediately be targeted by Democrats, but that would be a useful reminder to Republicans about what they stand to lose if Hillary Clinton is elected.

Mr. Trump should also offer the names of those he would consider for his cabinet. This will ameliorate concerns about his temperament and team. But for heaven’s sake, make certain that they are comfortable being mentioned. No more suggesting he’d appoint Carl Icahn as Treasury secretary, only to have Mr. Icahn say he wouldn’t serve.

For the general election, the Trump campaign is behind in everything: digital operations, the ground game, advertising, you name it. The campaign must add new people and talents but would be wise to leave the ground game to the Republican National Committee. Sign the “joint fundraising agreements” that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the GOP Senate and House campaign committees must have to collect the resources necessary for a massive voter turnout effort that is beyond the Trump campaign’s abilities.

Mr. Trump should also avoid attacking Mrs. Clinton in ways that hurt him and strengthen her. He is already in terrible trouble with women: In the April 14 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 69% of women rate him negatively, 58% very negatively. So stop saying things like: “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote.” He was lucky her response to that jibe was so lame. Next time it won’t be.

Mr. Trump must also retool his stump speech. Voters will tire of The Donald if he doesn’t have a second rhetorical act with far fewer insults and more substance. Reading more speeches from a teleprompter, particularly on the economy, will help. The Trumpistas argue that voters don’t need details, but those up for grabs in November do. These speeches will put meat on the bones of his policy views and yield new material for the stump.

These speeches should be fact-checked in advance. Now that he faces Mrs. Clinton, the press will give him fewer passes on unsubstantiated statements—for instance, his patently false claim last week that “ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libya oil.” Such misstatements will further shrink the pool of voters who believe he is “honest and straightforward,” which is already down to 35% in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

Mr. Trump should also get his wife and daughter to travel with him to major appearances. When they are around he is more personable and hurls fewer insults.

Beginning in early June, Hillary Clinton’s super PAC will launch a $90 million ad campaign attacking Mr. Trump. He must not repeat Mitt Romney’s mistake of not responding. The problem for Mr. Trump is that he has ruled out using super PACs, saying last year that they are a “total scam” and “we don’t want any of that money.”

Fine. But as a self-funder, he must then cough up the cash necessary to counter the assault. The good news is that Federal Communications Commission rules favor candidates, so Mr. Trump’s campaign can buy TV at the lowest possible price, and Mrs. Clinton’s super PAC can’t. In other words, he can match her super PAC’s throw-weight with less than half the money.

Most important of all, Mr. Trump must understand that only 10% of America’s eligible voters have participated in GOP primaries, and 9% in Democratic ones. The race will be decided by the other 81%. He starts the general election way behind with them, and cannot persuade them with the tactics and rhetoric that brought his moment of triumph Tuesday.

Congratulations to Mr. Trump on his victory: The hard part is ahead. Buckle up.

Article Link to the Wall Street Journal:

This Friday's Stock In Play is Pacific Drilling (Symbol PACD)

Sanders Poised For May Win Streak

Upcoming primaries give him reasons to believe.

By Daniel Strauss
May 6, 2016

Here’s one reason Bernie Sanders is reluctant to give up the fight: May is shaping up to be a pretty good month for him.

On the heels of his Indiana victory Tuesday, Sanders is well-positioned for wins in the upcoming West Virginia and Oregon primaries. That might explain his it’s-just-a-flesh-wound approach to the nearly insurmountable delegate math confronting him, and his dogged insistence that he’s taking his long-shot presidential campaign all the way to the July Democratic convention.

“We're going to stay in until the last vote is counted, and that will be in the [June 14] primary in Washington, D.C.," Sanders said in an interview Wednesday with NPR's Steve Inskeep.

For Hillary Clinton, the prospect of additional Sanders wins is more headache than threat. But even if there’s little chance the Vermont senator can win the nomination, every victory raises new questions about why Clinton can’t finish him off.

"It's a nuisance, it's a distraction, because he can't win the nomination and every dollar that he spends and every time she has to defend against an attack or answer some accusation of his is money and time not spent defining Donald Trump and the Republican nominee" said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. "That's all it is at this point. I think people gave him a wide berth when he had a numeric chance but there is no math that ends up with his being the nominee, so at this point I think even the wins don't do anything but continue the inevitable problem of he can't get there from here."

Sanders points to his record of winning 18 states and the narrow margin separating him and Clinton in national polls as cause for remaining in the race. He contends that he’s the strongest Democratic candidate against presumptive GOP front-runner Donald Trump, and holds out hope that more super delegates in the states where he won will ultimately line up in his camp.

Wins in West Virginia and Oregon, following his victory last week in Indiana, would bolster his argument, which is why the senator is highlighting them in interviews but doesn’t mention Kentucky, which votes on May 17 along with Oregon but doesn’t appear be a Sanders-friendly state

“We’re going to fight in West Virginia. I think we’ve got a shot to win there — we’ve got a good shot to win in Oregon, and I think we’ve got a good shot to win in some other states so…. We’re in this race till the last vote is counted,” said Sanders.

West Virginia, where Sanders led Clinton in a recent automated Public Policy Polling poll, appears well-suited for the Vermont senator. With its large union presence, small African-American population, and high level of poverty, Sanders' campaign officials see the state’s May 10 primary as a ripe target for the Vermont senator's message of economic inequality.

"Yeah I think we'll do well there. Just 30,000 feet up, I see very good public polling and we usually run ahead of the public polls," said Pete D'Alessandro, Sanders' Indiana state director, adding that Sanders’ focus on inequality would be a potent argument in the state. "It's been resonating in West Virginia for even longer than it's been resonating in Indiana, so I think those are just working people that are going to be ready for that message."

Sanders has another edge in West Virginia — Clinton didn’t do herself any favors with a March comment where she said “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” during a March town hall. That comment, which received widespread news coverage, resurfaced earlier in the week when she was confronted at a West Virginia roundtable discussion by an unemployed coal miner about the remark.

“How you can say you are going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs and then come in here and tell us how you are going to be our friend? Because those people out there don't see you as a friend,” the miner said.

Clinton apologized for her choice of words, but they continue to resonate in the state: Beth Walker, a candidate for the non-partisan West Virginia Supreme Court, used the comment in a recent ad.

Sanders is using the same playbook as in Indiana by emphasizing a pillar of his policy platform that connects to local economic circumstances. In Indiana, he zeroed in on manufacturing and trade; in West Virginia’s coal country, he has focused on poverty. His first stop during a multi-event swing on Thursday was a poverty forum in the McDowell County, one of the poorest counties in the state.

West Virginia Democratic Party vice chairman Christopher Regan, who has endorsed Sanders, said the senator will do best in the college communities around the state.

"Huntington and Cabell County where Marshall [University] is. There's also Morgantown for WVU [West Virginia University]," Regan said, ticking off several other regions with colleges where he expected Sanders to do well in. "But I honestly think his support will be broad and deep in West Virginia. I'm confident that he will find that he has a great deal of support here…I think this is Bernie country."

Kentucky and Oregon, on May 17, are next up on the primary calendar. Kentucky is the harder sell for Sanders. Both are closed primary states but Clinton has long relationships there and solid support from top Kentucky Democrats.

"Except for small pockets and Louisville, I believe that Kentucky Democrats will heavily support Hillary Clinton," said former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman Patrick Hughes, who is unaligned. "I think even if this isn't true, that [Kentucky voters] view Bernie Sanders as way too liberal for Kentucky. He's going to have a harder time culturally and politically convincing Democrats in Kentucky to get behind him."

Oregon, however, is far more fertile ground for Sanders. Like the other Northwestern states where Sanders has won, its population is overwhelmingly white. And, in places like Portland, it embraces Sanders’ brand of progressive politics — the state’s largest city ranks third among big cities in per-capita contributions to his campaign. Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley is the lone U.S. senator to have endorsed Sanders.

There's also the fact that Oregon's vote-by-mail system helps a grassroots-oriented campaign like Sanders’, argued Stacey Dycus, an Oregon-based Democratic strategist.

“Because we're a vote-by-mail election state we have a three-week-long Election Day and that's where the grassroots campaigns really make the difference,” Dycus said, adding that that voting system allows grassroots-based campaigns “to get on the phone and call people who are their supporters and say ‘your ballot hasn’t been received yet.’”

Clinton allies shrug off the prospect of impending Sanders victories, noting that they won’t affect the ultimate outcome. And the campaign itself has already begun shifting into general election mode.

