Tag Archives: hillary

Obama Lays Out Plans in His First Post-Presidency Public Appearance

Mother Jones

In his first public appearance since leaving the White House, former President Barack Obama said that empowering young people to take on leadership roles would be the “single most important” issue in his post-presidency life.

“What I’m convinced of is that although there are all kinds of issues I care about, and all kinds of issues I can work on, the single most important thing I can do is to help prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world,” Obama said at a panel discussion on civic engagement that he led at the University of Chicago on Monday.

Obama made no direct mention of President Donald Trump or the 2016 presidential election, but he pointed to the divisive nature of US politics as the most significant barrier to progress on a host of problems, from flaws in the criminal justice system to climate change.

Obama’s return to Chicago marked his reemergence in public life following a three-month vacation. His remarks echoed previous statements in which he’s hinted at focusing on community organizing efforts as a private citizen.

The free-form panel discussion featured several moments of levity from the former president, including an acknowledgement that panel members were given questions ahead of the event—a subtle reference to Trump’s complaints that Hillary Clinton had an unfair advantage during the presidential debates.

Aside from a brief statement in support of protesters against Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, Obama has avoided publicly criticizing his successor. Trump, on the other hand, has frequently lashed out at his predecessor. Most notably, in March, he accused Obama of ordering illegal surveillance of him and his associates.

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Obama Lays Out Plans in His First Post-Presidency Public Appearance

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Let’s Talk About Bubbles and James Comey

Mother Jones

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I have frequently made the case that Donald Trump is president because of FBI director James Comey. On October 28, Comey wrote a letter to Congress telling them that the FBI was investigating a new cache of Clinton emails that it found on the laptop of Huma Abedin’s estranged husband, Anthony Weiner. That was the turning point. Clinton’s electoral fortunes went downhill from there and never recovered.

As shocking as this may sound, not everyone agrees with me. A new book, Shattered, makes the case that Clinton was an epically bad candidate and her campaign was epically badly run. That’s why she lost. Yesterday, Shadi Hamid took aim at me for my continued Comey obsession in the face of the story told in Shattered:

Let’s talk. There’s a reason I blame Comey, and it’s not because I live in a bubble. It’s because a massive amount of evidence points that way. Today I want to put the whole case in one l-o-o-o-o-ng post so everyone understands why I think Comey was the deciding factor in the election. If you still disagree, that’s fine, but this is the evidence you need to argue with.

NOTE: I want to make clear that I’m talking solely about Hillary Clinton and the presidency here. Democrats have been badly pummeled at the state level over the past six years, and that obviously has nothing to do with Comey. It’s something that Democrats need to do some soul searching about.

Ready? Let’s start with some throat-clearing.

First: Keep in mind that Clinton was running for a third Democratic term during a period when (a) the economy was OK but not great and (b) Barack Obama’s popularity was OK but not great. Models based on fundamentals therefore rated the election as something of a tossup. Clinton was not running as a sure winner.

Second: For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Hillary Clinton was an epically bad, unpopular candidate who ran a terrible campaign. She foolishly used a private email server while she was Secretary of State. She gave millions of dollars in speeches after leaving the State Department. She was a boring speaker with a mushy agenda. She was a hawkish Wall Street shill who failed to appeal to millennials. She lost the support of the white working class. Her campaign was a cespool of ego, power-mongering, and bad strategy. Let’s just assume all that.

If this is true, it was true for the entire year. Maybe longer. And yet, despite this epic horribleness, Clinton had a solid, steady lead over Trump the entire time. The only exception was a brief dip in July when Comey held his first presser to call Clinton “extremely careless” in her handling of emails. Whatever else you can say about Hillary Clinton, everyone knew about her speeches and her emails and her centrism and everything else all along. And yet, the public still preferred her by a steady 3-7 percentage points over Trump for the entire year.

