Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Today's Stock In Play Is Cardiome Pharma. (Symbol #CRME)

Weaker Dollar Lifts Oil Prices, But Mood Remains Bearish

By Henning Gloystein
Reuters
July 26, 2016

Oil prices rebounded from over three-month lows on Tuesday, lifted by a drop in the dollar, but concerns of ongoing oversupply weighed on markets and many traders are raising their bets on further price falls.

International Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 were trading at $44.89 per barrel at 0658 GMT, up 17 cents from their last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was at $43.21, up 8 cents per barrel.

Brent hit its lowest level since May the previous day, while WTI hit its lowest level since April.

Traders said the higher prices were partly a correction after the previous day's sharp falls, and also reflected a 1 percent fall in the dollar against the Japanese yen JPY= ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting that begins later on Tuesday.

As oil is traded in dollars, a drop in its value makes fuel imports cheaper for countries using other currencies, potentially spurring demand.

Despite the slightly higher oil prices, analysts said the overall mood in oil markets had turned bearish.

Both in Asia and now also the United States, the two main pillars of global oil consumption, there are signs of stalling demand growth. This has raised concerns that a rebalancing of a market that has been dogged by over two years of oversupply may be further away than many had hoped.

"Ongoing fears of oversupply are encouraging hedge funds to liquidate their recent record bullish position; at the same time, we are also seeing a corresponding increase in speculative short positions," said Matt Smith of U.S.-based ClipperData in a note.

Hedge funds selling crude futures and options to close out these bullish positions has put downward pressure on oil prices in recent weeks.

Now, the liquidation of old long positions, which profit from rising prices, is being replaced by the establishment of short positions, which make money out of lower prices, as fund managers try to capitalize on the downward cycle in prices.

Hedge funds and other money managers cut their net long position in Brent and WTI futures and options by 31 million barrels to 453 million in the week ending on July 19.

The money managers short positions in WTI rose to 141,237 contracts in the week to July 19, up from 53,377 contracts for the week to May 31.

During the same period, short positions in ICE Brent held by money managers climbed to 78,351 contracts from 33,111.


Article Link to Reuters:

Renewed Oil Weakness Sparks Demand Fears

By Jessica Resnick-Ault
Reuters
July 26, 2016

U.S. oil prices topped $50 a barrel in June, boosting optimism a two-year price rout might end. Six weeks later, the long hoped for recovery has yet to take hold.

Mounting fears that demand has fallen short of expectations as production increases and rig counts rise has analysts believing that any oil price recovery may be a year or more in the future.

The demand response has been slower than bulls had hoped. U.S. drivers have covered fewer miles than expected this summer, and as they speed toward the Labor Day holiday in September, the overhang of gasoline in storage may put downward pressure on crude and refined product prices.

"Right now, the only thing that would drive prices higher is robust demand," said John Paisie, executive vice president at Stratas Energy Advisors, a Houston-based consultancy. The growth must be across the board, for products including distillates like diesel and jet fuel, as well as gasoline.

"Demand just can't be made up by one product," he said, and demand for diesel has been lagging.

Instead of seeing $60 a barrel, which would support an increase in production, the demand questions, and ongoing supply concerns, mean oil could fall further. U.S. crude settled at $43.13 on Monday, after earlier hitting a three-month low.

"Demand is growing very moderately," said veteran oil economist and independent consultant Phil Verleger. "There's no real surge to it - call it the great moderation."

While gasoline prices have declined, the lower cost at the pump has only a moderate effect on consumer's buying habits, Verleger said. Instead of racing out to fill their tanks, consumers are using the savings to pay down debt, he said.

The U.S. Department of Energy has trimmed its outlook for gasoline demand growth for the remainder of the year, and now forecasts growth of 160,000 bpd, compared with 220,000 bpd previously.

Gasoline demand data often lags by two months or more, but as figures for the beginning of this year's summer driving season have been released, analysts have trimmed their outlook for 2016 growth. U.S. drivers logged two percent more miles in May than a year earlier, compared with 2.2 percent in April, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

U.S. gasoline demand rose by a modest 0.8 percent in April according to the Department of Energy. May data is due out on Friday.

Experts agree that rebalancing the market will take strengthening demand, as crude from shale formations and deepwater fields has continued to come into production despite lower prices.

"There's got to be a reckoning that we only have a few weeks left of peak gasoline demand, and then we hit a shoulder season," said Michael Cohen, head of energy commodities research at Barclays. In the so-called shoulder season during the autumn, diesel usually drives petroleum demand.

European diesel demand also may be weaker than expected because of Britain's Brexit vote to leave the European Union, Cohen said. In China, stockpiles have built, which may limit Asian demand growth.

Without a surge in demand, the market will be unable to use up the gasoline that refiners stockpiled ahead of a summer driving season that shaped up to be more lackluster than expected.

Cohen said he did not expect to see prices fall into the $20s or $30s as in January and February. However, he said, "our view continues to be slightly lower than where we are."


Article Link to Reuters:

The Identity Crisis That Led To Yahoo's Demise

By Jonathan Weber and Jeffrey Dastin
Reuters
July 26, 2016

When senior Yahoo executives gathered at a San Jose hotel for a management retreat in the spring of 2006, there was no outward sign of a company in crisis.

The internet pioneer, not yet a teenager, had just finished the prior year with $1.9 billion in profits on $5.3 billion in revenue. The tough days of the dot-com bust were a distant memory, and Yahoo Inc, flush with lucrative advertising deals from the world's biggest brands, was enjoying its run as one of the top dogs in the world's hottest industry.

But for one retreat exercise, everyone was asked to say what word came to mind when a company name was mentioned. They went through the list: eBay: auctions. Google: search. Intel: microprocessors. Microsoft: Windows.

Then they were asked to write down their answer for Yahoo.

"It was all over the map," recalled Brad Garlinghouse, then a Yahoo senior vice president and now COO of payment settlement start-up Ripple Labs. "Some people said mail. Some people said news. Some people said search."

While some executives said this was a useful management exercise that took place multiple times over the years, it proved an ominous portent of the business troubles to come.

Indeed, the demise of Yahoo, which culminated in an agreement this week to sell the company's core assets to Verizon Communications Inc, has been more than a decade in the making. Many of the more than two dozen former Yahoo managers interviewed by Reuters over the past two weeks -- who now occupy executives suites elsewhere in Silicon Valley -- agree that the company's downfall can be traced to choices made by both the executive leadership and the board of directors during the company's heyday in the mid-2000s.

Some of the missed opportunities are obvious: a failed bid to buy Facebook Inc for $1 billion in 2006. A 2002 dalliance with Google similarly came to naught. A chance to acquire YouTube came and went. Skype was snapped up by eBay Inc. And Microsoft Corp's nearly $45 billion takeover bid for all of Yahoo in 2008 was blocked by Yahoo's leadership.

Just as damaging as the missed deals, though, was a company culture that ultimately became too bureaucratic and too focused on traditional brand advertising to prosper in a fast-moving tech business, according to some of the former Yahoo managers Reuters spoke with.

"It became very difficult to get both investment and alignment" around new product initiatives, said Greg Cohn, a former senior product director at Yahoo and now CEO of the mobile phone app company Burner. "If you built a new product and the home page didn't want to feature it, you were hosed."

Worst of all, once Alphabet Inc's Google had displaced it as peoples' first stop for finding something on the internet, Yahoo was never able to decide on exactly what it wanted to be.

Yahoo today has more than 1 billion users and has focused on mobile under chief executive Marissa Mayer, who told Reuters in an interview Monday that she still saw a "path to growth" for Yahoo, which the Verizon merger accelerated.

Yahoo will continue to operate as a holding company for its large stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan, which are worth far more than the core business.

Yahoo declined to comment for this story.

The Purple Carpet


The appointment of Terry Semel, who had completed a highly successful run as chairman of the Warner Bros. movie studio, as CEO in 2001 seemed to answer a question that bedeviled many early internet firms: was it a tech company, or a media company?

Semel could not be reached for comment on his Yahoo tenure. But the focus on media proved lucrative in the short term as big advertisers, desperate to get on board with the next big thing, flocked to one of the largest properties on the web. Revenue soared from $717 million in 2001 to nearly $7 billion by 2007.

Indeed, Semel and the media executives he brought in by all accounts turned a scrappy young internet startup into a highly profitable company that brought old-line advertising to a new medium.

"From our perspective, we were a media company," said Dan Rosensweig, Yahoo's COO from 2002 to 2007 and now CEO of online education company Chegg Inc. "It didn’t feel at the time that there was a strong likelihood we would beat Google at search... Nobody could argue that we weren’t the largest front page on the internet."

Yahoo placed its signature purple everywhere then -- on cookies and cupcakes, on the carpets, and even in the martinis.

"When Coca Cola came to campus, we rolled out the purple carpet," recalled Wenda Harris Millard, Yahoo's chief sales officer from 2001 to 2007 and now president and COO of business development firm MediaLink.

Millard said all the major advertisers, from Coke to General Motors, wanted to come to Yahoo's campus at least once a year.

"We were just doing gazillions of dollars with them," said Millard.

The Money Trap


But the excitement, and the revenue, associated with the big advertising deals ten years ago turned out to be a trap in many ways. Like its brethren in the print media business, who continued to rely on selling ad pages long after it was clear that it was a dying business, Yahoo couldn't help but to focus on where the big money was, even though that wasn't where the future was.