"Even the people who support Bernie, I think, at this juncture see that the outcome is going to be that Hillary is the nominee, they just want to be treated respectfully and they want Bernie treated respectfully," Clinton donor Jay Jacobs said. "They want, I think, a recognition that his message was an important and a valid one and I think that we should do that."

In briefings, the Clinton campaign has stressed to donors that no single primary left on the calendar can alter the course of the primary or bring Sanders over the finish line. Rather, the delegate count is what matters. Clinton is just 178 delegates short of the 2,383 total delegates she needs to clinch the nomination while Sanders needs close to 1,000.

"It's not about necessarily winning every single caucus, every single primary, it's about amassing the lead in the pledged delegates and that's what we've been doing," Jacobs said. "We're getting closer and closer, we're under 200 to go. And you take a look at that and that's what you keep your eye on. You keep your eye on the ball."

Article Link to Politico:

Friday, May 6, Morning Global Market Roundup: Stocks Head For Worst Week Since Mid-February

By Patrick Graham
May 6, 2016

Stock markets in Europe and Asia struggled on Friday and only monthly U.S. nonfarm payrolls numbers stood in the way of shares globally racking up their biggest falls since mid-February.

Concerns over growth, the failure of extraordinary central bank stimulus and banking profitability in an era of negative interest rates, allied to a still tepid recovery in oil prices CLc1, has kept a lid on any optimism over the past month.

Money markets show investors have all but abandoned betting that U.S. and global growth will be strong enough to swallow further rises in official U.S. interest rates this year.

Yet with expectations of such rises at rock bottom, some more bullish talk from U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers and the chance that Friday's payroll numbers could support the case for a move as soon as June have at least halted sales of the dollar.

Stock markets in Europe lost half a percent in the first hour of trade, weighed down by a 4 percent fall in the world's biggest steelmaker Arcelor Mittal (ISPA.AS) after first quarter results.

Shanghai shares .SSEC fell almost 3 percent and Hong Kong .HSI by 1.7 percent, putting Asian markets at one-month lows and the MSCI world index on course for a more than 2 percent fall this week - its worst since the second week of February.

"Markets have been trading cautiously all week leading into payrolls and a big part of that is the renewed fear and uneasiness about global growth," said Deutsche Bank credit analyst Craig Nicol.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 1 percent, set for a weekly decline of 3.3 percent, its biggest in 12 weeks. Japan's Nikkei.N225, which resumed trading after Golden Week holidays, closed down 0.25 percent as the strong yen ate into corporate profits.

"Recent global economic data and some corporate earnings from major Western firms have been lackluster, leading to risk-off trading in markets," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

Economists polled by Reuters forecast Friday's payrolls data will show U.S. employers added 202,000 workers in April following a 215,000 increase in March, with the jobless rate holding at 5.0 percent.

But job-related data published over the past couple of days has been softer than market expectations, casting a shadow on expectations of solid job growth.

The dollar index recovered from Tuesday's 15-month low of 91.919 to trade at 93.806 .DXY =USD, on track for a 0.8 percent gain for the week. At $1.1395, the euro EUR= was also down 0.5 percent on the week, but analysts are unconvinced that is the start of a wider upturn for the greenback.

The yen, which jumped after the Bank of Japan stood pat on policy last week, changed hands at 107.235 per dollar JPY=EBS, off its 1-1/2-year high of 105.55 set earlier this week.

"It will need a significant upside surprise from the jobs report for the dollar to change trend," said Yujiro Goto, a currency strategist at Japanese bank Nomura in London.

"We expect gains in dollar/yen to be capped around 108 and similarly downside for the euro will be limited."

Article Link to Reuters:

6 Takeaways From Britain’s Elections

Labour takes a beating — but Jeremy Corbyn looks likely to avoid an immediate leadership challenge.

Politico EU
May 6, 2016

LONDON — Scotland has once again emerged as the big story of British politics after a night of crushing Labour losses and previously unthinkable gains for the Conservatives.

While England offered an apathetic shrug of the shoulders in the first major elections of Jeremy Corbyn’s reign — with most local councils remaining unchanged — voters north of the border determinately refused to follow the script.

As expected, Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party maintained its historic dominance in Holyrood, crushing a bewildered Labour Party in seat after seat, but a new opposition has emerged in the shape of Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Tories.

The Conservative leader in Scotland scored the biggest upset of the night, winning Edinburgh Central off the SNP. There were also stunning victories for the party in Aberdeenshire and throughout the Borders.

Cockahoop unionists gleefully pointed out that any Scot wanting to travel to England would now have to pass through a Conservative constituency.

Labour also suffered a disappointing night in Wales, losing overall control of the assembly and suffering a shock defeat to the Welsh national party Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood in Rhonda.

While certainly not the story of the night, there were enough signs of a mini Liberal Democrat revival to cheer its leader Tim Farron. The party scored surprisingly good results in Scotland, winning seats off the SNP, and in Wales where the local leader Kirsty Williams crushed the Conservative challenge in Brecon.

But taken together, what does it all mean? Here POLITICO offers six takeaways from the U.K.’s “Super Thursday” local democratic drama:

1) Jeremy Corbyn lives to fight another day

Labour did not have a good night — there’s no way to disguise that fact.

The party suffered traumatic defeats in Scotland, lost overall control in Wales and will almost certainly end up with fewer councillors in England than it started with. With half the councils declared, Labour had lost just under 30 councillors, with the Tories making a handful of gains.

Historically this only points to one result in 2020: another general election defeat.

At this point in Tony Blair’s leadership Labour gained almost 2,000 councillors in one night. Even Ed Miliband put on 800 council seats in his first set of local elections.

Former Labour minister Peter Hain, appearing on the BBC through the night, summed up the party’s anguish: “We should be gaining seats in this point in the cycle, not losing them. He [Corbyn] hasn’t shown anything like the ability to win the center-ground vote we need to win a general election.”

Portsmouth Labour Leader John Ferret went even further: “Jeremy Corbyn is a disaster for us, he is incompetent, incapable of giving the leadership we need.”

However, many Labour MPs expected much worse and were bracing themselves for up to 200 losses.

The defensive strategy of focusing on protecting key marginal authorities appeared to pay off. Key middle-England towns defied some gloomy Labour expectations to stay red. The party held on in Hastings, Harlow, Crawley and Southampton in the south. Redditch, Nuneaton and Derby in the Midlands also stayed Labour. However, the party lost control of Dudley and Worcester.

Overall Labour’s share of the vote increased by around 3 percent on last year’s general election, while the Tories’ dropped by a similar amount.

Professor John Curtice summed it up: “Labour have emerged in somewhat better shape than widely anticipated. Labour have definitely made progress from a year ago.”

The result means a coup against Corbyn is unlikely.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson called for calm. “Jeremy Corbyn has only been leader of the Labour Party for eight months. We are coming back from a very low base.”

Even fierce Corbyn critic John Mann dismissed talk of a leadership challenge. “That ain’t gonna happen,” he said. If Mann won’t say there should be a coup, it really doesn’t look to be on the cards.

Then again, it could all be a conspiracy…

2) One small step for Ruth Davidson, one giant leap for Scottish Tories

The Conservative minister Chris Grayling claimed the story of the night was “the erosion of the foundations of the Labour Party,” particularly in Scotland. Slight hyperbole perhaps, but the results pouring in from Scotland were undeniably crushing for Labour.

To rub salt into the wound, the party’s collapse in its former heartland has also fuelled the revival of Scottish Toryism, which until recently would have been unthinkable. By 6am Friday the Tory vote in Scotland was up 8 percent on its 2011 performance, while Labour’s support had collapsed by 9 points.

It helped Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson pick up six constituencies, including her own in Edinburgh Central. Eastwood, Ayr, Aberdeenshire West, Ettrick and Dumfriesshire also went blue.

In a further blow to morale, Labour’s Kezia Dugdale became the only party leader not to win her own constituency as she was defeated in Edinburgh East.

Pete Wishart, an SNP MP, said it was “absolutely incredible” to see the Tories on course to beat Labour into second place

Labour’s John Mann agreed. He said finishing behind the Tories in Scotland would be “cataclysmic for morale” and “beyond comprehension”.

Davidson said Tory revival was because it was the only party to stand up for the union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. She said her opposition to a second referendum on Scottish independence “was a very clear message [that] appears to have resonated across the country.”

3) First chink in the SNP’s armor

The Scottish National Party remains a phenomenon — after nine years in power it has increased its support again.

The party’s constituency vote share jumped by just over 1 percent to hit an unprecedented 46 percent.

