Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Take the 5-10% gain on FES and sell @ $.1825; +/- .005

Forbes Energy (Stock Symbol #FES) Is An Intraday Buy @ $.165; +/- .0075

Zafgen (Stock Symbol #ZFGN) Is an Intraday Buy @ $3.40, +/- .05

The Case For Donald Trump

The alternative is President Hillary Rodham Clinton.

By William McGurn 
The Wall Street Journal
July 20, 2016

What’s the best case for Donald Trump?

The question comes in the week Republicans here will formally nominate him for president, and the answer is not complicated. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence gave it as his reason for signing on as Mr. Trump’s VP: The alternative is President Hillary Clinton.

This is the reality of choice in a two-party democracy. Still, many have a hard time accepting it. So even as Mr. Trump handily dispatched 16 more-experienced rivals, his shortcomings and unfitness for office have become a staple of conservative fare.

Yes, Mr. Trump elevates insult over argument. Yes, he is vague and contradictory about the details of his own proposals. And yes, he often speaks aloud before thinking things through. It’s all fair game.

Even so, in this election Mr. Trump is not running against himself. Though you might not know it from much of the commentary and coverage, he is running against Mrs. Clinton.

On so many issues—free trade, the claim that Mexico will pay for a border wall, his suspiciously recent embrace of the pro-life cause—Mr. Trump gives reasons for pause. But he still isn’t Mrs. Clinton. That’s crucial, because much of the argument for keeping Mr. Trump out of the Oval Office at all costs requires glossing over the damage a second Clinton presidency would do.

Start with the economy. There is zero reason to believe a Clinton administration would be any improvement over the past eight years, from taxes and spending and regulation to ObamaCare. If elected, moreover, Mrs. Clinton would be working with a Democratic Party that has been pulled sharply left by Bernie Sanders.

Mrs. Clinton’s flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is illuminating. As President Obama’s secretary of state, she waxed enthusiastic. But when it came time to take her stand as a presidential candidate, she folded. Mr. Trump has made his own protectionist noises, but if this same trade agreement had been negotiated by a Trump White House, who doubts that he would be telling us what a great deal it was for American workers?

Or what about social issues? Mrs. Clinton has loudly repudiated the moderating language her husband ran on in 1992, notably on abortion. In sharp contrast, she is the candidate who touts the Planned Parenthood view of human life, who sees nothing wrong with forcing nuns to provide employees with contraceptives, and who supports the Obama administration’s bid to compel K-through-12 public schools to open girls’ bathrooms to males who identify as female.

In short, Mrs. Clinton is the culture war on steroids.

Which leaves foreign affairs. Here again, the initiatives where she was front-and-center do not inspire confidence: the Russian reset and Benghazi. More to the point, while she now apologizes for her 2002 vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq, what she ought to be apologizing for is her admission that her 2007 opposition to the surge in Iraq was dictated not by any military concerns but because she was worried about facing antiwar candidate Barack Obama in the Iowa Democratic primary.

Today this same woman supports the nuclear deal with Tehran and offers an Islamic State strategy that sounds tough but is not materially different from Mr. Obama’s. This is the “hawk” we’re always hearing about?

Nor is the case against Mrs. Clinton limited to policy. It’s as much about personnel, which goes much further than the activist nominees she would almost certainly nominate for the Supreme Court.

When presidents enter office, they bring with them about 6,000 people. From the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and White House assistants down to the lowliest Justice Department lawyer, Mrs. Clinton would fill her government with people who get up each day looking to tax, spend, regulate—and use the federal government to stomp on anyone in their way.

At a time when so much of American “law”—from the Health and Human Service’s contraceptive mandate, to the Education Department’s “Dear Colleague” letters on transgender policy, to the National Labor Relations Board’s prosecution of Boeing for opening a new plant in South Carolina instead of in Washington state—is decided by faceless federal bureaucrats, Mrs. Clinton would stuff these federal agencies from top to bottom with Lois Lerners and Elizabeth Warrens.

Welcome to 21st-century American liberalism, which no longer even pretends to produce results. Whatever the shortcomings of Mr. Trump’s people, non-progressives simply do not share the itch to use the government to boss everyone else around. On top of this, an overreaching President Trump would not be excused by the press and would face both Republican and Democratic opposition.

Fair enough to argue that Mr. Trump represents a huge risk. But honesty requires that this risk be weighed against a clear-eyed look at the certainties a Hillary Clinton administration would bring.

Article Link to The Wall Street Journal:

Trump Could Seek New Law To Purge Government Of Obama Appointees

By Emily Flitter
July 20, 2016

If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump's White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

Christie was referring to Trump's starring role in the long-running television show "The Apprentice," where his catch-phrase was "You're fired!"

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump's transition advisers fear that Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants, who have more job security than officials who have been politically appointed. This would allow officials to keep their jobs in a new, possibly Republican, administration, Christie said.

“It’s called burrowing," Christie said. "You take them from the political appointee side into the civil service side, in order to try to set up ... roadblocks for your successor, kind of like when all the Clinton people took all the Ws off the keyboard when George Bush was coming into the White House.”

Christie was referring to pranks committed during the presidential transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush in 2001. During that period, some White House staffers removed the W key on computer keyboards and left derogatory signs and stickers in offices, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress.

"One of the things I have suggested to Donald is that we have to immediately ask the Republican Congress to change the civil service laws. Because if they do, it will make it a lot easier to fire those people," Christie said.

He said firing civil servants was "cumbersome" and "time-consuming."

There was no immediate comment from the American Federation of Government Employees, which is the largest federal employee union in the United States.

Christie also told the gathering that changing the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, long a target of Republicans concerned about over regulation, would be a top priority for Trump should he win in November.

Trump has previously vowed to eliminate the EPA and roll back some of America's most ambitious environmental policies, actions that he says would revive the U.S. oil and coal industries and bolster national security.

Christie added that the Trump team wants to let business people serve in government part time without having to give up their jobs in the private sector. Trump frequently says he is better equipped to be president because of his business experience.

Although Christie was repeatedly asked during the meeting, he declined to name any potential Cabinet picks. He said Trump was not ready to do that yet.

Article Link to Reuters:

Dollar Index At Four-Month High On Strong U.S. Data, Fed Hike Hopes

By Anirban Nag
July 20, 2016

The dollar hit a four-month high against a basket of currencies and rose against the yen on Wednesday, bolstered by strong U.S. data and growing expectations that the Federal Reserve may raise rates before the end of the year.

Commerce Department data showed that U.S. housing starts surged 4.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.19 million units, underpinning a theme of strength in the U.S. economy.