"The worst consequence of trying to be a media company was that they didn't take programming seriously enough," wrote Paul Graham, co-founder of the Y-Combinator tech incubator who sold a startup to Yahoo, in a 2010 blog post about the company's woes. "Microsoft (back in the day), Google, and Facebook have all had hacker-centric cultures. But Yahoo treated programming as a commodity."

The downside of the media orientation became more clear as the 2000s wore on. In 2003, Yahoo acquired Overture, the company that essentially invented the ad-search technology that made Google rich. But Yahoo never succeeded in creating a strong competitor to Google's AdWords and AdSense systems.

A subsequent, hugely expensive effort to rebuild its search and advertising technology, dubbed Panama, similarly bore little fruit.

Meanwhile, market-leading products like Yahoo Mail, and early social media efforts like Yahoo Groups, were neglected as managers wrestled over which products would get priority on the hugely valuable Yahoo home page, according to three former executives. Promising acquisitions, including photo-sharing site Flickr and social bookmarking service Delicious, withered on the vine.

Former staffers say they were consumed with endless internal meetings and shifting priorities. Former senior product director Cohn recalls how efforts to make Yahoo an open platform -- with nifty third-party applications around specific content areas such as travel -- foundered in the face of opposition from managers in charge of Yahoo's in-house products.

Too often, the end result was money spread too thinly across too many marginal initiatives, as Garlinghouse famously pointed out in a leaked internal document known as the Peanut Butter Manifesto.

Turmoil At The Top


By 2007, it was becoming clear that Yahoo was losing ground fast on the product side as Google solidified its hold on search. New players like Facebook and Netflix Inc continued to arrive and steal Yahoo's thunder. Semel left that year in favor of co-founder Jerry Yang.

Whatever plans Yang may have had were quickly disrupted by the unsolicited Microsoft takeover bid in early 2008. The offer split the management team, Garlinghouse and others say, and those divisions persisted even after Microsoft's offer was beaten back.

Yang, who championed the resistance to Microsoft, stepped down again in 2008. Three other CEOs followed before Mayer was appointed in 2014.

The leadership turmoil "made for a difficult existence for a board, a management team, and a general employee population to get committed to the same goal," said Rosensweig.

Yang did not respond to requests for comment.

By the time Mayer arrived, Yahoo was already seen in Silicon Valley as a company from another era. It had lots of cash but few strategic advantages as it fought far larger competitors. Many analysts and shareholder say Mayer exacerbated the troubles with acquisitions and key hires that proved misguided.

Mayer put a brave face on the deal Monday, saying the scale that will result from the Verizon combination will enable it to continue its efforts to catch up in mobile, social and advertising technology. But the history of the tech business, where companies rarely dominate from one generation to the next, suggests that any such revival is a tall order.


Article Link to Reuters:

Fed Seen Holding Rates Steady As Inflation Watch Continues

By Ann Saphir
Reuters
July 26, 2016

The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to keep interest rates unchanged this week, deferring any possible increase until September or December, as policymakers hold out for more evidence of a pickup in inflation.

Central to the debate at the Fed's July 26-27 policy meeting will be how to reconcile upbeat U.S. economic data, highlighted by strong job gains in June, with a global growth slowdown and other headwinds threatening the inflation trajectory.

For San Francisco Fed President John Williams, one of the 17 members participating in the central bank's rate-setting deliberations, all that is needed is a bit more confidence that inflation is indeed headed toward the Fed's 2 percent target.

The inflation measure the Fed prefers to track is currently at 1.6 percent.

With monthly job gains well above the level needed to prevent an uptick in unemployment, and no signs of a rise in productivity, some Fed policymakers are likely to argue for a quick increase in rates to avoid a surge in inflation.

"That is the danger – and you can be sure that the hawks are going to be arguing that," said Alan Blinder, a Princeton University professor and a former Fed vice chairman. "I have a hunch that they will talking in July about September."

Other policymakers, like influential New York Fed President William Dudley, have signaled they would rather wait for more tangible signs of a rise in inflation before pulling the trigger on a rate increase.

"There's not a lot of reason to raise rates until inflation goes up," said Kevin Logan, chief U.S. economist at HSBC in New York.

The U.S. central bank is scheduled to issue its latest policy statement at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Wednesday.

Headwinds

The Fed raised its benchmark overnight interest rate in December for the first time in nearly a decade, and signaled four rate hikes were coming in 2016 as it moved to "normalize" the ultra-stimulative monetary policy adopted in response to the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

But headwinds in the global economy, financial market volatility and uncertainty over the impact of Britain's decision to leave the European Union forced it to delay a rate hike and scale back the number of projected hikes to two for the year.

Still, absent a shock to markets or a reversal in U.S. economic data, even dovish policymakers like Dudley have signaled that their cautious approach to normalizing monetary policy likely allows for at least one rate hike this year.

After Wednesday, the Fed has three more policy meetings scheduled this year - in September, November and December. A November rate hike is seen as highly unlikely, as that meeting comes one week before the U.S. presidential election.

Economists polled by Reuters expect the Fed to hold rates steady until after the election.

"Rate normalization has fallen down the Fed priority list and will remain there until the dust is well settled on the financial markets and the economy," Jefferies economists predicted in a note last week.


Article Link to Reuters:

Tuesday, July 26, Morning Global Market Roundup: Japan Shares Slip, Yen Gains As Caution Grips

By Wayne Cole
Reuters
July 26, 2016

Caution was the watchword among investors on Tuesday, with equity markets mixed and the yen scampering higher ahead of central bank meetings in the United States and Japan.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS did edge up 0.7 percent to reach its highest in almost a year, aided by gains in China and South Korea.

S&P 500 futures ESc1 added 0.1 pct, while Britain's FTSE 100 .FTSE was seen opening up 0.2 percent with German stocks .GDAXI all but flat.

Less lucky was Japan's Nikkei .N225 which shed 1.5 percent as investors were seemingly unimpressed by a Nikkei report the government planned a direct fiscal stimulus of around 6 trillion yen ($56 billion) over the next few years.

Not helping was a broad rally in the yen, which saw the dollar and euro both lose 1.2 percent to 104.47 JPY= and 115.10 yen EURJPY= respectively.

Dealers cited doubts the Bank of Japan would offer any meaningful new stimulus when its policy meeting ends on Friday.

"We think they'll deliver a bit of everything, but not quite the bazooka some may be hoping for," Frederic Neumann, co-head of economics at HSBC, said in a note.

Expanded asset purchases or a further rate cut into negative territory were possible, he said, but the extent of actual stimulus provided would depend on how such measures were implemented.

"Our recent conversations with investors suggest that expectations are all over the place," he added. "The BOJ could simply do nothing. In the age of shock and awe, that would certainly deliver plenty of that."

Markets see almost no chance of a hike by the Fed after its meeting on Wednesday, but are wary in case it acknowledges a recent improvement in U.S. economic data in a way that amplifies the risk of a move later in the year.

Fed fund futures <0> imply a 56 percent chance of a rate hike in December, up from 48 percent on Friday.

The uncertainty kept the dollar range-bound on the euro around $1.1004 EUR=.

In contrast, sterling took a knock when the Financial Times reported that Martin Weale, a member of the Bank of England's rate-setting committee, had dropped his opposition to an easing and now favored immediate stimulus.

The pound slipped to $1.3110 GBP=, from around $1.3140 late in New York, but has chart support in the $1.3060/76 zone.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI ended Monday with a mild loss of 0.42 percent, while the S&P 500 .SPX dipped 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.05 percent.

Apple (AAPL.O) shares fell 1.3 percent after a broker cut the stock to "sell" ahead of its earnings report on Tuesday.

In commodities, oil loitered near three-month lows as a global glut of crude and refined products weighed on markets.

NYMEX crude CLc1 was quoted 7 cents firmer at $43.20, after losing 2 percent overnight, while Brent LCOc1 added 15 cents to $44.87 a barrel.


Article Link to Reuters:

The Decline And Fall Of Supporters Of The Iran Deal

The Iran deal may not be one of the major issues in this campaign, but it is a test of the Democrats’ integrity and willingness to admit they made a mistake.


By Shmuley Boteach
The Jerusalem Post
July 26, 2016

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to speak to Congress and the American people to warn of the danger of Iran’s nuclear program, and the shortcomings of the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton’s pick for her vice president, Senator Tim Kaine, was among the Democrats who boycotted his speech.

Kaine followed that cowardly and shameful act by joining Congresswoman and head of the Democratic National Convention Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, my close friend Senator Cory Booker and other Democrats in the House and Senate who followed Obama’s lead like lemmings off a national security cliff when he demanded they support his catastrophic deal with Iran. In the Senate, Cory and others supported a filibuster that guaranteed there would not even be a vote.

On the single most important vote affecting Israel’s security, one on which both the Israeli government and opposition agreed should be defeated, the Democrats chose political expediency over principle and the lives of Israelis.

I singled out Booker and Wasserman-Schultz because they were among the most shocking supporters of the Iran deal, given the massive Jewish backing both had throughout their careers, and the repeated public promises both made to the Jewish community to protect Israel, which they betrayed when they voted to give the murderers in Tehran $150 billion. Thanks to the catastrophic deal Iran has the resources to escalate the destabilization of the region, further advance its nuclear ambitions, research and develop more deadly ballistic missiles and support global terrorism.

The people around Cory apparently warned him that if he voted against the president and bucked his party on Iran, he would be committing political suicide.