All in all, Nicola Sturgeon reigns supreme in Scotland and the chance of another independence referendum remains very real, particularly in the event of a vote to leave the European Union in June.

And yet there is an air of disappointment for the party.

There had been talk of a clean sweep of constituencies, but in the end 14 seats went to either the Tories, Labour or the Lib Dems.

Most crucially of all, the SNP is on course to lose its overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

The BBC Friday morning was projecting the SNP finishing with 63 MSPs — two shy of a majority. The broadcaster said the Conservatives were likely to finish with 31 members of the Scottish Parliament, Labour 24, the Greens 6 and the Lib Dems 5.

4) The mini resurgence of the Lib Dems

Super Thursday must feel just that for the Liberal Democrats’ battered and bruised activists after last year’s general election annihilation.

The party picked up seats in Scotland — remarkably, even taking seats off the SNP — and did well in patches across England and Wales.

At the very least, party leader Tim Farron can claim footholds from which to start the long climb back to respectability.

The Liberal Democrats defied expectations partly because after last year’s election, there weren’t any. But the party also played to its strengths, targeting areas, particularly in Scotland, with a strong liberal tradition. The Lib Dems were also helped by the fissure in Scottish politics which forces unionist voters to back whichever non-SNP party is strongest in the area.

The result of the night, as far as the Lib Dems will be concerned, was their leader in Scotland Willie Rennie who defeated the nationalists in North East Fife.

The party also saw off the SNP in Orkney and Shetland, while astonishingly winning Edinburgh West from SNP with a swing of just under 8 percent.

In Wales Kirsty Williams, often tipped as a future leader of the party, comfortably held onto her seat in Brecon.

5) Tories go backwards in Wales

While David Cameron will rightly focus on the Conservative Party’s gains in Scotland, there will be huge disappointment at the performance in Wales. The party’s run of increasing its presence in the Welsh Assembly at every election is over.

Overall the Conservative vote dropped by around 3 percent — less than Labour’s 8 percent fall but enough to cost them in key marginals they hoped to do well in.

The Tories failed to make gains in North East Wales or in the Gower and were easily seen off in Newport.

The result is likely to be overshadowed by stories elsewhere but will be noted in Conservative Central Office with some concern.

The big winners in Wales were UKIP, who looked to be on course for eight seats in the Welsh Assembly. That would give the party a lifeline after a disappointing general election last year, when it ended up with just one MP in Westminster.

Labour will remain the main party of government in Cardiff — but may have to start negotiations to form a coalition. Expect long negotiations and pressure on the party’s leader in Wales, Carwyn Jones.

Despite losing overall control of the assembly, by falling short of the 31 seats needed for a majority, there will be some relief that it did not finish any worse.

The former Welsh Labour MP Peter Hain admitted that it might be a decent outcome for Welsh Labour in terms of seats, “but not in votes.”

6) Results bode well for Sadiq

It may not have been a stellar night for Labour, but the results in England do not suggest an upset is on the cards in London.

Rumours circulated throughout the night that turnout in the capital had been poor, potentially handing a lifeline to Zac Goldsmith, the Tory candidate for mayor.

But pollsters are confident that Labour’s Sadiq Khan has done enough to win the keys to City Hall.

If the results from council elections around the rest of England had been as bad as some Labour pessimists had expected, then Khan may have had cause to sleep less soundly last night.

But with the party doing enough to cling on to most of its councillors, even in hostile territory, it would be the biggest shock of the day, eclipsing the Tory surge in Scotland, to see anyone other than Khan taking over from Boris Johnson.

In fact, barely had the polls closed and the Tory recriminations had begun.

Andrew Boff, the Tory leader on the Greater London assembly, attacked his party’s controversial campaign, which linked Khan to Islamist extremists.

He said it was not even a dog-whistle tactic “because you can’t hear a dog whistle.”

Appearing on the BBC’s flagship Newsnight show Thursday, he said: “Everybody could hear this. It was effectively saying that people of conservative religious views are not to be trusted and you should not share a platform with them. That’s outrageous.” Goldsmith’s campaign had “done real damage” to the Conservative Party, he said.

Article Link to Politico EU:

White House Admits It Played Us For Fools To Sell Iran Deal

By John Podhoretz
The New York Post
May 6, 2016

Congratulations, liberals of the Washington press corps and elite organizations: You’re a bunch of suckers. We all know this because the Obama White House just told us so.

In an astounding New York Times piece by David Samuels, senior White House officials gleefully confess they use friendly reporters and nonprofits as public-relations tools in the selling of President Obama’s foreign policy — and can do it almost at will because these tools are ignorant, will believe what they’re told, will essentially take dictation and are happy to be used just to get the information necessary for a tweet or two.

Their greatest triumph, according to Samuels, was selling a misleading narrative about the nuclear deal with Iran — the parameters of which were set a year before the administration claimed and had nothing to do with the fact that a supposedly more accommodating government had risen to power.

The mastermind of the Obama machine is Ben Rhodes, a New Yorker who joined the Obama campaign as a speechwriter in 2007 and has risen to become the most influential foreign-policy hand in the White House.

Rhodes drips with contempt for almost everyone but his boss. He consigns all those who do not share every particular of the Obama-Rhodes foreign-policy perspective to a gelatinous mass called “The Blob” — including, Samuels writes, Hillary Clinton.

He thinks as little of them as he does of the journalists he and his team must spoon-feed. “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns,” Rhodes says. “They literally know nothing.”

Then there are others his assistant Ned Price refers to as “force multipliers,” more senior reporters and pundits who parrot what they’re told. “I’ll give them some color,” Price says, using the journalistic term for juicy bits of inside-baseball detail, “and the next thing I know, lots of these guys are in the dot-com publishing space, and have huge Twitter followings, and they’ll be putting this message out on their own.”

A foreign-policy reporter named Laura Rozen, the most credulous conveyor of pro-Iran-deal news last year, is given a specific shout-out by White House digital guru Tanya Somander. “Laura Rozen was my RSS feed,” Somanader tells Samuels. “She would just find everything and retweet it.”

The Iran deal, you may recall, was wildly unpopular with the American people. To ensure senators didn’t cast a two-thirds vote against it and kill it, the White House set up a digital response “war room” whose purpose was relentlessly to make the case that a vote against the deal was a vote for war.

It could only work if water-carriers did the White House’s job for it, and nonprofit water-carriers did their faithful duty. “We created an echo chamber,” Rhodes tells Samuels about the journalists and think-tankers who were discussing the Iran deal based almost entirely on information given to them by the White House. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

Little did these denizens of Rhodes’ echo chamber know their loyalty would be seen as servility and would become the subject of post-victory gloating. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else,” Rhodes says. “So we knew the tactics that worked.”

The storyline they peddled was that the Iran deal had been negotiated in a furious round of back-and-forthing in 2014 and 2015, with the United States getting far better terms out of Iran than it expected due to the flexibility of a newly moderate government in Tehran.

It was, Samuels says, a deliberately misleading narrative. The general terms were actually hammered out in 2012 by the State Department officials Jake Sullivan and William Burns, rooted on Obama’s deep desire from the beginning of the administration to strike a grand deal with the mullahs.

Why on earth was such conduct remotely acceptable? Because, Samuels makes clear, Rhodes and Obama believe they’re the only sensible thinkers in America and that there’s no way to get the right things done other than to spin them. “I mean, I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote,” he tells Samuels. “But that’s impossible.”

Impossible? There was a sober, reasoned public debate over the Iran deal. Its opponents were deadly serious. In the end, 58 senators voted against it on sober, reasoned grounds.

What the Samuels piece shows is that the Obama administration chose to attempt to get its way not by winning an argument but by bringing an almost fathomless cynicism to bear in manipulating its own clueless liberal fan club.

Article Link to the New York Post:

Are These America’s Last Sane Republicans?

And can they stay sane as the Trump train makes its way to Cleveland?

By Jackie Kucinich 
The Daily Beast
May 6, 2016

In hindsight, most Republicans took the so-called RNC autopsy about seriously as the warning to not rip off mattresses tags.

But Robert Frost, chairman of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, followed to the letter the party’s 2013 call to reform its approach, working hard over the past three years to reach out to “non-traditional” Republican voters who’d overwhelmingly rejected Mitt Romney’s presidential bid.

Frost and his colleagues spent time in African American churches and college campuses. They were sponsors of the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. They stripped discriminatory language about the LGBT communities out of the county party platform and honed an inclusive, economic-focused message instead.