Fed funds futures rates show investors see around a 40 percent chance the Fed will raise rates by its December meeting, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool, compared with less than 20 percent a few weeks ago.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, hit a high of 97.271 .DXY, its highest level since March 10.

The dollar rose 0.1 percent against the yen to 106.20 yen JPY=, after hitting 106.53 yen on Tuesday, its highest level since June 24 when markets were shaken by Britain's surprise vote to exit the European Union.

"The dollar is now being supported by rising U.S. rate expectations. The likelihood of a Fed rate hike before the end of the year that is being priced in by the markets has almost returned to the levels seen before the EU referendum," said Thu Lan Nguyen, currency strategist at Commerzbank.

"Most recently the rising rate hike expectations are mainly due to better economic and inflation developments in the US."

Speculators have also been unwinding their safe-haven bids in the yen as the initial shocks from the Brexit vote dissipated, and expectations rose of additional easing from the Bank of Japan at its July 28-29 meeting.

A majority of economists polled by Reuters expect further BOJ easing, which is likely to consist of a combination of measures.

Japanese policymakers are unlikely to go as far as funding government spending through direct debt monetization, or "helicopter money" but might pursue a mix of aggressive fiscal and monetary expansion to battle deflation, according to sources.

"If the BOJ doesn't take any action, the dollar/yen can fall back to 100 again," said Kaneo Ogino, director at foreign exchange research firm Global-info Co in Tokyo. "But now the focus has also shifted to the possibility of a U.S. interest hike," he said, which will likely underpin the dollar even in the event the BOJ decides not to ease this month.

The dollar's rise saw the euro EUR= shed 0.3 percent to trade at $1.10985, its lowest since June 27. The European Central Bank will hold a regular policy meeting on Thursday, its last before an eight-week summer break.

It is not expected to take any additional easing steps but could sound a dovish tone.

Article Link to Reuters:

Wednesday, July 20, Morning Global Market Roundup: Profit Taking Weighs On Asia Stocks, Dollar Holds Gains

By Shinichi Saoshiro
July 20, 2016

Profit taking weighed on Asian stocks on Wednesday after a record run on Wall Street showed signs of petering out, while the dollar hovered near a four-month high against a basket of currencies following upbeat U.S. data.

Investors' risk appetite, which has recovered rapidly from the Brexit shock late in June, received a sobering reminder after the International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecasts for the next two years on Tuesday, citing uncertainty over Britain's looming exit from the European Union.

Spreadbetters also saw a subdued start for European stocks, forecasting a slightly higher open for Britain's FTSE .FTSE, a marginally lower start for Germany's DAX .GDAXI and France's CAC .FCHI to open flat.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS edged up 0.2 percent, having reached its highest in almost nine months last week.

Shares rose in Hong Kong, Australia, India and much of Southeast Asia, but retreated in South Korea and China.

Japan's Nikkei .N225 fell 0.3 percent, on track for its first decline in seven days.

"Although the market is taking a break from a long rally amid a lack of fresh catalysts to buy, investors may chase the market higher depending on central bank events next week," said Takuya Takahashi, a strategist at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo.

The S&P 500 .SPX pulled back from record highs on Tuesday, while the Dow .DJI edged up for an eighth straight day of gains, as investors pondered mixed earnings reports and a gloomier global outlook. [.N]

The dollar index stood at 97.054 .DXY, after touching a four-month peak of 97.158. Tuesday's stronger-than-expected June U.S. housing starts data has given the dollar a lift.

"The U.S. dollar is proving to be a big winner in a period when central banks around the world are talking about easing," wrote Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy for BK Asset Management.

"That leaves the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Canada as the lone soldiers standing ground on steady policy. We haven't seen significant strength in the Canadian dollar, partly because oil prices have been falling but the U.S. dollar is seeing nice momentum."

The dollar traded at 106.055 yen JPY= after touching a one-month high of 106.53 overnight. Expectations that the Bank of Japan would ease monetary policy later this month have weighed on the yen.

The euro was steady at $1.1016 EUR= after slipping to a three-week trough of $1.1000.

The Australian dollar was nearly flat at $0.7503 AUD=D4 after falling 1.1 percent on Tuesday, when it was dragged down by a New Zealand dollar weakened by growing speculation that the country's central bank it will cut rates in August.

Fed funds futures rates show investors see almost a 50/50 chance that the U.S. central bank will raise interest rates by its December meeting, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool, compared with less than 20 percent a few weeks ago.

Geopolitical risks also loomed as a factor for markets. The Turkish lira TRYTOM=D3 came under renewed pressure and fell to its lowest level since last September amid reports of a widening purge in Turkey after an abortive coup last week.

According to a BofA Merrill Lynch fund managers' survey, investors saw geopolitical risk as the biggest risk to financial market stability, followed by risks of protectionism.

Crude oil prices bounced modestly after falling more than 1 percent on Tuesday, when a rallying dollar and a global fuel glut offset forecasts for lower U.S. crude stockpiles. Brent LCOc1 was up 0.3 percent at $46.81 a barrel. [O/R]

Profit taking nudged nickel CMNI3 away from a 10-month high reached overnight amid persistent concerns over a Philippines mining crackdown. Zinc CMZN3 edged up to a 14-month peak on worries over falling mine output. [MET/L]

Article Link to Reuters:

Crude Oil Futures Mixed Before U.S. Inventory Report

By Aaron Sheldrick
July 20, 2016

Oil futures were mixed on Wednesday with Brent posting limited gains and U.S. crude trading sideways in advance of the release of official weekly inventory figures later in the day.

Brent crude LCOc1 was up 5 cents at $46.71 a barrel at 0652 GMT. On Tuesday, the contract settled down 30 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $46.66 barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was unchanged at $44.65 a barrel, after initially trading higher then falling. It fell 59 cents, or 1.3 percent, in the previous session. The front-month August contract will expire at the end of Wednesday's session.

Crude is "looking rather trepidative ahead of another weekly inventory report, while dollar strength is also helping to put the kibosh on a rally," Matt Smith, an analyst at oil cargo tracker and energy data provider ClipperData, said in a blog post.

The dollar firmed in Asian trading on Wednesday, as strong U.S. data and rising expectations that the Bank of Japan will muster additional easing steps sent the dollar index to four-month highs. [FRX/]

U.S. crude rose earlier after industry group the American Petroleum Institute reported crude stockpiles fell by 2.3 million barrels last week. That was just above a 2.1 million-barrels draw forecast in a Reuters poll.

For distillate inventories including diesel, API reported a surprise draw of 484,000 barrels. But it also showed there was an unexpected gasoline build of 805,000 barrels.

The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) will issue stockpile data later on Wednesday.