With this supporters eyeing the vice presidential spot on Hillary Clinton’s ticket, they persuaded him ultimately to support a deal that he clearly did not believe in and, after being passed over for VP, did not advance his career. In short, Cory was persuaded to look the other way on genocidal incitement that most targeted a community that has always loved and supported him in favor of political promises that amounted to zero.

Of all the people to have betrayed Israel and the Jewish people over the Iran deal, however, Schultz was the most insincere. She had always traded on her Jewish identity to gain currency in politics and had massive Jewish financial backing. Her support of the Iran deal, amid Iran’s near daily genocidal incitement against her people, was the ultimate betrayal. It was downright embarrassing when she went on CNN to shed crocodile tears about how torn up she was about the deal. If she really cared about Israel’s security, she would have voted against the agreement. Period. Tears mean nothing.

Action is everything.

Now, the Democratic Party has discovered that anyone who betrays their people on issues of genocidal incitement is probably not going to be very trustworthy on lesser matters; Schultz abused her power as head of the DNC and attempted to undermine Bernie Sanders’ candidacy.

I have long said that politicians who lack conviction in one important area will show they have no conviction in other areas either. Schultz demonstrated with the Iran deal that she would do anything – including selling out the security of her people – for political gain.

Schultz’s political career is, for all intents and purposes, over. But Booker still potentially has a promising career ahead of him, despite losing the VP sweepstakes.

He could still enhance that career and win back the supporters he betrayed if he would admit he made a mistake in supporting the nuclear deal and call for a response to Iran’s violations of the agreement and other UN resolutions. He can also give a speech on the floor of the Senate demanding that continued Iranian genocidal incitement against Israel should indefinitely delay the easing of sanctions until Iran finally stops.

Contrary to the claims of the president, Iran has not changed its policies toward the United States. If anything, it may be more hostile, in part because it disrespects the weakness Obama displayed in the negotiations and his reaction to its provocations after reaching an agreement. As expected, Iran has increased its involvement in backing the tyrannical Syrian regime, continued efforts to destabilize its neighbors, and remains the patron of Hezbollah terrorists. Although Iran has not received the full economic windfall from the agreement yet, the billions of dollars that were released to Iran, combined with the rush by Western companies to make deals with Tehran (including the despicable decision by Boeing to sell planes to aid the radical Islamic regime), have strengthened the hardliners and given them more resources for sponsoring terrorism and mayhem.

In just the past two weeks, we’ve learned the situation is even worse. Though it comes as no surprise to anyone with a scintilla of common sense and knowledge about Iran, the government is actively cheating on the agreement while President Barack Obama hides his head in the sand out of fear that enforcing the deal would cause his prize legacy achievement to unravel.

Thanks to a leak from German intelligence – and surely Obama has the same information, but perhaps chose to keep it from the American people – we know there have been “extensive Iranian attempts” to acquire illicit materials, “especially goods that can be used in the field of nuclear technology.” This revelation was followed by the disclosure of a part of the nuclear deal that was never revealed to the public.

Instead of Iran being precluded from engaging in nuclear activities for 15 years, we now know that after 11 years Iran can start replacing its current centrifuges with more advanced ones. As a result, instead of Iran having a one-year breakout time (which, absurdly, was considered a great achievement as opposed to destroying Iran’s capability altogether), the figure is actually six months or less.

Worse, even after the news came out, Obama chose to ignore it.

The Iran deal may not be one of the major issues in this campaign, but it is a test of the Democrats’ integrity and willingness to admit they made a mistake.

It is even more important that Clinton and Kaine acknowledge the shortcomings of the disastrous deal they supported and pledge to reassert the original demands Obama had insisted upon before capitulating to Iranian threats. They should not want to be a party to the Obama legacy, which is not a great diplomatic breakthrough but the destabilization of the Middle East, the endangering of Israel and the growth of radical Islamic threats to the region and beyond.


Article Link to the Jerusalem Post:

The Decline And Fall Of Supporters Of The Iran Deal

Germany’s Terror Wave

By Noah Rothman
Commentary
July 26, 2016

Germany’s dreadful week began seven days ago on a commuter train when five people were severely injured by an axe-wielding 17-year old Afghan asylum seeker. The attacker, who reportedly yelled out what one witness called “an exclamation” and what others recalled hearing as “Allahu Akbar,” reportedly came to Europe alone as a minor. That attack was later claimed by the Islamic State and ISIS propaganda was found in the attacker’s possession, although no organizational links between the attacker and the Middle Eastern terrorist group have been established.

Two days later, an 18-year-old German-Iranian walked into a shopping center in the city of Munich and began shooting down civilians. When it was over, nine people—most of them minors—were dead. Another 35 were wounded, 10 of whom seriously. The attacker, who professed his status as a German resident and reportedly shouted obscenities about Turkish people during his attack, was a two-year resident of Munich. In this case, the murderer seemed less inspired by jihad than of the prospect of mass bloodshed. He had allegedly surrounded himself with images of European school shooters like Anders Breivik and Tim Kretschmer.

The following day, a 21-year-old refugee from Syria was reportedly engaged in a heated argument with a pregnant woman in the city of Reutlingen when he produced a machete and hacked her to death. Two others were wounded by the machete-wielding attacker before he was struck and disabled by a passing motorist. This attack, too, does not have an overtly terrorism-related motive, but the effect of it is to inspire terror nonetheless. Police have ruled that the attacker acted alone and that the episode was nothing more than a “crime of passion,” but the refugee had sought asylum in Germany.

He wasn’t the last asylum seeker to engage in terroristic violence this week. Early Monday morning, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee who had been denied asylum in Germany walked into a wine bar in the Bavarian city of Ansbach and detonated the explosive device he was wearing. The intended target of the suicide attack was a nearby music festival to which the would-be mass murderer had been denied entry. Fifteen people were injured in the blast, and four of those wounded were in serious condition. The attacker allegedly had ISIS propaganda on his phone as well as a message in which he pledged his loyalty to the terror group.

All young men; all of Middle Eastern or South Central Asian descent, with varying but generally modest levels of assimilation into Western society. Each was attracted to death cultism—be it of an Islamist or secular variety. Three of these four attackers were known to members of the psychological community and had at one point sought or received help for mental imbalances. None of it was apparently sufficient to prevent the worst.

What the effects of this new wave of terror will be on German and European political culture are not yet clear, but it is a safe bet that the kind of nationalist political backlash gathering support in France will soon materialize in Germany. And without a will to defeat the forces of radicalization abroad, Europeans will have little recourse but to bar the door and keep a watchful eye on their neighbors through lace curtains. Ultimately, that will only intensify the sense of paranoia that Europeans are already justifiably feeling today. The continent is under attack, and it’s only a matter of time before passivity is no longer an option.


Article Link to Commentary:

Fear An Islamist Turkey

By Max Boot
Commentary
July 26, 2016

We must not underestimate the importance of the crackdown in Turkey following the failed military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ten days ago. Although democratically elected, Erdogan has long been working to consolidate his rule in a non-democratic fashion by jailing opponents and harassing news outlets hostile to him. Those trends have accelerated since the coup attempt. He has arrested at least 10,000 people and fired 60,000 more, including large numbers of educators who had nothing do with the military coup.

Erdogan’s excuse is to suggest that Fehtulleh Gulen, a Turkish religious leader living in exile in Pennsylvania, was behind the coup, even though no real evidence has appeared to support that contention. (Most of the Turkish military is as suspicious of Gulen as of Erdogan, since both are Islamists and most Turkish officers are, or were, secularists.) So now Erdogan is achieving his long-held goal of pursuing all known or suspected Gulenists.

The fact that Gulen has found a home in the United States has also given Erdogan an excuse to bash America. He is now demanding that the U.S. extradite Gulen, although it’s not clear what crime he might have committed under American law.

One of Turkey’s leading newspapers has even suggested that General John Campbell, the retired commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, was somehow behind the coup. Campbell is right that this preposterous allegation “doesn’t even warrant a response,” but the larger Erdogan crackdown does warrant a response from the West–even if it’s unlikely to be very effective.

Some scholars are already comparing what Erdogan is doing to Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and to the Iranian Revolution. He is pursuing a revolution from the top designed to ensure that Turkey is oriented firmly in an Islamist direction with himself as the absolute and unchallenged sultan.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has little leverage to push back because we are so reliant on Turkish support to fight ISIS. Erdogan signaled that this support might not last forever by temporarily cutting off the electrical power to Incirlik Air Base, which is used by U.S. aircraft striking ISIS positions in Syria. The Economist notes that the crackdown is already hurting the anti-ISIS campaign: Many of the Turkish officers charged with securing the southern border have been replaced and Turkey is increasingly focused inward, not on the threat from ISIS.

Nevertheless, the U.S. and our European allies need to make their voices clearly heard in defense of civil liberties in Turkey. Not only do we have a right to speak up, we have an obligation. An Islamist dictatorship in Turkey is not in the best interests of the Turkish people and it certainly is not in the best interests of the U.S. and our allies. We can’t simply walk away from Turkey, but we can’t ignore the deplorable developments there either.

Article Link to Commentary:

Israel's Culture War Is Getting Ugly

By Daniel Gordis
The Bloomberg View
July 26, 2016

Measured against a tempestuous U.S. election season and a failed Turkish coup, Israel (for a change) seems quiet and stable. Bolstered by coalition agreements with the religious right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems politically secure. For now, at least, elections are not on the Israeli horizon and the borders are quiet.