As the local hosts of the Republican Convention, Frost and fellow GOPers want to show that Cleveland Republicans are inclusive and welcoming and, they say, the approach was actually working. Until the 2016 election started to gear up.

“It will present a challenge,” Frost said of Donald Trump’s new perch as the presumptive Republican nominee. “We know what happened with Romney, we read the autopsy, we know what we needed to do—we’ve got to win over non-traditional Republicans and minorities.

“The thing with Donald Trump, he presents an opportunity with non-traditional Republicans but a great challenge when it comes to minorities.”

For instance:

“I just think in Cuyahoga County, we just don’t do crazy,” said Claude Booker, an African American Republican from nearby Summit County.

Booker, a South Carolina native and a lifelong Democrat who moved to the Cleveland area in November 2001, said he was initially skeptical of the outreach effort.

“I had the same vibe and cautiousness that most African Americans have in regards to the Republican Party. [I thought] they haven’t really had an open dialogue where anyone was courageous enough to talk about it because they didn’t want to offend black folks.

“But you know, Rob was different,” he said.

Booker said he first met Frost when the chairman showed up at his predominantly African American church with a candidate to campaign. After they spoke, Frost convinced Booker to attend a local Republican meeting.

“I was nervous. I thought, ‘Urgh, Republicans don’t like black people,’ but I went and it was totally, totally cool,” he said.

Soon Booker was bringing friends to GOP events and inviting them to the Lincoln Day dinner. He campaigned vigorously for Governor John Kasich’s 2014 reelection bid—telling his friends to look at the candidates rather than voting Democrat out of habit. They did.

“It was amazing, people started walking up to me and saying ‘Booker, I voted for your guy!’” he said. “They were saying ‘I like your dude.’”

Kasich not only won Cuyahoga County, he even won 26 percent of the black vote.

Nearly two years later, the tone is different.

“I can’t stop the negative calls,” he said “I’m not defending [Trump’s] I’m just trying to tell [friends], it’s not the values that we got in Cuyahoga county.”

He said his friends answered, “Well, Booker, we can say we know one good Republican.”

“I just don’t understand the dialogue, as it pertains to the Hispanic community, as well as the perception that African Americans have” of Trump,” he said. “Because I can’t find one that is favorable. “

Scott Ashley, a member of the Cuyahoga County GOP, worked the Republican booth at the gay games in 2014.

He said they received “shocked looks” when people walked by and saw the large banner announcing “Cuyahoga County Republicans Welcome You To Cleveland.”

“People were engaged, wanting to have conversations, were surprised to see us there,” he said.

“The Republican Party was founded on personal responsibility and individual rights.That’s what the local party is focused on.”

Ashley, who spoke to The Daily Beast prior to Sen. Ted Cruz’s exit from the race, said he was “disappointed” both Cruz and Trump continued to raise social issues rather than focusing on the vast swath of issues on which many Republicans (as well as independents and, yes, Democrats) can agree.

“My issue now is, I feel like candidates that are racing toward that nomination are using some of those social issues to divide us instead of focusing on things that we all agree on,” he said. “We focus on the things that divide us instead of unite us, I get disappointed, I get discouraged.”

Deb Donley, who has headed up the county’s outreach to young Republicans, said she was hoping that the message will become more economically focused as the primary fades away.

“Get off the talking points, get off the rhetoric and start to stand for something,” she said.

Asked what she tells young people who are wavering on the Republican Party after the chaos of the primary election, she said,“Patience.”

“I’m not giving up hope, I’m a very hopeful person, I think we need to have a little more patience and get beyond this nasty phase for both parties in the campaign,” she said. “It’s not pretty.”

Article Link to The Daily Beast:

The Free-Trade Consensus Is Dead

And this week’s TTIP leak is a nail in the coffin.

By David Dayen
The New Republic
May 5, 2016

Speaking on Monday at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman made a familiar argument. The Obama administration has used trade agreements to reshape globalization in the best way, he said. We’ve put labor and environmental standards at the core of the deals, he claimed, and we’ve created a level playing field for U.S. workers.

Froman’s timing was unfortunate. The same day, documents leaked by Greenpeace Netherlands revealed that U.S. negotiators working on a trade deal with the European Union have actually been pressuring their trading partners to lower those same standards.

This distance between Froman’s words and the contradictory reality is at the heart of the disintegration of the global trade consensus. The 2016 presidential election has focused heavily on trade agreements, and the leading basher of them is now the Republican nominee for president. We’re seeing something similar on the Democratic side: You can argue that Hillary Clinton has not moved on any major issue as much as she has moved on trade agreements, publicly opposing a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement she enthusiastically promoted as secretary of state.

In short, the center of gravity holding together a policy framework that prioritizes corporate dominance over democratic governance has collapsed. And this week’s leak is another nail in the free-trade coffin.

The leaked documents show current negotiating positions for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a deal between the U.S. and the EU, the world’s largest common market. The two sides have been locked in negotiations since 2013; the thirteenth round of talks ended last week in New York.

Like most modern trade deals, TTIP has less to do with tariffs than with so-called “non-tariff trade barriers,” a euphemism for ordinary health, safety, environmental, and financial regulations that corporations want to weaken both at home and abroad. In democratic societies, the people usually decide the balance between protecting the public and satisfying commerce. But TTIP’s goal is to eliminate trade barriers, even if the public prefers them, to facilitate the smooth movement of corporate capital. This prevents future governments from operating in the public interest if it harms business in any fashion.

"When defenders claim that trade agreements will increase prosperity for all instead of a few well-connected corporate interests, people no longer believe them."

The EU routinely makes its TTIP negotiating positions public; until this leak, the U.S. positions were a secret. That this leak is so up-to-date suggests someone on the inside, unhappy with the state of the talks, decided to go public. And it’s easy to understand why: In virtually every instance in the negotiations, the U.S. has preferred less-stringent constraints on corporations to the EU’s tougher stances.

The U.S. negotiators complained about the European ban on animal testing in cosmetics, calling it an “irreconcilable” difference that would cripple market access. They proposed pre-empting restrictions Europe maintains on genetically modified organisms, euphemistically referring to them as “products of modern agricultural technology.” They sought a dispute-mechanism process for food safety and pesticides that would outsource decision-making to a UN organization, where corporate executives often sit on the national delegations and where rulings have typically been more lax than those from the EU.

The documents also show that the U.S. wants to change the entire EU rulemaking process. In a chapter entitled “Regulatory Cooperation,” U.S. negotiators proposed that the EU inform American companies of planned regulations in advance, giving them an opportunity to influence the rules. They want the EU to limit regulations to those least burdensome to business, and seek out “alternatives to achieve the appropriate level of protection” without a new rule. They would require the EU to take into account the trade effects of regulations; that means that if regulations banning a hazardous chemical would stop a corporation from selling a product containing it in the EU, the European Parliament would have to give those market considerations as much weight as safeguarding public health before approving the rule.

The regulatory proposal would also add layers of bureaucracy and detailed “impact assessments”—the kinds of cost-benefit analysis Washington habitually uses to stop regulations cold. In fact, just a few weeks ago the Obama administration argued against including a cost-benefit analysis in determining whether financial institutions posed a systemic risk to the economy—because it’s too subjective, burdensome, and biased in favor of corporations. Now its trade negotiators want to mandate the same analysis for Europe.

A “science and risk” provision is even more explicit: No prohibitions on products should be implemented, the U.S. demands, without scientific proof that the products are harmful, rather than as a precautionary measure. This is a higher regulatory burden than current EU practice, and would result in overturning several of its laws.

Finally, in this agreement to remove barriers to trade, the U.S. is also threatening protectionist measures to achieve its goals. In one section, negotiators commit to authorizing exports of liquefied natural gas to the EU, a major user of that energy source. However, the Sierra Club points out that, in a separate note, the U.S. holds back on that promise unless it can obtain further concessions. Washington is running the same gambit on permitting imports of European cars, seeking higher quotas for its agricultural exports.

The TTIP leak provides more fuel for a growing movement against global trade agreements, particularly in Europe, where public sentiment was already running heavily against the deal. Just yesterday, even after the EU’s trade minister Cecilia Malmström called the leak insignificant, France’s trade minister determined that the talks were now “likely to stop” altogether.

Froman chose not to address the leak in Los Angeles on Monday. But Assistant Trade Representative Matthew McAlvanah did some damage control, telling The New York Times that TTIP would “preserve, not undermine, our strong consumer, health, and environmental standards.” It’s hard to square that with the leaked texts, which expose how officials seek to bully the EU into capitulation with a corporate-friendly agenda.