If the EIA confirms a drawdown, it will be the ninth straight week that U.S. crude stockpiles have fallen.

Adding to the sense of oversupply for oil products, China's June gasoline output rose 8.7 percent from a year ago to 11 million tonnes, or about 3.1 million barrels per day, the Statistics Bureau said on Wednesday.

Diesel output last month fell 4.5 percent from a year ago, while kerosene supply shot up 10.5 percent, the bureau said. Liquefied petroleum gas, used mainly in cooking and sometimes for petrochemical feedstocks, rose 18.9 percent and naphtha production, mainly used for petrochemicals, climbed 15.7 percent from a year ago.

China is the world's second-largest oil consumer.

Article Link to Reuters:

How Britain Should Brexit

By Editorial Board
The Bloomberg View
July 20, 2016

The U.K.'s new prime minister, Theresa May, has said that Brexit means Brexit. There'll be no second referendum. Leaving the European Union, she says, is her mandate.

That much may be clear -- but little else is. Britain's future relationship with the EU could take many forms. At one extreme is an acrimonious divorce that would leave the U.K. more separated from Europe's economies than many current non-members. At the other is something so close to EU membership that in economic terms Brexit would make little difference. The greatest danger for Britain and Europe lies in letting this uncertainty persist.

As yet, there's no blueprint. Supporters of Brexit never agreed on what they wanted. Opponents -- such as May's predecessor, David Cameron -- gave the matter little thought, hoping it would never happen. And Europe's treaties offer no guidance: only a two-year deadline to complete the process, wherever it leads, after the now-famous Article 50 has been triggered.

Norway and Switzerland have been discussed as possible models, but they're of little use. True, both are non-members of the EU with (mostly) unrestricted access to the union's single market -- but they accept Europe's rules on trade without being able to vote on them, and are required to allow free movement of workers into and out of the EU. This last obligation is one May can't agree to, since restoring control over migration was a main plank of the Brexit campaign.

It's been taken for granted up to now that terms like Norway's or Switzerland's are the best the U.K. can expect, or even legitimately suggest. But Britain is a far bigger economy, with much more to offer the rest of the union. There's no reason it shouldn't ask for, and be granted, a new kind of deal.

To be sure, if the U.K. wants access on the same terms as members to the EU's single market in goods, services and capital, it will have to accept Europe's rules on trade. Yet it should also be able to maintain a degree of control on migration.

The EU's leaders insist that free movement of workers is indivisible from the other freedoms it provides. All they really mean is that, up to now, they have decreed it to be indivisible. Nothing is stopping them from lifting that decree, and letting Britain remain in the single market for trading purposes while granting it a measure of control over movement of people.

Some argue that this would be unfair -- a case of Britain wanting the privileges of EU membership without the obligations (German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls it "cherry-picking" and says it mustn't be allowed). This is a puzzling argument. Opting out of free movement carries significant costs in its own right. If Britain is allowed to restrict immigration from the EU, its own citizens will face restrictions on their ability to work and live in Europe. That's a tough choice for Britain to make -- but there's no reason to deny a non-member the right to make it.

The U.K.'s new minister for exit, David Davis, may already be the world's most overworked politician. He needs to plan not just for the most mutually advantageous settlement, but also for what happens if the talks go badly. Nonetheless his first job, before Article 50 is triggered, is to float a proposal that minimizes the disruption and makes sense for both sides.

Forget precedent: There isn't one. Forget Norway and Switzerland. Maximum economic integration plus control of migration is the right place to start, and Europe's leaders should open their minds to it.

Article Link to the Bloomberg View:

Only America Can Keep A China-India War From Erupting

Washington can heal Asia’s most dangerous rivalry.

By McDaniel Wicker
The National Interest
July 20, 2016

India and China are on a collision course. They boast the world’s two largest populations, two of the fastest growing economies on the globe and aspirations to lead the way into a new Asian century. The two nations’ fates will be intertwined for decades to come. Troublingly, China’s move last week to block Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is merely the latest sign of tension to emerge between the two Asian giants. Further competition and even confrontation await.

Competition between rising powers is hardly new or surprising. This particular case, however, shows China’s intent to remain the sole Asian power stretching from Siberia to the Arabian Sea. This was most recently demonstrated last week when China led the push to exclude India from the NSG. Membership in the prestigious group, which controls the trade of nuclear material and related technologies, would facilitate India’s nuclear power production. While legitimate concerns remain about India’s status as a nuclear state, Prime Minister Modi’s bid was backed by the United States, Britain, France and many others. These advocates could not overcome resistance spearheaded by the Chinese delegation, in a move that many Indians saw as purely political.

China’s NSG position could been seen as warranted given India’s failure to ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, but Beijing routinely blocks Delhi’s efforts to play a larger role on the international stage. India’s push for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and China’s opposition to that move highlight this fact. Of the five current permanent members, only China has yet to offer even token support for the second-largest country in the world joining the exclusive group.

China and India have historically maintained relatively positive relations for such large, neighboring countries. The height of the Himalayas, and the long sea route between the two, have buffered most competition. Beijing’s foreign policy concerns have chiefly resided east and southeast of the country, while India has contented itself in dealing with immediate neighbors and holding fast to the nonalignment policy of the Cold War. The border war of 1962 notwithstanding, relations between the two countries have been relatively sanguine.

An increasingly powerful and adventurous China and a more engaged India now appear to be clashing on multiple fronts. Border issues linger still, and reports of Chinese troops crossing the Line of Actual Control surface regularly in Indian and Western media. While conflict is unlikely to break out, China has been updating and reinforcing its forces stationed in Tibet, and the disagreement serves as a foundation for other worries.

China’s steadfast support of Indian archrival Pakistan troubles leaders in Delhi. China is a major supplier of military equipment and expertise to India’s northwestern neighbor. Furthermore, cooperation with Islamabad figures prominently in Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road initiative, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that will connect southwest China to the Pakistani port city of Gwadar is expected to pour tens of billions of dollars into Pakistan’s economy and boost economic output by as much as 2.5 percent. Pakistani relations with China are the most severe cause of India’s vexation with Chinese influence in the South Asia region; investment projects in Sri Lanka, Nepal and elsewhere have all drawn a watchful eye from India.

For China’s part, leaders in Beijing have closely watched as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fought political inertia to create a more open and engaged India. Of particular concern to China are burgeoning friendships and even partnerships with Western powers and their Asian friends. The mid-June Malabar naval exercise with India, Japan and the United States demonstrates this new approach. In April, the U.S. Department of Defense and Indian Ministry of Defence announced the planned completion of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, which will allow for mutual logistical support and represents India’s largest departure from nonalignment. These efforts, combined with India’s engagement with ASEAN nations and Australia, further exacerbate Beijing’s feelings of encirclement and could further ramp up Sino-Indian tensions.