Mostly out of international view, however, Israel is in the grips of a renewed battle between an increasingly hard-line, anti-Western and extremist rabbinate, arrayed against Israeli liberal society, the army and even American Jews. The long-simmering battle resurfaced this month when a rabbinic court rejected a woman’s conversion that had been overseen by the widely respected New York Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein. (Lookstein was the same rabbi who accepted and then declined an invitation to deliver the invocation at the Republican National Convention.)

Despite protests by many moderate personalities, including the long-time Jewish human rights activist Natan Sharansky, the religious courts refused to back down, highlighting their disregard for how foreign Jews and much of Israeli society perceive them.

Then the army announced the nomination of Colonel Eyal Karim for the position of Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces. The choice quickly aroused widespread disgust, even among many in the religious community. Karim, it turned out, had referred to homosexuals as “sick.” He said that the reason women cannot give testimony in certain court cases is that they are “sentimental” by inclination. Karim had also intimated that soldiers could legitimately rape women during war and that wounded terrorists should be killed, a subject particularly sensitive in Israel due to the ongoing trial of Sergeant Elor Azaria, who is now being tried for shooting a neutralized terrorist in Hebron.

Despite the outcry, the IDF chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, decided to proceed with Karim’s nomination. The reason, many believe, is that Karim was already perceived as weak, and having a weak IDF chief rabbi enables Eisenkot to chip away at the IDF rabbinate’s authority.

Two weeks ago, LGBT activists cancelled the gay pride parade in the Negev city of Beer Sheva after the Supreme Court sided with religious authorities who insisted that having the parade along the main boulevard would “cause damage” to the religious community. Though the court actually ruled based on security considerations (police claimed that they could not protect participants given the widespread opposition to the event), the significant social fact was that religious opponents of the parade had succeeded in blocking it. (In contrast, last week’s Jerusalem gay pride parade proceeded as scheduled,attracting some 25,000 people.)

Then another firebrand rabbi joined the fray. Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, a leader of a yeshiva academy in the West Bank town of Eli, gave a lecture in which he insisted that gays are “perverts,” that Reform Judaism is a variety of Christianity, and that the IDF has veered away from the state’s values. Reaction to Levinstein’s harangue was immediate. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, himself a member of the religious community, assailed the cruelty of Levinstein’s language. The army reprimanded Levinstein and forbade him from teaching many of the army groups he formally addressed. Rabbi Benny Lau of Jerusalem (a cousin of the chief rabbi), perhaps the leading voice of modern Orthodoxy in Israel, denounced Levinstein and posted a 15-minute video “takedown” on YouTube.

As some were excoriating him, another group of 250 rabbis came to Levinstein’s defense.

Other examples abound. What Israel is facing, noted Haaretz and others, is a “culture war” between extremist rabbis and some of the IDF’s liberal generals. Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who recently departed Netanyahu’s government, pointed to what he termed a dangerous tendency towards national religious radicalization.

The extremism stems from many factors. Many of Israel’s rabbis have no secular education to speak of; neither Karim nor Levinstein, for example, have university degrees. They are as parochial as one can be in a modern society like Israel’s, at times oblivious to the fact that some sorts of discourse are no longer accepted in the western world. Many of these rabbis also live in communities that are likely to be dismantled if and when a peace agreement is reached with the Palestinians to hand over parts of the West Bank. That imparts a sense of dread that leads them to see much of the rest of Israeli society as their nemesis, along with an American Jewish community that overwhelmingly favors Israeli territorial accommodation.

What may seem a matter of a few rogue rabbis is actually an existential issue for Israel. When religious leaders like Rabbis Lau and Lookstein, human rights activists like Sharansky, religious political leaders like Bennett and future candidates for prime minister like Ya’alon all decry the extremism, lines in the sand are being drawn.

What Israelis have to decide is whether they are ready — under the leadership of those moderate figures — to wage the painful social and political battle with the religious right now.

They can defer the conflict, but then they risk the possibility that the Israeli society that emerges will be one that most American Jews will find undeserving of their support. Even more dangerous, those in the secular and moderate religious camps could find themselves in an unrecognizable country, and with peace nowhere in sight, might begin to ask themselves whether a society so ugly is one in which they want to raise their children.


Article Link to the Bloomberg View:

The US Navy Wants To Build A New Frigate (But It’s NOT A Frigate)

By David Axe
The National Interest
July 26, 2016

The U.S. Navy conceived of the new Littoral Combat Ship in the late 1990s, envisioning a small, inexpensive, flexible, near-shore surface combatant capable of fighting independently and quickly switching roles by swapping out “modules,” each containing different weapons and sensors.

Many outside observers were skeptical. And experience proved them right.

By the time production began in 2005, the LCS had grown into a $500-million, 3,000-ton-displacement ship that was hardly cheap or small — and yet lacked the sensors, weaponry and armor to survive in contested coastal waters.

And “modularity” was turning out to be a farce. Some of the modules simply didn’t work. Others ran over-budget or proved too unwieldy to quickly install.

It took another nine years for the Navy to come around to critics’ way of thinking. By then, no fewer than 18 LCSs of two sub-variants — slightly less than half of the planned fleet — were already in service or production at two shipyards. In February 2014, then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the Navy would cut production of the baseline LCSs from 52 to 32 and study a new frigate design to replace the cancelled LCSs.

The Navy’s frigate task force considered a wide range of options, including modified versions of the LCS plus several domestic and foreign frigate designs. Perhaps most notably, the task force took a hard look at a militarized version of the U.S. Coast Guard’s robust, efficient National Security Cutter.

But when the Navy completed its frigate study in November 2014, its recommendation — which Hagel quickly approved — was to simply add a few pieces of additional equipment to the existing LCS variants and remove their modularity capability.

The planned enhancements included a more powerful air-search radar, an over-the-horizon anti-ship missile, a small amount of additional armor, improved electronic jamming, a towed-array sonar and an anti-submarine torpedo launcher — all things the baseline LCSs lacked. But the new frigate version of the littoral warship would not get a long-range surface-to-air missile system nor significant hardening against enemy attack.

In short, the frigate was little more than a “minor-modified LCS,” according to the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. government’s main watchdog agency which, in June 2016, released a scathing report on the Navy and Defense Department’s decision-making processes regarding the frigate.

In the GAO’s assessment, the Navy’s main concern was selecting a frigate quickly and building it at the same yards building the baseline LCSs, so as to protect the shipbuilders Lockheed Martin and Austal — and, in theory, minimize the additional cost. The Navy expects the frigate to cost around $190 million more per copy than the roughly $500-million baseline LCS.

“In making its recommendation, the Navy prioritized cost and schedule considerations over the fact that a minor-modified LCS was the least capable option considered,” the GAO reported. “However, certain cost assumptions made by the task force may have overstated the minor modified LCS’s relative affordability as compared to other options. The Navy’s decision was also based on a desire to start production of the first frigate in 2019, and without a break in production at the LCS shipyards.”

The Navy’s insistence on selecting a frigate design quickly dictated that the sailing branch skip many of the Pentagon’s typical acquisitions procedures. “There are no current plans for official [Department of Defense] milestone reviews of the frigate program, which is a major acquisition program based on its anticipated costs,” the GAO explained.

“In addition, the Navy does not plan to develop key frigate program documents or to reflect frigate cost, schedule and performance information in the annual Selected Acquisition Reports submitted to Congress. Without adequate oversight, federal funds may not be effectively spent.”

For one, the Navy plans to award contracts for frigate construction before it completes a study to determine whether the LCS sea-frames can actually accommodate the planned new equipment that transforms a baseline LCS into a frigate. Moreover, frigate construction will be well underway by the time the Navy tests the design in realistic conditions.

Building before or during testing — a practice the Pentagon calls “concurrency” — is one of the practices that drove up the cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. In 2012, Frank Kendall, then the Pentagon’s top weapons-tester, said concurrency was tantamount to “acquisitions malpractice.”

If the military experience with the F-35 is any guide, then the frigate could turn out to be much more expensive than the Navy is currently estimating. “As the Navy pivots from LCS to the frigate program, which is estimated to cost more than $8 billion for ship construction alone, its approach would require Congress to appropriate funding with key unknowns,” the GAO warned.

The watchdog’s agency recommendation is clear. The Navy should slow down its pursuit of a new frigate. And if the sailing branch won’t slow down on its own, lawmakers should force it to do so by withholding funding. “Congress should consider not funding any requested LCS in fiscal year 2017 and should consider requiring the Navy to revise its acquisition strategy for the frigate,” the GAO advised.


Article Link to the National Interest:

The Hawks’ Election Strategy: Pushing A New Cold War

Neocons and liberal hawks alike are insinuating that Trump is a Russian agent.


By David Bromwich
The National Interest
July 26, 2016

Begin with what is obvious: no responsible citizen ought to support in any way the presidential aspirations of Donald Trump. But in a wild election season, intelligent discussion cannot afford to end there. The past few weeks have cemented an extraordinary alliance to defeat Trump that joins two foreign-policy sects that were never entirely distinct: the neoconservatives who commandeered the Bush-Cheney foreign policy of 2001-2006, and liberal interventionists who supported the Iraq war, the Libya war, an expanded program of drone killings, and military intervention in Syria beyond what the Obama administration has allowed. With a spate of recent articles and op-eds, these people are preparing the ground for Hillary Clinton to assert that the Russian government is in league with the Trump campaign, and that Russia has intervened in the election by releasing hacked Democratic National Committee emails to embarrass Clinton.