But the greater importance of the leak is the way it exposes this mismatch between America’s public and private stances—not just on TTIP, but on all trade deals. In public, for instance, officials claim the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) raises labor standards; in private, the agreement does not force Mexico to commit to such improvements. In public, Froman said Monday that we cannot allow China to write the rules for global trade; in private, the U.S. is actively negotiating a bilateral investment treaty with the Chinese, collaborating with them in writing those rules. And in public, Froman warns about the cost of delay and the geopolitical risk of inaction—but he quietly acknowledged on Monday that “trade plays a relatively small role in our economy.” The meager benefits come at the expense of disallowing countries to operate in the interests of their citizens.

I’ll acknowledge a certain amount of demagoguery about trade, particularly from the Republican nominee, who wants to supplant bullying other countries on behalf of business with bullying them on behalf of Donald Trump. But there’s no question that economic anxieties across the political spectrum have been channeled into trade policy, and even once-supportive economists like Paul Krugman have grown more skeptical that you can compensate the workers who lose out to global competition. Ham-handed defenses of the trade agenda from those who conceal their true aims don’t help the case.

While some free traders don’t believe in the sincerity of Hillary Clinton’s public stance against TPP (perhaps because she’s said nothing about TTIP), and hope her election would signal a return to the status quo, I tend to think the bipartisan shift on trade reflects the popular will. What’s changed is that when defenders claim that trade agreements will increase prosperity for all instead of a few well-connected corporate interests, people no longer believe them. And they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Article Link to the New Republic:

The Free-Trade Consensus Is Dead

Paterno Was Told Of Sex Abuse In 1976

Court documents state that "in 1976, a child allegedly reported to PSU's Head Coach Joseph Paterno that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky." 

Penn Live
May 5, 2016

A new bombshell dropped in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal Thursday.

It came in the form of a single line in a court order on a related insurance coverage case involving Penn State, and its full ramifications can't immediately be gauged.

But that line was eye-popping in itself.

The line in question states that one of Penn State's insurers has claimed "in 1976, a child allegedly reported to PSU's Head Coach Joseph Paterno that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky."

The order also cites separate references in 1987 and 1988 in which unnamed assistant coaches witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and unidentified children, and a 1988 case that was supposedly referred to Penn State's athletic director at the time.

All, the opinion states, are described in victims' depositions taken as part of the still-pending insurance case, but that, according a PennLive review of the case file, are apparently under seal.

"There is no evidence that reports of these incidents ever went further up the chain of command at PSU," Judge Gary Glazer wrote, in determining that because Penn State's executive officers - its president and trustees - weren't aware of the allegations, he would not bar claims from that time frame from insurance coverage.

Jerry Sandusky did not testify at an appeal hearing on his 2012 conviction Monday. That doesn't mean he was silent.

The insurance case involves big money for Penn State, which hopes to be reimbursed for most of the $60 million-plus it has paid in recent years to settle nearly 30 civil claims pertaining to abuse by Sandusky.

Other sections of Glazer's pre-trial order Thursday held that the university cannot claim coverage for Sandusky settlements for abuses started between 1992 and 1999 because of specific provisions in policies written in those years excluding claims of sexual abuse.

But it is the Paterno allegation that is eye-popping, because of the unending national conversation and curiosity over how much the late and legendary Penn State coach may have known about Sandusky's actions during their lengthy careers together.

Sandusky, who was convicted in 2012 of the serial sexual abuse of 10 different boys he came to know through his Second Mile youth charity between 1994 and 2008, was a key part of Paterno's coaching staff from 1969 through 1999.

Parts of Penn State nation still are deeply divided over questions like whether Paterno was wrongly fired in the wake of Sandusky's November 2011 arrest, and whether the coach's Beaver Stadium statue - taken down in the summer of 2012 - should be reinstalled there or somewhere else on the campus.

Paterno's family, and by extension its legions of loyalists, have argued vehemently that Joe Paterno and the larger Penn State community were deceived by the Sandusky, whom they have argued - with a consultant's help - was a master deceiver and manipulator.

And they also disputed the claim in the current case Thursday evening in the strongest possible terms.

"Over the past four-and-a-half years Joe Paterno's conduct has been scrutinized by an endless list of investigators and attorneys," the Paterno family's attorney, Wick Sollers, said in a statement.

"Through all of this review there has never been any evidence of inappropriate conduct by Coach Paterno. To the contrary, the evidence clearly shows he shared information with his superiors as appropriate.

"An allegation now about an alleged event 40 years ago, as represented by a single line in a court document regarding an insurance issue, with no corroborating evidence, does not change the facts. Joe Paterno did not, at any time, cover up conduct by Jerry Sandusky."

A settlement agreement has been reached that will restore the 112 victories earned by the football team between 1998 and 2011 vacated by the sanctions imposed by the NCAA in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

PennLive reached out to Steven Engelmyer, the lead attorney for Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance Co., which is arguing in the current case in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas that it has no duty to reimburse Penn State for more than $60 million in Sandusky-related civil settlements that the university has paid to date.

Engelmyer declined comment when reached Thursday.

Others, most notably Penn State's independent Sandusky investigator Louis Freeh, have alleged that, at least from 1998 on, Paterno, then-Penn State President Graham Spanier and two of Spanier's top managers were aware of complaints against and about Sandusky.

In a pending criminal case, Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz are accused of failing to report a specific allegation of abuse by Sandusky in 2001 that a then-graduate assistant had reported directly to Joe Paterno.

Paterno, who died in January 2012, was never charged with any crimes.

As Sollers pointed out in his statement, however, it was Paterno who actually referred the graduate assistant in the 2001 case, Mike McQueary, to Curley and Schultz.

But Freeh's report also cited emails from that time frame that raised the suggestion Paterno may have been part of a later decision not to take the McQueary report to police or child welfare authorities.

A source who had worked on the state's Sandusky probe but who asked not to be identified told PennLive Thursday night he knew of no cases, aside from the 2001 case, in which there was a direct report to Joe Paterno about Sandusky.

Many of the people who presented civil claims to Penn State only started to come forward after the completion of Sandusky's criminal trial in June 2012. Freeh's report was issued the following month.

The allegation contained in Glazer's ruling drew immediate puzzlement and uncertainty from some of Paterno's most loyal supporters at Penn State Thursday, and a muted reaction from the university itself.

Trustee Anthony Lubrano, a Paterno loyalist who has worked tirelessly with alumni allies to try to "correct the record" in the Sandusky case, said he was "not even peripherally aware" of the 1976 claim about Paterno.

But, he added, "I am highly doubtful about the veracity of the allegation."

Penn State spokesman Lawrence Lokman said university officials who have worked on the legal cases radiating from the Sandusky scandal were aware of the allegations, broadly, contained in the insurance case.

"Many, many people, potential victims and victims have come forward to the university as part of that (settlement) process," Lokman said. "We do not talk about their specific circumstances."

Lokman also would not say whether the 1976 incident raised in the PMA case was one of the 30 or so that have resulted in monetary settlements.

As Glazer's ruling in the insurance reimbursement case, Lokman noted it is not the last word in the case.

"We are analyzing the decision," Lokman said. "It does not mean the university will not recoup amounts spent in responding to the Sandusky victims. It is a complicated process that is not complete."

Article Link to Penn Live:

Oil Prices Fall As Strong Dollar Outweighs Supply Disruptions

By Henning Gloystein
May 6, 2016

Oil prices fell on Friday, dragged down by a surging dollar and sliding Chinese commodities which at least temporarily outweighed crude supply disruptions in Canada as a result of a massive wildfire threatening its huge oil sands operations.

The dollar firmed against the euro and yen on Friday ahead of the April U.S. nonfarm payrolls due later in the day that could support the greenback.

Traders said that a broad sell-off in China's commodities market, which turned a recent rally into a slide, was also weighing on oil during Asian trading hours.

This week's stronger dollar halted an almost 7 percent fall against a basket of other leading currencies .DXY since January. A strong dollar can reduce demand for oil as it makes the dollar-traded commodity more expensive for buyers using other currencies.

International benchmark Brent crude futures LCOc1 were trading at $44.75 per barrel at 06.45 GMT, 26 cents below their last settlement. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $43.95, down 37 cents.

"Investors continued to liquidate (commodity) positions as the U.S. dollar strengthened," ANZ bank said on Friday.

The strong dollar at least temporarily outweighed the effects of deep output cuts in North America.