What has thus far been mostly diplomatic jockeying could soon become a more dynamic and dangerous competition in the Indian Ocean. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy boasts increasingly capable systems and ambitious missions. Indian officials spot Chinese submarines near India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and further into the Indian Ocean, roughly four times per quarter. These will likely increase, and be joined by surface patrols, as China seeks to build its “Maritime Silk Route” that will allow it to exert influence and protect a supply chain running from Africa and the Middle East through the Indian Ocean, into the South China Sea and up to its eastern ports. In response, the MoD has stepped up investment in maritime awareness and antisubmarine capabilities, leaning heavily on U.S. expertise and support. In the coming years, Indian surveillance flights might be intercepted by Chinese fighters scrambled from a PLAN aircraft carrier—not a reassuring development, based on U.S. experience.

The Indo-Pacific does not need to be a zero-sum game. The United States, India and democratic countries around the world believe that all countries can rise together—in both coordination and competition. At the Center for a New American Security’s recent annual conference, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter stated, “[the] Asia-Pacific security network is not aimed at any particular country. The network’s not closed and excludes no one.” He also highlighted China’s participation in RIMPAC 2016 exercises, slated to begin Thursday in Hawaii.

The United States should continue extending such invitations, and conducting military exchanges and dialogues with countries across the region. It must also realize, however, that China may ultimately have no interest in the oft touted liberal, rules-based order, and that the tensions inherent with such a mindset will not be limited to the East and South China Seas.

Article Link to The National Interest:

Why Iran Stood With Erdogan

Even though Iran and Turkey have major differences over many issues in the region, the Iranian government strongly came out in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid the coup attempt. The question is why.

July 20, 2016

As July 15 was coming to an end in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was on the phone with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, whose government was under the threat of being overthrown by a military coup. Meanwhile, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), was on another line with security officials in Ankara. All the while, Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Iran’s regional military arm, was busy pursuing and reviewing various scenarios that might emerge.

“It’s not a secret anymore,” an Iranian official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “Zarif, Shamkhani and Soleimani were executing higher orders. The whole establishment was too concerned. Turkey is a neighboring state. President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and his government are strong partners of Iran. Our nations enjoy strong brotherly ties, so it’s the least we can do to show solidarity and try to offer any help they might need in such critical times.”

Within hours after the coup attempt began late July 15, the SNSC convened to discuss developments in Turkey. Following the meeting, which was chaired by President Hassan Rouhani, Shamkhani publicly condemned the coup attempt, telling local media outlets, “We support Turkey's legal government and oppose any type of coup — either [initiated] domestically or supported by foreign sides.” Shamkhani said, “What determined the fate of developments in Turkey were the will and presence of the [Turkish] nation and the vigilance of political parties, whose contribution thwarted this coup. Shamkhani concluded, “Our stance is not exclusive to Turkey either. We have pursued the same stance in Syria too. Our position toward all regional countries is that we always prefer people's votes [to decide governments] rather than tribal, sectarian and hereditary governments, and this means democracy."

“A coup in Turkey isn’t something Iran can tolerate,” another Iranian politician told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “It’s true that there are differences over Syria, and sometimes in Iraq. Yet the fact is that there is no direct problem between Iran and Turkey; on the contrary, [bilateral] relations are always advancing for the better. Besides, Iran is opposed to any kind of change by force, and especially when the government [in question] is democratically elected.” The Iranian politician added, “The most important thing is that this experience [the coup attempt] might be an opportunity for Mr. Erdogan to understand the situation in neighboring Syria.”

Indeed, multiple Iranian officials, including Ali Akbar Velayati — foreign policy adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — brought up Syria in their condemnation of the coup attempt in Turkey. While condemning the coup, Velayati — a former foreign minister — said he hopes “the Turkish government will respect the views and votes of the Syrian people and allow them to decide their own government.” It was a clear message from Iran to Turkey regarding Syria and the future of the struggle in the region. For five years now, Iranian officials have on repeated occasions stated that they have been trying to engage the Turks on a path to address the situation in Syria, and while unsuccessful, have never given up on this approach.

But why is Iran so concerned about the coup attempt in Turkey?

“The stability of the region would have been seriously threatened if the coup attempt had succeeded. Turkey is a major player. Besides, there is the fear that such a move might trigger internal strife,” an Iranian official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. He explained that given the past five bloody years in the region, any such development in Turkey “will shake the whole region” in addition to “Europe, Iran and the Caucasus.” The Iranian official added, “Besides the already shaken Arab countries, what about the [various] ethnic groups within Turkey? Has anyone thought about what they might do?”

Some conservative figures and journalists in Tehran have shown a different reaction toward development in Turkey, influenced mainly by the crisis in Syria.

“It was clear that there’s a gap between the street and the government with respect to what was going on in Turkey," a conservative Iranian political figure told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. Many whose understanding of the region is influenced by the war in Syria think the fall of Erdogan would have been a positive development — not only in Iran but also in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. In this vein, the Iranian political source said that many within this camp “were surprised to see the Iranian government reacting before any other government in the whole world and backing the legitimate [Turkish] government.”

It is important to bear in mind the other important reasons why Iran sees the security and stability of Turkey as pivotal to its own national security. With an Islamic-oriented government in power in Ankara, bilateral relations have improved in the past decade, paving the way for common ground despite differences over regional developments. The latter has been possible thanks to Iranian-Turkish proximity in terms of grander objectives and also similarities in their ways of thinking. Indeed, at the height of the nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, Turkey played a vital role in easing the pressure on its eastern neighbor. Erdogan certainly paid the price for the holes he was accused of creating in the web of sanctions imposed on Iran through what came to be known as the "gold-for-oil scheme" — even while economic ties between the two countries greatly expanded in the sanctions era. With the implementation of the nuclear deal, the two countries now plan to triple their trade volume to $30 billion.

So, beside its public condemnations, did Iran play a role in directly thwarting the coup? Did it, for instance, share intelligence that helped Erdogan preserve his reign? Al-Monitor put forward this question to a senior Iranian official who was in direct contact with Turkish officials during the hours of the coup attempt. His answer was short but to the point: “No.”

Another Iranian official saw parallels between the successful coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and this year's coup attempt in Turkey. The official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “What we know is that this move was triggered by foreign hands. We went through the same in the past, and because Mr. Erdogan is today looking forward to playing a better role in the region, they want him down.” The Iranian official said, “There was a message that was conveyed to Turkish security officials: Don’t leave the streets. This coup might be made up of several waves; it happened in Iran in 1953. When the first coup failed, they had another one ready — and they succeeded.”