In Slate magazine, for example, Franklin Foer explained that “Putin has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.” The Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum echoed this verdict: “we finally have a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, with direct and indirect links to a foreign dictator, Vladimir Putin, whose policies he promotes.” Foer and Applebaum have written earlier about Putin, in articles that had a stronger factual basis, and their stances are not surprising. A more telling measure of the efforts in the mainstream media to project a sinister association between Trump and Moscow may be found in a column by Paul Krugman entitled “The Siberian Candidate.”

Krugman here floats the idea that Trump may be a Russian agent, “Vladimir Putin’s man in the White House.” Stimulated by his own conjecture, he goes on to suggest that Trump “would actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy”; that “Mr. Trump does, indeed, admire Putin”; that Trump’s helpless fondness for Putin comes out in his insistence that our NATO allies pay their share of the cost of maintaining NATO; that among Trump’s advisers, there may lurk a more “specific channel of influence”; and finally (a nameless general menace) that “there’s something very strange going on here.”

Krugman’s theory strikes a new note, for him. The column is an experimental smear, not in character for a Nobel Prize economist (though reminiscent of his predecessor at the Times, William Safire). Many people, these days, are being drawn to betray their best instincts, and it is not clear that Trump can be blamed for all of it; but he has succeeded in setting the tone even for his stoutest opponents. Thus Krugman in his final sentence echoes Trump’s own favorite device of speculative slander. “You just look at the body language,” said Trump a week ago about President Obama’s words in defense of the Baton Rouge police. “There's something going on. Look, there’s something going on.” And now Krugman on Trump: “There’s something very strange going on here.”

Yet it was not Krugman but the Atlantic Monthly blogger and reporter Jeffrey Goldberg who stole a march on subsequent alarmists by saying the choice between Clinton and Trump was really a choice between Clinton and an agent of Putin. This, in turn, was a clever variation on the tune called by Goldberg’s neoconservative associates, who a few weeks earlier had agreed in designating Trump a fascist. The collected previous writings against fascism by neoconservative pundits would make a very short book. But in an uproar, as soon as Trump’s nomination became a certainty, they discovered that fascism exists and that it is evil. In the 1980s, the same persons took care to soften their description of real fascists or quasi-fascists by using the adjective “authoritarian” in preference to the noun “tyrant.” They did so in keeping with their pragmatic need to palliate the actions of despots south of the border, whom they wanted the United States to support. Look up the New Republic articles of Charles Krauthammer in the 1980s, the testimony of Elliott Abrams before the Select Iran-Contra Committees, and the flattering account of U.S. policy in Robert Kagan’s book on Nicaragua, A Twilight Struggle, and you will get a fair impression of this literature.

The truth is that the charge of fascism against Trump was a stopgap measure. Now it has been replaced by a charge that he is soft on the Communist menace, or the next worst thing—which they are betting the American mind will translate into the same thing—he is soft on the Russian menace. Fascism was never a ripe choice of terms. It gets hardly any play and commands little attention in America. For the neoconservatives, Red-baiting is a more familiar tactic and in the absence of a Red, a Russian will do. They have good reason to suppose that Hillary Clinton will take the hint and adopt the convenient amalgam in order to sow confusion. The Russian menace resembles the Communist menace in the same way that the word “Iran” resembles the word “Iraq.”

The hope cherished by Goldberg and Kagan, Applebaum and Foer and possibly Krugman too, as well as Jonathan Chait in New York magazine(who praised the “long and fascinating report” by Foer) and doubtless a good many others who have yet to weigh in—the hope is that Mrs. Clinton will put the Cold War accusation of Trump at the heart of her election campaign. The language and logical processes of these articles are shoddy, their texture is pure tabloid, and they are full of words like “stooge” and “patsy,” which the earlier writings of these opinion makers would not lead one to expect. The design calls for Mrs. Clinton to run against Trump and Putin—and to forge the closest possible linkage between the two names in the public mind—on a foreign-policy platform already signaled in such documents as the letter by fifty-one anonymous State Department workers pleading for heavier US military action against the government of Syria. Indeed, the Trump-is-Putin amalgam now defines the propaganda wing of a larger policy that was laid out in a document whose drafters were willing to sign their names: the war-party liberal and neoconservative blueprint for “Extending American Power,” published by the Center for a New American Security. Many of the people involved in these proposals are known advisers of Mrs. Clinton; and if she heeds what they are saying, her anti-Putin course is clear. Push Iran and Russia out of Syria and Iraq, take up the NATO burden in Eastern Europe, and give bigger and deadlier weapons to Ukraine.

The sheer quantity of anti-Putin articles masquerading as commonplace or common sense will give her plenty of background music to work with. ANew York Times unsigned editorial on May 19 asked why Vladimir Putin was “obsessive” about extending Russian power and why he has continued to defend the Assad government in Syria. Questions as pertinent but not as easily answered might be: why the United States is obsessed with challenging Russia in Russia’s backyard, and why we have scarcely begun to persuade our supposed allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia to withdraw support from the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda. Such questions have seldom been asked because—notwithstanding what is said for public consumption—U.S. leaders fear Islamist terrorism less than Russian leaders do. This may be partly because we are farther from its source, and partly from time-honored delusions of invulnerability. Accordingly, theorists like those at CNAS spool out elegant scenarios about continuing the fight at once to overthrow Assad and to defeat his Islamist opponents, and they nurse with impunity the fantastic conceit that this can be done without many American troops. After what the world has witnessed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, a realistic or an obsessed Russian leader—choose whichever description you like—might be pardoned for judging the lie of the land in Syria without consulting the U.S. policy elite or the editors of the Times.

As secretary of state in Obama’s first term, later as a Democratic voice defining herself comfortably to the right of the president, and still later as a candidate in the Democratic primaries, Mrs. Clinton triangulated neoliberal policies such as humanitarian intervention and neoconservative policies such as unconditional support of Israel. The two branches of the war party, now united in CNAS, have agreed it would be good thing for American prestige, power and force-projection to renew the Cold War, and to do it with the best available target, Putin, as a ready-made scapegoat. Nothing in Mrs. Clinton’s history should lead us to believe that she will resist this demagogic appeal. Trump very likely will parry the blows by cooking up nominally ferocious sayings of his own against Putin. The result will not bring the scenes of disintegration in international politics any closer to humane resolution. But why is all this not quite harmless?

There is, in fact, a precedent for the strategy Mrs. Clinton has been advised to launch. In the 1960 campaign, John Kennedy ran to the right of Richard Nixon on nuclear policy toward the Soviet Union. He accused Nixon of having allowed a “missile gap.” Compared to Soviet Russia, so the story went, the United States was fielding an inferior force of ICBMs and was losing the Cold War. This turned out to be false. The Soviet Union under Khrushchev lagged well behind, and was never in hailing distance of catching up. Even so, the mistake was a factor in the events that led to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962; and that memory ought to give pause to anyone bent on a nobler aim than getting elected. We may deplore Donald Trump for his abridgment of the protocols of honest debate, his pandering to racial and religious prejudice, his contempt for plain facts and his lack of acquaintance with facts. But to picture Trump as an agent or enabler of Vladimir Putin—and to insinuate that anyone who seeks diplomatic arrangements with Moscow in preference to a new Cold War must be “soft”—does nothing to elevate the political discourse of the moment. It takes us out of the sewer and leads us into the cesspool.


Article Link to the National Interest:

5 Takeaways From Day 1 Of The DNC

Sanders can’t end his revolution, but the first lady hands Hillary Clinton the best speech of 2016.


By Glenn Thrush
Politico
July 26, 2016

Even Bernie wasn’t Bernie enough to tame Bernie’s revolution.

Polls show that the majority of Bernie Sanders supporters are consolidating around Hillary Clinton. But hundreds of die-hard Sanders backers — furious over revelations the Democratic National Committee colluded with Clinton campaign officials — resisted their candidate’s calls to unify around the party’s nominee, or at least booed lustily when he called for them to mobilize for Clinton.

The shake-up of the party’s senior leadership on the first day of a convention that was supposed to unify Democrats around their sturdy but widely un-adored nominee wasn’t enough to appease progressives who still believe the Clintons rigged the game against them. “Brothers and sisters, this is the real world we live in!” Sanders implored his supporters at an outdoor rally hours before he was scheduled to address the convention to offer his un-Ted-Cruz-ish backing to the candidate who defeated him.

Hours earlier they booed ousted DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz off a stage, and then, to the surprise of the socialist who led their “revolution,” they hooted and howled their disapproval at him. It got so bad Sanders had to send out a last-minute text message to his delegates instructing them to “not engage in any kind of protest on the floor,” begging them not to turn their backs or heckle pro-Clinton speakers. “Our credibility as a movement will be damaged,” he wrote.

But something happened on the way to the Democratic crack-up: Michelle Obama, something of an afterthought on the opening-night program, delivered the best speech of Hillary Clinton’s career.

And Sanders, not one to show emotion on the campaign trail, momentarily broke down during a nearly five-minute standing ovation — and braved the boos to summon his army to battle Trump. Whether all of them will heed the call remains to be seen.

Here are five takeaways from an emotional rollercoaster of a first night of the DNC.

1. Bernie is pro-Hillary (But he’s a little more anti-Trump). 

The Vermont senator, who appeared at a joint rally with Clinton in New Hampshire earlier this month (long after he was mathematically eliminated from contention) was passionate in his summons to defeat the surging GOP nominee. He was thunderous in his praise for the millions of Americans who backed his revolution — and in attacking what he called “the grotesque level of income inequality in America.”