An out-of-control fire around the Canadian oil city of Fort McMurray has forced the evacuation of its residents and the closure of 690,000 barrels per day (bpd) of production from Canada's total oil sands output of 2.2 million bpd.

Adding to the supply outage in Canada is an ongoing decline in U.S. output.

Data by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that U.S. crude oil output has fallen by 410,000 bpd this year, and by 800,000 bpd since mid-2015, as producers succumb to a rout that saw prices tumble more than 70 percent between mid-2014 and early-2016.

"While the wildfire in the oil-sands regions of Canada is still wreaking havoc with many producers, U.S. oil output continues to feel the impact of low prices," ANZ said.

Analysts said the hits to North American output, combined with disruptions in Latin America, were contributing to a fast erosion of global oversupply that peaked as high as 2 million bpd last year.

"Unplanned oil supply disruptions have been a key element so far this year that have contributed to a tighter oil market than was otherwise expected," said analyst Guy Baber of Simmons & Co.

Americas, Asia Do What OPEC Wouldn't: Cut Oil Production

By Terry Wade and Henning Gloystein
May 6, 2016

Wildfires in Canada. Instability in Venezuela. U.S. frackers at a standstill. Drops in oil output are happening so fast that it looks as if the Americas alone could resolve global oversupply.

The 70 percent price slide LCOc1 CLc1 between 2014 and early 2016 has been pegged to one problem: production exceeding demand by as much as 2 million barrels per day (bpd).

But oversupply is evaporating quickly due to output cuts in the Americas - which includes the United States, Canada and Latin America - and also increasingly in Asia, the world's top oil consuming region.

"Unplanned oil supply disruptions have been a key element so far this year that have contributed to a tighter oil market than was otherwise expected," said analyst Guy Baber of Simmons & Co.

Baber even cautioned that if the disruptions were to linger, there would be limited excess capacity to feed a tight market.

Output from the Americas has dropped over 1.5 million bpd in the past quarter, while producers in Asia and Australia have cut some 250,000 bpd, eating away large chunks of the world's oversupply, government, industry and consultancy data shows.

This comes at a time when members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and also Iraq, have refused to curb output despite the plunge in oil prices in order to retain market share and squeeze out higher-cost competitors.

"The Saudis have achieved what they want in that the market is re-balancing through price," said senior oil analyst Neil Beveridge of Sanford C. Bernstein.

"Over the past 12 months Saudi has raised production, putting downward pressure on price to bring back discipline among the producers. This is now playing out."

Outages in Canada are helping "speed up the re-balancing", Beveridge added.

Cuts Galore

A wildfire in Fort McMurray, at the heart of Canada's oil sands region, has forced more than 690,000 bpd out of production, according to Reuters estimates, with more disruptions possible.

"In the last two years, outages have not been the focus because of the imbalance in the market, but that changes now that the market is tightening," said Richard Gorry, director of JBC Energy Asia.

U.S. output, already having plunged by 410,000 bpd this year and 800,000 bpd since mid-2015, is expected to slide another 800,000 bpd in the next five months, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Latin America's crude oil production, suffering from under-investment, fell 4.6 percent in the first quarter of the year to 9.13 million bpd, a loss of 441,000 bpd from the same period a year ago, according to data from individual countries and OPEC.

The largest decline was in Venezuela, which lost 188,000 bpd in the first quarter as President Nicolas Maduro's government wrestles a deep economic crisis.

Production is also on the wane across Asia Pacific.

China, the region's biggest producer and consumer of oil, is expected to see a 6 percent drop in crude output in 2016 due to ageing fields and poor economics, Standard Chartered bank says.

Signs of tighter supply helped lift oil prices to more than five-month highs last week. U.S. WTI crude CLc1 hit an intraday high above $46 a barrel on Thursday, within striking distance of the recent peak.

Nonetheless, with rising Middle Eastern output, near-record production in Russia and brimming global storage tanks, the supply overhang in the world is set to stay for some time.

Brent futures for delivery five years out are only at a small $10 per barrel premium to one-month contracts, an indication the "lower for longer" price scenario may linger.

Top Reason Americans Will Vote for Trump: 'To Stop Clinton'

By Chris Kahn
May 6, 2016

The U.S. presidential election may turn out to be one of the world's biggest un-popularity contests.

Nearly half of American voters who support either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump for the White House said they will mainly be trying to block the other side from winning, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday.

The results reflect a deepening ideological divide in the United States, where people are becoming increasingly fearful of the opposing party, a feeling worsened by the likely matchup between the New York real estate tycoon and the former first lady, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

"This phenomenon is called negative partisanship," Sabato said. "If we were trying to maximize the effect, we couldn't have found better nominees than Trump and Clinton."

Trump has won passionate supporters and vitriolic detractors for his blunt talk and hardline proposals, including his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, his vow to force Mexico to pay for a border wall, and his promise to renegotiate international trade deals.

Former Secretary of State Clinton's appeal to voters seeking continuity with President Barack Obama's policies, has won her a decisive lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but finds strong opponents among those disillusioned by what they see as lack of progress during Obama's tenure.

The poll asked likely voters about the primary motivation driving their support of either Trump or Clinton heading into the general election on Nov. 8.

About 47 percent of Trump supporters said they backed him primarily because they don't want Clinton to win. Another 43 percent said their primary motivation was a liking for Trump's political positions, while 6 percent said they liked him personally.

Similar responses prevailed among Clinton supporters.

About 46 percent said they would vote for her mostly because they don’t want to see a Trump presidency, while 40 percent said they agreed with her political positions, and 11 percent said they liked her personally.

The April 29-May 5 poll included 469 likely Trump voters and 599 likely Clinton voters. It has a credibility interval of 5 percentage points. (For results, click

To be sure, voters’ opinions could change over the next several months. Candidates will be feted at party conventions, will square off in a series of national debates, and will be targeted by millions of dollars worth of advertisements.

But the negative atmosphere is likely to reign, says Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University professor who has studied the rise of negative partisanship in America.

Both campaigns probably will decide their best strategy is to work even harder to vilify each other, he said.

"It’s going to get very, very negative," he added.

That would play into a longer-term trend.

A 2014 study by Pew Research Center found that Democrats and Republicans have shown increasingly negative views toward each other over the past few decades. In 2014 more than a quarter of Democrats, and more than a third of Republicans, viewed the opposition as "a threat to the nation’s well-being."

Barbara Monson, 59, a Republican from Murray, Utah, is among them. "No matter who the Republican (nominee) is, I would have voted for him," poll respondent Monson said of her support for Trump. "It’s never going to be Clinton. Never."

Jo-Anne Michaud, 69, an independent voter from Abingdon, Maryland, told Reuters she would try to keep an open mind. Although she has voted for both Republicans and Democrats in the past, she feels repelled by Trump.

"I used to like the guy when I watched his show," Michaud said. "But I just hate the way he talks now. I don’t think he’s a nice person deep down inside."

Krauthammer: The GOP’s Ideological Earthquake and the Aftermath

By Charles Krauthammer 
The National Review
May 6, 2016

What lies behind Donald Trump’s nomination victory? Received wisdom among conservatives is that he, the outsider, sensed, marshaled, and came to represent a massive revolt of the Republican rank and file against the “establishment.”

This is the narrative: GOP political leaders made promises of all kinds and received in return, during President Obama’s years, major electoral victories that gave them the House, the Senate, twelve new governorships, and 30 state houses. Yet they didn’t deliver. Exit polls consistently showed that a majority of GOP primary voters (60 percent in some states) feel “betrayed” by their leaders.

Not just let down or disappointed. Betrayed. By RINOs who, corrupted by donors and lobbyists, sold out. Did they repeal Obamacare? No. Did they defund Planned Parenthood? No. Did they stop President Obama’s tax-and-spend hyperliberalism? No. Whether from incompetence or venality, they let Obama walk all over them.

But then comes the paradox. If insufficient resistance to Obama’s liberalism created this sense of betrayal, why in a field of 17 did Republican voters choose the least conservative candidate? A man who until yesterday was himself a liberal. Who donated money to those very same Democrats to whom the GOP establishment is said to have caved, including Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, and Hillary Clinton.

Trump has expressed sympathy for a single-payer system of socialized medicine, far to the left of Obamacare. Trump lists health care as one of the federal government’s three main responsibilities (after national security); Republicans adamantly oppose federal intervention in health care. He also lists education, which Republicans believe should instead be left to the states.

As for Planned Parenthood, the very same conservatives who railed against the Republican establishment for failing to defund it now rally around a candidate who sings the praises of its good works (save for the provision of abortion).