Third: Every campaign has problems. If you win, they get swept under the rug. If you lose, bitter staffers bend the ears of anyone who will listen about the campaign’s unprecedented dysfunction and poor strategy. This is all normal. Both the Clinton and Trump campaigns had all the usual problems, and in a close election you can blame any of them for a loss. But two things set the Comey letter apart. First, it had a big effect right at the end of the race. Second, it was decidedly not a normal thing. It came out of the blue for no good reason from the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. There is nothing Clinton could have done about it.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the final two months of the campaign. All of the poll estimates look pretty similar, but I’m going to use Sam Wang’s EV estimator because it gives a pretty sharp day-to-day look at the race. Wang’s final estimate was wrong, of course, like pretty much everyone else’s, but don’t worry about that. What we’re interested in is the ups and downs. What Wang’s estimate tells us is that, with the brief exception of the July Comey presser, the race was amazingly stable. From January through August, he has Clinton at 330-340 electoral votes. Let’s pick up the story in September:

At the beginning of September, Clinton slumps after her “deplorables” comment and her stumble at the 9/11 memorial. After Trump’s shockingly bad performance at the first debate she starts to regain ground, and continues to gain ground when the Access Hollywood tape is released. By the end of October she’s back to where she started, with a big lead over Trump. THIS IS IMPORTANT: despite everything — weak fundamentals, the “deplorables” comment, her personal unpopularity, her mushy centrism, her allegedly terrible campaign — by the end of October she’s well ahead of Trump, just as she had been all year.

On October 25, HHS announces that Obamacare premiums will go up substantially in the following year. This doesn’t appear to have any effect. Then, on October 28, Comey releases his letter. Clinton’s support plummets immediately, and there’s no time for it to recover. On November 8, Trump is elected president.

But how much did Comey’s letter cost Clinton? Let’s review the voluminous evidence:

Nate Silver estimates the Comey letter cost Clinton about 3 points.
A panel survey from the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics suggests the Comey letter produced a net swing of 4 points toward Trump.
Sam Wang estimates the Comey letter cost Clinton 4 points, though she may have made back some of that in the final days.
Engagement Labs tracks “what people are talking about.” Immediately after the Comey letter, they registered a 17-point drop in favorable sentiment toward Clinton.
Google searches for “Hillary’s email” spiked 300 percent after Comey’s letter.
The tone of news coverage flipped enormously against Clinton after the Comey letter.
A trio of researchers who looked at the evidence concluded that Comey’s letter was decisive, probably costing Clinton 3-4 points in the popular vote.
Trump’s own analysts think the Comey letter was decisive.
The Clinton campaign agrees that the Comey letter was decisive, and adds that Comey’s second letter hurt her too.1

I’m not sure how much clearer the evidence could be. Basically, Hillary Clinton was doing fine until October 28. Then the Comey letter cost her 2-4 percent of the popular vote. Without Comey she would have won comfortably — possibly by a landslide — even though the fundamentals predicted a close race.

That’s it. That’s the evidence. If you disagree that Comey was decisive, you need to account for two things. First, if the problem was something intrinsic to Clinton or her campaign, why was she so far ahead of Trump for the entire race? Second, if Comey wasn’t at fault, what plausibly accounts for Clinton’s huge and sudden change in fortune starting precisely on October 28?

One way or another, it appears that all the things that were under Hillary Clinton’s control were handled fairly well. They produced a steady lead throughout the campaign. The Comey letter exists on an entirely different plane. It was an unprecedented breach of protocol from the FBI; it was completely out of Clinton’s control; and it had a tremendous impact. That’s why I blame James Comey for Donald Trump’s victory.

1The second letter was the one that cleared her. However, merely by keeping the subject in the news, it hurt Clinton.

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Let’s Talk About Bubbles and James Comey

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Trump Invites Sarah Palin, Kid Rock, and Ted Nugent to the White House

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump hosted a trio of eyebrow-raising guests at the White House on Wednesday, reportedly dining with Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock.