He was full-throated in his support for Clinton, but, um, just not quite as much. To the untrained ear, Sanders delivered his standard primary spiel (bashing Trump for intolerance, decrying the influence of Wall Street, purging big money from politics) but this was the first real general election speech he delivered. And the case he made for Clinton was less about a visceral appeal to liberal values than a dry, logical chain of argument that led (somewhat joylessly, and amid boos) to the conclusion that Clinton deserved to be the nominee.

“We have made progress but I think we can agree that much, much more needs to be done,” he said, as chants of “Bernie!” cascaded through the Wells Fargo Arena. “This election is about which candidate understand and the real problems facing this country and has offered reasonable solution, not just bombast and… name calling.”

It was a shouted appeal for solidarity (and the Clinton team was satisfied with his fervor), but one with tinges of south Brooklyn melancholy. “I think it’s fair to say no one was more disappointed than I am” in the result of the primary, he offered the Bernie-or-Bust holdouts.

And note the order of Sanders’ big tweet on Monday night: “We have got to defeat Donald Trump and do everything we can to elect Hillary Clinton to the White house,” he wrote. Sanders, who registered as a Democrat last year when he decided to run for president, added a little Democratic donkey icon to make the point that he was playing with the home team.

“He really wants to stop Trump, you can see that,” one Democratic senator close to Sanders told me, on condition of anonymity. “The Hillary part … that’s coming along a bit more slowly, but it will come.”

2. Michelle Obama delivers for Clinton. 

Over the years, much has been made of the first lady’s animosity toward both Clintons (mostly fiction, with a soupçon of fact), a vestige of the bitter 2008 campaign. But on Monday night Michelle Obama delivered a more passionate and concise case for Clinton than the candidate has ever made for herself — and perhaps the single most effective political address delivered in 2016.

While reporters scanned the arena eaves for signs of discord, Obama offered a case for unifying around the first female major-party nominee in the country’s 240-year history — voice breaking as she talked about Clinton’s role in teaching her daughters that a woman could be president. It was an appeal to the better angels of the electorate, a hybrid of her husband’s classic hope-and-change message and Clinton’s “Glass Ceiling” concession speech. “We insist that the hateful language that they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country,” she said clearly, if not explicitly, referring to Trump. “When someone is cruel and acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level … When they go low we go high.”

With most eyes on Sanders — and many on Elizabeth Warren — a first lady who had to be dragged into the spotlight by her husband’s staff in 2008 was something of an afterthought on the first night of Hillary Clinton’s convention. But she repeated, and in many ways, exceeded her memorable 2012 speech on behalf of Barack Obama’s reelection in Charlotte.

And she didn’t shy away from directly addressing the schism in the party — celebrating Clinton’s gritted-teeth decision to fall in behind her husband, even as many of her supporters rebelled. “When she didn’t win the nomination eight years ago she didn’t get angry or disillusioned … Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life.”

3. Fear. 

The action inside the arena was, for much of the day, overshadowed by the data on the delegate’s smart phones. Several polls released in the wake of the GOP convention last week showed Trump surging to the lead — and Nate Silver (the poll-aggregating Linus Blanket of the Left in 2008) sent a shiver through Philly by, for the first time, reckoning that Trump had a 55 percent chance of winning were the election held today.

4. Elizabeth Warren was OK. 

The firebrand Massachusetts senator is great in small groups — or delivering a broadside against Citibank or Trump on the Senate floor — but she has trouble scaling up to the big stage of national politics. Monday was no exception; and Warren, like Michelle Obama, essentially repeated her 2012 convention performance. In Warren’s case, that was a solid but mostly unmemorable speech.

5. Sarah Silverman -- oy. 

At the start of the night, there was a bit of discord, a smattering of boos during the opening speeches that died down. Then came the comedy, which nearly precipitated tragedy from the perspective of the Clinton campaign.

Silverman — a former Sanders supporter — is known as absurdist provocateur (she once jokingly accused sweet, avuncular, octogenarian New York talk show host Joe Franklin of raping her) and she made a serious miscalculation. When she called for the audience to back Clinton (“Hillary is our Democratic nominee, and I will proudly vote for her”), they responded with deafening, unifying applause. But then she taunted the vanquished, a rookie political mistake. “To the Bernie-or-Bust people, you are being ridiculous!” she said, standing next to a puckered Saturday Night Live stalwart-turned-Minnesota Sen. Al Franken.

The upper tier erupted in a cascade of “Bernie!” — out came the signs — and the kumbaya narrative was momentarily shattered.


Article Link to Politico:

5 Takeaways From Day 1 Of The DNC

Can Bernie Sanders Convince His Followers To Stop Being “Ridiculous”?

By Jeet Heer
The New Republic
July 26, 2016

Bernie Sanders’s fans stepped on his big line. According to prepared remarks of his speech at the Democratic National Convention on Monday night, Sanders was supposed to say, “By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that—based on her ideas and her leadership—Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States. The choice is not even close.” But when Sanders said Clinton “must become” president, the crowd burst into sustained applause.

This might seem like a positive sign, an indication that Sanders had accomplished his mission of bringing his people over to Clinton. But then the crowd started chanting “Bernie, Bernie,” so he aborted the following line—“The choice is not even close”—and jumped to the next sentence.

This foreshortened endorsement is a perfect metaphor for the strange emotional rollercoaster that was the first day of the convention. A small cohort of die-hard Sanders supporters were booing, often at inappropriate times, throughout the proceedings. This vocal cult seems to have been a cluster of a few dozen people, mostly in the California delegation. But what this group lacked in numbers, they made up for in noise. They yelled out “Black Lives Matter” when Cory Booker (one of two sitting black senators) gave his fired-up speech. They yelled “We Trusted You” when Elizabeth Warren spoke, implying she betrayed her values by backing Clinton.

Their chants during Sanders’s speech were more positive and approving, but did have the effect of drowning out part of his message. The question is whether these last holdouts of the “Bernie or Bust” movement can be converted even by Bernie. One answer might be that this is so small a group that they don’t matter. After all, a recent survey showed that 95 percent of Sanders supporters prefer Hillary Clinton to Trump. Maybe we should just follow Sarah Silverman’s example and dismiss this last remnant as “ridiculous.”

But the stakes in this election are so high that the Democrats should want to get out every possible vote—and the greater danger is that the Sanders people will sit out the election, not that they will vote Trump.

By contesting the Democratic primary for its entirety, and holding out on endorsing Clinton until he was able to influence the Democratic platform, Sanders was able to bring meaningful change to the party. The side effect is that some of supporters can’t let go.

Thus, Sanders has become Clinton’s most important surrogate, the one person who can not only defuse any lingering anti-Clinton animosity but also energize his base enough to go to the polling stations. Monday night’s speech, despite occasionally being interrupted by chants of “Bernie, Bernie,” is a good start for the process of converting the Sanders revolution into the Clinton campaign. Sanders repeatedly mentioned Clinton’s name and praised her as a strong progressive who shared his agenda.

The latter half of his speech was all about Clinton:

-- “Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty. She understands that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage.”

-- “Hillary Clinton will nominate justices to the Supreme Court who are prepared to overturn Citizens United and end the movement toward oligarchy in this country.”

-- “Hillary Clinton wants to see that all Americans have the right to choose a public option in their health care exchange.”

-- “Hillary Clinton also understands that millions of seniors, disabled vets and others are struggling with the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs...”

-- “Hillary Clinton understands that we have to invest in education and jobs for our young people, not more jails or incarceration.”

-- “Hillary Clinton understands that our diversity is one of our greatest strengths.”

Sanders concluding by saying that “Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president.” The question now is: Will his supporters stop chanting his name long enough to listen to him?


Article Link to The New Republic:

Trump’s - And FDR’s - ‘Forgotten Man’

Franklin Roosevelt’s forgotten man carried him to victory in 1932. Will it be the same in 2016?


By Amity Shlaes
The Wall Street Journal
July 26, 2016

“I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals. These are the forgotten men and women of our country.”

 -- Donald Trump, July 21, 2016

This year’s Republican presidential nominee is not the first politician to utter the phrase “forgotten man.” The term has periodically surfaced since the late 19th century, when voters learned that the forgotten man opposed the Dingley Tariff. Yet it still resonates today. Two years ago Sarah Palin told the Western Conservative Summit that “what the forgotten man has is belief in this exceptional nation.”

But what do politicians mean by the forgotten man? Two opposing definitions predominate. Which of these Mr. Trump chooses will tell us the kind of president he might make.

The forgotten man emerged in the 1880s in the lectures of a Yale professor named William Graham Sumner. A Thomas Piketty in reverse, Sumner abhorred efforts to equalize society and offered an elegant equation: “As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X or, in the better case, what A, B and C shall do for X.”

“C” is the forgotten man, declared Sumner, a kind of everyman who falls into no category: “He works, he votes, generally he prays—but he always pays—yes, above all, he pays.”

Sumner, a classical liberal, believed that strong commerce helped the poor better than the best government benefit. “If you do anything for the Forgotten Man, you must secure him his earnings and savings, that is, you legislate for the security of capital and for its free employment,” Sumner wrote.

“Jobbery,” as Sumner called it, also wounded the forgotten man. In the 1870s and 1880s, the era of Tweed and Tammany, municipal and county governments joined private contractors to build public structures. Sumner skewered such projects: “They are carried out, not because they are needed in themselves, but because they will serve the turn of some private interest.” He added that “the biggest job of all is a protective tariff,” which generates forgotten men and forgotten costs to consumers.