More fundamentally, Trump has no affinity whatsoever for the central thrust of modern conservatism — a return to less and smaller government. If the establishment has insufficiently resisted Obama’s Big Government policies, the beneficiary should logically have been the most consistent, indeed most radical, anti-government conservative of the bunch, Ted Cruz.

Cruz’s entire career has consisted of promoting tea-party constitutionalism in revolt against party leaders who had joined “the Washington cartel.” Yet when Cruz got to his one-on-one with Trump at the Indiana OK Corral, Republicans chose Trump and his nonconservative, idiosyncratic populism.

Which makes Indiana a truly historic inflection point. It marks the most radical transformation of the political philosophy of a major political party in our lifetime. The Democrats continue their trajectory of ever-expansive liberalism from the New Deal through the Great Society through Obama and Clinton today. While the GOP, the nation’s conservative party, its ideology refined and crystallized by Ronald Reagan, has just gone populist.

It’s an ideological earthquake. How radical a reorientation? Said Trump last week: “Folks, I’m a conservative. But at this point, who cares?”

Who cares? Wasn’t caring about conservatism the very essence of the talk-radio, tea-party, grass-roots revolt against the so-called establishment? They cheered Cruz when he led the government shutdown in the name of conservative principles. Yet when the race came down to Cruz and Trump, these opinion-shaping conservatives who once doted on Cruz affected a studied Trump-leaning neutrality.

Trump won. True, the charismatically challenged Cruz was up against a prepackaged celebrity, an already famous showman.

True, Trump appealed to the economic anxiety of a squeezed middle class and the status anxiety of a formerly dominant white working class. But the prevailing conservative narrative — of anti-establishment fury — was different and is now exposed as a convenient fable. If Trump is a great big middle finger aimed at a Republican establishment that has abandoned its principles, isn’t it curious that the party has chosen a man without any?

Trump doesn’t even pretend to have any, conservative or otherwise. He lauds his own “flexibility,” his freedom from political or philosophical consistency. And he elevates unpredictability to a foreign-policy doctrine.

The ideological realignment is stark. On major issues — such as the central question of retaining America’s global pre-eminence as leader of the free world, sustainer of Western alliances, and protector of the post–World War II order — the GOP candidate stands decidedly to the left of the Democrat.

And who knows on what else. On entitlements? On health care? On taxes? We will soon find out. But as Trump himself says of being a conservative — at this point, who cares?

As of Tuesday night, certainly not the GOP.

Article Link to the National Review:

The Art of the Military Deal

Trump should recognize U.S. alliances are a good investment.

By Michael O'Hanlon
The National Interest
May 5, 2016

In his April 27 foreign-policy speech in Washington, Donald Trump leveled a number of critiques at U.S. allies around the world. He began to flesh out his now-familiar critiques of how America’s many allies and security partners—which number about sixty around the world—fail to do their fair share for the common defense.

It is only fair to acknowledge that some of Trump’s arguments about military burden sharing have merit. Most notably, America dramatically outspends most allies on its armed forces. Of course, the United States has the largest economy of any Western ally and thus, rather naturally, the largest defense budget by far. But relative to GDP, its contributions are still disproportionate. The United States spends about 3 percent of gross domestic product on its military. NATO allies are pledged to devote 2 percent of GDP each to their armed forces, but the alliance average is less than 1.4 percent. Only the UK, France, Poland, Greece, and Estonia are near or above 2 percent. Germany is at just 1.1 percent of GDP; Italy and the Netherlands and Turkey check in at 1.2 percent; Belgium and Canada do not even reach 1.0 percent. Yes, some of these countries contribute impressively—more than the United States does, relative to national economic strength—in areas such as development assistance and refugee receptivity, but Trump still has a fair point on this basic and important measure of military preparedness.

On balance, however, Trump’s explanation of the economics of America’s security alliances misses several core realities. The benefits of certain alliances can be debated—but they hardly constitute the wholesale drain on American coffers that he has made them out to be.

First and foremost, counting the United States as well, the broad coalition of U.S.-led western alliances accounts for some two-thirds of world GDP and two-thirds of global military spending. This situation is exceedingly advantageous to America. Never before in history has such a powerful strategic block of countries been created, especially in the absence of a clear central threat. Of course, America’s allies do not always do as it would wish. But today’s situation is far better than having two or more rivalrous groups of strong countries jostling for position with each other, and potentially engaging in arms races or open conflict.

In terms of military burden sharing per se, other major alliances and security partnerships do a bit better than NATO, on average. In East Asia, South Korea devotes roughly 2.5 percent of GDP to its military. Taiwan and Australia are close to 2 percent. Japan is at 1.0 percent of GDP—but Washington has favored this level for decades itself, out of worry that higher spending could cause counterreactions among East Asian states fearing (rightly or wrongly) a return to Japanese militarism. In the Middle East, most of America’s security partners spend well over 5 percent of GDP on their militaries—for example, 6 percent for Israel, and more than 12 percent each for Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The United States does not squander huge sums of money basing troops on the territories of its wealthy allies. The United States may spend $10 billion a year at most basing forces in key industrial or Western states—Japan, Korea and Australia in the Pacific region; Germany, Italy and the UK in particular in Europe. That is only 2 percent of the defense budget. And of that $10 billion, half or more is paid by the host nations themselves. (The situation is different in places like Afghanistan, where specific crises or conflicts have led to more recent deployments of U.S. firepower, and where foreign basing is in fact quite expensive.)

Foreign basing of American forces can often save the United States money. For example, homeporting an aircraft carrier battle group in Japan obviates the need to have perhaps three more carrier battle groups in the U.S. Navy’s overall fleet (at an investment cost approaching $50 billion) to sustain the same level of presence in the broader western Pacific region. U.S. airfields in Germany facilitate deployments to the Middle East and Afghanistan; the alternative to such bases could well be a need for huge additional numbers of refueling aircraft.

Returning to the original argument: Trump is indeed right that the United States spends a great deal of its large defense budget to defend allies abroad. It is tough to attribute specific amounts to each region, because America’s military forces are flexible. Most are based in the United States in peacetime; most can swing east or west in times of need. But in broad terms, it is not unreasonable to divide up America’s $600 billion defense budget today into roughly four major categories: central defense needs (such as research and development, homeland security, global intelligence assets and operations), forces for Europe, forces for the Asia-Pacific and forces for the broader Middle East. This logic should not be taken too literally, but one could apportion roughly $100 billion to $200 billion for each of these four main purposes of U.S. military power.

In theory, Trump could propose eliminating the forces and defense expenditures that America devotes to any of these key strategic regions where local allies do not wind up doing their fair share, as he has insisted they must. With such a bold stroke, for example, one could imagine pulling the United States out of NATO and reducing the $600 billion annual defense budget to something less than $500 billion. However, Trump says that America’s military should be built up regardless of what happens with these various key alliances, arguing that spending on the nation’s armed forces is one of the most appealing possible investments the country could make. I tend to agree with that latter point—but it contradicts the earlier proposal to scale back U.S. defense spending for any region that shirks its own duties.

The verdict is simple: Trump raises a couple of valid specific critiques about alliance burden sharing in the world today. But he gets several specific points wrong, and misses the big picture: on balance, America’s alliances help this country to undergird a global security system that has dramatically reduced the prevalence of interstate war in modern times, while currently costing the country only 3 percent of its gross domestic product. To paraphrase Trump himself, this is a very good investment—and one that the U.S. global system of alliances and bases does much to make possible.

Article Link to the National Interest:

Why Turkey Is Finally Getting Serious About ISIS

The Islamic State seems determined to open a front in Turkey, militarizing its operations there and forcing Ankara to respond in kind.

May 5, 2016

Turkey recently stepped up its game against the Islamic State (IS) in response to increasingly militarized attacks on targets inside Turkey's borders.

IS is striving to open a front against Turkey to expand its area of operations and ease the heavy pressure it is under in Iraq and Syria. No doubt IS is keen to show that its success story continues by shifting the war to Europe and Turkey. IS is also holding Turkey directly responsible for losses in northern Syria.

For about a year, Turkey has been arresting a growing number of IS militants and sympathizers, but Ankara, aware of local sensitivities, has been careful to keep its anti-IS struggle inside Turkey low-key without attracting media attention and upsetting public opinion.

This approach was maintained until about 10 days ago when Turkey was forced to escalate to a high-profile military struggle after IS directly targeted security forces and fired anti-tank missiles.