Article Link to Al-Monitor:

Why Iran Stood With Erdogan

Russia Has Earned An Olympic Ban

By Post Editorial Board
The New York Post
July 20, 2016

With the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro just weeks away, Olympic officials are considering a bold move: banning all Russian athletes from competing.

On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee began emergency meetings to consider Monday’s report from the World Anti-Doping Agency, which found that Russian sports officials and government agencies conspired to cover up cheating.

“In the face of such evidence of state-sponsored subversion of the anti-doping process, WADA insists upon imposition of the most serious consequences to protect clean athletes from the scourge of doping in sport,” said Craig Reedie, the agency’s president.

On Tuesday, the IOC banned Moscow’s sports officials from Rio, but is still planning to “explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban.” (It’s already banned all Russia’s track-and-field competitors.)

If the IOC blinks from banning the entire Russian team, it loses all credibility.

The evidence shows that Russian officials have for years not just faked athletes’ drug tests, but provided the drugs in the first place. WADA’s latest report cites proof that Russian officials falsified at least 312 doping tests these last five years.

The cheating was massive at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia — which allowed the host nation to rack up the most medals, 33.

Athletic competition should be a test of character, determination and excellence — especially on the Olympic stage. Russia’s state-sponsored cheating makes a mockery of those ideals.

A ban for this Olympics — at least — is the only reasonable response.

Article Link to The New York Post:

Judges And Juries Keep Acquitting The Cops Being Called Racist

By Paul Sperry
The New York Post
July 20, 2016

The repeated exoneration of allegedly racist cops by minority jurors and judges — from Ferguson and Staten Island to Cleveland and now Baltimore — seriously undermines the anti-cop movement started by Black Lives Matter and fueled by President Obama.

With half the Baltimore cops now acquitted in the death of Freddie Gray, a pattern has emerged where highly publicized cases against cops for racially motivated murder of black suspects have crumbled under the weight of court evidence.

It’s not to say these police officers made no procedural errors in their use of force, but they certainly did not commit the heinous civil-rights crimes the BLM movement accused them of committing. Even so, the movement continues to inspire fury against cops.

Baltimore Police Lt. Brian Rice: A black judge Monday cleared the highest-ranking cop of manslaughter and other charges involved in the arrest of Gray, whose death while in police custody triggered days of anti-police rioting. The same jurist, Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams, had previously acquitted two other officers of all charges. A fourth case ended in a mistrial after a majority-black jury voted 11-1 for acquittal. With an 0-4 record, prosecutors may drop remaining charges.

Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann: In December, a grand jury refused to charge the patrolman for shooting a black youth. The tragic misunderstanding was supposed to be a slam-dunk case of another race-based police shooting.

But enhanced surveillance video made it “indisputably clear” that Tamir Rice — 12, but big for his age — approached the cop and reached for a pellet gun that was “indistinguishable” from a real gun. Loehmann repeatedly shouted, “Show me your hands,” but the boy refused to comply, brandishing the gun instead.

Charlotte, NC, Police Officer Randall Kerrick: Last August, a jury made up of several minorities could not agree that the North Carolina patrolman was guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed black man, Jonathan Ferrell.

Even some black jurors argued for acquittal, believing Kerrick shot Ferrell in self-defense when Ferrell, a college football player under the influence, violently charged at the rookie cop, who was responding to a home-invasion report. Prosecutors decided not to retry Kerrick, and the city will pay him $200,000 in back pay and legal fees.

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo: A racially diverse Staten Island grand jury in 2014 decided not to charge Pantaleo for using a takedown maneuver to restrain 350-pound career petty criminal Eric Garner, who was resisting arrest.

Jurors did not agree Garner, who died on the scene, was killed by an illegal “chokehold” as activists portrayed it. New York City settled a wrongful-death claim with Garner’s estate for $5.9 million.

Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson: A grand jury in 2014 cleared Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, finding the patrolman acted in self-defense after Brown punched him in the face and tried to shoot him with his service pistol.

Brown had just moments earlier robbed a liquor store. His accomplice falsely testified Wilson shot Brown in cold blood as Brown held up his hands. The lie sparked the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” cries of rioters, who torched and looted Ferguson.

Prejudging the case as an example of “systemic” racism, Obama sent an army of prosecutors to investigate Wilson for discrimination, while sending emissaries to Brown’s funeral. Faced with the same evidence the jurors weighed, however, the Justice Department had to agree that Wilson was justified in shooting Brown.

It’s a familiar pattern: Some witnesses embellish or outright lie about what they saw and outrage goes viral — before jurors discover through the actual facts that what looked like another wrenching case of police brutality was actually police largely going by the book — and certainly not acting like the monsters they were made out to be.

The same patterns appears to be playing out in the new Minneapolis and Baton Rouge police-shooting cases. In the first case, a witness changed her story about what happened. In the latter, a BLM activist has been caught editing video to only show one side of what happened — the side that, of course, puts cops in the worst light possible.

Judges and jurors are debunking charges of “systemic racism” in policing as another of the left’s many false narratives. But the damage may already be done, evidenced by the vicious war on cops and a related violent crime wave in major cities across the country.

Article Link to the New York Post:

Turkey Chaos Following Coup Attempt Leaves Assad As Big Winner

Turkish authorities have suspended or detained around 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers since the coup attempt, according to the latest Reuters tally on Wednesday.

By Ariel Ben Solomon 
The Jerusalem Post
July 20, 2016

The Turkish government’s massive crackdown on opponents and those alleged to be involved in the failed coup has left the country’s military and institutions weaker and less able to play a large role in toppling Syria’s regime.

Turkish authorities have suspended or detained around 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers since the coup attempt, according to the latest Reuters tally on Wednesday.

“This is probably the weakest the Turkish military has ever been in the history of the Turkish republic,” Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a member of the Turkish parliament from 2011 to 2015 and a senior fellow at the Washington- based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Business Insider website.

Turkey’s domestic situation and its 180-degree turn toward a more realistic and accommodating foreign policy, which includes efforts to repair relations with Israel, Russia and even Syria and Iraq, likely means a less aggressive Syria policy.

Therefore, at least in the near term, there is little chance that Turkey would launch a large-scale military operation or act too aggressively and upset the Russian and Syrian governments.

Yunus Akbaba, an adviser to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the measures the government is taking now “are a matter of survival.”

Regarding Syria, he said, “Turkey had already softened its position and was ready for a political transition in which Assad would go at the end of the process.”