Sumner’s forgotten man was a political phenomenon, a warning that supplied arguments for reformers of both parties. His chum William Whitney helped lead anti-Tammany Democrats and served in Grover Cleveland’s cabinet.

That we know so little about Sumner, who died in 1910, is evidence of the thoroughness of the progressive takeover of academic culture. By the early 1930s and the Great Depression, a different forgotten man had stepped onto the political stage. Raymond Moley, campaign adviser to New York’s Gov. Franklin Roosevelt, was drafting a speech that the presidential candidate was to give on the Lucky Strike Radio Hour. “I scraped from my memory an old phrase, ‘The Forgotten Man,’ which has haunted me for years,” Moley later explained.

The forgotten man FDR sketched was not the universal “C” but “X,” the man, as Roosevelt put it, “at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” The key difference was that Roosevelt would single out specific groups, starting with the poor.

FDR’s forgotten man was the opposite of Sumner’s. Roosevelt’s predecessor as the Democrats’ presidential nominee, Al Smith,objected to the switch. Smith, himself from the humblest of backgrounds, warned that highlighting class distinctions divided the country when it needed to pull together. “The Forgotten Man is a myth,” Smith said, “and the sooner he disappears from the campaign the better it will be for the country.”

FDR’s forgotten man carried him to victory in 1932 and defined the platform of his subsequent presidential campaign. As the 1936 election neared, Roosevelt identified and rewarded one group of “forgottens” after another.

Unions received the Wagner Act, the right to bargain collectively. Senior citizens received Social Security. Municipal lobbies got billions for “jobbery.” The unemployed received payments or make-work jobs. At Howard University, Roosevelt thundered that “there should be no forgotten men and no forgotten races.”

This interest-group strategy netted FDR a stunning victory in 1936—46 of 48 states—and provided a template that has since served not only his party but also Latin American governments. The forgotten footnote is that the economic outcome of FDR’s program vindicated Sumner. Remembering so many forgotten men meant forgetting the average worker. The slump that followed FDR’s spending blitz drove unemployment back into the high teens.

Hoisting FDR by his own rhetoric, an Indiana paper asked: “Who is the forgotten man in Muncie? I know him as intimately as my own undershirt. He is the fellow that is trying to get along without public relief.”

More recent sightings include Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign, when he spoke of “the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans—the non-shouters, the non-demonstrators.”

And where stands Mr. Trump? With Sumner’s anonymous crowd, or Roosevelt’s specific groups? That Mr. Trump is by temperament a man of deals suggests he will be inclined toward FDR’s way of thinking. Mr. Trump’s Atlantic City projects fit perfectly into the Sumneresque definition of “jobbery.” Mr. Trump’s unabashed protectionism does not recall Roosevelt, an exception as a free trader, but it does recall the Democratic Party.

But Mr. Trump does not pit rich against poor. He may end up standing more for the universal than the individual.

We’re told this election is “different.” Perhaps different enough that we will get a real discussion of the consequences of rewarding groups. Sumner’s distinction between “jobbery” and true capitalism is one that many voters would be thrilled to see Mr. Trump recognize. And how fabulous it would be if Hillary Clinton took on Mr. Trump over trade with the vigor of a Sumner. Here’s an opening question for the first Trump-Clinton debate: “Who is the forgotten man?”


Article Link to The Wall Street Journal:

What's 'Make America One Again' About?

By Michael Barone
The Washington Examiner
July 26, 2016

"Make America One Again." That was the stated theme of the last night of the Republican National Convention. In the welter of analysis of Donald Trump's acceptance speech, few have commented on it, but it's worth taking it seriously.

Liberal commentators have dwelled repeatedly on Trump's "dark" and "dystopian" view of America. Apparently, you're not supposed to think badly of our nation when we have a black Democratic president.

This is mostly just partisan spin. The candidate of the out party invariably takes a dim view of the way things are going. Yes, they usually add more uplift than Trump provided.

But when two-thirds of voters think the nation is not moving in the right direction, pessimism does not go against the grain. You heard similar pessimism, although about different things, in the campaign for the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders depicted the nation as if we were in the seventh and eighth years of a Bush presidency.

Unlike other recent acceptance speeches, Trump's made almost no mention of history, except for a reference to a Lyndon Johnson IRS regulation, and made no attempt to put his candidacy in historical context. There was no mention of Ronald Reagan.

Nevertheless, the theme of "making America one again" is in line with the historical character of the Republican Party, which has always had a central core of people seen as typical Americans but are never by themselves a majority. They must attract others to their cause.

In contrast, the Democratic Party has been a coalition -- sometimes fractured, sometimes a majority -- of disparate minority groups: white Southerners and big city immigrants in the 19th century, black churchgoers and gentry liberals today.

Hillary Clinton is trying to reassemble the 2012 Obama 51 percent majority by offering something to blacks, something else to Hispanics, another thing to millennials and LGBTQs.

Trump is doing something different. He seeks to appeal to different kinds of people as all being Americans. On Thursday night, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Mississippi native, quoted an 1861 Abraham Lincoln speech in Cleveland: "If all do not join now to save the good old ship of Union this voyage, nobody will have a chance to pilot her on another voyage."

Thursday night speakers included the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who proclaimed himself proudly gay, proudly Republican and, most of all, proudly American.

In his acceptance speech Trump promised to protect LGBTQs (he charmed the audience by stumbling over the acronym) from a "hateful foreign ideology" and thanked evangelicals (while admitting that he is far from being one himself) for their support.

The message is that the culture wars are over. As for "who uses which bathroom," the latest cultural brouhaha, Thiel's answer was: "Who cares?"

Other arguments have become stale. Abortion won't be criminalized, but abortions have been rarer and the number of abortion clinics is declining, and not just because of restrictive state laws.

Same-sex marriage has been legalized everywhere by the Supreme Court, saving Republicans from the task of opposing majority opinion. But you don't have to participate (I haven't seen any recent cases of bakers sued for refusing to making wedding cakes for gay couples). This is in line with basic etiquette, which says you can decline a wedding invitation without giving a reason.

The debate over these issues seems stale, and it's not clear that Democrats' efforts to pump up their constituencies' enthusiasm or arouse their fears will work; we'll get some idea in Philadelphia. But it may prove hard to provoke alarm in those who have been mostly winning on these issues.

Democrats have a more target-rich environment in attacking Trump as volatile and unreliable, as presumptive vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine did Saturday. More difficult will be attempts to present a sunnier alternative to Trump's "dark" narrative.

It's true that, as Barack Obama said Friday, crime is down compared to 30 years ago, and increases in urban homicides may just be, as he said, an "uptick." But Trump's numbers are accurate also. A president who people thought would be something like Martin Luther King has sounded more like Al Sharpton.

It's hard to make the case that things are not really as bad as you think they are, and that sophisticated people realize that terrorist incidents are less common than bathtub accidents, that murders of police are less of a problem than bathroom issues. We'll see how the Democrats do.


Article Link to the Washington Examiner:

Can The Democrats Stay Out Of Their Own Way?

By Eugene Robinson
The Washington Post
July 26, 2016

I've spent a lot of time this year counseling Democrats, independents and establishment Republicans not to freak out. That advice still holds -- but barely.

The release of illegally hacked Democratic National Committee emails, coming on the eve of the convention in Philadelphia, was a fiasco that the forces of truth, justice and the American way -- those, in other words, determined to prevent a Donald Trump presidency -- surely could have done without. It's not the end of the world, but yes, it's a big deal.

What were they thinking at the DNC? That's not a tough question. Hillary Clinton, a leading figure in the Democratic Party for decades, was struggling to tamp down a surprisingly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders, who wasn't even a Democrat until he launched his campaign. The emails leave no doubt that some at party headquarters wanted to give Clinton a little help.

The thing is, she didn't need it. Clinton beat Sanders fair and square, racking up more votes, more states and more pledged delegates. But the purloined emails, published on the WikiLeaks website, can only increase the ire and resentment of unreconciled Sanders supporters who have long complained that the fix was in.

The emails show DNC officials speculating about attacking Sanders because of his religion; insulting one of Sanders' top campaign aides; receiving advice from a Clinton lawyer on responding to claims that the nominating process was rigged; and speaking disparagingly about big-ticket donors.

The Clinton campaign responded swiftly, enlisting President Obama to help force Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- who was booed at an appearance Monday -- to resign as DNC chairwoman. The Washington Post reported that Wasserman Schultz did not want to go and that ousting her involved "a lot of drama."

Which is just what the party and the nation do not need.

The stakes were vividly illustrated last week by the Republican convention in Cleveland, which ended with an acceptance speech by Trump that was one of the most obscene pieces of political rhetoric we have heard in many years.

Trump painted an America of his own warped imagination, a nation where violent crime is on the rise, terrorism is rampant, the economy is on life support and hordes of "illegal immigrants ... are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens."

The truth is that the rate of violent crime is low, barely half what it was in the 1990s. Terrorism is a global concern that has no quick or easy solutions. The economy is in the midst of what could end up being the longest expansion on record.

But large majorities of Americans tell pollsters they believe the nation is "on the wrong track." It is customary for the out-of-power party -- in this case, the GOP -- to try to capitalize on such dissatisfaction. But Trump is doing so in a way that is alien to our political tradition. He does not offer the Republican Party as a solution; nor does he present a set of realistic policies or even a coherent philosophy. He offers himself.