It’s not clear why Palin and her musician pals, one of whom has praised the use of the word “nigger” and suggested Barack Obama “suck on” his machine gun, were invited to the Oval Office, but here we are:

The guests even managed to sneak in a photo posing in front of a portrait of Hillary Clinton—seen in this Facebook post by Nugent’s wife, the self-avowed “Healthy Lifestyle Ambassador” Shermane Nugent:

The photos were roundly mocked when they first began appearing on social media:

Perhaps this is just one more reason the Trump White House is opting to keep its visitor logs secret?

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Trump Invites Sarah Palin, Kid Rock, and Ted Nugent to the White House

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Jon Ossoff Does Well in Georgia 6th, But Still Headed for a Runoff

Mother Jones

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Most of the votes in the Georgia 6th congressional district special election have been counted, and Democrat Jon Ossoff is headed to a runoff after failing to win more than half the vote. But he came close! And it just goes to show what a good candidate could have done in the presidential election. It’s too bad Democrats were stuck with Hillary Clinton, who ran such a terrible campaign and got stomped.

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Jon Ossoff Does Well in Georgia 6th, But Still Headed for a Runoff

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Trump’s CIA Director Just Called WikiLeaks a "Hostile Intelligence Service"

Mother Jones

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Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo on Thursday denounced WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” and he singled out Russia as one of the anti-secrecy organization’s top collaborators. Pompeo is the latest top official in the Trump administration to note that Russia hacked into the emails of Democratic staffers with the intention of influencing the 2016 presidential election. Thousands of those emails were subsequently released by WikiLeaks. The intelligence community has concluded this operation was mounted with Vladimir Putin’s approval and was done to benefit Donald Trump.

Pompeo’s remarks were particularly striking because Trump praised WikiLeaks during the campaign and repeatedly referenced the emails it made public. In other words, Pompeo was saying that his boss encouraged an entity he now considers “hostile” to the United States. Trump has repeatedly referred to the Russia scandal as a hoax, yet Pompeo’s comments are predicated on the assumption there is nothing hoax-y about the Russian attack on the 2016 campaign.

Pompeo’s attack on WikiLeaks was also a touch awkward given that during the 2016 campaign, he cited WikiLeaks to attack the credibility of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party—which was just what Russia wanted. This led to an awkward moment in January, when Pompeo testified before the Senate Intelligence committee:

Pompeo was also caught in a hack-related contradiction. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the committee, pointed to a tweet Pompeo sent out in July declaring, “Need further proof that the fix was in from Pres. Obama on down? BUSTED: 19,252 Emails from DNC Leaked by Wikileaks.” King didn’t say this, but his point was obvious: With this tweet, the incoming CIA chief had helped a secret Russian intelligence operation to change the outcome of the presidential election. King did ask Pompeo, “Do you think WikiLeaks is a reliable source of information?” Pompeo replied, “I do not.” So, King inquired, why did he post this tweet and cite WikiLeaks as “proof”? Pompeo was busted. Pompeo repeated that he had never considered WikiLeaks a “credible source.” King pushed on and asked Pompeo how he could explain his tweet. Pompeo stammered and remarked, “I’d have to go back and take a look at that.” Uh, right.

In his remarks Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Pompeo said that “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service.” He then cited various examples of WikiLeaks working against the interests of the United States, including working with Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents in 2010.

“It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is—a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo’s remarks coincide with an apparent shift in the Trump administration’s approach to its relationship with Russia. The White House abruptly adopted a tough stance on Russia’s alliance with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad following Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians last week. The foreign policy reversal comes amid multiple investigations examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible ties between Trump associates and Russians.

During the election, Trump praised WikiLeaks and frequently referred to the organization in his attacks against Hillary Clinton.

“I love WikiLeaks,” he told supporters during an October rally.

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Trump’s CIA Director Just Called WikiLeaks a "Hostile Intelligence Service"

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