Turkey wants to see a new constitution and fair elections under UN auspices, said the Turkish official.

Asked about a possible major Turkish intervention, Akbaba played down any chance of that happening. “Turkey was never a fan of intervention by itself. That’s why we called on the international community to take coordinated actions, but it seems quite impossible in the current situation.”

Questioned about Western pressure on Turkey to ease the crackdown of those accused of supporting the coup attempt, he responded that “it is not really our first priority right now since it is a matter of survival.”

Akbaba claimed that after US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen’s “terrorist organization” is ended, “more democratization” could occur.

“What we expect from the West now is solidarity and cooperation.”

And asked about what the latest turmoil means for relations with the warming ties with Israel, the Turkish official said, “Of course our cooperation with Israel will continue at an increasing rate.”

Hence, taking into account the post-coup attempt turmoil in Turkey and the newfound flexibility in foreign policy, it means that President Bashar Assad’s regime can rest more assured that its northern neighbor will not aggravate the situation at this time.

However, it does not mean that the ruling Islamist AK Party could not reverse course and push harder to support the rebels in the future when the domestic situation stabilizes.

But for now, Erdogan has chosen to focus on the domestic and Kurdish issues at the expense of any Syrian adventure.

Article Link to The Jerusalem Post:

Trump’s Depressed Convention

By John Podhoretz
July 20, 2016

I’ve been going to conventions, Republican and Democratic, as a journalist for more than 30 years. One of the cheeriest and most delightful moments at any convention is the roll call of the states, in which high-spirited delegates from each state praise their teams, their leading industrial product, and their political histories before declaring their support for “the next president of the United States.” I’ve been there for winners and losers—for Mondale in ’84, for Dole in ’96, for Kerry in ’04. I was on the convention floor for tonight’s roll call. And I have to report I have never seen nor experienced a more subdued, less enthusiastic nominating moment than the one just now for Donald Trump.

When the crowd cheered, it cheered listlessly. There was little buzz and no energy in a crowded atmosphere that usually crackles with hope and expectation. In part, that was due to the haphazard way in which the roll was called, and the delegate numbers were tallied. A well-run convention has all this planned out meticulously beforehand and knows the final count to the number as it goes. That did not appear to be the case, as the math was performed by hand by two officials at a desk on stage, one of them in a large cowboy hat. There were enervating time gaps between the delegate announcements, and a sense that all was not going quite as it should.

And when Trump’s son, Donald Jr., announced the delegate allocation from New York State, putting his father over the top, there was no planned or spontaneous demonstration—merely a strange baseball game-like visual on the Jumbotron on stage that read “Over The Top.”

And then, when the roll call was over, Speaker Paul Ryan came to the stage and asked if there were any states that wished to change their votes. At which point a delegate from Alaska announced his state’s delegate count (favoring Ted Cruz, who won the state) had been recorded incorrectly—and deliberately so. As I write, action has been suspended for ten minutes as convention officials weirdly went through an unnecessary process to ensure all of Alaska’s delegates were assigned to Trump.

So here’s what we have: An unenthusiastic convention floor, a Trump apparatus that doesn’t make sure the nominee’s wife is speaking new words, and a convention management system that didn’t get the most elementary process wired.

This matters because the delegates on the floor of the convention are the worker bees of the party—the people who work their hearts out to raise money and get others to volunteer and help them corral other voters. Their enthusiasm is crucial to generating the political momentum neighborhood by neighborhood across the country. If they are depressed, that depression is going to affect the election.

And they are. They are depressed.

Article Link to Commentary:

Paul Ryan Officially Hands Over His Party To Crazy

The House speaker tried to delay the inevitable for as long as he could, but on Tuesday night he stood on the RNC and made it official: The GOP is now in Donald Trump’s hands.

By Jackie Kucinich 
The Daily Beast
July 20, 2016

Just after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan officially declared Donald Trump and Mike Pence as the new standard bearers of GOP to the half-empty Quicken Loans arena, he clapped his hands just long enough to be appropriate and exited the stage.

Such has been Ryan’s role this election.

He returned to the stage later after a hodgepodge of speakers that included the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and a subpar professional golfer—to call for unity.

A lot has changed since Ryan occupied a stage in Tampa as the same party’s vice-presidential nominee.

“You know, standing up here again, it all has a familiar feel. Students of trivia will recall that last time around I was your nominee for vice president. It was a great honor, even if things didn’t work out quite according to plan,” Ryan said.

No. No, they certainly did not.

“Democracy is a series of choices,” he said. “We Republicans have made ours.”

And that’s why four short years later, as speaker of the House, Ryan has found himself with a warped Solomon’s Choice: Cut the party in half, or give it to a crazy person and hope for the best.

Initially, he tried to delay the inevitable handover of the party.

After Trump secured the nomination, Ryan resisted endorsing him, saying Trump needed to earn his support by acting like a statesman who could help the Republican Party.

But a month later, Ryan quietly announced in a local newspaper he was handing over the GOP to a man who joined it just a few years ago.

On Tuesday evening, Ryan did his very best to overcome the fact the party he dedicated his life to was in the custody of crazy, giving a speech about the need for the GOP to assert itself again to help turn around policies that the party he once led believes hurt the country.

“Progressives like our president talk forever about poverty in America. And if high-sounding talk did any good, we’d have overcome these deep problems long ago,” he said. “This explains why, under the most liberal president we’ve had so far, poverty in America is worse, especially for our fellow citizens who were promised better and need it most.”

He widened his dreamy blue eyes—set to stun with his matching blue tie—and talked about how progressive policies have left the poor behind, as members of the audience chattered in full voice (except for his home delegation of Wisconsin who stood at attention).

“Only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance at a better way,” Ryan said, as those in the convention hall perked up as they heard their leaders’ names. “And, last, let the other party go on and on with its constant dividing up of people…always playing one group against the other, as if group identity were everything.”

He wrapped up the speech with a plea for unity—to the establishment Republicans he once represented (who were likely watching from home or not at all) and those just a few feet beneath him on the convention floor.

“So what do you say we unite this party, at this crucial moment when unity is everything?” he asked.

“Let’s take the fight to our opponents with better ideas—let’s get on the offensive and let’s stay there.

“Fellow Republicans, what we have begun here, let’s see it through…let’s win this thing…let’s show America our best and nothing less.”

And with that, he clapped his hands, nodded his head firmly, and strode off stage.

Article Link to The Daily Beast:

Cruz Prepares For High-Stakes Convention Speech With Eye On 2020

By speaking at Trump’s convention without endorsing him, the Texas senator hopes to placate both sides of the GOP civil war.