"I alone" can fix a broken system, Trump declared. "People who work hard but no longer have a voice -- I am your voice." It was a speech that could have been delivered from a balcony in a banana republic.

I couldn't help but think back to the years I spent covering South America as a foreign correspondent for The Post. The politician who comes to mind is Juan Peron, the Argentine strongman whose ideology was similarly self-contradictory -- and whose legacy was to turn his prosperous nation into an economic and political basket case.

Trump's bigotry, rashness and egomania make it inconceivable that he be allowed to take the oath of office as president. Sixteen Republican opponents tried and failed to stop him. Only Clinton can succeed -- which is why the DNC emails, coming after Clinton's problems with her own emails, are a big deal.

There is no need for conniptions over new polls that show Trump tied with Clinton or even in the lead; it is normal for any candidate to get a temporary post-convention boost. Clinton needs one too, and probably will get it.

But what Clinton needs most is for the traditional Democratic Party coalition to come together behind her candidacy. Philadelphia is supposed to launch that process, and the last thing Clinton needs is for Sanders supporters to come away still stewing about what might have been.

Before the email leak, I wrote last week that Democrats had a low bar to clear this week. It has now been raised.


Article Link to the Washington Post:

Why Putin Hates Hillary

Behind the allegations of a Russian hack of the DNC is the Kremlin leader's fury at Clinton for challenging the fairness of Russian elections.


By Michael Crowley
Politico 
July 26, 2016

When mass protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin erupted in Moscow in December 2011, Putin made clear who he thought was really behind them: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

With the protesters accusing Putin of having rigged recent elections, the Russian leader pointed an angry finger at Clinton, who had issued a statement sharply critical of the voting results. “She said they were dishonest and unfair,” Putin fumed in public remarks, saying that Clinton gave “a signal” to demonstrators working “with the support of the U.S. State Department” to undermine his power. “We need to safeguard ourselves from this interference in our internal affairs,” Putin declared.

Five years later, Putin may be seeking revenge against Clinton. At least that’s the implication of the view among some cybersecurity experts that Russia was behind the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee’s email server, which has sowed confusion and dissent at the Democratic National Convention and undercut Clinton’s goal of party unity.

While Donald Trump’s budding bromance with Vladimir Putin is well known — the two men have exchanged admiring words about each other and called for improved relations between Washington and Moscow — Putin’s hostility towards Clinton draws less attention.

Former U.S. officials who worked on Russia policy with Clinton say that Putin was personally stung by Clinton’s December 2011 condemnation of Russia’s parliamentary elections, and had his anger communicated directly to President Barack Obama. They say Putin and his advisers are also keenly aware that, even as she executed Obama’s “reset” policy with Russia, Clinton took a harder line toward Moscow than others in the administration. And they say Putin sees Clinton as a forceful proponent of “regime change” policies that the Russian leader considers a grave threat to his own survival.

“He was very upset [with Clinton] and continued to be for the rest of the time that I was in government,” said Michael McFaul, who served as the top Russia official in Obama’s national security council from 2009 to December 2011 and then was U.S. ambassador to Moscow until early 2014. “One could speculate that this is his moment for payback.”

The notion of payback remains speculation. Some experts are unconvinced that Putin’s government engineered the DNC email hack or that it was meant to influence the election in Trump’s favor as opposed to embarrassing DNC officials for any number of reasons.

But the Clinton campaign has embraced the theory, with campaign manager Robby Mook seeming to endorse the notion of Russian involvement Sunday on CNN. Clinton aides have been gratified to see the story leap onto television, which had previously given little coverage to Trump’s views about Russia and noted that even Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer on Sunday called the allegation of Russian meddling “troubling” and “plausible.”

And while Clintonites realize that few Americans typically pay close attention to the state of U.S.-Russia relations, there are two important caveats. One is the presence of large Polish, Ukrainian and other eastern European populations in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin, where the Clinton campaign plans to flag stories about Trump and Putin for ethnic media outlets. The other is that voters of all stripes will surely pay attention to serious talk of foreign influence in the election.

While experts debate whether Putin would actually try to meddle in a U.S. election, there is consensus on the idea that Clinton is unloved within the Kremlin. “I think there is good and credible evidence that there is no love lost in Moscow for Mrs. Clinton,” said Eugene Rumer, a former national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Clinton has never concealed her disdain for Putin. As a senator in 2008, she joked about President George W. Bush’s famous line that he’d gotten a sense of Putin’s “soul,” cracking that because Putin was a KGB agent, “by definition he doesn’t have a soul.”

On arrival in the Obama administration in 2009, at a moment of U.S.-Russian tensions over Putin’s 2008 invasion of the Republic of Georgia, Clinton was tasked with implementing Obama’s “reset” of relations with Moscow, an attempt to collaborate on areas of common interest even while acknowledging unresolved differences on a range of issues. Though skeptical of the effort, Clinton felt that Dmitry Medvedev, a former prime minister who had swapped jobs with Putin to become president, might be easier to deal with than Putin.

“Clinton was a more skeptical voice on the reset,” McFaul says. “She was tougher on the Russians. She pushed back. She was a difficult interlocutor with both [foreign minister Sergei] Lavrov and Putin — and I say that as a compliment.”

The reset effort was troubled from the very start: Clinton arrived with a novelty button for a news conference with Lavrov. It was supposed to say "reset" in both English and Russian, but instead bore the Russian word for “overload” — a mistake Lavrov didn’t fail to mention. Clinton became the butt of Russian jokes over this typo. Yet the reset had its successes, including a NATO transit point on Russian soil for troops headed to Afghanistan and a new nuclear arms reduction treaty.

Behind the scenes, however, Clinton and Putin — who, it soon became clear, was still the real power in the Kremlin — had an uneasy dance. In March 2010, when Clinton visited Russia, Putin summoned her to his luxurious residence outside Moscow. Knowing her fondness for wildlife — elephants, in particular — Putin invited Clinton to a basement trophy room filled with mounted animal heads. (A Clinton aide later described the gesture, though well meaning, as having a Bond villain feel.) Yet when the two emerged for a photo op, Putin launched into a public scolding of Clinton. The slouching Russian rattled off a list of complaints, from a decline in U.S.-Russia trade to the impact that sanctions against Iran and North Korea were having on Russian companies.

But Clinton knew how to play tough with the Russian officials, some of whom referred to her with both derision and respect as “a lady with balls.” When McFaul arrived in Moscow in January 2012, he faced harassment, including the reporter with a Kremlin-controlled TV channel who followed him everywhere and the Russian secret services that followed his children to school.

One day, Clinton called an exasperated McFaul at the ambassador’s residence in Moscow to express her anger at the Russian violation of diplomatic protocol. McFaul was stunned that Clinton had called on an unsecure line, especially when the two had plans to meet soon anyway. “Oh, I want them to know that I know,” Clinton said, in McFaul’s recollection.

In September 2012, Clinton was to meet with Lavrov on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok, Russia. Lavrov, a sophisticated member of the Soviet foreign policy aristocracy, took great pleasure in being gentlemanly toward Clinton. He personally picked out the flowers for her hotel room in Vladivostok. But when they met, Lavrov slammed her with some unexpected news: Russia was kicking out the U.S. Agency for International Development and gave the secretary of state 30 days to pack up its contingent in Russia and move it out. Stunned, Clinton stood up and walked out. According to people with knowledge of the meeting, Lavrov tried to get her to stay and talk, but Clinton wasn’t having any of it. She dropped her notes and said he could read those if he wanted to talk, and walked out.

But nothing angered Putin as much as Clinton’s statement about Russia’s December 2011 parliamentary elections, which produced widespread allegations of fraud and vote-rigging on behalf of Putin allies. At a conference in Lithuania, Clinton issued a biting statement saying that the Russian people “deserve to have their voices heard and their votes counted, and that means they deserve fair, free transparent elections and leaders who are accountable to them.” Some Obama officials felt the provocative statement went too far.

It certainly provoked Putin, who soon accused his opponents of organizing with State Department money. One former State Department official who worked on Russia issues under Clinton suggests that Putin’s outrage over that statement might have been manufactured, a classic effort by a strongman to tarnish his domestic opposition as foreign puppets. McFaul says he is confident that Putin was genuinely angry.

Whether Putin genuinely believed that Clinton was plotting his overthrow is another question. But he has repeatedly criticized the U.S. for “regime change” policies that have toppled authoritarians in other countries, including Iraq and Libya, that Clinton supported. In the latter case, Putin was furious when a 2011 U.S. and European military operation billed as humanitarian — and advocated by Clinton — evolved into a de facto campaign against dictator Muammar Qadhafi.

Putin reportedly obsessed over Qadhafi's violent death in Kremlin meetings. The graphic video of the Libya ruler’s bloodied body being dragged by a mob is often replayed on Russian television, along with Clinton’s wisecrack about the executed strongman: “We came, we saw, he died.”

Since leaving government, Clinton has had almost exclusively tough words for Putin, especially following Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. At a March 2014 fundraiser, Clinton compared Putin’s action “to what Hitler did back in the ’30s.”

But few would have guessed that Clinton herself might wind up wondering whether she herself had become a target of Putin’s aggression.

“I think they expect her to win,” said one diplomat with extensive Russia experience, who believes the Kremlin directed the email hack. “But they’re sending her a message that they are a power to be reckoned with and can mess with her at will, so she had better take them seriously.”


Article Link to Politico:

Why Putin Hates Hillary