What changed in the past 10 days? For one thing, as IS continues its Katyusha rocket attacks on the Turkish border city of Kilis, it's improving its accuracy. There are also reports that IS might have transferred some of these rockets to inside Turkey.

As I wrote April 26, Turkey is trying to devise a strategy with US assistance against these rocket attacks, which have killed 21 people so far. Similar situations in other parts of the world show that such attacks can be mitigated, but not fully eliminated, with effective defense measures.

One of the first attacks of its type was an IS missile assault against a Turkish howitzer battery at Karkamis, directly opposite IS-controlled Jarablus in Syria.

Photos posted at the A’amag website of IS on April 28 show IS militants firing a Russian-made, wire-guided Metis anti-tank missile from 1,400 meters (nearly nine-tenths of a mile) and hitting Turkey’s T-155 howitzers. This was the first anti-tank attack by IS from Syria into Turkish territory. Turkish security sources say the attack was not covered widely by the Turkish media.

Military sources said one T-155 was hit and lightly damaged, and there were no casualties. Security sources reported two howitzers were hit.

Another first attack of its type came May 1 when IS carried out a vehicle-borne suicide attack in front of Gaziantep police headquarters. This was first vehicle-borne suicide bomb in Gaziantep but also the first such attack directly targeting security forces in the country.

Authorities said Ismail Gunes carried out the attack, which killed two policemen and wounded 20 people. They said he had crossed to Syria in 2014 and later joined the group led by Yunus Durmaz, who had planned the Suruc suicide bombing against civilian volunteers going to Kobani, and the double-bomb attack against a peace rally near the Ankara train station that killed more than 100 people.

A debate has been raging about how Gunes — who was supposed to have been monitored by Turkish intelligence services — was able to carry out the May 1 attack.

Meanwhile, local media in the southeast reported that IS gave mosque sermons April 29 at Bab, Manbij and Jarablus that called for attacks against security forces and public buildings in the border region, primarily at Gaziantep, Karkamis and Kilis. IS-penned sermons said such attacks should inflict massive damages and force the locals to evacuate.

Another worrisome development was a police report carried by the media April 25. The report, prepared by the Police Intelligence Department, said that since April 2011, 2,750 Turkish Salafists had moved between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The report said there are 1,222 Turkish Salafists in Syria, 749 of them with IS and 136 with Jabhat al-Nusra. It added that 457 Turkish Salafists have been killed in the region.

The police report warned that some of the thousands of Turkish militants of IS are now trying to find ways to return to Turkey.

Turkish decision-makers have noticeably changed their approach against IS. After virtually ignoring the IS threat to Turkey since the summer of 2014, they seem to have belatedly recognized the danger. One impediment to a clearer understanding of the threat is that some Turkish officials have been promoting conspiracy theories about foreign powers being behind IS. Another hurdle is Turkish political parties' inclination to identify the IS threat according to their ideologies, and not through joint political and popular approaches.

Article Link to Al-Monitor:

Why Turkey is finally getting serious about the Islamic State

How The U.S. Caused The Erdogan-Davutoglu Divorce

With Davutoglu's departure from the AKP, expect to see crucial changes in Turkey's domestic and regional policies, including Syria.

May 6, 2016

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is stepping down and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will hold an extraordinary congress on May 22 to elect a new chairman and prime minister. Davutoglu will not be one of the candidates on the ballot. Sources in Ankara explain the process as the graceful exit of Davutoglu from a messy situation and preserving the AKP's status. Al-Monitor columnist Mustafa Akyol has provided a succinct account of the May 1 Pelican Brief blog that rocked Ankara and led to Davutoglu's downfall.

But the blog post was nothing surprising for keen observers of the AKP, especially because it was most likely posted with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's approval.

The blog post, however, does not explain all the details of the complicated relationship between the two men. Erdogan's team has been signaling that Davutoglu's expiration date was fast approaching for a while. One senior Ankara bureaucrat told Al-Monitor in bolder terms, "Davutoglu was to be recycled, we all knew; the question was not if, but just when. It could have been later but certain events expedited the process."

Indeed, the bells had already tolled for Davutoglu on three remarkable occasions. First was in February 2015, when Suleiman Shah’s tomb was relocated from Syria. Davutoglu’s press adviser shared his photos with Turkish generals commanding the operation. That was a sharp blow to Erdogan's ego. The battle over who was the commander-in-chief was not one that Erdogan wanted to let pass easily, yet he seemingly did. Not many people could see Erdogan's resentment — even within his inner circle. Yet, like any shrewd politician, Erdogan was able to control his angst in public.

Then came the period between the elections of June 7 and Nov. 1. The sharp decrease in the AKP's votes in the June elections was due to many reasons, but Erdogan's team strongly signaled it was because the president was no longer the chairman of the party. Davutoglu's team, however, was adamant that it was due to Erdoganmania backfiring, and asked Erdogan to stay away from rallies and public campaigning. Although Erdogan's team was furious at this suggestion, it went along. And on Nov. 1 the AKP's votes reached a climax, in a way certifying that Davutoglu was now a democratically elected leader with significant support. Yet, a quick scan of the news shows that the AKP's Nov. 1 victory was not portrayed as Davutoglu’s popularity contest. Erdogan and his team did not forget how he was loudly and deliberately asked to remain behind the scenes.

As the Pelican Brief blog highlighted, there were several events where Davutoglu's freewheeling angered Erdogan. In almost all instances Davutoglu was put in his place promptly and diligently. The relationship had an odd pattern: The prime minister would go public with a bold statement, only to be belittled by the president and then having to retract his words. What would follow this strange tango would be a declaration of love and commitment from Davutoglu to Erdogan with pledges of unity, solidarity and brotherhood.

This pattern had become so routine that when a prominent pro-AKP pundit, Nasuhi Gungor, spilled the beans on April 21 during a show on a pro-AKP TV channel, not many took him seriously. Gungor bluntly said that "[the political process] can no longer continue with Davutoglu." He became an instant target of pro-Davutoglu media outlets, scolding him to the point of social lynching. And this was in and of itself a crucial signal that Davutoglu's men had established a nascent media network competing with Erdogan's.

Finally, and possibly the most crucial event that escalated the Erdogan-Davutoglu tension, was trouble-making by the Americans. The word in Ankara is that the cold shoulder Erdogan received in Washington got even colder with the warm American treatment for Davutoglu. It may be viewed differently in Washington, but how it is perceived in Ankara is all that mattered. Erdogan and his team grew suspicious of Davutoglu's appointment with US President Barack Obama, scheduled for May 5.

Erdogan's camp feared a possible victory lap by Davutoglu, after which he would try to maximize some of his more formal powers as prime minister. In order to prevent a power grab, it looks like Erdogan put Davutoglu’s termination on fast track and pulled the plug on him while he was visiting Doha, Qatar. When Davutoglu came back on April 29, he learned that he was about to be stripped off his most important powers as party chairman — appointing provincial and district heads. The AKP’s highest authority, the Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK), handed the humiliating decision to Davutoglu for his approval. Despite multiple pleas to Erdogan, Davutoglu failed to rectify the disaster. What must have hurt Davutoglu’s team the most was the fact that out of 50 members of the board, 47 signed the decision, and three members deemed too close to Davutoglu were not even consulted. Not one of the 47 MKYK members bothered to inform Davutoglu or his people about the process.

Now that Davutoglu is leaving, what are the possible repercussions? Here are a few:

Who replaces Davutoglu is not important — what matters is the expiration date on the new prime minister. The answer will come when the executive presidency is established. Once the new constitution is in place, there will most likely not be a position for a second man in the system.

Davutoglu is said to be the main architect of Turkey's failed Syria policy. Davutoglu's forced departure may indeed provide a graceful exit to Erdogan from the Syrian morass. Davutoglu is seen as a political figure but not a policymaker. His critics blame the Syrian mess on Davutoglu's love for grand rhetoric, which they say lacks substance. One seasoned Ankara-based reporter said, "He has big words but no one to carry his words even in his own party's management." A possible change in Ankara's Syria policy may mean better relations with the United States, Russia and maybe even Iran.

Several columnists such as Ceren Kenar were quite upset with critical pundits who called her and her colleagues pro-AKP columnists. I personally owe her an apology because the Pelican Brief set the record straight — Kenar was not pro-AKP, but pro-Davutoglu. Now that Davutoglu is departing, the question among the pro-Davutoglu crowd is, which one of them will be worthy to be co-opted to Erdogan’s side?

The race among Davutoglu's men to step on each other has begun.