By Eliana Johnson
The National Review
July 19, 2016

When Ted Cruz takes the stage here on Wednesday evening, what he doesn’t say will be as important as what he does: Though he accepted a primetime speaking spot at the convention that officially nominated Donald Trump on Tuesday, Cruz will not endorse the Republican nominee, according to two sources familiar with his plans.

The Texas senator has largely kept a low profile since exiting the presidential race in May, but he will be front and center on Wednesday. His speech will serve both as a formal reintroduction to millions of party faithful, the majority of whom did not support Trump in the primaries, and as the first public step in another presidential campaign. So while Trump uses Cruz’s appearance to project a semblance of party unity, the Texas senator will do his part to underscore the deep divisions in the GOP on the eve of Trump’s coronation — and to suggest tacitly that he, not Trump, is the face of the party’s future.

Going into tomorrow night’s speech, Cruz undoubtedly has Ronald Reagan’s 1976 convention speech in mind. Though Reagan narrowly lost the nomination to Gerald Ford that year, his speech succeeded in convincing the delegates gathered in Kansas City that they had chosen the wrong man. (Paul Manafort, now Trump’s campaign chairman, was at the time a young operative instrumental in wrangling delegates on Ford’s behalf.)

But Reagan endorsed Ford.

It’s a bold move. Nonetheless, Cruz is here in Cleveland, unlike many of other 2016 candidates. Marco Rubio will address the convention by video conference. John Kasich is in a state of open warfare with the Trump campaign. The Texas senator’s decision to attend and speak without endorsing the Republican nominee appears to be aimed at straddling the Republican establishment he has so gleefully bashed and the conservative base that elected him.

Are we seeing a new Ted Cruz?

There’s evidence of it. He would have thrilled many conservatives by becoming the face of the anti-Trump movement, which rages on even as Trump prepares to accept the nomination. But while a push to unbind convention delegates — bitterly opposed by Reince Priebus and his allies — gained and then lost momentum, in part because it lacked a visible leader, Cruz kept quiet. And he made no plans to release the hundreds of delegates he amassed on the campaign trail, and who are now obliged to cast ballots for him on the convention floor.

Then there are the rules governing the Republican primary contests and the Republican National Committee more broadly, which Cruz ally Ken Cuccinelli is pushing to change. Cruz and his team have kept a studious distance from Cuccinelli, denying any role in his efforts, which include demands to incentivize the closing of the first four nominating contests to independents and Democrats. Nonetheless, Cuccinelli and Cruz have common interests, and those backing Cuccinelli were mostly Cruz delegates. According to Randy Evans, a long-time member of the Republican National Committee and a member of this year’s convention rules committee, “part of” Cuccinelli’s goal is “to make the RNC more malleable to a Cruz campaign in 2020.”

There is evidence, too, of changes in Cruz’s legislative approach — a shift to what some of his Senate colleagues have begun calling “Cruz 2.0.” He sided with Arizona senator John McCain and against Utah senator Mike Lee last month, for example, voting in favor of an amendment that would have allowed the FBI to access Internet browsing histories without a court order. Until now, in battles between privacy and security, Cruz has almost always sided with libertarians, favoring privacy rights over security concerns. He joined Rand Paul in his 2014 filibuster protesting the Obama administration’s claim that it had the right to assassinate American citizens in the United States, and applauded Paul’s filibuster of the National Security Agency’s bulk-data collection, though he didn’t join it.

“He has shifted towards the Cotton-Rubio position and away from the Rand-Lee one on a number of . . . issues,” says a senior Senate aide, referring to the divide between the hawkish national-security positions of Rubio and Arkansas senator Tom Cotton and the relatively more dovish stances of Paul and Lee.

On the campaign trail, Cruz was fond of quoting Reagan’s admonition to “paint in bold colors.” He remains as ambitious as ever, but he has a more nuanced approach. It’s clear he would like for Trump to win the nomination and lose in November, making way for him to run again in 2020. And he will walk off the stage on Wednesday in the position to tell the GOP’s anti-Trump faction that he never endorsed the man they believe is destroying the party, while claiming to the party establishment that he was a team player.

Behind the scenes in Cruz world, the gears, as always, are turning. In recent months, they have moved to transform his presidential campaign into an electoral enterprise that will continue to hum for the next four or eight years. National Review reported earlier this month that several senior Cruz campaign staffers are creating two affiliated non-profit groups, a 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4, that will champion Cruz’s legislative priorities, maintain and expand his donor database, and coordinate his travel to early states. The longtime political strategist David Polyansky is taking the helm in Cruz’s Senate office as the senator’s current chief of staff, Paul Teller, decamps to take a senior position with the non-profits.

So Ted Cruz will run for president again. Defeat may have changed his tactics, but it has not changed the man.

Article Link to The National Review:

Two Names Emerge From Clinton’s VP Deliberations: Kaine And Vilsack

By Anne Gearan and Abby Phillip 
The Washington Post
July 20, 2016

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Sen. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia have emerged as the leading candidates on a longer list of finalists Hillary Clinton is considering for her vice-presidential running mate, according to interviews with multiple Democrats with knowledge of her deliberations.

Although her list is not limited to those two, Clinton has spoken highly of both in recent days to friends and advisers as she closes in on an announcement that could come as soon as Friday.

President Obama is among those who have advised Clinton on her decision, offering thoughts on the two contenders who serve in his Cabinet, Vilsack and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, several Democrats said. These individuals did not say what advice the president gave.

These and other Democrats cautioned that Clinton has not made a final choice and is keeping mum about her deliberations. Several other people remain in the running, they said. Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon declined to comment.

Clinton is expected to campaign alongside her running mate on Friday or Saturday in Florida, three Democrats familiar with aspects of the plan said. The campaign has announced only that she will make stops in several Florida cities over those two days, in the run-up to her party’s national convention. The convention, where Clinton will formally claim the nomination as the first woman to head the ticket of a major U.S. party, begins Monday in Philadelphia.

The vice-presidential search has been conducted in deep secrecy among a small group of Clinton intimates, even as some aspects were on full and intentional display. Clinton did not conceal her consideration of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a liberal firebrand who in turn has not disguised the appeal the job holds for her. Still, Democrats close to both women, including some of Warren’s own advisers, have said Warren was an unlikely choice from the start.

Kaine has been a favorite for the job for months and is the name most often mentioned by Democrats as the front-runner. He and Vilsack share many professional and political attributes, notably their governing experience. Both fit Clinton’s ideal of low-key, loyal effectiveness, people who know both men said. Vilsack carries the additional quality of a long-standing personal friendship with Clinton.

Two Democrats described Perez as a solid third choice, but others cautioned that he may not be in the same category as Vilsack and Kaine. Several Democrats emphasized that the fact that Kaine and Vilsack appear to be the leading contenders does not preclude Clinton’s continuing to weigh her choices from a larger list of contenders.

Perez met with the presumptive nominee at her Washington home late Friday, one Democrat confirmed. All those who spoke did so on the condition of anonymity because the selection process has not been completed.

Perez’s emergence from a crowded back field, these Democrats said, is based largely on a warm relationship with Clinton and his credentials as a liberal with strong relationships with organized labor. He also is Hispanic and has served as a Spanish-speaking surrogate for Clinton.

Also in consideration has been retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former four-star commander of U.S. forces in Europe who has strong credentials as a national-security thinker and ties to Clinton from her time as secretary of state.

Julián Castro, the secretary of housing and urban development, has been the Hispanic candidate most frequently mentioned as a potential running mate. His stock may have fallen with a finding by federal investigators Monday that he had violated Hatch Act prohibitions on mixing partisan political activity with official government duties.

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta is leading the search, which has intensified over the past week to include several face-to-face meetings between Clinton and candidates, including Vilsack, Perez, Warren and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Meetings were held at Clinton’s Washington home Friday and at other locations.

Vilsack rose through the ranks of local government to become a well-liked governor of Iowa. He was considered as a running mate for then-Sen. John F. Kerry in 2004 and served as head of the centrist Democratic Leadership Conference while in office. In 2008, he was a short-lived presidential candidate.

He is a latecomer to the pool of possible vice-presidential choices, but his star has risen over the past two weeks, several Democrats said.

Vilsack is seen as likely to deliver Iowa, a key swing state. That gives him one potential advantage over Kaine, whose home state of Virginia is also a battleground but one many Democrats judge to be safer for Clinton this year than Iowa.

“He’s not a lot of bling and glitter; he’s just Iowa solid,” said Bonnie Campbell, an Iowa Democratic strategist with longtime ties to both Clinton and Vilsack.

Vilsack also comes with a compelling personal story. He was placed in an orphanage as a young boy in Pittsburgh, then adopted. His adoptive mother was an alcoholic, something he mentions frequently in addresses about the problem of opioid addiction, an issue that falls under the purview of the Department of Agriculture and for which he shares a passion with Clinton.

Vilsack is, however, far from young at 65, and a narrowed field led by Kaine and Vilsack would place two white men atop a list that has included several Hispanic candidates, one white woman and one African American man — a potentially awkward optical reality for Clinton to contend with, particularly within the diverse base of the Democratic party.

Although it is unclear whether Obama offered Clinton thoughts about Kaine, senior White House officials described the one-time mayor of Richmond as particularly in sync with Obama on issues including criminal justice reform, the death penalty and anti-poverty efforts. Kaine was an early Obama supporter back in 2007, and he served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee after the 2008 election.

“He is this progressive Catholic. He’s like an Obama Catholic,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment frankly about the president. “He has thought a lot about these things and can interpret Obama.”

Clinton has acknowledged that the most important criterion is “experience.”

“Would this person be a good president?” Clinton told Charlie Rose of CBS News and PBS on Monday night. “You know, I am afflicted with the responsibility gene, and I know what it’s like being president. I’ve seen it up close, I’ve worked for one, I’ve had that experience.

“So for me there is nothing more important than my rock-solid conviction that the person I choose could literally get up one day and be the president of the United States,” she added.

Prodded by Rose about candidates thought to be in the running, Clinton showered them with praise but declined to say whether they were being considered.

When Rose noted that Kaine considered himself to be “boring,” Clinton laughed and replied: “And I love that about him.”

“He’s never lost an election. He was a world-class mayor, governor and senator and is one of the most highly respected senators I know,” Clinton said.

As for Hickenlooper, Clinton also praised him as “first class.”


“Amazing,” Clinton replied. “I mean, what she has done in a relatively few years to put the agenda of inequality front and center is something that I think we should all be grateful for.”

People close to Clinton say that political considerations will come second — if they factor in at all. After the fitness test, the decision is about the deeply personal consideration of the person with whom she would want to be locked in a political contract for at least four years.

Article Link to The Washington Post:

Christie Jolts Crowd With Prosecutorial Takedown Of Clinton

By Katy O'Donnell
July 20, 2016

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the first of Trump’s rivals to endorse him, name-checked the nominee much earlier in his remarks this time around.

Christie referred to the real estate mogul about 10 seconds into his convention speech, apparently eager to avoid a repeat of the mockery he drew in 2012 when he only got to then-nominee Mitt Romney’s name at the 16-minute mark after spending much of his prime-time speech talking about himself.

But it was another name — presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — that Christie spent most of his time discussing Tuesday night.

Despite opening his remarks by noting his 14-year friendship with Trump, Christie quickly dropped any pretense of offering humanizing personal anecdotes.

Instead, he argued a case against Clinton.

“Tonight, as a former federal prosecutor, I welcome the opportunity to hold her accountable for her performance and her character,” Christie said, in a speech sure to add to chatter that he’s angling for the Attorney General slot in a Trump presidency.

“We’re going to present the facts to you...Since the Justice Department refuses to allow you to render a verdict, I’m going to present a case now, on the facts, against Hillary Clinton,” Christie added, to chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

Clinton, for her part, quickly responded Tuesday night, tweeting: “If you think Chris Christie can lecture anyone on ethics, we have a bridge to sell you,” with a link to a New York Times timeline of the bridge-closing scandal that has dogged Christie for over two years.

Christie didn't limit his case to her email scandal, also tearing into Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, ticking off disasters country by country while punctuating his remarks with “Is she guilty, or not guilty?”

The crowd ate it up, roaring back “Guilty!” in its most enthusiastic response to a speaker since former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s frothy speech Monday night.

“We’re not done yet — the indictment is hardly complete,” Christie urged the crowd after it once again drowned him out with shouts of “Lock her up!”

Christie clearly reveled in the call-and-response too, cracking a grin after asking the crowd, “As to Hillary Clinton, the charge of putting herself ahead of the American people, is she guilty or not guilty?”

Christie responded defiantly to a post-speech question from MSNBC on whether he was an “imperfect messenger” for the ethical case against Clinton given the Bridgegate scandal.

“Do we have Hillary Clinton calling me imperfect? I mean, you don't want to talk about the pot calling the kettle black,” he said. “I'll put up my record against Hillary Clinton's on ethics, on accomplishment, on achievement, on honesty, any day in the week and I would just give the secretary a warning, this is not a fight she wants to pick,” Christie added.

Article Link to Politico:

Christie Jolts Crowd With Prosecutorial Takedown Of Clinton